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Friday, 8 April 2011

Deconstructing Photography: Rashid Rana, Lisson Gallery, London

Review by Emily Sack, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond the American International University in London.

Lisson Gallery’s newest exhibition highlights some of the recent works by Pakistani artist Rashid Rana. Rana works in photography but deconstructs typical photographic renderings and instead challenges the viewer to reconsider the world in which they live.

The first two pieces visible upon entering the gallery are entitled Language Series 1 and Language Series 2 (both from 2010-11). These large-scale works have the appearance of being landscape paintings from a slight distance. However, the interplay of colour and the almost mosaic-like visual texture evolves from the thousands of individual photographic fragments woven together. Each of the photographs depicts a sign of some sort, generally for a shop or restaurant, and in a variety of languages – both English and South Asian. Though most of the signs are not readily identifiable, they are recognized as an integral part of urban consumer culture and, therefore, form part of the modern cityscape. It is not a coincidence that Language Series 2 is reminiscent of a Monet garden painting for both the Impressionists and Rana use new techniques and aesthetics to create modern life paintings. By using the DIASEC technique, Rana’s photographs are bonded directly to acrylic glass creating a flawlessly smooth final product so the perceived texture is entirely visual.

In the main gallery on the ground floor the visitor encounters Rana’s Desperately Seeking Paradise II (2010-11). The work occupies an entire corner of the gallery and extends from corner to ceiling. Upon entering the space it appears to be a multifaceted and mirrored sculpture, but when one achieves the desired viewpoint, a cityscape miraculously appears. In between each crevice created by the stainless steel is a small photograph that reflects on the structure that encases it. The individual photographs are each unique and depict a different aspect of the urban environment. Together, however, the differences are not noticeable and they unite to become a magnificent city. Rana’s title for this work is rather poignant as it addresses the utopia and dystopia of a city. From a distance, a skyline of skyscrapers is a beautiful monument to modern life, but when coming closer to observe the details, the bigger picture disappears. The viewer becomes involved with looking at each of the smaller pictures and their own reflection within the metal frame so that it is easy to forget the panoramic image just witnessed. Cities are composed of individuals and all of the problems the individuals possess, and it is really only when stepping back that the comprehensive city view becomes visible.

Rana further challenges the traditional two-dimensional character of photography by creating Books-2 (2010-11). This sculpture consists of an aluminium cube with a pixelated photographic image adhered to the surface. At first glance it appears to be a stack of large books sitting in the middle of the gallery space. The pixilation becomes more pronounced as the viewer walks closer to the sculpture. Whereas the other works in the exhibition become clearer when examined closely, this work actually becomes more difficult to read and therefore more confusing and disorienting. Books are meant to be read, but here not only do they actually not exist, they cannot even be easily read. Rana is creating a contradictory space where the viewer must reconsider their beliefs on the nature of books, photography and art.

The exhibition as a whole is visually stunning, but after spending time with the works, the viewer understands the artist’s critical philosophy of the modern world. There is beauty to be found undoubtedly, but it is also important to recognize each of the individual components that comprise the landscape as a whole.

Rashid Rana continues at Lisson Gallery until 30 April. For more information visit the website.

Rashid Rana
Detail from Language Series # 1
LightJet print + DIASEC
360 cm x 270 cm
Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life: Dirt @ Wellcome Collection, London

Review by Carla MacKinnon

Wellcome Collection, a free visitor destination for the incurably curious has established an excellent name for itself as one of London's most unusual and absorbing cultural centres. Their high quality curation is both diverse and controlled, pulling artworks, artefacts and information from all corners of the world to tell one story. In this exhibition, running until the end of August, that story is dirt. Considering how ubiquitous dirt is, it is perhaps surprising how rarely it is examined in any but the most dismissive terms. This exhibition seeks to explore it deeper and examine mankind's relationship to it – materially, historically, culturally and psychologically.

In order to do this, the show shines a light on a series of snapshots of unique times, places and people. The first room contains paintings, illustrations and chinaware from 17th century Netherlands. Images of pious, neatly presented wives and maids ceaselessly scrubbing surfaces capture the spirit of cleanliness and introduce the notion of dirt as associated with degradation and a lack of virtue. The Netherlands were the birthplace of Antoine van Leeuwenhoek, the first man to have recorded seeing bacteria in 1683. One of van Leeuwenhock's original microscopes forms part of the exhibition, alongside a video of illuminated bacteria of the kind he discovered. These strange, glowing creatures moving together in rhythmic, mysterious patterns are arguably the most beautiful exhibit in the show. Next to this on the wall hangs anther striking piece – a simple china plate bearing the hand painted words 'you & i are Earth, 1661'. From one human to others, across 400 years, it is a quiet reminder of mortality.

