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Friday, 21 May 2010

DREAMLANDS at the Pompidou

One of the most engaging shows this summer, Dreamlands recently opened at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The show considers, for the first time, the question of how World’s Fairs, international exhibitions and theme parks have influenced ideas and notions of the city. Duplicating and reduplicating reality through the creation of replicas, embracing an aesthetic of accumulation and collage that is often close to kitsch, these self-enclosed parallel worlds have frequently afforded inspiration to the artistic, architectural and urbanistic practices of the 20th century, and may even be said to have served as models for certain contemporary constructions.

This multidisciplinary exhibition brings together more than 300 works: modern and contemporary art, architecture, films and documents drawn from numerous public and private collections. Designed as an experience both playful and educational, it will offer the first comprehensive exploration of its theme, inviting visitors to think about how the city is imagined and how this imagination finds expression in concrete projects.

World’s Fairs, contemporary theme parks, the Las Vegas of the 1950s and 1960s, 21st century Dubai: all these have helped bring about a profound transformation in our relation to the world, our conceptions of geography, time and history, our ideas about the original and the reproduction, about art and non-art.

The dreamlands of the leisure society have shaped the imagination, nourishing both utopian dreams and artistic productions. But they have also become realities: the pastiche, the copy, the artificial and the fictive have become facts of the environment in which real life is led, and they serve as models for understanding and planning the urban fabric and its social life, blurring the boundaries between imagination and reality.

From Salvador Dali’s Dream of Venus pavilion for the New York World’s Fair of 1939 to such manifestoes as Venturi and Brown’s Learning from Las Vegas and Rem Koolhaas’s Delirious New York (which reads Manhattan through Coney Island’s Dreamland), the 16 sections of the exhibition will trace the history of a complex and problematic relationship.

Dreamlands continues until 9 August. www.centrepompidou.fr

Q&A with curators Quentin Bajac Curator at Musée National d’Art Moderne, Chief of Photograph Cabinet and Didier Ottinger Deputy Director of the Musée National d’Art Modern

How did you undertake the process of curating art with architecture and film?
As you know we have at the Pompidou a long tradition of ambitious multidisciplinary exhibitions, which mix all the different techniques, from architecture to painting, from photography to sculpture or installation works. Dreamlands definitely belongs to that tradition even if it is probably one of the exhibitions organized at the Pompidou in which the animated image (slideshows, film extracts, videos, digital imagery) is the more central.

How did this exhibition come about and why did you select the space of the Grande Gallerie? What are the highlights of the exhibition?
The fact that many contemporary artists (from Gursky to Pierre Huyghe, from Martin Parr to Mike Kelley), worked on subjects which were related to that topic (the influence of Pop culture and entertainment architecture on the urbanistic changes of the 20th and 21st centuries) was definitely important for us. We realised that these changes and these questions were central to works of artists from very different origins (Western, African, Asian) and of very different generations (from historical Pop artists (Ruscha, Leirneir) to very young ones (Liu Wei, Cao fei). The idea was to organize a show that would very closely (and we hope subtly) mix aesthetic and social issues. Some of the pieces included in the show (Malacchi Farrell, Mike Kelley, Pierre Huyghe, Kader Attia) are pieces that need space.The big gallery of the Pompidou, in which we usually organize these major thematical shows was therefore the obvious exhibition space.

What was your criterion for selecting which artists to include?
It is always, as in all exhibitions, a balance to find between of course the interest of the piece(s) we are showing and the way such piece(s) can interact with others. The exhibition is not only about showing interesting or thrilling or exciting isolated pieces but also about establishing links and relations between these pieces. In that respect we wanted to have as many different techniques and media as possible, in order to enhance the diversity and we hope the interest of the show.

Dreamlands explores ideas of escapism in theme parks, and in the 21st century we are now seeing unprecedented levels of escapism in the digital realm through programmes such as second life. How do you see the effects of these new developments evolving our notions of reality?
It is true that these new developments have had a big influence on our perception of reality and have tended to confuse the viewer. The exhibition, and I am especially thinking about one of the last room of the exhibition –the one devoted to Dubai- is also about that phenomenon; Dubai in recent years has based a lot of its communication campaigns on that impossibility of exactly knowing if the images they are proposing are real or fictitious. The use at the same time of real documentary images and digitally manipulated ones has been one of their key techniques of communication in recent years.

