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Editors: Emma Geliot and Ric Bower Design, Editorial Assistance, Sales: Rhiannon Lowe Editorial Assistant: Francesca Donovan

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CCQ issue 9 has two covers cover image: Yaa Asantewaa (working title/ in progress), Lina Iris Viktor, 2016, pure 24 karat gold, acrylic, sumi ink, gouache, print on matte canvas, 101.6cm x 132.1 cm

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cover image: My Mother’s Wardrobe, Serge Attukwei Clottey and GoLokal, 2016 performative portraits: Fagot Koroviev for CCQ. (All garments: performer’s mother’s own); photographic and logistical assistance: Nii Odzenma and Sophie da Gama Campos

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NOISEMASHINETAPES live at Farbvision music by Jan St. Werner artwork by Jan St. Werner and Paul McDevitt recorded live at Farbvision 19 November 2015

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In anticipation of the impending CD revival, CCQ is delighted to present our first audio disk – an exclusive mix by NOISEMASHINETAPES, aka Jan St. Werner (Mouse on Mars, Microstoria, Lithops, Von Südenfed). This collage of field recordings and electroacoustic composition was recorded live at Farbvision, a project space run by artist Paul McDevitt, and is released to coincide with our interview with Paul in this issue. NOISEMASHINETAPES was performed by Jan St. Werner artwork by Jan St. Werner and Paul McDevitt recorded live at Farbvision, 19 November 2015 edited 16/17 March 2016 fiepblatter.com farbvision.net infinitegreyscale.com

Legal: As an arts magazine we take the intellectual property rights of our contributors very seriously. All copyright in this issue belongs to the authors or originators of the material and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the author. Unless otherwise stated, all material has been produced by or for CCQ Magazine. We take great care to ensure that information within the magazine is accurate and fair, but opinions stated within this issue are those of the author and not necessarily of CCQ Magazine or the publishers, Culture Colony Quarterly Magazine Ltd. If you find something that is inaccurate or misleading please let us know, and we will attempt to remedy any errors on our part at the earliest opportunity. Culture Colony Quarterly (CCQ) Magazine is published by Culture Colony Quarterly Magazine Ltd, a company limited by guarantee in England and Wales. Company no: 08634632


22 April – 17 July 2016

Art from Elsewhere International Contemporary Art from UK Galleries Arnolfini and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery arnolfini.org.uk / bristolmuseums.org.uk

Image: Mohamed Bourouissa, La Reflet, 2007, Courtesy of kamel mennour, Paris

A Hayward Touring exhibition supported by the Art Fund


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—Inside— p12 Reclaiming Regality Lina Iris Viktor on ownership, identity and her dreams of mining for gold. p120 Bodies of Evidence Ibrahim Mahama’s jute-draped monuments are imbued with the blood, sweat and tears of trade. p28 Up Through The Cracks Nana Oforiatta-Ayim on redefining Ghanaian culture. p34 My Mother’s Wardrobe Serge Attukwei Clottey marries ancient tradition with contemporary life in Ghana p48 Yellow is the Colour of Water Jeremiah Quarshie’s paintings portray a precarious relationship with water. p54 Full Colour Vision Music, books, art and a space to collaborate, Paul McDevitt’s Berlin project space, Farbvision, has it all. p64 STUDIO FONT Tommy Støckel closes the divide between art and language.


—Inside— p68 The World of James Green James Green’s heart is in the Rhondda valleys but his art embraces the planet. p72 Knight of the Night From street performer to establishment darling, Jan Fabre’s projects are still provocative. p78 Sacred Danger Uliana Apatina creates a labyrinth of beauty and menace on a wind-blasted hillside. p82 Visual Poetry Sophia Contemporary aims to challange preconceptions about Middle Eastern art. p86 This Show Has No Title Louise Hobson describes the first steps to a curating career. p92 Ripped Samuel Levi Jones tears into received texts to find new meaning. p94 Gone-ness Nerea Martinez de Lecea draws emotion in the raw. p98 Saat Saath Art from South Asia finds a new champion. p100 The hunter and the bleak Nature is at its darkest in Tim Bromage’s new poems.

opposite: drawing from the series: 100 Days, Nerea Martinez de Lecea, 2015/2016, ink on paper, A5, copyright the artist


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KIOSK CULTURE

Image by Latifah Idriss

Kiosk Culture is the first in a series of publications documenting historical and contemporary cultural production in Ghana. book and ebook available at anoghana.org

Publications | Films | Research Projects A Cultural Research Platform, Accra, Ghana Instagram: ano_ghana | Twitter: anoghana | Facebook: ANO Ghana | Email: info@anoghana.org


Reclaiming Regality British-Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor works unite ancient philosophy with futuristic possibilities. Determinedly multidisciplinary in her mindset, Viktor’s output encompasses film, photography, music and painting, exploring concepts of ownership, identity and the transcendental possibilities of art, whilst adhering to a purist blue, black, white and gold colour palette. Speaking to Emma Gilhooly, the artist discusses African histories, the Noirwave movement, personal goldmines and her plans to bring art to the final frontier. EG: The curator Koyo Kouoh has spoken of Africa as, “a mental space that can be inhabited by anyone interested in the idea of Africa”. Do you identify with that?

Initially studying performance at Sarah Lawrence College, New York, Lina Iris Viktor then worked for Spike Lee before establishing her own creative agency. In 2013, she shut up shop to dedicate her life to being an artist. Viktor challenges established ideas of ‘fine art’ in the 21st century, whilst reviving latent ancient wisdoms; the results are striking artworks, which elude fixed ideas of time and space.

Lina Iris Viktor: I grew up in England. Until the age of 10, I went to a Scottish primary school where I was the only black girl, but I didn’t really notice or care. It wasn’t until I moved to America, to study at Sarah Lawrence, that I became more aware of my ‘blackness’. I was met abruptly with the stark cultural reality of what it means to be black in the US.

LIV: People are really responding to anything that’s African: culturally, artistically; fashion-wise, design-wise. In the past, attention on Africa has manifested globally in an overly exoticised way, focusing on the tribal aspects of the continent and not the diversity of contemporary life; this is a Westerncentric projected viewpoint, rather than an genuine reflection of the way things were. Now, authentic African voices are controlling the narratives. The internet has helped democratise information; someone that’s in Mali, Cape Town, Egypt, Morocco can speak to people globally. Anyone that’s interested can tap in, whether you’re Loza Maléombho, rethinking tribal wares for the modern African/person, or one of the many other emerging voices drawing from this cultural heritage.

EG: All of a sudden you were confronted with the need to define yourself in that way?

EG: You draw on portrayals of regality in many of your works – what is it about this role that’s so alluring?

LIV: The African Americans I knew throughout the college felt strongly about enforcing their identity; it compelled me to deal with my own heritage, to become more versed in African American history. They were experiencing the repercussions of a system that stripped people of their identity, but that hadn’t been my experience. Other black students would call me ‘bougie’, and said I thought I was too good, I wasn’t black enough; and I was like, “what is black enough? I don’t know what that means”.

LIV: It’s the idea of reclaiming this sense of prestige, this idea of royalty – not in a Western sense – but as a person that owns their space.

EG: How much does your Liberian heritage inform your work now?

LIV: Yannick [Petite Noir], Rharha and myself share very similar philosophies; we want to re-organise the narrow perspective that much of the global community have of what it means to be African. There’s a whole spectrum of lifestyles on that continent, but there’s this very superficial yet pervasive, pumped-out narrative of Africa, which exists on a global scale: poverty stricken; AIDS-ridden; a charity case. We’re not reshaping the conversation purely from our own narrative, but from the past, triggering these powerful stories that are dormant in our memory.

Emma Gilhooly: Your work interrogates constructs of identity; how do you define Lina Iris Viktor?

EG: You’ve explored this in your work with the musician Petite Noir and Noir’s creative director, Rharha Nembhard. It’s a main concern of the Noirwave movement they both founded, which I know you champion. Can you explain a bit about this?

LIV: My African-ness informs my work more than my Liberianness – I’ve lived on the continent, but I’ve never been to Liberia. Liberia, following the coup in 1980, hasn’t really recovered — politically, infrastructurally. The place of my parent’s childhood – this lush, very affluent country – is not what it is today. I actually don’t want to see present-day Liberia. I want to see the Liberia of my forebears, but it’s gone.

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EG: Why is Africa such a powerful muse? LIV: It’s so culturally rich. My work speaks from a cosmological standpoint, but it’s still an Afrocentric vantage point. It explores historical happenings and understandings that existed in Egypt... Mali... I’m rechanneling the mind space of ancient cultures for the contemporary audience. I think they were far more advanced: consciously, spiritually, typologically. The Dogon tribe in Mali – very much akin to the ancient Egyptians – were speaking of physics, cosmology, astronomy, long before we established modern astrophysics. Psychology today is a watered down version of how they understood people on a sacred, psychological level. Ancient architecture – we barely understand how they created these structures - we lack the tools to replicate their precision. We are not the great pioneers of anything really – we’re catching up. EG: How did they view art? LIV: We look at art as self-expression, a political statement, a tool to shock. These cultures used art as a vehicle for illumination, a proponent of evolution, as transcendent; art wasn’t just entertainment, or something pretty. I’m tempering those lines: how do you put these philosophical, grandiose ideas and thought processes into your work, and still make it something people want to consume? The black and gold works – where I’m completely blacked out – discuss the being and the cosmos; we all share the same elemental makeup, from the smallest quantum-mechanical blob to the largest galaxy. I’m bringing that back down to earth, so people can understand the oneness of it all. EG: Is it Afrofuturist? LIV: It’s fantastical – some people call it Afrofuturism. I couldn’t verbalise the initial intent; it’s a conversation about colour, regality, metamorphosis, being one with your own essence and body, and yet being something else. EG: What about your use of ‘blackface’? LIV: Again it’s an impulse. I guess there’s a part of the conversation that’s very mundane, me being, “ok am I black enough now?” And there’s a part that isn’t about ethnicity at all, it’s about me as a construct. As that series goes on you’ll see me in whiteface, blueface… EG: Painting your face could also be a reference to certain animist rituals, those preparations for communicating with ancestral spirits?

LIV: Hieroglyphs are symbolic, like mathematical languages; I impart mathematical symbolism already in my work, so it’s transposing that. Hieroglyphs elude literal translation in the way we understand it. When you translate French into English – though there’ll be some ambiguity – it’ s pretty straightforward. There’s this analogy about hieroglyphs: in the dark you shine a light on an object, and instead of observing the object directly, you look for the impression its shadow casts. You intuit meaning from that. It’s a different way of comprehending the world. I know you said you love hieroglyphs? EG: Yeah I was obsessed as a child… LIV: They’re emotive. You feel a power, an energy, whether you literally understand it or not. I’ll create in the same way, with a feeling. EG: Almost like an ancient form of emoji – a symbol that actually reflects more of feeling that a literal word? LIV: That’s a great analogy; you see a happy face, you know it’s generally happy, but there are so many different variations of happy that exist. EG: Speaking of emojis I wanted to ask about Instagram, which many perceive as a mode of communication that is narcissistic, shallow. Nowadays artists have to work out how, or if, they’re going to incorporate this into their work. LIV: Social media is just another medium; it’s different levels of conversation. Artists shy away from it, because of this whole sense of exclusivity: art can only be consumed in this space, anywhere else and it’s not fine art anymore. But that’s shitty, you need to be able to discuss your work outside of this ‘safe zone’. It’s very safe to put your work in a white box room that most people are quite uncomfortable going into; that’s narcissistic. EG: You’ve spoken of your work in terms of wanting to create a moment of reprieve or meditation – something I know you’ve considered in relation to a new public commission in Soho New York. But how about in relation to art fairs – how do you deliver that feeling in these monumental altars to the commercial art world? LIV: Some art fairs lack any imagination, it’s the same around every corner. When I did SCOPE, in 2014, my space previous spread: Syzygy, Lina Iris Viktor, 2015, pure 24 karat gold, acrylic, sumi Ink, gouache, print on matte canvas, 101.6cm x 132.1 cm

LIV: Yes, a lot of the motifs I use exist in the different tribal rituals around Africa. Also, when minstrelsy was at its peak, black performers donned blackface to critique it. Ultimately, it provokes a discourse – different people feel different things. I’ve actually been surprised that more people haven't found it disrespectful. I thought it might have elicited more of that kind of response…

opposite: Constellations I (in progress), Lina Iris Viktor, 2016, pure 24 karat gold, acrylic, sumi ink, gouache, print on matte canvas 213.4cm x 152.4cm following spread, left: Golden Ratio II, Lina Iris Viktor, pure 24 karat gold, acrylic, sumi ink, gouache, print on matte canvas, 152.4cm x 116.8cm

EG: You’re studying hieroglyphs at the moment, how will that inform your practice?

following spread, right: La Vie est Belle / Life is Beautiful, Petite Noir Cover Artwork, Lina Iris Viktor, 2015

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EG: You’ve said that one day you want to take your art to space?

was the only coloured world in the entire fair. I’m not discrediting the fact that artists need the market, but art should be created with an impetus to engage people. Some asshole collectors-cum-investors aren’t making informed decisions, they’re buying based on investment portfolios, a perceived trajectory of success which means they can cash in on it in the future. But I’ve known collectors that buy because they love it – if it grows in price over the years, who knows. It’s a far more gratifying way of buying works. Maybe I have the luxury to do so, but I don’t sell to people I don’t like.

LIV: I have this feeling that I want to – it has to happen – I have to send these works back… EG: Back home? LIV: Back home, exactly! Human beings, since time immemorial, have been drawn to gold. For me, it’s not necessarily aesthetics, but gold’s cosmological story. Just like every other metal or element, gold is made from the death of a star. When a star starts to die it implodes – it happens literally over nanoseconds and gets extremely hot – every heat signature creates a different element or metal, and one of the last elements before it completely implodes, is gold. For gold to even get to Earth it travelled on a meteor, then it takes people to mine the earth and sift through dirt to acquire it. People are very fixated by gold in my work, and want to know where I get it from. My real intent is that I actually want to mine my own gold, but until then, I have to go and get it from California… which is…

EG: The price of your work is affected by your decision to use 24 karat gold; why is this so integral? LIV: Gold has all these amazing properties. It’s one of the softest, most malleable metals, yet it is almost indestructible. Nasa uses gold in their spacesuits, space shuttles and satellites. Space-helmets are covered in gold because it won’t conduct certain rays from the sun, it reflects them back...

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EG: ...not quite the same?

LIV: ...it’s not his black though.

LIV: Yeah.

EG: He’s got the rights to it now. Completely.

EG: Recently, Anish Kapoor bought the rights to the blackest black – Vantablack?

LIV: Oh bugger off. He can’t buy Vantablack… don’t be an asshole. Just give me time, I’ll mine my own gold... in Ghana—CCQ

LIV:Yes! It creates what is perceived as negative space: imagine looking at my canvas and the black has no dimension, everything else is floating…

linaviktor.com

EG: ...you need your own colour, we’ve got Yves Klein blue, Anish Kapoor has his own black…

Lina Viktor’s work is part of Hyperion, Union Square 6 May –10 May and The Woven Image, The Cooper Gallery, Cambridge, MA, 19 May – 20 July 2016

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– The Editors– In our interview with Paul McDevitt, the artist/curator/publisher describes a journey through an exhibition he co-curated, Herbei ein Licht, where visitors made their solitary way through the darkened gallery space, with only a candle to throw light onto each work as they came to it. This allowed for a very particular and individual view of the work, allowing the viewer to concentrate on it with no peripheral distraction. For this issue, we have shone our pocket torches into the minds of artists and curators to illuminate the inner workings of some fascinating brains. From Antwerp to the South Wales Valleys, via Berlin, Ghana and New York, we’ve met creative people who are challenging perceptions and standard modes of working, looking for absences, uncovering the hidden, finding connections and poking at the status quo. Lina Iris Viktor dreams of mining her own gold, James Green imagines the post-industrial South Wales Valleys through the eyes of a future archaeologist, while Samuel Levi Jones rips out-dated text books into something rich and strange, Ibrahim Mahama drapes architectural edifices with jute sacking, sodden with the metaphorical toxins of consumption and trade, and Uliana Apatina created her own menacing cathedral on a wind-blasted hillside. You’ll have to use your own torches, as we haven’t provided a cover-mounted candle with this issue, but we have given you a soundtrack for your reading – a recording of a live performance by NOISEMASHINETAPES at Farbvision, Paul McDevitt’s new project space in Berlin. Alert the neighbours, press play and enjoy.

