Darja Bajagić @ Carlos/Ishikawa reviewed

20 October 2016

A necessary exhibition isn’t always a pleasant exhibition. Darja Bajagićs Nobody Knows I’m Funny, running at London’s Carlos/Ishikawa from September 21 to October 20, is about as far from a pleasant experience as is possible in an art gallery. The show consists of pieces involving various media, but the viewer is immediately confronted by three works on canvas of women’s heads, one being the severed one of Bianca Brust, apparently strangled to death by a black metal band member and, if the accompanying publication included as part of the exhibition is to be relied upon, beheaded and photographed for the delectation of some of the sicker sectors of the internet. The other works are less horrific, but they hardly make edifying viewing. Titled ‘Maddy O’Reilly’ and ‘Kali Michaels’, they are the faces of young women caked in mascara and semen, and, no doubt, representing the kinds of images that introduce young men to sex every day. The faces stare over reflections in plexiglass puddles, that cannot help but evoke the myth of Narcissus, and, inevitably, the causal usage of the diagnosis of the DSM condition, “narcissistic personality disorder” that is frequently tossed about in relation to millennials in general and young women more specifically.

Darja Bajagić, Nobody Knows I'm Funny (2016). Installation view. Courtesy Carlos/Ishikawa, London.
Darja Bajagić, Nobody Knows I’m Funny (2016). Installation view. Courtesy Carlos/Ishikawa, London.

It hardly requires stating that Bajagić’s work is controversial. Reading the exhibition’s accompanying publication, composed in part of writings from school shooters and comments from a gore-adoring website, there were many, many times I wanted to stop reading and to look away. Professionalism, however, required that I push through the text’s various psychotically misogynistic postings and semi-literate come-ons that barely amounted to single entendres amid references to necrophilia and an appallingly casual racism that felt like a conference call in hell had somehow been tapped by a supernatural WikiLeaks.

Pressing on was necessary though, and not merely for the sake of a review. Bajagić’s work resists assimilability in the way countless purportedly ‘transgressive’ artists could never approach. Revulsion is hard in art, but the words of the webfucks Bajagić quotes is beyond repulsive, not least in that it is representative of the culture of hate, misogyny, violence and self-loathing that produced it. To want to turn away from Bajagić’s work makes the work all the more necessary. In an age of sanitised warfare and the endless commodification of the body, particularly the young female body, and its capacity for anguish and humiliation, to be forcibly confronted not only with the images, but the psychology of the audience who seek out and consume such images, as Bajagić uses as support for her work, is a furious riposte to the rhetoric of inclusion and exaltation contemporary art assigns to itself. The term ‘safe space’ probably doesn’t feature prominently in Darja Bajagić’s vocabulary, and for her, abjection is not a joke — or at least not ‘just’ a joke — it is a matter of life and death.

Darja Bajagić, Nobody Knows I'm Funny (2016). Installation view. Courtesy Carlos/Ishikawa, London.
Darja Bajagić, Nobody Knows I’m Funny (2016). Installation view. Courtesy Carlos/Ishikawa, London.

The mixed media frames also included in Nobody Knows I’m Funny bring together the same kinds of pornographic images and depraved alt-right rhetoric, included in the publication, and, in a sense, they are also a frame for the show as a whole: a flattening of the experience of hatred, rejection, fear and nihilism in a literal sense. This flattening, however, is also a metaphor; the mediation of screens, of anonymous handles, and — as some of the comments quoted in the publication suggest — various forms of intoxication and numbing, neutralise violence, its fetishisation and its infinite reproducibility.**

Darja Bajagić’s Nobody Knows I’m Funny is on at London’s Carlos/Ishikawa, running September 21 to October 29, 2016.

Header image: Darja Bajagić, ‘Maddy O’Reilly’ (2016). Detail. Courtesy Carlos/Ishikawa, London.

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LISTE art fair 2016, Jun 14 – 19

13 June 2016

LISTE, Art Basel’s sister, home of emerging artists’ art fair is on in the medieval Swiss town, running June 14 to 19.