The city is often romanticised, on the other hand it often becomes grotesque – have you ever had your view of a certain place profoundly affected by an artwork pastiching it?
One of the things you can grasp by going round the exhibition is that you find, from one beginning of the century to another, from 1900 to 2000, always the same models which are copied over and over again. In that respect, there is a great stability of mythologies: Venice, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, Statue of Liberty etc. Does this phenomenon of reproduction affect in a positive or negative way the original - in other terms does it reinforces or exhausts the “aura” of the original to quote the expression used by Walter Benjamin in his texts from the thirties is a true question? The answer depends a lot on a personal experience and will probably differ from one individual to another just as the exhibition will probably affects in different ways the viewer: some will focus on the entertainment dimensions of these changes some will be probably be more conspicuous or even anxious about this phenomenon.

Manit Sriwanichpoom
Pink man in paradise : Sacré-cœur, 2002-2003
80cm x 120 cm
Galerie VU’, Paris
© Manit Sriwanichpoom / Galerie VU’ // © Manit Sriwanichpoom

Yiu Xiuzhen
Portable City, New York, 2003
Valise, vêtements usagés
90cm x 140 cm x 30cm
Courtesy Alexander Ochs galleries Berlin/Beijing
© Yin Xiuzhen

Olivio Barbieri
Site specific, Las Vegas, 2005
Film 35 mm sur DVD, sonore
12 min 30sec
Courtesy Olivo Barbieri, Brancolini Grimaldi Arte Contemporanea, Roma
© Olivo Barbieri

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Sensitivity Questioned at the Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Center

Jean Luc Blanc, Gregory Crewdson, Jim Drain, Ryan McGinley, Michael Robinson, Daniel Silver, Daniel Subkoff, Stephen Sutcliffe, Scott Treleaven, Dimitrios Antonitsis, Christos Delidimos, Kostas Bassanos, Manolis Bitsakis, Vassilis Botoulas, Antonis Donef, Eftichis Patsourakis, Theo Prodromidis, Panos Tsangaris

It is an interesting time for an exhibition in Athens like Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Center’s Sensitivity Questioned. Considering it opened the day before an angry mob attempted to storm the Greek parliament and a bank was set on fire. Amidst all this anger, three people died. Perhaps it is a time to question sensitivity after all.

In the words of the curatorial brief, the exhibition wants to “articulate a new view of the ‘feminine’”. Uh oh. Now we’ve entered dangerous territory. If the attempt is to create new perceptions of femininity, then we are crossing a well-trodden path that is so well trodden, blood, tears and an ample number of burned bras litter the trail. It is interesting, then, that the female curator, Iliana Fokianaki has only decided to use male artists – 18 to be exact- inviting them “to approach their subject in ways that may perhaps strike the viewer as ‘feminine’”.

But what is femininity? According to the exhibition’s catalogue: “A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from woman, and it is confirmed only by other men. Manhood coerced into sensitivity is not manhood at all. ” Another supposition is that the word ‘sensitive’ is seen as a feminine one and that “the definitions of femininity and masculinity have been solid for centuries now.” It then explains that the exhibition’s aim is to instead seek the feminine, sensitive side of men and in turn redefine what it is to be sensitive and feminine.

Of course, from El Greco’s St. Mary Magdalene, Degas’s ballerina’s and – in the case of this show - Ryan McGinley and Gregory Crewdson’s intimate portraits of a young, wet, naked woman and a young, naked, couple in a wooded grove respectively, would it be wrong to suggest that men have long had the freedom to explore what is sensitive, or what they are sensitive to, through their art?

Maybe that is what Stephen Sutcliffe touches on when he pairs images of women wearing skirts and heels with men in suits with briefcases narrated by a reading of poster girl of female anguish and struggle in the face of a male-dominated world, Anne Sexton’s 1967 poem, Said the Poet to the Analyst, in a video facing the male/female divide head on. Emmanouil Bitsakis does something similar when he replaces a queen’s face with his own in an expertly rendered, tongue-in-cheek orthodox-sized icon nod to idolisation, nobility, tradition, and hierarchy.

