As part of this year’s Frieze Art Fair, Simon Fujiwara, the winner of the 2010 Cartier award, has conjured up a faux-archaeological Roman site, bits of which are sometimes exposed in the main body of the fair. It’s all genial and non-threatening fun-poking (there’s the unearthed house of a female collector, full of coins and an archaic handbag; you get the picture) and makes enough winking references to make the cognoscenti feel good, so it’s not much of a surprise why he won. This, by and large, is the tone of a selling event that has transformed itself into a cultural one. Disingenuous self-deprecation abounds, aimed at both the skeptical outsider and the knowing insider.
Much funnier is Annika Ström’s Ten Embarrassed Men, a group of identically dressed middle-aged actors, who huddle around en masse looking awkward, organized by the artist as a response to the representation of women in art fairs. How it really works is by providing a welcome bum note to the atmosphere of overweening economic confidence (however hyperbolic) that surrounds it. David Shrigley’s stand at Stephen Friedman Gallery is, as you’d expect, properly LOL-funny, which makes his presence at the art fair a bit anachronistic, and his appropriation by the art mainstream an ongoing puzzle. The artist himself was in attendance, painting temporary tattoos on people’s arms. I watched him slowly paint a fly on a man’s forearm. Everyone looked on, looking serious, filming on their phones.
To use a very versatile phrase, “It’s that time of year again.” In this case, we mean: it’s art fair-season in Berlin. With the 15th anniversary of the somewhat-confusingly-named Art Forum Berlin (originally named “European Art Forum Berlin”) art fair upon us this week, we are embarking upon yet another generally exhausting “big art weekends.” This one, particularly, is a real soul-suck.
110 galleries from 20 countries will present their works/wares. For the last 5 years, there had been an additional curated (and themed) exhibition running along with the fair, adjacent to the 2 main halls of booths; however this year, that seems to not to be the case, and thankfully so. For the most part, it’s hard to switch gears from the browsing mode in the main halls to real’art-looking — to give the art a fair glance, especially after someone worked so hard on a presentation with a four-day lifespan. Instead of an exhibition, a new way of introducing smaller, younger galleries and artists to Berliners and visitors from afar to the Art Forum Berlin (AFB) world has been devised. It borrows an idea from the small, one-day 7×2 fair (now renamed SUNDAY), in which, at the tail-end of Gallery Weekend Berlin, seven galleries banded together to produce a somewhat off-the-cuff mini-art fair. In turn, they each invited their own counterpart gallery to exhibit and interact with in the same space (at the original 7×2, the space given was one of 7 lobbies of a high-rise on Strausberger Platz.) 7×2/SUNDAY is a fresh take on the collaboration and quid-pro-quo style used by young galleries and artists just to survive, and AFB is right to follow their lead. AFB calls this sector “focus” and sets the galleries up in the center of each hall, giving them a more equal cut of the audience. However, one does wonder, is all this space available because of a lack of participating galleries? Or something else? Esther Schipper, Galerie Neu, and Klosterfelde are sharing one booth, and these aren’t small-potatoes galleries.
One of the best exhibitions I saw in Helsinki this summer was at Galleria Heino, a small space on the hip street Uudenmaankatu. On the recommendation of an artist friend, I went to see Mika Taanila’s show, Installations. Taanila is a moving image artist working with both film and video. For over twenty years, he has created a body of work —short and long, narrative and experimental — that looks at technological evolution and the intersection of art and science in particular. I first discovered Taanila when I saw his documentary about the electronic music pioneer Erkki Kurenniemi, The Future Is Not What It Used To Be (2002), in Arctic Hysteria, a recent historical survey of Finnish contemporary art at Taidehalli (Helsinki’s kunsthalle) in 2009. At Galleria Heino, ironically, part of Taanila’s show was out of order; one of the two installations was “broken” the day I went. Ultimately, it didn’t much matter for what I did see allowed me to consider Finnish contemporary cultural practices’ address of technology on a broader scale.
