Attilia Fattori Franchini

Material Art Fair 2016 reviewed

25 February 2016

“Material Art Fair es la unica feria de arte contemporaneo en Mexico que se dedica a las practicas emergentes”, reads the homepage of the Material Art Fair website. The third edition, running from February 4 to 7, gathers more than 60 international galleries, project and artist-run spaces together in Mexico City. Settled on the sixth floor of the Expo Reforma –a 60s building caught between its own decay and attempts at some modernization near the historic city center and financial district –the event manifests in a maze where ‘emergent’ art spaces and practices mix and mingle in a kind of general mess. The hip set indeed exchange their natural habitat of alleys and signs for a spatial organization where booths follow one another in a row. The advantage: every way enables a round trip between the air-conditioned restaurant, the bookstore, the reception, the toilets, and almost nothing escapes the viewer.

Darja Bajagić @ Material Art Fair (2016). Installation view. Courtesy New Galerie, New York.
Darja Bajagić @ Material Art Fair (2016). Installation view. Courtesy New Galerie, New York.

At Mexico City-based Lodos‘ booth two large tapestries, vintage and traditional looking, are suspended on both sides in its center, creating a partitioned space.  Forced to sneak behind these compositions by French Mexico City-based artist Yann Gerstberger, these images or landscapes made of tinted floorcloth precede another mixed vision of the world in New Galerie’s installation. At one’s feet, silicone sculptures that look like different colored ox tongues by New York-based Olivia Erlanger prefigure the life-sucking cannibal scenario of movies and images by fellow NYC artist Darja Bajagić. Perched between thriller, pornography and death metal culture, one of her printed CDs hung on a wall reads, “Kill this fucking world”. It appears beside a series of C-print on hand-carved foam board –a blurry image of a goat, a sign that reads “Does that mean they are friendly” –by Vienna-based artists Anna-Sophie Berger’s completing the surgical picture.

Further on, Springsteen, a project established in 2013 by Baltimore duo Amelia Szpiech and Hunter Bradley, presents a series of paintings and found-objects by Erika Ceruzzi, along with a selection of robotic sculptures by Colin Foster including one described in a review on Artspace as “a ‘modified’ bug zapper that now works as a sculptural object while still killing bugs”. At Exo Exo, Brooklyn-based duo Bending Binding and their ‘Kooling Systems’ air conditioning condenser and aerosol paint explore the future stakes of past technologies in an ultra-productive and fast, yet failing and polluted globalized world.

SPF15, San Diego @ Material Art Fair 2016. Installation view. Courtesy the project.
SPF15, San Diego @ Material Art Fair 2016. Installation view. Courtesy the project.

One of the most interesting stories of this third edition of Material Art Fair is San Diego mobile project SPF15. Hidden beside the VIP restaurant, it occupies a space between projection, performance, discussion platform and what looks like a fire escape. “I’m sitting on the beach; it’s not particularly warm”, writes Morgan Mandalay, director and founder of the project in his announcement letter, “Despite the tales, it’s not exactly beach weather year round in San Diego.”  The exhibition series was first initiated under the Sunday Project before changing its name to SPF15 Exhibitions –not just a UVA protection guideline but short for ‘Sunday Project for 15 Exhibitions’: “Again I dive in head first with curiosity and knowing it will be a project of experimentation; a lab”.

More specifically, SPF15 is physically a three-by-three meter pop-up canopy on the beach. While it operates as a gallery, it is also conceived as a kind of social sculpture in which each exhibition is also a collaboration with a changing tent. For the fair, the canopy is an overall installation with works by Michael Assiff, Chelsea Culp, Tim Mann, Josh Reames and Kim Schreiber. Always creating a fiction or a scenario connected with this context and being able to settle everywhere, the display this time pays tribute to the body. Culp’s large sculpture ‘Party Panties’ (2015) is a drunk, disenchanted and failed one. “The beach as a space ignites the mutual feelings of titillation and shame for that titillation”, writes Morgan in an email addressing the choice of tent-as-installation-area. “The beach to me has always operated as a space to explore dualities: Land and sea, leisure and labor, the sexuality of the body and its banality.” Everything is about borders –physical, political, poetical.


