Sunday, August 12, 2012
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Out of the corner of my eye.
The latest exhibition at the David Roberts Foundation is a huge opportunity for the curators selected from the Goldsmiths MFA Curating course to create a group exhibition with resources that would normally be beyond that of most students at this stage of their careers. The exhibition, titled The Moon is an Arrant Thief, brings together work from the 1960’s to the present day and in the hands of curators Thom O’Nions, Luiza Teixeira de Freitas and Oliver Martinez-Kandt is a wonderfully balanced collection of works that flows around the gallery spaces of the David Roberts Foundation. One might expect in the hands of young curators a riot of bold, brash statements but this exhibition shows a maturity from the curators to create space with which these subtle, quiet works can speak for themselves.
The first work one sees on entering the gallery is Roman Ondak’s ‘The stray man’, this video piece sees an unknown man slowly strolling back and forth, loitering on the street and occasionally peering into the large windows of an office building. We watch as the scene unfolds but in this scene there is no payoff just an act of supposition on the viewers part as to the view that is seen by the man we are watching, he cranes his neck and shades his eyes but one feels that the important sight inside is only partially viewed. Viewing this we are in a strange dance with the man we watch on the screen. We cant see at what he is looking and might question whether his act of looking is an inducement to others to look or a genuine need to see something which is just beyond real sight inside the building.
Adjacent to this piece is Joelle Tuerlinckx punched paper holes scattered on the gallery floor in a square, one might add to this disruption of the linear pattern as we become aware of our feet scuffing and pushing the fragments of paper as we pass through the piece which then gradually scatters and spreads underfoot during the duration of the exhibition. As with many of the works in the exhibition the work can seem only a part of a wider story or piece of information. The works make us question the honesty, integrity or veracity of documentation and the views of histories contained within.
Robert Kinmont’s ‘My Favourite Chair’ is simply hung on the wall, a fragment, a remnant of the chair back, a wholly personal historical document. Reconfigured as an art object Kinmont elevates this loved domestic object into something more significant to us as viewers, and presumably to elevate it’s standing to something equivalent to the comfort that it once provided to the artist in whichever provenance this was acquired from and manner this seemingly generic object assumed in its life of use. Kitty Kraus configured glass sheets are another generic made significant, placed together from glass sheets of the same dimensions different configurations provide a wider visual interpretation of this amalgam of transparent and clean almost seemingly unreadable material. It is the multitude of visual rhythms created that elevate the materials.
In the downstairs gallery Tim Etchell's neon states “Let’s pretend none of this happened” it is a sinister, isolated statement, free from any further information one might build multiple narratives to explain the back story to this boldly simple, glowing statement. Juxtaposed with Rosa Barba’s “It’s Gonna Happen” at the other end of the gallery one can see the hands of the curators in the formation of this suite of collected works. Barba’s work presents a screen with words that contain a story, each line of text appears like an isolated segment of a narrative, like a description of a films screenplay in transcribed speech and with descriptors of scenes. The words appear and are then replaced by the next line, the passage of time between each seems to obliterate the story.
There are stories within all the artworks but rather than dripping with information and the heavy burden of history these collected works bear only a lightness of happening, they are objects which are not so much viewed and experienced as witnessed, documented and re-interpreted.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The Golgonooza Scrapbook
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Bill Fontana’s latest installation at Somerset House is a true journey, Fontana has charted the life of the river from its upper tidal reaches to the sea through many facets of sound that make the rivers voice. A multitude of speakers set around the vaults that surround the Somerset House courtyard are not just integrated but insinuated into the architecture. Descending the stairs to the vaults we step into a truly believable soundscape, in the distance the sound of a wailing foghorn rises into the sky above us. We hear the sound of bubbling water emanating from some subterranean structure, a ghostly inner world with the water almost breathing. Dripping through structures, the surrounding air fizzes with sound, this underground space with its dusty bricks absorbs the soundtrack, alters its frequencies and then emits the rivers history back to us. The multiple rhythms within spaces both interior and exterior can be felt through the recordings, under the large arch at the riverside entrance to Somerset House and within sight of the Thames speakers relay the sound of water constantly lapping under the floor in dialogue with the river adjacent, the sound of the traffic disrupts the voice of the river but rather than dominating it weaves itself into the recording as if attempting to join with it.
