Posts tagged ‘Exhibition’

Re.Act – performancekunst der 1960er und 70er jahre heute

Yoko Ono, Cut-piece performance, 1965

Curated by Bettina Knaup and Beatrice E. Stammer “Re.Act – performance art from the 60s and 70s today” could be seen from December 13th 2008 through February 8th 2009 at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.

Documenting performative works from 24 artists spanning across two generations, the exhibition intended to document and reflect the diversity and complexity of feminist performative strategies which appeared within a wide range of social and political contexts. Including works by performance movements from Eastern and South Eastern Europe as well as the former GDR, the exhibition documented many artistic and socially critical strategies of the 1960s, 70s through today.
In the intersection between art and life, private and public, performance offered the ideal medium for examining, deconstructing or reinventing female identity back then, in this way forcing a certain reevaluation of the attributions of femininity in mainstream culture.

Among my favourite performers are Yoko Ono (J/USA) whose performance “Cut Piece” both in its historical and re-staged 2003 version could be seen, Valie Export, Ewa Partum and the younger Kate Gilmore (USA) with her strong sometimes mocking performances.

Without intending to be an historical survey but simply present historical positions together with more recent ones, establishing relations between both generations was really the goal. Moreover the exhibition intended to show women artists working today that what they are doing is more related to their predecessor’s achievements than they are ready to admit, sometimes out of blunt ignorance. What the exhibition failed to show however, is why today’s performers seem not to be interested in political strident, ideologically didactic but instead choose to mock certain gestures of the past and mostly transmit a certain sense of an impossibility of change or uneffectiveness of certain actions, thus undermining any possibility for idealism. Today’s disbelieve and sense of impotency or frustration remains to be understood and represents the most urgent question.

May 12, 2009 at 7:08 am Leave a comment

“Political/ Minimal” at the KW Berlin and the road conceptualism has travelled

Francis Alys, Paradox of Praxis 1

Recently, while visiting „Political/Minimal“ curated by Klaus Biesenbach at the Kunst Werke in Berlin, I found myself wondering about the possibility of keeping on doing conceptual work today. Afterall hasn’t conceptualism exhauted all its self-reflexive possibilities already?

Done only one or two years ago, some of the works in the exhibition explore a classical reportoire of forms which are usually associated with minimal art from the 60s. Instead of repeating its typical hermetism this revived minimal brings forth all kinds of political issues.

I was specially impressed by Terence Koh´s piece, an unpretencious pink triangle which mimed the real one sewed in Men´s shirts to differentiate them as homosexuals in concentration camps. This fact alone explains and contributed to their small survival rate.

In Derek Jarman´s film „Blue“ (1993), an empty blue surface is projected together with a soundtrack revealing quotations from the artist´s diary as he went blind because of AIDS. The film, his final work, accompanies the disease process on an almost daily basis. Speaking of quotation, Tino Sehgal performed “Instead of allowing some thing to rise up to your face dancing bruce and dan and other things”, a dance piece based on some of Dan Graham´s and Bruce Nauman´s historical performances.
All works pointing to the fact that contemporary conceptual works seem to have abandoned the self-reflexivity and hermetic level which characterized conceptualism in the late 60s and early 70s to embrace aesthetic, personal or political experiences foreign to historical conceptualism.

In itself, this use of former formal structures and strategies to convey a whole new meanings represents an openness. No doubt, did self-reflexivity correspond to a specific moment in Modernism, in which different disciplines took themselves and their own field of research as their own prime subject matter, be it as a reaction to the threat of new disciplines popping up or, the trend of interdisciplinary methods or, a specific socio-political context.

Self-reflexive new media artworks conceptualize their own technical specificity, like Paik exploring things like the effects of magnets in electronic images or, pioneering live broadcasting or, Vito Acconci developing work which played with the possibilities opened up by closed-circuit, etc. in some sort of parallel to Greenberg’s ideas on self-specificity on painting.

Instead of representing a certain decay or a dead end, self-reflexivity has come to include a broader sense. The exhibition “Political/ Minimal” teaches us exactly how historical conceptualism surpassed its own hermeticism to embrace a whole new series of issues outside itself.

Given their specific nature, media art works occasionate an unforeseen and totally different relation with the society they are produced in and which they are produced for. Technology is part of all levels of our life, it is designed to be automatic and acritically assimilated, its is filled up with corporate values and hidden intentions (to force a new need upon us, to makes start a new behaviour, etc) and is distributed through whole different channels. It is in this sense that works reflecting upon the effects and consequences of technology could also be considered self-reflexive.