In the past few decades, socially engaged practice has emerged as a distinct, but fairly elastically defined, mode of art practice. No survey show or major art prize is complete without it. If, however, you travel some 4,500 miles due south of the UK, you’ll come to Ghana; a place where I found that the notion of art as something ‘other’ is alien to the artists and curators I met. Art isn’t something which needs to be consciously engaged with by a society, rather it is something that grows up holistically from within its traditional heart. Socially engaged practice should not need to exist as a distinct genre in Ghana, because art was never socially disengaged in the first place. In this issue, the cultural polymath, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, recounts her experience of returning to Ghana from Europe as a child, and being plunged into spectacular festivals, which she describes as being, “full of semantic possibilities and repetitions”. Ghanaian artist, Serge Attukwei Clottey, draws on his own tribal traditions, which he then embodies in his practice. For Ibrahim Mahama, each project is a hyper-collaborational act of revolution, as he calls them, directed at inequalities within the global markets. I’m not suggesting that to practice art in Ghana is idyllic. For, whatever is being sought, lies neither in straightforward, uncontested agreement, nor can it be found in an easily attained result. Instead it is found in difficult dialogues and uncomfortable processes. Ghana is an arena in which the making of mistakes is celebrated; it is a culture of possibility. Ric Bower

Emma Geliot Our thanks go to everyone who has contributed to this issue; to the people Ric met in Ghana, for being so welcoming; to Serge Attukwei Clottey and his team for performing for the photographs with hangovers; to Lina Iris Viktor for adapting a work for one of our two covers and to Sophie, Jasmin, Emma, Rachel, Carlotta, Florence, Polly, and Tefkros at Pelham Communications for being great.

– Contributors– Jakob Kolding Jakob Kolding is a Berlin-based artist, and has a regular column about books in Starship magazine. He is represented by Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Galerie Martin Janda and Team Gallery. Jakob interviews Tommy Støckel on p54 about his new STUDIO FONT. Tim Bromage Tim Bromage is better known for his performance practice, which uses his own special brand of narrative, often combined with stage magic. On p90, we feature a selection of new poems from The hunter and the bleak, published for the first time. Emma Gilhooly Emma Gilhooly graduated with a BA in English at UCL, and a specialism in African-American Lesbian Literature. She has since written on African

Art for publications such as Avenir Magazine, and written starsigns for the Daily Mirror. From Brighton, she lives and works in London. Emma interviews Lina Iris Viktor on p24. Cath Roche Cath Roche is an artist, lecturer in fine art and freelance writer. She contributes to various art publications and is currently living in Cardiff. Cath speaks to the founders of Sophia Contemporary Gallery, p72. Sam Perry Sam Perry is a curator and writer based in Cardiff. He works with an international community of emerging artists and collectives. His curatorial practice draws thematic influence from literature, focussing on ficto-critical approaches to showing art. Sam interviews James Green on p58.


Arcadecardiff Ellie Young 21/04/16 - 07/05/16 Pip Barrett 12/05/16 - 28/05/16 Richard Powell 01/06/16 - 18/06/16 Sarah Rhys 22/06/16 - 09/07/16 Am fwy o fanylion am brosiectau/ For further details on projects www.arcadecardiff.co.uk Facebook Arcadecardiff Dydd Mercher - Dydd Sadwrn. 12:30 - 17:30 Wed - Sat. 12.30 - 5.30 Arcade Cardiff, Queens Arcade Queen Street, Cardiff, CF10 2BY


Bodies of Evidence Ibrahim Mahama’s first guerilla interventions were executed using sewn-together jute sacks in the market places of Ghana. Nowadays, his projects are massively collaborative and on a monumental scale, while he still remains faithful to this symbolically charged material. In a rare interview, Ric Bower spoke to him in Accra. Who could possibly forget the three tonnes of jute sacking, which had taken 70 unseen and unnamed collaborators hundreds of sweat-soaked hours to sew together, hanging along the 300m long corridor formed by the outer walls of the Arsenale, at the 56th Venice Biennale? Out of Bounds, the work of the twenty-eight year old Ghanaian artist, Ibrahim Mahama, formed a steep-sided chasm along which a steady flow of art lovers flowed during the seven month duration of the event. Venice was the centre of power in the Mediterranean for over half a millennium. The Arsenale – the insurer of Venice’s own trading wealth – was therefore a particularly appropriate site for this intervention. Ships were being built on a production line at the Arsenale site at the rate of one a day, 500 years before Henry Ford caught onto the process. Mahama accumulates used sacks from Ghanaian market traders, offering them new ones in exchange. The sacks begin life with the Ghana Cocoa Board before being repurposed, countrywide, by charcoal sellers and traders. Once in the hands of the artist and his collaborators, the sacks become evidence for truths that economically stable communities might find somewhat uncomfortable. Amassed and recontextualised, the sacks constitute a formidable body of incriminating evidence. They are also a special kind of filthy; the kind that would defy even the most enthusiastic of soap powder challenges. Each sack is tattooed and patched with information pertaining to their humdrum, pre-artworld, commercial narratives. Implicit within their scarred surfaces are injustices, meted out on those who have used them by the monstrous imbalances that exist in global trading systems. Mahama demonstrates, through his practice, that integrity is not an easy thing to commodify. I began by asking him what he was working on at the moment.

many collaborators involved in a project, are all sites of intervention, in the same way that the theatre and the newly built apartment block are in this current project. RB: Humanity is richly ingrained in the material you work with and in the processes inherent in the making of the works; but the art market is still dependant on the white cube, a space that is devoid of the human imprint. How can you, as a practitioner, intervene across this linear and closed vehicle for creative practice? IM: My point of entry to creative practice, in general, was one where there were no institutions to engage with and, for obvious reasons, there was, and is, no existing space that can physically contain the kind of a practice I was embarking on anyway. This absence, however, should be seen as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. RB: Can a practice like yours survive in a commercial environment? IM: When working with galleries, the work can, sometimes, become commercially successful. But I always tell them the same thing: “I don’t mind selling smaller works in galleries, but the only reason I am doing it is to enable the other projects that I am doing.” RB: There must be a micro-economy that grows out of each production, then. I presume you work with the same people all the time? IM: No, many of the people I work with are in such a precarious position personally that they might be working with me one day and then gone the next. So with every project I have to start again, training people from scratch. This is an integral and important aspect of my practice. Every day, I am showing people how to sew or rearrange the objects we work with. I am not the kind of artist who is comfortable outsourcing projects. I feel the need to take responsibility for every aspect of a production; for responsibility is material for me to manipulate, in the same way that sacking is. There is no point to my production processes without that sense of inbuilt responsibility.

Ibrahim Mahama: I am working on a collaboration with the National Theatre and Trasacco Estate Group in Accra. The timing of the whole thing has meant I have not had very long to pull everything together. The directors of the National Theatre recognised that my practice is essentially political and this influenced their decision for the intervention to coincide with Ghanaian Independence Day. We have come a long way since 1957 [independence from European Colonisation] My projects are acts of subtle revolution, because they seem fairly straightforward in nature. However, this fact can be easily overlooked. There is a theatricality to my whole process that suits working with a theatre; the idea of the theatre being just what happens inside the building is challenged. We have to account for the architecture, the history of the space and the relationship between the building and its surrounding bodies. The jute sacks, the events and activities, and the

RB: So that is a difficulty that is built into the work itself and this difficulty highlights problems inherent in the wider labour market? IM: Yes. RB: You have mentioned in the past that you admire Santiago Sierra,

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previous spread: Out of Bounds, Ibrahim Mahama, 2014-2015, installation, mixed media, 56th Venice Biennale, 2015. courtesy of the artist and A Palazzo Gallery, Photo: Fagot Koroviev this spread: Civil Aviation, Airport, Accra, Ghana, Ibrahim Mahama, installation, mixed media, 2014, courtesy of the artist following spread: Mallam Atta Market, Accra, Newtown, Ghana, Ibrahim Mahama, installation, mixed media, 2012, courtesy of the artist final spread: Malam Dodoo National Theatre 1992-2016, Ibrahim Mahama, installation, mixed media, 2014, courtesy of the artist


but your practice seems more aesthetically tuned than his; is this an African thing, being able to give conceptually rigorous work a strong visual aesthetic? IM: No, I don’t think it’s an African thing. I tend to think about the work holistically, or in a universal sense. There is no separation, in my mind, between how my practice functions and how it looks. Comparisons have been made in the past between my work and Christo’s. Formally there are obvious relationships that can be drawn, but it is a lazy comparison that does not take into account the motivations for, or processes involved in, the making the work. Jacques Rancière and Walter Benjamin talk about acts of production and the role of the author in those processes, and it is these motivations and acts that make up a core component of my finished work. The revolutionary teachings of karikacha seid’ou, from the Department of Painting and Sculpture at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, have been instrumental in the development of ideas within my creative practice too. Most of the buildings I work with are modernist in origin; it is not a purely African thing. There is an agreement, a conversation that occurs between the existing architectural forms, their particular contexts and the forms rendered by the subsequent intervention. RB: Dressing in sackcloth is seen as an acknowledgment of shame. Are you shaming these buildings and spaces? IM: One of the things my work addresses is the failure of architecture in the late 20th and 21st centuries. Architects often take little account of the body, or the way bodies integrate with the spaces they construct. My worry is that in cities like Caracas, Lagos and Accra – or in other places where there are large slums – the state, rather than being a protagonist for the people, becomes an antagonist, by favouring gentrification over human welfare. I have inherited and grown up within this environment of failure, and as an artist I ask myself how I can take this failure and subvert it, how it might lead into change? Crisis and failure are points of departure for me. RB: Have you become a connoisseur of sacking? IM: Not just sacks, there are many objects that I collect. When buildings are demolished I collect debris from them – the iron rods, window sections and other fragments of tropical modernist architecture – to use in the construction of new spaces. RB: As an artist, I imagine you are impelled to take risks and therefore to deliberately court failure. How then do you navigate your practice when you are working with institutions, which, of course, expect unbridled success when they commission a project from you? relation to my work is because of how African art – and other art forms outside the western canon – have been read in the recent past. They have often been labelled as emerging from cultural necessity. I think there is a bigger picture than that, which should be taken into account. When considering the human condition, issues such as spirituality are just part of the whole; they are never the whole picture, in themselves.

IM: When I am invited to make work by an institution, compromise inevitably becomes part of the process of the work’s development. It is true, working with institutions, there is often very little room for failure. With an institution I am there to build something and there is a readymade audience who will see it. When I do an independent project, however, the audience, who I think of as actors, are inscribed within the materials and the architecture that go into the formation of the work. It is all very different when I choose a space myself in which to work from scratch and a particular group of collaborators to work with. RB: Is there a spiritual aspect to your practice?

RB: A practice such as yours is so much about the first hand, complete experience of being there: that is in the space, with the smell of

IM: No, there is not. The reason I brush off associations of spirituality in

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the sacking, the experience of the scale of a shrouded building up close and the sound of the wind through the folds of jute. How can any of this ever be successfully represented for posterity? IM: The act of publication will become an important part of my practice. I collect narratives by making recordings and films and, as I go back over them in my archive, it gives me a better sense of what the practice is about. I have been interested in, and have explored through different media, these kinds of ideas since I was an

undergraduate student. I have found from experience that, if I show work and then endeavour to represent it literally, it closes the conversation down. But when I set out to represent something that is, in itself, almost incomprehensible, then the reader has to, and usually will, make the required effort to engage with the work. Take the National Theatre in Accra, for instance; when it is clothed in my intervention and photographed from above, using a drone, it looks like a movie set or a spaceship that has landed and been covered, but it exudes the sense that it could still take

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off at any time, that it is awaiting some kind of awakening. I am interested in the transformation that occurs when alternative means of representation are employed, and in the sense of expectation that this process of translation engenders. I think that Ghana, like many other arenas, can become a centre for this kind of practice and I am greatly encouraged by the development of new spaces here: blaxTARLINES in Kumasi is a fine example. At heart though, I am still a hardcore exponent of independent practice, of just getting things done­—CCQ


Up Through The Cracks Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, writer, artist, curator and film maker, is the Director of ANO, the Ghana based cultural research platform. She has just become the Creative Director of Gallery 1957, a new commercial space, in Accra. Ric Bower spoke to her after the gallery’s opening. Portrait: Fagot Koroviev for CCQ. The breadth of Nana Oforiatta-Ayim’s engagement across different avenues of creative endeavour is impressive: she has written for Frieze, National Geographic, The Dubliner, Arise and Kaleidoscope; she has presented her research at universities, including Oxford and Cambridge; there are the books she has written and her international curatorial projects. Her first fictional movie, Tied and True, made in collaboration with artist Wu Tsang, won the 2012 Panavision Filmmaker’s Award. Currently, she is working on a Cultural Encyclopædia to draw together disparate voices within Africa and its cultural diaspora. Becoming the artistic director of Gallery 1957 is relatively new territory for her. She has sought to commission off-site projects, from each of the artists who will be showing there, to create links between the rarefied atmosphere of a high-end commercial gallery and the bustling reality of downtown Accra. I met Nana Oforiatta-Ayim in Accra, after the opening of Gallery 1957, and began by asking her about her early career as a filmmaker. Nana Oforiatta-Ayim: I wanted to know about contemporary Ghanaian art. When I was about 21, I used some grant money I had received to hire a cinematographer and embarked on the making of my first film. I contacted the major artists I knew of in Ghana. They tell me now they wondered what on earth was happening, with this kid knocking on their doors and asking them

these huge questions. Though once I had filmed it, I realised I had no idea yet how to craft and shape a narrative in film. Ric Bower: Did you travel all over Ghana making the film? NOA: No, It was mainly in Accra, during my university holidays. A lot of the artists that I know now, particularly the older generation, I met back then. It wasn’t only visual arts I looked at; I wanted to see how the whole cultural kaleidoscope fitted together. RB: And this led onto making more films? NOA: I got into film through my hero, the French film-maker, Chris Marker. I was working for Africa 05 in London and the Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène was launching his film for the programme. I met Thi Minh Ngo, who told me that Chris Marker had made a film about African Arts with Alain Resnais in 1953, and that he was not happy with the original translation. She was looking for someone who could write and knew about African arts to do the translation, and I told her I had to be the one to do it. The film was called Les Statues Meurent Aussi (Statues Also Die), and one of its themes was of these statues being locked up to die in museums. Doing the translation on the film, getting feedback from Chris Marker on the poetry and rhythm of film, was like a heavenly masterclass. After that I came back home

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and made my own short film on drum poetry. I sent it to film festivals and was surprised to see it accepted and nominated for awards. It meant that not only could I translate the concepts I had in my head into film, but that it resonated somehow with other people. RB: So how did the Cultural Encyclopædia develop then? NOA: When I did my Masters in African Art History, we took a class in critical theory. I became frustrated that we were looking at only Western theoretical systems – hermeneutics, empiricism and phenomenology, etc – when I wanted to know how the arts, especially the historical forms, were created on their own terms. I tried to look for what the theoretical or aesthetic contexts were, but at first couldn’t find them. The form that fascinated me the most was drum poetry, a language spoken on the drum, with whole philosophies and aesthetic systems encompassed within its language. The film I made used the formalism of drum poetry and translated it into film format. In my writing I often use drum poetry too, developing it into an aesthetic lens through which to look at culture. RB: We in the West have long been experiencing the compartmentalisation of activity surrounding art practice: commercial; creative; conceptual; functional etc. I have spoken with Serge Attukwei Clottey


about how this isn’t the case in Ghana though; do you agree? NOA: I am doing a project in June with Serge, on the Korle Lagoon. Our coming together was interesting because Serge actually embodies in his practice a lot of the things I research and write about. I partly grew up abroad, in Germany and England. When I came home, I would be thrown into these spectacular festivals that are like live exhibitions, or Gesamtkunstwerke, full of semantic possibilities and repetitions, of which I didn’t necessarily understand the deeper layers. To translate the complexity and chaos of life into the white cube space is always difficult; I am doing a show at LACMA [Los Angeles County Museum of Art] in December with Ibrahim Mahama, Zohra Opoku and Serge. It will be a museum show, but it is also important that we go out of the museum to engage with life outside it. RB: So how do you move from one space to the other; there is such a huge divide between them? How do you break down the walls of the gallery? NOA: Literally?

RB: There are many art worlds in existence: the art world of big business being one of them; and the art world of communityrooted, socially-engaged creative practice being another. There is little real dialogue between these worlds. How might this unhelpful dichotomy be challenged? NOA: One of the reasons I left London, where many of my friends were artists and I was writing about art and culture, was that a lot of discourse was about the business of art, more than practice or ideas, and it often felt empty to me. When I came back to Ghana, though no one was making money, there was a rawness and truth. Ibrahim Mahama would go into a marketplace and roll out his material, the jute sacking, install it, leave it for some hours, and then roll it all up again, with people from the environment, the market places, engaging with the work. All this, and what other artists like Serge and Zohra Opoku were doing in public spaces, felt like interventions that came from a deep imperative, a need to express no matter what. RB: How did you end up collaborating with Marwan Zakhem [the British Lebanese-born entrepreneur and collector, who founded Gallery 1957]?

RB: Perhaps. NOA: I am doing it now with these Living History Hubs I am working on; they are, in effect, travelling museums; kiosks, that I take around the country, filming, collecting objects, photographs, documents, and exhibiting them at the same time.