In Fontana’s hands the Thames is imbued with spirits, we feel the river as relentless, unstoppable and immortal. References to our interaction with the river in the sounds and video projections of buoys, the cables of the millennium bridge, tolling of warning bells and the clanking of chains one begins to see the river not as a benign, passive presence, but a living breathing entity, one which we speak to every day, one that gave birth to our city and will be here in all its incarnations to ultimately claim the city from us, it is protector and taker of life. One thinks of the river as place of history with its traces marked and etched into its surroundings but with this installation it also becomes a predictor of the future. Film projections of the sites of engineering along the river are a microcosm of our lives intertwined with the river, the cables of the millennium bridge hum a meditative song for the Thames, almost a tribal call. The quality of the sounds Fontana presents resonate at frequencies we would normally overlook at the edges of the sound spectrum. The river is quiet but relentless and beautiful.
The interior spaces of the vaults reflect and absorb sound, from high frequency, harsh and piercing through easily recognisable mid range to sub-audible felt as vibrations through our bodies and the surrounding architecture. A sub-bass boom channels round a vaulted arch of a tiny room and its pulse vibrates through the body, we feel the power contained within the rivers watery body. We see and feel the Thames for what it is, beautiful and gentle but with monstrous power and danger lurking within. The impression of river as a living being is finally reinforced as we hear the cry or wail of a taught chain that moors a ship.
Exiting the installation I hear seagulls, my mind drifts to thoughts of the mouth of the river, of estuarine mudflats, the end of the rivers journey and into the sea beyond only to find that rather than emitting from a speaker it is the sound of real gulls overhead. Swooping, sheltering inland from some coming storm in the territories I had just imagined, a paramagical and poetic impression of the great River Thames insinuated into my understanding somewhere between the real and the imagined from Fontana’s recordings and the reality of my existence just a few yards from the rivers banks.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Looking at maps one can go on journies, in our minds we can travel from place to place, geographical truths can make way to fantasies. The landscape and built environments can become a fantasy of our imagination, the real can meld with the fictional landscape we create around the points of truth to become something altogether more expansive than just a chart or map might at first appear. The manner in which a map is annotated suggests to the viewer many readings even though the information is replicated in scale and format in many other printed forms, colours of roads, the detailing of topography and even variations in typeset for the names of places depicted can alter our perception of how the real geography may manifest itself.
Kathy Prendergast has employed maps in her art works for some time now and her alterations and adaptions of maps subvert their very use into something more poignant and reflective. For her current exhibition at the Peer Gallery she takes a variety of maps from around the world and using black ink obscures names and geographies leaving just the white dots of settlements left unobscured. Reaching out of this thick covering of black ink, the remaining settlements appear as constellations, like early humans we seek to create shapes recognisable through this dotted information. One might assume this is a starry eyed optimism in urbanism or perhaps a simple meditation on the immensity of the landscape that surround us.
Within this blackened, flattened inky landscape the printed ink underneath when caught by light glows almost golden but then is lost once again to the shadows, colour fights to permeate the darkness of the inky black covering. Scale is lost, information obscured. Across this suite of works of maps from a variety of different countries one observes the flow of settlements, the landscapes integration of differing population densities within its larger physical body. The maps return us to the true geography rather than the pared down easily recognisable flat chart or chartings of an easily recognisable map, framed and behind glass the maps show even more than usual its surface of ripples and folds the maps become like the landscape itself, a flowing physical mass, the dots of human activity a recognition of humanity existing in a larger powerful physical environment.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Entering the Grand Palais in Paris the word grand doesn’t do the space justice, it is a huge unwieldy piece of palatial architecture that dominates you the moment you step inside, to ask an artist to fill this space with one unique installation is a tough ask. Christian Boltanski, however is one artist that can take on a space such as this and claim it as his own. This huge public building is the scene once more of Monumenta, each year an artist is asked to create a work for the space and this year Boltanski is the invited artist.
Arriving inside the space one is confronted by a huge wall constructed from rusting metal boxes, each box is individually numbered, the accumulation of numbered, ageing boxes suggests the contents are the personal effects of now unnamed and unknown thousands. It is a quietly ominous introduction to an experience that does not scare but quietly unsettles and pervades the huge space with ghosts of memories that one can feel but not know. Beyond the wall the large space contains a sea of clothing, hundreds if not thousands of various jackets, jumpers, shirts and coats placed in large rectangular patterns across the floor. They fill the floor from one side of the space to the other like the apocalyptic scattered remnants of passing humanity, a discarded sea of lost souls. At each corner sits a speaker emitting the sound of an individual heartbeat, pulsing in its own unique way it is the fingerprint in sound of a chosen soul. At the far side of the space is a mechanical hand plucking more clothing from a mountain of heaped clothes, dropping slowly it hovers at the peak, picks a handful raises it slowly skywards and then opens dropping the selected rags back onto the heap. Bodies of jackets and arms of shirts flutter as they drop and rest once more at the top of the mass, the selected appear at the mercy of a hand of fate choosing at random and then discarding once more to the unknown masses below.
