There’s obviously more to Frieze London than the main event. Taking advantage of a crucial yet competitive time for attracting an international audience in parallel to the Regent’s Park event, running October 6 to 9, a slew of other fairs, parties and independent exhibitions also explore the future, futurisms, forecasting systems and hyperstitions defining 2016 through art.
Annual regular Sunday Art Fair presents a select few of emerging galleries and artists at the industrial building of Ambika P3. The space is divided in two areas that the galleries split virtually and without partition. One wall is shared by several galleries, forming a sort of continuum. On the ground Femke Herregraven’s ‘Malleable Regress – Arctic*’ (2016) — made of polyurethane, acrylic tubes and fiber — discretely reveals hidden facts about telecommunications development at Future Gallery, next to Melodie Mousset’s green, long-nailed fingers, interlaced forming a small but noticeable hybrid body sculpture at Barbara Seiler.
Artist collective KLOZIN, including Wilhelm Klotzek & David Polzin, shows ‘Transgender in Hoyerswerda’ (2015) at the Leipzig gallery Tobias Naering. A set of political scenarios based on German history, such as ‘Roundtable, (Business Take Over), Berlin 1990’ or ‘Rohwedder on the phone, (important call!), Berlin 1991’ are played by cigarette butts in small mockups made with their cartons and plastic cables. The scenes rest on several pedestals and are static, transmitting complexity despite their caricaturesque nature.
Julie Béna’s ceramic pieces seem to vividly coexist in a domestic, naïve cosmos composed of art nouveau-like handrails, small paintings of opium poppies and ceramic casts of seashells at Galerie Joseph Tang. In a different kind of habitation resembling a gamer’s living room space at Cologne-based gallery DREI, Maximilian Schmoetzer‘s ‘Preliminary Material for 2022’ (2015) plays with images of different fauna, like a squid or a Tyrannosaurus rex. The former is a character and the latter serves as a motif that extends to the carpet on which a viewer is supposed to sit. Suggesting a conversation between organic evolution and computational capacities, the video deal with motion-detection and ideas of virtual existence and extinction.
Meanwhile, at Somerset House,1:54 Contemporary African Fair presents mainly paintings and sculptural work of all kinds and dates, placed in the grand space of the former 16th century ducal palace. A rather familiar atmosphere prevades here, housing a search for beauty and identity in the works; a sincere approach formulated through conventional media. From historical photographs depicting a segregated United States in the 50s by Gordon Parks to Ato Malinda’s minimal collages of human-animal hybrid entities at Kenyan gallery Circle Art Agency, the fair brings a more varied approach to the usual Western-centric discourse of the contemporary art world. Offering a broader scope and including many countries and cultures within Africa and the African diaspora, 1:54 presents diversity in the making and delivering of art.
Integrating this cultural variation in their programme as well is this year’s Serpentine Galleries’ Miracle Marathon, running throughout the weekend where artists, philosophers and scientists follow the theme of wonder and marvels in their 15-minute moments of poetic, performative or discursive speech. Artist and writer James Bridle connects planetary-scale metaphors of the cloud reflecting on systems for prediction and computational correlations between meteorological and political events through his project ‘Cloud Index’. It’s a Serpentine commissionfor which actual satellite images of weather patterns are given an aesthetic outcome through machine learning technologies.
Artist duo Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff compile their thoughts in a retrospective on New Theatre — a temporary space for regular amateur performances once grounded in Berlin — the potential of the database, and what to do with what is left of a project when it’s gone. Set designer Es Devlin presents a prototype of a light box, emulating what she normally does for stadium-sized performances, this time live and on a much smaller scale. The London-based multidisciplinary practitioner usually works for pop musicians like Beyoncé and Kayne West, claiming that her work consists, on the one hand, of working with light and illusion and, on the other, –in her words– of “trying to not fuck it up”. Around 10 p.m., poet Ben Okri finishes the first day’s session of Miracle Marathon by inviting the few remaining attendants to participate in a ritual, repeating mantras and reading motivational, almost religious statements, together with Serpentine Galleries artistic director Hans-Ulrich Obrist.
Day two of the 24-hour double-event is broadcast from a radio station built especially for the occasion at the versatile, retro-looking co-working space Second Home, in east London. For those who aren’t able to attend the actual event, it’s fully broadcasted online, transcending its physical space. Those who are on location are witness to live conversations with artist, performer and transgressive icon Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, or recorded speeches by Hito Steyerl and Boris Groys. A grungy, yet flawless performance by Norwich teen band Let’s Eat Grandmahappens twice: once alone, and then again accompanying actress Maya Lubinskyand an anonymous model hiding her face behind a cut piece of wood in artist Tai Shani’s ‘Mystical Best Friend, A Miracle Play’. It’s an adaptation of her ongoing performative project ‘Dark Continent’, where she explores medieval proto-feminist author Christine de Pizan’s City of Ladies, triggering ideas around the principle of maximum entropy.
