Andreas Angelidakis

FIAC 2014 reviewed

11 November 2014

To write an account of FIAC is to attempt to speak of parts within a necessarily unknowable whole. Were the whole visible from one’s perspective on street level, no doubt it would be truly terrifying. Thankfully, we’re not obliged to be all-seeing, in fact perhaps even the organisers would advise against it. La Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain in Paris designates a four-day event whose object is art, galleries and exhibitions of a sort. Yet when someone says ‘FIAC’ (fyak!), they tend to mean something much more englobing even than the majestic Grand Palais that houses the main stands.

This year, FIAC introduced (OFF)ICIELLE, the ‘official satellite’ fair, whose purported purpose is to “showcase new territories: young galleries and newcomers to the international art scene; emerging artists and those whose historic contribution has been overlooked”. It was noted by more than once that, in actuality, the (OFF) – held in the less grandiose, more utilitarian venue Les Docks – Cité de la Mode et du Design – was a veritable salon des refusés. Which is to say it housed those galleries which applied for the main event but, for whatever reason, didn’t make the cut, suggesting that FIAC had cleverly maneuvered a cash cow on the back of younger, less established clients. That cynicism aside, (OFF) hosted some great galleries and artists, and its energy was slightly more welcoming, less high-maintenance than its older sister.

House of Gaga installation view. FIAC 2014. Courtesy the gallery.
House of Gaga installation view. FIAC 2014. Courtesy the gallery.

It’s worth mentioning, though there’s no space to go into detail, that besides these ‘official’ fairs there was also the fourth annual Young International Artists (YIA) art fair, held at the Carreau du Temple in the Marais. Which, thanks to the appearance of FIAC’s (OFF), became a sort of off-off. Here, works by USA-based Jon Bernad and French artists Loup Sarion and Eva Barto at La GAD (Marseille) were a highlight, as was Barcelona’s The Green Parrot. Each of the three fairs had outdoor or hors les murs projects, as well. There were many, many openings at galleries in Paris during FIAC week, including a great solo show by Latvian artist Daiga Grantina at Galerie Joseph Tang (she also appeared in Tang’s (OFF) booth, accompanied by Adam Cruces, Jo-ey Tang and others). And the ‘Gallery Night’ on Thursday 23 October saw spaces throughout the city opening until 10pm. Everyone makes an attempt to get a piece of FIAC pie, it seems, for you never know when a collector might just swan past and fall madly deeply for one of your stable.

Even the day of rest, Sunday, saw the Belleville Galleries’ Brunch, where the array of young-ish spaces based in Paris’ Belleville quarter opened their doors. For someone who went expecting sweet patisseries and Nutella, the brunch itself was disappointedly meagre, however. Seemingly, everyone was hungover and would rather have been in bed. The Friday had seen the Ricard Foundation’s announcement of their annual art prize at the infamous bal jaune (yellow ball, named after the family’s eponymous pastis, one can only assume). More occasion for what became somewhat of a constant for many people from Tuesday’s (OFF) vernissage onward: drunkenness. Curatorial collective castillo/corrales curated the Prix Ricard show this year, with a fine selection of French artists including Mélanie Matranga, Audrey Cottin and Jean-Alain Corre. The winner was Camille Blatrix.

Laure Prouvost, ‘Wantee’ (2013). Courtesy MOT International.
Laure Prouvost, ‘Wantee’ (2013). Courtesy MOT International.

In addition to all this folly, FIAC had organised substantial parallel programs of films, performances and conversations. The latter were conceived and orchestrated by Paris-based artist Alex Cecchetti under the title ‘Voices of Urgency’, with the final conversation event consisting of New York-based poet Ariana Reines, Paris-based sociolinguist Luca Greco and Slovenian poet Peter Semolič, reading around the topic of ‘desire and revolution’. Earlier that day, Laure Prouvost had given the performance titled ‘Bread, Tunnel, Vegetable’ (2014), which involved a group of children offering tea, bum-shaped cakes, and crisps to the audience sat on the floor, while the London-based French artist dramatically recounted stories associated with her imaginary lost granddad. The performance falls within the expansive Turner Prize-winning project, ‘Wantee’ (2013), the video of which was shown on a laptop monitor during the performance.

