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Published on : 2012-11-04 09:18:58
Time to close the reports about the Frieze Art Fair (see Frieze part 1: The fun of the fair, Frieze part 2: murders at the art fair and Frieze part 3: The Angry Farmers Milk Bar) with plenty of images and almost no text because sometimes that's all i feel like producing:
David Claerbout's The Homeless Cat deserves a few words of explanation. This interactive, real-time video is synchonized with actual day and night time. The cat on the screen sits, sleeps, gets up, makes a few steps, sits again. However, the atmospheric conditions and the lights in the backdrop are exactly the same as the ones you, the fair (or gallery) visitor, would experience outside at this very moment. If it rains in your city, the cat will stand in front of a city where it rains. If it's night wherever you are, it will be night on the screen as well. The whole effect is controlled by webcams and clever programming. The Homeless Cat is a video that has no end. That said, i found the video absorbing even before i knew about the whole system behind it.
I remembered seeing Alexey Kallima's large scale painting of Chechen Women's Team of Parachute Jumping in New York 4 years ago and it's the one work i'd have bought at Frieze if i'd have been rich enough. Kallima's going to have a solo show at Regina Gallery in London on 23 November - 22 December 2012. I call that a fair consolation prize!
Marcel Van Eeden's charcoal drawings mix film noir and b&w comic strips. I'm quite obsessed with his work.
And now for the uncommented:
This is what you can do with an accordion, rubber and hose.
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Published on : 2012-11-02 14:55:29
Fallout Shelter. Designing for Civil Defense in the Cold War, by David Monteyne, assistant professor in the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary.
Publisher University of Minnesota Press writes: In Fallout Shelter, David Monteyne traces the partnership that developed between architects and civil defense authorities during the 1950s and 1960s. Officials in the federal government tasked with protecting American citizens and communities in the event of a nuclear attack relied on architects and urban planners to demonstrate the importance and efficacy of both purpose-built and ad hoc fallout shelters. For architects who participated in this federal effort, their involvement in the national security apparatus granted them expert status in the Cold War. Neither the civil defense bureaucracy nor the architectural profession was monolithic, however, and Monteyne shows that architecture for civil defense was a contested and often inconsistent project, reflecting specific assumptions about race, gender, class, and power.
Despite official rhetoric, civil defense planning in the United States was, ultimately, a failure due to a lack of federal funding, contradictions and ambiguities in fallout shelter design, and growing resistance to its political and cultural implications. Yet the partnership between architecture and civil defense, Monteyne argues, helped guide professional design practice and influenced the perception and use of urban and suburban spaces. One result was a much-maligned bunker architecture, which was not so much a particular style as a philosophy of building and urbanism that shifted focus from nuclear annihilation to urban unrest.
While reading the book, i was reminded of an American TV series from the early 1960s: The Twilight Zone. They called it La Quatrième Dimension where i lived. The episodes were part of a French tv programme from the 1980s that mixed science, scifi and pop culture. The two presenters, the twins Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff, were the coolest guys on this planet. I got a shock about an hour ago when one of the first results of a google search produced this! But i'm digressing. Some of the most memorable episodes of the Twilight Zone featured nuclear shelters, see for example Time Enough at Last and The Shelter. Atomic shelters were very exotic, very American, very eccentric to me. They were also sinister. Because of their design and purpose of course but also because of the era they embody and because of the scenarios built around them by the tv writers.
The episodes of the Twilight Zone are works of fiction but they also echo some of the preoccupations and ethical dilemmas raised by many of the architects whose work is discussed in this book. Fallout Shelter. Designing for Civil Defense in the Cold War is first and foremost an architecture book but its content is also pertinent to readers who have a very limited interest in the discipline. The design and politics of fallout shelters spills onto other issues that characterized the early Cold War. From racial questions (the shelters were conceived for white American families living in suburbs and not so much for the people living in multi ethnic inner-cities or for 'marauding Indians') to the reluctance to spend tax money on social welfare. From urban dispersal to the exploration of new modes of urbanism (for example, Camp Century, 'the city under the ice'.)
However, some of the issues raised and solutions brought forward at the time still (unsurprisingly) exert an impact on the world we live in today: the militarization of public edifice and spaces (called in the book 'fortress urbanism'), the propaganda of fear, the top secret bunkers built by the government to protect members of the federal government and of the military reminded me of the 'Blank Spots on the Map', etc.
Here is the rough structure of the book: The first two chapters differentiate the approaches to civil defense taken in the 1950s an 1960s. While the 50s had little understanding of the impact of atomic weapon on the land and advised citizens to build their own shelters, the later decade admitted that little could be done to protect the population from the atomic blast itself and that only the fallout could be addressed which lead to a change of strategy that involved locating existing public buildings that could be used for communal protection. Chapter 3 examines more closely the planning process. Chapter 4 explores how architects approached (or brought a critical light on) the opportunities offered by civil defense work. Chapter 5 and 6 presents a series of architectural competitions, publications and programs launched to convince architects to plan for fallout shelters in new constructions. The last chapter studies in detail the building that inspired the book: the Boston City Hall.
Source image on the homepage: Atomic annihilation.