Taanila’s video installation that was functioning, Twilight (2010), consisted of two old-school video projectors mounted on rails on the gallery floor, slowly traveling back and forth across the diameter of the space and repeating the same linear movement in an endless loop. These projectors threw a large doubled image on the wall: a grainy, barely moving portrait of a single laboratory toad looking for worms. Taanila’s clever formal and conceptual doubling of the projectors, as well as the natural and the synthetic — the use of technology to view the “natural” world of the toad in the lab and, conversely, viewing the natural world in a way making one hyper-aware of the technology involved —was, if you were patient enough to pick up on the snail-paced moving projectors, rather sublime. Taanila, in the show’s press release, likens both the toads and the conveyer belt rails to the cycle of light — “the waiting, the reward, the light, the darkness.” Recalling the materialist and time-based concerns of structuralist filmmaking as well as more recent forays into artists’ cinema involving projectors (think Tacita Dean and Rodney Graham), the installation allows the viewer a phenomenological experience of the work itself.
Continuing Taanila’s interest in merging humans and machines, the exhibition points to the ceaseless presence of technology, as both aid and passive witness, in our everyday lives. My experience of Taanila’s exhibition reinforced stereotypes of Finland’s technological prowess (Nokia, anyone?), but in a good way. These could be, like Taanila’s installation, purposely archaic and paying homage to a simpler techno-era (think the synthesizer-jams of Pan Sonic and Vladislav Delay). Or they can be more generative, I thought — which brings me to Pixelache, a real-life activist translation of Taanila’s phenomeno-formalist investigations.
I didn’t sleep much in Helsinki. Though it was my second trip there and my umpteenth time in the Nordic countries, I somehow booked my travel to coincide with Juhannus, Finland’s midsummer. Simply put, midsummer is the annual summer solstice, falling in or around June 21 each year. We Americans give this seasonal astronomical event an acknowledging nod or, if we’re feeling festive, a bbq. But for Finns, Juhannus involves a mass exodus from civic and economic duties, as droves of city mice evacuate the capital for their country homes and a pre-lapsarian return to the simple life. In Finland, at least, this consists of gigantic, competitive bonfires, endless sauna-ing and dips in the frigid North Sea, lots of drinking and weird Estonian liquor, and grilled things.
This past year, I curated a touring film program called “Package Deals: Finland” and this summer, I returned to Helsinki to get a deeper, closer look at what contemporary Finnish art and cultural policy look like. I will go into more detail about the artists I met, spaces I visited, and artwork I experienced in future posts but since I’m setting the scene here, I’ll start with my home during my two-week stay: Suomenlinna and its tenants, the Helsinki Artist-in-Residence-Programme, or HIAP.
As summer 2010 winds down this week’s roundup gets ready for an exciting fall season when Mark Dion embarks on an expedition in Oakland, Andrea Zittel lands on the Portland Art Museum front patio, Cindy Sherman steps out in Balenciaga, and Matthew Ritchie and Trenton Doyle Hancock gear up for Super Bowl XLV and more!
- The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art presents a live, audiovisual collaboration between Charles Atlas and musician/composer William Basinski as part of the Time-Based Art Festival. “This is a rare chance to see a virtuoso performance from Atlas — a pioneer of the integration of live video with stage performance known for acclaimed collaborations with Michael Clark, Leigh Bowery and Merce Cunningham — and New York experimental media musician and composer William Basinski. — forma.org” The festival will run September 9-19.
- Miradas: Mexican Art from the Bank of America Collection, organized by the National Museum of Mexican Art in collaboration with Bank of America, includes work by Gabriel Orozco. The exhibition will be on view September 10, 2010 – January 9, 2011 and is comprised of “the most extensive corporate collections in the U.S. and takes a close look at the paintings, prints and photographs created over the past 80 years.” Continue reading »
Last month, I opened my email to find a “Call For Furrie Interns.” The call came from LA artist Marnie Weber and was forwarded to me by a mutual friend who thought of me “for some reason.” Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. I soon found myself at furrie rehearsal, amongst a group of bright-eyed and soon-to-be bushy-tailed volunteers. We each chose from a selection of 12 mascot-style animal costumes, and while I was tempted by the elephant and cow costumes, I immediately felt at home — perhaps too at home? — in head-to-toe parrot regalia.
Weber conceived the furrie performance/installation as part of A Night of Growth and Discovery — an extravaganza benefit for the Pasadena-based nonprofit, West of Rome Public Art. The happening was to take place amidst the collaborative installation by Mike Kelley (Season 3) and Michael Smith, which has been on display all summer in Kelley’s mammoth 15,500 square-foot studio. Weber’s piece would be one of several works and performances created especially for the benefit, as a complement to the Mike and Mike installation. Weber instructed us to offer our fuzzy bodies up to guests for hugs, pets, and dances, but “nothing sexual.” We were also encouraged to behave as though we were in the midst of our own ecstatic voyage of growth and discovery.