NOA: He was setting up a gallery, looking for someone to collaborate with, and he asked me. I’d never worked with a commercial gallery before. I’m a writer and cultural historian. My interest is in creating narratives and contexts, and I didn’t know if this would be possible in the context of a

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gallery. But, because all the structures we are creating here are so new, we’re free to shape them as we want to, which means we can build cultural histories with the narrative of our programme. It’s also the particular constellation of people, of us all, coming together – people like Marwan, Serge, Zohra Opoku and Elisabeth Sutherland – there’s a passion, and a will to break through established boundaries and create something altogether new, which is an incredibly exciting thing to be a part of. RB: In July 2007, French President Nicolas Sarkozy stood in front of a large group of scholars and intellectuals at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar and declared: “The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history... they have never really launched themselves into the future, and that the African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words. In this realm of fancy... there is neither room for human endeavour nor the idea of progress.” This speech, understandably, caused considerable consternation, and I know you have written about it in the past. Could you revisit his comments now, in relation to how you are engaging with an on open and vibrant creative scene in Accra, in 2016? NOA: His comments are symptomatic of the age-old Western canonical and patriarchal presumption of being the owner, the pacesetter, the gatekeeper of History. To stand in a university, named after one of the continent’s greatest


philosophers, and say what he did, I am amazed everyone did not just get up and walk out. RB: How should or could Africa and the West relate culturally? NOA: I did an exhibition in Norway, a few years ago, collaborating with artists from Norway and Ghana. It came out of a residency I had been doing there. We had just found oil in Ghana, at the time, and the Ghanaian government asked the Norwegian one to be her mentor in the process. I made a film to explore the narrative of this partnership and how oil was affecting our communities here. What emerged for me was that what, in the West, is known as ‘progress’, is referred to as ‘development’ in relation to Africa. Words are so important because they implicate us in our prejudices. Progress is directional and purposeful, whereas the developing world is seen as trying to catch up, having fallen behind. Until we have an equality of exchange, or of looking out into the world, there will always be an inadequacy in our relations. RB: You wrote in 2011, in an essay for Frieze: “Art becomes another language through which one’s reality is mediated to the world.” It seems, in the West, that we have forgotten what art is for; it is perceived as a luxury to be owned. The implication of your statement is that art is not a luxury, but instead it is essential to human existence. Do you still think this is the case? NOA: When I came home to Ghana, I found

art everywhere and in everything: imminent, ubiquitous, porous. When I visited a museum in the West, I would come across objects I saw at home, dead and locked up in glass cases; but really if you look, wherever you are in the world, art is everywhere, to differing degrees, and to differing standards. I do think it is a necessity, a way of understanding and mediating the world. RB: So, if art is removed from society, first by being made separate, as has already happened in the West, and then finally by being amputated entirely, as austerity policies are threatening to do, what will we be left with? NOA: Stalin is credited as saying that, “The writer is the engineer of the human soul”, and the same must be true of all artists. Plato, in his Republic, expressed that art should be censored, and this happened in Stalinist Russia of course. There was a curfew on music in Ghana in the 1970s; art was contained because it was understood to be powerful. When there is a desire to control in government, the first thing they seek to control is creative expression. History has shown, though, that creativity always finds a way up through the cracks. My dream is to have a cultural revolution here in Ghana and in Africa as a whole, because I think, to a certain extent, there is still a cultural inferiority complex. I don’t want to apportion blame by saying this; in the end we are responsible for our own realities. I dislike the colonial shaming and victim mentality. I find it disempowering, but we were told, for a long time, that our culture

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and even our souls, were inferior, and we took this on board. Art is a way to bring a new consciousness into being for us. There are so many forms of expression that are so natural to us that we don’t even see them, and this is why I am working on the Cultural Encyclopædia. I want to make those forms of expression visible. RB: But how can this be effectively communicated to the communities of power that do not associate with this message? NOA: I feel like the seismic shifts in paradigm, which have occurred in the past at times of revolution, have always been underpinned by a coming together of creative minds. Before the Russian Revolution, Alexander Blok and Vladimir Mayakovsky were talking the language of revolution before it was born in actuality. The same is true of the French Revolution with Diderot’s Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, which brought disparate minds together. Here, there are, and always have been, many different voices creating unique and valuable insights. Bringing these voices together is my intention in the Cultural Encylopædia. I think the thing is to create and, at some stage, things begin to speak for themselves, they just have to exist—CCQ

anoghana.org gallery1957.com The next show at Gallery 1957 is Zohra Opoku: Sassa 25 May – 1 August 2016


cardiffmet.ac.uk/csad

Image: Sophie Southgate


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Serge Attukwei Clottey is the founder of Ghana’s GoLokal performance collective and the creator of Afrogallonism, a movement that engages with consumerism in modern Africa. In his hometown of Labadi, Clottey and GoLokal worked with Fagot Koroviev to create a series of performative portraits for CCQ. Wearing their mothers’ clothing, the collaborators are photographed in front of their maternal homes. The images have become an extended expression of Clottey’s on-going project, My Mother’s Wardrobe. Clottey talks to CCQ about his complex practice, embedded in its physical and cultural environment.


previous spread, left: Everywhere is Cool, Serge Attukwei Clottey, 2016, plastics, wire and oil paint, 42 x 24 inches, copyright: the artist, courtesy Gallery 1957, Accra previous spread, right; current spread and the following two spreads: My Mother’s Wardrobe, Serge Attukwei Clottey and GoLokal , 2016; performative portraits: Fagot Koroviev for CCQ. (All garments: performer’s mother’s own); photographic and logistical assistance: Nii Odzenma and Sophie da Gama Campos.

In the Ga tribe, then our mothers die, tradition determines that their wardrobes must be locked up for a year. When the year is up, a mother’s belongings are shared among the female members of the family. As an only son, I did not receive any of my mother’s possessions and that link with her was broken. When I was growing up, my mum would make clothes for me using the same fabrics that she wore herself – fabric is not gender specific in Africa. Many of the men who perform with me have lost their mothers too. They have had to go to their aunties and their siblings to try and collect back some memories from them. It is mainly the women who search for water in Ghana. They collect and store it for their families, in the yellow plastic Kufuor gallons.

The plastic of the gallons and the fabric of our clothes have a lot in common, in that they constitute a protective layer we can’t do without. I use plastic in my tapestries as one might use fabric. Each brand of plastic has a subtly different colour and feel. The plastics will, most likely, have been made using oil from different continents. People use the gallons as chairs; kids play with them; people even use them as beds. They are infinitely versatile, but they are also incredibly resilient. The gallons will outlast us all. The question is, I suppose, what will future generations be using all this plastic for? Traditionally, fabric has been used as a form of currency in Africa. Even now it can be used as part of a dowry. Cultures and traditions change over time, and plastic will be

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woven into the narrative of that change. When we want to cleanse ourselves spiritually, by bathing in one of the lagoons, the water is full of plastic that has been dumped there. I am working on an installation with Nana Oforiatta Ayim to cover a lagoon with one of my plastic tapestries, to protect it both physically and spiritually. As we develop as a country, we are losing our ancient traditions, and as we lose contact with our traditions, so we lose contact with the natural world and with the spiritual realm. The development we are experiencing now actually springs out of – and can be traced back to – the traditional practices that we are so enthusiastic to discard. Six generations ago, my family was in Jamestown, Accra. My ancestors migrated down the coast to Labadi, where we

are now. They had been trading alcohol and beef with the people of Labadi. It is not only populations that migrate; our costumes, when we perform, are made from materials that were originally imported – materials that have migrated here to Ghana (it is easier for materials to migrate than for humans). The white powder on our faces symbolises purity and is used as part of traditional rituals by which we can connect with our ancestors. The powder is made of crushed shells, and it contains lavender. The addition of lavender is an imported tradition, from colonial times. Any material, including plastic, when it moves to a new location, is transformed; the gallons came into Ghana as containers of vegetable oil from Europe and they are transformed into containers of water. I then turn them into art 38 38


and send them back to Europe. Water is the medium on which materials are transported, so the sea becomes an important arena for installation and intervention. The sea continuously returns to us the materials we have discarded into it, perhaps to remind us of what we have done. Sometimes I just dump my finished works in the ocean; they always end up coming back to me. The house we are sitting in now, my house, was built through a strategy of trade. My ancestors helped the people of Labadi fight against Teshie, the neighbouring town, over a particular lagoon. They contributed their voodoo to help fight the war, so the chief of Labadi gave my ancestors this land – from here, where we are sitting, to the sea – in gratitude for their help.

To build this house, my ancestors exchanged the food they brought in for stone. I go to the old people to access these stories; they are passed on orally, down through the generations. As an artist I am a collector of stories. The work I make, the end result so to speak, is just evidence for many performances; the material processes and transformations. The hard physical labour and the time invested; that in itself is the work, that in itself is the end result. Serge Attukwei Clottey: My Mother’s Wardrobe, curated by Nana OforiattaAyim/ANO, is showing at Gallery 1957, Accra until 20 May 2016 Gallery1957.com

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Yellow is the Colour of Water Jeremiah Quarshie is a Ghanaian figurative painter, who uses traditional motifs and techniques within a deeply critical conceptual framework. Jonathan Watkins, director of Ikon Gallery, Anny Shaw, of The Art Newspaper, El-Yesha Puplampu, of Gallery 1957, and Ric Bower were invited to talk to him about his practice.

We gathered in Jeremiah Quarshie’s studio in Accra, and Jonathan Watkins began by asking the artist if there are many painter’s currently working figuratively in Ghana.

Ric Bower: Can you tell us about the people in your work? JQ: My work is about engaging with individuals, describing and explaining what I want from them, talking to models, and collaborating with a photographer for the lighting and the composition. The work is always about dealing with people. Sometimes I give reference images to my models before they are photographed. There was one particular time, when I got the model to go to the market to get a feel of what it was like to be there before she posed for me. The only time I am alone is when I am painting; I work with the composition then, editing and rearranging. The initial photography is very much an integral part of my process.

Jeremiah Quarshie: People have tried to work in this manner, but it has never been fully resolved. I admire the Old Dutch masters, their meticulousness, how they light their work and their dramatic dark backgrounds. I went to Holland, a while ago, on a cross-cultural project – a collaboration between Dutch and Ghanaian artists. I researched the relationship between Holland and Ghana over the last 300 years, working with the themes of time, trade and travel. I looked at the slave trade in particular. I saw a lot of black people in Holland who were not from Africa but from South America. The Dutch would take slaves from Africa, sell them to the Spanish and Portuguese in America and keep a few in the area that is known today as Suriname. After the independence of Suriname from Holland, many were given the chance to move to Holland to become Dutch citizens. I wanted to make the project contemporary, to not just present another slave story. So I spoke to a woman, [Ank de Vogel)], who had researched and documented her own genealogy, tracing it back to the one ancestor who was brought from Africa to South America. I used her story as the research and basis for a portrait I made of a Dutch footballer from Suriname [Clarence Seedorf]. Most, if not all, black Surinamese will trace their roots back to Africa. I used his story as a vehicle to represent those with similar backgrounds, adding the research text contributed by Ank de Vogel to the image.

Anny Shaw: What’s the significance of the yellow containers the subjects are resting on? JQ: They are repurposed water containers known as ‘Kufuor gallons’. The search for water is a strong symbol of what brings people together here. It does not matter where you are from, what you do for a living, what social class you are in, or even your religious background; if you live in Accra, you are affected by the water problem. For this series of portraits, I sought women (who are often in charge of collecting water for the household in traditional Ghanaian culture) from different walks of life to represent the levelling that occurs through this universal human requirement. The gallons become the literal and conceptual backdrop for the subjects. The water situation is accepted, but it is a strong indication that the political system has failed here. The problem has been with us from colonial times until now. Political systems, as a whole, seem incapable of solving even the most basic of problems.

Jonathan Watkins: What was the reaction to your work here when you were studying? JQ: I was probably one of the worst students in class – I never was there! I admired Chuck Close and started to use patterns in my portraits in a similar way to him. I was not comfortable settling on this process though, so I started using text instead of the patterns I had used in my initial work.

JW: Is the water situation getting worse? JQ: It’s fluctuating. Recently we were told the new desalination plant was going to solve the problem. For three weeks, we had running water, but only on certain days, so we still have to store it. At the same

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time, the problem brings people together. So here I have a painting of my 94-year old grandma, she has lived through many different water shortages; and then there is a young pregnant woman, and there is a woman from Brazil, who is well off and lives in a very expensive area of Accra. She may not carry a yellow gallon, but she’s still affected by the water problem, as she still needs to store her water in a large storage tank, so she doesn’t run out. JW: What is the cause of the water problem? El-Yesha Puplampu: There are a number of reasons for the problem. There are certain areas that have been properly planned, so they have piping but, as you go further out, the government hasn’t been especially vigilant where people have been building. People are living in unapproved structures, without water systems. In other areas, there is overpopulation. RB: Chuck Close posits the idea of, “putting rocks in his shoes’”; by this he means that he makes life deliberately difficult for himself to facilitate the creative process. Does this resonate with you? JQ: No, I am just glued to the traditional idea of presenting things. Art has become heavily diversified, but we always seem to come back to where it started from. There is a beautiful relationship that exists between painters and their materials. To be able to bring form into being is very satisfying in itself. RB: Do you use projection to facilitate likeness, as a photorealist like Richard Estes might do? JQ: No, I use scaling. I am quite a traditionalist in that sense. I had to stop using oil paint because of my

opposite: work in progress, from the series: Yellow is the Colour of Water, Jeremiah Quarshie, acrylic on canvas, 2016, 122 x 152 cm, courtesy the artist and Gallery 1957, Accra. photo: Nii Odzenma previous page: Miss World, Africa from the series: Yellow is the Colour of Water, Jeremiah Quarshie, acrylic on canvas, 2016, 122 x 152 cms, courtesy the artist and Gallery 1957, Accra. photo: Nii Odzenma

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asthma; so I work in acrylic now, using layers to build the figures up and to give them form; the highlights are applied last. I usually have five or six works in progress at any one time; when I’m bored of one, I move to the next. AS: What obstacles have you faced since leaving art school? JQ: In Ghana, there is zero support – you are alone if you choose art. To become an artist, when the general expectation is for you to get a job after school, is a tough choice. It’s also a very slow process; it demands a lot of learning. I got reasonable commissions quickly. Because of the way I paint, local people wanted to commission me, which allowed me to take care of my basic needs. I always wanted to concentrate on doing my own work though; the challenge is how one can do both. AS: Are you wanting to get representation from Europe or the States? JQ: After the show in Holland, there was some interest in my work from galleries abroad, but it’s always difficult to have a relationship with a gallery that is not physically close by. Also, I always want to stay in Ghana. This is where my inspiration lies; it is my driving force—CCQ

Jeremiah Quarshie’s solo exhibition Yellow is the Colour of Water is at Gallery 1957, Accra, August – September 2016. Gallery1957.com


Study Photography at the University of South Wales • BA (Hons) Documentary Photography • BA (Hons) Photography • MA Documentary Photography

To find out more, visit www.southwales.ac.uk/ photography or call 03455 76 77 78. Images: Jodie Everett, photography graduate The University of South Wales is a registered charity. Registration No. 1140312

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Full Colour Vision Berlin-based artist Paul McDevitt’s practice is a complex mix of painting, drawing, curation, collaboration, publishing and sound. He has just opened a new exhibition space in the city where he has lived and worked for the last 10 years. Rhiannon Lowe caught up with him between a plethora of shows and projects. Paul McDevitt: I recently moved home and studio into one, single, new place. The studio part has a room, which is an old butcher’s shop, with a window onto the street. It’s completely covered in decorative tiles. It seemed a waste not to do something more public with it. So now the studio work, the record and book publishing, the collaborations and curated projects, the solitary and the social can all coalesce somehow. Rhiannon Lowe: So, you have your own public space to play with as part of your practice? PMcD: Yes, it’s a project space, called Farbvision. I peeled off the light-box vinyl lettering from the previous business until that one word was left – it means Colour Vision in English. The idea is to do solo projects and combine it roughly two thirds visual art, one third sound and sometimes both. I have already hosted one concert and will do more. It will be a zero budget space for a while, and when it has been running for long enough, I will apply for some funding. At some point I would like to do an art fair as well, just to see what it’s like from the other side. But the main point is to generate something social to run adjacent to the more solitary studio practice. RL: It’ll have a retail aspect too? PMcD: Where appropriate I’ll produce a small edition to go with each project. I like the idea of these editions being affordable and being made by artists to sell to other artists. Then, along with the books and records which I regularly co-produce as part of Infinite Greyscale (working with long-time collaborator Cornelius Quabeck) these editions will build up into some kind of shop. It may or may not be a permanent part of Farbvision; I’m not sure yet. This all comes from my love of DIY publishing. I’m setting up a print workshop in the basement that will house a Risograph, which we have had for several years now, and soon we’ll add a letterpress printer. RL: I know yours is a multi-pronged practice. Can we take a look at Infinite Greyscale first?

