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We are delighted to present to you the new issue of the contemporary art publication RES Art World/ World Art, to coincide with the 11th International Istanbul Biennial. RES Art World/World Art is published by Dirimart Gallery, Istanbul; this is the fourth issue since the magazine’s launch in September 2007. In this issue, Kathy Battista interviews Gregory Crewdson who is known for his surrealistic approaches as well as his works of gigantic proportions. This time around Ghada Amer, who was already covered in our second issue as one of the most influential names in contemporary art, answers November Paynter’s questions. Marcus Brüderlin, the Director of Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, is presented in this issue with his essay discussing the 20th century abstract art through the ornament. He is joined by Hans Ulrich Obrist with his essay titled A Biennale A to Z. Ekrem Yalçındağ shares with us personal impressions of his meeting with the Viennese actionist Hermann Nitsch to whom a new museum was dedicated in Naples in 2008 while Janine Schmutz speaks to Philippe Büttner, Foundation Beyeler’s curator in charge of the Jenny Holzer exhibition due to open in November 2009. Gaia Serena Simionati provides an account of the 53rd Venice Biennale, which is considered one of the most important art events in 2009. And the gallerist guest in this issue is Francesca Minini from Milan, interviewed by Francesca Caputo. Özge Ersoy tells about the Dubai-based Middle Eastern leg of the Artist Pension Trust—which offers financial planning for artists—in a series of short interviews with participating artists. Celina Lunsford, the Director of Fotografie Forum Frankfurt, writes about the Eastern influences in contemporary photography. And Gina Fairley opens her comprehensive visual archive to provide an overview of Southeast Asian contemporary art. In our first issue, Parastou Forouhar gave us an artist’s view of the Iranian contemporary art scene which has attracted a great deal of interest in recent years. In this issue, we offer readers an even broader perspective on Iranian art: Anthony Downey offers detailed insights into the issue while Maryam Homayoun-Eisler reviews the first major international book ever published on Iranian contemporary art, Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art. And last but not the least, Fatoş Üstek comments on the (Un)Veiled exhibition, recently held by Saatchi Gallery. We also hope that you will read with interest November Paynter’s interview with Hayv Kahraman who was among the artists participating in this exhibition. We trust you will enjoy this issue and hope you join us in looking forward to the fifth issue of RES Art World/World Art.





GC Well, those were actually done on a medium format camera and in so many ways in an early form they reflect my continuing preoccupation of trying to find a photographic language that hovers between fiction and reality, using cinematic lighting to heighten everyday moments. KB Do you still use some of the same models now that you have a larger and more elaborate production team?

KATHY BATTISTA I wanted to start by asking about your early work. I was wondering if you were inspired by literature or film? GREGORY CREWDSON Yes, absolutely. This is interesting because as an undergraduate at SUNY (State University of New York) Purchase, I had this strange triple major, which was photography, film and literature. So I think you nailed it there. I feel that photography specifically is a great conduit into other media and narrative forms. One of the things I love about photographs is that they have a natural relationship to storytelling. Obviously, since photography is dramatically different than literature or film in terms of its capacity to tell a story, it just touches on those conventions. KB Were there any particular authors you were interested in? GC My work comes out of an American tradition in fiction, particularly work where there is an interaction between everyday life and some sense of the theatrical. KB Were you interested in Raymond Carver? GC Yes, Carver was an enormous influence on me. The way he told his stories, but also the settings in which his stories unfolded. And then of course John Cheever, particularly that short story The Swimmer, strongly ties in with my aesthetic. KB You can see that in your work where you take a detail and it says so much just with a chair or a saltshaker. Were your early models people that you knew? GC Many of those early photographs were part of my thesis show when I was a graduate student at Yale. I made those pictures when I was like twenty-five, but they had in them the foundation of my entire aesthetic. In other words: I think that every artist has a central story and you retell that story over and over again, just changing the form. Those pictures were all made in and around the same towns in Massachusetts that I work in now. Most of those subjects were strangers. They were all photographed with a similar interest in wanting to tell a story through light and color. KB Which you still do today … GC But I made those pictures all on my own.

GC Rarely. I guess every photographer has their own set of relations with their subjects. Some demand to have absolute intimacy and connection with their subjects. I always want a distanced objectivity. I want them to feel sort of alien or I want to feel alien I guess. I think that is part of the reason that I usually don’t photograph people over and over again. I don’t want to know them too well. KB How did that work in the Dream House series when you used recognizable actors, such as Julianne Moore or William H. Macy, all character actors? GC Yes, that was a big challenge. It is really the only time I have used known actors. Once in a while I have used actors outside of that project. But that was the primary time. And that work was originally a portfolio that appeared in the New York Times and so it was a one-time project. Now that body of work has an afterlife that continues on its own and it has become a portfolio and was recently published as a book for the first time. It is a project I was very pleased with but I don’t think I would do it again in that you are faced with a series of big challenges and the major one is to try to have these actors, who are known figures and in some cases celebrities, come into your world instead of you going into their world. What I liked about those pictures is that they were all made in and around one house in Rutland, Vermont. That’s why they are entitled Dream House. I had found a house that the family had left intact after the matriarch had lived alone in it and had died there fifteen years before and had left all her personal belongings and clothes. Every piece of this woman’s life was intact there—her bills, her letters, her clothes, perfume, makeup. It was very strange. It was like a memorial, or a weird diorama almost. So I used that as the set piece for the pictures. I only asked actors who I really felt would work in the pictures. The other thing was that I made sure they all came up individually and alone, without stylists or anything. KB Did you have a location scout for that project? GC No, I found it through someone who was working on the shoot. I do have a location manager in general, but the location is something that I do almost entirely at this point. KB Were the actors good models? GC Yes, they were. I think they were very interested. By the time each of them came up my notion of the picture was absolutely complete—the frame of the image—so they had to just inhabit the character. My only instruction to all of them was wanting less. I wanted almost nothing in terms of motivation. I think they all took it as a challenge and they all got something out of it and I certainly did and I am still in contact with almost everyone from that project. In fact Tilda Swinton wrote the introduction to the book, which is so beautiful.


KB Without a team? Were you already shooting on an 8 x 10 in / 20.3 x 25.4 cm negative? KB So when you say you had the image already framed in your mind, do you storyboard your images?






Untitled, 2002 From the Dream House portfolio 12 Digital C-prints mounted to museum board, 29 x 44 in / 73.6 x 111.7 cm each


7 GC Yes. And all the houses were made of foam core and used a lot of train set materials. KB Did you exhibit the models?

GC Well, it really depends if we are on a soundstage or on location. When we are on location I don’t work with any art department; what is really essentially there is the lighting department, location management and transportation. I guess it is about thirty people.

GC I never showed the models and of course they don’t exist anymore. Sometimes I long for the days making those pictures. The soundstage work is a similar approach. You are just building these enormous sets in a much larger scale to those early tableaux. It has been such a long and slow process of building up this way of working and using the same team over and over again. Now it has become the only way I know how to make pictures. It is strange to say. I am so used to it now. The grass is always greener, but I am always jealous of painters who go to the studio every day and work in isolation, slowly but surely. That is so foreign from the way I work now. I am either in pre-production, production or post-production and so it is a very different way of making the photograph.

KB That is a lot of people to direct.

KB It is like making a film, isn’t it?

GC Yes, it is a lot of people to direct. I try to do it with as few people as possible because we are out on location. But when we are working on the soundstage it is a much more elaborate process because you have over sixty people. A lot of that work is done in advance.

GC It is. You know, Beneath the Roses reflected such an enormous undertaking over a long period of time and I am deliberately taking time off now to try to figure out my next body of work, but I am very determined that it will be a more intimate, smaller approach.

KB You mentioned diorama earlier. The Natural Wonder series remind me of historical dioramas. Is that a genre you are interested in?

KB People have compared your work to Edward Hopper and other painters. What is the relationship between your work and painting?

GC Yes, absolutely. The Natural Wonder series was shaped by my fascination with museum dioramas at the Natural History Museum. And in fact when I was in graduate school in the mid-1980s I actually photographed the dioramas. Then I found that Hiroshi Sugimoto beat me to it. They are gorgeous. These are before the wax models. He had photographed them in black and white, of course, and mine were in color. It was so odd that coincidentally they were the same dioramas. We had picked the same ones! His were so much more beautiful than mine but I was always interested in the contradictions of attempting to represent nature with that kind of artifice. I just brought my daughter to the museum’s dioramas and they are like tombs. There is something so sad about them.

GC I think that my central concern continues to be how light and color shape my world view, or how you tell a story through that. Maybe my photographs are painterly in that I am working to create a sensibility using color and light in a very specific and subjective way. But in the end although the photographs are influenced by film, painting and literature, they are at the core photographic and they deal with photographic issues. In the end it always comes down to a photographic problem.

KB I imagine that your team is like a film production crew that varies from one project to the next. What is the average size of your team?

KB What was the scale of the dioramas you created? GC Again, this was before Photoshop. Those are all done in camera. And again, I did these entirely on my own.

KB Do you think they are all about representation? GC Yes. I think it is about photographic form. I go to enormous lengths in post-production to have absolute transparency—every thing hyper-focused, no grain or pixels. All that is super important to me, but those are photographic issues, they aren’t painterly issues. Even though I am trying to hide the photographic. It is a weird contradiction because you associate photography with something blurred, out of focus, or grainy. I am trying to not have any of that revealed in the picture, but it is still a photographic problem.

KB You constructed the dioramas on your own as well?! How long did it take you to make one? KB So do you think you would ever deviate from photography? GC It took me months sometimes. They were very large. They were usually about twenty feet across and fifteen feet deep. They were all done in forced perspective in miniature. I think that work is in some ways the work that is the least like the other pictures. But even those photographs reflect the same themes.


KB Absolutely. You don’t know what came before the photograph: How did the fox get there? Or where did the leg come from? Were they taxidermy animals?

GC No I don’t. There have been discussions about doing a movie and you know there is a certain seduction to that, but in the end I have come to know that I think in terms of still images and I don’t think in terms of linear narrative in any way. I am so invested in the idea of making a single image that the idea that an image could come after that image is almost an impossibility. Even the camera moving or cutting to another image is completely foreign to me.


GC Well, it depends. For the Beneath the Roses pictures I worked in two ways of making pictures. One is on location and the other is on a soundstage. When I work on a soundstage the pictures tend to be interiors. When I work on location it is less about sketches than it is about location scouting, then framing and all that. But when you work on a soundstage you are essentially working from nothing so in that case there are a lot of production sketches that I do with my art director. There are final sketches and architectural drawings. There is a lot of that published in the book.


9 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Untitled, Winter 2006 From the Beneath the Roses portfolio Archival inkjet print Print: 57 x 88 in / 144.8 x 223.5 cm each Frame: 58.5 x 89.5 in / 148.6 x 227.3 cm each



11 KB I would like to ask you about the use of plants and nature in your work. In some of the series—most obviously in Natural Wonder and perhaps to a lesser degree in Twilight and Dream House—it might be seen as a representation of Michael Pollan’s theory of plants overtaking humans. I wanted you to talk about that, about nature gone awry. GC I like tensions in my work in general. Whether it is oppositions between reality and fiction, exterior and interior space, or certainly domesticity and nature. I like how there is something about nature that is ultimately so unknowable. That is a tension that exists in many of my pictures. In many of the photographs there is an obsession with nature or planting or with flowers or sod, which is one of my favorite materials, and often doing something inappropriate with that stuff. I think it represents something about the unknown and obviously about obsession and beauty. KB It seems ominous in a B-movie sort of way, for example with a mound of earth or William H. Macy in the garage with some kind of unruly overgrown lawn. GC I like piles and totemic structures. Another big influence is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. KB Well, the treatment of light makes sense … Untitled, Summer 2006 From the Beneath the Roses portfolio Archival inkjet print Print: 57 x 88 in / 144.8 x 223.5 cm Frame: 58.5 x 89.5 in / 148.6 x 227.3 cm

GC And that famous image where the Richard Dreyfuss character builds that totemic structure in his living room out of household materials. I think that is a key image for me. KB Did that also influence the Hover series?

KB And how many photographs do you need to shoot to get that final image? GC What happens is, as you mentioned earlier, I still shoot with a large format (8 x 10 in / 20.3 x 25.4 cm negative) camera, and once I frame the picture the camera never moves. It cannot move because in postproduction I composite different negatives to create the absolute focus. If we are out on location basically I am shooting from daylight to night. As we are shooting I am continually modifying the lighting and the focus and everything. And then in post-production, which is all done in my studio, we painstakingly put it all back together. KB So you don’t use a post-production company? GC No. That is a big change. I used to work with big labs and digital people outside. It is interesting that technology has gotten to a point where you can do all this independently. I still have people coming in to do it, but I do it on my own time. Epson gave me this enormous printer so I make the final prints here in my studio. That would have been impossible to do even three or four years ago. Technology has changed dramatically.

GC Definitely. Those pictures are really important to me. There are only ten of them—it is a fairly small series—but they were the transitional pictures out of the studio and back into real settings and also that was the first project where I started working with a small team of people. KB Was there a reason that you chose black and white? GC Partially it was because I wanted something that was dramatically different from the previous pictures. I also wanted the pictures to feel referential to 1970s new topographic photography and to earthwork documents. And then also I love black and white photography, even though I am so associated with color. And that is something I am thinking about in terms of moving forward. The idea of returning to black and white is appealing to me. KB The light in Hover looks natural to me. Did you use any artificial light? GC It is all natural light taken from an aerial perspective.


KB And they are shot on 8 x 10 in / 20.3 x 25.4 cm negatives? KB It is great that you have so much control over the production.


GC It changed everything. It was ironic that I would go through an enormous amount of work in production and then I would have to compromise in post-production in terms of the final product, but now I have as much control in post-production as I did in production.


13 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Untitled, 1998 From the Twilight portfolio C-print, 50 x 60 in / 127 x 152.4 cm

Untitled, 2001 From the Twilight portfolio Digital C-print, 50 x 60 in / 127 x 152.4 cm



Untitled, 2001-2002 From the Twilight portfolio Digital C-print, 48 x 60 in / 121.92 x 152.4 cm

GC Yes. KB Is there post-production on Hover? They are incredibly clear. GC No. KB Did the fire and police teams enjoy being involved? GC Yes, funnily enough. Now in comparison when we make pictures, we have permits and insurance and releases. I made all those pictures with no permits or anything, not even permission. A lot of times we just called the police and they would come just to be in the picture. KB Now you have meetings with them, don’t you? 2

GC Oh my god yes, it is a very different process. There is something about going back repeatedly to a place that allows you to gain trust over a period of time. And you become a known figure obviously. KB Would you ever shoot in digital, or is the technology not there yet? GC This is something I am thinking about because really up to now the answer to that question would be no, but I think with recent developments, it seems fairly soon the answer would be yes. I love film and I love the way that film interacts with light, but every other aspect of my production is digital: we scan all the negatives and they are all printed digitally. So in terms of practicality, there would be great reasons to shoot digitally as long as it feels right as a print. I always think you should use whatever tool you need to make what is in your head. It is a lot of steps and an enormous expense. The big expenses are the film and the lighting crews. The other really good thing about shooting digitally is that you can see on a computer screen exactly what you are getting. There is something about the mystery of shooting film. The idea that film still has to be developed. The worst part is putting all the film in a box and bringing it to the lab. For that period of time it doesn’t exist. It is terrifying.


KB One of my final questions for you is about the suburbs. There has been so much writing about the suburbs and inversely the suburbanization of urban centers, like New York. I know the suburbs are a cinematic reference for you, but is there also something political about using these locations? GC Not really. My images don’t ever come out of a political critique. Also at this point the actual suburbs don’t exist in my pictures. Certainly in previous series they have. What I am really interested in is some concept of the ordinary and playing off of certain myths that are received in terms of iconography. I can’t tell you more than that except to say that it is the setting where I play out my storylines, but nothing is intended as a commentary or a political statement. But obviously pictures need to be relevant to the time they are made in, so I certainly wouldn’t argue with any readings or associations with those pictures. They are just not intentional.



1-2 Untitled, 1997 3 Untitled, 1996 From the Hover portfolio Gelatin silver print, 20 x 24 in / 50.8 x 61 cm each

KB There have been other artists who have worked with the suburbs of America, for example Pierre Huygye or Cameron Jamie. Your images seem more psychological to me.




17 KB Even that idea of what is beneath the surface in your pictures is such a metaphor for what is beneath the surface of us. GC Yes, I think that is well said! KB Do you think there is trauma represented in your work? GC Yes I do. I don’t know what it is, but I think you just revisit things over and over again in an attempt to understand or make a connection with something primal. All that necessarily remains a mystery. KB Freud says when we deal with trauma we repeat it over and over in our mind. GC Yes, I think that is correct. KB Is your father still alive? GC No, very sadly my father got sick just as I was making the Twilight pictures so he never really got to see those photographs. I think they were made partially in response to his becoming ill. But he did have this enormous effect on me in terms of shaping my aesthetic. KB And probably your intellectual life. GC Yes, I think so. He was a great supportive figure.

Untitled, 1994 From the Natural Wonder portfolio C-print, 30 x 40 in / 76.2 x 101.6 cm

Kathy Battista is a writer, lecturer and curator. She is the Director of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, New York. Her doctoral research centered on the work of feminist artists in 1970s London. She is a coauthor of Art New York (ellipsis, 2000) and Recent Architecture in The Netherlands (ellipsis, 1998). Her articles have appeared in Ladies and Gents (Temple University Press, 2009), Arcade: Artists and Placemaking (Black Dog, 2006) and Surface Tension: Problematics of Site (errant bodies, 2003) as well as the journals Third Text, Frieze and Art Monthly. She is on the editorial board of Art & Architectural Journal. She has taught at Cornell University Graduate Studies in Architecture, Birkbeck College, Kings College, the London Consortium, the Ruskin School of Art and Tate Modern.

Untitled, 1993 From the Natural Wonder portfolio C-print, 30 x 40 in / 76.2 x 101.6 cm


All images Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York


Untitled, 1997 From the Natural Wonder portfolio C-print, 40 x 50 in / 101.6 x 127 cm


GC That is the core of it for me. My father was a psychoanalyst so it all comes out of that.

19 C for CRITICAL MASS Often the biennale is a trigger for a dynamic energy field which radiates throughout a city. This works particularly well when all the exhibition spaces in a city make a joint effort. Besides, these biennales and other large-scale exhibitions can trigger a lot of self-organized side events in a city, such as warehouse exhibitions, student shows, energy sparks and counter shows. One great opportunity a biennale offers is that very often it is a real spark for the local scene: the biennale as a catalyst or, in the words of Anri Sala, “different layers of input for the city.”

HANS ULRICH OBRIST Metabolism has been a property of life since it began. The first cells metabolized: They used energy and material from outside to make, maintain, and remake themselves. Lynn Margulis A twenty-first-century biennale will utilize calculated uncertainty and conscious incompleteness to produce a catalyst for invigorating change whilst always producing the harvest of the quiet eye. Cedric Price A for ARCHIPELAGO For Édouard Glissant, biennales tend to be too much like continents—rock solid and imposing—as opposed to the archipelago which he sees as welcoming and sheltering. In Édouard Glissant’s words, “the idea of a non-linear time implicit in this idea, or in this concept, the coexistence of several time zones would of course allow for a great variety of different contact zones as well.” The biennale as a reciprocal contact zone can mediate between the museum and the city. Rather than copying the formats of other biennales, new biennales should invent new exhibition formats. The multiplication of biennales is a challenge to provide new spaces and new temporalities. According to Édouard Glissant, biennales today need to provide new spaces and new temporalities in order to achieve what he calls a mondialité: a difference enhancing global dialog. Today’s multiplication of biennales all over the world is a challenge to provide new spaces and new temporalities. What is urgently needed is a situation receptive to interesting, more complex spaces that combine the big and the small, the old and the new, acceleration and deceleration, noise and silence.


B for BRIDGE A great potential of the biennales/triennales is to be a catalyst or provide different layers of input for the city. The multiplication of biennales/triennales has to be seen positively also in terms of the necessary multiplication of centers. The quest for the absolute center which dominated big parts of the 20th century has unfurled into a polyphony of centers in the 21st century, and the biennales make an important contribution to this. Also: to be a bridge between the local and the global. A bridge has two points, two ends. As artist Huang Yong Ping has recently explained: Normally we think a person should have only one standpoint, but when you become a bridge you have to have two. This is also a kind of explanation for the concept of crossing the border of the self: as one person, you should have many standpoints. Between these two points, there is one that is more stable, your original personality and another point which is less stable, floating. This bridge is always dangerous. For Huang Yong Ping the notion of danger is not negative but positive—it creates the possibility of opening up something else. By resorting to the notion of chance, one can have access to enlightenment. In terms of philosophy, traditional Chinese philosophers never said “I say,” but always said “our ancestors said.” It is a way of accessing reality.

D for DISPOSITIF As Stephanie Moisdon and I wrote for the Lyon Biennale: This project is a device which Giorgio Agamben defines as follows: “The device is a network of heterogeneous elements which virtually includes everything, whether it derives from an argumentation or not: speeches, institutions, buildings, esthetic or philosophical proposals. A device does always have a clear strategic function and is an integrated part of the relationship between ability and knowledge.” In these devices in which our existences happen from now on, the question arises: Which strategies do we have to adopt in the daily hand-tohand combat which can tie us to them? At a time when the question for all clearly is how to retrieve the possibilities of usage, the practical element of the game, which belongs to children, this game without ends through which the function of each object can be reinvented, becomes an instrument of new ways of doing. The space of the game (and of the exposition) is that of the multipication of histories, of usages, where the rule inevitably leads the participants to making choices. The game is never free of cost, it is the game which renders available that which before was inaccessible. It is for the player as well as for the spectator that the usage of the rules of the game and the exercises of inventing a mythology of the present are made available. “With every device you have got to snatch away from it the possible usages which are captured in it. The profanation of the unprofanable is the political task of the generation to come.” (Giorgio Agamben) D for DECOMMODIFIED BIENNALE Immanuel Wallerstein wrote in his essay utopistics about historical choices of the 21th century, exploring what are possible better—not perfect—societies within the constraints of reality. We travel from dreams that were betrayed to a world system in structural crisis which is unpredictable and uncertain towards a new world system which goes beyond the limits of the 19th century paradigm of Liberal Capitalism. In order to find a new sense of fulfillment, individually and collectively, there will be a tendency towards increasing the number of de-commodified institutions. In Wallerstein’s words, “instead of speaking about transforming hospitals and schools into profit-making institutions, let’s work the other way. I think we move in the direction of de-commodifying a lot of things which we historically commodified. And this could be a very decentralized process. If you look at a lot of movements around the world, local and social movements, what they are objecting to in many ways is commodification.” D for DEATH OF THE BIENNALE In his recent paper presented at the inaugural conference of the next Yokohama Triennale, Daniel Birnbaum compared the eventual exhaustion of the format of the biennale with the death of the novel— which does not mean that no more biennales will take place. On the contrary, we are facing a situation with more than 100 biennales and triennales worldwide. But Birnbaum wonders if the biennales have played out their role as a form for experimentation and innovation. His paper concludes with hope; a new start will probably happen somewhere else, not on the European continent ...




21 F for FUTURE Working through past biennale gestures, of course, is hardly novel. Biennales are a continually articulated struggle between the present, the past and the future. In this model, the only constant is change itself: it is a vision of history under perennial negotiation; historical truth as forever in situ. What, then, about the future of the biennale? To begin with, we should emphasize that visions of the future across almost all phenomena (a) evolve over time and (b) are many. The future of the biennale, in other words, is both variant and plural. I for IN-BETWEEN The biennale is also an occasion to create new alliances; it is about going beyond city-branding strategies, leading to collaboration and new dialogues. In the context of the Lyon Biennale, Stephanie Moisdon and I wanted to enter into a dialog with the city and the region (in fact, the Résonance program will involve more than eighty events around Lyon) and to instigate new partnerships (Tres Bienn is a formula that joins the Istanbul, Athens and Lyon Biennials to develop intercultural exchanges). This issue of new alliances is particularly important at a moment when we do not have any ideological, generational or stylistic movements as we used to do in previous decades. M for MEMORY “everything everything everything is memory” (Giuseppe Ungaretti) The situation of a biennale is complex. When we try to work out how to deal with this complexity, it is important not to reduce our reflections to one single model but to study several different ones, historical as well as contemporary ones that take an experimental approach to this complexity. At this moment of intense innovation within the field of contemporary art—a moment at which this very field has entered the public consciousness as it arguably never has before—it is vital that biennales proceed intelligently and that we act not only with an awareness of what our contemporaries within the field of art are undertaking, but also with an understanding of what has come before and what is being undertaken in neighboring disciplines. N for NEW GEOGRAPHIES (Fernand Braudel revisited) From an e-mail from Patricia Falguieres to Hans Ulrich Obrist in January 2007 “Yes I believe that there is a lot to be done about this subject: follow and describe, eventually accompany this enormous overthrow which we are experiencing—this enormous change of the center of gravity from the old worlds towards these modern worlds of which we can just about make out the forms in the fog! Obviously the Braudelian parallel rules: I was thinking about the overthrow of the center of the world from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and to the Pacific in the 16th century (i.e. from a neatly organized, limited and patterned world to an unlimited horizon structured loosely by archipelagos and patches of fog) which Braudel describes in Material Civilisation and Capitalism.”