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Published on : 2012-10-31 04:53:44
I had the grand plan of writing a post focusing on anything "socially &politically-engaged" i could spot at Frieze. As the less naive than i am might have forecast, the art fair's main objective wasn't to satisfy my quest. It did however a few gems. Fernando García-Dory's Angry Farmers Milk Bar was one of them.
The Spanish artist and activist invited members of the Farmers' Union of Wales to run a milk bar at the fair. Pints of milk were offered at a price visitors were willing to pay.
The small bar gave farmers an opportunity to discuss with customers, hand out information leaflets and voice their concerns about the inadequate prices paid to them by supermarkets for their milk and more generally about the critical state of farming in Wales and England.
Wales has about 1,900 dairy farmers but their number of farmers is in sharp decline. Today, Wales count 40% fewer dairy farmers than in 2002.
I found the project touching, intelligent and convincing. I doubt many of the visitors of the fair are the ones on the lookout for BOGOF offers at Tesco and they probably don't pay much attention to the price of milk before reaching for a bottle at the supermarket, but many were eager to listen to the farmer's anxieties and reflect on what the fair price for a pint of milk might be.
The Angry Farmers Milk Bar was part of a much broader food-related programme of performance, debates, meals, and market food stalls hosted by Frieze Foundation and the Grizedale Arts Project, an art organization cum working farm based in the Lake District. The various events and projects took place inside and around the Colisseum of the Consumed, a bespoke structure designed by The Yangjiang Group. The construction resembled a Roman amphitheatre. Visitors could climb up to the platform to watch the performances from above or walk around the outer colonnade to buy horse milk, dumplings 'made from oppressed potatoes', fortune cookies containing art messages, cakes and other goods produced by invited organizations. I got myself a small bowl of Ruskin Grave Soup containing vegetable "grown on Ruskin's grave." It cost 2 pounds and that was probably the only thing i could afford at the art fair.
Grizedale Arts is a publicly funded arts organisation which might in part explain why i found the Colosseum of the Consumed so pertinent to my usual concerns. The whole programme was also a big, entertaining party. Here's a few examples of events that took place at the Colosseum during the fair:
A dinner of fauna and flora vermin was prepared by Sam Cook of Moro. I read that squirrels were on the menu.
William Pope L. organized a battle of tomatoes.
Margot Henderson cooked and served a 'red meal' for red-headed curators.
Alistair Frost offered post-watercooler alcopops.
Yangjiang Group made calligraphy with the leftover food from previous meals.
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Published on : 2012-10-29 13:37:02
While i was at the LABoral in Gijón for the opening of the exhibition Active Presence (review coming soon on this very screen), i got a chance to check out the art center's other show: eCLIPSe: [retro]perspective of the music video in 50 steps.
The title says it all. 50 milestones in the history of music videos. From Bohemian Rhapsody to Alva Noto's Uni Acronym. Sitting in an art center to watch video clips that anyone else can open on youtube is exciting and seditious. Seditious because video clips -unlike much of what you can see in museums nowadays- are not only part of mainstream culture, they also wouldn't think of hiding their mercantile purpose. Exciting because although we might have seen all these videos before, watching them on a big screen forces us to realize that they probably are the most democratic point of entry to video art and more generally to audiovisual culture.
Carlos Navarro (curator of the exhibition in collaboration with Rubin Stein) writes: In our view, it should be included within the visual arts as a separate discipline. In some cases it should even be viewed as avant-garde, though at times it admittedly makes compromises with the commercialism and function a music video must inevitably serve, which is to sell a song, a band or a singer. Surprisingly enough, many of the advances made in the visual mise en scène of art forms enjoying such unquestionable respect as film were originally conceived and rehearsed in music videos. And even the narrative rhythm of the video has set standards for spectators. Likewise, we ought to underscore its inextricable bond with the language of advertising.
The exhibition was a crash course in music video for me. I grew up glued to MTV, got tired of it in the early 1990s and completely lost touch with the discipline in the process. I will therefore be forever grateful to the curators of the show for making me discover this brilliant video:
eCLIPSe charts the evolution of the music video genre. From the early days when musicians themselves were involved in the creation of their own videos (e.g. David Bowie for Ashes to Ashes), to the role that MTV played since its creation in 1981 in making the video the compulsory counterpart of a song, to the ascent of special effects, infographics and digital technologies, to the counter tendency towards amateurism (see Fatboy Slim's Praise You), to the entrance of online platform for file exchange that opened up windows for exhibiting and viewing videos worldwide, etc.
Because the exhibition was so unexpected, i wanted to talk to the main curator of the exhibition: audiovisual producer, scriptwriter and director Carlos Navarro.
Hola Carlos! My first curiosity is about Bohemian Rhapsody. You wrote that this is the first video clip ever made. What makes it so special? What did the video of Queen have that other musical videos didn't? What is so revolutionizing about it?
Although many experts regard Queen's video as the first self-conscious video made with the purpose of 'selling' a song, it is certain that the relationship between music and images comes from afar. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the artistic avant-garde was already playing with these two disciplines. Picabia or Schöenberg, for example, were using that language. Movies by Walt Disney, especially "Fantasia", were already exploring this relationship. And later, the musical movies of The Beatles can be regarded as authentic music clips. However, the importance of Bohemian Rhapsody lays in the intention expressed by Bruce Gowers and Queen to use images to sell the song, the disk and the band and ultimately in its objective to create a new promotional support.
