Dena Yago

Land, religion + the architectural history of the Los Angeles River for El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina… at MAK Center, Aug 4

4 August 2017

The El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río Porciúncula group exhibition is on at Los Angeles’ MAK Center for Art and Architecture on August 4. 

The Spanish language title of the show translates to ‘The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Porziuncola River,’ the original name of the City of Los Angeles during Spanish colonization of the area in the 18th century. Led by Franciscan friars and soldiers, what was originally a small military outpost on a fertile waterway — named ‘Porziuncola‘ after the Catholic chapel in Italy and meaning ‘small portion of land’ — would become the second most populous city in the United States with its barren concrete ‘water freeway’ of the Los Angeles River. 

Curated by Alessandro Bava, of MAK Center’s current Mackey Apartments residents åyr, the show comes with little information but will no doubt cover the changing landscape of the Californian capital from the perspective of architect Bava, particularly at a time of public revitalisation projects around the river. Contributing artists include Nina Cristante, Veronica Gelbaum, Etienne Van Doorslaer, Giangiacomo Rossetti, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Philipp Johnson, Corita Kent, and Dena Yago.

See the MAK Center website for details. ** 

Dena Yago, ‘Do you Ever Feel like a Plastic Bag?’ (2014). Courtesy the artist + Hammer Museum, Los Anegles.
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Unfinished Symphony @ Gillmeier Rech, Jul 1 – 30

1 July 2016

The Unfinished Symphony group exhibition is on at Berlin’s Gillmeier Rech, opening July 1 and running to July 30.

Curated by Vivien Trommer, the show features work by Mariechen Danz, Charlotte Dualé, Olga Pedan, Andrzej Steinbach, and K-Hole‘s Dena Yago and comes accompanied by a short description in German on the FB event page.

A rough translation of the text suggests the exhibition explores the principle of the ‘unfinished’ in contemporary art, where since the turn of the 20th century the idea of the open work —in which the object is only complete upon its perception by its audience —now prevails.

Referencing Juliane Rebentisch’s subject-object distinctions in installation art and speculative realist philosopher Quentin Meillassoux’s correlationism between artwork and reflective subject, Unfinished Symphony expands on these ideas and presents works that appear as complex singular yet interrelated object arrangements with an internal logic that together become a form of modern symphony.

See the Gillmeier Rech website for (limited) details.**

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Made in L.A., Jun 12 – Aug 28

13 June 2016

The Made in L.A. biennial is running at Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum, running June 12 to August 28.

This year’s theme is a, the, though, only, offered by the minimalist poet, Aram Saroyan whose most famous poem is the word ‘lighght’, and whose work for the biennial is this subtitle. Of the 26 artists and collectives selected, those to look out for include Martine SymsKelly AkashiEckhaus Latta, Guthrie Lonergan, Adam Linder and Dena Yago, who together give a sense of the variety of work being made in LA today.

Of the artists mentioned, Syms currently has an exhibition running at London’s ICA called Fact & Trouble, and Lonergan recently took part in the recently closed default group exhibition at LA’s Honor Fraser. Performance artist Linder took part in Frieze 2014, artist-designer duo Eckhaus Latta presented as part of this year’s Paramount Ranch and K-HOLE member Yago presented work at London’s Cell Project Space for the Columbidae group exhibition earlier this year.

See the Hammer Museum website for more details.**

Dena Yago, Do you Ever Feel like a Plastic Bag? (2014). Courtesy the artist and the Hammer Museum, LA
Dena Yago, ‘Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?’ (2014). Courtesy the artist and the Hammer Museum, LA.

