The series will explore representations of ‘female’ bodies by “dismantling the body as a category or ‘whole’ and creating open channels for discourse.” Focusing on the the concept of touch, each iteration will examine the body as database, and the ways in which this sense of communication can be understood “both emotionally and metaphorically.”
– Girls in Film present a series of films exploring feelings that arise from the visual and physical experiences of the female form away from hyper sexualisation of bodies in ‘Embrace,’ Mar 26 (12-6pm)
The Morning uber, evening oscillators group exhibition is on at London’s Seventeengallery, opening November 17 and running to December 17.
“Weird, he never really rested, he said, the light and the consciousness of the waking world didn’t let him feel properly rested. And if your productivity and consumption are set to night, everything changes, he added. I felt, I knew what he meant.”
The Deptford X Festival is launching across sites in the Southeast London area, running September 23 to October 2.
As the English capital’s longest-running contemporary visual arts festival, the event presents a new core programme entitled, ‘Platform 2016’. Five emerging contemporary artists have been commissioned to create new and ambitious site-specific works in the London Borough of Deptford, offering “key support to young artists with great potential at an often overlooked stage of their nascent careers”.
The ten-day festival will see these ambitious visual arts projects installed in a diverse range of sites and venues across Deptford, forming the core programme of the festival, named ‘Platform 2016’, which sits alongside the parallel Fringe festival.
The thing about Frieze London 2015 is that it’s kind of going on or happening anyway, even if you don’t go to it. You don’t need to go to the big ‘thing’ because you know it’s happening. It sort of frames something and allows things outside of that frame to use its edges and say – we’re doing this, thanks for the frame, ‘cos we gonna do another thing’ [sic]. So you walk around and bus around and get a sense of the state of things in relation to the big ‘thing’ that hovers in the mind. It sort of presides over the whole experience until, if you keep walking far enough, on the fringes, you can turn around and it’s almost gone.
Walking up Kingsland road into Hannah Perry’s show Mercury Retrograde at Seventeen Gallery might seem like walking into a shop. Not a shop to buy things but a dead shop that communicates through arrangement and display. There is music playing whilst looking, cut up pieces of ambience, and then beats come on. The gallery is divided by hanging rubber latex, dark cherry red, that allocate areas where things are on display –pieces of printed and painted aluminium. ‘I don’t want you to feel like I have the dominance over anyone’ (2015) shows an image of a cracked and smashed iPhone printed onto corrugated aluminium. I look at my cracked and smashed iPhone and think –‘this is how I find out about the big things’. A series of four works, ‘Gas Lighting 3, 6, 2 and 1’ (2015), are pieces of dented and punched out aluminium sheets immaculately finished in autobody enamel, the cherry reds and blueberry colours matching the hanging latex. In front of these sitting on the floor, ‘Will You Be Topless’ (2015) is what looks like part of a wrecked car, again with a perfect gloss finish of cherry red autobody paint and a piece of rubber draped over it. If this is a shop then now it’s a workshop –a car spray and repair shop.
Then travel to Evelyn Yard, to see Jamie Jenkinson’s show Video. The press release speaks of Jenkinson’s interest in ‘digital phenomena’ and his ongoing investigation into expanded cinema. Before I get much time to look around one of the gallerists comes to tell me as much about the show as possible, talking about the importance for the artist of ‘information transfer’ and the ‘glitches’ and ‘noise’ that occur in this process. The centrepiece, ‘Colour Correction’ (2015) is a projected colour field that shifts its colour hue slowly over ninety minutes. This work and all the other video pieces were shot on iPhone 6 which I am told is important for the artist because of its everyday relation to the body. Because everyone has iPhones. A monitor on the floor shows ‘Net Storage’ (2015), a durational still(-ish) close shot of a piece of netting –the pun opening up a dialogue on how things can be stored: as objects –what things can slip through the netting? Or data –what information is lost in the transfer to the iPhone? Whether the artist agrees with the ‘information transfer’ spiel or not is unclear, what is more apparent in the show is an interest in the formal qualities of film/video and (expanded) cinema. ‘Digital phenomena’ may be casting too broad a net.