O for ONGOING What happens between biennales is very important. It is less than ideal if a biennale happens and then there is a vacuum for two years before the next biennale. In ideal circumstances, there should be a

permanent process, an ongoing activity, and more organic. Most biennales are organized in incredibly short time periods and the operation for organizing them gets more and more reduced. We feel that curators need to resist this tendency and find a more reasonable framework in which to work. Important as biennales are, the danger is that they can create a flash in the pan and then two very thirsty years indeed. Changing the format and creating interim events, like an ongoing flame, might be very helpful in overcoming this problem. The biennale as a project could build up through some kind of sedimentary levels. This means to avoid the biennale as a tabula rasa, starting afresh every two years and negating its own previous history. It also means considering what happens between the big events. In most cases, the opening will attract a lot of visitors, but shortly thereafter, it feels as if the switch-off button has been pushed. What we hope to see is the ONGOING flame being relayed from one party to the next: not a one-time event in the name of cultural tourism that contributes little to the local art scene. Instead of the sprint, we opt for the long distance: the goal is a biennale which is sustainable and can foster local development, by building a long term laboratory that will accumulate important archival materials. Stefano Boeri’s project of a mutant sustainable biennale building which can be active 365 days a year is very interesting. The structure also aims at creating a bridge between the cinema festival, the art biennale and the architecture biennale. P for PLURALISM As the seminal French historian Paul Veyme told us: “You always have to be skeptical of explanations in the style of zeitgeist, of any social or political entity. You have to be pluralistic, pluralistic and even more pluralistic; you have to recognize the characteristics of every thing, of religion, of art, of everything you want. Do not look for the global explanation or for a global posture. You have to perceive the diversity and the originality of the complexity of mankind which consists of the rough and ready and of very contrary elements which have nothing in common. None of these rules over all the others, none of these is sovereign. You can only calumniate your time by ignoring history.” S for SELF-ORGANIZATION To explore notions of self-organization within a large-scale show: an exhibition can always hide another exhibition. It is not the top-down plan that exists here, and that is what the practice of curating can learn from urbanism: to question the often unquestioned master plan. Yona Friedman, or Cedric Price, or Team X, and/or Oskar Hanson who all questioned the idea of the master plan in the CIMAM context of the 1950s, tried to build in moments of self-organization and even bottom-up organization. Exhibitions open enough to trigger things—this evokes the memory of the visionary Polish urbanist and architect Oskar Hanson and his vision of the open form. T for TRANSNATIONAL Significantly, the question of trans-national exhibitions seems to be one of the key issues running from the 1990s through to the present: not to be about borderlines, but actually to become a borderline. In opposing what he called the irreversible aspects of globalization (uniformity, homogeneity), Etienne Balibar once described to me what he saw as the need for artists and exhibitions: to become nomadic, physically and mentally travelling across the borders. Further on, he described how going beyond national boundaries would allow languages and cultures to spill in all directions, to broaden the horizon of translating capacities. “Exhibitions would vanish in their intervention,” Balibar used to say, “they would be necessary but without monopoly, they would be borderlines themselves.” Hence my earlier accentuation: to become a borderline.


E for ÉTONNEZ-MOI For biennales to be open so that something unexpected might happen. The curatorial position should always be open to surprise … In a now legendary exchange Diaghilev challenged Cocteau to stun him. His Étonnez-moi will always be important to change what we expect from biennales.



The 10th Lyon Biennale, 2009: The Spectacle of the Everyday September 16, 2009 - January 03, 2010 Curator: Hou Hanru


The 9th Lyon Biannale, 2007: The History of a Decade That Has Not Yet Been Named Curators: Stéphanie Moisdon and Hans Ulrich Obrist









LEFT PAGE 1 Fabien Giraud & Raphael Siboni, La double paroi, hommage à Michel Lotito, 2007 Courtesy the artists Photograph: © Blaise Adilon


2 Ranjani Shettar, Just a bit more, 2005/2006 Courtesy the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York - New Delhi Photograph: © DR




3 Thomas Bayrle, Autobahnkreuz, 2006-2007 Courtesy the artist and Barbara Weiss Gallery, Berlin Photograph: © DR 4 Simon Starling, Work in progress: particle projection, 2007 Courtesy the artist Photograph: © DR

5 Tomas Saraceno, Flying European cultural capital – airport city flying garden, 2007 Co-commisioned by the Sharjah Biennial 8, 2007 Photograph: © DR 6 Annie Vigier & Franck Apertet, X-event 2, 2007 Courtesy the artists Photograph: © Blaise Adilon

THIS PAGE 1 Barry McGee, Advanced Mature Work, 2007 Installation view, REDCAT, Los Angeles, 14 September 25 November, 2007 Courtesy REDCAT, Los Angeles and Deitch Projects, New York 2 Takahiro Iwasaki, Reflection Model, 2001 Courtesy the artist Photograph: Nozomi Tomoeda

3 Jimmie Durham, Xitle and Spirit, 2007 Volcanic stone on automobile, 78.7 x 137.8 x 63 in / 200 x 350 x 160 cm Courtesy the artist 4 Sarkis, Installation view at the Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyon Le monde est illisible, mon cœur si, 17 April - 18 May, 2002 Courtesy the artist Photograph: Blaise Adilon, © Adagp, Paris 2002



Yokohama Triennale 2008: Time Crevasse Artistic Director: Mizusawa Tsutomu Curators: Daniel Birnbaum, Hu Fang, Miyake Akiko, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Beatrix Ruf











1-4 H BOX is a roaming screening hall, in which major new video commissions by eight international artists are presented: Alice Anderson, Yael Bartana, Sebastián DíazMorales, Dora García, Judit Kúrtag, Valérie Mréjen, Shahryar Nashat, and Su-Mei Tse. Planning and Production: Hermès. Curator: Benjamin Weil Designer: Didier Fiuza Faustino Made of aluminum, 110.2 x 255.9 x 193.7 in / 280 x 650 x 492 cm

1-2 Photograph: Didier Fiuza Faustino 3-4 Photograph: Andres Lejona 5 Marina Abramovic, Soul Operation Table I, II, III, 2008 Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York Photograph: Mineo Sakata

6 Saburo Teshigawara, Fragments of Time, 2008 Photograph: Mineo Sakata 7 Terence Koh, White Silent Parade, 2008 Courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin Los Angeles Photograph: Mineo Sakata

8 Jonathan Meese, DR. NO-METABOLISM IN MOOMINGYM Like SOLDIER-FLASH BLUE De MING (BABYKINGKONG IS BACK IN FANTOMAS-GYM, Thanks... 1912-2012), 2008 Courtesy the artist and Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin Photograph: Keizo Kioku




The 11th International Istanbul Biennial: What keeps mankind alive? September 12 - November 8, 2009 Curators: What, How & for Whom / WHW


Danica Dakic, Isola Bella, 2007 - 2008 Video still, 19 min, 7 mm Courtesy the artist



1 Avi Mograbi, Z32, 2008 Documentary, 81 min, 35 mm Courtesy the artist


2 Zanny Begg, Treat (or Trick), 2008 Video still, 7 min Courtesy the artist

3 Wafa Hourani, Qalandia 2067, 2008, Mixed media in 5 parts, 157.5 x 275.6 in / 400 x 700 cm © the artist, Courtesy Saatchi Gallery, London

4 Vangelis Vlahos, Grey Zones, 2009 (detail) 75 photographs found in Greek newspaper photo archives (framed), 2 wooden shelves; dimensions variable Courtesy the artist, prometeogallery di Ida Pisani, Milan, and The Breeder, Athens


5 Danica Dakic, Isola Bella, 2007 - 2008 Video still, 19 min, 7 mm Courtesy the artist


Hans Ulrich Obrist (b. 1968, Zurich) joined the Serpentine Gallery as Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects in April 2006. Prior to this, he was curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris since 2000, as well as curator of museum in progress, Vienna, from 1993-2000. He has curated over 200 exhibitions internationally since 1991, including do it, Take Me, I’m Yours (Serpentine Gallery), Cities on the Move, Live/Life, Nuit Blanche, 1st Berlin Biennale, Manifesta 1, and more recently Uncertain States of America, 1st Moscow Triennale, 2nd Guangzhou Triennale (Canton China), and Lyon Biennale. In 2007 and 2009, Hans Ulrich co-curated Il Tempo del Postino with Philippe Parreno for the Manchester International Festival. He was also awarded the New York Prize Senior Fellowship for 2007-2008 by the Van Alen Institute. Obrist is the author of 50 books, most recently, A Brief History of Curating.

The Arabesque in the Art of Runge – Van De Velde – Kandinsky- Matisse – Kupka – Mondrian and Pollock Imam Mosque, Isfahan, Iran


What the evolution of the language meant for the evolution of society, the evolution of the ornamental is to the evolution of the system of art. Niklas Luhman (1)

Daniel Buren, Attention to the Colour, 2001 In situ work, installation at Fondation Beyeler, from the exhibition Ornament and Abstraction, 2001 Courtesy Markus Brüderlin

“A BST R A CT ART …: will it be more than a revival of the ornamental?” asked Hugo Ball in 1917. (2) Indeed, one always finds this tone of almost dogmatic enmity against the ornamental especially among the pioneers of so-called abstract art. Wassily Kandinsky judged the ornament as a merely “superficial form” that lacked inner values. According to the Russian artist “the mere arrangement of pleasing colors that have no other meaning is nothing but ornamentation.” (3) On the other hand, Hugo Ball jeered at Kandinsky’s non-objective works as “decorative swirls” that were no more than painted carpets “that are better sat on than looked at as paintings on the wall.” At that time the ornament became comparable to a kind of “Fall of Abstraction”.

However, the overzealousness with which these pioneers of abstract art defended themselves against being labelled with any kind of ornamentalism indicates that they did instinctively sense that the ornament had a much greater influence on the roots of the abstract than they wished to admit. In 1908 Adolf Loos banned the ornament from architecture and the applied arts as superfluous and untimely ballast. Banned into exile, the liberal arts now had to fear that the homeless and unattached ornament would begin to create its own autonomous niche, as Ernst Gombrich suggested in 1979 in his book Ornament and the Arts: “It was in the period when the creation of decorative forms was increasingly suppressed in favour of functional utility that what is called abstract art made its entry into the preserve of painting and sculpture.” (4)


As a matter of fact, in the course of its history abstract art would repeatedly foray into the ornamental. Art Deco serves as an example which could easily be classified as “ornamental cubism”. In the early 1930s the dynamic composition principles of the Abstraction Création circle occasionally ventured toward the ornamental followed by the sixties which brought forth a number of attempts to reintroduce the ornamental to painting. (5) And finally the newly revived abstracts of the eighties whose most striking characteristic was their “tendency toward the ornamental”: From the paintings of Olivier Mosset, Niele Toroni or Robert Ryman to the post-minimalist positions deputized by Gerwald Rockenschaub, Philip Taaffe, Ross Bleckner, David Reed or John M Armleder. The list of protagonists can be expanded to the present with such names as Christine Streuli or Sarah Morris (whom RES dedicated

an in-depth article last September), the Turkish painter Ekrem Yalçındağ (who works in both Frankfurt and Istanbul) and other artists of the younger generation from the Arabic world. This allows for the conclusion that the ornamental serves not only as a formal, but also conceptual and contentual key concept for abstract art since the 1908s, and that any new and meaningful discussion about nonobjective art can only be lead by including the ornamental and its significance for modernism. One must ask oneself not foremost the rehabilitation of the ornament and décor has been a vital stimulus to the revival of modernism.

Is Abstract Art a sequel in the history of the ornament? In a footnote in his article Art and Society the sociologist Niklas Luhmann deplores that so far no evolutionary history of the ornament has been written, and this in the sense of “a history of the ornament and its relationship to the evolution of art”. (6) Although in his epochal Stilfragen of 1893 the Viennese art historian Alois Riegl drew up a comprehensive history of the development of the ornament beginning with the Egyptian lotus ornament that blossoms into the Greek palmette, followed by the Roman acanthus and finally into the later arabesque, Luhmann asks what relationship this history has as regards to the history art per se. There exists, however, a starting point that allows to weave a genealogical central theme into the history of modern art. The protagonist of this evolutionary story is a special form of ornament: The arabesque which, apart from the rocaille, serves as the last genuine representative of the great history of ornament. The arabesque made its debut in the early 19th century as an “accessory” in the concept of Romantic painting (Philipp Otto Runge). It began to influence the structural history of art that was becoming increasingly abstract via Symbolism (Paul Gaugin) and Art Nouveau (Henry van de Velde, Joseph Hoffmann). Equal to the Arab ornament that is divided into plant arabesques and geometric, braided patterns, linear abstraction branches into two genres: the geometric (Alexander Rodchenko, Josef Albers, Piet Mondrian) and the organic (Vassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock). Obviously, this is a very simplified view but I will expand on this theme later. For the time being it shall suffice to support the theory that there exists a link between the history of the ornament and of the evolution of abstract art. Or, to put it as a question: Is modern painting nothing else but a sequel in the history of the ornament, just with different means and in a different context?

Philippe Taaffe, Lalibella, 2008 Collection: Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg © M. Langer, Courtesy the museum






What is an arabesque? First things first: What is an arabesque? The late Orientalist scholar Annemarie Schimmel offers us a concise definition: “Is it a richly designed decoration that can be found everywhere throughout the Islamic world between Morocco and Indonesia? No, ‘arabesque’ stands for much more. It is a typical expression of the Islamic perception of the world. This form can also be found in the poetry of Arabic and Persian countries, in oriental music, in the floral patterns covering the partitions and walls of castles and mausoleums, in embroideries and carpets, in the design of precious manuscripts. Goethe unwittingly extolled the arabesque in his famous verses from The Parliament of West and East.” (7)

The Alhambra, Granada, Spain © and Courtesy Markus Brüderlin

For a start, it is correct to attribute the arabesque to the Arabic cultural world. However, it has been used in Europe since the 15th century and was developed into an independent ornamental genre: In 1530 Francesco Pellegrino published his Pattern Book of Moresque Ornaments; Hans Holbein the younger used oriental carpets in his paintings and would occasionally depict arabesque decorations. The 19th century discovered the arabesque as an artistic pattern of its own right: Washington Irving’s 1832 publication about the Alhambra in Granada raised great interest in the “Moorish” style. But then, as mentioned earlier, the art historian Riegl took the discussion a step further: In essence, the arabesque is a plant-like tendril that yields endless numbers of buds and blossoms from which in turn unfold further blossoms, vases or bird-like shapes. The principle of the arabesque is an infinite furcation that knows neither beginning or end nor a central motif. Quite frequently two systems of arabesques are superimposed which, when rendered in different colors, yield pleasant results—some arabesques may then look more plant-like whereas others follow a more geometric-abstract design. These latter designs are significant to this discussion: The arabesque does not only move along in an organic, undulating and wandering line but also in a geometric line, best represented by the typical Arabic braided ornament, the braided star that adorns the walls of the Alhambra and many other Islamic buildings in infinite variations.

Jaques Androuet Du Cerceau, Maureske, 1549


Art history has discovered the arabesque as a key element in the transition from the classical mimesis to the beginnings of modern abstraction in the 19th century. When, for example, Philipp Otto Runge uses the arabesque in one of his paintings a central element, this normally “secondary art and ornamental form is infused with deeper meaning” (Werner Busch). It sensualizes the “infinite process of the metamorphosis and the renewal of living organisms” (Hannah Hohl) and the Romantic’s attempt to save the totality of an existence that is threatening to disintegrate into fragments. And this is the decisive moment: The arabesque literally “sneaks through the back door” into Range’s graphic cycle Tageszeiten (1803) and, camouflaged as framework, takes command of the image.


Ekrem Yalçındağ, Baroque in Istanbul (Black), 2003 Oil on canvas, 23.6 x 31.5 in / 60 x 80 cm © the artist, Courtesy Dirimart Gallery, Istanbul



Frank Stella, The Grand Armada (IRS, No. 6, 1X), 1989 Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel Aluminium relief, painted, five parts, 124 x 73.4 x 39 in / 315 x 186.5 x 99 cm Courtesy Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel

François de Cuvilliés the Elder, one sheet from the sequence of Livre Nouveau de Morceaux de Fantaisie, c. 1740 Copperplate engraving, 16.7 x 10.8 in / 42.5 x 27.5 cm Collection: MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art, Vienna Courtesy the museum

35 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing # 974 Splat B, 2001 Installation at Fondation Beyeler, from the exhibition Ornament and Abstraction, 2001 Acrylic paint, 194.9 x 1299.2 in / 495 x 3300 cm Courtesy Annemarie Verna Galerie, Zurich



37 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Rectangular wall-tile, dark blue, light green, grey, whitish, 18th / 19th century, Turkey or Iran Above: Earthenware with underglaze painting, 11.7 x 5.9 in / 29.8 x 15 cm Collection: Ethnographische Sammlung am Historischen Museum Bern Jackson Pollock, Out of the Web: Number 7, 1949 Oil and enamel on masonite, 47.8 x 96.1 in / 121.5 x 244 cm Collection: Staatsgalerie Stuttgart © and Courtesy Markus Brüderlin

Tympanum, 14th century, Herat, Afghanistan, Mosaic of tiles Collection: Linden-Museum Stuttgart, Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde Jackson Pollock, Untitled, c. 1949 Fabrics, paper, cardboard, enamel paint and aluminium paint on pavatex, 30.9 x 22.6 in / 78.5 x 57.5 cm Collection: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528), 2 of 6 Knots after Leonardo, c. 1507 Woodcuts, each 10.6 x 8.3 in / 26.9 x 21.1 cm Collection: Kunstsammlung der Universität Göttingen Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Summer Lines, 1942 Colored pencil on paper, 19.1 x 14.8 in / 48.5 x 37.5 cm Collection: Emanuel Hoffmann-Stiftung, Depositum im Kupferstichkabinett Basel Installation Fondation Beyeler, from the exhibition Ornament and Abstraction, 2001 © and Courtesy Markus Brüderlin

Paul Klee, The snake goddess and her foe, 1940, 317 (H 17) Die Schlangengöttin und ihr Feind Paste on paper mounted on cardboard, 11.7 x 16.5 in / 29.6 x 42 cm Private collection Tile, 17th century Multan, Pakistan Cobalt blue writing, kalligraphic arrangement in four parts, earthenware, underglaze painting on white engobe, 9.1 x 8.5 in / 23 x 21.5 cm Collection: Linden-Museum Stuttgart, Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde Ümran Schelling-Tezcan, Ka’ba, 1991 Indian ink on paper, 11.5 x 11.5 in / 29.1 x 29.1 cm Collection of the artist © and Courtesy Markus Brüderlin

Henry van de Velde, 9 ceramic tiles each 3.7 x 3.7 in / 9.5 x 9.5 cm Collection: Hetjens-Museum, Deutsches Keramikmuseum Düsseldorf © and Courtesy Markus Brüderlin



for expressive abstraction. His increasingly non-representative paintings witnessed a kind of explosion in which all previous conventions of composition, consistency of form and harmony were suspended. Kandinsky himself spoke of “exploding worlds”. Late, in his Bauhaus years, he subjected the line to an analytical systematization whilst in the 1930s, in Kandinsky’s late works, the line finds its way back into the arabesque gesture. 4. Hölzel – Matisse – Miro – Pollock: The organic arabesque From Henry van de Velde, the organic-flowing line of the arabesque continues its passage through western art via the work of Adolf Hölzel (1853 – 1934) who already in 1898 advanced to a first formulating of a completely non-representative form language with his Abstract Ornaments.(10) Henri Matisse continued to develop the theme of the arabesque in his figurative-dynamic form language. Between 1906 and 1912 Matisse accomplished decisive steps: in his monumental La Danse of 1909 (Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg) the rhythmic movement of dance becomes feasible through the equal treatment of the altering figures and interspace. The sequel to the story of the organic arabesque could be titled “increasing subjectivity”—with two contrasting protagonists at the end of the 1940s: On the one hand, there is Juan Miro with his small format “unpainted paintings” from the wartimes, the Constellations in which the crystalline-grotesque quality of the black and its dreamy potential is arranged lattice-like with soft colors. And then there is the great new picture world of Jackson Pollock in which the track-work of the lines finally seize possession of the entire picture surface—without beginning or end. After this purely abstract phase,

What follows on Runge’s first step toward the “arabesque abstraction”? The flattening of the picture field led to a equalization of the formal and material quality of the picture carrier and the painting (Mondrian, Stella). The liberation of the line from its purely form rendering function developed it into two abstract principles of form: on the one hand, the line became the abstract, expressive “track” (Kandinsky, Pollock), on the other, the gridwork of “structure” (Mondrian). One may therefore argue that the development of linear abstraction hails from the substantiation of the ornamental principle of the arabesque. 2. Henry van de Velde: The transformation of the arabesque to the modern line With his definition of the line as a force “that, like elementary forces, is active…” (9) the Belgian architect and designer Henry van de Velde in 1902 embarked for the first time on the transformation of the arabesque into the fundamental principle of the autonomous modern line. His graphic designs and woodcuts from 1893 with their wavy lines and undulating structures demonstrate what he was aiming for. Although the linear designs were still partly based on the objective world, the compostions were meant purely abstract. Van de Velde called for abstraction as the prerequisite for a reform of the applied arts and the creation of a New Ornamentation. His writings and definition of the “arabesque pure” became for the visual arts the foundation for linear abstraction, expressed by the organic line with which the viewer can emphasize—and by the compositional structure that later crystallized into a geometric structural arrangement.


3. Wassily Kandinsky: The decomposition of the arabesque When Kandinsky arrived in Munich in 1896, the local Jugendstil of August Endell and Hermann Obrist had already developed the “liberated line” that no longer needed to circumscribe a specific object or shape but created movement from its own impetus. Fifteen years later, the Russian artist disassembled the flowing, continuous line of Jugendstil into a staccato of dashes and strokes which cleared the path


Vasily Kandinsky, Around the Circle, 1940 Oil and enamel on canvas, 38.1 x 57.5 in / 96.8 x 146 cm Collection: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Courtesy the museum


39 Philipp Otto Runge, The Evening / Der Abend (Construction drawing), 1803 Pen in black over traces of lead, 28.3 x 19.4 in / 71.8 x 49.4 cm Collection: Hamburger Kunsthalle Courtesy the museum

1. Philipp Otto Runge: From the arabesque to linear abstraction It may be a startling notion that Runge’s idyllic-romantic paintings should have contributed so decisively to revolutionizing the modern concept of the image. Werner Busch also saw the arabesque in Runge’s work as a “critical form” which thematized the realization of the impossibility of reconciliation between the self and the cosmos—a realization that caused the romantic soul much anguish. (8) With the introduction of the arabesque as a motif not only is potency as a frame-giving but also as a form that expands the image field was set free. This had immense consequences for the relationship of panel painting and its surrounding. Its potency to expand the image beyond the frame triggered a movement towards the décor—a tendency that was enhanced by the increasing abstraction and that led to a certain exaggeration of the panel painting. This becomes visible in the differentiated treatment of the border field of the Tageszeiten cycle: The borderfields repeat in an ornamental-abstract vocabulary the allegoric-representainal message of the central image. The content shifts increasingly towards the border: The frame becomes ever more the image whereas the actual image field increasingly turns into a geometric scheme, an ornamental design of the surface.

41 František Kupka, Abstraction on the Theme of the Two Greys, 1948 Oil on canvas, 29.5 x 29.5 in / 75 x 75 cm Courtesy Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich

František Kupka, Moving Blues II, 1923 – 1924 Oil on canvas, 43.3 x 42.5 in / 110 x 108 cm Collection: Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, donated by Eugénie Kupka, 1963 Josef Hoffmann, Closet from the servants‘ room of the Stonborough-Wittgenstein Apartment, Berlin, 1905 Softwood (pine), varnished, 74.8 x 47.2 x 17.7 in / 190 x 120 x 45 cm Collection: Ernst Ploil, Vienna © and Courtesy Markus Brüderlin

Pollock led the abstract line back to the figurative as demonstrated in Out of the Web: Number 7 (1949, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart) in which the underlying ornamental forms offer a potential for “reversed abstraction”, a figuration of the abstract. Seen this way, the evolution of the arabesque line from Art Nouveau to Pollock seems rather plausible whereas the other branch of the arabesque system, that of the geometric arabesque comes more as a surprise. This genre also starts at Runge’s ornamental interpretation and leads via Frantisek Kupka and Constructivism (Alexander Rodtchenko) to a substantiation of the arabesque ornamental to the geometric linearity of Piet Mondrian.


5. Frantisek Kupka: The arabesque as synthesis of the curve and the straight line The Czech painter Frantisek Kupka brought the line back to a real arabesque. In a series of paintings titled Arabesques of 1925/26 the continuous, infinite line derives directly from the Islamic geometric polygon-ornament. However, these works represent a synthesis between tectonic-geometric and the curvilinear-arabesque line. What was so special about Kupka is his dualist approach to the nonobjective. In Paris, in 1911/12, Kupka painted Amorpha – a fugue for two colors (Narodni Gallery, Prague), a rhythmic color composition of swirling, rotating lines. Plans verticaux bleus et rouges (1912/13, private collection, Switzerland) dates from the same time, but this composition echoes the tectonic blocking of the picture space in the so-called Piano key pictures of 1909. This bipolar treatment of

The mediating disposition between the crystalline and the organic, the abstract and the representational therefore may very well derive from the ornamental history of the arabesque. It reaches from the antique acanthus’ curvilinear, wave-like tendril to the crystalline, folding polygenic ornaments of the Saracens, and vice versa. Apart from the process of ornamental abstraction there is also the reverse process in which an abstract linear construction can figure as something representational. This reversal which we can trace in works of numerous modern artists, such as Juan Gris or Frank Stella—or even as mentioned earlier in the work of Jackson Pollock—has been neglected by abstract theoretists in face of the dominance of Cubism. This tendency from the abstract to the figurative could be called ornamental and could explain much, especially in regards to new media and the aesthetic of virtual realities.

