ART WORLD / WORLD ART NO:7 JUNE 2011
We are happy to share with you the June 2011 issue of RES, which features stimulating artist conversations, exhibition reviews, interviews and essays. RES is welcoming back contributing authors to its previous edition: Burcu Yuksel sits down to talk with Gary Hume in his studio, while Didem Yazıcı catches up with Daniel Birnbaum and Donatien Grau . At this critical time for the Arab world RES includes two contributions that focus on artists from Egypt: Hans Ulrich Obrist interviews Wael Shawky during his Edgeware Residency at the Serpentine Gallery in London and H.G. Masters’ presents his critical take on Hassan Khan’s work in “Basically Your Mentality is the Mentality of Servants”; in addition art critic Rachel Withers talks with Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2011 winner Jananne Al-Ani. Other essays include Grit Weber’s view of Harun Farocki’s work, artist Erda€ Aksel travels to Belgium to chat with Wim Delvoye, and director of the 2010 film The World According to Kapoor, Heinz Peter Schwerfel prepares a special essay for RES on Anish Kapoor. RES also features DVD and book reviews as well as a very special piece by Barbara J. Scheuermann on the two video art exhibitions Paradise Lost at Istanbul Modern and Big Picture at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. You can subscribe for a hard copy of RES or access the PDF version of the current issue as well as previous issues by visiting the website www.resartworld.com We hope you enjoy the read.
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INTERVIEW CONDUCTED IN ENGLISH, TRANSCRIBED BY ATT‹LA PEL‹T HANS ULRICH OBRIST Let’s begin with the beginning. I’m very curious as to how it all started. How did you become an artist, or rather, how did art come to you? WAEL SHAWKY I lived and studied in Saudi Arabia as a child. I lived there since age four, half the year in Mecca, the other half in Alexandria, Egypt. I started doing drawings when I was at school. HUO Did you have any kind of epiphany? What about teachers or mentors? WS I first received professional guidance when I was at Alexandria University. But my gift for drawing was already known at least within my family. HUO So you were always drawing...
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HANS ULRICH OBRIST IN CONVERSATION WITH WAEL SHAWKY
HUO Can you tell me more about this piece? You stated in an interview with Hassan Khan that you “got the conceptual references through a belief in the chemical content of the cement, however when you actually looked inside the houses you could not see the materials, only figurative representational elements, so that there was a kind of translation through the figurative.” Can you expand on that? WS It was a way of fabricating a certain type of housing. It’s supposed to be a mud house, but instead it’s made out of cement. The view is just from one perspective, one angle, so that somehow the interior appears flattened. It’s just from one perspective, one angle, so that somehow flattened the image inside. The image inside is lit by fluorescent light and all the objects were painted in white and silver. So it looks two-dimensional. Back then I was just discovering how to translate such a political event through a completely visual aspect. HUO So it was actually a political event which triggered the ‘96 piece? WS Yes, because it’s based on the emigration of the people in Upper Egypt after and during the building of the Aswan high dam in the 1960s. After building the dam, all the villages flooded with water, so they moved people from one location to another. HUO So they were displaced, basically.
WS Always drawing, exactly.
WS Yes. I was just fascinated by the idea that the entire culture had changed just by relocating these people a few kilometers. The cement is, of course, a reference to the new housing the government built for these people and this new culture.
HUO And you’re still drawing?
HUO What was your next epiphany? What happened after 1996?
WS Yes, of course.
WS I did a lot of drawings and paintings, but I didn’t keep them. In fact I think I destroyed most of them. I also went to the U.S. and studied at the University of Pennsylvania in 1999.
HUO So there’s a daily practice of drawing. HUO What kind of paintings and drawings were they? WS Almost, yes. HUO Where do you draw, in notebooks? WS I draw in anything I can find. It’s not something I really prepare for. If I’m going to be a part of a show, I request that I live in that city for five or six days and I make drawings particularly for that show. HUO If you were to make a catalog raisonne of your work, where do you think would be the beginning? WS If it were retrospective, the beginning would be Frozen Nubia. It’s an installation that I did for the 1996 Cairo Biennale.
WS Most of them were figurative, generally a mix of animals and people... Anyway, when I went to study in Philadelphia I began to work with asphalt. From ‘99 onwards I started to work a lot with materials like tarmac, liquid tar, asphalt, silver paint, graphite, etc., mostly in installations, but also in painting. HUO Do you have heroes in Egypt or abroad? WS Yes, I used to see a lot of Joseph Beuys when I was living and studying in Alexandria. He wasn’t so famous in Egypt, but we knew about him, about his professionalism, about the Düsseldorf Academy in particular... HUO So the Düsseldorf Academy had a kind of aura?
HUO Yes, that’s the one where you built houses out of cement, correct? WS That’s right. I was 24 years old then, and I think it was the beginning of many things. RES JUNE 2011
WS I had a professor by the name of Farouk Wahba. Wahba studied at the Düsseldorf Academy under a professor called Gotthard Graubner. So he was the one who introduced this world to me when I was very young. Graubner was his hero.
5 RES JUNE 2011 HUO Are there any Egyptian or other regional artists who’ve inspired you, or have you been inspired mostly by Western artists?
HUO How did your work change in America. It seems you started working with a lot of different materials and then you moved on to video installations. How did that transition happen?
WS There are some figures we respect like al Gazzar and Hamed Nada. I liked their work a lot. Al Gazzar is extremely important. The thing is that there is a very big gap between that generation and what we are doing now. There is no in-between.
WS I have many installations that are a combination of videos and installation. One example is The Green Land Circus, which is a huge piece I made in Cairo in 2005, and also a piece called Sidi El Asphalt’s Moulid from 2001, which is also a combination of many things. The problem with these works is that I can’t really move them. What’s traveling everywhere is the video, but the rest of these big installations cannot travel. I’m trying to make my work more practical, however, like with Cabaret Crusades...
HUO So there are no conceptual heroes? WS No, not at all. I think that our generation, is the generation that tried to build a unique language without any references. We had nothing to build on, either in Egypt or in the region. We had to create it from scratch.
HUO Yes, Cabaret Crusades was a Gesamtkonstrukt, a total installation?
HUO Do you think it was an advantage to be the first ones?
WS Yes, in my solos at Cittadellarte Foundation in Beilla, Sfeir Gallery in Beirut, and Nottingham Contemporary. I think I will have another very big installation in KW, probably this summer, but I’ll try to postpone it if they agree.
WS Yes, maybe. HUO You mentioned some artists like Hassan Khan and others. How would you describe your relation to Egyptian artists of your generation? Is it a group? Is it a movement? WS No, it’s neither of those. There seems to be a disunity here in Egypt in comparison to, say, Lebanon, where they are more united than us. The Lebanese movement seems like a group of members presenting one big project. Our movement is more focused on individuality and even the topics are completely different to each other. HUO Who are some other artists you’re close to? WS Besides Hassan Khan, there’s Amina Mansour, Hazem El Mestikawy and Lara Baladi… HUO So there is a generation of artists with no connection to artists from the ‘50s or ‘60s, but are there any kind of interdisciplinary connections, between philosophers, public intellectuals and artists, say? WS Yes, sort of. It’s hard to say, because like I said, we’re not a unified movement with a leader or anything. But there is somewhat of a connection with the literary world. There were also influential writers that many of us read like Sonallah Ibrahim, Abdelrahman Munif, Naguib Mahfouz, Mohamed Hassanin Haikel, Gamal Hamdan, They are thinkers, novelists and short story writers. Over ten years ago we had only one institution that controlled everything in Egypt: the government. We all had to deal with the government. It was a very very closed circle. But then with the creation of Townhouse Gallery, the whole art scene shifted completely. HUO That’s when you started doing your installations?
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WS I was already doing installations since 1991. I received the grand prize for Frozen Nubia at the 1996 Cairo Biennale. After that I had a lot of trouble with the government. There is a hierarchy, of students and professors and so on, so I had some troubles there. Then I wasn’t nominated for anything anywhere after that.
HUO The western art world saw a very reduced version of your work. These videos traveled through different group shows, and I started to believe you were a video artist. But then I saw Cabaret Crusades, and in Biella I understood that you actually do complex installations. WS Yes, that’s the main thing, I love to work with material. HUO Tell me more about Sidi El Asphalt’s Moulid. WS It means “The Day of Birth of Saint Asphalt.” In Egypt we have something called “moulid,” which means “day of birth.” The main moulid we have is the day of birth of the prophet Muhammed. Each member of his family also has a moulid. Each moulid is a celebration day. Usually when we use the word moulid in Egypt, it signifies “chaos.” It’s chaos to the degree that things can happen at the same time without affecting each other negatively or positively. It harbors extreme contradictions to the point where you can’t make any comparisons. So in this piece, Sidi El Asphalt’s Moulid, I was trying to scan the period that I lived and my generation, which was Sadat’s time. I didn’t live in Nasser’s time, I was born in 1971. For me Anwar Sadat was a very important figure. That’s why I made the piece Telematch Sadat. While Sadat was in power, there was an economical transformation that happened in Egypt. Before Sadat, Nasser focused more on a socialist system. But Sadat was more pro-capitalist, friendlier towards America. He opened the country to travel and immigration. But it was also the beginning of serious corruption too. Nevertheless, there was a new hope in the time of Sadat. It was also a time when Gulf countries began hiring many people from Egypt, especially Saudi Arabia. Egypt had the professionals they needed: doctors, engineers, teachers, etc. My family was also one of those families who went there. They went there for work, and when they returned it changed the social structure of Egypt, because of the money they had and also because of the religious influence that they brought back from Saudi Arabia to what was a much more secular society. Before their influence Egypt had what I call an “agricultural Islam.” After the return of these Egyptians from Saudi Arabia, a kind of nomadic Wahhabi Islam predominated in Egypt. That’s when the veil started to appear in Egypt. So both the Sidi El Asphalt’s Moulid and the Telematch Sadat piece have to do with this period.
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Stills from Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File Video, 31:49 minutes, 2010 Courtesy the artist
Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File 2010, Fig #073 Courtesy Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Beirut & Hamburg
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Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File 2010, Fig #101 Courtesy Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Beirut & Hamburg
Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File 2010, Fig #63 Courtesy Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Beirut & Hamburg
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Telematch suburb drawings (1- 54) Graphite, silver pigments, ink and oil on paper 2008 Courtesy the artist
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Right page Stills from Telematch Sadat Video, 14:00 minutes, 2007 Courtesy the artist
13 WS Yes. Going back to the chemical content of the material, I think this also has something to do with my fascination for Joseph Beuys at that time. I always felt that the way he used his material was very religious. It requires the audience to believe in the chemical content of it, otherwise it wouldn’t have any conceptual references. HUO So there is a kind of Beuysian alchemy at work? WS Yes. In the first piece I was just collecting doors and windows from demolished buildings in Cairo. I built a huge alley out of them, and it’s all covered with liquid tar and asphalt. Then inside the black alley I presented sound and videos. HUO You mentioned the paradox of how your videos were embedded in installations. In his interview with you, Hassan Khan says he sees a contrast in your work between the object of the video image and the physical presence of the video image itself. So this idea of video and physicality is interesting because you say “Timing is what I find in video that is not in the other elements. At the same time it has a higher ability at hiding the process when you have all these differences in the medium you are using. You can achieve what I have been speaking about more efficiently, dealing with the video itself the content becomes more visible, the video is also an element in the bigger context, a completion of the balance.” I would like to know more about this, about how the videos are embedded in a very physical environment, like in Cabaret Crusades. WS I think the most important factor is that you can’t really see the process. It’s a limitation I found in the finality of an installation, because whatever I do, I will also still show the making of the work. HUO In these installations you show the making of, and then there’s also The Green Land Circus which we haven’t spoken about. That’s another big installation.
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WS Before The Green Land Circus, there was another huge installation called Asphalt Quarter. That was in 2003 and it was presented at the Venice Biennale. This is important for me because it represents a shift in how I think of the word “translation.” The Asphalt Quarter is based on a novel by an Iraqi-Saudi novelist called Abdel Rahman Munif who wrote Cities of Salt. That’s what the piece is based on. It’s a series of five books explaining the beginnings of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The first chapter starts off in a Bedouin nomad village by the sea. A British oil company enters the village and starts to build platforms for the oil industry. They hire members of the local community to build those platforms. So the first chapter explains the relationship between these Bedouin nomads and these “blond, white” people. They don’t understand them and see them as aliens. They don’t speak their language and in fact they worked on these platforms for four years without even knowing exactly what it was they were doing. I thought that was a very interesting chapter, because they were building their own history without knowing what they were doing or understanding anything for years. So I tried to translate this in Venice. I went to a very small village in the western desert in Egypt and asked parents if I could take their kids to shoot a film in the desert. In the film we asked them to build an asphalt runway for an airplane. We only told them that we had to finish this runway within one day. We brought tons of asphalt that doesn’t require heat. They loved working with the asphalt and incredibly they finished it in a day. We documented the making of that runway. It was a recreation of that first chapter in Cities of Salt. Since then I began to work with kids a lot.
The Cave (Amsterdam) Video, 12:49 minutes, 2005 Courtesy the artist
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HUO Are these pieces also related to history-painting?
15 WS For example, the one in Venice was a huge installation made out of asphalt, and inside the installation are four screens that show the process by which it was made. The first one that was ever shown separately was a piece called Dodge Ram in 2004. It was two channels showing a Dodge truck. I filmed this truck “mudding,” basically doing circles in mud and spraying the mud around. That was one screen and everything was black and white and slowed down. I filmed the truck as if it were an animal, in exactly the same way they would film an animal on the Animal Channel. In another screen you see an eagle and myself wearing a mask with a costume that looked like a cliché of a Saudi Arabian. You see asphalt, you see liquid tar. That’s perhaps the beginning of not seeing the process, actually. It’s filming the process but not seeing it. HUO I saw Al Aqsa Park in London. It’s an animation... there somehow you don’t see the process. I guess that’s where we see a new epiphany that influenced your work. The link to architecture is still there but in a different way. What happened? WS In Al Aqsa Park I tried to make it more like a religious experience. When you look at it it’s hypnotizing somehow. The main idea behind it was to refer to a ride at an amusement park which people get on and wait till it’s over and which is usually controlled from outside. The model is exactly the same model of the Dome of the Rock. The only thing I invented in this is the scenario of the movement of the animation. As for the mechanism, I had to try and find the right kind of mechanism from research in amusement parks. There’s no story to this really, it just works by itself. HUO It’s almost like a “perpetuum mobile.” WS Yes. There is another video before this piece which is called The Cave, from 2005. This piece involves me reciting a chapter of the Quran inside a supermarket.
Seven Sleepers. The link between all those stories is that they deal with knowledge and power. As a Muslim, if you are somehow weak in your country, you are required to emigrate to gain power and knowledge from abroad. Then you have to return to your country to share your knowledge and power and spread its goodness to people. This piece reflects this idea about the artist and how he travels everywhere. Also, the supermarket can be a very visible metaphor for capitalism, as well as the cave. HUO I was wondering whether there was any epiphany between Al Aqsa Park and Cabaret Crusades where something new entered your work? WS There is a link between Al Aqsa Park and Cabaret Crusades. I think using kids in my work also has something to do with this, which is the concept of control in general. Kids don’t yet have a gender identity, and also they don’t act. When I asked them to take part in this film about the assassination of Sadat, they didn’t know what that was or what it meant. They just followed orders. I think this is also what happens when you use marionettes. They don’t act. You’re detached from any kind of dramatic memory. It’s totally pure. I think this is also what’s happening in this animation and another animation called Larvae Channel Two, this idea about control. HUO It’s like a panopticon... WS Yes. This Al Aqsa Park piece is about control also, but it’s not controlled from the inside, it’s controlled from the outside. You always see someone in a cabinet controlling the people on the ride. When the people inside the ride scream the controller lowers or raises the speed, etc. It always has something to do with external control. That’s the link, I think. HUO How did the project the Crusade start? With previous pieces you had an interest in history books and stories... you talked about the Cities of Salt, and the Crusade is related to Amin Maalouf. Can you tell me more ?
HUO What triggered that idea?
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WS Istanbul, basically. I had a six-month residency at Platform Garanti (which has since closed and the same building has been renovated and reopened as SALT Beyoğlu), which eventually lasted seven months. I was there in 2004, and Turkey was trying to become a part of the European Union and there were demonstrations and political confrontations between secular and religious parties, etc. Turkey is actually 97% Muslim, which is a higher percentage than in Egypt. So while I was there I went into a mosque to see people praying, which is of course in Arabic, and it seemed very strange to me that Turks wouldn’t have been understanding what they were saying in the mosque, unless they happened to speak Arabic. So that brought a lot of questions to mind. I questioned myself as a Muslim artist who lived in Mecca and Egypt and who went to Istanbul, etc. So I think The Cave, which I did during that time, was a self-portrait for me. It not only described my experience in Istanbul, but it was also somehow a translation for my situation as an artist that comes from a religious background and travels all over the world. Also, I chose to title the work The Cave because most Islamic scholars believe that this sura I’m reciting is to encourage Muslims to emigrate from Mecca to Medina in the beginning of Islam. Islam began in Mecca, where the Prophet Muhammed was persecuted, so that he and his followers had to emigrate from Mecca to Medina. There are seven stories inside The Cave, sometimes referred to as the
WS I’m fascinated by this idea of translating history. I don’t believe in history that much. It’s called “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes.” It was collected from the accounts of Arab historians at that time. I’m not stating that there is a truth or a lie. It’s just another way of seeing things. What’s also very interesting about his book is that it shows all the aspects: the Muslim side, the Arab side, the Christian side. He doesn’t go into which side is right or wrong, which side is bad or good. He himself is a Christian, which I think is also very interesting. HUO So you read the book and then started to make the puppets? How did it go? WS There was a preparation for that. The beginning happened in Lamu, Kenya. I was invited by Nicholas Logsdail to do a project in Lamu, in his space in Kenya. I went to Lamu and didn’t know what I would do there. Then I heard about the history of Lamu, about how the town used to be run by Arab Muslims who originally came from Oman. They used to trade slaves there. And according to these stories I heard in the streets, the “Americans” which I think means Portuguese, came to free them. Today Lamu’s population is over 85% Muslim. So I needed to translate this image for these Arabs who suddenly heard about the Crusades. In this story I always feel that the Arabs are the
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HUO After having done these installations which include videos, some of those videos started to appear on their own. When did that start? Was it with Al Aqsa Park, or was it before?
17 HUO The idea of the marionette obviously made Cabaret Crusades an incredibly big and complicated piece. In Biella it was an incredible installation that involved earth, soil, video... again you have materiality and the moving image, and it’s very epic. That must’ve taken a long time. Can you tell us about it?
HUO Does it connect to the politics of our time? WS Yes, it does. It has all these strategies, cheating, collaboration between kings... It was shown in a contest called Contemporary Myths. The second chapter, the second Cabaret Crusades is called The Path to Cairo. It has many more stories that are connected to things happening today. It’s not actually set in Cairo. In the first part the main location is Istanbul, in the final part it’s Jerusalem, that’s the grand prize. In the second part, which is called The Path to Cairo, the whole shift of Arab power will go from places like Edessa or Antioch to Aleppo and Damascus. This is a preparation for Nureddin Zengi, and will bring in Saladin also. The development then focuses on the shift of power to Cairo that happens in the third part. HUO How many parts are there?
WS I think it was very important to make Cabaret Crusades with the Pistoletto Foundation. I don’t know how I could’ve made it any way else, because it needed a lot of support. I think it was the biggest project that I made with a real organization. Before that it was always a matter of improvization and having to finish quickly because of money issues. But this time I had more money and I had a space to organize it all. I was working with over 35 people in total. Also the way we found the marionette... I’ve seen many different collections and none of them had the expressions that I found in this collection.
WS Four. All related to Maalouf. The same chronology and stories from Maalouf’s book. From the Arab point of view, the end of the Crusades comes with Saladin, because that’s the victory and that’s when Jerusalem goes back into Muslim hands. But actually they will lose it again. That’s why the last chapter will just include the capture of Jerusalem. HUO In Biella you worked in Pistoletto’s school, and you’ve had your own school in Alexandria for the last five months. Can you tell us about how your own school works?
HUO Yes, apparently you found the collection in Torino from a very passionate collector of puppets... WS Yes, it was incredible. That’s something else I wouldn’t have managed by myself, because in the end the Pistoletto Foundation made all the agreements with the museum to lend us this collection. It would’ve been extremely difficult to do it any other way. So they played a big role for sure. Then once we had the collection of marionettes, we worked on the costumes for these marionettes to change everything, sometimes even the make-up. That took about a month and a half of work. It took another month and a half to finish the scenography. HUO The beauty is that it ties in with your earlier installations...
WS Originally it was my studio. It’s a very big basement, about 400 m2. I decided to turn it into a studio for young artists. I invite every six months 12 artists to stay there. I also invite professors, artists, critics, to give workshops, etc. The staff changes every six months. It’s like an alternative academy. There will be a big show at the end of six months, but it’s just for students. HUO Were you involved with the whole revolution? WS Yes. I was in Alexandria, not in Tahrir Square. They cut the roads, so you couldn’t go. But it was a great time. In Alexandria they didn’t have media coverage like in Cairo.
WS Yes, that’s also the first time I ever wrote a script... HUO Based on the book by Maalouf...
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WS Yes. That’s why it’s also in a very classical Arabic, because in Maalouf it was based on the real writings of historians. Going through different things like music, script and voiceover... for example, after we finished the filming I had to go to Egypt to do the voiceover. That was something I didn’t expect. I always knew of people who had been in radio and who used to act, but I had to try and make them sound like they weren’t acting. I tried to make it extremely narrative and rigid most of the time. I also didn’t expect that it would end this way. I was expecting that it would be more surrealistic. In the end it became more realistic, but it had something weird in it as well. In the beginning though, I was expecting to have flying marionettes. I think it turned out close to my piece The Cave. In The Cave I was somehow trying to be neutral. Not just like a T V reporter, but also to make sure that my ideological and political position is not clear to the viewer: that it’s not cynical or anything, that it remains ambiguous.
Wael Shawky lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt. Last year he launched MASS Alexandria, the first Independent Studio Program for young artists in the city. Shawky has received international acclaim for his work as an artist and filmmaker and has had numerous international solo shows including: Citta Dell’Arte, Italy (2010), Gentili Apri, Berlin (2009), Kunsthalle Winterthur, Switzerland (2007), and Ludwigsburg Kunstverein, Germany (2005). His work has also been shown at the Venice Biennale in 2003 and 2005. In February 2011, he was awarded the Ernst Schering Foundation Art Award.
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 Modern 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 Philipe 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.
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Crusaders. So I brought a hundred kids and a hundred donkeys, and I made an army out of them, with flags and everything. The film was nine minutes. In it the children move along the beach and then surround a Crusader fort, a fake fort in Lamu. Also many of the books that I read about the Crusades at that time mostly just talked about sieges. Sieges were the main action in those wars. And that’s what you see in this film called Telematch Crusades. After that I got the idea of the marionette.