This year’s event sees a whole host of exciting names presented by their respective international galleries, with some artists coming together for the first time, giving forth their work in in-booth collaborations.

There will also be performances taking place across the week under umbrella title and theme ‘Trans-Corporeal Metabolisms – The 12th Performance Project‘ featuring Keren Cytter who has extended her invite to other artists and musicians such as Sarah Abu Abdallah, Alice Theobald and Misanthrope CA (Rob Kulisek/David Lieske), as well as Dorota GawędaEglė Kulbokaitė.

Our LISTE recommendations are:

Andrea Crespo @ Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler

Sebastian Black @ C l e a r i n g

Flavio Merlo @ Ellis King

Yuji Agematsu, Liz Craft and Sam Pulitzer @ Real Fine Arts

GCC, DIS and Ned Vena @ Project Native Informant

Jesse Darling and Phoebe Collings-James, who have made an accompanying spell called Calapso Chevalois, @ Arcadia Missa

Darja Bajagić, Steve Bishop, Stuart Middleton and Taocheng Wang @ Carlos/ Ishikawa

Gili Tal and Alex Vivian @ Sandy Brown

See the Liste website for more details.**

Taocheng Wang, Massage Near Me (2015). Courtesy the artist and Company, New York
Taocheng Wang, ‘Massage Near Me’ (2015). Courtesy the artist and Company, New York.



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Art Brussels 2016, Apr 22- 24

18 April 2016

From Discovery to Rediscovery is the titular theme of this year’s Art Brussels fair, which is on at the large former industrial building, Tours & Taxis, running April 22 – 24

This year the organisers have decreased the size of the fair by about 50 galleries, promising quality over quantity, and have opened up a strand titled ‘Rediscovery‘ —dedicated to art from the 20th century by artists who are either under-represented or have been forgotten about. In with the rediscovery will be the following, whose booths aqnb recommends to go and see if you are in the capital:

Piotr Łakomy, Leo Fitzmaurice and Tyra Tingleff @ Sunday Painter

Anahita Razmi @ State of Concept

Helen Johnson, Parker Ito and Cayetano FerrerChâteau Shatto

Grear Patterson @ Ellis King

Christine Sun Kim @ Carroll/ Fletcher

Yung Jake @ Steve Turner

Navid Nuur + Anne De Vries @ Martin van Zomeren

Josh Reams + Kate Steciw @ Evelyn Yard

Jonathan Monaghan, Quayola and Addie Wagenknecht at bitforms

At the same time, there is Independent —the smaller art fair that was founded in New York in 2010 is coming to Europe (and Brussels) for the first time —running April 20 to 23.

At Independent Brussels will be Lloyd Corporation at Carlos Ishikawa, Philipp Timischl and Stano Filko at Galerie Emanuel Layr, and Rachel de Joode at Christophe Gaillard. There’ll also be ÅYR, DIS, Ned Vena and Sean Steadman at Project Native Informant, and Caroline Achaintre, John Finneran and John Wallbank at Arcade, along with booths from Ellis King, Brand New Gallery, Château Shatto, Room East and Temnikova & Kasela.

There is also Deborah Bowmann at Poppositions, as well as YIA art fair starting on April 21. The latter being held in the LOUISE 186 building and in there we recommend Julien Langendorff‘s ‘Gutter Magic’.

Also happening in Brussels (no fair) and opening on April 19 running June 4 at Galerie Jeanroch Dard is a solo show by London-based artist Dominic Samsworth called Lounge Elopes and Oscar Tuazon’s General Contractor at  dépendance.

See the Art Brussels exhibition page for more details.**

Christine Sun Kim, too possessive for score (2015). Courtesy the artist
Christine Sun Kim, ‘too possessive for score’ (2015). Courtesy the artist.
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Condo 2016 reviewed

3 February 2016

Out of a conversation at LISTE Art Fair in Basel, a group of galleries decided to join forces and start Condo: an initiative led by Carlos/Ishikawa’s director Vanessa Carlos, through which 32 international galleries come together on London ground. The aforementioned art space along with Supplement, The Sunday Painter, Arcadia Missa, Chewday’s, Rodeo, Southard Reid and Project Native Informant –all based in the British capital –host works represented by 24 other galleries from around the world throughout a month, mimicking an annual project by dutch dealer Jeanine Hofland called A Petite Fair.