I get on a bus and go to Cabinet gallery for the opening of Mark Leckey’s new work ‘Dream English Kid 1964 – 1999 AD’ (2015). The place was pretty packed and the bus stop outside was like some sort of hang out if you were either waiting for the 243 or waiting to get into the gallery. I go inside and from the surround sound system I hear the words, spoken through some NASA style intercom, “3 – 2 – 1 – Mark” and so begins a journey through found footage of The Beatles, NASA rockets, British public information broadcasts and Joy Division gigs. The film is kind of a biopic. The artist’s memories of mediated events re-found as images now feel like they can transcend any ‘real’ memory, creating a kind of new ‘present’ memory. A scene from a 1970s public information broadcast shows a frisbee landing precariously on an electricity pylon, one of several references to electrical energy in the film –and the subtext running through the work could be amplification. From Joy Division’s electric guitars through to the saturation of images that comes with digital technology, it folds back to the amplification of the memory to something greater than a dream.
At Pilar Corrias is a huge wall size projection of the latest moving image work by New York-based artist Ian Cheng, who in 2012 created a 3D animated music video for Liars, where humans and rabbit characters dance and twist and rip and tear apart from their rigs. The current exhibition, Emissary Forks At Perfection, continues Cheng’s distinct imagery and colour pallet. Out of the grey landscape, orange dogs play and speak and chase a corpse like a humanoid avatar through vibrant green foliage and littered water bottles. Beyond the surface qualities is the interesting fact that this work is a ‘live simulation’ of ‘infinite duration’. A flow chart on the wall when you come in seems to hint at the complex algorithmic procedures that might be at play, with the quite funny headline, ‘Horizon of volatile uncertain complex ambiguity (VUCA)’. The press release says ‘a story may escape its classical fixity and indefinitely procrastinate its conclusion’, so I wondered if they shut the power off at night.
I walk to Deptford to get to Res. Here artists Laura Morrison and Beatrice Loft Schulz are working as part of a project called Bain Marie. “What does Bain Marie mean?” I say to Schulz. She tells me it could be something like a thing that melts chocolate slowly so as not to burn it, kind of warming it up. I started to think that the space they have started creating is having the same effect. Some rubber tiles cover part of the floor and arranged across them are plenty of books that the artists had brought with them –novels, Finnish poetry, theory –all sorts. Over the other side of the room are a couple of portable old fabric and wooden makeshift beds, upon which each has a vintage dress draped over it. The materiality of the objects creates a sense of warmth in the space –paper, wood, fabric, nylon. Also drawings are being made onto veneered wood –a fox, a map of slow worms, a vagina, an arsehole. Both artists seem reluctant to consider it a collaboration, preferring to state that they are working on their own separate things. This strikes me as interesting, a beginning point for a discussion on the nature of collaboration and what it means to even state the word in different situations. Schulz mentions the notion of ‘the collaborators’ during wartime. A performance event is planned for October 30 and, I believe, should be highly recommended.
Then I walk to Peckham to get to Assembly Point to an event from East Anglia Records. EAR is an ongoing project by Harry Bix which started at the Slade School with his ‘album launch’ nights. Here, at Assembly Point, the lights have been turned off and there is a smoke machine and a stall to buy EAR branded merchandise. The place is pretty rammed. Taylor Smith reads some beat style poetry about curry clubs and petrol stations, Harley Kuyck Cohen animates a talking Toby Jug with a torch. Lea Collet presented ‘Ricardo’ in drag brandishing a screen in front of another screen. Audience participation gets interesting with Richard Seaholme’s longer piece –interesting because of the audience’s growing disinterest and Seaholme’s manner in which he continues on regardless, occasionally telling the crowd to shut the fuck up. Leaving before the end I missed the performance by Ulijona Odišarija. I had seen a previous incarnations of the work –the artist posed enigmatically in front of a camera to the soundtrack of Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’, while the image is simultaneously broadcast on a screen. I get in touch with the artist to ask how it went this time. “It’s basically the same as before but I was more of Sweatlana this time with a JLo-esque weave and spotlight in my face.” Who is Sweatlana, then? “She is sort of cool, sitting in the spotlight with a lot of drama in her face and all eyes on her”.