WIM DELVOYE I was also in Brussels last night with the director of the theatre La Monnaie (De Munt). They want me to do the décor. I told them I want to direct a play. They asked me whether I went to theater. I told them I had only been to theater once and to opera once, but I want to direct. It’s a way of saying “no.” It is like when they ask you to do an exhibition and you ask a lot, “I want an elephant, etc.” So, they say “no.” ERDAĞ AKSEL Just hope that they don’t say “yes.” Have you been to Istanbul already? ERDAĞ AKSEL WD Yes, I love it. I love Istanbul. I A R R I V E I N G E N T , Belgium late in the evening. I leave the hotel to take a short walk in the city. The weather is unusually warm for this time of the year and the cafés on the sidewalks are full of young people in shorts and T-shirts drinking beer and eating Belgian fries by the river. “To go to the city center, just follow the towers,” said the desk clerk; I basically use this advice to find my way in this city of gothic towers.
Wim Delvoye and Erdağ Aksel
In the morning the cab drops me of in front of the large rusty ornamented iron gate. While waiting to meet the artist Wim Delvoye, I drink coffee and walk around the studio observing a multitude of drawings, small sculptures and maquettes.
I had many conversations with people. However I had certainly never recorded those conversations to be printed. The outcome may just be gibberish. Of course, another possibility was that I might meet with Delvoye and instantly hate each other. Though rare, things like that sometimes happen. Fortunately, that did not happen. We ended up spending the whole day going around the studio looking, talking. We sat around his house laughing a lot and doing art-gossip. We sobered through a good long lunch and we drove to the vast grounds around the impressive castle nearby Gent, that Delvoye actually is about to transform into a real, not virtual, Wim-City. He was kind enough to drive me to the Brussels Airport. We continued our conversation until we got to the airport, barely in time for my flight to Istanbul. I certainly enjoyed a day of seeing good art but, more important than that, I had the pleasure of spending hours talking to an extremely intelligent artist. Though art is very important for me, I am quite aware that it isn’t the most important thing in the world. I admit, sometimes I find intelligence more fascinating than art. After returning home,, listening the conversation or reading the deciphered texts, I realized that one certainly would have a hard time to understand much of what we were talking about.
EA Istanbul has become a very sexy city. WD I really like it. It’s a Beijing in Europe. People are building everywhere. People are very wealthy and they love to spend. There is a certain dynamic. EA Since we always talk with forewords, I am going to start this conversation with a foreword. That is, I am not a journalist, or an art critic, nor am I even a good talker. So when they asked me to do this conversation, I mainly accepted it because I got interested in your work. WD Lots of people have no eyes you see. People who write often miss the eyes. EA Well, I don’t really write and since I am not an author, I accepted to come here and talk to you mainly because I could relate to your work. To tell the truth I related to your work through my own work. So, there may be a lot of “I’s” in this conversation. That is not because I am a megalomaniac, but because that is how I related to your work. WD Understandable. EA I actually said, “no” to this proposal at first. At the beginning, it was kind of like your response to the theater director. WD I see. Also, as an artist, you are naturally a perfectionist. You are more aware that this thing will live and that people will read it. There is a certain pride as the producer of that product, and when you are not doing it every day, you are worried about the product. There’s a risk involved. It feels commissioned. When you’re in your studio you don’t feel commissioned to do something, but here you feel commissioned. EA When looking, studying and relating to your work, I, of course, got jealous of your work. WD Oh, that’s the biggest compliment!
So, I decided to sit down and write a text about my day of conversations with Wim Delvoye. I will use the sound files as much as possible. Moreover, I can and I will also write about some of the unrecorded parts of that wonderful conversation since I still vividly remember it.
EA I realized we thought of similar things at times. There was a time in the 80’s when I had doctors’ offices near my studio and I played around with dirty hand signs in their X-Ray machines.
We began the conversation by talking about my trip from Istanbul and my walk in the city of towers.
WD Yeah, how?
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CONVERSATION WITH WIM DELVOYE
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Here, Wim and I go into a whole discussion of different ways of “giving the finger” in various cultures. Since this part of our conversation involved so many hand gestures, the recorded version doesn’t make much sense. We move around the studio looking at gothic works of Delvoye. On the counter there is a tabletop-size version of his well-known gothic Cement Truck and a tabletop-size architectural gothic Pergola that is less known. EA It makes so much more sense to see this truck after seeing Gent, the city of gothic towers. Wim moves towards the Pergola. WD This is one of my first pieces that is not ironic. It’s a piece of architecture. It’s also confusing sometimes for diehard fans because it’s not a gothic truck, it’s a pergola, and it really is a pergola. There are no second layers or other meanings to it. Some people love to differentiate, but maybe this piece is not so good, because it’s not so much art anymore. It is more like a design piece. I am very aware of that. Plan is that this work is going to be a pergola in a beautiful garden. I always worry later about whether it’s good or bad or important or not. We move on towards a different sculpture that is part of another series that involves beautiful twists and distortions of classical sculptures. WD This obviously will be regarded as an art piece. It’s a nautilus, like a shell and it’s a very classical sculpture. EA So you reserve the right to beautiful things... WD Yes, more and more. In the early days I would make sure it was a bit clumsy, because I was still enjoying this 20th century aesthetic of something not perfectly made. The whole 20th century seemed to be about that. I liked that unprofessional, imperfect style. Like Picasso once said that he wanted to get to the point where he was painting like a child. It is a funny idea to do all that work just to be able to arrive at a level that you once had. It is very 20th century. But this piece is not 20th century; it could be more related to the 18th century. EA This pergola, I think is more of a 21st century work. WD Yes. And there are other things too. For example, in the 21st century, size doesn’t matter anymore, people spend more effort on smaller and detailed work, more precise work. However you feel the 20th century is still around you. The galleries are still large with big walls... When they ask me to make a show, I cannot make 20 of these like this. I can’t even fill up 50% of the space. So I need to say, “please give me a small space.” We are planning to do this in gold, because the price of gold isn’t even very important amid all the other costs. To cast it is already so expensive that we said “then we don’t do it in bronze, we do it in gold.” Sure, it would be twice as expensive, but the difference between a metal like bronze and gold is not so astonishing.
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In Delvoye’s studio there is a large room with nine people working on computers, many of them doing 3D modeling of Gothic ornaments? Wim takes me around this room introducing me to these young assistants.
Cloaca Professional, 2010 Mixed media, 710 x 176 x 285 cm Monasism, MONA (Hobart, Tasmania), 22.01.2011-19.07.2011
23 Art farm Beijing, 2004-2010 Live tattooed pigs
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Wim Delvoye, 2005 Stuffed Tattooed pig, 142 x 37 x 64 cm
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Skull/ Jesus Inside, 2007 Tattooed pigskin. 149 x 93 cm
25 RES JUNE 2011 Pergola (scale model 1/10), 2011 Laser-cut Corten steel, L 82 x B 44 x H72 cm
Dump Truck (scale model 1:6), 2011 Laser-cut Stainless steel
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Suppo (scale model 1:2), 2010 Laser-cut Corten steel 587,5 x Ã˜ 75 cm (soccle: 80 x 80 x 80)
27 out. When I was looking at your piece I thought, “this is one of the most expressionist pieces I’ve seen.” It really puts out what’s inside, and what’s inside doesn’t necessarily smell good. WD In a sense it’s also anti-expressionist. Manzoni showed own shit in a can, and he underlined the idea that the artist feels something special, puts out something special... that if it comes out of the artist’s body, it’s special, or holy. My Cloaca is the opposite of Manzoni’s project because it’s not even a human being. The most individual and intimate human activity, shitting, is stolen... like Prometheus stole fire from the Gods. EA I found that the most expressionistic video I’d ever seen was when I was in hospital where I was given an endoscopy and I could see my insides on a screen as the doctor explained to me what was going on. I remember mumbling to the doctor how it was a true expressionist video piece. I often tell this to my students that come to the studio so eager to express what is inside them. What’s inside us doesn’t always smell good and it also includes shit and puke...
EA Hello Madalina, I also observe a very Belgian feeling of lace here... WD That does sound expressionistic. WD Yes, I can see that... I saw that in India too. I just came back from there. The lace of course gives your eyes pleasure in a different way, with colors, shapes, etc.... But there’s another quality to the eyes that most art pieces neglect: the stereoscopic quality, which is beyond just color and shape. We have two eyes and can thus enjoy an enormous depth in things. You see this in landscaping where they know how to place plants in a way that gives the beholder a pleasure of depth. Here you see holes in holes and other holes, and it takes days to absorb, to actually understand how it is structured. It’s like a very complex piece of music that you have to listen over and over to hear all its subtle nuances. So this is very architectural, which is a recent thing. EA I was thinking of the transparency issues in these. I see a close relationship between these ornamented gothic structures, the x-rayed stained glass windows and even the shit machine Cloaca, because in all of them transparency reigns. We are seeing what’s inside or we see through something: the human body, lace, or an x-ray machine. So perhaps transparency also is a reflection of what’s going on in the 21st century. I am thinking of Wikileaks. All of a sudden these have become rather updated. WD That’s correct. I also have works that reveal transparency within the system. For example, I made artwork from real shares of Cloaca that we got listed on the stock market, and we made some bonds, like a real company. Of course the stocks and bonds themselves are not transparent; they’re made of paper, but... EA They are showing what’s inside something else, the global economic system… WD Yes, the confusion between the vehicles of investment...
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EA Yes, in that sense I’m sure Cloaca isn’t very transparent either... maybe it shows the shit but I know there are non-transparent parts to the machine. However it tells about part of what’s inside human beings. I feel it’s also very related to this idea of expressionism. In Turkey during the effort to Turkify the language, one of the terms they Turkified was the artistic term “expressionism” which when translated literally means to “put out” (Dışavurum). It suggests something inside us being expelled outwards. It always made me wonder if what artists put out always smells better than what lawyers or economists put
EA Let me ask you what you think of video art. I have a problem with it, because I respect film too much. I have a friend who’s both an artist and curator - which you know is the latest trend - and he said “I don’t like video art, but I show it a lot because it’s easy to show and cheap to transport”. What do you think about that? WD I’ve always been astonished that they get away with so much without dealing with the medium. For example, when I look at a Lady Gaga video on MTV, say, I find that even though it’s not art and just a bit of entertainment, that video is so much better than any art video I see in Amsterdam or in Tate. I see stuff there that really tests my patience. Some girl washes a car; the other one throws a ball repeatedly until you just get bored. Andy Warhol 40 years ago did an eight hour film of the Empire State Building, and it was wonderful. I loved it. But today a lot of those videos are considered “art,” when we even debate whether Hitchcock or Blade Runner is art. For me Blade Runner is art. But they would say it isn’t, they would think the stuff that passes off as art today is art. I think that’s what the next trend in art videos will be: videos that are actually good, well produced, well acted, and well done. Something that gives value for money. So many people are only focused on socializing and networking in the art world, in fact 90% of an average artist’s life is only that. And the networking overtakes the working. The work is just done hurriedly or in a mediocre way so that it doesn’t take too much time out of the networking and socializing. What’s written in the catalogue doesn’t mean anything either, nobody buys the catalogue. In the art world there is a newspaper called Gazette, about old artworks and auctions. I still buy it occasionally. I know many people who buy that catalogue, they would go to bed with it and read it when they wake up first thing in the morning. It is full of 18th and 19th century art and collectors would pore over it passionately. So when I make a catalogue, a video, a presentation or a website, I think of this problem and I don’t worry whether it’s art or not, I worry whether it’s good or not. But a lot of artists today don’t try to do something good; they try to do “art.” But art starts to look like an apology, like they’re saying, “I know it’s not good, but it’s art.” The reasoning goes: we cannot compete against Madonna and Lady Gaga, they have millions, and so we may as well make “art.” Also, most of the public is still in the 19th century when it comes to their taste in art. For example, they will find a 19th century landscape magnificent, but they won’t like Joseph Beuys, say, and will say “well my six year-old can do that too.” So the public still needs to catch up and be brought in the 20th and then the 21st century.
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WD This is Madalina; she leads the army of the ornaments, the army of the flowers. She gives geometrical structures to a lot of plates. These plates are all two-dimensional, so she draws them in a two-dimensional way. Later, they are installed in a three-dimensional way. Different projects are going on at the same time. Some are already in their final stages, some are in a very early stage... This is a young project, but already starting to develop into its final stages. It is astonishing how quickly we did it this time. This is also a functional object, but in between an artwork and design. The Pergola is really purposely trying to be a design object. This is already a design object that serves art pieces that we did. Ten years ago, I did stained glass windows. I sold a few, but I never pushed it. I thought it was a bit stupid, because you can’t really sell a window without the walls. So now we are doing the walls for the window, and we have in mind a gothic-style design -- although I have to say the gothic style is already infected by a fascination for the Mooresque (Moorish), Hindu style and other styles. I see a lot of 19th century art nouveau in it. In the Pergola, I see Indian/Hindu styles, and a little bit of Thai lines. We started out with pure gothic but now these other influences have been slowly added.
29 EA My son also said that the chewing process happens both in the mouth and in the stomach. How did you resolve that?
EA The only works from you that I have trouble relating to are the pigs. Tell me about them.
WD That’s true. The stomach also churns. This, for example, is the chewer for the mouth, and it’s a little bit based on what they use in the meat industry and also what they use under the sink. In the stomach you have a magnetic stirrer that makes a constant movement and a less aggressive movement.
WD But it’s very close to Cloaca. It’s also a kind of capitalist and economic logic. You put many in a small painting and the painting grows for you. Then you have a larger painting that everybody wants to buy. They don’t want to buy an art piece because they think your work is going to be cheaper next year. They buy it because others whisper to them that the work is going to be more expensive next year, whether symbolically or financially. They’ll buy it as an investment assuming that the world will one day catch up. Again, that modernist idea of “catching up” is at work. So people come and buy a work not just because they like it, but also because it’s an investment, like a piggy bank. That’s what my pigs allude to. Here it’s not getting financially more expensive; it’s just gaining weight and kilos. So you don’t have more art, you have more kilos. Also, you don’t produce paintings but harvest them. The moment that I want this painting is when I kill it. Of course, I don’t kill it; I have assistants to do that. EA Do you stuff them when they are killed?
Moving along the studio we come in front of various three-dimensional images of Jesus, all somehow distorted or twisted WD This first model is a twisted pieta. After the Cloaca came the twisted works which also resembles the movement of our sphincter. EA You know just like you grew up among Catholics, I also went to a Catholic school and I did several works with crucifixes as well... I was surprised to see that we had both played around with the image of Jesus. I stretched their arms; made them jump off the crucifixes into swimming pools, using plastic pietas that I buy from Spain, Italy, and Mexico... the good plastic ones are in Mexico and Naples. Catholicism really gets under your skin and you always live with that sense of Catholic guilt...
WD Depending on the tattoo. Sometimes I like the tattoo more than the rest. Our next stop is the well-known machine that is called Cloaca. Lately Wim is also busy preparing for a show in the Louvre, Paris. He showed me a model of a twisted gothic tower that will be visible inside Louvre’s glass Pei -pyramid. It was a very beautiful steel work. The only nasty thing related to Cloaca was its title that came from its shape. It was to be called Suppository. When exhibited Cloaca is fed twice a day and it simulates the human digestive system producing the end product seven hours later. My son who likes biology was very interested in this contraption and supplied me with various questions about it. We stop in front of the smallest version of Cloaca. The Portable-Cloaca is the size of a large suitcase and looks like an extremely neat and clean machine. WD This one is so neat; we never tried to make it shit. It’s the only clean Cloaca.
WD It also has a superficial influence, like the Russians who’ve seen so much of Lenin and Marx since they were little. They don’t like or hate those images, they’re just fascinated by them. A hundred years ago a painting of Jesus would’ve been a lot more expensive than a painting of flowers, but that’s not the case anymore. These days, a painting of flowers can be much more expensive, and a painting of Jesus might well be worthless, even if it’s painted by a very good artist. Nobody values the image of Jesus anymore. EA It’s a similar situation with images of Ataturk in Turkey. WD This is a generation that has been playing with meanings and symbols, stripping them of their meanings and symbolism.
EA My son who is extremely interested in biology wanted to ask a question to you. He told me about intestinal villus. Apparently shit is produced in the first ten inches of the small intestines, and as it travels the rest of the way through the intestines, the villus sucks out the nutrients that the body needs from the shit. So he asked how you deal with it. Human beings, when they eat something, shit a lot of it out, but they also take some of it. He wants to know what it is you take. He asked me: “Does he not have a villus?”
EA When I went to school in the U.S., getting a masters degree in art meant painting the same painting or doing the same sculpture over and over 20 times. If you did 20 different things you didn’t get your degree.
WD Well, to make good shit, we don’t need to take it out. A lot of it happens in the first parts, but then a lot of it is taken care of by bacteria. If we don’t take it out, it won’t affect the outcome. It would be beautiful if we could take energy and take something grow out of it, make it energy efficient.
EA Much later, I did an exhibit and called it Objects of Hesitation, because I realized that my hesitations were like jewels, I had to keep them. I don’t want to be certain; I don’t want to be decisive. I want to be able to change and go in different directions, so I am a product of that 70’s art school, which is now criticized a lot. There was a lot of dogma in it.
EA What about having Cloaca gain weight? Just like when the villus sucks out the nutrition and in the end gives us a big fat belly? RES JUNE 2011
WD Oh, I never thought of this one!
WD Yes, you were considered to be unsure of what you wanted to do and considered not to have found your own personality.
WD True. And art was always defined from a negative perspective. There were a lot of people with fists on the table. The idea of emancipation is interesting for us. Artists doing their own galleries would be a step toward emancipation.
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Our tour of the studio continues and we move towards the stuffed pigs as well as stretched pigskins that all have been intricately tattooed.
31 RES JUNE 2011 Terpsichore, 2001-2002 Steel, x-ray photographs, lead and glass, 200 x 80 cm Edition: 4/4
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Pieta Twisted, 2005 Bronze, H 20 x 17 x 18.5 cm
33 WD A lot of art from the past shows the artist as a monkey. For example, Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning type of 20th century art. It’s a bit like the artist as a monkey. So you could not think of emancipation, you had galleries in New York that would talk for the monkey, who would be busy doing his gestural abstract painting and drinking his head off. EA Yes, and we are somehow expected to be thankful for showing or selling our art. I personally refuse to be a “thankful artist.” I’d make art whether they bought it, sold it, showed it or not. WD A lot of work today is interesting because it has more to do with the emancipation than the work itself, like Damien Hirst. It’s not the work in itself that I like , but I like it when he auctions his works, because it shows his emancipation. Another artist has two magazines and curates the Biennale in Berlin. A lot of artists are taking their future in their own hands. EA I was thinking about what you said before about how art should be subversive, well done, or beautiful, and if possible all three... WD What’s important is to question the criteria we lived with. We were brought up with a certain kind of criteria and when we see new things come out, we think, “That’s not art!” So before we rule out an artist, we should always do our utmost best to try and like them and understand them. That’s what I try to do. Art today is so shockingly different. I don’t know when the change happened... EA Art fairs have become much more interesting than Biennaless and other grand exhibitions... WD And the catalogues of auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s are actually more interesting and more discussed by people than Art Forum is. EA I returned to Turkey from the United States with an Art Forum under my arm and a subscription for the next three years. I was reading all those texts in that familiar incomprehensible language. WD Now it’s completely different. A guy who used to be considered a crook but becomes rich, nowadays is called a genius. EA It’s very trend-based. Rich people always want something new and different, not last year’s stuff. WD Yes, they’re actually buying fashion, not art. EA What happened in New York City, why did you move to China? Marble Floor © Studio Wim Delvoye
WD New York is a city of “has beens.” There is a lot of nostalgia. People talk about this place where Warhol used to hang out, or that place where Yoko goes. They show you another site where Woody Allen shot this or that particular scene of a film from 15 years ago. I didn’t want to be in a place where history happened. I wanted to go somewhere where history is happening.
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EA Perhaps. I once asked my artist-friend why he was doing curating as well as art. He said it was because he thought curating was too important to leave to the curators.
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All that you read was really a collage of what we talked all day with Wim Delvoye. It is probably not a very good collage yet it is sincere. Wim Delvoye is very well known within the art world. Obviously, any artist would enjoy the justified fame. However, throughout our conversations with Wim what I observed is that rather than having this fame go over to his head he is busy seriously analyzing what it means to be famous within the trend-based art world. I truly enjoyed listening to his remarks and extremely insightful analysis of recent art historical trends. The planned Wim-City on the château grounds near Gent, very similar to his website, is an obvious attempt to be emancipated from the perils of that trend based art world.
THE PAVILION OF TURKEY 4 JUNE – 27 NOVEMBER 2011 ARTIGLIERIE, ARSENALE CURATOR
Wim Delvoye, based in Ghent, Belgium (b. 1965) employs media spanning drawing and sculpture to concrete mixers, stained-glass windows, X-ray images and live tattooed pigs. Throughout his work, Delvoye realizes outrageous notions through earnest endeavor, all the while merging high and low, decorative and mundane, biological and industrial; his Cloaca machines produce human excrement via mechanical means. Delvoye has exhibited widely, including Documenta IX, at Sonnabend Gallery (New York), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), New Museum (New York) and the Guggenheim Collection (Venice). Erdağ Aksel, born in 1953 received his Fine Arts degree in West Virginia University’s Creative Arts Center. He then completed his graduate degree as an assistant at the same school. After working in Bilkent University for ten years, he then joined Sabancı University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences as Founding Faculty where he currently works. He’s had various solo exhibitions in Turkey, U.S.A., Poland and UK. Aksel’s also been featured in the (2nd) Istanbul Biennial, (45th) Venice Biennale, and has contributed to numerous group exhibitions in Turkey, U.S.A, Germany, Italy, France, Denmark, Hungary and Japan. Aksel’s works are in various private collections as well as in museums such as Istanbul Modern and Tate Modern.
UNDER THE AUSPICES OF
WITH THE CONTRIBU TION OF
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details that pique one’s curiosity. Thinking about the work in total, though, what intrigues me is the disembodied feeling of its point of view. Given the historically and politically loaded nature of the territory it’s showing, how might we interpret that perspective?