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.

Antenna Space, Shanghai + Societé, Berlin @ Condo (2016). Courtesy Project Native Informant, London.
Antenna Space, Shanghai + Societé, Berlin @ Condo (2016). Courtesy Project Native Informant, London.

In an era where humans are more aware than ever of their interdependence with other non-human entities, the relationship with animals seems to have become a focus of attention. Artists Lea Cetera, Phoebe Collings-James and Jala Wahid, or the trio composed of Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian work around these topics, like the projection of humanity onto animals or the metaphors drawn out of their features.

Some of Ceteras 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.

In her 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.

A.L. Steiner, Greatest Hits, Phoebe Collings-James, 'Tar Baby #7 + 8' (2015), 'Safe Passage:Get Home Safe' (2016). Courtesy Arcadia Missa, London.
A.L. Steiner, Greatest Hits, Phoebe Collings-James, ‘Tar Baby #7 + 8’ (2015), ‘Safe Passage:Get Home Safe’ (2016). Photo by Lucie McLaughlin. Courtesy Arcadia Missa, London.

At Rodeo, Iranian born artists Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh, along with Rahmanian, 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 of Tom 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’s multilayered 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. **

Exhibition photos, top right.

Condo is a collaborative exhibition running across London venues, January 16 to February 13, 2016.

Header image: Artists’ Clothes @ Condo (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artist + Carlos/Ishikawa. London.

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MiArt, Apr 10 – 12

9 April 2015

Milan’s MiArt 2015 art fair will be running this weekend from April 10 to 12, with an invitation-only preview on April 9.

The fair, which focuses on modern and contemporary art, has carved out special sections and parallel events designed to cross disciplines and to nurture the varied structures and realities of the art scene, including sections concentrating on established international galleries, and emerging and avant-garde ones.

Some of the exhibitors included in the 2015 iteration of the fair include Rome’s The Gallery Apart, Berlin’s Mathew gallery, Dublin’s Ellis King, LA’s Steve Turner Contemporary, Milan’s Zero, and London’s Seventeen (with Jon Rafman and John Hilliard), Union Pacific (with David Douard), Pilar Corrias, and Carlos/Ishikawa (with Richard Sides).

See the fair website for details. **


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Paramount Ranch 2 @ Agoura Hills, Jan 31 – Feb 1

30 January 2015

“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”.

While last year felt more like an exhibition than a fair, this year brings a stacked list of contributing artists – including Carlos/Ishikawa, Evelyn Yard, Truth & Consequences and Project Native Informant – as well as almost 20 projects and performances over the two-day event (including Amy Yao, Amanda Ross-HoOscar Tuazon). The fair wraps up with a “showdown” after-party on February 1 with a set of music performances.

See the Paramount Ranch website for details. **


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Frieze London 2014 reviewed

31 October 2014

“Sounds like a trap. Is it a trap?” says the shifty blue iris of Sophia Al-Maria’s ‘Tsagaglalal (She Who Watches)’ (2014) video. The robotized voice carries through the speakers of a CRT TV set, on rack and rollers, powered by a battery and pulled along by two straight-faced attendants wearing sunglasses. They’re the props for a guided tour of Frieze London 2014, commissioned by the fair, inspired by John Carpenter and starting at the pavilion’s tours and catalogues desk. It’s raining outside, the tent roof is being buffeted by strong winds and everything feels futile. “Will they withstand a real rain?” Al-Maria’s words come less as a question than a warning as she interrogates the “temporary structures” of “weak shelters covered in a carpet chosen to match the drapes” that is the Frieze fair. It’s the premiere four-day event, bringing both the rich and the desperate from around the world to binge on “that great flower of our species’ effort” that some call art but Al-Maria’s omniscient eye calls commodity.