This page: Notes to Self: 4 July 2014 (ii), Paul McDevitt, ink, collage, acrylic on paper, 30cm x 21cm, courtesy Martin Asbæk Gallery, Copenhagen Opposite: Notes to Self: 4 July 2014 (i), Paul McDevitt, ink, collage, acrylic on paper, 30cm x 21 cm, courtesy Martin Asbæk Gallery, Copenhagen

PMcD: The idea for Infinite Greyscale Records is that each release we do is a single-sided, 10” record pressed to coloured vinyl – the b-side being a screen print. We make the cover artwork ourselves and each one has an area that is masked and sprayed before being printed on the Risograph. The reason that we chose to make 10” records boils down to the fact that our Risograph doesn’t print large enough to make 12” covers. Inside the sleeve are also Riso-printed liner notes and a photograph. We print, crop and pack it all in my studio, then we carry the boxes of finished records over to our distributors. It’s very hands-on and most of the energy

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Cornelius and I previously put into making collaborative drawings now goes into the records. The DIY thing is important, because musicians get it – they know we’re not going to make money on the record and that we’re just trying to make stuff happen and give it an audience. It’s something we have in common. RL: Is there a type of musician you work with? PMcD: While there is no ‘Infinite Greyscale sound’ as such, the kind of music we release generally only appeals to the braver listener. So far we’ve mostly worked with a single piece of music that comes in at around the 10 minute mark. It won’t necessarily always stay that way, but we like the idea that each release is halfmusic, half-art – it’s a clear statement. We began by working with people we know: Gabriel Saloman and I did a performance together in Vancouver a few years ago; Cornelius and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma met in San Francisco; I regularly co-curate shows with Declan Clarke; and we had previously invited Holly Herndon to be in a project in Berlin. However, in each case, we were already big fans of their music before we knew any of them personally. With recent releases we have started to work with musicians we’ve never met, probably because we’ve grown in confidence and have something to show. But it was important to begin the project with people who were familiar with us, because that way any failings of ours would seem less of a humiliation. RL: Do you collaborate with the musicians other than for promotion purposes and design/package of the records themselves? PMcD: Most of the invited musicians have simply delivered a finished piece for us, but a couple have given us some tracks to choose from. A limited run of our previous 10" by Markus Oehlen actually got returned to him so that he could print over our covers and generate a palimpsest, which made the process more like a conversation. We haven’t been involved much with performances so far, but we set up an interactive sound installation with Jan St. Werner for the launch of his 10" and we also hosted a live performance of Erik Bünger & Jan Filip-Ťupa’s record in Düsseldorf last summer. I’m sure there will be more live events down the line. What we can do, more than most other labels, is place our releases into an art context. We previously took over the Schaufenster at Kunstverein Düsseldorf to present the records and artwork, and last year we took part in a museum show in Pau, France. In April we’ll be presenting them at the Kunstbibliothek (Art Library) here in Berlin, and staging an exhibition in a gallery in Sicily. above: ₱o₩€rBa₤₤, Paul McDevitt, 2016, charcoal, pastel on paper, 148.5cm x 103 cm, photo: Florian Balze, Courtesy Martin Asbæk Gallery, Copenhagen opposite page, on left: LS6 4BU, Paul McDevitt, 2015, oil, collage, screen-print on canvas, 100cm x 80 cm, photo: Stephen White, courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery, London opposite page, on right: BD5 7LR, Paul McDevitt, 2015, spray paint, collage, screenprint on canvas, 60cm x 50 cm, photo: Stephen White, courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery, London following pages: Infinite Greyscale record artwork, Paul McDevitt and Cornelius Quabeck, with additional screen print by Markus Oehlen (2nd from left)

RL: What is it about publishing and collaboration that appeals to you especially? PMcD: Collaboration and publishing seem to be happy bedfellows, mainly because a publication levels things out a lot and integrates differing styles and strategies. It’s also a format well suited to international communication, where two artists might live in different cities or countries. Books are ideal for illustrating social intercourse. I think the appeal of making books has a lot to do with independence and control. In a book you have the freedom to realise a complete artistic statement without needing the normal chain of space-gallerist-exhibition schedule. A book can be made very cheaply these days, and Infinite Greyscale works with offset or digital printing, depending on the project and budget. The element of control is not just to do with the means and timing of production, but rather that you can determine (to some extent) exactly what a reader will engage with in terms of size, presentation and sequence. To guide a viewer through the work is much

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harder to do in a physical space, and near impossible when also surrounded by other artists’ work; whereas, a book is an intimate and direct communion between maker and reader – and of course it’s also a haptic experience. I like the idea too that books and records find their own way in the world. It’s like a message in a bottle… that you can buy on Amazon.

and results can be reached quickly, because the process encourages dialogue and discourages procrastination. RL: Is it a different mind-set from producing work just on your own? Are you really less precious with collaborative work, not more? PMcD: With the drawings, yes. If I screw it up then there’s always the chance that Cornelius can save it… or, I could always blame the screwup on him.

RL: Which artists have you worked with on a regular basis? PMcD: Publishing with Cornelius came out of a long-standing collaborative practice between the two of us. We’ve jointly made hundreds of drawings over the years and done several shows together. Aside from working with Cornelius, I have an ongoing curatorial practice with Declan Clarke, which usually involves a lot of other artists too. Recently I’ve been doing things with Jan St. Werner, and tried my hand at making visuals for his band, Mouse on Mars. These projects are invariably worth doing, simply because you don’t know where it’s going to lead. The process can be harmonious or combative, and sometimes frustrating, but the results are rarely predictable. In addition, decisions

RL: Can we talk about some of your other work then: your gallery projects, for instance Hunker Down, at Lancaster University last year. It was a solo show in a sense, but also one brimming with other artists and collaborative approach. PMcD: Hunker Down was an exhibition that centred on printed matter. I wanted it, as with any show I work on, to operate on two levels: the first is the theatrical level, where a visitor first walks in and absorbs the whole exhibition installation and makes a decision about which

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way to walk through it, and which work to look closely at; the second is the moment that a particular work draws that viewer into an engagement. So it’s about spectacle and detail, and, if you get it right, you can create a sort of tension whereby the visitor is repeatedly drawn back and forth from a macro to a micro view and then back again. The challenge for me with Hunker Down was how to display a book, an intimate object, in a gallery context. I opted to ‘explode’ books across whole sections of gallery wall, and then tried to bridge the gap between micro and macro by creating several hybrid works where images or pages of the books were spliced and collaged with much larger posters and prints. RL: I guess you can only orchestrate the viewers’ movements and experiences in an exhibition to a limited extent? Is there an element of that control which you enjoy?

PMcD: Curiously, I curated, together with Declan Clarke, a couple of shows that denied any kind of spectacle or macro view (though the experience was itself heavily theatrical). Herbei ein Licht! [at Lismore Castle’s St Cathage Hall, in Ireland] was inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 1787 visit to the Vatican Museum, where he was permitted to view the collection alone at night, illuminating the sculptures with a single torchlight. In doing so, Goethe had a revelation about viewing art (sculpture in particular) as visually disconnected from other objects in the room, and without the blanket illumination of a fully lit room. In our exhibition, Declan and I fully darkened the space, removed all light sources and painted the walls black. Visitors were only permitted one at a time and had to find their way through the exhibition using just a single candle to light their way. They were therefore forced to view the exhibition at a micro level,

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piece by piece – a visual synopsis of the whole exhibition was impossible. The result was that each visitor had a distinctly different experience in the gallery and the works that left the most impact were not necessarily the largest or loudest. We then sort of repeated the trick with the work of Albrecht Schäfer in the Goethe-Institut Irland, in Dublin. RL: But how do you reconcile your desire and interest in controlling the way something is viewed and received with the regular collaborative and, in a sense, uncontrolled approach to some of your work? PMcD: I don’t see any conflict. You’re talking about two separate processes, one of which is making the work and the other is presenting it in an exhibition or other context. While, for many artists, these are one and the same, for the work I make, especially the collaborative drawings I do with Cornelius,


the thinking behind the work has nothing to do with how it might eventually be shown. The records, for example, were never intended to be exhibited publically, and now we find ourselves having to develop ways to render these objects engaging with a space. I particularly enjoy the moment of arriving in an empty gallery, seeing what I’ve got, and starting to think about where things could go and how they might relate to one another within the space. It’s like a moment of articulation where the connections between different things become clear. I can’t be that linear in my thinking while physically making something – it’s not that kind of work. And to assemble a little model of the gallery and work out the hang six months beforehand would kill it for me. RL: It’s an interesting coexistence of ideas then? Your work producing and publishing artists’ books, magazines, records, and

working on a dedicated fixed number of drawings in a period of time, which you’ve done on several occasions, creates a sense of control in production, plus importantly a linearity in how the work will be consumed. And now you’re setting your own project space up… PMcD: ...Yes, and one of the key reasons for starting my own space is, again, the issue of control. I want to be independent in the sense of doing the kind of projects I’m interested in and doing them within a timeline that suits me. I don’t want to depend on other spaces and their schedules if I want to try something out, or work with someone who happens to be in town at short notice. RL: What about your recent exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery? Was it mostly painting or drawing, or a mixture? I wondered if you’re at ease when using and exhibiting

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one particular medium, if one serves a different purpose from another? PMcD: I find it useful to mix things up in the studio in terms of working with different mediums and scales. It’s better physically and mentally to take a step back sometimes and switch what you’re doing. There is only so long that I can normally concentrate on one particular way of working. Often the switch can help free things up when I become stuck with a piece. Somehow it can be easier to find a solution, when you’re not actively seeking it, through working on something else, rather than sitting staring at the problem. The show last year, at Stephen Friedman, consisted of one room of paintings and another of drawings. The drawings were much larger works and were the main focus of the exhibition. The paintings, although smaller, were less immediate and somehow more complex, and I hung them in the


this page: Kevin Schmidt’s DIY HiFi plays Jan St. Werner’s Felder at Farbvision, April 2016 opposite page: Wild Freaks of Merriment, Paul McDevitt, 2011, acrylic paint and gouache screen-print on canvas, 180cm x 130cm photo: Stephen White, courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

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smaller, second room. The two bodies of work share a source material, but explore it in different ways. All of the works were concerned with the economic downturn and were inspired by the whitewashed windows of closed businesses on UK high streets, especially in the northern towns where I grew up. I had been collecting photographs of these windows, and I started to recompose and assemble them in a new way. At the same time, it was a body of work which looked at gesture within abstract painting, without ever resorting to using a paintbrush. The drawings did this in a broad, stark manner; the paintings were quieter and perhaps more experimental. RL: What’s next then? PMcD: There’s my show of paintings I mentioned, currently on at House of St Barnabas in London. The new Infinite Greyscale 10" is just out, it’s by The Beacon Sound Choir and is a work of improvised vocal drone by a 33 piece choir, led by Peter Broderick. We just released a book by Tommy Støckel called STUDIO FONT, written entirely in a typeface that uses objects from his studio in place of letters [see CCQ’s piece in this issue]; Farbvision held an exhibition of the original objects in February. I’ll be putting out a book, together with the Henry Moore Foundation, of drawings I made there over the course of one day. We’ll be showing the Infinite Greyscale books, records and related material at a gallery called Von Holden Studio, in Palermo. Farbvision is going to be busy this spring too; we are currently taking part in the launch of the new Jan St. Werner record, released on Thrill Jockey. Various artists and musicians worldwide are interpreting the album in different contexts and manifestations. I invited Canadian artist Kevin Schmidt to install his monumental handmade wooden speakers in the space and we’re playing the album once each day through that system. Then after that I’m very excited that we get to show new paintings by Paul Housley, followed by an exhibition with a wonderful Polish artist called Natasza Niedziółka. It’s going to be a busy few months—CCQ

Paul McDevitt is represented by Stephen Friedman Gallery, London; Sommer & Kohl, Berlin; and Martin Asbæk Gallery, Copenhagen. paulmcdevitt.net farbvision.net clarkeandmcdevitt.com infinitegreyscale.com

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There has always been a tension between art and the literal language used to describe it. Berlin-based artist, Tommy Støckel, has developed his own lexicon to bridge that divide. In an interview with friend and artist, Jakob Kolding, Støckel responds using his own STUDIO FONT. Støckel insisted on Kolding installing STUDIO FONT on his computer before they had the conversation, to enable communication in two fonts simultaneously. Readers can download the font to decode his replies.

Jakob Kolding: When I read your book STUDIO FONT, I was Jakob Kolding: When I read your book STUDIO FONT, I was immediimmediately reminded of Georges Perec’s Notes Concerning the ately reminded ofmy Georges Perec’s Notes Concerning the Objects Objects that is on work-table, a short text, which he describes as that are on my Work-table, a short text, which he describes as “… a some“… a somewhat oblique approach to my daily practice, a way of talking what approach my daily a way of talking about my aboutoblique my work, about mytohistory andpractice, my preoccupations, an attempt work, about my history and my anatattempt toof grasp to grasp something pertaining to preoccupations, my experience, not the level its something pertaining to my experience, not at the level of its remote remote reflections, but at the very point where it emerges.” Is there a reflections, but at the very point where it emerges.” Is there a similar similar concern for you of approaching something personal through concern for you of approaching something personal through highly highly detailed descriptions of objects? detailed descriptions of objects?

JK: Even though what you have designed is a font corresponding JK: Even well though you alphabet, have designed a font perfectly withwhat the Latin I can’tishelp butcorresponding feel that it has perfectly well with the Latin alphabet, I can’t help but feel that it has some qualities of an actual language, or at least a very personal some qualities of an actual language, or at least a very personal vovocabulary. I am curious if there is a connection between the individual cabulary. I am curious if there is a connection between the individual letters and the specific objects? letters and the specific objects?

Tommy Tommy Støckel: Støckel:

TS: TS:

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JK: But But would asas you describe it JK: would the theassignment assignmentofofcharacters characterstotoobjects, objects, you dehere, actually random not rather partrather of a subconscious process? Or scribe it here,be actually beorrandom or not part of a subconscious did you pick the characters from a pile without looking? process? Or did you pick the characters from a pile without looking?

JK: That structure versus chance element reminds me, of course, of Perec and Oulipo, but perhaps even more so of the systemic poetry of Inger Christensen. In particular, the collection that is actually given structure to move through the alphabet, stating how a diverse called Alphabet, in which she uses the Fibonacci number sequence range of objects and phenomena exists. However, from those as a pre-given structure to move through the alphabet, stating how a statements develop deeply evocative sequences and a beautiful diverse range of objects and phenomena exists. However, from those and emotional piecedeeply that is,evocative of course,sequences anything but statements develop andimpersonal. a beautiful and What do you findthat interesting in thisanything tension but between structure, emotional piece is, of course, impersonal. What do chance the personal, I think forms structure, such an important partthe of you findand interesting in thiswhich tension between chance and your work? personal, which I think forms such an important part of your work?

TS: TS:

TS: TS:

JK: That structure versus chance element reminds me, of course, of Perec and Oulipo, but perhaps even more so of the systemic poetry of Inger Christensen. In particular, the collection that is actually called Alphabet, in which she uses the Fibonacci number sequence as a pre-

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JK: I think that human aspect is very important. To me there’s an JK: I think that human aspect is very important. To me there’s an obsessiveness, ififyou’ll excuse for calling which make JK: I think that human aspect isme very important. To me there’s anyour obsessiveness, you’ll excuse me for callingit itthat, that, which make your works, including this font, contain a potential fragility, which I like. obsessiveness, if you’ll excuse me for calling itfragility, that, which make your works, including this font, contain a potential which I like. This quite inina amaterial sense, but I find thethe works, thisthe font, contain amaterial potential fragility, Ifragility like. This is isincluding quiteliterally literally thecase case sense, but Iwhich find fragility interesting and, Perhaps that This is quiteconceptually literally the case inimportantly, a materialpsychologically. sense, but I find the fragility interesting conceptually and,importantly, psychologically. Perhaps says moremore about me though! What role fragility and disintegration interesting conceptually importantly, psychologically. Perhaps that says about meand, though! Whatdoes role does fragility and disinplay in your work? It isme something you return to onreturn severaltooccasions that says more about though! What role does fragility and disin- in tegration play in your work? It is something you on several tegration play in your work? It as is something return to on several the STUDIO book, both an intentional accidental aspect. occasions inFONT the STUDIO FONT book, both you as and an intentional and accioccasions in particular theThe STUDIO FONT both asto anfascinate intentional and accidental aspect. latter in particular seems you. The latter seems to book, fascinate you. dental aspect. The latter in particular seems to fascinate you.

JK: To what degree is it important to you that readers attempt to fontisinto a more traditional font and reading JK:translate To what your degree it important to you that readers attempt to transexperience? betraditional quite happy with reading it late your fontWould into ayou more font andthem reading experience? purely or happy objects? Would as youimages be quite with them reading it purely as images or objects?

TS: TS: TS:

TS: TS:

JK: I know you have also read Samuel R. Delany’s science fiction novel Babel-17. Its premise is that language determines how you can think and thus how you act. An alien language transmitted to earth becomes, in a sense, an invasion. The idea is that once people decode it, the language will determine their thoughts, and they will think like the aliens. Is your font a world-conquering project? Would we all understand the world as seen from your studio if we incorporate it as our standard font?