Is sound an element of design right alongside biggies like line, color, shape and texture? Teachers today are faced with the unseemly job of breaking outside “the” seven elements of design many of us grew up with, and now must educate students about a range of additional elements one really can’t skirt if you’re teaching with contemporary art.
Sound as an element of design was front and center at MASS MoCA this weekend as Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival hit North Adams, MA, and basically took over the town. What was impressive, along with the variety of bands featured, was the way sound created unique experiences as and with art throughout the museum, rather than serve as a backdrop to objects. Nels Cline’s installation on the second floor allowed visitors to sit and manipulate over a dozen electronic effects boxes and create waves of distortion, vibration, pulsation and other ations I won’t even mention here. I found myself creating a whole concert with a child across from me that couldn’t have been more than eight years old. We had a ball! But the placement of this installation next to (underneath) Tobias Putrih’s Re-projection: Hoosac made the dialogue between these works even more beautiful. The changes in volume, rhythm, and overall noise allowed for experiencing Putrih’s wall-to-wall sculpture in different aural settings depending on when you came through the gallery (for the purists at the festival, the installation was only turned on for 30-minute increments on the half hour, rather than having it running full time… and you needed a breather if you were making a lot of that kind of music).
Artists who use sound as a primary element such as Bruce Nauman and Christian Marclay allow us to consider it as an element of design that helps get an idea or experience across. Sometimes it is supported by other elements such as color or texture and sometimes it stands on its own. Becoming familiar with art and artists using sound in a wide range of settings has become part of what art educators need to consider when teaching about art today.
This week in the roundup … Barbara Kruger gets a celebration started, Cao Fei has her eyes on a prize, Cai Guo-Qiang goes in with a bang, Raymond Pettibon is into OFF!, Maya Lin dedicates her Confluence, Laurie Anderson opens BAM and much more!
- Barbara Kruger presents Plenty at Guild Hall through October 11. A special preview on August 13 celebrates the exhibition. “Barbara Kruger is one of the most important artists of this century. Her work is exciting and challenging. I have wanted to work with her since I first became Curator of Guild Hall in 1990 and am delighted that the opportunity finally arrived for our schedules to coincide and work together on this amazing exhibition,” said Christina Mossaides Strassfield, Museum Director and Chief Curator.
- The Guggenheim Museum and Hugo Boss announced the artists short-listed for The Hugo Boss Prize 2010, which will be awarded on November 4, followed by a solo exhibition for the winning artist in 2011. One of the Prize nominees, Cao Fei also had her work in the 17th Biennale of Sydney, and she was nominated for the Future Generation Art Prize 2010.
- Cai Guo-Qian has been invited by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to make Odyssey that will adorn a new Arts of China Gallery on October 17. “Cai Quo-Qiang is a master of the poetic on a grand scale,” director of the MFA Houston Peter C. Marzio said in a statement. He added that he believes Cai’s project will foster a “dialogue between artworks from different time periods within the galleries.” Continue reading »
Freewaves turned 20 this year. The grassroots new media organization that began in 1989 with a gaping, loosely defined mission to show Los Angeles to itself celebrated its birthday on June 26 with Video on the Loose, a one-night festival at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). In the wide-open plaza that links the museum’s newly built Resnick Pavilion and Broad complex to the older Ahmanson Building, 21 monitors each displayed a video from Freewaves’ double-decade archive. They made up a surprisingly compact circle and Freewaves founder and director Anne Bray originally imagined that viewers would look over the tops of the monitors and into the faces of people watching on the circle’s opposite side. But tall monitor stands prohibited this sort of voyeuristic camaraderie. Instead, to hear over the dint of the DJ and surrounding videos, viewers gathered close to the speakers and tight circles formed around screens. This close proximity added a subtle sense of peer-pressure to the evening’s experience. You didn’t want to be the first to leave your circle, especially if others were intent.
The first time I watched Meena Nanji’s Voices of the Morning, a hauntingly rhythmic black and white film narrated by a young Muslim woman learning how to have a self, I stood beside a tall man with graying golden-blond hair. His intentness worked on me like a weight; even though the faster-moving imagery on the subsequent screen tempted me, I stayed put, acting just as focused as him (and by the video’s end, I really wasn’t acting; I returned to Voices of the Morning two more times that evening).
Social dynamics like these are, in part, what Freewaves is all about.