Back around the Bethnal Green area, Auto Italia transforms its new East London space into an immersive installation created by Dutch-based design agency Metahaven. One of two sections is composed of five flat-screens attached rounded columns, which alternate similar content at different times. It’s all a part of ‘The Sprawl (Propaganda About Propaganda)’ (2015), a video work circling indoctrination and the (sometimes) unclear division between reality and fiction through its mediation, and including commentary by the likes of Benjamin H. Bratton, Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, and Peter Pomerantsev. A newer film-work titled ‘Information Skies’ (2016) is shown in the back room, projected on one of the walls and combining animation and actual footage.
At Vilma Gold, a survey of Lynn Hershmann Leeson’s body of work, dating from 1985 to the present, comes in the exhibition titled Trans Genesis: Evaporations and Mutations. Retouched images of the artist and animated latex sculptures of faces breathing artificially, crystalize her career-long exploration of female identity and its merging with science and technology. Hershmann’s use of fictional characters and identities, in order to deconstruct her own, also manifest in two videos hung from a wall covered with printed biological data.
Josh Bitelli’s STOPTOBER exhibition at Union Gallery explores the influence of advertising and media in the instrumentalisation of social well-being through 600 images taken from the archive of the Department of Health, depicting diverse staged scenarios, slogans and campaigns for vaccination and other medical issues. The dissemination of information, how the language of advertising is totally implemented in the reality of the UK’s National Health Care Services (NHS) and how this conditions social habits is hinted by Bitelli’s images. They’re all photos of the originals scattered across the floor and forcing its viewer to walk on them.
Frieze London turns the British capital into a never-ending platform for varied forms of contemporary art and practices to gather and exhibit in all sorts of ways. From the fair format to the project space, the goal of discovering all you can within a week turns the experience into its own marathon of quick and easy absorption. It presents a challenge to the realistic possibilities of physical time and space for getting an insight into global production as it stands in the right here, right now. **
Frieze New York is running May 5 to 8, with a number of projects, talks and exhibitors converging around the main exhibition, along with fringe and off-site events, including NADA and the Off Vendomegallery share, as well as Dream Fair running online concurrently from May 3.
Below are some recommendations inside and outside the official Frieze programme in New York over the coming three days and beyond:
dépendance, Seventeen, Société, The Third Line, The Breeder, Truth and Consequences, Clifton Benevento, Freedman Fitzpatrick, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, High Art, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Mathew Gallery, Martos Gallery, Night Gallery, Overduin & Co., Peres Projects, Pilar Corrias, Antenna Space
Anthea Hamilton, David Horvitz and Heather Phillipson.
American Medium, bitforms gallery, Bodega, Cooper Cole, Hester, ICA, Glasgow International, Invisible-Exports, Ltd. Los Angeles, Minerva, Space in Between, Spinello, Tomorrow Gallery
SPF15, Daata Editions, Et Al., Evelyn Yard, Kimberley-Klark, Public Exhibitions, Shoot the Lobster, Transfer Gallery
Chewday’s, Bridget Donahue, Jenny’s, Galerie Max Mayer, Real Fine Arts
The thing about Frieze London 2015 is that it’s kind of going on or happening anyway, even if you don’t go to it. You don’t need to go to the big ‘thing’ because you know it’s happening. It sort of frames something and allows things outside of that frame to use its edges and say – we’re doing this, thanks for the frame, ‘cos we gonna do another thing’ [sic]. So you walk around and bus around and get a sense of the state of things in relation to the big ‘thing’ that hovers in the mind. It sort of presides over the whole experience until, if you keep walking far enough, on the fringes, you can turn around and it’s almost gone.
Walking up Kingsland road into Hannah Perry’s show Mercury Retrograde at Seventeen Gallery might seem like walking into a shop. Not a shop to buy things but a dead shop that communicates through arrangement and display. There is music playing whilst looking, cut up pieces of ambience, and then beats come on. The gallery is divided by hanging rubber latex, dark cherry red, that allocate areas where things are on display –pieces of printed and painted aluminium. ‘I don’t want you to feel like I have the dominance over anyone’ (2015) shows an image of a cracked and smashed iPhone printed onto corrugated aluminium. I look at my cracked and smashed iPhone and think –‘this is how I find out about the big things’. A series of four works, ‘Gas Lighting 3, 6, 2 and 1’ (2015), are pieces of dented and punched out aluminium sheets immaculately finished in autobody enamel, the cherry reds and blueberry colours matching the hanging latex. In front of these sitting on the floor, ‘Will You Be Topless’ (2015) is what looks like part of a wrecked car, again with a perfect gloss finish of cherry red autobody paint and a piece of rubber draped over it. If this is a shop then now it’s a workshop –a car spray and repair shop.