Moving through the exhibition, the theme embraces the cholera epidemics of Victorian London. There is much here for lovers of satirical drawing, not least William Heath's wonderfully disgusting Monster Soup Commonly Called Thames Water (1828). Fans of information design will also find rich pickings here, from John Snow's map of the progress of disease centred on an infected water pump handle to William Farr's exquisite visual representation of the relationship between temperature and mortality rates in London.

Another focus is the Hygiene Museum in Dresden, originally opened as a result of the first World Hygiene Expo and later commandeered by the Nazis as a vehicle for the communication of eugenics propaganda. The complex psychological relationship society has to dirt is crystallised in the punishments and humiliations inflicted on Germany's Jewish population in the late 1930s – the exhibition features a photograph of Jews being forced to scrub streets on their hands and knees. Beside this is a poster stating 'Jews are lice. They cause Typhus'. As well as a sinister reminder of the medicalisation of anti-Semitism this is another example of dirt and cleanliness becoming ritualised, representing more than the material itself.

The idea of dirt as ritual is taken to a new level in the next room which brings us to India and introduces the goddess Durga. In the run up to the festival Durga Puja, idols of this goddess are crafted from dirt. These are then taken to the banks of the Ganges, submerged and destroyed as part of the traditional ritual. An extract from a documentary by Meghna Haldar tracks this process, interspersing interesting character studies (including an atheist craftsman condemned to a miserable season of drafting idols from filth) with poetic observations. “Nothing is so sacred that it cannot become profane” the voiceover states, “gravity pulls us into dirt”. In the adjoining room, a longer documentary by Paromita Vohra examines another side of India, looking at hygiene and sewage disposal in the country's urban slums. A range of informative and engaging artworks and artefacts manage to successfully present sewage systems of the developing world as richly fascinating area of study.

The exhibition is not short of contemporary art, alongside the information and historical exhibits.The room dealing with waste disposal in India is followed by another space housing a work by Santiago Sierra – a series of large sculptural blocks crafted in India from human excrement. The issues around scavenging, sewage disposal and hygiene problems in India are suddenly brought much closer by this strange, striking piece. In the final part of the show, Mierle Laderman Ukeles' video installation Penetration and Transparency: Morphed (2001-2) is one fruit of the artists' long term commitment to work around sanitation and her residency at Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island. She refers to the site as 'a social sculpture we have all produced' and presents views of the landscape alongside profiles of and interviews with site workers.

With this exhibition. Wellcome have once again taken a seemingly impossibly broad subject and explored it in an intelligent, coherent, imaginative and engrossing show. Though perhaps lacking some of the punch of their best exhibitions (Sleeping and Dreaming (2008) and Identity (2009) shows were both extraordinary), it is a compelling journey into an important human preoccupation, offering an afternoon of small wonders to anyone interested in taking a closer look at the often uncelebrated details of life.

Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life continues at Wellcome Collection
until August 31 2011. For more information visit www.wellcomecollection.org

Engraving: 'Monster Soup..." by William Heath
Credit: Wellcome Library, London

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Digital Tenderness: Clare Price, Charlie Dutton Gallery, London

Interview by Bethany Rex

Clare Price's new work represents a departure from the strictures of her previous work. Whilst adhering to the familiar formalist rules of earlier paintings, starting with the hand rendered pixellated lines that form a grid for the work there is a new energy and freedom that is seen both in the leaving behind of her traditonal landscape format and also the breaking down of the relationship with the original drawing. We caught up with one of the directors, Charlie Dutton to find out what it takes to open your own gallery.

What was your background prior to opening the gallery?
I completed a Fine Art degree at Central St. Martins in 1996 and then was lucky to be able to consistently practice as an artist, working mainly in paint and photography. I also worked as an assistant to some really well known artists which provided me with some great opportunites and learning experiences! I always loved putting on exhibitions, not just my own but other peoples too. I naturally found hosting and promoting art thrilling and a valuable and meaningful part of the creative process. I’m not sure I can properly express how much I love art.