“- How it works? – Clay”, says the text by Schreiber presented on a tablet at the SPF15 tent entrance. Inside is a ceremony, a kind of initiation rite, exposed but intimate; mobile, fictive, hidden. It’s a transitive space, a place of passage, learning, much like Korakrit Arunanondchai‘s ‘Painting with History in a Room Filled With People With Funny Names 3’ (2015) film, this time showing as Lodos’ gallery space in Mexico City’s San Rafael and presenting a spiritual, social and almost technological portrait of the artist.

It’s a portrait that Yves Scherer extends well beyond himself, interring it into a beautiful, abandoned building in Mexico’s Juárez district with his Snow White and the Huntsman exhibition. Organized by joségarcia, mx and Attilia Fattori Franchini, it takes gossip and fan fiction as a starting point, reconstituting these stories into a physical context of immersive environments. Photos of actress Kristen Stewart and references to her public love scandal with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders appear alongside drawings and photos of Scherer himself to recreate the ‘rumor’ in his own image. Iconic representations of 19th century icons, pictures from Hollywood movies and tabloids, as well as personal pictures of the artist are arranged, framed and under glass as compositions or collages that put all these narratives on equal footing. What is real? What is invented? What is media?

An interweaving or imbrication of fictions, one within the other, is at work here. As with the Material Art Fair booths following one after the other, the VIP restaurant containing the SPF15 project containing the story of San Diego’s beach, and Arunandonchai’s film telling the story of an artist becoming an artist, there’s something ambiguous at play here; something ungraspable yet contained between the being, wanting, acting and telling of art and existence. **

Event photos, top right.

Material Art Fair was on at Mexico City’s Expo Reforma, running February 4 to 7, 2016.

Header image: Yves Scherer, ‘Jeep Cherokee, 2016’ (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artists + joségarcía, Mexico City.

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Bold Tendencies Opening, May 27

26 May 2015

London’s Bold Tendencies opens its doors with the help of AirBnB Pavilion, Metahaven and Richard Wentworth on May 27.

The non-profit organisation, which has taken over an abandoned multi-storey car park in Peckham, launches its summer 2015 programme with a big opening on May 27. It includes events involving visual art, architecture, music, theatre, film, and literature, will continue on until September 27, with curator Attilia Fattori Franchini ensuring a number of names through the course of the summer including those already mentioned, as well as Robin SteegmanLeo Liccini, and Xavier Dolan.

See the Bold Tendencies website for details. **

Bold-Tendencies-Peckham-Multi-Storey-Carpark-Credit-Oskar-Proctor

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Sorbus Video Week @ Sorbus-galleria, May 20 – 24

18 May 2015

Sorbus Gallery will be hosting a five-day video and film screening series called Sorbus Video Week at their Helsinki space from May 20 to May 24.

The program is compiled by curator Attilia Fattori Franchini, artist Jaakko Pallasvuo and the Sorbus working group, and is divided into five evenings of screenings, many of which will have their Finnish premiere.

The line-up brings  video and film work by around 20 different artists and artist groups, including Pallasvuo, who has programmed the opening night on May 20, with ‘Self-Accusation’ (2015) and Keren Cytter with ‘The Victim’ (2006), both screening on May 20, as well as Ben Russell with ‘Atlantis’ (2014) on May 22, and Dominic Watson with ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ (2014), Jala Wahid with ‘I’ve got a burning desire (come on, tell me boy)’ (2014) and Johann Arens with ‘Marte e Venere – A Hand Held Monument’ (2013) on May 23.

See the Sorbus Video Week page for details. **

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Olivia Erlanger + Morphing Overnight @ Seventeen, Feb 26 – Apr 18

26 February 2015

Seventeen Gallery will be hosting two concurrent exhibitions – a solo show by Olivia Erlanger and a group show titled Morphing Overnight – at their London space, both running from February 26 to April 18.

