The exhibition consists of four videos, each a mini-narrative that reflects on the present; a time that feels ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘unknowable’ to the artists. Co-produced by Iconoclast, the videos feature a glass sculpture in the shape of a phone made by Tilman Hornig, where sentences such as “Imagine a government that serves the people” and “Now imagine the people are assholes” roll across the screen.
Reminiscent of corporate aesthetics, the installation explores the ability to re-imagine your own contemporary, and suggests “fantasy is more influential and effective than reality.”
A blue canvas tote reads ‘Nuts About Peckham’in red screen print. It swings from side to side with each step forward. Keys clink against a phone or something similar inside. I’m here as a tourist, more so than when I lived here as a student, and I’m filming a man in front of me walking up the high street, because both of us are carrying the same blue bag. Today is the inaugural Peckham Festival, running September 8 to 11, sponsored by local Acorn Estate Agents, whose free merchandise I am paying for in my co-opted labor as an ad campaign. It’s a weekend-long event across new and established businesses, creative organisations, community groups, restaurants and bars in the south-east London suburb. The bags contain flyers and a stapled, colour printout of some of Acorn’s properties available to buy or let. This kind of strategic marketing hangs awkwardly over a 20-something-artist in Peckham’s shoulder. A heavy token for the indirect cultural contribution to the market value of property in the area. In the past decade especially, the largely working-class multicultural area of Peckham has gained international recognition within the art world and beyond for its creative output. With a range of practices, motivations and organisational models, young artists have moved to the area with increasing frequency to forge new localised networks nurtured by nearby educational institutions; Camberwell College of Art and Goldsmiths University. A previously neglected inner London suburb, Peckham was known to a British television audience through two brothers’ unsuccessful economic ambitions in Only Fools And Horses which ran on the BBC until 1991.Its early-noughties realities of cheap rent, vacant commercial buildings and flexible private landlords offered creatives access to Peckham’s property rental market.
Several blocks west of the municipal high street amenities of Rye Lane, lies Bellenden Road, a locale that emerged in the latter part of the 00s as a humorously named exemplar of gentrification in Peckham (see here for the translation of the anatomical British slang word ‘bellend’). In 2001, Bellenden Renewal Area, a scheme organised by Southwark Council, encouraged regeneration to happen locally by involving traders and residents with as few outside contractors as possible. The project included community-initiated commissions by several established local artists and included murals, customised pavement stones, railings, lampposts etc.; the most notorious of which were a set of aptly phallic bollards by artist Antony Gormley that now lines the area’s small streets. Southwark Council saw the concentrated regeneration plans of the area as a prototype for communally-driven regeneration initiatives.
Bellenden Road was also home and studio to John Latham. The late artist’s former residence at number 210, more recently known as Flat Time House, closed its doors to the public earlier this year. In 2003, several years before his death, Latham declared the property a living sculpture. In 2015, his estate was no longer able to fund the project and a failed crowdfunding attempt to buy the property forced the Flat Time House organisation to vacate in July 2016 with plans to continue in the future in a different format. The public legacy of both this artist’s practice and the Flat Time House programme, we can assume will become a point of provenance on the market as the living sculpture returns to real estate.
In the City of London’s beating heart, a room in a former office building on Holborn Viaduct becomes the previously Mayfair-based commercial gallery space Project Native Informant’snew home. Current Affairs, Georgie Nettell’s third exhibition at the gallery, which ran from September 29 to October 29, displayed a series of foam-mounted and framed photographs. The images referred to recent moments in the English capital; topical subjects that ranged from post-Brexit politics to the tales of London’s gentrifying business-folk. They were social-networked in-jokes to some, seemingly neutralised cosmopolitan images to others. The exclusivity of the (assumed) specific gallery community that Nettell’s work is displayed to is codified into the compositions subjects, as a sub-community with a stake in the mechanism of the creative gentrifiers, establishments and political affairs referenced.
The works, as described in the press release, were photographs shot ‘phone-to-screen.’ A row of well-kept London terraces is the home of new UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, a key figure behind the recent Brexit campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. An interior from Brick Lane’s Cereal Killer Cafe, selling imported cereals with a price tag of £3.50 a bowl, was subject to attacks by anti-gentrification protesters and interrogating reporters on live TV. Current Affairs trips itself out as a quasi-urban-renewal Community Centre for the creative industry worker who priced themselves out of an area.