The gallery only opened in 2010, what’s your vision for the gallery?
It’s been a fantastic year and we have had some really amazing shows with brilliant artists- some mid career and some very much emerging. We’ve been feeling our way as we go and now it is operating as a new model of gallery - a cross between an ‘artist run project space’ and a commercial gallery. Everything at the Charlie Dutton Gallery is a collaboration and the direction of each show is shaped by the passion of the artists and the co-curators who have been involved. I feel like this reflects our geographical position in the heart of London, half- way between the commercial West End and the more ‘artist run’ East, so it feels natural. I hope the gallery can get more involved in some off- site projects too, and working with public spaces. I just want to be able to continue putting on amazing shows with amazing people, whatever forms they take, whist maintaining the critical visual language which the gallery has cultivated.

How do you find the artists you represent? What kind of relationship exists between you and the artist?
I don’t actually represent artists in the traditional sense and I don’t think I will for the foreseeable future, although if it felt right there’d be nothing to stop it happening. This is part of the collaborative approach I was talking about. If a show is right for the artist and the gallery we can make it happen together and do everything we can to promote it. After that if an artist wants to continue to build a relationship that’s fantastic- if something else comes along that’s best for them I fully support them in that too- but I always hope we’ll be able to come together again somewhere somehow! I’ve been a practicing artist and I think that is why I have such an excellent relationship with the artists and most importantly such a trusting one.

Are you excited to be working with Clare Price for the current show? How did your relationship come about?
I’ve known Clare for a while now, and I’ve always loved her work. The expressiveness and sort of cyber-punky nature is so electrifying. Price manages to produce an aesthetic that sits perfectly in todays technological world, while retaining and communicating very primary understandings of construct and feelings of beauty. She has observed a moment in time which belongs to every single one of us.

Coming from the world of moving image and directing, what impact do you think this has had on Price’s use of gesture?
I believe that Price’s use of gesture has its roots in her painting background as well as her love and obsession with 50s abstract painting (De Kooning, Joan Mitchell, late Patrick Heron) and in the contemporary sense people like Albert Oehlen and Christopher Wool. Her literal moving image and directing experience affects the work both in the carefully realised sense of composition, and more obtusely in her deeper and broader understandings of the image. The digital and emerging technologies that Price has encountered have had their effect too- the obsession with and use of pixels for example, and the wider themes of technological glitsches and digital drop out.

What are your aims for the gallery and what else does your programme hold in 2011?
Promoting great art is paramount. There are so many talented and passionate artists out there and I only wish I could show every single one. I believe that as long as the gallery sticks to its guns and doesn’t comprimise on quality and the high calibre of it’s visual language then I can continue to put on shows that I’m immensely proud of, and I can continue to show these shows to the gowing and diverse audience that I reach. The Open Salon show gives great exposure to the artists who enter. Nigel Grimmer, the winner from last year, is now working on a solo show for the Charlie Dutton Gallery in the Autumn. We have Simon Haddock next, then an exciting group show including Katrina Blannin, Andrew Bick and Marta Marce in the summer, followed up by a photography Salon and then it’s probably three more shows till the end of the year. It’s always busy. But mainly it’s always exciting and inspiring.

Digital Tenderness continues at Charlie Dutton Gallery, London until 30 April. For more information visit www.charlieduttongallery.com

Image: Gonna flight and tear it up in a hypernation for you 267x163cm
Courtesy the artist and Charlie Dutton gallery.

Wonders of the Universe: Beyond Ourselves @ The Royal Society, London

Interview by Bethany Rex

Featuring works by Agata Agatowska, Geraldine Cox, Chris Dunseath, Sam Knowles, David Rickard and Chooc Ly Tan, Beyond Ourselves opens tomorrow at the Royal Society, London. The exhibition brings together six innovative contemporary artists who have all placed the potential of enquiry and thought at the core of their work. We caught up with the curator, Ingrid Hinton, to find out more.

Beyond Ourselves opens on April 7, can you tell us about the participating artists?
They are all quite varied in their output which I think was one of the reasons I wanted to include them in this show, I was intrigued to see how many media could be employed to communicate interests in a similar area. What they all have in common is an interest (to varying degrees) in the nature of scientific discovery and enquiry per se and how science and in particular physics, shapes our understanding of ourselves and what surrounds us. However, they are all uniquely expressing their own subjective interpretations of how science has touched them; the subjective commenting on the objective if you like. That’s why I think ‘in the spirit of scientific enquiry’ really sums up the show, they are each investigating their own ideas and seeing what results.