6. Piet Mondrian: The geometric arabesque? Thinking of Mondrian’s neo-plasticist grids: Could they not also be formally defined as a kind of “geometric arabesque”? (12) Looking at one of Mondrian’s quasi-Cubist decompositions of tree branches after 1910, or at his asymmetric compositions of the late 1930s in which structural lines again begin to dominate the color fields, one is reminded of the lattice work of Renaissance arabesques. As a matter of fact, one could see a genetic link between van de Velde’s curvilinear waves and the lines of the neo-plasticists which translated movement into the confined polarity of the vertical and the horizontal, not to mention the contentual kinship between the Belgian art nouveau reformers and the Dutch de Stijl artists. (13) However, this link is not without problems as little as Mondrian’s late work cannot be explained exclusively from the vantage point of cubism. According to Yve-Alain Bois, in 1912 Mondrian began to have problems with the Cubist principle of composition especially when it came to the treatment of the picture margin and in 1914 Kandinsky experienced similar problems. (14) In his black and white Pier and Ocean drawings Mondrian fragmented the line strokes and reduced them to short, regular arranged linear compositions, alternating between the positive and negative. In 1917 he reintroduced color, but this time as pure color fields and without lines. But Mondrian was not happy with the result. These “color fields without lines” became too detached from the picture surface. Apparently the only solution was to get rid of the compositional principle and to create a synthesis of the color field and linear pictures (Pier and Ocean). The Checkerboard Compositions (1919, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague) are the result of this changeover from the compositional to the regular. So the suspension of the Cubist principles and a temporary excursion into the ornamental empowered Mondrain to find his mature style in which the composition could return to the flat picture surface. From 1916 to 1919 Mondrian therefore experienced a crisis: the Cubist idea of decomposition had twice led him to a dead-end. By consequently straightening the composition, both color and line became


the arabesque compositions transfers Riegl’s theory of the “crystalline” and the “organic” ornament into abstract painting. Wilhelm Worringer had suggested in his psychological research into style, Abstraction and Empathy (1907/08), that the arabesque can serve as a sort of mediating form system between both antipodes. And at about the same time Wassily Kandinsky described for the first time in his essay About Form (1911) his dialectic model of “Great Abstraction and Great Realism”. (11)


detached and he could no longer get them to fuse in a picture. It is not known if Mondrian looked at oriental ornaments, especially Arabic ornaments during this phase. In any case, by taking a detour via the ornamental, by counterbalancing both figure and surface on the checkerboard Mondrian opens up the way to neo-plasticism. And, as if the grid-work of black and later color lines begins to increasingly dominate the overall picture the ornamental—well, why not call it the arabesque scheme— infiltrates many of the late New York pictures of the 1940s. The general uncertainty that art theorists have with judging Mondrians late New York pictures encourages considering that the artist may have tried to relativize his system of “geometric ultimacy”, maybe even to break through this system and to introduce more fluidity by turning to the ornament. We have learned to see modern art as an endgame—as a Cubist decomposition, as continuous reduction until, finally, the zero norm of painting, the monochrome is achieved. If we would blend into this perception the possibilities and developmental principles of the ornament, perhaps we would come to a different result: perhaps we would discover in the ornament the sensualized idea of ultimate freedom. Is 20th century abstract art a continuation of the ornament by other means? This attempt to rewrite the history of non-figurative art wants to help to understand western history of modern art in relation to other non-western cultures especially the Arabic and Islamic culture—an endeavor that will be decisive for defining the globalized culture of the 21st century.

NOTES (1) Niklas Luhmann, Die Kunst der Gesellschaft. Frankfurt/M, 1995, p.349 (2) Hugo Ball, Die Flucht aus der Zeit. 19 May 1917. Munich, 1927, p.170 (3) Wassily Kandinsky, Unveröffentlichte Aufzeichnung. ca. 1904. quoted from (cat.) W. K., Aquarelle u. Zeichnungen, Galerie Beyeler, Basel, 1972, p.38 (4) Ernst H. Gombrich, The Sense of Order. London/Oxford, 1979, p. 61 (5) See Exhibition catalog Ornament? - ohne Ornament. Kunstgewerbemuseum, Zürich, 1965 (6) Luhmann, p. 350 (7) Annemarie Schimmel, The Arabesque and the Islamic View of the World, in catalog Ornament und Abstraction, The Dialogue between non-Western, modern and contemporary Art. Fondation Beyeler, Basel, 2001, p.31 (8) See Werner Busch, Die notwendige Arabeske, Wirklichkeitsaneignung und Stilisierung in der deutschen Kunst des 19. Jahrhunderts, Berlin, 1985 (9) Henry van de Velde, “Die Linie“, in Die Zukunft, Berlin 6 September 1902, quoted from Henry van de Velde, Zum neuen Stil, from a selection of texts by Hans Curjel, Munich, 1955, p.181 (10) See Werner Haftmann, Malerei im 20. Jh., Munich, 1973, p.68 (11) Wassily Kandinsky, Über das Geistige in der Kunst, 10. Aufl., Bern, 1952, p.127 (12) To date there is no knowledge about Mondrians relationship to abstract islamic ornamentation. In his publication The Mediation of Ornament. Princeton, 1989, p.18, Oleg Grabar draws an interesting comparison between a page from the Istanbul albums and Mondrian’s 1942/43 painting Broadway Boogie-Woogie: “The celebrated albums from Istanbul possess a striking fifteenth-century Iranian painting whose combination of squares of seven different colors separated by black lines inevitably recalls some of Mondrian’s best-known and most exciting compositions“. (13) Werner Hofmann, Von der Nachahmung zur Erfindung der Wirklichkeit – Die schöpferische Befreiung der Kunst 1890-1917. Cologne, 1970, p.109 (14) See Yve-Alain Bois, “Der Bilderstürmer“, in Piet Mondrian 1872-194. Exhibition catalog, The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Bern, 1995, p.335 (German edition)


Markus Brüderlin (b. 1958) studied art history, art education, philosophy, and German language and literature in Vienna. Doctoral dissertation on Abstract Art in the 20th century. Active as an exhibition curator and journalist in the fields of art, design, and architecture. Curator at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research, and Art from 1994 to 1996. Founder of the Vienna Kunstraum and the journal Springer. Head curator of Fondation Beyeler in Riehen/Basel for many years. Among others, he organized the exhibitions Ornament and Abstraction (2001), Anselm Kiefer, the Seven Heavenly Palaces 1973-2001 (2001/02), ArchiSculpture (2004/06), and Japan and the West: The Filled Void (2007). Director of Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg since 2006. Honorary professor at Braunschweig University of Art since 2008.

Mona Hatoum, Keffije (cotton cloth), 1998 – 2000 Tile, human hair, # 1/3, 45.3 x 45.3 in / 115 x 115 cm Collection: Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel Jasper Johns, Flags, 1987 Encaustic and collage on canvas, 25.4 x 32.9 in / 64.5 x 83.5 cm Collection of the artist


NP Ideally, if there were no issues of censorship, which audience would you be most interested in addressing and sharing your work with? GA I do not make art for a specific audience. I actually do it for myself first. I do not have any intention to change people or teach anybody anything. I am just like a musician; I play and hope that people will enjoy what I create simply because it speaks to them.

NOVEMBER PAYNTER It seems a natural progression in your practice for you to work with nature, a force that is alive and uncontrollable. Is that the case? Are the gardens also paintings in your eyes? GHADA AMER Yes, for me gardens are like paintings. I wanted to find a way to create an additional female activity outside the realm of the studio. It was a way to “translate” embroidery within nature! So I thought, what can a woman do outside the home? Gardening was a pleasant idea for me. Like my embroidery works (which are paintings as well) it is an activity that seems peaceful and very domestic, that I can at the same time subvert.

November Paynter is an independent curator and the Director of the Artist Pension Trust, Dubai. She regularly writes for art periodicals including Artreview, Bidoun, Artforum online and is the Istanbul correspondent for Contemporary Magazine.

All images © the artist.

NP How different is the feeling and resulting expression of working collaboratively as compared to working alone?

Ghada Amer Photograph: RES

GA Well, I really like to work in collaboration with Reza Farkhondeh. I also collaborated with another artist, Ladan Naderi, but just once. Reza and I, however, are developing a whole body of work. We have been working collaboratively since 2000, first under the label RFGA. In 2005 we decided to sign our work collaboratively without a label and to develop it further. For me the best part of working with another artist is that it challenges me, it keeps me fresh! Working alone sometimes makes me repeat myself. It is strange how easily Reza and I find ourselves on the same page. NP You seem drawn to words and images that are hard to translate or are illicit and/or lost. How important was discovering the text of the Encyclopaedia of Pleasure for you and your work? GA It was important because this text proves that the Muslim culture was once free to think and to talk about sexuality. Knowing that someone had written such a text in the past gave me hope that some day we will find light again. There are a lot of enlightened texts that are now forbidden. I am just happy to find them and to know that they have once existed and to ask the question: Why do we forbid it now? What are we scared of? What has happened to Muslim culture? For me, to ask these questions is the first step towards finding some solutions. NP The female subjects in your paintings are often explicit and the resulting layers of meaning and references complex. Is it an emotional experience for you to present the female subject in this way?


GA Yes, it is, but all my work is an emotional experience!


The Lollipop, 2009 Acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 50 x 60 in / 127 x 152.4 cm Courtesy Dirimart Gallery, Istanbul










PREVIOUS PAGE A Beautiful Day for Trini, 2008 Embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 47.2 x 67 in / 120 x 170.2 cm Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York


The Woman Who Failed to Be Shehrazade, 2008 Acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 62 x 68 in / 157.5 x 172.7 cm Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York



Snow White Without the Dwarves, 2008 Acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 50 x 60 in / 127 x 152.4 cm Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York


Journalists, they say: museums, well, he has to be dead and that’s no longer current. I have been going to museums all my life, and to my mind art, current art, is in the museums, and today we live in different times. If you go to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, you’ll find a lot of life. It’s alive; it’s live, like today. So now the painters themselves organize their museum, (…) maybe art has gained a new significance today.” (2)


We have lunch together with Rita at the castle. Rita is everything to Nitsch. She makes sure that all activities run smoothly from the beginning to the end.

OCT O B E R 2 4 , 2 0 0 8 . The book published as a tribute to Hermann Nitsch on the occasion of his 70th birthday will be presented at the Dorotheum auction house. Nitsch und seine Freunde, Nitsch and his Friends. The editor of the book Dr. Freya Martin and Nitsch will deliver a speech together. (1)

And here we are inside the museum with Nitsch. In this massive, spacious hall, you can see all the works by turning around yourself once. The museum hosts a collection of the paintings of the 20th painting action held by Nitsch at Secession, Vienna, in 1987. A majority of the paintings have been gathered from


Upon seeing this news in the paper, I call Nitsch and we make an appointment to meet at Dorotheum. The following day, the address is delivered in front of a large audience. There is a painting from Nitsch’s red series behind the podium. Nitsch is calm as always, with a beard falling on his chest, he is hanging his head. I recall our class meetings at Frankfurt’s Städelschule, when we met at his office, every time he would give a brief presentation on the music he was to have us listen to that day and with the start of the music, he would let his beard fall on his chest and calmly hang his head.

The artist’s studio at Prizendorf, Austria Photograph: Ekrem Yalçındağ

After the speech at Dorotheum, I finally meet Nitsch and as he promised before, we decide to go on a tour of the Nitsch Museum in Mistelbach together the next day. But for that, we will have to meet in Prinzendorf. The center of Nitsch actions, the legendary Schloss Prinzendorf ... Prinzendorf Castle ... I am thrilled to hear that we will meet there first.

The artist’s studio at Prizendorf, Austria Photograph: Ekrem Yalçındağ

In October and November 2008, I am staying in Vienna on a scholarship I have received in Frankfurt. I intend to study the Wiener Werkstaette and Secession; and to review my own works over the contributions of this period on modernism and the concepts of modernism and ornament.

collections and will be exhibited until April 2009. Then, they will make room for new paintings from the 56th painting action to be held in the hall of this very museum. Nitsch says this will be the first time that he meets the viewers with an action composed of all colors.

The next morning, Nitsch’s assistant Andreas picks me up with his own car from the house allocated to me as a guest of the city of Vienna and takes me to Prinzendorf. I had not had the opportunity to visit Prinzendorf although I studied at Nitsch’s workshop from 1994 to 1999 or in the following years. But this castle is inscribed to my memory as a picture because of the actions so much that I recognize it immediately.

From the main hall, we go to the rooms. I watch the video of the action held at the Vienna Burg Theater in 2005 from the early paintings of Nitsch, and discover myself in the photographs. My white actor’s garment has yet to have blood stains. I participated in this action to better understand Nitsch.

We hug with Nitsch. In no time, I take out my camera and start taking photographs. The workshop in the attic—I observe the paintings lined up in the presentation hall one by one. Then I proceed to the chapel on the lower floor. During our conversation, Nitsch tells me that all religions are very important for him. Then we enter his office. The piano is right next to his desk; there is a big bookcase. Nitsch’s fingers are continuously roaming the keys. RES SEPTEMBER 2009

I ask Nitsch how it feels to have joined the ranks of the artists who have a museum named after them: “I’m autonomous, aren’t I? I can do what I want. I am thirsty for much more work and great actions (…)

From 1996 to 2009, Nitsch has continued his works as the last artist to carry the Gesamtkunstwerk concept from the 20th century over to the 21st century. Vienna, 2008—Berlin, Düsseldorf, 2009

NOTES (1) Nitsch und seine Freunde, Published by Styria Verlag, Austria, 2008, see RES, No. 3, 2009 (2) Text in German. Translation by James Thain Ekrem Yalçındağ (b. 1964) studied at the Izmir Dokuz Eylül University Department of Painting from 1985 to 1993. He received his graduate degree with his thesis Postmodernist Trends in Art with Prof. Adem Genç as his advisor. Between 1994 and 1999, he completed his studies at Frankfurt Städelschule, Prof. Hermann Nitsch Interdisciplinary Art Workshop. He lives in Istanbul and Frankfurt.







Untitled, 2009 Acrylic on canvas, 63 x 78.7 in / 160 x 200 cm Courtesy the artist Photograph: Manfred Thumberger

57 M Z M M U S E U M S Z E N T R U M M I ST E L B A C H opened in May 2007 and since established itself successfully as a kind of museum quarter. The Hermann Nitsch Museum serves as a monographic museum of one of the most important and well-known international artists in Austria, who is deeply rooted in the region of Lower Austria known for its variety of wines, and as a museum which presents authentic, regional topics in contemporary terms. Each year, the two museums present new exhibitions and installations and host accompanying events. This year’s highlights at the MZM have been the 56th — and so far most extensive — painting action of Hermann Nitsch and the world premiere of Hermann Nitsch’s symphony Die Ägyptische (The Egyptian).

Hermann Nitsch during the construction of the MZM Museumszentrum Mistelbach Photograph: © Archiv Cibulka-Frey


Installation view of the 56th painting action Photograph: © Archiv Cibulka-Frey


Hermann Nitsch pouring at the 56th painting action Photograph: © Archiv Cibulka-Frey



MZM / Hermann Nitsch Museum, Mistelbach Photograph: Ekrem Yalçındağ


61 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 MZM / Hermann Nitsch Museum, Mistelbach Photographs: Ekrem Yalçındağ




TH E H E R M A N N N I T S C H M U S E U M in Naples was founded in fall 2008. The museum was set up by Hermann Nitsch’s longtime friend and patron of the arts, Peppe Morra. It took him more than three years to convert an old power station into a museum. The name of the museum, museo archivio laboratorio hermann nitsch, characterizes the museum’s focus as it presents a complex representative section of the Hermann Nitsch’s artworks. His Orgies Mysteries Theater is documented in the form of relics, relics installations, photos and films. There is an audio room in which his music is played, and his pictures are exhibited along with the gustatory and olfactory lab.



Hermann Nitsch Museum, Naples Courtesy Hermann Nitsch Museum(s) Photographs: © Fabio Donato


SI N C E T H E 1 9 70 S , language has been at the center of the work of Jenny Holzer (b. 1950 in Ohio, USA). By using texts in various media, the artist has created a form of expression which is unique in the visual arts. Her main concern is the transmission of messages. In autumn 2009, she will set up a large exhibition in the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel. In this context there will be also projections in public spaces. JANINE SCHMUTZ Jenny Holzer unquestionably is one of the pioneers of politically motivated intervention art articulated in language. What is fascinating about her work and about the idea of showing it in the Fondation Beyeler and in the city of Basel, respectively?

Portrait of Jenny Holzer Photograph: Nanda Lanfranco

PHILIPPE BÜTTNER Jenny Holzer is a great master of language—and as she is a great master of form at the same time, she has found entirely new vessels for this language in the art of modernity. When she pours one of her texts (or texts by other authors with whom she works) into a luminous LED structure, something very interesting happens. The luminous LED structure grabs our attention as though it were a billboard on Times Square. But the contents it transmits are completely different from that of advertising. Two things are thus combined which don’t meet elsewhere. It is as though you bred a peacock not with a peacock, but with a coyote, or a beautiful alligator, a glistening rattlesnake. In addition, Jenny Holzer uses her means to restructure our perception of the text. We cannot immediately decipher it; the light shining up and dying down and the color changes of the LED structure give a new rhythm to our perception. Form holds content hostage, so to speak, while at the same time presenting it in its strongest form. The impression is overwhelming.

Hand, 2008. Purple, 2008 Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago Photograph: Lili Holzer-Glier

PB In a certain way, texts are very fragile things. How big is a letter in a book? It is tiny. Jenny has found ways of building new pathways for the word, the thought, the paradox, poetry to reach us. In her work the texts are part of a giant, luminous, overwhelming structure (or they consist, as in her projections, of giant letters) and newly burn themselves into our perception as images. Texts are very mental things, too. They originate in our heads, within us. But all of a sudden they are enormous, public and dominate an entire giant street canyon. Thoughts and poetry become enormous. And the perception of thoughts and poetry, too.

JS Jenny Holzer gained a reputation as early as 1977 with her first texts (Truisms), which she distributed in public space through posters. In the last years, she has garnered attention mainly with gigantic light projections. What has changed in her artistic work since? PB Jenny has discovered many ways for herself of how to present her works. But some things, I believe, have remained the same. Her messages are routinely “re-settled” by her. The text is not in a book, it illuminates Times Square, the poem is not stuck in the bookshelf of a man of letters, it comes flickering towards us gigantically in an exhibition hall. So there is always a transformation involved. This is also necessary if you want to make art from texts. You have to give them new form. Jenny has always built these bridges between the word and the form. But she always does this anew—and always in an unbelievably precise and overwhelming manner. In her work, the delicate encounters the conspicuous; pain is given an inescapable form appropriate to it.

We were very happy here at the Fondation when this great artist expressed an interest in exhibiting in our museum, which was built by Renzo Piano, in the context of an exhibition organized by us in cooperation with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Installing the exhibition together with her here in these beautiful rooms will be great. At the same time, we will be able to carry out some of her monumental projections on buildings in the city. The gigantic letters and lines slowly crawl up a façade— the building becomes a word sculpture. As some of the buildings involved are time-honoured sights, Jenny’s work (and with her the exhibition) also combines with our city and its history. The American shows us our city. RES SEPTEMBER 2009

JS With her sayings on LED displays and her projections in public space she aims at a maximum impact audience for her artistic work: the urban public. How exactly does that work?


For Chicago, 2008. MONUMENT, 2008 Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago Photograph: Lili Holzer-Glier




67 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 MONUMENT, 2008 Text: Truisms, 1977-79 and Inflammatory Essays, 1979-82 Photograph: Vassilij Gureev

Thorax, 2008 Text: U.S. government documents The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica Photograph: Christopher Burke



Lustmord, 2007 Text: Lustmord, 1993-95 Photograph: Christopher Burke



Xenon for Bregenz, 2004 Text: Arno, 1996 Photograph: Attilio Maranzano


Red Yellow Looming, 2004 Text: U.S. government documents Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria Collection of Cari and Michael J. Sacks Photograph: Attilio Maranzano

71 For San Diego, 2007 Scripps Pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, San Diego, California Text: Arno, 1996 Projection: Charles Passarelli Photograph: Philipp Scholz Rittermann

JS In Basel, too, projections in public spaces are planned. What criteria were applied in choosing the sites? PB We visited various sites with the artist, until a shortlist was drawn up which satisfied various requirements. JS In discussions of Jenny Holzer’s work, the word “shock” has been used. What is it that we experience as “shocking” in her work? PB A message which we would otherwise receive in silence, in a book or on the pages of a newspaper, suddenly comes crashing into us through a completely different channel. Jenny understands our senses very well, she knows how to use and creatively overtax them. But she does not do that for its own sake. Rather, she does it to get through to us with the complex and serious beauty of her works. RES SEPTEMBER 2009

JS Jenny Holzer wrote texts herself for a long time (1977 to 2001). Since 1993, she has been mainly working with texts by others. Are there fundamental changes in the artistic language?

In my opinion, many of these texts are about “bringing to light” something thought in silence, something mysterious, but also something which was meant to remain hidden. Her works therefore have to do with enlightenment—but at the same time they present themselves in the finery of great artistic beauty. But as my words above show, you can observe quite major changes in the sort of texts. JS Jenny Holzer’s works often speak of violence, oppression, sexuality, feminism, power, war and death. Throughout, her concern is to enlighten. She denounces barbarism, military intervention, injustice, attacks on human rights, etc. by projecting their cruel truths in “flaming” letters. What can her art achieve in the modern world?

Projection For Chicago, 2008 Tribune Tower, Chicago, Illinois Text: “Could Have” from View with a Grain of Sand,1993 by © Wisława Szymborska English translation by Stanisław Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh © 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, reprinted by permission of the publisher Projection: Charles Passarelli Photograph: John Faier

PB Guernica decided no battles. But works like Guernica—and like Jenny Holzer’s works, too—put our perception to the test. They present to us a tissue of content and form which shows us truth in its complexity. There are layers within us which react to this. It may make sense to practice perception at this level as often as possible. Art can show us this dimension, again and again. JS Jenny Holzer often uses texts by great writers, poets etc. Think only of Wisława Szymborska or Elfriede Jelinek. With which texts will she present herself in Basel and for what reasons? PB The selection of texts has not yet been made (or hasn’t been communicated to us, at least), but I do know that Jenny Holzer was interested in the façade of the old Basel town hall as a site for a projection because this town hall already bears a number of textual messages from the past. It has a programme of texts and images which appeal to justice and good government. This fascinated her. Texts will thus meet here.


PB Jenny absolutely still uses her own texts, but for some forms she prefers using other texts. Some of these are literary texts by great authors, such as the Polish Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska, but also Henri Cole (USA), Elfriede Jelinek (Austria), Fadhil Al-Azawi (Iraq), Yehuda Amichai (Israel), or Mahmoud Darwish (Palestine). She also uses texts from totally different contexts, for example passages from de-classified US Army documents from the war in Iraq. For example, a large LED work in the exhibition presents excerpts from the minutes of interrogations of American soldiers who had committed human rights violations and war crimes in Abu Ghraib. Here, too, what was once a secret becomes overly public. This is in contrast to the early texts by the artist herself, which are characterized by great precision and a very idiosyncratic flashlight-like access to the truth which lives off the paradoxical, the ironical and the perfection of the seemingly banal statement on the complex. The most famous of her sentences is legendary: Protect me from what I want. Actually, this text itself is a little word sculpture. Jenny, you could say, is a great word sculptor.


73 PB Jenny Holzer’s works utilize the possibilities of LED technology, of pictures, of sculpture, in an extraordinarily effective way. The resulting overwhelming impression can be particularly attractive to young people, who may not be interested in going on the long search for a subtle effect. They may prefer (just as we did back then, right?) something striking to be dragged right in front of the porthole through which they look out at the world—just as they are used to from their music, their games, and the Internet. Or from the advertising they react to. But they may also see that this overwhelming goes hand in hand with enormous complexity and subtlety in Jenny’s work. And once the doorway to such things has been opened, young people show great interest. So they may be able to experience Jenny Holzer’s art particularly intensively. JS All in all, Jenny Holzer has developed an artistic language which crosses and even explodes the boundaries of word, body and space again and again. What do you personally find fascinating about her works? PB Jenny often works with texts which have something very laconic about them. The Future is Stupid is one of those sentences. It comes along like a roughly hewn bit of something. But at the same time the content is sophisticated, even if it is difficult to analyze. When Jenny has such a text running along an LED line, changes it there, gives it rhythm and color, converts it, then she succeeds in letting the text keep its laconic, mysterious exterior, while at the same time illuminating its full complexity. The complex LED structure lays open the myriad interior of the text without interpreting it. It is brilliant, like an intentionally planned Babylonian confusion of tongues of the greatest clarity.

Philippe Büttner (b. 1961) studied history, art history and archaeology in Basel (Switzerland). Assistant at the Institute for Art History at the University of Basel (until 2000). Since 2000, he has been working as a collaborator of Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, and as a curator since 2003. Exhibitions include Paul Klee, The Late Work (2003), Picasso Surreal (2005), Wolfgang Laib (2005-06), Henri Matisse (2006), Fernand Léger (2008), Jenny Holzer (2009-10) and Henri Rousseau (2010).

Janine Schmutz (b. 1975) studied history and history of art in Basel (Switzerland) and Freiburg (Germany). She was a research assistant at Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral, Bad Ems (Germany) from 2003 to 2004. Since then, she has been working in the art education at the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel and as an independent curator.



Projection For Chicago, 2008 2 N. Riverside Plaza, Chicago, Illinois Text: “The Joy of Writing” from View with a Grain of Sand, 1993 by © Wisława Szymborska English translation by Stanisław Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh © 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, reprinted by permission of the publisher Projection: Charles Passarelli Photograph: John Faier

All images © 2008 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Portrait of Philippe Büttner Photograph: Janine Schmutz


JS In connection with the projection on the Margarethenhügel Binningen, a project for school students of the art classes in the canton of Basel-Land is also planned. To what extent do the works of Jenny Holzer particularly lend themselves to sensitizing young people to contemporary art?


The true quality of the hammer lies in its destructiveness. Martin Heidegger HE I D E G G E R hit the nail on the head with his observation: Not the appearance of matter reveals its authentic ontology, but its inherent structure, the invisible atoms and language. Things that remain hidden to the eye and only reveal themselves ever so slowly if one cares to search deeper. In short: Being and time are caught in an imperative correlation and therefore the meaning of being lies in its temporariness. With this in mind, a visit to the Biennale can be beneficial: It releases the viewer from the inevitable stress that builds up when looking at innumerable works from the “outside”, en passant, without having time to really get inside them and discovering their hidden values. In the following article we shall look deeper into the works of a selection of artists whose works we consider novelties and whose meanings, seen eschatologically, are more authentic and innovative than those of others. Apart from the usual institutions involved, 48 additional events made up this year’s opening of the 53rd Venice Biennale entitled Making Worlds. A making of worlds without taking undue risk, one should add here. Under the directorship of the somewhat distant Daniel Birnbaum, 77 nations are represented in the “Giardini” and the “Arsenale”, in innumerable exhibitions in various “Palazzi” and external exhibition spaces until November 22.