RACHEL WITHERS RACHEL WITHERS Jannane, you’ve been working for the last three years on a project that you’ve called The Aesthetics of Disappearance: a Land without People. It comprises both still and moving-image works, and I’d like to invite you to talk about three of the moving-image pieces: Shadow Sites I (2010), Excavators (2010) and Shadow Sites II (2011). The earlier of the Shadow Sites works comprises a series of fourteen filmed aerial sequences. All were made using a camera mounted on a light aircraft and angled directly down at the earth below, and when you first described the procedure to me I imagined that this point of view would be familiar, at least to an extent. But when I saw the screened work with its unwavering downward point of view, I realised that its cinematic perspective is actually quite unfamiliar and unusual, and also really mesmerising. Can you start by describing the nuts-and-bolts of this project: how you shot the footage and what it shows? JANANNE AL-ANI Well, aerial filming can get very technically complicated, involving elaborate rigs, gyroscopic mounts and helicopters to achieve complex takes. But in this work I was interested in going back to the fundamentals of film and photography and so my approach was really quite simple. I’d been looking at early reconnaissance photography and film: in particular material in the Smithsonian Institution archives shot in 1918 by Edward Steichen, while he was serving in the US Aerial Expeditionary Force. The unit, which Steichen headed, was responsible for photographing the Western Front towards the end of World War I, and I was amazed at the strange beauty of the photographs, taken by cumbersome large-format cameras mounted on small biplanes. I wanted to recapture that simplicity. So on Shadow Sites II worked with a small crew including an aerial film and photography specialist and using relatively simple equipment: a Super 16mm film camera fixed to a purpose built mount which was attached to the wing of a small Cessna, a light aircraft that’s in widespread use internationally. The terrain you are looking at is in southern Jordan, an extraordinary place that is particularly interesting to me because it sits in a pivotal position, in between incredibly contentious and contested locations — just east of Israel and occupied Palestine, and sharing borders with Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria. It’s a very recently created nation state, yet historically it’s been a major crossroads for both trade and warring empires and thus it’s incredibly rich in archaeological sites, some very ancient. And so that’s what you see in the films, from prehistoric remains, to World War I trench systems via Nabataean and Roman sites, to present-day roads, buildings and agricultural developments. The trenches — built by Ottoman troops under German orders — are visually very distinctive and I used them to refer back to the Steichen images. RES JUNE 2011
RW The trenches are perversely very decorative — a striking moment in a succession of intriguing
JA Although in earlier film and video works I’ve adopted some methods that might be described as deconstructive filmmaking, where the viewer is made aware of the “constructed” nature of the film, in this new work I’m more concerned to replicate the more “objective”, mechanical view presented by reconnaissance footage. The point of view of the drone or the unmanned spy plane, for instance: an ever-present all-seeing eye surveilling terrain or moving over a battlefield. And that consistent look persists over many radically different types of site: from contemporary industrial farming facilities to exquisite ancient archaeological remains. Maintaining that regular, disembodied quality was key. In the back of my mind when making this work was Lessons of Darkness, Werner Herzog’s 1992 documentary on the first Gulf War, which includes dramatic, sweeping aerials shot from a helicopter showing the burning Kuwaiti oilfields. It’s an epic view of a catastrophic landscape. In a similar way, I was seeking a kind of seduction or beauty in the work. But on the other hand I wanted to avoid anything that felt too operatic or over-indulgent. RW Can you contextualise this piece as regards the overall project, The Aesthetics of Disappearance: a Land without People? How does it reflect the key themes? JA The project takes the first part of its title from an essay by Paul Virilio in which he recounts how the early cinematographer George Méliès was filming in the street when his camera unexpectedly jammed. He managed to get it moving again, but by that time the people he’d been filming had moved on, so when he reviewed the footage he found he’d accidentally discovered a way to magically turn men into women or to make people disappear altogether. The optical effect made it possible to depopulate the image, removed its inhabitants. So my project has to do with the relationship between cinema and photography, and war, because as Virilio demonstrates, most of the advances in lens-based processes have been a result of developments in military technologies. Virilio has also written about the use of digital technology, aerial photography and satellite imagery during the 1991 Gulf War, which was a turning point in the history of war reportage. For me, the relationship between the long distance, ‘cartographic’ and depopulated images produced during that conflict and the 19 th century Orientalist vision of the desert as an empty, unoccupied place was overwhelming. More generally, it’s the language of occupation and colonisation, expressing the idea that the target territory is empty available space. So the second part of the title comes from one of the most enduring and contested mythologies of the early Zionist movement, that of Palestine being “a land without a people for a people without a land”. Lastly I should point out that the title Shadow Sites is also a quote— it’s borrowed from the book Shadow Sites: Photography, Archaeology & the British Landscape 1927 – 1955, by the historian Kitty Hauser, a fantastic find for me. Although her focus is the British landscape and the crisis over constructions of national identity in the inter-war period, much of what she covers in the books regarding the development of aerial photography and its impact on the work of British artists has been of great interest to me. The actual term “shadow site” is taken from the field of aerial archaeology and refers to the practice of surveying landscapes from the air at dawn or dusk when the raking light serves to reveal low lying features on the ground that would otherwise remain invisible.
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CONVERSATION WITH JANANNE AL-ANI
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Location Stills Shadow Sites I & II 2010/11 Photography Noski Deville
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41 RES JUNE 2011 Frame Grab from Excavators, 2010 Single Channel Digitised Super 16mm Film Courtesy the Artist
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Production Stills Shadow Sites I, 2010 Single Channel Digitised Super 16mm Film Courtesy the Artist and Rose Issa Projects Photography Adrian Warren Arts Council England Collection
43 RW In the light of that, your piece Excavators has an almost playful element, in that it shows ants as “archaeologists” maybe. JA Yes; it’s another aerial view, but this time onto a tiny “site” in comparison with the Shadow Sites footage, and it is shown on a very small, postcard sized monitor. We rigged a camera directly over the entrance to an ant colony, and in the final film you see the ants at work around a tiny hole in the sand – moving in and out of the hole and shifting grains of sand around. In that work and other experiments I was doing at the time, I was seeking ways of bringing together long-distance shots and micro details, the very large and the very small. I wanted to find ways of merging the two and creating ambiguities of scale. And although there may be something quite endearing in the tiny ants and their labours, my experiments with scale were informed by research I’d been doing into representations in the western media of the 1991 Gulf War: for instance, from looking at aerial footage shot by US fighter pilots of trucks being targeted and blown off roads, the scale effectively reducing the targets to tiny, insect-like life forms. I wanted to look again at that mechanism and how it allows for the de-humanisation of the subject. RW Which Shadow Sites II clearly does. Can you describe it for us and sketch its many differences from the first Shadow Sites film? JA Shadow Sites II also shows images of landscapes but unlike the earlier work it’s constructed from a series of high-resolution digital photographs rather than film. Its point of view moves into rather than across the plane of the image: the camera zooms in, dropping continuously into the stills. Each zoom ends with a dissolve into the next image, so it’s almost as if one was continuously boring into the landscape. Colour-wise as well, Shadow Sites II is different: it’s not in full colour but graded so that each image is almost a sepia-toned monochrome. My intention was to introduce further layers of ambiguity around geography and the material status of what one is looking at. The images might show snow or equally sandy desert. Some pictures feature autonomous objects in the landscape that are obviously contemporary; others look like archaeological sites, while others still show ploughed earth or rough terrain, which are much more abstract. In those images in particular, an ambiguity of scale is much more present than in Shadow Sites I: the objects shown might be very large, or equally micro photographs of something very small. Shadow Sites II is screened in a self-contained “back box” and the projection fills the entire wall, floor to ceiling, side to side, without any gap or frame. It generates an odd, vertiginous, sensation of descent or falling, a big contrast with the floating quality of Shadow Sites I. It’s a lot more immersive in its effect.
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Both Shadow Sites pieces have soundtracks. In the first film, you hear subtle ambient sounds such as wind blowing and aircraft engines rising and falling in volume. Shadow Sites II has a more complex and less gentle soundscape, which includes recordings made on location such as industrial and mechanical sounds collected in and around the airport, and more natural sounds (wind blowing across sand, for instance). These were in turn mixed with a variety of other appropriated material, including audio recordings of contemporary military skirmishes and aerial bombing raids plus a range of animal sounds such as cattle, deer, vultures and other birds. Running through the entire film is a mechanical
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Aerials I-VI, 2011 Production Stills from Shadow Sites II Single Channel Digital Video Courtesy the Artist, Abraaj Capital Art Prize and Rose Issa Projects Photography Adrian Warren
hum which peaks and dips in intensity and which is suggestive of the “eye in the sky” I talked about earlier: maybe a satellite, a fighter jet or an unmanned drone. RW Your pieces recapitulate this kind of dehumanising, and in its way dehumanised, point of view, but they don’t package it up neatly with any kind of contextualising gloss, determining viewers’ interpretations or telling them how they are supposed to evaluate the experience of the work. JA Well, at an earlier point in the project I had toyed with the idea of introducing text or the spoken word into the work: in fact I dedicated a lot of effort to compiling unofficial eye-witness accounts from a wide range of historic and contemporary zones of conflict. In particular, I was considering the differences in the reporting of the first and second Gulf Wars: the revolution in telecommunications, the possibility in 2003 for those “on the ground” to transmit their experiences directly and immediately via digital means. I may yet do something with the material I collected, but it ultimately didn’t fit with what’s going on in these pieces. The material just seemed too explicit, somehow too sensational. My guiding preoccupation has been with the way in which the evidence of atrocity and genocide haunts the often beautiful landscapes into which the bodies of victims disappear. And therefore I felt my works needed to represent that subtle underlying presence and not make a travesty of it. It seems to me that the landscape itself often becomes the bearer of resilient and recurring memories and I hope my work is able to expose those signs of loss and perhaps offer the possibility of survival and redemption. END Edited extracts from a discussion held to mark the UK premiere of Shadow Sites I at the Ritzy Picturehouse, London, October 2010. The screening was part of Making the Cut a series of artists’ talks organised by Film and Video Umbrella. The research and development of the project The Aesthetics of Disappearance: a Land without People was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the London College of Communication. The production of Excavators and Shadow Sites I was supported by Arts Council England and the Young Arab Theatre Fund and Shadow Sites II was produced with the support of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2011. Shadow Sites II will be included in the exhibition The Future of a Promise, a collateral event of the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, from the 2nd of June to the 30th of November (www.thefutureofapromise.com)
Jananne Al-Ani has exhibited widely with solo shows at Darat al Funun, Amman and Tate Britain, London and group exhibitions including Closer, Beirut Art Center and Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking, MoMA, New York. Al-Ani has also co-curated exhibitions including Veil and Fair Play. Her work can be found in public collections from the Tate and Imperial War Museum, London; the Pompidou Centre, Paris and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. She is currently Senior Research Fellow at the London College of Communication.
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Rachel Withers is an art critic and lecturer at Wimbledon College of Art, London. Her writings have appeared in a wide variety of contexts, including the Guardian and New Statesman, and she is a frequent contributor to Artforum International. Her monograph on the artist Roman Signer was published in 2007.
Art|42|Basel|15–19|6|11 Art Galleries | 303 Gallery New York | A | Acquavella New York | Air de Paris Paris | Aizpuru Madrid | Alexander and Bonin New York | de Alvear Madrid | Ammann Zürich | Andréhn-Schiptjenko Stockholm | Anhava Helsinki | Approach London | Art: Concept Paris | Artiaco Napoli | B | Baronian_Francey Bruxelles | von Bartha Basel | Benítez Madrid | Benzacar Buenos Aires | de la Béraudière Genève | Bernier/Eliades Athens | Fondation Beyeler Basel | Bischofberger Zürich | Blau München | Blondeau Genève | Blum New York | Blum & Poe Los Angeles | Boesky New York | Bonakdar New York | Bortolami New York | Bortolozzi Berlin | BQ Berlin | Brown New York | Buchholz Köln | Buchmann Agra/Lugano | C | Cabinet London | Capitain Köln | carlier gebauer Berlin | Carzaniga Basel | Cheim & Read New York | Coles London | Contemporary Fine Arts Berlin | Continua San Gimignano | Cooper New York | Crousel Paris | D | Daiter Chicago | De Carlo Milano | Dvir Tel Aviv | E | Ecart Genève | F | Feigen New York | Fischer Düsseldorf | Foksal Warszawa | Fortes Vilaça São Paulo | Fraenkel San Francisco | Freeman New York | Friedman London | Frith Street London | G | Gagosian New York | Galerie 1900-2000 Paris | Galerist Istanbul | Galleria dello Scudo Verona | gb agency Paris | Gelink Amsterdam | Gerhardsen Gerner Berlin | Gladstone New York | Gmurzynska Zug | González Madrid | Marian Goodman New York | Goodman Gallery Johannesburg | Grässlin Frankfurt am Main | Richard Gray Chicago | Greene Naftali New York | greengrassi London | Greve St. Moritz | Guerra Lisboa | H | Haas & Fuchs Berlin | Hauser & Wirth Zürich | Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert London | Hetzler Berlin | Hopkins-Custot Paris | Houk New York | Hufkens Bruxelles | Hutton New York | I | i8 Reykjavik | Invernizzi Milano | J | Jablonka Köln | Jacobson London | Janda Wien | Rodolphe Janssen Bruxelles | Jeffries Vancouver | Johnen Berlin | Juda London | K | Kamm Berlin | Kaplan New York | Kargl Wien | Kelly New York | Kerlin Dublin | Kern New York | Kewenig Köln | Kicken Berlin | Kilchmann Zürich | Klosterfelde Berlin | Klüser München | Kohn Los Angeles | Christine König Wien | Johann König Berlin | Koyama Tokyo | Koyanagi Tokyo | Kreps New York | Krinzinger Wien | Krugier Genève | Krupp Basel | Kukje Seoul | kurimanzutto México City | L | L & M New York | L.A. Louver Venice | la Città Verona | Lahumière Paris | Lambert Paris | Landau Montreal | Leavin Los Angeles | Lee London | Lehmann Dresden | Lehmann Maupin New York | Lelong Paris | Linder Basel | Lisson London | Löhrl Mönchengladbach | Luhring Augustine New York | M | m Bochum Bochum | Maass Berlin | Magazzino Roma | Mai 36 Zürich | Marconi Milano | Marks New York | Marlborough London | Mathes New York | Mayer Düsseldorf | Mayor London | McKee New York | Meert Bruxelles | Meier San Francisco | Meile Luzern | mennour Paris | Metro Pictures New York | Meyer Riegger Karlsruhe | Millan São Paulo | Minini Brescia | Miro London | Mitchell-Innes & Nash New York | Modern Art London | Modern Institute Glasgow | Moeller New York | Mot Bruxelles | Müller Zürich | Munro Hamburg | N | nächst St. Stephan Wien | Nagel Köln | Nagy London | Nahem New York | Helly Nahmad New York | Nature Morte/Bose Pacia New Delhi | Nelson-Freeman Paris | Neu Berlin | neugerriemschneider Berlin | New Art Centre Salisbury | Noero Torino | Nolan New York | Nordenhake Berlin | Nothelfer Berlin | O | Obadia Paris | OMR México City | P | Pace New York | Paley London | Pauli Lausanne | Paviot Paris | Perrotin Paris | Persano Torino | Petzel New York | Pia Zürich | Podnar Berlin | Prats Barcelona | Presenhuber Zürich | R | Raucci/Santamaria Napoli | Rech Paris | Regen Projects Los Angeles | Regina Moscow | Denise René Paris | Reynolds London | Riis Oslo | Ropac Paris | Rosen New York | S | Sage Paris | SCAI Tokyo | Scheibler Berlin | Schipper Berlin | Schöttle München | Schulte Berlin | Seroussi Paris | Sfeir-Semler Beirut | Shafrazi New York | Shanghart Shanghai | ShugoArts Tokyo | Sies + Höke Düsseldorf | Sikkema Jenkins New York | Silverstein New York | Skarstedt New York | Skopia Genève | Sperone Westwater New York | Sprüth Magers Berlin | St. Etienne New York | Staerk Copenhagen | Stampa Basel | Standard (Oslo) Oslo | Starmach Krakow | Stein Milano | Strina São Paulo | Szwajcer Antwerpen | T | Taka Ishii Tokyo | Taylor London | Team New York | Tega Milano | Templon Paris | Thomas München | Tschudi Glarus | Tucci Russo Torino | U | Ubu New York | V | Van Orsouw Zürich | Verna Zürich | Vintage Budapest | Vitamin Guangzhou | W | Waddington Custot London | Wallner Copenhagen | Washburn New York | Jamileh Weber Zürich | Weiss Berlin | Werner New York | White Cube London | Y | Young Chicago | Z | Thomas Zander Köln | Zeno X Antwerpen | Zero… Milano | Ziegler Zürich | Zwirner New York Art Edition | Alexander New York | Artelier Graz | Borch Jensen Berlin | Cristea London | Crown Point San Francisco | Fanal Basel | gdm Paris | Gemini Los Angeles | Klosterfelde Edition Hamburg | Knust München | Lelong Editions Paris | mfc – didier Bruxelles | Nitsch New York | Pace Prints New York | Paragon London | Polígrafa Barcelona | Three Star Paris | Two Palms New York Art Statements | A Gentil Carioca Rio de Janeiro | Abreu New York | Bartlett London | de Bruijne Amsterdam | Cera Lisboa | Chert Berlin | Elastic Malmö | Guenther Hamburg | Harris Lieberman New York | Hollybush Gardens London | Jongma Amsterdam | Kordansky Los Angeles | Long March Beijing | maccarone New York | MacGarry London | mother’s tankstation Dublin | Murray Guy New York | Osage Hong Kong | Overduin and Kite Los Angeles | PSM Berlin | Rodeo Istanbul | Side 2 Tokyo | SKE Bangalore | Stevenson Cape Town | Sutton Lane London | Viner London | Z˙ak Branicka Krakow Art Feature | Baudach Berlin | Bjerggaard Copenhagen | Chemould Mumbai | Freymond-Guth Zürich | Jacques London | Michael Janssen Berlin | Leighton Berlin | Lloyd Santa Monica | Maggiore Bologna | Nanzuka Tokyo | Noire Torino | Opdahl Stavanger | ProjecteSD Barcelona | Raster Warszawa | Reena Spaulings New York | S.A.L.E.S. Roma | Shammah Milano | Tilton New York | Tonson Bangkok | Wilkinson London | Index April 2011 Art Unlimited | Art Parcours | Art Film | Art Basel Conversations | Art Salon | Art Magazines Catalog order | Tel. +49 711 44 05 204, Fax +49 711 44 05 220, www.hatjecantz.de Vernissage | June 14, 2011 | by invitation only Art Basel Conversations | June 15 to 19, 2011 | 10am to 11am Art Parcours | June 15 to 19, 2011 Follow us on Facebook and Twitter | www.facebook.com/artbasel | www.twitter.com/artbasel The International Art Show – Die Internationale Kunstmesse Art 42 Basel, MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd., CH-4005 Basel Fax +41 58 206 26 86, email@example.com, www.artbasel.com
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THE ULYSSES SYNDROME ANISH KAPOOR IN INDIA HEINZ PETER SCHWERFEL TEXT IN GERMAN, TRANSLATED BY JEREMY GAINES A S K E D W H Y he was mounting his first retrospective in his hometown of Piraeus on a ship of all places, Jannis Kounellis, who had lived in Rome since the end of the 1950s, explained that he simply thought like a modern Ulysses. He was only returning home, he said, in order to leave again immediately. The same is true of Anish Kapoor, who was born in Mumbai in 1954, and at the end of November, 2010, opened his first retrospective in his native country – simultaneously in Mumbai and New Delhi. The Indians truly celebrated the homecoming of their prodigal son, who has lived in London since the 1970s, and leader of the opposition Sonja Gandhi was at hand in person to open the show at Delhi’s National Museum. The proud local press went wild and Bollywood starlets besieged the artist at the preview. Yet Kapoor refused to be referred to as an Indian artist in an interview with TIME Magazine - a brusque statement that flabbergasted the patriotic Indians. That said, does an artist even need a home country? Do discernible cultural influences not suffice for us to assign an artist to a nation? For example, in the case of painter Georg Baselitz the “tradition of ugly German paintings, from Cranach to Caspar David,” as he himself puts it; in the case of Joseph Beuys the Celtic mysticism surrounding materials and German memories of the Nazi Army; in the case of Kounellis the Mediterranean in Classical Antiquity; in the case of Jackson Pollock the American expansiveness of space; and in the case of Daniel Buren the talent of the decorative? But what about Marcel Duchamp and America? Pablo Picasso and France? Olafur Eliasson and Scandinavia?
Exhibition poster outside the Mehboob Studio in Bombay
HOME PLACE AS THE NO-PLACE, AS U-TOPIA In 2003, in the form of My Red Homeland Kapoor began a completely new series of complex works. Having come to fame with abstract miniatures made of color pigment, with monochrome perforated sculptures that played with ideas of emptiness, and with large mirrors that reflected the sky and the viewer, but distorted them, Kapoor created a mountain of dark red, slightly moist wax that a metal blade, driven by an electric motor, incredibly slowly cut into a smooth disc. One association that comes to mind is a watch face, a perpetual, self-satisfying mechanism that endures without the artist’s assistance. Another is organic material such as blood or feces, artistic waste discharged by an animal machine. And then that title of all things! One immediately remembers that at the end of the 1970s Kapoor invented his pigment sculptures (and with them came his breakthrough as an artist) after a trip around India. And later he emphasized on several occasions that in India the existential equation is simply Color = Life. But can we really deduce from this that My Red Homeland has something to do with the place he was born? With a rascally smile he replies: “My Red Homeland has been interpreted as referring to India. As far as I am concerned, it may or may not. It’s not really the point. My homeland IS red. And it is red, because red is not a color just like any other color. When you really think about it, WE are red. And it’s that redness that the title of the work refers to.” RES JUNE 2011
Detail from ‘Stack’
49 RES JUNE 2011 Exhibition view, Mumbai
Three ‘Non-Objcts’: Spire (2007), Door (2008), Pole (2008) plus Shooting into the Corner, 2008-09
Non-Object (Door), 2008, Non-Object (Pole), 2008, Non-Object (Mirror), 2009
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Put differently: Kapoor is interested not just in the color red, but in blood. The focus is not on a cultural feeling but on physical feeling. On a leitmotif that has defined his work ever since he studied art in London and first tried his hand at staging performances. And as he connected the title My Red Homeland playfully and with a profound feel for provocation with his purported nationality. The human home is the body, not a place where one is born. Identity is a matter of the mind, not a passport. And even blood can be mixed – Kapoor’s mother was a Jewish Iraqi.