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K-HOLE @ ICA Miami reviewed

24 August 2015

Organized in part by artist-run collective and gallery Guccivuitton for the Ideas program at ICA Miami, Los Angeles-based artist Dena Yago and New York-based artist Sean Monahan of trend forecasting group K-HOLE (also with Greg Fong, Chris Sherron, and Emily Segal) were recently in residence at the institution to develop new market research using the city as a case study, as part of ‘A Report on Doubt’ launching on August 18

Presenting a preview of their research on August 8 in an interactive workshop, Yago and Monahan sit comfortably in ICA Miami’s well lit project space. The walls are bare, save for a giant flatscreen TV that hangs between the artists to supplement their talk with slides. The room is full and quiet as they begin with a brief overview of K-HOLE’s past body of work: the group typically creates neologisms for their case studies, presented as trend forecasting reports that are freely accessible to the public. They’re responsible for the infamous ‘normcore’ coinage, which first appeared in their 2013 report ‘Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom’ but became popular online as ‘#normcore’ the following year. It even made it into the Oxford Dictionary’s 2014 list of new words and came runner-up to ‘vape’ for Word of the Year.

K-HOLE @ ICA Miami (2015). © Javier Sanchez. Courtesy the gallery.
K-HOLE @ ICA Miami (2015). © Javier Sanchez. Courtesy the gallery.

Yago and Monahan begin by describing normcore as being less a fad and more a philosophical idea. It was never meant in terms of fashion –as it’s now largely known for –but rather what they call “privileging communication over exercises of individuality”, regardless of what one’s wearing. Instead, according to the artists, the general public and journalists destroyed its “blurry, complicated utopian idea”, by reducing the report’s idea of normcore as a fluid community to simply that of  ‘acting basic’ –another term in the same report that denotes a trend for dressing blandly as a statement about not making one.

Though Yago and Monahan appear disappointed with the phenomenon that followed their  ‘Youth Mode’ report, one could argue that its misinterpretation attests to its success. After all, it is a trend forecasting report. Conventionally, these reports are made privately for companies in order to capitalize on consumer patterns at opportune moments by making new products based on what is observed. When the reports are made readily available to all, as K-HOLE does, the opportunity to capitalize is given to all, which is essentially what happened. #normcore, as well as ‘acting basic’, has generated a lot of content online and in the market, but as a mutation. Hence, the group’s impetus for their new report –and conversation –coming from the mass misunderstanding of the term, which drew their attention to what they call “language and the ambiguity of online speak”.

While research is still in development, K-HOLE present new terms at ICA Miami to potentially be included in their latest report, such as ‘consensus collapse’ and ‘unimpeachable language’ –where terms anxiously change meaning, making it easy to withstand any potential arguments against them. They also describe subjective and intimate language used as a mask over the language of infrastructures and technologies with ‘weaponized subjectivity’.

K-HOLE @ ICA Miami (2015). © Javier Sanchez. Courtesy the gallery.
K-HOLE @ ICA Miami (2015). © Javier Sanchez. Courtesy the gallery.

During their brief two-day residency, Yago and Monahan tried to find consumer patterns in Miami for ‘lifestyle burnout’ and ‘survivalist cosplay’, the two main ideas to be included in the report, which focuses on magic. Lifestyle burnout is described as “always being on” and “not having any differentiation between work and play” but seeking to retreat or escape, very literally, when one reaches a severe point of consumer exhaustion. Survivalist cosplay is described as short term extreme consumer experiences, usually concerned with the resilience of the body and its capabilities to survive an apocalypse, if need be. It is situation and reaction, while lifestyle burnout deals in sustainability and duration; a desire to stop being a consumer and its associated feelings of guilt. Survivalist cosplay is being continually absorbed by and embraces the consumer sphere.

Yago and Monahan admit to not having enough time to fully understand the complexities of the city of Miami their short time there. They acknowledge the obvious associations people have with it; that they didn’t really manage to reach a better understanding of what life is actually like for the people living there. The city is mostly known as a city for tourists, of indulgence, superficiality, debauchery and little else. While citing Miami as having one of the highest income inequalities than any other US city, and describing it as “unabashedly consumerist and superficial, that freaks out other Americans”, they still opt to research locations, such as Barry’s Bootcamp and Vitasquad, that perpetuate those preconceptions. 