Beginning our tour in the famous exhibition gardens, the Giardini, the Czech pavilion is the most notable. The compelling simplicity of Roman Ondák’s scientific creation AES+F (Tatyana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky, Vladimir Fridkes) Unconditional Love entitled Loop demonstrates that nature itself is the greatest The Feast of Trimalchio, 2009 aesthetic art form, inimitable in its beauty and perfection. Video (digital animation), HD video installation, 9 channels, sound, 19 min Courtesy Triumph Gallery, Moscow Ondák is one of the very few of the artists represented here who has managed to overcome and detach himself from the problem of ego and to present his work in a transparent quality. Ondák bypasses the ego and with a sensitivity that encompasses all and everything, he fuses and melts into a mutual embrace with nature. The pavilion is a refreshingly surreal haven with a garden that the artist sowed and planted months in advance. Visitors wander through this garden in search of (non-existent) artwork, turn around, thinking they have lost their way—much to the amusement of the artist who has managed to disappoint their expectations. At places that offer an entry to expected artworks Ondák juggles with meaningful and

75 conflicting hints, comparable to his work Measuring the Universe (2007) acquired by MoMA. Aiming at provocation and displacement and achieving this by thematic changes and theatrical “misesen-scene”, Ondák has a museum employee record the date, names and measurements of exhibition visitors on a wall. By distorting habitual norms of perception via an imbalance between emotion and imagination, in Loop Ondák creates a dangerous relationship between art and reality that confuses the visitor who does not understand what kind of space or environment he is actually entering. He will comprehend even less who occupies what space: Is it art, is it reality – or is it a dream? The pavilions of the Scandinavian countries, represented by the artist/curator team Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, aim Denmark and Nordic Countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden) Pavilion Elmgreen & Dragset, Untitled (Performance at the Trondheim Art at a similar “coup de theatre” effect: The Collectors conveys the Museum for the exhibition Home is the Place You Left), 2008 experience of the home of an (art)collector: ON SALE. The small Naked guy, Wegner Ox chair, fur, headphones, iPod, book Courtesy the artists villa that is crammed full of works by artists’ friends (Maurizio Photograph: © Kjersti Berg Cattelan, Massimo Bartolini, Jonathan Monk, Terence Koh, Klara Liden, Wolfgang Tillmans, Han & Him, Simon Fujiwara etc.) has rooms that are better described as little theaters of the soul, like a ladder that is split in two and leads to nowhere, or a table that has been split apart. These installations not only demonstrate the impotence of these objects but also the banality or drama of those who witness their condition. Central theme is the question of the bond between object and collector: Why does one collect things, stuff—like swimming trunks or insects? Jani Leinonen’s Anything Helps (2005-2009) is an impressive installation consisting of writings that have been elaborately framed like artworks—and thus become artworks due to the intensity of the recorded concepts that are presented in different languages—despite having been drawn up in the awkward scrawling of the homeless or immigrants. The nearby Hollywood-Loft stages the suicide of a homosexual author of erotica (he too a collector), with his corpse floating in the swimming pool of an LA bungalow, surrounded by samples of his (mostly erotic) collection. These two pavilions convey the concept that both art and our living spaces are places of social interaction and universes of collaboration, defined by the Biennale’s jury as “an insane network of stories that scrutinizes the relationship between our desires and the material world that we build up around these desires.” We much recommend a visit to the Dutch pavilion with its installation of videos by Fiona Tan. Furthermore, the Serb pavilion with performances and carpets woven out of the hair of Zoran Todorovic is worth a visit. Krysztof Wodiczko represents Poland with a moving video installation of immigrant window cleaners who reflect on their living conditions on the fringes of society. Ireland, too, raised much interest by choosing two artists who are not affiliated to galleries—Kennedy and Brown reject the idea of marketing and commercialization and in their work they focus on issues like globalization and migration in Dublin, a city where 167 languages are spoken. Kennedy has sent a couple of buskers from Dublin to Venice and reflects on their performance and its impact as what he perceives as a social- and microeconomic activity. In the German pavilion the visitor is surrounded by the filigree and questioning work by Liam Gillick. Steve McQueen, the British choice, asserts himself as both artist and director of the soul with his poetic video of the “Giardini” in winter—when they are deserted and forgotten and inhabited by the homeless, stray dogs and insects.





The Netherlands Pavilion Fiona Tan, Provenance, 2008 Digital b/w installation, 6 digital film file safety masters, 17” LCD monitor, 19” LCD monitor, 3 21” LCD monitors, 6 mini computers, cables, mounts and publication Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London

Denmark and Nordic Countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden) Pavilion Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled, 2008 Dogs and chick, taxidermy on fiberglas, life-size Courtesy the artist Photograph: © Markus Tretter The Netherlands Pavilion Fiona Tan, A Lapse of Memory, 2007 HDcam, 1:1.77 anamorphic screen, dolby surround sound, 24:35 min Edition 4 + 1AP Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London

Denmark and Nordic Countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden) Pavilion Jani Leinonen, Anything Helps, 2005 - 2009 Begging signs and frames, dimensions variable Courtesy the artist



German Pavilion Liam GilIick, 2009 Wie würden Sie sich verhalten? Eine Küchenkatze spricht (How are you going to behave? A kitchen cat speaks) Installation view Courtesy the artist

Russia, as usual, offers an impressive presentation of works by two artists: Andrei Molodkin and Anatolij Shuravlev. Molodkin shows a video installation flanked by two hollow sculptures of the Nike of Samothrace, the very symbol of victory. One figure is filled with oil, the other with blood, thus symbolizing that victory is neither final nor pure, but always comes at the expense of others. Shuravlev reflects on the correlation between the future, the past and memories. He takes tiny, 0.4 in/1 cm by 0.4 in/1 cm pictures of actors and representatives of the 20th century and places them into small black holes—the black holes of memory.

1 Photograph: © Kirsten de Graaf 2-3 Photograph: © Natasa Radovic

The Palazzo delle Esposizioni (former Pavilion Italia) Under the title Galaxy forming along filaments, like droplets along the strands of a spider’s web, Tomas Saraceno has woven an enormous spider web, thus reconstructing the origination of the universe by referring to astrophysical theorems that detect assonances between the construction of spider webs and the formation of galaxies.

4 Photograph: © Liam Gillick

The international jury has given special mention to the audio installation of oriental memories by Roberto Cuoghi. Mei Gui placed in a garden designed by Carlo Scarpa opens up a new virtual and melodious world that reflects on the ambiguous role of authenticity and replication in language. Both in the main exhibition and in the Arsenale one encounters somewhat dry but substantial works that investigate two different ethical groups: the Egyptian (which in itself is already rather heterogonous) and the German (strong and romantic). Susan Hefuna presents a contorted geography that is architectural, physical, politically heterogonous—depending on who perceives it. A female artist who confronts prejudices and cultural taboos by depicting them in a manner detached from time






Russian Pavilion Anatoly Shuravlev, Black Holes, 2009 Mixed-media installation, 300 C-prints, each 10 mm in diameter Courtesy the artist and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing – Lucerne





or locality in the Middle East, Hefuna takes as her subject how observation turns into introspection through the Mashribya, the beautifully crafted and poetic windows of Arab architecture, which serve not only as windows to the view outside but also as frameworks to the view inside. With her drawings on numerous layers of transparent paper, delicately marked with pen, pencil, tiny brushstrokes and stitching, Hefuna offers stage-like glimpses into her copious and fragile soul: multi-ethnic, graceful, heterogonous and cosmopolitan. Another artist to be mentioned is Richard Wentworth who lives in London and works with the Lisson Gallery there, and the unforgettable and ingenious part film, part kinetic sculpture created out of a spiral stairway, Wilhelm Noak oHG (2006), by the winner of the 2005 Turner Prize, Simon Starling.

UAE Pavilion Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Self-Portrait Series, Untitled 5, 2002 - 2003 Digital ink jet print, 21.7 x 29.5 in / 55 x 75 cm Courtesy the artist and Third Line Gallery, Dubai – Doha

The Arsenale Palestinians and home—it is as strong a contradiction as night and day, light and dark, like the work of Tarek Al-Ghoussein. The idea and the sentiment of “coming home” is something of a sweet childhood memory to which Palestinians are not entitled. Neither are they entitled to identify with the house they live in, nor with their possessions. They live in a perpetual state of transplantation and uprootedness, in a perpetual attempt to keep alive a spiritual and cultural heritage of a world that is closed to them. This state of mind applies to Tarel Al-Ghoussein. The photographs of his forbidden homeland, which he takes from a distance, become pictures of a life from a distance and are entitled Self Portrait and—when laid out in a row—tell the tale of a journey on which the artists cannot go. The images are a record of the torturous inner and psychological conflict resulting from the ban on crossing the Palestinian border, including its political and social aspects.

The pavilion of the United Arab Emirates is dominated by a single, lonely and defining work by Lamya Gargash: The fuselage of an aircraft lifts off, and a man, his face completely obscured by the black and white keffiya scarf of the Palestinians runs alongside it. Instantly the viewer’s mind will make a connection between the aircraft and the masked man: a terrorist. But this man is only an artist. A person who reflects on the injustice of society, on its program of stereotypes, prejudices and recurring banalities that let us associate a cultural symbol with a tragedy. Two colors equal a bloodbath, one scarf a false identity, wrongful and immoral behaviour. The first work to greet the viewer in the darkness of the Brazilian pavilion is one about illusionary light, a superimposed/diffusing/disappearing sculpture by Lygia Pape. However, the apparent light consists of copper and gold wires that are stretched between the walls, a posthumous gift in honor of Pape who was born 1927 and passed away in Rio de Janeiro in 2004.


Turkey presents a project about the lapses of time and memory, through the works of two artists, Banu Cennetoğlu and Ahmet Öğüt. Lapses, curated by Başak Şenova, wants to show how the perception of events can vary and, due to a lapse in the mutual memories, can lead to different accounts of events. The catalog has an interesting contribution by the Lebanese artist Jalal Toufic who lives and teaches in Istanbul.

Turkish Pavilion Ahmet Öğüt, Exploded City, 2009 Installation, scale model buildings, vehicles, mixed media 129.9 x 149.6 x 63 in / 330 x 380 x 160 cm Courtesy the artist


83 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Palestinian Pavilion Taysir Batniji, Hannoun, 2009 Red pencil shavings and C-print, 59.1 x 39.4 in / 150 x 100 cm (Photograph of his studio which has been inaccessible to him for almost two years because of the Israeli siege.) Courtesy the artist and LA B.A.N.K, Paris



Peter Greenaway, The Serie of Nine Classical Paintings Revisited, The Wedding at Cana, 2009 (no. 3 of 9) Video installation, 50 min Courtesy the artist

Bernardi Roig, Shadows Must Dance, 2008 Sculpture in polyester resin, light and a glass of wine, 51.2 x 27.6 x 35.4 in / 130 x 70 x 90 cm Courtesy the artist and Claire Oliver Gallery, New York


Jan Fabre From the Feet to the Brain In the trenches of the brain as an artist-lilliputian, 2008 Wood, earth, polyester, wax, silicon, leather, cloth, human hair © Jan Fabre/VBK, Vienna, 2008, Kunsthaus Bregenz



87 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Jan Fabre From the Feet to the Brain I had to break down a part of the ceiling of the Royal Palace because there was something growing out of it, 2008 Wood, plaster, metal, jewel beetle, silicon © Jan Fabre/VBK, Vienna, 2008, Kunsthaus Bregenz



89 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Mike Kelley, Kandors Full Sets, 2005 - 2009 21 bottles – hand-colored pyrex glass 8 bottle stoppers – silicone rubber, tinted urethane 6 plinths – MDF veneer, plexiglass, lighting fixture 21 tinted urethane resin cities 20 pedestals – MDF, veneer, tempered glass, lighting fixture Dimensions variable Courtesy the artist and West of Rome, Pasadena

External Events What does the late Solange Gaussen (former committee member of the French initiative Comité Français pour la Sauvegarde de Venise) have in common with Francesco di Credi, Palma il Vecchio, Giovanni Bellini and Mona Hatoum? It is due to Mme Gaussen’s initiative to restore and refurbish two frescoed rooms in the Querini Stampalia Foundation that the Palazzo can today be used as a venue for the Biennale. The great masterpieces of its collection (e.g. Cervelli, Bellini, Strozzi) and its historic rooms are open for a dialog with artworks from a different time and different cultures, truly a fitting venue for the making of parallel worlds. Into this glamorous collection Mona Hatoum, an artist of Palestinian origin, has installed her poetic “interventions” under the title Interior Landscapes, a show that should not be missed and may be even considered one of the most interesting events of this Biennale: The dialog between the fabulous antique works from the Palazzo’s collection and the powerful political and poetic language of Hatoum’s works is a sensitive, mysterious and inscrutable rapprochement between the Old and the New. The continuous variations on the Palestinian map are based on the idea that you can see Palestine as a whole before it was split up into pieces, thus reminding the viewer of the impermanence of things. In relation to the Biennale’s title, the presentation of the Palestinian Pavilion appears almost symbolic in its artists’ ability to reinvent themselves and to create new worlds considering the circumstances that the old worlds they loved are no longer worth living in. It is impressive to see the quality of work these artists are able to deliver despite many of them having to live in exile or having to deal with the consequences of geopolitical restrictions: Taysir Batniji, Emily Jacir and Khalil Rabah. An audio installation inside a dark air raid shelter by Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti conveys the daily sounds of war, attack and insecurity. Another external event very much worth seeing is the In-finitum show at the Palazzo Fortuny. It is worth a visit because it is such a poetic, elegant and competent presentation thanks to the sophisticated curatorship of Axel Vervoordt, who serves the viewer a juxtaposition of works by the (young) John Gerrard and Fontana, Giovanni Anselmo and Hans Op de Beck, the mysterious Rancesco Hayez and Berlinde de Bruyckere. Then there are the skies of Thomas Ruff, Grazia Toderi, Anselm Kiefer, Vik Muniz, the Sole nero by Otto Piene or the Soli verde blu ciano by Diana Thater —all this a transition from light to shadow via installations, sculptures and paintings reaching skywards to a world of infinity.


The exhibition Mapping the Studio at the Palazzo Grassi, a selection of works from the Pinault collection, is less successful and somewhat crude due to its lack of identity and of a convincing concept – with the exception of the more poetic and subtle works by Francesco Lo Savio and Adel Abdessemed.

Jan Fabre presents himself at the new Arsenale with his one-man show From the cellar to the attic. From feet to brain that hails from the Kunsthaus Bregenz. Once again, this artist is confusing. The five rooms are fitted with sculpture-like tableaux which create situations that are in a kind of metamorphosis of the body and the mind halfway between reality and dream, thus establishing a Gesamtkunstwerk. Quite in accordance with the Flemish tradition of delivering a vivid description of reality, Fabre puts the body in the center of an inquiry that classifies different aspects: life, death, agony and joy(s). Embarking on this enquiry with the passion and enthusiasm of an entomologist, Fabre manages to fill his complex work with mystery and fascination. By separating the body into five different parts, the feet, genitals, stomach, heart and brain, Fabre takes the viewer on a journey that experiments and evaluates our innermost being in relation to the outwardly visible parts. The new video that the Russian artist collective AES+F presents in the Unconditional Love show at the new Arsenale is equally perplexing but also hypnotic. AES+F combine cinematographic techniques with the effects of the latest technologies, fashion and advertisements which are obsessed with the perfection of the body, as well as parts of masterworks of antiquity—even if this is not apparent at first sight. Creating hyperrealist and hypervirtual realities that look as if their protagonists hailed from some crazy videogame with a historic backdrop, AES+F draw a line between myth and reality. The group which consists of four members from Moscow (Tatyana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky and Vladimir Fridkes) adapts Plutarch’s tale of the Satyricon about the Gaius Pompeius Trimalchio in its video The Feast of Trimalchio: married to Fortuna, a former prostitute, the plutocrat was a lascivious personage of Roman history and was famous for his orgies and banquets in which his slaves served exotic dishes and imaginative delicacies. Here, too, the body becomes an obsession and egotism, pleasure and excess become the basis for a story in which youth, sophistication and servants stay sound and frozen into centuries. All this is underscored by hypnotic music. Once again a world in which anything is still possible or could be reinvented.

Gaia Serena Simionati (b. 1973, IT) is an art critic, consultant, and curator. Specialized in contemporary art, she maintains a particular focus on young artists, chiefly of pan-Arab and European origin. Her new book AISH: bread and life. An Other Islam published by Skira, centres upon new young muslim artists and the real life in the Middle East.


interest in architecture and design, and I have often selected artists whose poeticas are related to the use of the venue, by which I mean artists like Jan de Cock who intervenes in the environment with his installations to change the perception of the venue as well as Riccardo Previdi and Dan Graham. The program of the gallery has always been the result of research on art as well as a certain approach. I am happy with the results obtained by my gallery, but I don’t believe in any magical formula to reach success; the important thing is to be consistent and resolved in one’s work and to do the best of his/her ability. TEXT IN ITALIAN. TRANSLATION BY KEMAL ATAKAY AND BÜLENT ÇINAR

FRANCESCA CAPUTO Please tell us what led you to a career in art. How did you start out? FRANCESCA MININI Since my childhood, art has been a part of my daily life; thanks to my father Massimo Minini, artists, curators and gallerists were always in our close circle. That’s why I don’t recall a particular moment when I started to work as an artist; it was rather about the air I breathed and an environment that always attracted me. Having said that, I can tell you how my professional life began. In 1995, I started to work in galleries such as the Lisson Gallery in London and Barbara Gladstone in New York in summers and then assisted Massimo at the gallery, thus obtaining a deeper grasp of the dynamics of the art world. FC What was the need that led you to decide to become a gallery director? FM That would be the need to continue the work I started at Massimo Minini’s gallery, which was rather a natural extension of my interest in the works of the younger generation of Italian artists such as Riccardo Previdi, Paolo Chiasera, Gabriele Picco and Francesco Simeti. My decision to start my own gallery in Milan was the result of a desire to continue on an independent and autonomous platform my efforts to seek out and promote these and other new artists. FC What is the biggest hurdle encountered by those who decide to create a venue exclusively for contemporary art? FM The biggest difficulty would be to inspire in the art world and beyond an interest in the gallery’s efforts and search for artists. Then, you need to select the young artists to develop an acceptance and interest on an international level in order to grow and gain recognition. FC Who are the intellectual role models in your professional life; likewise, what are the issues you are most interested in? FM Since I was raised in this environment, I learned to observe the great gallerists of the past. I tried to adapt this wealth of experience to today’s professional environment, which has undergone major changes over the last two decades. FC I would like to ask you based on the brilliant results you have obtained just in a few years: Which parameters do you use to select the artists? And what is the underlying philosophy of the gallery’s program? RES SEPTEMBER 2009

FM The selection of the artists is certainly linked to my personal taste and formation. I have a very keen

FC In these early years of its activity, the gallery has exhibited the works of many young Italian, European and non-European artists. What was it that turned you to this search? FM My interest in the artists of my generation was the result of a natural selection; let me also note that looking for new talent most of the time means discovering young artists who have remained under the radar partly due to their age. That artists come from a variety of countries is a result of a wide attention span, which in my opinion cannot be any other way in the first place. However, that’s not to say that I have forgotten about the Italian artists, particularly in a country such as ours that has talented artists but fails to realize their value. As I work at an international level and through young people, the country of origin of those young people is entirely independent from, even irrelevant to my being an Italian. FC What are your thoughts on the cultural and artistic atmosphere in Italy? Furthermore, what are the difficulties of operating in a city such as Milan where cultural development is largely left to private initiative? FM In my opinion, there are talented artists in Italy, but institutions have no intention of supporting them; yet this is exactly what happens in countries like Germany, the United Kingdom and even France, which creates a wide gap between our youth and their European peers. You said that cultural development has largely been left to private initiative, and I agree; and on the subject, let me also note that we still don’t have the Museum of Modern Art that has been talked over for years, in a city like Milan. FC What do you think are the advantages and limits of the panorama of contemporary art in Italy? FM A major advantage would be our strong tradition of passionate and knowledge-based collecting; however, in the absence of any institutional support for our artists, the collectors turn to international artists. FC What do you think about art fairs? In your opinion, what would be their contribution in the artistic order? Also, what is your assessment of your experience at MiArt 2009? FM Today, fairs are important events both commercially and in terms of the cultural promotion and increased visibility of the artists whose works are exhibited. MiArt 2009 was a renewed fair and was quite successful. Although there is still much to do, the foundations of a serious and renewed project have now been laid.





95 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 KutluÄ&#x; Ataman, Mesopotamian Dramaturgies / Journey to the Moon, 2009 Still photography, 12.2 x 16.1 in / 31 x 41 cm


Dan Graham, Sagitarian Girls, 2008 Two-way mirror and steel, 216.5 x 98.4 x 90.6 in / 550 x 250 x 230 cm



Ali Kazma, Household Goods Factory, 2008 Video, 12 min


99 FC There are several Turks also including Ali Kazma among the many artists promoted by your gallery. Where does this passion come from? And what are the narrative features characteristic to the works of these artists? FM For a long time, I have been following Turkish art also through the Istanbul Biennial, which is always interesting. Kutluğ Ataman was a pleasant discovery during my early travels in the international environments. My interest in Ali Kazma started thanks to the productive cooperation with Maurizio Bortollotti. Many Turkish artists use the video as a narrative tool and mostly tackle the cultural, lingual and social differences between the East and the West—as Istanbul is a city located on the boundary between Asia and Europe. FC What are your thoughts on the Eastern and Middle Eastern art, which seems to be experiencing a golden age today? FM After this approach to Turkish art, I would like to work with Indian artists whom I find very interesting, vibrant and innovative … FC In your view, what are the developments with regard to Italian art in the East? Matthias Bitzer, Between Two Oceans, 2008

FM Due to the problems I mentioned earlier about the Italian institutions, I find such a development difficult to achieve in the East. FC Among other fairs, your gallery also participated in the third Art Dubai, which is the most important fair in the Middle East and increasingly inspires more interest as a strategic event of the contemporary art economy. Could you please give us your opinion on this? FM Art Dubai discovers new horizons with regards to the Eastern countries that are opening up to the international world of contemporary art with their nascent institutions and private collections. FC At Art Dubai, which artists did you exhibit? And how were your sales? FM I exhibited the works of Kutluğ Ataman, whose first personal exhibition in Italy will be held in September in our gallery as well as Ghada Amer and Matthias Bitzer. Among these three artists, the spotlight was particularly on Ataman who also received the Abraaj Award, which was recently instituted in Dubai. RES SEPTEMBER 2009

FC Would you please tell us about the birth of the project INSIGHT TURKEY (Inside Turkey) under the curatorship of Maurizio Bortolotti on behalf of your gallery and its content?

FC The contemporary art market has been experiencing a constant boom for years. Meanwhile, due to the crisis, there is an increasing concern in the media that this temporary uptrend will come to an end, just as it did in the 1980s. What do you think about the contemporary art market? Is it a stable market or still a vulnerable one? FM Compared to the 1991 crisis, which started with the First Gulf War and brought the contemporary art market to a complete standstill, this last crisis caused greater problems, but on the other hand, it also brought about an elimination process after the excessive growth of the recent years. The recent Basel Fair has demonstrated that the market is indeed extremely vibrant for both great artists and the younger ones. This still gives us some hope. Quality always finds its due reward! FC At the moment, how prepared is the market to follow artistic trends; or, to an extent, is art shaped by the market? In short, how eager are the gallerists today to lay aside their concerns about the security of their investment and pursue new talent?


FM INSIGHT TURKEY is a project realized under the curatorship of Maurizio Bortolotti. As part of the project, three exhibitions will be organized to tackle the panorama of contemporary Turkish art. The first of these was the personal exhibition of Ali Kazma, which was held last year. Kutluğ Ataman’s exhibition will be the second. The final exhibition of the project will comprise a group of newly emerging young Turkish artists.




Simon Dybbroe Møller, Mass, Weight and Volume (Fallen into Place), 2008 Steel, dimensions variable


FC Could you please tell us about some of the projects you are planning to realize in the future? FM As I mentioned before, Kutluğ Ataman’s personal exhibition is coming up in September, which will be followed by the Paolo Chiasera, Alessandro Ceresoli, Jan De Cock and Matthias Bitzer’s exhibitions. FC What do you see in the future of your gallery? FM I am wishing for continued growth. There is still a lot to do... and I have just started.

Francesca Minini Gallery was established in February 2006 in Milan’s art district Zona Ventura (near Lambrate). The gallery bears the name of its director, Francesca Minini who is the daughter of Massimo Minini—one of the most important gallerists in Italy—continues her career in her father’s footsteps. She works to find and present contemporary Italian artists of indisputable caliber as well as international artists. Among the artists whose works are exhibited at the gallery are young Italians such as Riccardo Previdi, Alessandro Ceresoli, Paolo Chiasera, Deborah Ligorio, Gabriele Picco and Francesco Simeti. The gallery is also interested in foreign artists including, among others, Jan De Cock, Kutluğ Ataman, Simon Dybbroe Møller and Matthias Bitzer. Francesca Minini Gallery is doubtlessly one of the most exciting centers of Italian culture—but not confined only to Italian culture—in Milan.

Francesca Caputo is a freelance writer based in Italy. Caputo writes regularly for ArtKey contemporary art magazine at

Ghada Amer, Le Salon Courbé, 2007

FM I believe that economic crises or economic growth periods cannot determine the choices of a gallerist; in fact, a gallerist needs to have a consistent approach in his/her choices, whether these gravitate towards seeking young talents or moving in the direction of the trends demanded by the market.

Daniel Buren & Jan De Cock, Denkmal 4, Casa del Fascio, Pizazza del Popolo 4, Como, 2006

FC What would you recommend to first-time art buyers? FM That they buy what they feel passionate about, this is always the best possible investment. FC Could you give us a brief account of your activities in these past three years? What were your expectations and which goals have you achieved? Which exhibition has been of particular importance to you? FM Seeing my artists achieve international success after long promotion work, prepared with an eye for even the smallest detail both on an institutional level and personally, is definitely the most satisfying aspect that also encourages me to continue to work for them with great determination.


