Just Kids by Patti Smith

The book sticks with me.
Makes me wish I lived in New York in the sixties and seventies and experienced the street struggle and its art scene, when artists were making and being part of History.
Patti Smith’s narrative is an elegy to a lost friend and great artist – Robert Mapplethorpe-, a tale of generosity and love. I was shocked to find out that she discovered her own talent and started doing her own thing so late in life. Sam Sheppard, who really saw through her, gave her her first guitar.
In their early years together, Robert Mapplethorpe’s ambition and dreams stimulated Patti Smith, and her providing for Robert made it possible for him to develop his art, until they went their separate ways in pursue of their own dreams.
I feel happy that I will go to a Patti Smith concert in a few weeks, it feels like witnessing a little miracle.

April 16, 2011 at 4:15 pm Leave a comment

Behind the Lens of Dutch Photographer Anton Corbijn

CLICK HERE to read my interview with Anton Corbijn, published in the Huffington Post

November 4, 2010 at 2:44 am Leave a comment

Art Forum Berlin 2010 launches satellite version of itself

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With less 110 galleries in comparison to last year, this year’s edition of Art Forum Berlin, taking place from October 7-10, witnessed some noticeable changes in format. This 15th edition presented the gallery section and the young section under the same roof, making the whole event smaller and more manageable for the viewer. But the greatest novelty consisted in young galleries being able to invite other galleries to participate, which they consider “young, surprising and important”. Art Forum Berlin’s strategy not only meant that galleries took greater responsibility in the overall program of the fair but also promised some room for experimentation.
In what felt like an innovative and experimental model in sync with the flair of the city, Art Forum Berlin aimed to brand itself more clearly and attract collectors who might otherwise have divided their attention between Frieze and Paris Photo, taking place the following weeks.

Echoing the dilemma of the city itself, which in the last years has shifted towards a progressive professionalization of its structures and players, the fair seemed to propose a back-to-the roots kind of attitude as an answer to the on-going debate. This delegation of responsibility, introduced by the paring up of younger galleries, proved highly arguable. Long-established galleries with a solid program saw their booth presentation weakened by being placed next to younger galleries with presentations which though interesting left plenty of room for discussion. This was even harder felt since some international galleries from past editions were now absent.

Challenging yet not radical enough, even if more video could be seen in comparison to last year’s edition, the overall tone of the fair was very cautious. Hardly any painting, not to mention any memorable painting, could be found. Valèrie Favre (Jocelyn Wolf – Paris, Galerie Barbara Thumm Berlin) was an exception to this. As well as classical positions such as Georg Baselitz and Sigmar Polke (Galerie Bo Bjerggaard / Copenhagen) and Imi Knoebel (Fahnemann Berlin). Also remarkable, were Jürgen Klauke as well as Katharina Sieverding‘ photos (Galerie Wilma Tolksdorf, Berlin/Frankfurt am Main).

Worth mentioning for their valuable presentations in the Fokus Section were Galerie Eva Winkeler (Frankfurt/ Köln) with paintings by Oliver Voss and Rashawn Griffin, Klemm’s (Berlin) with artists Falk Haberkorn and Gwenneth Boelens, Kai Middendorff (Frankfurt / M.) with a film installation by Neïl Beloufa and Galerie Jette Rudolf (Berlin) with drawings by Constantin Luser and sulptures by Johannes Vogl.

At the end of the day, undecided between positioning itself as a serious player in the Basel – Armory – Frieze league or as an alternative to it, Art Forum Berlin faces a serious identity problem. An alternative positioning would definitely go hand in hand with the city’s low-budget underground spirits, but runs the risk – if not radical enough in its choices – of jeopardizing the fair. By turning it into a satellite of itself, Art Forum Berlin ended up with little power to draw collectors, especially considering that the Berlin Biennale takes place just a few months before.

October 25, 2010 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

“Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi. A Novel” by Geoff Dyer

I liked the two different stories in one single book, though I do not believe them to be different versions of the same story. I see them more like different moments in the same person’s life. The narrator refers everything as having its avatar and this is possibly the way the author understands his own book.

The correspondences between both parts lie, among other things, in the romantic/ friendship encounter between people, the fascination for a specific city and the development of a mood, which is also partly city-related.

The second story, especially towards the end, engaged me more. “Death in Varanasi” poses the question: “What if (…) desire went away and never came back?”. Among other subjects, the book is about lust, about feeling it in the first story and about renuntiating it in the second.

Some of my favourite quotes:
The bank at the other side was quite steep. Walking over it was like cresting a low sand dune. As I did so, a dark bird flapped noisily into the air. To my right, in a small bay, two dogs were eating something at the river’s edge.
A dead man.
Was being chewed by two dogs. One was eating his left forearm, the other his right wrist. The dead man was intact. He was lying face down. I could see his hair and one ear. He was wearing a filthy pale blue T-shirt, torn in several places and shorts. The dogs looked up, looked at me, then resumed their meal. It seemed a strange place to start, the arms. Maybe they started there because it was easy to get their jaws around limbs.
I could not see the dead man properly, but I recognized one of the dogs
“. (p.265)

Some people stop believing that hapiness is going to come their way. On the brink of becoming one of them, I began to accept that it was my destiny to be unhappy. In the normal course of things I would have made some accomodation with this, would have set up camp as a permanently unhappy person. But what had happened in Varanasi was that something was taken out of the equation so that there was nothing for unhappiness to fasten itself upon. That something was me. I had cheated destiny. Actually, the passive construction is more accurate: destiny had been cheated“. (p.279)

May 16, 2010 at 11:17 pm Leave a comment

“Nocturnes” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Animated trailer by George Wu for Kazuo Ishiguro’s book “Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall”.