The gallery itself feels aesthetically rough around the edges, like an artist-led project space or live/work studio. The interior and images infect one another’s registers against a view of the city from the gallery’s third floor windows. IKEA desks and a bookshelf are used to delineate gallery from office. The room is lit with fluorescent tubes in recessed ceiling tiles that may have been upgraded daylight bulbs. The interior feels fashionable in its arbitrary features. As a cafe-bar might leave a section of unpainted drywall or exposed brick, the ex-city-centre office bares an environment fitting for Nettell’s show and her subjects. The Current Affairs press release refers to the function of these images as logos for a creative-cultural demographic and the ethical issues around them. Eating a gourmet burger at a chain that conspires with the police to trick and arrest suspected undocumented workers, and smashing up a Foxtons estate agents are both experiences rife with questions of privilege, access and community. These images, in their simplification as signs, critique the viewer demographic and their brand of judgement but do so from within the safe space of a young, successful, commercial gallery where these critiques are the artist’s content and commodity.
Remember The Good Old Days?
If you walk along Drummond Road near Bermondsey Tube Station in South London, there is an incognito relic of artistic activity to look out for. It marks the location of a doctor’s surgery that previously inhabited the site of number 6 to 8, which became the second incarnation of The Woodmill. The artist-led charity rented the space between 2012 and 2014 to continue their Bermondsey-based project of affordable studios, residencies and exhibitions. Two years later the space was sold to developers, demolished and replaced with new flats.
In December 2013, the group commissioned Ilja Karilampi to produce a work across the two external brick walls within the foyer of the former surgery. ‘Medulla Oblangata‘ was stencilled in fluorescent paint illuminated by UV light; a text that the artist’s website called “a sentence based on Wiley lyrics, translated to SMS slang by the local youth.”The work across the two walls read “If I culd bring bck dem days dat made me who i am i wuldnt change a fing coz all the fings in my past created who im ment 2 b.” [sic]. When The Woodmill group left the site early the following year, Karilampi’s work was left behind with the assumption that it would be demolished, along with the rest of the building. What wasn’t predicted was what happened during the construction work. The left-hand-side dividing wall with the Berlin-based artist’s text was retained as an external feature to the new housing development; a gesture towards authenticity on the facade and entrance to the new flats. No one was contacted about this plan to incorporate the former artwork into the design of the new building.
Looking at the wall now on Google street view, the text reads “IF I CULD BRING BCK DEM DAYS DAT MADE ME WHO I AM I WULDNT CHANGE A FING.” Re-authored by the development as something in public view, its function and intention is a skewed addition to the expected paving, flowerbeds and bike racks that one would find in the yard of an inner-city new development. The text wall, in its urban authenticity, violently co-opts multiple layers of identity politics and signification; of the artist’s intent and co-option of local young residents’ re-coding of song lyrics, Wiley’s artistic influence within London’s music and youth cultures and the developers mis-identification. It’s an interesting situation that merges artistic capital into property and re-development with the aim to quickly and efficiently produce something real and experiential but without any specific relation to the context or its histories. An empty slogan for a nonspecific relationship to community, the wall is forced into its second life as nostalgia, with the propagandist sentiment of a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster.
In October 2016, South London Gallery opened a new public garden to the rear of their main gallery. Designed by Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco, in collaboration with 6A architects and Kew Gardens, the project connects the Victorian Peckham Road institution to its residential neighbours with a new gallery entrance from the longstanding Sceaux Gardens Estate.
The garden looks digitally-generated in its layout but was produced by manual, human labor. Several tiered cylindrical basins are designed to become temporary ponds when it rains and also irrigate the new plant life. A box fresh, impersonal materiality of York stone brick, grafted flowerbeds and freshly cured cement keep you firmly, for now, in the experiential realm of the regeneration aesthetic. As you walk away from the gallery, the new pathway slopes down between two rows of Council bungalows that architecturally are at odds with the contemporary design ideologies in use by 6A. Crossing the threshold of an iron gate, Orozco’s flowing bricks come to a halt and the Council Estate paving resumes.