Thinking about “all eyes on the spotlight” I think that if the light shines too bright then you can get stuck in the glare of its presence –the big ‘thing’. But transiting the streets by phone light allows smaller things to become much brighter. **
The press release for Basic Instinct, running at London’s Seventeen Gallery from September 4 to October 2, doesn’t give much away. It’s a juxtaposition of two quotes, extracted from two quite different contexts. The first is from Eros The Bittersweet by Anne Carson, a passage which interrogates the concept of eros, its basis in the psyche of an infant, and the identification of desire as implicitly involved in lack. The second is the short section of dialogue from arguably the most famous scene in the film Basic Instinct (1992) in which Sharon Stone’s character Catherine Tramell uncrosses her legs and seductively quips, “I have a degree in psychology”.
The choice of these two quotes introduces us to the historically difficult to categorise concept of eros. On one hand, it points towards a set of concerns in philosophy and psychiatry which, as seems to be customary in academia, use the Greek god Eros as exemplar from which to build a theoretical position on love and desire. On the other hand eros is often used as shorthand for a sort-of classy sexual instinct. Indeed these two divergent approaches to eros can be found in Basic Instinct the exhibition, mainly intersecting with the tactility of materials as a form of eroticism. Curator Attilia Fattori Franchini has brought together ten artists, each of whose works contain some inclination towards the sensual.
Beatrice Marchi‘s framed pencil drawings point perhaps most directly to the concept of eros as the contemporary erotic –a purely sexual force –while attempting to undermine its seriousness. In ‘Oh, Summer!’ (2015) a spread-eagle woman lies on the floor, an electric fan blowing aside her pubic hair. In diptych ‘Signorina Culinski cresce’ (2015), one panel depicts a woman bending over in front of a mirror looking at her own ass. In the other she is drawing eyes onto her buttocks to reflect a crude face back.
The time-based works included seem to double the imagery of contemporary advertising techniques. Jala Wahid‘s single-channel video ‘I am a charm’ (2015) feels somewhat like an extended perfume advert, matching seductive high-resolution shots of peeled citrus fruit segments with similarly poetic text. Reija Meriläinen‘s ‘Stabbing’ (2014), depicts the penetration and probing of what seems to be a block of gelatin with instruments including a metal pipe and a knife, conducted on a pastel-coloured set and shot in slow motion. These two works approach the hyper-sensual –too clean to feel perverse. On the spectrum of the erotic, they are sex with a Real Doll.
Megan Rooney‘s ‘Doggy breath, finger deaf, mute, winking. A wink she could only do with the right eye’ (2015) is a pale, fleshy, and almost ten-meter long mural. It’s frantic while retaining its balance –gauged abstract marks, smoothly applied layers of paint, and pseudo-childlike scrawls play both off and with each other. At the opposite end of the painting spectrum, Zoe Barcza‘s deeply considered grids look ripped away from the cotton by even more considered trompe l’oeil techniques.
“Sex Sells”, as advertising executives know well. And while on one hand empowerment is meant to arise from claiming autonomy over our own deeply-held erotic inclinations, this power is simultaneously withdrawn from us as these desires are sublimated into advertising campaigns, designed to turn the production of eros into a marketing technique. In Basic Instinct, Franchini approaches this reality with varying degrees of critical distance. She places emphasis on the tactility of making or observing artwork as a sensual act, and one which is necessary to highlight the importance of art in turning away from the often banal mainstream idea of what can be considered erotic. Although some works in Basic Instinct feel like they are straining to prove their sincerity, those works which shine do so effortlessly and with confidence. Our basic instincts are obfuscated by the pallid eroticism of advertising culture. Perhaps in recognising this, and trying to articulate our own grammar, we can begin to engage in honest, maybe even radical, sensual encounters with the world. **
Taking over three floors of the complex and spread over five central halls, a metro level mezzanine and a public outdoor park, the exhibition encompasses over 80,000 square feet of Istanbul’s newly constructed Sishane Otopark, an import urban planning project and rare example of the city embracing the use of public space.
