The PRESENT CLUB. So, what do you suggest? weekend of discussion and film screenings is on at Brussels’ La Loge, opening January 19 and running to the January 21.
The new year’s event will bring together artists, curators and other thinkers with the aim of returning to “the present-day and envision ways to join forces, inside and outside the field of art, on an institutional and human scale.”
The chosen films are proposed by the invited speakers, responding in some way to the “troubles of our times,” presenting cinema that is both hopeful and dark, confident and present. The event defines itself as being against indifference or paralysis.
The films include:
Antonio Mercero – La cabina (1972)
Bartek Dziadosz – The Trouble with Being Human These Days (2013)
A.K. Burns and A.L Steiner – Community Action Center (2010)
Pedro Almodóvar – Dark Habits (Entre tinieblas) (1983)
Ayman Nahle – Now: End of Season (2015)
The Karrabing Film Collective – Wutharr: Saltwater Dreams (2015)
Short of providing a list of things that were good (or bad) in 2016, here is a summary of a year that has seen AQNB, its audience and its art of interest evolve into something that goes well beyond a generational trend or glitch. Shaping and being shaped by a moment of social upheaval, the internet as a medium and a political tool has had an indelible effect on the global landscape, laying a strong foundation for a very uncertain future. Whether there’s ever been a ‘better time’ is up for debate but there’s no doubting that unparalleled access to a lot of information for some has led to an awareness that is more expansive than any of a known recent history. The instrumentalisation (and control) of the online mind, too, has been enormous. Its effects both positive and very, very negative.
Hence, we enter into a new era. Life after Brexit, a Trump election and an ongoing proxy war for which all of us are responsible. Until then, here’s a look back at some of our favourite writing for 2016, so you can brace yourselves for the future.
In the wake of aggressive property development and gentrification in London, artist-writer Mitch, wanders through the geography of the English capital to try and identify the effects artists and artistic communities can have on an area. These places include real estate in the London suburb of Peckham, the recent relocation of Project Native Informant, the second incarnation of artist-run space The Woodmilland Peckham Road organisation South London Gallery.
A young artist unpacks her very personal experience of institutional misogyny in the art world as a site of reification for dominant patriarchal ideologies. Leading the reader through a narrative of her subordination to, and ultimate liberation from sexism via Catholicism, Sappho questions the externalizing and re-internalizing of violence on the self as a direct result of a restrictive art market.
One of the many events organized as part of Simone Leigh’s exhibition The Waiting Room, writer Frankie Archer joined BWA for BLM, which took over three floors of the New Museum for an evening of communal healing, solidarity and action. Leigh brought together over a hundred black women artists to take part in programming installations, performances and screenings situated within black female subjectivity.
New-York based artist Chloe Wise spoke to writer Audrey Phillips about the machinations of marketing, the banality of trends, and the power behind the ‘shiny’. Famous for her clever critique of the fashion and the consumer industry, Wise also touched on the similarities between how women and food are described, as well as the misogynistic language surrounding female representation.
aqnb editor Jean Kay caught up with music duo Stine Omar and Max Boss of Easter in Berlin, to discuss the web of associations that runs through the lyrical, musical, visual and conceptual amalgam of their work. It’s a conversation that touches on trolling, gender fluidity and fetish.
LA-based artist Candice Lin presented A Body Reduced to Brilliant Colour at London’s Gasworks. It was her first solo exhibition in London, where she explores the perishable nature of the work and its deep roots within objects, colonialism and language.
Berlin-based artist Claire Tolan talks about her practice, from mixing ASMR sounds live on air for her BCR show ‘You’re Worth It’ to applying a growing archive to her ringtone database Shush Systems, while investigating how social events in physical spaces can model themselves on interactions on the internet.
The Berlin-based artist behind “modern research drama” This Unwieldy Object, Anna Zett, talks about working with video as a medium and gathering empirical evidence of the attitudes and perspectives surrounding her chosen subjects, including dinosaurs, boxing and the brain
London-based producer and performer Klein follows up the release of her first EP Lagata with a conversation about being self-taught within the electronic realm, and what has influenced her practice, from Gospel to Pavarotti.
AQNB x ViC screening presentations
As part of an ongoing series of screening, reading, performance and discussion events organised in collaboration with video production partners Video in Common, aqnb editor Jean Kay visited art spaces in London, Los Angeles and Berlin – all key cultural centres in the art editorial platform’s network – to present work by artists along a given theme.
Presented at Berlin’s Import Projects in March, ‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’ interrogated the systems and infrastructures embedded in the internet and how these affect distribution, flows of information and power.
Presented at London’s Assembly Point in May, explored the questions and developments that emerge when reformulating the categories, formats and frameworks that come with shifts in networked communication, and its influence on community-building and identity-formation.