I was smiling stiffly and standing in a corner with my boxe gloves on when a book caught my eye at the airport newspaper store. Its back cover read that these were stories “marked by a haunting theme: the struggle to keep alive a sense of life’s romance”. There are no coincidences in life and so I bought the book.

I was puzzled throughout the reading since, instead of giving us insight into the character’s contradictory choices and behaviour, the narrator simply presents them. He refuses to make an interpretation or leave any clues as to it and even places the development of the story in a nearby future and beyond the story’s last written sentence. In this sense, “Nocturnes” really keeps growing on you after you finished reading the book.

I felt mislead at first, since apparently there seemed to be no answer to its greater question – what keeps us going. I realized then that my thoughts keept revolving around all those gestures and emotions I couldn’t figure out in the book, around the stories’ unfinished endings. It hit me then that our sense of wonder lies exactly there.

A great book.

May 6, 2010 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

How I feel today

“For no apparent reason – that is, for no reason that I was aware of at the time – I curled my hand into a fist, stood up, and punched the wall as hard as I could. The thin beaverboard panel gave way without a struggle, bursting open with a dull cracking noise as my arm shot through it. I wondered if the furniture was just as flimsy and picked-up a chair to find out. I smashed it down on the bureau, then watched in happiness as the whole thing splintered to bits. To complete the experiment, I took hold of one of the severed chair legs in my right hand and proceeded to go around the room, attacking one object after another with my makeshift club: the lamps, the mirrors, the television, whatever happened to be there. It took only a few minutes to destroy the place from top to bottom, but it made me feel immeasurably better, as though I had finally done something logical, something truly worthly of the occasion”. (Paul Auster, Moon Palace, 1989)

January 24, 2010 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

Technologically mediated perception

Jack Goldstein, UNTITLED (ECLIPSE), c.1980, Google Image

Ted Krueger is the founder and director of the laboratory for Human-Environment Interaction research, working on a project to fabricate synthetic senses for humans at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Krueger describes “Synthetic Senses’” as „a class of devices interfacing manufactured sensor technologies to the body enabling percepts that are not available to biological sensory modes“. His paper “Mediated Perception: Towards an Experience of Extreme Environments“, presented during the 2007 conference “MutaMorphosis: Challenging Arts and Sciences” in Prague, addresses several important ideas on the general topic of technologically mediated perceptions.

According to the author, uncommon images such as a photo of the Earthrise over a moonscape or the fading of the blue planet into a background of stars in the first voyage to Mars, though giving us a sense of profound isolation are extremely valuable for our culture. Krueger underlies how these images have the quality to shape our understanding of ourselves in new ways.
The idea that extreme environments – usually life threatening – require interrogation by robotic and remote sensing techniques rather than by human exploration and habitation is a commonly accepted one. Though much of what can be learned about extreme environments derives indeed from the use of technology, the fact is that technology sort of prevents us from having a direct experience. Even if in the end we can only experience hostile environments through our technological bubble, Kruger argues for “the irreplaceability of human presence in extreme environments on the grounds of human experience“. Assertion which leads Kruger to question: “can technologies be developed to open extreme environments to experience rather than shielding us from such environments?“.
In this paper, Kruger concludes that “Perceptual prostheses (..) will enable the direct perception of hostile conditions from with in the technological womb” and “may become a key enabling technology for the habitation of extreme conditions in addition to providing the principle justification for a human presence in them“.

His own research and activities in creating devices which explore the electrical and magnetic fields, has led him to question to which degree the mediated experience of extreme environments accurately represents the ‘real’ conditions of that environment. Though, we typically assume that our perceptions are of reality, the truth is that our membranes are only sensitive to select portions of the available spectra. According to Krueger, authors such as Varela, Thompson and Rotch (1991) have proven that the sensitivity of different species to light varies considerably. We can only perceive a small spectra of what is available, and even this partial perception is „dependant upon artifacts of our biological constitution“. Kruger writes: „Our perception is already ‘mediated’ by our biological makeup“. On top of this we construct our reality based on our experience (Glanville 1999 quoted by Krueger), which is not only influenced by our sensory flux but is also a product of our socio-cultural activity.

As a conclusion, to the paradox of technology both enabling and preventing our experience of extreme environments, Krueger interestingly says„In the end the verisimilitude we seek is a function of the degree to which coherent patterns can be built. The implication of this may be that we can only perceive and believe those things that cohere for us, that certain kinds of disorder may simply not be available for our apprehension“.

November 22, 2009 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

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