Underlying this spectacle is the thunderous echoing regular pulse of collected heart beats, moving beyond audible sound to actually send vibrations through the room, this soundscape which is constantly being added to by the collecting of volunteers of visitors heartbeats it beats an ominous rhythm, a regular sonic wave like monstrous footsteps or an intermittent but never ending thunderclap rumble.
The environment Boltanski creates is unsettling and might suggest a future after humanity but also celebrates all individuals and their uniqueness and the beauty of our collective existence. To this viewer it appeared as some melancholic poem to our souls, a bizarre monument to humanities passing yet to happen but foretelling that point when the last human is lost to the earth and a warning against complacent assumptions of mortality both individual and collective.
Friday, February 05, 2010
Lurking in the Background
The title of Magali Reus’s exhibition “Background” at ibid projects says it all really, initially the viewer might question exactly what these suite of works is really all about. It is when you take the time to step back from the work and observe the environment of the gallery rather than just focus all your attention on the works that Reus’s intentions seem much more clear. The work is ambiguous, frustratingly so perhaps, too pared down and simple, but after some time there is some charm in the quiet works present in the gallery. It is when the works are viewed as the background to a much larger environment that they become more readable and enjoyable to be around. In the video piece that gives its title to the exhibition we see a group of men in a desolately sparse landscape with nothing more than flat gravelly earth and heaps of sand. Dressed in army styled clothing they perform a series of stilted, choreographed activities like some form of choreographed physical training exercises. Occasionally the film switches to sculptural elements that have been placed around the set, the film briefly focuses our attention away from the group to a flash of sunlight on some small sheets of metal placed on the ground. The camera fixes on detailed shots of the movement of the feet of the players as they ascend the heaps of sand, we notice the scars in sand from their movements. Man, the environment and the materials we construct around appear as nothing more than a choreography. The contrived, measured performances seem somewhere between directed and improvised but somehow free as well. We might imagine that in their place in the group we are part of a play of the world in which the seemingly individual responses and freedoms are in fact determined and controlled by others.
The largest of Reus’s sculptures on show is composed of two green rectangular blocks on an aluminium frame set into and spanning between two walls, the paintwork on the blocks looks impeccably and cleanly finished but on second glance this appears to be a falsehood in our understanding of the scene that this sculptural piece sets. Propped against and extending away from the wall and the frame the blocks project into the gallery space with a large overhang, the blocks appear to bow under their own weight and this clean, simple construction no longer appears as robust and immaculate as first thought.
All of the sculptural works begin to unfold in the same manner, simple clean objects are assembled and finished in a quiet manner but despite the varying materials all these assemblages give a very strong initial impression of solidity. The eye is always drawn finally to the spaces around, beneath or adjacent to the sculpture itself. Two punched aluminium sheets are secured to the wall by a single screw at the top, however the eye casts downwards to the bottom of the sheets as they warp and bow from the wall creating shadows. In another piece one painted piece of board sits propped against the wall with another resting on it inset in the top right hand corner. The large bottom sheet is light green and the top is dark, reflective like a mirror, the large sheet is bowed, it appears fragile but also solid.
There are two further sculptures in this suite of works and they too create seemingly coincidental insights into the environment around the works, all works are very static however they imply strongly movement, transition. Those that appear solid are warping and bowing at the extremities of the piece and the eye shifts away from these sculptural forms to the multiple shadows cast across the galleries walls and floor. They appear ambiguous but also suggest very personal assumptions and responses by the viewer.
Leaving Reus’s work one begins to question the environment around us. We might ask whether what appears around us is “real”. Reus perhaps suggests that all is posed, contrived, choreographed and that our sense of control of our lives is in truth at the mercy of forces and influences that we can barely see or feel.
Friday, December 04, 2009
The End of Ideology?
struggles of the late 19th and twentieth centuries.
The exhibition Re-Imagining October at the Calvert 22 gallery displays works by artists from the former Soviet states and artists from outside these states who had visited the former Soviet Union. Most of the works in this exhibition are stunningly produced and accomplished. Natalia Nosova's beautiful black and white photographs from her series “Baku 2007” document the scratched graffiti on the walls of monumental architecture in the city Baku. One stone-carved wall depicts a seemingly idealised revolution era scene of workers united which is now defaced and seemingly irrelevant with the passing of time. Alexander Soukhorov's “Russian Ark” film of 2002 shows scenes of a grand palace thronging with with the regal and military classes of eighteenth century Russia, the actors glide around in highly orchestrated and costumed scenes of contrived and decadent power. Vadim Zakharov's “Red Square behind Black Square” photographic series are subtly composed with the Black Squares evoking concepts of censorship.
