When the presser for the Rare Earth publication says it aims to define the “spirit of an age”, there are a number of ways of understanding what that means. For editor Nadim Samman –who also co-curated the survey exhibition of the same name with co-editor Boris Ondreička in 2015 –that spirit is one of “displacement, hovering”, according to his Foreword. Between notions of technology, biology, teleology, economics, politics and spirituality, Samman posits, our digitally informed cultural present is more than just the rhetoric of immateriality. As for what constitutes an “age”, it could be one limited to the last century of rapid industrialisation, developing, exponentially and in parallel with the growth of rare earth mineral extraction enterprise. Or it could be the period of millions, billions of years it took this planet to produce them. Whatever the timeline, the text co-published by the Rare Earth exhibition host Vienna’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) and Berlin’s Sternberg Press comes as an attempt to capture a sort of ever-un-present moment within the binds of the book form. It’s a text about an exhibition that goes well beyond the heart of modern (human) civilisation and into the nebulous notion of existence itself –with rare earth elements at its core.
Superbly designed by David Rudnick and Raf Rennie, Rare Earth meets visual content with written text that travels deep and heavy as the hardcover and explaining what rare earth elements –Lanthanum, Promethium, Tantalum, Yttrium –are. They’re chemical elements that are not so much rare as difficult to extract, but central to the production of new technologies that have irreversibly changed not only life on earth but the earth itself. Iain Ball’s entire practice to this point has followed the periodic table of rare earth elements and their alienating effects through the technologies they produce in his Energy Pangea series. Ball’s ‘Neodymium’ 2011 work for the Rare Earth exhibition is presented in its matte (to the rest of the book’s glossy) pages in a mini-catalogue insert, one of many interspersed throughout of each artist’s contribution, Camille Henrot, Ai Weiwei, Guan Xiao and Ursula Mayer among them.
A black book cover –the colour of rare earth –envelopes its red contents pages and Rare Earth exhibition views that bookend the publication. Its speculative realist, accelerationist, object-oriented, new materialist texts written by artists, writers, thinkers, ‘other’, are at the centre. There’s Timothy Morton and Emilija Skarnulyte’s ‘Yttrium Hypnosis’, Jane Bennett’s ‘Of Sympathies Alchemical and Poetic’ and Erik Davis’s ‘Secret Earths’. Each pays meticulous attention to the ontological infrastructure of a video camera, the leaves of a chicory plant, a mythology of metals.
The bulk of the text is printed on pages of metallic grey, Scandium silver, with a simple black type that almost shimmers. The colours react to create an optical illusion of a white glow that pops over an enlightened interview of John Durham Peters led by Paul Feigelfeld on rare earth production, resource scarcity, geopolitics and the notion of ideology as economically-motivated discourse. The Otolith Group ruminates on “capitalist sorcery” and “answers we cannot articulate” in a poetic cut-and-paste proclamation called ‘THE OBJECT SPOKE TO ME BUT WHAT IT SAID I CANNOT SAY’. Arseny Zhilyaev’s manifesto, on the other hand, comes in the form of a star–shaped vitrine and sculpture representing hope of revolution against oppression in a display of production implements become “weapons of resistance” across history. In the case of the contemporary precariat, there’s a masked youth clutching a mobile phone, and a collection of consumer devices.
The back of Rare Earth follows the full-color matte inserts of each artist’s works with black-and-white installation images of the Rare Earth exhibition. There’s an image of a live, naked “youth” propped above a Nimbus military helicopter engine in Roger Hiorns’ ‘Untitled’ (2012). Marguerite Humeau’s ‘Requiem for Harley Warren (“Screams From Hell”) (2015) sculpture gives life to the layers of earth she describes in great detail in her ‘Hell’ text. The sensual, at times grotesque prose conflates hard science with global myths and mysticisms to question the artist’s ongoing concerns with the idea that “reality itself has become obsolete”.
