ART WORLD / WORLD ART NO:5 MARCH 2010
RES Art World / World Art was launched in September 2007 in Istanbul with the objective of casting a glance at contemporary art from a fresh, broad and critical perspective, with contributions from leading writers, artists, curators and art professionals. Published biannually by Dirimart, RES champions an integrated -even eclectic approach- arguing that we should develop a view of the contemporary art agenda that encompasses everyone, every form and format. Including interviews, essays, exhibition and book reviews, and with a special emphasis on (neglected) art scenes in neighboring countries, RES is a non-commercial publication from Istanbul that, we hope, opens the doors to a versatile set of sounds, colors and dimensions. The fifth issue of RES brings with it a slight change of air; Duygu Demir recently joined RES as Managing Editor, and November Paynter has already contributed immensely to the magazine with her presence on the Editorial Board. And in the near future, the rejuvenation of RES will be furthered with guest editors. RES 5 features an inspiring set of texts and images, including an interview with the 2009 Turner Prize winner Richard Wright, a conversation between the artist Yüksel Arslan and Hans Ulrich Obrist, a look at contemporary art in Romania with a focus on Cluj and Bucharest, in addition to the first art commission for RES that we are very excited about -a drawing made specially for this issue by Ciprian Mureşan. RES 5 also includes an overview of art world prizes including two of the closest to home - the Abraaj Capital Art Prize and the Deste Prize, as well as the Hugo Boss Prize in New York, along with many more articles, interviews, exhibition and book reviews. You can subscribe for the hard-copy or access the pdf version of the current and previous issues of RES by visiting our website at www.resartworld.com. We also look forward to receiving your feedback. We hope you enjoy the read.
RES MARCH 2010
3 HUO Has music always played an important role in your works? YA Yes, there are many musicians, there are always musicians… I can give you my other books. HUO Are there other published books?
INTERVIEW IN FRENCH. TRANSLATED BY YASEM‹N BASKI DUMAN AND BERRAK CÖMERT
YA Yes, I have published books. I love books very much. Every time I work on a series, I make a book of the series and publish it before the exhibition.
HANS ULRICH OBRIST I worked at Paris Modern Arts Museum for ten years but we never met. When did you begin working? When did your art begin? When was the beginning, was there an epiphany? Did it begin in the family?
HUO Were you born in İstanbul?
YÜKSEL ARSLAN The beginning, my first exhibition was in 1955 at Galeri Maya, İstanbul. It was 55 years ago. There were drawings similar to this (pointing to his notebook). I still have the notebooks. All my notebooks are in İstanbul, at the museum [santralistanbul]. Great notebooks…Here, they are. For example, currently I am working on Janácek. I read books and take notes. After reading books, I take notes here (pointing to the notebook). Afterwards, I can see how I am going to work, how I can do this; an arture. I look at this [notebook] and draw here. Afterwards, I start working.
HUO Yes. (laughs) What brought you to Paris?
HUO What made you work on Janácek?
HUO How did Breton get to know you?
YA I love music and musicians very much. Because they have very powerful ideas. For example, Janácek says “When someone speaks with me, I have music.” The melody of speaking. You have your way of speaking. Everyone does. When Janácek hears you speak, he creates the music of your voice. Your way of speaking, the melody of your language, it is very interesting.
YA We had not met. In 1959, I met an American poet, Edouard Roditi in a small square in İstanbul. Edouard Roditi was American but his parents were of Turkish origin. His parents; his father immigrated to the U.S.A. Roditi had a cousin in İstanbul; Tilda Roditi. Tilda Kemal was the wife of the Turkish novelist Yaşar Kemal. Roditi was in İstanbul to see his cousin in 1959. He saw my works at my professor’s place, at İpşiroğlu’s place.
HUO What is the relationship between you and the objects around you? There is blood on one side and there is Janácek. You are surrounded by so many objects. It is like a museum here. It is fabulous.
HUO Were they drawings like this?
YA Yes, if you look around, you will see there are mostly musical instruments. This is an African harp. This is sanza, the African piano. They invented it. This is like a music room.
YA Yes, yes. In İstanbul, very close to the museum [santralistanbul].
YA I was invited by André Breton, the Surrealist. The pope of Surrealists. HUO Did he invite you? YA Yes, he invited me in 1959 to converse. How do you say… After the Raymond Cordier Gallery. Here they are (brings the books). Yes, I was invited by André Breton.
YA He asked: “Where can I meet Mr. Arslan?” Then he went to a restaurant and he found me. Later, Roditi went to Paris and he met Breton there. At the time, André Breton was preparing an international exhibition on Surrealism. And the subject was erotism. (laughs) So Breton asked Roditi if he had met any painters that could be of interest to them - because Roditi traveled a lot. Erotic painters… Roditi told him about me, two German painters and one Dutch painter. So I got an invitation from Roditi while he was in İstanbul, at the Bosphorus (laughs).
HUO These are wind instruments? HUO Did you go to Paris to see the exhibition? Did you see the Surrealist exhibition? YA Yes, there are many wind instruments. Oboe, wind instruments and some masks… Do you remember, this is like that Indian film. The film “Music Room?” It was a work of art. HUO Was that your inspiration? RES MARCH 2010
YA Yes, here, it is like a music room. Studio of the artist, like a music room.
YA I could not participate in that exhibition. Because in 1959, it was not possible to leave Turkey. I could not even find a way to send two paintings to Paris. But in 1960 there was a military coup in Turkey. They came into power. Later, it was possible to obtain a passport for 200 dollars and leave the country. Roditi also sent to me an American collector, Mark Moyens. Mark Moyens bought four or five paintings of mine in İstanbul. On his way to the U.S.A. he stopped in Paris and showed these paintings at the Raymond
RES MARCH 2010
HANS ULRICH OBRIST IN CONVERSATION WITH YÜKSEL ARSLAN
5 HUO There was also the theater of Bertolt Brecht, Bataille, literature and theater. Because your book had Brecht in it. Arture 428, İnsan 69: Şizofreniler, toplayıcılar [Arture 428, Human 69: Schizophrenics, collectors ] 1991 35 x 43 cm Courtesy santralistanbul
YA Yes, Bertholt Brecht for example. I think he is one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. As one says, he was a great mind. HUO What was it about Brecht that influenced you?
Cordier Gallery in Paris. Among these paintings there was a portrait of Marquis de Sade. Cordier bought that portrait and showed it to André Breton. André Breton said: “We invited this gentleman to our exhibition but he did not participate, he did not send any paintings.” So in 1961, I got my passport and went to the Gallery Raymond Cordier, in Paris.
YA I can say mostly his writings and poems. It is said that he is a great poet as well. They think of him as a man of theater. But, in fact he is a great writer and a poet. This influenced me along with his ideas. HUO In poetry there was also Lorca.
HUO I am very interested in your movements. Your phallicism movement. Is there a phallicism manifesto? YA When I was young, I used the signature “Comte de Phallus” (Count of Phallus) in my paintings (laughs). I sent a letter to André Breton explaining to him why I could not send any paintings to Paris in 1959. The letter was also signed as “Comte de Phallus.” We found this letter later on the internet because Breton had kept it in his archives. He must have thought that there was a Marquis de Sade from İstanbul, and now a “Comte de Phallus” from İstanbul.
YA Yes, Lorca, of course. HUO What was it about Lorca that influenced you? YA His poems, of course. If you pay attention, in “Influences” there are very few painters. HUO Here you mention a quotation from Lorca. “I am always with those who have nothing and who refuse the tranquility of having nothing.”
HUO Was there a phallicism manifesto? YA We were going to write it. Because, what is Surrealism? They founded it when they were young. André Breton, Edouard, other Surrealists, Aragon… They founded it when they were young. And me, I was born in 1933 and in 1933, Surrealism was an almost finished movement. We were young, why would we follow something that they had come up with when they were young, 40 years ago? So my friend and I, the two of us started a school of phallicism. In the years 1959 and 1960 (laughs). We went to see a lawyer. We asked the consequences of starting such a school. Our lawyer friend said that we would face problems and lawsuits, like pornography. So, it would not work. We decided not to start such a school. But for many years my signature remained Comte de Phallus.
YA Yes, Lorca. I made this landscape painting. Do you see this landscape? It is beautiful. Because when we put this in exhibitions there were lots of clients wishing to buy it. Because it is a beautiful landscape. But there was something that the collectors forgot; this is where Lorca had been executed by a firing squad. HUO Is it where he died, Granada? YA Well in Granada, the fascists found Lorca where he was hiding and they brought him to the place in this landscape and they executed him. HUO Yes, true.
RES MARCH 2010
HUO I would like to ask you about your influences. When you started, you had this magnificent book called “Influences.” There is the influence of literature. When you started your magnificent drawings in Turkey in the 1950’s, what were you influenced by? Was it a Turkish influence or an international influence?
YA But everyone wanted to buy this landscape painting since it was a beautiful painting. But they forgot that he was executed by a firing squad here. Poor Lorca was executed by a firing squad here, in front of this beautiful landscape.
RES MARCH 2010
YA No, my influence was mostly related to what I saw in Turkey. For example, the shadow theater with the figure of Karagöz. There are curtains and on the curtains there are small figures of men. Shadow theater, Karagöz… It is said that this originally comes from China. This had an important influence over me. And miniatures… Because one says, since Turkey is an Islamic country, there are no paintings. It is ridiculous. Why wouldn’t there be paintings? When you go to the library at the Topkapı Palace, if you have the authorization, you can find manuscripts from the 15th century. You open them and see that there are miniatures. What are miniatures? They don’t have to paint the same sort of painting as they do in Paris, London or Berlin. They can paint differently. So, I had the idea to be influenced by what was in Turkey, in İstanbul. As I said before, the figure of shadow theater, Karagöz, miniatures, etc,.
7 YA Yes, they say that my works are erotic and sometimes pornographic, or that they are too political. It’s neither. I explained this with my paintings in İstanbul. Around 1967 I was under the influence of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. I was very much influenced by him. I was married and I had kids. I ate like everyone. Then I asked myself, am I superman (surhomme)? (laughs) I was like you, I was like everybody else. I understood that I was not superman. When I became interested in others I worked on Marx. HUO It was when you made your cycle on the “Capital,” right? YA Yes, when I was interested in the politics; people, the society… I asked myself what am I going to study and I said I will study Marxism. What Marx, his friend Engels and even Mill did. HUO So can we say that you illustrated the “Capital?” YA No, I did not illustrate the “Capital.” I put it into images. HUO Yes, it’s different. YA Yes. Understanding the book, Karl Marx, Marxism. That means dialectic materialism and putting the “Capital” into images. These are very different. HUO So you started in 1967 and you gave the “Capital” an image? And The Capital is a great cycle of drawings. YA Yes. HUO Can we say that it was a portrait of work? A portrait of labor? YA For instance the hand is a boss. He has a factory and a thousand workers and he says “I have a thousand hands.” He sees workers as himself. Hand. A hand-worker for him. (laughs) HUO Isn’t this at the same time about the fight? This is the fight between the capital and labor. YA Yes, capital… Because actually Karl Marx never mentioned the fight between capital and labor. He only describes capital, the capitalist system, right? For instance when he does not understand the circulation of capital, he writes to Engels. Engels works in a factory in Manchester. A textile factory. And Engels explains it to him. He answers. He writes letters. He explains to him how circulation works. He explains, because he [Marx] cannot understand everything. But Engels knows, because Engels is a boss. (laughs) HUO Yes. He was the manager of a factory in Manchester. Recently, a biography of Engels on this topic has been published. He knows it from the inside. Not from the outside.
Arture 166, Kapital XV A (İş kazaları) [Arture 166, Capital XV A (Work Accidents)] 1972 36 x 28.5 cm Jacques Vallet collection Courtesy santralistanbul
RES MARCH 2010
HUO The interesting thing here is that Brecht and poetry, Lorca and also Mayakovsky bring us to politics. When I read your book, I’ve noted that your book is very much involved with politics. Can you tell us about this, your political relationships.
RES MARCH 2010
9 RES MARCH 2010 RES MARCH 2010
Arture 216, Etkiler 5f (İslam Sanatları) [Arture 216, Influences 5f (Islamic Arts)] 1980 30x21 cm Besi Cecan collection Courtesy santralistanbul
Arture 313, Etkiler (B)-46 (B. Brecht etkiler altında: Villon’dan K. Marx’a) [Arture 313, Influences (B)-46 (B. Brecht under influences: From Villon to K. Marx)] 1983 30x21 cm Lale Kula Özerden collection Courtesy santralistanbul
11 HUO What is the role of hands? Because you draw hands a lot in your works. Most of the time there are hands. For example, I see a work accident in this work. And I see a hand cut off here. YA Yes, we are talking about a work accident here. What is this really? This is an homage to my father. My father was a worker. He used to work in a plywood factory and he lost one of his fingers as the result of a work accident. That is also an homage to my father. HUO Yes. You use very few colors. It is a limited color palette. Can you tell us about the colors you have? YA Of course. Because I call these natural colors. Look at the paper I prepared. HUO Wow, yes. What does Rustrel mean? Geographical? YA Look, when I prepare the paper, the raw material is the soil. Look… It comes from Turkey. It comes from Mexico, America… HUO So what is Rustrel? YA Rustrel is a small holiday village in France. The raw material is very prehistoric. In the olden times, when they did paintings in caves, they did not buy paint. They produced it themselves. So I thought of using natural colors. Not artificial ones. Here are my colors… HUO Wow… These are pigments. YA Yes. These are colors of stone. When it touches the paper, it gives color. I’ve always used it. HUO There is another chapter that I saw at the exhibition. Actually there are many series of artures relating to the subject of the “Capital.” And arture is related to the “Capital.” But this is another chapter. And we see dogs. And then there is arture. Can you tell me a bit about this arture? YA Yes. When I went to the Gallery Raymond Cortier in 1961, they wanted to sell my paintings. But they said to me: “Your works are not paintings. They are not gouache. They are not watercolor. But there are still colors. Because the collectors asked me: “How is this possible?” And I say to them : “I will tell you tomorrow. And I found the word myself. Art… Art and ure. I combined them; arture. And I found the word. And I said these are artures. (laughs) HUO It is like neologism. (laughs) YA It is like peinture [painting]. Architecture…Future… I added the suffix –ure. And I said these are artures. And he said “This doesn’t suit me. What are artures?”
RES MARCH 2010
Arture 337, Autoartures VIII 1985 40x40 cm Oğuz Özerden collection Courtesy santralistanbul
HUO And they have numbers? YA I have been numbering since then. Since 1961… With this one I’ve reached number 662.
RES MARCH 2010
13 RES MARCH 2010
HUO And there are capitalist ones among these portraits. And there are dogs. There are all sorts of figures, right? YA Yes, of course. The Capital series is the updating of “The Capital.” Because the “Capital” was written in the 19th century. And I asked myself: “What is happening in the 20th century?” Look at this for example. The 20th century. There is the Korean War here. The Independence War. Even the ones in Cambodia and Palestine are present. Tortures at camps, chemical wars… Here’s the 20th century. I wanted to provide an update. HUO I see a hand here again. There is a handshake. YA The handshakes here are those among rich countries and third world countries… Back then they used to be called the immigrating countries. The poor countries. HUO And this one. Number 188. Arture 188. A handshake. Shaking hands between poor and rich countries. YA Yes, yes… HUO And I see animals. Arture 183. A very anxious insect. Artures 198, 197, 193 and many artures of dogs. YA Yes, it is symbolic. HUO Dogs? YA Yes, like in the “Capital.” The hand symbolizes the worker and most of the time there are symbols like this. HUO So what is it for you? Because most of the time you write too. You wrote in the beginning. I see many books and the influence of literature. I see Mayakovsky, Mallarmé… You are surrounded by their books. What is the role of writing for you? YA Yes, I write when I feel that I have to. For example there is the text and conversation with Jacques Vallet, here. I wrote the third one for example. I wrote this part as well. I write when I feel that I have to. HUO When there is an urgency? YA Yes. HUO So are there any texts of yours that are related to politics? YA Political texts? No. I have been interested in politics and society. But I am no politician. HUO But Mayakovsky talks about revolution… And I am curious about your interest in Mayakovsky.
RES MARCH 2010
YA Yes, he and another poet. Esenin [Sergei]… He committed suicide.
Arture 188 1978 50.5 x 71.5 cm santralistanbul collection Courtesy santralistanbul
15 YA No. Esenin was from Russia. Mayakovsky committed suicide too. Because he had understood that the revolution with Stalin was not going well. The revolution was a failure. He understood this and therefore killed himself…
YA When you are in İstanbul, as you saw when you walked around during your visit, you can see gravestones and fountains or mosques and there are always Arabic writings. It is interesting for foreigners, but mysterious to Turks. Especially Arabic writings. Because Atatürk introduced the Latin alphabet. And these gravestones, epitaphs of mosques… Since we cannot read these Arabic writings, it is mysterious to us.
HUO He says: “The essence of his work is insult.”
HUO Yes. They were like magical symbols that you cannot read, right?
YA They are mysterious to us because we cannot read them.
HUO Is that true for you too?
HUO Abstract, isn’t it?
YA Who says that?
YA Abstract, mysterious and this deeply effected me. Therefore I worked on Islamic art only. You see it on the streets, everywhere…
HUO Mayakovsky. YA Oh, yes, yes, yes.
HUO In another one of the series in your exhibition is the series “İnsan” [Human.] İnsan 1, İnsan 5. You mention abstraction. Here we get to microscopic from macroscopic. Men are like microcellular. Can you tell me about these worlds. Because there are different worlds in the artures. There is a world of ‘insan.’
HUO Is that true? YA Yes. Because you know he was very much involved with the revolution and he believed in it. He was not like the other one, Esenin. Esenin was very angry, furious. Because he said: “They hosted us at the Kremlin. They did not even give us chairs. They did not tell us to sit down.” Esenin was furious. But Mayakovsky was very much involved with the revolution. But he believed that it was the end when he was talking about the revolution. HUO You make lists a lot of the time. Currently there is an Umberto Eco exhibition at the Louvre. Umberto Eco wrote a new book about lists. And then there is of course Georges Perrec, who worked a lot on lists. And you too, you make lists a lot of the time. Do you like lists?
YA Yes, in fact what I am interested is not the origin of man. When I decided to do this series, it took 15 years. And I said I am not going to do Darwinism on origin of man. Not something on the origin of man, but on the origin of life on earth and I studied this. I found books. Then I said to myself, I am going to work on the structure of the nervous system. How the nervous system is formed. How life actually began… And afterwards the nervous system. I studied these like a scientist and I understood to the extent that I could. And after the nervous system, the normal nervous system and diseases of the nervous system… And of course later, mental diseases and schizophrenia. And I was very much interested in schizophrenia because there are millions of people with schizophrenia in the world. In Switzerland… There are around 30 million people with schizophrenia… HUO Yes there is art brut [outsider art], right?
YA Not always! It depends. HUO There was another question that I wanted to ask you. There is another series in İstanbul. These are auto-artures. We arrive at auto-arture from arture. And within the arture system, there are auto-artures. Is auto-arture polyphonic of auto-portrait? Or how do we define auto-artures? YA Yes, yes. I have always been interested in others. Other poets, other writers, etc. Now I must turn to myself. Because I have my parents. And this is how it begins. Where I was born, with my parents. And like I said, I wrote it in this book. Waking up in the morning, having three cups of tea, reading, working, working… Reading and books. (laughs) And I wrote that there is nothing interesting in my life. The only thing I could do was to arrange my system of working. And I wrote that I turned back to a great poet that I had just met, Dylan Thomas, and also Pessoa [Fernando]. He is Portuguese and I turned back to the poet. This is how I wrote, yes. In auto-arture I wanted to turn to myself. And the texts end in 1986.
YA Yes and I like it very much. I heard about it at the exhibition in Paris too. Because I travel a lot and I rarely go to modern art museums. Or I go to see these kinds of things or a biennial very rarely. But when there is an art brut exhibition, or productions of the mentally ill, I go and see these. For example the last one was at La Halle Saint Pierre and I immediately went to see it. I bought catalogues. I love this. I love it very much. But once they discovered erotic art in the 50’s, there were no longer great schizophrenic creators. Because everyone calmed down with the erotic art. The fights in the hospitals ended. Everything is calm. (laughs) There are no longer great creators like Dubuffet. HUO Did you get to know Dubuffet? YA We wrote to each other. HUO Yes?
RES MARCH 2010
HUO There is another thing that I would like to ask you. It is about Islam. I would like to know what vision of Islam influenced you?
YA Yes, we wrote letters.
RES MARCH 2010
17 YA That is what I realized… I said to myself, I have always been interested in man. Actually it is like a type of ‘history of man.’ This is also something that I worked on. I realized this a short time ago. Because in my first exhibition in 1955, there was a criticism that there were no human figures in the paintings. That there were only animals… In reply to this, I immediately started a new series. This was in 1956. I called it “Days with man,” in Turkish “İnsanlı Günler”. We can translate this as days with man. (laughs) Fifteen years with this series of men. In fact all of the influences; poets, writers, they are all men. I have always been only interested in man. HUO And this is the cartography of men? Because currently I am working on a book project and I invite artists to do a world map. Have you ever done geographical cartography? Are there any maps you have made that we can publish? YA Not yet.
YA As you saw in the exhibition, I put the portraits of my friends on display. But the painting market stopped me. But none of them are still alive, they all died. I did not put portraits of my friends who are still alive. It is an homage to my friends who have died. HUO Here is Topor. YA Yes, there is Topor, he was a good friend of mine. HUO Did you participate in the panic movement with Jodorowsky? YA No, no, no. I do not fall within the scope of Surrealism. But I was in Paris in 1961 and I had an appointment with Breton. I went to his house but I never joined the group. I did not join the Surrealist group. Why would I join the panic group? I don’t like groups. They remind me of the military. Why wouldn’t there be uniforms? HUO What is your relation with theater? I saw that you write about Heiner Müller. What is your interest in theater?
HUO But these are cartographies of men? YA Yes… We can call it that. Yes, yes, yes. HUO Were you interested in medical books? Because you are evidently surrounded by literature and poetry. Have you been inspired by science or medical books?
YA I don’t like theater much. I liked Heiner Müller for what he wrote. What I would like to say is that he actually wrote his life. And he loved interviews. Like John Cage, the musician. I found some things that I liked a lot in the books of Heiner Müller. HUO Have you ever met Heiner Müller?
YA Of course, I read them. For example, when I was interested in mental disorders and diseases of the nervous system my psychiatrist friends opened their libraries to me. I read the whole library of a psychiatrist friend. He lent me books for years. I read a lot. And I bought a lot. Look, for example, “lombroso disease.” It is an expensive book, but I bought it. HUO Which book? YA Classics of Lombroso. When I could not find them, my psychiatrist friends opened their libraries to me. HUO “Criminal man?” YA Yes, it is. HUO Another question that I would like to ask is… Apart from your paintings, you have drawings. For example sketches. Because most of the time there are sketches in the books. Is that a daily practice? YA Yes. Like I showed here. I read, I took notes and I started to draw. In this way, I can see what I want to do, right? Actually I prepare myself in my books. For every arture. First drawing and preparing sketches…
RES MARCH 2010
HUO Do you do portraits of your contemporaries? Is there a contemporary portrait by you? Because these are portraits of historical persons.
Arture 423, İnsan 64: Afyon [Arture 423, Human 64: Opium] 1991 35x66 cm Ceyda ve Ünal Göğüş collection Courtesy santralistanbul
RES MARCH 2010
HUO In your work “İnsan,” the interesting thing is that it gives the impression that it provides a cartography of man. Cells, body, diseases… Can we say that it is the portrait of man?
YA No, no, no… HUO I have two last questions. Do you have projects that you could not realize, like utopias? Or what are your dreams? What are projects that are too great to be realized? YA No, I continue to work. Especially in this exhibition. [A Retrospective of Yüksel Arslan, santralistanbul] It was very well prepared. On three floors. We could not find everything I made. My works… There are lost paintings, artures. Although they could not find them all, they found almost 600 paintings. I think they did something important. I am happy. HUO Rainer Maria Rilke is advice to a young poet. What would be your advice to a young artist today? YA (laughs) We can say that putting something in your mind is realizing it. This means that one should not be afraid of working. One needs to be serious. One needs to work. We can say that. Because the internet for example, the technical developments in the world…I think there is a very important organ in the body. Our brain. All these technical developments, internet, etc,. they are very good. But our brain is better. The strongest one. The only thing I can say to the young is that even though I feel that I aged, I do not feel like an old man. This is not advice. We should use our beautiful organ, our brain. And if we want something to work, we need to realize it. This is the only thing we can do. HUO Wonderful. Thank you so much. •
Yüksel Arslan was born in 1933 in Istanbul. He lives and works in Paris. The exhibition A Retrospective of Yüksel Arslan is currently on view at santralistanbul (13/09/2009-21/03/2010).
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 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 Trienale (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.