In this sense, some works no longer conceptualize around their specific technical functions and language but on their impact on us, on society at a larger scale instead.
Moreover, works dealing with self-reference, quotation, referring and reflecting upon icons of the past, should also be thought of as self-reflexive works – Duchamp´s Gioconda with a Moustache when mocking artistic value, cultural tradition, etc.

Self-reflexivity in media art thus includes works dealing strictly with the technical specificities offered by the medium (formalism), works dealing with the consequences for the individuum and society derived from the specific technical possibilities opened by the medium and works referring, quoting other works within a given cultural tradition (linguistics).

May 10, 2009 at 12:19 am Leave a comment

“Still Men Out There”, an exhibition by Bjørn Melhus in Istanbul

Until the middle of last April a selection of Bjørn Melhus’ works could be visited at the Amerikan Hastanesi Sanat Galerisi ”Operation Room”. Presenting key works within the artist’s oeuvre, such as “Again & Again “„The Oral Thing“ (2001) or „Still Men Out There“ (2003) – from which the exhibition borrowed its title -, the show also featured more recent pieces like his 2008 multi-channel video installation „Deadly Storms“.

The selection offered the viewer the opportunity to grasp several decisive aspects in Bjørn Melhus’ work. Namely, the artist’s multiple attention to the worlds of American commercial film, television pop music and publicity, the coexistence throughout his oeuvre of pieces in which the artists embodies all the media roles and pieces in which he consciously redraws himself from and which result more abstract. Finally, a certain performative aspect was made available through the documentation published in the catalogue for occasion of this exhibition showing the intense and rich pre-production work in Bjørn Melhus’ films.

Manifold, the exhibition provided the viewer with the opportunity to compare works regarded upon as „classical“ – those in which the artist himself appears and enacts different characters -, with a work like „Still Men Out There“. Less “recognizable” as a Melhus’ piece, “Still Men Out There” is basically a pure synchronized sound and light installation in which the artist consciously redraw his own figure from. Next to pieces which are figurative and in which Melhus embodies different roles, the artist has also created pieces in which images are reduced to abstract fields of color. Both strategies have in fact always coexisted in Bjørn Melhus’ production. His absence in some of his works is not as unusual as one might think and is not without consequences for the overall understanding of his work. Far from being an isolated example, one must only think of „Emotional Fields“(2007), „Murphy“ (2008) or Melhus’ successive tree houses to recognize just that. Significantly all these works have been produced in parallel to the ones in which the artist plays different roles, including that of a woman, and which the public specially identifies the artist for and critics have payed most attention to.


Thus missing a trademark – Melhus himself -, “Still Men Out There” (the installation) contains however other characteristics of the artist’s work, such as the exploration of the conventions of film (American war cinema in this case), repetition and multiplication of effects and found sound footage.
Placed on the floor in three concentric circles, the eighteen monitors show their screens facing up. Monochrome color fields alternate rhythmically, pulsing to the sound of machine guns. The soundtrack, composed of snippets from mainstream war movies includes everything a good war film needs, from marching troops, to tragic love, to gunfire, to heroic soliloquies. These sequences of monochrome image, script and sound produce a penetrating effect. At times full of pathos, other times purely kitsch, “Still Men Out There” stresses the highly entertaining and spectacle qualities present in American mainstream war cinema. The work’s sources are well documentated, “Still Men Out There” takes on sound footage from “Platoon” (Oliver Stone, 1986), “The Thin Red Line” (Terrence Malick, 1998), “Black Hawk Down” (Ridley Scott, 2001) and “We Were Soldiers” (Randall Wallace, 2002).
Melhus is interested here how cinema, as the greatest manipulative technical dispositive of all times, has been conditioning our feelings and behavior in respect to what our cultural notions, in this case of war and death, concern.

Regarding this, the artist has said in an interview: “Still Men Out There is not a statement about war or politics (even if the material does refer back to this reality), but is about evoking and exposing cinematic stereotypes”. But this is only partially true, for in the end the work does open into the ideological workings of cinematic war representation.