Barry’s Bootcamp is marketed as the best workout in the world. It is a combination of cardio and weightlifting done in a dark room to EDM with a militarized aesthetic. Though it’s a company founded in West Hollywood with branches around the world –including New York and London –Barry’s Bootcamp is presented as if it’s representative of Miami specifically, describing the bodies of the city as being “very different” and “less spiritual or yogic” than those in New York or Los Angeles. In fact, most of Yago and Monahan’s observations are made in comparison to these two cities. According to their presentation, people in Miami approach physical fitness as if it were a contest more than a health practice, grouping it under their ‘survivalist cosplay’ heading. They give no examples of how people in Miami are less spiritual and more competitive about their exercise routine than those in other cities, nor do they mention speaking to anyone in the workout classes they attend.

K-HOLE @ ICA Miami (2015). © Javier Sanchez. Courtesy the gallery.
K-HOLE @ ICA Miami (2015). © Javier Sanchez. Courtesy the gallery.

It seems impractical to want to find spirituality in a health practice such as Barry’s Bootcamp, as it isn’t based on a spiritual tradition and is specifically marketed as a tough militaristic challenge, attracting specific types of people with specific interests and goals. Similarly, Vitasquad, a service that provides intravenous nutrients for dehydration and is commonly used as a hangover cure, attracts people who like to drink and party. Businesses like Vitasquad also exist in New York and Los Angeles.

Considering that K-HOLE are working on a report on the subject of magic, it’s disappointing that they stick with what they already know. That being Miami’s superficial veneer, mostly centering around what South Beach has to offer, while overlooking the widespread practice of Santeria and vodou spiritual practices in the area. In light of the this limited approach to researching consumer trends, it might put the apparent misappropriation of normcore, as a too-generalized term for being ‘basic’, into perspective. **

K-HOLE is a US-based trend forecasting group. Their latest report is available to download from their website as of August 18, 2015.

Header image: K-HOLE @ ICA Miami (2015). © Javier Sanchez. Courtesy the gallery.

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Grand Opening Reception @ NAK, Jul 18 – Sep 13

16 July 2015

Grand Opening Reception, a new project at Aachen’s Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, opens at the German art space this week, running from July 18 to September 13.

The project—conceived in collaboration with Kuwaiti architect and artist Aziz Al Qatami, founder of the architecture firm Atelier Aziz Al Qatami and member of the artist collective GCC, who was commissioned to create the Grand Opening Reception exhibition design—questions the role of “artistic positions in contemporary institutional marketing and the eventisation of cultural production in the form of local identity creation”.

Curated by Elisa R. Linn and Lennart Wolff, the project invites ten international artists to contribute work, including Dena YagoRenaud JerezChristian von BorriesStewart UooJulien Ceccaldi, and Cooper Jacoby.

See the exhibition page for details. **

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Frieze New York 2015, May 14 – 17

13 May 2015

Frieze Art Fair New York is back for another round in the US city, running from May 14 to 17.

As always, the fair brings a dizzying slew of exhibitors and events. And for all its union labour woes (now resolved), it always brings some great emerging artists looking to break into the art world.

This year, exhibitors include: Berlin’s Croy Nielsen (with Olga Balema, Marlie Mul and Sebastian Black, among others); Real Fine Arts (with Yuji Agematsu); C L E A R I N G (with Harold Ancart and Calvin Marcus, as well as Korakrit Arunanondchai); The Breeder (with Andreas Angelidakis); The Third Line (with Sophia Al-Maria); Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler (with Katja Novitskova, Slavs and Tatars, and Guan Xiao); and Temnikova & Kasela (with Kris Lemsalu).

Happening alongside the exhibitions are a series of talks (including Next Top Models: New Forms of Artists’ Collectives on May 14 with Abdullah Al-Mutairi (of GCC) and Dena Yago (of K-HOLE), hosted by Alex Provan).

Also taking simultaneously taking place is the annual NADA, bringing in exhibitors like Smart Objects (with Michael Manning), Evelyn Yard (with Héctor Arce-Espasas and Paul Kneale), and The Sunday Painter with Leo Fitzmaurice.

