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Unto This Last
20 May to 25 July 2010
With work by Thomas Bayrle, Sarah Browne, Andrea Büttner, Alice Channer, Isabelle Cornaro, Dewar & Gicquel, Pernille Kapper Williams and Běla Kolářová
‘Unto This Last’ takes its cue from John Ruskin’s eponymous book to consider the complicated relationships between contemporary art and craft.
Written in 1860 as a manifesto against the prevailing economic theories of the mid-19th century, Unto This Last summons a series of moral arguments to denounce what its author perceived as the devastating social consequences of capitalism. Ruskin’s writings on economy and art inspired the Arts and Crafts movement, which advocated the primacy of handcraft and opposed the division of labour that lay at the heart of the capitalist model. A few decades later the very notion of craft would be widely seen as adverse to the imperatives of modernity and its definition of art, a misconception which has to some extent subsisted to this day.
The exhibition suggests that a number of contemporary artists simultaneously abide by the codes of conceptual practice – autonomy, dematerialisation, abstraction and lack of skills, among others – and to various degrees draw on the critical potential of craft. By introducing supposedly anti-conceptual notions such as artisanship, skill, or emotion, craft effectively provides them with an opportunity to take an unconventional and enlightening look at a variety of personal and collective concerns.
An essay by Glenn Adamson, author of Thinking Through Craft and Head of Graduate Studies at the Victoria and Albert Museum will accompany the exhibition, which has been curated by Alice Motard in collaboration with Alex Sainsbury.
Under the term ‘skill’ I mean to include the united force of experience, intellect, and passion, in their operation on manual labour: and under the term ‘passion’ to include the entire range and agency of the moral feelings; from the simple patience and gentleness of mind […] up to the qualities of character which renders science possible […] and to the incommunicable emotion and imagination which are the first and mightiest sources of all value in art.
– John Ruskin, Unto This Last, 1860
Image: Pernille Kapper Williams, Matter upon Matter, 2008. Porcelain, 10.5 x 16 cm (Ø 12.5 cm) Photo: François Doury. Courtesy the artist.
Deller’s exhibition at Void Local Artist, will showcase new work which has never been seen before, alongside a film he made for the 2008 Sydney Biennale. The exhibition will run until 5 June 2010.
Void, Patrick Street, Derry, Northern Ireland
the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
Paulette Phillips at NCAD Gallery, 100 Thomas Street, Dublin
29 January – 6 March
Inspired by the poetically tragic aura that surrounds E 1027, a villa on the Cote d’ Azur built by architect and designer Eileen Gray for her lover Jean Badovici in 1929. Having built the house as a romantic getaway, Gray eventually walked away from her labor of love. For a period of time it then became known as Le Corbusier’s house, while Gray languished in obscurity.
Magnetized books, nickel plated bronze structure
9.25″ x 9.25″ x 3.5″
“Touché traps two magnetized books, Le Corbusier’s The Poetics of Metaphor with Gray’s monograph Eileen Gray within a cage. One book hovers over the other repelled by its negative energy field.”
Image held here
There are certain sectors of the art world that crave a useful social role for art. Others see art as an activity making important contributions to intellectual discourse. Many look to art for pleasure. And then there are those who appreciate all of this seriousness, but crave the trappings of the entertainment industry too – fame, power, money, glamour, hierarchies, cultural parochialism. One year the art world is interested in this, the next year it’s interested in that. It wants to party, it wants to be scholarly. Markets go up, markets go down. At the same time as the Serpentine Gallery is showing Gustav Metzger, people are posing for photographs licking a giant chocolate facsimile of a Jeff Koons sculpture and throwing themselves on giant mounds of peanuts at the gala opening of PERFORMA 09. America elects a mildly progressive president and suddenly people scream ‘socialism’ as if the year is 1954 and Senator McCarthy is on the warpath. Everything changes and nothing changes.
Dan Fox in Frieze, January-February 2010. Full article here.
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
September 7th 2009 via Visual Artists Ireland
In the Taxation Commission report published today we see another attack on the Artists Tax Exemption Scheme. In the recommendation 8.98 the Commission has called for a complete abolition of the tax exemption. The fact that individual artists are one of the most economically deprived groups that punch above their own weight in their contribution to Irish society has been ignored.
The new gallery at the National College of Art and Design opens with a superb show by Phil Collins: see here for more info about the inaugural season.
Visiting a few weekends ago I was told (quite apologetically) at the front desk, ‘Well there’s no art here as such. Just some videos.’
So it seems the mediation programme has a way to go yet: it is really a shame that staff who have worked in the institution for twenty or thirty years, or more, are so uninformed as to the kind of cultural products it sends out into the world. And also instructive that the role of gallery ‘front desking’ is perhaps something that should not be underestimated in terms of the specific training that is required (vocabulary; interest; the ability to ‘put a face on yerself’) .