I have to be honest and admit that both I and Rubin Stein, who worked with me on the selection of the works, were often influenced by our personal tastes, not so much in terms of music but for more strictly 'cinematographic' reasons.
This doesn't mean that we haven't devoted much time to the 'theoretical' study of the historical importance of the exhibited works. Nevertheless, what was non-negotiable during the curating process was that our selection had to be unique, different from the ones made in similar exhibitions. Hence, the choice of dedicating two monographs to Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham. While the historical part arises from the study of the literature on the subject, the decision to add monographs is entirely personal and is founded on concerns that interest me as a narrator and professional of the audiovisual. In a nutshell, in the first phase we behaved like 'bookworms' and in the second one as film directors.
Although the selection of works for an exhibition is always debatable, i'd like to claim that "SON TODAS LAS QUE ESTÁN, AUNQUE NO ESTÉN TODAS LAS QUE SON". I don't know if you have a similar expression in english, sorry.
That's a tricky one to translate, but i guess the idea is that 'All the videos selected belong to the show, but not all the video clips that belong to the show are in the selection.'
Isn't there something a bit subversive in bringing popular video clips inside a museum/art space? Why do you think they have their place in a space dedicated to contemporary art?
Introducing an art traditionally considered 'minor' in the sacrosanct space of an art gallery was precisely the main reason behind this show - at least for me! The problem of video clips is that we are now used to watching them on a tv or computer screen where they are always subjected to multiple factors that prevent us from giving them our full attention. During their TV broadcasts we could watch them just before an advert for a washing powder, or right after an ad for a bier, or else as part of music program that wouldn't necessarily differentiate a mainstream clip from an authentic music video artwork. In the end, there's always been a lot of "noise" around the video clip. Exhibiting video clips in a museum space grants them a formality that forces us to pay further attention, and thus discover all its content. In the case of the monographs, it makes us realize the obsessions and recurrent themes of a creator which, in my view, places the director of music video in the category of visual artist.
Finally, have you discovered any new video clip since the show opened that makes you think "damn! this video clip is so fantastic i wish i could add it to the show now!"?
Yes, this is always the case. Even the day after we had closed the selection, new works emerged that i wish i could have added. But an exhibition like this one comes with "auto frustration" otherwise it would have been impossible to close it or put a limit to it: why 50 clips rather than 60? Or even 100?
We would have liked to include a clip of the new trend called "interactive", such as I´ve seen Footage by Death Grips or some of The Valtari Mystery Film Experiment videos that Sigur Rós have proposed to illustrate their last album. However, the logistical difficulties of doing so were important.
In any case we are very proud of this selection although, of course, we know that it remains open for debate.
The exhibition closed a few days ago but it will travel with Fundación Telefónica to venues in Latin America, i'll keep you posted about the dates and locations via twitter and the blog's facebook page. In the meantime, you can find more information in the press kit.
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Published on : 2012-10-25 15:24:55
Previously: Frieze part 1: The fun of the fair.
I review books about art, architecture, design and activism because that's part of my job. It doesn't hurt that i'm usually sent fantastic books. The only literature you will find on my kindle however is of the criminal kind: Stuart MacBride, Jo nesbø, Jussi Adler-Olsen, etc. The more gruesome the description, the more serial the killer, the happier i am.
The drawings are of women found in newspapers, magazines, books and the Internet. In this work the artist explores an outsider construction of femininity through violence, deviancy, criminality, and radical politics in stark opposition to traditional notions of patriarchy.
Among the protagonists were: Lynndie England convicted in connection with the torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Lizzie Borden suspected of having killed her father and stepmother with an axe, Irma Grese who was employed at the concentration camps of Ravensbrück and Auschwitz where she picked out large breasted women and cut their breasts open with her whip, Fiona Mont aka "Britain's Most Wanted Woman", Griselda Blanco "La Madrina" (the Godmother) who was a drug lord for the Medellín Cartel, Sandra Ávila Beltrán the Mexican drug cartel leader nicknamed "La Reina del Pacífico", sisters Teresa and Maria Zappia, leaders of Calabrian crime syndicate, Chinese Empress Dowager Tzu-hsi , etc.
For as long as i looked at their face and read the crude description of these women's crimes, everything outside the booth ceased to exist for me. So much evil. Yet, because they were women or maybe because of the way they were drawn i never managed to see them as total monsters, Except that Irma Grese, the lady in high socks below:
One of the Frieze commissions was part art gallery with blood on its walls and floor, part forensic lab, part video fiction. Aslı Çavuşoğlu and a professional crime drama crew and actors spent 3 days in a fairly small space shooting a crime and its forensic reconstitution.
Two of the main sources of inspiration for Murder in Three Acts were forensics and the representation of art in tv crime series. In some tv episodes indeed artworks aren't just part of the background, they are a key element in scripts that use exhibitions as crime scenes and art works as murder weapons. The artist sees also forensic science as a way of reenacting past events. A role that art can play as well.