It is extremely significant that we are being offered the spectacle of war with no images (except for monochromatic images), in this way addressing directly what has been described as “American media’s refusal to show the American dead and injured in the war” in recent times. On the one hand the work pervades the idea that one can no longer trust any image of war to be authentic and that the only solution would be the renunciation of all imagery. This feeling is a direct consequence of the on-going control of images of war scenarios since the Golf War – from which only generic night shots of Bagdad under attack were divulged. And the so-called “embeded journalism” in practice since the Iraq war – when journalists march alongside the troops during their advance – which results in a loss of objectivity, and also contributed to a general sense of crisis due to the conflict of interests it generates.
On the other hand, because we can identify the audio sources of the installation, it is forcing us to deconstruct the cultural references regarding war on cinema, thus awakening all sorts of images of war which lie dormant in our heads and which obviously have been shaped by the mass media.
“Still Men Out There” is not only exploring the impact of American cinema on our collective memory but also forcing us to admit that some of our notions are being actively designed by it, against historical facts and in favour of specific ideologies.

The work is thus not only bringing cinematic stereotypes into light but also forcing us to consider the reception of cinematic war representation critically. The sound and its different moments borrow a narrative structure to a work, which is in itself abstract. As already noted, this “practice of fragmentation, destruction, and reconstitution of well-known figures, topics, and strategies of the mass media opens up not only a network of new interpretations and critical commentaries, but also defines the relationship of mass media and viewer anew” (Schmidt, Bremen, 2002).
By exposing the mechanisms of mainstream cinema, Melhus rebels against pre-established simplifications and global cultural standardization. Admitting that no images exist today outside of the corporate media, Melhus’ works contest such iconographic hegemony.

Both fascinated and disgusted by the American mainstream media culture, Bjørn Melhus has made his field of research what others would hastily judge as American “trash”. In a meticulous and consequent way he has been thus exposing the manipulative power of modern media by successively paying attention to several genres, including Hollywood films, news TV channels or the talk show format, just to name but a few cases.

With his systematic examination of different mass media frameworks, Bjørn Melhus has been exposing the stereotyped voices, gestures and slogans which are being conveyed on a daily basis and which seem to be dictating our behaviour despite of us. What to do with this awareness, a sort of pledge for responsibility, is the question left open to every single viewer.

(Excerpt of my review published in RES – Art World, Issue #02 May, 2009)

May 9, 2009 at 11:16 am Leave a comment

LATITUDE- Marcelo Moscheta


Marcelo Moscheta
’s landscapes call upon essential and intense emotions which have been long dormant in our culture but perhaps are endangered today. They relate to the sense of the sublime, difficult if not impossible to behold in today´s world of fleeting values and digital images. “Latitude” speaks of the artist´s amazement for past adventurous expeditions to remote undiscovered places, which in itself have become a sort of a myth to our global connected world, in which the far away has simply been removed as a possibility by our digital condition.

As an act of resistance, the artist reclaims a laborious craft and patient hand labour when producing his drawings. Yet, to think of these as merely romantic in content and academic in what technique concerns, completely misses the point and their level of complexity. These drawings either represent landscapes which we recognize as famous landscapes for they are a part of our culture – as in “Friedrich” – or, they were inspired by images of landscapes circulating in the media. They are assumedly a representation of a representation, nowhere to be found in reality. Except, they do more than just negating their referent, they also negate their own medium.

When Marcelo Moscheta bends over the surface of the PVC sheet a process of fixation, which in a metaphorical way reminds us of photography, occurs. Initially, a thick layer of graphite powder settles over the sensitive plastic support without however, attaching to it. Then, by erasing or removing it carefully with an eraser, the dark shadowy areas emerge, just as if in the dark room. Pointing in their production process to photography, Marcelo Moscheta´s drawings finally look like paintings in the end.

A final negation takes place when Marcelo Moscheta attributes an erroneous coordinate system to his still and silent landscapes. Again, finding no correspondence in the real world – for the coordinates wrongly remits us to the South Pole – they bring about a sense of objectivity, opposing science to what we believed to be a purely romantic representation in the first place.
The coordinate code on the image, the image as a cultural code, and the tableau as a set of pure conventions, may serve to prove that in our hasty and virtual days taking a second, a third or a fourth look, delaying our judgement, may prove decisive.