The exhibition will embed itself “within the fabric of the city and public circulation” and will include close to 50 different artists and collectives presenting the fruits of their three-month residencies, which brought together 35 international artists and 11 local Istanbul-based ones for a period of “intensive research, production, and public engagement”. Some of the names featured include, among others, Hito Steyerl, Ilja Karilampi, Jon Rafman, Amalia Ulman, Hannah Perry, and Harm van den Dorpel.
A mammoth survey of some of the world’s most influential emerging and established artists and collectives, Private Settings, Art after the Internet, is happening at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (MOMAW), opening September 25 and running to January 6, 2015.
Curated by the Polish institute’s Natalia Sielewicz, the show press release reads like a search engine optimised article around the dominant art discourse of the last decade. Littered with tag words like “affect”, “authenticity” and “anonymity”; “prosumer”, “late capitalism” and “stock photographs”, the lineup is an equally expansive overview of some of the most relevant contemporary art of the day.
It’s another bold attempt at categorising the uncategorisable swell of artists rising from the milieu of online awareness, the same way that the Art Post-Internet exhibition in Beijing earlier this year did with its title’s integrated umbrella-term for ‘kind of a product of the internet but not entirely’ and more nebulous objective, spanning a broader generational cross-section.
Interestingly, the Private Settings sub-heading is identical to that of the Omar Kholeif-edited book You Are Here: Art After the Internet published in April. It’s unclear whether the reference is intended but there is some overlap with contributing artists also featured in the MOMAW exhibition, including Jon Rafman and Jesse Darling, perhaps revealing a consciousness for a shared experience, however incomprehensible that experience might be.
“There was no attachment on that email,” a woman says straight-faced, wearing an open sports jacket with leggings and a bra underneath at the Serpentine Pavilion. She’s reading from a script as though everything is normal while others writhe in a clump of limbs at her feet, through her legs. There’s bodily chaos rolling and contorting around her, no one is dressed for the occasion (is there one?), the music is getting deafeningly loud, but she sticks to the script: regurgitating pre-set, coded lines about emails between heartfelt overshares. How do you make a connection? I’m wondering as I watch her. A few minutes earlier, in a heated duologue with a lover, she was screaming at him to “fuckin’ hit [her].” Then, she was begging for contact. Now, she stands in an island of arms and legs representing a culture of networks, that touch her but don’t talk back; in either case, where’s the attachment? What does it take?
Hannah Perry’s Horoscopes (Déjà Vu), tells its story in the same collage-driven, jump-cut style as her films – of the frustrating overflow of feelings that make relationships, online and off, so difficult to navigate. The fluidity of the costumes and mood speaks to multiple social situations colliding at once in an awkward montage; its language is movement, music, monologues, dialogues, screams and sighs delivered from various points around the Pavilion’s circular, egg-like space. The characters – a shifting cast of scorned and never-quite-fulfilled lovers – chew over motif-laden lines (written by Perry and edited by poet Sam Riviere) that fracture easily into Facebook and Twitter updates . They’re occasionally even read from phones. Obsessed with how they appear and anxious about the gap between image and emotion, the cast yell at various points, “What does that make you look like?” and mumble unconvincingly, “just keeping it together, you know.” None of these people know exactly what they look like, and no one has it together. Even the girl who tangos solo for the stare of a man admits, “I’m sorry my feed hasn’t been that interesting lately”, backed by a teasing drumbeat. She’s just trying desperately to hold his gaze.