The project drew links between the role of evidence in a televised crime scene and real artworks justifying themselves in the sphere of speculation and invited special 'advisors' and visitors to participate in discussions with the professional cast and crew.
The Peter Kilchmann gallery was showing works by an artist who always gets my attention: Teresa Margolles.
For a whole year, during 2010, Margolles collected and digitalized the covers of PM, the local newspaper from Ciudad Juárez, a city sadly renowned for the violence perpetrated by the drug cartels. Because almost everyday, somebody died a victim of the Mexican drug wars, the cover almost inevitably showed a scene of crime with a corpse right next to a pin-ups. The covers were presented as pages of a big book. Flipping through them i never realized they were real covers of tabloids. The contrast between the images was too stark, the content too relentlessly lurid. Until i read that it was a piece by Teresa Margolles, an artist who can horrify with the most mundane elements: an air conditioning system, a flag, a bracelet, etc.
This volume witnesses the collapse of the social fabric and at the same time the resilience of the community of the border city.
Her gallery was also showing photographs of trees. I didn't find any information about the photos but i suspect the worst. Because the series is called El testigo (The Witness), i can only assume that murders took place under the cover of those trees.
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Published on : 2012-10-25 05:37:58
Between the Frieze art fair, the Brighton Photo Biennial, and various commitments i had in town, mid-October was a marathon to see as many shows as possible. The one that left its marks on my brain is The Individual and the Organisation: Artist Placement Group 1966-79 at Raven Row. The retrospective of the pioneering artists' organisation is thought-provoking, informative, surprising and it confirmed what i was starting to suspect: the art scene of the 1970s was intimidatingly radical and exciting.
Artist Placement Group, or APG, was established by Barbara Steveni and John Latham in 1966. They were joined Barry Flanagan, David Hall, Anna Ridley and Jeffrey Shaw, among others. Its aim was to widen the social context of artists' work by finding them 'residencies' in the private and public sectors.
Between 1966 and the turn of the 1980s, APG negotiated approximately fifteen placements for artists lasting from a few weeks to several years; first within industries (often large corporations such as British Steel and ICI) and later within UK government departments such as the Department of Health and the Scottish Office.
APG arranged that artists would work to an 'open brief', whereby their placements were not required to produce tangible results, but that the engagement itself could potentially benefit both host organisations as well as the artists in the long-term.
Instead of commissioning art works, the host organizations were asked to pay the artist wages and in exchange, they would benefit from the artist's reports, ideas and insights.
Unsurprisingly, few organizations were enthusiastic about APG's ideas. Many flatly refused to welcome the experiment, others only opened their doors after several meetings and exchanges of letters.
Some placements were more successful than others (whether we look at them as artworks per se or as the result of a mutually fruitful exchange between radical art and industry.) I found David Hall's work for Scottish Television absolutely brilliant. In 1971 Hall made ten "Interruptions" broadcast intentionally unannounced and uncredited on Scottish Television. Seven of these works were later distributed on video as TV Interruptions (7 TV Pieces), and are regarded as a landmark of British video art.
Garth Evans took a fellowship at the British Steel Corporation. The photos he took as part of his observational notes were published in a book produced by BSC. He also made steel sculptures similar to the constructions made by apprentice welders.
After a traffic accident, John Latham found himself in the Intensive Care of Clare Hall Hospital with broken ribs, torn muscles and puncturated lungs. He soon found out that by rotating his body in bed he could clear his throat of lung tissues without having to endure the pain of coughing. The X-rays documenting his rapid convalescence lend credence to the artist's claim that his technique was an improvement over usual procedures.
APG pioneered the shift in art practice from studio and conventional art system to more active and processed-based forms of social engagement. It bears similarities with Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), an organization established to develop collaborations between artists and engineers but APG's agenda was more deeply anchored in political and social concerns.
The residencies are also different from the ones that predominate nowadays (where the artist might sometimes seem to be at the service of the commissioning corporation or governmental body), the ones initiated by APG fostered a two-way communication between artists and industrialists or politicians.
While researching the APG, i found this trailer for a short documentary by Laurie Yule & Calum Mackenzie:
The Raven Row show is mostly based on archives: films, photographs, reports written by artists during their placement and exchanges of letters between artists and host companies and sometimes in art objects.
Photos on flickr.
The Individual and the Organisation: Artist Placement Group 1966-79 was curated by Antony Hudek and Alex Sainsbury, in consultation with Barbara Steveni. It remains on view until 16 December 2012 at Raven Row in London.
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Published on : 2012-10-23 14:36:17
To be honest, i'd take any excuse to hop on a train and go to Brighton. Two Saturdays ago, it was sunny, i needed a break from the Frieze art fair and the 5th edition of the Brighton Photo Biennial had the kind of theme that makes me buy a train/plane/bus ticket, Agents of Change: Photography and the Politics of Space.
BPB12 explores how space is constructed, controlled and contested, how photography is implicated in these processes, and the tensions and possibilities this dialogue involves. This year's Biennial provides a critical space to think about relationships between the political occupation of physical sites and the production and dissemination of images.