To Reflect an Intimate Part of the Red, 1981
CULTURAL TOURISM THROUGH THE EXOTIC Red wax plays a decisive role in the hall at the Meehbob film studios in Mumbai’s Bandra district, which was emptied specially for the exhibition. Kapoor assembled there his painting artillery first shown in 2009 and entitled Shooting into the Corner. Every 20 minutes an assistant wearing blue overalls walks to the cannon, loads a cartridge of red wax, waits briefly for the compressor to be at full pressure and then, with a big bang, fires the wax high into a corner of the hall. The countless members of the Indian public, who had to register online beforehand to attend, jumped at every shot. Symbolically speaking, the idea was also highly charged. A machine that is clearly phallic in structure ejaculates a massive amount of paint that smacks against the wall like plaster and then slowly drips down to the floor. Abstract, i.e., gestural painting is created here mechanically without any gesture by the painter. A shot across the bows of art history, of an understanding of painting, of customary aesthetics. Here he shows a form of art that was hitherto never on show in India …. and caused just as much of a stir elsewhere, in Vienna, London or Bilbao, as it did in Asia. Kapoor’s art remains unique in any country, and this is an important statement to retain in order to dispense with the legend of the artist’s home country; as well as the ongoing pigeonholing among art critics and the art market that contemporary art can be carved up into cultures, countries, and territories. Such suggestions may boost sales and be applicable to the Western idea of art, but Kapoor himself objects: “There has always been this sort of idea that there is a fundamental difference in view between East and West. I am not sure that it is really true. In many different directions, what we have to do is to understand that we have to decompartmentalize our way of thinking of people and culture. It is too easy to say ‘oh, all that stuff in the East is all spiritual, there is some materialistic reality here in this cold world of the West. Don’t think it’s true! We have to break that compartment, because what it does is exoticize. It sets some exotic place out of which people from wherever else come. That’s too touristic a view, too simplistic.” In India, Kapoor did not put a single new work on show, no installation created on site. Instead, he offered an overview of his entire career – in Mumbai alongside Shooting into the Corner, as well as mirror sculptures such as the 2006 S-Curve, were positioned in the middle of the large film hall, capturing the space and viewers depending on the angle of vision, making them smaller, tilting them, distorting them. Or Plane, a portrait-format mirror made in 2010, previously only exhibited once, in Germany. In the far more difficult rooms of the Delhi National Museum, he presented both early pigment sculptures such as To Reflect an Intimate Part of the Red (1981) and, placed in the middle of the room, Here for Alba, an opening cylinder with a polished red interior. Plus a 2006 piece with the telling title Past, Present, Future, another machine that shapes red wax into a semisphere that stands vertically against the wall.
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53 RES JUNE 2011 Model for Cloud Gate, a model I never could identify
Models for Subway Station, Monte San Angelo (under construction)
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55 Thus, Kapoor subtly and respectfully alludes to his home country of India, which would only be too happy to proclaim him its son, which he is not, because he does not want to be and cannot be – an Indian artist. Just as little as he can be a British or Western artist. Because he has long since overcome all national borders, just as he has cultural domains or the contradictions of old and new, abstract and biomorphic, body and mind. Or, to say it with his own words: “My work as an artist over many years has been to say: Please, stop thinking of me as an Indian artist, because it is not helpful. What’s important is to say that artists search through all sorts of languages, whether they are so-called languages to the East or languages to the West, to find to speak as an individual.”
Here for Alba, 2008
Kapoor as an individual thus also undermines the purported logical system of cultural history. The most important artists were not necessarily men, and they did not necessarily come from Europe or via the Western hemisphere. Long before the current topicality of a globalization that under the sign of purported information exchange and cynical market expansion places that which can be marketed universally over that which is relevant locally, there was already a language that, while not being comprehensible globally, was certainly valid globally, namely art. “All the artists that we recognize as the great artists of our time, or even the previous times, are all Western. No exception. Now, that just can’t be true! We have yet to discover that they are not all Western and not all men! We have yet to discover what that means really. It’s as if someone like me might be a kind of weird talisman for something that is occurring in a much bigger cultural frame. I am not planning it, at all, but it is a much bigger cultural frame. What I know is that I am determined to be the most playful with whatever talent I have got and try to be as open as an artist as I can possibly be. That is to say: Just because I make art like that, it doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to make art in some other way. I try to open myself to the possibility that there is another way. Always. I think that’s a very important thing. Because it is fundamentally creative. That’s all I can do.”
Anish Kapoor, born in Mumbai in 1954, has been based in London since 1973, when he left India to pursue his art education in London, firstly at the Hornsey College of Art (1973-77) and then at Chelsea School of Art (1977-78). Kapoor quickly gained recognition as an artist with a unique style and character, coupled with a new, non-Western visual language helped to situate him as one of the most vibrant and unique sculptors working in the UK. By 1985, only seven years after graduating from Chelsea College of Art, Kapoor had produced solo shows for major galleries in Paris, London, Rotterdam, Liverpool, Lyon, New York and Basel and his notoriety on the world stage continued to expand. In 1990, Kapoor was awarded the prestigious Turner Prize and in 1991, he was selected to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale, where he was awarded the Premio Duemila prize for the best exhibition. Recently, he had major shows in museums such as the Royal Academy in London, the Guggenheim Bilbao, or the Grand Palais in Paris. Detail from model for Tarantara
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Copyright for all pictures Schuch Production, Paris
Heinz Peter Schwerfel is born in 1954 Cologne, Germany. He is the founder of Artcore Film in 1985. He is a journalist and filmmaker, founder and director of the artists’ film festival KunstFilmBiennale (until 2010). The retrospectives of his films have been shown, among others, in Paris (Centre Pompidou), New York (MoMA), Mexico City (Cinemateca), Helsinki (Ateneum) and Buenos Aires (Malba). He lives in Paris and Cologne.
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TIME AS UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE Cannon shots every 20 minutes, silent electric motors, reflections in the rhythm of movement – Kapoor’s two Indian exhibitions were skillfully staged ideas on the theme of time. He included the fourth dimension more obviously than in many of his European retrospectives, activated a feeling of time and space, something that remains the most difficult feat for a sculptor, and in this way also referenced his own career and lifespan. This aspect was especially apparent in the National Museum’s old exhibition hall, where he installed some two-dozen models, designs and miniatures for monumental projects that were in part never realized. Here, the reflection on the dimension of time was extended to incorporate a further aspect, namely impossibility. What utopia, non-topos is to space, existence is to time, as it exists only in the imagination as an idea or precisely as a model.
the experience of art works at the Istanbul Biennial. Here the question is whether architecture will aim to be a neutral and unscripted background, or a creative partner for art works. Does the exhibition’s structural design isolate art works from the city and create a space that could exist anywhere in the world, or does it foster new relations between art works and the local context? Favoring a strong connection to the city, curators of the Istanbul Biennial has never aimed to offer a quiet refuge for contemplation. Nishizawa’s work will therefore open up new conversations—how does the exhibition space affect the display of art works? And how can architecture complicate the biennial experience?
S C H O L A R S A N D C R I T I C S have long been concerned about the ways that architecture takes on a major role in framing the identity and the role of art institutions. One of the prominent examples of the changing relation between museum design and function is the Pompidou Center, designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, in Paris. The cultural complex hosts exhibition spaces along with a library, film center, restaurant, bar, store, and a public plaza. The strategy that the Pompidou adapts turns the museum into an entertainment destination. It also integrates high and popular culture, while democratizing the museum experience for larger audiences. Another controversial example of the dominance of museum architecture is the Guggenheim Bilbao (1997), which serves as a historic novelty in the art world. Designed by Frank Gehry, the monumental architecture of the new Guggenheim building set the stage for the “Bilbao Effect”—based on the success of the museum in generating publicity, rejuvenating the city’s economy, and also helping the Guggenheim to recover from its debts.
INTERVIEW WITH RYUE NISHIZAWA CONDUCTED VIA EMAIL IN MAY 2011 Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa is a founding partner, with Kazuyo Sejima, of SANA A (Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates), established in 1995, and the founder of the Office of Ryue Nishizawa, which began its projects in 1997. Recipients of the 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize, SANA A is renowned for international institutional projects including: the Zollverein School of Management and Design in Essen, Germany (2006), the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion in Toledo, Ohio (2006), and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City (2007). Nishizawa’s independent office has also worked on museum projects, such as the Towada Art Museum (2008) and Teshima Art Museum (2010), both in Japan. Nishizawa holds a Master’s degree in architecture from Yokohama National University in Tokyo, and has been a visiting professor at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Princeton University, University of Southern California, Yokohama National University, among others.
In her seminal essay “The Cultural Logic of the Late Capitalist Museum,” (1990) Rosalind Krauss discusses the implications of the spectaculatization and the increased scale of museum buildings; the museum experience, Krauss argues, adopts a spatial rather than a historical character. As the physical space and public imaginary become integral parts of the museum experience, the design not only competes with the art, but it often upstages or interferes with it—a change that also reflects fundamental transformations in the role of the museum.
ÖZGE ERSOY You have designed many international museum projects in collaboration with your partner Kazuyo Sejima of SANA A. This time, as the Office of Ryue Nishizawa, your starting point is a biennial—a temporary structure by default. How does the ephemeral nature of this art event affect the design process?
More recently, museum architecture is under scrutiny as many new large-scale projects are on their way in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Examples include the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha (2008) designed by I.M. Pei, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum (est. 2014) by Frank Gehry, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi (est. 2013) by Jean Nouvel, among others. These institutions have been criticized for hiring international architects and using grandiose designs to create momentum for their programming and promotion. It is indeed necessary to be critical about the prominence of the museum designs, yet the opposition of art versus architecture should be further complicated. The major concern is not whether architecture dwarfs art works or takes the attention off what is displayed inside; it is rather to analyze how the architecture supports or intrudes into the museum experience. This idea is revelant for both permanent museum projects and temporary art events.
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This year, the 12 th Istanbul Biennial has commissioned Ryue Nishizawa, an internationally renowned architect based in Tokyo, to design the exhibition building. In the Biennial’s promotional materials, curators Adriano Pedrosa and Jens Hoffmann emphasize the exhibition as “the primary format of artistic and curatorial expression,” and hint at the reason for why they work with an architect to think about the exhibition space. Whereas the previous curators have used existing sites in the city, it is striking how the newly constructed space by Nishizawa will change
RYUE NISHIZAWA It is a great opportunity for me to work on this project. I have a big interest in working on a temporary art project, because it is elusive, fast, ephemeral, and light—everything looks different from the museum projects that I have worked on so far. ÖE As opposed to permanent museum buildings, you also worked on projects like the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion—an open structure with an ad-hoc, three-month life span. What will be the life cycle of your work for the 12 th Istanbul Biennial—will it be a permanent structure, or will it be destroyed after the biennial? How does this affect the architectural identity of the work? RN The design of this project is based on the existing building situations of the Biennial. So it can be called a site-specific project. For the moment, we don’t have any plans to bring the buildings to somewhere else after the Biennial. But, I think, if someone wants them, it could happen that they will be brought to somewhere to be rebuilt again. ÖE The curators of the 12 th Istanbul Biennial express an interest in reclaiming the exhibition format, which, they argue, has been sidetracked in favor of supplemantary events and programming. How do you think a single, newly contructed exhibition space could help generate a renewed interest in art works and the strategies of display? What are the other mediations that you envision to happen between art works and a new architectural space?
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ARCHITECTURE VERSUS ART?
61 RES JUNE 2011 The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art Kanazawa Copyright by SANAA Towada Art Center Copyright by Office of Ryue Nishizawa
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63 RES JUNE 2011 The Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion Copyright by SANAA Teshima Art Museum Copyright by Office of Ryue Nishizawa
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RN New construction can be made for the newly commissioned art pieces, and also artists can create new works based on the newly constructed space. I hope that many dialogues will happen between them. ÖE What are your priorities and criteria for choosing a site for your work for the Biennial? What are the idiosyncrasies of working in this environment in particular and in Istanbul in general?
Art|Basel|Miami Beach 1–4|Dec|11
RN I try to create spaces that fit to the art pieces and encourage them in the existing building. The size of those rooms can be different, and they can take many shapes. Another idea that we have is to give independent rooms to each artist for their privacy and independency. It’s a very flexible idea. I hope that we can find the best relation between the architectural spaces and the art pieces. ÖE From 1987 to 2005, with the exception of the 3rd edition, the Istanbul Biennial put art works into dialogue with old architecture, including Byzantine structures and former national industrial sites. With the 9th edition, the Biennial moved the exhibitions and events outside of the historical sites, and positioned them in the Galata/Beyoğlu area—a busy trade and commercial zone that has recently turned into an arts and culture hub. This spatial transition marked an ideological shift that favored putting art works in close connection with the public sphere. With your work for the 12th Biennial, the exhibition moves, for the first time, to a newly constructed space. How do you think this symbolic transition will change the relation of art works to urban masses in Istanbul? RN Industrial areas in the city are among the most beautiful archeological records of the modern age. They provide great spaces and atmosphere, not only for industrial uses but also for art activity. As we try to reuse the industrial area in a way that people in the modern period have never done, especially for contemporary art activities, we can now readdress to these archeological assets in our contemporary period. Also, I think this will give the people in the city the opportunity to find another charm of the contemporary Istanbul.
Özge Ersoy is a curator and critic based in New York and Istanbul. She received an MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, NY, and holds an BA in Global and International Affairs from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, and Binghamton University, NY. She recently edited How to Begin? Envisioning the Impact of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which investigates the artistic, cultural, and social implications of the planned museum.
Vernissage | November 30, 2011 | by invitation only Catalog order | Tel. +1 212 627 1999, www.artbook.com Follow us on Facebook and Twitter | www.facebook.com/artbaselmiamibeach | www.twitter.com/abmb RES JUNE 2011
The International Art Show – La Exposición Internacional de Arte Art Basel Miami Beach, MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd., CH-4005 Basel Fax +41 58 206 31 32, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.artbasel.com
RES What have you been doing since you got back to Rome from Istanbul? FRITZ HAEG I’ve just been getting used to returning to life back here in Rome. It’s a very particular kind of life here at the The American Academy in Rome where I am in residence for a year. I kind of have a year off to work on whatever I want. Since I’ve been back from Turkey I’ve been in and out of town a bit, worked on my own garden, done some reading... so it’s been nice. RES Can you tell us a bit about your projects the American Academy? FH I’m on a Rome Prize Fellowship, a program that has been around for over a 100 years, which is awarded to about 30 people a year from different disciplines. Half of them are academics and scholars, the other half are artists, musicians, designers and architects. RES Which you are? An architect, an artist, an activist... FH I guess it depends on who I’m talking to. The fellowship I have this year is in gardens and landscape architecture, though I was nominated as an artist. I’ll take whatever lable is most convenient, because I’m purposefully straddling a lot of camps. Most of the fellows are here for a year with a monthly stipend. It’s a lovely compound located in the hills overlooking Rome where we have amazing communal meals every day. The artists have big studios with lots of light, and I also happen to have this beautiful terrace by my studio. RES Have you turned that terrace into an Edible Estate? FH Yes, it’s my own personal Edible Estate. It’s kind of different from the Edible Estates series that I’ve been working on with various people around the world, transforming the space between their front door and the street into highly visible gardens” where food is grown. in the middle of cities, from council housing estates in London to front lawns in Los Angeles. It also includes this garden here which is, like I said, a departure from my usual work, but it’s also kind of my luxurious year of being able to garden myself because it’s my own garden - something I rarley have the time to do when I am on the road all of the time. It’s my opportunity to experiment and be outside gardening every day on a rooftop with very minimal means and modest materials, so it represents a different kind of garden to the other ones I’ve done. Every garden I’ve done in the series is in a different city, and also a different kind of garden with different possibilities for growing food where you live in the city. RES JUNE 2011
RES So what about the Istanbul garden at SALT?
67 FH That is also a different iteration of the project as well. I was presented with the opportunity to work in this amazing new space, a newly constructed greenhouse on the top floor of SALT. We started to install it while I was in Istanbul for ten days, and I made plans to work on it and develop it during the time that I was there with whatever materials we could gather or scavenge from the construction site. It’s being developed as an edible garden in the hot house that will also be a meeting location for local organizations that are interested in pursuing this kind of work, that are interested in urban agriculture and urban gardening. It’ll probably take a while for it to be established and have people aware of it and feel free enough to use it. We just developed the bare bones of it, with a meeting area and a conference table, the whole floor has been covered with gravel, there’s planters around the perimeter and an installation of modest plantings throughout the center which can change over time as different organizations want to take over the space and use it for projects, for installations, to start seeds, to have meetings, events, etc. I’m hoping that it appeals to groups that already exist in the city, but also inspires other people in the city to experiment with work like this, knowing that they have a space to do it in. Also because having a hothouse in particular climates is very helpful; it provides a space to grow seeds before the whole spring or summer growing season. RES Is it weird that you won’t see the results of your work, that the garden will grow without you seeing your work sprout? FH This is the 11th garden I’ve done, and I always go to a great effort to find the right location and the right families and people to be involved. So when we have the planting weekend, which is a very long weekend of three days with a lot of help from local volunteers, and once the garden’s established, my work is over, I leave, and it’s now their garden, not mine. From then on it’s up to the estate owners to decide how the project will move forward, what they’ll do with it, what they’ll plant, what they’ll change, etc. The gardens I plant are always a mix between perennials, plants that will be in and out through the seasons, trees and vines that will be permanent structural parts of the garden, and annuals, which disappear at the end of the season and are reseeded the following season. There’s a structure that’s established that’s somewhat permanent, but then there’s also a lot of room for things to change in the seasons. That’s up to the people who are there and whose garden it is. And that’s the special challenge of this garden in Istanbul. I started something and it’s not exactly clear who’s going to take over. I don’t live there, it’s not my garden, and I won’t be responsible for the daily life of it. I’ll come back in September for the official opening. At that point it’ll become more clear if there are local people who want to take it on. RES Have you been involved with other projects similar to the one at SALT? FH Most of my gardens are produced and commissioned by art institutions, but this is a unique situation where I’m making the garden at the institution itself rather than out in the city somewhere. Actually I had done one other garden like this at a museum in the U.S. It was just for one season, for the museum staff to grow food that they would be eating all season. It was very successful because it was right outside their offices and they passed it everyday as they came into work, so it became a big part of the culture there. In the case of SALT, we’ll see what happens. I think this kind of activity is very new to Istanbul, especially in comparison to cities like London or L.A. where there’s a lot of work being done in terms of growing food locally in urban environments. I guess part of that has to do with the fact that there just aren’t many green spaces in the city. But I think they can be found and created, and part of my project is to show people what it’s like to see food that actually grows on plants.
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FRITZ HAEG ON GARDENS, EDIBLE ESTATES AND SALT
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Edible Estates Regional Prototype Garden #11: Istanbul, Turkey Photo by Fritz Haeg
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71 FH The project started in 2005 and it started simply out of my own pleasure in gardening. That’s it. Since moving to LA 11 years ago I became obsessed with gardening. I found so many aspects of growing food to be not only so pleasurable but also so human. It was at a time that I felt that we as people had been so disconnected from it. When you see a garden that produces food in the middle of the city, that changes the way you think about food and the city, as well as your relationship with your environment and the people around you. I’ve wanted to make this more prominent in the public consciousness. As you know, in the U.S. issues of food have become very primary in mainstream conversation. Growing food in the city or in your own garden enables us to experience the broad spectrum of food from sheer survival to luxurious pleasure, and also from the sciences to the arts. It’s a very complex and fundamental human activity and when you have a garden producing food, it encapsulates all of those aspects and puts them all in front of you in a way that’s very clear and in a way kids can also understand. I think it’s especially important for kids in cities who don’t even really know where these things they eat come from. RES These projects are also interesting in the sense that they blur the boundaries of public and private space. FH That’s right. One of the things that I’ve done is made these gardens extremely public and built them in the most visible parts of the city, and yet they’re on private property. That calls into question the very binary nature of public and private, because it isn’t really that simple. I think there’s something really meaningful at those thresholds of things that we’re used to thinking of simplistically in terms of black and white. When you make something that lies in that small space between them, you open up new possibilities on how to approach things we once took for granted. This project, for example, questions our traditional view of cities and how we’re supposed to use cities. RES Going back to cities, this project of yours is about Rome, is it not? It’s supposed to be a choreography of the city?
are dancers. The first one was four years ago at the Whitney Museum which was a series of free movement workshops that were led by 30 professional dancers in New York. Most recently there was a series of workshops in L A where I was at this art space every day for two hours where anyone could come and teach and anyone could follow different forms of movement. I feel like my interest in dance is very related to my interest in gardens. These are activities that are so fundamentally human and yet which we’re not really comfortable with in our daily lives so that we have to separate them out to a separate space rather than having them directly in the middle of our daily lives. They are also similar in that they’re kinds of ephemeral human activities in a capitalist society that doesn’t really value or take seriously things that can’t be bought and sold easily. Every project I start is about something I’m extremely curious about and which gives me pleasure in some way. They’re also often the kinds of things I think other people are searching for or needing, and that also guides the kinds of work I do. Not that those movement workshops saw a lot of people attend, usually they were small and intimate groups of people, but they were all people who really wanted to be there. That’s what interests me the most, not so much the numbers, but the quality of the dialogue I have with the people around me. RES Can you talk about Animal Estates a little. FH That’s another continuing series of projects. Most of them happened in 2008. There’s one that’s on view now in the Presidio, San Francisco. There’s a hope that there’ll be another one in Rotterdam soon. The aim of the projects is to create forms of modest animal architecture in cities with the aim of welcoming particular urban wildlife back into the urban sphere. I worked with urban wildlife experts to identify animals we might want to welcome back and then designed particular structures for them that anyone can easily install on their own property. Six or seven editions were done so far and hopefully the series will continue. My background is in architecture, and this project was like having animal clients instead of people clients, trying to determine animals’ needs, especially animals that had been marginalized by people’s needs and urban development. RES What’s next for you?
FH My time here has gone through various iterations of ideas about the work I’ve been doing. Currently I’ve been focused on the garden, which is part of my daily life here, but separate from that I’ve been working on a book called “Rome Eats Rome” (Roma Mangia Roma). The book will feature protraits and interviews with about 35 people who live in the city, from five generations, people in their 90’s down to kids in their early teens. It aims to find out what they think about food, what they eat, how they organize their homes and lives around food. In the processproviding a snapshot of the city at this point in time and how it’s changing by looking at the memories of someone in their 90’s and contrasting it with young people today. We’re trying to include a broad cross-section of people and we’re about half way through our interviews. The book should hopefully come out in the fall. This year has also given me a lot of time to read, travel, do research. There’s a whole agricultural tradition here in Italy that’s very fascinating, and I want to spend more time studying that. RES Tell us about your movement project.
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FH Dance is something I’ve always been interested in, even though I never studied it. I’ve done various projects integrating movement and dance and have worked with friends of mine who
FH I’m not sure. After this year I wanted to leave some things up in the air. My biggest desire right now is to find a piece of land somewhere and pursue some subsistence farming projects, lay down roots both literally and figuratively. I want to be more in touch with plants and animals, and not necessarily in a big city. My fantasy now is to find some place in Italy, but it’s just a fantasy at this point. RES So I guess we’ll see you here in September for the opening of the garden... FH Yes, it opens around the time of the Biennial. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. On the fourth floor of SALT Beyoğlu, what was once an open roof area has been renovated to form an enclosed greenhouse Garden. In order to make the most of SALT’s Garden, artist/architect Fritz Haeg has been commissioned to develop an edible planting project that will act as the hub of an on-going education and cultural program. Since 2005, Haeg has been creating a series of gardens that produce food -vegetables, fruits, and herbs- in unlikely urban spaces known as Edible Estates, in partnership with local families and organizations.