Then travel to Evelyn Yard, to see Jamie Jenkinson’s show Video. The press release speaks of Jenkinson’s interest in ‘digital phenomena’ and his ongoing investigation into expanded cinema. Before I get much time to look around one of the gallerists comes to tell me as much about the show as possible, talking about the importance for the artist of ‘information transfer’ and the ‘glitches’ and ‘noise’ that occur in this process. The centrepiece, ‘Colour Correction’ (2015) is a projected colour field that shifts its colour hue slowly over ninety minutes. This work and all the other video pieces were shot on iPhone 6 which I am told is important for the artist because of its everyday relation to the body. Because everyone has iPhones. A monitor on the floor shows ‘Net Storage’ (2015), a durational still(-ish) close shot of a piece of netting –the pun opening up a dialogue on how things can be stored: as objects –what things can slip through the netting? Or data –what information is lost in the transfer to the iPhone? Whether the artist agrees with the ‘information transfer’ spiel or not is unclear, what is more apparent in the show is an interest in the formal qualities of film/video and (expanded) cinema. ‘Digital phenomena’ may be casting too broad a net.
I get on a bus and go to Cabinet gallery for the opening of Mark Leckey’s new work ‘Dream English Kid 1964 – 1999 AD’ (2015). The place was pretty packed and the bus stop outside was like some sort of hang out if you were either waiting for the 243 or waiting to get into the gallery. I go inside and from the surround sound system I hear the words, spoken through some NASA style intercom, “3 – 2 – 1 – Mark” and so begins a journey through found footage of The Beatles, NASA rockets, British public information broadcasts and Joy Division gigs. The film is kind of a biopic. The artist’s memories of mediated events re-found as images now feel like they can transcend any ‘real’ memory, creating a kind of new ‘present’ memory. A scene from a 1970s public information broadcast shows a frisbee landing precariously on an electricity pylon, one of several references to electrical energy in the film –and the subtext running through the work could be amplification. From Joy Division’s electric guitars through to the saturation of images that comes with digital technology, it folds back to the amplification of the memory to something greater than a dream.
At Pilar Corrias is a huge wall size projection of the latest moving image work by New York-based artist Ian Cheng, who in 2012 created a 3D animated music video for Liars, where humans and rabbit characters dance and twist and rip and tear apart from their rigs. The current exhibition, Emissary Forks At Perfection, continues Cheng’s distinct imagery and colour pallet. Out of the grey landscape, orange dogs play and speak and chase a corpse like a humanoid avatar through vibrant green foliage and littered water bottles. Beyond the surface qualities is the interesting fact that this work is a ‘live simulation’ of ‘infinite duration’. A flow chart on the wall when you come in seems to hint at the complex algorithmic procedures that might be at play, with the quite funny headline, ‘Horizon of volatile uncertain complex ambiguity (VUCA)’. The press release says ‘a story may escape its classical fixity and indefinitely procrastinate its conclusion’, so I wondered if they shut the power off at night.
I walk to Deptford to get to Res. Here artists Laura Morrison and Beatrice Loft Schulz are working as part of a project called Bain Marie. “What does Bain Marie mean?” I say to Schulz. She tells me it could be something like a thing that melts chocolate slowly so as not to burn it, kind of warming it up. I started to think that the space they have started creating is having the same effect. Some rubber tiles cover part of the floor and arranged across them are plenty of books that the artists had brought with them –novels, Finnish poetry, theory –all sorts. Over the other side of the room are a couple of portable old fabric and wooden makeshift beds, upon which each has a vintage dress draped over it. The materiality of the objects creates a sense of warmth in the space –paper, wood, fabric, nylon. Also drawings are being made onto veneered wood –a fox, a map of slow worms, a vagina, an arsehole. Both artists seem reluctant to consider it a collaboration, preferring to state that they are working on their own separate things. This strikes me as interesting, a beginning point for a discussion on the nature of collaboration and what it means to even state the word in different situations. Schulz mentions the notion of ‘the collaborators’ during wartime. A performance event is planned for October 30 and, I believe, should be highly recommended.
Then I walk to Peckham to get to Assembly Point to an event from East Anglia Records. EAR is an ongoing project by Harry Bix which started at the Slade School with his ‘album launch’ nights. Here, at Assembly Point, the lights have been turned off and there is a smoke machine and a stall to buy EAR branded merchandise. The place is pretty rammed. Taylor Smith reads some beat style poetry about curry clubs and petrol stations, Harley Kuyck Cohen animates a talking Toby Jug with a torch. Lea Collet presented ‘Ricardo’ in drag brandishing a screen in front of another screen. Audience participation gets interesting with Richard Seaholme’s longer piece –interesting because of the audience’s growing disinterest and Seaholme’s manner in which he continues on regardless, occasionally telling the crowd to shut the fuck up. Leaving before the end I missed the performance by Ulijona Odišarija. I had seen a previous incarnations of the work –the artist posed enigmatically in front of a camera to the soundtrack of Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’, while the image is simultaneously broadcast on a screen. I get in touch with the artist to ask how it went this time. “It’s basically the same as before but I was more of Sweatlana this time with a JLo-esque weave and spotlight in my face.” Who is Sweatlana, then? “She is sort of cool, sitting in the spotlight with a lot of drama in her face and all eyes on her”.