The TV and its two attendants lead their audience through a half-hour assault of the sections marked yellow, green and purple on the map in the Frieze Fair Guide. They’re the ones where each gallery’s share of the space appears to shrink according to their capital importance. Experimenter Kolkata and Project88 are there. The former features Indian art collective CAMP’s collaborative film From Gulf to Gulf’ (2013), while my Nokia won’t wordpredict ‘Mumbai’ when I try to type in the origins of the latter. Around here are the Gs, Hs and Js of the ‘Focus’ of the fair, the smaller spaces with fewer viewers where the more interesting artists are. Morag Keil capitalises the letters spelling “REVENGE” painted in acrylic across cereal boxes on a shelf in the center of an otherwise sparsely furnished Real Fine Arts booth. There are stuffed toys on one side; a conch, a hot dog and a puffed oat on a mixed media mount on the other. A print of an interview with Harry Burke called ‘Can you live in art?’ is chained to a pair of chairs for children in a corner. It was originally conducted for Keil’s exhibition called L.I.B.E.R.T.Y..


“In a way, that’s what locations are today, different markets,” says Michael Connor, moderator of the three-day offsite discussion series centred around its thematic title, Do You Follow? Art in Circulation. The stage is set up in the industrial space of the Old Selfridges Hotel, an extension of the high-end shopping centre. The infrastructure inside is non-existent so there are port-a-potties downstairs and the salon where the complimentary beer and Smartwater flows freely is full of plants framed by the building’s concrete structure. The sense of a space catering to the bottom feeding art marked ‘post-internet’ couldn’t be better realised.

Morag Keil installation view @ Frieze London 2014. Courtesy Real Fine Arts.
Morag Keil installation view @ Frieze London 2014. Courtesy Real Fine Arts.

On Day One Martine Syms, Kari Altmann and token abstract expressionism expert Alex Bacon talk the #same-ness of networked art across aesthetics and algorithms. Takeshi Shiomitsu reads out his dense ‘Notes on Standardization’: and cites a subject position – across race, gender, class, sexuality – as shaping an experience of culture, while “our interactions are rendered within the confines of the user interface or platform”. Hence, the notion of dissidence-so-long-as-you-follow-the-rules, which is exemplified IRL when a puppy enters the building to the joy of the ICA staff but the chagrin of Selfridge’s security who force the dog and the human it’s attached to back outside.

It’s this fruitless performance of disruption that is probably best realised on Day Two during Constant Dullaart’s ‘Rave Lecture’, his ‘BRIC mix’ booming across from a concrete corner as an art audience stands around largely unmoving behind obstructive grey pillars. They’re reading the geopolitical messages that dance in lurid neon streams of colour, the laser beams “projecting chemically enhanced pleasure into your children’s future”. The sonic intensity of thumping electronica featuring languages I don’t understand generates that familiar feeling of fear and fascination that’s also at the core of Al-Maria’s “cosmic horror of reality” back at the Frieze pavilion. Tsagaglalal’s shaming gaze glitches, cuts and scrambles across fleeting interjections of images and bold white text: “EARTH LOST 50% OF WILDLIFE IN 40 YRS”. Her human flunkeys run their UV torchlights along the pavilion walls to reveal the residue of human handprints glowing alien-blue.

How diverse. How pointless. These are thoughts that linger as the tour passes through this battlefield of economic warfare – assaulted by art and artists fighting for attention. There’s the queer crosshatch of space, time and cultural signifiers in a lurid installation of Sol Calero’s “ciber café” at Laura Bartlett. PC computers propped on desks, among Hispanic food brands and gaudy gestural prints, are running on Windows XP and screening films of street parties. Men in dark blue overalls are chanting “at the rodeo I was like, this is the one” for Adam Linder’s performance art-for-hire at Silberkuppe. A line of people connected at the head by pink fabric walk past as part of James Lee Byars’ ‘Ten in a Hat’ (1968) at the exact moment that Tsagaglalal asks, “What are these weird wandering ghosts?” No joke.