Sparse sonic moments like Giles King-Ashong’s drum solo ebb and flow amid moments of explosion and catharsis. There are scenes ominously soundtracked by Lucy Railton’s lone cello, scenes that feel classical in their presentation; a linear movement through a couple’s tiff, then things begin to unravel. Where the actors wouldn’t say certain things, couldn’t commit their real feelings to either their physical or online movements, the music’s electronic contortions – helmed by Mica Levi – exposes the erratic flow of frustration and lust. “Ooh, ooh,” deadpans an awkward, over-loud sample, as a couple is trapped in an endless loop of sex up against a wall. Later, Tracy Chapman’s warped a capella of ‘Behind the Wall’ sings of the screaming heard from another house, blasting nightmarishly through dialogue as a speaker recalls lying in bed and listening to the song with an ex. Memories make themselves felt where they aren’t wanted, like a song from a past life being tweeted into your timeline and fucking up your day.
The choreography, overseen by Holly Blakey, also mirrors this rupturing of boundaries and the aggressive splintering of unarticulated feeling: bodies move through the audience and against each other, leaping into open arms and closing around one another like fists. In sequences where all the performers dance in synchronicity, the impact is overwhelming. They twist themselves into the same awkward angles and throw themselves at the same floorboards. They feel the same, look the same, move the same, all while standing apart. At the climax, the quiet frustration becomes too much to hold inside the dancers’ tight routines, and that too-muchness spills out into the surroundings uncontrollably; one climbs a support beam to the ceiling, another cackles while spraying the audience with water. There is no longer the observed and the observer, only a surge of madness that fills the room. And just as quickly as it starts, it’s over: end task, force quit, move on. **
Johannesburg’s Cuss Group has released a retrospective video for their Video Party series.
Documenting its first year, which alone included three events showing video work by Rachael Crowther, Hannah Perry and Dan Szor, the series calls itself an art intervention, re-appropriating commercial, non-gallery spaces across the South African city.
These locations are then used to show video art produced by artists living outside the country, in an attempt to emphasise “the artistic value of hybrid cultural production” and to move away from the exclusionary nature of conventional art spaces.
Previous spaces included a hair salon, TV store and an internet cafe, while the video includes interviews with participating artists, excerpts from their oeuvre, as well as footage from some of 2013s events.
Showcasing emerging international art and artists across various locations annually, including Cologne, Miami and Hudson, the NYC program features a presentation of interactive art projects from San Juan’s Beta-Local and Detroit’s MOCAD, as well as a site-specific installation in a Ford Galaxie 500 by Shoot the Lobster, including work by Lena Henke and Marie Karlberg of M/L Artspace and Bradley Kronz.
The title of the David Roberts Art Foundation’s two-day programme Present Fictions is explicitly referring to fictions of the ‘now’ – what the introduction describes as “contemporary approaches to visual culture, poetry, science fiction and narrative structures”. By the time the series is complete, it feels like it could just as well be its homograph: a variety of fictions having been presented, stepped inside of, tested out, and contemplated.
In fact, the “present” preface is in some ways misleading: the fictions of now tend to look forward, applying imagination to our current technologies and ways of life to fictionalise tomorrow. This is whatCher Potter, senior research fellow in Design Futures at the V&A, addresses in her introductory talk on ‘The Speculative Arts’. With a focus on design fictions, she runs through introductions to a reel of artists and designers who are currently in the process of constructing our futures, both in the realm of ideas and in the “real world” – there are tales of sheikhs turning up at exhibitions only to write $3 million cheques bringing imagined drone systems to life, and of NASA funding scent provocateur Sissel Tolaas to research the making of cheese from human by-products. Because who knows when that might save the life of a future astronaut stranded in the cosmos?
Temporary Research Library & Michael E. Smith screening. Image courtesy DRAF.