How does the process work in terms of selecting these artists?
The idea came first through noticing there were a couple of artists such as Geraldine Cox and Sam Knowles who were using the universe as a metaphorical device and who seemed to be interested in similar themes and then researching them. Then I began the search to find others working in this vein.

How did this project come about?
It started with a trip to the Milton Keynes to see the MK Prize selection and noticing that Geraldine and Sam seemed to be hovering above our world looking down and observing something interesting about how we perceive things, learn, discover. Some time later Geraldine and I were sitting in her studio and a collaborative project just seemed the next obvious thing to do, so we simply sat down and apportioned tasks to get Beyond Ourselves up and running.

The exhibition is displayed innovatively throughout the building of The Royal Society. What’s special to you about working there?
The history of the building and its architecture is intrinsically fascinating, I believe it is a conversion of 2 buildings, housing the German Ambassadors in the Eastern part; including Joachim von Ribbentrop prior to the WWII. I understand the Western part may have been used as a Royal Residence at one point. More importantly The Royal Society represents excellence in science and it is a privilege to be showing a mix of emerging and established artists work in such an appropriate setting.

The exhibition mixes many artistic disciplines including video, sculpture and collage. As a curator, what was your thought process here and how do you think they enhance each other?
Science is the fundamental study of nature from an objective perspective. If you consider the plethora of outputs that it engenders it would seem totally inappropriate and artificial to restrict the choice of disciplines shown, each of these artists are articulating their own area of interest and I think the show is richer for it. There is another aspect of the show that I would like to highlight which can be overlooked, many of the artworks have an organic, articulate and hand crafted feel to them, I am thinking of Chris’s paper sculptures here, as well as Sam’s interventions with books which I love as they seem to convey the personal endeavour to communicate the idea.

Articulating the artist’s sense of wonder at the natural phenomena in our universe, Beyond Ourselves, continues a line of enquiry that has received much attention in the media at the moment – I’m referring to the omnipresent Brian Cox. For the viewer, what is your intention of exploring these concepts in an exhibition setting?
Yes, this media focus was something I hadn’t anticipated, but possibly it is a happy coincidence. I have tried to use the conceptual and physical spaces as widely as possible, utilising the natural ‘journey’ of the exhibition for people to draw their own inferences but if it whets their appetite to continue their own exploration of understanding our universe then that would be a positive outcome for me. Trying to help people overcome their fear of engaging with science is a personal area of interest and I hope this opens a door for the audience. I am not a scientist, historically I have failed to engage with it but I can see through Beyond Ourselves there are other ways to entice people in to considering our world from a perspective they may previously have considered too academic for them.

Moving on from Beyond Ourselves, what other projects are you working on at the moment?
My immediate interest is in trying to tour Beyond Ourselves to other locations and for it to adapt and change its contents in the way it has done already. Thereafter there are a couple of other projects that I have up my sleeve that I am keen to work more on.

Beyond Ourselves is on at The Royal Society from 7 April - 24 June. Visits are by appointment only, please contact the Royal Society to arrange a time: 020 7451 2597. For more information: http://beyondourselves.eu

Philosopher's Notepads, 2010, manipulated exercise books by Sam Knowles
Courtesy the artist and the Royal Society.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 @ V&A, London

Review by Laura E. Barone, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond the American International University in London.

The Victoria and Albert’s major spring exhibition, The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 is decadent, comprehensive, and seamlessly integrated into the setting and approach of the V&A. A deliberate reaction against the codes and visual gloom of the Victorian era, the Aesthetic movement approached art and beauty as valid ideals in their own right, and aimed to express this ethos through an entire lifestyle.

Aestheticism centred around a glittering cast of characters including William Morris, James McNeill Whistler, Frederic Leighton, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Oscar Wilde. While many of these artists are well known and exhibited, the show is the first major and comprehensive exhibit of the period, and fittingly at the V&A. Within a small radius of the museum lived many of the major personalities of the ‘art for art’s sake’ movement, including Rossetti in Chelsea and Leighton near Holland Park (now the Leighton House Museum). Quite at home with itself, the sizeable exhibition of 250 objects revels in all that is sumptuous, romantic and bohemian during the second half of the 19th century.