Marcelo Moscheta – Latitude
Galerie Anita Beckers | Frankfurt am Main
14.11.2008 – 31.01.2009

November 12, 2008 at 12:12 am Leave a comment

The HORRIFC – Joe Coleman “Internal Digging” at the KW Berlin

Joe Coleman

Occupying three floors at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin), “Internal Digging” from Joe Coleman, curated by Susanne Pfeffer, was the first exhibition to encompass all aspects of Joe Coleman´s work. Joe Coleman (born in 1955) paints, draws, performs, makes music and collects. According to the text that accompanies the exhibition, he has been collecting relics, specimens, documents and oddities in his apartment in Brooklyn for more than thirty years and these are his own source of inspiration and reference for his wax figures, paintings, drawings and films.

Though he states he has no idea how the whole image is going to look like when he starts it, his dense visual cosmos combines the compositional principles of icon painting with those of comic strips. He mostly portrays bikers, serial killers, hillbillies, escape artists, and elephant men, curiosities that both remind us of former cabinets de curiosité and fairgrounds, mixed with contemporary reality at times, directly dealing with perversity, mental disease, obscenity, pornography and murders.

Coleman´s wax figure, depicting himself inside a coffin – asks us: “Has it occurred to you that this may be your last farewell?” and then his laughter sounds just like an horror movie. There are in fact, some pretty horrible things to see and read throughout the exhibition and at the end of the visit one is reminded of Coleman´s disturbing question at the beginning of the show.

At some point, in one of his paintings, he compares himself to George Grosz and his country situation to the one lived in Weimar / Germany in the past. He says: “With a great savage cruelty Grosz attacked with pen, brush and paint what he hated and what he feared… humanity. I have always felt a strong kinship with him. I live in a society not unlike Grosz´s Weimar Germany just before the rise of Fascism. The disillusionment of the Vietnam war, the decadence of the sex and drug revolution all seem to mirror the world of George Grosz”.

The exhibition is truly a plunge into Coleman´s private obsessed and tormented world, where all the vicious and sick aspects of human kind are depicted in a detailed and propagandistic way, just like sensationalist press but on painting. Because we feel no empathy nor compassion, his work doesn´t qualify as grotesque, it´s purely horrifying. His vision is totally pessimistic and by the time we leave the show we are totally convinced that there can´t be no salvation! Specially disturbing is his painting on child murders, stressing how people, and even children, always took pleasure in performing the most horrifying acts.

Coleman´s paintings force the viewer to bring his own moral judgments into play, there is no possibility of detached contemplation nor visual pleasure. Coleman confronts us with your our own general desire to watch and observe but return us the sickest of visions. One is forced to speak and think of “evil” with no chance to understand it or, making it rational by framing it within a given social context. It is just there with no possible explanation. There´s no doubt on his technique but, one questions the pertinence of being confronted with such a vision. Why should his work matter?
He is emphasizing something that we all know that exists but, for in order to keep on living, we forget and trust that it is under control through laws, penalties, jail and in some countries death sentences. Unfortunately he only shows and explores it and takes no stand. Still, it could be argued that he is forcing the viewer to think about it. In this sense, his value would then be, by exploring our sick desire of looking into horrifying things, he would intend to make us feel something and force us to make a judgment. But is this strategy really of worth, when we are subject to violence and cruelty in other media on a daily basis? Has such an exposure really made us more political?

Coleman has exhibited at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam (2201) and in Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2007) and is represented in many important art collections, specially in the USA.

November 3, 2007 at 6:06 pm 1 comment

Dokumenta KASSEL 2007

To Dora and Volker

For 100 days Dokumenta 12, spread across several venues in Kassel, namely the Museum Fridericianum, the Aue-Pavillon, the documenta-Halle, the Neue Galerie, the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe and Gloria Kino. According to its curators (Roger M. Bürgel and Ruth Noack), each of these buildings were meant to symbolize a specific century, a notion of the public and a concept of viewing art. And this was closely linked to this year´s program for the event. Reflecting on the concepts of modern, existence and education, Dokumenta 12 took on the challenge of answering the problem it choose to investigate: Is modernity our antiquity? What is bare life? And, what is to be done?

