PiST///Interdisciplinary Art Space is storefront gallery space and artist project co-directed by artists Didem Özbek and Osman Bozkurt. Opened in 2006, PiST/// is located in Istanbul’s Pangaltı neighborhood, a frenetic, working class area located adjacent to posh Nişantaşı and one metro stop from crowded, chaotic Taksim Square. Despite its proximity to these areas, Pangalti feels like a different world, and even Istanbullus who live nearby confess to to rarely heading into that part of town. “It’s so far away!” an acquaintance who lives in Tophane exclaimed when I mentioned my planned visit to interview Özbek and Bozkurt. When I reminded him of just how close it was, he seems surprised. “I guess you’re right,” he responded thoughtfully. “But it seems very far.”
In many ways, PiST/// does feel miles away from Tophane’s plucky commercial spaces and Istiklal’s larger galleries, standing shoulder to shoulder with newer institutions such as Arter and the just-opened SALT. Its isolation within the institutional geography of the city is indicative of Özbek’s and Bozkurt’s dedication to critiquing the status quo of the professional art community. However, PiST/// is more than a “cube,” more than four walls and a roof which enclose objects or events. It’s a set of practices, an experiment in relationships, collaboration, business models, and professional endeavors. “PiST/// is not an exhibition space” they explain, but rather a medium of “experience exchange,” a means by which individuals with the same interests and concerns, engaged in the same kind of work, can share knowledge, resources, and experiences so that no one has to reinvent the wheel and when the tide rises in one place, boats all over the world rise together. Yes, things happen in PiST///–lectures, screenings, discussions, and, indeed, exhibitions–but these activities are only a portion of what “PiST///” truly means for its directors.
An Xiao follows up on yesterday’s post and continues her discussion with Bird’s Nest: Ai Weiwei in English editor Jennifer Ng and translator André Holthe.
An Xiao: Yeah, here in the West, we’re encouraged to brand ourselves and put our names everywhere, but I can certainly see the challenges and why the activity was a powerful one. So what happened after all these individuals participated?
Jennifer Ng: While I cannot prove this, I don’t think anyone was arrested for the activity, at least there were no reports on Twitter about it. In retrospect, the activity really was an interesting social experiment, that when ordinary folks get together to take responsibility and to publicly give out a message, the government really does not have the resources or is simply unable to control the voice of a vast amount of Chinese people that are on the Internet.
Mr. Ai sent them T-shirts and DVDs of his documentaries. It wasn’t just for that one activity however. I think he sends out presents for all of his Twitter projects. Basically he gives them out to whoever requests the DVDs and recently of course the sunflower seeds. For him it’s just an excuse to distribute his work, especially with the t-shirts and the documentaries. I don’t think he needs to do it for fame, but his heart is on giving them out so people can gain exposure to the problems of contemporary Chinese society.
All the documentaries and presents are politically themed. They’re various forms of documentation for the investigations he’s done on problems he’s explored in Chinese society. Giving them out lets more people have access and know about his side of the story in contrast to the official side of the story. They realize the so-called harmonious society is not that harmonious, at least not harmonious in the sense the government wants you to believe.
AX: He gives them out for free?
JN: Yes. Only within China, not sure if shipping is included.
Art 2.1 | Translating Ai Weiwei: Bringing Chinese Social Media Art to the English Twittersphere, Part 1
He is the second most-followed contemporary artist on Twitter after Yoko Ono and in my opinion, he engages his audiences in some of the most compelling and engaging social media art projects. However, to English-speaking audiences, by the far the dominant group on Twitter, his tweets fly past with not even a sense to how to pronounce them.
As the site name suggests, Bird’s Nest relies on a team of translators and contributors to translate and bring context to the tweets of artist Ai Weiwei. Since the beginning, Jennifer and I have relied on split management: while I worked on the operations, functionality, and design of the site, Jennifer managed the language and culture posts.
