Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Word In Your Eye

You are invited to the private view of an exhibition that brings together work by artists who have sought to explore the creative significance of words within the world of visual communication.This exhibition has been organised in conjunction with "Write to Ignite", the Hackney Word Festival 07, and will open Monday 3rd September from 6.00 at the Marie Lloyd Bar, Hackney.Further information about this event and full listings for "Write to Ignite" please visit

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Seeing Red

Once more the circus of Documenta descends on Kassel, for 3 months a huge collection of the work of artists from around the world has been on view. The feeling of the exhibition spaces around the centre of the town is somewhere between an art fair and a biennial, a broad spectrum of visitors are viewing a huge collection of art which would not normally be seen together in such a way. This curated feast of art provides many problems and allied with the obvious curatorial aims of the directors this mass of work suffers and strains under the weight, it is relentless in more ways than one.

The curatorial aim seems to be a concern with showing socially engaged art, the focus is away from the usual commercial fodder in art fair land, this is an admirable attempt to highlight a different aspect of international art practice but many of the artists are guilty of a polemical zeal that borders on aggressive. Perhaps in isolation the feminist concerns of Mary Kelly, the legacies of the civil rights movement echoed in the work of Kerry James Marshall, the multiple works which reflect on democracy or the concerns with dialogue between west and east or those divided by race, religion or ideology are valid and vibrant but collected together across the 6 Documenta sites they create a mass collective shout that induces equal measures of guilt, fear, anger, helplessness and ultimately apathy. To view all these works is to feel battered into submission, any sympathies to the arguments presented are worn thinner and thinner until you turn away and disengage from any of the issues. This is disappointing given the quality of many of the pieces but they are swamped in a huge sea of art by a relentless swell of social and political engagement, those works that contain an engaging and quiet dignity are shouted down by louder, flashier or more bullying pieces.

Amongst this mass however sits some real quality, away from the main sites Artur Zmijewski’s lone video installation in the darkened basement of the Kulturezentrum Schlachtof shows the value of tolerance and dialogue and understanding when faced by ideological entrenchment. Ibon Aranberri’s installations comprising collections of photographs, documents and other materials relating to ecological concerns within particular geographical sites bring our thoughts from issues of global inaction to local engagement. In the Museum Fridericanum Harun Farocki’s multi screen installation which focuses on individual elements of televised and computer generated information used or created during the broadcast of the 2006 World cup final take a seemingly simple and insignificant event and isolate points which can now be seen in a wider, more significant context. A game of football becomes a series of measurements of individual, local, social and global activities and we can see points at which these elements crossover. In the Aue-Pavilion Zoe Leonard’s photos show a simple and familiar view of the streets, shop-fronts bear the styles and dressing of locality, at one and the same time we can see the uniqueness and identity of place with the generic signifiers of a globalised world, even in scenes of poverty and deprivation we see an outward looking, aspirational, global culture in creation.

The image that lingers longest in this temporary city of art is in its central square, bordered by the built environment of Documenta’s galleries, cafes and shops is the Friedrichsplatz, during this huge exhibition it is the site for Sanja Ivekovic’s poppy field installation. A field of these flowers has been planted in Friedrichsplatz and creates a gentle but significant reflection on history both recent and less recent, this little red flower signifies many things to many people, many thoughts occur to one when viewing this scene, the mind wanders around settling on many places around the world and at many points in history.
It is this gentle scene loaded with reflections of history and political significance that can teach the director, curator and artists invited to participate in this Documenta something important. With all its subtlety and engaging strength it is the red of these poppies and not of blood and flesh and the sound of the wind in the plants not the harsh sounds that emanate from a television or video screen that will last longest in my memory from my short time in Kassel this summer.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Inside the White Cube I am faced by a scattered soundscape, on nine screens lined along the walls of the gallery are a series simple films inspired by Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’, differing linear combinations of bricks click and clunk together as they move across a series of desolate, derelict, mini landscapes, their domino effect movements march them forward to their goal. Damian Ortega takes Tzu’s ‘Art Of War’, the strategic detailing of use of troops within different ground and terrain, these territorial conditions have been reinterpreted for Ortega’s 16mm films and using the simple unitary element of bricks they are collected into a strategic means of investigating and navigating movements through different ground conditions. Like a faceless advancing army they make their advances across a variety of terrain, the looped films create a ceaseless movement, the territory and placement of the bricks alters the speed and direction but as one pushes to the next the lines of bricks make their inevitable journey. With the backdrop of a derelict site, grubby brick walls and industrial grime the army presses forward, down, into and then ascending the slopes of a crator, around mounds of earth and through scrubby bushes and trees stripped by winter and cast aside by time and the march of the faceless troops. Spearheading towards a wall, snaking down a small hill and splashing into puddles, the lines reach out like advancing spurs, reaching like fingers across the depleted earth, slaloming around boulders from grass to concrete and back again they make their movements unhindered by the variety of ground cover. The images and sounds are ordered, strangely subtle but relentless, we feel the actions of destruction and renewal, the progress of time with the echoes of history.

