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Allora & Calzadilla, How to Appear Invisible, 16mm film on HD, 2008
The two new works shown by Allora & Calzadilla are the latest in a series of commissioned works that extrapolate on the unfolding historical and social dynamic of the Schlossplatz, the site of the temporary kunsthalle.
Pleasingly, it is the large expanse of the Kunsthalle that is left essentially vacant, with the film work being installed (unfortunately poorly) the entrance area adjacent to the bookshop:
Allora & Calzadilla’s new work ‘Compass‘, 2009, conceived specifically for the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, creates a new spatial and acoustic experience. Dividing the Kunsthalle horizontally, a level is introduced, inaccessible to the viewer and reducing the grand exhibition hall to less than one third. Visitors can only hear the vibrations and sounds of an a capella dancer performing a choreography above their heads. The otherwise empty exhibition space is turned into a huge resonating chamber.
The film is quite beautifully shot on 16mm film, if a little indulgent and overly long in places, documenting the last days of the demolition of the Palast der Republik in late 2008. Its saving grace is its protagonist, a German Shepherd dog who is wearing a headcollar made from a plastic KFC bucket. His curiosity and interestedness, and that of the camera that follows him, distinguishes the film from so much other film work made in recent years that takes Berlin/ communism/ modernistic interiors as its subject and beautiful/melancholic as the mood for its sumptuous, elegant and detached panning shots. The KFC bucket, protecting the dog from licking his wounds, is presumably also a discomfort, an annoyance, and a hindrance to proper vision. However the metaphor isn’t overplayed, and as is typical of Allora & Calzadilla’s work, there is that unique and satisfying contrast between functionality and political poetry.
Exhibition at Temporäre Kunsthalle, Schlossplatz, Berlin-Mitte, July 11th til September 6th 2009
Dan Dubowitz & Fearghus O’Conchuir at Martello Tower, Skerries
Public art commission by Fingal County Council
The Martello tower at Skerries, all of the dozen on the Dublin coast in fact, are remarkable buildings: highly idiosyncratic now, and quickly anachronistic even when they were built first in the nineteenth century.
The collaboration between Dubowitz and O’Conchuir – visual artist and dancer/ choreographer – over the last two years departed from this initial curiosity. The resultant work manifests in the Skerries tower as a 12 screen video installation, to be regarded from a single point of view on a platform built for visitors. Each screen shows a single slow panning shot from the canon position in each of the twelve towers, coolly surveying the remains of each tower’s interior architecture and the view beyond, from chic inhabitation to rugged folly. Ah, Portmarnock golf course, says a visitor at my shoulder.
Scotland’s contribution to the 11th architecture biennale in Venice is shown in these photos by Gareth Kennedy. Titled A Gathering Place, it’s just that. Located close to the train station it receives lots of non-biennale visitors, and through careful siting, it functions both as a lookout and a shelter spot where discussions are held. Despite the ‘stairs to nowhere’ effect, it struck me as a very optimistic structure… and I really enjoy seeing such elegant use of sterling board.
At this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, Belgium commemorated the 100th anniversary of its pavilion by building a facade around it; the viewer entered this steel structure towards the rear and walked through the building before exiting at the front and viewing the original facade.
This worked neatly to exhibit the building itself, the interior filled with confetti. (The title and tone of the work, After the Party, was uncannily reminiscent of the tone of various relational art projects). Curator Moritz Kung had assigned the following brief:
Give the existing building, as part of its immediate surroundings, an architectural use and function that can be experience on a scale of 1:1 with regard to its location (a public park), status (cultural embassy), history (of the Giardini) and/or context (an international platform for architecture).
This was one of the most conceptually and visually elegant projects I saw at the Biennale.
via ArtForum Picks
at THE KITCHEN
512 West 19th Street New York
June 18–August 1
In his essay “Entropy and the New Monuments” (1966), Robert Smithson diagnoses his contemporaries with an addiction to B movies: “The movies give a ritual pattern to the lives of many artists, and this induces a kind of ‘low-budget’ mysticism, which keeps them in a perpetual trance. The ‘blood and guts’ of horror movies provides for their ‘organic needs,’ while the ‘cold steel’ of Sci-fic movies provides for their ‘inorganic needs.’” One can certainly catch in the titanium (or tinfoil) of midcentury sci-fi schlock the first gleam of a “Juddian ‘specific object’” (Smithson’s coinage). But what of now, when—in the wake of Blade Runner, or William Gibson’s burned-fuse hackers, or even that barnacled adjective Ballardian—the future has become a decidedly dirtier place?
From the perspective of the artists surveyed in “The Future as Disruption,” tomorrow is already a relic. Mungo Thomson’s audio piece of “replicant” voices reciting an oral history of Blade Runner’s production comes piped through a noticeably dingy alarm-clock radio. Jonah Freeman plays off his previous imaginings of a labyrinthine superstructure called the Franklin Abraham with a museum display of deteriorating texts. Simone Leigh’s sculptures become weathered artifacts occupying an uneasy space between a Louise Bourgeouis tribute exhibition and the cover of Bitches Brew.