Near the end of the silver streak of Rare Earth, there’s a periodic table designed by Rudnick and Rennie that maps the seventeen rare earth elements, invested with the other-worldly quality of an almost mythic-looking typeface and a unique circular symbol assigned every artist in the exhibition. Those seventeen artists not already mentioned also include Charles Stankievech, Suzanne Treister, Jean Katambayi Mukendi, Erick Beltrán, Julian Charriere, and Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen. Like their corresponding rare earth metal –unique, special, ethereal –their works are dispersed across the Rare Earth text in a series of complex systems of thought, constructed into objects, with implications that go well beyond the physical form.**
The Rare Earth catalogue, edited by Boris Ondreička and Nadim Samman, was co-published by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary and Sternberg Press in 2015.
Header image: Rare Earth (ed. Nadim Samman + Boris Ondreička). Co-published by Sternberg Press, Berlin + TBA21, Vienna.share news item
Bent Fest is on in the week starting March 30, at London’s Power Lunches with bands including Trash Kit, The Dykeness and hate fuck. Other events include Paul Kneale‘s Bad Vibrations that expands on ideas touched on his New Abject online essay on dreamingofstreaming.com. JK_NET is closing its residency at Project/Number in an event contemplating the recent eclipse, and Philipp Timischl and Sarah Ortmeyer are presenting MEDITATION UNITED at tank.tv.
In Berlin, Mathew Gallery is presenting a performance by Eve Essex at Harlekin next door to the space and Lakuti is among the performers at Südblock’s Boo Hoo event. Elsewhere, Leslie Kulesh is opening It’s What’s Inside That Counts at San Francisco’s Et Al, Camilla Edström Ödemark is showing at Helsinki’s Third Space and Arcadia Missa‘s Rózsa Farkas is doing a Skype lecture at Oberlin’s Storage. Sol Calero and Peles Empire are opening parallel exhibitions at Birsfelden’s SALTS and e-flux is launching the latest in a series of readers with Sternberg Press, The Internet Does not exist with contributions from Alexander Galloway, Karen Archey and Zach Blas.
There’s more so see below:
See here for exhibitions opening last week.
Header image: Camilla Edström Ödemark @ Third Space.
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The new volume – edited by Vivian Sky Rehberg and Marnie Slater and designed by Nienke Terpsma –is being published by Sternberg Press, in conjunction with the Piet Zwart Institute and the Willem de Kooning Academy. The book comes as a sequel to Verwoert’s latest book, Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want, and is the third in a series of books published with the Piet Zwart Institute.
In COOKIE!, Verwoert zeroes in on the tragicomedy of making, showing, and critiquing art, showing the hard emotional labour that goes into it, and gesturing towards the culture of “con-artist (like us)”.
See the Motto Distribution page for more details. **share news item
Celebrating its 10th anniversary Gallery Weekend Berlin is running across the city May 2 to 4.
There’ll be 50+ galleries officially and unofficially taking part in the weekend-long affair where the city’s exciting art scene opens its doors to the public in unison.
Do your own research for details.
…or you can check the Gallery Weekend Berlin website for the galleries that are listed. **
Amsterdam-based strategic design agency Metahaven is presenting their Black Transparency exhibition, for the first show at Future Gallery‘s new Keithstraße space in Berlin, opening March 15 and running to April 19.
Employing a research-based graphic design methodology, the duo, consisting Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden, explore the politics and aesthetics of transparency, while the exhibition itself springs from their work with Wikileaks. Establishing a visual identity of “transparent camouflage” for the organisation, while helping them evade imposed direct donation embargoes by providing Metahaven-designed scarves and t-shirts, the resulting concept of this “black transparency” focuses on the geopolitical phenomenon of evasion and adaptation within a globalised network.
A necessary tool for visibility and survival for whistle-blowers and hackers Black Transparency -also an upcoming book of the same name, coming out on Sternberg Press this year -explores this through video interviews with internet activists, a set of proposals for data hosting via utopian architectural models and a collaboration with fashion designer Conny Groenewegen in creating a garment at “the connection point between fashion and information”.
See the Future Gallery website for details. **