As a counterpoint to this overview of future-facing art – running the gamut from trend-forecasting toGulf Futurism – is University of Westminster researcher Robert Cowley’s exploration of the concept (and actuality) of the “Eco-city”. These sustainable, in many ways utopian, living spaces exist on a knife-edge between speculation and reality, raising as many questions as they set out to answer. What is the ideal city, and how does one set out to plan one? The Eco-city and science fiction exist in a chicken-and-egg style feedback loop, one inconceivable without the other; rather than fiction that informs how our futures might look, these are examples of present, actual indications of the future as informed by sci-fi. Masdar, a city in UAE powered entirely by renewable energy, is being built right nowwhile the hyperbolically marketed Sejong City is bringing South Korea’s dreams to life.
While this is a pretty literal example of world-building, Potter deals more with artists who are “world-hinting” through the micro-futures they create in their objects, and this kind of hinting is something observed throughout the two days at Present Fictions. The video art of Hannah Black and Hannah Perry deals in the meshing of fragmented pop culture, narrative and personal insight to create impressions of a writhing digital world engaged in a love-hate relationship with the human mind and body: in Perry’s ‘While It Lasts’ (2012)’, the infinite moment of pleasure promised to young people by the media is detailed in a way that almost mimics the techniques of the ads and music videos it takes from, ending on the tantalising promise of Nina Simone’s distorted voice trailing “And I’m feeling…”.
Meanwhile Black, who incidentally tweeted over the weekend “i do not love anything or anyone more than i love pop music”, picks apart the disjunction between actual bodies and our digital and cultural understanding of them, through the disembodied limbs that “learn to dance like Rihanna” while images of her bruised 2007 face loom in the background, to the disconnect between woman R&B vocalists singing about their “bodies” over stock photographs of powerful white men in suits. Perry shows the tragic fiction of the ultimate, perfect presence, perpetually pushed just slightly in the future and made just slightly unobtainable, while Black swims through the nexus of imagery through which we encounter pop culture, and how that makes us feel about ourselves. Pop is ultimately, genuinely loveable because it’s our most dominant present fiction: nothing else creates a shared imaginary moment for so many people in one stroke, creating an immense community and false sense of security in its view of the world.
Video still from Michael E. Smith’s Jellyfish (2011). Image courtesy DRAF.
In the second day’s poetry readings, Tender journal editor Rachael Allen (@r_vallen) also turned a hand to world-hinting through the objects and characters that loomed through her newest poetry, in which she said she was exploring a world of “surreal” homes, filled with quarrelling sisters (making their house into a “cathedral of pinches”) and babies bubbling on stoves. This world, born out of childhood memories meshed with childhood fantasies and brewed over years of re-contextualising, was a present fiction of an imagined past. Faber poet Sam Riviere gave sharply defined glimpses into the world as it is through the found poetry of hisKim Kardashian’s Marriage series. Assembled from a collage of texts found online, the poems speak straight from a digital mouth, all shiny falsity and dry, dulcet tones masking something more desperate.
On the back of this reading comes Rozsa Farkas’ performance lecture ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ – the first part of which can be listened to above or read in its entirety on the latter link – and which inspired her work in THE ANGRY SHOW, during which she advocates pure anger over the detached removal of cynicism, ironical reactions to systems being complicit to the systems they decry through their inaction. With a backdrop of videos from Ciara, Bikini Kill, Nirvana and an impassioned, arm-thrashing mime to Taylor Swift’s ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’, Farkas tells a story of a world in which “angering” is forbidden, and a young girl who discovers what a force the emotion can be through a cultural Mesh and a whistle-stop tour through the history of counter-culture. This is a world built in front of our eyes that’s not so removed from our own, a fiction that tells us something about the present via a theoretical future; like so much of this weekend, its presentation of a fiction that borders almost uncomfortably on reality is so absorbing that it brings with it the realisation of how such fictions pervade every moment in our engagement with culture, in our narrative sense-making of our own lives. The present is a fiction, fiction a presentation of our world. **
Whether it’s self-mediation via user software, an “extremely normal” fashion line or an auto-tuned to the hilt boyband singing love songs to their computer, there’s no doubting a fairly decent cross-section of consumer culture via art.