Agents of Change is a theme that belongs to the moments of economic and political uncertainty we are experiencing today. The exhibitions are at times dark and disturbing but they also demonstrate the role that photography can play in servicing a cause, an agenda, a belief. Whether it is the one of a corporation advertising its products, of a government attempting to enforce new measures or the one of grassroot activists struggling to give another view of a contentious or under-discussed issue.
The most compelling work in the biennial for me was Omer Fast's video about drone surveillance and warfare.
The film is based on two meetings with the operator of a Predator drone sensor. The operator had been based in the desert outside of Las Vegas for 6 years while he was working for the U.S. military. The artist met him in Vegas where he was looking for a job as a casino security guard.
But Fast's film is not a documentary with news footage and testimonies from real protagonists of the events. Instead, the stories are told by an actor cast as the drone operator. His narration is moving, informative and sometimes even humorous.
The operator is sitting in a nondescript hotel room. He unenthusiastically recalls his missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, unsure that the audience will ever understand what he went through. The soldier never set foot in the countries where the unmanned plane he piloted fired at civilians and militia from the optimum height of 5000 feet.
At times, the ex-soldier seems to ramble, using unrelated stories as metaphors. The most striking of the anecdotes he recalls is the one of an American family that takes the road for 'a long drive' (see the video below.) To leave town, they have to go through security checkpoints and present documents to the "occupying forces," which are depicted as Asians. It's a complete reversal of the situation in which Americans get to see how much a war in their own turf would affect daily life. Except that the U.S. is at war too but for most citizens, only from a distance. The drone operator never leaves the material comfort of his own country to fight in foreign countries, most of the American population never gets bombed or fired at by drones.
The dark world of the U.S. military goes far beyond the drones and bombings as Geographies of Seeing, the show on view at The Lighthouse, convincingly demonstrates. But I'm going to try to keep this one short because i seem to be unable to let a month pass without writing about the work of artist and geographer Trevor Paglen.
The exhibition is focused on two series of photos that document the secret activities of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies. The first one is The Other Night Sky which tracks and documents classified American satellites in Earth orbit. With the help of a network of amateur "satellite observers" and of a specially designed software model able to describe the orbital motion of classified spacecraft, Paglen calculated the position and timing of overhead reconnaissance satellite transits. He then photographed their passage using telescopes and large-format cameras.
The second body of work shown at The Lighthouse is Limit Telephotography. For this series, Paglen used high powered telescopes to picture the "black" sites, a series of secret locations operated by the CIA. Often outside of U.S. territory and legal jurisdiction, these locations do not officially exist, they range from American torture camps in Afghanistan to front companies running airlines whose purpose is to covertly move suspects around.
Well, that wasn't so short but i do have to confess that i merely copy/pasted texts i wrote about Paglen's work a few months ago.
A couple of years ago, Edmund Clark traveled to Guantanamo to document three experiences of home: the home of the American community at the naval base; the camp complex where the detainees have been held; and the homes where former detainees, never charged with any crime, find themselves trying to rebuild lives.
With the body of work presented at the Biennial, Clark pursues further his interest in structures of control and incarceration. In December 2011, the photographer was the first artist to be granted access to a house in which a person suspected of terrorist related activity had been placed under what the UK calls 'a Control Order.'
The 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act granted the Home Office the power to relocate any controlled person to a house in an alien town or city and impose restrictions and conditions, similar to house-arrest. So far, 48 people have been made subject to a Control Order.
Clark could not reveal the identity of the controlled person nor the location of their house. He also had to pre-register all digital equipment and to accept restrictions on how the equipment could be used. All his photos were then screened by the Home Office and the controlled person's lawyers.
The series is still a work in progress and i wish i could be in England on Thursday, 1 November 2012 because the photographer will be discussing his work at The Lighthouse.
The images screened on Thomson & Craighead's October installation are brutally shocking. Maybe because even when the videos were shot at the other end of the world, they echo the social and economic inequalities we are experiencing in Europe (or wherever you're living right now.) The film installation creates a portray of the Occupy protests by drawing on amateur footage that the activists uploaded on YouTube. Below the video screen is a luminous compass that points to the locations where the videos were originally filmed, adding the precise distance of the location of the footage from the viewers (it wasn't working flawlessly when i saw the installation.) The piece examines the relationship between geographical space and the Internet: the role online organisation plays in shaping offline activism.
The exhibition of photographer, journalist, researcher and political activist John "Hoppy" Hopkins also document peace marches, protests and underground movements from the inside but this time in and around London in the 1960s. Some 50 years are separating the Occupy videos from Hopkins' photos but both show the power of the image when it comes to telling the activists' side of a news story.
There's so much more to say about this biennial. There are many other exhibitions i don't have the space to mention here. And talks, tours, workshops. I'll close my superficial review of the biennial with random photos of the shows and of the city.
I forgot to mention Whose Streets?, an outdoor show located on one of the city's public square that looks at the archive of local newspaper The Argus, to extract images that depict Brighton as a contested political space for protest. From the late 70s to the present.
The 2012 Brighton Photo Biennial is curated by Photoworks Head of Programme, Celia Davies and Programme Curator, Ben Burbridge. Brighton Photo Biennial is free and it is up all over the city of Brighton until 4 November 2012.