Thinking about “all eyes on the spotlight” I think that if the light shines too bright then you can get stuck in the glare of its presence –the big ‘thing’. But transiting the streets by phone light allows smaller things to become much brighter. **
London’s Frieze Art Fair, running October 14 to 17, brings a new programming addition this year with the Reading Room, allowing visitors to browse and buy a curated selection of some of the best international art publications in a new space designed specifically for the programme by the Frieze architects.
A number of the publications participating at the Reading Room have put together a schedule of events for the fair featuring a group of artists, editors and contributors. They include a conversation with Rachel Rose (winner of the second Frieze Artist Award) and Laura McLean-Ferris, a panel discussion launching Kaleidoscope’s new ART&SEX issue, a temporary tattoo shop by George Henry Longly, Gabriele De Santis and Michael Manning and a conversation with LEAP editor-in-chief and curator of Art Post-Internet, Robin Peckham and artist Zhang Ding.
As a response to increasing interest in live work, Frieze London had also launched its own Frieze Live section in 2014, creating a space in the fair for the exhibition and sale of active and performance-based works, and among the six galleries presenting live works this year is Amalia Ulman of Arcadia Missa.
That’s just scratching the surface though, and here are some of our top Frieze 2015 recommendations for this week:
303 Gallery, New York
The Approach, London
Laura Bartlett Gallery, London
The Breeder, Athens
Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York
Canada, New York
Hollybush Gardens, London
MOT International, London
Peres Projects, Berlin
Galeria Plan B, Berlin
Salon 94, New York
Sprüth Magers, Berlin
Standard (Oslo), Oslo
The Third Line, Dubai
Vilma Gold, London
47 Canal, New York
Antenna Space, Shanghai
Bureau, New York
Clearing, New York
Croy Nielsen, Berlin
Freedman Fitzpatrick, Los Angeles
Grey Noise, Dubai
High Art, Paris
Koppe Astner, Glasgow
Galerie Emanuel Layr, Vienna
Project Native Informant, London
The Sunday Painter, London **
Header image: Rachel Rose, ‘A Minute Ago’ (2014). Video still. Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias, London.
“The ceiling’s fallen down here”, says Emma Siemens-Adolphe while clearing up a small pile of fallen debris at the corner of the floor at Jupiter Woods’Genuine Articles. I’m warned it’s not part of the exhibition on entry but, regardless of it being an incidental, I think it kind of is. As one of the best of many good things orbiting the opulent centre of Frieze London 2014 in mid-October, it’s an indication of the glaring economic inequalities between spaces that sometimes, but not always, become a fairly accurate gauge of how good a gallery’s going to be. The Barnie Page-curated show is in the two-storey space in a largely industrial suburb of South Bermondsey and shows reproductions of other works, including a bin full of crushed cans, cheap souvenirs and an A4 print of a meteor. They’re copies of copies that interrogate ideas of authorship and appropriation through co-authored and appropriated objects. One gets the sense that if it weren’t for the cash poor context of its organisers – not mentioning that as the root of DIY digital culture – it’s an idea that would have never existed.
That might be a bit of an obvious observation: Life presents a thing, the artist reflects in kind. But in a week that thrusts both the struggling and the stupidly wealthy into a shared timezone, it’s hopeful at best, interesting at least, to see what can come of the resulting interactions. There’s the boutique branding display of ‘urban’ street wear at Dean Blunt’s New Paintings, where a life lived in the rapidly gentrifying area of Hackney extends to the body commodified; stretched denim becomes the canvas for an art object for sale at Space gallery. Up near the heart of the CBD in Mayfair, Project Native Informant presents the off-site edition of Shanzhai Biennial‘s Frieze ‘Live’ installation, Shanzhai Biennial No. 3: 100 Hamilton Terrace. It’s a less lurid display of luxury real estate advertising with a house-shaped key floating above a mirror in its own vitrine, as well as glass doors and a wall-length image reproduction of the pool one stands to inherit for an easy £32,000,000.
The collective of artists and collaborators involved in the final product literally inhabit the Frieze-emulating branding and flipped Deutsche Bank logos decorating images of bodies presenting a lifestyle in a light box. Except these bodies reveal more about the exploitative foundations of said lifestyle by drawing parallels between power centres and systems, across time and place, suspended in poolside poses taken from China’s Rent Collection Courtyard. That’s the garden of life-sized Socialist Realist sculptures depicting feudal oppression (and eventual revolt) inside the estate once owned by a pre-Revolution property owner in Sichuan Province. A call for the oppressed to “unite to settle the blood debts with the landlords!” is concealed in the Chinese characters in a corner.