Reminiscent of Angus Fairhurst’s furious markings on pages of British newspapers, Antonis Donef’s networks of line and shape drawn carefully onto pages from a Victorian encyclopaedia build organic shapes that feel rooted, earthy yet ambiguous, much like Daniel Silver’s painted portraits rendered in fluid tones of green. Panos Tsagaris delves into symbolism and the occult, a characteristically feminine trait in human behaviour intrinsically intertwined with nature, offset by the figure’s androgyny. Man and woman as one suggests a balancing of two opposites or the coming together of two halves.

Christos Delidimos’s dynamic contribution to the show is a streamlined selection of hand drawn imagery telling the story of man and the beast within. An installation of sorts, a nod to Athena in the form of a paper owl sculpture overlooks the scene created by three smaller drawings followed by a paper-built monster on a ledge, with a caged miniature nearby. Above, a tiny black and white scene and a large image of a solitary almost ‘anti-Adam’ skulking through a treacherous, forest-wasteland is punctuated with a drawing of a deer, speared high into the wall by menacing black poles. Echoing Homeric war, Delidimos paints a dark, poetic picture of a world without women, or a world in conflict.

Nevertheless, if that world without women is anything like Michael Robinson’s video of a domestic scuffle taken from American soap opera, Little House on the Prairie, with 80’s hit Hold Me Now by the Thompson Twins serenading the scene; it would be a hell of a lot more peaceful - or less passionate. But essentially, Robinson suggests a world without media-reduced abstracts would be a much better place for everyone.

At this point I think back to Theo Prodromidis’s black and white photo-narrative that welcomes visitors on the smaller, first floor exhibition space. Prodromidis’s lens longingly follows a beguiling woman through a park in London. She appears distant, out of reach, strange. Both tender and voyeuristic, the photographs expose a natural divide that exists between two people, let alone men and women. As we make our way further into the 21st Century, with all the changes that come with it, it is fitting the exhibition begins and ends with this piece. Where is that woman? Does ‘that’ woman exist? Where is the woman’s perspective in all of this? Will there have to be a masculinity questioned sequel that might allow women to define masculinity? (Not a bad idea).

Still unsure whether the exhibition manages to answer or support what it claims to set out to do, I turn to Daniel Subkoff’s intricate treatment of two books – Aleister Crowley’s The Book of Wisdom or Folly and Danto’s After the End of Art to sum it all up. Lines from pages have been painstakingly cut and joined to unite the two books. The top line reads: “For shame! Is it not the most transient of all the Wisdoms of the Cosmos that no two beings are alike?” It’s true. No two people can ever be the same. Even our own, personal views on femininity, masculinity, or sensitivity are subtly different.

This is how the show saves itself. Though by raising the issue of femininity it manages to shut female artists out, something any staunch feminist of 70’s calibre would have abhorred, the works of participating artists – and the placement of them - get you thinking about roles imposed on us as humans today, in relation to the roles we play within the societies we find ourselves in. In turn, we might consider who, or what, we perceive ourselves to be at this moment in time. Maybe that might bring us closer to understanding what we have become in order to contemplate how we will evolve. That’s something for all of us to think about – man or woman.

Proceeds from the exhibition will go to ActionAid Hellas to fund programs that support women in India, Cambodia and Haiti.

For further information visit: www.art-tounta.gr

The exhibition continues until 3rd July.

Guest Blog written by Stephanie Bailey. Originally from Hong Kong, Stephanie currently lives and works in Greece. She is the Arts Editor of Athens Insider, and contributes to Art Papers, Odyssey Magazine and Naked Punch.

(c) Dimitrios Antonitsis Las Vegas at Anapsyktirion Peristeriou - Ralls Rallis series, 2010, b/w photograph on aluminum, 200x300 cm

(c) Theo Prodromidis Untitled 2007 (Canary Wharf, towards the performance of an image), hand-processed b & w photographs, goldleaf, Perspex, wood dimensions variable

(c) Dimitrios Antonitsis Fisherman - Ralls Rallis series, 2010, b/w photograph on aluminum 100x70 cm

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Untitled (Tube Map) by Barbara Kruger

Internationally renowned, American artist, Barbara Kruger (b.1945) is the latest creative talent to design the new Pocket Tube Map cover. Kruger uses the language of publicity to draw attention to advertising and its manipulative power. Her trademark subversive tactics are played out in her Untitled (Tube Map)where the familiar imagery of the map is used to relate her own feelings about London, a city she loves and knows well.