Opening at the same time as Orozco’s garden, in the main gallery space of SLG, Slovakian artist Roman Ondek had a section of the slatted floorboards removed as part of his solo exhibition. It reveals a preserved central inlaid wooden floor from 1891. The central panel reads “The source of art is in the life of a people.” In contrast, as Ondek reveals a floor, Orozco lays one. The latter collaborates with an art institution and architects to bring a specific system of an artist’s identity to a public space connecting a housing community and an art gallery. The former reminds a community — read, a specific labor community of the institution’s workers — of its role as a group responsible to a notion of a people and a public.
Reflecting back on the Bellenden Regeneration Area project from 2001, that part of Peckham was given a unique opportunity to redevelop its streets with public money in a way that wasn’t possible to offer or apply to every borough of London. The project’s community-generated development, with an emphasis on localism, allowed a proportion of the people who would feel the changes to also be influencing them, and to communicate with the creative community presence in the area.
Fast forward back to 2016, and Peckham is increasingly inaccessible, pricing-out its low-income households, artists and businesses. Council properties are regularly sold off on the private market to go on to be developed for profit with the council’s sale capital put into large-scale future contracted re-housing projects. With the recent overground rail line extensions’ regular services between Peckham Rye and the north and the east of the city, Peckham has become more accessible to workers on higher incomes, drastically increasing the rental and property values. These shifts were absorbed into the Acorn Estate Agents investment in the Peckham Festival event. The blue canvas tote bag that celebrated and reflected a new locale felt like a false flag for a faceless ideology of change that no one party can be designated as responsible for but we all commune within.**
The press release is a short essay written by Claire Fontaine in 2011 that discusses the void left by an artist whose life and practice is and was to focus on the act of withdrawal. It describes the life of Thomas who died in 1995 and who throughout his life “was part of a sort of community in which he permanently dissolved himself.”
“One might think that he multiplied pseudonyms, created an advertising agency to relinquish rights of authorship, and built a mirror of the digestive system of institutional memory, all in order to protect his oeuvre and to control its reception”. Thomas instead made blurry boundaries between artist and collector, making statements like “readymades belong to everyone” and showed, “without cynicism, with a cold anger, the effects of capitalism on our ideas and our bodies” elegantly and quietly.
Bernadette Corporation, Emily Segal of trend forecasting group, K-hole and New York’s DIS collective, who presented Image Lifeat PNI back in February, share common agencies in their work which looks at culture within the production and visualisation of culture itself. The narrative of art is their art.
Although there is no additional information on what will occur amongst Thomas’ works, surely the gesture of the interventions will address how to approach a practice and a hole like this one.
L’air du temps (French for ‘the current trend’) is an immersive video installation that consists a “roving shot across a recently purchased and renovated hotel particulier in Paris”, probing the tenuous relationships and potential symbiosis of “comingling colonial forces” in a series of digital interventions and interactions that are “mutualistic or antagonistic in nature”.
New York collective DIS will present Image Life, opening at London’s Project Native Informant, opening February 22 and running to April 2.
There is very little information provided to accompany the show other than an image posted of a girl lying on a sofa in an apartment with the city behind windows, behind her. It looks like she’s day-dreaming and there is an object similar to a router floating above her head.
Under the image of the girl in the apartment Project Native Informant have posted Pantone’s 2016 colour of the year(rose quartz and serenity)YouTube video.
Rather than replacing something, Condo is a proposal in order to support the (art) community, promoting younger galleries through the networked London art scene. Its participants, which count with the support of some big institutional names, aim to highlight the fact that it is necessary to support one another in order to survive and succeed in the contemporary art ecosystem.
Like at any art fair, similarities between artists and works are mere coincidences, and while there is no thematic or aesthetic pattern to follow by the participant galleries, some analogies can be drawn.
Some of Cetera’s works were left after her solo show at Southard Reid and seamlessly brought together with the works of artists Bruno Zhu and Tessa Lynch for Condo.The artist’s practice turns around the anthropomorphisation of pets and the circulation of domestic animal imagery through the internet. In her installation ‘Mirrored Gourd Triptych’(2015), a glazed porcelain pumpkin-like vegetable ‘watches’ a three screen TV, while sitting on a fake fur carpet. The edible is a gourd: a sort of calabash often used in asian cuisine that Cetera recurrently includes in her work. The TVs show a series of Youtube videos about people’s pets getting miscellaneous care treatments, as if they were people.
