The (X) A Fantasy group exhibition is on at London’s DRAF, opening September 7 and running to October 7.
The show brings together over 30 artists examining the question, “when does the individual experience become a political statement?” Keren Cytter, Paul Maheke, Tala Madani, Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings, and more are among the respondents exploring the boundary between the public and private, like “living, eating, dancing, seducing, reading, watching films, going online.”
“How do artists work with words, and writers with images?” asks the event Where Art Meets Literature, co-hosted by London’s DRAF and Frieze Academy taking place on February 25.
This question is not exactly a new one, written about in depth in publications like New Inquiry and Frieze, there are also the existing practices of countless artist and writers who have been questioning this boundary for years, exhibitions devoted to the topic, such as Rhizome‘s 2015 online project Poetry as Practice.
The all-day Where Art Meets Literature symposium, hosted by Ben Eastham, will look at this long history, and the ways in which each discipline (increasingly) support each other. The event will attempt to unpick the relationship between the two fields, and will feature contributions by a number of artists, writers and theorists researching this intersection, including Sophie Collins, Sophie Jung, Holly Pester and Nisha Ramayya, as well as Tom McCarthy, Brian Dillon and Deborah Levy, among others.
While there certainly has been a relationship between the two for a long time, Daniel Penny makes a confident, yet precise observation in his essay ‘The Irrelevant and the Contemporary‘ that “POETRY is having a moment.” However, the distinction between art and literature is a hazy one, is increasingly difficult to define. Perhaps the question shouldn’t be how the two disciplines working with each other but rather how they are becoming one.
Tracing the history of poetry, especially from page to screen, and its movement between contexts, the practice confidently defines itself now as anything. Frommemes and Twitter accounts, to image macros, vlogs and status updates, the potential for a possible platform or stage ‘to speak in words’ is endless, and obviously positions ‘post-internet’ discourse and the alt-lit community in the thick of this conversation. In this vein, we can also declare the presence of literature in art as going beyond just a ‘reading’ or artists’ poetry book, but also in statements, press releases, installations; words placed on paintings or the walls of a gallery; performances, lectures, essay-films, and voiceovers.
Using words as a material or as an appropriative strategy for the concept of a work is probably what creates a distinction between the two. In ‘Art Hearts Poetry,’ Quinn Latimer comments on the colonial nature of the art world and its hungry, capitalist agenda where it “devours and assimilates everything.” The idea that literature is being picked up and plucked out is evident in the strange phenomenon where artists can arguably enter more easily into the space of the ‘writing and spoken word world,’ but writers-by-label find it more difficult to enter the ‘art world.’ It’s a reality that makes one realize there isn’t such a fluid dialogue as one might think.
But, expanding past the notion of disciplines and the ‘trending’ of poetry in art, or vice versa, the collapse of these categories is perhaps a more relevant discussion to be having, and one that can’t be removed from a wider, more cross-disciplinary conversation that is also related to the growing need and urgency for intersectional discourse. Artists like video-maker and poet Steve Roggenbuck and multimedia artist and poet Penny Goring are two examples, among many, of artists who to a degree eliminate any idea of a separation between disciplines, seamlessly weaving many languages into one practice.
That said, it would be too reductive to assume there is some special relationship forming solely between art an literature. In the same way music and DJ-ing as a practice has entered the art world, or an Instagram account becomes a serious subject for an institutional exhibition, this topic belongs to a larger conversation. The changing nature of contemporary art and the ways in which the unspoken rules and formulas that used to quietly underpin the language of the industry are now breaking down. Are we falling out of love? Or is it just longing? Maybe it just isn’t enough anymore. At a time when ‘making’ for an artist feels like a dead end, perhaps we are searching for revival.**
Block Universe performance festival returns this year across several London venues, opening May 30 and running June 5.
Commissioning several new works encompassing dance, presentations, intimate conversations, cake eating and music, and inviting other pieces to be re-performed during the week, the organisers of Block Universe have offered the title, The Future Perfect for the festival’s holding theme.
The Future Perfect is about the experience of ‘relationality’ in a mediated society, and will look at body enhancement, immortality, ageing, preservation and the representation of the self in acts and via motifs found in shared experiences, as well as in modes of anonymity.
Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings are presenting installation How to Survive a Flood@GAYBAR at London’s David Roberts Art Foundation (DRAF), opening May 13 and running to May 28.