One feels that many of the artists have a love/hate relationship with the Soviet past, the references within much of the imagery in the works shows a pride in the greatness of the old order but also pain at the excesses of the State.
The work that affects most deeply is Kristina Norman's video document of the events that unfolded after her placing of a “Gold Soldier” in the place of the removed “Bronze Soldier” at its original site in the Estonian capital of Tallinn. This site sees the placing of flowers on 'Victory Day' , the 9th of May by Russian inhabitants of the city at what is seen as the grave of Red Army soldiers. For Estonians the statue represented Soviet oppression and occupation and since independence the Russian population of Tallinn see this as a site of Russian identity. In this post Soviet world the integration of all communities into a newly independent Estonia is still a difficult process. Norman's act of the placing of this replica statue was not intended to determine a specific solution or attendant with either Russian or Estonian sympathies but to simply reference the current feelings of alienation of the Russian population of modern Estonia and the continuing need for resolution with the past for both Russians and Estonians. As the film unfolds the events we see as the police arrive to remove the statue and Norman who remains at the scene remind one of the excessive force and implacability of the Soviet era authorities replicated by their Estonian successors.
Beyond the view of the era of the Soviet Union and its history within these works ones thoughts return to the end of that era, the supposed death of ideology and the current global political world. The scenes depicted in Kristina Norman's film do not only evoke memories of Soviet authoritarianism and its new Estonian incarnation but also remind one of the surveillance culture and kettling of demonstrators on London's streets, the aggressive manner of the 'liberating' forces in Iraq towards the civilian population, the suppression of anti-government protestors in post election Iran amongst many others. When the Soviet Union dissolved and the new international political world was imagined we perhaps thought we had seen the last of footage of such excessive authoritarianism by the state but in this new world free of ideology we have seen as much if not more. The old struggle has ended but some methods of that regime remain and have influenced others in their passing from that one nation to many others.
Monday, November 16, 2009
"Please Stay Off The Tracks"
For the present time the Barbican Curve gallery is a dark, dimly lit bunker space, scattered with dust, reminiscent of a Second World War or Cold War past with the various remnants of an industrial and military installation. A historical space of discarded machinery, tools, furniture, workshops and small offices. Polish artist Robert Kusmirowski's re-imagined installation slots into the existing brutal concrete of the Barbican's interior with references of films, the fictions of Harry Palmer's world in “The Ipcress File” or “Funeral in Berlin”, but also a seemingly real post-miltary reality emptied of people, abandoned, like the day after an atomic or nuclear attack. Dripping memories, a place of power stripped as history moved on.
This is an Art in which the viewer immerses themselves in an environment. The conceit of the work, constructed to alter perception, taking part in a visual theatre or cinema, one suspends belief and steps from the outside rational world of a dispassionate art viewer into the theatre of this experience. In this space denuded of its military personnel we are viewers of a seemingly real post conflict military installation, voyeurs of an exciting but ultimately doomed history.
Just as I explore further into this absorbing and unsettling space a voice comes out of the darkness “Please stay off train tracks”, not a shout from a unseen participant in this theatrical space but a jolt back into the real world, heading towards me is a black shirted Barbican employee. Chastened and with all enjoyment removed my thoughts move from the unsettling beauty of Kusmirowski's work to a failure of art to be allowed to truly and honestly communicate.
I fail to believe that the artist would wish that the full exploration of his constructed space be restricted but now in the hands of an unimaginative host one sees an inability for a true experience to be gained. Is art not to be explored but just viewed from a knowing distance? Surely to curtail the exploring of a viewer is missing the point of such an installation, this implies a lack of honesty, integrity or true respect of the artist, the work or the viewer to determine for themselves what the work should be. What would have been a beautiful, poetic and thought provoking immersive experience is denied.