Vernissage | June 15, 2010 | by invitation only Art Basel Conversations | June 16 to 19, 2010 | 10 to 11 a.m. Catalog order: Tel. +49 711 44 05 204, Fax +49 711 44 05 220, firstname.lastname@example.org RES MARCH 2010
The International Art Show – Die Internationale Kunstmesse Art 41 Basel, MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd., CH-4005 Basel Fax +41 58 206 26 86, email@example.com, www.artbasel.com
Photo credit: Cengiz Tacer
RES MARCH 2010
ABSTRACTION - THE SPACE OF THE IMAGE AND THE IMAGE’S SPACE IN THE 21ST CENTURY SABINE BOEHL TEXT IN GERMAN. TRANSLATED BY JEREMY GAINES
“The release of the elements, their grouping into complex subdivisions, the dismemberment of the object and its reconstruction into a whole, the pictorial polyphony, the achievement of stability through an equilibrium of movement, all these are difficult questions of form, crucial for formal wisdom, but not yet art in the highest circle. In the highest circle an ultimate mystery lurks behind the mystery, and the wretched light of the intellect is of no avail… Art plays an unknowing game with ultimate things, and yet achieves them!” Paul Klee, in Manifesto: A Century of Isms, Mary Ann Caws (ed.), (Lincoln, NE & London, 2001), p. 259 ART P R O D U CT I O N always also has something to do with a view of the world at the respective time – nothing happens on its own, without that which happens previous to it, or at the same time. Jorge Luis Borges wonderfully describes how different this perception can be in his short story, Funes, the Memorious: “...We, in a glance, perceive three wine glasses on the table; Funes saw all the shoots, clusters, and grapes of the vine. He remembered the shapes of the clouds in the south at dawn on 30th of April of 1882, and he could compare them in his recollection with the marbled grain in the design of a leather-bound book which he had seen only once, and with the lines in the spray which an oar raised in the Rio Negro on the eve of the battle of the Quebracho. These recollections were not simple; each visual image was linked to muscular sensations, thermal sensations, etc. He could reconstruct all his dreams, all his fancies...”
RES MARCH 2010
Generally speaking, the etymological derivation of the word “abstract” in Latin refers to removing, separating, omitting, generalizing, simplifying etc. In music there is the term “abstract music,” which is a type of music that does not make any reference to fields outside its metier, tells no stories, uses no words. Ferruccio Busoni and Johannes Brahms, for example, championed absolute or abstract music. In painting, a picture is considered abstract if it does not depict an object. The question of how abstract a picture can be that only shows geometric shapes and sections is banal, for it may be a visualization of mathematical structures, processes, machine cycles, etc. Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square of 1915 summarizes the Suprematist view of the world: “...I am happy that my Square’s face cannot be compared with any master or period. Am I right? I didn’t obey the fathers, and I am not like them. I too am a stage ...My philosophy is the destruction of towns and villages every 50 years, driving nature out of art, and destroying love and sincerity in art. But certainly not to kill that living, vibrant source in man... And you will never see on my Square the sweet smile of Psyche. And my Square will never be used as a mattress for lovemaking.” Piet Mondrian’s abstract pictures were a product of his theosophical mindset. He aimed to balance the contrasts between male and female, active and passive, mind and matter by using equal proportions of the vertical and horizontal in his pictures. If we remove the entire ideological superstructure, these two painters formally point the way, among other things, which the history of abstraction in the visual arts took. It must be noted however, that a picture always consists of a mount and color palette, and a picture of a pipe is not a pipe (with a wink to Magritte.)
James Siena Forty-Six Combs 2008 Screenprint in 33 colors, 62 x 48 1/4 inches Courtesy Barbara Krakow Gallery
23 RES MARCH 2010
The positions of abstraction in art today are inconceivable without their predecessors, starting with the reduced Renaissance frescoes created by artists such as Giotto or Piero della Francesca, through Modernism’s versions of Cézanne, Monet, Seurat, Mondrian, Malevich, Duchamp, Leger, Matisse, Fontana, Picasso, Braque, Yves Klein, Moholy-Nagy, Schlemmer, Josef Albers, Anni Albers, Elaine de Kooning, and Willem de Kooning, to the Abstract Expressionist painters of the 1960’s such as Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, Frank Stella, Sol LeWitt, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Agnes Martin, Mark Rothko, Robert Mangold, Dan Flavin, David Rabinowitch, then on to Pop Art with Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein and in France the work of Daniel Buren, not to mention Gerhard Richter, Gerhard Merz, Per Kirkeby, Günter Umberg, Imi Knoebel, and Hanne Darboven in Germany, Max Bill and Helmut Federle in Switzerland, Piero Dorazio and Bruno Munari in Italy, Bridget Riley in England, Olle Baertling in Sweden, finally, not forgetting John Cage and electronic music, etc, etc, etc. Even Kenneth Noland talks of his interest in “Old Masters” such as Mondrian, Klee, Matisse, Ingres, Velazquez, Corot or Goya. The longer he works, he claims, the greater his interest in these “Old Masters” becomes. Each position devised sets of vectors along the axes of what has been done before (be it by negation or affirmation of the past,) and at the same time is a further piece in the mosaic of the possibilities of realizing abstraction today. I invite you, the reader, to take a tour with me of the various possibilities of exploring this tradition of abstraction today, to be the place where you can experience abstraction, the image space of the area of the canvas or the Euclidean space in the sense of the overall visual composition.
RES MARCH 2010
Stella’s and Pollock’s are positions that resurface when we observe James Siena’s works. For example, the ironic reference to Barnet Newman’s painting Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue in the title of a lithograph dating from 2006, Who’s Afraid of Barney, reveals that he is conscious of his tradition. However, he does not use large formats in an attempt to give an impression of grandeur, nor the fullbody gesture that continues the all-over painting method, rather, he uses concentrations in small and medium-sized formats, realized line by line in free hand. In his early works, for example Column Doubling of 2004, Siena used algorithms: While a horizontal section of the picture continually expands, starting from the left edge, the vertical sections narrow at the same pace. “I don’t make marks. I make moves. The reality of abstraction is my primary point of engagement. When I make a painting, I respond to a set of parameters, like a visual algorithm.” In his pictures, Siena repeats larger sets of structures on a smaller scale. Such as in Recursive Lighthouse, also of 2004, he applies lacquer on aluminum, in which the repeated division of a quartering of the space by wavy horizontal and vertical lines produces ever smaller segments, until the area is completely covered by light and dark lines. A recursive process is one that invokes itself – light and dark alternate – the title Recursive Lighthouse seems to say everything, and yet says nothing of the rampant impression of the picture, which repeatedly eludes observers’ attempts to get a complete, illuminating look at it – an impression which the irregularly positioned tesserae in Byzantine mosaics, for example, also generate. In Heliopolis of 2005, a curving, light-colored sinuous structure grows out from the center, with gaps filled with a reddish-brown tone, perhaps sienna or sepia. Differing line thicknesses and widths of the meandering bands confuse our sight, and we get lost in the intricate, interlaced lines. “... The tautness between the one and the many, the single line and the multitude is one of the deep pleasures of Siena’s paintings.”  In more recent works, Siena also depicts figures in labyrinthine clusters of lines, such as faces or individual bodies, erotic situations, interlaced figures penetrating each other, all of them extending over the area in the lines, never instantly clear to the eye. Nobody Listens to the Old People is a graphite drawing on blue paper from 2006. Here the meandering line defines the head of an old woman with her lips sewn together. In terms of composition it has something in common with the grotesques drawn by Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Siena goes one step further in the direction of an existential orientation
Katharina Grosse Faux Rocks 2006 DEUTSCHE WANDSTÜCKE Sette scene di nuova pittura germanica, Museion, Bozen Acrylic on floor, wall, stone, 352 x 4.817 x 365 cm Photo credit: Hartmut Nägele © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2010
25 RES MARCH 2010
Like James Siena, whom he met in Los Angeles, Fred Tomaselli works with meticulous detail. “James and I were these low-end workers of the art world and I guess we were fairly suspicious of this dismissal of craft,” Tomaselli has said. With his works, Tomaselli aims to both open a window to another world and reflect everyday reality. Unlike Siena however, he does not just use color to do this. Tomaselli’s pictures are collages, consisting of photographic reproductions of reality, real objects, like LSD pills or cannabis leaves Katharina Grosse and painting: “...I try to throw as much information This Is No Dogshit into an object as it can handle...” As a final step, he 2007 Franchise Foundation, Leeuwarden applies transparent epoxy resin to the various layers, Acrylic on bricks, floor and glass psychedelic-looking compositions, patterns, thus Photo credit: Harold Koopmans evening out the different material qualities with this © Katharina Grosse und VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2010 shiny surface that in part reflects its surroundings. He then applies the final details with paint. From his numerous archives for every possible mode of photographic representation, from figures, animals and flowers to objects, pills -which he first used in 1989- and color, Tomaselli assembles animal constellations, decorative dream-worlds, landscapes fed by both his experience with drugs and his reception of art and perception in general. “...Going to Disneyland and then happening to go into a Bruce Nauman retrospective is a good indication of the dichotomous level of my formative growth (laughs.) Also LSD had been a formative influence on how I saw the world... I get a lot of juice from Asian art, German Romanticism, Pop Conceptualism and so on and so forth.” Thus in Echolocation of 1998, ellipses of mouths, eyes, pills and leaves are superimposed over each other, forming a complex spiral structure. In Field Guides of 2003, a swarm of butterflies follows a reaper who is planting a field of mushrooms with his scythe. On the surface, exactly the same is visible in Avian Flower Serpent from 2006, in which a bird of prey sits on a branch holding a snake in its claws, surrounded by decorative flowers – naturally the observer’s gaze can also focus on the odd pill, photographic detail etc... Parallel to these works, the artist has created charts such as Portrait of Frank and Dave of 1996, in which the drugs the sitter has consumed are plotted both in a photogram and a constellation. Other diagrams are devoted to all the rock bands he has ever seen, the vertebrates that have become extinct since 1492. In Red Iris, concentric circles made up of different-sized circular shapes and resembling eyes are concentrically arranged around a central point. “Most of my favorite art hits the viewer in some non-intellectual, intuitive kind of way. You can lose yourself in the work. It’s a singular moment, but the complexity is there for later. You get more information the longer you look at it. At different times it might mean different things. You allow these other kinds of information to sit there and be available for another day...”
Katharina Grosse is interested in the phenomenon inherent in painting; that it is simultaneously able to generate illusory spaces and really exist as a material. “When I look at a waistcoat that Goya painted using dashes of ochre, in that context they are golden buttons, but they are also oil paint. This simultaneity of materiality and illusion is a phenomenon unique to painting.” Katharina Grosse’s early works are canvases, painted with vertical and horizontal bands of color, and later with diagonals, circular segments and finally solid patches of color. She then started creating pictures with spray paint. “Graffiti is a declaration of the author’s presence and power. They are very distinct calligrams that mark a territory... This feeling of an aggressive occupation of a place gets complicated in my work because the method of temporal interweaving, which comes from painting, undermines clear-cut hierarchical relationships.”  Like Pollock with his drip paintings, Grosse works by using a spray gun with a fullbody gesture. Through her chosen medium, spray paint, with which she covers everything, Grosse puts everyday objects and presentation spaces in their own context, like Louise Nevelson before her, who in a final step covered her relief assemblages, consisting of various materials, with one color, making them monochrome. In contrast to Jessica Stockholder, who compiles prefabricated, already colored objects into an overall artwork, for Grosse spray paint is the combining element. Earth, the oldest pigment, often dumped, piled up, spray painted, also partly binds installations together. Three-dimensional image carriers, like balloons, transform the flat image carrier canvas into an object that occupies the space, as in the exhibition “Picture Park” at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane in 2007, in which she distributed acrylic paint over the walls, ceiling, floor, a mound of earth, latex balloons and canvases.
Renée Levi Sar›yer 2003 Museum Folkwang Essen Acrylic yellow fluorescent paint on self adhesive foil, 300 m Courtesy the artist
RES MARCH 2010
with works like Flat Red Girl of 2008. The artist treats the surface structurally in his usual way, but as the observer looks, a female figure reveals itself, drawn out over the surface like a cave painting, divided into various red tones, masturbating and surrounded by sets of lines in ochre to yellow colors. In this way, Siena grasps an intangible physical feeling with his peculiar artistic style which we can never quite catch.
27 RES MARCH 2010
In an exhibition project at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Grosse incorporated eggs into the installation. She subsequently developed from this larger, circular, spherical and egg-shaped forms, which she arranged in clusters. The egg, in the Renaissance a symbol of absolute perfection and structure, as in Piero della Francesca’s Brera Madonna, showing an enthroned Mary with various saints and Federico da Montefeltro, also interested Grosse because of its fragility and the way visitors moved through the exhibition. Katharina Grosse is conscious of her painterly tradition; she studied Matisse’s work early on. “Katharina Grosse feels she belongs to this line of continuity, the common thread that connects predominantly American painters ranging from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field Painting. Yet on examining her work, it also becomes clear that the gigantic splurges of color that she uses are also macroscopically akin to the brushstrokes of the impressionists and expressionists.” Tangible traces of the production are also part of her installations. For example, canvases she paints in situ are rehung elsewhere in the installation and only the sprayed “frame” remains - the empty space where the picture was created. Grosse paints over her own objects and ultimately also her own pictures, which are assembled in a new exhibition context. The Director of the Museo Civico di Modena, Angela Vettese, speaks of “anarchic abstractions.” Whereas in Stella’s work, the three-dimensional objects relate back to the Baroque, in Grosse’s art it is the orchestration of the spatial situation that calls to mind this epoch. However, Grosse is not interested in symmetry or spatial harmony, rather, her installations are frequently disruptions of symmetry within the space, even in the outside architectural space, comparable with John Cage’s noise as an element in music. This is no Dogshit of 2007, for example, is an attack with white paint on a gray façade in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands. The first floor, the entrance area, the door, window and parts of the plaster are covered in evident gestures with white paint, creating the impression of a flash of light frozen in time.
RES MARCH 2010
Unlike Grosse, the trained architect Renée Levi works with the available space, questions its structure, emphasizes previously unnoticed elements and works with a reduced color palette: “A good picture stands out thanks to its clarity – clear in form, clear in color, clear in space.” In a “controlled gesture,” as I would describe this act of realization, irregular graffiti covers the regularity of the artist’s chosen format - be it walls, MDF panels or strips of paper. GALATA, a work dating from 2002, and shown in the exhibition “Painting on the Move, Es gibt kein letztes Bild - Malerei nach 1968” (Painting on the Move. There is no Final Picture. Painting after 1968) at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Basel, consisted of four MDF panels, each measuring 4 x 27 m. Around a fifth was sprayed vertically with fluorescent reddish-orange paint in horizontal lines running parallel to each other. Then there was a white section painted in the same way and finally white symbols arranged closely in a row like knots resembling flowers. The overall composition was reminiscent of Monet’s Water Lilies. Levi used fluorescent yellow for further works. The title SARIYER refers less to the color of the paint she used in 2003 at Museum Folkwang Essen, and more to the fact that Sarıyer, a district of Istanbul, literally means “yellow place.” Thus this work, made using yellow fluorescent acrylic, took as its theme the specific perception of a place. “A title gives a name to a previously nameless and speechless experience. When naming something, understanding itself is also important, which I also slip in or make the central theme, because the name says something, names what is there, but is only present as an idea and experience.” In the work, fluorescent yellow is spread out over 300 continuous meters of white selfadhesive film. In this installation, the film was directly sprayed and hung on the gray wall in various constellations – sometimes with three strips of film, one above the other, at others the artist’s name -LEVI- was formed from the film, at still others the year of the exhibition -03-. With the name, composed of vertical and horizontal segments of film, Renée Levi doubly laid claim to the space; the signature became an element of the installation and simultaneously made reference to the sub-cultural strategy
Peter Kogler Installation view 2009 Museu Coleccao Berardo, Lisbon Photo credit: António Nascimento Courtesy the artist
29 RES MARCH 2010
of “tagging,” in which the abbreviated signature, a pseudonym, marks the territory of the respective sprayer. “I seek a quality of ambivalence with my work, which cannot dissolve, but rather constantly recharges itself. Spraying increases this phenomenon of not being able to hold or touch, because the fine spray dissolves the edges of the line, its contours.” In ICONOCLASTE 2005 shown at the Parvis Centre d’Art Contemporain Ibos of 2005, for example, she worked exclusively with blue. Lines going in various directions covered the walls, sometimes in eye-like ellipses in a row, at others in horizontal rows of wavy lines. Levi’s works evolve from a drawing. Renée Levi: “I produce drawings. In fact, everything comes from the drawings. Small A4 drawings. I make a drawing on the table, or on the floor. Drawing is like practicing, rehearsing. And then the work is the performance. If we compare it to theater, so that we can understand it, you can’t just stand on the stage and tell a story. You have to prepare for it. For me, that is drawing. I actually paint pictures on canvas. That is my work.”
RES MARCH 2010
While Renée Levi works with space, it serves Peter Kogler as a projection screen for his computergenerated rastered labyrinths. In these installations and projections, ultimately the beholder also becomes a part of the installation and a projection screen for it. Kogler’s alphabet is one whose characters make reference to information flows. They are symbols like the brain, the pipe, “this blackand-white pipe shape is a primary formal design element, we need think only of the Cubists or Fernand Léger or the column shape in architecture in general.” Other symbols are the globe, light bulb, rat and ant. “The ant happened to crawl over the newspaper, and I simply followed it with my camera. I didn’t originally intend for the film to be an autonomous work. Only upon subsequent reflection did I realize that it was not just an ant, but an ant on a newspaper page, i.e. an ant in relation to a system of symbols. The ant itself as a form has a very strong symbolic character and appears as though it takes on a new life as a letter.” The grammar on which these characters run their labyrinthine course is that of periodic repetition, infinite recurrence. In the projection Everynowhere at the MAMCO in Geneva, the space was illuminated in a flash of bright greenish-yellow, and then speckled with medium green, organic spots of color, similar to in ON/OFF at Casino Luxembourg, in which bright green light formed rows with the “growth” of an ant structure, divided into separate pictures. In “Eye on Europe,” MOMA, New York, 2006, Untitled 1992/2006, ants meandered over the wall. In SOCIÉTÉ DES NATIONS factice et scindée en elle-même, Circuit, Lausanne, 2006, a light bulb blinked in front of a repeated arrangement of brain structures. Square or isometric grids, both the basis of computer animation and the basis of structure in the history of painting, for example in the Renaissance, serve as the basis of Kogler’s constructions. Thus warped isometric grids cover the walls and ceiling of an exhibition like wallpaper, as in 2008 at the Mumok in Vienna, for example. The degree of warpage of the grid meant that the walls appeared to assume an organic structure. The projection of a bright square grid made of tubes (one tube arranged optically in a vertical position at the front with the one behind positioned horizontally) covers the walls and is reflected in the floor. Whereas the square grid was used in the Renaissance to structure an image space, the image seen as a window, in Kogler’s projections the beholder feels incorporated into the visual space. When these grid structures dissolve into amorphous structures in the subsequent sequences, he feels a strong sense of instability: “In the labyrinth, the infinite line can also represent the transition ‘life-death-life,’ of which we are not necessarily aware and which is capable of replicating itself in all directions and covering entire surfaces. Even the simplest form of the labyrinth has a deep meaning, conveys a sense of division, an idea of the archetype of life and death as a whole...”  Kogler’s works can also be found in the outside architectural space, for example, his projection of white rats onto the gridded relief of the gray façade of the Mumok in Vienna. The projection both broke up the façade and at the same time needed it to bear the images.
Ateliers Jean Nouvel The Louvre in Abu Dhabi 2007-2012 © Ateliers Jean Nouvel
RES MARCH 2010
Carsten Nicolai (a.k.a. noto, alva noto) not only works with minimal materials in pictures and space, but in music too he follows the path of minimalism. A trained landscape architect, he began with his music projects about 12 years ago. He does not consider himself a direct descendent of Schönberg and Stockhausen, though they did influence him. Although he generally produces his pieces on computer; for the project Xerox he copied individual notes from classic compositions which he modified. As his electronic music was initially met with little interest, he founded his own label in 1995, “noton,” which later merged with Olaf Bender and Frank Bretschneider to form “raster-noton.archiv für ton und nichtton.” Using the pseudonym “alva noto,” among other things, Carsten Nicolai worked on joint projects with the Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto. “Loop,” “nucleus” and “polarity” are the words that formed the basis of the artist’s work. “I would say that I was somebody who was interested in electronic frequencies. Polarity interests me, confronting contradictions, developing processes that work on different dynamics and create dialogic contexts. Another motivation is that every one of these disciplines has a different relationship to time: painting is a static medium that freezes time; sound for me is a spatial phenomenon; and with an interactive installation, rather, you approach an autoreproductive mechanism that can continue infinitely.”  The interdisciplinarity of Buckminster
RES MARCH 2010
31 Carsten Nicolai Fades 04 2006 Diasec on aludibond, 112,5 x 200 cm Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART, Berlin/Leipzig and PaceWildenstein, New York
While visual artists are regaining the function of designer in and on buildings, architects such as Jean Nouvel, Sauerbruch Hutton and Dale Jonas Architecture are following Etienne-Louis Boullée’s dictum “Ed io anche son pittore.” It is especially interesting that Jean Nouvel did indeed originally want to be a painter, before deciding to study architecture in 1964 under pressure from his parents. The building that made him known all over the world combines aspects of sculpture, painting, traditional ornamentation, and architecture with cutting-edge technology. On the south side of the façade of the Institut du Monde Arabe there are 240 so-called “Mashrabiyas” positioned behind the glass. In Arabian architecture, Mashrabiyas are decorative wooden lattices that, like shutters, allow people inside to look out, but prevent people outside from looking in. The computer-controlled iris diaphragms of the Institut du Monde Arabe, built in 1987, were designed to continuously regulate the amount of sunlight entering the building. “At the Arab World Institute I also began to consider the question of light. The theme of light is reflected in the southern wall, which consists entirely of camera-like diaphragms, and reappears in the stacking of the stairs, the blurring of contours, the superimpositions, in reverberations and reflections and shadows.”  The Onyx Cultural Center in Saint Herblain was built in 1987- 88 as a solitary black cube on the edge of a lake. The Alcantara Mar housing project in Lisbon is due to be completed this year. This project accommodates Lisbon’s existing historical context in terms of architecture with its use of construction materials typical of the city and the façade design, with blue and white azulejos. Patterns and patterned sections of different sizes structure, emphasize and give rhythm to the façade like a piece of fabric. 160 apartments in four buildings will be arranged around four enclosed courtyards. The ground floor is reserved for commercial use and the upper stories for residential use. Like the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, planned for 2012, draws inspiration from traditional Arabian architecture: “...it is important to consider that each place is a stage in mutation. But there is also a geographic and historic continuity. I prefer projects that begin with the idea of modification rather than disconnecting from the context. My attitude is not modest. I always wish to do a project full of simplicity, delicacy, depth. Projects which maintain the spirit of the location, the desire of people, of the city or countryside, of the buildings that came before it...”  The Louvre Abu Dhabi building is to be spanned by a perforated sail roof measuring 180 meters in diameter. This dome is reminiscent of a synthesis of the dome of the Pantheon in Rome and the natural distribution of light, as it filters through the treetops. The lighting changes in the space depending on the position of the sun. Shadows, grids and spots of light all generated by the roof migrate over the walls and floor.
33 Carsten Nicolai Fades 2006 Installation view at PaceWildenstein, New York, USA, 2007 Photo credit: Jorg Lohse Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART, Berlin/Leipzig and PaceWildenstein, New York
RES MARCH 2010
Alva Noto (Carsten Nikolai) and Ryuichi Sakamoto Unitxt dervate version Performance 2009 Photo credit: Dieter Wuschanski
In his installations, Rudolf Stingel invites the observer to interact. And not only there, for as early as 1989 he demystified the contemporary process of image production in his “Instructions”, a book in which he offers photo-by-photo instructions on how to create a “Stingel.” And in a sculpture from the year 1994, Stingel once again lends this visual form: a representation of the Indian god Shiva in polyurethane holds Stingel’s utensils in his six hands: a pair of scissors, tube of paint, paintbrush, brush, mixer and spray gun. He allows visitors to leave behind evidence of their presence on the white carpet of an exhibition hall or in the silver foil of the walls, which are covered with insulating material. However, he also always considers himself the author of such interventions, as he says, “There is a difference in whether the so-called trace of the individual there is a name or not. Even when visitors scratch in their names, they are by far no authors, they act within the prepared space, but they cannot control it. One could say, I allow painting, but not by my assistants who carry out my concept but by a public that inscribes its own individual response in a material way into the work.” A comparison with Yves Klein seems appropriate, with his presentation of an empty exhibition space and body-print pictures. And Klein also produced a book containing instructions. However, in 1954 Klein published a book, completely free of irony, on the high martial art of judo, “Les Fondements du Judo”. “To turn an object upside down is to deprive it of meaning,” says Chrissie Iles, quoting the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, in a catalog essay on Stingel. And Rudolf Stingel frequently performs this act in his work. He “stamps” his own footprints in pieces of Styrofoam after coating his soles with acid. Stingel presented this horizontal action on the wall. Carpets, as the only wall-hung exhibit, imbued the exhibition area with color in one show, while in another, highly polished, mirror-like stainless steel panels covered the floor as the only element. The artist has clad floors, walls and ceilings of rooms with silver-coated insulating material. Untitled (Sarouk) of 2006 is a carpet that completely covers the floor, on which an Oriental pattern is printed typical of the Arak province in Iran with an infinite repetition of black-and-white values running over it. Stingel will have also installed a carpet like this in February 2010 at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, designed by Mies van der Rohe, which is intended, together with pictures on canvas, to strike up a dialog with the museum’s existing collection. Stingel’s canvases
RES MARCH 2010
Fuller, the scientist Nicola Tesla’s research on alternating current, after whom magnetic flux density is named, are among Nicolai’s areas of interest. The work funken for example, captures a momentary energetic event. The photographs of sparks from 2003 were printed upside down. The shape of a spark in the space takes on a graphic quality; it is a visualization of the tree structure in which the light energy in the space dissipates. The work snow noise from 2002 visualizes the production of snowflakes in a specially created lab situation. Observers are able to watch snowflakes grow in glass cylinders. This equipment is complemented with linear diagrams of snowflakes on the wall opposite, with which observers can classify the flake structures they observe. In addition lighting and sound design help focus viewers’ perception of the structures. 334m/s also visualizes a phenomenon that is otherwise invisible: A construction of tubes filled with gas makes the speed of sound visible/audible in the form of brief explosions. At an exhibition at Pace Wildenstein Gallery in New York in 2007, Nicolai positioned parabolic mirrors within the space such that sound was created more or less strongly at different points (“static balance”.) Fades of 2006 blends sine functions with computer-generated images to form columns of light within the space. static is the name of a series of images which the artist has been working on since 2000. Consisting of magnetic tape, acrylic on polyester and an aluminum frame, horizontal stripes present a frozen acoustic signal. modular re.strukt of 2003 visualizes and draws on modernistic utopias. Silk-screened prints of lattice structures on the walls, parts of which are blacked out as though there were a virus in the structure, and porcelain objects that visitors are invited to recombine make up this installation.