As part of the Curators’ Series’ Ways of Livingprogramme running to June 23, the London-based artist-duo will transform the DRAF Studio into a working bar featuring new video, audio, and light boxes that explore the history of New York gay resort Fire Island in relation to its present state of rapid gentrification and natural disaster.
The project aims to cite and critique the complicated identity of said LGBTQ community and its relationship with private property and privilege by reimagining it as a “queer, sci-fi and anarchic space” with works weaving CGI landscapes, found footage of post-Hurricane Sandy destruction and an audio piece produced by Jan Piasecki weaving together pop music and the sounds of ecological destruction.
Arcadia Missa is curating the Ways of Living groupexhibition at London’s David Robert Arts Foundation (DRAF), opening April 14 and running to July 23.
Presented as the ninth edition of the Curators’ Series, the self-organised space will present works by 16 artists —emergent and historical —who “occupy and transform spaces”. Those artists whose practices aim to politicise the places that locate them include Hannah Black, Sharon Hayes, Holly White, Peter Hujar and Jesse Darling among others.
The event, that seeks work that functions in a way that is “inverse to the individualised, satellite modes in which we are increasingly expected to work” will open with a new performance by Beatrice Loft Schulz and DJ sets from Juliana Huxtable and Goth Tech.
As part of a study series focusing on researching and making important works from the David Roberts Collection public, Banner’s Study #13 presents her work ‘Every Word Unmade’ (2007), a 26 metre-high neon alphabet of upper case letters handmade by the London-based artist. It comes accompanied by a selection of work by Banner and a research text on the central work by Emily King.
Trockel, meanwhile, contributes to Study #14, an in-depth look at ‘Oh Mystery Girl 3’ (2006), a collage complemented by other loaned works by the Cologne-based artist and a new text by writer Matthew McLean.
The show will deal with art and artists’ current relationship with production. The press release describes the aesthetic of what has become “strategies of replication and appropriation” as a result of the lag between the new and the desire for it.
It reads: “Content, indeed all matter, became viscous and infectious: material to mould and to reform, to produce and reproduce desire; to spread”.
For Muscle Memory, which has a private view on January 22, Sunderland will present sculpture, print, and sound. He has previously exhibited 72-hour sound piece, ‘…at the slow party copies sync towards zero’ at DRAF.
David Roberts Art Foundation opens a new group exhibition of rarely seen artworks from their collection, titled Albert the kid is ghosting and occupying the whole DRAF building from September 25 to December 12.
The exhibition transforms the art space into an “unsettling mise-en-scene of defiance: a crime scene”, presenting each work in a precisely-designed environment—from Josephsohn’s brass head to Guston’s wall of dark floral wallpaper.
All Of Us Have A Sense Of Rhythm, curated by Christine Eyene, brings together artists and musicians, working from the late 20th century to today, who all deal in different ways with the influence of rhythm and music from Africa. For An Evening of Live Music, held at DRAF on July 11, three of the artists currently showing in the exhibition perform live, with music, sound and video.
Evan Ifekoya’s ‘Let the rhythm keep pulling you towards ur edges (after Marlon Riggs)’ (2015), is a rich multi-channel audio-visual performance. Spoken-word recordings, music and remixes are cued over a projected video montage and live-updated twitter feed. The video weaves together viral YouTube dances, Fred Astaire’s notorious tap dancing scene as ‘Bojangles of Harlem’ in Swing Time and archival film of works by Harlem Renaissance-affiliated sculptor Richmond Barthé, alongside video of Ifekoya combing their hair and setting up a mirrorball in a green-screen studio. Their twitter feed is live-updated with the content of the spoken-word recordings, a story of a romantic encounter on a night out, played alongside a heterogeneous selection of modern pop and not-so-pop music. At one point Spice Girls collides with Snoop/Pharrell tongue-clicks. I hear X-Ray Spex’s ‘Identity’ playing half-speed, sounding strangely like stoner metal.
In contrast, Larry Achiampong takes analogue material as his source. For an hour he plays vinyl – complete with skips triggered by an excitable audience – selecting tracks with a connoisseur’s sensitivity. He plays predominantly Ghanaian and Nigerianguitar-driven psychedelic tracks from the 1970s, which have influenced the sound of his own albums Meh Mogya and More Mogya. Meanwhile, a film of a young child dancing on a play mat loops in the background. Like a lot of children he seems to have boundless energy, and an interest in trying out all varieties of dance – at various points spinning, rolling or clapping along to the set.