Property. Space. Time. Money. They’re concepts that are thrown into sharp relief and problematised inside and outside the official Frieze week walls as distinctions begin to blur. The video work of Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin‘s Priority Innfield installations at Zabludowicz Collection takes a starkly, almost absurdly, more menacing turn in its dark labyrinth of diamond fencing, blue tiles and park benches littered with iconic red kegger cups and screening the suburban self-destruction of Trecartin’s Ohio teens in ‘Junior War’. There’s a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ in a big green room featuring the rolling credits from old video works, while Rachel Lord‘s ‘Basic Jenny’ CGI avatar bounces on a bed. Said artist later materialises IRL at a night of performance called Burning Head Collage, curated by Total Freedom,to play Judas as part of Jesus Christ Superstar‘s ‘Blood Money/ Damned for all Time’ score, with Jesse Darling and Leslie Kulesh filling the roles of the High Priests who suggest: “think of the things you could do with that money/ choose any charity/ give to the poor”.
Allegedly Lord does just that with her fee from an institution funded by a fortune built on SOLTAM Systems. But that’s not before flinging an iPhone at Darling mid-performance, citing microphone interference as the motive in an email: “As an indigo, I am highly sensitive to electro-magnetic radiation”. I don’t see the event myself but hear about it repeatedly, procuring this slightly abstract explanation from Lord herself:
“The physical repulsion/separation I felt from the people watching because of their phones allowed me to channel the torment of a 1970s Bible-era Judas in a very real way. My intention was to demonstrate how peoples’ perceptions of a politically charged environment create a politically charged environment. The by-product was that in my attempt to break the 4th wall, I encountered the 5th.”
I’m just wondering, ‘if Rachel Lord is the traitor, and Darling and Kulesh her conspirators, then who’s Jesus?’ I don’t think anyone is .
“If love hurts and work makes you suffer, I think we should reconsider”, says the voiceover ofMaja Cule‘s ‘Do What You Love’ (2014) video for her Facing the Same Direction exhibition at Arcadia Missa. Launched along with an indiegogo campaign aiming to raise $80,000 so its subject – writer and illustrator Anna Kachiyan – could “pursue independent interests in projects”, the installation, with its wall-print of a deskchair and video projection of ‘DWYL’, brings the office into the art space and wonders whether there’s a difference. The POLYMYTH x Miss Information exhibition at Auto Italia doesn’t even question the apparent oxymoron of the term “creative practitioner” by inviting working designers, including Metahaven, Pablo Jones Soler, April Greiman and Pinar&Viola, to take over the art gallery space. The shift in context shifts the works’ resonance, whether it’s the impressive clarity of scale in the Metahaven x Holly Herndon music video collaboration, ‘Home‘ – viewed through a large LED screen rather than YouTube – or Jones’ CGI product design painstakingly rematerialised as physical object.
“This is your future”, announces the Auto Italia press release, while Serpentine galleries’ intensive two-day Extinction Marathon questions whether that future is a desirable one. Inspired by the announcement that half of the world’s wildlife was lost to human ‘progress’ in the past 40 years, posters and UV brochures by David Rudnick and Raf Rennie appear at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, along with an installation by Katja Novitskova of her famous stock animal cutouts set to the backdrop of alien planets as an example of the accelerating and“never-ending relationship of image into object”. Extinction Marathon companion site EXTINCT.LYstreams the presentations while writer Huw Lemmey summarises them live on a blog. Kari Altmann, UBERMORGEN, Alex Mackin Dolan and Emily Jones contribute online commissions to the site with its header of a redesigned extinction symbol by Marathon co-curator Ben Vickers, with Kei Kreutler and Lizzie Homersham. It’s the same one that flashes across the Third Line booth wall at the end of Sophia Al-Maria‘s devastating tour of Frieze Art Fair proper. In a continuation of its theme of catastrophic endings, Al-Maria presents‘Whale Fall’ (2014) as it narrates yet another pending extinction of a species through a largely blank blue screen. Jack Halberstam’s polemical ‘The Homosexual Says Yes to Sterility’ appeals to a humanism less concerned with individualism, reproduction and self-preservation at all costs, instead calling on an end to the human itself (“No Future”).