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RES How did you get started on this edible estates project?
YOKUŞ BOYUNCA AHMET ÖĞÜT modern denemeler 1 İSTİKLAL CADDESİ 136, BEYOĞLU İSTANBUL 16/06/11 – 01/10/11
Edible Estate Regional Prototype Garden #10: Rome, Italy Photo by Fritz Haeg
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Fritz Haeg works between the urban ecology initiatives of Gardenlab, including Edible Estates; the domestic social activities of Sundown Salon and Sundown Schoolhouse; the designs and scores of Fritz Haeg Studio, including occasional buildings and even parades (though his currently preferred clients are animals); and other various combinations of building, composting, cultivating, dancing, designing, exhibiting, gardening, housekeeping, organizing, talking, teaching, and writing. His home base since 2001 is part subterranean and part geodesic dome in the hills of Los Angeles.
ACROSS THE SLOPE AHMET ÖĞÜT modern ESSAYS 1
SALT kurucu Garanti Bankası İstiklal Caddesi 136 Beyoğlu 34440 İstanbul Türkiye T +90 212 377 42 00 saltonline.org
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INTERVIEW WITH GARY HUME
BURCU YÜKSEL TH E WO R L D - R E N OW N E D A RT I ST Gary Hume is a relaxed, unassuming guy with a brilliant sense of humor. One can feel this as soon as meeting him. Upon arriving to his studio, I discover that his working space is just as welcoming. In a two-story building in East London, Hume has a spacious working area on the ground floor. A large table sits on one side, its surface barely visible covered with paint cans, there are several sculptures, maquettes and paintings standing around, some finished, some ‘waiting,’ one of which is a large gloss on aluminium painting propped against the far wall on a row of empty paint-pots. Tucked away in one corner there is a comfortable living area with a light airy kitchen, at the end of which sits a bookshelf stuffed with exhibition catalogues and art publications. Hume makes us some tea, and we sit down for our chat. Hume is among the YBAs who dominated the London art scene in the 1990s but while his friends were working with sharks, unmade beds and bullet holes, Hume was busy painting. His career took off straight after leaving Goldsmiths - Charles Saatchi bought two of his door paintings from the infamous exhibition Freeze and commissioned another four. He represented Britain at the 1999 Venice Biennale, was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1996 and is now represented by some of the top contemporary commercial galleries in the world. Last year a major book was published that covered the development of his career starting with his famous door paintings through to his pictures of flowers, hats, babies, birds and body parts. Hume is currently preparing a selection of paintings and drawings for a solo exhibition in London that will open in January 2012, which he says is his only focus. Scattered around in the studio I notice several works he has made on cardboard with chalk and paint. These are what he calls his “quick paintings.” Although his imagery is similar to his gloss paintings, these are much speedier renditions and they stand out as more painterly with visible brush marks. I ask if these will be included in his show. GARY HUME Hopefully, I don’t know. I’m enjoying making them. They may turn out to be great or I may say “It’s a nice idea and good for me but not right to show them.” I’m going to wait and not pre-guess it. I will see what happens, virtually on the day! Obviously I want everything to be as good as I can make it but I don’t want to start worrying about it being an issue of is it “within my career” sort of thing. It is difficult to make something that you don’t normally make. The problems are different so you are solving them differently. And you are not used to solving problems in that way. You are not always 100% sure about trusting it. BURCU YÜKSEL Is this the way you keep your work both challenging and exciting for yourself? GH Excitement is always the problem. It’s not the problem to get excited, but you get excited by a problem. RES JUNE 2011
Cuckoo in the Nest, 2009 Gloss paint on aluminium, 63 1/2 x 96 in. (161.3 x 243.8 cm) © the artist Photo: Todd-White Art Photography Courtesy White Cube
77 RES JUNE 2011 American Tan XXIV (Gloss), 2006-07 Gloss paint on aluminium 78 3/4 x 63 in. (200 x 160 cm) © the artist Photo: Todd-White Art Photography Courtesy White Cube
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American Tan III (Gloss), 2006-07 Gloss paint on aluminium 74 x 52 in. (188 x 132.1 cm) © the artist Photo: Stephen White Courtesy White Cube
American Tan XIX (Gloss), 2006-07 Gloss paint on aluminium 37 3/8 x 26 in. (95 x 66 cm) © the artist Photo: Stephen White Courtesy White Cube
79 RES JUNE 2011 Paradise Painting One, 2010 Gloss paint on aluminium 77 15/16 x 151 15/16 in. (198 x 386 cm) © the artist Photo: Stephen White Courtesy White Cube
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Yellow Bird, 2009 Gloss paint on aluminium 72 1/16 x 59 1/16 in. (183 x 150 cm) © the artist Photo: Stephen White Courtesy White Cube
Cheerleader II, 2005 Gloss paint on aluminium 59 x 38 1/2 in. (149.9 x 97.8 cm) © the artist Photo: Christopher Burke, New York Courtesy White Cube
81 GH Well you can’t solve a painting! It is just not working. Then you are excited about trying to figure out how to make that painting work. Which is why you sometimes go off on a tangent. You really try to solve one painting that is clearly your type of work, then you go off to make these other things and to see whether by making those things, you can actually go back to that painting and solve the problem. Maybe that is what these quick cardboard paintings are; attempts to solve the problem of regular Gary Hume paintings. Or it’s actually a thing in itself, but I don’t want to prejudge that. Hume’s love for problem solving played a big role when Sir Elton John asked him to make a work for his shower at home. Although Hume said to him, “of course, what a nice idea,” he was in fact thinking “of course I don’t want to make anything for your shower, how insulting!” Over the next few years, John kept asking about the piece until Hume finally confessed that he didn’t want to do it after all. So John said “Why don’t you get a can of spray paint and write ‘Elton’s a cunt’ in my shower and I will buy it.” Perhaps it was this attitude that finally got Hume to make a marble piece inspired by William Blake’s gravestone but he obviously enjoyed this challenge: how do you make something beautiful and worthwhile for a shower room? He was pushed to create a work that he would not have thought of and was pleased with the result. Hume takes his inspiration from his surroundings, whether it is popular culture or nature. When he has creative blocks, he paints his way out of them. On his bookshelf, there are several books on birds and flowers that he picked up in search of inspiration. In a previous interview he explains; “If I’m feeling desperate I go out image-hunting. I will go to newsagents and stand at the racks flicking through magazines or I go to second-hand bookshops. And then, bit by bit, like concrete poetry, I start to realize that I am drawn to particular things and then I start wondering why that is.” Hume will then come back and start drawing, which he traces on to acetate and projects on the wall. He arranges and simplifies the image until he is happy with it, then transfers it on to aluminium and builds up the lines with draught excluder that he will use as dividers between different areas of paint. After he brushes the paint in, he cuts the draught excluder away, leaving a sharp edge. Hume loves gloss paint because of its ability to reflect light and the way it changes color under different conditions and at different times of day. And he prefers aluminum because of its smooth and polished finish. Although gloss paint remains his preferred medium, throughout his career Hume has experimented with different materials. There was a series of pictures made in marble and stone for his 2006 Cave Paintings show at White Cube, and the sculptures he made in painted bronze using the arms from shop mannequins as legs for the subsequent year’s American Tan show. For him, it’s interesting to see what happens to his work when the materials change. BY With your Cave paintings, you are obviously looking at the beginnings of human history and using ancient materials such as marble, chalk and lead. Could you explain how these paintings came about?
GH At the time I was really feeling like a cave artist. If I was alive then, that’s what I would be doing. But I’m alive now and the principle is the same. I’m still there only with a different setting; I’m in my studio in Clerkenwell, getting a taxi to the National Theater. This is an ancient activity and I’m an ancient person. When I go to museums and look at the works displayed, I think that they are all me. Every artist, I am them and they are me. There is no sort of separation. We are the same being trying to make work. Hume takes inspiration from nature which has a powerful influence on him. Although he spends most of his time in London, and in his studio working, he and his wife also have a farm in the foothills of the Catskills in upstate New York where they spend about four months a year. When he decided to have a house in the country, Hume was nervous about feeling completely relaxed so he did not want to be in England. Instead, he wanted to be an immigrant and experience what it was like to be one so he chose upstate New York. It turns out, this wasn’t necessary. GH At the time, I wanted it to be a bit uncomfortable and alien. Later I realized even if I had done it in England, it would not have been relaxing because nature is so all encompassing and powerful that it would still have been weird for me and overwhelm my fantasies anyway. Also you always take yourself with you, and don’t actually ever escape. You are just there, with all the anxieties and the drives. The great difference is the peace, you just get a lot of peace. Without the daily social responsibilities of being in London he can focus on gardening and making paintings. The unfinished works in New York then remain in place until he later returns to work on them again. I wonder how that makes him feel? GH Terrible! You can’t remember what the hell you were doing. You just got some weird monster that doesn’t work. You can’t recall why you even made it. BY Do you go back to those paintings to finish them? GH You have to start fresh and after a while you remember. If you touch it, you can generally remember what the hell it was and maybe go back to it. But then you have moved on! Maybe your palette has changed and so you are not in that world anymore. Hume’s transatlantic experience has inspired a phenomenal new body of work, that bursts with the bright iconography of American culture – pompoms and cheerleaders, flags and sneakers. These were put on view in his solo show, American Tan. He chose this title because “when the American sun shines we are all in its light, getting a tan or a sunburn, depending on how you look at it.” Despite the complexity and long process involved in making his signature gloss paintings, he usually prefers to work by himself in his studio. Given Hume’s solitary nature, this doesn’t come as a surprise.
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GH I have an assistant two days a week, she’s been with me for several years and she is absolutely fantastic. Basically she does everything that is very boring so I don’t have to! She cleans the brushes and does all the boring building up. Because I have five days a week just by myself, I don’t mind the company for the two days. We sit and have lunch, have a nice chat.
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BY What do you mean by a problem?
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BY Do you prefer to be on your own while making your paintings and if so what about collaborations? Have you ever collaborated? GH No, I find it virtually impossible. I have tried collaborations because it seems cool and fun, but to have enough confidence in your own opinion to be able to then bounce around and take someone else’s and not feel that yours is being dissipated seems virtually impossible. Hume may not like collaborations but he doesn’t mind requesting the help of other’s expertise and asking for advice when he doesn’t know something. For example he just made a series of wallpaper, a process which he knew nothing about. He found the best wallpaper designer in the country who explained to him how wallpaper is made. “Then I give him some ideas, and the designer explained to me how they would turn out. So learntfrom him – I’m very happy to learn but I’m not collaborating.” In the past year Hume has also worked with the Italian brand Marni to create T-shirts. How does he feel about these types of projects? GH They are half fun. I bring in people who are really good at it to help me because I am a painter. I’m not a designer, or an interior decorator and when I try to do it by myself, the results are terrible. It’s to know my own limitations and where other people excell and try to bring them in. BY As a disciplined and productive artist, do you ever wonder or care about who buys your works? GH Who knows who buys my stuff! I’m not interested because they obviously have to be rich and if they are rich, they are probably not the nicest, loveliest people in the world. They are proper capitalists, making money, making a profit out of anybody else’s labor. It’s how they work. You have no control over what people do with anything. Saatchi was a good example, he buys things, which is completely brilliant, but then he sells things. One can only rely on the work. You don’t go to a museum and look at a painting with a list of owners representing the rise and fall of capital. That is not how art is studied. It’s a whole kettle of fish that I just don’t really care about. BY What about the critiques and reviews of your works? GH If someone says something nice of course it is absolutely fantastic but I got a few critics who loathe my work! – I can’t believe they could loathe it so much, how can you hate it that much?! When they really hate it, it doesn’t really matter because it seems to have gone past a sort of aesthetic judgement. You are actually listening to them rather than their attempt to understand the work. Of course you want good criticism, but you have no choice anyways. I don’t really worry about things that I have no power over. I will get upset but I can’t carry that because there is nothing I can do apart from making another painting! Hume is also not fond of the whole process of being chosen for public commission. He would love for his works to be in the public space but is not interested in competing for it.
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GH I have absolutely no desire to be interviewed, to be on a shortlist, or to tell a committee what my work is. I don’t want to say why and how my work is inclusive, why it is not offensive, etc. Once I turned up to a panel I had been invited to, and no one knew who the fuck I was! And I thought to myself “I’ve got things to do!”
Milk Full, 2006 Marble and lead 96 7/8 x 72 13/16 in. (246 x 185 cm) © the artist Photo: Stephen White Courtesy White Cube
85 RES JUNE 2011 Untitled, 2008-2010 Charcoal on paper, UV Perspex and gloss paint Framed: 32 11/16 x 24 13/16 in. (83 x 63 cm) © the artist Photo: Todd-White Art Photography Courtesy White Cube
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Untitled, 2010 (tbc) Charcoal on paper, UV Perspex and gloss paint Framed: 51 3/16 x 35 7/16 in. (130 x 90 cm) © the artist Photo: Todd-White Art Photography Courtesy White Cube
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Four Coloured Doors II, 1990 Gloss household paint on four canvases 83 11/16 x 231 2/16 in. (213.4 x 589.3 cm) © the artist Photo: Stephen White Courtesy White Cube
Four Doors I, 1989/90 Oil on four panels 94 1/8 x 233 7/8 in. (239 x 594 cm) © the artist Courtesy White Cube
Mother Mortality, 2006 Marble and lead 96 7/8 x 124 13/16 in. (246 x 317 cm) © the artist Photo: Stephen White Courtesy White Cube
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89 Burcu Yüksel is an assistant director at Derek Johns, dealers in Old Master paintings in London, a member of AICA Turkey and acts as a Curatorial Liasion for PERFORMA, New York. Her diverse working experiences include museums, auction houses, and contemporary art galleries. She holds an Art History and Economics degree from Brandeis University and Masters on Arts Administration from New York University. Burcu is a contributor to Turkish and Israeli publications. Among her published interviews of contemporary artists are Anselm Kiefer, Gilbert&George, Marina Abramovic, Halil Altindere and Tayfun Serttas.
GH I mean it is real! It really happened, it really was a moment and those moments are rare. I was just very fortunate to be in a moment when this was all happening. There were enough artists who were engaged, all at the same time, and most of them knew each other and you could be elevated with everybody! We were all virtually good friends, obviously rivalries and loathing and things like “oh you slept with my girlfriend” would occur, as they would in any small community. BY When did you realize that this group and the timing were quite significant? GH Really right from the very beginning because it was a very different world. It’s hard to believe what it was like then compared to now. We had absolutely no power and there was no way for us to have any power. When you have no choice, you take anything. At the time there were two galleries, you could maybe show at the Lisson and then Karsten Schubert was starting. It meant that there was this enormous vacuum that could be filled. With Damien’s overwhelming charisma and entrepreneurial sense, and his desire for fun, he could blow into that balloon and we all sort of gathered around it. As with any creative act, you can only do with what you have; both your personality and the physical things. Then you just have to have the courage to live with your personality; take the pig’s ear and make a silk purse out of it! Since then British art’s so called enfants terribles have become contented figures of the establishment, Hume was the first of the group to be welcomed into the Royal Academy in 2001. We go back to discussing his latest experimentation, the quick paintings. He finds it challenging to be making these works that are deviating from his signature style of gloss on aluminium. GH I’m now making paintings other people make! To find out whether these are any good, I have to look at how they are in the realm of everybody else who paints in this manner but I’m only here all the time and I go to friends’ exhibitions and museums. The answer is, I don’t know whether these are any bloody good or not. They sort of sit and wait, and eventually we will see whether they can hold themselves. It’s complicated when you are painting them because my judgments about what to do are being lead by vague memories of people who paint like that all the time. So I’m thinking, that would be nice but after I do that and I go “no wonder it’s nice because it’s like so and so!” That’s useless to me, I want to make my paintings, not other people’s. So we will see. While he is welcoming and generous with his time during our chat, I feel that I’m interrupting his usual routine. It is time to leave Hume with his work and I am now even more curious about his upcoming show, but I need to be patient.
Gary Hume was born in Kent in 1962 and lives and works in London and upstate New York, USA. He is renowned for paintings distinguished by a bright palette, reduced imagery and flat areas of seductive color. His work is strongly identified with the YBA artists who came to prominence in the early-1990s. Hume was elected a Royal Academician in 2001.
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The Sisters, 2006 Marble and lead 82 11/16 x 46 7/8 in. (210 x 119 cm) © the artist Photo: Stephen White Courtesy White Cube
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Having been one of the golden artists of the Goldsmiths generation who emerged from the Freeze show of 1988 to become known as a YBA, I ask him what it was like to be part of that group? Looking back, how does he position himself within this group and the London scene?
GRIT WEBER TEXT IN GERMAN. TRANSLATED BY JEREMY GAINES. F O R W E E K S N O W, images from Libya have been flickering across our screens: wherever the rebels rise up against Muammar al-Gaddafi, his government troops are at hand, firing on rebels and civilians alike. The West sent in NATO, who attacked from the air, and the world sat before millions of screens following the military developments that turned a democratically motivated movement into a bloody war. Images on war are suddenly very much the rage again. Before war returned to our living rooms with the media coverage starting January of demonstrations in several North African countries (and the military reprisals they encountered), the workstations in the office of German filmmaker Harun Farocki were busy with preparations for an exhibition dedicated to war and the media from the viewpoint of art. The show has now opened at the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt, curated by Wilhelm Loth Prize winner Farocki, together with artist Antje Ehmann. It features contributions by over 20 artists and was greeted with strong critical acclaim. Alongside pieces by Peggy Ahwesh, Oliver van den Berg, Kota Ezawa, Walid Raad and Fazal Sheikh it gives prominent space to Harun Farocki’s filmic oeuvre. He shows four parts of his latest work Serious Games, which provides the title for the overall show and also presents a series of his earliest political films, which he produced in the late 1960s. As such, the visitor not only encounters the personal view of Farocki and Ehmann of art production on the topic but also a small, retrospective show within the exhibition Serious Games.War-Media-Art.
Harun Farocki Copyright/Author: Hertha Hurnaus
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For four decades Farocki has engaged in visual explorations via the making of his films. The films derive their functional-objective character from the documentary tradition, but through subjective arrangement and added montage they reveal the fascinating power of images. For his multi-part piece Serious Games Farocki employs film footage used by the U.S. Army to train their soldiers. It is intended to prepare them for warfare before deployment – in this instance in Afghanistan. The military trainers use the same digital material that industry makes available for computer games. The first part of Serious Games, a two-channel video installation comes with the subtitle Watson is Down. In the exhibition two film images run across the corner of a room. On the one side we see a digitalized landscape of the Near East, complete with barren desert, sandy hills, no vegetation and a sky whitened by the heat, through it roll U.S. Army armored tanks. The images are absolute duplicates of the images in the war games and although they appear fictional given the computer animation, the topography and the position of the sun refer to real coordinates and an exact time. The visual aesthetics suggests reality, but in reality fictional and factual visual data are mixed. Later we see a trainer placing digital explosives, obstacles and suicide bombers. The second side of the film installation depicts three young soldiers from a documentary viewpoint, each sitting at a
91 computer workstation in a room. They are the drivers and gunners of the armored tanks and are engaged in training. Their cockpit exists as three computer workstations. At the center sits gunner Watson, who at the start of the film does not know that his digital ego will soon die. At the end of the film a bleeding U.S. soldier lies next to his armored tank, the fade in explains: Watson is Down. In its composition as a two-channel video the installation underlines the strange overlap of documentary and fictional images, reality and fabrication. But also when war reality and media reality merge into each other in contemplation, and in their interactivity at the end of the film, Harun Farocki allows the two differing visual characters to stand alongside each other as contrasting manifestations. While the fascination of computer games lies precisely in the deliberate merging of fictional and factual elements, Farocki’s film montage works to counter it. A long film-take circles around the body of the dead computer image of Watson and suggests an “out-of-body experience.” American artist Allen Sekula features in the current exhibition with a photo series entitled War without Bodies. Depicting people holding the barrels of a weapon, the artist responds to the absence of bodies from war images. Farocki comments: “Sekula calls it the ‘war without bodies’ because in the press coverage of the war against Iraq in 1991 we only see images taken from a great distance – deserted operations. In Sekula’s works men – and children! – take hold of aircraft cannon in order to understand war. They attempt to feel their way into the situation.” However, aside from the simulated out-of-body experience of the computer animation, Farocki’s Watson is Down offers very little that is physical. But what we do experience is the clicking of the mouse key and the nonplussed faces of the soldiers sitting at their computers once after Watson’s death the game abruptly comes to an end. No one really grasps war here, let alone the opportunity to experience it emotionally; instead what is taken away is a sense of alienation at the sudden divergence of the visual experiences. You can say the viewer of Serious Games watches himself watching and also sees when the actors fall out of their roles. In Part II to IV of Farocki’s Serious Games the subject is also the overlap and divergence of documentation and fiction, which occasionally take a humorous note. Farocki’s camera is present when in Part Three “immersion” psychologists conduct further training for the U.S. Army. Their task in psychological therapy sessions is to confront traumatized soldiers who have returned from the war with the awful encounters they experienced and to help them deal with these memories better. Again, computer games are used as tools, but this time there is a cheaper version without the animated shadows. We see someone telling a therapist about a shocking war experience, the death of a comrade. It is a moving, highly emotional situation for the viewer who is exposed to the voice of the traumatized soldier relaying what sounds like a chaotic situation following the suicide attack, and his description of the dead soldier’s mangled body. In addition this individual describes his haunting feelings of shame and guilt towards his superior who accused him of having failed. the psychologist supports him with sympathy and yet objectivity, helping him work through the images. Then the patient suddenly stops and abruptly changes roles. The man who a moment ago was a traumatized soldier has suddenly become a psychologist who introduces his colleagues to the confrontation situation and imitates a patient with great conviction. He also mentions how his colleagues are to operate the computer animation. What follows the initial horror of the soldiers’ suffering is offset by an abrupt dismantling of the melodrama. Farocki denies us movie-screen emotions and no identifications can occur. The observer remains outside the events.
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HARUN FAROCKI AND THE RELATIONSHIP OF WAR, THE MEDIA, AND ART
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Serious Games 4, A Sun with no Shadow Â© Harun Farocki 2010
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Serious Games 1, Watson is Down Â© Harun Farocki 2010
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99 THE EXPOSED IMAGES In the fourth part of Serious Games Harun Farocki subjects the computer landscape to an exact examination. Following the observer analysis what now follows is the image analysis: In the training animations real topographical data and time units are included. However, in the animation of treating post-traumatic stress disorders in homecoming soldiers the therapist in charge can individually adjust the lighting. In a matter of seconds the light of day can be turned into twilight or night. All the objects and persons lack a shadow. Farocki calls this the “asymmetry of images.” More attention and digital care is devoted to preparation for war, but the therapy support for survivors should not cost as much. Farocki uses exactly the same material but complements it by adding his own documentary shots, his editing - and montage technique counters fiction by using reality as an alternative to turning it into a myth. He distances the viewer from the film’s emotional aspects and the data-based war preparation, he looks at how it is “made,” and guides our attention to the mechanisms of production. The computer game industry has become a flourishing branch of the war industry. It may not provide weapons, but it certainly provides colorful images. HARUN FAROCKI BETWEEN ART AND THE DOCUMENTARY IMAGE “ ‘Where are we when we think?’ asks Hannah Arendt. Does it help thinkers to have a table of precious wood in front of a window looking onto an exquisite landscape? Where are we when we look at moving images? Cinemas are dark so that we see nothing but the screen. Generally, it is not completely dark in art rooms; and for a projection the issue is how it responds to the room, how to other projections in the same room and how to those in adjacent rooms. But when we follow moving images are we then still in the room?”