Kruger’s London show, Paste Up, which opened at the tail end of an incredibly complicated year, making it a timely reappraisal of her early practice. In addition to offering an acute cultural insight, Kruger’s work also presents a serious conceptual exploration into the juxtaposition of language and image. By using contrasting layers, Kruger’s work has for almost three decades questioned the nature of a media-saturated society in late capitalism, and the significance of highly evolved cultures of consumerism and the making of social identities.

Her fusion of text and image is inimitable and resonates in the mainstay of today’s over-saturated consumer world. READ the full feature by clicking here.

So, to see her work on the Tube Map is not only relevant, but incredibly exciting. The image shows a section of the Tube map in which the station names have been replaced by words that relate to Kruger’s experience of that part of London. Taking the very familiar visual language of the Tube map, she keeps the main image intact but changes the words – still in their daily uniform of the classic New Johnston Font – and liberates them from their daily function. St. James’s Park is momentarily renamed ‘Fame’, Westminster station becomes ‘Reason’ and Victoria station as ‘Pride’ completes a humorous triumvirate

Kruger’s is the 12th Pocket Tube Map design to be commissioned by Art on the Underground. Other artists in the series include Jeremy Deller, Richard Long, David Shrigley and Mark Wallinger. The maps are becoming recognised as collectors' items as the portfolio grows. Available for free from stations across the network, the map has one of the largest print runs for any organisation in Europe, with over five million printed per design and almost 15 million per year.

Sally Shaw, curator for Art on the Underground, said: “We are excited and privileged to be working with Barbara Kruger on this project. Untitled (Tube Map) presents a subtly humorous and human interpretation of life in the city, navigated via the Tube. I am looking forward to hearing what our customers think about Barbara’s work and the others in the series via our website.”

You will be able to pick up Kruger’s map for free at Tube stations across London from 21 May 2010.

For more information about Art on the Underground, please visit www.tfl.gov.uk/art

Images (c) the artists
Barbara Kruger
Paul Noble
Richard Long

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Artists of 2010 - The Next Big Thing?

Again, it is this time of year, where everyone is boasting about the next “big thing”, I do follow graduates, and encourage their work, but sometimes I feel that artists need to realise that there’s no quick fix. Everyone has to pay their dues, it takes time, dedication and hard work to succeed in this industry. That said, this is one of the most exciting times of year, I feel that graduates do need our support - Enter the Catlin Art Prize.

The only art prize to survey every art school in the UK, the Catlin Art Prize commissions new work from the best of Britain’s emerging artists. Now in its fourth year, the Catlin Art Prize has established itself as the annual showcase for graduates one year on from their degree exhibitions. The prize is recognised amongst collectors and artists alike as being one of the most exciting for British early-career artists. It is unique in the breadth of its scope and in providing the artists with the time and opportunity to develop their practice, encouraging them to demonstrate their progress by producing a new body of work. Last Thursday, video artist Reynir Hutber, was awarded the Catlin Art Prize 2010.

Curator, gallerist and art writer, Justin Hammond’s search for the most promising artists of tomorrow takes him the length and breadth of the UK, to graduate BA and MA shows. For the first time the 40 exceptional talents uncovered through this wide ranging process have been documented in The Catlin Guide. The only guide to emerging art in the UK, this highly sought after limited edition book introduces the work and upcoming exhibitions of Catlin artists and will be available exclusively at The London Art Fair, 13-17 January 2011.

From the 40 artists recommended for The Catlin Guide, eight were invited to take part in the Catlin Art Prize and encouraged to make a brand new collection of work to be exhibited at Village Underground, Shoreditch, which opened on 14th May. Previous exhibitions have attracted collectors such as David Roberts and Kay Saatchi eager to view cutting edge work and invest in new talent. A final overall winner will be selected by a judging panel and will receive £3,000 prize money – enough to run a studio for a year.