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and thus how you act. An alien language transmitted to earth becomes, in a sense, an invasion. The idea is that once people decode it, the language will determine their thoughts, and they will think like the aliens. Is your font a world-conquering project? Would we all understand the world as seen from your studio if we incorporate it as our standard font?

JK: This potential change in relating to the world of objects through use of your font actually reminds me of another science fiction novel, The Embedding by Ian Watson. This takes as its starting point a forbidden linguist dream, isolating a group of children before they have developed any language. The children are exposed to a deeply layered but logical version English, test the relationship between logic, language andofthe world aiming throughtomonitoring the effects between logic, language and the world through effects on the children’s language, and ultimately on theirmonitoring relationshipthe with the on the children’s language, and ultimately on their relationship with world. It has to be said that, in the book, this does not end well, but is the world. It has to be said that in the book this does not end well, your font, in a sense, the language that you have developed through but is your font, in a sense, the language that you have developed being isolated in your studio? Are you actually attempting to bridge that through being isolated in your studio? Are you actually attempting to gap between language and yhe external world? world? bridge that gap between language and external

TS:

TS: TS:

JK: yes, there there may maybe besome sometruth truthtotothat. that. I wonder what font JK: Ha,ha, Ha,ha, yes, I wonder what font the the graphic designer will use for my questions. Do you think that graphic designer will use for my questions. Do you think that choice choice mightthe affect the interview? might affect interview? TS:

The objects that make up STUDIO FONT were exhibited at Farbvision, Berlin, 29 January – 13 February 2016. To help decode Tommy and Jakob’s conversation, download the key on PDF at tommystockel.net/STUDIOFONT.pdf The font is also free to download at tommystockel.net

JK: This potential change in relating to the world of objects through use of your font actually reminds me of another science fiction novel, The Embedding, by Ian Watson. This takes as its starting point a forbidden linguist dream, isolating a group of children before they have developed any language. The children are exposed to a deeply layered but logical version of English, aiming to test the relationship

nicolaiwallner.com teamgal.com martinjanda.at

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The World of James Green Artist James Green’s output is as prodigious as it is prolific. As his solo show Rhondda World came to a close at Cardiff M.A.D.E., Sam Perry dived into a strange world of masks and Top Trumps and the rituals of daily life In dim, ambient light, James Green is sitting alone, hunkered on a three-legged stool, too low for the adjacent table, so he uses his hardback copy of Will Self’s Shark as a work surface. Surrounding him are piles up to his knee of 8 x 11cm cards. Some piles have collapsed and have spread the cards around the rug. The latest of these cards is pressed and held still against the book. There are many tools made for these hands. On the table an assortment of Pritt Sticks line up like Russian dolls in ascending order beside a cluster of scissors; some are the fingernail kind and some the orangehandled kitchen kind. More than sixty coloured felt-tip pens create a psychedelic piano keyboard along the table. The ultramarine one is gripped deftly in his hand. As concentrated as he possibly can be, he is sporadically being interrupted by my calls and emails.

Sam Perry: Let’s begin at the beginning, by which I mean the beginning of the latest incarnation of your work, as you have said yourself, you’ve been making art since childhood. Put in literary terms, it appears to me that A Day in the Life of..., your decade-long, daily creation of small works

on card, provides a kind of preface, a backstory, informing the narrative of the recent developments in your work. These work particularly well in the montage format of your exhibition. On the gallery walls, the sheer collective scale of these small works is blinding and confusing, yet also joyous. If necessity is the mother of invention, from what you’ve told me, the necessity in this instance is ‘looking busy’. We’ve all been in

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situations where we try to look busy whilst gathering our thoughts and adjusting to new situations. Tell us about that process. James Green: The idea for A Day in the Life of… took longer to form than I originally thought. While studying for my Masters at the Royal Collage of Art, I got totally stuck and was only making artwork to look busy in front of my tutors and peers. My work had lost any real meaning to me, soon after I started there. During the Easter break of that period, I returned to visit my parents and found a box of Top Trumps I had made as an 11 yearold kid. Looking through them, with bits of yellowed Sellotape hanging from them and terrible spelling, I realised that I had made them without the worry of whether they were ‘Art’ or not. I remembered making these cards, I worked hard on them, and took nearly a week to think up 26 different characters, each with their specific Strength, Skill, Brains and Fear Factor. It dawned on me that I had become too concerned with what my work was supposed to be doing theoretically (which was not a lot at the time), and that I had started to lose the sheer joy of drawing, which I had had without realising it as a kid. Back then, I would often just sit around all day drawing and making things purely because I loved doing it, without thinking about what it meant or where it stood within historic and contemporary art. I went back to London with the conviction to drop the theory I was trying to squash into my art; to make small drawings every day, and to wait to see if anything came of it. Ten years later I have made somewhere in the region of 5,000 of these small works, which come together as one piece in A Day in The Life of…, and it was the memory of making artwork as a child, without a proper understanding of art, that started me on this path.


SP: Jon Clarkson recently wrote a short essay on your subsequent work, The History of The Rhondda, in which something, among many things, caught my attention. It was about childhood having no means of measurement, or measurement of anything really. I guess this is why summers as a kid seemed to last forever. So does a child growing up in the Rhondda, playing among its valleys, relate to the sombre experience measured in industrial terms by the media, for example?

SP: It’s interesting you mention ghosts. It’s true our hometowns can hold a supernatural element if we don’t visit them often. Where once the air and space was filled with people we knew, entering and leaving buildings we knew equally well, their absence leaves us with an ethereal quality to going home. Real and imagined people also populate your psyche at a later time in your life, don’t they?

JG: Often, when I have read about the Rhondda, the downturn of economics is usually referred to, the Tonypandy Riots and the effects that Margaret Thatcher’s policies have had on the area. This is all very important, but usually paints the place as a dreary and depressed backwater. I want to celebrate the strange magic of the area by showing the Rhondda as it is and how it might be, along with the Rhondda that exists inside my head, where it gets mixed with everywhere else I experience. The History of the Rhondda grew out of A Day in the Life of… While I was still living in

JG: Thinking about hometowns and overfamiliar places makes me think about how strange reality is when experienced through an over-active imagination. I lived for two years on top of Woody’s, a Turkish supermarket on Stroud Green Road, Finsbury Park, in North London. I spent a lot of time either in the FANTASTIC FOUR, The White Lion of Mortimer, running around the park, or sitting in the window, looking out at

London, work on the Rheola Bridge in Porth commenced. To my mind, Porth looked like a collaged landscape and a collaged history – the ancient mountains, with the old stony terraced miners’ houses climbing up their sides, and the new slick bridge in the middle of the scene. The bridge was built to make access through the valley easier for commuters, with the hope of bringing new business in and out; it is a portal. I also see the arches of the bridge as a large sign, sort of like the Nasca Lines, or a pyramid, which might be unearthed by future archaeologists thinking we may have used it to summon extra terrestrials, communicate with the gods, or other esoteric purposes. The History of The Rhondda charts the past, present and future of The Rhondda Valleys; it is populated by ghosts, real and imagined people, true and false events – all things that have happened, or that might have happened in the Rhondda in a different dimension.

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the goings on in the street with Martin Morris, another artist and drawing teacher. Local characters of the road formed new fantastic identities, powers and histories through our joint observations. Our flat became known as Snake Mountain because of the terrible state it was in, and because of the otherworldliness of Stroud Green Road (or Cloud Green Road and Shaolin Green Road as it was also known), experienced through art and other elements from Martin’s and my collective past. All of this strange procession of life up and down the Road has been recorded in my art, particularly in my collages. SP: Ah Woody’s! I know both the street and this store intimately. It was a 24-hour, cheap wine lover’s dream and I’m sad it’s gone and is now a Sainsbury’s. I’ve also lived in flats above shops on busy main drags and would recommend that everybody does once. The people-watching, the everyday carnival on the street below: this is a rich source of everyday life with which to make up fictions and parafictions, isn’t it? JG: These processions – people going about their daily lives, not knowing that they are being observed and drawn – are, for me, more profound and strange than processions I have seen for organised religions, festivals,

previous spread, left to right: The Sneaker King, from the series: The World Masks of The Rhondda, James Green, 2014–2015, ceramic with acrylic and mixed media The Mask of the Unknown Mask Maker’s, from the series: The World Masks of The Rhondda, James Green, 2014–2015, ceramic with acrylic and mixed media Doom Bag, from the series: The World Masks of The Rhondda, James Green, 2014–2015, ceramic with acrylic and mixed media Ex-Telles Reliquary, James Green, 2015, Acrylic, toothbrushes and mixed media on board The Portal of The Rhondda, from the series: The World Masks of The Rhondda, James Green, 2014–2015, ceramic with acrylic and mixed media this page: A Day in the Life of...., detail, James Green, 2005 – present (ongoing project), collage on paper


cults, etc. As irrational as some of the beliefs behind these processions might seem, they are still organised and have some kind of historical tradition to tie them down. But, how do you explain someone who checks their door handle 200 times before going to bed… and how do you explain the person trying to sleep across the road from her, counting how many time she checks the door handle? There is a weird magic in the things that people do every day, under their own steam, which cannot be simply drummed up in the imagination. I love the drawings of beggars by either Bosch or Bruegel to inform their outlandish paintings of Hell – they had to go into the everyday market square and observe the life around them with a keen eye in order to get to the monsters in their works. I have spent much of my life so far drawing from observation and, through this practice, I have developed a knack for noticing the often esoteric, strange and ridiculous nature of people and places. SP: Like organised or religious carnivals there is also a constant movement – a presence/ absence succession to the everyday carnival on the street – bringing us back to ghosts. I heard Damon Albarn talking on the radio recently about living on the Notting Hill Carnival’s main route; the brilliant mayhem; and the ‘ghosts’ – spiritual reverberations – left behind the next day, when the street’s been cleaned up and things are back to normal. This got me thinking about the Hispanic Day of the Dead carnival and the paraphernalia that surrounds it, including masks. You’ve recently been travelling a lot, namely to South America, is this where your interest in mask making began? JG: Actually the masks grew out of my fascination with Joseph Merrick (the Elephant Man) and Cubism, which led me into African art and other ritualistic artefacts around the world. After drawing all day in the Ethnographic Museum in Berlin, in 2014, I found a Dan mask from Liberia in a boot sale. The Dan people make small passport masks, which travel with their owners as a form of identification. This led me to think about masks that travel the world and the different histories that one mask might have from another from the same location.

I made 14 copies of the Dan mask in ceramic and decided that the series would incorporate its travels before it came to me (Liberia and Berlin) and my travels during their period of making (Berlin, Quito, Santiago, Easter Island, Amsterdam, Venice, Cardiff and the Rhondda). The series also embodies my attempt at putting Wales and the UK on the mask-making map, along with other places of great mask-making traditions, which is why I called the series The World Masks of The Rhondda. SP: There’s something in the repetitive cast form of your masks, with their vibrant and varied ornamentation, which brings my mind back to Stroud Green Road. Pak’s Wig World has a shop-front that never ceases to entertain me as I pass it. I feel like there should be a Pak’s artist residency someday. You must have passed it most days. Has this store seeped into your imagination do you think? JG: Pak’s Wig World… ha ha… for sure, Pak’s Wig World is a ‘world’ made up of about five shops on either side of Stroud Green Road. It’s a green-fronted set of shops, with windows filled with faceless heads, sporting wigs of all colours. That end of the road is a real visual hit. Funnily enough, it was one of the things that made me want to live there. These are the strange things I notice that others often take for granted; every day we might pass a building full of unstaring heads with colourful wigs on and not bat an eyelid. There is something of the uncanny in the repetitive nature of the display, for sure, coupled with the fact that it’s made from faceless mannequin heads and wigs – things the Surrealists would often incorporate into their work to give it the strange feeling you get from some de Chirico and Magritte paintings, or a Hans Bellemer sculpture. That scene in Return to Oz, in which Dorothy finds the witch’s room full of rows of glass cases

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filled with sleeping heads, filled me with dread when I first saw it. The repetitive nature of these kinds of things has impacted on the way I work. Whether I’m making masks, paintings, collages or whatever, I often work in series – the more variations I can make on a single subject, the more knowledge I gain on that subject. Working in a series means that you are working in chunks that make up a whole through time, allowing for periods of research and life experience in between one chunk of work and the next. For example, I have recently begun painting heads and faces with mouth masks (small masks worn around the mouth by Nazca leaders) – the first painting stays quite close to the original Nazca art I was inspired by. However, the second painting is already swaying between Nazca forms and those found in contemporary Western life, like lumberjack textile patterns, or colour combinations that may have stayed with me while walking past Pak’s Wig World.

It was then that I left James alone to finish his daily work on card. It was late and the ambience of the light, coupled with the catharsis of his work, was making him feel progressively drowsy and forcing his posture to decay. Yet another pile of cards collapsed over the rug, revealing one that James had not seen in a matter of years, made most probably during his days living above Woody’s ten years before. He picks it up; its position within the deck had preserved it completely. It’s a collage depicting a bright yellow W hovering over a galactic horizon, like a bat signal. With a deep exhale he murmurs quietly to himself; “The Shaolin and the Wu-Tang could be dangerous... do you think your Wu-Tang sword can defeat me?”—CCQ


Knight of the Night Belgian artist Jan Fabre’s creative experiments have taken him on a 35-year, genre-defying journey: from his 1970s actions on the streets of Antwerp and Amsterdam, to later this year, showing at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. Ric Bower met up with him as his first show in the UK for 20 years, Knight of the Night, opened at Ronchini Gallery. Knight of the Night is a collection of Fabre’s work from 1992 to 2013. It is curatorially focused by his 2004 film Lancelot, in which he enacts a gruelling four-hour battle against himself with broadsword and heavy armour. The materials he uses to create objects are often borrowed from the natural world and then combined with motifs usurped from Catholic ritual, seemingly for the purpose of feeding an insatiable curiosity as to what it means to be human. I began by asking him about Knight of the Night, and what it is that draws him to the pageantry of the middle ages. Jan Fabre: I was brought up in a very poor family, my father was a Flemish communist and my mother a French-speaking Catholic. They would impart certain spiritual values to me at the dinner table. When I complained that my friends had something that I did not have, for instance, my mother would say to me that money was not important, that words are far more beautiful. For my birthday, rather than buying me Matchbox cars, my father might make me a fortress out of planks of wood. I would then make a shield, which I would draw on with my mother’s leftover lipstick. These values became a doorway into a whole world of imagination. Ric Bower: I understand you are influenced by tradition in art too. JB: That was my father again. He took me to Rubens’ house in Antwerp when I was very young to copy his drawings. After working as an artist in New York for a year, when I was 20, I returned to Antwerp and proudly told them I had met Andy Warhol and I had been to The Factory. My Father looked at me and said, “Come with me again to Rubens’ house”. He then pointed out to me that Rubens had had his own ‘Factory’ 400 years before Warhol, he had many assistants, he made set designs, he was a writer… RB: …and an ambassador… JF: …yes, and an ambassador. I am a dwarf born in a country of giants, you see. I am still stealing today from Rubens, Van Dyck, Bosch and Van Eyck. RB: But stealing itself has a fine tradition in art: Rubens stole from Michelangelo and Michelangelo stole from the Greeks. Hieronymus Bosch seems to be out on his own though; where do you think a mind like that comes from? JF: It’s funny you should ask this because, when all his work is shown together this year for the first time (in his home town of Hertogenbosch, 500 years after his death), I will be showing in the contemporary responses section of that exhibition. On the one hand, his work is deeply Catholic and on the other, it is deeply subversive. Take the Ship of Fools, for instance, it is attacking the church and challenging power structures. The Flemish were constantly oppressed by the Spanish, the French and the Germans… the British never came over though. RB: Give us a chance, we’ll get round to it! JF: It is the sense of irony born out of oppression that makes Flemish art so great. Bruegel celebrated the body – drinking, dancing and feasting – whereas British or French work of the time focused on power.