Inher installation ‘Just Enough Violence’ (2016)at Arcadia Missa, Collings-James develops an almost mythological imagery out of water-colors depicting cats and horses. They coalesce with A.L. Steiner’s Greatest Hits exhibition: a collection juxtaposed photographs and videos of pop culture figures, such as Madonna or Boychild. Here, animal and human bodies merge and colonise the gallery walls and windows.
AtThe Sunday Painter, Jala Wahid’s ‘Soft Weaponry III’(2016) looks like two plaster bird talons coming out of the wall, near ‘Coco’: a sculpture shaped like two livers on top of a rosewater glycerin pedestal. The artist’s works are surrounded by an arte povera-looking landscape consisting of pieces by Rob Chavasse, Ana Mazzei and Debora Bolsoni.
At Rodeo, Iranian born artists Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh, along withRahmanian, present But a storm is blowing from paradise (2014-15), a series watercolours and collages, where identity is erased and eventually transformed into rabbits and other animals. It’s these crafty and DIY practices that seem to have taken over more sovereign formats and immaculate presentations. Small-scale works on fragile paper nailed on walls, or pieces of ceramics spread out over the place repeatedly emerge, whether it’s in Laura Aldridge’s coloured brick wall at The Sunday Painter, Cetera’s take away coffee pot tops at Southard Reid or in Ulrike Müller’s square painted tiles hung on the Rodeo wall. Multiple layers of watery pigment and more experimental materials such as dye, enamel or DIY jewellery take over the surface ofTom Humphreys’‘untitled’ (2015), Jeanette Mundt‘s painting series ‘Me as Patricia Arquette As the Femme Fatale’ (2015), Josh Kolbo‘s constructed photographs and Nicholas Cheveldave’smultilayered works, covered by friendship bracelet webs.
Meanwhile, Carlos/Ishikawa literally cut the space in three parts, in order to host its representative galleries: Essex Street, Matthew and Freymond Gruth. They reserve the hall for a sort of pop-up store where they sell “artists clothes”. Among other great commissions, including Puppies Puppies, Darja Bajagic and Stewart Middleton –Ed Fornieles’ virtual alter ego of a humanised cartoon fox wrapped by contemporary anxiety is brought to the physical world in the form of a disguise.
According to an interview with Vanessa Carlos, the art world is “a microcosm of the world at large”. That’s why she hopes the Condo initiative will be taken as a model by other cities and countries in promoting collaborative work that is beneficial to the art community and the people working within it. **
Founded by Fabrizio Ballabio, Alessandro Bava, Luis Ortega Govela and Octave Perrault, the collective got its former name during the XIV Architecture Biennale in Venice, when it exhibited in apartments rented through AirBnB. The name change comes under legal pressure from the apartment rental company and in 2015, the collective opted for a new name and, with it, a new show.
Newcomers is a push back of sorts, using what Philipp Ekardtcalls “architecturally informed digital rendering and imaging techniques” to create “a new sort of depth”.
It’s the first solo show in years for the Montreal-born, Berlin-based artist—and he hasn’t done a group one in even longer. It’ll be interesting to see what Ceccaldi brings out after his hiatus, especially since past shows included exhibitions like his demon-invoking Summoning solo show at Johan Berggren Gallery.
“The new L.A. art fair” Paramount Ranch is running this weekend at their Agoura Hills, CA location, opening tomorrow night and running until February 1.
Located in the rolling grasslands just outside LA, the cluster of desert buildings know as Paramount Ranch was originally a Paramount Pictures film set, used intermittently over the years for an array of films and programs. Still equipped with a Western-style Sheriff’s office, a blacksmith, and a salon, the location is now running it’s second annual art fair, described by organizer Liz Craft as something “between an art fair, a party, a curated show and a performance”.
The year’s barely begun and already there’s too much to cover so we’ve compiled a list of interesting events and exhibitions from across the internet for the week beginning January 12.
A few to pay special attention to is the two-day Ambiguity Symposium at London’s Slade, including talks from Chris Kraus, Rózsa Farkas and Hannah Black, a new collaborative exhibition, Spirit Level, by Jesse Darling and Takeshi Shiomitsu and the second instalment of French Riviera’s Alternative Equinox.
Chrystal Gallery and newscenario.net are featuring new exhibitions online, while Aude Pariset, Dora Budor and Deanna Havas have shows and events across Europe. Rosa Aiello and Kari Rittenbach will be reading in New York, while in Berlin V4ULT is presenting a new exhibition (with intervention) artist Philipp Timischl has a book presentation alongside a performance by Lonely Boys and Panke is presenting an exhibition of emerging Lithuanian artists for one night only in a Katja Novitskova-inspired show-title, Survival Guide.