Among the largest projects are Riccardo Previdi’s first exhibition, the high-profile two-men project by Jan De Cock and Daniel Buren realized in Como, Milan and Brescia, and Simon Dybbroe Møller’s exhibition. Kutluğ Ataman’s exhibition due to be held in September will be the first presentation of Mesopotamian Dramaturgies—an important project that will be exhibited next year at Maxxi in Rome.

All images © the artists Courtesy Francesca Minini Gallery, Milan


the Asian imports to Europe and the Chinoiserie designs had dominated the trade. With new production methods then as now an amalgamation of influences from east and west seems to guide many photographers’ interests. The American photo-artist and filmmaker Laura Padgett, who is based in Germany, made a series of 300-yearold porcelain figures at a London Museum between 2001 and 2002 with a digital video camera. The V&A Porcelain series, exponentially illustrates the comparative media by re-interpreting the historical pieces: numerous mediums to introduce a new way of looking at the gesturing forms of daily life. She captured details of the objects and finally generated exquisite color photographs mounted on Diasec. (1) The patterned pixels of the photo and the shiny detail of a painted porcelain surface all congealed in one. The new artworks are technical conglomerates transferring culture in a newborn hybrid of delicacy and contemporary aesthetics.

CELINA LUNSFORD W E ST E R N P H O T O G R A P H E R S have been going east throughout photographic history. Felice Beato, probably the first real international photojournalist, traveled from Europe to China in 1860 as a war photographer to document the aftermath of the second Boxer uprising. In 1992 the Australian photographer Max Pam’s book, Going East: Twenty Years of Asian Photography, spawned a new generation of image-makers thirsty for an exotic road-trip experience. Magnum photographer Stuart Franklin traveled the globe in 2002 to document megacities, most of which are continuing to grow in Asia. And it seems that today, whether you are a name or not in cityscape photography and you have not been to the East, you really have missed the boat. Fashion, microchips, cinema, nanotech and the car industry are all driving Eastern influences on our lives. Korean and Chinese photographers in particular are also turning the tables around. Stronger economies in the East, the increase in universal arts festivals and art fairs as well as the Internet have supported these developments. The last ten years have seen a huge increase of Asian students at European universities such as the London College of Printing and the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf that have more Asian students than ever before. It was a student out of Chung Ang University from Seoul visiting Europe, who led me searching for what is “hybrid”, and I do not mean cars. I am on the hunt for migrating photographers. A student presented to me his color landscapes at a festival for photography in Bratislava, Slovakia. The images displayed idyllic landscapes such as snow-covered mountains, sunsets or hillsides embedded with blossoming trees from “Azeros”. He had seen and captured these on his journeys in World of Warcraft, a 3D online game. They were superbly hand-printed on c-print paper in 19.7 x 23.6 in / 50 x 60 cm. In broken English and with a stern face he explained that these places did not really exist. (Me to myself; “Duh?”). He meant though that Azeros was the name of a kingdom that ceased to exist in history inside of this game. What he had done was mentally reflect on these places and conjured them out of the outlying landscapes surrounding his “active duty” online. Was I discovering Ansel Adams of the 21st century? Actually the two photographers, Ansel Adams and Chunsoo Kim, belong to different centuries but are neighboring souls escaping for their obsessions. Adams was a brilliant technician, visionary, advocate and retriever of the great American West landscape and photography. Kim Chunsoo, also a brilliant technician and obsessive admirer of nature, is discovering the great virtual landscapes of lesser-known territories. Even though he did get on a plane and visit Europe, the young migrating Korean who travels to virtual places is an example of photography migration primarily within a technological context.


The international exchange of arts and ideas of today’s digital technology is comparable to the prolific boost which the early 18th century transfer production technique similarly gave European ceramic artistry: the ability for designs to be easily reproduced thus creating a greater market. At that time

MIGRATING WITH THE MEDIUM Photography migration and migrating photographers continue to flourish with the rapid expansion of communication technologies. Photography migration is a power bar of complex ingredients that can result in unique hybrid aesthetics. One aspect of this indicates the advancement and coupling of the tools such as Laura Padgett did with her V&A Porcelain. The other spices stem from what may be photographed, signifying the exotic or even the overlooked commonalities in the waves of globalization, such as photographing the Nike tee shirt a child wears on the streets of Guangzhou. The influence of other international styles of photographing and the fascination with certain genres are also characteristics of photography migration. Two examples, which have long been followed, are Germany’s Bernd and Hilla Becher typologies or using the saturating flash with color as the quintessential Brit, Martin Parr, has done since the early 1980s. Photographing the aftermath of a catastrophe, such as the hurricane in New Orleans, or large-format documentation of the ruins of industrial complexes or deserted interiors are examples of the “ruins and destruction genre” subject matter.

Laura Padgett, from the series V&A Porcelain, 2001-2002 C-print on KapaBloc, 15.7 x 19.7 in / 40 x 50 cm A series of British porcelain figures at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, shot with a digital video camera. Courtesy Galerie Seitz & Partner, Berlin; Galerie Martina Detterer, Frankfurt

By looking at the work of Wolfgang Zurborn, Peter Bialobrzeski, Sungpil Han and Chan-Hyo Bae I want to highlight image-makers, which have opted to explore hybrid visual semantics in their work. All draw on themes of cross-cultural interpretation as they have worked attentively at exporting their ways of seeing in environments opposite than where they grew up. They are above all artists who use complex compositions that stimulate my retina to look again, skim again, to re-orient my visual semantics. Peter Bialobrzeski first achieved international recognition with his series Neontigers, documenting megacities in Southeast Asia. Wolfgang Zurborn, based in Cologne, won the German Photo-Book Award in 2008 with his oversize accordion publication China! Which China?. Sungpil Han from Seoul has spent the last five years traveling the globe and simultaneously working on themes of natural and man-made environmental landscapes. Chan-Hyo Bae landed in England from Seoul seeking elaborate traditions and history, which he had studied. East meets west, the west sees the east is the simple part of the travel log; it is more about how these four photographers are distinguishable in signature subject-concept and composition.





107 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Chan-Hyo Bae, Existing in Costume 8, 2007 C-print, 47.2 x 37.8 in / 120 x 96 cm Courtesy Purdy Hicks Gallery, London

Chan-Hyo Bae, Existing in Costume 5, 2007 C-print, 47.2 x 37.8 in / 120 x 96 cm Courtesy Purdy Hicks Gallery, London



Chan-Hyo Bae, Existing in Costume 1, 2006 C-print, 39.4 x 31.5 in / 100 x 80 cm Courtesy Purdy Hicks Gallery, London



The book titled Paradise Now presents fragments of nature on the periphery of the artificially illuminated infrastructure of large asian cities. The images were taken between October 2007 and March 2008 in Hanoi, Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur.

LEFT PAGE TOP Peter Bialobrzeski, Paradise Now, Nr. 5, 2008 BOTTOM Peter Bialobrzeski, Paradise Now, Nr. 12, 2008 THIS PAGE TOP Peter Bialobrzeski, Paradise Now, Nr. 24, 2008


BOTTOM Peter Bialobrzeski, Paradise Now, Nr. 32, 2008


C-print, 38.2 x 9.8 in / 97 x 125 cm each Courtesy L.A. Galerie, Frankfurt; Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

111 His gaze is one of contradiction; poised, pleasurable and uncertain, relating to his own experience of trying to fit into a foreign environment. He writes, “… I came to realize that as an Asian man there were many restrictions on entering Western culture. I felt that Asian men were not sexually attractive to Western women. I also believe that there is an unintentional stereotyping … and that the East has a feminine image. That is why I decided to become a noble woman of England.” (2) The large-format framed photographs shown in early 2009 at Purdy Hicks Gallery in London curated by Katy Barron would entice any castle visitor to do a double take, not just for the cross-dressing aspect, but for the detail that he too has initiated in the settings: sometimes sardonically revealing his true heritage, as one of his queens holds a birdcage with a red and blue ball to symbolize the Korean flag. (3) Peter Bialobrzeski has long been fascinated with the congestion occurring in the Asian megacity. For his recent monograph, Paradise Now, published in 2009 by Edition Cantz he traveled through Hanoi, Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in search of trees or gardens in the urban night. His perspectives were intricately sought out to use a 4 x 5 inch format Linhof camera. Long exposures of several minutes to illuminate his compositions are standard. The photographer’s adventures into the night involve trekking over, up and under, and above hidden pockets of the cities and their outskirts. Vistas that most would never even regard as a vista. The earthly urban flora mixes with the unearthly artificial night light sources creating an oddity of color saturation that is often indeterminate in source or direction: a visual hybrid haiku … greenish shimmering leaves captured by office complex floodlights swallows sunset flashed by a passing car strobe. As sumptuous as his images are he too is critical when he writes about his own work, noting the amount of energy burning and lighting the sleeping urban space. (4) Bialobrzeski, a fan of Rick Dekard’s “steel and microchip jungle” backdrop of 21st century Los Angeles, updates “urban jungle” literally, giving the term back to Mother Nature. (5) In 2006 Sungpil Han encountered numerous cities throughout Europe and Korea in search of XXL photorealistic wrappings of construction sites and exterior architecture. Like Peter Bialobrzeski his images derive from the nocturnal. Han has chosen to study one universal subject in a limited amount of time; and one, which confronts our own perspectives with ambiguous details, similar to other bodies of his work, like Ground Cloud as he documented different atomic energy plants in France as Constabler-esque landscapes.

Sungpil Han, Displaced Space, 2006 C-print, 46.1 x 57.9 in / 117 x 147 cm Courtesy Gallery Zandari, Seoul

Han’s photographs of façades are an image archive of a very common visual media, signs and banners which have reinvented themselves throughout generations. In the 20th century alone the form of a public sign has undergone a metamorphosis from plain word and image building advertisements, to the billboards along motorways for the car-driven society, to oversize film banners, to the Godzilla LCD displays strategically placed amongst cityscapes.


Sungpil Han turns the advertising genre into stage sets or movie sets. His urban subjects offer the view, usually one-to-one in scale, of what the future could be. The banners and painted facades imbue the promise of change for the better and not the confusion of the slow and dirty work in progress of urban renewal.


Chan-Hyo Bae stages historical portraits of British queens as icons of glorification and seductive satire. The photographer stages himself as a queen in exquisite period costumes from the 13th to 19th century. One can be reminded of Japanese artist Yasumas Morimura’s self-portraits as art history masterpieces or even Cindy Sherman’s parodies of European masterpieces made in 1989, but Chan-Hyo Bae is as distinctly original as his precursors.








PREVIOUS PAGE Sungpil Han, Symmetrical Fake, 2006 C-print, 46.1 x 53.5 in / 117 x 136 cm Courtesy Gallery Zandari, Seoul

Sungpil Han, Wandering in the Wood, 2006 C-print, 46.1 x 57.9 in / 117 x 147 cm Courtesy Gallery Zandari, Seoul



Wolfgang Zurborn, from the series China! Which China? Untitled (Beijing), 2006 C-print, 16.5 x 12.4 in / 42 x 31.5 cm Courtesy Galerie Lichtblick, Cologne

117 TOP Wolfgang Zurborn, from the series China! Which China? Untitled (Beijing), 2006

Wolfgang Zurborn’s China! Which China? obtained its name when publisher and photo-book specialist Markus Schaden first saw the raw material from the photographer’s travels abroad. The remark revealed the critical response to the ever-present interest in the world power and multiplying efforts of photographers working in China. Schaden’s enthusiasm says in a jest that Zurborn stays Zurborn, whatever he sees and composes, even thousands of kilometers away from his Cologne home. The summer retrospective show of the German artist’s work at Deichtorhallen in Hamburg supports a clearer understanding and development of Zurborn’s dynamic of seeing life and its details. The exhibition titled Drift, Photographs 1980-2006 is an extension of a previous publication Drift from 2007 and includes early black and white photographs from Germany, a majority of color work stemming from Europe and his work in China. Zurborn comments, “Drift represents a way of seeing the fractured modern world in its overlapping images and contexts. I am interested in finding the sublime in the ridiculous condition of modern life with a Dadaist awareness of the found object. With a surrealist sense of humor, I am creating a collision montage of juxtaposed, multi-layered images combined on a single picture plane. Disconnected from the purely functional sense, our every-day surrounding appears in a much more sensual way.”(6)

BOTTOM Wolfgang Zurborn, from the series China! Which China? Untitled (Shanghai), 2006 C-print, 16.5 x 12.4 in / 42 x 31.5 cm each Courtesy Galerie Lichtblick, Cologne

One influential factor that has long been a constant is Zurborn’s worship of the films of Jacques Tati, the French comedian and filmmaker. Like Tati, Zurborn revels in the surprises of every-day satire. Zurborn looks for the clashing fraction of a second where objects, gestures, scenery cause our eyes to wander, to drift back and forth. None of his works are digitally composed even though they characteristically appear as a generated collage. In one image a young child stands between a shop doorway with a horizontal striped shirt, hovering above his head are two magenta icecream cones; in the middle ground a curly headed mop flanks a black tiled wall where a poster of Mao hangs, partly covered by purple plastic shopping bags. A vertical column of a blue wall with white script holds the “accordion” chord of daily life. The image is a shrilling detail of commerce, globalization, politics, desire, future and past.


All four of these highlighted photographers traverse east meets west meets east with extravagant style, non-wavering from their complex compositions, staged or found. They manipulate different worlds through their surreal visionary tactics of seeing. What is key is that they are not just collecting the familiar unknown but forming it to be their distinct manias. As different that their picture languages are, each exults at emphasizing personal issues—be it integration, chaos, globalization and questioning disparate realities within the backdrops of their migratory paths.

AFTERWORD Divided Lands, Cross-Cultural Survival Korea situated between China and Japan has historically been the floor mat for those countries’ conflicts; it is still a geo-politically divided country whose recent cultural history also has been influenced by the United States and even Germany, as it too endured years of division. Koreans have long dealt with identity crisis, often having their own cultural habits and even language banned by their conquerors. Gaining new cultures in itself became a certain form of identity in photographic communication through commercial advertising photography from the 1950s to 1970s as seen in the work of Kim Han Yong.(7) Through advertising, before the Internet, photography achieved its influential pop-cultural recognition. Images that Kim Han Yong produced for the Korean market showed images of Koreans dressed in western dress, from cut-off jeans to French-tailored suits. The images he made for export showed beautiful Korean women in colorful traditional dress, wanting to serve you something to drink. Was it a statement of “acting one way and being someone else” or “becoming what your controllers wanted you to be” or just “changing for survival’s sake”? SEDUCTION CHINA Western eyes on Asia itself has graduated as a theme well worth reviewing and recent photographic art shows in Europe and America have given an incentive to some of the most unique and diverse contributions dealing with western eyes on China. One is called Western Eye on East, a collective exhibition of European photographers curated by festival director Krzysztof Candrowicz in Lodz, Poland in 2007. It focused on social and cultural changes of Chinese society in recent years. In this exhibition viewers witnessed secondhand stories about the clash of tradition and a modern dynamic world, but also many personal stories presenting the micro-cosmos of people living in this Asian empire. The exhibition consisted of works by Wolfgang Zurborn (Germany), The Future of the Past 2006-2007; Harvey Benge (New Zealand), China Story; Virgilio Ferreira (Portugal), Daily Pilgrims; Ernst Fischer (Switzerland), November # 1; Oyvind Hjelmen (Norway), Journey Elsewhere; Ferit Kuyas (Switzerland), City of Ambition—Fast Forward in China; Bogdan Konopka (Poland), China. The Empire of Greyness; Natalie Latham (Australia), Speaking Through Water; Marrigje de Maar (The Netherlands), The Tail of the Dragon; and Nadav Kander (Great Britain), China, The Yangtze River. Kander, Kuyas and Fischer’s works all epically express a fascination with China’s industrial and urban expansion. Fisher provokes like melancholic poetry when showing China’s outdated mining districts hidden away deep in the mainland, while Kandar and Kuyas provide us with an epic-scale documentation that takes us along China’s great rivers and boom towns. De Maar has documented interiors of village and urban homes through numerous trips, giving insight to every-day solitude and social history.


Kim Han Yong, Facsimile of Advertisements, 1970’s C-print on Alu-Dibond, 19.7 x 23.6 in / 50 x 60 cm


Although important photographers such as Walker Evans, Gabrielle Basilico or Thomas Struth have set more architectural documentary precedents for Han to remark upon, it is René Magritte who is closer in spirit. The Belgium surrealist painter’s The Empire of Light is a perfect example: a house surrounded by black woods has a crown of light blue sky and a sepulcher in the form of a glowing street lamp. Han’s façades quietly at first appear too dark, but cling to an intrinsic energy. Vampiric.

In an adjacent space at Lodz one found China Photo Exhibition curated by German photographer Thomas Kellner. Despite its over-simplified title, this was an introduction par excellence to important documentary and conceptual Chinese image-makers. A few examples were Chen Nong’s Shan Xia— using staged photography to critically examine the displacement of people along the Three Gorges Dam project. He dressed locals in simple hand-made costumes that resemble the 2000-year-old warrior figures of Xian, and printed the images as a panoramic series lightly colored like early 19th century hand-colored photographs. The fascination and fall of Mao are the discourse for Meng Jin’s Room with a View and Wang Tong’s Mao on the Wall. Meng Jin photoshops details of political history into an interior view window of a hospital, recalling an aesthetic similarity to the Czech artist Jan Saudek’s window series from the 1980s. Wang Tong has documented the image of Chairman Mao as a painted and stenciled logo on doors, walls and side roads throughout China. The work of Yao Lu, Chinese Traditional Landscape, which was shown at Houston Fotofest and at Paris Photo in 2008 was also here to see. The digitally generated collages are often in presented circular form and consist of photographed details of construction site debris and urban waste scaled and composed like a traditional landscape. Also included in the show were Feng Bin, Hutongs in the Night; Haibo Yu, Artist Studios; Wei deZhi, Untitled; Jiang Zhenqing, The Fishermen; Liu Lijie, A Further Episode; Peng Xiangjie, Circus Worlds; Zeng Han, Costume Role-Plays, The Individual; Lu Jun, How far from us?. Most of these artists have been names to follow since the first Beijing Meeting Place Festival in 2006 and from Houston Fotofest’s own eye on China in Photography from China 1934-2008. Another similar show of westerners in China is China Stories, curated by Tina Schelhorn for the Cambridge School of Art (CSA) at Anglia Ruskin University, UK in the spring of 2009. This show included some repeats from Lodz such as Harvey Benge, Oyvind Hjelmen, Ferit Kuyas and Wolfgang Zurborn but added some work from the 1908s and 1990s by Christopher Rauschenberg (Portland, USA), Pok Chi Lau (Kansas City, USA) and Elaine Ling (Canada).(8)

NOTES (1) Brand name of a mounting process consisting of acrylic glass, a photograph and backing made partially of aluminium, made by Laboratory Grieger in Germany. (2) Chan-Hyo Bae, artist’s statement, 2008. (3) David Balzer, essay: “In Chan-Hyo Bae’s photographs one accordingly sees his identification with the Queen as a misfit—as one who inhabits a role which she can never fully possess or understand. That he is crossdressing merely stresses the point. He is not interested in queerness or camp; this is not sarcastic idolatry or a theatrical apotheosis of the feminine. Bae is simply, in his words, ‘trying to express existence as another person.’ In the tradition of portrait posing, he carries with him items that speak to who he is, but which, in their own quiet strangeness, controvert any perceived act of intimacy: a fan (which might just as easily be a Western queen’s Orientalist flummery), a golden pig (a token of good luck), a birdcage that contains within it a red and a blue ball, presumably representative of the South Korean flag. Relegated to the symbolic realm, Bae’s self strains under its own, bi-polar weights. One senses an awkward distance, an ineffable repression, and a longing gaze through a bizarre suit of armour.” (4) Peter Bialobrzski and Axel Rühle, Paradise Now, Hatje Cantz, Ostfeldern, 2009. (5), Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) prowls the steel-andmicrochip jungle of 21st century Los Angeles. (6) (7) I came across the work of Kim Han Yong while curating a show of Korean photography with Prof. Lee Young June in 2005; Fast Forward: a photographic message from Korea, KOGAF (Korean Organising Committee for the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurter Bookfair 2005) and Fotografie Forum International, Seoul, 2005 (8)


Celina Lunsford is the Director of Fotografie Forum Frankfurt, a center founded in 1984 for international exhibitions, publications, lectures and workshops. In recent years she has also worked intensively with photographic projects stemming out of China and Korea.

All images © the artists




A CROSS-SECTION OF CONTEMPORARY ART IN SOUTHEAST ASIA GINA FAIRLEY W H E N W E T H I N K of contemporary Asian art we have been conditioned to turn to China, India and more recently to Central Asia. Equally energized is the vital art scene in Southeast Asia—Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—which is as diverse and complex as the region’s geopolitics. Rich in its own histories—from political regimes to monarchies with borders crossing Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism and animism—this is a multi-layered art scene with a keen sense of its own regionality and an appetite for contemporary dialogue.

Kuswidananto AKA Jompet Java’s Machine: Phantasmagoria, 2008 - 2009 Kinetic multimedia installation comprising video, recycled electronic devices, drums, resin and video projection; dimensions variable Installation view at the National Art Gallery, 13th Jakarta Biennale 2009



Titarubi, Surrounding David, 2008 Mixed media, h: 334.6 in / 850 cm Installation view at the National Museum Singapore Courtesy the artist and National Museum Singapore

Ali Rubin, Baby Yogi, 2008 Fiberglass, brass, paint, 16.5 x 9.4 x 10.2 in / 42 x 24 x 26 cm Courtesy the artist

123 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Iswanto Hartono, Mellow, 2009 Zinc, water, tin toy boar, digital print, pump; dimensions variable Installation view at the National Art Gallery, 13th Jakarta Biennale 2009


Stan Michiels, Jakarta, 2003 Digital photography, five panels, 39.4 x 55.1 in / 100 x 140 cm each Installation view at the National Art Gallery, 13th Jakarta Biennale 2009

Agus Suwage, I suck therefore I am, 2004 Oil on canvas, 59.1 x 57.1 in / 150 x 145 cm Courtesy Valentine Willie Fine Art, Singapore Private collection


125 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Eko Nugroho, Cari Selamat? Ikuti Gajah Ini, 2008 Mixed media installation comprising resin, paint, embroidery; dimensions variable Installation view at the Grand Indonesia Mall, 13th Jakarta Biennale 2009


Wimo Ambala Bayang, Belanda Sudah Dekat! (The Dutch at the Gate!), 2008 Digital photograph, 39.4 x 39.4 in / 100 x 100 cm Courtesy the artist and 13th Jakarta Biennale 2009


Tintin Wulia, (Re)Collection of Togetherness – Stage 4, 2008 Mixed media installation comprising passports, wooden base, mosquitoes; dimensions variable Installation view at the National Art Gallery, 13th Jakarta Biennale 2009

127 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Sharon Chin, Rise Rise Rise, 2005 Unfired clay and incense sticks, dimensions variable Installation view Courtesy the artist



Bibi Chew Chon Bee, Homemade, 2007 Mixed media, dimensions variable Site specific installation for Out of the Mould at Galeri Petronas, 2007 Courtesy Galeri Petronas, Kuala Lumpur

Yee I-Lann, Malaysiana, 2007 (in collaboration with Tam Hong Lam) Mixed media, digital print, television; dimensions variable Installation view at Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur Photograph: Š Gina Fairley

129 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Roslisham Ismail , NEP, 2009 Mixed media installation, dimensions variable Installation view at the National Art Gallery, 13th Jakarta Biennale 2009


Choy Chun Wei, Overabundance, 2007 Mixed media on canvas, 60.2 x 48 in / 153 x 122 cm Courtesy the artist and Wei-Ling Gallery, Kuala Lumpur


Wong Hoy Cheong, Chronicles of Crime: Point Blank, 2006 Digital print on Kodak professional paper, 47.2 x 33.1 in / 120 x 84 cm Courtesy the artist and Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur

131 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Vincent Leong, Run, Malaysia, Run, 2007 Rotating single-channel video projection, 5 min Video still Courtesy the artist and Valentine Willie Fine Art, Singapore

Umibaizurah Mahir, Excavator Series #7 - #46, 2007 Porcelain, stoneware, steel wheel and metal flower; dimensions variable Installation view at Patisatu Studio, Malaysia Courtesy the artist


Ivan Lam, Sushi Bar (The place where we first met), 2005 House polymer synthetic paint on canvas, 59.1 x 65 in / 150 x 165 cm Courtesy the artist and Wei-Ling Gallery, Kuala Lumpur


133 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Abdul Multhalib Musa, Intertwined, 2004 Laser cut mild steel with clear enamel coat, 78.7 x 47.2 x 7.9 in / 200 x 120 x 20 cm Installation view at the WWF exhibition, Rimbun Dahan, 2004 Courtesy Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia Photograph: © Gina Fairley

Samsudin Abdul Wahab, Powerless, 2008 Mixed media on canvas, 72 x 59.8 in / 183 x 152 cm Courtesy the artist and Gallerie TAKSU, Kuala Lumpur



Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, Daing, 2003 Slippers, bamboo, wind generated sound; dimensions variable Inaugural International Eco Arts Festival, Daet, Camarines Norte, Philippines Photograph: © Gina Fairley

135 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Lyra Garcellano, A day in the life of the other, 2007 Assorted toy soldiers, wooden plank; dimensions variable Installation view at the National Art Gallery, 13th Jakarta Biennale 2009

Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, Address (Project: Another Country), 2007- 2008 Domestic objects cast on balikbayan (homecoming) boxes, sampaguita scent Installation view at Singapore Biennale 2008 Photograph: Š Gina Fairley



Mideo Cruz, Banquet, 2006 Mixed media and performance Courtesy the artist

137 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Wawi Navarroza, Still Missing (You), 2007 Archival pigment ink color photograph on artist premium canvas, 48 x 32 in / 121.9 x 81.3 cm Courtesy the artist

Gina Osterloh, Mute Rash, 2008 Lambda print, 32 x 40 in / 81.3 x 101.6 cm Courtesy the artist



Junyee, Separate Realities, 2007 Digital images, found wood Site-specific installation at SLOT, Sydney Courtesy the artist and SLOT

139 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Ronald Ventura, Shield, 2006 Oil on fibreglass-resin (riot shield), 43.9 x 23.8 in / 111.5 x 60.5 cm View from the exhibition Cross Encounters at Ateneo Art Gallery (May 25 - July 21, 2006) Courtesy Ateneo Art Gallery, Manila


Ronald Ventura, Mapping the Corporeal, 2008 Installation view at NUS Museum Singapore Courtesy the artist


Ringo Bunoan, Echo and Remembrance, 2001-2008 Ultrasound, plaster-cast clam shells Installation, dimensions variable Courtesy the artist

141 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Andree Weschler, The Substation Performance on September 19, 2007 Photograph: © Gina Fairley

Kai Syng Tan Three-channel video installation; dimensions variable Installation view at the 3rd Guanzhou Triennial, 2009 Photograph: © Gina Fairley



Wire Tuazon, The Light Came Along After the Thunder, 2007 Oil on canvas, 36 x 48 in / 91.4 x 121.9 cm Courtesy the artist and Finale Art Gallery, Makati City

143 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Dinh Q Lê, Lotusland (detail), 1999 Fibreglass, polymer, paint and wood, 27 components ranging from 11.8 x 22.6 x 20.7 in / 30 x 57.5 x 52.5 cm to 30.5 x 21.7 x 17.7 in / 77.5 x 55 x 45 cm; dimensions variable Collection: Queensland Art Gallery, The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund


Ngoc Duong Pham, Maggots, 2004 Sculptural installation; dimensions variable Installation view at Singapore Biennale 2008, City Hall Photograph: © Gina Fairley


Dinh Q Lê, South China Sea Pishkun, Still #5, 2009 3-D animation still, digital print on color photographic paper, 50 x 86.6 in / 127 x 220 cm Courtesy the artist and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong

Installation views, BAK Utrecht, 2007

Tony Twigg, 18 Fish Boxes, 2005 Construction of found objects in six units, 50.8 x 15.4 x 3.1 in / 129 x 39 x 8 cm each Courtesy the artist and Gallerie TAKSU, Kuala Lumpur

KÜBA / PARADISE Kutluğ AtAmAn 1 September 2009 –– 17 January 2010

Mai Long, The Burning of Godog, 2009 Performance, photo documentation Courtesy the artist Photograph: © Stuart Horstman


Gina Fairley is a freelance writer based in Sydney and Manila. Formerly an arts manager in America and Australia, including the 2004 Biennale of Sydney, she is now regional contributing editor for Asian Art News andwrites regularly for magazines from Malaysia to New York, Germany and Korea. Recent project include the touring exhibition Beyond Frame: Philippine Photomedia. She is also the editor of the publication Tony Twigg: Encountering the Object. Fairley is a co-director of the alternative Sydney window-gallery SLOT.