The exhibition, curated by Stephen Calloway and Dr. Lynn Federle Orr, is presented chronologically, in four sections. The first room features deep turquoise painted walls and decorative green and blue wall projections. As an introduction to the exhibit, this room feature’s Leighton’s sculpture, The Sluggard (1885) along with floral ceramics, brass-designed sunflowers, and an image of a peacock – themes and media repeated throughout the exhibit.

“The Search for a New Beauty 1860s,” begins the narrative of the movement as a small group of friends who wanted to create a new style of visual arts and enjoyment of beauty in life. But, the wall text also makes clear that such an unbounded celebration of beauty sent critics into an array of disapproval, deeming the artworks as lacking any social purpose. Several paintings feature here, not really portraits, but representations of beauty in the guises of the artists’ favourite models. Frederick Sandy’s Vivien (1863) embodies many of the trappings for such a representation – a woman with long, untamed hair, pink cheeks, and porcelain skin, along with symbolic flowers and fruits, and a background of peacock feathers. Surrounding the paintings are other loves of the aesthetes – blue and white china, mediaeval-inspired furniture, and a re-creation of Rossetti’s Chelsea bedroom.

“Art for Art’s Sake 1860s-70s,” brings together painting, furniture, and drawings, along with another set-piece, the Grovesner Gallery, which was an alternative to the crowded, salon-style hanging of the Royal Academy and an artistic home for many of the aesthetes. There’s a fantastic tribute to Whistler here as well: his Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl (1862) hangs juxtaposed to Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (1872-3). When seen next to each other, the two large scale, single-figure paintings really give a sense of Whistler’s ideas of ‘arrangements,’ and how he expressed this through colour, form, and rhythm. To the left of the paintings, his theories play out again in a cabinet which he designed with E.W. Godwin entitled, Harmony in Yellow and Gold, the ‘Butterfly Cabinet’ (1877). There’s also some ancient-world inspired jewellery, unique furniture, Aubrey Beardsley drawings - including one for Wilde’s Salome and a cutting caricature of Whistler - and stunning Julia Margaret Cameron pictorialist photographs, all reflecting the eclectic friendships and influences across media.

"Beautiful People and Aesthetic Houses 1870s-80s" features the concept of an aesthete’s desire to live out an entire aesthetic lifestyle and how the figure of the aesthete was more widely accepted and lovingly satirized in the 1880s. From the lifestyle manuals that helped people to create the look in their homes to stylized jewellery and even a Wilde inspired teapot, there were certainly plenty of objects to make this lifestyle possible. Among other outfits, is a men’s suit from the 1880s of maroon velvet knee breeches, next to a photograph of Wilde wearing similar attire. The golden peacocks and brilliant blue-greens of Whistler’s The Peacock Room (1876-77), now in the Freer Gallery in Washington D.C., are re-created in a 360 degree set-piece that reconstructs the room photographically. Although the re-creation lacks the stunning quality of experiencing the original, it does give an idea of how an entire room could be decorated in accordance with the Aesthetic movement.

Lastly, “Late Flowering Beauty 1880s-90s,” sums up the exhibition with large, fully matured works of the artists who extended their style through four decades. While there are some major paintings in this small, closing section, Alfred Gilbert’s aluminium-cast Eros (1893) takes the spotlight. A famous London landmark in Piccadilly Circus, the version here allows viewers to finally see the sculpture at eye-level.

While the exhibit is unabashedly escapist and in many ways elitist, it cannot be denied that if any exhibition were to be so art and beauty-centred, it should be one on the Aesthetic movement.

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 continues at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 2 April until 17 July 2011. For more information and ongoing event programming see: www.vam.ac.uk/cultofbeauty.

Image: Laus Veneris
Artist: Edward Burne-Jones
Date: 1873-78

Monday, 4 April 2011

Contemporary Scottish Culture: AHM Symposium

Review by Alistair Quietsch

With the recent announcement of the Arts Council England (ACE) cuts and funding decisions, the disbandment of the UK Film Council into three regional hubs in Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol, the location of artistic practice has become part of the debate. Following in this debate, The National Gallery, Edinburgh hosted AHM’s second symposium to discuss the current role of culture in Scotland. The day saw a collection of 200 industry professionals and students gather under the theme of the artist away from home.