35 RES MARCH 2010
from the period around 1992 are silver-covered color fields in which the paint, which is applied first, remains visible owing to patches where it has not been painted over and owing to the characteristics of the second layer. Subsequently, his paintings depicted interior décor patterns such as brocade and damask patterns, stripes, star structures etc., and then the artist moved on to transforming plastering into panel paintings. He created plaster reliefs in ornamental Baroque structures, such as Untitled of 2008. Similarly to the American artist Louise Nevelson, Stingel’s color palette for his ornamental pictures and reliefs is reduced to black, white and gold. As well as a black-and-white oil painting of gallery owner Paula Cooper after a portrait by Robert Mapplethorpe, in 2005 Stingel also produced self-portraits. Some of these have several parts and always have the same motif. Here, Stingel counteracts and inverts with his handiwork Andy Warhol’s serial silk-screen print strategy. Stingel’s works of 2009 depict arthistorical objects in a similar way, for example, Untitled (Bishop) or Untitled (Mary Magdalene).
RES MARCH 2010
While Rudolf Stingel makes use of the visual tradition of non-art in the form of decorative elements, in Peter Zimmermann’s case it is the contextualization of visual art, of the image in the form of book covers. He first started producing enlarged book covers in the 1980’s, such as for promotional books on art and film theory, monographs on abstract painting, dictionaries, as well as trivial books like travel guides, general cultural reference books and all kinds of mental spaces. When realizing his art books, Zimmermann focuses on the covers when referring to abstract art from Mondrian via Malevich to Pollock. In order to represent Pollock, it thus becomes necessary to also reproduce in part the method of production employed, in this case the dripping method, for example. When repeated, the quick, expressive “all-over” method becomes a calculated construct. Here we can see a similarity to Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstrokes series. Initially working with oil paint, Zimmermann realizes his pictures by pouring pigmented epoxy resin over masking-tape covered fields on an ungrounded canvas. Like Stingel, here Peter Zimmermann takes another step forward from the series production of existing image material since Warhol in the direction of work by hand. In Zimmermann’s pictures we can discern underlying layers through the semi-transparent paint material and thus clearly see how the picture is structured. Similar to Jasper Johns’ encaustic technique, for example, Zimmermann’s pictures also have the texture of reliefs. A random occurrence in the form of a computer error that corrupted an image file likewise set the idea in motion in Zimmermann’s work. “I had someone write a program for me that is able to corrupt my image files with errors at my request. But of course, this is not a real error, one that crops up when and how it wants, but a formalized mishap. I used it hundreds of times and got the same number of visually different results. I then chose from all the results the ones that I found most aesthetically interesting”. In his Blob Paintings, he used the Photoshop filter to strongly modify an existing image, giving it a fragmented appearance as in enlarged halftone dots. Arrangements of circular areas separated into primary colors, superimposed and consequently blending into secondary colors, were followed by pictures consisting of more irregular, flowing modules and more colors. Zimmermann tried out every possible arrangement of color modules using the all-over method. He divided the surface up into small sections, as in Limes I of 2004, a three-part work in which the uniformity of the arrangement is disrupted by two verticals in the left and right parts of the picture. Here it appears that a work by Barnett Newman has been superimposed on one by Pollock. Other pictures of his call to mind works by Morris Louis or Andy Warhol, such as Warhol’s Camouflages. In contrast, pictures like BL/BA from 2003 feature layer upon layer of dark nuances and leave “craters” in which the layering of paint is visible, like the rings of a tree. Pictures such as gravity and fog of 2006 have a similar structure to this work. Here, black or white paint is used to cover a large part of the images and only reveals the underlying layers, applied in numerous color variations, at a few points. Finally, Zimmermann has removed paint from the canvas base and used it to realize floor works.
Peter Zimmermann Beads 2008 250 x 350 cm, epoxy resin on canvas Photo credit: M. Schneider Courtesy the artist
37 Richard Wright Untitled 2004 Gouache on paper, 23 1/3 x 30 inches Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery
RES MARCH 2010
Peter Zimmermann Print III 2003 150 x 120 cm, Epoxy resin on canvas Courtesy Galerie Michael Janssen, Berlin
RES MARCH 2010
39 Common to all the above-mentioned artists is an intimate knowledge of their own metier, the fact that they continue walking their chosen paths and that they continue, with their own means, to link the strands of art and abstraction in all kinds of ways. “For the function of art is never to illustrate a truth – or even an interrogation – known in advance, but to bring into the world certain interrogations (and also, perhaps, in time, certain answers) not yet known as such to themselves.”  •
NOTES  John Yau, p. 6, catalogue James Siena New Paintings and Gouaches  All quotes by Fred Tomaselli taken from a conversation with Philipp Taaffe, 2002.  Katharina Grosse in an interview with Ulrich Loock.  Katharina Grosse in an interview with Ulrich Loock.  Angela Vettese, p. 7 exhibition catalog, “Another man who has dropped his paintbrush”  (Renée Levi in an interview with Necmi Sönmez)  Renée Levi in an interview with Necmi Sönmez.  Peter Kogler in an interview with Kathrin Rhomberg.  Károly Kerényi, “Labyrinth-Studien: Labyrinthos als Linienreflex einer mythologischen Idee, 1941, Jean-François Chougnet: Das Labyrinth Kogler  Jean Nouvel  Jean Nouvel  Nicolai in conversation with Gianni Romano.  Rudolf Stingel, interview, 2004.  Douglas Fogle  Extract from a conversation between Richard Wright and Adam Szymczyk, catalog Kunstverein Düsseldorf, 2002.  Richard Wright  Alain Robbe-Grillet, For a New Novel
Sabine Boehl was born in Darmstadt, Germany. She studied under Gerhard Merz and Daniel Buren, and graduated in Fine Art from the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 2004 as a “Meisterschüler” (masterstudent) of Gerhard Merz. She is an artist represented by Nächst St. Stephan in Vienna and Dirimart in Istanbul. As well as producing art, she writes about it; her articles have appeared in the online magazine kunstmarkt.com.
RES MARCH 2010
Richard Wright is even more committed to working by hand than Zimmermann. In formal terms, his works are ornamental, symmetrical structures with gold leaf or gouache mounted on walls or drawn on paper. “Wright’s subject matter, if it can even be called that, is derived from a variety of sources. His kaleidoscopically converging lines, repetitive geometric progressions, and baroque decorative fragments collide with a variety of extrapolations of typographic fonts and patterns seemingly derived from the world of underground tattoo design to form a kind of hybrid, graphic Esperanto.” Wright incorporates patterns and ornamental structures into the architectural context, as painters incorporated their frescoes into the overall architectural design context as early as the Renaissance. “In the end the position of the work could be half of the work for me. In the first instance the work has the possibility to affect or change the way you are drawn through the space; it therefore has the potential to reveal the space in a new aspect.” At Kunsthalle Bern, the artist distributed sevenarmed groups of vectors over the walls in the exhibition space, while at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf the pattern on the wall of the exhibition space resembled steps and the letters on the ceiling were golden, together reading BASTARD IN LOVE, the title of a Black Flag song. In an exhibition in 2002 at the Gagosian Gallery, Wright positioned a realistic depiction of an eye on the wall. Linear rays starting from this eye ran at equal distances over the wall. Another of Wright’s murals was an ornamental structure in a Victorian or Oriental-looking style, horizontal, like the basic shape of a Rorschach test. A mural from 2005 in red gouache is composed of linear curves lined up next to each other. Centered on a wall, we find a symmetrical module that looks like a fragment of a two-winged portal and extends like an arrow. That same year, Wright produced a ceiling work in black gouache that looks like the linear projection of an Op art picture, such as a Vasarely, or a picture by Frank Stella, reduced to the dividing lines, such as Abgatana III from 1968. Parallel to this, he created black linear gouaches on paper, floral or strikingly divided into color fields. In 2009, Richard Wright applied the lines of the ancient pattern, also repeatedly found in Renaissance floors and which generates the optical illusion of cubes, to the ceiling of the Gagosian Gallery using silver leaf. Whereas in Untitled (6.1.08) dating from 2008, a work on paper, gold leaf in rocaille structures covers the sheet, in Untitled (3.3.2009) of 2009, the vertical elliptical shape in the upper half of the picture spreads out line by line in star-like wavy lines surrounding the shape. The rocaille-like watercolor and gouache work Untitled (8.6.2009), also made in 2009, is reminiscent of a bird’s eye view of a Baroque garden of the like of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Richard Wright realizes his complex murals using the same process as Renaissance artists. To transfer his mural drafts onto a wall, he perforates the draft and then transfers it with chalk dust. After an exhibition, his works are painted over: “The most important thing is that the paintings are painted over…This work is not for the future. It is for now.” Richard Wright is passionate about intensive work by hand: “My history with the Tate goes back to my teenage years when I used to get the overnight bus to London, go and see the show at the Tate, go to the National Gallery and then get the next bus home,” he says. “It was the only way, at that time, of seeing a lot of art and, of course, the Tate had a collection of not just British art, but everything. There were a lot of memories tied up with it.”
RES MARCH 2010
Contemporary Art from Turkey Hardback, 29 x 25 cm, 328 pp. Turkey, the bridge between continents, has witnessed many golden ages of art throughout the centuries, and today it is once again home to an extraordinarily vibrant contemporary art scene. Internationally recognized artists such as Kutluğ Ataman are relentlessly pushing boundaries while others such as Gülsün Karamustafa, Hale Tenger, Taner Ceylan, İrfan Önürmen, Banu Cennetoğlu, Ahmet Öğüt, Canan Tolon, Ali Kazma, Haluk Akakçe and Ramazan Bayrakoğlu are producing works of breathtaking beauty and great conceptual depth. Yet these represent only the tip of the iceberg. Following in the wake of the groundbreaking books Different Sames (which looks at Iranian contemporary art) and New Vision (on contemporary art in the Arab world), Unleashed presents the hottest, most exciting and challenging contemporary art from Turkey, accompanied as ever by a mixture of stunning illustrations, insightful interviews, in-depth artist profiles and thought-provoking essays by leading scholars all, of course, produced to TG’s usual high standards.
Contemporary Art from Turkey Editor Hossein Amirsadeghi Executive editor Maryam Homayoun Eisler Essays Ali Akay Ahu Antmen Emre Baykal Irit Rogoff
Visit www.tgpublishingltd.com to order your copy at the introductory offer of £48/$85 (including P&P to the UK, EU and USA) Special offer code: UNL01
Published Spring 2010
also available from the series
For orders in Turkey contact: www.galerist.com.tr Tel: 212 244 8230 firstname.lastname@example.org
New Hardback Book Exploring the Vitality of Contemporary Art from Turkey TransGlobe Publishing Limited www.tgpublishingltd.com email@example.com
Featuring Over 100 Artists and 950 Stunning Images!
RES How would you position your works in relation to fresco painting and art history and why do you continue to use such hands-on techniques? RICHARD WRIGHT On a technical level there is an enormous difference between fresco and the generally fugative methods I use and this perhaps is a key difference between my intentions and the kind of history that your question suggests. The thought of the Byzantine artist might have been that a work would last until the end of time. For me it is a redeeming quality that the work disappears.
43 being the agent of understanding - the notion that the aesthetic experience was somehow tied in to the act of interpretation or derived from a kind of reading. This all sounds a bit high minded now. But I must also say that, at the time, I also had parallel preoccupations with a kind of counter elitism, or a desire that painting should become part of everything else. Consequently a great deal of the material I was working with or informed by was incidental, everyday and non art. Abstraction has become a technique like Surrealism, which means it is really a form of figuration. It is hard to see how the work of an artist like Mondrian could be understood (seen) at this time. But for me this makes it more relevant than it ever was because it invokes a consciousness – a reality - which is almost entirely beyond our reach. However, I do not want to valorise the idea of abstraction as somehow being more real, as this tendency could so easily slip into ideology. For this reason I would probably avoid calling myself an abstract painter.
A denial of a future is also a denial of a past. It was never my intention that by painting on to the wall, I should be inserting my practice into the soul of art, or of paintings and history. On the contrary the problem with painting seemed to be that you could not do anything without the sense that it was part of what had already been done. I have always felt that you should try to paint as if there was no such thing as painting. However paradoxically the thing that you throw furthest away tends to land at your feet. Perhaps this is something in the nature of a language or practice that seems to pervade all cultures and histories. I choose to continue to paint out of obstinacy and because it is idiotic, but essentially human. Painting is something made out of nothing. It is just pushing mud around, anyone can do it – but like singing, to do it requires a certain humility. There is something specifically awkward about painting; it’s a kind of obstinacy. It refuses to be invisible, perfect, seamless and to go along with the idea. It wants to be something else, but for me this obstruction – tendency to mutate - is paintings link to the continuum of reality. RES How and why did you move from figurative painting to abstraction, could you talk about how abstraction functions in the 21st century? Do you relate to other abstract painters? RW The problem with figurative painting is that the sky always wants to be where the ground is. When I stopped painting on canvas I had the feeling – perhaps the misguided feeling – that I had actually stopped painting altogether. The thinking behind this was perhaps close to that of Judd in his article Specific Objects when he speaks of the notion of “three dimensionality” as being neither painting nor sculpture. The move away from representation - shift from the virtual pictorial to actual space- also had links to a great interest in the Russian Avant-garde and Neoconcretism. RES MARCH 2010
I was thinking of painting more as an action than object. This was in part a rejection of the idea of art as
No Title 2009 (Gagosian Gallery Davies St installation) © Richard Wright. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, London/New York, The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow, and BQ, Berlin Photo credit: Mike Bruce
RES MARCH 2010
‘‘PAINTING IS SOMETHING MADE OUT OF NOTHING’’ AN INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD WRIGHT
45 RES MARCH 2010 Untitled (02.03.09) © Richard Wright. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, London/New York, The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow, and BQ, Berlin Photo credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.
No Title 2007 Commissioned by the Common Guild for Jardins Publics, Edinburgh International Festival © Richard Wright. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, London/New York, The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow, and BQ, Berlin Photo credit: Ruth Clark
RES MARCH 2010
47 No Title 2009 (Turner Prize Tate Installation) © Richard Wright. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, London/New York, The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow, and BQ, Berlin Photo credit: Mike Bruce
RW There is no clear procedure in my work by which an idea evolves into an image. Sometimes the situation seems more direct but usually there is a lot of circumlocution. I tend to leave myself notes reminding me of something I thought I saw. After I have seen the site I make an exhaustive number of drawings. I will often arrive with thoughts of six or eight possibilities. But then I almost always start again. Often this beginning will have its foundation in a part of one of the drawings I have made, but this is very far from having a plan. Quite often I will use a photocopier. I draw a part of the work and photocopy it then draw on top of the copy and photocopy it again and so on. Really this is just a way of getting the confidence to begin. Sometimes having gone through all of this, something else comes up and you begin completely again. This may be what you mean by completely improvised. For me these are the most interesting works. RES What is the relationship between your works and ornament and can you describe how important time, science and mathematics are for you and your work? In the modern West the term ornament has come to be associated with gratuitous or even mindless repetitions and degeneration of style. No doubt ornament has been some of this, but for me it is a tendency of thought (a sensory calculus) which links time, science and art. A recent study of medieval Islamic art has shown that some of its geometric patterns suggest mathematical principles that have only been proved in the last thirty years. Perhaps this is an example of what Levi Strauss meant when he suggested that magical rites and belief project like a shadow in advance of the body of rational thought and appear as expressions of “faith in a science yet to be born.” The tendency to ornament also has something to do with a fixation of consciousness. A concentration of the mind and perhaps this is something which more directly interests me - my work is made of time. Geometry and numbers play a very significant part in its development, but my mathematics is primitive and practical – more the mathematics of building than science. It is almost never the starting point for the work (although this interest does sometimes degenerate into Pythagorean superstition which may divert the work.) RES Congratulations on your recent success winning the Turner Prize. For the Turner Prize exhibition how did you approach the Tate Britain galleries as a site differently, given that you had already made interventions in the building for the exhibition Intelligence in 2000. RW The very particular circumstances that surround the Turner Prize did mean I had to take a slightly different approach to making my work at the Tate. The logistics of the situation - the building of the spaces and getting four shows up in a fairly tight time frame – imposed certain practical constraints.
RES MARCH 2010
I had to approach the work with a clearer idea than I would normally have. But as you say I know the space and have worked there before and this history ended up giving the development of work an unusual duration.
RES MARCH 2010
RES How much do you plan an intervention before creating it in-situ; are any of your paintings completely improvised as you start work on the wall or do they all stem from forms you are already working on?
49 RES MARCH 2010
In the nine years since making the piece for the Intelligence exhibition I had made several site visits for possible projects at the Tate and had even worked on a number of drawings. Although I started again, with the work for the Turner show, the work I ended up making turned out to be some sort of circuitous reflection on the piece from 2000 and the time in between. RES In terms of the ephemeral and site-specific character of your paintings, has there been any space/ architecture in particular, or perhaps a certain cultural environment that you have worked in, that seemed the most naturally accepting of one of your interventions? RW Sometimes you walk into a museum or gallery and the work is just there. But often you have to look hard and this is part of it. I would say that the most receptive settings have tended to be the ones that are not normally art spaces. Last year I made a work in a disused apartment in Berlin (with Gallery BQ). We drove round and round for a week and almost gave up. It’s hard to say what I was looking for, but finally we found a small unassuming flat and I would be happy to go back there and work again. RES Can you talk about the relationship between your site-specific, spatial works and your works on paper, how do they function differently, how do they relate to each other? RW Some works on paper seem like more direct pathways to or from wall paintings. I use drawing to think through, but not to plan. It is more a question of preparing like an athlete prepares for an event (though I detest this kind of analogy.) It can be a matter of developing a way of “seeing” that makes a way of “doing” a possibility or the reverse. Often these drawings are destroyed in the process of making the wall paintings, they may be cut up and reassembled or extended. Works on paper also evolve from a series of destructions. I would have said the reverse of this a few years ago, and would even have considered the paper works a subsidiary activity, but recently I have felt more freedom in working on paper. This is probably for no other reason than that the circumstances (the conditions of production) are usually more flexible. It’s actually much more easy to start again. The activity is also more private, so I can have secrets. If the work is going nowhere I can put it aside. This really does facilitate a kind of development that would be very problematic in a live situation. The performative aspect of wall painting forces a different kind of thinking - adrenaline plays its part. There is also a certain necessity in the engagement with all the circumstances around the work that constitute “a place,” which is somehow urgent and indispensable. I think this is something to do with the fact that the process is so fragile and so completely exposed. In general these parallel activities feed each other, although they also contain possibilities that exclude each other. RES And finally with regard to the images of your works printed here (in the magazine alongside the interview,) how do you feel about the process of documenting your interventions? Obviously it is important to photograph or film each painting as otherwise no record of the work remains, but how do you feel about seeing the work on photographic paper, in a magazine, or on video, when the spatial and perspectival qualities of the painting in-situ are so important to the viewer’s experience?
RES MARCH 2010
RW I think the work is totally lost in photographs. •
Untitled (08.06.09) © Richard Wright. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, London/New York, The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow, and BQ, Berlin Photo credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.
Richard Wright was born in 1960 in London. He is currently based in Glasgow.
THE CLUJ ART SCENE
JANE NEAL FI V E Y E A R S A G O few people in the international art scene had heard of Cluj. Indeed few people outside of Romania and Hungary knew of the capital of the province of Transylvania in North West Romania. Fewer still would have predicted that by 2010 it would be home to some of the brightest young stars of the contemporary art world such as Adrian Ghenie, Victor Man and Ciprian Mureşan and to an impressive new cultural initiative, ‘Fabrica de Pensule’ (an old paintbrush factory converted into a vibrant space of 2000 square metres dedicated to contemporary arts and creatives comprising artist studios, galleries, fashion designers, and cultural organisations active in the visual and performative arts.) The project was originated by a group of 40 Cluj-based artists, curators, cultural managers and producers. Unusually in an increasingly globalized world, the idea for the project was not driven by outside forces, but home grown and independently motivated by local friendships and a common goal to create a dynamic focus in Cluj that could both activate the local community and provide a focal point for outside visitors, enabling them to more easily access the heart of the city’s artistic and creative community. During the past five years, Cluj has become increasingly attractive to foreign investors, most notably banks and communication-related industries. For the inhabitants of Cluj (a university city with a noticeably youthful population, strong café culture and a growing reputation for innovation in technology and medicine), who are active in the city’s art and cultural life, outside investment is welcomed, but with caveats. Necessary though funding is, the local community is keen to keep Cluj’s cultural character and identity, and to protect it from becoming an outpost for others’ empires. By initiating and fostering ground breaking independent arts initiatives such as the Paintbrush Factory that acquire status both nationally and internationally and attract attention from leading figures across the established and emergent art world, as well as visits from representatives of high level EU Institutions, Cluj’s creatives believe they can raise their city’s profile at home and abroad, while maintaining a certain amount of control over the manner and speed of its cultural growth and development.
RES MARCH 2010
One of the key players in both the Cluj and overall Romanian art scene is Mihai Pop. Artist, curator and director of Plan B Gallery (the best known and most active of Romania’s commercial galleries on the international scene,) Pop has been a driving force in the development of the careers of Romania’s 30 something generation of artists. Daria Pervain, a fellow gallerist and director of Sabot, describes Pop as having “a truly visionary mind.” Although she originally discovered the abandoned paintbrush factory, Pervain credits Pop with bringing all the various facets that make up The Factory on board: “Mihai tried and finally succeeded in bringing all the cultural life of Cluj under The Paintbrush Factory umbrella. From that point on, all the not-for-profit cultural organizations who declared their interest in becoming part of this new community started to work together with us on formulating our common interests and aims.”