Goldsmiths MFA graduate Helgason’s work is less familiar to us, but curated by artistCory Scozzari – who recently contributed to the group show Do I want an Old Fashioned? – it’ll be interesting, we can guess that much.
“The ceiling’s fallen down here”, says Emma Siemens-Adolphe while clearing up a small pile of fallen debris at the corner of the floor at Jupiter Woods’Genuine Articles. I’m warned it’s not part of the exhibition on entry but, regardless of it being an incidental, I think it kind of is. As one of the best of many good things orbiting the opulent centre of Frieze London 2014 in mid-October, it’s an indication of the glaring economic inequalities between spaces that sometimes, but not always, become a fairly accurate gauge of how good a gallery’s going to be. The Barnie Page-curated show is in the two-storey space in a largely industrial suburb of South Bermondsey and shows reproductions of other works, including a bin full of crushed cans, cheap souvenirs and an A4 print of a meteor. They’re copies of copies that interrogate ideas of authorship and appropriation through co-authored and appropriated objects. One gets the sense that if it weren’t for the cash poor context of its organisers – not mentioning that as the root of DIY digital culture – it’s an idea that would have never existed.
That might be a bit of an obvious observation: Life presents a thing, the artist reflects in kind. But in a week that thrusts both the struggling and the stupidly wealthy into a shared timezone, it’s hopeful at best, interesting at least, to see what can come of the resulting interactions. There’s the boutique branding display of ‘urban’ street wear at Dean Blunt’s New Paintings, where a life lived in the rapidly gentrifying area of Hackney extends to the body commodified; stretched denim becomes the canvas for an art object for sale at Space gallery. Up near the heart of the CBD in Mayfair, Project Native Informant presents the off-site edition of Shanzhai Biennial‘s Frieze ‘Live’ installation, Shanzhai Biennial No. 3: 100 Hamilton Terrace. It’s a less lurid display of luxury real estate advertising with a house-shaped key floating above a mirror in its own vitrine, as well as glass doors and a wall-length image reproduction of the pool one stands to inherit for an easy £32,000,000.
The collective of artists and collaborators involved in the final product literally inhabit the Frieze-emulating branding and flipped Deutsche Bank logos decorating images of bodies presenting a lifestyle in a light box. Except these bodies reveal more about the exploitative foundations of said lifestyle by drawing parallels between power centres and systems, across time and place, suspended in poolside poses taken from China’s Rent Collection Courtyard. That’s the garden of life-sized Socialist Realist sculptures depicting feudal oppression (and eventual revolt) inside the estate once owned by a pre-Revolution property owner in Sichuan Province. A call for the oppressed to “unite to settle the blood debts with the landlords!” is concealed in the Chinese characters in a corner.
Property. Space. Time. Money. They’re concepts that are thrown into sharp relief and problematised inside and outside the official Frieze week walls as distinctions begin to blur. The video work of Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin‘s Priority Innfield installations at Zabludowicz Collection takes a starkly, almost absurdly, more menacing turn in its dark labyrinth of diamond fencing, blue tiles and park benches littered with iconic red kegger cups and screening the suburban self-destruction of Trecartin’s Ohio teens in ‘Junior War’. There’s a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ in a big green room featuring the rolling credits from old video works, while Rachel Lord‘s ‘Basic Jenny’ CGI avatar bounces on a bed. Said artist later materialises IRL at a night of performance called Burning Head Collage, curated by Total Freedom,to play Judas as part of Jesus Christ Superstar‘s ‘Blood Money/ Damned for all Time’ score, with Jesse Darling and Leslie Kulesh filling the roles of the High Priests who suggest: “think of the things you could do with that money/ choose any charity/ give to the poor”.
Allegedly Lord does just that with her fee from an institution funded by a fortune built on SOLTAM Systems. But that’s not before flinging an iPhone at Darling mid-performance, citing microphone interference as the motive in an email: “As an indigo, I am highly sensitive to electro-magnetic radiation”. I don’t see the event myself but hear about it repeatedly, procuring this slightly abstract explanation from Lord herself:
“The physical repulsion/separation I felt from the people watching because of their phones allowed me to channel the torment of a 1970s Bible-era Judas in a very real way. My intention was to demonstrate how peoples’ perceptions of a politically charged environment create a politically charged environment. The by-product was that in my attempt to break the 4th wall, I encountered the 5th.”