This artwork should be poked, prodded, scratched and explored, reality suspended and recreated so that one might believe that only the space we have found ourselves in exists until we once more re-enter the real world outside of the gallery, but unfortunately for this viewer and in a manner that does not best serve the ambition of the artist this opportunity was denied me.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Life in Progress
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
TangentProjects at HTAP
80 Kingsland Rd, E2 8DP (next to Flowers East)
3-13 September 2009
Private view 6-9 pm on 2 September
Tues - Sat 12-8 pm, Sun 2-8 pm, Thurs open late ‘til 9 pm
Hackney Transients Art Project (HTAP) is pleased announce 2 forums accompanying in/flux, an exhibition of new works of art and design exploring everyday experience as a catalyst for critical/creative practice.
A combination of formal presentations with relaxed discussion, these forums will explore characteristics distinguishing Hackney’s cultural terrain. Everyone welcome; divergent opinions encouraged. Refreshments will be served at the intermission. Please bring a blanket or cushion to sit on.
Forum One: Hackney’s Cultural Hybridity: Past, Present and Future
Thursday, 10 September: 6 - 8:30pm
Part A: ‘in/flux - Reflections and Process’6 - 7pm
Part A of this forum will sketch HTAP’s engagement with themes of transience, mapping, individual narratives and everyday experience. It will focus on the project’s interest in Hackney as a complex of communities that weaves together the cultures and imaginaries of people from all over the world. Contributors to HTAP’s oral history archive will recount specific experiences through which they recognised Hackney as “home”. These retellings will be followed by a round table among artists and designers featured in in/flux. This discussion will consider Hackney’s cultural hybridity as manifest in the exhibition.
Part B: ‘The Cultural Terrain of Contemporary Hackney in 2020’7.30 - 8.30 pmImagine yourself 11 years into the future. What does Hackney look like today, in 2020, and why? This group thought experiment will speculate about the impact of Hackney’s current development on its future. Come and share your imaginings as we contemplate Hackney’s present as it’s past.
Forum Two: Aesthetics and Ethics: Models of Socially Engaged Practice
Saturday, 12 September: 3 – 5:30
Part A: ‘Collaborations, Collectives and Everyone Else: Hackney-based Art and Design Groups’3 - 4 pm Profiling the work of five Hackney-based art, design and curatorial groups, this forum highlights dynamic and self-organised initiatives impacting the borough’s culture. Each group will share its practice through a short presentation followed by a brief Q&A.
Part B: ‘Beyond “Happy Clappy Interactivity”: Some Challenges of Socially Engaged Practice’
4:30 – 5:30 pmBuilding on Part A, Part B of this forum considers challenges characterising socially engaged practice as well as specific strategies and tactics that artists, designers and curators are using to work around them. Questions/comments/concerns submitted in advance will propel this informal discussion. Please email your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org by 10 September for inclusion.
Curated by Marsha Bradfield and Miriam Kings and produced by Lucy Tomlins, in/flux presents works by Alison Barnes, Marnie Baumer, Matt Blackler, Clemmie James, Matthew Krishanu, Tamara Lesniewska and Kim Alexander, Christine Mitrentse, Barry Gene Murphy, Lucy Tomlins and Charlotte Young.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
When Words Fail Me...
The Campaign for Drawing have been encouraging us to use this valuable skill for ten years. Their current Now We Are 10 exhibition at the Idea Generation gallery collects a number of works from their supporters and patrons that are to be auctioned to raise funds for their future activities, however as well as the importance that these extra funds will make to the campaign it is worth reflecting on the sheer variety and forms of drawing that are on display, amongst the usual suspects of Quentin Blake, Steve Bell, Gerald Scarfe and Sir Norman Foster are many younger artists and illustrators. The diversity of the works on show are evident and as a viewer it would be easy to indulge ourselves by heading straight to our favourite artists works. The Campaign shows its ability to continue to enthuse and encourage us to the practice of drawing by showing the multitude of possibilities that drawing can provide. This multitude of styles and possibilities need not necessarily encourage us to draw well or better but to just pick up a pen, pencil, crayon or inky finger and communicate through drawing. It is when we see architectural sketches or elevations, satirical cartoons, life drawings and botanical studies sat side by side in this display that the endless possibilities for all of us to use even the most rudimentary forms of drawing as simple, instant and accessible means of communicating to others present themselves.
The works in this exhibition are many and varied but the quality is high considering the over one hundred works available in the auction taking place on the 17th September, with works by the likes of Adam Dant, Paula Rego and Martin Rowson and with lesser known artists donating some extremely unique and high quality works one hopes that the auction will be a success for the Campaign. As importantly though is that with the campaign’s Big Draw events continuing through October that we are encouraged to think about using the opportunities drawing provides, when speech, language and the written word fail to communicate our thoughts clearly drawing will always be the one activity that we can rely on to explain our thoughts and ideas in the widest and most accessible way.