Skull with Magpie, Jan Fabre, 2001, mixture of jewel beetle wing-cases, polymers, stuffed bird, 39cm x 23cm x 34cm photo: Pat Verbruggen, copyright: Angelos bvba

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RB: In your recent series of works, Sacrum Cerebrum, you conflate Catholic rituals and traditions with anatomical studies of the brain. You seem in awe of the idea of ‘thinking meat’ of human consciousness. Has this notion replaced the traditional idea of God for you? JF: The body has been an area of research for me for 30 years. Aside from Flemish classical painters, my primary influences have been scientists. I met the neurologist Giacomo Rizzolatti, eight years ago, at a neurological conference. Rizzolatti is an important exponent of the mirror neuron theory. It is mirror neurons that give us the capacity for sympathy and for empathy; it does not come from up there. [Fabre points upwards]. In Sacrum Cerebrum I am celebrating these developments in human understanding. In terms of other scientists, I am also into the work Edward O. Wilson, who is the author of Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, and Barry Bolton, who studies insects that lead social lives. Wilson is an American champion of the idea of consilience; I have made two films with him. Consilience is about finding relationships between different areas of study and from these relationships new understandings can be drawn out. When it comes down to it, I am a consilience artist. RB: You use this approach to great effect in your Shelter Studios, in which you draw together recollections of personal contacts with Chilean illegal immigrants, who had been hidden and offered a bed in a basement in exchange for a cleaning job. You combined these recollections with the idea of the artist studio and the idea of the war room to create a series of models of imagined spaces. The Deweer gallery went on to build a life-sized replica of one of these spaces under their gallery as a permanent work; they must have been terrifically committed to your practice to do that. JF: I have worked with the Deweer gallery for many years. Speaking of commitment, my assistant has been working with me for 33 years; the director of Angelos, the visual arts arm of my practice, has been with me for 28 years. Loyalty is priceless. I have accountability with these people; they will tell me straight when things are not working out. They are not impressed that I am showing in big museums; many of them knew me when I was a young artist sleeping on the ground. RB: In Sacrum Cerebrum, you’re riffing off the dogma and rituals of the church. At what

above: Sacrum Cerebrum XIV (The monstrance of the Sacrum Cerebrum), from the series: Sacrum Cerebrum, Jan Fabre, 2016, white Carrara marble, 38cm x 44cm x 50 cm/ base 44 x 51 x 6 cm, photo: Pat Verbruggen, copyright: Angelos bvba below: Collage-drawing for Sacrum Cerebrum III (The brain of a saviour), Jan Fabre, 2015, collage and pencil on paper, 29.7cm x 42 cm photo: Pat Verbruggen, copyright: Angelos bvba


point did you decide that what the church was telling you was simply not true? JF: I am an atheist, thanks to Christ. What became important for me was the spiritual force of church as a place; and also there is the model of Christ as a man. To say that, if you are beaten, you should turn the other cheek is amazing, especially when applied in a contemporary context. When you accept the model of Christ you must also accept the idea of stigmata; from this idea I move to the idea of an outer skeleton. If you have an exoskeleton, like a beetle, you cannot be wounded.

above: Money Performance (1979), Jan Fabre, 12 Sep 1979, 50 minute performance, copyright: Angelos bvba below: Money Performance (1979), Jan Fabre, pencil on paper, 29.6cm x 21cm, photo: Lieven Herreman, copyright: Angelos bvba

RB: When you undertook an action or performance, such as wandering around Amsterdam after taking Rohypnol (Sleeping Pill action (V), 3.8.91) you became very vulnerable, you were personally unsafe; there was no exoskeleton to prevent you receiving your own stigmata. JF: I still do these solo performances because I am motivated by pure curiosity. I want to put myself in a position where I am testing my physical and mental boundaries; a place where there is nothing to fall back on. RB: It was interesting that you chose to show the preparatory drawings alongside the highly polished Sacrum Cerebrum Carrara marble sculptures. JF: Drawing and writing are at the heart of my practice. With The Hour Blue works I made in the ’80s, I was interested in the emancipation of drawing away from the idea that it was always in preparation for something else. I made drawings that were five metres long and four metres high. I also made drawings that became sculpture, as was the case with my project at Castle Tivoli in Mechelen [in 1990, Fabre, with the help of 30 assistants, wrapped Castle Tivoli with silk-paper cloth, covered in biro drawings]. Normally, drawing is something personal to the artist, but I used many assistants to make these works, so it became impersonal, an entirely public process. RB: There is something obsessive about using a biro to make drawings on such a huge scale. We have all doodled when we were bored in school; you have taken this everyday process and made it extraordinary, by changing the scale of the activity and its presentation. You continued doodling after class until you covered a castle. Why use a biro? JF: Initially because it was cheap, but also the chemical quality of the colour is


this page: Shelter-studio for the artist-warrior (red), Jan Fabre, 1992-1993, cement, wood, metal, batteries and Bic pen, 59cm x 27cm x 43.5 cm, photo: Pat Verbruggen, copyright: Angelos bvba opposite: Atelier entomoloog en kelder met materiaal om te vechten en in te breken, Jan Fabre, 1992-1993, cement, wood, glass, metal, batteries, scarab and textile, 39cm x 50.5 x 31.5 cm, photo: Pat Verbruggen, copyright: Angelos bvba

unique and very difficult to reproduce, it is always changing. The first blue drawings I made were tracking the paths of insects. The process of making these drawings is intensely physical, but it is also spiritual. After drawing for hours you feel like you are floating above the work.

the street, “Hey, Jan Fabre! You aren’t the queer fucker we thought you were, you made something for us”. It saved me. It taught me that beauty can cut through power and prejudice too. RB: For the piece Homage to Bas Jan Ader, you did a tribute to the artist’s 1975 attempted solo crossing of the Atlantic in a 13ft yacht. He was lost at sea, although his boat turned up off the coast of Ireland 10 months later. Was it Ader who influenced you particularly in performance?

RB: There is an underlying violence in your practice – not literally so, but perhaps you are doing violence to the worldview of others. Sometimes the response you get is violent too; you have been beaten up a number of times after performances. How do you deal with that?

JF: After studying, I went to Amsterdam, the best place for performance art at the time, and it was there that I became influenced by the likes of Ader and Marina Abramovic. But, you know, when I first started making performances, I did not know they were performances. I had studied classical drawing, but my parents wanted me to learn a profession, so I did a window display course, because I had read somewhere that Andy Warhol had done that! At one point, rather than using the mannequins, I used my own body and someone said to me, “You know that is performance art that you are doing”.

JF: No, it isn’t about violence. It’s about vitality. I don’t believe in violence. I am a poetical terrorist and that sometimes provokes people. When I made the work Heaven of Delight (2002) [for the ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors in the Royal Palace in Brussels], for eight months, I had to live in three different locations because people were trying to beat me up. RB: Why was that? JF: The extreme right seeks the independence of Flemish speaking Belgium and I, a resident of Flanders, had agreed to make a work in Brussels, so they tried to beat me up. They put shit on my door and threatening letters through my mailbox. Strangely this changed when a sculpture of mine, Searching for Utopia, a representation of the artist on the back of a giant tortoise, was installed on the coast at Nieuwpoort. Suddenly I had made something for them – they would shout at me in

RB: We mentioned drugs briefly earlier. Have drugs played an important part in your work? JF: Oh, I did all the drugs; I experimented with everything. In Antwerp once, I did an opening where I gave the public ‘magic balls’ as they came in so they were all stoned too!

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RB: I don’t get the sense that you got hung up there though, you kind of moved through it.

using the scarab beetle casings and referencing Bosch, is very critical of that time in Belgian history.

JF: Yes, as ever, it was all out of curiosity.

JF: When I made that work I was unpopular with the far right, as I have said, and I was also very unpopular with the bourgeoisie, who did not like being reminded of that part of our history.

RB: What do you think is the artist’s role in society now? Do you as an artist have a sense of responsibility?

RB: But you’re now accepted by the art world, how does that sit with you? JF: Personally, for the last 30 years practising as an artist, I have refused to be cynical. When it comes to the extreme right, I will never give them the time of day in my work, but I will open my mouth and tell them what I think; my politics are well known in Belgium. A lot of artists don’t say what they think and they should do; they are opportunistic and they adapt to the political landscape. We, as artists, have a responsibility to stand up and be counted. RB: Perhaps, as human beings, not just as artists, we should stand up for something.

JF: To answer this I must tell you a story. When I was young I would make battlefields in my attic with soldiers, tanks and Stukas. My father would come up to see me and, if I was working on German soldiers, he would stamp on them. I could not understand this. I knew his father and his brother were part of the resistance during the war, but I also knew that he spoke very good German. “Why do you do this, it’s just fucking history!” I would shout, “And you read German philosophy!” He would reply, “If you want to beat the enemy you have to speak their language”. And so it is with me and the art world—CCQ

JF: Yes, indeed. The extreme right is growing in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. It is comical that we have such a short memory.

ronchinigallery.com angelos.be

RB: You are outspoken, in your work, about Belgium’s colonial past in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Your work in the Royal Palace,

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Sacred Danger Siberian-born artist, Uliana Apatina, was the first artist to receive the Kim Fielding Award, in 2015. She talks to Emma Geliot about the challenges and unexpected pleasures of responding to new sites and contexts, with a provocative practice that inhabits the void between sculpture and architecture. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Nam nibh. Nunc varius facilisis eros. Sed erat. In in velit quis arcu ornare The late Kim Fielding was an artist, curator laoreet. and,Curabitur as he described adipiscing himself,luctuswon massa. you the Integer award. utWhat purus you acproduced augue was very different to that an arch instictator. After his sudden death, commodo friends andcommodo. colleagues Nunc set upnec mi proposal, eu justo did tempor that matter? consectetuer.

Uliana Apatina

the Kim Fielding Award to create opportunities for artists and curators to take risks and make new work. Uliana Apatina was selected to be the first recipient of the international award, which offered support as well as funds, and instant access to a vast network of creative people. Sacred Danger Part I was sited at Coed Hills Rural Artspace in the Vale of Glamorgan. The project was translated into a multi-media installation, Sacred Danger Part II, in an empty shop in the heart of Cardiff. Emma Geliot: You have so many strands to your practice, could you describe what you do? Uliana Apatina: I believe my art practice is a continuation of my complex background in fine art, architecture and journalism. It’s a crossdisciplinary encounter with a space and immersive environments.

UA: Sometimes I think proposals are written for only one reason – not to be followed. As a proposal Red Salt Bath didn’t have a Welsh context at all. At the very point I hit Wales, on the very first encounter, Red Salt Bath wasn’t a red salt bath any longer because I had a different understanding of the context. I fundamentally believe that a proposal has to be developed and evolved, because it’s extremely boring to make something you already know about. Each project should be different. Consequently, with each new project I use a different approach. What unites them is my interest in site-specificity and process. It means that I’m very much enjoying immersing myself into new realms, to dissolve in them and see what can happen. EG: So you didn’t have a fixed idea of what you wanted to do. Did that evolve as the sites for the work were identified?

EG: It was architecture that brought you to London wasn’t it? UA: I received a Scholarship from the Architectural Association and came to London to study. Prior to that, I studied fine art and contemporary media technology, consecutively. EG: The Kim Fielding Award was developed to be deliberately open to allow for risk-taking and experimentation. Was that what attracted you to apply? UA: Above all, it was the invitation to a relationship, and experimentation, of course, coupled with risks, which are an innate part of me always. EG: You had originally proposed a project called Red Salt Bath, which

UA: The idea as a mental construct was present in the form of an attractive cloud sitting on a top of a hill, becoming dangerous when you entered it. It was developed with a particular location in mind, which became unavailable later. Because of that we did experience quite a lot of site-changing procedures, indeed, and that was quite ironic, given the site-specificity of the work. I had to fight for the final site though. It happened to be the most windy spot in the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan, or at least I was told so, and everyone was kind of scared. EG: Where did the title Sacred Danger come from? UA: As part of my research, I wanted to travel around Wales and went all the way up to the North. I stayed in Llan Ffestiniog, at the Pengwern Arms, a pub run by local volunteers with hotel rooms on the top.


I was adopted by those charming, friendly people and taken on a threeday, non-touristy tour. When I entered the abandoned slate quarries, I experienced a sensation of real fear (that might be because, the night before, we were discussing how often they collapsed unexpectedly), but the attraction to go deeper was much more powerful than the fear itself. It was only later in the evening that I dared confess that I’d never experienced such an odd desire to run away while simultaneously wanting to keep on going into those caves. Everyone was laughing because they were so used to them. So, in comparing these massive pitch-black slate quarries to Gothic Cathedrals – signifiers of seductive attraction and danger mixed with a power of a political manipulation – the title appeared, along with the intention to reinvent a sacred space, or a place of solitude, in which to reconstruct your own self. Also this idea of a delusional collapse was taken on board with heavy steel rods suspended overhead on invisible diagonally-inclined planes. In daylight they appear to be flying over the hill because you don’t see the Perspex.

EG: Was the project a continuation of existing themes in your work, or was this a new departure for you? UA: Somehow my Japanese Syu Iro is inspired by the thousands of Torii Gates in Fushimi Inari Shrine, which are actually sacred. Then, in London I made nine installations, which are sited inside a sacred space. That Side Where Real Is, was in the crypt at St Mark’s Church, Kennington. One of them, Vertical Immersion, is still there. Steve Coulson is the vicar of St Mark’s. He invited me to the crypt and became an extremely supportive host and a good friend, for which I’m still very grateful. We discussed religion all the time and I constantly tried to persuade him that God didn’t exist. Luckily for the Church, he was never really convinced. EG: Did the project pan out the way you’d expected it to, or did it change over time? UA: With each project I try hard not to expect anything – there are


opposite: That Side Where Real Is, Uliana Apatina, nine interconnected site-specific installations in the crypt of St.Mark’s Church Kennington, London, UK, 2013, black elastic shock cords, monofilament, gravel, television sets, video, dry leaves, blue and red photographic gel, black matt and red gloss paint. Copyright the artist.

certain processes going on, but I deliberately keep all the options open and need to surprise myself constantly. I do know what I want though. It’s a kind of a challenge pursuing a process-based practice, but it gives me the adrenaline I desire. With Sacred Danger I was flabbergasted by its reaction to atmospheric conditions. Observing the structure, frosted with the morning fog, then gradually acquiring a crystal clear transparency throughout the day and turning flaming red at the sunset made me really happy. The video installation in Part II followed a similar nonlinear pathway. EG: Can you describe your intention for Sacred Danger? UA: Sacred Danger is a delusional corridor with no exit, but where the transparency of the material shows glimpses of potential freedom at every turn. The reflections cause confusion as your body multiplies and so does the landscape beyond. Meanwhile, inside, the steel rods, which support the structure, also multiply and seem to be trying to drill through your head as you snake your way through the Perspex labyrinth.

I wanted a sensation of entrapment at the end of an unpleasant journey – where you see a beautiful seaside as an escape, but can’t reach it because the exit, although transparent, is blocked. So, you can feel close to freedom but never get to it, and then you have to repeat this terrifying journey again to get to the entrance, where you can definitely and finally escape—CCQ

You can read more about Sacred Danger and other projects at uliana-apatina.blogspot.co.uk uliana-apatina.com The 2016 recipient of the Kim Fielding Award will be announced shortly. kimfielding.org We wrote about Kim Fielding in CCQ Issue 3. Read it for free at issuu.com/ccqmag/docs/ccq3

previous spread: White Light, Uliana Apatina (non-masterplanned film production for Art Licks Weekend 2015, in conversation with white cube gallery space and previous work, The cReature Film, 2012) photos: Thomas Erskine above, current page: Talk To Me, Uliana Apatina, five room immersive environment, St Clements, abandoned mental hospital, London, UK, 2013. Materials: insulation foil, blue fluorescent lights. Copyright the artist. below: Sacred Danger, Uliana Apatina, part 1 of a 2 part project for the Kim Fielding Award for experimental arts, 2015, site-specific immersive installation reinventing a sacred space, plexiglass, zinc plated steel, cellular rubber, 2.3 x 3 x 9.5 m, Coed Hills, South Glamorgan, Wales (From left: transparent at the day time; frosted in the morning fog; flaming red at the sunset.) Copyright the artist.


Visual Poetry Sophia Contemporary Gallery is a collaborative venture founded by long standing friends Vassili Tsarenkov, Lali Marganiya and Lili Jassemi. Their aim has been to provide an international platform for contemporary Middle Eastern artists. Cath Roche spoke to them about art practice in the region and the creative dialogues that exist between East and West. Escaping the biting February wind and bustle of a busy London street, I enter Mayfair’s Sophia Gallery, which is ready to open for its inaugural exhibition by celebrated Iranian artist Reza Derakshani. The cool, white space is stacked with an abundance of vibrant, large-scale paintings, jostling against each other as they await curatorial selection. Pinks, reds, blues and golds scatter throughout the space, while surface textures quietly hum. As I walk through the gallery, rich flashes of pigment invade my peripheral vision; I am enfolded in an exquisite carpet of vibrating colour. We sit down to discuss the intense, two-year developmental journey of this gallery project. The founders describe the extensive background research and numerous field trips that eventually enabled them to handpick the artists they will represent. Five months in total were spent in Iran, visiting over 100 artists’ studios. I asked them to tell me about the art scene in Iran and their experiences during the fieldtrips – what, if anything, stood out? Vassili Tsarenkov: There has been a sort of renaissance within contemporary art in Iran. Ten years ago, there were about 10 galleries in Tehran, today there are more than 400. We arrived in an atmosphere of cultural and intellectual vibrancy and found a large, cohesive and tight knit-arts community. Lili Jassemi: Visiting Pooya Aryanpour was a memorable experience. We are showing his work in June this year. Pooya is a well-established artist in Iran and a teacher at Tehran University of Art. He holds book clubs and philosophical gettogethers with his students, friends and colleagues, and always receives us with food and people. I suppose friendship and trust has organically grown between us. Lali Marganiya: Mutual trust needs to be established in the gallery/artist relationship: we had to fight to create it. Initially, we didn’t even have a gallery, so it was difficult for the artists to place trust in us, but we did it through hard work. Cath Roche: So, what are you looking for when selecting artists? LM: Firstly, we are looking for quality, which isn’t difficult to find in Iran. Originality in the work is also essential, and what stands behind it – the concept. Finally, but very importantly, the connection between artist and gallery is crucial. VT: We are also looking for skill, and this is a key aspect of Iranian art and art of the Middle East in general.