I’m just wondering, ‘if Rachel Lord is the traitor, and Darling and Kulesh her conspirators, then who’s Jesus?’ I don’t think anyone is .
“If love hurts and work makes you suffer, I think we should reconsider”, says the voiceover ofMaja Cule‘s ‘Do What You Love’ (2014) video for her Facing the Same Direction exhibition at Arcadia Missa. Launched along with an indiegogo campaign aiming to raise $80,000 so its subject – writer and illustrator Anna Kachiyan – could “pursue independent interests in projects”, the installation, with its wall-print of a deskchair and video projection of ‘DWYL’, brings the office into the art space and wonders whether there’s a difference. The POLYMYTH x Miss Information exhibition at Auto Italia doesn’t even question the apparent oxymoron of the term “creative practitioner” by inviting working designers, including Metahaven, Pablo Jones Soler, April Greiman and Pinar&Viola, to take over the art gallery space. The shift in context shifts the works’ resonance, whether it’s the impressive clarity of scale in the Metahaven x Holly Herndon music video collaboration, ‘Home‘ – viewed through a large LED screen rather than YouTube – or Jones’ CGI product design painstakingly rematerialised as physical object.
“This is your future”, announces the Auto Italia press release, while Serpentine galleries’ intensive two-day Extinction Marathon questions whether that future is a desirable one. Inspired by the announcement that half of the world’s wildlife was lost to human ‘progress’ in the past 40 years, posters and UV brochures by David Rudnick and Raf Rennie appear at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, along with an installation by Katja Novitskova of her famous stock animal cutouts set to the backdrop of alien planets as an example of the accelerating and“never-ending relationship of image into object”. Extinction Marathon companion site EXTINCT.LYstreams the presentations while writer Huw Lemmey summarises them live on a blog. Kari Altmann, UBERMORGEN, Alex Mackin Dolan and Emily Jones contribute online commissions to the site with its header of a redesigned extinction symbol by Marathon co-curator Ben Vickers, with Kei Kreutler and Lizzie Homersham. It’s the same one that flashes across the Third Line booth wall at the end of Sophia Al-Maria‘s devastating tour of Frieze Art Fair proper. In a continuation of its theme of catastrophic endings, Al-Maria presents‘Whale Fall’ (2014) as it narrates yet another pending extinction of a species through a largely blank blue screen. Jack Halberstam’s polemical ‘The Homosexual Says Yes to Sterility’ appeals to a humanism less concerned with individualism, reproduction and self-preservation at all costs, instead calling on an end to the human itself (“No Future”).
Anna Zett on the other hand imagines a Jurassic Age where humans are yet to exist at all, with a premiere screening of the artist’s This Unwieldy Objectfilm-essay and its companion ‘DINOSAUR GIF’ (2014) video lecture, exploring the ultimately destructive mythology of a young US superpower that’s embedded in the fossils of pre-historic dinosaurs and the film culture to follow. Trevor Paglen envisions the end of the Athropocene era as he contemplates the eternal cosmic debris of communications satellites and their potential for sharing human history with a species of the future in ‘From Fibre-Optic Beings to Fossils in the Sky’. It’s a foresight that looks further than the 10 years Ed Atkins is allocated in carrying out his decade-long epilogue to Extinction Marathon in the www.80072745.netonline commission. He’ll send personalised email correspondence to mailing list subscribers via email, which is probably the most resilient form of communication in an ever-evolving technological landscape. But perhaps the artist knows he doesn’t need to look that far ahead anyway, when you consider his inaugural email subject line: “U R G E N T”.
Jesse Darling, Federico Campagna and Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi discuss communication via a spoken language that’s changing with the written online, as Darling proposes a ‘Yolar’ verb for the root acronym of YOLO while suggesting not everyone perceives the world through sight and sound. Marguerite Humeau‘s Cleopatra, on the other hand, is granted a subjectivity beyond her historical objectification via a synthesised voice for the ‘Cleopatra “That Goddess”‘ (2014) music video at the Marathon, while Aleksandra Domanović‘s job applicants are not so lucky at Sunday Art Fair. The artist’s readymade ‘Disney Letter’ (2014) at the Glasgow International booth is dated “June 7, 1938” and kindly informs “Miss Mary V Ford” that “women don’t do any of the creative work”.