Berlin-based artists Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz showed two videos within the films program, ‘To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of their Desperation’ (2013) and ‘Opaque’ (2014), a film so recently finished that Boudry and Lorenz had not yet seen it projected. A discussion between the artists and French art historian Élisabeth Lebovici followed each film, with some of the primary concerns being non-hierarchical production (in film, and in Pauline Oliveros’ music), the camera as active participant in a performance that couldn’t exist without it, and opacity as resistance against the aggressive act of understanding. The veil is a recurring motif; the artists suggest we don’t need to see everything and it is misguided to think the camera reveals all.

Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, 'Opaque' (2014) 16mm film on HD video, 10 min. Courtesy Ellen de Bruijne Projects.
Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, ‘Opaque’ (2014). Video still. Courtesy Ellen de Bruijne Projects.

If only one didn’t feel the pressure to see it all! At the main event, expensively-dressed people shuffle around with glazed eyes, darting between 750,000€ Isa Genzkens, 9€ sandwiches resembling plastic, and Ruinart champagne. The most interesting booths were ones that pretended to be anything else but a luxury goods stall. Particularly successful were those who allowed one single artist to create a total installation, not only because it gave a more generous insight into the practice, but also because it was such a relief after the endless white. Perhaps unsurprisingly, two Berlin galleries were among the most adept at this technique. Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie’s Wu Tsang installation came directly from the artist’s solo show, A day in the life of bliss, held at the gallery this summer. One of the highlights of the season, they cleverly re-contextualised the work for an FIAC audience, turning the stand into a mirror-like infinity lounge and inviting people to sit and observe reflections of themselves and others – and of course the colourful flashing light sculpture which took prime position in the centre, hanging from above and almost touching the floor.

Meanwhile upstairs, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler’s GCC installation included the HD video ‘Co-Op’ (2014), which ironically promotes a society based on luxury. The flat screen is installed within ‘Royal Mirage’ (2014), where wallpaper depicting the luxurious interior of a multi-billion dollar hotel in the Gulf serves as the background to eight painted portraits, hung in an even line. GCC commissioned a Thai painter in Kuwait to create oil paintings of members of the collective in the same style he paints sheikhs. Depicted in thawb and in a typical soft-focus manner, signs of age or gender become indiscernible, and all eight artists fall under the category of ‘Arab’. Simultaneously a witty comment on the kinds of portraiture Western collectors might hang on their walls, the rising power of the Middle East, and the role of the artist as self-promoting brand, GCC really made the mirage work.

GCC installation view @ FIAC 2014. Courtesy Kraupa-Tuskany Zeilder.
GCC installation view @ FIAC 2014. Courtesy Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler.

Other galleries went for the classic mixed-bag group show model, which inevitably meant the works on display ranged from the merely eye-catching to the quietly stunning, with little way of discerning the two, unless you mustered up enough energy to speak to one of the exhausted looking gallerists. Some gems among the Kapoors included French artist Lili Reynaud-Dewar’s dancing pyjamas encased in glass sheets, ‘Live Through That ?!’ (2014), at Kamel Mennour, London-based Eloise Hawser’s two pieces at Balice Hertling, young Romanian Mihuț Boșcu Kafchin at Gaudel de Stampa, Praz-Delavallade’s swathe of LA artists including Amanda Ross-Ho and photographer Matthew Brandt, and Galerie Antoine Levi’s display of Italian artist Francesco Gennari’s spiderweb photographs and US-American Sean Townley’s sculptures.