The nature of the Chinese language, whose words take up only 1–2 characters on screen, mean that Chinese-language tweets can be as long as a paragraph. Thus, we opted for Tumblr, which preserves the real-time and social nature of Twitter while allowing greater flexibility in translation and contextualization. I worked with our anonymous designer to develop a two-column format ideally suited for translation, and I work to ensure the site’s operations are running smoothly while contributing my own translations and working with Jennifer to determine the overall direction of the site.
As our editor, Jennifer has been closely involved in the almost all the tweets that Mr. Ai sends out. She is uniquely suited for the job, as a freelance translator and native speaker of both languages; active user of social media and proponent of social media art; and coordinator of the Master of Communications Sciences in Technology-Enhanced Communications for Cultural Heritage at the University of Lugano, with a background in semiotics and museum studies. Her dedication to accuracy has ensured the highest quality of translations, and our site has now been cited in The Wall Street Journal, CNNGo, Shanghaiist, and others. She was also asked recently to contribute translations for Mr. Ai’s current installation the Tate Modern.
I sat down with Jennifer over Skype to talk about how Ai Weiwei uses Twitter, and some of the challenges of translation. I also spoke separately with one of our translators, André Holthe, a Chinese scholar and industrial economist based in Norway and editor of Faces of China; I’ve blended in his responses here as appropriate.
An Xiao: When did you start following @aiww?
Jennifer Ng: It must have been about less than a year before we started translating his tweets. I think it was before or after his injury in Germany that I realized he actually has a Twitter account. I have continued to pay attention to his tweets since then for two reasons. One, because his tweets can be funny and inspiring at the same time. Two, because his tweets appear on the screen a lot. At his peak, I believe he posted hundreds of tweets a day.
Effervescent Condition, curated by Fang-Tze Hsu (MA 2010) was the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC) contribution to The Power of Copying, a large-scale, international group exhibition held at the Xuzhou Museum of Art in Xuzhou, China. With The Power of Copying, curator Qin Jian wished to explore the theme of copying, and how the context of an image or concept, when duplicated, is not steadfast. Jian wished to initiate a debate about the copy and how one’s nationality or ethnic identity informs image and object reproduction, and therefore invited various international pedagogical art institutions to participate.
Fang-Tze Hsu chose a group of artists working with and researching new media, as well as an instructor who is well-versed on the subject matter, to participate in the two concurrent iterations that were her vision for Effervescent Condition; one exhibition was held in Xuzhou Art Museum and the other at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The five artists chosen were Nadav Assor, Florian Graf, Adelheid Mers, Joshua Sampson and Wang Yefeng. The exhibition is, for Hsu, a reaction “to the effervescent condition of globalization… [and] the metamorphosis of citizenship under globalization, in which highly skilled, creative individuals are enticed to move freely from one metropolis to the other.”
Walking into SAIC’s Gallery X for the reception, I was immediately struck by Joshua Sampson’s (MFA 2011) Dodgedraw set-up. Utilizing readily available digital technology was highly important to the artist. He constructed real-time, interactive, and simultaneous electronic situations that incorporated the same elements: Skype, a webcam, a projector, markers, and white seamless paper. The digital components were wired so that the web camera recorded the actions and fed it over the Internet in real time via Skype. The Skype video was then translated into life-sized projections onto the seamless paper at both institutions.
The participant in China would frantically work to draw the digital outline of the person in Chicago onto the paper, and vice versa. Both people worked to dodge their counterpart’s attempts to draw them while working to complete their rendering. The result was a time-based, performative, participant-dependent artwork.
- Work by Season 4 duo Allora & Calzadilla is currently on view at the Aspen Art Museum in the exhibition Restless Empathy. The exhibition examines the process of entering the interior world of another and seeking to make a connection. Eight artists were asked to create new projects or to rethink existing bodies of work to be shown throughout the museum and the town of Aspen itself. Allora & Calzadilla have created a new version of their Hope Hippo (first exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2005) using local materials. Someone will be seated atop the hippo at all times, reading a newspaper. They will also be supplied a whistle, which they will blow each time they come across a story that they feel exposes or illuminates an injustice. Restless Empathy is on view through July 18.