Ceaselessly referred to as the “indie” art fair by major media during Frieze, booths from High Art, Seventeen, The Apartmentand Lüttgenmeijerpresent at the Ambika P3 event, among a Laura Aldridge installation of string, soda cans and prints at Studio Voltaire. Florian Auer‘s digital prints of fibreglass and resin t-shirts – body-free but frozen into the shape of a torso – are hung on a wall at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler in one corner. Sandy Brown‘s presentation of an installation from Jean-Michel Wicker and two wall hangings from Aude Pariset are in another. The latter’s inverted whitewash of lurid inkjet prints revealed within the white tiles on ‘Rehabilitated Scribble (blue swallowtail / Vyal one)’ (2012), echoes the similarly noxious, though oddly alluring sterility of Amalia Ulman‘s The Destruction of Experiencesolo exhibition at Evelyn Yard. There’s a collector at the gallery just off Oxford Street discussing the price for a piece of her performed and embodied Facebook timeline, under a clock circled with self-portraits inspired by Frida Kahlo. It reminds me of one of Matthew Higgs‘ framed prints hanging at the White Columns booth back at Sunday Art Fair. All it says is, “You get what you pay for”. **
The New York-based collective, consisting of stylist Avena Gallagher, artist and creative director Babak Radboy and fashion designer Cyril Duval, sees itself as “a multinational brand posing as an art-project posing as a multinational brand posing as a biennial” and for this year’s event, titled Shanzhai Biennial No. 3: 100 Hamilton Terrace, they will attempt to sell a £32,000,000 estate consisting of parallel commercial installations peppered with high-gloss ads.
Removing the last scrap of pretense from what is becoming an increasingly commercialised art market, the collective takes the notion of commercial art to the next level, transforming both the gallery and Frieze space into functioning real estate boutiques designed to “unlock the potential of Frieze as a lifestyle brand”.
Ten minutes walk from Project Native Informant’s converted garage project space in Mayfair is luxury department store Liberty. Opened in 1875 by Arthur Lasenby Liberty, over the past 140 years it has become a global household name, selling high-end homeware and fashion brands alongside its own-brand products. It has a history of working with notable designers like William Morris and Archibald Knox, and has been an important site for the advancement of design in the UK. The Liberty building on Great Marlborough Street is itself an iconic location – built in the 1920s in a Tudor revival style it’s an instantly recognisable building, and a London shopping landmark. It’s not cheap, though. Sitting somewhere between couture and high-end high street, it caters to a particular strata of the rich.
In L.I.B.E.R.T.Y.Morag Keil has transposed the mock Tudor facade of the department store into the gallery. Each wall is decorated with strips of black half-timbering – appropriately treated, carefully cut and professionally attached. It’s a slightly disorientating experience, the framing exists as a relief whilst shifting the reading of the entire space with its specificity. We’re suddenly enclosed within a form that suggests an exterior – the facade of Liberty is wherever you look. We are trapped outside, inside, with no way to access what’s behind the walls.
In the corner of the gallery are two Windsor chairs painted with copper paint and splashed green with oxidation. Arranged like in a waiting room they hold copies of the exhibition text – an interview with Keil by Harry Burke. Titled Can you live in art? it’s conducted in a 20-questions format, like an unedited magazine lifestyle interview, informal but professional. They discuss Keil’s recent work, as well as her approaches and ideas on the art world and the state of contemporary living. One answer is conspicuous in its absence, there’s simply blank space in response to, “Do you have a social art practice or a formal art practice?”
The ideas sold about freedom in contemporary living constitute a deceptive ideology: ostensibly defined as the increase in flexibility, our lives mainly manifest as precarious and alienated, despite how much money we might accumulate. Keil shows us Liberty as a site where the galvanisation of this ideology is exceptionally evident. It’s a brand that flourishes largely because of suggestions of its own historic importance. It deals in adornments, designs and fashion – the materials and objects that furnish our lives and act as signs that distinguish our relative level of success under capitalism. The precarity of contemporary living means we will never fully achieve the freedom that owning an item from Liberty might suggest we have. In Keil’s L.I.B.E.R.T.Y. we are allowed to step in, to be immersed in the signs of heritage, but never allowed real access. **