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Since around 1995 Farocki has found a new means of production for himself in the context of art and the exhibition business, and there he has found new ways of exploring images. Previously, he largely worked for public service broadcasting stations in Germany. “...then around 2000, the noncommercial T V channels began to imitate the commercial stations. That was when I knew it was no longer for me.” Serious Games 3, Immersion © Harun Farocki 2009
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WITHDRAWAL OF AFFECTION AND THE DRAMATURGY OF NARRATION Farocki’s soldiers are not heroes but either young men who cannot cope with the material or simply young men who would like to imitate heroes. Farocki is by no means concerned with enabling us to feel our way into a war in which we have not ourselves taken part. He does not avail himself either to the hero or the anti-hero fiction about the simple soldier, who is seemingly destined to become a victim in war and to whom the public develops a lasting empathy and identification. On the contrary, asked about his artistic roots Farocki refers to Berthold Brecht and his handling of dramaturgy: “It is the Brecht alienation effect in which you should also see the construction of a dramaturgy. ‘Don’t stare so romantically,’ Brecht shouted into the theater. That was the one profound influence on me and then there was Pop Art, which only makes a small shift and then you look quite differently at things. I can see now that this is a very consistent legacy.” Farocki disturbs the sequence of events in a narration by leaving in comments and interruptions. According to Bertold Brecht this results in “the viewer no longer seeing the people (on the stage) depicted as being wholly inalterable, not open to influence, at the mercy of their fate.” And should Harun Farocki elicit emotions from the viewer in some sequences he deprives him of them in the next one, pushed the viewer back into a detached attitude in which he looks from outside at events which now come across like modern parables, and observes himself.
However, as regards current events in Libya and evaluating changes in parts of the Arab world Harun Farocki exercizes restraint. “When some huge event happens I never have a clue how to approach it with film. It was not until later that I addressed the upheavals of 1989, taking Romania as my example. In such a radical moment the simplest journalistic things are much more important. It is also good not to always compare but to recognize that it goes beyond something, it is something completely different from what you already know.”
ENDNOTES  Harun Farocki in interview with the author in March 2011 during the exhibition “Serious Games. War-Media-Art“, Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt, Germany. See.: Kunstbulletin, no. 5, 2011, pp. 22-29.  Serious Games II: Three Dead, 2010,video, color, 8 min. Serious Games III: Immersion, 2009. 2 channel video installation, video, color 20 min. Serious Games IV: A Sun without Shadow, 2010,2 channel video installation, video , color 8 min.  Harun Farocki in interview  Bertold Brecht quoted from Wikipedia on the “alienation effect“  Harun Farocki quoted from: Harun Farocki. Rote Berta geht ohne Liebe wandern. Publication for his exhibition from October 2009 to March 2010 in Museum Ludwig, Cologne.  Harun Farocki in interview  Harun Farocki in interview
Harun Farocki, 1944 born in Nový Jicin (Neutitschein), in the then German-annexed Czechoslovakia. 1966-1968 studied at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (West). Since 1966 over 100 productions for television or the cinema: children’s television, documentary films, film essays, story films. Since 1996 numerous group and solo exhibitions in museums and galleries. 2007 at documenta 12 with Deep Play. Since 2004 guest professor, since 2006 full professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Grit Weber, born in Dresden in 1970, studied art history, art education and cultural anthropology in Frankfurt/Main from 1995 to 2001. Besides being involved in numerous art projects, she frequently writes exhibition reviews for a variety of newspapers and art magazines, including “Kunstbulletin” and “Journal Frankfurt”. Since 2006, she has been editor-in-chief of “artkaleidoscope”.
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“BASICALLY YOUR MENTALITY IS THE MENTALITY OF SERVANTS”
HG MASTERS W H AT I S C R O N Y I S M ? Cronyism is two old friends in a room, smoking, drinking coffee, and arguing with themselves over and over. Where is corruption? Corruption is in the dark office with a man behind a desk laughing maniacally. What does disenfranchisement look like? A young woman holding her head in her hands. What are the benefits of globalization? Swedish furnishings and ethical double standards. How do you imagine nihilism? Picture two men flailing ecstatically. Look at ourselves; in Hassan Khan’s videos we are pitiable, miserable, and laughable only on occasion. Since the late 1990s, the Cairo-based artist—he’s also an electronic musician, curator and a forceful writer with contrarian tendencies—has produced bleak portrayals of psyches disfigured by a despotic, dysfunctional and amoral economic and political system. The backdrop for Khan’s narrative works is not only modern Cairo and the Egyptian regime of former president Hosni Mubarak—even when it is—but the ideological vacuum of post-Cold War societies that neither won nor lost the conflict: a pessimistic period of popularly elected undemocratic governments, authoritarian-sanctioned capitalism, messianic liberation movements and their supposed antidote of state-subsidized mass consumerism. Correspondingly, the moods of the dispossessed—rage, cynicism and fear—run deep in Khan’s videos from his earliest pieces. The heavily condensed, rapid-fire footage comprising the one-minute-long this is THE political film (1998) shows a gun pointing at a television screen, the entrance of a crowded mosque, men lifting a TV set showing pornography, a shadowy figure at a desk, the distorted image of a deranged-looking man, a digital timer counting off the minute, and a slab of pounded meat into which someone nails an Egyptian one-pound note. Near the video’s end, the figure at the desk throws up his hands, yelling (in Arabic) “This is the political film!”, followed by a crazed laugh whose sinister, darkly ironic tone suggests only regressive destruction. Embodying this lack of political agency is the figure of the young man—the primary protagonist of Khan’s videos from the late 1990s—who veers between romanticizing his existential struggle and flat-out resignation. Of the former tendency is the eye struck me and the lord of the throne saved me (1997), which captures the desperate spirit of the street. A voiceover speaking in cryptic, mythical rhetoric relates a story about a mother and son’s struggle to survive (“a life of pain is fated for him / he awaits salvation from one moment to the other”). Khan pairs this allegorical tale with images of a gray cityscape, a crowded shopping road, excerpts of TV commercials, before ending with the inspection of a humble cemetery.
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Whereas the probing, narrating voice in the eye struck me [ . . . ] finds himself caught up in morbid poetic reflections, in other early works by Khan the male protagonist’s brimming anger inhibits perception. Fuck this film (1998) opens with another eye, this time distorted by a lens, accompanied by the sound of laughing and a voice slowly saying in Arabic “nothing . . . NO thing . . . nothing.”
The eye struck me and the lord of the throne saved me, 1997 Color video transferred to DVD, sound 3 min 50 Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris
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Khan then cuts to a filmmaker raging through his apartment, banging and pushing aside objects, complaining out loud about his contrived premise: “What should I do with this film? It’s not a bad idea. A camel living in a paradise, but who is unhappy.” He contemplates other subjects including documenting kids in Heliopolis getting high on cough syrup (“the real nightmare”), an idea he then rejects before dismissing filmmaking at large (“narrative and dramas are just ways of manipulating images / to allow the audience to feel safe”), his own thoughts (“what the fuck is this bullshit that I am saying???”) and finally, after a few beers with a friend, the project itself (“Fuck this film”). Speaking about his own artistic practice, Khan has never romanticized the potential of the individual as a self-styled political radical or avant-garde formalist. In a recent interview with curator Mayssa Fattouh, published by the web-based project Art Territories, he lays out his objections to these approaches: “Artists pick a model [tormented romantic, activist, nationalist, trend-setter, avant-gardist] that best suits their sensibility and they work through it only to be left with a work whose sole function is to notate this idea. It basically means that it’s completely narcissistic; we end up with an image of the artist as a hero.” This refusal to be a specific kind of artist, even against charges of being reactionary or politically detached, has allowed Khan to reinvent himself. By the early 2000s, the frustration and stymied ambition of the characters in his early videos yielded to more expressly empathetic, humanistic endeavors. 100 Portraits (2001) opens with a view of large apartment blocks on top of which are superimposed short, one-second-long portraits of men and women of all ages, with a voice reading their names. This same concern for a citizenry recurs in tabla dub no. 9 (2002), which shows a concrete tunnel overlaid with footage of people from the street including a man carrying a cardboard box and a woman selling objects, accompanied by Khan’s fusion of electronica and popular Egyptian music. The second evolution in Khan’s work is a move to explicit humor. Conspiracy: dialogue/diatribe (2006/2010) features two middle-aged men sitting and talking in an archetypal middle-class living room. It quickly becomes evident that they are not actually speaking with one another and that Khan has spliced together footage of two separate diatribes in which each man spouts abuse, flatters the other, reminisces, gossips, and criticizes the furniture and the other’s career. This motif of two men sharing a space yet not actually communicating with one another recurs in Jewel (2010). The video opens with a series of flashing lights in the dark and then zooms out to reveal luminescent anglerfish in a suspended box, around which an older and younger man are flailing hysterically to Khan’s rhythmic soundtrack. However absurdist and laughable, the solipsism in both works is pure pessimism. Even if you can get two men to dance simultaneously around a talismanic flashing coffer, can you say that they share their reasons or the experience? Khan has written in his 2010 essay In Defense of the Corrupt Intellectual, published in e-flux journal #18: “The crowd is where a seething mass with a unified understanding of its own presence is born, a conglomeration of frictions and tensions that manages to resolve itself into an identifiable entity.” But two remains one short of a crowd.
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The lack of dialogue between the figures in Conspiracy and Jewel is in stark contrast to the overinscribed discourse of the art context where these videos are shown—where it is commonplace to speak about neoliberalism and postpolitical democracy as matter-of-fact abstractions, to accompany every image with an annotated text, to conclude presentations with Q&A sessions that evolve into commentary forums. Khan himself contributes his share of editorializing to such public conversations. As a writer,
This is THE political film, 1998 Color video transferred to DVD, sound 1 min Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris
100 portraits, 2001 Color video transferred to DVD, sound Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris
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Conspiracy, 2006-2010 Color video transferred to DVD, sound Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris tabla dubb nÂ°9, 2002 Color video transferred to DVD, sound 3 min 40 Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris
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Fuck this Film, 1998 Color video transferred to DVD, sound 4 min Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris
As a skeptic rather than a partisan, Khan, in his own artworks, constantly returns to representing the individual’s experience, which no matter how limited in its vocabulary provides testimony to larger systemic and societal deprivations while remaining intrinsically resistant to co-optation. Rant (2008), for example, is a largely wordless portrayal of a young woman’s despair. The video depicts her seated at a white desk in a white space, with only her despondent gestures and body language, facial expressions and a few muttered words (“I’m fed up” or “So what should I do now?”) to betray her thoughts on subjects that remain unknown to us. During the video’s almost seven minutes, Khan’s soundtrack of ambient tones is occasionally punctured by the woman’s laconic phrases or discreet notes on a piano. Metaphorically, Khan’s music describes the steady formlessness of emotions broken by a rare utterance that in its rudimentariness could not be appropriated for any other use. Rant doesn’t deny the potential for communication, but it does acknowledge the infrequency and simplicity of most human exchange. That worldview, neither condescending nor idealistic, makes Khan a realist. It can be an undesirable role when others expect you to perform critically and speak revolutionarily, and you refuse to be the next dictator of others’ experience.
Big Picture (Orte/Projektionen) 19. 03. – 14. 08. 2011
Rodney Graham, Phonokinetoscope, 2001 (Detail), Film-Installation, 16-mm-Film, Farbe, Ton, Schallplattenspieler mit Vinylschallplatte, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, © Rodney Graham, 2010
he exhibits an almost neurotic self-consciousness to the compromised position of the artist who, from arrogance, attempts to speak on behalf of the masses or to promote others’ ideologies. His denial of “artist as ___” is a choice not to traffic in pirated discourse or easily appropriated, regime-friendly avant-gardism.
HG Masters is editor-at-large for ArtAsiaPacific magazine and editor of the 2010 and 2011 editions of the ArtAsiaPacific Almanac.
Jason Rhoades, Mark Lewis, Rodney Graham, Shirin neshat, dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Corinna Schnitt, natacha nisic, Paul Pfeiffer, Steve McQueen, Kimsooja, thomas Steffl, Richard t. Walker.
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K21 StändehauS düsseldorf www.kunstsammlung.de
DİDEM YAZICI DİDEM YAZICI Regarding exhibition-making, Harald Szeemann referred to “visual poems” and you have said that exhibitions are like visual essays. What makes an exhibition a visual essay, and what is the analogy between essay and exhibition structure?
Daniel Birnbaum © Moderna Museet
DANIEL BIRNBAUM It is exactly what Donatien Grau and I were talking just before you came. We were just talking about the idea that even thinking itself, I mean philosophy, well it sounds pretentious and bombastic but still that philosophy itself often goes in exile and formulates itself with help of other modes of expression and other fields of knowledge. Philosophy has been in close dialogue with many things, with sociology in the Frankfurt School and Marxism all of that, with literary models in structuralism and post-structuralism, in Derrida, in Lacan and etc. with ideas about the image, certain ideas about the simulation and simulacra. Then, in the middle of everything one could perhaps also think that thinking has been in a dialogue with the production of space and that could be many things that could relate to urbanism and architecture, it could perhaps relate to exhibition making.
The person who, I think did that in the most ambitious way was maybe Jean François Lyotard. He was many things, but maybe one could say he was the philosopher of exhibition-making. He claimed the exhibition as a spatial medium, and this is perhaps too ambitious to start a dialogue about exhibitions, but it is one way to look at an exhibition as medium for itself. Not every exhibition can be as philosophically ambitious as that, not at all. As you say, Harald Szeemann saw his exhibitions as poems in space—he said in an interview I think. There are so many ways to look at exhibitions, but at least the ones that in the end reason to exist other ones that try to express something that is maybe only possible to say in the medium of exhibition. It was interesting that Lyotard had written already plenty of books and he was invited to do something in Pompidou. I am sure he saw this moment as something that could be done only as an exhibition. Otherwise he would have written an essay. In that sense, it was a uniquely interesting moment when a major philosopher decided not to write another book, but to do an exhibition, and about new materials, new technologies, and in the end about perception and the change of what it means to be in the world of these immaterials. It’s a very long answer to your first question, but I think that’s one place maybe just to start if you want to think about the exhibition as a unit, a medium itself. We were talking about many people who come from somewhere else and used the exhibition. Donatien, you mentioned many examples yesterday, maybe you can add some of your ideas? RES JUNE 2011
DONATIEN GRAU Yes, there are many academics, philosophers and writers who have done such projects,
111 like Julia Kristeva, Umberto Eco, and many others. The idea of creating a comparison between the reader and the viewer is fundamental. In the tradition of French structuralism and postmodernist thought, the reader makes the book as much as the writer himself, which should also be linked to the idea of exhibition as a visual essay. The viewer reenacts the work in a much more intense way than the reader, because when he sees or hears the work, he is physically and spatially involved in the process, whereas a reader simply reads—which has very different implications. Of course, it requires a huge deal of attention from the reader to make his own book, which is exactly what Proust stated in In Search of Lost Time. In a parallel fashion, one could say that each viewer creates his own work of art. When it’s visual, there is a much more immediate and acute need for attention than when you read. Indeed, when you read a book, you can go through pages. Exhibition-making relates to the idea of the viewer as a reader of the space, which is epitomized, in terms of curating, by the concept of the visual essay. DB Is it also intersubjective space? You can read a book and normally you’re alone with the text, but exhibitions tend to be intersubjective in an interesting way. At least most of us, when looking at exhibitions you walk around with someone and you talk about it. It is a space for dialogues, and even critical dialogues. It may be complex, as you look at things in different ways. In that sense, it is perhaps a critical space. There is an interesting new book, that maybe we should look at in our seminars, by German art historian Charlotte Klonk, who we mentioned once earlier. DY It’s called Spaces of Experiences. DB Yes, it is a new book about the history of gallery spaces. Her basic idea is that there was a moment in 1920s in Bauhaus and Russian constructivism that emphasized a kind of intersubjective critical space, whereas most of the German and European museums had emphasized the individual viewer. This is maybe a simplification, but she thinks that, and maybe she is right, you can read the architecture of the modern museum in Germany and then the United States as a space for exclusion, emphasizing the individual viewers in dialogue with one piece of work. Then, she sees certain moments where you can see that this is no longer the case, the moments when the street and public sphere and the kind of conflictual critical dialogue and subjective space were allowed into museum. Her example is Russion constructivism, El Lissitzky and the German museum director called Alexandra Dona, who did a kind of cabinet of the abstracts with Russian constructivists. That was very much about the inter-subjective, that you can enter with others and see the space with different approach, and you can have a dialogue about it or you can have a fight about it. It was critical subjectivity rather than about being an individual bourgeoisie subject. Her idea is that this was when they were centered in the Bauhaus but then when Bauhaus went to America and it was introduced to MoMA in 1939 where it was no longer the critical, intersubjective, more-or-less progressive socialist viewer that was expected, but kind of an advanced consumer. And there consumerism took over, which I think this is big simplification. But, still I can see what she means: that the American museum, which became the prime role models for museums, and MoMA as the most influential museum as a consumerist space rather than a critically reflective space. I come back to your idea: If you see the exhibition as a critical visual essay, it is not just for the individual viewer. It is maybe a dialogue and maybe more than a dialogue, kind of intersubjective exchange that is made possible inside this essay. So it is not just for one reader, it is a kind of a collective critical space.
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CONVERSATION WITH DANIEL BIRNBAUM AND DONATIEN GRAU
John Baldessari Ocean and Sky (with Two Palm Trees) 2009 Photo: Giorgio Zucchiatti Courtesy: Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia
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Tomas Saraceno Galaxy forming along filaments, like droplets along the strands of a spiderÂ´s web 2008 Elastic rope, dimensions variables Photo Giorgio Zucchiatti Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia
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Olafur Eliasson, Light Lab, Test 12, Portikus 2010, Photo: Katrin Schilling
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117 DB Roland Barthes’s idea of the productive readers, so to speak, the reader as someone who writes and someone who reads, and maybe as with Duchamp, the reader produces the work just as much as the artist. So what is the difference between them? You refer to these literal examples, and I think it is interesting to think what happens if we see the exhibition as a kind of intersubjective medium; the book maybe is also an intersubjective medium. DG It does relate to different schemas. In a note that was published in the French review La Règle du Jeu, the Director Emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philippe de Montebello, describes the experience of contemplating an artwork as a conversation à deux, something that happens between two people. As far as the book is concerned, most of the time, when you read it, you are by yourself. As Proust said: books are produced in silence. You can read it, and then discuss it. Or maybe you read it and discuss it at the same time. But generally speaking the temporality is not the same as when you visit an exhibition with someone at the same time in the same place. DY In the case of reading, you’re alone with the book. DB On the other hand, maybe the book is just so much more liberating anyhow. We should remember that one can read a book in the subway, or at the airport or in your bathroom. And you can meet with other people through this book, which is maybe only 10 euros, and you can discuss it. So maybe the book is actually even intersubjective, too. I mean, I am just thinking that we try to introduce ideas into the exhibitions, and we force them in there. Of course it’s interesting that the expectation of a critical subjective viewer is an not isolated bourgeoisie subject but maybe that the book is a better vehicle. I mean, I am just thinking out loud now. DG I think it also realizes the idea of connecting curating and exhibition-making to rhetoric. Because at the end of the day, when you consider a book as an exhibition, you can also perceive it as an exhibition of ideas. The word “exhibition” comes from the idea of showing something. In French, we say “exposition,” which actually finds its roots in “expositio,” a specific term of rhetoric. “Expositio,” for Cicero, is a part of the discourse, which consists in the moment when you just expose the facts. In the case of a curator such as Hans Ulrich Obrist, it really has to do with the idea of an “exhibition of ideas.” Bookshop - Rirkrit Tiravanija Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Giardini, Venezia 2009 Photo: Giorgio Zucchiatti Courtesy: Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia
DB I think that will happen here tomorrow. There is a discussion with Hans Ulrich Obrist with all the intellectuals of Frankfurt. Hans is not a T V moderator and he is not a journalist, and he is not an academic. He himself is a curator. He tries to take the curatorial possibilities beyond what we know. You should do your own conversation with him, but I think he would agree that he sees these marathons as these big conversations. DY As a form of exhibition perhaps?
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DB Exactly! That is a kind of rhetorical form like Donatien says. It is more or less a democratic forum, to introduce into spaces that are theater, or the exhibition space, or the gallery, or wherever he does it, that kind of rhetoric.
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DY And also different understandings, and different readings for each viewer.
119 DB It is interesting that the public space becomes such a fetishized almost, attractive thing at the moment it is being destroyed by commercial interests. Now we are longing for public space. We need to reintroduce it to museums, and theaters and insist on the possibility of it at the moment that we all feel kind of commercial grip on societies. DG This is what conversation is all about. It is particularly interesting to see how important it is for Hans Ulrich Obrist’s view on curating. DY What I find interesting in Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Marathons is that it is an interdisciplinary platform. The participants are not necessarily from the art scene; they are often mathematicians, poets and scientists. DB I agree. One could perhaps now—just to think a little bit not self-critically but critically about what’s going on Charlotte Klonk’s idea—that the idea of intersubjective space returns in the exhibitions in 1990s. One could say Liam Gillick and other such artists were producing platforms with discussions and conversations. Hans Ulrich Obrist is doing these things in an interdisciplinary mode. I am now returning to the idea that the moment when the public space looked like it was threatened through commercialism rather political interests. It is almost nostalgically reintroduced in the art world. Ideas about social turning in art and relational ideas would be introduced in the moment when it disappears from the rest of the society. I don’t know if this is right, I am just saying what I am thinking about right now. DG It is interesting that the world of art is a place that seems to be adequate for reintroducing everywhere the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk, which was so important for Harald Szeemann. Having a place where every form of creation finds a way to exist is very rare, and, when you think about it, there is no other world that could allow it. What Hans Ulrich Obrist does takes its roots inside of the art world, and, since there are so many things in the artworld, it also connects to other fields. When people ask him, “You curate ideas, do you still work in the arts?” he replies that he is indeed a curator, coming from the arts and connecting it to so many other things, which is necessary, since artists themselves are connected to many different forms of thought and creativity. We just discussed Les Immateriaux, and it is fascinating to see how learned some artists are, and often wellversed in philosophy. That is the reason why it is possible to create a space that could be a suitable for this permanent creative invasion.