53 Pop’s optimism and persistence have rewarded him with success, though it’s been hard won and he had to suffer his early artistic dreams being continually thwarted. Plan B began as a collaboration between Pop and painter Adrian Ghenie in 2005. The gallery’s name was a wry acknowledgement of the fact that, up to this point, all their “plan a’s” had come to nothing. Entering their 30s and increasingly frustrated with a Romanian art context that was being strangled by provincial rivalries and institutional insider politics, Pop and Ghenie realized that to effect change they must create a new model. They secured some local private funding and established a commercial gallery that could function as an exhibition space, a vehicle for promoting artists internationally, and as a kind of laboratory for artists where they could initiate research and develop projects. The venture greatly exceeded the pair’s expectations, with many of Plan B’s artists now in the stables of leading international galleries and regularly invited to participate in significant international art events. In fact, so successful has the gallery been in launching local artists, Ghenie has returned to concentrating on his painting, although he is still connected to Plan B as an artist. These international connections—and the non-Romanian collectors they attract - have been essential to the development of the country’s contemporary art scene; as to date Romania has only a handful of passionate collectors committed to supporting the country’s young artists. Pop is clearly proud of the success of Plan B and of the artists he works with. He is also excited to have been given the opportunity to make a difference: “Working in Romania today, you have the chance, -which did not exist before and which is unlikely to exist again- to shape and fundamentally change things.” He goes on to explain: “I’m referring to the difficult process of the social transition in Romanian society today. The artists I continually work with are interested in and deal (sometimes cynically) with what we may call recent history. Beyond their different approaches – from figurative painting to video art, object and installation, what brings them together and makes them interesting both for critics and collectors alike, is their interest in exploring through art, the social and cultural contexts they come from. Both figurative painting and conceptual art can be efficiently used to describe the social transition – focusing on today’s Eastern European society and on the difficult process of understanding recent history but also as autonomous fields of exploring the visual.” It’s certainly arguable that the reality of living under an oppressive dictatorship and through its aftermath may have helped contribute to the success of these young Romanian artists. According to Romanian critic, Mihnea Mircan, growing up during communism and witnessing its disintegration, followed by the rapid onslaught and effects of consumer culture on their society has given this generation of artists a unique perspective. They have developed what he describes as an “allergy to Utopia” that has imbued them with a watchful detachment, a desire to deconstruct and uncover things for themselves and to develop and sustain a strongly independent voice in their work. It would be wrong, though, to suggest that a common theme threads through the work of all up and coming Romanian artists. What they do share—and this extends across their various practices—is a highly individualized sense of perception mingled often with a dark, sometimes ironic, approach to their chosen subject matter. Pop is also convinced that part of the appeal of Romanian contemporary art for outsiders is linked to investment in Eastern Europe and the expansion of the EU. He argues: “It seems that the integration of Romania in a western sociopolitical structure has brought with it an interest in Romanian artists…
RES MARCH 2010
THE TWO ART CENTERS OF ROMANIA: CLUJ AND BUCHAREST
55 Yet can the art world’s sometimes fickle fashions be avoided, or at least mitigated on behalf of the artist? According to Pop, damage can be lessened: “Through galleries such as Plan B you can create an artistic production structure capable of filtering the massive interest assault of the market and if there is a current fetish for Eastern European Chic then at least it’s not crazily sensationalized – the exotic tends to be looked for in places that are radically different from Western culture – such as China.” Pop goes on: “Eastern European culture has never been very keen on feeding false perceptions, neither does it have the flavor of the spectacular. I don’t believe an Eastern European artist, however interesting and particular, would ever have the sense that his art might be exotic.” Most of the artists who are represented by or who have participated in Plan B projects are of the same generation as Pop and indeed many of them—such as Mircea Cantor, Adrian Ghenie, Cantemir Hausi, Victor Man, Ciprian Mureşan, Cristi Pogãcean, Şerban Savu,and Gabriela Vanga trained alongside him at the University of Art and Design in Cluj. Their work could all be described as being conceptually strong, as the practice of each is concerned with exploring and deconstructing specific ideas and phenomena. Cantor, Mureşan and Pogacean work across disciplines; Man in painting and installation; and Ghenie, Savu and Hausi (alongside a number of promising young talents from Cluj including Marius Bercea, Mircea Suciu and Oana Farcas) maintain a strong commitment to painting. Historically Romanian artists have a reputation for avant-garde thinking, most notably in terms of their involvement with the Dada movement (their contribution to Dada and Dada’s continued influence on contemporary Romanian artists was recently acknowledged in the 2006-published book by Tom Sandqvist, Dada East: The Romanians of Cabaret Voltaire).
Even though Plan B has the highest profile internationally of all Romania’s galleries, it’s important to recognize the success of other Cluj-based artists who aren’t on its website. To see those not in the stable of the gallery as somehow secondary to their peers is unjust. A common misunderstanding that occurs amongst outsiders when a “new” artist hits the international radar is the belief that whoever emerges first, must, therefore be leading the field “back home,” and anyone following is part of a later “wave.” While it may indeed be true that strong artists will quickly be spotted by international critics and curators, it’s also important to remember that curators and galleries have agendas of their own with concepts and images compatible with only a given selection of artists at a time. The Paintbrush Factory – with its diverse cultural organizations, artist studios and gallery spaces, is bringing together the different facets of Cluj’s art scene and this will allow the outside world to receive a more accurate sense of how its various figures interact and collaborate. There are different creative hubs in the city, but boundaries are not set in stone and new partnerships and projects can throw up fresh possibilities. Cluj is a hubbub of artistic energy and exchange. Each artist is getting on with the business of developing his or her own international career, and as long as friendship remains at the core and future initiatives continue to be driven from a common perspective, Cluj’s converted Paintbrush Factory may prove itself to be an exemplary model for emerging art scenes in this new decade. •
Jane Neal, an independent art critic and curator, is very familiar with the developing art scenes of Central and Eastern Europe. She writes regularly for a wide variety of British and international publications including The Telegraph, World of Interiors, AD Magazine, Art Review, Modern Painters, MAP and Flash and has curated critically acclaimed exhibitions in London, New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Zurich and Prague. Neal was educated at Oxford University and the Courtauld Institute, London. She continues to live and work between Oxford and London.
Last year, in keeping with his original intentions for Plan B to facilitate projects, Pop invited Mircea Cantor to use the gallery as a workshop, in preparation for his solo show, “The Need for Uncertainty,” which toured three UK museums. Pop also served as commissioner of the Romanian Pavilion in Venice in 2007, and in October 2009, Plan B participated in the Frieze Art Fair.
RES MARCH 2010
While Plan B was the first of Cluj’s commercial galleries to break onto the international scene, Sabot will follow. Pervain describes the gallery as: “A project incubator, a generator, even an eccentric travesty of a gallery. We embrace curatorial and commercial models without the solution of continuity. We raise questions rather than spell predictable truths, by sabotaging the fundamental division between high and low culture, process and result, art making and curating. Sabot (the name of a type of shoe once thrown into the machinery to disable it and avoid their own unemployment due to industrialization) once used as a reaction against aristocratic names, but did not survive the French Revolution. This story may speak – up to a certain point – about our reactive profile. Laika is a not for profit space with spaces in both Cluj (in The Factory,) and Bucharest. Founded by artists Marius Bercea, Vlad Olariu, Şerban Savu and Mircea Suciu, the idea was to link two art scenes previously distinct from each other, and therefore double the exposure for participating artists. The space addresses exciting, emerging Romanian artists and those more established, who might wish to have the opportunity to experiment on projects atypical of their usual practice.
Fabrica de Pensule Cluj-Napoca Courtesy Sabot Gallery
RES MARCH 2010
I witnessed the strong input received by contemporary art in the former communist countries and with the 2004 EU enlargement, I felt the sudden and massive interest of the past few years (though it’s somehow suspect after years of silence...) And because the frame of western culture is not necessarily alike ours, I wanted to avoid as much as I could the exploitation of what was to be the success of the Romanian artist in the West.”
57 RES MARCH 2010 Adrian Ghenie The Collector 4 2009 Oil on canvas, 200 x 240 cm Photo credit: Adrian Ghenie Courtesy the artist, Plan B, Cluj/Berlin and Katsuhiko Ikeda Collection, Japan
Adrian Ghenie Dada is Dead 2009 Oil on canvas, 220 x 200 cm Photo credit: Katrin Hammer Courtesy Mihai Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles Collection of Dean Valentine and Amy Adelson, Los Angeles
RES MARCH 2010
59 RES MARCH 2010 Cantemir Hauşi Who’s Trofee? 2008 Oil on wood panel, 15 x 21 cm Photo credit: Adrian Ghenie Courtesy Plan B, Cluj/Berlin and Hort Collection, NY
Şerban Savu Weekend 2007 Oil on canvas, 64 x 100 cm Photo credit: Şerban Savu Courtesy Plan B, Cluj/Berlin and Cor Looker Collection
RES MARCH 2010
Marius Bercea Last Kiss 2009 Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 cm Courtesy the artist
61 RES MARCH 2010 Mircea Cantor Which light kills you 2009 Light box 16/26 cm © Mircea Cantor Courtesy the artist and Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv
Mircea Cantor Deeparture 2005 2’ 43”, 16mm transfered to BETA digital, color, silent © Mircea Cantor Courtesy Mircea Cantor and Yvon Lambert Paris, New York
Mircea Cantor Seven future gifts 2008 Concrete, iron, 23x23x23 cm (nr.1); 40x40x40 cm (nr.2); 80x80x80 cm (nr.3); 162x162x162 cm; (nr.4); 231x231x231 cm (nr.5); 324x324x324 cm (nr.6); 400x400x400 cm (nr.7). Views from the Mucsarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest, Hungary Courtesy the artist and Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris Photo credit: Mircea Cantor
RES MARCH 2010
63 RES MARCH 2010 Vlad Olariu Building Site 2008 Autoclaved cellular concrete, pallet, 120 x 80 x90 cm Courtesy the artist
RES MARCH 2010
Gabriela Vanga Cumulus 2005â€“2006 White powder View of the installation at Plan B, Cluj Photo credit: Bartha Lorand Courtesy Plan B, Cluj/Berlin
65 RES MARCH 2010 RES MARCH 2010
Ciprian Mureşan Leap Into The Void – After Three Seconds 2004 Photograph, dimensions variable Photography Raymond Bobar Courtesy Plan B, Cluj/Berlin and Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles
Ciprian Mureşan Choose… 2005 DVD PAL, 41 sec. Video stills Ciprian Mureşan Courtesy Plan B, Cluj/Berlin
67 RES MARCH 2010 RES MARCH 2010
Cristi Pogacean 2544 2006 Video, loop 6 min. Photo credit: Cristi Pogacean Courtesy Plan B, Cluj/Berlin
Tomas Vanek 2005 Performance, Exhibition 1811197604122005 at Plan B Cluj Photo credit: Mihai Pop Courtesy the artist and Plan B, Cluj/Berlin
69 RES MARCH 2010 Victor Man Untitled (Without going into the extravagance thatâ€™s in trees) 2006 Oil on canvas on wood, 30 x 39,9 cm Photo credit: Victor Man Courtesy the artist
RES MARCH 2010
Sabot Gallery Alice Tomaselli installation view Courtesy Sabot Gallery
Victor Man Romania 2007 Installation on the faĂ§ade of Romanian Pavilion, 52nd Venice Biennale; animal furs, dimensions variable
Ciprian MureĹ&#x;an Beetle in the Anthill, 2010 An illustration for RES after A.&B. Strugatsky
THE BUCHAREST ART SCENE
RALUCA VOINEA FR O M A D I STA N C E Bucharest’s art scene resembles a large balloon, one that hardly ever touches the ground but that offers a captivating spectacle. Yet, on board confusion is paramount and people cast their fishing rods for all things new or shiny, while others observe the former to better emulate them. There are also those who wait for the balloon to land, continuously incubating ideas and projects without realisation and a few who remain overconfident in what they see below. Yet, as spiced and colorful as it is, Bucharest’s art scene never ceases to attract and the pairing of flaws and unexpected qualities gives it a unique taste and its actors can be charmingly disarming and contradictory in their accounts of the situation, garnished with enthusiasm, irony, hate or complaints. Less metaphorically speaking, there is a gloomy underbelly to the story. Bucharest lacks the fundamental structures that an arts scene needs in order to flourish. There are few artists’ studios, residencies, production grants, alternative places for education, well-researched exhibitions, or magazines, etc.. Ironically many of these things did exist (although very few are left today) as part of the Artists Union - the centralized, Socialist network established in the 1950’s, to which artists had little choice but to belong if they wanted to exist. Today this institution has become obsolete, the majority of its members are working in traditional, conservative ways, its galleries across the country have gradually closed and many of the facilities they offered artists such as studio space, exchange programs and opportunities to exhibit have disappeared. Moreover, in the Romanian society’s general rush to synchronize with the market economy, none are appearing to replace them.
RES MARCH 2010
The other plot in the story is not necessarily more optimistic, it is however more concrete as it is the only one giving substance to the potential for a lively contemporary art scene in Bucharest. Since the Museum of National Contemporary Art opened in 2004 in one wing of the Palace of Parliament, institutional diversity is becoming more plausible. While the National Museum has claimed to be the largest museum of its kind in Eastern Europe and is in fact located in one of the largest buildings in the world, in its own city context the museum ignored the gap in the range of art institutions that lie between itself and the little group of very small, independent spaces in the city. In time, this void first came to be filled with loud voices that criticized, acclaimed and contradicted each other about what was needed, and at the same time promised to create a system of alternatives. Half a decade later, MNAC is still acting more as a curiosity than a professional institution, with a programme of exhibitions which could be hosted by a municipal gallery and touring exhibitions dictated by budgetary and diplomatic reasons. The inhospitable nature of the building, its hard-to-reach position in the city and the embassytype security checks at the entrance are not compensated by a public-oriented programming (in a city in which even modern art, let alone contemporary art, has little appeal to a public overwhelmed by commercial spectacle,) so the large rooms of the museum stay empty for much of the year. In addition there are very few exhibitions that feature the museum’s collection of contemporary Romanian art, which, despite its heterogenous selection that includes a disproportionate number of propaganda
73 paintings, if properly researched and contextualized, this collection could offer a better and more nuanced picture of recent local history. It is interesting to note though that the museum has been the playground and career kicking platform for a number of young curators. For example, Mihnea Mircan worked there from the day it opened and continued to do so throughout the years of the museum’s harshest criticism when many considered the institution to be cohabiting with political powers, they also disputed its location and lack of coherent programming; however, having endured this problematic period, he is now a successful freelance curator and has been working collaboratively with Plan B Gallery in Cluj and Berlin. Oana Tanase, who has been a constant, respected figure for the Bucharest contemporary art scene, is organizing within the museum more ambitious surveys of Romanian born artists who are living abroad, such as Ştefan Constantinescu and Aurelia Mihai. Magda Radu, a member of the curatorial and research team of the museum is also looking at the more established artists of the moment, such as Adrian Ghenie, while working independently at the same time. Even though a mid–sized institution, with a constant budget, a strong long-term vision and a generous space still does not exist, a number of smaller venues that recently came into existence can be cited. Among these are non-profit places, artist-run spaces, and commercial galleries. Such a space is Pavilion Unicredit - Centre for Contemporary Art and Culture (opened in February 2009) -a marriage between the organizers of the Bucharest Biennale and the former bank premises with additional budget from Unicredit Romania. A year after Pavilion Unicredit’s opening, it still feels like a trial project with a programme that is quite random, but hopefully in the future it will gain its own identity and profile as an institution. This is hard and important to achieve in a country that prefers the culture of short-term event-orientated projects rather than valuing permanent institutional consistency. Romania has an impressive number of festivals and biennials and only in Bucharest there are two international biennials for contemporary art, both taking place in the same year; besides the aforementioned Bucharest Biennale (launched in 2005 as a photography festival, and revamped as an international contemporary art biennial for the second edition in 2006,) there is also the Young Artists Biennial (with its first edition in 2004,) organized by the Meta Foundation. Speaking again of the hype around curators, it is worth mentioning that in 2010, both biennials have very young curators in charge of them; the Bucharest Biennale 4 (BB4) is curated by Felix Vogel (b. 1987), who is referred to on the Biennale website as “probably the youngest curator of a biennial ever;” and the 4th Young Artists Biennial in Bucharest is curated by the only slightly older art critic Mica Gherghescu (b. 1981.) Whether a marketing strategy, a better way to maintain control on the part of the organizers, a genuine interest to open paths for experimentation, or all of the above, time will tell if this youthful approach will be of success. These two biennial projects target the same kind of public, the Bucharest inhabitants who are interested in consuming cultural events as well as the art scene. Moreover they both
Streets in Bucharest’s center Photo: Eduard Constantin
RES MARCH 2010
THE TWO ART CENTERS OF ROMANIA: CLUJ AND BUCHAREST
75 RES MARCH 2010
employ national and international curators, who propose convincing lists of artists, both emerging and established. Yet the two biennials refuse to acknowledge each other and their relationship continues as one of undisguised competition. They do have some separate specificities - The Young Artists Biennial has instituted two workshops involving the curator of the biennial and other cultural figures participating in the opening events: one for young art critics and another for young artists who want to receive feedback on their portfolios, both of which are much needed in the local context. The Bucharest Biennale, in its turn, has accustomed its followers to the use of varied and challenging venues, such as the Botanical Garden and the Museum of Geology, raising awareness of the need to take contemporary art out of its isolated, traditional places of display. Apart from this investment in the young generation, there is also an interest in the more established (or sometimes forgotten) figures, and quite recently, commercial galleries have started to endorse artists who have a strong production that dates back to before 1989. Among them are the artists Ion Grigorescu, promoted by Andreiana Mihail Gallery, and Geta Bratescu, by Ivan Gallery, both recognized as key figures of the avant-garde of the 70’s in Romania and both of whom are still prolific today. Then there is the presentation of work by the late Ion Dumitriu, by Galeria Posibila, with a less known photographic series also from the 70’s, and the “discovery” or “invention” of Ion Bârladeanu, an enigmatic artist until recently homeless, whose production of collages from the communist times is promoted by H’art gallery. This last example, besides raising questions on the all-too-powerful role that galleries today take in “creating” not only the market but also the artists themselves, proves further the need for recuperating a richer past, finding more links, characters and stories which can be interesting in today’s hunger for roots, while always having to pay attention to the danger of merely capitalizing on a history which is still in the process of being (re)written. Looking back at the 1980’s is also proving highly attractive for exhibition venues, publications and events in Bucharest, both in terms of the artists of this generation (with examples such as Dan Perjovschi, Matei Bejenaru, Teodor Graur and Iosif Kiraly, all with more or less established international careers but also with strong and significant local presence,) and as a historic subject, which is only beginning to be exploited, with a rather fetishistic look, especially at painters. The East itself, historically and geographically, is not neglected, Centre for Visual Introspection, initiated by curator Alina Şerban, is a small venue focusing on showing and debating this region with a broader mind-frame. Also worth mentioning are ParadisGaraj, an alternative, no-budget space, coordinated by artist Claudiu Cobilanschi and curator Ştefan Tiron, challenging the mainstream from the position of the underground in a series of funny and unconventional presentations; the National Centre for Dance, a multi-disciplinary space located in the late 70’s extension of the National Theatre in Bucharest (although plans to restore the theatre to its original 60’s architecture means that all the institutions functioning there will eventually need to look for other venues.). At least in cases such as these one can only be glad that the economic crisis and political indecision is slowing down the hectic and irremediable schemes of urban gentrification witnessed in the last few years in the Romanian capital. For it is the city itself, with its beautiful old houses, loud construction sites, layers of diverse influences and its protean present that is not only the backdrop of contemporary art but also its shelter, inspiration and often substance. •
RES MARCH 2010
Raluca Voinea is an art critic and curator, works in Bucharest. Since 2006 she is co-founder of a small non-profit institution, E-cart.ro, which is currently developing a programme of debates and artistic interventions, The Department for Art in Public Space. Since 2008 she is co-editor of IDEA. Art + Society magazine, published in Cluj, Romania.
Graffiti in Bucharest, referencing the 2nd bucharest biennale Photo credit: Eduard Constantin
77 RES MARCH 2010
Exploring the Return of Repression Curated by Razvan Ion View from the exhibition PAVILION UNICREDIT, Bucharest, 2009
ParadisGaraj, 2009 Photo credit: Claudiu Cobilanschi
RES MARCH 2010
Re-Construction, 3rd Biennial for Young Artists 2008 Sala Dalles Bucharest, curated by Ami Barak Photo credit: Eduard Constantin
79 RES MARCH 2010 Geta Bratescu, exhibition at Ivan Gallery “The exhibition consists of three different series of collages from Geta Bratescu: one called Spaces from 1979 and two of her most recent works, Jeu de formes; it is the inaugural show in the gallery’s new space. The future programme of the gallery will focus mainly on Romanian and Eastern European contemporary artists (Hungarians and Serbians.)” (Ivan Gallery)
Ion Grigorescu Professor at the House of Pioneers 1976/1977 In the exhibition Nothing is Worth More than This Day Curated by Magda Radu, Andreiana Mihail Gallery, 2009 Photo credit: Mona Vatamanu & Florin Tudor
RES MARCH 2010
81 RES MARCH 2010 Ion Dumitriu (1945-1998) From the series The Dump, 8 march 1975 Courtesy of Galeria Posibila “The 54 slides in the series The Dump are made on 8th of March 1975 at the outskirts of Bucharest. During the communist regime they were withdrawn from a public exhibition, organized by Ion Grigorescu in Bucharest, and later after 1989 they were not of interest during the depression of the new market economy, so they stayed unknown almost a decade after the artist’s death. Since 2007 Galeria Posibila itinerated this series of 54 slides, enlarged, together with a book of comissioned texts which start from these photographs and evoke realities of the 70’s.” (Galeria Posibila) Monument to Transformation Curators Vít Havránek & Zbynek Baladran, 2009 Centre for Visual Introspection, Bucharest Photo credit: Arnold Estefan
RES MARCH 2010
Ion Barladeanu Untitled, from the series Realpolitik 1991 Paper collage Courtesy of H.art gallery Photo credit: Alexandru Paul
83 RES MARCH 2010 Aurelia Mihai The Social Being of Truth (National Museum for Contemporary Art - MNAC, 2009) Curated by Oana Tanase Photo credit: George Vasilache
Centre for Visual Introspection, outside viewz “Centre for Visual Introspection is an independent platform generated by artists Anca Benera, Arnold Estefan, Catalin Rulea and art historian Alina Serban for promoting the artistic production at the borders of cultural theory, research, architecture, design and sound experiment. The term “introspection” points CIV as an observing agency whose main focus is to develop specific models of interlinking the social space with the art space.” (CIV)
RES MARCH 2010
Dan Perjvoschi La Zid [At the Wall] 2008 Site-specific drawing installation at the National Centre for Dance-Bucharest (CNDB) “His Trojan wall drawn at CNDB was his only permanent artistic intervention in an institution of the Romanian State. CNDB is the only public cultural institution created with the purpose of supporting, developing and promoting contemporary dance. It proposes projects in which the body becomes the mediator of multiple forms of expression and investigation of reality, encourages research, experiment and innovation within contemporary art and contributes to the creation of an environment open for dialogue, reflection and debate.” (CNDB)
KATHY BATTISTA I R E M E M B E R the first time I saw, during a trip to New York in 1997, an installation by Matthew Barney, the first artist recipient of the Hugo Boss Prize. Although Barney had already released Cremaster 4 and had exhibited in Documenta X (1997), he was an unknown name to the wider public. At that time the prize focused largely on American nominees and the exhibition took place in Guggenheim’s Soho branch. It is interesting to reflect on how much things have changed in just one decade: the site of the former Guggenheim Soho is now a flagship Prada shop (designed by Rem Koolhaas) and the museum has set its sights on outposts much further afield, most importantly their Abu Dhabi branch, due to open in 2015. Perhaps in anticipation of their Middle Eastern franchise (which as an aside, will be ten times as big as their NY space) the lineup for this year’s Hugo Boss Prize seems intentionally global. With not one American born artist in the shortlist, this year’s nominees are: Cao Fei (China), HansPeter Feldman (Germany), Walid Raad (Lebanon), Roman Ondák (Slovakia), Natascha Sadr Haghighian (of uncertain nationality, more on that below), and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand). Some of these artists, including Cao Fei and Walid Raad, are prominent figures on the international exhibition circuit; however, others such as Weerasethakul and Haghighian may be new discoveries for many of the Guggenheim’s New York audience. The Hugo Boss Prize carries a cash stipend of $100,000, decidedly more than the Turner Prize in the UK (£40,000 GBP), but less than the more recently inaugurated Abraaj Art Prize awarded in Dubai (each of three finalists previously received $200.000, this year the prize has grown to offer five artists an award). The most unique aspect of the Hugo Boss Prize, is that it carries no restrictions in terms of age, race, gender, nationality, or medium as most other prizes do; for example The Turner Prize is for a British Artist aged under 50. Like the Turner Prize, the real reward is the promise of a high-profile museum show: the winner of the Hugo Boss Prize is the subject of an exhibition at the Guggenheim New York the following year. One of the art world’s most prestigious awards, past winners include Douglas Gordon, Pierre Huyghe, Tacita Dean, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, all of which have become well-established names on the contemporary art market. Increasingly, the winners tend towards new media and practices that include video and relational art. Indeed the prize presents an opportunity for the museum to show its progressive tendencies, and for Hugo Boss it’s a chance to align itself with a multinational, prestigious institution that has become as much a brand as the clothing label that sponsors the award. A winning collaboration on both sides, this prize can be used to examine the state of art prizes in general. Who do they serve, the host institution, the artist winner or the sponsor? Is it indeed fair to pit artists against each other? How much do art prizes affect public opinion and in turn how does this affect the market?