CR: Is this high level of technical skill a result of the arts education system in Iran, or other Middle Eastern countries? I’m interested to know where the focus is placed in visual arts learning – skill, tradition, innovation? VT: There is a strong art school system in Iran. Traditional skills are embedded within the curriculum; calligraphy, book illustration and miniature painting are part of the programme. So, yes, they are incredibly skilled; but it is also important to know that Iranians are very tuned into global matters and debates. A lot of people think that Iran is cut off from the rest of the world, but that is absolutely wrong. It is one of the countries with the biggest number of Internet users per capita, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran has the biggest collection of Modern Western art outside of the West, as well as one of the best collections of contemporary Iranian art. CR: Can you identify any characteristics of Iranian arts practice – I don’t necessarily mean something visually identifiable – maybe more of an approach, attitude or position? VT: On a conceptual level, I think poetry tends to permeate Iranian art and culture. Maybe this has been lost somewhat in contemporary Western art with postmodernism’s cynical posturing. Some very successful artists, like Farhad Moshiri, play with Iranian culture in a postmodern way, but many have a more poetic quality to their work. The ancient Persian poets, Rumi or Omar Khayyám, are often an inspiration for them. CR: The work of Azadeh Razaghdoost, who you also represent, is very much based on literature isn’t it? You can see that clearly in her Letters series, but I think it’s also present in all her imagery. The paint application is very poetic in its materiality: viscous paint meets delicate stains of colour. You can see the debt to Cy Twombly in her work, but there is also something that is uniquely feminine, mournful almost. VT: Yes, and Cy Twombly was incredibly inspired by Afghanistan and Iran, as well as the writings of Iranian poets. Likewise, Twombly has been an inspiration for a whole generation of Iranian artists. So I think there is an interesting conversation between East and West here. CR: Do you feel that there is a Western misconception that associates Middle Eastern visual culture solely with the past, bypassing contemporary artistic practice? There seems to be an emerging recognition perhaps?

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VT: People often ask us to define Middle Eastern art and it’s impossible to answer because there is so much diversity, like anywhere. The rise of contemporary Middle Eastern art in the West is a recent thing; it started maybe 20 years ago and has accelerated in the last 10 years, with the big auction houses establishing themselves in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and a growing number of galleries opening in the region. This rise will continue in the future with the planned opening of Middle Eastern branches of major museums, such as the Guggenheim and the Louvre, which will provide an institutional context to the region’s art. But I think Western curators and audiences often impose their own perspectives on Middle Eastern artists; ones that either foreground ancient culture or politics. Our task is to change this misconception.

them to be perceived as international practitioners, rather than regional artists. LJ: And our vision is to create a connection between Middle Eastern and Western contemporary art, curating group exhibitions from both regions and developing cross-cultural narratives without stigmatisation. CR: Is it difficult being categorised as a Middle Eastern gallery because you are dealing with such a disparate region? VT: For practical reasons it makes sense, but it’s a bit misleading as there are so many contrasting histories amongst these countries. If you are Egyptian or Iranian, artistically speaking you will have few things in common; of course you have the legacy of Islamic arts, but those are very diverse cultures. The same can be said of Swedish

LM: London has one of the best global art scenes, so for our artists to be exhibited here, alongside all the other major galleries, enables

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and Spanish artists; they have the legacy of Christian art, but local histories are very different. It is important to be clear that Middle Eastern artists are not all the same. So while our gallery represents Middle Eastern art, we will actually focus on each artist’s individual culture and related narrative.

Iran has one of the most vibrant cultural art scenes in the region right now and our partner Lili is from Iran, so it made sense to us to focus there at first.

CR: You have focused on Iranian artists, but what is your experience of contemporary visual culture elsewhere in the Middle East?

VT: There are many reasons. One explanation could be that there are fewer restrictions within visual art in Iranian culture. In the Tehran National Museum you will see 15th century manuscripts with depictions of the prophet, which contradict the idea of a taboo around figurative depictions in Islamic art. Also, in the 15th century, Shāh Abbās I

CR: Why do you think the arts scene in Iran is so invigorated right now?

VT: We are most knowledgeable about Iranian art, but we are currently developing links with artists from Lebanon, Pakistan and Egypt too.

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prompted a sort of renaissance of Iranian art. He brought the finest craftsmen to Iran from all over the Persian Empire. Iran is a country that has always projected a huge cultural influence throughout the region and the world, contributing to its powerful visual culture. More recently, prior to the 1979 revolution, the Shah of Iran and his wife were huge supporters of contemporary art. They built one of the largest art collections in the world and encouraged local artists by providing grants, so a contemporary art movement was already underway. The Iranian art scene then went through a revival in the 1990s, with various public art projects encouraging local artists to participate. Today you see the result of all this encouragement. CR: The Middle East has undergone huge political upheavals in recent years. How has that impacted on artistic practice in your experience? LJ: It is important to differentiate between Middle Eastern countries and their political and social contexts. But, generally, because the Middle East has been a conflict-ridden area for so long, artists have become sensitive to the situation and their surroundings; they partly draw their creativity from it. They balance the external narrative and perspective of their countries with their own subjective narratives, combining local and global assumptions. I don’t think this necessarily makes them better artists, but it fosters deeper and more subtle creative practices where each detail is considered, not just in the visual arts, but in society in general. CR: Conflict, or social crisis, often fosters creative energy and artists are frequently at the forefront of commentary, protest and change aren’t they? VT: People tend to reduce Middle Eastern art to something that is motivated by political conflict: some is, some isn’t. We have noticed that while certain artists respond to current events, for many it takes time to process their experiences. In Iran, for example, artists in their thirties respond to the Iran–Iraq war of the 1980s; it shaped their childhood and took years for them to express this. Sometimes you can’t represent things that are happening right now, the subject is too sensitive. CR: I suppose that’s similar to the German neo-expressionist painters of the 1980s who were responding to the aftermath of the Second World War? VT: Exactly. The work of Amir Hossein Zanjani, an artist we will show early next year, is very much about authoritarianism and war. His art it is shaped by his childhood experience of the war with Iraq. In Lebanon, you have painter Ayman Baalbaki, or conceptual artist Walid Raad, whose works responds to the civil war in Lebanon [1975-1990]. Recently, however, we saw some of the artists in Iran responding to the current situation with ISIS, because this is also a threat to Iran. Political events are definitely a catalyst for artists, but again they respond to their local narrative.

previous spread, left: Untitled, from the series, Yazesh, Hamed Sahihi, 2016 acrylic on canvas, 130cm x 90 cm, courtesy of the artist and Sophia Contemporary previous spread, right: Untitled, from the series, Yazesh, Hamed Sahihi, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 150cm x 130 cm, courtesy of the artist and Sophia Contemporary above: Anari Gold, Reza Derakshani, 2015, oil and tar on canvas, 152cm x 244cm, courtesy of the artist and Sophia Contemporary

LJ: It is important that the artists we represent respond to their whole history, whether that’s through continuity or disruption. We are searching for artists whose work is situated at a juncture between local and global, and who are aware of, and respond to, international trends and debates within contemporary art. Most significantly, though, we wish to support artists whose practices resonate beyond cultural barriers, offering universal opportunities for people to connect emotionally and aesthetically with potent visual experiences. We are very much looking forward to being part of this exciting journey—CCQ

Mehrdad Khataei: Shadows is showing at Sophia Contemporary Gallery 28 April - 4 June 2016 sophiacontemporary.com

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This Show Has No Title How are curators made? Louise Hobson is a young curator, whose first exhibition, Catherine Biocca, Cornelia Baltes, Rosalie Schweiker, at Swansea’s Mission Gallery, brought three artists together for the first time, with the support of the first Jane Phillips Award curatorial residency. She describes her curatorial journey to Emma Geliot. Emma Geliot: Who is Louise Hobson and what makes her tick? Louise Hobson: I’ve come to use the phrase ‘independent creative practitioner’ when asked what it is that I do. I work across and between the roles of curator, producer and artist, so neither feels quite right to offer as a definitive title. I see my position as that of an initiator, approaching the exhibition/event/project as a space constructed over time through a cumulative process of collaboration – a layering of conversations, ideas and actions. My curatorial practice is therefore not so much about the curator-artist-public triumvirate, but a more selfdetermined discursive form of practice, which continuously overlaps and intersects with other forms of practice in an ever-shifting cluster of changing elements. That last sentence seems a bit jumbled, but perhaps it’s appropriate for the messiness of cross-disciplinary working and the dual roles we assume to sustain practice. EG: Could you talk about what the Jane Phillips Award offered you, and how you used it as a starting point for something even more ambitious? LH: The award offered me a studio at Elysium Studios in Swansea for one month’s research and development; a £500 travel award to

support overseas research; and the proposition of a three-week slot in Mission Gallery’s programming March to April 2016, again with a budget of £500. Within this framework I applied to Wales Arts International to travel to New York and undertake a month long residency with Residency Unlimited and Flux Factory; and I approached the Arts Council of Wales for funding to build on the proposition of the show, and receive mentoring from Gavin Wade, director of Eastside Projects. This may sound all rather practical, however I’ve personally found that there can be a lack of transparency around the practicalities of production and the actions that contribute to the making of things – ‘things’ here being an exhibition and two associated events. When I began the residency in April 2015, I set out to understand what it means to curate a group exhibition within an institutional context. From researching to funding, emailing, explaining, travelling, persuading, budgeting, coordinating, adapting, collaborating, transporting, borrowing and reflecting – I wanted to make sense of the entire process. In many ways, the exhibition was a practical exercise. It’s show #1 for me, which is why, perhaps, I approached the artists I did with the open and honest proposition of the gallery space, three-week show, the budget and an ongoing conversation. I was aware of how small my invitation might seem and how, where I saw great potential, they might see risk.


EG: How did you go about selecting the three artists for the exhibition? LH: Selecting the artists was, for me, both an exciting and daunting process. With doubt comes second-guessing and I knew these early decisions were the key ones I was going to make in this process. In conversations with both Amanda Roderick, director of Mission Gallery, and Gavin Wade, who acted as a mentor for me on the project, I initially looked for the manual: A Guide to Selecting Artists. Then I realised, of course, that there isn’t one and that we each draft our own. I knew I needed to look outside of Wales, and outside of the existing networks into/ out of Wales. I began by looking online for what felt like days, only to realise I needed to be out in the world, and so went along to Frieze London and, thankfully, to Sunday Art Fair. It was here that I encountered the work of Catherine Biocca. It was Catherine’s first time showing work at an art fair; her gallery, Jeanine Hofland, was participating there with a solo project. A few emails and Skype chats later, I visited Catherine in Amsterdam to see her work in the RijksakademieOPEN 2015. Once Catherine agreed to be a part of the show, I had a starting point, and invitations to Cornelia Baltes and Rosalie Schweiker soon followed. I knew of Cornelia’s work through her gallery, Limoncello. I met her in January at her solo presentation, Drunk Octopus wants to fight, and I had met Rosalie in Venice the previous year, after emailing to order her Work Annual, a publication which, I felt, drew attention to Rosalie’s position as being for an art that is a confusing mix of everything you do. EG: What connected them curatorially in your mind? LH: My initial invitation to each artist began with thoughts of temporary and mobile architectures, space and exchange, ideas that, for me, offer a loose curatorial connection between the three artists.

Monika, Cornelia Baltes, acrylic on canvas, 160 x 120 cm, 2016, courtesy the artist and Limoncello, London. Feathers, Cornelia Baltes, acrylic on routed black MDF, 69 x 55 cm, 2015, courtesy the artist and Limoncello, London. T-Rex, Cornelia Baltes, acrylic on routed red MDF, 50 x 40 cm, 2015, courtesy the artist and Limoncello, London.

Rosalie creates mobile architectures, which facilitate social exchange, Cornelia activates the gallery space by situating her paintings as protagonists, and Catherine layers dimensions of time and space, moving between 2D, 3D and 4D. Furthermore; each artist, in their own way, uses humour and a very direct visual language. EG: Did you have specific works in mind for the show, or did you invite the artists to make proposals? LH: I was keen not to ask for specific works, as from my experience of assisting artists, I have seen that this can often result in a very brief exchange. I invited the artists to make proposals and I really valued being a part of that process, whether I contributed in a small way to an early conversation that committed an idea very quickly, or a conversation that continued to explore ideas until the weeks leading up to the show. I remember Cornelia once said that you can tell whether a curator is a newbie or a seasoned pro by how many questions they ask and how much they get involved. I asked lots of questions.

EG: Catherine, Cornelia and Rosalie hadn’t shown together before. Did you anticipate that their work would gel so well together? LH: I knew there would be an interesting conversation between their works, and the spaces between would be just as interesting. I hoped their works would also fit well together, though I couldn’t quite anticipate how well. However, when Cornelia began to work on her idea for the wall work Pinch, which would pull at the wiring of Rosalie’s fridge, I knew there was potential in this mischievous interaction with the notion of the group show. Cohabitation can be awkward and navigating that awkwardness has been part of my role as curator, but when Cornelia started to navigate that too, through her work, I knew we were making something better than I could have hoped for. EG: The exhibition has no title; can you talk about your decision to just use the artists’ names?


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LH: The artists give the show its name, because any other would have felt like a retrofit – an attempt to tie up the show and hide any loose ends. Where possible, I’ve always tried to make the process visible and, as the show is the work of three artists, any other name would have felt like the exhibition was wearing a badly fitted suit. EG: Were there any surprises, as you got deeper into the project? LH: There were plenty of surprises along the way, particularly as this was my first show. I’m not sure if this counts as a surprise, but I’m grateful for how generous Rosalie, Cornelia and Catherine were in terms of their time to create new work, engage in a collaborative

conversation, and travel to Swansea to install the work and open with a public talk. Their travelling from ‘elsewhere’, respectively from London, Berlin and Gothenburg, has encouraged me to think more about exhibiting international practice in Wales. Welsh artists tend to bring a Welsh audience and without the existing connections to Wales, I feel the opening talk wasn’t quite as busy as it could have been. Perhaps it wasn’t that at all, but it made me question the relevance of a show like this happening in Swansea, as opposed, for instance, to London, Berlin or Gothenburg. Is it important? Is it different from what’s gone before? Do these questions even matter? I didn’t set out to work with artists who hadn’t worked in Wales before, but I didn’t let their location stop conversations either. It was a surprise for me that I came to work with two artists who are not based in the UK, and the third currently working predominately elsewhere – which her work addresses in the show.

EG: What level of risk did you think you were taking in working with artists you hadn’t met before? LH: I had met each artist only once before the install, but these early conversations gave us enough knowledge of each other to know that we could work together. Of course, though I had met each artist, they had not met each other, and so there was certainly an element of risk there, the show being a very collaborative conversation. The other risk was the unfamiliarity with the space – none of the artists had been to Mission Gallery before, only viewing the space through photos and videos. EG: Could you talk about the individual pieces in the show and how they all work together in the gallery? LH: I think it’s useful to mention first that Mission Gallery is a converted Welsh chapel. The gallery space is made up of two rooms – a large square-ish space with a vaulted ceiling, and a round apse space with a small alcove off to the left. On entering the gallery, Rosalie’s fridge is to your left. Rosalie buys a fridge magnet wherever she goes for work and, at Mission Gallery, she presented the migrant worker’s fridge magnet collection, displaying her collection for the first time in public on a fridge stocked with local drinks. At the public preview, Rosalie offered to share a story behind a magnet in exchange for a drink from the fridge, and, after the opening weekend, the fridge stayed on and served the exhibition as a bar. Rosalie is interested in the idea of the artist as migrant and how it can seem sexy to travel around a lot, when actually she’d rather be in one place. She travels to sustain her practice, and pay rent in London. Pulling at the wiring of Rosalie’s fridge, and interacting with the notion of the group show, is Cornelia’s site-specific wall work Pinch, expanding on a recent exploration of making site-specific murals. Colours and

previous pages, left to right: Allowed–not allowed, Rosalie Schweiker, 2016 Mattress, Rosalie Schweiker, 2016 Stay at home, Rosalie Schweiker, 2016 Fridge, Rosalie Schweiker, 2016 this page: Big Hams, Catherine Biocca, installation view at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, 2013, industry marker on 6 assembled wax cloths, 350 x 300 cm, courtesy the artist and Jeanine Hofland, Amsterdam (NL) opposite: Pinch, Cornelia Baltes, installation view at Mission Gallery, Swansea, 2016, emulsion paint on wall, black cabling, dimensions variable, courtesy the artist. Photo: Warren Orchard


motifs act as both clues and red herrings in Cornelia’s work, and they migrate across the gallery to paintings on coloured MDF, with the suggestive yet elusive titles of Fluorid, Doc and T-Rex. By this time, you will have most likely been addressed by Catherine’s multidimensional installation, Deutscher Fürst. Catherine created an inside-out environment, transposing a time some millions of years ago into the gallery. Layering cartoon imagery, science fiction and natural history, she produced a lo-fi, deconstructed dinosaur landscape and it’s from a dinosaur that we hear, “Hey you, fuck off, you are 75 million years too early”. In parallel to this work, a four-handed space drawing, from the INTERGALACTIC series, was also exhibited – a series made in collaboration with the artist’s father, a former spacecraft engineer. EG: What’s next – for you, for the show?