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Published on : 2012-10-22 05:38:55
Last month, i speed interviewed David O'Reilly as a preview for the Pictoplasma conference that will take place in New York in a few weeks. Pictoplasma, as i might have written about 20 times so far, is one of my favourite events and because i can't fly to NYc next month, i'm using these short interviews as a way to be part of the event. Today it's Julia Pott's turn to answer my questions!
Julia studied animation and illustration at Kingston University then moved to the Royal College of Art for an MA in Animation. But she started piling up the awards and press articles long before she had even graduated. Both her very first short My First Crush and more recent film Belly have received praises and prizes from San Francisco to Amsterdam. She has since received commissions to make illustrations for magazines, music bands, fashion brands, big commercial names... Even for tattoos and tea towels!
Her films and drawings often present human experiences and existential questionings embodied and voiced by animal characters. There's something bitter-sweet and unsettling in seeing cute animals voicing concerns associated with feelings of love, loneliness, passage to adulthood, struggling to find their place into the world.
Many of the characters in work are animal species who dress, feel and behave like humans. Their stories are often quite moving, they experience love, regrets, rejection, loss, etc. Do you think that the reason why we empathise so much with these characters is because they look like animals, not humans?
When I initially began designing animals instead of humans it was to make the process more amusing for myself. Whenever I would animate humans I found the subject matter seemed too black and white. The animals became embodiments of our human characteristics in more endearing packages, an easier pill to swallow.
You work on both the story and the drawing of your short films. Have you ever dreamt of collaborating with someone for the scenario part of a film? He or she would would come up with the story and you'd just illustrate it?
Absolutely. I was trained at art school to be in control of every aspect - story, design, editing etc. and that feeling of control can be quite addictive. However as soon as you bring in an outside entity you have the chance to make something you would have never thought of on your own. If you can find the right collaborator it makes the process much more enjoyable than sitting alone in your studio with a pencil - it takes some of the weight off your shoulders and makes me, personally, much less critical of the work. My most recent film, 'The Event', commissioned by Random Acts, is based on a poem by Tom Chivers. Having that script to work from was hugely helpful - an important element was already taken care of and I was freed up to play with the atmosphere, the characters and the scenarios within that structure. The upcoming projects I am most excited about are ones that are collaborations with other filmmakers.
How would you feel if you were told that you are not allowed to create and draw animals anymore? Never ever again? Would you still like to be an illustrator?
Story telling is the part of the process that I find the most rewarding. Having worked in animation for a few years now I am eager to move into live action and see if the feelings I deal with in my animated shorts translate well into this medium. I think I will always still illustrate, even if I was banned from animals for life! Can I still draw pizza?
Do you get to look at the work of artists working in other fields (painting, music, video, etc.) a lot and do you draw inspiration from them? Whose work do you admire?
I look to animation for inspiration in terms of colour and playfulness in design and movement. However when it comes to inspiration for story I often turn to outside resources. I would say I was most influenced by literature and film. I am a huge fan of the writing of Jon Irving, JD Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut and I often turn to their writing when I begin a project. Woody Allen, Joss Whedon, Wes Anderson and Rob Reiner are filmmakers I greatly admire.
Often at the initial stage of a project I will listen to a particular album or genre of music to get inspiration. At the moment I am very into eerie 50s love songs.
Any advice you could give to young illustrators / students who would like to be as successful as you are?
I know it's a cliché but it has to be said; never give up. It can be tough going in the first few years and your friends will think you're a weird hermit, but if you can stick it out it can be very rewarding. Also it's always good to go with your gut, don't follow trends or create work for other people. Make what you love and other people will see that in the work.
Is this your arm? Because then you have some of the coolest tattoos i've ever seen...
Ha no that is not my arm, but I'll tell the person attached to it you said so! It belongs to a friend of mine who commissioned the tattoo from me a few years ago. She has another design of mine on her other arm of a bunch of animals having a knife fight. She's kind of brilliant.
What are you going to present at Pictoplasma?
At the Berlin Pictoplasma conference this year I was a little nervous and apparently this resulted in me talking very fast. It would be wise to anticipate this from me again. I will be talking through a few projects and how they came about. There is also a pretty good picture of Jonathan Taylor Thomas in there, for the ladies.
Any upcoming project you would like to share with us?
I'm currently working on a short film for the Miami based collective Borscht, and then I am co-directing my first live action film with LA based director Dustin Bowser. I just finished up an illustration project I'm very excited about but unfortunately I am not allowed to share the details just yet!
Thank you Julia!
Catch up with Julia Pott at Pictoplasma NYC conference on November 2 and 3 at Parsons the new school for design.
Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2012-10-18 13:12:55
After Agri is a collaborative investigation between Michiko Nitta and Michael Burton. Their collaboration looks at the future evolutions of our food systems, asking What new cultural revolution will replace agriculture? How will our species and civilisation be transformed?
I met Michiko and Michael ages ago, when they were among the first students graduating from the course of Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art in London. I liked these two a lot at the time so when i found out in an exhibition guide that had teamed up to form After Agri, i thought i needed to have a close look at their website. It's still early days for After Agri but their portfolio is as provocative and ingenious as i had expected.