Anna Zett on the other hand imagines a Jurassic Age where humans are yet to exist at all, with a premiere screening of the artist’s This Unwieldy Objectfilm-essay and its companion ‘DINOSAUR GIF’ (2014) video lecture, exploring the ultimately destructive mythology of a young US superpower that’s embedded in the fossils of pre-historic dinosaurs and the film culture to follow. Trevor Paglen envisions the end of the Athropocene era as he contemplates the eternal cosmic debris of communications satellites and their potential for sharing human history with a species of the future in ‘From Fibre-Optic Beings to Fossils in the Sky’. It’s a foresight that looks further than the 10 years Ed Atkins is allocated in carrying out his decade-long epilogue to Extinction Marathon in the www.80072745.netonline commission. He’ll send personalised email correspondence to mailing list subscribers via email, which is probably the most resilient form of communication in an ever-evolving technological landscape. But perhaps the artist knows he doesn’t need to look that far ahead anyway, when you consider his inaugural email subject line: “U R G E N T”.
Jesse Darling, Federico Campagna and Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi discuss communication via a spoken language that’s changing with the written online, as Darling proposes a ‘Yolar’ verb for the root acronym of YOLO while suggesting not everyone perceives the world through sight and sound. Marguerite Humeau‘s Cleopatra, on the other hand, is granted a subjectivity beyond her historical objectification via a synthesised voice for the ‘Cleopatra “That Goddess”‘ (2014) music video at the Marathon, while Aleksandra Domanović‘s job applicants are not so lucky at Sunday Art Fair. The artist’s readymade ‘Disney Letter’ (2014) at the Glasgow International booth is dated “June 7, 1938” and kindly informs “Miss Mary V Ford” that “women don’t do any of the creative work”.
Ceaselessly referred to as the “indie” art fair by major media during Frieze, booths from High Art, Seventeen, The Apartmentand Lüttgenmeijerpresent at the Ambika P3 event, among a Laura Aldridge installation of string, soda cans and prints at Studio Voltaire. Florian Auer‘s digital prints of fibreglass and resin t-shirts – body-free but frozen into the shape of a torso – are hung on a wall at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler in one corner. Sandy Brown‘s presentation of an installation from Jean-Michel Wicker and two wall hangings from Aude Pariset are in another. The latter’s inverted whitewash of lurid inkjet prints revealed within the white tiles on ‘Rehabilitated Scribble (blue swallowtail / Vyal one)’ (2012), echoes the similarly noxious, though oddly alluring sterility of Amalia Ulman‘s The Destruction of Experiencesolo exhibition at Evelyn Yard. There’s a collector at the gallery just off Oxford Street discussing the price for a piece of her performed and embodied Facebook timeline, under a clock circled with self-portraits inspired by Frida Kahlo. It reminds me of one of Matthew Higgs‘ framed prints hanging at the White Columns booth back at Sunday Art Fair. All it says is, “You get what you pay for”. **
Superficially diverse but elementally connected –if for nothing more than their positioning outside of the official programme –a handful of things worth doing beyond Regent’s Park during Frieze week criss-crossed the London city map. In fact, geographical location had almost as much to do with an event’s significance as it did the event itself. Emerging art from the dynamic South London cluster started the week with Harry Sanderson’s Unified Fabric exhibition at Arcadia Missa and Jesse Darling’s play on the notion of Frieze event exclusivity with her Haus party –art as presentation and piss up –at the centre of it.
Closer to the well-to-do west but not quite there was Moving Image London, on the South Bank and in the Bargehouse and possibly one of the most exciting exhibitions by sheer volume and diversity of video works from across the globe, as well as the unforeseeably controversial National #Selfie Portrait Gallery huddle on the top floor. In the upmarket commercial district of Mayfair, the GCC art collective’s Achievements in Swiss Summit, its Rolls Royce joyrides and location at Project Native Informant assuming the pan-regional political pose of a Gulf Arab delegation. Wrapping up the week of outer-events and perceivably speaking to its artists’ proximity to making the leap to Frieze Proper soon, the Sunday Art Fair at Westminster University’s Ambika P3, literally down the road from the official site, showed interesting works from ripening, nearly ripe, artists set to complete the art market cycle.
But in the meantime, a moment for the underground. Down here a ring of sound and images has Harry Sanderson’s DIY render farm at Unified Fabric surrounded; the super computer and the labour behind it literally placed at the centre of videos looking at the problem of the image. Among them is Hito Steyerl’s ‘STRIKE’, exploring the artist’s position in relation to the screen and Clunie Reid’s ‘The More or Less of Miley Cyrus’, interrogating representations and their source in an uncomfortably familiar image.
Then there’s Darling’s Haus. As a relative outsider, the prospect of a Camberwell residence packed with strangers was an intimidating one to say the least, but appropriate to the invite-only setting of “post-fordist scene colleagues” the event consciously caters to. A house party but also a showcase of video works and performances, its gesture to a Frieze-emulating fake-exclusivity was realised by a guest list and actual bouncer with an entry stamp reading “neoliberal singularity”. Darling’s ongoing refusal to “frame” her work in the ‘white cube’, as she iterated in a recent aqnb interview, reflects the anarchic nature of London art as “gallery-as-brand-as-dj-as-person”, while one busting for a wee is confronted by a ‘performative’ toilet; a couch keeping the bathroom door ajar for your viewing pleasure. Precious privacy is mercifully granted a floor up with one that shuts but the option of keeping public, as a nudge to contingency, with an in-house camera inviting patrons to contribute toilet selfies, beneath a mirror with text that reads “PLEASE FUCK #frieze”.