Presented at Club Pro Los Angeles in July, ‘Accessing Economies: Withdrawal + Engagement’ examined contemporary discourse developing beyond ideas of visibility and representation to notions of assimilation into existing cultural paradigms to interrogate the politics of identity within commercial or institutional spheres.
Presented at Berlin’s Vierte Welt for 3hd Festival in October, the event interrogated what is actually meant by ‘the future’ and whether the past has a role in determining it by asking, ‘What happens to the present when we’re stuck in the future?’
Buenos Tiempos Int.’s exhibition for The One Year Art Book Fair (OYABF) was on at Oslo’s Atelier Felix at Kunsternes Hus, running June 15 to 26, 2016. It was curated by publisher and book store Torpedo and focusses on two productions, an installation of photography from The Ages of Beatrix Ruf: A History of Power Transvestism (2014-16) series and video ‘A Walk with Dorothée Dupuis and Jessica Gysel Around the Chinese Pavilion and the Japanese Tower in Brussels’ (2015).
The latter video, written and directed by BTI co-founders Alberto García del Castillo and Marnie Slater, features Dorothée Dupuis and Jessica Gysel of publications Petunia and Girls Like Us, respectively, and was first launched at Brussels’s La Loge in April last year. The film features the two feminist art magazine editors walking through Laeken Park in the Belgian capital, the site of a couple of early 20th century French constructions called the Japanese Tower and Chinese Pavilion —symbols of what BTI calls the country’s “fin-de-siècle Orientalism and cultural imperialism”.
Accompanying the A Walk with… video is an essay, also by Slater and del Castillo, called ‘Las Vegas, Laeken: A History of Architectural Drag‘ that the latter BTI memberread during a performance-concert and video viewing in one of the rooms of Kunsternes Hus on June 20. The exhibition of photos from The Ages of Beatrix Ruf… come from a series comprising two fashion editorial shoots on “power drag”. One shoot, featuring Slater and Vincent Ferre, was published in the aforementioned Petunia magazine in 2014, and the other, again featuring Slater as well as Flynn Casey, Geoff Newton and Puppies Puppies, was produced at Material Art Fair in Mexico City.
The presentation is a culmination of Buenos Tiempos, Int.’s ongoing work as an online exhibition space concerned with “faggotry as it is today”, while specifically exploring displays of power within the animate and inanimate object. There are the people in The Ages of Beatrix Ruf… photo shoot, which is a series that’s named after the German curator featured in Art Review’s 2012 Power 100. Then there are the buildings of Laeken Park and their representation of “Eurocentric and exotic view of other cultures”. This “architectural drag” described by Slater and del Castillo in their Las Vegas, Laeken… essay, comes with its display in the monuments that dwarf Dupuis and Gysel in A Walk with…**
Characteristic of the Belgian collective’s presentations, there is little by way of explanation of the themes of the show, save for a link to the display page of the work itself. Titular work ‘Progress’ (2013) features a shaky video of boob-shaped stress balls rolling up and down a snowy slope to the soundtrack by Yiannis Luokos of moaning, howling and meowing through an echo and random piano keys. The piece comes accompanied by a short poem that ends “mling, mil, min, mit, mli, mu, mli, ml/ ml, ming, mling, memrry wingter”.
The one-night-only mini-festival An Evening of Poetry takes place on Friday 22 April in a living room by the canal on the city edge of Molenbeek. It’s full of people probably lured by Brussels-based curatorial project Buenos Tiempos, Int.’s motto, “faggotry as it is today”, or by the e-newsletter heralding in seductive serif: “We would be very gay / To have you between us …”
Hosted in the shared home of Buenos Tiempos, Int. founders Alberto García del Castillo and Marnie Slater, the evening comprises spoken and sung poetry by international artists Olivia Dunbar, Benjamin Seror and Geo Wyeth, all of whom could be said to operate in the sprawling domain of queer performance and/or poetry, though each with very different approaches. Contrary to the rest of that particular week’s commercial gallery-oriented proceedings (thanks to Art Brussels and its various self-consciously ‘independent’ offshoots), the event is graciously not an extension of the work day in the guise of a party.
The environment is domestic, the crowd loose, the entry unexclusive (read: free). The beer is cheap and the works play out on the same floor on which the attendees stand. There is no facile gesture of participation (though we are implicated), no price, no waiting list and no extensive documentation (for a hoot, see BTI’s website ‘documentation’, “About An Evening of Poetry …”, a 10-minute real-time capture of the setting sun taken from the venue’s roof on the same night). Buenos Tiempos, Int. would distance itself from the need to be negatively defined by what the art market does (speculate, voraciously consume, exploit). That said, this evening does mark itself as vastly different (just look at the lighting) within the context of the fair week, the oppressive sameness of market booths and of fluorescent white cubes.