Taking into account the latest advances in synthetic biology, geo-engineering, nutrigenomics and other areas of scientific research but also shifts in cultural taboos, issues of climate change and overpopulation, their latest projects include an exhibition exploring two possible future food cultures: Algaculture which proposed a greater symbiosis between algae and the human body and the Republic of Salivation, a dark scenario that sees Governments enforcing restricted food policies where the type of food a citizen receives responds to the emotional, intellectual and physical demands of their job.
More recently, Michiko and Michael were at the Victoria and Albert Museum with an 'Algae Opera' performance that demonstrated in the most spectacular how singers with powerful lung capacity might produce food in a future world where algae have become the world's dominant food source.
The Feast After Agri proposes new food cultures to revolutionize the way we feed ourselves. For the exhibition 'Food Forward' which took place at Stroom a few months ago, you explored two of the seven future food cultures from The Feast After Agri in greater depth: Algaculture and the Republic of Salivation. What are the other 5 future food culture? Could you describe them briefly and tell us which science and technology research has inspired them?
The Feast After Agri project searches for actions, research and experiments that might change the way we produce food and shape our world. Whilst some projects within After Agri propose new foods, we are fascinated by ways to redefine food altogether. We look for signposts to the changes in our behavior that might have a similar magnitude to our historic leap from a hunter-gatherer to an agriculture existence 10,000 years ago. And subsequently how new food and body-fuelling cultures will change our world and our human evolution.
Besides Algaculture and the Republic of Salivation, the Feast After Agri currently proposes five food cultures that respond to a variety of sources. For instance the Symbiotic Bacterial Nation creates a food culture shaped by synthetic biology.
The Subterranean Troglodytes carve out a new niche underground to seek refuge from the spreading desert and UV radiation baked surface of our planet.
Whereas Bovineopolis reflects what Carolyn Steel writes about in her book, Hungry City that "Cities have always moulded nature in their image". Bovineopolis, takes a sideways look at the reality of in-vitro meat production. Here Fetal Bovine serum, an extract from a calf fetus, used in cell culturing is the city's re-rendering of beef. These and the other proposals continue to be developed and will be worked-up to full projects in the future.
I also had a look at your map of the Feast After Agri and it seems that the various food cultures are distributed geographically? Which criteria makes you decide which food culture would be implemented in which part of the world?
The map explores how new geographical boundaries and geo-engineering projects may be re-drawn on top of existing territories according to new food cultures. Instead of a standardized food culture across the globe, the Feast After Agri map charts the diversification in how we respond and evolve to our food and body-fuelling methods.
This map will change and be reconfigured as we add more food cultures and chart the changing climate and geographical composition over time.
In your future food scenarios, do you also see differences in social classes with, for example, privileged people being able to carry on eating as we know it now?
The role between social class systems and diet is a very strong feature in most of the scenarios but particularly the Republic of Salivation. Here the design of diet is used by the Government to enable a citizen workforce to deliver their role in society. For instance, manual workers are given a provision of food that is high in modified starch - to enable the body to run for longer on the least food. Whereas the intellectuals of the country are fed scarcer food like fish, rich in omega 3 fatty acids and fresh fruit, to enrich brain function.
The scenario not only projects into the future but also reflects on the past. In developing the Republic of Salivation we were particularly interested in how food was re-evaluated as fuel for the work-force body in the Victorian workhouses.
I'm curious about the The Algae Opera that took place last month at the V&A. Somehow, you managed to convince a mezzo-soprano to be 'transformed with biotechnology to form a unique relationship with algae.' What do you mean by "transformed"?
The role of transformation in The Algae Opera is a physical and cultural one. We identified the opera singer as the perfect body morphology for the production of algae. The singer's large lung capacity was perfect to exhale the maximum CO2 to feed the algae. To facilitate the process further, the singer, Louise Ashcroft, worked with composer, Gameshow Outpatient, to re-design her singing technique.
The opera aspect of the piece was a second crucial component as we wanted to explore some exciting new research like that carried out by Charles Spence, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford called sonic food enhancement. Gameshow Outpatient and Louise re-designed many conventional operatic techniques. Gameshow Outpatient's Matt Roger described the process as:
"We wanted to create a vocal ritual overtly focused on breath as much as singing, since breath is a fundamental connection between singer and algae, with breath control a technical fundament of singing itself. With this in mind we revisited traditional singing techniques to make explicit the role of breath and breath control in them, the impact on tone colour and stamina for example, seeking to explore 'fragility' as much as 'strength'. We wanted the piece to represent an imaginary 'folk' music, born of a Human/Algae symbiote culture where breath itself is the revered symbol of existence."
Louise's role as a singer was also re-examined and she reflects on the process:
"I have to make a significant shift in the use of breath. The algae mask captures CO2 to grow the algae and requires a non-reflexive breath cycle to maximise CO2 output. This means the singer needs to take the breath cycle to the point of collapse. In today's opera tradition, this type of breath cycle is considered inefficient and undesirable due to the issues surrounding sustainability and aesthetic. However, in The Algae Opera, a breath cycle based on a point of collapse is considered efficient and ultimately desirable, for it produces more algae.