In this week’s roundup you’ll find two island exhibitions, some curiosities of Monaco, a photographer who pushes buttons, and a group of artists who keep it real:
- Indianapolis Island, a floating habitat by Andrea Zittel (Season 1), was commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for installation on the lake inside of 100 Acres, one of the largest museum art parks in the country, and the only one to feature the ongoing commission of site-specific artworks. Two students of the Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis will live on the Island for six weeks. Michael Runge and Jessica Dunn, who will graduate from Herron next May, will move into the piece by June 20, the park’s opening day. Follow them as they chronicle their experience on the IMA blog “Give and Take.”
- Clasp, a solo exhibition of works by Zittel, is on view at Sadie Coles Gallery in London through July 31. Here’s an excerpt from the artist’s exhibition statement: “The works in this show present a study into the four dynamic modes of experience –pure (or what I call native) experience and the three methods of its representation: A representation of the experience (Factish Depiction); an idea of an experience (Ideological Resonator); and the result of an experience (Material Manifestation). In all of the works presented there is the common denominator of touch. Touch is the single mode through which we physically negotiate and impose our will on the world around us and on those who reside with in it. It is the prosthetic activity of our brains. In the case of this exhibition the strand is seen as the extension of this touch – as a ligament of will, control, and support.” Continue reading about Clasp.
- Mark Dion (Season 4) has created a piece for EMSCHERKUNST.2010, the biggest art project of the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010. Scheduled to last 100 days, the project is staged on Emscher Island, which is in the process of being transformed from “a grim by-product of the industrial revolution” to the new Emscher Landschaftspark. It is currently the largest nature restoration project in the world. Forty artists have created 20 public works on the island, including a “singing” rock, a community garden, and an itinerant Punch-and-Judy puppet show. EMSCHERKUNST.2010 runs through September 5.
- Works by Louise Bourgeois (Season 1), Kiki Smith, Gabriel Orozco (both Season 2), Arturo Herrera, Mike Kelley (both Season 3), and Julie Mehretu (Season 5) are included in the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition Keeping it Real. The exhibition, which will be installed in four “acts,” explores the way that artists have used materials to look at the relationship between art and reality. The objects are drawn from the D. Daskalopoulos Collection based in Greece. Bourgeois and Smith are featured in Keeping it Real: Act 1: The Corporeal, which continues through September 2010. Kelley, Mehretu, Orozo and Herrera are included in successive installations, namely Act 2: Subversive Abstraction, and Act 4: Material Intelligence.
- Recent works by Season 3 artist Fred Wilson are on view at Mitterrand+Sanz in Zurich. The objects were selected by Paris-based curator Ami Barak who has helped to “transfigure” the artist’s language of institutional critique for the gallery space. Included in the display is Regina Atra (2006), a copy of a diadem made for the coronation of George IV, in this case, constructed of black diamonds; a bust representing Ota Benga, the Congolese pygmie who was exhibited in the Saint Louis World Expo of 1904, with a white scarf obscuring his ethnic identity label; and a series paintings of flags of African and African diaspora nations, stripped of color and reduced to their graphic forms. Fred Wilson closes July 24.
- From June 18 to September 19, works by Sally Mann (Season 1) will be on view at The Photographer’s Gallery in London. Mann’s first solo show in the U.K., it will include images from various series made throughout her career, such as Immediate Family (1984-94), Deep South (1996-98), and What Remains (2000-04). On the occasion of the exhibition, titled The Family and the Land, Blake Morrison of The Guardian talked to Mann about why she likes “pushing buttons.” Read Morrison’s article Sally Mann: The naked and the dead.
- Models, sculptures, photographs and videos by Season 5 artist Yinka Shonibare MBE are on view at Nouveau Musée National de Monaco through January 16, 2011. With this exhibition, Shonibare embarks on a new series entitled Looking up…™ Alongside Shonibare’s own works are recently restored works belonging to the artistic history of the Principality of Monaco, many presented for the first time. These include the Visconti Maquettothèque of the Monte-Carlo Opera (a collection of model set designs), the Bosio brothers’ sculptures and etchings, Eugène Frey decors, the Marquis du Périer de Mouriez’s collection of transparent paintings, religious boxes from the de Galéa Collection, and many other “artificialia” that evoke the cabinets of curiosities of the 17th and 18th centuries. Looking up…™ will be accompanied by a 180-page French/English full-color catalogue.