The day opened with 9 individual manifestos read by a collection of students, recent graduates and artists’ collectives which helped set the scene for the day’s discussions. Following this a video speech by journalist and historian Neal Ascherson discussed the change he has noticed in the Scottish cultural landscape, with Scottish history playing a key role in this and discussed a Scottish-Polish settlement that slowly lost all its ties to its cultural heritage, like a strange alternate-ending of the Darien Venture. After this came Douglas Gordon’s wry presentation, with an elongated minute of silence, where he showed samples of his work 24 Hour Psycho (1993) and a self acknowledging piece where an American journalist tried to track him down for an interview after his Turner Prize nomination back in 1996. Gordon’s appearance as a speaker added a jovial and colloquial thruway to the theme of the Scot returning from abroad. Though the next speaker, Thomas Lawson’s statement: “I am an artist foremost; nationality is secondary,” was a middle-ground alternative.

Lawson, as an artist born in Glasgow, is a fitting case of one who felt drawn to art in the 1970s but discovered no sense of community within the Glasgow scene and thus moved to New York. One of the key statements he made, and one that the next speaker Jim Mooney agreed with, is that artists are drawn to places of community and support and, although it was not available at the time of the 70s, Sandy Moffat, as Chair for the event, put forward the notion of that community definitely being more visible today within Glasgow and Edinburgh (most notably because of the AHM organisers past histories of starting collectives and galleries like The New 57 Gallery in Edinburgh).

With the subject of his early work upon arriving in America, American’s felt his pieces were too local in their Scot-centric quality and he concedes they later broadened into a mass media American/Universal image. Though as a defence he stated: “The location of the local is a moving target and the provincial is never set.” From his own experience of now teaching at CalArt’s in the States he too has found that LA as a periphery to the NY core is always trying to meet standards set by their art ‘base’. It is an interesting comparison to connect to London and the rest of the periphery institutions in the UK. Could it be stated that British art is always trying to catch up to the standards set by London? He ended with comments on LA’s schools missing the use of critical debate and brought up his own web venture East of Borneo to help facilitate this, adding that as a teacher he has come to grasp the tribal aspect that can relate to the art worlds judgements of art: students make a piece - bring it in for group critique – the work is discussed, argued over, debated and over a course of weeks and months a consensus builds on whether the work is successful or not.

This idea of critical debate blended well into Jim Mooney’s own experiences of going to art school in Edinburgh in the 1970s, in that he too felt there was no critical debate around works, and even around the schools own ethos, feeling it was still drenched in homophobia, conservatism and an elitism akin to some London schools (one aspect that may not have changed). For a day that was moulded for praise of Scotland’s accomplishments Mooney came as a much-needed critique of its murky history with its slow decision to legalise homosexuality (a staggering 13 years behind England).

Mooney’s cutting point though, that brought up passionate debate, was around the Scottish education system, which has aged with growing concern, especially in regards to the current higher education fiasco under the current government. Since Higher Education is relatively free in Scotland the open-ended question was how it should be shaped in regards to using new models of education in relation to creativity and the overall fear of bureaucratised education modes destroying more open methods of learning in art school and university contexts. The question fell simply to funding.

Following Mooney came two more speakers from the Scottish diaspora based in Australia, the curator Liz Ann McGregor on DVD and Peter Hill discussing his own travels, experiences and super fiction work of phantastical museums and pubs. Hill discussed David Walsh, a sort of rock star millionaire who built his own underground museum, MONA, in Tasmania containing an impressive collection of aggressive and contemporary punk art. Alongside Margaret Hunter, an 80s neo-expressionist painter, they discussed their experiences of being “Scots abroad” and how they felt things had changed and were changing within Scotland’s cultural sector. A criticism arose though about representation of the “New Scots” being represented in these symposia, since outsider voices had been lacking in both events, which was more than true

In closing Tom Normand, a historian who specialises in cultural and national identities, finished up by clarifying that Scottish artists may have an anxiety towards being viewed as provincial and that the global and local are in constant collision and change, as the internet and mass media systems clearly illustrate. He rounded the symposium up well in stating that the manifestos at the start shows that a diverse range of youthful and opinionated artists live and work in Scotland today and, as Sandy Moffat concluded, hopefully that diversity can be acknowledged in their 3rd and final symposium in September.

For more information please visit www.theahmblog.blogspot.com and The National Gallery website.

Aesthetica April/May - Issue 40 out today

I am so pleased to bring you issue 40 of Aesthetica Magazine. It’s an unbelievable feeling, especially when I look all the way back to issue one. Creating this magazine has been one of the most exhilarating things that I’ve ever done in my life.