“…then we went to the ICA for a little bit, then we went to see Big Ben and the London Eye…” yawns a visiting invigilator at one booth describing a week of costly cultural enrichment before I’m confronted by Nina Beier’s ‘Hot Muscle Mortality Power Pattern’ (2014) at Croy Nielsen. Keychains and dog treats, power sockets and perfume bottles are embedded in packing foam and framed behind UV security glass above a carpet scattered with organic vegetables, ordered online for Beier’s ‘Scheme’ (2014). Villa Design Group’s live auditions for a film adaptation of Jean Royère’s 1974 memoirs, ‘Arab Living and Loving as Seen by a French Interior Decorator’ at Mathew Gallery is filmed and re-mediated above the scene via a line of screens on the scaffolding. Carlos/Ishikawa offers free manicures care of Ed Fornieles over an Oscar Murrilo table flanked by Korakrit Arunanondchai’s body-paintings. ‘Affordable’ limited edition reproductions by Parker Ito, Neïl Beloufa, Ed Atkins are available for purchase at Allied Editions, while Richard Sides’ mixed-media contribution warns ‘Gamble Responsibly’.

Carlos / Ishikawa, G26 Frieze Focus, London 2014. 
Carlos / Ishikawa, G26 Frieze Focus, London 2014.

“There’s even a food court” is another observation of art fair infrastructure by Al-Maria’s Tsagaglalal that runs through my mind while watching a photographer take a picture of the “A to B Coffee” café. The people there are consuming across from the Corvi Mora booth, where Anne Collier’s framed C-print memo ‘Questions (Relevance)’ (2011) queries “What does all this mean?”. An answer comes in the infantilised whisper of Laure Prouvost’s narrator in ‘Paradise On Line’ (2014), played in a pink-carpeted projection room at MOT International and suggesting ‘grandpa’ is “just interested in painting bottoms and not conceptual art”.

“Did I see Beyoncé? Yeah, yeah, yeah…” an attendant groans through her phone, walking past Mike Kelley’s ‘Rewrite’ (1995) enamel on wood panel that reads “our method of exploration: polymorphous perversity” at Andrew Kreps. The thin metallic ‘clack’ of Hito Steyerl cracking a screen in her ‘STRIKE’ (2010) video is playing on loop at its entrance as it occurs to me that Beyoncé’s presence was only felt at Frieze last year through the popular icon as self-image in Jonathan Horowitz’s eponymous mirror. It’s as if now the art and the image is not only reflecting a certain reality but somehow materialising it, in the same way that Amalia Ulman problematises the distinction between the performance and the person in her social media experiment in networked self-objectification, ‘Excellences & Perfections’ (2014). Presented in a slideshow on Day Three of the Art in Circulation series, she reveals that the photos of her fake boobs were fake. The minor plastic surgery and talk with the ‘King of Collagen’ was real but the public breakdown wasn’t. Or was it?

“Bodies are suitcases for a consciousness”, announces Ulman, paraphrasing infamous body-modification pioneer Genesis P-Orridge, “but who is this suitcase by?” In the case of the artist it’s one by the networked patriarchal gaze. Fellow panellist Derica Shields suggests an alternative model of authorship of the body for black women, reanimating themselves as cyborgs in 1990s music videos to create a “sense of control but also invulnerability”. Perhaps, it’s a way of achieving what Hannah Black’s polymorphous narrator can only aspire to while plummeting towards the earth’s core to the warped and slowed tune of Whitney Houston in ‘Fall’ (2014) screened before the panel begins: “At 13,000 feet, I finally discover my own language”.