See the Frieze website and the NADA website for details. **

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Columbidae @ Cell Project Space, Mar 26 – May 17

25 March 2015

Cell Project Space brings a new exhibition titled Columbidae, featuring Essex Olivares, Mélanie Matranga, Barbara T. Smith, and Dena Yago, and running at the London space from March 26 to May 17.

The show, curated by Laura McLean-Ferris, is complete with live performances by Essex Olivares, titled ‘Office Riddim’, beginning with the opening night and reoccurring on March 28, April 18, May 2, and on the closing night on May 17.

Columbidae takes the “administrative labour” traditionally associated with office environments as its source of inspiration. Alongside Olivares’s performances are Barbara T. Smith’s Xerox poetry sets created during her dual life as a Pasadena housewife and emerging artist in the 60s, Mélanie Matranga disorienting sceneographies, and Dena Yago’s flatbed scanner images, which she will discuss during a Culture Now talk with McLean-Ferris at the ICA on March 27.

See the exhibition page for details. **

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‘NOON ON THE MOON’ launch @ San Serriffe, Feb 14

13 February 2015

San Serriffe will be hosting the launch of fourth edition of the ‘Noon on the Moon’ poetic series on February 14.

The Amsterdam-based art book shop brings the launch on the ugliest day of the year – Valentine’s Day – perhaps as a means of channeling the forced sentimentality of the holiday into something actually meaningful.

The evening kicks off at 17:00 and the poetic series combines (like most things do these days) poetry, literature and visual art, challenging the traditional forms of narrative.

Initiated by Keren Cytter and co-edited with Fiona Bryson, the fourth edition is seasonally themed, interpreting the dreaded holiday in an abstract sense with poetry from Barry Schwabsky, Charles Bernstein, Judith Goldman and Dorothea Lasky, prose by Veronica Gonzalez Peña, and colorful romance covers illustrated by  Vicki Khuzami. Other contributors include Luna Miguel, Sophie CollinsKeith J Varadi and Dena Yago, amongst a dozen or so others.

See the San Serriffe website for details. **

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Silly Canvas @ Utopian Slumps, Dec 15 – 22

15 December 2014

Melbourne’s Utopian Slumps gallery is teaming up with Centre for Style for the Silly Canvas group exhibition, running at the gallery space from December 15 to December 22.

The gallery and the Centre for Style exhibition space and retail store are joining forces again to host and curate, respectively, Silly Canvas, which will feature 14 various artists and artist collectives – including Amalia Ulman, ffiXXedMarlie Mul and Trevor Shimizu – working within the restricted parameters of two rectangular pieces of material attached to one another to form a two-sided wearable canvas. 

The December 15 opening kicks off with a panel and performance byAnna-Sophie Berger on the following Thursday, December 18, titled The Styled Canvas: fashion’s image and its various production lines and featuring D&K, Briony Wright and Robyn Healy in a discussion of “how image and styling mitigate fashion practice”.

The exhibition comes in conjunction with the launch of a Centre for Style publication, Centre for Style Rag, which is posited as a response to the themes of Silly Canvas and is comprised of texts by six writers, including Harry Burke, and artist pages by another five, including Dena Yago.

See the Silly Canvas exhibition page for details. **

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Sandy Brown + Dena Yago @ Art Basel, Jun 17 – 22

13 June 2014

Berlin gallery Sandy Brown will exhibit artist Dena Yago as part of the Art Basel‘s annual LISTE program.

Established in 1996, the initiative offers emerging gallerists opportunities to show at one of the biggest fairs in the world, highlighting some (then) unknown artists through the years that went on to have prominent careers, including Wilhelm Sasnal and Elizabeth Peyton.

And NYC-based artist Dena Yago – also working with the NYC trend forecasting collective K-Hole – will be the first artist presented at LISTE by Sandy Brown gallery as they join the programme.

See the Sandy Brown website for details. **

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