Curator Justin Hammond said: “These artists were selected for their potential to influence the shape and dynamic of contemporary art at a most crucial and exciting time. In 2010 the art landscape is different, less bloated. It feels like a fresh start and an environment more receptive to new ideas. This meant it was harder than usual to distinguish common trends at the last round of degree shows - undeniably a good thing. A determined reaction against complacency was palpable though, with some serious, less jokey art and adept manipulation of technology.”

2009 winner Sarah Lederman is positive about the award's significance, “The Catlin Art Prize gave me and the other artists the opportunity to show what we had achieved since graduation. It has certainly given me critical and financial encouragement to keep making art - the prize money will allow me to afford my studio and continue to be a full time practicing artist.”

In their own words, what some of the 8 shortlisted artists had to say:

Alexander Allan
“My recent work utilises a range of man-made and natural materials to display the constant battle being fought between our built environment and the forces of nature. The force and flow of water has been represented using sticks and debris gathered from rivers while our attempts to control the forces of nature have been displayed using abandoned bricks gathered from the same river. It is nature’s ability to overcome our attempts to constrain its forces that has strongly influenced my work recently and will continue to do so in the future.” BA (hons) Sculpture Edinburgh College of Art. Currently studying MFA Sculpture Edinburgh College of Art

Adam Dix
“Recent paintings have investigated the association between communication technology and our desire to communicate, whilst considering the systems we have constructed to do so. I have concentrated on the arena of telecommunications, looking at its impact on society.In the coming year I would like to further the idea of 'ritual' within the human response to communication, considering the systems we have constructed beyond that of telecommunications.” MA Painting Wimbledon College of Art University of the Arts London

Alex Virji
“Portraiture and the recognisable silhouette of a head and bust is a motif I have kept constant throughout my work. The shape is reminiscent of a keyhole and when placed within an oval format, allows the viewer to be connected to a mode of painting rooted in the past.” BA (Hons) Painting City and Guilds of London Art School

Reynir Hutber
“My work encompasses aspects of installation, live art and sculpture and explores themes of social visibility, responsibility and control. Many of my recent projects blend looped recordings of my body with relayed video of the viewer, compressing them into a mediated image that is both cohesive and deceitful.” MA Fine Art The University Of Brighton

Victoria Matkin
“I create otherworldly sculptures concerned with themes of veiling and concealment. When standing along side the sculptures, it is difficult for the viewer not to address their own standing within the immediate space. My aim is to produce sculptures that challenge the space in which they are situated, perhaps triggering a sense of unease and disconcertion in the viewer.” BA (Hons) Fine Art Sculpture Bath Spa University

Sonny Sanjay Vadgama
“Through my work in video, photography and sculpture, I hope to address a range of political and cultural narratives. I take existing material and manipulate it digitally to create both 2D and 3D virtual environments. I frequently display work via large scale projections that fill the field of vision, further engaging the audience and creating an immersive atmosphere.” BA Fine Art Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design London

David A Smith
“I am interested in the physical manifestation of memory within the sculpted form, though my practice does not necessarily signify a complete analysis of an object’s history or an opportunity to resurrect a past method of its purpose. I present a new dialogue in the relationship between the ready made and the manipulated raw materials.” MA Fine Art Chelsea College of Art and Design University of the Arts London

Miyo Yoshida
“My work is about conditioned perception. I reconstruct objects and symbols of personal status with alternative materials, forging a new identity and value, triggering doubt and confusing judgement. Since childhood I have experience different cultures, social mechanisms, contrary opinions and paradoxical points of view and I've learned not to believe in the absolute value of events or materials. I support a constant flux in which each of us contributes to the mutability of every parameter.” MA Applied Arts Royal College of Art London

Visit www.artcatlin.com for more information. The exhibition is at Village Underground, Shoreditch and continues until 23 May 2010.

Reynir Hutber will be participating at the next show at ROOM LONDON from 5 June to 18 July.


© David A Smith, courtesy Justin Green 19
© Reynir Hutber, courtesy Justin Green 19
© Alex Virji, courtesy Justin Green 19

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