To close the evening, Julien Bayle performs ‘ALPHA’ (2014), an audio-visual show conducted on proprietary software synthesisers and sequencers, developed by the artist himself. It is sonically industrial, with driving kicks and crescendos of noise, but aesthetically minimal. Hypersensitive wireframe 3D geometries jitter and pulse in response to the sound, the projector often strobing along with the deep distorted kicks. Its simplicity and phenomenally tight synchronization creates a hypnotising and enveloping experience.
While each of the three artists start from divergent sources, the questions raised in the evening are clear. How do we make sure to truly value influences? Which important figures are being devalued by structural apathy or prejudice? How can we start to recognise those influences as part of a global cultural canon, rather than simply as marginalities? It is Ifekoya playing ‘Madame Hollywood’ by Felix da Housecat, in the context of their wider performance, which points most literally to the history of expropriation. After being denied entry to Berghain in Berlin in March – almost a year after the death of seminal Chicago house producer Frankie Knuckles – FdH made his thoughts about structural racism devaluing the history of dance music public on twitter. “blood sweat and tears CHICAGO and DETROIT BUILT BERLIN! TECHNO AND HOUSE,….”.
The act of turning away FdH, whose work played a role in laying the foundations for contemporary dance music, is exemplary of painfully ironic historical whitewashing. Western culture seems structurally predisposed to devaluing the cultural contributions of non-white artists. Would techno exist in the same way today, had four-to-the-floor not been popularised in the discos of the 1970s? Who, beyond cultural theorists and specialists, recognises this as valuable today? But, to try to be optimistic, maybe the right rhythm, played by the right person, in the right place and time, stands up on its own merits – and a celebration of that moment can become a radical reclamation of history. **
The conversation with van Meel comes as the second event in +1, a new series between DRAF and some of London’s exciting emerging spaces, collectives and publications. The first event, with Anne de Boer and Eloïse Bonneviot as guests of Jupiter Woods, took place at the beginning of March.
van Meel, working somewhere between moving image, sculpture and installation, will introduce her past work and present to the public, as well as her latest work-in-progress collaboration, building towards her solo exhibition at Kunstraum some time in late 2015.
Burke – who, after editing the I Love Roses When They’re Past Their Bestanthology earlier this year, is publishing his latest project, an ebook of poems accompanied by architectural drawings by Alessandro Bava and titled City of God (for which we have a review coming…soon!) – is joining forces with Childs to read a story that “maps out space”. Melbourne-based Childs, in turn, works as a writer, editor, and artist, with a new novel, Danklands, coming out this month.
Following Burke and Child’s piece, poet Sophie Collins will read a series of ekphrastic poems, followed by video readings by a handful of artists, including Natalie Parker, Jack Mannix, Aurelia Guo and Autumn Royal.
The exhibition features a collection of Beier’s new sculptural works, including a major spatial commission created site-specifically for DRAF, coming out a six-year collaboration between the artist and the gallery. According to its director, Vincent Honoré, Beier’s sculptures are “trapped in anambiguous position between an object and the representation of that object” as she creates works that muddy the space between the two.
Her ambitious new work, Tileables (2014), which functions as a base for the exhibition, exemplifies this: mosaic tiles adorned with patterns created with 3-D modeling software and textured to imitate natural materials like marble and mud are arranged across the gallery floors, a from-the-ground-up shift of imitation and reality.
As Frieze is never so much about the art fair itself but the influx of artists and projects surrounding the international event – this year running in London October 15 to 18 – here are our recommendations for the week’s offsite and fringe occassions, including events and exhibitions opening and opened:
The title of the David Roberts Art Foundation’s two-day programme Present Fictions is explicitly referring to fictions of the ‘now’ – what the introduction describes as “contemporary approaches to visual culture, poetry, science fiction and narrative structures”. By the time the series is complete, it feels like it could just as well be its homograph: a variety of fictions having been presented, stepped inside of, tested out, and contemplated.
In fact, the “present” preface is in some ways misleading: the fictions of now tend to look forward, applying imagination to our current technologies and ways of life to fictionalise tomorrow. This is whatCher Potter, senior research fellow in Design Futures at the V&A, addresses in her introductory talk on ‘The Speculative Arts’. With a focus on design fictions, she runs through introductions to a reel of artists and designers who are currently in the process of constructing our futures, both in the realm of ideas and in the “real world” – there are tales of sheikhs turning up at exhibitions only to write $3 million cheques bringing imagined drone systems to life, and of NASA funding scent provocateur Sissel Tolaas to research the making of cheese from human by-products. Because who knows when that might save the life of a future astronaut stranded in the cosmos?