First up, Brussels-based Seror gives a synth-infused performance mixing poetry and pop music, while his ungainly dance moves and increasingly enthusiastic, near head-banging sincerity leads to an electric guitar solo and thundering applause as he completes his last song. Somewhere between amateur rock and heartfelt emotional folk, Seror is succeeded by an absent yet personal reading by Dunbar, who begins with a discussion of her dick, her boyfriend, and his hot rod magazines. The Canadian artist could not be in Brussels and thus her voice is remotely emitted from speakers; nonetheless, attendees stand and listen, facing where her presence would have been, towards the stage. At some point Dunbar breaks into song and her stunning voice is a shock (though there is no final evidence it belongs to the artist herself, one assumes so). Juxtaposing varied references and images via text and music, Dunbar’s collage-like piece consciously and explicitly recalls the current tendency in contemporary art for text-based, quasi-autobiographical, technology-contingent and somewhat emotionally distant poetry.
This constellatory approach to text is reflected in US-American Wyeth’s live work, which compiles vignettes of physical performance, including costume changes (or removals, as it were), with song (another breathtaking voice), and poetry. The performance commences with a disquieting baby-like voice coming from a disoriented, sunglass-wearing Wyeth, crying repetitively as he wanders about, dragging a small carry-on size wheelie suitcase: “Daddy, Daddy? Where are you, Daddy?” One can’t help thinking of the lost father, the metaphorical authority, which is supposed to keep our subjectivity in check. One can’t help thinking of all those adult children in their 20s and 30s wandering around airports waiting for low-cost flights, wondering what the hell their life is about. Wyeth’s specific ‘Daddy’ becomes the generalised ‘Daddy’, the dead father; we killed him long ago but neglected to replace him, and there is no more ideology to believe in; we are lost.
Shortly after, Wyeth enters a vignette where he lifts up his long pullover to reveal the word ‘juice’, written in some sort of brown fluid. Juice for children; juice for sex; juice for power. The meaning remains ambiguous but Wyeth uses the repetition and visual representation of this word to assert its affect. Towards the end of the performance, he enters an intensely physical phase where he dry humps the floor, microphone in mouth amplifying the carnal sounds of this increasingly violent action. At some point Wyeth grabs onto an attendee and makes his way into this man’s arms, like a baby. By now the sounds have changed to a much more disturbed, even tormented moan, child-like in its tone. The image we are left with is this sexualised child, deprived of dignity but triumphantly clinging to the man. With this image, the presumed innocence of our spectatorship falls away completely. We are complicit and only too aware of the pleasure/unease we derive from this trans man’s revelation. Do we also feel compelled to cry for Daddy? Thundering applause.
It’s no surprise Buenos Tiempos, Int. have garnered a faithful following both locally and abroad. This is their second poetry event, the first, in May 2015, featured Kathy Acker and Dunbar, Hadley Howes and Brad Phillips. Their regular online exhibitions, usually presenting the work of one artist, include video works, documentation of performances, text pieces, images, etc. These shows give concise insight into artists whose practices are often difficult to categorise. Shows by artists as varied as Vava Dudu, Juliana Huxtable, and CAConrad, reveals BTI’s interest in queer visual art, music and experimental literature, as well as their effort to trace a certain lineage of queer practices and chart connections between artists not normally seen or thought of together.
This is certainly the case at An Evening of Poetry. Living up to their motto, Buenos Tiempos, Int. (which, after all, means ‘good times’ in Spanish), made faggots of us all. Though most were probably already quite open to it.**
The Buenos Tiempos-produced film A Walk with Dorothée Dupuis and Jessica Gysel Around the Chinese Pavilion and the Japanese Tower in Brussels will premiere at Brussels’s La Loge on April 1.
The film stars two editors of feminist art magazines – Dorothée Dupuis of Petunia and Jessica Gysel of Girls Like Us. In the film, the two women chat and stroll through Brussels’s Laeken Park in Brussels against the backdrop of French architect Alexandre Marcel‘s The Japanese Tower (1905) and the Chinese Pavilion (1910), both considered to be poignant illustrations of the fin-de-siècle Orientalism and cultural imperialism.
Directed and written by Alberto García del Castillo and Marnie Slater, the film continues in the thread of Buenos Tiempos, Int.’s debut production, The Ages of Beatrix Ruf: A History of Power Transvestism (2014), a fashion editorial on drag performativity commissioned for the sixth issue of Petunia magazine. The April 1 film premier will also bring a performance by Bear Bones, Lay Low, Ernesto González’s solo project.