RES MARCH 2010
The Hugo Boss Prize is decided by a jury including Nancy Spector, Joan Young and Alexandra Munroe from the Guggenheim’s curatorial team, as well as an international board of experts including Yasmil
85 Raymond, Udo Kittelmann and Tirdad Zolghadr. Emily Jacir, the last recipient of the Hugo Boss Prize, hails from Palestine. Her work negotiates the complex territory of borders and identity through both video and installation. Her work is especially engaged with notions of exile and restricted mobility. Take for example Embrace (2004), a sculpture that consists only of a circular conveyor belt, a nightmare tautology with no beginning or end. The nominees for 2010 represent a vast range of media, from performance and installation to virtual webbased and archival practices. What initially seems a disparate selection becomes more cohesive upon further reflection. All of the nominated artists play with truth and fiction, as well as the shifting and complex notion of identity in contemporary society. Natascha Sadr Haghighian, whose work includes video, installation and performance, has a practice that is perhaps the most indicative of this complexity. That her name may not ring familiar even to an audience in the contemporary art world is emblematic of her practice, which seeks to undermine the traditional notion of the artist as creative genius and sole author of the artwork. Like her predecessors Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Hans Haacke and Michael Asher, Haghighian adopts a form of institutional critique to emphasize the collective nature of art practice. The audience, curators or fabricators are often implicated in her work, for example, I Can’t Work Like This, which was created in 2007 for an art fair. The phrase “I Can’t Work Like This” was spelled out in the negative space of a rambling mass of nails hammered into the wall of the booth. The floor nearby was strewn with hammers and nails, the most basic of utensils for hanging art, and representative of the unseen labor of the art world. Haghighian has also recently created a solo show by a “fake” artist Robbie Williams, where every person associated with the creation of the sculptures, which resembled horse jumps, was credited as an author. A website by Haghighian takes her practice to a new level of confusion for the researcher. www.bioswop.net negates the concepts of biography and nationality, resisting the very methods by which the art industry categorizes and organizes information. In this project, the artists, as well as any others who are interested in collaborating, can borrow and swap cvs for any purpose. The anarchic ethos of this site breaks with the most basic of art world conventions: the artist’s biography and history. Rendering any sort of hierarchical system irrelevant, Haghighian prefers to keep a shifting and evasive identity and encourages the same of her colleagues registered on the site. Categorization by nationality or age, abiding methodologies in the history of art since the Enlightenment introduced systems of classification, is negated in her conceptual and ephemeral project. Haghighian’s work presents a challenge to even the most critical of artists associated with the Institutional Critique movement, as the artist is rendered invisible by her own hand. One can’t say with any certainty where she comes from, what her age is, or where she studied. Is Haghighian a real person, or a constructed identity? She leaves this question open for interpretation with her subtle and complex work. The notion of identity is also questioned by Cao Fei, one of the most well-known artists on the shortlist for 2010, and an obvious choice for the winner. Born in Guangzhou in 1978, despite her tender age Cao Fei is one of the few internationally established female artists living and working in China. With a market dominated by male figurative painters, Fei’s practice resists the ‘big face’ trend that catapulted the surge of Chinese contemporary art in recent years. Her work spans several media, including videos, performance, interactive digital art and photography, as well as the popular web-based activity known as Second Life. The artist’s work has been shown in many prestigious exhibitions over the past few years, including currently at the International Center of Photography’s Dress Codes: The Third Triennial of
RES MARCH 2010
A LOOK AT THE HUGO BOSS PRIZE 2010 SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM, NEW YORK
87 Her ongoing series RMB City takes its title from the official name for the Yuan, the Chinese currency. A child of the generation that saw the explosion of capitalism, especially in the Pearl River Delta where the artist was born, it is not surprising that she would use currency as symbolic of the future urban environment. RMB City is an online art community in which visitors participate in the virtual world of Second Life. This project is an experiment exploring the shifting relationship between imagined spaces and identities, and is a reflection of China’s urban and cultural explosion. Cao Fei’s avatar ‘China Tracy’ is credited as ‘Director’. In RMB City Second Life participants, who choose an avatar to represent themselves, can navigate from ‘the people’s factory’ to the ‘people’s love center’ or ‘the people’s slum’. The concept of Second Life, where one’s on-line persona may or may not align with their true identity, provides a space for fantasy and game-playing. However, it also blurs the tenets of fact and fiction, reality and fantasy. Where in real life one is a writer, in RMB City one could be a singer, politician or construction worker. Like Haghighian’s project, Cao Fei relegates authorship in the artistic process by relying on visitors to RMB City to help shape the work. Much has been said of relational aesthetics artists such as Liam Gillick and Rirkrit Tiravanija. Cao Fei’s work is as relevant and germane to this discussion. This slippage between fact and fiction is also a central aspect of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s work. Known primarily as an avant-garde filmmaker in his native Thailand, Weerasethakul counts influences as disparate as Stephen Spielberg’s films and the Surrealists’ ‘exquisite corpse’ drawing game. His films resist the formal Thai studio system and instead make use non-linear narrative and unprofessional actors. For example, Weerasethakul (born 1970) won the Jury Prize in Cannes in 2004 for his film Tropical Malady, which had a plot that switched dramatically in the middle, separating it into two distinct parts. Hailed by some (including Quentin Tarantino, who was on the Cannes jury) and despised by others, the film was met with equal contempt and praise. Weerasethakul studied architecture in his home country before enrolling as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. Recently he has shown his short films and installations in the context of contemporary art. Primitive (2009), a seven–screen video installation, was shown at Haus der Kunst in Munich as well as FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool. Retrieval of history is a central theme for the artist here. The film was shot in the border town of Nabua, an area with a long and controversial history of racial migration and slaughter, where the Mekong River divides Laos from Thailand. Nabua is where the Maoist Communists fled and later where the Thai government targeted local communities as sympathizers to the Communist regime. There is an ancient legend about Nabua that claims a widow ghost would abduct any man who comes into her empire. Primitive reconfigures Nabua as a town of men only, freed from the widow’s curse where teenagers fabricate memories and build a dream in the jungle. Indeed fabrication—of history and identity—is a theme paramount within the Hugo Boss Prize shortlist.
RES MARCH 2010
Roman Ondák, a Slovakian artist (born 1966) who has studied in the United States, is best known for his work that fabricates art actions rather than objects. Like others of his generation including Tino Sehgal and Elmgreen & Dragset, Ondák investigates sociopolitical conventions by calling attention
to their absurdity. Like other artists mentioned above, he often incorporates viewers into the work. For example, his performance Good Feelings in Good Times of 2003, consists of a group of actors who form a spontaneous queue for no apparent reason. Ondák’s work plays with the concept of anticipation, an emotionally charged state where we prepare ourselves for some thing or event, good or bad. Why are these people waiting? And what are they waiting for? Ondák identifies how much of our lives are spent in both anticipation and frustration. The ‘virtual aspect’ of Ondák’s work relates to his fellow nominee Cao Fei. Where she invents a fictional digital space, Ondák creates a psychological and ultimately ephemeral action, with no physical trace once the actors disperse. Again, the concept of institutional critique may be considered. These artists elucidate the irrelevancy of certain aspects of the art world’s main tenets—the need for a space, the existence of an object—and presumably resist the institution. However, Ondák’s work, like Cao Fei’s, has been celebrated by the same institutions he critiques: the Tate acquired Good Feelings in Good Times (2003); he has had solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; Ludwig Museum Budapest; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; and represented Slovakia in the 2009 Venice Biennale. That the Guggenheim has shortlisted Ondák is an important indication of their curatorial trajectory, which their forthcoming solo exhibition of Tino Sehgal further solidifies: the Guggenheim is embracing alternative media and ironically, works that subvert the traditional role of the institution. Walid Raad (born 1967, Lebanon) is another artist and academic who engages with the tenuous link between truth and fiction. Raad’s practice explores collective memory, trauma and the representation of conflict. The artist has created a fictional archive of photographs, texts and videos based on the conflict that tore apart his native Beirut during the years of their protracted civil war (1975 – 1990). In 1999 Raad founded The Atlas Group, an imaginary foundation that exists in order to document the history of Lebanon. Raad presents the group through lectures that include films, photography exhibitions, videos, and a variety of documents from the group’s archives. Sections of the archive have been the object of a number of installations in museum spaces and featured in Documenta XI, the Venice Biennale and The Whitney Biennial. As in the case of Cao Fei, The Atlas Group’s activities are located online, in an archival site. These fictional archives include a variety of materials, among them notebooks belonging to the Lebanese historian Fadl Fakhouri, videos of the former hostage Souheil Bachar and of Zainab Hilwé, the victim of a car bombing, as well as a number of anonymous documents that include, for example, a series of photos entitled Secrets in the Open Sea. Like Roman Ondák and Tino Sehgal, Raad, despite his polemical stance, is represented by some of the leading commercial galleries, including Paula Cooper Gallery in New York. Perhaps the irony of this—the institution embracing its critics—is lost to a new generation of viewers, for whom radical politics may be a quaint memory of the past. Hans-Peter Feldman is the pater familias of the nominees, almost thirty years the senior of most of the artists. Since the 1960’s Feldman has made subtle installations that make use of a Dada-esque sense of humor and chance. Feldman is a cult artist, celebrated by curators such as Hans Ulrich Obrist, who recognize the influence of his work on future generations of artists. An “artist’s artist,”, Feldman’s work challenges the notion of “high art” and again, remains non-hierarchical in principle. Feldman takes found commercial and domestic objects and rearranges them in installations that call attention to visual culture. Shadowplay, an installation from 2005, sees various objects arranged on a
RES MARCH 2010
Photography and Video. She was included in Hans Ulrich Obrist’s ambitious landmark 2006 exhibition China Power Station, which featured contemporary Chinese art at the Battersea Power Station, in The Rising Tide, a feature length documentary that looks at contemporary Chinese artists and in the 10th International Istanbul Biennial curated by Hou Hanru.
89 RES MARCH 2010
table with lamps that project shadows on to the adjacent wall. While the objects themselves are banal toys, the resulting shadow transforms the wall into an ephemeral futuristic skyline, which ceases to exist when the lights turn off. This slight of hand is typical of Feldman, who has spent a career resisting the monumentality of contemporary art. Pictures of car radios taken when good music was playing (2004) embraces the conceptual strategies of chance and documentation. With a similar structure to Ed Ruscha’s 26 Gasoline Stations (1963) and Dan Graham’s Homes for America (1966), Feldman’s unostentatious work seems under-recognized, especially in America. The Guggenheim’s nomination of Feldman will be a long awaited coup for the cult artist. Feldman would not be a bad bet for the winner, as he has seniority and the respect of fellow artists. The truth of the matter is that all the artists are winners. The shortlist represents a range of approaches to art making that encompasses a wide variety of media. However, they all share a common, and what might be called, post-20th century attribute: the artists question the steadfast understanding of identity, truth and history. In a world where information is processed so quickly and we can learn virtually anything at the touch of our fingertips, these artists urge us to slow down and consider the real truth, which is that nothing is as it seems. A publication featuring the work of all six finalists with accompanying essays will be published in June 2010. The prizewinner will be selected and announced in fall 2010, and the artist’s work will be presented in an exhibition in 2011 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. •
Cao Fei, RMB City 8, 2007 Digital c-print, 47.2 x 63 in / 120 x 160 cm Courtesy of the artist and Lombard-Freid Projects
Artists shortlisted: Cao Fei (b. 1978, Guangzhou, China) — video, installation, performance, photography, and online projects. Hans-Peter Feldmann (b. 1941, Düsseldorf) — sculpture, installation, photography, and artists’ books. Natascha Sadr Haghighian — sculpture, installation, performance, video, photography, sound, and online projects. Roman Ondák (b. 1966, Žilina, Slovakia) — performance, installation, photography, drawing, and sculpture. Walid Raad (b. 1967, Chbanieh, Lebanon) — photography, video, mixed media, essays, and lectures. Apichatpong Weerasethakul (b. 1970, Bangkok) — film and installation. A publication featuring the work of all six finalists with accompanying essays will be published in June, 2010. The prize winner will be selected and announced in fall, 2010 and the artist’s work will be presented in an exhibition in 2011 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Kathy Battista is Director of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, New York. Her doctoral research examined the work of feminist artists in 1970s London. She is coauthor of Art New York (ellipsis, 2000) and Recent Architecture in The Netherlands (ellipsis, 1998), as well as editor and author of Haluk Akakçe: Reincarnation (galerist, 2009). Her essays have appeared in the following edited collections: Ladies and Gents: Public Toilets and Gender (Temple University Press, 2009); Arcade: Artists and Placemaking (Black Dog, 2006); Surface Tension: Supplement 1 (errant bodies, 2006) and Surface Tension: Problematics of Site (errant bodies, 2003); as well as many exhibition catalogues. Kathy is a regular contributor to the journals RES Art World / World Art and Art Monthly and is on the editorial board of Art & Architectural Journal. She has taught at Birkbeck College, Kings College, the London Consortium, the Ruskin School of Art (Oxford University), and Tate Modern. She founded the Interaction education and contextual events program for the public art agency Artangel and she was a Postdoctoral Fellow of The London Consortium at Tate Modern.
RES MARCH 2010
Cao Fei, RMB CITY 9, 2007 Digital c-print, 47.2 x 63 in / 120 x 160 cm Courtesy of the artist and Lombard-Freid Projects
91 RES MARCH 2010 Hans-Peter Feldmann Bookshelfs 1999 Photograph On Aluminum Dibond 5 Photographs: 70 3/4 X 53 1/4 in / 179.7 X 135.3 cm, each Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York
Hans-Peter Feldmann Shadowplay 2009 5 Wooden Tables, 7 Home Made Lamps, and 7 Rotating Tableaux of Found Objects 32 X 295 1/2 in / 81.3 X 750.6 cm, overall Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York
RES MARCH 2010
93 Natascha Sadr Haghighian Empire of the Senseless Part II 2006 Two channel video installation, text by Kathy Acker Format variable © Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin Photo Credit: Ines Schaber
RES MARCH 2010
Natascha Sadr Haghighian I can’t work like this 2007 Wall installation, nails, hammers, 400 x 200 cm / 157 1/2 x 78 3/4 in © Johann König, Berlin
RES MARCH 2010
95 RES MARCH 2010 Roman Ondรกk Good Feelings in Good Times 2003 Performance, overall display dimensions variable Courtesy the artist & Johnen Galerie
Roman Ondรกk Measuring the Universe 2007 Performance, overall display dimensions variable Courtesy the artist & Johnen Galerie
RES MARCH 2010
97 RES MARCH 2010 Walid Raad Part I_Chapter 1_Section 139: The Atlas Group (1989-2004) 1989-2004 Gallery walls and understructure; acrylic sheet with latex paint Floor: Red oak veneer with polyurethane Photos: Resin, latex paint, polycarbonate and archival jet prints Video installation: 4 LCD screens. 12 1/2 x 110 3/8 x 41 in / 31.8 x 280.4 x 104.1 cm ÂŠWalid Raad Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Walid Raad Untitled Installation 2008 Beirut Museum of Modern Art (Lebanon) Views from Outer Comportment to Inner Comportment Painted high density foam, 25 x 50 1/8 x 2 3/4 in / 63.5 x 127.3 x 7 cm Collection Hussam Hosi (Libya), 2009 ÂŠWalid Raad Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
RES MARCH 2010
99 RES MARCH 2010 Apichatpong Weerasethakul Phantoms of Nabua, from the Primitive series 2009 Set photograph Photo Credit: Chaisiri Jiwarangsan Courtesy of Kick the Machine Films
Apichatpong Weerasethakul Phantoms of Nabua, from the Primitive series 2009 Set photograph Photo Credit: Chaisiri Jiwarangsan Courtesy of Kick the Machine Films
RES MARCH 2010
THE FIRST ART PRIZE THAT FOCUSES ON THE MENASA REGION (MIDDLE EAST, NORTH AFRICA, SOUTH ASIA)
ZEYNEP ÖZ TH E A B R A A J C A P I TA L A RT P R I Z E was set up in 2008 by Abraaj Capital, the largest private equity group in the region, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility program and has allocated $1 million per year in each of the two editions it has realized so far. “The chief aim of the prize is to empower potential, and give often under-represented contemporary artists from the vibrant MENASA region the resources to further develop their talent.”  Because the prize operates in a handicapped environment in terms of financial support, much responsibility weighs on its shoulders, and there is a lot of pressure to set an example and enact a successful model. This amounts to the fact that all the twists and turns in its policy change, of which there have been some major ones this year, are under close scrutiny. The following text will outline what makes this prize especially unique as one nascent in a region that lacks organized schemes for supporting the arts.
RES MARCH 2010
The selection process in the first two editions have shared a peculiar character, in that The Abraaj Capital Art Prize asked an artist and a curator to come up with a proposal together in order to apply. Two of the prize’s approaches seems to be unique: Abraaj only awards proposals, rather than fullyfetched existing artworks, and also puts a curatorial emphasis on the artistic production process. Representatives from the prize state that the reason for the choice to match a curator up with an artist was made in response to complaints from artists in the region who claimed that they were not readily recognized by curators from abroad. Even though the first year of the prize typically resulted in applications that saw curators approaching well-known artists, the second year proved to be different and artists were actually the ones to contact the curators with propositions for collaboration. Once selected as a winner of the Abraaj Capital Prize, each couple was rewarded $200,000 for their project, which they officially had six months to work on. The realized projects have so far been “unveiled” (the official term) at the Art Dubai fair, which occurs each year in March, meaning that a production process that is carried out in a rather confidential environment becomes revealed to onlookers in a ceremonious manner during the art fair, an event that attracts curators, collectors, artists and art enthusiasts from all over the world. Coinciding the fair and the prize ceremony has invited additional focused attention on a region that was already becoming more fashionable, more productive, and thus more complicated to look at over the last decade. The climatic aspect of the production and “unveiling” process sheds a bright light on the artworks, and in relation to the fair exhibits puts them directly in the vocabulary of the international language of art. Considering that the award winning works are realized to become part of a corporate collection, Art Dubai’s involvement as part of the support structure is idiosyncratic and can be well contextualized when we take into account the fact that the fair has been organizing numerous side events, which seek to conceptualize art production at large in the region. From Abraaj’s perspective, the Abraaj Art Prize cleanly inserts itself into a certain structure of visibility with a specific agenda; but what this combination actually implies might be too complicated to dissect here as we have yet to understand the significance of the agenda of Art Dubai itself.
Marwan Sahmarani From the series Beirut 2008 50x200cm, watercolor on paper
Hala Elkoussy (re)construction # 2, Mukattam 2003 C print 100 x 70 cm
RES MARCH 2010
THE ABRAAJ CAPITAL ART PRIZE
103 The winners of the first edition of the prize in 2009 were Kutluğ Ataman (Turkey), with curator Cristiana Perrella (Italy); Zoulikha Bouabdellah (Algeria), with curator Carol Solomon (United States); and Nazgol Ansarinia (Iran), with curator Leyla Fakhr (Iran). This year’s winners are Kader Attia (Algeria), with curator Laurie Ann Farrell (United States); Hala Elkoussy (Egypt), with curator Jelle Bouwhuis (Netherlands); and Marwan Sahmarani (Lebanon), with curator Mahita El Bacha Urieta (UK). Visibility is a key concept to talk about in relation to the Abraaj Capital Prize, as apart from the Sharjah Foundation’s support of the Sharjah Biennial commissions, this is probably the only organized pool of regional money that offers the possibility to produce new art works and then also circulate them internationally, with the final benefit of their being included in a major collection of works by artists who live in a region - that is usually not endowed with a history of art patronage, or governmental support for the arts. Other support structures, under which art works get produced, are largely private and hence un-institutionalized, and the money is for the most part granted on a one-time basis often as a result of personal connections. This creates an ongoing precarity in regard to means of artistic production, which over centuries has been the case and has been well theorized, but is very specific to the general state of art production in the MENASA region in particular. Thus, the stability and institutionalization of a scheme of art production and the visibility that this stabilization brings are quite significant.
Nazgol Ansarinia Rhyme and Reason Unveiling of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize Courtesy Art Dubai 2009
Creating part of a collection from this process is risky on the part of the Abraaj Capital in that they have to trust the artists/curators chosen to stay close to the original approved proposals. During an interview with Savita Apte, the chair of the prize, she expressed that this is why the Abraaj team and jury monitor the production process closely; to make sure that the works realized do not sway away from the proposal by a large margin. She believes that there has to be mutual trust between the practitioners and the representatives of the collection for the process to be successful. When choosing the winners of the prize, Apte states that the selection committee, which consists of art practitioners as well as representatives from the Abraaj Capital Fund - the conservators and managers of the Abraaj Capital Corporate Collection have various criteria in mind, such as the medium of the proposed artworks, or the proposal’s rootedness in the region where the work comes from. Of course, it is hard to predict on the basis of the six works that have been chosen so far how exactly these criteria combine to point towards the selections that are made and what the overall vision for the collection is. However, it is probably safe to say that there is already a curatorial process in place that the selection committee follows, taking into consideration the forces of the market, the needs and the promise of the artists chosen as well as the symbolic value of the collaborating curators. Thus the existence of a growing number of curators involved in building the collection makes for a certain plurality, which deserves appraisal.
RES MARCH 2010
The effects and the importance of the prize have been various, with the addition of expanded visibility in other international institutions as described above, being the most noticeable of them. Another crucial
RES MARCH 2010
Part of the prize winning contract states that once completed the finished artworks will become part of the Abraaj Capital Corporate Collection. A further intention is that after the first showing in Dubai the final three works then go on tour to be hosted by significant venues in key capital cities of the art world. For example, the exhibition of the first edition toured to the Museum of Arts & Design in New York City this past summer. Unfortunately, since the economic crisis in 2009, finding venues has proved to be a difficult process, albeit one for which the committee is working. If successful, every international presentation proves to be highly significant in raising the profile of the artist, or the curator, if not both these figures, while also giving them an opportunity to produce work on a great(er) scale, in terms of size, conceptual rigor and/or visibility.
105 But the most irregular and encouraging aspect of the prize so far has been the coupling effect that was intentionally created, where a curatorial process and artistic production sync and influence one another. From interviews with some of the artists who have won the prize, I can infer that the collaborative aspect of the process has been beneficial to them in how they have negotiated bringing a concrete proposal to realization. On the other hand, there were also opinions that having one umbrella curator for all three winning proposals, as opposed to one curator per artist, would improve the overall quality of the exhibition realized at the end of the production stage. This would ensure that a clear curatorial hand would be concerned with weaving together the three works and relating them to one another in a more cohesive exhibition structure. Now, with the policy changes that come about this year, we will see what benefits and results are specific to offering a collaboration to a team of curator and artist from the outset. This year, Abraaj Captial Prize announced that the artists can apply directly to the prize as opposed to sending a proposal with a curator. Another change this year is that the amount of money awarded to each project will decrease from $200,000 to $120,000 in order to compensate for the fact that there will now be five winners awarded as opposed to the three as in the two preceding years. These changes, Savita Apte says, have come about because of the “evolutionary” (her own word) character of the prize, in that the process is ever evaluating itself and trying to come up with improved schemes for building the Abraaj Capital Corporate Collection. Having been initiated after much consideration, the changes in policy are welcome by those of us who are eager to see collections being built through critical and well thought out processes, but what these changes will signify and mean pragmatically are curious. The decrease in the amount of money awarded to each project is deemed as an improvement by the committee because it “lets the artist still dream at a large-scale, but not be so overwhelmed that they throw everything they get into one pan [thereby there is no longer the issue of artists potentially coming up with costly but less rigorous project conceptually.]” Looking at the past projects that artists have produced, there is indeed a conflict between the six-months of time allocated to realize potentially quite large-scale projects and the pragmatic complexities that come with working to fulfill inflated expectations due to the generous budget; yet, I personally don’t believe that any of the artists would complain about having been given the opportunity to lay their hands on this much money and work on a big idea that does not necessarily have to be large in size.
RES MARCH 2010
As an example to this time-size conflict, Nazgol Ansarinia describes working on her winning proposal: “Rhyme and Reason is a handwoven carpet based on my Patterns Series, (a series of drawings that plays with the idea of the Persian carpet); the production faced so many challenges getting off the ground, that all efforts were made with the support of my curator to keep the project going and to achieve what we had initially proposed.”  Because of the relentless work on behalf of both members of the team, in the end the carpet was indeed realized as the ambitious project that was first proposed. In such instances, battling with a short time frame is often only possible when there is a substantial budget to play with.
Zoulikha Bouabdellah Walk on the Sky. Pisces Abraaj Capital Art Prize © Vipul Sangoi 2009
RES MARCH 2010
long-term benefit of the prize process is the further involvement of Abraaj Capital to accept works to their own growing collection, a timely response that speaks very strongly in the face of a lack of collections of contemporary art in the region, even though their number is gradually growing. Having set out to be exemplary in how it makes transparent the process of collection building, the Abraaj Capital Corporate Collection has offered a new model for collectors concerned with the region in making public the artworks in the collection as well as investing in the production process rather than merely acquiring already finished works.
107 NOTES  Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2011 Applications Press Release  Interview with Savita Apte  Interview with Nazgol Ansarinia  Interview with Nahita El Bacha Urieta
Zeynep Öz received a BA in Mathematics and Studio Art from Dartmouth College, and went on to graduate from Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College this past year. She is now the assistant curator for Home Works V in Beirut, opening in April 2010. She recently commissioned and published Melanie Gilligan’s book, Five Scripts.
In the end, the responsibilities that the Abraaj Capital Prize bears on its shoulders, whether it had chosen to take these responsibilities on itself or not, are rather heavy. The prize has created a pocket of opportunity for curators and artists alike in a sphere lacking monetary opportunities, to initiate and to take on projects otherwise deemed impossible. The prize produces visibility through, but not restricted to, the scale of intent in which the artists realize work. It would be wasteful not to exercise this opportunity in a responsible and creative way. The Prize has so far been willing to be open to changes; whether it can keep on adjusting itself in a self-critical manner will be seen in the upcoming years. There are also aspects where it has had the opportunity to fill in voids such as the lack of theoretical production in the region by producing yearly catalogues with texts on the artists. Such endeavours supply and feed the mechanism of art production, and it is these efforts that will prove whether the prize givers view such opportunities further and dwell on them in a non-wasteful way. As one of this year’s winner curators, Mahita El Bacha Urieta proposes that the one apparent disadvantage that comes with this year’s policy changes will be the lack of encouragement for curators from the region. Although during the past two editions of the prize, there have been only two curators to come from the region, in her opinion the opportunity was there to shed light on these professionals.  Indeed, it was an important chance to work within a ready-made structure in a geographical zone that has few institutions of a standard to act as curatorial incubators. By extension this curatorial possibility also opened doors to other processes such as the production of new critical writing and critical theory, a requirement in any context that excels and drives contemporary art production. In the end, none of these achievements are expressed as aims of the prize, which has set out to build a collection that focuses on artistic production in the region as its springboard; however, these bilateral opportunities are some that are too great to be missed. How the Abraaj Capital Art Prize sets out to play in this arena of opportunities and whether it decides to outreach its investment by also supporting other curatorial ventures in the region and if it chooses to do so also outside the scope of the prize, we shall see in the upcoming years; but given the self-evaluating process of the display so far, there is definitely hope. •
RES MARCH 2010
The second annual Abraaj Capital Art Prize will be unveiled at Art Dubai 2010, 17 – 20 March, 2010. Applications for the 2011 Abraaj Capital Art Prize are now open. Please visit http://www.abraaj.com/acap for details.