ÖZGE ERSOY IT I S T E M P T I N G to develop quick and sweeping criticisms of recent developments in the art scenes of the Middle East. The dizzying pace of the art fairs and the growing list of commercial galleries in the Gulf region as well as the spectacular debuts of auction houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and recently Bonhams onto the regional art scene could signify more than just testing the local waters. Yet the penchant for the arts in the region is not only limited to the glamorous performance of art fairs and international auction houses. For years a number of key non-profit institutions, such as the Townhouse Gallery of contemporary art (Cairo) and The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, Ashkal Alwan (Beirut) have held the fort by providing the beginnings of a structure for contemporary artistic practice and development of cultural networks of collaboration and exchange in the region, as well as by relaying their discourse internationally. That said, support for artistic production in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf has grown exponentially over the last decade in the form of new sources of funds, art festivals, and biennials, and it appears necessary that new art production and infrastructure models emerge in the coming years. With this respect, new hybrid models such as the Artist Pension Trust Dubai, which I will discuss below, offer a different form Mario Rizzi, still from Impermanent, 2007 DV film on Betacam SP, PAL stereo, 4:3, 14 min 58 of support for artists by further developing Courtesy the artist networks and by introducing financial incentives specifically for the artists they work with.


One of the most ambitious development plans, Saadiyat Island (Island of Happiness), located off the coast of Abu Dhabi, will host branches of topnotch art museums such as the Guggenheim and the Louvre, as well as a cutting-edge performing arts center: all with the aim of aggressively establishing an unprecedented concentration of contemporary cultural resources. The Guggenheim Foundation has invited established curators and art administrators from the region to be part of its Curatorial Advisory Group—including the directors of the Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center (Istanbul), the Townhouse Gallery of contemporary art (Cairo), The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, Ashkal Alwan (Beirut), Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art (Jerusalem), and Al Riwaq Gallery (Bahrain). These art professionals take on the role of scouts and are being solicited to direct the Guggenheim’s

147 focus and outreach regionally in an environment devoid of major museums specifically dedicated to contemporary art. A possible collaboration between these leading non-profit art spaces and the Guggenheim might initiate a closer cooperation between different art communities in the region, which is currently limited to a handful of people. It may also encourage the Guggenheim Foundation to adopt new models for its Abu Dhabi museum, perhaps an artist- and production-centered structure to help further establish its new regional collection. The mastermind and developer of this project is the Abu Dhabi Tourism, Development & Investment Company, a public joint stock company owned by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority that specializes in tourism real estate assets. This $27 billion plan exemplifies noncommercial initiatives for art infrastructure, as it is eventually funded by the city-state of Abu Dhabi. The Istanbul and Sharjah Biennials are also important pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of art infrastructure that exists in the region, as they suggest new formats for artistic and cultural production. The 11th International Istanbul Biennial, which opens in September 2009, hosted an open-to-all call for submissions for artists and cultural producers. The Biennial also included two series of discussions and talks beginning as early as the preceding February—one that was designed to travel in Turkey, entitled Culture in Action, and the other that took place in Istanbul, entitled Red Thread. These activities aimed to expand the working model of the biennial to incorporate a longer period of production and reflection as an alternative to an exhibition spectacle that only lasts two months. The 9th Sharjah Biennial, which opened in March 2009, also pursued a proactive approach and fostered context-specific production and hence experimentation by encouraging participants to create new works upon an open invitation. This approach was accompanied by a film and performance program as well as by a series of presentations, workshops, and group sessions, entitled The March Meeting, which examined art education, curatorial practices, and art publishing in the Arab world. The Istanbul Biennial is sponsored by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts in collaboration with Koç Holding—a global company based in Istanbul, whereas the Sharjah Biennial is funded by the Department of Culture and Information of the city-state of Sharjah. The sponsors are either private or quasi non-governmental organizations, yet they are both operating as non-profit ventures. While most of the recent models for production, distribution, and archiving of contemporary art in this region have been initiated by non-profit bodies, the Artist Pension Trust Dubai offers an infrastructure system that functions along business lines. Founded in 2004, the Artist Pension Trust (APT) is a profitdriven company inviting artists to invest in a financial planning model with their own art works. So far, APT has launched eight trusts in New York, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Mexico City, Beijing, Mumbai, and Dubai. Since its inception in 2007, APT Dubai has selected more than 70 artists to participate in the trust, using the expertise of a group of locally experienced curators. To summarize briefly, the selected artists deposit 20 artworks over a period of 20 years; and once the trust is closed and starts selling the works, they receive a financial return on the sale of their own and also their peers’ works. This form of financial distribution enables a model of risk diversification and a stable income for artists, while providing a safety net for those whose work may not yet be economically viable.


Can Altay, This pigeon went to the forest, this pigeon went to the city, 2008 One of two inkjet prints on grid paper 8.3 x 11.7 in / 21 x 29.7 cm Courtesy the artist



149 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Miha Strukelj, Untitled, 2002 Oil on canvas, 66.9 x 55.1 in / 170 x 140 cm Courtesy the artist



Yochai Avrahami, Lost in Weimar, 2008 Ink on paper, A4 (set of three drawings) Courtesy the artist

151 ÖZGE ERSOY What do you expect from APT Dubai? What do you think about the regional focus of the collection? DOA ALY (b. 1976, Cairo, Egypt. Lives and works in Cairo) I would expect it to fulfill its role as an art pension trust. The idea is great because it could secure a regular income without the obligations of a full-time job or an art gallery. So I would expect it to eventually provide the artists with a certain financial security that would enable them to keep producing art. As for the collection of the trust, I don’t know much about it. Maybe there should be a catalogue of it or a similar publication for the artists. It feels relevant to say the least. I think the idea of a regional collection is long overdue. It is important for the history of the region and for individual histories as well. At this time, especially in Egypt, artists are producing quite diverse work, not being propelled by one specific cause, but reacting to various stimuli, so it is important to keep track of this process by means of collecting the work, and putting it in juxtaposition with other works from the region. That’s why I think the collection will eventually have to be documented by a catalogue/publication, and should be subject to expansion.

Vangelis Vlahos, U.S. Embassy of Athens, 2006 Wooden construction with plexiglass, mirror, framed text, table 37 x 37 x 13 in / 94 x 94 x 33 cm Courtesy the artist

Luchezar Boyadjiev, Bill Wall. After all, money is nothing if it is not art on the wall, 2008 Digital archival print on 300g watercolor paper 25 x 42.1 in / 63.5 x 107 cm Courtesy the artist

BASIM MAGDY (b. 1977, Assiut, Egypt. Lives and works in Basel and Cairo) Because this is a new model, my expectations in the beginning focused on a stable annual income from the sales of my and other artists’ work. Later I was happy to see APT promoting my work on various occasions. I think the fact that APT divided its trusts according to region is mainly for logistical reasons. So far the work is not sold to a regional collection, but if this happens in the future it won’t be the issue. In my experience, once the work is sold and becomes part of a collection, the artist has very little if any say in the way the work is showcased in exhibitions or in which exhibitions it should be included. This is the main issue. If an artist is not keen on the inclusion of his work in regionally or geographically themed exhibitions, for example, and has been outspoken about that, it can be something for APT Dubai to consider when attempting to include the work in a collection. As ideal as this would be, it’s not practical to assume APT Dubai should go out looking for the perfect collection for each of its projected 250 artists’ works and interests. MIHA ŠTRUKELJ (b. 1973, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Lives and works in Ljubljana) I think it is good to participate in such a program because APT has a good curatorial and therefore collectors’ network. Since it’s very important for an artist to be recognized by different art world professionals, this is definitely one way of doing it. I don’t see it as a completely commercial project, even though I expect APT to do its best to sell the works contributed by artists (and properly store them in the meantime). I also find it good that if the works are not sold, you can have them back after 20 years. I’m new to APT, and have only contributed two works so far, so I think it is too early to say directly what my expectations are. Yet I expect that some accompanying projects will be drawn up. Also, I’m glad to be in such an extensive art collection. There are some really good artists in the same regional collection as I am. I find the principle of selecting artists, with different curators and curatorial boards, quite interesting and good, because it results in diversity and openness. I like the personal contact with my advisor, it makes me feel comfortable. YOCHAI AVRAHAMI (b. 1970, Afula, Israel. Lives and works in Tel Aviv) I expect that an improved connection between the global economy and local/regional socialism will realize itself. Such a network of extensive connections and promotions will combine material benefits and discourse beyond the regular channels. Regional collections have the ability to use the uniqueness of the artists who live in this region, or whose routes originate from this geography, in order to defeat the clichéd obstacles that may come of this fact. I hope that this platform will suggest a new practice of artistic activity and exhibitions due to regional revival. Events that co-operate with the existing events and unattached events are unapologetic acts on the political and economical process in the regional and in the global sense of the word.


MARIO RIZZI (b. 1962, Barletta, Italy. Lives and works in Berlin) Since I first read about APT, I have thought that the idea of creating a kind of solidarity fund for artists, which is at the same time a growing prestigious collection of art, could be simply genius or a flop according to the engagement and motivation of the people involved both on the curatorial and on the artistic side. Seeing the experience of the curatorial staff of the different trusts and also considering the moment of financial crisis and of re-discussion of the role and structure of art institutions in general, and particularly the wonderful list of artists that has been put together by the curators, I believe that all the premises are there to build a wonderful collection and an effective means of artists’ support. Time will tell, of course! I am Italian, but my work and my interests mostly focus on the Middle East and on the Eastern Mediterranean area. Even my best

friendships are definitely connected with that area. It would be less appropriate for my work to be included in the regional collection of London or New York, for example, and, apart from this, I need to say that I feel really proud to be invited to join the artists of this region, whose artistic production I find the most fertile and interesting today. With most of the artists of the region I also share priorities and a particular sense of engagement. The team of the Dubai trust is composed of curators with whom I have enjoyed working in the past for the conceptual framework of their projects, for their capacity of establishing a fruitful dialog and for their human qualities, beginning from the very gifted November Paynter. LUCHEZAR BOYADJIEV (b. 1957, Sofia, Bulgaria. Lives and works in Sofia) I do not really know what to expect from APT Dubai. If I say “money” you will think that I am mercenary. If I say “exposure” you will think that I’m frustrated. If I say “curatorial promotion” you will think that I’m naive. If I say “artistic solidarity in sustainability” you will think that I’m stupid. Maybe a bit of all these things? But I am not a fanatic. I said “yes” to some nice people (curators are people too, right?) who want to: a. built up a collection I would be happy to be part of; b. help me diversify my market potential. The regional aspect is the cherry on top of it all. VANGELIS VLAHOS (b. 1971, Athens, Greece. Lives and works in Athens) The particular region that APT Dubai seems to cover has experienced significant socio-political changes over the last 50 years. The Balkans, the Middle East and the Northern part of Africa were objects of a political agenda before entering into that of art; a political agenda that until today has in most cases seemed to be shaped in such a way in order to promote interests from outside the region. I expect the APT Dubai not to adopt and apply a unified Western model of promotion and circulation of artworks but rather to develop and contribute to a regional infrastructure where APT Dubai itself will be part and not an observer.

Basim Magdy, Man and Domesticated Aliens Convention, 2007 Gouache and spray paint on paper, 10.6 x 14.6 in / 27 x 37 cm Courtesy the artist



Doa Aly, still from Chinese Sweet, Chinese Pretty, 2006 DVD, 12 min 26 Courtesy the artist


In the coming years, APT Dubai will have one of the largest contemporary art collections in the region, as it aims to receive 20 works each from up to 250 “emerging and mid-career artists.” (1) The company stores and offers insurance for all the works in its collection and loans them to museums and curatorial projects. However, the collection remains virtual for several reasons. APT does not buy the artworks but receives them on consignment from the artists who retain ownership rights until the point of sale. It is also crucial to underline the fact that the collection will be dismantled once the trust starts selling the works. For the time being, all received artworks are stored in different warehouses around the world to optimize shipping costs; hence they don’t share a physical storage space that would ideally be open to curators and art administrators. Instead, the collection manifests itself through a website. This online database is indeed the key asset of and for the collection.


APT’s web database features artists’ biographies and digitized images of the works entered into the collection as well as published articles. At this point, I would like to emphasize the immediate research value of this registry and its future research value as a pool of information. Accessible to the public, the database acquires and disseminates data on the artists, and functions as a resource for curators and researchers, so that it constantly increases artists’ visibility on the international scene. After the trust’s closure, these records will serve as the archive of a non-existent, or rather a liquefied collection, and remain as the testimony to the creation of a temporary regional contemporary art collection started in 2007. In other words, such documentation will archive a region- and period-specific overview of artistic production meticulously selected by established art professionals.

The curatorial committee is worth mentioning here. It includes November Paynter (Director, APT Dubai), Mai Abu ElDahab (Artistic Director, Objectif_Exhibitions, Antwerp), Vasıf Kortun (Director, Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul), Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez (curator and critic based in Paris and Ljubljana), and Tirdad Zolghadr (critic and curator based in Berlin), all of whom work for APT on a freelance basis. The diversity of expertise and know-how of these curators is definitely not limited to the United Arab Emirates and the neighboring countries, as the association with Dubai might possibly imply at first glance. The committee has already selected and nominated many artists from the Persian Gulf, the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, the Balkans, and the Caucasus, and is thereby attempting to reread, perhaps even redefine, the borders of the region as well as the regional art market. They also aim to initiate a series of exhibitions in 2010 that will bring together works from the collection in different venues across this expanded region. Ambitiously, this broader geographical scope may even influence the ways in which developing museum collections as well as private collections might reconsider their regional span. Criticism of the speculative aspect of APT is abound. This skepticism mostly revolves around the relationship between APT and its parent company, Mutual Art Fund, which attempts to detect new methods of tracking the performance of artworks in the market. Started in 2006, Mutual Art creates a data pool containing art-related articles from magazines, newspapers, and journals, as well as news from art fairs, galleries, museums, and auctions, all of which are seen as indicators of how well a work is performing in the art market. APT Dubai’s database is then said to be a pragmatic tool for financeoriented evaluation by reducing artworks to assets whose performance can be tracked and archived. In my view, this is precisely where the discussion about APT Dubai becomes most interesting. APT Dubai is one of the few hybrid structures that combine a business and a philanthropic model. Even if such a speculative argument is true, that doesn’t change the fact that the trust is innovatively building a contemporary art collection, providing secure financial support for artists, and creating an online resource accessible to the public. At a time when the development, sustainability and transparency of non-profits are being challenged for a variety of factors, hybrid models are a breath of fresh air on the art scene and innovative alternatives worth considering. The initiative to start a trust named Dubai with the aim of covering the artistic production of this particular region is ultimately linked to the rising appetite for art from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf as well as an accelerated awareness of the potential of the art market in the region. However, it would be too easy to dismiss APT Dubai’s activities to only these terms. This regional trust will eventually establish a cultural niche, offer an ad-hoc model that will support artists’ careers and practice, and create a resource with great future research value. While the company will also profit once the sale of the collection is initiated, APT Dubai seems to offer a legitimate win-win situation to all parties.

NOTES (1) Quote taken from the official APT website. For more information on the Artist Pension Trust and complete list of artists participating in APT Dubai please see

Özge Ersoy (b. 1984, Istanbul) is currently pursuing her master’s degree at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, New York. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, and Binghamton University, New York.


153 Tarek Zaki, History of O., 2009 Resin, plaster, sand, soil, cement and latex, dimensions vary Courtesy the artist and Haunch of Venison, London

Not to mention the limited collectors base, finding support in a sustainable and long-term relationship with commercial galleries is a very rare phenomenon in this region at this time; and artists who work in a flexible, self-motivated and self-reliant fashion find themselves operating in deregulated job markets with no security provided by the state. Such precarious work conditions for artists in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf are relatively more poignant than for artists in Western Europe and North America, as the art infrastructure in the former region is much less geared towards supporting living artists to earn their livelihoods exclusively by selling their artworks, teaching at art schools, or surviving off the plethora of public and private grants that are available. APT Dubai attempts to address the peculiarity and the downside of this precariousness in the region where in addition there is a complete lack of social and public services, such as unemployment benefits and health insurance for practicing artists. To this end, APT Dubai invites artists to invest in their future with the type of capital they can offer—their own artworks. Yet this is not the trust’s only premise.


ANTHONY DOWNEY IN 1 9 7 8 the philosopher and social theorist Michel Foucault traveled twice to Iran. His journey there, and the articles he subsequently wrote for the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, were the source of much debate and were to later become known—following on from his unequivocal support for an Islamic revolution in Iran—as Foucault’s “mistake”. In the pre-revolutionary climate that he witnessed there, Foucault saw what he considered to be an alternative to Western industrial capitalism— the latter described by him at the time as the “the harshest, most savage, most selfish, most dishonest, oppressive society one could possibly imagine”. (1) However, and despite the initial, albeit in some circles qualified, euphoria surrounding Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran, the repression of minority groups, political dissenters, women and non-Muslims that followed the revolution led to Foucault being regularly attacked in the French media. And it is easy to see why: his support for what he considered to be the emergence of a “political spirituality”, nowhere more so than in a deeply secular country such as France, was never going to endear him to either the left or the right. When the political sphere in Iran was eventually eclipsed by clerical diktat (and news of mass arrests, torture and executions began filtering through), the writing on the wall was there for all to see: despite the revolutionary aspect of the events surrounding 1979 in Iran, the revolution, like all revolutions, had begun to devour its own children.

155 in 1979 rather than, as Foucault saw it, an alterative form of modernity and the possibility of a new “political imagination”. The often conflicting views of tradition and modernity, and what they mean, are not helped by the fact that Iran would appear to offer three competing but occasionally complimentary historical versions of itself: one based on an epic, traditional Persian past that lasted until the fall of Qajar dynasty in 1925 (and the subsequent change of name to Iran in 1935); the period 1935-1979, which covers the modernization policies of Reza Pahlavi and his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi—both respectively being the last two Shahs of Iran; and, from 1979 onwards, the era of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the ascendancy of clerical rule. To associate the period 1935-1979 solely with modernization, however, is debateable and it is at this juncture that we start to the see the ambivalence in terms such as tradition and modernity. (2) Many within Iran saw this period not so much as an era of enlightened modernism—the cornerstone of Western neo-liberalism—but as further evidence of an enforced westernization and the base co-option of Western ideals into the spheres of education, art, culture and public life in general. (3) To the extent that these debates appear to be largely political, they were attended by and in part predicated upon the cultural criticism of influential commentators such Jalal Al-i Ahmad whose phrase “westoxification” (“gharbzadegi”) was regularly employed to describe a peculiarly Iranian form of cultural inauthenticity. (4) In terms of his overall outlook on Iranian cultural life and politics, Ahmad was largely critical of the manner in which western systems of government, thought and culture were infiltrating Iranian life.

Whatever the rights or wrongs surrounding Foucault’s support for Ayatollah Khomeini and the revolutionary zeal engendered by the revolution, his writings from that period—which marked his first and last foray into journalism—provide a stark and timely reminder of the difficulties to be had in diagnosing the political and socio-cultural landscape of Iran. And those difficulties revolve around the precise meaning of terms such as “tradition” and “modernity” and, just as importantly, how they relate to the thorny issue of (in)authenticity. In these terms we encounter an interpretive conundrum when it comes to interpreting Iranian culture insofar as the “traditional” cannot be simply equated with regional, parochial or, indeed, historical preoccupations; nor can the ideal of “modernity” be necessarily associated with progress, internationalism or cosmopolitanism. In short, these terms mean different things to different constituencies at different moments in time and this is all the more evident, I will suggest in what follows, when we look at how contemporary Iranian visual culture explores tradition and modernity in the context of (in)authenticity.


A sense of the complexities involved here can be seen in the fact that Iran has one of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world—with urban settlements dating from 7000 BC—and yet one of the youngest population demographics (with a quarter of the population aged 15 or younger). Despite its lengthy history, moreover, it nevertheless has a relatively nascent form of governance based upon a somewhat compromised version of liberal theocracy. In the West, the Islamic Revolution, despite the complex events leading up to it, is largely understood as a categorical Ground Zero in Iran’s political, cultural and social development; a view that tends to see forms of atavistic traditionalism re-emerge


Ramin Haerizadeh, Men of Allah, 2008 C-print, 39.4 x 59.1 in / 100 x 150 cm Courtesy Saatchi Gallery, London



157 Farhad Moshiri, Woman under electric blanket, 2007 Embroidery glitter and oil on canvas mounted on mdf, 47.2 x 63 in / 120 x 160 cm Private collection, London

Implicit within these discussions we find a significant degree of crossover between political and cultural debates around concepts such as modernism in Iran. Whilst there is much to say on the matter of Iranian modernism and its conjoining of local and international influences, I will restrict my comments here to contemporary art and the ongoing negotiation of tradition and modernity in Iranian visual culture. (6) We can see this in the work of Farhad Moshiri who was born in Shiraz, studied at the California Institute of Arts, and now lives and works in Tehran. In works such as Cherry Jar, 2005, we are presented with a relatively traditional-looking representation of a jar that recalls both 13th century Iranian pottery and the pottery found in the 6.000-year-old site of Susa (the latter being one of the oldest known settlements in the world). Although this could be seen to be an exercise in verisimilitude, there is a subtle point being made here about how cultural legacies and traditions are used to promote contemporary global views on certain regions. Through an intricate process of painting and folding his canvasses, Moshiri’s finished works take on the patina and craquelure of the pots he is representing, mimicking a form of inauthentic authenticity, so to speak. Often decorated with Farsi calligraphy, which is usually associated with verses from the Qur’an or Persian poetry, it nevertheless becomes clear that Moshiri’s brand of calligraphy does not necessarily allude to either the Qur’an or to poetry but to modern-day Iranian words, popular street slang, the brand names of mass-produced commercial products, and lyrics from contemporary Iranian pop music. (7) The traditional cultural forms of the past and the enunciative practices of the present, or modernity, are combined here in a hybrid process that further questions any easy distinction between the two or, indeed, any bifurcated notion of an authentic or inauthentic Iranian visual culture.