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DB One should maybe not over-emphasize the importance of these things that happened in the 90s. That is perhaps the limitation of the book by Charlotte Klonk. It’s the last thing that I’ll say about this book. It is a good book, but she somehow—if you simplify what she says—one could say that she sees this moment in 1920s and early 30s, Bauhaus and Hannover and so on, and then it disappears before they pop up again in 1990s. That’s of course very limited reading. Maybe, not
so much at MoMA, where is the early years of Pompidou? Where is the Fluxus moment? And the curatorial visions of Harald Szeemann or Pontus Hulten and Poetry Must be Made by All such things in Stockholm, Stedeljik in Amsterdam, Kunsthalle Bern . . . they were all about such things. Open critical zones of production and sites of experimentation, rather than limited museum shows. One can introduce the 60s, the early 70s and all of that into this and problematize her schema a little bit. Donatien, you mention Latour. If we see this thread of intellectuals, even philosophers, who used the exhibition as a kind of format, I would say Lyotard was the first person who kind of triggered this possibility, or saw it. DY Can you specify what kind of format you are referring here? DB The exhibition cannot be just an interesting place for different visual essays as a philosophical format. I think it was prepared in his books, and there is one book called Figure de discours which is very much about the limitation of the book. One could see that the book is not enough for this moment in philosophy, one could even see it in Derrida and in other texts from that period. Lyotard talks about the end of the book in writing. One could perhaps say that it is the end of the book and beginning of spatialization and the exhibition is one possibility for that active productional space. In this book from 1970s, Lyotard is already talking about his thoughts in kinaesthetic possibilities—visual touch and all of that. It is clear that he sees that he cannot quite do what he wants to do in the book format. So, the exhibitions maybe were prepared by some of these texts. There was no exhibition by Theodor Adorno, or there was no exhibition by Ludwig Wittgenstein, there was no exhibition by Martin Heidegger, so Lyotard was opening a new door there. Since then, we could list some many names: Julia Kristeva, Arthur Danto, Umberto Eco, and the last person, who seems to be the most ambitious now, is Bruno Latour. DG I was aware of that, because I talked with him about it. It is very ambitious because, Latour does not like the art world and what he calls its “scenery.” On the other hand, he does have a longterm conversation with Olafur Eliasson. These days, he is working on a new project in Paris called School of Political Arts which is fascinating because he doesn’t limit exhibition-making to the art world, but reinvents the concept in order to have it find its own identity as a rhetorical tool, even as a political tool. It all comes from the fact that the current world does not always have enough attention to read a book carefully. In this context, there is a need for a reinvention of formats inside of politics. It also relates to the idea of exhibiting knowledge, which is what we discussed earlier. Bruno Latour is trying to discover it by using tools that are from the art world, and by transforming the format of knowledge. The idea is that you have to use the things that are visual to translate certain ideas. It relates to the eagerness of finding a new format. It is also interesting to think about limits: What is the limit of this model, which is based on sharing ideas through an exhibition? DB I think that you are right. Latour is not so interested in individual artists. He sees exhibitions as rhetorical and even as a political tool. And he is not someone who follows individual artists so closely. He has been close to Olafur Eliasson, and now he is actually close to someone who used to be the assistant of Eliasson, Tomas Saraceno. At the center of the bienniale that I did, we had the biggest thing he had ever done, which was like a network, a spectacular work. But not so many people thought so much about what it could be. But, I know that Latour and Sloterdijk had a discussion in there. It was about philosophical paradigms that do not fit.
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DG It relates to Bruno Latour as well, with his idea of “Making Things Public.” In 1999, Hans Ulrich Obrist asked Latour to be a part of Laboratorium, and then he started to be interested in curating. And at the same time, Latour has always been interested in rhetoric. “Making Things Public” is an exhibition that has to do with this idea of curating outside of the art world, but also of going back to rhetoric. It also relates to what you were saying about creating a new form of public space, which is also the topic of a dialogue between Latour and Hans Ulrich Obrist.
On the one hand it is a sphere and on the other hand a network, and somehow—this is of course silly simplification—but, is the sphere more fundamental than the network? Yes, Sloterdijk would say. No, Latour would say. Here, Latour kind of won, because he could see that the sphere was made possible through the network. It could have been nice philosophical conversation to record inside Saraceno’s space. Daniel Birnbaum was the director of 2009 Venice Biennale, and is now director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Until recently he was the rector of the Städelschule Art Academy and director of Portikus, both in Frankfurt am Main. He was co-curator of 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 and co-curator of the first Moscow Biennale in 2005. Donatien Grau graduated in Classics from the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, where he currently teaches. He is a member of the editorial board of the French reviews La Règle du Jeu and Commentaire, a contributing editor of Flash Art International and a member of the Proust research team at the CNRS. He has edited a collection of essays on tragedy: “Tragédie(s),” Editions Rue d’Ulm/ Théâtre de l’Odéon, 2010. Didem Yazıcı is a freelance writer living in Frankfurt am Main. She holds a BA in Art History from Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul, and attended the MA program in Art History in Istanbul Technical University (2008-2009). Currently she is doing a Masters degree in Curatorial and Critical Studies at the Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste and the Goethe University, Frankfurt. Her texts have been published in catalogues, books and art magazines such as Nowiswere, Artam Global Art, the Turkish daily newspaper Radikal, and Sanat Dünyamız.
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BARBARA J. SCHEUERMANN TH E R E A R E C U R R E N T LY two exhibitions on view with different titles, in different museums, developed by different curatorial teams, and even in different countries, that nonetheles both touch on similar points and deserve to be considered within the framework of a bigger picture. The one on view at Istanbul Modern, curated by Paolo Colombo and the museum’s own Levent Çalıkoğlu, is somewhat dramatically titled Kayıp Cennet / Paradise Lost. The other exhibition, presented at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, Germany, curated by Doris Krystof in collaboration with Maria Anna Bierwirth, has the broad title Big Picture. Both shows are focused on video or, more accurately named, time-based artworks. Content-wise they both examine aspects of nature and humankind’s relation to it. The results couldn’t be more different, and it’s worth a closer look in order to find out why that is. Let’s start with Istanbul’s Paradise Lost. The title already says it all; an optimistic worldview is not what this exhibition aims to get across. On the contrary, “the disordered and damaged state of the environment today has been […] under our very eyes in the most flagrant way all the time,” writes Colombo in his introduction to the catalogue. Çalıkoğlu seconds him by writing in his own essay: “Rational planning, which was sustained for the sake of a livable future, a safe urban life, and a modern level of comfort, has pitted nature against culture. We still have not found a way to coexist with nature.” That might be a bit thick, given that worldwide millions of people live in peaceful coexistence with their natural surroundings and other thousands of people dedicate their lives to developing alternative ways of generating energy and benefitting from natural resources without eventually annihilating them. No doubt however, Çalıkoğlu and Colombo have a point: We all know what they are talking about, and clearly their questions are crucial to our existence and to the lives of our descendants. We immediately accept that, as Colombo writes, “Not surprisingly, the issue of an entity—Nature—whose laws we no longer abide by and whom we have in large part destroyed or irreparably changed, is an issue that has been of particular interest to visual artists in the last decades.” Sure, artists tend to make all aspects of life and society part of their case, so it is indeed no surprise that environmental matters make an appearance in contemporary art.
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Paradise Lost gathers some 20 works by a wide range of artists, such as Doug Aitken, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Emre Hüner, Rivane Neuenschwander, Tony Oursler, Bill Viola and Kiki Smith, with Pipilotti Rists’s largescale video installation Herbstzeitlose (Saffron Flower or Fall Time Less) (2004) as something like the centerpiece. The layout of the expansive show is a little confusing, with some hidden extra rooms, but maybe this was on purpose. On the first view, not all of the presented works make sense in the context of the show—some of them not even on the second or third. For example it is really difficult to see why Laleh Khorramian’s I Without End (2008) is part of this show, a beautiful visual poem about two lovers made of orange peels, which get then burned in a fire, or Bill Viola’s comparatively dated Anthem (1983), which shows a single scream by a young girl stretched to more than 11 minutes.
Quite a few works can only so vaguely be connected to the subject of the show that their selection unfortunately seems a little random. In fact, there are quite a few works with wild creatures in the presentation: wolves, foxes, birds, kangaroos, lions, ants, to name only a few. However, there are brilliant works to be seen in the show—not least the ones with the animals —which reconciles with the unclear parcours and the usual acoustic interferences in a video art show. For example Doug Aitken’s Migration (2008) is a masterpiece that captivates viewers despite its length and silence. It shows, one by one, several North American animals —among them a horse, a deer and a buffalo—in ordinary motel rooms where we watch them as they adjust in one way or the other to their new surrounding. The rampaging buffalo, the shy deer, the perplexed owl, they all make for a pregnant and enduring image of the tension between culture and nature, as Çalıkoğlu has put it. Installed very near to Aitken’s is Francis Alÿs’ Nightwatch (2004), part of the Seven Walk project by Alÿs in collaboration with Raphael Ortega. A fox released into London’s National Portrait Gallery is the main protagonist of Nightwatch. We can watch him straying around, probably looking for an exit to freedom and not paying the slightest attention to the artworks on the wall—of course not, one might like to add. It seems a little incomprehensible that Aitken’s Migration and Alÿs’ Nightwatch are shown so close together—or in the same show at all —because the viewer becomes overly aware of the similarities between the two projects, which doesn’t provide further insight into either. This seems to be a problem of the show in general: the selection of the art work is not really precise, which, no doubt, has its reason in the fact that the subject of the show is not precisely shaped—it is about nature and culture and technology and labour and paradise and dystopia and environment and politics . . . . this just seems to be a bit too much. The enthusiasm for each single works seems to have carried away the curators. One understands their wish to bring them all in this show, yet isn’t it a main aspect of curating a group show to carefully work out a theme, ideally evolving from art itself as opposed to being grounded in theoretical ideas, and then to diligently select the works? The atmosphere in Big Picture at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf couldn’t be more different. In the wide and high basement gallery only 12 installations are on view, smartly fitted in a custom-made architecture. Six of the works are part of the museum’s collection, among them by Steve McQueen, Jason Rhoades and Kimsooja, and the other six are loans for this occasion, by artists such as by Thomas Steffl, Natacha Nisic and Richard T. Walker. Unlike Paradise Lost this exhibition focuses on “cinematographic installations,” that is, on technique and presentation rather than on subject. The importance given to the medium and the technique is highlighted in different aspects: Co-curator Maria Anna Bierwirth is a video conservator, so it is no surprise that each work is exactly described, indicating if it is HD, 16mm, video or another format, the duration, sound, number of channels, projection size, dimensions of the installations etc. You can find all of these details in the catalogue as well as floor plans and architecture models of the exhibition layout. This not only keeps the exhibition alive as a spatial presentation, but also puts emphasis on the complexity of installing works that each time have to be built up again according to more or less precise installation instructions and in relation to the respective space. It becomes apparent that time-based artworks are highly complex and very special artefacts that can be challenging to install. Besides this theoretical base coat—which probably pleases mostly the true video art fiend or, rather, the nerd—the exhibition shows beautiful images of the landscape, the outdoors and, yes, nature, which is where both exhibitions Paradise Lost and Big Picture meet. Colombo and Çalıkoğlu develop their
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BEAUTY, PESSIMISM, HOPE
125 The parcours starts with a veritable wow-effect: Mark Lewis’ Forte! (2010), projected on a huge five-bynine meter screen, in a big, dim, yet open space. The six-minute-long single-channel film installation begins with a long still shot that shows a snow-covered mountain range in the Italian Alps, just below the treeline. The quality of the image and its sheer size are overwhelming, and one immediately gets drawn into the film. The camera circles a fortress on a mountain until one can discern in the inner courtyard little figures, visitors o the castle, who eventually leave the fortress for no obvious reason in a mass-movement. The curators describe what happens as follows: “Even when using choreographed extras, Lewis focuses on an analysis of the moving image which, compared to the static tableau of a panel painting, always entails a paradox: it is screened as a film image that attempts to remain as immobile as possible but also one which has to move in order to be noticed in the first place.” One might need a second read to understand what’s said here, but it certainly touches a crucial point: many of the works shown in this exhibition use very long shots and calm tracking shots, very subtle sounds or, as in the case of Mark Lewis Forte! no sound at all, and pin sharp images of sometimes an even painterly quality. Compared to the common video-art exhibition, Big Picture is extraordinarily pleasant for the eyes, ears and the mind, and it almost leaves the impression of a painting exhibition. A discovery is The Hierarchy of Relevance (2010) by Richard T. Walker. Shot in the Californian desert, the HD video might remind viewers of Land Art performances from the 1970’s. Yet, unlike the huge monuments of that era, Walker’s works are rather small-scale. The artist always approaches the environment cautiously, respectfully, eventually entering a dialogue with the plants and stone formations of the desert by providing each of them individually with a musical performance. During the editing of the film these different songs are combined to create a devoted “song of distraction”—this is heartbreakingly earnest and dreamily romantic. A bit silly too and utterly useless in the battle against ecologigal destruction, one might argue, but, after all, but what does “human” mean if not being hopeful, earnest, dreamy, and at least a little bit romantic?
Barbara J. Scheuermann works as curator in Berlin and Brussels. In Berlin she runs the art project space Babusch. Before she moved to Berlin in November 2008, she had worked as curator of contemporary art at Tate Modern, London, and earlier as assistant curator at K21, Düsseldorf, and Haus der Kunst, Munich. Her doctoral thesis (2005) analyses narrative structures in contemporary artworks using as example works by William Kentridge and Tracey Emin. In her curatorial work and her writings she mainly focuses on video and installation, questions of narrativity, performativity and gender as well as on the discourse of postcolonialism and multiculturalism. As independent writer and art critic she has contributed, and still contributes, to numerous international art magazines as well as to exhibition catalogues and other publications.
KAYIP CENNET / PARADISE LOST Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Istanbul until 24 July 2011 www.istanbulmodern.org
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theme from sociopolitical obervations and insights and illustrate it with very strong images of very different things, whereas Krystof and Bierwirth elicit images of beauty and sublimity through the authentic installing of the respective work. Paradise Lost is a solid thematic video group show with some highlights and some aspects to contemplate. But one cannot help thinking that the presentation of Big Picture at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, with its accurate spatial settings and its precise theoretical foundation points into the future of video art presentation. It seems as if the exhibition started from the wish to revive beloved works in this particular context—the opposite approach to using artworks for illustrating a particular thesis—and it just happened that something like a garden of images evolved from it, a reference to the garden in Jason Rhoades’ Big Picture (2000), which served as a point of origin for this exhibition.
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Ali Kazma Obstructions Video Series Studio Ceramist, 2007 17 min. Single channel video with sound Courtesy of the artist
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Ali Kazma Obstructions Video Series Rolling Mills, 2007 9 min. Single channel video with sound Courtesy of the artist
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Doug Aitken Migration, 2008 Single channel video on Blu-Ray DVD 24:22 Courtesy of 303 Gallery, New York; Galerie Eva Presehuber AG, Zurich; Victoria Miro, London; Regen Projects, Los Angeles. Courtesy of Desertmed
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Laleh Khorramian I Without End, 2008 6:35 Time-lapse animation Courtesy the artist and Salon 94
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Rivane Neuenschwander & Sérgio Neuenschwander Sunday, 2010 HD digital video, dolby digital 5.1, 5:17 Courtesy of Galeria Fortes Vilaça
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Rivane Neuenschwander & Cao Guimarães Quarta-Feira de Cinzas - Epilogue, 2006 High definition Video, 5:44 Courtesy of Galeria Fortes Vilaça
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Shaun Gladwell Apologies 1-6, 2009 HD video, 16:9, stereo sound, 27:10 Cinematography: Gotaro Uematsu Courtesy the artist & Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne & Sydney
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139 Photos: Achim Kukulies The images are © free in context of the journalistic report
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BIG PICTURE Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany until 14 August 2011 www.kunstsammlung.de
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141 RES JUNE 2011 Paul Pfeiffer Perspective Study After Jeremy Bentham
Richard T. Walker The Hierarchy of Relevance
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Shirin Neshat The Shadow Under the Web
Rodney Graham Phonokinetoscope
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EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP TONIGHT THE STREETS ARE OURS, WHAT ABOUT TOMORROW?
ASLI ÇAVUŞOĞLU AU T H O R O F T H E Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger’s rejection of being interviewed for 25 years and his solitary retirement to his farmhouse engendered a cult effect. The more he hid himself, the more tourists got on buses in order to camp around his farmhouse, armed with binoculars so that they might catch a glimpse of him. Most probably taking inspiration from Salinger, Don DeLillo’s protagonist in his book Mao 2 does the same by not allowing his photograph to be taken. After he eventually changed his mind and his first photograph was taken, he says: “I am now a photograph, as flat as the bird crap on a Buick...”
Thierry Guetta’s movie
From Thierry Guetta’s exhibition
Before Exit Through the Gift Shop premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010, the question the film aroused was: Has the most notorious clandestine street artist Banksy, who has successfully hidden behind a cloak of anonymity for years, decided to be the “crap on a Buick?” Well, he bewildered his audience again with a film whose genre slips away from any attempt to be categorized, as it manages to exist in the space between being a documentary and a monumental con. Banksy states in the beginning scenes, his voice carefully distorted, that the film is not about him. It’s about Thierry “Terry” Guetta, a Frenchman living in Los Angeles, an outgoing “dude” who is obsessed with documenting everything in his life. Because of the death of his mother when he was a child, Guetta becomes terrified with the idea that the “present” is slipping through his fingers. Via his cousin, who is a street artist himself, Guetta becomes obsessed with street art and sets out to video every major practitioner he can befriend. Famous street artists such as Shepard Fairey and Space Invader agree to let him follow their crusades. But Guetta’s big planned scoop was Banksy, whom he met in 2006 and attached himself to like a particularly persistent, camcorder-wielding clam. Guetta gathers a massive collection of footage after working continuously for 8 years and Banksy put up with it, hoping that Guetta’s mooted documentary might one day be a valuable record of his and other’s work. After Guetta finally finishes editing, he gives a copy of his documentary Life Remote Control to Banksy. Disappointed with the result, Banksy decides to make a film about him not being capable of making a good film. That’s how Banksy takes over the camera and Thierry becomes the subject of the film. As a subject he appears to be a zealous street artist and eventually starts putting his first enormous exhibition together and without hesitation he is quick to utilize the power of the media and every outlet of advertising he can imagine.
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Banksy doesn’t reveal his face throughout the film, neither to Guetta’s camera, nor the camera of the main film; instead he shows the absence of his face: a complete darkness contained under a hoodie. Contrary to the image-less Bansky, Guetta is over-exposed. Guetta’s undecisive attemps at determining the motive of his filming as well as his unorganized editing make him nothing but a receiver through his camera. He comes across as a keen but naive viewer of mass media and this seems to be why he chooses the title Life Remote Control for his documentary, which is essentially nothing but a one and a half hour long trailer.
Exit Through The Gift Shop © 2010 Paranoid Pictures Film Company Limited
The title Exit Through the Gift Shop is in fact never referred to throughout the entire film. Considering the notion that street art is a “gift” to the public and their domain, the title could be suggesting that even a “gift” finds its value in the market whether it is intended to or not. This contradiction seems to be well “digested” since for some years now many works of street art have been selected sold by some of the biggest auction houses. In 2010, citizens of Detroit recognized Bansky’s arrival in town because of his signature scribbled work on a street wall depicting a boy holding a can of red paint next to the words “I remember when all this was trees.” A couple of days later, some local artists had excavated the wall and moved it to another location, where it could be exhibited. The incident evoked many questions over authorship, the legality of street art, its value, and the odd decision to re-locate a sitespecific work of graffiti. The ironic response of one of the re-locaters of the wall was: “The work can now live on for many years.” While preventing the work to remain in its ephemeral sphere, the intended act of “vandalism” has also been eliminated. Other examples of the contradictions applied to street art include the Geffen Contemporary Art Museum in L A’s painting over of the graffiti scrawled on its back wall, at the same time that they were about to open a major exhibition of “street art.” It seems that Graffiti is something that the museum celebrates only on other people’s property, not its own. The City of Helsinki on the other hand, started zero tolerance campaign against graffiti in the 90s. This included wiping out all graffiti and tags from the streets by directing money to private security companies that specialized in clamping down on graffiti artists. Those who were caught faced huge fines for damages and even jail sentences. After street art found its place at established art institutions the argument of what is “good” and what is “bad” street art is even more complex. Who among us can make the decision that “good” street art should be permitted, treated as a gift and hence those who create it applauded, yet that which is deemed ugly creates a case for fines and imprisonment? Well, what would happen if we catch a glimpse of Banksy?
Aslı Çavuşoğlu (born in Istanbul,1982) is an artist/writer. A great bulk of her work stems from experimental narrative exercises working around mechanisms of erasure, repetition, replicas and narrative interplay. She uses various mediums such as artists’ books, videos, installations.
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NANCY SPERO: THE WORK
NAZLI GÜRLEK N A N C Y S P E R O WAS a first generation feminist artist who placed women at the center of her work, and an activist who fought for women’s rights in New York during the early 1970’s. While many of the artists of her generation who made feminist work in the late 60s and 70s employed photography, costume, performance, film and video to emphasize political action, sexually-charged subject matter and self-portraiture, Nancy Spero was, quite unusually, preoccupied with myth and painting. She developed innovative techniques and methods to produce paper friezes and murals, many of them epic in both scale and content, featuring images of women from all ages and cultures past and present. The retrospective catalog Nancy Spero: The Work explores the artist’s immense body of work via its development from the beginnings of her 60-yearcareer until death of heart failure in New York in Autmun 2009. Writer Christopher Lyon introduces his book by way of describing Spero’s special relation to time and history. The introductory chapter opens stating:“Nancy Spero’s goal was to put history into art and to put herself and other women into history”, the text then goes on to describe alucid picture of the persona and art of Spero, analysing her artistic thought, ideals and personal story in depth. He traces the critique of power that Spero developed both within and beyond the art world, what marked her ethical and political responsabilities as a postwar American artist, feminist and leftwing activist, in quest for self-expression and for making her voice heard in a male-dominated art world. The book also tells of her 60-year-long solidarite relationship with husband, Leon Golub, who was also an artist. Spero’s aspirations for learning and self-exploration as a young student at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1940’s, allowed her to spend a year at Ecole des Beaux-Arts and at the atelier of Andre Lhote in Paris. Yet, it was in New York in the early 1950’s that her “first crisis of artistic identity” occurred. There she spent almost an entire year working on a single canvas, which she painted over and over again, like many other young painters of the time she was willing her work to be liberated from the weight of art history and painting, It was in Chicago the same year, where Spero and Golubhad moved after a tough year spent in New York, that she encountered the artist Jean Dubuffet who became a remarkable influence onthe new direction of her work.