In the spirit of celebration, this issue and the magazine’s future plans are incredibly exciting. In art, James Turrell constructs a spectacular installation in Järna, Sweden as part of See! Colour! Critically acclaimed photographer and director, Wim Wenders, returns to London with images that breathe life into landscapes with Places, strange and quiet. Sculptors Alice Anderson and Kate MccGwire present Bound at the new arts venue in King’s Cross, London, All Visual Arts. Zoë Gray discusses the ideas behind Making Is Thinking, which is currently on at Witte De With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, while Portuguese fashion photographer, Pedro Janeiro, discusses the cinematic in his highly aesthetic images.

In film, Matt Bissonnette’s latest film, Passenger Side, re-examines the idea of the road trip. We also catch up with Genna Terranova, the Senior Programmer for this year’s Tribeca Film Festival about what visitors can expect this year. In music, Esben and the Witch discuss what it’s like to reach notoriety so quickly and then we survey the mechanics behind the beloved synthesiser.

In theatre, taking performance to a new level, the One-on-One Festival offers visitors a chance to participate in 28 individual and intimate performances. Finally, Lebanese artist Rabih Mroué discusses his latest work, The People are Demanding, which is influenced by the ongoing conflicts in Lebanon and the Middle East since the Lebanese Civil War.

Inside this issue, you’ll find everything that you need to keep you informed about this season’s latest exhibitions and releases. Enjoy!

To get this issue visit your local stockist or the Aesthetica shop.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Outpost – Critical Spaces @ Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, Budapest

Review by Adam Harangozó

Stepping into the exhibition, it’s immediately evident why it is called Critical Spaces. It is in a small room, and all the exhibited items are visible from the entrance. In its resemblance to a warehouse, there is a feeling of almost post-apocalyptic desolation. But in Outpost it’s not the actual spaces that are important, rather the extended or shortened, and fictional ones, created by the exhibited items. Slovakian and Hungarian artists interpret the critical spaces of their region.

From the outside Stealth – First Form 3 by Péter Tamás Halász and Gyula Domián looks like a stealth aircraft made of polyethylene foil, but inside the living space with pillows and blanket shows that it is in fact a homeless shelter. The possible interpretations are created by the oppositions of the work: dissonances of inside and outside, material and function. One method of maintaining the illusion of advance is to turn a blind eye on the serious social problems - to set them to stealth mode. Huge amounts of money are spent using high-technology to cover problems, under which there is the disillusioning, low-tech reality. The installation almost cuts the exhibition space in half, making sure that the act of being stealth can only be seen as ironic.

Péter Tamás Halász’s Light Tent is a metaphor for technical advance. We see two frames on the wall, two fluorescent tubes in each, and mirrors behind them. The tubes are extended by the mirror in an angle that creates a semicircular shape resembling a tent. It is a mirror of our society: we are surrounding ourselves with electronic assets, and we begun to use them to seclude ourselves from each other. Advance becomes cyclic; society is cut to individual pieces, everyone hiding in their own high-tech tent.

A corner of the room is separated by Tomáš Džadoň’s Super Flat. It is the front wall of a wooden house with an entrance leading to a small inner space. But this space is illusory: if someone steps through the door, the bricks of wood in the wall turn automatically inside out, the inner space becomes the outside of the house, thus entering becomes impossible; the concept of private space becomes meaningless. Being constantly on the outside exposed to possible surveillance is strongly reminiscent of a socialist atmosphere. Not only space, but the mere possibility of space is illusion: instead of real wood, the wall is made of polyurethane beams, as if it only would be a part of theatrical scenery.

Untitled by Ádám Kokesch builds upon the tension between real and fictional worlds. The installation is covered by a red wooden shell; the viewer has to bend down to get under it, an alienating effect. Under the shell there is a clear abstract, Mondrianlike ambiance. Besides the geometrical shapes, there is a small box illuminated from behind. Inside we can see a picture of a sunlit, spacious room of a house. Looking though this little hole, we can see another world, free of abstractions, not sheltered – as if in the effort of protecting our private, abstract notions, we are losing connection with the freedom of space.

In Outpost we see a composite of fictional spaces creating a loose atmosphere which we could call the post-socialist identity of Central European countries – but as with Critical Spaces, maybe this identity is also artistically constructed.

Outpost – Critical Spaces continues until 23 April at
Trafo House of Contemporary Arts, Budapest. For more information visit Trafo.

Image: Pavla Sceranková: Nyitva Zárva / Open Closed, video, 2008
Courtesty Trafo and the artist

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