LH: I’m interested in the idea of the exhibition as an activity, rather than a fixture – and conversation as a mode of production. In relation to this thinking, the exhibition Catherine Biocca, Cornelia Baltes, Rosalie Schweiker is, I hope, one part of an ongoing conversation that will evolve over time. I’m currently in the process of finalising the last pages of the publication produced for the show, which I’ve been making in collaboration with designers/printers Rope Press, based in Birmingham. We’ve produced it in three stages, starting with the invite, the exhibition handout, and soon, installation images. It was important to me that each stage references a particular point in time of making the exhibition. I’ll be distributing these once the show has finished and so, in some ways, the show will continue to be distributed in a paper form—CCQ

The Jane Phillips Award was founded in 2011, in memory of the Mission Gallery’s director, Jane Phillips (1957 – 2011). It is a legacy and testament to Phillips’ passion for supporting young and early career artists, working in Wales. Catherine Biocca, Cornelia Baltes, Rosalie Schweiker, curated by Louise Hobson, was at Mission Gallery, Swansea, 9 March – 09 April 2016 To order the exhibition publication, please visit to louisehobson.co.uk corneliabaltes.com catherinebiocca.com rosalieschweiker.info missiongallery.co.uk


this page: Expendable, detail, Samuel Levi Jones, 2015-2016, deconstructed encyclopædias on canvas and wood 56” x 67”, courtesy of the artist and PATRON Gallery, Chicago opposite: Lost Dreams, Samuel Levi Jones, 2016, deconstructed encyclopædias on canvas, 60.25” x 89”, courtesy the artist and PATRON Gallery, Chicago

Ripped Chicago-based Samuel Levi Jones subverts world views perpetuated by old law books and encyclopædias into aesthetically intriguing touchstones for debate. He talks to Rhiannon Lowe as he prepares for his solo exhibition at The Arts Club. Rhiannon Lowe: What led you to start working on issues surrounding the injustices meted out to African Americans in the US?

with the material of the books after I have deconstructed them; they have been here, lying around on the floor, for a year or more. The material is very specific, especially the law books that I have been working with. The very nature of the material is such that it has a direct link to the things that consume me and I feel need to be addressed. I like coming into my space and it’s all there; I’m living with the material of my practice.

Samuel Levi Jones: I had a great-uncle who was lynched in his (which is also now my) home town in 1930. My father had to learn how to swim in the river as a child during the ’50s, because he was not allowed in the local pool. Then, there’s my own experience of being profiled [by the police], pulled over and harassed, together with the wider and continual marginalisation of any persons due to race, gender or class; it’s all led to my addressing such issues.

RL: Your work addresses societal issues. How can making material canvases in the age of Twitter contribute to the conversation around the struggle for equality?

RL: What is the nature of the books you deconstruct?

SLJ: Social media may have a louder voice and a broader reach, but it can be confusing. Social media is not always an agent for change. The canvas is not a solution on its own; it’s a gesture that helps with sharing thoughts and ideas. I was aware of the issues that I address well before

SLJ: The books are symbols, signifiers of systems of power. The encyclopædias represent a form of control of knowledge. I’ve been living

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the existence of social media. Social media informs me of events that are a result of the issues. They are simply symptoms of a larger problem. Most times, the issues that I see in social media anger me. Art calms me down. RL: Have you changed vehicles of expression since you started practising? SLJ: In my early 20s I was connected to the art world by my camera. It was a tool that I used, allowing me to navigate my life events and thoughts. The sewing machine is now the tool of my practice. The work manifests on canvas, which references painting, and the work also reminds me of quilting. There are parallel relationships between art hierarchies, recorded histories and social structures.

RL: Books are tactile, odoriferous things, are you happy for people to touch your work? SLJ: I don’t discourage them from touching, no. When people come to my studio, they say it smells like a library. I’m used to it, so I don’t notice it anymore. RL: Your compositions are very satisfying aesthetically. SLJ: Yes, I am looking for that – the political nature of the work to be transformed into a tactile, visually pleasing object. The aesthetic appeal is a way to entice people in and spur conversation. RL: There’s a similarity between the art gallery or museum and the encyclopædia – in their

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separation, categorisation and creation of context. Do you look for a particular political and social context in which to install your work? SLJ: I want my work to be experienced in whatever space it’s shown. I had a show in a non-profit space in Oakland, and someone asked me if I felt that my work had reached a level that surpassed showing there. I said: “Not at all.” Oakland is a politically charged place; there was an interest in having my work there and people were willing to experience it—CCQ Samuel Levi Jones is showing at The Arts Club in Mayfair, London from 13 April – 10 September 2016 samuellevijones.com theartsclub.co.ukwedelart.com


Gone-ness Using photography, video, installation, multi-media and drawing, Nerea Martinez de Lecea creates portraits that go far below the surface of skin and facial characteristics. Currently working on her most ambitious drawing project to date, she tells Emma Geliot about her interest in making the invisible visible. Nerea Martinez de Lecea is an artist whose work strikes a chord of familiarity, while she herself is more difficult to pin down or categorise. You can find her work on just about every online digital platform going. She has won many awards and attracted a lot of attention internationally, with exhibitions, screenings and collaborations in London, Taipei, Singapore, Copenhagen, Toronto, Paris, Monaco, Beirut and in her adopted home in Wales, to name just a few. Paradoxically, while her photographs, videos, installations and drawings are astonishingly revealing and, occasionally, shockingly explicit, the artist remains intensely private. Emma Geliot: I’ve been very interested in your work for a long time now, but had never really thought of it as portraiture until you described it in that way. Nerea Martinez de Lecea: I would say my work is portraiture in a loose sense of the word – it’s about going beyond the surface image of a person, to communicate feelings and experiences. Portraits are traditionally associated with showing who the person is, with visibility and presence. My own portraits, on the other hand, are generally about disappearing, about ‘gone-ness’. They deal with fractured identity and a dislocated sense and sensation of being in the world. EG: There is a real sense of vulnerability in much of your work and the nakedness of a lot of your figures underline this. Is that what you intend? NMdL: Yes. Where the body is depicted naked, it presents the disturbing fragility of our skin – the border that protects us, precariously, from the physical world around us. My work attempts to reveal the experience of solitude and strangeness that one’s own skin can produce. I combine gesture and expression, mark-making, movement, sound and text to convey the unsaid, make visible the unseen.

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EG: Can you describe the process or processes you go through to make your work? NMdL: With my personal work I am sometimes asked “how do you come up with/think of images?”, and to me that’s like asking how a person comes up with/thinks of feelings. I don’t think of images, just like I don’t think of feelings. They are there, they exist inside me, and the images demand expression, I must make them real. It may sound dramatic, but my images are my tools for survival. My work is not ‘conceptual’. Of course, it contains concepts and ideas, but it always comes from emotion. Images are my language and my images express the things I have no words for. They aim to embody the subjective nature of perception and capture the fleeting nature of experience. EG: You’ve worked in lots of different kinds of media and have often collaborated with other artists, some from different disciplines. How do you decide on the medium or process that will best express what you’re trying to say? NMdL: I make images with whatever media is appropriate and available to me. There are an infinite number of images and an infinite number of ways to make them. The main thing is to make them – just do it. At the moment, drawing is the mainstay of my practice. I love photography and video, but for me they require a carefully planned set-up – usually basic props, set and a performer. Drawing is a much more immediate way of creating work – all I need is myself and my tools. EG: Your drawings appear so effortless, as if they have come out of your hand fully formed, but they certainly aren’t simplistic. Is that kind of clarity important to you? NMdL: It is, yes. I usually know exactly what the images need to be, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t and I have no

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problem editing. Some images do develop as I work, so I would say my process is a mixture of mainly the conscious with an intuitive (unconscious) critical eye as to whether I am succeeding in conveying what I set out to do. EG: You’re currently tackling a huge project, 100 Days. What will it look like when it’s finished and do you know yet where it will be shown? NMdL: 100 Days is a new drawings installation. It consists of 100 unframed A5 drawings, presented together to create one large selfportrait. Right now I have 97 images (and around 30 on the reject pile) for this set, so I’m on the brink of finishing and yet to exhibit it. At the moment I feel like this will be an ongoing project – I’m already imagining 1000 Days. EG: There’s no doubt that your drawings are highly evocative of often complex emotions, but there are also hints of narrative, which could be autobiographical, but also seem to be universal. How would you characterise these? NMdL: I aim to tell stories of loss and leavings, of strength and resistance, in my work. It is characterised not only by things falling apart, but also by the things that come to life in their wake—CCQ facebook.com/drawingsnerea

previous and current pages: drawings from the series: 100 Days, Nerea Martinez de Lecea, 2015/2016, ink on paper, A5, copyright the artist

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Saat Saath Arts Foundation There are still those who believe that creative practice plays an essential role in a healthy society and, in environments where government funding for the arts is lacking, they will stop at nothing to ensure its continued development. Saat Saath Arts Foundation was recently founded by philanthropist, collector and gallery director, Aparajita Jain, to create more opportunities for South Asian artists and to bring international curators to India. CCQ invited Jain, and two of the artists she works with, Reena Saini Kallat and Asim Waqif, to describe the scene and talk about their work. Aparajita Jain: Contemporary South Asian art is characterised by a particular vibrancy. I work closely with artists in the region; from those at the outset of their career, such as Nazia Khan and Aakash Nihalani, to established practitioners like Imran Qureshi, Asim Waqif, Reena Saini Kallat and Subodh Gupta. The scene here is particularly collaborative, with an eclectic mix of artists joining forces and drawing inspiration from each other. There is energy and a sense of the environment in which they work infused into their practices. This said, artists here produce work with themes that have universal significance – issues such as consumption, urbanisation and resource wars – these are things that affect us all. Aparajita Jain, founder of Saat Saath Arts Foundation, is based in New Delhi saatsaatharts.com

Reena Saini Kallat: The series of drawings, Hyphenated Lives, is a reimagining of fantastical mutations within the natural world. New hybridised species of birds and animals, trees and flowers, previously claimed by countries as their national symbols, transcend borders and political partitions through their symbolic unification. I felt the need to turn to animal species, rather than the human race, as a way of showing us how to share the planet, where the existence of one species depends on the other, or the disappearance of one affects the other adversely. These pieces are developed through my longstanding interest in the strained relationship between India and Pakistan post-partition, having grown up listening to stories about my father’s move from Lahore in Pakistan, where he was born, to Punjab in India.

Asim Waqif: Usually the seed of the idea for a project emerges from research into the context and environment of where the project will be located, whether it be in Delhi, Brisbane, Marrakech or Paris. I am more interested in the process of working, rather, than the end product. I hardly ever make a drawing or a sketch of what I want the end product to look like. Rather, I try to design and plan the process of making the work, looking at team dynamics and the manipulation of material. When things don’t go according to plan then I try to take advantage of mistakes, or unprecedented situations, rather than correct or hide them. Asim Waqif was born in Hyderabad, India, and is based in Delhi asimwaqif.com

Reena Saini Kallat was born in Delhi and is based in Mumbai reenakallat.com

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this page, right: Chrysalis: Wasp’s Nest, Asim Waqif, 2016, bamboo, cane and a wasp’s nest removed from a South-Delhi tree by Municipal Corporation of Delhi, coated with high-gloss polyurethane. photo: Chandan Ahuja for Nature Morte. above: And How Many Rains Must Fall before the Stains are Washed Clean, Imran Qureshi, 2013, handpainted digital print. Image courtesy of Nature Morte opposite page: Hyphenated lives (De-on), Reena Saini Kallat, 2015, gouache, charcoal, ink and electric wire on handmade paper, I89 x 114 cm. Image courtesy of Iris Dreams

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Boxing on the Bleak

The Other Eye

wax red skin and black brass crown canvas anaemic yellow grass

One at least was made of glass

The Family would stand behind chatter intermittent

When in a moment

The first was taken in the field

(A lapse of concentration) The mechanism The great bull plucked it out Ugly arm Spiked it on his right horn Tireless dervish Left it there

staring blindly

Coiled spring back at Charles no bark just bite

With his fat hands made of horn and leather

feeds pigeons to the winter sky

cursing softly over and over

Killers

turn in tandem

hug the rose wood tight He just got on with it

Barracuda black and oxide blue Spit sputter

Because he was made of tougher stuff

coughing lead

Smelling of earth

Ceramic clagged the scruff till the day he lost his face in the bark lean litter

and cow shit

I saw it soon peeping out from pine trees

and iron

bubbling with sap

Said he should have been more careful

goodbye to old magpie and thieving crow that pull on the soft stuff The orbules and gargules

When the bull was out to stud

That did attest to the massacre in the lower field.

Three eyes glaring

It ran about the farm all week

Proud and gloating at passers by

From The hunter and the bleak: selected poems, Tim Bromage, 2015-2016


Dogs gone by

The path to the bleak

The shale was a wet edge

My mother told me

Prized between ribs

That the path to the bleak Was no longer a path

Of salt and sinew But a river bed Fibrous

Blunt

That in spring’s contraction

See the deep gouges

Wept freshwater tears

That silent pronounce That the earth was extorted

Remember the collies Writhing Slick

Stone shattered like biscuit dust When the water came down From the top to the bottom

An oily ravel Like the judgement of God Of black and white fur The clay was stricken opened up A glossy brown ulcer Teaming with worms

My mother told me Of the winter flood A notorious torrent That would not be stopped


Swyddfa Ewrop Greadigol y Deyrnas Unedig Cymru

EWROP GREADIGOL

Cyllid a chyfleoedd i’r sectorau diwylliannol, creadigol a chlyweledol

CREATIVE EUROPE

Funding and opportunities for the cultural, creative and audiovisual sectors www.creativeeuropeuk.eu #creativeeurope @CEDUK_Culture

Opera Cenedlaethol Cymru – La traviata. Cyd-gynhyrchiad gyda Scottish Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu a Teatro Real, Madrid. Llun © Bill Cooper. Prosiect Cyd-weithredol wedi ei gefnogi gan gronfa Ewrop Greadigol, yn cynnwys Opera Cenedlaethol Cymru. La traviata oedd yr opera cyntaf i gael ei lwyfannu a’i ddarlledu ar THE OPERA PLATFORM. www.theoperaplatform.eu | www.wno.org.uk

Welsh National Opera – La traviata. Co-production with Scottish Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu and Teatro Real, Madrid. Photo © Bill Cooper. Part of a Cooperation Project supported by Creative Europe, La traviata was the first opera staged and broadcast on THE OPERA PLATFORM. www.theoperaplatform.eu | www.wno.org.uk


Dydd Sadwrn, 18 Mehefin, Dydd Sul, 19 Mehefin, 12.30pm a 3pm

Nos Sadwrn, 2 Gorffennaf, 7.30pm

Upswing mewn partneriaeth â Stratford Circus Arts Centre

Ballet Cymru

Saturday, 18 June, Sunday, 19 June, 12.30pm & 3pm

Saturday, 2 July, 7.30pm

Upswing in partnership with Stratford Circus Arts Centre

Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs 1

Bedtime Stories

Ballet Cymru

Theatr Bryn Terfel

Royal Standard £10/£8/£30 Tocyn Teulu a Ffrindiau (4 o bobl, o leiaf un i fod o dan 18) Addas i’r teulu cyfan Family & Friends Ticket (4 people, at least one under 18) Suitable for the whole family

Dydd Sul, 10 Gorffennaf, 2pm a 5pm

Theatr Bryn Terfel £12/£10

NoFit State a Motionhouse

Dydd Sadwrn, 23 Gorffennaf, 11am a 2pm Saturday, 23 July, 11am & 2pm

Sunday, 10 July, 2pm & 5pm

Second Hand Dance

NoFit State & Motionhouse

Block

Grass

Gweithdy am ddim! Free Workshop!

Stiwdio/Studio Man Llwytho Pontio/Pontio Loading Bay £5

£6/£20 Tocyn Teulu a Ffrindiau (4 o bobl, o leiaf un o dan 18) Oedran 4+ Family & Friends Ticket (4 people, at least one under 18) Age guidance 4+


CCQ magazine issue 9  

We have gone to Ghana with this issue where we have collaborated with Serge Attukwei Clottey and we spoke to the cultural visionary Nana Ofo...

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