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Spero’s paintings were then dark with a predomination of human figures that were either protective female characters, mothers feeding children, embracing couples, standing figures, or columnbodies. These influences came from the tradition of primitivism, Greek vases and Picasso’s work from the 1920’s. Spero declined the dominant 1950’s and 1960’s post-war movements Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism, as she considered that “big canvases carried the male look”,
Nancy Spero in her Studio, 71st Street, New York 1973 Pictured in background: Codex Artaud II (top), Codex Artaud I (bottom) Photograph: Susan Weiley
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Azur, detail 2002 Collage with paint and hand printing on paper 39 panels, 64.5 x 8567.4 cm overall Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne / Centre de Création Industrielle, Paris Loan of Harriet and Ulrich Meyer through the Centre Pompidou Foundation, 2007
Female Bomb, 1966 Gouache and ink on paper, 86.4 x 68.6 cm Collection of Barbara Lee, Cambridge, MA, USA
La Folie II, 2002 Ink, handprinting and collage on paper 184.2 x 47 cm Courtesy of Estate of Nancy Spero and Galerie Lelong
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Artaud Painting: This Crucible of Fire..., 1969 Gouache, ink and collage on paper 63.50 x 50.20 cm Courtesy of Galerie de France, Paris
beside functioning as a cover up for all that was going on in the world. Hence, from the mid 1960’s on, although she did not abandon painting, she rejected the canvas, and decided to work solely on paper. This decision was a form of resistance to the dominance of the art market that had long ignored her, but also a way to make work that was not “important” considering that work on paper was not valued as highly as that on canvas, and nothing could be as important as the xploitation and suffering of fellow humans. Spero’s first works on paper focused on war - in reaction to the American incursion in Vietnam. “An exorcism” was taking shape and the horror of war was identified with the representation of the male body. “Bombs are horribly phallic and sexual – much exaggerated – representations of the penis with their head sticking its tongue out and their violent description of the human (especially male) body” said Spero in an interview. Male and female bombs, huge penises, bloody colors, spatters of gouache paint and lots of rubbing were her subjects and materials during that period. The influence of Antonin Artaud’s writings and theories on Spero’s thought and work have been immense. Spero has inserted quotations from Artaud’s work about a “theater of cruelty” collaged into her paintings on paper known as the Artaud Paintings and the Codex Artaud series. This was a means for her to externalize her voice as an artist, and articulate a philosophy of rage through the words of the playwright. These two series with various combinations of quotes by Artaud, disparate images on found pieces of paper and painted or typewritten surfaces were her first “scroll works.” From that moment on Spero worked on this highly personal system of visual narrative which was later to be recognized as her signature style. The adoption of the format of Egyptian wall painting came in the same years of intense philosophical enquiry as the sole inclusion of images of women in her work. The female actor as a protagonist of Spero’s theater culminated in the monumental 1976 work Torture of Women, and all the others that came after that. She featured La Liberté of Delacroix; Celtic goddess Sheela-na-gig; the Phryhian mother goddess Cybele, next to a prehistoric African figure; Josephine Baker; a Greek dancer with dildos; Marlene Dietrich; Yvette Guilbert; a Greek maenad; a Japanese go-go dancer and many other female charcters from every age and every culture around the world. Lyon draws a genuine portrait of Spero, as an artist who did not shy away from being categorized as marginal or being understood as an outsider. He reveals Spero’s passionate sense of the social and her art’s infinite expansiveness, and the ways in which she managed to break down the stereotype of feminist art as essentialist and humorless.
Nazlı Gürlek (b. 1981, Istanbul) is independent curator, critic and editor of contemporary art 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. Curated exhibition include the Pavilion of Turkey at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009, assistant curator); A Fine Red Line Live (176 Project Space, London, 2008, co-curator); Fold (Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul, 2011, curator); Rehearsal (Gallery NON, Istanbul, 2011, curator). She is cofounder of and editor at the independent publishing hosue IMpress.
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JULIA STOSCHEK TEXT IN GERMAN. TRANSLATED BY MICHA O. GOEBIG. T H E D E C I S I O N T O B U I L D my own collection was a long process. But there were certain events that strengthened this desire. Most significant of all, there was my first visit to a private collection back in 2002: the Falckenberg Collection in Hamburg. I was so fascinated how Harald Falckenberg talked about the works in his collection and his dedication to art. For me, this visit was a life-changing experience. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else any longer. That was the moment in which I realized that I wanted to do something similar. My great interest in contemporary media art is certainly also part of my biography and inherent to my character. I grew up with the media—MT V and T V in general— but my perception has also been shaped by how my family used their video camera (almost all important events were videotaped). This is why I identify strongly with this kind of art production. In retrospect, the early days of building my collection were rather intuitive and spontaneous compared to how I now work and collect. Today, I have a much more conceptual approach toward the process of collecting. It is my aspiration, firstly, to make the development of the medium video comprehensible and, secondly, to actively trace young positions and to establish meaningful interconnections within the collection. Furthermore, the exhibitions are always programmatically defined by my personal situation. In this sense, they are—to a certain extent—a mirror of my psyche. I put this forward and stand by it. My first exhibition, titled NUMBER ONE: Destroy, She Said, whose concept I consider rather “brute” from today’s point of view, included works which focused strongly on themes of construction/deconstruction but also on the creation of spaces. Psychological and interpersonal limits were equally broached. The 40 presented works included: the two-channel installation that gave the exhibition its title, Destroy She Said (1998) by Monica Bonvicini, which broached the issue of the role of women and the predominant gender-specific clichés; and the bizarre photography of Adam McEwen, which literally turns the world upside down and displays the corpses of Benito Mussolini and Clara Petacci hanging in front of a gas station at a square in Milan. There were strong reactions to many of the exhibited works, such as Robert Boyd’s four-channel video installation Xanadu (2006), which demonstrates the self-destructive impulses of our society. Boyd does so by condensing various elements of mass culture such as news, documentaries, cartoons and pop music and strings them together in a quick sequence of images of random interfaces of our brutal and cruel media reality. The dissonances and contentspecific conflicts, which arise from such a composition and might also be shaped by very subjective criteria, inspire me and are essential driving forces of my work. RES JUNE 2011
During the preparation for and the duration of the second exhibition, I developed a strong wish to include
more physicality and sensuality. This next exhibition was once again, in a way, a reflection of my emotional state and, in my perception, the consistent continuation of what was shown in the first exhibition. The main focus of the exhibition, entitled NUMBER TWO: Fragile, was the aspect of physicality in video, installation and photo art, which body art and performance artists in particular have been experimenting since the 1960 and 70s. Self-portrayal, pain, transformation, physicality as a plasticity that takes on a real outside form, as well as fragility were key priorities employed in the selection of 54 works. From works by Marina Abramoviç, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller with their Killing Machine (2007) to Paul Chan and Hannah Wilke, the exhibition transmitted an intense feeling of tension. It was highly emotionally charged, also for me personally. The decision to present not only my own collection but to give room to research projects and to open the house for new and external projects can also be seen as a result of the previously ongoing, intense process. This is why, in 2009, I made the decision to develop a new Julia Stoschek take on the life in the house and invite young as well as Photo: Max von Gumppenberg and Patrick Bienert/Colorstorm established artists to give performances in my space. It is a lucky coincidence that this idea led to a cooperation with MoMA/P.S 1 and the performance art biennale Performa, and the creation of an exhibition about the history of performance art, happenings and action art. Irrespective of my program, there is currently a strong revival of this kind of artistic experience. I am incredibly fascinated—also given the story of my own family, as my grandmother was an actress—by the participation of the audience and also by the transitory character of this art form. The program NUMBER THREE: Here and Now was a very special experience for me and the entire team—exhausting but at the same time extremely exciting. Working together so closely with the artists was one of the most important insights that I have experienced in connection with my activities as a collector. With the fourth exhibition, NUMBER FOUR: Derek Jarman-Super8 in September 2010, we took the exact opposite approach: For the first time since its opening, we opened the house for a monographic exhibition. Another important experience for the entire team was the cooperation with Derek Jarman’s archive, as we had never before worked with the work of a deceased artist this intensely. It was and is an honor for me to have provided one of Great Britain’s filmmakers a posthumous platform in Germany for the first time. So, my collection has not been on display in my own house for two years. However, some parts of my collection were shown last year not in Düsseldorf, but in Hamburg. Entitled I want to see how you see, a representative selection was shown in the Deichtorhallen exhibition space from April 16 to July 25, 2010. What great fortune for my very young collection to be on display at such a renowned art institution at such an early stage!
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ME, MYSELF AND MY COLLECTION
NUMBER TWO: FRAGILE
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NUMBER ONE: DESTROY, SHE SAID
Paul Chan, Happiness (Finally) After 35,000 Years of Civilization (after Henry Darger and Charles Fourier) 2000-2003Digital video projection on sparkle vellum screen17:20 Min.Installationshot Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf Photo: Achim Kukulies
Hannah Wilke, Through the Large Glass, 1976 Video, 10 Min. Installationshot Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf Photo: Achim Kukulies
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Robert Boyd, Xanadu, 2006 4-Channel-Video installation, 22 min., Installation view Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf Photo: Achim Kukulies
Adam McEwen Untitled (A-Line) C-Print , 305 x 177 cm Photo: Achim Kukulies
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NUMBER THREE: HERE AND NOW, JULIA STOSCHEK COLLECTION, Düsseldorf. Photo: Yun Lee, Düsseldorf
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Simon Fujiwara, The personal effects of Theo Grünberg, 16.07.2010, 19.00h, Performance
Jen DeNike, Scrying, 24.04.2010, 19.30h/20.30h, Ballett
Allora & Calzadilla, Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy, No.3, 2008, Modified Bechstein Piano, 03.07.2010, 11.00h/13.00h, 10.07.2010, 13.00h/16.00h, 17.07.2010, 13.00h/16.00h, 24.07.2010, 11.00h/13.00h, Performance
Keren Cytter, A man is a museum, 26.03.2010, 19.00h, Performance
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Blick in die Ausstellung, 100 Years (version #1, Düsseldorf, 11.10.09-31.07.10) Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf Foto: Yun Lee
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I WANT TO SEE HOW YOU SEE, Deichtorhallen Hamburg Installation shots of the exhibition JULIA STOSCHEK COLLECTION
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This is why I am so excited about the next exhibition here in Düsseldorf, which will open on June 25, 2011. It is the third presentation of my collection and I am sure that the public’s expectations—with regard to the collection but also to me—have surely not decreased in the past two years in which I have not shown the collection. This time, I have deliberately decided against setting a theme for the show and tried to work with an associative approach, similar to the first exhibition of my collection. Nevertheless, the show, entitled NUMBER FIVE: Cities of Gold and Mirrors, will focus on certain thematic areas and be dedicated to socio-critical issues, such as the relationship of urbanism and modern society or the questioning of identity and self-reflection. I have put together a selection of works that disrupt the range of time-based media art and also in formal terms. The show includes sculptures, installations, new acquisitions and site-specific space interventions by young artists such as Christoph Westermeier from Düsseldorf and Simon Denny, as well as established practitioners such as Francis Alÿs, David Claerbout, Mark Manders and Keren Cytter. Besides the exhibitions, another focus of my work is preserving and protecting the works. The acquisition is the first step in the “administration” process and it should not be underestimated. The works then have to be archived, conserved and administered adequately. This is an essential foundation of my collection and contributes strongly to establishing the great trust my collection has with artists and gallery owners. Another important principle in my family is “social responsibility.” I have always considered the growing prosperity of our family business a social responsibility. I don’t sell pieces from my collection, I don’t regard art as an object of speculation or an investment, and I have never been interested in money as an end in itself. I hope that, in future, I will be able to maintain my independence and my collection’s authenticity. I still work without an art consultant who would advise me in matters of acquisition strategy. The collection is supposed to grow over decades, and I hope will be passed on to the next generation! Notwithstanding the euphoria, it should be said that no collector is forced to present the collected pieces to the public. This requires a certain degree of vanity and exhibitionism; I am willing to admit as much! This is why I consider it all the sadder that other private collections demand an entrance fee, particularly in times of limited funding and tight budgets. Because private collections are self-supported, I have actively taken on the task to serve as a moderator, as well as the responsibility to make art accessible for everybody, similar to the approach common in Great Britain. I hope that my commitment will allow me to create a cultural added-value in the long term. This is what I firmly believe in. There have always been people in our society committed to the arts. But don’t get me wrong: I would never consider myself a patron of the arts. I would rather call myself a philanthropic producer. Naturally, I do have plenty of self-doubts, wondering whether what I do is the right thing and whether it has been the right decision to begin with. But in the end, what I get back is so valuable; I would never want to miss it.
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I WANT TO SEE HOW YOU SEE, Deichtorhallen Hamburg Installation shots of the exhibition JULIA STOSCHEK COLLECTION
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Julia Stoschek, born in 1975 is an art collector who has acquired a comprehensive selection of contemporary art, and distinguished herself through generous and targeted artistic patronage. Julia Stoschek is shareholder of the leading Bavarian automotive supplier, the Brose Group and made her private collection open to the public in 2007. The Julia Stoschek Collection is thoused in the former residence of the Conzen picture-frame factory in Düsseldorf, a building designed by the Berlin-based architect Kuehn Malvezzi. Time based media forms the central focus of the collection which currently comprises around 450 items, including works by Marina Abramoviç, Doug Aitken, Francis Alÿs, David Claerbout, Thomas Demand, Dan Graham, Douglas Gordon, Christian Jankowski, Jon Kessler, Adam McEwan, Paul Pfeiffer, Mika Rottenberg, Andro Wekua, Tobias Zielony.
I WANT TO SEE HOW YOU SEE, Deichtorhallen Hamburg Installation shots of the exhibition JULIA STOSCHEK COLLECTION
Inspiring Beautiful Free
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The world’s greatest museum of art and design www.vam.ac.uk
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The Medieval and Renaissance Galleries at the V&A. Photography by Peter Durant
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TWILIGHT OF THE GALLERISTS: YVON LAMBERT J. EMIL SENNEWALD TEXT IN GERMAN. TRANSLATED BY JEREMY GAINES. H E I S N O L O N G E R one of the top 100 most influential people in contemporary art. According to this year’s rankings by Journal des Arts (and they don’t include him), he is more of a dinosaur. He started out in 1966. And not in Marais, that former thieves’ district, where today he showcases the art-market heavyweights.
Yvon Lambert Photograph: Didier Barroso
Yvon Lambert, the man from the South, opened his first gallery in Paris in what was then the artistically vibrant district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, at rue de l’Èchaudé – it’s an arrondissement that has since been lost in its slumbers. His program included: art of the 1930s, Robert Malaval, Jean Hélion, and Theo van Doesburg. He had a good feel for things and at the end of the 1970’s switched to Minimal and Conceptual art, relocated frequently and finally, in 1986, as by then a leading gallery for contemporary art in Paris, to the rue Vieille du Temple. Today, Galerie Yvon Lambert offers a broad spectrum of committed, conceptual, poetic works: new artists such as Mircea Cantor, Bethan Huws, David Shrigley are part of the program, stars such as Andres Serrano, Anselm Kiefer or Barbara Kruger, and established greats such as Lawrence Weiner, Joan Jonas, and Jenny Holzer.
Now, almost half a century since he started, he is withdrawing from the market. In part at least. In April 2011 he closed his New York gallery, after eight good years and despite prime sales figures, as Director Olivier Bélot emphasizes. Lambert wants to “continue pursuing projects in the framework of the gallery”, but above all “to keep his love of the artworks and relationship with the artists intact”. And he only recently put this to the test on behalf of Andres Serrano in his collection in Avignon – where, since 2000, his 1,200plus artworks have been on public view. Two of Serrano’s purportedly blasphemous glossy photographs were destroyed by wild-minded integralists. Lambert, who is already being defamed in the Net as a “Piss Christ gallerist”, defended Serrano and sharply criticized the lack of security provided by the city.
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The story has been going for some time now. At the beginning of the year he threatened to remove his collection from Avignon as the municipal authorities did not ensure the due maintenance of the building. Hôtel Caumont, built in 1720 and the pride and joy of Avignon, had been poorly restored, an entire ceiling fell to the ground in the middle of the Miquel Barcélo show, for which works had been obtained on loaned from the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. Lambert brought glamour, visitors and tourists to the city, boosted its value and reputation – and his own pocket. The public coffers paid the collector 440,000 Euros for 20102013 and at the end of 2010 committed another 45,000 Euros on top. Yet Lambert continued to cuss and threaten. In France it is quite usual to finance a private collector’s thirst for exhibitions and to care for his collection, and thus indirectly give him a competitive edge – in April 2011 Agnès B. received a subsidy of 50,000 Euros from Institut Français for her Haiti show. Lambert, however, went for the poiliticians’ jugulars.
Andres Serrano, Piss Christ, 1987 Cibachrome, Collection Lambert en Avignon
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What is driving this successful gallerist and energetic collector? The first time I spoke with Yvon Lambert he claimed to be a painter. It was on May 28, 2010 at the buffet after the preview for the Jason Dodge show I woke up. There was a note in my pocket explaining what had happened at the La Galerie art center in Noisy-le-sec on the outskirts of Paris. While this minor masquerade could have been seen as a witty continuation of the Minimalist/narrative approach preferred by Dodge (Lambert represents him), it soon developed into an unpleasant battle of minds. The elderly gentleman who claimed to be a painter, who spoke swiftly and condescendingly, as though nothing could contest his view of art, wanted to have a bit of a game. He responded to criticism of the current hype surrounding Anselm Kiefer in France by declaring: “The greatest painter of all time! The same stature as a Wagner, a Nietzsche; anyone who doesn’t know them cannot understand his oeuvre.” Lambert was exhibiting Kiefer at his gallery at the time. And Jason Dodge? “One of the most important artists today.” Yvon Lambert certainly knows his superlatives. When content is called for, he attacks swiftly, with massive statements. A gallerist who prefers deeds with an intuitive mind, both of which helped him back in October 2008 when deciding to open a 650 sq.m. gallery in London on the occasion of the then so hip Frieze Art Fair. He closed it again only six months later, the word being the economic crisis had hit his enterprise. “It was an experiment,” confirms Belot, his faithful director for the last 18 years. And the closing show in London was incidentally Serrano’s Piss Christ provocation, without any incidents. If we judge by the titles of his exhibitions, Lambert likes to play with symbolic gestures, and the scandal surrounding the Serrano show will no doubt mean Avignon is once again fearing that he will take his collection elsewhere. All these hard-nosed decisions leave one asking: So who is Lambert? What are his motives and his current intentions?
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I reach him by phone, shortly after his return from the 26th Art Brussels. Was the fair worth while? “Brussels is a sound fair, a little provincial, but with important galleries, a little too long and slow, but things went well, we worked well.” “New markets are there to be discovered,” he continues, including the Internet, such as the VIP Art Fair, the first edition of which did not really come up roses (Lambert was the only gallerist to ask the organizers to give him his money back). Is the Internet a market he intends to tap? “Well, we work a bit with the Internet, but I could not really claim we do that much. Our clients prefer to see the works, to come to the gallery, to have real contact with us,” but he did not see any point in any further discussion of the banalities of fairs. Good, then what about his current show, an all-over installation by Douglas Gordon rich in images – how does he see his role as gallerist given the ongoing flood of images and art? “I don’t understand your question, I’ve been working as a gallerist for 40 years now.” Okay, okay. Douglas Gordon concerns himself with how we approach images, with our relationship to the influence of images. Has he talked about this with the artist? “I’ve worked with Gordon for some time, we decided over a year ago to hold the show, the artist selected what he wanted to exhibit, we talked it over for months, then he came over and hung up the 400-odd photographs.” Aha. So how does he see his role as gallerist? “Sir, that has been my role for 40 years now. I have been organizing exhibitions for 40 years now. In a gallery, you organize one show after another, talk to the artist, decide, usually jointly, what will be shown.” Yes, okay, but how does he see himself now, as a partner for discussions, as a gallerist and collector? “I started from an early date to keep works from my gallery shows. It swiftly assumed massive proportions as I have been working as a gallerist for a very long time now. The selection is that of a gallerist and collector.” Astonishing. Well. So it’s a personal selection, exclusively, and never one that considers market forces? “Never.”
Douglas Gordon Phantom Installation View Courtesy lost but found, Yvon Lambert Crédit photo: Didier Barroso
173 RES JUNE 2011 Lawrence Wiener Down And Out, Out And Down, 1971 Adhesive letters Photography Franck Couvreur View of the façade of the hôtel de Caumont at Avignon
Douglas Gordon Phantom Installation View Courtesy lost but found, Yvon Lambert Crédit photo: Didier Barroso
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So what prompts him to choose his artists, what moves him in art today? “You can see that from the selection of artists I have made for 40 years now.” Oh dear. So to rephrase it: What specific plans does he have for the future. “Listen, I have been a gallerist for 40 years now and will not suddenly start selling clothes.” No, of course not. So what projects are on the cards, with his Parisian gallery? “I will be having some conversion work done to the gallery, and will inform everyone about my projects when I have decided on them.” And that is all that was to be got out of him. So it remains to be seen what will happen to the Parisian Galerie Yvon Lambert and the Lambert Collection in Avignon. Maybe Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols has consolation to offer: “Our true experiences are not at all garrulous. They could not communicate themselves even if they tried: they lack the right words.”
Yvon Lambert was born on February 9, 1946 in Vence in the south of France, here finding his avenue into the art world; he speaks of meetings with Robert Malaval and Jean Dubuffet as a child. Coming from a middle-class family, he fared poorly at school and wanted become an artist. Realizing, however, that his skills in talking about art far outweighed those in creating it, he opened his first gallery in 1958 in Vence using his mother’s money, eschewing modesty to christen it ‘From Modigliani to Picasso’. He sought the company of artists, cultivated his relationship with them and in 1960 moved to Paris, where, as a gallery owner, he launched many artists’ careers who were then unknown in France. He discovered his passion for collecting late in life, showing the fruits of his labor for the first time in Villeneuve-d’Ascq in 1992, before moving them permanently to Avignon in 2000. www.yvon-lambert.com Dr. J. Emil Sennewald, as a publicist, art critic and member of AICA France (www.aica-france.org), works in Paris predominantly for German-language magazines, among them Kunstbulletin (Zurich), springerin (Vienna), Kunstzeitung (Regensburg) and Kunst&Auktionen (Munich). At the same time, also as a member of the research group EA 182 at the University of Paris III, he conducts research into theories of criticism, the interplay between text and images, visual space and drawing. Alongside his daily work, he publishes catalog texts, essays, anthologies, and makes public appearances at lectures, events and roundtable discussions. With his wife Andrea Weisbrod, he heads the project space café au lit (cafeaulit.de). Numerous articles and recent publications at weiswald.com.
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Â© Dirimart, 2011
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Conversation With Wael Shawky Hans Ulrich Obrist Conversation With Wim Delvoye Erda/aksel Conversation With Jananne Al-ani Rachel Withers Th...