- Season 3 artist Cai Guo-Qiang has installed his collaborative project Peasant Da Vincis at the newly opened Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai. The project, which explores the subject of individual creativity, coincides with the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai — “a major international event where countries and companies exhibit their latest inventions so as to show off their political, economic, technological and cultural strengths.” Peasant Da Vincis presents the stories of peasant inventors from all over China who have shown “great enthusiasm and courage in the pursuit of their dreams.” The project invites the inventors to recreate their works, exhibit them, and demonstrate on site how their inventions work. This is done to encourage public discussions about their creations, as well as “the social transformation of hundreds of millions of peasants in the modernization process in China and their huge contributions to urban development.” Peasant Da Vincis closes July 25.
- Out of the Box, an exhibition at the Hammer Museum, celebrates the joint acquisition of the complete archive of prints by Los Angeles publisher Edition Jacob Samuel by the UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Since 1988 Jacob Samuel has published 43 portfolios of prints made by artists, including Barry McGee, Andrea Zittel, (both Season 1), Gabriel Orozco (Season 2), and John Baldessari (Season 5). The number of prints included in each portfolio range from 6 to 36; the exhibition includes more than 550 individual prints. Out of the Box is on view through August 29.
- Variations & Improvisations, a solo presentation of works by Season 4 artist Robert Ryman, opens at The Phillips Collection on June 5. This group of approximately 25 small-scale paintings are drawn from private collections, some of which have rarely been shown in the United States. This will be the first solo showing of Ryman’s work in the Washington area. Variations & Improvisations closes September 12.
- Season 5 artist Julie Mehretu speaks to Artinfo’s Andrew Russeth about her new series of paintings currently on display at the Guggenheim Museum. Read Russeth’s article “All That’s Solid Explodes into Air: A Q&A with Julie Mehretu” here.
- A suite of photographs by Collier Schorr (Season 2) is featured in the June 2010 issue of Dazed & Confused.
- The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will host a talk with Season 3 artist Matthew Ritchie and brothers Bryce and Aaron Dessner (of indie rock band The National) on Saturday, October 31 at 6pm. The event is held in conjunction with their collaborative performance The Long Count, which opens at BAM on Wednesday, Oct 28. Ritchie’s work is currently on view at Andrea Rosen Gallery in the solo exhibition Line Shot.
- Songs of Ascension by Ann Hamilton (Season 1) and Meredith Monk (also currently at BAM) was featured in a New York Times music review last week. Read the article here.
- For Performa 09, Mike Kelley (Season 1) will present three short dance/performance pieces inspired by his film and video installation Day Is Done (2005). These performances bring to life some of the characters featured in the film, all of whom are based on found photographs of extracurricular activities from American high school yearbooks. Premiering will be Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #33 (Ladder Piece), a work involving 13 people assembled on and around a large ladder playing music on horns. Kelley’s show runs Nov 17 – Nov 19 at Judson Memorial Church. Purchase tickets here.
- Between Being Born and Dying, a site-specific installation by Barbara Kruger (Season 2), is on view at Lever House through November 21. Bloomberg.com describes the installation: “Kruger’s aphorisms are written in massive black-and-white letters all over the Lever House’s atrium, both inside and outside. They are printed on vinyl panels covering the floor, windows, walls and columns. The results are striking but disorienting. The 17-foot-tall letters are so big you can’t take it all in at once–or at all.”
- Season 2 artist Paul Pfeiffer has created a special project for the 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. The project opens with Vertical Corridor, in which Pfeiffer encourages the viewer to peer through a tiny peephole in the wall of the gallery. The peephole is the only access to an immense space, and questions “the validity of the spectacle … reminding the viewer that every such spectacle must bow to the limits of one’s perspective.” This is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Russia.
- Kara Walker (Season 2) will introduce a screening of the 1926 film Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (The Adventures of Prince Achmed) at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York on November 11. Directed by the German animator and film director Lotte Reiniger, it is the earliest feature-length animation still believed to exist, and considered one of the greatest animated films of all time. The program — part of MoMA’s To Save and Project festival — begins at 8pm.