Kutlu€ Ataman Strange Space Abraaj Capital Art Prize © Vipul Sangoi 2009
RES MARCH 2010
As one curator has expressed, the role of the curator is by definition a rather political one in that the curator has to bring together and negotiate between the institutional and artistic spheres and dictate how the overlap becomes publicly revealed. If one takes out the hand of the curator from this negotiation process, there is not as much of the bouncy cushion that a curator offers in how the project is articulated before it is catapulted into the language of the collection. On the other hand, eliminating the pluralistic curatorial points of view, in favor of one curatorial voice may prove highly influential for creating a coherent series of yearly exhibitions. At the same time, a continuity in terms of the curatorial role from year to year provides an overall vision for the collection whereas a variety of voices with different curatorial perspectives could enhance the collection in a more diverse way. Yet again, when considering the best approach for the curatorial role, there is some negotiation to be done here about how much the prize is concerned with collection building and how much it invests into the processes of artistic production. One thing that will be foregone for sure, now that artists apply independently, are the long lasting relationships that became secured between the artists and curators in the last two years when working together in realizing such large-scale projects.
109 LA Absolutely. It was great exposure, my work was seen by “the right people” and after that things started falling into place… Of course sometimes you do wonder : “would I have had the same support if the same work was seen in a different context? Do you need to win a prize for them to trust you?’’ It certainly opened up a lot of opportunities anyhow, and enables me to promote my work in the direction I want to, and make choices as to where I want to show, which curators I want to work with and which gallery I want to be represented by. RES Do you feel that the prize has also influenced other elements of the art scene in Athens?
DAKIS JOANNOU Founder of the Deste Foundation and the Deste Prize in Athens RES Was there a particular motivation for initiating the Dest Prize in 1999 given that you had inaugurated the Foundation back in 1983? DJ It started in 1999 when DESTE moved into its permanent space in Neo Psychico. RES How is the Greek selection committee and the international jury determined each Prize? DJ The Selection committee and the Jury members are decided by myself together with an ad-hoc advisory board RES Do you feel that the Deste Prize has influenced the young generation of contemporary artists in Greece by giving them a specific goal to attain to? DJ This question I think is best answered by third persons. Our aim is to create a platform for the international exposure of Greek artists RES Is there any particular year of the prize that stands out for you as one that hosted a shortlist of works of outstanding quality? DJ Each prize has its own characteristics and the diversity of the selection committee members give each show a special flavor. LOUKIA ALAVANOU Recipient of the Deste Prize in 2007 RES Do you remember the Deste Prize being launched in 1999 and did it seem like an important initiative at that time? LA I remember hearing about it a couple of years later, in fact I was a foundation student in London at the time, and found the catalogue in my college’s library. I suppose that was a new departure for contemporary Greek art, it had suddenly found an international spotlight. RES MARCH 2010
RES You won the prize in 2007. Do you feel like you have had more opportunities as a result?
LA Besides all its glamour, the existence of the Deste Foundation is an invaluable privilege for the Greek art scene in general. That’s taking into account that Greek artists have very little public support (perhaps the least from all European countries). Museums in Greece for instance cannot even pay for production costs. Private galleries on the other hand are limited (and often limiting)... In other words being a Greek artist today is a bit of a curse, you ve got to find your way around things with not much help. That’s why the majority of artists leave the country and move abroad, and that makes “the scene in Athens” seem a bit like a scene in a “ghost town”. The Prize though has had an enormous impact in bridging the Athenian and international art scenes. And that’s both because Dakis Joannou is a superstar, and because they’re doing a great job. RES What kind of audience visit the Deste Foundation and so may have seen your work? LA Contemporary art in Greece is totally exclusive for the elites, contrary to the performing arts or cinema in fact… Yet the Deste Prize show also attracts a lot of the general public. It was a fantastic experience showing to such a big and wide audience there for once. CHRISTODOULOS PANAYIOTOU Recipient of the Deste Prize in 2005 RES Do you remember the Deste Prize being launched in 1999 and did it seem like an important initiative at that time? CP I had no contact with the Greek art scene in 1999... I actually had no contact with any art scene in 1999... at that time I was a hard working ballet student. RES You won the prize in 2005. Do you feel like you have had more opportunities as a result? CP Yes, Opportunities have resulted since I was awarded the prize, because the exposure is far reaching. On a personal level the prize helped me to validate my conscious decision to move my own practice into the field of contemporary art. RES Do you feel that the prize has also influenced other elements of the art scene in Athens? CP I think that the prize, like any prize, is rather commenting (in the successful cases), or underlining (in the less successful cases) particular elements of the art scene. •
RES MARCH 2010
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT THE DESTE PRIZE
111 RES MARCH 2010 Eirene Efstathiou Επιτάφιος
2009 Oil and Acrylic on 3 panels, total dimensions 68x23 cm Courtesy the artist Photo credit: Menelaos Myrillas
Loukia Alavanou Chop Chop Tale 2007 Double screen video installation, 5min Installation View, 5th DESTE Prize 2007 Courtesy upstairs Berlin
RES MARCH 2010
Christodoulos Panayiotou Truly 2005 Video installation Installation view, 4th DESTE Prize 2005
RES MARCH 2010
IANNIS XENAKIS: COMPOSER, ARCHITECT, VISIONARY JANUARY 15 - APRIL 8 , 2010, THE DRAWING CENTER
AMY OWEN TH E WO R K O F the Greek avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) currently on view at The Drawing Center in New York in the exhibition Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary explores, in particular, the fundamental role of drawing within the protean practice of this immensely talented cultural producer. More interestingly, it illuminates the merging of science and art, the cross-pollination of disciplines that Xenakis embraced so fully and effortlessly in his work. In the making for over two years, the exhibition was co-curated by Sharon Kanach, a Paris-based new music specialist, and Carey Lovelace, a New York-based independent curator and critic, both former students of Xenakis’ at the Université de Paris. Brett Littman, The Drawing Center’s Executive Director, in his foreword to the exhibition catalogue, recounts a charming tale of his own influential run-in with Xenakis during his days as an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego after seeing a performance in which Xenakis (then a visiting professor at UCSD) created an aural landscape through the movement of kites whose strings were attached to a computer. A ring of speakers Installation at the Drawing Center, New York, 2010 encompassing the audience broadcast sounds from the machine fed by Photo by Cathy Carver the kite’s wanderings through the sky. Needless to say, it makes sense that the exhibition would find its’ home at the Drawing Center amidst the hands of such able and loving fans. Upon entering the exhibition, the respect and admiration for the work is palpable. The exhibition developed from Kranach’s initial inventorying of the Xenakis archive (comprised of over 80 boxes of material housed at the Bilbliothèque Nationale de Paris) and then flourished following conversations with Lovelace. Given the breadth of Xenakis’ work, the curators were faced with the challenge of honing down their presentation yet keeping it broad enough to encompass the myriad projects created throughout Xenakis’ highly influential career. The exhibition begins and ends with architectural projects and is threaded with material from his early musical works as well as his “polytopes” (“many” + “sites”); multimedia site-specific works from the 60’s and 70’s. True to Xenakis’ method of working, the curators led many of their decisions with the ear- as the work is seemingly meant to be encountered aurally. As a result, i-pods loaded with corresponding tracks to the visuals on view are made available to visitors at the onset; a clever and effective curatorial device.
RES MARCH 2010
Formally, the exhibition is quiet and pristine. Two-dimensional works on paper line the walls of the gallery displaying architectural renderings, archival photographs, and musical scores and notations. Four vitrines confront the viewer at the center of the gallery, housing an array of Xenakis’ published writings, recordings, and even a letter from famed architect Le Corbusier whom Xenakis had worked for
Study for Polytope de Montréal (light score) c. 1966 Color pencil on paper, 9 1/2 x 12 1/2 in Iannis Xenakis Archives, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
115 RES MARCH 2010
throughout the 1950’s and who entrusted Xenakis with the oversight of the 1958 Philips Pavilion project. Xenakis morphed Le Corbusier’s skeletal plans into a more dynamic asymmetrical framework based on hyperbolic parabaloids, yet Le Corbusier failed to credit Xenakis for his innovative design once building was underway and soon following tensions rose. Le Corbusier’s letter on view here, sent just after the groundbreaking of the building, announced that Xenakis’ services were no longer needed—he had been fired in a tantrum. Along the far wall of the gallery, hidden from view by a long partition, hang archival images and drawings from Xenakis’ various compositions and Polytope works. Of particular interest is Terretektorh; a work that demonstrates Xenakis’ enchantment with, the dimensional possibilities of sound which required that the audience be seated throughout the 88 participating performers surrounding the conductor. Further, at the opening of this piece, visitors were given chairs akin to camping stools and encouraged to roam throughout the space and experience the work from different locations. In Xenakis’ frenetic drawing, Study for Terretektorh (distribution of musicians) from 1965, we can see the composition come to life through the potential paths of visitors carved around the static performers. The first of many “polytopes” also on view here, is Polytope de Montreal; a commission for the French Pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Expo. Steel cables woven through the interior of the building were lined with lights that, through mechanized instructions, generated flickering constellations over a sixminute performance in which a simultaneous symphony played by four different orchestras was piped from four surrounding loudspeakers. The building allowed visitors to interact with the piece from multiple levels. In Xenakis’ Study for Polytope de Montreal (light score), c. 1966 we see his use of layering color and graphite on paper, a multi-dimensional method that pervades many of his sketches and illustrates his way of thinking via systems. The installation also features two sets of flatscreens, chairs and headphones, which buttress each side of the partition that cuts through the back of the gallery in separate listening/viewing stations. These video components, most interestingly, allow the viewer the opportunity to observe the workings of Xenakis’ revolutionary UPIC-compositional tool. Xenakis invented this machine to be a digitized musical drawing board that allowed one to literally draw sound. The system was capable of translating drawn forms into electronically generated sound so one did not have to know how to read music to compose music. The technology was so profound that the machine was traveled around the world. It opened up the composition and teaching of music to a whole new audience of students and individuals, from children to the blind.
RES MARCH 2010
The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive catalogue including essays by the curators as well as Xenakis’ daughter Mâki Xenakis and music writer Ivan Hewett, and continues on tour to the Canadian Centre for Architecture and then to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. An impressive line up of events has also been developed in collaboration with a host of local performing arts organizations, universities and musicians. As thorough and exciting as the public program is, so much emphasis has been placed on the musical and performative components of Xenakis’ works, that it would have been interesting to see the exhibition engage another cross disciplinary contingency through any of the numerous architectural programs in the city—a missed opportunity. Furthermore, the exhibition could have benefited from the inclusion of a few architectural models of Xenakis’ projects providing a richer and more tangible experience of that important body of work.
Study for Terretektorh (distribution of musicians) December 20, 1965 Ink on paper, 9 x 9 in Iannis Xenakis Archives, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
The exhibition brings to mind Bernard Tschumi’s Architectural Manifestoes, the 1978 exhibition mounted at Artists Space (another one of New York’s downtown non-profit arts organizations) which presented work that explored ideas (essentially architectural) that could not be investigated through conventional means, and rather deployed these concepts in a visual and textual form comprehensible in terms of conceptual art. Of his manifestoes, Tschumi stated, “like love letters, they provide an erotic distance between fantasy and actual realization.” Perhaps we can view Xenakis’ drawings through this lens, as “love letters” that, as Tschumi elaborated, “play on the tension between ideas and real spaces, between abstract concepts and the sensuality of an implied spatial (and in Xenakis’ case, aural) experience.” •
The Armory Show 2010 Pier 94 / Booth 1511
Amy Owen is Director of Exhibitions at Artists Space. She was previously Exhibitions and Publications Associate at Independent Curators International (ICI) from 2001-2005. Recent curatorial projects include Re-Shuffle: Notions of an Itinerant Museum at Art in General (2006), Facts on the Ground at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (2007), Salad Days (2008) at Artists Space and Other Certainties at the New York Center for Art and Media Studies (2008). Owen received her BA in Art History from Southern Methodist University and her MA in Curatorial Studies from Bard College.
OSMAN BOZKURT, DRIFT, 2007 (detail) 100 x 150 cm, C-Print
RES MARCH 2010
PiST/// Interdisciplinary Project Space Dolapdere Caddesi Pangalt› Dere Sokak No 8 A / B / C Pangalt› 34375 ‹stanbul TR
NOTA BENE I decided to use the book ‘Support Structures’ quite seriously as a guide and support, a small homage to John Cage and his use of the I-Ching towards composition -of music, writing, life and art. The basic principle is to remove one’s own intention from the work and hand that over to the oracle. Intention is always to some extent circumscribed by one’s own tastes and personality, and in this case it was about trying to get the book to speak for itself and hear what that may be, even though of course it may speak through my own voice. In a sense then, you can hear what Support Structures would say and respond as a speaking work, much as you can see what kind of life it would create by using it for every non-spontaneous decision. Although I don’t think Cage necessarily considered that the oracle itself may have an intention – he used it to free himself, in the large part, from having to choose. The artistic choice he reserved for himself then became solely choosing what questions to ask, something he constantly emphasized the importance of. In this case, the questions are yours. CÉLINE CONDORELLI RES Apparently, you have put the ‘Support Structure’ project through a “learning process.” Could you comment on what kind of a learning process you are personally going through? Which thoughts and desires of yours have been strengthened or weakened so far? CÉLINE CONDORELLI “Support Structure was a collaborative project by Gavin Wade and myself, from 2003 to 2009. We intended Support Structure to be a questioning structure that in turn produces more questions and also, of course, answers. The architects Alison and Peter Smithson defined their agenda for the Economist Plaza as follows: ‘... We have to raise the individual items or elements above themselves, shifting sideways the emphasis of their bare selves, to the level that they recess together and subtly serve as signs to help us know how to behave in our buildings, guide how we want to live as a society in our cities.’
RES MARCH 2010
Support Structure was devised according to function, and was the outcome of a real collaborative working process. Each section was combined to create an unpredictable whole that whilst appearing to be a very aesthetic object has been designed without conscious aesthetic decisions. This lack of preciousness towards a final result is essential in creating an element of tolerance towards its eventual (mis)use once it is in the public realm, and ensures that one can be constantly surprised by what people might do with it. Support Structure was a tool provided and programmed by us but used exclusively by others. The space and events that Support Structure enabled were not directly dictated by us but by the limitations and possibilities of what we called the architectural interface. As a system Support Structure
119 conditioned, created, manifested, and articulated the process as well as the results, on a functional but also an aesthetic level. Our role therefore seemed to be defined as distanced but physically adjusting curators, an idea always seen in relation to the fact that we were also responding to a brief and serving a purpose in someone else’s plan. Nonetheless, we were curating, designing and programming a situation with discursive properties beyond our control; much like art and architecture.” Support Structure: Phase One, In Support of Art I Am a Curator, Chisenhale Gallery, 2003, Céline Condorelli and Gavin Wade, pp. 116-125 RES With this in mind are there any additions or reformulations you would consider with regard to the “Support Structure Manifesto” dating from 2004? CC “Inasmuch as any manual is proactive in character, the Support Structures book is productively forward-looking, and does not attempt to provide a complete summing-up of the possibilities to think with support, nor is it able to ground them in established directions, as those simply don’t exist. It can only suggest a range of possibilities in the hope of opening up further considerations and horizons for thinking and acting. Such an approach inevitably is lacking and wanting and creates its own exclusions — of what has been left out or never found, of what has not been done or documented, and of what will probably never be done or written, given the present institutionalized practices. Furthermore, many questions present here have not yet found answers, and we would like this work to be read as a collective construction site, to be added to, subtracted from, and passed onto others, or simply used. In spite of these limitations, further demands can be made by dedicating this manual to future practice, urging it to explore the political or economic motivations and alliances of dominant cultures, to examine methods of promotion and repression and consider how these elude representation, and stubbornly retain access to modes of production, continuing towards new uses for the practice of support structures.” Foreword, Support Structure: Céline Condorelli and Gavin Wade, p. 8 RES Henry Lefebvre, one of the first theoreticians of the “underpinnings” of social relationships which, according to him, have “no real existence save in and through space” argued for “feminine revolts” to occur against “masculine virtues” dominating space. Do you envision a distinctively female way of creating support structures? CC “Support is what is behind, below, underneath, hidden, et cetera … It is the invisible that makes to be present, the transient which make things lasting, the impossible that carry on the condition of possibility. Plato has called it ‘chora’, Irigaray ‘placenta’, Bataille ‘the informe’ (‘the formless’). I am calling it mother. aaa—atelier d’architecture auto-gerée—Doina Petrescu ‘MUTUAL’ Luce Irigaray suggests the insertion of a ‘to’ into the sentence ‘I love you’. ‘I love to you’ suggests a new social order of relations between two, where both the ‘I’ and the ‘you’ are related as different subjects, rather than as subject and object.* “ I SUPPORT TO YOU”! * As read in Jane Rendell’s book Art and Architecture, I. B. Tauris (2006), p. 150. (public works, Kathrin Böhm) pp. 79-80 At the end of A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf asks her listeners to dedicate the project of feminist writing to the ghost of Shakespeare’s sister, a female writer who could and should have lived, but hasn’t
RES MARCH 2010
ON SUPPORT STRUCTURES: A CONVERSATION WITH CÉLINE CONDORELLI
121 practice or just another form of “enframing” (Gestell) which, as Heidegger puts it, only “demands that nature be orderable as standing-reserve”?
The crucial difference that this dedication makes — and the reason why the love expressed here might be ridiculous enough to exceed an economy of regulated supply and demand — is, first of all, that it is a dedication to someone whose names remains partly secret. It is Shakespeare’s sister, but who is she? If it were someone in power, the dedication would be a strategic move within a given political or economical system. This way, it isn’t, also because the person to which the effort of care is dedicated is still to come. You cannot force someone or something that does not presently exist into an economical transaction. For the same reason, however, you cannot fully know the need of an other that is still to come, you will have to rely on your intuitions. The only explanation, the only mandate for caring lies in the dedication itself, to care for Shakespeare’s sister, whoever this will be. This dedication will always fall short of a forceful declaration — no ‘dulce et decorum est pro patria mori!’ — that would open up a heroic passage à l’acte without doubt and hesitation. For the subject of your dedication and care will always remain yet unknown. Still, this moment of doubt doesn’t force you into a melancholic position depriving you of the possibility to act. In the spirit of this dedication, you can indeed take on the burden of that impossible care, in the awareness nonetheless that you might exhaust yourself and will have to surrender before that other person arrives.” Personal Support: How to Care? Jan Verwoert, p. 176
CC “This also raises the question of the instance of what is to come about, ‘the shape of things to come’ and how they do so; we do always need to ask what the motivations behind support are. I believe that in the worst possible case scenario, they can be forms of political control, and in the best possible case, triggers or reformulations for change.
RES You describe your book as “…a manual for those things that encourage, give comfort, approval, and solace; that care for and provide consolation and the necessities of life.” You also acknowledge the “generosity” aspect of support structures – aiming to “… understand and revalue what it means to put yourself in the service of others.” Notably, Derrida, one of your philosophical supports, argued that “we should come to disjoin the gift from generosity… we should not give out of generosity, in order to obey that natural impulse, which we call generosity.” Would you expand on your understanding of generosity, especially its differences, if any, from religious altruism? Can such a thought be reconciled with the Nietzschean “desire for destruction, change, becoming” and abhorrence against “preservation of the weak”? CC “Support is not a form of generosity. Generosity is without reserve, but remains a gesture by a generous subject to a needy subject, which is what structures the relation between the two. Because the generous subject is giving more, perhaps, than even justice demands, which, of course, means that it is not to be an act of justice, but a will to give: ‘I am giving you this because I want to.’ And in this way, generosity unfortunately brings in its train all these terrible things like gratitude and dependency. We just need to think of Potlach societies, who wage war not with physical violence, but by giving gifts, and in doing so create debt and gratitude, or just confusion. What these show us is that generosity cannot be the basis of a social relation, but produces a continuous relation between the donor and the recipient. Support, unlike a welfare system — where the support that one gives and receives is always limited to money circulating within national economy — is politics specific. Looking at it from the social side, the term support, which sounds so very obvious, isn’t, in fact, at all, and requires a certain kind of clarification, even formalisation. It is a complex notion, and should not relate to generosity, or what Christians call charity, nor does it come in the same way as one’s rights to welfare, which are simply triggered by one’s position. But it does designate the sea of intermediate agencies, which include both supported and supporting bodies.” On Support, Mark Cousins, p. 68 RES MARCH 2010
RES What would, in your opinion, prevent a support structure turning into a system-enforcing, deceptive
It is always possible to define something in different ways, and we could look at support through the supported object (or the subject in need, as the welfare system would have it), or the supporting system, or through the relation that support establishes between the two. By looking and defining support structures, which might or could provide support, I hope to shift attention away from supposed lacks or needs to processes of creating possibilities for support, processes that might offer empowerment and possibilities for emancipation. This does rely on consciously and willingly taking up the commitment and responsibility of such processes, and immediately throws these relationships into the public. Bart De Baere: In law there are agreements of results, and agreement of intent: one states ‘I will deliver’, and the other ‘I will aspire’. Support is not about delivering, but about aspiration. This might sound very generic, but its intentionality is very important to me. This way of thinking though does not have much weight attached to it, as everything at this moment in time is about output, production, and results; a movement that started in the mid- 1980s and relegated rhetoric of intent as obsolete. Now we go for immediate gratification and results — what can be directly calculated, quantified, and measured — to such an extent that nearly all kinds of intentionality have become almost taboo.” Support for Culture, Céline Condorelli and Bart De Baere, pp. 195-196 RES You mentioned at the book launch in Istanbul that there was one thing you felt was lacking from ‘Support Structures’ and that was the support of friendship. Can you expand on this idea and describe how a future publication or project would look at a set of human relationships in a more theoretical way? Is the closing image in ‘Support Structures’ from the Adventures of Pinocchio a lead into your next period of research? CC “The specific political distinction, to which political actions and notions can be reduced, is the distinction between friend and enemy.” The implication of support is that of the politics of friendship, for to give or receive support is an allegiance, and establishes who and what one can count on. “Responsible for myself before the other, I am first of all and also responsible for the other before the other. [...] The aporetic question what can ‘to give in the name, to give to the name of the other’ mean could
RES MARCH 2010
yet. The dedication becomes an invocation. Through dedicating your work to her arrival, you summon her, call her forth, to allow her to come back from the past and arrive from the future.
translate into the question of the decision, the event, the exception, sovereignty, and so on. To give in the name of, to give to the name of, the other is what frees responsibility from knowledge [...] For yet again, one must certainly know, one must know it, knowledge is necessary if one is to assume responsibility, but the decisive or deciding moment of responsibility supposes a leap by which an act takes off, ceasing in that instant to follow the consequences of what is — that is, of that which can be determined by science or consciousness — and thereby frees itself (this is what is called freedom), by the act of its act, of what is therefore heterogeneous to it, that is, knowledge. In sum, decision is unconscious — insane as it may seem it involves the unconscious and nevertheless remains responsible.” Both quotes: The Politics of Friendship, Jacques Derrida But another answer to this question is: “How can there be no philosophy of friendship that includes women?” Directions for Use, Céline Condorelli, pp. 15-16, p. 10 RES With regard to your own practice, which is hard to pin down as it floats between the realms of architecture, art and theory; are there any three-dimensional proposals such as the earlier ‘I am a Curator’ project at the Chisenhale Gallery in 2003, that you envisage becoming as a result, or a response to your work on the publication? C
CC “It is important for me to create a mobile and adaptable, mediating interface, that has the permanence, scale, and weight of a liveable architecture. The combining of ad-hoc temporary surfaces and structures together to form a more permanent system generates a strange composite utilitarian form that offers future pathways for developing elements into a multitude of temporary and permanent support structures. It is not my intention to design or represent in my practice something that is strange but one of my objectives is to stimulate and aid reconsideration of existing spaces as an impulse for future change. The unfamiliar, which could be termed as strange, is one of the tools in providing that impulse. Such a practice is a prompt to act and transform, and it enables through containing both familiar and unfamiliar elements, or recognizable elements in unfamiliar arrangement, size, or form, which is what creates an unknown aspect, its slight ‘monstrosity’.” Support Structure: Phase One, In Support of Art I Am a Curator, Chisenhale Gallery, 2003, p. 125
Céline Condorelli, Support Structures Edited by Céline Condorelli, published by Sternberg Press, Co-produced with Support Structure: Céline Condorelli and Gavin Wade, and James Langdon, with support from Platform Garanti CAC
RES MARCH 2010
“We do not work for gain” answered the Fox, “We only work to enrich others.” “To enrich others!” repeated the Cat. “What good people,” thought Pinocchio to himself. And forgetting his father, the new coat, the A-B-C book, and all his good resolutions, he said to the Fox and Cat: “Let us go. I am with you.”