The apparent divisions between tradition and modernity, and precisely what they mean in the context of “authentic” artistic

TOP Shirin Neshat, Allegiance with Wakefulness, 1994 From the Women of Allah series Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York BOTTOM Shirin Neshat, Untitled, 1996 From the Women of Allah series Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York


Ahmad’s use of the phrase “gharbzadegi”, stemming from his 1962 volume Occidentosis: A Plague from the West, was later channelled to great effect through the rhetoric of Ayatollah Khomeini and thereafter became an integral component—alongside the ideal of national self-sufficiency that continues to this day—in the ideology underwriting the Islamic Revolution. In the rubric of “westoxification”, tradition was presented as an ameliorative form of authenticity by Ahmad and the leaders of the Islamic Revolution. It was that most modern and revolutionary of forces inasmuch as it usurped Western-inspired forms of imitative behavior. The revolution was represented as not so much anti-modern in this context as it was a revolt against the vested interests of the West in Iran’s oil fields and strategic location. It was, in Foucault’s words, “the first great insurrection against global systems, the form of revolt that is the most modern and most insane”. (5)



production, is also explored in Ramin Haerizadeh’s series Men of Allah, 2008. Haerizadeh’s images, upon first viewing at least, appear to allude to the tradition of Persian tapestry until we realize that they are photographs that have been digitally manipulated to resemble precisely such complex patterning. This ambivalence continues in his references to Taaziye theater, an historic genre that was popularized in the Qajar dynasty. In Taaziye theatre all roles, including female, were played by male actors and the masquerade and the fluidity associated with this theatrical genre is present in the manner in which the artist assumes all of the roles in his photographs, including male and female, victim and victimizer, and villain and hero. With a little further theoretical nudging it would be Shirana Shahbazi, Farsh-01-2004 relatively easy here to position Haerizadeh’s work, which draws upon traditional Hand-knotted wool and silk carpet, elements, in the modern context of identity politics, masquerade and notions of 27.6 x 19.7 in / 70 x 50 cm Courtesy Gallery Bob van Orsouw, Zurich performative masculinity—all conceptual mainstays of so-called post-modern theory. Conversely, but also referencing the context of tradition, modernity and the (in)authenticity of identity, Shirin Aliabadi’s work focuses on the sociopolitical specificity of femininity in Iran today. Aliabadi’s Miss Hybrid, 2006, examines the issue of hybridity and represents a series of physical transformations—hair color, facial piercings, nose reshaping surgery, and the use of different colored contact lenses to alter eye coloring—in her subject that is not only popular amongst Iranian women but also registers the signifiers of a cultural rebellion played out against tradition worldwide. These works not only explore cultural norms of beauty but also the meanings of modernity and tradition and how they relate to the role of women in Iran and the influence of Western ideals—or apparent “westoxification”—upon the youth of Iran today. Contrary to popular Western perceptions, Iranian women are not required to wear full chador, although many do. Others choose to maintain the government’s requirement for modesty in public spaces by wearing a combination of headscarf and long-sleeved overcoat (known as the manteau or “Persian coat”). The chador has, however, been a thematic mainstay in the work of Shirin Neshat, who used it throughout her series Women of Allah (1993–97). It also appears in Katayoun Karami’s 2005 Stamp (me and my mother), a complex work that examines the history of the chador but also familial links to notions of tradition and modernity. Karami’s photograph of her mother, taken in pre-revolutionary days, conforms with apparently Western “modern” styles of dress, whereas Karami’s self-portrait is more in keeping with post-revolutionary “traditional” styles of dress. Although her self-portrait was taken thirty years after the photograph of her mother, it is Karami who (to Western eyes) seems strangely dated. Again, the precise meaning of tradition and modernity is determined by who is deploying the terms and in what context.


In suggesting that we analyze contemporary Iranian visual culture around the contested contours of modernity, tradition and authenticity, we need to examine what exactly is being produced not only within Iranian visual culture today but as part of its influential diaspora. Bearing in mind the sheer diversity of output from artists living within Iran and beyond its borders, we should also inquire into the authenticity of the phrase “Iranian visual culture” as a veritable or indeed verifiable phenomenon. What we find in a significant amount of these artists is the sense that, far from maintaining any originary sense of authenticity, their practices are the result of multiple cultural crossovers and inter-relationships, nowhere more so than in a globalized world order and in a country, such as Iran, which has an extended diasporic community. These issues become clearer if we look at the work of an artist such as Shirana Shahbazi, who was born in Tehran in 1974 and now lives and works in Zurich.

Shirin Aliabadi, Miss Hybrid #3, 2006 Inkjet print on plexiglass, 59.1 x 48 in / 150 x 122 cm Courtesy the artist, Galerie Kashya Hildebrand, Zurich and The Third Line, Doha – Dubai



In works such as Farsh-01-2004, 2004, Shahbazi worked from photographs taken in cities as diverse as Harare and Shanghai and, as part of her show in the 2003 Venice Biennial, had the images painted by Iranian billboard painters in a style that would be readily recognizable to Iranians in cities such as Tehran or Shiraz. Assuming, in this monolithic form of representation, both a Madonna-like presence and references to the semiotics of advertising, these original images are also used as the basis for Iranian master carpet weavers to render small carpets that resemble prayer mats. (8) Shahbazi’s practice refracts images found in her contemporary environment through a number of traditions and their interest as images lies in the aesthetic exploration of the very notion (and practical impossibility) of authenticity itself in the broader context of a globalized and diasporic community that takes its inspirations from both Western and Persian art traditions.


Largely a result of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the Iranian diaspora is a significant factor when we consider notions of tradition, modernity and cultural authenticity in artists as diverse as Siah Armajani, Monir Farmanfarmaian, Shirin Neshat, Shirazeh Houshiary, Mitra Tabrizian, Farkhondeh Shahroudi, Y.Z. Kami, Reza Aramesh and Nicky Nodjoumi. In doing so, we reach a crucial stage within which to understand what is happening in contemporary Iranian art: it is a globalized practice with sites of production and reception that stretch from Teheran to Toronto, Shiraz to Sydney, Qazvin to Queens, and Esfahan to the East End of London. Globalization and the spread of an Iranian diaspora tends to hyphenate forms of self-identification and cultural authenticity — precisely the contested ideals that still underwrite a significant part of political rhetoric in Iran today. (9) For artists such as Shirin Neshat and Shirazeh Houshiary, both of whom live and work outside of Iran and have international followings and practices, the context of Islamic art and visual culture is still crucial to their work. Similarly, in the work of Y.Z. Kami, who left Iran in 1984, the legacy of Iranian culture and society plays a significant and enduring role in his art. Kami, who has had shows at the Museum of Modern Art in 1997 and 2006, draws inspiration Nicky Nodjoumi, Early Morning after the Party, 2007 from, amongst other things, Persian poetry, Sufism, and Oil on canvas, 72 x 50 in / 183 x 127 cm Old Master paintings. To note as much is to highlight Private collection, London the extent to which his aesthetic practice—and, indeed, those of the other artists mentioned here—is indelibly imbricated within international debates concerning the politics of representation and contemporary visual practices worldwide. Artists working within Iran today, likewise, have a similar relationship to both the globalized contexts of international culture and the relatively localized concerns of their country. The location of culture, to gloss Homi Bhabha, is a third space where East and West not only meet in a hybrid inter-mixing of culture, history, tradition, modernity and the politics of representation, but a site from where the very notion of authenticity needs to be re-read through the refractive lens of the present.


Monir Farmanfarmaian, Mirror and Gatch, 2008 Mirror mosaics, chalk and ink drawing on wood, 49.6 x 59.1 in / 126 x 150 cm Private collection, London


NOTES (1) Cited in Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson, Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), p. 75. To date, Afary and Anderson’s volume offers the most comprehensive account of Foucault’s time in, and writings on, Iran, including the full publication in English of his articles for Corriere della Sera. (2) Foucault was quick to seize upon the anomalies in the use of the term modernity, noting the extent to which modernization as a political project and as a means for social and cultural change was effectively a spent force in 1970s Iran. Both Shahs had tried and failed, albeit for different reasons (not all of them within their control), to introduce a western version of neo-liberal democracy and industrialization that was to ultimately founder on its own hubris. The message derived from the success of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, in the West at least, was that Iran was somehow unready for modernity. Nevertheless, as Foucault was to observe, the Shah’s version of modernity, promoted at different times by British, American and Russian interests in the region, simply had no place in Iran. He went on to paradoxically argue that it was in fact the Shah (the ostensible modernizer) who was obsolete in Iran: “His is the antiquated dream of opening up his country by means of secularization and industrialization. His project of modernization, his despotic weapons, his system of corruption are what is archaic today”. See Didier Eribon, Michel Foucault (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991), p. 284 (3) In cultural terms, it is notable that the collection housed at Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by the Iranian architect Kamran Diba (who, in turn, employed elements from traditional Persian architecture), was largely assembled under the aegis of Shah Pahlavi in the late 1970s and was essentially a collection of Western rather than Persian or Middle Eastern art. Since the 1979 revolution, and despite the fact that it is widely considered to be the most important collection of modernist and contemporary art outside of the Europe and the U.S., it has been rarely on view to the public. (4) Jalal Al-i Ahmad was a prominent Iranian thinker, novelist, teacher and cultural critic. He studied Persian literature and popularized the term “gharbzadegi” which has various meanings in English, including westernstruck, westoxification, or occidentosis. His writings were particularly critical of artists and other individuals who imitated Western ideals. He wrote: “One can but rarely find Iranian painters and architects who do not imitate Westerners but whose work is distinguished by artistic authenticity and originality, who add something to the sum of artistic endeavor in the world. Things have reached the point that we bring critics and

judges from Europe to judge our painter’s work”. See See Jalal Al-i Ahmad, Occidentosis: A Plague from the West, translated by Robert Campell (Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1984), p. 116. Although the book was never published in toto in the author’s lifetime, Ahmad published parts of it in the journal Kitab-i Mah in 1962 and as a separate volume in September/October 1962. The volume we have today, and from which I quote, is a revised edition published posthumously in Tehran in 1978. (5) See Eribon, Michel Foucault, p. 287 (6) It is arguable, for example, that an artist such as Charles Hossein Zenderoudi (b. 1937) reinvigorated the traditional aesthetics associated with Persian calligraphy by abandoning its rule system and seeings its practice through the lens of modernist practices. In Zenderoudi work, familiar religious and traditional objects become recurrent motifs but are rendered in a modernist idiom. Likewise Parviz Tanavoli’s (b. 1937) work has similarly drawn upon both the literary and visual craftsmanship of his native Iran in the development of an international aesthetic idiom. A noted researcher, teacher, collector and author, Tanavoli travels widely and gives regular talks on his work, again drawing upon the inter- and cross-cultural influences that question any easy designation of his work as either traditionalist or localized. The movement to which they were both aligned is referred to as Saqqakhaneh which is probably best described as a neo-traditionalist movement where the predominant ethos concerned the reconciliation of a traditionalist and modernist aesthetic. (7) In this process we could reference Moshiri’s work to one of his modernist predecessors, Charles Hossein Zenderoudi. See note above. (8) The subject of carpet weaving, in its political, economic and social dimensions, is one of the mainstays of Ahmad’s argument in Occidentosis: A Plague from the West. He writes, “We who prove so meticulous in our local crafts of carpet weaving, tile making, fabric printing, and miniature painting are apathetic when it comes to machines. This apathy toward machines, technology, and the new sciences is the outcome of our confidence in the permanence of our oil resources and in the uninterrupted flow of the machines we buy with our oil money and credits”. See Ahmad, op. cit., p. 81 (9) It is important to also note here the pitfalls to be had in the term “diaspora”. To suggest, for example, that Iranian artists who are part of the diaspora address international (modern) issues whilst artists living within Iran address local (traditional) issues, as some commentators are prone to do, merely re-inscribes the old colonial binary tropes—cosmopolitan/parochial and so forth—and this should be resisted at all costs. (10) Cited in Eribon, Michel Foucault, p. 282

Dr. Anthony Downey is the Programme Director of the M.A. course in Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London and an editorial board member of Third Text. Recently published essays include Diasporic Communities and Global Networks: The Contemporaneity of Iranian Art Today, Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art (Thames and Hudson, London, 2009); Children of the Revolution: Contemporary Iranian Photography, Aperture (forthcoming November, 2009): Centralizing Margins and Marginalizing Centres: Diasporas and Contemporary Iranian Art, in Iran Inside Out, (New York: Chelsea Art Museum, 2009) and Zones of Indistinction: Giorgio Agamben’s Bare Life and the Ethics of Aesthetics, Third Text, 2009. Downey is currently researching a book on ethics, politics and aesthetics (forthcoming, 2010).

Shirazeh Houshiary, Untitled, 2004 Mixed media on paper, 19.7 x 19.7 in / 50 x 50 cm Private collection, London

All images © the artists


The fact that Iran should present itself as something of a conundrum, even to the acute mind of Michel Foucault, exposes the fact of an ongoing struggle there between the forces of modernity and tradition and the rubric of (in)authenticity through which they are both read. Referring to himself as a “mere novice” reporter to an Iranian journalist in 1978, Foucault suggested that “[w]e have to be there at the birth of idea… the bursting outward of their force; not in books expressing them, but in events manifesting this force, in struggle carried on around ideas, for or against them”. (10) We turn here not so much to the past as we do to the present and the events that have been unfolding since the Iranian elections of 12 June, 2009. Iran is still providing something of a litmus test for Western neoliberalism—just as it did in Foucault’s day—and the apparent forces of traditionalism (figured in the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and the more moderate, modernizing forces of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mir-Hossein Mousavi were, at the time of writing, entering into what could possibly be an end-game for current forms of governance in Iran. This agonistic relationship between modernity and tradition in political terms is both reciprocal and tectonic in its cultural force: they rub up against one another and create new fault-lines and formations in ideals such as authenticity, political community and nationhood. And Iranian visual culture, in its national and diasporic contexts, would appear to be providing the arena in which such notions are being played out on the level of aesthetics. In suggesting as much, I am not promoting a paradigm that positions contemporary Iranian visual culture solely as a riposte to historical and political debates; on the contrary, it is the formal aesthetics of the works discussed here—rather than any overt politics— that renders them responsive to the socio-political, economic, religious, ethical and philosophical milieu in which they are produced, disseminated and interpreted. Tradition and modernity, and their inverted uses in the context of Iran, can be opposed or they can intersect. And the point of that intersection between the two, alongside the negotiation of their import, can be seen in contemporary Iranian visual culture and its ongoing engagement with the contested notion of (in)authenticity.





NOVEMBER PAYNTER You studied graphic design at the Accademia di Arte e Design in Florence and continue to practice illustration. Were you already painting before and during your studies? HAYV KAHRAMAN Yes, I have painted as long as I remember. As a child I was either going to be an artist or a ballerina. I attended the School of Music and Ballet in Baghdad. NP How has your painting style developed and how much has it been influenced by your training in graphic design?

Hayv Kahraman at work

HK I think it has changed—or maybe morphed would be the better word for it. I find myself constantly changing, evolving and growing. What is important though is that I have always put my entire self in each piece I do. Not only doing research but really trying to live it and immerse myself in it as much as I can. Yes, my studies in graphic design have taught me valuable lessons in symmetry and composition. This training allowed me to see the beauty in simplicity and the power of color. My early work as a teenager before studying was erratic and very busy. There was just too much going on and I think studying design helped me organize my images and thoughts.

NP The paintings you now produce require a highly sophisticated technical approach. Is this important in terms of the subject matter as well as the aesthetics? HK Yes, it is extremely important. I always strive for quality and craftsmanship whether I am painting in oils or on paper. I stretch my own canvas and prime it myself using rabbit skin glue, which is a traditional method used for centuries to size the canvas. I leave my canvas unprimed because I absolutely love the nature and texture of the linen. NP How did you come to develop such a distinctive style and from which cultures have you gained inspiration and specific mannerisms? Do you feel that the way you fuse styles and references stems from your connection/disconnection to Iraq?


HK I look at many images everyday; not only paintings but also random images I find online. The more I see the more inspired I become, and it all grows from there. My style evolved in this way and naturally through endless sketching and developing.


Tomato Offer, 2008 Oil on linen, 70 x 44 in / 178 x 112 cm



2 Folding Flying Sheet, 2009 Oil on linen, 70 x 34 in / 177.8 x 86.4 cm

Having grown up in both the east and west I find that I can share in a mixture of cultures without fully identifying with any of them. I am one of many Iraqis uprooted from their homeland due to war. Having lived in Sweden, Italy and now the United States, I have always felt like a tourist and an immigrant at the same time. My paintings are a gateway and a reminder of my identity. While Iraq will always be my homeland and is an important instrument in my work, having fled my country I am now dealing with emotions of rootlessness, non-identity, longing and guilt. This is the reality of a refugee where issues of living between two completely different worlds in which language and customs differ arise. Living so far away from the Middle East, I always long for a connection with my Arabic identity.

3 Sweeping, 2009 Oil on linen, 70 x 44 in / 178 x 112 cm

NP Where do the references to Asian painting styles and composition come from? HK The Asian influence stems from images that I have fallen in love with. I have never visited Japan but I greatly admire their sense of design. They seem to achieve utmost harmony with simplistic strokes and composition. Ultimately I merge many styles that reach from the Italian renaissance and Japanese painting to Arabic calligraphy and Persian miniatures. All of these are major inspirations and perhaps an intuitive approach for unity.


NP Why do you only paint women? And where are the ends of the strings which disappear beyond the frame?


HK It is true that all my figures are women. I think that there are two main reasons for this: first and foremost, it is due to the sense of empathy that I experience whenever I see, hear or read stories about women who have experienced barbaric situations. I feel this powerful connection with them and I feel the need to put this down on canvas. The second and perhaps more profound reason for painting these things came to me only after examining and contemplating my work. I fled my native soil in Iraq; I left my friends, my home and my people behind. As I mentioned before, now as an adult this sudden departure has resulted in my developing inescapable feelings of guilt and remorse. I paint war not peace, inequality not equality. This all provides me with a sense of redemption or even a voice to revolt against inhumane atrocities like honor killings and war. In short, my paintings are an outlet of rebellion. As for the strings, maybe they are being held by something/someone else? In cutting the image in this way I leave room for interpretation. Many would assume it is men who regulate the strings, but it can also be circumstance. NP The women you paint are extremely elegant, why is this so? Is it a form of yearning for another kind of life and is this why you also occasionally paint females in the nude?


HK Yes, the women I paint are longing and searching for a different alternative world that transcends the boundaries of the canvas. In the Marionette series, for example, there is a questioning, if you will, of something beyond their repetitive lifestyle of endless cleaning, scrubbing and serving. There is a marvelous quote by Simone de Beauvoir that goes hand in hand with what I was trying to express in this series: “Washing, ironing, sweeping. All this halting of decay is also the denial of life.� NP Where do the patterns on their clothes come from?


1 Denounced Ideal, 2009 Oil on linen with thread and needles, 26 in / 66 cm in diameter




Folding Large Sheet, 2008 Oil on linen, 52 x 85.8 in / 132 x 218 cm

173 NP Their hair is very ornate and voluptuous, is this a reference to the wearing of the turban? HK The women’s black hair accentuates their femininity and is exaggerated in dimension. I portray it in that way to offer an affirmation of their female identity. NP Is there any symbolism in your paintings that refers to art historical references or that comes from your own system of signification—such as the women’s swan-like necks? HK Yes, sometimes. I spent a lot of time in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, looking at master paintings from the medieval ages to the Baroque period and many of the symbolic elements I took from these have appeared transformed in my work. For example, the apple that appears in renaissance art usually depicted with Venus bears symbolic references to a woman’s breast. In my work this apple morphed into a tomato. I am not sure why this occurred, but it might be a Middle Eastern influence manifesting itself. As for the swan-like necks… the swan is a beautiful and elegant creature. I remember ballet rehearsals in Baghdad for Swan Lake at my school and falling in love with the music. Although I was just a kid, the rehearsal was very tough and it was something I was proud of taking part in and I couldn’t wait to perform. But this experience got interrupted because of the war. My family decided to flee Baghdad and travel north to Suleymania where it was presumably “safer”. I left my school and a completely new journey began at that point. NP Do your paintings contain allegories or refer to specific stories? HK Yes, some do. In fact I am now working on seven paintings that will represent the mythological Sumerian story of the descent of Inanna into the underworld. In short, she passes seven gates, and before entering each gate she has to take off one of the items she has gathered before entering and that are said to represent civilization. In my paintings she is wearing seven items of clothing (colored in blues, greens and golds, symbolic of the earth’s colors) and in each painting one item is removed and set aside to make a pile of clothing in the last one with Inanna appearing as a completely nude figure. This is a work in progress so it is still very fresh.

Hayv Kahraman (b. 1981, Baghdad), studied Graphic Design at Accademia di Arte e Design, Florence and Web Design at the University of Umeå, Sweden. Kahraman recently exhibited work in the Sharjah Biennial, UAE (2009); at the Volta NY Art Fair in a solo cooperation with Thierry Goldberg Gallery, New York (2009); in Marionettes (solo), The Third Line, Doha (2009) and in Unveiled, New art from the Middle East, Saatchi Gallery, London (2009). She lives and works in the United States.

November Paynter is an independent curator and the Director of the Artist Pension Trust, Dubai. She regularly writes for art periodicals including Artreview, Bidoun, Artforum online and is the Istanbul correspondent for Contemporary Magazine.


TOP Ironing, 2008 Oil on linen, 42 x 68 in / 106.6 x 172.7 cm BOTTOM Hegemony, 2009 Oil on linen, 52 x 86 in / 132.1 x 218.4 cm

All images © the artist Courtesy The Third Line, Doha – Dubai


Combing, 2008 Oil on linen, 68 x 42 in / 172.7 x 106.6 cm


HK They come from everywhere. I borrow from Islamic patterns, Italian patterns and Japanese or really anything that stands out to me. I then design my own patterns based on all these different references.



Toilette, 2008 Oil on linen, 42 x 68 in / 106.6 x 172.7 cm

FATOŞ ÜSTEK TH I S T E XT was intended to be a review on the recent large-scale Saatchi-initiated exhibition of Middle Eastern art entitled Unveiled. It was unavoidable to scrutinize the contemporary act of producing a geographically marked exhibition regarding its contexts of post-colonialism, construction of identity, notions of difference, binarism of the exotic and the primitive; and its two decades of presence in the field of art. I will introduce selected gatherings and discussions on exhibitions as ‘culturally’ representative, on the institutional reproduction of localized art practice in relation to its conceptual positioning and on relevant production of meaning. Throughout the discussion I will focus on the exhibition Unveiled as containing a filtered variety of iconography and will conclude with the questions of what it means in our contemporary world of understanding diversity and positioning difference.


THE CONTENT SPECIFIC In 1997, Michael Brenson participated in a conference at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Conference and Study Center in Bellagio, Italy, which aimed to investigate the rapidly developing field of international contemporary art exhibitions. The panels were made up of fifteen curators from Africa, Asia, Australia, Latin America, Europe and the United States. The conference took the form of individual presentations of each curator marking the new era on the broader stage of global cultural politics. The year 1997 is a significant marker in the international sequence of art events if we recall the international biennials such as Cairo, Havana, Venice, Istanbul and Johannesburg as well as documenta X, which all coincidentally focused on issues of “nationalism versus internationalism or transnationalism; indigenous cultures versus the global media; handmade traditions versus technological networks; respect for the intimate experience of art versus a belief in curatorial interventions that can make the artistic message, and sometimes even that intimacy itself, broadly accessible; belief in the intrinsic value of art versus obligation to put art in the service of extraordinary social and political needs.” (1) These investigations have been important to further develop the discussion of global politics of art into a rather self-aware dimension of doing and making. That is to say, the questioning of binaries and polarities in the aesthetics of production leads to the legitimization of the cause that the artist serves and the political struggle he is identified with, into a poetic, thematic, psychological, philosophical and political discourse. Throughout the conference, the issue of transparency and openness was discussed marking a common meaningful perspective of approaching and elaborating the new condition of sociopolitical strands. One of the main outcomes of that gathering was the questioning of the fundamental aspect of production of common knowledge; thus the participants investigated the possibility of awareness and acceptance of instability and uncertainty becoming a source of community knowledge, wonder and revelation. As Brenson reports: “The discussions in Bellagio underlined the importance of several related constellations of words. The constellation that includes impurity, partiality, and incompleteness suggests the rejection of any assumption of absolute authority, conclusive knowledge,

or human or cultural essence. Another constellation includes words like hybridity, reciprocity, negotiation, and reconciliation, suggesting the pressing need many people feel to listen to one another and to acknowledge and communicate with realities different from their own.” (2) Starting from the late 1980s, we can observe an increasing transformation from situation-specific to context-specific exhibitions where exhibition making is handled as quantifier of politics that led to production of meaning towards the reproduction of social process. In this view, the geographically marked exhibitions cause modes of engagement to be perceived as modes of reception of a certain understanding and production of modernity. The modernity that has been elaborated is not singular, but rather a multitude of diversity in the sense that each locality absorbs and formulates a modernity of its own in relation to its social, political, historical, sensual and economic constellations. Hence, rather than centralizing an understanding of modernity and its aspects, it is more productive and enriching to recognize other modernities that are similar to or distinct from the one that is subjected. That is to say, if we talk about western modernism as the only modernity possible, it will lead to denying the validity of other modernities like Indian, Turkish etc. which do not necessarily completely overlap with the former yet still perform a modernist position of some sort. Questioning global modernities as a multitude of modernities sprung in the aftermath of three main exhibitions that took place in 1989, such as Havana Biennial; The Other Story, Hayward Gallery, London; Magiciens de la Terre, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. These exhibitions were the main focus of the conference entitled Exhibitions and the World at Large that took place early spring this year at Tate Britain. Among the speakers of the conference were Oriana Baddeley, Jean Fisher, Sarat Maharaj and Charles Esche who have been thinking around the notions of multitude, difference, western and nonwestern separation. Throughout the conference, institutionalized criticism was at stake while the autonomy of the artistic practice was investigated. One of the artists, Sonya Boyce, who has participated at the exhibition The Other Story, argued that they were, as artists, positioned as passive and active at the same time while they were categorized as representatives of Black Art. In respect to Boyce’s remark, Jean Fisher commented that non-western means black people and foreigners, and multi-cultural stands for the non-British in the special case of The Other Story, which stood strongly among the discussion. One of the significant questions one has to ask herself is the question of: How can a visual argument precede its conceptualization when that very argument is preconditioned as a cultural representative of the unknown? Here the unknown refers to the exotic, unfamiliar, and uncommon. This is the main question to be answered when we talk about exhibitions marking artworks as cultural artifacts, which imply the formulation of socio-historical, psychological, economic, and political territories. If unanswered these questions will stay as the affinities of the tribal of the modern where the hegemonic containment will define visual production and artistic autonomy. THE EXHIBITION SPECIFIC Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East (3) took place in the Saatchi Gallery between January 30 and May 9 in London. The exhibition displayed almost 90 works, mostly large-scale paintings with a selection of sculptures and installations, by 19 artists originating from various countries such as Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria and Algeria, framed as the Middle East. This is the second exhibition to have been held in the new premises of Saatchi. The first exhibition, in a similar attitude of encapsulating a geographically marked practice, focussed on art from China under the title The Revolution Continues: New Chinese Art; whereas the following exhibition, on show at the moment, focuses on American art, namely Abstract America—New Painting and Sculpture. In its location on






Sloane Square, the new building stands like a fortress of art. Consisting of 13 galleries and a project room for displaying art with additional function rooms, the new building has three floors and a grotesque entrance marked by columns and a generous garden. The exhibition, in line with its title, objectifies, demystifies, repeats, and scrutinizes the veil. Most of the artworks deal with the veil directly and, most of the time, bluntly. The most obvious example of such utterances is by Shadi Ghadirian. Ghadirian stages floral-patterned chadors worn at the shrines of Iran as portraits of women bearing various kitchen and household items instead of their faces in her series of c-print photographs entitled Like Everyday Series, 2000-2001. That is to say, the photograph series displays the faces of women which have been replaced with graters, sieves and irons. These series of photographs are announced as a humorous approach to the condition of the women as domestic prisoners in Eastern countries. In the guide, the curator of the exhibition announces one of the pieces in the series in these words: “Replacing the expected monotone of the black chador with vibrantly patterned fabrics, each portrait suggests a vivacious individuality and character, belying the limitations of stereotype. Similarly, the mundane objects, when transformed into faces, become highly poised and charismatic caricatures, embodying individual personalities.” (4) The constellation of the words such as individual, character, and stereotype brings forth a cliché reading of a literal artwork. These words, belonging to the Western conceptualization of the social, achieve nothing but a murmur around a piece, whereas the piece in itself cannot posit anything beyond a bare translation of its imagery into the preconditioned Western discourse of receiving works from a different locality. Hence, the works become illustrations of the prejudices about women in veils domesticated in household facilities and without the will to decide or the mind to think. That is to say, the works reproduce what is already expected to be the norms of the Middle East and the dominant aspect of conservative societies of Islam.