In terms of the sonic enhancement of the algae, our relationship to pitch, tone and vocal colour also changes. Tone and colour in the algae framework is no longer linked just to text and texture, but also to flavour. What this means for me as a trained singer, is that I have to re-think technique, the purpose of the voice and explore a new vocal aesthetic to ensure that an algae sound creates food to feed you and me."
As shown in the diagram, the algae suit/mask works by pumping CO2 from the singer to the algae in the tanks. With a little fertilizer the algae feed and grow. Over a couple of performances the algae population is sufficient enough to harvest. In the opera piece, a chef strains the algae and uses it to make a sushi-like meal that is fed to the audience. The two acts of the opera are composed to consist of sound pitches to enhance the audience's taste of bitterness and sweetness as they eat. As such, they consume the performer's talent and taste her song.
Algaculture is fairly seducing but the Republic of Salivation is downright revolting (or maybe it's just me). What reaction do you expect people to have when they discover the food cultures you're bringing forward?
We're not afraid to investigate the good, bad and ugly future of food cultures. We can't escape the fact that we will have to change our food production methods. Already there's a food crisis and our human population maintains its growth. And hungry people make for a future of panic, civil unrest, conflict and death. However, we still have the luxury now to think, explore, play and try alternative choices.
We are not only interested in the future food itself - we are fascinated in the largest systems that our food systems shape. The scientific research area of nutrigenomics reveals that we literally are what we eat. Our food guides our human evolution.
Also, we want to highlight the ecology of food systems. Therefore After Agri aims to discover how future food cultures will shape our physical world from town planning, landscapes and our global climate. We want to offer a glimpse into how developments in food technology will guide how we live together in societies, inform our political systems and give us new national identities. The projects also aim to consider how our future body-fuelling cultures will change our relationship with the planet's biodiversity and may allow us to populate new ecological niches.
Although these are potential futures, we are not saying these will actually be the future. We hope they act as a mirror onto ourselves to consider the ecological web our food cultures impact on and the sacrifices we will be required to make in subsequent human generations.
Are there any ongoing research in future way of feeding the population that you actually find exciting and would love to try out?
The full integration of algae into the body to make us semi-photosynthetic that features in the Algaculture project is something we would love to try. It's the most extreme transformation of the body we've explored so far and it has the most sacrifices to our current way of life and dietary traditions. Despite these challenges, we would love to feel what it's like to feed from the sun via the algae.
Also we are excited by the research of Alan Horsager, a neuroscientist at the Institute of Genetic Medicine at the University of Southern California. His research implants algae genes in the eyes of blind mice to regain a basic sight perception. In the development of the project we have briefly explored the potential of our bodies gaining a new bodily sensory perception through the light sensitivity of the algae when they are fully integrated, as an interesting by-product of a new dietary lifestyle.
You just published After... The Birth Issue. Can you talk to us about the publication? What do we find inside? Is this the first one of a longer series of books related to a specific topic?
After... is a quarterly journal. Online it can be found at www.afterafter.co.uk. It features work that investigates, experiments and inspires new ways to see our world. It is a way to explore how all of us fit into our shifting and fascinating future.
The journal adopts free-thinking discovery to enhance our understanding of ourselves. We don't want to wait for the future to happen to us. Instead, After... is a place for like-minded people who want to be a part of creating that future.
Inside can be found focused, reflective documentaries, proposals and prototypes for alternative futures. It's a bit of a marriage of East meets West with influences from Michiko's Japanese and Michael's UK backgrounds.
Please let us know if you would like to receive our journal directly or be part of future editions.
Any upcoming project you'd like to share with us?
We are working on the autumn After... issue. We are currently working on two commissions that will launch in October and November. Also we are building ideas and work for a solo exhibition next year called Isoculture. Please check our website for further updates and launch news.
Thanks Michiko and Michael!
Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2012-10-17 08:58:49
The Frieze art fair dismantled its tents a few days ago at Regent's Park in London. Last year's edition disappointed me. This year, however, i liked it so much i went twice. I even walked to the other end of the park to visit Frieze Masters (that one was selling anything in between and including the medieval gargoyles and the photos by Richard Avedon.) Over the next few days, i will submit the blog to an avalanche of images and works from the fair. Let's start light and very fast with a few art pieces that demonstrate that even artists shown at art fairs have a sense of humour:
Four years ago, Daniel Knorr put balaclavas on the head of public sculptures in Copenhagen. The Galleria Fonti from Naples had a wall covered in photos that documented the intervention.
I should mention the entrance to the fair. A floor to wall carpeting of shoes in green, yellow, black and red.
The La Vache qui rit cow laughing at your feet and bum inside the fair was by the same artist Thomas Bayrle. Both were commissioned Frieze Projects.
That magnificent wallpaper on the external walls of the booth of Gavin Brown's Enterprise? Thomas Bayrle again!
The pink carpet at Pilar Corrias' booth however was by Koo Jeong A:
Speaking of pink (it was pink but my ever colour-blind camera wouldn't admit it)... Nothing like a walrus by Carsten Höller to brighten your day:
From a series of ultra absurd Talking Objects by Laurie Simmons:
This one wasn't supposed to be funny:
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