REVIEW BY NAZLI GÜRLEK O V E R T H E L AST TEN YEARS, the art world has turned into an exclusive, international and rapidly expanding high-visibility activity; it is a system which constitues one of the fundamental components of the entire socio-economic picture. Contemporary art and architecture are two spatial practices which construct the feel of our urban environments and set the setting where these activities take place. Increasingly needed though it is, comprehensive self-reflection on these practices largely lack to this day. Now, there is a book that sets out to introduce an interesting angle to look at such a broad area of production. Edited by architect/curator Celine Condorelli, Support Structures claims support as the primary function of both art and architecture, and provides an eclectic collection of theory and practice to the discourse. In their foreword to the publication, Celine Condorelli and her longterm collaborator artist/curator Gavin Wade outline the rationale behind Support Structures as a “culmination of several endeavours,” such as, the urge to finalizing in a book their collaborative project, Support Structure, that has been underway since 2003; as a response to Condorelli’s critical investigation which found an almost total absence of written material on the subject; as well as conceiving a book that would itself function as a manual for support. As an example of interdisciplinary modes of working, the result is a research archive, a miscellany of ‘works, actions and manifestations’ by a group of producers in the field, including architects, artists, theoreticians and curators, most of whom pertain to different geographies, generations, movements and moments. Alongside the 10 phases of the long-term project Support Structure, are 8 commissioned essays and nearly 40 existing works (including authors Lawrence Weiner, Gordon Matta-Clark, Filippo Brunelleschi, Ryan Gander, Kurt Vonnegut, El Lissitzky, Can Altay, Banu Cennetoğlu and Cevdet Erek) which altogether offer the possibility to engage with the subject from different perspectives. Anti-commoditization gestures are nothing new, but Support Structures has something particularly substantial and timely about it. By extending the prospect from end product to background material (labor, process, context, structures of decision-making, props, collaborations etc.), Support Structures draws attention to what is often ignored, considered of little importance or simply taken for granted when it comes to contemporary creative practices. Those so-called secondary elements of the picture are finally delivered a bibliography and an archive of their own; the result establishes the subject as a field of research in itself. On the other hand, by reflecting upon the labor and other underlying systems behind such practices, this publication employs details of the art world’s self-perception, to generate a constructive discourse in countering the increasing commoditization of culture. RES MARCH 2010
In her inceptive essay Exergue, Condorelli defines what “support” is intended for and what value
125 it holds. The section opens with a series of photographs taken by artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin that show small town buildings, their façades held up by wooden scaffolding. Condorelli’s following text explains that the photographs were taken in 2004 in Milo, a small Sicilian town located on the slopes of Mount Etna, after a severe earthquake that occured in 2002. Scaffolding, which was built to hold the buildings up and protect them from demolishment, become for Condorelli the very manifestation of support and its strength. According to the author, scaffolding is what produces the cultural value of the building by transforming the building itself into a “site” of an old and precious artefact, and its jurisdictional status to that of a tax-exempt construction site, eligible for funding applications and the focus of politicians. These support structures define the relationship between the building and its surrounding context and thus the very politics of the space in which they exist. Therefore, the author says, the structures’ value is to be measured by no more than the cost of its labor and its function in relation to what it props up. The following chapters in the book are conceived as individual attempts to reflect upon various modes of support and the ways in which they come to define their own value. Collected under the title of Modes, the commissioned essays provide a multifaceted theoretical framing on the subject. One which draws on the psychoanalitic function of support is provided by Mark Cousins under the title On Support. The reader is fluently led by Cousins through a complex discourse running from the notion of negotiation to the political and the ethical, from architectural paradoxes to walls and frontiers, from scaffoldings to the dependency of buildings on other systems, and finally from bodies to physical forms of support. A discussion on the role of culture in society and the meaning of support takes place between Bart de Baere and Condorelli under the title Support for Culture. Drawing on his personal experiences of cultural institutions and politics, de Baere discusses the importance of a constant cultural awareness, which is to be raised by means of a repeated embedment in society and an adaption to circumstances. Another essay worth mentioning is Andrea Phillips’ Doing Democracy, an accurate reflection on the ways in which cultural production and its institutions exercise forms of democracy. To this end Phillips uses Condorelli and Wade’s Support Structure as “an analytic tool” and builds her critical discourse in light of a set of theories by Plato, Ranciere, Mouffe, Nancy and Lefort. The publication also gathers the ten projects which were realized between 2003-2009 by Condorelli and Wade as Entries to the subject, and the editorial agenda draws upon various manifestations of support in actuality. Diversity of contexts, issues, resources, methods and products of these manifestations point out the pragmatic nature of support at work. Included as part of the References and sprinkled throughout the book are a selection of Lawrence Weiner’s slick statements that here provide inspiring artistic enquiries and moments of pause.
RES MARCH 2010
SUPPORT STRUCTURES BY CÉLINE CONDORELLI
127 RES MARCH 2010 Support Structure: Celine Condorelli and Gavin Wade, Curtain, archive, sign, offices (2004) Silk, hessian and cotton curtain; birch plywood bench, 40 years of The Economist magazine; steel frame cupboard on wheels with MDF blackboard; portable office, steel frame constructions on wheels, formica, insulation board, MDF, felt, rubber.
RES MARCH 2010
Another conceptual work, the Sol LeWitt-inspired design project SOL by Radim Pesko, recalls one of the essential moments of the creative process as a type of support: influence and its re-elaboration. The editorial role can be interpreted as one which frames and follows on from formal and discursive enquiries. Condorelli meanwhile manages a middle position that is deliberately engaged with both her research material and the reasons behind her selections, and yet provides the other authors with space and visibility. Diverse practices and methodologies are combined into a meaningful whole in which interlaced themes and interests are “propped up”to create a complex self-reflexive and provoking mental map. •
Céline Condorelli, Support Structures Edited by Céline Condorelli, published by Sternberg Press, Co-produced with Support Structure: Céline Condorelli and Gavin Wade, and James Langdon, with support from Platform Garanti CAC
Nazl› Gürlek (b. 1981, Istanbul) is an independent curator and writer based in Istanbul. She obtained an MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London, and a BA in Painting and Art History at the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence. She worked as Assistant Curator for the Pavilion of Turkey at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2008-2009. She is a co-founder of the publishing collective IM projects, and a member of the Board of Directors of AICA Turkey. Her curatorial projects include A Fine Red Line – Live at 176 Project Space, London; Multiple Intimacy, parallel event to the 10th International Istanbul Biennial, among others. She collaborated with the curatorial departments of Tate Modern in 2007 for the exhibition Global Cities, and MAMBo - Museo D’Arte Moderna di Bologna in 2006 for the solo exhibitions Ryan Gander, Building Transmissions and Paolo Chiasera. Among her editorial activities are the 2009 Autumun Issue of Circa Art Magazine (co-edited with IM projects), and the publication A Fine Red Line: A Curatorial Miscellany (IM press, in association with International Project Space, 2008.) She writes about contemporary art for books, catalogues, newspapers and art magazines in Turkey and abroad.
RES MARCH 2010
APRIL 5, 2009 - APRIL 18 2010, WHITECHAPEL GALLERY
DİDEM YAZICI W I T H H E R E X H I B I T I O N titled The Nature of the Beast, Goshka Macuga’s intention is to question not only the roles of the artist and the spectator, but also the notion of contemporary democracy. Bringing back one of the most iconic works related to politics in modern art history, Guernica (the original was exhibited in 1939 at the Whitechapel Gallery), is both a reference to the history of The Whitechapel Gallery’s space, as well as to the current relation of art, propaganda and politics. Macuga’s suggestion to rethink socially engaged art includes inviting the spectators to be active participants; not in terms of creating the work physically, but in terms of being a part of an attitude of protest that the exhibition demands. Over the course of a year, the gallery space will be open for discussion groups. Through this provision of a space for debates and meetings, an attempt is made to examine the function of the gallery space. The entire exhibition stands as one piece of work, an architectural installation and contrary to traditional exhibition methods, it does not exist to be visually consumed by the viewer. Rather than a typical white cube space, it resembles a meeting room featuring a video projection, a portrait sculpture, newspapers, architectural elements such as a round table, a carpet and a tapestry. However, are these merely decorative objects, or is the intention to disturb the establishment?
RES MARCH 2010
Seventy years ago, Picasso’s Guernica was exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery. Accompanying the exhibition invitation was a call for help to the public: “Women and children are starving in Spain. On their struggle depends your freedom. One million pennies will send a food ship from East London. Will you help?” Remarkably, Guernica was displayed in a strong socio-political context, with an open call to the spectator. Seventy years later, when The Bloomberg Commission invited Turner-nominated artist Macuga to create the annual site-specific artwork at the Whitechapel Gallery, inspired by the history of the location, she cleverly focused on Picasso’s politically engaged exhibition, relating it to today’s issues. In her own words, she argues that, “Instead of being presented as a great work of art, Guernica had immediately been appropriated as a political symbol. The Whitechapel’s mission had always been ‘to bring the finest art in the world to the people of the East End’ and local organizations used the gallery as a cultural center. In this case, the event had been organized by the Stepney Trade Union Council who approached the gallery for help with their ambition to fight Fascism and to promote a Communist spirit within the working classes. They wanted to use a painting by ‘a famous Spanish painter’ to help enlist volunteers for the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War .” At this point, there is a clear reference to the gallery’s contemporary attitude, politically engaged exhibitions and the historical context of Guernica. Comparably, these two exhibitions have a parallel approach, both emphasizing a strong political context. This time, instead of re-exhibiting the original Guernica, a life-size tapestry of the work  has been included in the exhibition. Re-showing the original work could have been a repetitive action, rather than one which questions links between then and now. However, what makes the Guernica Tapestry a suitable choice is its previous location. The tapestry witnessed one of the most tragic political speeches of the last decade, albeit behind a bright blue curtain drawn for the occasion. In 2003, the former United States secretary of state Colin Powell held a press conference in favor of the Iraq
131 war, ironically while standing in in front of the hidden anti-war piece. The tapestry, which was hung at the United Nations Headquarters since 1985, was covered up in order to avoid any potential, and indeed justified, criticism. A blue curtain is hung next to the tapestry in Macuga’s exhibition, yet this time the curtain is behind the work. Another politically engaged work within the exhibition is a bronze bust. According to the historical art traditions of early civilizations, the representation of a portrait proposes power, authority, and a cult of personality, as well as functioning as a symbol of propaganda. The bust of Colin Powell gives the same timeless impression and without knowledge of its identity, it can be classified by codes of modernist sculpture. It may relate to socio-realist art, German expressionism, or cubist sculpture forms. Nevertheless, the dialogue between the works is strong enough that the audience can connect the pieces and grasp the context. The bust illustrates a very ironic and a considerably absurd moment with an unsettling expression; Colin Powell presenting the so-called evidence; a test tube, to justify the Coalition invasion in Iraq. The pose appears to attempt to impress and persuade the viewers, however for Macuga, it criticizes those political decisions. She portrays the contemporary politician in a playful light. Applying a specifically cubist style relating to Picasso, she highlights the link to Guernica and to the memory of the gallery once more. Different film works, selected by Macuga, are shown in the corner opposite the bust of Colin Powell. These films, which are rotated monthly, include works by other politically engaged artists, particularly ones with an anti-war viewpoint. This helps Macuga to reinforce the concept of her exhibition, and in a sense, it allows her to curate her own exhibition. By including the films she attempts to challenge the role of the artist, as well as intensifying the exhibition’s context. The film shown in November 2009, titled “Winter Soldier” recounts the experience of a pair of young American soldiers serving in the Vietnam War, and attempts to show the true colors of war. It is footage from a real life conference in 1972, produced by the Winterfilm Collective. Showing the human face of the war effort, it describes their journey from voluntarily joining the army and ultimately becoming killing machines - a role they were
RES MARCH 2010
ART PROPAGANDA AND POLITICS: GOSHKA MACUGA
133 RES MARCH 2010
The exhibition room has its own strong character; with the round oak table, video projection, leather chairs, carpet, dark blue curtain and bust. All these objects occur as typical decoration for a conventional meeting room, a place where significant decisions are made by those in authority. Without any theoretical and conceptual engagement, at first glance it may appear to be a meeting room for the gallery’s staff. Yet, it is strongly reminiscent of the United Nations Security Council Chamber and appears to be a space symbolic with power. However, all the exhibited works propose an attitude of protest against the political authority. The duality of this antagonism interpenetrates each element in an artistic language. The layout of the Spanish Pavilion in 1937, and the UN Security Council Chamber,
inspired the exhibition’s design. This time however, the central table is accessible to the public, it is free of charge, and open for discussion groups. The only requirement of those that use the table is to send recordings and photographs of their meeting(s) to the gallery for its archive. The round table presents itself as the epicenter of the exhibition. Apart from being a part of the installation, it also functions as a separate exhibition space. The tabletop is a glass case, where assorted documents are displayed. Pamphlets from the 1930’s that describe how to make reactionary art, as well as various contemporary fliers and posters from independent activist groups, present a brief history of art as propaganda. Norman King’s leaflets for the Watney Street Propaganda Art Course from 1938, which included a poster design, pictorial banners and typography, reveal the teaching methods for visual propaganda of the communist party as well as photographs of political demonstrations in East London from 1938. The exhibition deals with the relationship of art and politics, from the time of Guernica to the present day. It also reveals the history of Guernica through a number of photographs such as those of a protest of Art Worker’s Coalition and the Guerrilla Art Action Group in front of Guernica at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, 1970, and photographs of students using the image of Guernica on anti-war placards in 2003. In terms of site-specificity, the exhibition has a link with the history of the building and the photographs, poems, and facsimiles that lie within the circular glass tabletop evoke the idea of a library. A response perhaps to the gallery’s previous tenant – the local Whitechapel public library, so that the Guernica Tapestry, and the method of exhibiting printed matter in the glass case, refer to the memory of the site. •
NOTES  Spira, A (2009) ‘A Conversation Between Goshka Macuga and Anthony Spira (Curator at Whitechapel Gallery), Goshka Macuga: The Nature Of The Beast, March, pp. 3-8.  Guernica Tapestry was created in collaboration with Picasso, by weaver Jacqueline de la Baume Dürrbach, in the Durrbach Atelier in Paris, 1955 and commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller.  Julia Guest’s diary and report format e-mails about her Iraq visit in 2003, can be found at the website of Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq, http://www.casi.org.uk/
Goschka Macuga was born in Warsaw in 1967, she is based in London.
Didem Yazıcı (b.1986) holds a B.A in Art History from Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul. She attended the M.A program in Art History at Istanbul Technical University for one year. Recently, she worked as an intern and co-curator at Galerie Anita Beckers, Frankfurt, and completed an internship as a researcher at the Exhibitions Department, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. She has been working as an art critic since her undergraduate degree. Her articles have been published in the Turkish newspaper Radikal and the İstanbul based art journal, Sanat Dünyamız.
All images The Bloomberg Commission: Goshka Macuga: The Nature of the Beast, 2009 Photo: Patrick Lears Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery
RES MARCH 2010
required to adopt. From start to end, it shows how the volunteers’ views change along the way. At the foot of the video lies a carpet, a seemingly decorative element in the room that almost creates a little space of its own in the exhibition. Complementary to the video, the carpet is in fact an Afghan rug with a weave that depicts a map of Iraq, American weapons and the text, “Welcome United Nations in Iraq” dated 2003. Although its composition resembles a traditional rug design, it includes modern war machinery such as cars, battle tanks, rockets and rifles. The same gesture captured in the Colin Powell portrait can also be found within the carpet, which combines modernist or conventional media and methods, with contemporary notions. These war rugs are originally made in Afghanistan as folk art for tourists and they actually have a big market. However, the carpet chosen by Macuga is distinctly different from the other works in the exhibition, in that it is ironically welcoming the United Nation invasion in Iraq and its designers are serving the ideology of the war. These types of rugs are mostly hung on interior walls, but also sometimes in public where they function as billboards. This makes them notably practical tools in the propaganda effort of the Iraq war. However, the way it is used and the position of the carpet in the exhibition decontextualizes it and makes it critical. Watching the documentary film about the UN invasion in Iraq Baghdad Stories, while standing by the carpet; creates a perfect contrast. Baghdad Stories was made by Julia Guest in 2004. She uses images of the Iraqi people and urban scenes of Baghdad, while autobiographically describing her reasons for visiting the war-torn country. She explains that she wished to satisfy her own curiosity and see the situation on the ground for herself. The film shows a group of young Iraqi Journalists in the process of establishing a newspaper soon after the occupation of Baghdad in 2003. Apart from this, the film chiefly focuses on the image of the city; a city which has been bombed, with hospitals full of critically wounded people, with a huge shortage of doctors, and inadequate equipments. It offers a tragic image wherein “art” might be considered a luxury. Perhaps, this is one of the motives behind installing a big round table in the center of the exhibition room: to provide a space to discuss political issues relating to war, art and aesthetics or in fact for housing any kind of cultural debate.
RES MARCH 2010
D‹DEM YAZICI IN CONVERSATION WITH ACHIM BORCHARDT-HUME
D‹DEM YAZICI In an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Harald Szeemann suggested that the curator has to be flexible; that the curator acts sometimes as a servant, as an assistant, a coordinator or an inventor. How would you describe the role of the curator? ACHIM BORCHARDT-HUME I think it’s true to an extent that you have to be flexible, and that this changes with every project and with every artist you work with. But what I see as one of the important aspects of the job is to secure a certain degree of criticality, so that you position the work in a wider context or against history, examine the reading of the work, and maintain a dialogue with both the artist and the work, and then make this dialogue transparent to an audience. DY In your opinion, what is absolutely necessary in terms of exhibition making? ABH There are two things that really stand out in a dynamic with one another. One is that an exhibition, to my mind, must have an argument, and it should be more than just the accumulation of works. The perception of a work should be altered by the way in which it becomes part of an exhibition, and it should be done in a way that is open and allows for interpretations that go beyond the one reading which you might propose. The other key thing for me is that exhibitions must be experiential. It has something to do with encountering the work in space, face to face, and the uniqueness of that encounter. I think it’s the most basic element, but also the one most easily forgotten, and that is to my mind the reason for making an exhibition, because otherwise you could just make books. DY Your curatorial background is very institutional; you have worked at Tate Modern, the Hayward Gallery, the Serpentine Gallery and now the Whitechapel Gallery. Does being an institutional curator have disadvantages as independent curators claim? What are the differences between these two working methods? ABH I think the dynamics are slightly different. If you are working with an institution you have to be mindful of the program, and weave it to address different audiences, or have a more varied conversation. I think if you are an independent curator you are more driven by your own authorship, though the line isn’t as clearly divided. The idea of independence is always relative and often over-emphasized, as we all work within practical parameters and as human beings are necessarily reliant on networks on exchanges.
RES MARCH 2010
DY You curated many important exhibitions which included key artists of modern art history such as Mark Rothko, Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy and Per Kirkeby. What was your main motivation for these exhibitions, and what is the importance of showing and reconsidering modern art?
Whitechapel Gallery façade, 2009 Photo credit: Gavin Jackson
137 DY The Whitehapel Gallery is currently presenting an exhibition titled Social Sculpture, which is not in any particular gallery space, but is rather a series sculptural works installed throughout the building. For instance, Franz West’s piece, Diwan welcomes the audience at the entrance to the building. The audience is invited to experience contemporary art as a part of everyday life, what was the idea behind this exhibition? ABH The idea was that the whole building should be penetrated by art, that art should be everywhere and not just confined to the gallery environment; the exhibition space weaves its way into the building, so that some of the objects which also fulfill a practical function were originated by artists. DY Can you tell us more about Goshka Macuga’s exhibition, which also questions the exhibition space? ABH Goshka’s was a slightly different proposition. As part of the expansion, there is a new gallery space which is open to hosting an annual commission. Goshka’s is the first, and she drew on a seminal moment in the Whitechapel Gallery’s history, when Picasso’s Guernica was shown, as a piece of propaganda rather than art. For her exhibition she turned the entire commissioned space into a meeting room, and therefore into a space for discussion and debate, with the tapestry of Guernica as a background. What she was interested in was how the meanings of works of art are altered by context, how they sit within history, how they are being read as pure art or as something else, and if so what that something else could be. I think these are all pertinent questions. DY You studied the relationship between art and politics in Italy during Fascism when you were a PhD student. What do you think about politically engaged art of today?
RES MARCH 2010
ABH This is a difficult one, as my PhD was not specifically about propaganda art, but about the question of how a strong political current may affect artistic practice, and how this can be dealt with by our exhibition making, acquisitions, and critical discourse. In a way this can be applied to everything, though that was a particular historical circumstance. I also think that to a certain degree every work of art is political, because the act of making is political. Work that is explicitly ideological, I always find quite difficult; something which puts forward one very circumscribed idea, because I don’t know where the space for the viewer remains. As for the question of how much it can actually function, or what it
can do, I think it would obviously be very limited, because there is always a symbolic exchange value rather than an actual exchange value. I think what is perhaps most important is that art can still create a space for thinking and debate, and an openness of thinking, which otherwise is quite rare because we live in a society which is geared towards an instantaneous fulfillment of desire, as that is what drives capitalism. So it’s quite interesting for art to create something which wasn’t there before, and thus by creating this new open space, it again makes you more aware of what it is to be in the world. It also depends on the circumstances in which the works are shown. For example, in the last Istanbul Biennial in 2009 there were some truly extraordinary works, and many of them had very clear political points of view. The ones that interest me most are those that create a space of ambiguity. DY The Whitechapel Gallery is exhibiting 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. What do you think about the tackling of international local issues in non-western contemporary art? ABH That exhibition is not so much of an issue-based exhibition. It is really a survey of a particular medium, of photography. What is interesting is that one can clearly trace the history of that medium in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh from the moment when it first arrived, and yet it never becomes quite democratized to the degree we assume - as cameras were too expensive. So there is a question as to who can look at whom, and what is actually pictured. It is as much about image-making and the possibility of image-making when it becomes available to you. Artists are very good at grasping new technologies, or new forms of expression, when they become available, and at putting them to use. It is interesting that one can trace this, and by doing so, we then get a sense of how practitioners in those territories see themselves when they direct the camera onto their own countries. DY Apart from this exhibition, what do you think about the treatment of local issues in non-western contemporary art? You mentioned that you saw the 11th International Istanbul Biennial last year, what did you think about it? ABH I think ultimately everything is local, and this is easily forgotten. The most interesting works of art may be rooted in a very particular local setting, and can be read in that setting, but also begin to transcend their locality in the way they can communicate above and beyond it. This is not to argue that there is such a thing as universal art, but it is a question of degrees. What I personally found difficult when I came to see the Istanbul Biennial, was that I always see the central areas of the city, and get a very particular flavor of the city from this perspective, so a lot of the issues that were being talked about were very difficult for me to grasp. At some point I almost wished that it were an exhibition which was engaged with the surrounding context, and that I would actually be taken to some of these places and see more of what they are like. I realise that this is very difficult, and that you do not want to take exhibitions as a vehicle for sight-seeing. It’s a curious dynamic. At the same time, I think exhibition spaces do have a responsibility towards local artists, and providing opportunities for them to show their work. I can also very well understand that where the opportunity arises, and one knows that there is a large international audience, one grasps that opportunity. DY I would like to ask you about the upcoming exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery. It has been announced that Athens-based collector Dimitris Daskalopoulos’s collection will be exhibited in June. The collection includes artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Gober and David Hammons. The exhibition is going to be in four consecutive chapters. Can you tell us more about this specific exhibition method and your curatorial practice?
RES MARCH 2010
ABH One thing I find hugely gratifying about what exhibitions can do is that you can show people something that they think they know, yet in a different light. People may arrive with a certain set of expectations, and a certain degree of familiarity. One can add a different layer to this. For example, in the case of Rothko, until the exhibition at Tate Modern no one had looked at his later work. Here is an artist whose work is very popular, a poster artist and no one was doing any serious art historical research into Rothko anymore. Then, in the exhibition, there was a body of work which, most of the audience actually didn’t know, and this changed their perception of Rothko. The same goes for Albers and Moholy-Nagy; here are two people who had worked at an important moment in Germany before the Second World War, at the Bauhaus. Both of them went to the States, and became hugely influential teachers, almost more influential as teachers than artists. So to compare, you have to ask; what are the two different ideas, what are the links between Europe and America, and how do ideas travel. Many artists of a younger generation have a great interest in the beginnings of modernism, and into exploring what of that legacy is valuable to them, and where the potential lies, rather than simply talking in terms of the modernist utopia having failed.