Several paintings and digital renderings of dystopian landscapes are disappointing in their directness. That said, the exhibition’s most memorable employ of science fiction as raw material is perhaps the most literal: Julieta Aranda reduces dime-store sci-fi novels to a sandy pulp and encases them in a Perspex cube, the interior of which is agitated by the spasmodic bursts of an attached air compressor. In an accompanying series of close-up photographs, the resulting environment resembles the vast desert expanses of Frank Herbert or George Lucas—or, strangely enough, the famous 1920 photograph of dust accumulating on the “Large Glass.” When finally we reach the future, Duchamp will be there waiting.
– Colby Chamberlain
This is a version of an article recently published in the Visual Artist’s Newsheet. It’s a response to a roundtable discussion titled ‘Creativity versus Commodity’, organised for Colin Darke’s exhibition at Temple Bar Galleries, Dublin, written about here. [February 8th 2008]
The Capital Paintings evolved from Darke’s earlier work, Capital, where the artist transcribed the entire text of Marx’s three volumes of ‘Das Capital’ onto 480 2D objects, all mounted in A4 laminates. With The Capital Paintings, Darke has returned to the previous work, reconsidering and re-presenting every piece in the earlier work as a to-scale oil painting on canvas, though removing the layer of text previously written over each object. Thus, ‘Darke flips the previous process, the ready made becomes the ‘unique’ art object, the banal commodity further commodified and rarified via its display in the gallery context’. (1) The format of Darke’s work replicates the Christmas ‘selling show’ it immediately followed, and promotes this obvious slippage.
Where Capital was perhaps a distant cousin of Marx’s text, the Capital Paintings are a familial relation at another remove from the initial work, and a further remove still from Marx. Nevertheless, he hovers as the invisible referent.
Sarah Pierce chaired the discussion, which, titled ‘Creativity versus Commodity’, set up from the very beginning a problematic polarity of these two terms. Pierce opened with remarks that questioned the usefulness of this supposed opposition, proposing the notion of a ‘circular economy’ that we are all implicated in, but it proved a difficult opposition to shift.
The curatorial premise of Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filopovic was of a ‘diurnal’ biennale, with an exhibition on show during the day, and different programmed events to happen every night. With four different venues, little or no information available on artists outside of the mediation programme, or labels on works, this strategy acknowledged and emphasised the partiality of the exhibition experience.
This was to be welcomed in some respects, as I found that I tried harder to engage with the work than I might normally do, especially considering that many of the artists were unknown to me. However, the flipside of this was that when you did get really interested in an artist or a given piece of work, it was difficult to find out more, or even to remember their name. Participating artists are not foregrounded on the biennale website which results of course in a presentation that is much more curator-centric than artist-centred. Which I suppose is not bad in itself, but I know what side my bread is buttered on.
From the press release:
An Experience of Amusing Chemistry: Photographs 1990 – 1890 comprises some 120 works created using a wide range of historic photographic techniques, including the use of palladium, gum, salt and cyanotype prints. David McDermott and Peter McGough met when they were both part of the famous East Village New York art scene of the 1980s, and have since become renowned for their seamless fusion of art and life.
In a revolt against the confines of chronological time, they have built their practice through appropriating imagery and objects from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They have also assiduously reconstructed their lives as Victorian gentlemen – complete with knee britches, top hats and tail coats – immersing themselves in the environment and era in which they feel most at home, and, incidentally, dating their works accordingly.
My instinctual response to this work was unfairly and unjustifiably dismissive. I don’t think it’s the act of performative nostalgia, of literally attempting to live in the past, that spurred this displeasure. I actually think it’s the specific era that the artists chose: Victorianism is so passé. Different ‘pasts’ (that is, historical eras) go in and out of fashion like anything else. I wonder if it is simply their choice of the Victorian era that caused my nose to curl up?
The press release also claims that ‘they also subvert the obvious by incorporating homoerotic and art historical references, allowing the subject to expand outside of its time-capsule-like boundaries and to exist in relation to current cultural and artistic ideals’.
Image above: Bubble of Soap Formed at the Extremity of a Strand of Straw, 1884, 1990, palladium print. Image held here
Artist Vanessa Beecroft, best known for her performative installations of naked, or semi-naked women, is a pertinent artist to think about in relation to the aesthetics of the crowd.
At the heart of this is the very question of the aesthetic, or the look, of the crowd (as seen from outside it) versus any potential agency it might have, which seems strictly limited within Beecroft’s work. The women on display in Beecroft’s installations are typically tall, thin creatures, their ranks reminiscent of fetish photography, fashion, porn, fascism and science fiction in varying measures.
Now that Beecroft’s predeliction has shifted from spectatorship of the Aryan blonde body to the black female body (as found in Sudan, a body sited within a particular racial and geopolitical discourse), it seems she has finally moved a fetish too far.