Erlanger’s solo show, titled Meat Eater, begins with a transcript between a TL and an MH. “How should it begin?” asks TL. “It should begin with ‘do you remember’,” answers MH. From there, the two characters meander through what could be an art space, discussing symbolism and subjectivity, the “architecture for a history”, ending full circle with “I don’t remember.”

The Morphing Overnight group show – which invites six artists, comprised of Julieta ArandaDora Budor, Debora Delmar Corp.Yuri Pattison, Josh Harris and AIRBNB Pavilion with Emanuel Röhss – is curated by Attilia Fattori Franchini.

The opening on February 26 will be followed by an afterparty by AIRBNB Pavilion and  Life Gallery and hosted by [ space ] called Poppers in Dalston.

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Alternative Equinox: Das Hund mini-EP mix

25 November 2014

Multi-disciplinary artists and collaborators Samuel Levack & Jennifer Lewandowski will be launching a moving image and architectural installation in Bethnal Green, running November 25 to 30,  upstairs in their storefront gallery French Riviera. As a shared space that also doubles as a studio and once even tripled as the artists’ residence, it’s an all-too-familiar emblem of the resourcefulness required to keep afloat in a city as expensive as London. In responding to the tightening noose of property development and corporate crawl, Alternative Equinox pays tribute to the artist’s former home while exploring their contemporary socio-political context through personal experience as artists living in the global city.

To mark the occassion, Levack & Lewandowski produced a taster mix of tracks from an as-yet-untitled and unfinished EP due for release somewhere in the near future through their musical project Das Hund & The Pilgrim Shells. The three songs lumber along guitar, keys and effects pedals to produce a drum-machine driven ambience that follows Levack’s talk-sung lyrics over a trundling ‘Japanese Poem’, while Lewandowski joins in with an echo of a harmony in ‘Normal Love, Pilgrim’ Remix. In closer ‘London, Blissed Out’, a persistent sense of woozy transience and motion sickness trails the Country Western strum of the New Frontier as Levack’s offtune moan reveals, “she said nothing since London”.

It’s telling that the literary inspiration for the exhibition and EP, Alternative London by late-activist Nicholas Saunders, should appear on the book depositories of retailers like Waterstones and Amazon.com, 40 years since it was first self-published. Because as squats, spirituality and even the term ‘alternative’ are overrun by a culture of commodity where no-one and nothing is safe from the reach of capital interests, Levack & Lewandowski’s site-specific immersive installation explores the point where Paradise ends and the nightmare begins. An equinox is the two times of the year where day and night is of equal duration across both hemispheres. This Alternative Equinox, celebrated about a month after the last one’s September 22 date, reveals the New Imbalance of an increasingly stratified economic context.

The selection of video, painting, sculpture, textiles and scents recognises art’s fight against, and complicity in generating this very context by presenting “dystopian and utopian visions as poetic cityscapes” filmed during the actual spring and autumn equinoxes and evoking “a nostalgic vision of utopian living”. But as nostalgia implies a valorised perception of an always imperfect past, the implication isn’t so much that inequality is necessarily a new occurence but one that the artist is beginning to notice.

Featuring a specially commissioned text by writer and curator Francesca Gavin, as well as a 2015 performance program to begin in January, co-curated with Attilia Fattori Franchini, Alternative Equinox responds to a time where a turn away from the mainstream is a fashion statement driven by a cultural producer that’s produced itself out of a livelihood. **

Jennifer Lewandowski and Samuel Levack’s Alternative Equinox installation is on at London’s French Riviera, running from November 25 to 30, 2014.

Header image: Samuel Levack and Jennifer Lewandowski,  ‘Alternative Equinox’ (2014). Digital video still. Courtesy the artists.

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‘Grand Magasin’ @ French Riviera, Nov 30

28 November 2013

Bethnal Green’s French Riviera is presenting an informal group exhibition about making things, Grand Magasin, developed in conversation between the London gallery and artist/curator Nat Breitenstein, opening November 30 and running till December 15.