In addition to all these Paris galleries, highlights from abroad included Mexico D.F.’s House of Gaga, whose pairing of New York-based Sam Pulitzer’s drawings and Mexican illustrator Julio Ruelas, who died of tuberculosis in Paris in 1907, made a link that gave a touch of much-appreciated sentimentality. Unexpectedly seductive, German artist Martin Eder’s painting at Leipzig/Berlin Galerie EIGEN + ART also spoke to the romantics amongst us, while New York’s On Stellar Rays had a wild display of Debo Eilers’ and Rochelle Feinstein’s colourful painting and sculptural works. Austrian-born artist Josef Strau’s tacky fence piece was a highlight at London’s Vilma Gold, and the Latin American stars Adrián Villar Rojas, Abraham Cruzvillegas and Gabriel Kuri at kurimanzutto, Mexico City, were predictably impressive. Meanwhile, Lisbon’s Vera Cortês Art Agency presented artists Joana Escoval and Daniel Gustav Cramer, whose understated pieces provided relief from the bombastic, ostentatious norm.

Joana Escoval, 'Outlaws in Language and Destiny'. Courtesy Vera Cortês Art Agency.
Joana Escoval, ‘Outlaws in Language and Destiny’. Courtesy Vera Cortês Art Agency.

That’s a tiny, we’ll say refined, taste of FIAC before one even begins to rattle off some of the things to be seen at (OFF)ICIELLE. There, it’s worth mentioning Cynthia Daignault’s photographic and painterly meditation on images of the Matterhorn for New York gallery Lisa Cooley; British artist Merlin James’ solo show of his expanded landscape painting practice at Kerlin Gallery, Dublin; London-based Italian artist Salvatore Arancio at Rome’s Federica Schiavo Gallery alongside Jay Heikes; and Jacqueline Mesmaeker’s beautiful photo-sculptural installations at Nadja Vilenne, Liège.

At Galerie Tatjana Pieters, Belgian artist Philippe Van Snick’s ten-colour palette and associated aesthetic limitations proved in reality to allow an ongoing multiplicity of forms and encounters. Andreas Angelidakis’s series of ‘bibelots’, 3D-prints resting atop internally decorated vitrines, at The Breeder (Athens) were a highlight. As was French artist Sarah Tritz at Paris Galerie Anne Barrault, whose work included a trashy fake-hair and bead sculpture and large collage of a seductively angled naked arse.

Last but not least, who could forget the darling, not just of ‘post-internet’, but of contemporary art in general. Amalia Ulman’s solo show at the booth of ltd los angeles was a total hit, making one wonder how the artist could put a foot wrong. One of the large digitally printed tapestries Ulman had produced for the fair seems a good note to finish on. Depicting two African children in school uniform, a girl whispering to a boy, the serif embroidered text reads:

‘What Have You Heard About MONEY?’

‘What Does It Mean?’ ‘How Does It Harm Us?’ ‘Who Can Get It?’ ‘What Causes It?’ ‘How Can We Stop It?’ What Can We Do For People Who Have It?’ ‘Can It Be Cured?’ ‘What Does It Look Like?’ ‘Which Of Us Has It?’


Select arrow top-right for installation photos.

FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair) is an annual event running at October at Grand Palais.

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The Eternal Internet Brotherhood & the Dead Sea

2 May 2014

Gil Kuno points to the moon explaining that the filmy aura around it is the result of the salty atmospheric haze of Neve Midbar, at the northern basin of the Dead Sea and over 400 metres below sea level. It’s our first night at the lowest point of land in the world, the shock of the busy car park and compound-like resort still resonating as the mosquitos start to sting. Kuno is an artist, spending the last two months across the Dead Sea coast for some comparatively brief respite from eczema, his skin now dark and leathery, lips burnt to a peeling crisp. He sets a laptop on a plastic chair and plays his past projects: an impressive tower of single-string-picking people playing the sideways composition of The Six Strings Sonics and a music video featuring a porno-ish CGI cyborg flouncing to Japanese lyrics screamed over the cracked and looping tech-metal of ‘Daisuki Me’. This is “probably” the first ever net-band to come into existence. It’s called ‘Wiggle’, was signed to Universal Japan in 1996 and was produced remotely between Kuno and an Australian teenager called ‘Kwook‘ who may also be a furry. There’s a group of us watching it, sat on a brown and sandy incline with the orange glimmer of lights reflecting off the water emerging from a craggy shadow to the east, and we’re all well aware that this is an exceptional situation.