139 We have a space for collection exhibitions, so the first one will happen, then the next, and so on. The ideal scenario will be that people come to see every single one, and that they understand that the second one has something to do and is in response to the first one, and the third one again to the second one. It does not necessarily have to work in that way, you can see them as stand-alone exhibitions, but it is conceived very much as a sequence. DY Can you tell us about the idea of “the micro exhibition” within the exhibition? ABH Rather than just simply showing highlights of the collection, the idea is much more to treat it as an opportunity to work with these extraordinary works of art, and to make the fact that they come from this private collection one aspect of it, as well as what the works tell you and how they could benefit from interaction, if they are shown together in certain configurations. Then came the themes, and then out of that came this idea of making four micro exhibitions; each one would take an aspect of the central theme of the real, and play that out in a particular way. DY The main concept of the exhibition is “reality” in terms of physical, material, psychological or political as a reference to Hal Foster’s “The Return Of The Real.” ABH I would call it more the “real” than “reality.” It was very much seen in terms of looking at one major current in the art produced over the past 20 to 30 years, and the one that seems to be most strongly captured by this collection was this notion of the real, rather than works that engage with a conceptual idea. There is very little painting, and it’s not minimalist so it’s not so much about the interaction between the work and the space or the viewer, and it seemed much more to consist of objects that have a strong sense of their own physicality, their own material reality. To me this is interesting -how does this start again in the 1980’s and become so dominant? There is a lot of work from this period that has to do with the corporeal or the body, and how we react to that, we may very quickly relate it with something very abject when in fact it is just a reminder of what is really happening. I also think it is an interesting counterpart to view this kind of work from our position today, because we talk so much about the virtual and we don’t have a sense of reality anymore. Actually I think it is precisely works of art with physical presence, that create those instances where you get a strong sense of the fact that things are real. DY Do you think this exhibition’s curatorial approach moves beyond an art historical basis?
RES MARCH 2010
ABH It’s curious because it comes out of a very confined pool, which is what one person decided to collect, but within that you can trace a story. I think one of the things I am interested in is to convey the whole idea of collecting. Every collection is particular, whether it is a private collection or a museum collection, and all collections imply value judgments at a particular moment of time. People have different strategies about this. So it would be nice to convey a sense of what it actually means to collect.
It is more than just material ownership, though that is of course a part of it, but collecting also has to do with what happens to the works when they enter this different dynamic with one another. You may read a work that you think you know very well, in a different way, depending on what it is shown with. •
Achim Borchardt-Hume is Chief Curator of the Whitechapel Gallery, London. German-born, Borchardt-Hume has been living and working as an art historian and Curator in London for the past 18 years. He previously held positions at the Serpentine Gallery and Tate Modern where, amongst other projects and collection displays, he curated the eighth commission in the Unilever series by Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth and Rothko: The Late Series. He is currently preparing a series of displays from the D. Daskalopoulos Collection, Greece for display at the Whitechapel Gallery from June onwards as well as the first major UK presentation of works by US-Lebanese artist, Walid Raad for autumn 2010.
RES MARCH 2010
ABH The key thing about working with a collection is that in a way you are working in hindsight. You read an accumulation of objects after they have come together, so when I looked at the collection I tried to work out what I saw as the highlights, the strengths, and the themes running through, and I arrived at the idea of the real and reality as captured through materiality. This is something one can trace from the 1980’s to today. This series of four micro-exhibitions will explore these ideas through a sequence of displays with each one responding to what came before..
asked to those who stay for longer than a few months, and try to become Berliners! Haiser Fragt: “Who has moved to Berlin and who has applied to get insurance support from Künstler Sozial Kasse in this room?” I didn’t raise my left hand then, but I am one of them. I have to send my papers back to Künstler Sozial Kasse soon, and I hope I will be officially registered by the time this text is printed.
ADNAN YILDIZ “der Durst meldet sich stets und nennt sich nicht! und das heisst die Jugend, ich mag jung zu sein...”  Taken from a Facebook profile status I have been based in Berlin for a while. There are many reasons for this, but they are primarily practical ones. It is a friendly city for outsiders, somehow it is still going through a transformation -so the city remains interesting and open, and of course, affordable. As our mayor says: “it is POOR but SEXY!” However, now, as I started writing this text and allowed myself to really think about it, I have realized that being based in Berlin was never a conscious or planned decision; it just happened. After two years spent travelling throughout Europe, I still felt the need to spend more time in Europe rather than returning to Turkey. Maybe the change of scenery was good for me, or maybe it was love at first sight. New friends were supportive and I believe the main reason for wanting to stay was related to my need to find the possibility for another form of life... During a discussion panel that took place at the Program Gallery (Invalidenstr. 115 Berlin), moderated by Jörg Haiser (editor in chief, Frieze magazine) along with the contributions of Carson Chan (curator, Program e.V., Berlin), Eva Grubinger (artist), Stefan Heidenreich (writer), -and someone else whose name I cannot recall, who replaced Rebekka Ladewig when she could not make it- there was a moment that triggered an introspective process for me in terms of re-considering my relationship with the city of Berlin. The discussion was based on whether Berlin can still provide cheap rent, availability of space, a relatively liberal and secure environment, and the manifold cultural scene that has been created after the significant and continuous flux of an incoming artist community. The main question was formulated around the notion of sustainability: “Can Berlin continue as a ‘mere’ safe haven from the dreadmills of London or New York? Or will it transform into a dreadmill of its own? Or is there a third option, a different kind of socio-economic environment that will differ from the models of the big financial centers?”
RES MARCH 2010
I was one of two Turkish guys in the room, and I did not take it personally when the discussion turned to migration politics and talk of the German politicians who don’t want more Turkish girls wearing headscarves or ghetto-boys around; and think that Turks should only sell cigarettes or döner kebab. I am personally not very satisfied with what I have heard about Merkel’s cultural politics and strategies; however, I don’t want to talk about that nine letter word; M-I-G-R-A-T-I-O-N, here. I also did not want to talk about it during the discussion panel, so I raised my hand and asked what the guests thought about the audience; in terms of positioning Berlin as a cool, hyped or dream city for the art world. I wanted to see how the local audience would respond. Or, do we even care about the local context? Mr. Haiser asked a smart question in order to restructure the ongoing discussion that was somehow stuck on how “great” Berlin is. Maybe it is because of MDMA, but mostly people have good feelings about the city of Berlin when they are on a short stay. On the other hand, as Haiser mentioned, the same question should be
In my view, we have been discussing Berlin in this context because it is a good example for investigating the local impacts of global transformation. In response to a question by Brian Sholis,  Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset refer to Berlin as “a new or rather re-born capital that was undergoing a transition that gave the city a specific dynamic: it was probably triggered by a general confusion among the decision-makers since no one really knew what to do with a city that had doubled in size overnight. It was as if the regular control mechanisms had broken down. Even today the city planning is rather out of control in both good and bad ways. Many temporary spaces have made important contributions to the cultural landscape here; venues open, close, and move to other locations all the time. These nomadic tendencies have certainly had an impact on our work and on our ideas of a more flexible public infrastructure.” At this point, considering Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla’s Berlin solo show at the Temporäre Kunsthalle can add another layer to this discussion. Allora & Calzadilla horizontally divided the Kunsthalle -a space which has been temporarily moved to the touristic area where the Berliner Dom, museums, weihnachtsmarkt, and a big carousel nearby Alexanderplatz all reside- reducing the grand exhibition hall to less than one third of its original size, so the visitors can only hear the sound of a dance performance just above their head coming from an invisible upper level in the space. This empty volume, full of sound from upstairs, can be compared to Berlin itself in our minds; it looks like somebody else’s story, but it’s nobody’s land. As a more direct reference to the historicity of Berlin, Allora & Calzadilla’s video work How to Appear Invisible (2009) displays a German Shepherd running around a construction area where the Palast der Republik was once located. The dog has a collar with a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) logo on it. The video and the performance work together like a ballad written for the yesterday, today and tomorrow of the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, which itself is a gigantic container with cutting edge design elements and a contemporary art atmosphere, a place where everyone is/has to be cool and stylish.
Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla How to Appear Invisible 2009 Images from the video installation at Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin Photo credit: Adnan Yıldız
RES MARCH 2010
FALLING INTO BERLIN
143 RES MARCH 2010 RES MARCH 2010
Pablo Zuleta Zahr Mauermob Berlin 2009 Courtesy Pablo Zuleta Zahr
145 RES MARCH 2010
It was not permitted to take photographs at the Kunsthalle, but when something is prohibited- as you know very well from the old apple story- it becomes our area of study. Now, when looking at the shots I have taken with my mobile phone, I see myself in the middle of a stage, where all that is solid melts into thin air. When the stage becomes the object of discussion, we should talk about Ming Wong, who reconstructed the Fassbinder movie Angst essen Seele auf (1973.) It tells the story of Emmi, an elderly cleaning woman from Munich, who falls in love with a much younger Moroccan immigrant worker named Ali. In video format it is titled as Angst Essen/Eat Fear. Ming re-performs the five characters from the movie, switching between various identities (defined by gender, age or nationality) while speaking an approximate German. This post-conceptual and performative parody of Fassbinder’s drama from 70’s Germany -on the move- reflects the historicity of the social reality of the transformation that Elmgreen and Dragset mention in a different way. It is a pity that I missed the Mauer Mob  that was organized as an open event for the 20th anniversary to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall; people came together on the streets of Berlin, holding hands and recreating the collective unconscious of a city that was divided into two territories of control for such a long time, into two ideological climates caused by Cold War politics. One of the initiators of the Mauer Mob, Pablo Zuleta Zahr, photographed the process through a performative gaze. Rather than focusing on the panorama or the massive physical impact of its crowd, he investigated the limits of private moments in this public event through framing the gestures and close relationships between its participants. This might connect us in time and give us an idea of what it could be to fall into Berlin; maybe it is a song, Lust for Life from David Bowie who shared an apartment in Schöneberg with Iggy Pop during the late 70’s or Klaus Nomi’s operatic aria he used to sing at a Berlin gay discothèque, Kleist Casino, or Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s “the Bridge of the Golden Horn”… Falling into Berlin is a bit like falling into everything about yesterday –which makes today.
NOTES  “Thirst continuously pops up, yet remains nameless. And this is what it means to be young, I like being young...” Taken from a Facebook profile status  Interview with Elmgreen & Dragset; June 1st, 2003, Art, Interview, Miscellaneous publications http://www.briansholis.com/interview-michael-elmgreen-and-ingar-dragset/  http://www.mauer-mob.com/home.php
Adnan Yıldız is a Berlin based curator and writer. He participated in Curatorlab/Konstfack, Stockholm (20062008); co-edited the first 5 issues of Muhtelif, an Istanbul based English-Turkish contemporary art publication, and is a member of IKT -International association of curators of contemporary art. He co-curated the video program Nightcomers for the 10th Istanbul Biennial (2007), and Hot-Desking (Curatorlab) for Manifesta 7 (2008). Recently, he curated the exhibition There is no audience, an exhibition about public imagination, (selected proposal for the Curator Grant 2009 from 400 applications) at Montehermoso, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, as well as Time-Challenger, an exhibition about critical reconstruction at HISK, Gent, Belgium (winner proposal for the Curator Curator Project, an open-call organized by Enough Room for Space). Yıldız is mainly interested in the transformation of the audience, public imagination, and the critical forms of contextual/performative curating. Upcoming projects include Fantasy & Island (March 2010, Frac Corse), The Collective Coral Colony (October 2010, tensta Konsthall), Correct me if I am critical! (Berlin, Fall 2010)
RES MARCH 2010
Ming Wong Angst Essen / Eat Fear 2008 Digital video installation, 27 mins Courtesy Ming Wong
RES How do you feel about art fairs? AS While some are better than others, they are both commercial and educational necessities and part of the collecting process. It is a shame however that there are some collectors whom only attend the fairs and literally have never visited our gallery, despite the fact that they own works by many of our artists. I bet some have never seen a gallery show altogether. RES What do you think about the rising interest in work by non-western artists? RES How would you describe your job? ADAM SHEFFER I work closely with gallery artists on a daily basis to manage their careers. I also communicate with museum directors, critics and curators in order to promote the work of these artists and build their careers over time. Sales are indeed a part of this function as they keep the studios in production.
AS This is wonderful- it is a big world we live in. What I find tough is the exorbitant prices achieved by these artists at auction simply based on speculation and not artistic merit. RES What is the first question you ask when someone expresses interest in starting a collection? AS I am always curious to learn where their interest came from.
RES How did you get started in the art world? RES Is there a piece of advice you give to every collector? AS I had studied painting in college and worked as an artist’s assistant. I learned very quickly that I was much better at being an advocate for other artists’ work than making my own so that’s when being a gallerist really clicked. I realized that it was as close to the mark as I was going to get, and I love it.
AS Yes, go for it. Make that first acquisition. Make it within your comfort zone and don’t be afraid of outgrowing this initial selection. It is natural and shows you are a true collector. You’ve got to start somewhere.
RES Could you talk about Cheim & Read’s position? How is the genre of work that is exhibited at your gallery determined? Can you describe your gallery ethos? AS We will only ask an artist to join the gallery when we have watched the work over a long period of time. It’s along the lines of why it makes sense to court one another before making a marriage proposal. We would also like to believe that the artists’ works have a relationship to one another, in that there are currents or themes that run throughout the program. It makes it comfortable for the artists, and the group then is understood in a more cogent manner. I cannot fathom running out and feeling the need to add one sort of artist or another simply because that style is in vogue. We would never function that way, as we take a long term position with our commitments. RES What is the current situation in the art market? AS I am not going to say that a bubble has burst, but let’s just say that a lot of the air has been let out of it. RES What do you take into consideration when you are determining the price of artworks? AS We consider facets of the primary and secondary market, supply and demand, and what we feel the market can bear given current economic conditions. RES What were the trends over the past three to five years in the art market? How are they changing now?
RES MARCH 2010
AS People more than ever are looking for what determines value in contemporary art. I think an artist’s track record speaks for itself and those with historical relevance are certainly being reevaluated in today’s market.
Installation view of The Female Gaze at Cheim & Read, New York 25 June – 19 September 2009
RES MARCH 2010
CONVERSATION WITH ADAM SHEFFER
RES To what extent are you involved in informing/education a collector, what do you do when a collector needs guidance outside the sphere of your gallery artists? AS There are a group of wonderful, passionate collectors whom we work with in order to build significant collections that are also personally meaningful to them. One’s collection should have some sort of relationship to one’s life. It need not resemble an automobile showroom. RES What is the role of the gallery in enhancing the career of an artist? AS It is at the very core of what we do. RES To what degree do you intervene when you organize the solo show of an artist at Cheim & Read? AS We cooperate with the museums in organizing exhibitions. We take their direction and offer advice. It is a true sense of collaboration bringing all sorts of expertise into the equation to present the best show for an artist. RES What is the ideal relationship between a museum and a gallery, are you involved in the process when a gallery artist is approached for a museum show? AS Some of the most worthwhile part of what we do is working with museum directors and curators. It is fascinating to have a dialogue with someone who perhaps sees an artist’s work differently than we do, or who offers another perspective. RES Do you think galleries have a curatorial responsibility? AS Yes, we can complement museums and vice versa. It is all part of the art of presentation and promotion. RES Do you have a personal collection? if yes, does it have a specific focus? AS I am not a collector in the true sense of the word. I am more a connoisseur. I own a number of wonderful things that I love and feel in some way enrich my life and in this respect I am quite fortunate. While the majority are by our gallery artists, I also have a Bruce Nauman neon, a Roni Horn sculpture, a Julie Mehretu painting and a David Hammons installation that inspire me as well to get out of bed each morning. RES If you could acquire the work of any contemporary artist, which artists would they be, and why? AS I don’t think I could select just one. I am in daily awe of the genius that is Jenny Holzer. So if it were possible to own one of her xenon projections, it would be that. Louise Bourgeois’s MAMAN spider is perhaps the grandest sculpture of the twentieth century, so that too. But now I sound very greedy!
RES MARCH 2010
Adam Sheffer was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. After graduating from college with a degree in studio art, he moved to New York to work as an artist’s assistant. He served at several estimable New York galleries, and joined Cheim & Read in 2004.
Artists’ books and printed matter
Nuri Ziya Sokak No 7 Beyo€lu Istanbul TR
PUBLISHED BY PHAIDON PRESS, 2009
REVIEW BY NICK STILLMAN T H E 2 0 0 0 ’ S A R E O VER; may their historicizing commence. A decade’s utility as a meaningful bookend of an era is as fraught as it is inevitable, but several trends in western art clearly glimmered and ebbed during the decade, one that will eternally be associated with embarrassing financial excess and catastrophically mismanaged preemptive war. Accumulative, labor-intensive sculpture and highly polished filmic installations have seen their moment pass, and a train of neos (goth, psych) have come and gone. One of the trends that picked up steam mid-decade and is still burgeoning is abstract painting. Just recently in New York there has been the Kitchen’s polemical Besides, With, Against, and Yet: Abstraction and the Ready-Made Gesture; Exit Art’s New Mirrors: Painting in a Transparent World; major solo shows by Mary Heilmann, Josh Smith, and Kristin Baker, among others; and the Bob Nickas-curated Cave Painting, 40 painters in a musty Chelsea basement. Dogfights over painting were the subplot of mid- and late 20th century art theory, beginning with Abstract Expressionism’s transgression: removing the subject from the painting. Pop brought it back, but made painting controversially unpainterly. From the early 1970’s to the mid-1980’s young artists largely eschewed painting (or outright denounced it), considering it regressive or patriarchic. What had recently seemed radical—art without a picture—speedily came to be judged as conservative and hackneyed. But painting has been back for some time now, mostly absent the spats. The 2000’s were characterized by their lack of controversy in art, and even if current abstraction is fractured in its intent and means—not to mention how it looks—there’s a mercurial live-and-let-live ethos about contemporary painting. How did painting stop pissing people off? Nickas, in his hefty new book Painting Abstraction: New Elements in Abstract Painting shows just how pluralistic the notion of “abstraction” can be, to the point where painting’s traditional vernacular—abstract, figurative—no longer accurately conveys how painters think or work and feels desperate for revision. It’s difficult to discuss painting without discussing money. Viewed at its basest, painting is a luxury commodity and is usually priced like it. It sells better than other types of art, and the uptick in its recent visibility needs to be placed in the context of an art market that simmered to its boiling point for most of the decade before the global financial crash that began in 2007. Pre-crash, herds of eager buyers probably made for dealers eager to show them painting, and the subsequent burst of the art market bubble likewise encouraged dealers to gravitate toward the commodity that has been historically reliable, even when it was maligned. This isn’t to argue that these conditions have had a qualitative effect on painting, but to an extent they explain why we’re seeing so much of it. RES MARCH 2010
In the introduction to his survey of 80 painters working in an (in one way or another) abstract idiom, Nickas
151 writes, “Maybe abstract painting has become a form of imaginative fiction.” This is another, less cynical argument for its comeback. The societal relationship to images in the digital era has matured globally to the point where representation—pictures of identifiable things—have acquired a kind of disposability, not to mention mistrustfulness. The decision to work abstractly could be read as a refusal to generate more easily legible disposability or another opinion that dissolves into the ether. Nickas’s book is an extension of his prolific curatorial practice, and he groups the painters into six sections that could be interpreted as individual group shows, with each artist represented by a text written by Nickas and a selection of recent images. Abstract painting has historically been weighed down by clichés derived from Greenberg: it maps the interior landscape, it’s the pure painting of human intuition. Nickas’s texts and groupings try to distance these painters from this tradition, locating them more as deviant narrators with sharp art historical pedigrees. The entry on Olivier Mosset quotes the venerable painter: “These days, painting is almost always a conceptual work reflecting on art (formal solutions still keeping their autonomy).” Mosset is right; to work abstractly in 2010 necessitates language in ways it never did before. “I paint what I feel” doesn’t fly like it did 50 years ago, so many of the artists in Painting Abstraction are cited as extending or deviating from abstract or conceptual lineages, even if the connection may be opaque visually. In this way there’s been a renegotiation of abstraction’s status as pariah. Its battle with or against history and reference has largely become its content, it’s a way of sloughing off its problematical connotations of transcendence. But it’s difficult to generalize too much about these 80 painters; part of what’s new about the new abstraction is how little any of it has to do with the others. Alexander Ross and John Armleder show how it can be base or funny; Monika Baer, Jacqueline Humphries, and Mike Cloud, how formally inventive it can be; Carrie Moyer and Francis Baudevin, how abstract can be referential; Lisa Beck, Julie Mehretu, and Alan Uglow, how it can be scientific or diagrammatic. There is work that prioritizes the handmade and imperfect, like Richard Aldrich’s, and work like Odili Donald Odita’s that feels controlled and calculated. Josh Smith’s routine of making a painting and then pressing a canvas against his palette to generate another painting combine all of the above. There’s a thrift and an anti-grandiosity about Smith’s practice that makes him feel like the emblematic painter of this heterogeneous “movement.” After all, contemporary painting often doesn’t even feel like a real category of art-making; Smith’s incidental palette paintings, Phillipe Decrauzat’s hybrid objects, or R.H. Quaytman’s optical silkscreens all defy traditional notions of painting and yet made Nickas’s cut without feeling out of place. This problem of categorization seems like the crucial issue that unites these artists. Nickas’s categories are plausible systems, but it also seems that almost every artist could have appeared in just about any of the book’s sections. Clearly these artists have junked the dialectic of abstraction/representation. Is there anything to replace it? One possibility is to consider whose paintings are translating something (often a photograph) and whose are not. Is a “pure” abstract art one that escapes picturing? Not according to Nickas, although this position was staked to an extent at The Kitchen show. What about painting as handling versus painting as rendering? Again, Nickas includes “handlers” like Humphries, Amy Sillman, or Karin Davie as well as “renderers” like Baudevin, Ruth Root, or Wade Guyton. In a similar way to how the New Museum’s Unmonumental exhibition seemed to accurately set forth the current generation of sculptural methodology, Nickas’s book does the same for abstract painting. It is overwhelmingly inclusive and heterogeneous, but the patience allowed by an exhibition in book form is necessary to demonstrate that for all its recent popularity, the dialogue that accompanies the current generation of painters is just beginning, still just an abstraction itself. • Nick Stillman is an artist and writer. He is managing editor of BOMB.
RES MARCH 2010
PAINTING ABSTRACTION: NEW ELEMENTS IN ABSTRACT PAINTING BY BOB NICKAS
153 Chuck Webster Gannet 2008 Oil on panel 24 20 in / 61 x 51 cm Courtesy the artist and ZieherSmith, New York
RES MARCH 2010
Francis Baudevin Movement 2000 Acrylic on canvas 47 x 47 in /120 x 121 cm Courtesy the artist and Skopia Gallery, Geneva
RES MARCH 2010
155 RES MARCH 2010
Mike Cloud Purple Circle Geometric Quilt 2007 Oil and clothes on canvas with stretcher bars 96 x 96 in / 244 x 244 cm Courtesy Max Protetch Gallery, New York
RES MARCH 2010
Xylor Jane Sick Heart 2008 Oil on panel 29 x 31 in / 74 x 79 cm
157 Monika Baer WeiĂ&#x;es Netz 2009 Oil, pencil, and aluminium on cut canvas
RES MARCH 2010
Bernard Frize Camino 2008 Acrylic and resin on canvas 59 x 59 in / 150 x 150 cm
RES MARCH 2010
Jacqueline Humphries Gaslight 2008 Oil on linen 72 x 78 in / 183 x 198 cm Image Courtesy Greene Naftali, New York
RES MARCH 2010
Â© Dirimart, 2010
CONTENTS INTERVIEW WITH YÜKSEL ARSLAN HANS ULRICH OBRIST ABSTRACTION IN THE 21ST CENTURY SABINE BOEHL INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD WRIGHT RES THE TWO ART CENTERS OF ROMANIA: CLUJ JANE NEAL THE TWO ART CENTERS OF ROMANIA: BUCHAREST RALUCA VOINEA A LOOK AT THE HUGO BOSS PRIZE 2010 KATHY BATTISTA THE ABRAAJ CAPITAL ART PRIZE ZEYNEP ÖZ THE DESTE PRIZE RES IANNIS XENAKIS: COMPOSER, ARCHITECT, VISIONARY AMY OWENS A CONVERSATION WITH CÉLINE CONDORELLI RES ON SUPPORT STRUCTURES NAZLI GÜRLEK ART PROPAGANDA AND POLITICS: GOSHKA MACUGA D‹DEM YAZICI INTERVIEW WITH ACHIM BORCHARDT-HUME D‹DEM YAZICI FALLING INTO BERLIN ADNAN YILDIZ INTERVIEW WITH ADAM SHEFFER RES BOOK REVIEW: PAINTING ABSTRACTION NICK STILLMAN
RES Art World / World Art Publisher: Dirimart Abdi ‹pekçi Caddesi 7/4 Niﬂantaş› 34367 Istanbul TR T: +90 212 291 3434 F: +90 212 219 6400 firstname.lastname@example.org www.resartworld.com www.dirimart.org Not for sale Review biannual Not to be cited without permission of the author/s and RES Art World / World Art ISBN 978-605-5815-11-0 Editorial Board: Hazer Özil, November Paynter, Ekrem Yalç›nda€, Necmi Zekâ Managing Editor: Duygu Demir Layout Design: Emre Ç›k›noğlu, BEK Graphic Design: P›nar Akkurt, BEK Design Consultant: Bülent Erkmen Pre-press: BEK Design and Consultancy Ltd Printing and Binding: Mas Matbaac›l›k Hamidiye Mahallesi So€uksu Caddesi No:3 Ka€›thane Istanbul Turkey T: +90 212 294 1000 F: +90 212 294 9080
COVER (detail) Richard Wright, Untitled (02.03.09) © Richard Wright Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, London/New York, The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow, and BQ, Berlin Photo credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.
Interview With Yüksel Arslan Hans Ulrich Obrist Abstraction In The 21st Century Sabine Boehl Interview With Richard Wright Res The Two Art C...
Published on Apr 14, 2017
Interview With Yüksel Arslan Hans Ulrich Obrist Abstraction In The 21st Century Sabine Boehl Interview With Richard Wright Res The Two Art C...