Attilia Fattori Franchini, Harry Burden, Fabienne Hess and Leslie Kulesh are among the 40+ contributors invited to transform the space into a store over the next two weeks, as per the original storefront space’s initial intention. Featuring objects for sale by fine artists, designers and other “makers”, Grand Magasin explores notions of “craft, transference of skills, definition and profitability”, as a study not of “difference but rather of divergence”.

See French Riviera website for more details. **

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Harry Meadley @ Paradise Row reviewed

12 November 2013

“The titles are super, super important”, Harry Meadley says as an instruction to viewing his work, “without the titles, (the exhibits) are just objects –it’s the title that makes them artworks”. So far, so-so; any seasoned visitor to a contemporary (or, indeed, any) art gallery can pretty much take this as a given. But here, in the Basement of London’s Paradise Row where Meadley’s LEVEL 1 exhibition has recently opened, the statement starts to make sense in a way that is both intellectually watertight and embarrassingly funny. Take ‘Still Stuck on Stage 2… (Not so clever now, are you Harry!) No, that’s the problem, I’m still being too clever’ as an example. The work is a large, red comic book arrow, mounted on the wall pointing down at the floor. It’s a typically deadpan riff on the disparity between form and implied meaning, the title serving as an almost Dadaist running commentary on the actual worth of such bourgeois-bohème theoretical investigations.

If there is a theme to Level 1, then this is the key to interpreting it. One minute the visitor can be tricked into believing that Meadley has become a victim of his own mercurial intellect, drunk on navel-gazing artspeak. The next, they find themselves staring at a framed questionnaire onto which randomly-selected members of the public have been invited to rant about what one such disgruntled candidate describes as the art world’s championing of “speculative associations without facts”. A contemporary artist willing to directly question the ‘point’ of contemporary art –can this be for real? If you can hear a rumbling in the distance, it’s the sound of the Chapman Brothers quaking in their boots.

Harry Meadley, 'LEVEL 1' (2013). Image courtesy of Paradise Row.
Harry Meadley, ‘LEVEL 1’ (2013). Image courtesy of Paradise Row.

The laughs continue with a photograph of Rihanna wearing a beanie on which the letters ‘LWC’ are written backwards. An identical bonnet is half pulled over the frame leaving one wondering, ‘what form of post-Warholian comment on mass production (etc etc) will it turn out to be?’ None, as it turns out. The title explains the hat is a symbol of something called the ‘Leeds Weirdo Club’. Parochial? Perhaps. But so what?

The lists of materials break from conformity with a lot of panache, too. The likelihood of seeing any other young artist (Meadley graduated from Leeds School of Art in 2009) listing, amongst other things a “JD Wetherspoon tombola ticket”, a “copy of the Metro” and the “DVD case for series 1 of Case Histories”, as he does in ‘Bad Day #1: Letter Rack with Self-Portrait’, is somewhat unlikely.

This very valid –and, it’s fair to state, rather brave –line of interrogation is not all there is to it. Meadley has developed a captivating and extremely distinctive visual lexicon, a mise-en-scène that neatly covers his tracks as he gleefully runs rings around art-world pomposity. The title work is a huge vinyl print of the walls of the 1992 first-person shooter videogame, Wolfenstein 3D, that covers the entirety of the exhibition space, providing an immediately unusual and arresting backdrop. It’s a fascinating vortex of illusion; Wolfenstein’s walls -immediately recognisable to any viewer past a certain age –are an impression of a 3D structure meant to be seen through a 2D screen. Except here they’ve been brought into a three-dimensional environment (which is a rather po-faced way of saying ‘the physical, tangible, real world’) and are printed flat –that is to say, two-dimensionally.

Triangles, squares and circles in bold primary colours are another recurring theme of Level 1– this is the iconography of early computer games stripped bare, wrenched away from its implied and accepted symbolism. Meadley could have titled the exhibition ‘Keep it Real’ without losing any of its intellectually startling but genuinely hilarious élan. He wants it all, and to this reviewer’s mind, he’s made an absolutely excellent fist of getting it. **

Harry Meadley’s LEVEL 1 solo exhibition is running at London’s Paradise Row from November 1 to December 6, 2013.

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