Downstairs, Lead Pipe, a “metal band” featuring a shirtless Arcadia Missa co-curator Tom Clark on drums, as well as artists Charlie Woolley, Harry Burkeand Paul Kneale, play among Leslie Kulesh’s artforum chain decorations, while a hand written poster on DJ Imran Perretta, aka Madboy Zimba’s deck (singular) announces studio visits around his corner of the lounge room (#fuckfrieze). There’s also the promised stack of “good” video art –the “bad” being screened in the perpetually rammed kitchen that I don’t dare enter –called The basis of all structures is the placing, very carefully, of two bricks (Faust was right, have no regrets) curated by Takeshi Shiomitsu. I’m not sure how ‘good’ The Armando Iannucci Shows episode called ‘Twats’ is in itself but the (homo)eroticised initiation of a young protégé into the business world by puffing on his first official phallus in Annika Larsson’s ‘Cigar’ suggests the commentary’s in the context.
The same could be said for the Frieze week art interactions in general, where perceptions of legitimacy are established by a series of ritual gestures and arbitrary signifiers determining social value. Achievements in Swiss Summit exposes said charade as a Gulf Arab “delegation” of nine artists –including Fatima Al Qadiri, her sister Monira, Sophia Al Maria and Khalid Al Gharaballi, among others –descend on Mayfair to congratulate themselves on their oblique accomplishments, buried in political jargon and described as “a High Level Strategic Dialogue”. What the specifics of that dialogue is, is anyone’s guess but it’s in the ceremony surrounding it that the empty concession to economic self-interest is exposed: a display case of glass trophies, proud symbols of accord, and large-scale photos of delegates in thobes, shaking hands, drinking tea and signing papers in the idyllic backdrop of a Swiss village. Here, ‘delegates’ exchange “cordial talks” and discuss a nebulous agenda, while visitors ride the Rolls in circles around the gallery to a looping recording of the collective’s official charter, hijacked from their Gulf Cooperation Council namesake. Meanwhile, in the same way that the chaotic Haus party in Camberwell knowingly celebrates what Darling calls its “post-fordist network of friendly/collegial affect & etc”, so too does the GCC hold on to its in-group interests of art associations, friends and family in a brilliantly-executed and pointless PR exercise.
Perceivably reflecting the outsider perspective of the GCC set –as an exhibition set apart by its location in Mayfair and its ‘delegates’ transplanted from the Gulf to the Swiss mountains –so too does the green triangular display of the Maraya Video Archive at the multi-level Moving Image art fair present a similar vantage point. It features video works by three UAE-based artists, Alaa Edris, Nermine Hammam and Karim Al Husseini under a title explicitly referencing the geopolitical nature of their presence. Between Edris’ expressionistic montage of pre-confederation British film documentation and personal footage in ‘Kharareef’ and Al Husseini’s poignant mixed-media narrative on the dispersal of his family’s Palestinian roots across the globe in ‘Dew Not’, the display not only illustrates their experience as unique but as a fundamentally, and problematically, alien one. It’s very proximity to Constant Dullaart’s stunning ‘Niagara Falls, Special Economic Zone PRC, HD VIDEO’ –a single shot video of said miniature natural wonder at China’s ‘The Windows of the World’ theme park in Shenzen focussed on an unaware couple posing for photos –exposes the problem of the artist as outsider looking in. Those issues of patronage and intervention it raises are echoed in the intrusion of a Mountain Dew delivery truck and a ship marked “UN” in Al Husseini’s video, pointing toward a type of occupation, beyond the Israeli kind and to a corporate and humanitarian one.
Hence, the Maraya Video Archive display’s situation between Cliff Evans’ play on Jasper Johns’ work of the same name, ‘Flag’, and Jonathan Monaghan’s CGI animation, ‘Mothership’. One, a digital simulation of its familiar stars and stripes made up entirely of drones, watching its audience and awaiting orders to strike. The other, a more insidious system of control realised in its ubiquitous popular cultural tropes and the entertainment industry’s art of emotional manipulation and propaganda by littering the surreal landscape with images of Marvel superheroes, London city discworlds and that flying ‘mothership’ propelled by a Fed Ex engine.