- Season 2 artist Trenton Doyle Hancock will speak at James Cohan Gallery Shanghai on Tuesday, October 27 at 5pm. Two print portfolios Fix (2007) and The Ossifies Theosophied (2005) will be on display in conjunction with the event. Hancock is featured in the exhibition Young Americans at James Cohan Gallery Shanghai through November 15.
- Mirror, Mirror: Contemporary Portraits and the Fugitive Self, a new exhibition at the Brigham Young Museum of Art in Utah, features works by 32 artists, including Oliver Herring (Season 3), Rebecca Campbell, Hasan Elahi, Harrell Fletcher, Douglas Gordon, Nikki Lee, and Takashi Murakami. The exhibition explores the influence of rituals, facades, social media, and the family on the formation of individual identity. On view through May 2010.
- Art critic Tyler Green talks to MoMA curator Connie Butler (organizer of the feminist exhibition, Wack!) about Season 4 artist Nancy Spero, who passed away last week. Read the interview on Green’s blog Modern Art Notes.
- Work by Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (Season 4) is included in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago exhibition Learning Modern: Bauhaus Legacy in Downtown Chicago. Building on the legacy of László Moholy-Nagy and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Learning Modern features projects by artists and architects who continue a legacy of interdisciplinary innovation for better living, while exploring the central role of experiential education in the modern vision. Continues through January 9, 2010.
- Willy Loman: The Rise and Fall, the fifth exhibition of work by Yinka Shonibare MBE (Season 5) at Stephen Friedman Gallery in London, is on view through November 20. The earliest known documentation of a fatal car crash provides a pictorial metaphor for Shonibare’s new body of photographic and sculptural work. Photographed in 1898, the image records death as a spectacle for the first time; a crowd surrounds the carcass of a motor vehicle. Shonibare has created a similar scene in the gallery, a sculptural dramatization of the death of Arthur Miller’s infamous protagonist, salesman Willy Loman. The installation suggests a parallel between Miller’s 20th century examination of greed and the human condition, and the present day.
- Now on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Focus on Artists celebrates the museum’s 75th anniversary, and its close ties with modern and contemporary masters as demonstrated by works from their collection. SFMOMA holds a number of sculptures by Season 5 artist Doris Salcedo; pieces from her Unland (1995–98) and Untitled “Cabinet” series (1989-present) will be on view. Continues through May 23, 2010.
- On the occasion of Grey Area, a new work by Season 5 artist Julie Mehretu commissioned by the Deutsche Guggenheim, the current issue of ArtMag (the online art magazine of Deutsche Bank) focuses on artists who investigate urbanism and cultural identity. Joan Young, curator at the Guggenheim Museum, has contributed an essay about Mehretu’s recent work. Read it here.
In the final week of the Transformation series, I’ve asked a number of people with diverse points of view to offer their thoughts on the topic.
To kick things off, I introduce Ellen Pearlman, a Brooklyn & Beijing-based writer, curator, critic and film maker, who shares her thoughts about the notion of Art + Transformation in regards to China’s art scene:
Cao Fei, one of the featured artists on Art21, came of age during China’s accelerating transformation playing out through Second Life scenarios issues of fragility, loss and alienation. Other young Chinese artists are also delving into issues of their country’s transformation. International cities like Shanghai just had its first gay festival and though Beijing remains the art hub, second tier industrial and provincial regions like Wuhan and Sichuan and Hangzhou are also adding their voices into the mix. Instead of the block buster exhibits mounted by more recognized artists experiments are exploring themes of infantilism and powerlessness with new Chinese Anime, existentialism and ennui with WAZA, and issues of cultural dislocation and transgression with O Zhang.
In celebration of the fifth season of Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century, premiering this fall on PBS, the current round of Flash Points topics correspond to our upcoming four thematic episodes: Compassion, Fantasy, Transformation, and Systems.
After a few weeks of Compassion, up next is Fantasy. The signature question for this topic is:
Does art expand our ability to imagine?
Additional questions to ponder include:
- How might personal dreams and cultural taboos shape our vision?
- How does our desire for perfection control us?
- What role does technology play in wish fulfillment?