Ghadirian is not alone in her depiction of the veil as an object of demarcation. Kader Attia, in his piece entitled Ghost (2007) fills one of the galleries with 240 figures carved of aluminum foil, creating an ‘as if’ condition of ranks of veiled women, kneeling in prayer. Ghost, celebrated as one of the striking pieces in the exhibition through its depiction of void in these figures, stands out as a dry enactment of a like situation. The scale of the installation creates the illusion of impact, as it occupies almost the whole space of Gallery 6. The work is rather a poor appropriation of the supposed condition of women in the Middle East. The hollow depiction of emptiness creates a one-to-one matching Courtesy Saatchi Gallery, London Photographs: © Stephen White of banalities assigned to women in veils living in Eastern Countries. The set of references of the piece might be the divergent struggles of women captured in the state of obedience, even this reference for me an over-reading of the work. The installation is a static work of art, which functions more on the level of assuring the viewer in his prejudices and claims without depth.

Shadi Ghadirian, Untitled from the Like Everyday Series, 2000-2001 C-print, 72 x 72 in / 183 x 183 cm


183 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Marwan Rechmaoui , Beirut Caoutchouc, 2004 - 2008 Engraved rubber, 1.2 x 324.8 x 265.7 in / 3 x 825 x 675 cm

Jeffar Khaldi, Frozen, 2007 Oil on canvas, 90.6 x 102.4 in / 230 x 260 cm



Kader Attia, Ghost, 2007 Aluminum foil, dimensions variable

185 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Rokni Haerizadeh, Typical Iranian Wedding, 2008 Oil on canvas, 78.7 x 118.1 in / 200 x 300 cm (each panel) 78.7 x 236.2 in / 200 x 600 cm (overall)



187 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Nadia Ayari, The Fence, 2007 Oil on canvas, 60 x 56 in / 152.5 x 142.3 cm

Ahmed Alsoudani, We Die Out of Hand, 2007 Charcoal, pastel and acrylic on paper, 108 x 96 in / 274.3 x 243.8 cm



Diana Al-Hadid , The Tower of Infinite Problems, 2008 Polymer gypsum, steel, plaster, fibreglass, wood, polystyrene, cardboard, wax and paint Part 1: 95 x 174 x 99 in / 241.3 x 442 x 251.5 cm Part 2: 63 x 83 x 105 in / 160 x 210.8 x 266.7 cm

189 One of the other celebrated pieces in the exhibition is by Hayv Kahraman. Her poetic depiction of the sacrifice of the lamp becomes the subject of a bet by one of the critics who have reviewed the exhibition. Joanna Pitman from Times Online declares: “I would be prepared to bet that Hayv Kahraman, another Iraqi from Baghdad, has studied early Chinese art and the masterpieces of Renaissance Florence, as well as Islamic miniatures, because her depictions, particularly the diptych, Carrying on Shoulder 1 & Carrying on Shoulder 2 are influenced by the serenity, delicacy and angelic beauty of these periods of explosive artistic riches.” (5) Additionally, Ramin Haerizadeh has produced a series of manipulated photographs of two semi-naked men entitled Men of Allah. Based on photographs of the artist, they show two bearded and heavily hirsute men cavorting in fleshy and sensuously pornographic poses. The vibrant colors in the photographs make the pieces attractive to the eye of the visitor, inviting them to a tale that is a depiction of an alternative narrative of foundations of belief. Diana Al-Hadid’s sculptures of impressive towers are made of crude materials such as plaster, Styrofoam, wax, and cardboard. Al-Hadid’s pieces are the most outstanding works in the entire exhibition; they have a language of their own and a story to tell. The Tower of Infinite Problems (2008) poses as a toppled skyscraper which, viewed from both ends, creates the optical illusion of convergence. Thus, two towers in one embodiment, creating an infinity around the concepts of civilization, history, and futurity. Halim Al-Karim has produced large-scale triptychs portraying mostly women’s faces. The expressions and the blurred states of the images positioned on each side result in bringing the one in the middle to the front. I fail to grasp the piece in its proclaimed relation to Sufi tradition and belief. The text included in the guide mostly talks about Al-Karim’s personal history of surviving the Gulf War or being friends with political prisoners in Abu Ghraib during Saddam’s regime. Tala Madani , Holy Light , 2006 Marker and oil on canvas, 48 x 48 in / 122 x 122 cm


The exhibition is announced and guided in a way in which the works are brought to resemble, cite, and refer to well-known artists and artworks of the Western tradition of art. The specific announcements are: Ahmed Alsoudani’s paintings resemble Goya and George Grosz; Rokni Haerizadeh’s paintings are reminiscent of Eric Fischl’s paintings of nudes on beaches; Tala Madani’s painting Pose (2006) stages glory with clichéd romanticism redolent of Gaugin’s Tahitian virgins; Nadia Ayari’s The Book (2008) which illustrates the Quran refers to Malevich’s Black Square; Ali Banisadr’s paintings are often compared to Hieronymus Bosch. (6) All this contextualization also indicates that the exhibition makers do not even have trust in the works to stand alone as themselves but that they would rather let them stand as associates with their Westerns alikes for an audience of the West to understand the East.


One of the other works is from Shirin Fakhim. She has installed eight life-size figures under the title Tehran Prostitute (2008). Fakhim has been influenced by the fact that the estimated number of prostitutes in Tehran was 100,000 in 2002. This fact in relation to Iran’s international reputation as a conservative moralistic country has lead her to produce figures from footballs, torn and patched stockings, exaggeratedly plumped brassieres and cheap market-stall items shoved down stockings, each one finished off with a wig on top and a pair of trademark stiletto boots down below. With their badly stitched-up crotches and wayward hanks of rope revealing pre-op transsexuals, these prostitute dolls become rude jokes, provoking thoughts of cross-dressing and the sordid reality of poverty, domestic violence and human trafficking. The piece works on the level of objectification of human trafficking and remains in the domain of semiology.


191 THE CONCLUSION SPECIFIC If we position and think of exhibitions as the small change of the universal (La Monnaie de l’Absolu), then we should be able to talk about temporary actions and positions. Hence each and every exhibition produces a temporality with its duration, its content and its visual production, which relates, refers to, engages with, and produces the socio-political aesthetic realities of the present. The references are diverse in their nature due to the diversity of agencies. In the specific case of exhibitions as cultural representatives, a paradox emerges. A paradox of the temporal and the universal, since the temporality as artistic ethos is fixed to a permanency in geographically attributed exhibitions. That is to say, the main issue of the short change of the universal cannot be achieved since it is fenced in the triangle of presumptions, prejudices and radicalism. In other words, the imagery and the content attributed to the specificity of that artistic practice becomes the definer of the artistic convergences as has happened place for the Scandinavian art as art that deals with sound or for Balkan art which displays blood and is about land, or for Turkish art which deals with identity and nationalism. These definitions are rigid categorizations of an artistic practice, not only for the geographical context but also for the individual artist who does or does not focus on these issues. Hence the paradox in this specific case of the Middle Eastern art exhibition would be the fact that each and every radical artist of the Middle East deals with means of suppression generated by religion and society. This fixation on the content creates a general understanding and expectation of art from the Middle East where exceptions will not be ordinary.

NOTES (1) Michael Brenson, The Curator’s Moment, slightly abridged version of the original text from 1998, 2004, Theory of Contemporary Art since 1985, edited by Zoya Kocur and Simon Leung, p. 55, Blackwell Publishing, 2005. (2) IBID, p. 58. (3) Artists exhibited are: Marwan Rechmaoui, Ahmad Morshedloo, Hayv Kahraman, Diana Al-Hadid, Rokni Haerizadeh, Halil Al-Karim, Ahmed Alsoudani, Kader Attia, Tala Madani, Laleh Khorramian, Jeffar Khaldi, Wafa Hourani, Ramin Haerizadeh, Shirin Fahkim, Shadi Ghadirian, Nadia Ayari, Ali Banisadr, Sara Rahbar, Barbad Golshiri. (4) Picture to Picture Guide, Unveiled: New Art from Middle East, Saatchi, for take away, gallery 11 (5) (6) All the information has been sourced from the exhibition guide, published by Saatchi Gallery to provide visitors with information.

Fatoş Üstek is an independent curator and art critic. Received an MA in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths College, and a BA in Mathematics at Boğaziçi University. Curated Here..There..Abroad.. in ifa, Stuttgart, ifa, Berlin and rum46, Aarhus; Moment of Agency in Kunsthalle Basel and Kunstmuseum Bern; Art-Actually in Istanbul, among others. Currently working on the third leg of a trilogy of exhibitions. The trilogy, investigates the notion of “now” in relation to the socio-political aesthetic realities of the present; is composed of The Lost Moment, Kunstfabrik, Berlin, 2007; Immortality sustaining the present the past the future, Tent, Rotterdam, 2009. The third leg will be taking place in 2011 in London. Has been publishing texts for catalogues, magazines internationally (Kunst(h)art; Tema Celeste, Turbulens, Geniş Açı in Turkey...). Founder and editor of the online Contemporary Art Magazine Nowiswere. Has given lectures in HFG, Karlsruhe; NBK, Berlin; Martin Gropious Bau, Berlin; Istanbul Modern; Europist, Istanbul. Currently lives and works in London.

Additionally, belonging anywhere in particular becomes multiple belongings. Hence defining an artist in relation to where he or she comes from and encapsulating his or her practice in the margins of expectations is actually transforming the domain of the visual into the domain of the rhetorical, which results in the institutionalization of cultural diversity. It is needless to mention the shrinking spaces of encounter or the demarcation of the body of knowledge in the light of these attitudes; or the acquiescence to promotion through the commodified signs of ethnicity which renders them complicit with the Western desire for the exotic other, against which it can measure its own superiority. It is important to revaluate what we are made to experience. Exhibitions such as Unveiled are not displayers of a radical art from geographies in conflict; rather, they produce geo-ethnic entertainment. Consuming these alike exhibitions as beholders of knowledge will lead to the overall failure of producing the aesthetics to conceptualize art beyond the boundaries of Eurocentric aesthetic theories and their hierarchical value systems that will lead to the values of art institutions becoming national patrimony, which in turn is intimately tied to myths of an idealized national identity.


All images © the artists, Courtesy Saatchi Gallery, London


The exhibition is a bearer of preconceived situations told in broader perspective in order to translate what it thinks of the other. The art selected, commissioned and bought from the Middle East displays what is imagined to be taking place in the Middle East on the surface of its containments. It is very important to keep in mind that all the artworks in the exhibition have been bought by Saatchi and now belong to his collection. We will not be seeing these art works in various biennials and in high demand in the art market.




DIFFERENT SAMES: NEW PERSPECTIVES IN CONTEMPORARY IRANIAN ART MARYAM HOMAYOUN-EISLER RE C E N T C A L L S for a cultural dialog between Iran and the West seem to position art and culture as one means to address topics which politics has not been able to sort out in the thirty years since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. This was obvious in President Barack Obama’s Norouz (Iranian New Year) address to the Iranian nation in March 2009 in which the President made a notable reference to Iranian art, music, literature and innovation as parameters that “have made the world a better and more beautiful place.” So it has always been that culture, as opposed to politics and war, has had a way of changing preconceptions about other nations. The universal language of art has throughout history had an impact across cultural divides, often leading to the amelioration of misconceptions and distrust. At times art itself has been the cause of cultural or even hot wars. Just consider the looting of art treasures by the Nazis and the Soviet Union during World War II, or the Greek government’s continuous claim for the return of the Elgin Marbles. Following this line of thinking, Iranian art has been seen during the last thirty years as mainly indigenous and localized to cultural norms; yet the oeuvre has increasingly gained visibility and has set a distinct mark in global art forums. The Iranian contemporary art movement has manifested itself on both the commercial and academic side. Commercially, established international galleries and auction houses show a keen interest in the works of Iranian artists, some of whom have reached unprecedented prices. On the other hand, there has also been an increasingly keen interest on the part of institutional and academic entities that materialized via museum exhibitions. Some examples of international institutional efforts in recent years include exhibitions such as Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking, curated by Fereshteh Daftari at the Museum of Modern Art in 2006; Unveiled, New Art from the Middle East, a current—and much debated—exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London, as well as the upcoming exhibition in the summer of 2009 at the Chelsea Art Museum in New York entitled Iran Inside Out.


Artists of Iranian origin are now included, and often chosen, as finalists in art projects and for prizes such as the newly established Abraaj Capital Art Prize, in which one of the top three 2009 finalists was Nazgol Ansarinia, a young and exciting artist who lives in Tehran. Other examples include London’s Victoria & Albert Museum’s Jameel Art Prize, in which Khosrow Hassanzadeh has earned a position on the short-list. It is also worth mentioning that major Western museums are now setting up Middle Eastern acquisition committees, with a strong focus on Iranian contemporary art. Iranian art itself, whether it is produced in Iran or abroad, pays minute

Timo Nasseri, Epistrophy 1, 2008 Polished stainless steel, 59.1 x 59.1 x 39.4 in / 150 x 150 x 100 cm Courtesy the artist and Galerie Schleiger + Lange, Paris

attention to both global and local issues while investigating dichotomous themes critically (and subliminally) both in the context of modernism and tradition. The essence of this art, according to keen observers, largely focuses on issues of identity and spirituality within the context of individuality. These thoughts are reflected in the first major international book on the subject: Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art is an important and timely reminder to the world of art that Iran is no cultural backwater compared even to the highest standards of international art. Long considered a bastion of culture and creativity in the region, Iran is currently experiencing a remarkable artistic revival in the midst of the most challenging circumstances. Iranian artists, whether based in Iran or abroad, are creating remarkable works of art that reflect their country’s social and political environment while incorporating their own personal viewpoints and those of their adopted homelands.



Art changes the way we look at the world and Different Sames is an attempt to explain today’s Iranian art movement in this spirit. Different Sames wants to excite the artworld and global public with the presentation of cultural differences as well as to inspire ideas and visions that may help overcome prejudices and misunderstandings among people. Different Sames tries to tell its own story through the various fine art media employed by the Iranian artists whose works are shown and discussed in this book. The first section deals with history and theory, the art historical and critical essays commingling with the works of most of the leading Iranian modernists. These early pioneers’ contributions to the Iranian art movement are no less important for being represented only in passing. I made a decision early on to place the emphasis on the contemporary movement, mixed with a smattering of headline Iranian modernists with regional and international recognition. I wanted a visual expression of the storytelling aspect of Iranian painting, and for the artists’ own works to be selfrevealing as to cause and effect. I wanted to seek out the roots of the art in relation to the socio-political circumstances affecting our culture’s transformation since the advent of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I wanted visual and theoretical answers to questions such as: How have artistic tendencies changed under a relentless regime of religious-political indoctrination? Has the post-Revolution generation (who now make up 70 per cent of the population) been culturally beaten down? Has there really been ‘continuity in change’ in Iranian art? And what are young contemporary Iranian artists trying to say through their work? Some answers to these questions are revealed in the book’s second part, where we have selected works from both established and newer artists within Iran and from across the large and creatively vibrant Iranian Diaspora. When good, the works allow the reader fresh perspectives on ”differentials” and ”sameness” in relation to the previous generations of Iranian art, and some current trends in the Western art world. Much of the art showcased here has a subtext that deals with the jarring (and often hypocritical) paradoxes of day-to-day Iranian society, from the iconoclastic interpretations of some of the female artists in their criticism of the role of women in contemporary Iranian society, to the overreaching out-of-the-box artwork of others wanting to express their anger and frustration with the status quo. This book, in fact, has tipped in favor of female Iranian artists – not by some sort of positive discrimination, but simply through artistic merit.

A groundbreaking publication, Different Sames is a first in a field of contemporary art that little is known about but has been vividly discussed in the last few years. The book offers the most comprehensive account yet of the recent explosion of creativity in the Iranian contemporary art scene. This burst of activity has resulted in the production of remarkable works of art both in Iran—given the restrictions imposed by the authorities—but also by members of the Persian artistic diaspora worldwide. Published by Thames and Hudson in association with Transglobe Publishing, Different Sames is an A to Z of 115 of the best and brightest artistic talent to come out of Iran.

Through a series of exclusive interviews with some of the biggest names in Iranian contemporary art—including artists such as Shirin Neshat, YZ Kami, Shirazeh Houshiary, Shirana Shahbazi and Parviz Tanavoli, as well as leading curators, gallerists and patrons of the arts—the book explores the subjects and themes behind the works, investigating the similarities to and differences from other international art oeuvres around the world. Different Sames is also rich in its Excerpt from the foreword by Hossein Amirsadeghi presentation of some of the most daring and cutting-edge emerging artistic talent from among the younger generation. Finally, the book also profiles some of the most important movers and shakers who have had an impact on the world of contemporary Iranian art, including curators, gallerists and patrons of the arts. With three important essays by leading international academics—Hamid Keshmirshkan, Mark Irving and Anthony Downey—the subject of modern and contemporary Iranian art is thoroughly covered. The editor and author of Different Sames, Hossein Amirsadeghi is a writer, publisher, editor and documentary filmmaker who has shown in recent years keen interest in creativity as it pertains to the Middle East and the Muslim world as a whole. Different Sames is his third publication on the artistic heritage of Persia, following The Arts of Persia (1999) and Peerless Images: Persian Painting and its Sources (2002)—both published by Yale University Press. With Different Sames, Amirsadeghi takes the story told in the earlier two books on Persian Art to the present day, thus completing the cycle.


The inquisitiveness of the artworks and oeuvres represented in the book goes a long way in explaining the foundations of this vitality in Iranian creativity despite thirty years of revolutionary turmoil. Different Sames is a testimonial to the Persian creative genius from ancient times, resuscitated in creative bubbles, not to mention the ferment of young creative talents seeking inspiration in their own roots and origin, all the while in tune with the globalized art movements of recent decades.


Mehdi Farhadian, Twins, 2008 Acrylic on canvas, 74.8 x 59.1 in / 190 x 150 cm Courtesy the artist and Mah Art Gallery, Tehran Private collection, London

199 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Pooya Aryanpour, Untitled, 2008 Acrylic on canvas, 59.1 x 59.1 in / 150 x 150 cm Courtesy the artist and Assar Art Gallery, Tehran Private collection, London



Samira Alikhanzadeh, Untitled, 2007 Acrylic and print on board, diptych, 70.9 x 59.1 in / 180 x 150 cm Courtesy the artist and Assar Art Gallery, Tehran Private collection, London

201 RES SEPTEMBER 2009 Tahereh Samadi Tari, Untitled, 2007 Acrylic on canvas, 47.2 x 59.1 in / 120 x 150 cm Courtesy the artist and Day Art Gallery, Tehran Private collection, London

Dariush Gharahzad, Untitled, 2007 Acrylic on canvas, 47.2 x 70.9 in / 120 x 180 cm Courtesy the artist and Day Art Gallery, Tehran



Mohammad Hamzeh, Untitled, 2006 Acrylic on wood with paper, 58.3 x 38.2 in / 148 x 97 cm Courtesy the artist and Etemad Gallery, Tehran Private collection, London

203 Edited by Hossein Amirsadeghi Published by Thames & Hudson In Association with Transglobe Publishing, 2009

Khosrow Hassanzadeh, Untitled (from the Pahlevan series), 2006 Silkscreen and media on cardboard, 72.4 x 46.9 in / 184 x 119 cm Courtesy the artist Private collection, London

Maryam Shirinlou, Sought him with a thousand hands, 2007 Mixed media, 70.9 x 47.2 in / 180 x 120 cm Courtesy the artist and Xerxes Fine Arts, London Private collection, London


Maryam Homayoun-Eisler (b. 1968, Tehran) is both a collector and a patron of the arts, with close affiliations with the newly established British Museum’s Middle Eastern patrons group and Tate Modern where she sits on the Asia Pacific Committee and co-chairs the Middle Eastern Acquisition Committee. She is also closely linked with London’s Whitechapel Gallery and has recently linked up with the Chelsea Art Museum to assist with the realization of the exhibition Iran Inside Out. She has contributed to Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art and is currently engaged in the creation of Unleashed: Turkish Contemporary Art, due for publication in September 2010. RES gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Hossein Amirsadeghi and Roger Fawcett-Tang.

ARTISTS PROFILED IN DIFFERENT SAMES (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER) Samira Abbassy Hessam Abrishami Ali Reza Adambakan Afsoon Negar Ahkami Shahriar Ahmadi Shiva Ahmadi Nader Ahriman Ali Ajali Mania Akbari Alaleh Alamir Shirin Aliabadi Samira Alikhanzadeh Nazgol Ansarinia Haleh Anvari Shaqayeq Arabi Kamrooz Aram Reza Aramesh Pooya Aryanpour Sara Arianpour Madjid Asgari Mehraneh Atashi Fereydoun Ave Andisheh Avini Shoja Azari Shahoo Babai Sonia Balassanian Ali Banisadr Dadbeh Bassir Jamshid Bayrami Fataneh Dadkhah Alireza Dayani Ala Ebtekar Mohammad Ehsai Samira Eskandarfar Mohammad Hossein Emad Roya Falahi Amir H. Fallah Negar Farajiani Roya Farassat Mehdi Farhadian Monir Farmanfarmaian Golnaz Fathi Asad Faulwell Arash Fayez Parastou Forouhar Shadi Ghadirian Dariush Gharahzad Amirali Ghassemi Babak Ghazi Kaveh Golestan Barbad Golshiri Neda Hadizadeh Ghassem Hadjizadeh Mohammad Hamzeh Arash Hanaei Khosrow Hassanzadeh Narges Hashemi Peyman Hosshmandzadeh Shirazeh Houshiary Bahman Jalali Iran Issa Khan Pouran Jinchi

Y Z Kami Katayoun Karami Shahram Karimi Babak Kazemi Afshan Ketabchi Avish Kebrehzadeh Hossein Khosrojerdi Farzad Kohan Reza Lavassani Tala Madani Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakhar Ahmad Morshedloo Mohammad Mosavat Farhad Moshiri Nazar Mousavinia Sirous Namazi Mehrdad Naraghi Timo Nasseri Shirin Neshat Nicky Nodjoumi Fereydoun Omidi Sarah Rahbar Hamed Sahihi Tahereh Samadi Seifollah Samadian Hassan Sarbakshian Arash Sedaghatkish Jalal Sepehr Mamali Shafahi Shirana Shahbazi Maryam Shirinlou Mitra Tabrizian Shideh Tami Taravat Talepasand Parviz Tanavoli Aneh Mohamad Tatari Newsha Tavakolian Sadegh Tirafkan Hamila Vakili Anahita Vossoughi Houra Yaghoubi Reza Yahyaei Firouz Zahedi Amir Hossein Zanjani Charles Hossein Zenderoudi

IRANIAN MOVERS AND SHAKERS WHO HAVE HAD AN IMPACT ON THE CONTEMPORARY IRANIAN ART MOVEMENT. THEY ARE PROFILED AND INTERVIEWED IN DIFFERENT SAMES (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER) Fereshteh Daftari, Curator at the MoMA, lives in NYC Kamran Diba, Director and founder of the Contemporary Art Museum of Tehran (pre-revolution), patron, curator, artist, lives in Paris Maryam Homayoun-Eisler, Patron, collector, lives in London Shirley Elghanian, Founder of Magic of Persia Foundation, lives in London Lily Golestan, Gallerist (Golestan Gallery), lives in Tehran Leila Taghinia Milani Heller, Gallerist (LTMH Gallery), lives in NYC Rose Issa, Curator, lives in London Leila Khastou, Gallerist (Khastou Gallery), lives in LA Shahnaz Khonsari, Gallerist (Mah Art Gallery), lives in Tehran Vali Mahlouji, Curator, lives in Tehran and London Farah Pahlavi, Ex-Empress of Iran Ali Reza Sami Azar, Contemporary Art Museum of Tehran Director (postrevolution), lives in Tehran Massoumeh Seyhoun, Gallerist (Seyhoun Gallery), lives in Tehran and LA Rozita Sharafjahan, Gallerist (Aaran Gallery), lives in Tehran Sunny Rahbar, Gallerist (Third Line Gallery), lives in Dubai Omid Tehrani, Gallerist (Assar Art Gallery), lives in Tehran Ziba De Weck, Founder of the Parasol Unit Foundation, London, lives in London





COVER (detail) Gregory Crewdson, Untitled, 1998 From the Twilight portfolio C-print, 50 x 60 in / 127 x 152.4 cm Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York

RES No.4  

Interview With Gregory Crewdson Kathy Battista Pars Pro Toto Istanbul Version: A Biennale A To Z (fragments) Hans Ulrich Obrist Abstract Art...

RES No.4  

Interview With Gregory Crewdson Kathy Battista Pars Pro Toto Istanbul Version: A Biennale A To Z (fragments) Hans Ulrich Obrist Abstract Art...