As anecdotal evidence of a world view externally shaped, Eve Sussman and Simon Lee’s ‘Seitenflügel’, a floor down, tricks my eyes into thinking its a large-scale projection of an iPhone interface from a distance but turns out to be a stylised view of apartment windows inhabited by the artists’ Berliner neighbours. More than an insight into our everyday voyeurism, said incidental confusion for a smartphone is a telling illustration of modern life as State control via the consensus rule of an inward and outward-looking screen. In some ways the National #Selfie Portrait Gallery, curated by Kyle Chayka and Marina Galperina subverts that system in 16 commissions from emerging artists. As a showcase of short-form video contributions based around the digital self-portrait, or “selfie”, artistJennifer Chan mediates her recent feline phase, also performed on twitter, by literally drawing the ‘Cat Ears’ of its title on a pixelated shot of herself saying “my dick”, while ever-prolific Darling presents herself nude and in a sunbed, all Žižek quotes and apocalyptic self-obsessions vocalised through a pitched-up voiceover (“like me ya know I jus wanna look good naked”) in ‘Lil Icarus’. Paul Outlaw and Jennifer Catron literally devour each other, in the form of busts fashioned from food, in ‘Succulent’. Anthony Antonellis mediates himself, to himself, through his macbook screen, flesh fading into his keyboard, while Daniel Swan’s self is represented by the dazzling cover of a smartphone facing outward in Selfie Video Loop.
Pronouncing this form of self-mediation a “democratic artistic medium”, the N#SPG press release assumes the concept of liberal freedom –from political autonomy to access to technology –isn’t still a privilege afforded a lucky few, here demonstrated in a collection of works by EU and US-based artists only. Again, it’s a hard reality physically realised by their positioning on opposite ends of the same room and in view Al Husseini’s ‘Dew Not’. Meanwhile, a general public still hostile to the dynamic net art community, the consciously exhibitionistic nature of National #Selfie Portrait Gallery especially, was aptly summarised in a tweet by fellow ‘selfie’ contributor Petra Cortright. A link to the 700-plus comments (“each more LOL than the next”) on a Yahoo News article on the exhibition with the ‘narcissistics’, ‘not arts’ and ‘I could do thats’ liberally heaped on the resounding thumbs down from the Yahoo.com readership.
This very focus on ‘real art’ and what legitimises it is a recurring theme on the Frieze Fringe, resonating through to the Sunday Art Fair as it establishes its place in the hierarchy of cultural value. The Ambika space is less ‘white cube’ and more “vast concrete construction hall”, speaking to the nature of the fair, down the road from Frieze London and showing artists just outside or halfway in to the big leagues. The ICA: Off-Site video showcase features Sophia Al Maria and Fatima Al Qadiri’s ‘HOW CAN I RESIST U’and Martin Arnold’s unsettling ‘Hydra’ video loop, an animation reduced to its eyes, teeth and salivating tongue, making reference to the sexualised nature of children’s TV and resembling the creepy Cheshire Cat of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Katja Novitskova’s ‘Branching IV’and ‘Approximation VIII’ digital print cut outs and Avery Singer’s acrylics on canvas, grey and ungraspable geometric forms, in ‘Exhibitionist’ and ‘Dancers Around an Effigy to Modernism’ keep things abstract, expressing a contemporary tension between overtly political art concerned with the exploitation behind image production –most explicitly illustrated by Harry Sanderson’s Unified Fabric –and a growing concern with lofty philosophical concepts, potentially in response to imminent environmental catastrophe, even human extinction.
That’s a possibility George Henry Longly attempts to counteract in his rather dazzling marble tablets that look like they could survive the ravages of time in a way that a MOV file won’t. Respectively engraved with “GHL”, “SORRY”, “Don’t be an Asshole”, among other things, and studded with gilded tubes of YSL “Touche Éclat” complexion highlighters and silver plated “poppers”, Longly speaks to said fatalistic outlook by evoking a sense of knowing what the problem is, being helpless in resolving it and doing what you do in the meantime. **
Frieze Art Fair runs in London’s Regent’s Park annually in October. The fringe events happen elsewhere.
Header image: #fuckfrieze: Scenes from JD’s Neuliberal London. Image courtesy of Jesse Darling.
As part of the Everything Must Run exhibition curated by Mark Jackson at Brixton’s Block 336and during Frieze week Erik Nyström and Peiman Khosraviwill be presenting Ambit, an electroacoustic concert and multichannel sound installation on Friday, October 18.
Adding to the main exhibition that explores the concepts and conditions of materiality in art, running from October 12 to November 16, Ambit presents visuospatial imagery through sound as tangible object to create “a mutable world of illusory spaces”. We suspect the pair and recent aqnb intervieweeNate Boyce might have a thing or two to talk about.
If you’re in the creative industries, chances are you’re more than familiar with the ritual of air travel. Blinding departure boards, queerly lit hall ways, dry skin and jetlag are all part of it. During Frieze week, Martin John Callahan brings it all to bear at his Departure of All exhibition at noshowspace in East London until October 26.
Opened on September 26 and seven years in the making, Callanan explores the unobserved system of air travel in reference to his interests in international organisations and authorities.