Throughout this time, we’ll publish in-depth posts about the artists profiled in the forthcoming Fantasy episode — Cao Fei, Mary Heilmann, Jeff Koons, and Florian Maier-Aichen — as well as feature musings from our roster of guest writers, extending the theme beyond the series to real world correlations, questions, and perhaps even discomforts.
Help us start the conversation by leaving a comment below. Feel free to note other artists whose work addresses the theme of fantasy — we’d love to collectively envision a broader landscape of how it is considered in contemporary art practice. And save the date for the Fantasy episode which debuts nationwide October 14, 2009 on PBS!
- The Cincinnati Art Museum has announced an exhibition of prints by Season 2 artist Martin Puryear. The show is scheduled to open December 2009.
- Barbara Kruger (Season 1) is included in the forthcoming exhibition of work by women artists at the Centre Pompidou. Read about this ambitious display in the Los Angeles Times.
- Seven works by Ursula von Rydingsvard (Season 4) will be installed at the ancient site of Pilane, Sweden for the annual exhibition, Sculpture at Pilane. Opens June 6.
- The MacDowell Colony, a leading artist residency program, will present their annual medal to Season 2 artist Kiki Smith.
- Season 1 artist Richard Serra has received a 2009 honorary degree from Yale University.
- Louis Vuitton; A Passion for Creation at the Hong Kong Museum of Art features a selection of objects from the Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création. Pierre Huyghe (Season 4) is included in this display of works by European, American and Chinese artists.
- Work by Andrea Zittel (Season 1) is on view in U.F.O. Art and Design at the NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaf in Düsseldorf. Continues through July 5.
- The 2009 edition of Art-Athina–Greece’s leading international art fair for contemporary art–will include work by Kara Walker (Season 2) and William Kentridge (Season 5) in a collateral event/exhibition, entitled Praise of Shadows. Through July 26 at the Benaki Museum.
- Season 5 artist Yinka Shonibare has enlisted children to assist with his piece for the National Gallery, London. Read the Times Online article.
I’ve been trying to ignore all of the panic and mania surrounding swine flu, since as far as I know anxiety has not yet been proven to afford protection against infection and death. An article in yesterday’s New York Times, however, caught my attention, noting the ways in which Mexicans have become particularly marked by the stigma of the flu even though cases have appeared throughout North America and Europe. Apparently healthy Mexican travelers were placed under quarantine in China; several Latin American countries suspended flights from Mexico; groups seeking to limit Mexican immigration to the U.S. have been referring to the virus as “Mexican Flu” in the media.
What struck me about all of this is that it is nothing new. Remember the Gay Plague, anyone? What is important here is not the transmission of disease, but rather the transmission of affect: anxiety, fear, disgust. I drudged up NBC’s very first coverage of the “gay cancer” (1982), which had not yet been identified or named as HIV/AIDS. Right from the start “lifestyle” was named as the cause of the illness, a way of life as disease vector.
In contrast, a 1976 public service announcement from the CDC about swine flu emphasizes the ways in which anyone can catch it, and anyone can transmit it. We should all be scared into vigilance and personal responsibility.
All of this brings me around to thinking about Felix Gonzalez-Torres, whose artworks involving stacks of posters or pieces of candy free for the taking enact the spread of a virus from a single source. His 1991 work Untitled (Portrait of Ross in LA) perhaps most directly links the transmission of infection to the transmission of affect. As viewers take a piece of candy from the 175 pound pile (the weight of the artist’s lover Ross in health), they symbolically take a piece of the lost lover’s body as it wastes away at the hands of AIDS. They also take a bit of melancholy-tinged shiny sweetness, a communion with the beloved in joy and death.
This morning I found my piece of gold-wrapped candy from an installation of this work. I still can’t bring myself to eat it. Maybe I can’t make the move from melancholia to mourning? I seem to be resisting the work’s designed disappearance. But then again, the work is also designed for constant renewal; the pile of candy is replenished to its original weight each morning. Perhaps if the work were permanently installed around the corner with its promise of a breath of life each day, I could take that sweetness and loss into my mouth.