Having visited Kassel three weekends ago, I would say the major problem with Dokumenta 12 is exactly how the concept of “juxtaposition” was put into practice. It is a promising concept that allows art work confrontation, opening new readings and engaging a perspective that – we all expected – would answer the problem on the table.
But, throughout Dokumenta 12, such juxtaposition was mostly based on formal choices, sometimes to a point of complete obviousness, often remaining on a pure illustrative and pedagogical level. Works of the same artist were to be found in different points of the Dokumenta, in most situations without a real meaningful aim except for its formal resemblance to other works done prior or in another geographic context. And this was specially problematic at Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, were the interaction between Dokumenta´s works and the Museum´s permanent collection was very narrow.
It is not enough to insert two video installations within the museum collection, hang Kerry James Marshall´s “Lost Boys” (1993) depicting Afro-American people next to Karel van Mander´s “Hydaspes and Persina before the Painting of Andromeda” (1640) where colored people are to be seen, to proclaim this as pushing real dialogue between works of different time periods and engaging the public with it. Charlotte Posenenske´s wonderful works for example, were shoved into a corner and totally misplaced. Nor was she lucky at the Museum Fridericianum, where “Vierkantrohre Serie DW” (1967) – placed in the same room with Trisha Brown´s installation piece and performance “Floor of the Forest“ -, went completely unnoticed.
Charlotte Posenenske, Vierkantrohre Serie DW, 1967

What seems specially true is the incorporation of new artistic territories, speeches, voices – though not really new problems – into the exhibition space. Many artists from Arabe and African countries were present. Amar Kanwar´s remarkable video installation “The Lightning Testemonies” (2007) for instance, tried to answer how can sound, image and photography document in a creative way a true and sad event.

For me, the real theme of Dokumenta 12 was “conflict” – be it political, racial, economical, religious, social, you name it. Every thinkable form of conflict was present, even the conflict with one´s self. Imogen Stidworthy´s installation “I Hate” (2007), depicting the photographer Edward Woodman (who lost his power of speech in consequence of an accident) trying to pronounce correctly “eight” and not “hate”, highlighted just that. But so did many other works, showing the different forms conflict can assume nowadays. Imogen Stidworthy, I Hate, 2007

Churchill Madikida, Virus I - V, 2005, Video installation

Churchill Madikida´s video Installation “Virus” (2005) for instance, focuses on personal and social conflict and disease, whereas Kerry James Marshall´s paintings approach social and racial issues. Dias & Riedweg´s film “Veracidad Máxima” (2003) and Ines Doujak´s “Siegesgärten” (2007) handle sexuality, economical conditions under globalisation and gender, in a very different and interesting way.

Dias & Riedweg, Veracidad Máxima, 2003Ines Doujak, Siegesgärten, 2007

Meanwhile Bill Kouélany´s massiv papiermaché wall, a metaphor for all the walls of shame, with news cut out from international newspapers addressed the conflictive relation between politics and the media.
On its turn,in “The Exploitation of the Dead” Mladen Stilinovic collects war memorabilia together with a photo of Kasimir Malevich on his deadbed. And Guy Tillim´s photographs of democratic Congo document the first free presidential and parliamentary elections in forty years in that country.
Guy Tillim, Congo Democratic, Photography, 2006

Parallel to this manifold exploration of conflict and also battling but, in the field of aesthetics, self-reflexive art works were to be found. Gonzalo Díaz´s pieces “Al calor del pensamiento I” (1999) and the ironical “Eclipsis” (2007) mirrored just that. In this last, the viewer had to queue to view the installation only to read in the end: “To come to the heart of Germany, only to read the word “art” under ones own shadow”. Brilliant.

Gonzalo D�az, Eclipsis, 2007

Accounting for minimalism tendencies, John McCracken ´s “Orchid” (1991) and Poul Gernes´ “Stripe series paintings” were specially worth noticing. And Lili Dujourie´s structuralist collage “Roman” (1978) was a great discovery for me. Dealing with fragmentation, disruption and meaning this work is extremely poetical and sensual.

John McCracken, Orchid, 1991

Lili Dujourie, Roman, 1976

Poul Gernes, Stripe series paintings, 1965
Finally, Trisha Brown´s “Floor of the Forest” (1970), an installation and performance carrying the same name, stood up for interdisciplinary work. “Movers” (and not dancers) make their way through an undulating sea of wafting fabric exploring gravity, tension and its contrary.

In the end, I would dare to say, that the best works present at the Dokumenta, with few exceptions, were films or installation using film. The major example being, James Coleman´s “Retake with Evidence” (2007), performed by Harvey Keitel, and for me the best work in Kassel.
James Coleman, Retake with Evidence, 2007

The Dokumenta did state and testify to a point of excess the ongoing forms of conflict but, failed to answer if there can “be a common planetary horizon for all the living and the dead”, thus, not really answering nor taking a stand to the question itself raised.

Trisha Brown, Floor of the Forest, 1970, Installation and performance_16

October 6, 2007 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment


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