In the first floor gallery are a construction of five brick built columns, from floor to ceiling these simple brick constructions are shaped to reveal their true forms. The hollowed spaces within the bricks are revealed, these objects so redolent of solidity are shown as somewhat fragile by the revealing of their internal construction, light can be seen at some points through the bricks, cemented together and laid into a load bearing form they still retain a familiar comforting strength but by the action of chipping and shaping the external faces of the bricks into a rounded, seemingly weathered form shows an integrity and honesty in an overlooked dry building material. Ortega has titled these sculptures ‘Project For Social Housing’, from a small cast and fired clay block made to the specifications of the human hand to a simple construction collecting these elements then stripped and shaped to reveal inner complexities, Damian Ortega’s art takes the familiar and mundane world around us and creates echoes of humanity in the simplest forms, shapes and actions.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Friday, August 03, 2007

Somewhere between LA and London

Adrià Julia is a Spanish artist, born in Barcelona and now relocated to Los Angeles he brings his view of the U.S to Hoxton Street in the Associates Gallery.
The two films at Associates create an overall feeling of incongruity, somewhere in the suburban sprawl of Los Angeles a housewife, Taylor, talks us through the contents of her home, we are given a tour of the rooms of the house which contain the shelves on which a massive collection of family photo albums are held and the other in which her husband's sports trophies and memorabilia are kept, we see a woman proud of her family and her home.

The incongruity in these films comes from the siting, in the small confines of Associates with the edgy and grubby surrounds of Hoxton outside the spacious and ordered interior of Taylor’s home seems a world away. Taylor’s voice is overdubbed with that of a local Hoxton woman so the accent and rhythms of speech are that of London, the world we see on screen are most definitely not. From a shared language it is clear that there is a massive gulf, somewhere between the east end of London and the suburbs of Los Angeles is not only a geographical space but a cultural space, talk of U.S sporting heroes falls on deaf ears, the interior style of Taylor’s home seems alien and the sentimentality and honesty of her descriptions of her life and home are embarrassing when spoken with an accent I always equate with a people who are much more guarded in their approach to describing their lives. There is a uniqueness to the voiceover, a traditional London accent is dying, the dialect and rhythms spoken are being replaced with a much more generic style, pattern and culture. Peppered with cultural references from Taylor’s life it is unusual, for a native Londoner it is a highly melancholic experience, it reflects how many feel about contemporary London, developing, growing but inevitably leaving certain nuanced aspects of traditional London life behind. This is the unique element of Julia’s film, everywhere the film is shown he dubs the film into local dialect, in a previous showing this was dubbed into Catalan. Wherever Taylor may recount her story, in whichever part of the world it will always be unique, this translation of language, dialect, accent, speech will highlight those nuances of cultural locality. Taylor’s home surroundings, her mannerisms and narrative will remain constant but in each location little pieces of the host city or town will creep in and show us the tiny details of locality through the voice that speaks Taylor’s words.

Thursday, August 02, 2007