Neve Midbar: it’s meant to mean ‘oasis’ but to my ears it suggests its situation as a mid place, a perpetual limbo –even a kind of purgatory –positioned at a crossroads between Jordan, Palestine and Israel. There’s certainly an unreal quality to the region and, although I have no doubt hindsight has a lot to do with my dreamy glance back to a time equal parts therapeutic and uneasy, that The Eternal Internet Brotherhood is a special place to be.

It’s a nomadic residency that floats in the cloud-based ether for most of the year, finding form for ten days when artists, technologists and writers; an actor, architect and urban planner, converge in a location with spiritual, therapeutic or mythological properties. Here the multidisciplinary group are free to work together, interact and bond over their diverse and divergent backgrounds brought together by a common blanket of networked culture. As temporary aliens, perpetual ex-pats and explorers, #ETINTERBRO (as Twitter understands it) descends on a neutral space with limited Wi-Fi to sometimes talk, sometimes stare silently at their smartphones.

Except that this is hardly neutral space. It’s one fraught with a history of conflict, uncertainty and injustice that is hard to ignore, whether it’s through distant gunshots coming from Jordan, too-late warnings that after dark dips could attract the unwelcome attention of Israeli patrol boats and complicated stories on how to see Eminem live in Tel Aviv as a Palestinian. On any given day –beyond the low-rising fencing of the shade cloth covered wooden ‘China Huts’ where we’re staying –there’ll be Palestinian school groups in the week and Israeli revelers on Shabbat; Malay tours and Nigerian pilgrims visiting Neve Midbar, all seeking their own specific answers tailored to their own particular questions.


“Jean, why you hate the internet?” founder and intrepid organiser Angelo Plessas asks me in slightly broken English as part of his ‘Golden Question’ series. He’s sat on a now familiar gold sheet, the symbol of the trip that swathes a hut, an Arabian horse, a manicured kibbutz lawn and the black mud of Neve Midbar. Stunned and slightly embarrassed, I say I was being facetious; part of an offhand comment while stoned and seeking answers via Meir Kordevani’s ‘Vision Quest’ card readings –read in the light of birthday candles jammed into the seven arms of a mini-Menora. But I kind of do hate the internet, or at least am wary of its existence. Otherwise I wouldn’t have opted out and offline for the duration of the trip, not just as an ironic gesture but as much-needed rest from the over-stimulation of constant connectivity. The true irony though is that there’s no real escape from the internet’s influence, whether logged in or not.

“Man’s relationship to technology is bipolar”, curator and gallerist Ché Zara Blomfield says to me, paraphrasing an article channelling Bruno Latour during one of our inexplicably existential bedtime conversations in a shared No. 23 shack. That’s probably part of the reason a handful of tech-savvy creatives would elect to rough it on the Dead Sea as an extension of a largely online practice. Luca Pozzi would realise the “suspended moments as frozen in time” of his ‘Big Jump Theory’ in a series of photos featuring the artist leaping into the rectangular void of a sheet that resembles a PhotoShop pixel grid, framed by awesome nature. He insists we stop the car and run up a rocky mountain to do so on more than one occasion. Vincent Charlebois marries the experience of the harsh conditions and isolation of seasonal tree planting in the Canadian forest with a cloud-based art practice to develop his idea of anti-utilitarian “contemplative software”. It’s a duality that manifests itself quite literally in his physical body dotted with tiny Unicode tattoos.


The idea of the body as canvas, sculpture and mode for self-expression extends to Elcin Pia Joyner’s practice, where the double-meaning of the Sanskrit word for ‘thing’ as also ‘event’ inspires her yoga-as-sculpture exercises for ‘Breath’. Anastasios Logothetis makes up for the lack of an image projector with a different kind of energy transfer via the group’s mud-smeared hands on his nude form for ‘The Possibility of a Beach’.