The search for language appears part of a perpetual capital exchange as pamphlets from Deutsche Bank encourage “#artmagyourself”; urging art viewers to “post a selfie with the artwork you love and win a terrific prize!” whether it’s next to one of Cerith Wyn Evans’ chandeliers or Heman Chong’s red vinyl text of ‘The Forer Effect’ (2008) that cold reads, “Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic”. They’re as unrealistically aspirational as Shanzhai Biennial’s ‘Live’ installation at the art fair entrance. There they re-imagine their work as real estate in the Frieze brand-emulating sale of a £32,000,000 “Ultra Prime Residential” property in a room coloured rich-people-red with a contact email on the wall for “qualified buyers” only. Merlin Carpenter’s consciously crude painting of a middle-aged couple grinning in the golden glow of a stock sunset suggests ‘Price on Request’ at dépendance. Cory Arcangel’s Lakes series of flatscreen animations advances from ‘Diddy/Lakes’ (2013) at the team gallery inc. booth in 2013 to the bigger Lisson Gallery. The ripples under ‘Miley Cyrus’ and ‘Dinner’ is powered by modems and hanging above the milieu of rainbow-coloured carpeting and Joyce Pensato’s huge black and familiar Disney head in ‘Mickey for Micky’ (2014).

The fabric of fantasy tears at one point when a cleaner walks past me in the Frieze pavilion’s ‘Main’ section. She’s sweeping the space in front of Fiona Banner’s huge dark image of graphite on paper shouting “THE HORROR! THE HORROR!” in ‘The Greatest Film Never Made (Mistah Kurtz – He Not Dead)’ (2012). It’s an IRL occurrence that has a similar effect as Monira Al-Qadiri’s mediation in her ‘Soap’ (2014) video. Screened at Art in Circulation and featuring popular Gulf soap operas based in worlds of affluence, Al Qadiri reimagines these shows that forever forget the labour behind the wealth by transposing the ‘help’ into existing episodes. A vase is smashed in a fit of passion. The maid bends down and cleans it.

Shazhai Biennial No. 5 installation view @ Frieze London 2014. Courtesy the artists and Project Native Informant.
Shanzhai Biennial No. 5 installation view @ Frieze London 2014. Courtesy the artists and Project Native Informant.

‘But what’s the plan?’ one wonders as Christoper Kulendran Thomas explains his accelerated drive to bringing Sri Lankan artists into a post-fordist economy, whether they like it or not. The artist argues for an integration into the spread of malignant markets on the back of branded sportswear: “I was thinking that what failure for me would look like in this work, is probably what success would look like for a lot of artists”. Though I’m not so convinced there’s that much of a distinction as I try to list every artist and booth who made it into Frieze worth mentioning: Simon Thompson at Cabinet London, Jack Lavender and Amanda Ross-Ho at The Approach, Lisa Holzer and Philip Timischl at Emanuel Layr, Hannah Weinberger’s ‘Frieze Sounds’ work, Société, Loretta Fahrenholz… There’s more but this whole piece has turned into an exercise in Search Engine Optimisation for ‘good art in a bad world’ while really just drowning in its own impotence as part of the fabric of collective failure.

“Is this an art fair or a mall?” barks Al-Maria’s electronic mouthpiece in my mind as I wander by Carsten Höller’s ‘Gartenkinder’ playground at Gagosian and Salon 94’s acid-yellow curation of Snoopy animation and largescale emoticons causing retinal burn at ‘The Smile Museum’. This is definitely Al-Maria’s “maze of particleboard walls built to bare a heavy product”. More succinctly, it’s Hannah Black’s “shiny surface of a world of shit”, as read from a poem performed during the Art in Circulation #3 talk, before speculating that “hopefully we are the last, or among the last generations of a collapsing empire”. Because when Monira Al-Qadiri says the purpose of the “over-the-top, luxurious, crazy, dystopian image” of the GCC art collective is to mirror the reality that “our governments have somehow become corporations”, it’s easy to assume that it also goes the other way. Along with the sense of being trapped in a violent cycle, circulated by the structures that exacerbate pre-existing socio-economic prejudice while hurtling us towards environmental collapse, one can’t help but agree when Tsagaglalal concludes, “this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye”. **

Frieze Art Fair runs in London’s Regent’s Park annually in October.

Header image: Sophia Al-Maria, Frieze Live tour @ Frieze London 2014. Photo by Polly Braden. Courtesy the artist and The Third Line.

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