Temporary Research Library & Michael E. Smith screening. Image courtesy DRAF.
As a counterpoint to this overview of future-facing art – running the gamut from trend-forecasting toGulf Futurism – is University of Westminster researcher Robert Cowley’s exploration of the concept (and actuality) of the “Eco-city”. These sustainable, in many ways utopian, living spaces exist on a knife-edge between speculation and reality, raising as many questions as they set out to answer. What is the ideal city, and how does one set out to plan one? The Eco-city and science fiction exist in a chicken-and-egg style feedback loop, one inconceivable without the other; rather than fiction that informs how our futures might look, these are examples of present, actual indications of the future as informed by sci-fi. Masdar, a city in UAE powered entirely by renewable energy, is being built right nowwhile the hyperbolically marketed Sejong City is bringing South Korea’s dreams to life.
While this is a pretty literal example of world-building, Potter deals more with artists who are “world-hinting” through the micro-futures they create in their objects, and this kind of hinting is something observed throughout the two days at Present Fictions. The video art of Hannah Black and Hannah Perry deals in the meshing of fragmented pop culture, narrative and personal insight to create impressions of a writhing digital world engaged in a love-hate relationship with the human mind and body: in Perry’s ‘While It Lasts’ (2012)’, the infinite moment of pleasure promised to young people by the media is detailed in a way that almost mimics the techniques of the ads and music videos it takes from, ending on the tantalising promise of Nina Simone’s distorted voice trailing “And I’m feeling…”.
Meanwhile Black, who incidentally tweeted over the weekend “i do not love anything or anyone more than i love pop music”, picks apart the disjunction between actual bodies and our digital and cultural understanding of them, through the disembodied limbs that “learn to dance like Rihanna” while images of her bruised 2007 face loom in the background, to the disconnect between woman R&B vocalists singing about their “bodies” over stock photographs of powerful white men in suits. Perry shows the tragic fiction of the ultimate, perfect presence, perpetually pushed just slightly in the future and made just slightly unobtainable, while Black swims through the nexus of imagery through which we encounter pop culture, and how that makes us feel about ourselves. Pop is ultimately, genuinely loveable because it’s our most dominant present fiction: nothing else creates a shared imaginary moment for so many people in one stroke, creating an immense community and false sense of security in its view of the world.
Video still from Michael E. Smith’s Jellyfish (2011). Image courtesy DRAF.
In the second day’s poetry readings, Tender journal editor Rachael Allen (@r_vallen) also turned a hand to world-hinting through the objects and characters that loomed through her newest poetry, in which she said she was exploring a world of “surreal” homes, filled with quarrelling sisters (making their house into a “cathedral of pinches”) and babies bubbling on stoves. This world, born out of childhood memories meshed with childhood fantasies and brewed over years of re-contextualising, was a present fiction of an imagined past. Faber poet Sam Riviere gave sharply defined glimpses into the world as it is through the found poetry of hisKim Kardashian’s Marriage series. Assembled from a collage of texts found online, the poems speak straight from a digital mouth, all shiny falsity and dry, dulcet tones masking something more desperate.
On the back of this reading comes Rozsa Farkas’ performance lecture ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ – the first part of which can be listened to above or read in its entirety on the latter link – and which inspired her work in THE ANGRY SHOW, during which she advocates pure anger over the detached removal of cynicism, ironical reactions to systems being complicit to the systems they decry through their inaction. With a backdrop of videos from Ciara, Bikini Kill, Nirvana and an impassioned, arm-thrashing mime to Taylor Swift’s ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’, Farkas tells a story of a world in which “angering” is forbidden, and a young girl who discovers what a force the emotion can be through a cultural Mesh and a whistle-stop tour through the history of counter-culture. This is a world built in front of our eyes that’s not so removed from our own, a fiction that tells us something about the present via a theoretical future; like so much of this weekend, its presentation of a fiction that borders almost uncomfortably on reality is so absorbing that it brings with it the realisation of how such fictions pervade every moment in our engagement with culture, in our narrative sense-making of our own lives. The present is a fiction, fiction a presentation of our world. **
Following a growing and dynamic discourse in contemporary art around pollution and a general collapse in systems and processes, Geographies of Contamination presents works by ten artists, all premiering in London and spanning synthetic and organic matter, generating an unsettling cross-section of our modern condition.