Therein lies the persistent question characterising #ETINTERBRO’s Dead Sea residency: how does one distinguish the artist from the person, the event or the experience from the artwork? Danai Anesiadou and Alkistis Poulopoulou insist there is a distinction between their Pranic healing sessions and their chosen fields as artist and “mostly theatre actress”, respectively. The former going as far as to jokingly inscribe “no work only play” in my notebook when asked to write down what art she intends to make over the week.

The border between life and art is further blurred by someone like Mirko De Lisi whose online presence barely exists beyond Instagram and Facebook. His focus is perpetually on the idea of the spontaneity of art-making through dynamic social relationships and identity-creation. He and Mai Ueda use a voluntary ‘lottery ceremony’ for allocating shared sleeping arrangements in an attempt to initiate, experiment and observe individual reactions to randomised inter-group connections.


Beyond that, there are opportunities to see how an artist’s personality comes through in their work and how their work comes through in their personality. Mike Calvert, ever independent in his attitude to group excursions, takes an almost contrarian approach, choosing painting as his medium for representing a “new style of computer aesthetic” at #ETINTERBRO, while –during an obliviously dangerous first night swim in the buoyant salt water of a pitch black Dead Sea –he describes a Milan gallery’s outrage over an exhibition with fellow brotherhood member Miltos Manetas in 2001. There the latter long-established artist’s paintings upstairs were met with Calvert’s adorable ‘strawberries and pizza’ animation below.

But then, testing boundaries is what the dynamic fields of art and technology thrive on. If it isn’t Israeli Kordevani calmly crossing into Jericho to meet with some newfound Palestinian friends, then it’s Israeli-born, Brighton-based artist and philosopher Aharon (hands down the strangest and most sincere member of #ETINTERBRO) literally skateboarding between cities to bring Palestinian artists to us. That’s all via a localised pop-up internet hub called the ‘CommunityBox’ carried in his bumbag. Eventually a handful of the Dead Sea group make the trip to Ramallah to see the artwork and meet the artists for themselves.


But communication isn’t limited between people, but human, beast and object too. Urban planner and horse owner Mia Lundström takes us to meet and ride Arabian horses at the Yasser Arafat-founded Jericho Equestrian Club. From there, the comical and sometimes rather dramatic outcome of clashes of character between #ETINTERBRO members and these famously temperamental horses are later laughed at by instructors Hussein and Amer over coffee and a narghile that night. As for the seemingly inanimate, some people joined Andreas Angelidakis for a visit to Zvi Hecker’s Ramot Polin housing in east Jerusalem. It’s a neighbourhood designed around the Metabolist principle of what Andreas calls in his blog “buildings as living organisms”, a sort of modulated architecture that could continue to grow after its initial construction. These dodecahedron pods have since lived up to the promise of extension and evolution thanks to its Haredi Jewish inhabitants, except that the new additions and extensions involve square walls, stairs and awnings –not just more pentagonal windows. It’s the sort of customisation, corruption and disruption that leads Andreas to dryly suggest that this could in fact be the IRL expression of “a post Metabolist internet hood”.


The #ETINTERBRO post-internet hood on the other hand, with its 15-plus people from Japan, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Greece, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey, exists as a dynamic cluster, uprooted and dotted across the globe in the nebulous online vortex of the Easyjet generation. That’s a freedom of movement not everyone has, as we’re reminded by towering red signs flanking the roads and warning against Israeli entry into Jericho, Palestinian movement ruled out of areas via checkpoints, permit regulations and uncompromising concrete walls. Hire-car insurance clauses and a GPS message cautioning, “selected destination is in the West Bank Territories. Entering these areas might be risky. Proceed?” sends a message that our own is restricted to the sanctioned spaces and motorways of a highly controlled urban landscape.

But that restricted infrastructure goes well beyond the physical geography of our immediate surroundings; further still from that small pocket on the Mediterranean Sea nestled precariously between Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. There, beer-fuelled late-night conversation centres around surveillance, Google search engines and Facebook; mailchimp mail tracking and unnervingly pre-informed border police. Here, the distant flutter of dread still lingers. **

The Eternal Internet Brotherhood is an annual nomadic residency, that this year took place at the Dead Sea, April 2 to 12, 2014.

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