I hate it here—co-released by CURL x AQNB on tape and via download on November 19 — is a 42-minute audio narrative by writer and editor Steph Kretowicz, created in collaboration with producers and composers Ben Babbitt and felicita.
The desire for transcendence affects us all. Led by pain and dissatisfaction, the struggles of being alive can only really be overcome in death. Author and writer Steph Kretowicz’s psychedelic audio narrative wanders through a layered and multi-dimensional notion of existence as suffering.
Ben Babbitt and felicita’s unsettling musical compositions lead this sonic trip through the atemporal influence of trauma and experience on a life, at a point where personal and cultural histories collide. Dispersed across London, Poland and Los Angeles, “I hate it here” dissolves time and location into the people and memories of the past that shape a person in the present. It touches on folk traditions throughout eras, and religious and spiritual practices across regions in a sometimes poignant, sometimes absurd tribute to the routines and rituals designed to fathom the unfathomable.
Writer & director: Steph Kretowicz
Music & composition: felicita & Ben Babbitt
Sound Design & Mix: Ben Babbitt
Barbershop Quartet: Arrangement: Connie Jehu
Performers: Connie Jehu Mica Levi Tirzah Mastin Coby Sey
Hej Sokoły!: Performer: Ewa Poniatowska
Additional Field Recording: Jonnine Standish
Voices Vika: Vika Kirchenbauer Dad: Chris Kretowicz Eliza: Adelaide Clemens Truckdriver 1: Max Göran Truckdriver 2: Joe McKee Babcia: Ulijona Odišarija Uncle: Steven Harris Mum: Anna Komorowska Aunt 1: Marisa Aveling Aunt 2: Cristine Brache Frail Man: Robin Murphy Matthew: Matt Dell Nun: Margaret Haines Priest: Steven Legere Aya: Hayden Dunham
Special thanks to: Martin Kohout
Dedicated to the memory of Matthew O’Shannessy
Commissioned by YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Company) / Radio Variaatio, curated by Kaino Wennerstrand
Cassette tape edition of 100. Aqua blue with on-cassette printing, packaged in pink case with four-panel J-card.
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Steve & Samantha share their ‘Wish Stack’ mix with AQNB to close out the year and ring in the holiday season. The London-based band features artists James Lowne and Ulijona Odišarija, who have been performing their lo-fi and melancholy anti-folk in art spaces and venues across London and abroad.
The selection of sketches of songs and works in progress were jammed out over a few hours, and recorded to the band’s phones, especially for AQNB. The results are a selection of roughshod and tactile evocations of emotions that often slip outside the realm of language. These indefinable sensations, built around repetitious piano progressions, guitar rhythms and softly spoken vocals, create a similar sensation to Odišarija’s beautifully evocative photography, which lives in the space where the everyday becomes extraordinary.**
The exhibition space will take the form of a room conceived by Odišarija and built by East Anglia Records, where Duffield will perform on the opening evening amongst the other works, along with the screening of a new film by Harriet Rickard.
The music label and self-proclaimed ‘originator’ of the term ‘Rhythm & Disappointment’ (R&D), founded by artist Harry Bix, began as a series of music performance nights at Slade School of Art in 2015. The project, revolving around the notion of “wanting more and giving up”, has since put on a number of other events and released a handful of compilations, including one in parallel with the NO SCREENING performance at London’s ICA in collaboration with with artist Cristine Brache and SOUNDS LIKE.
With the accelerated pace of commodification and consumption of marginal identities (and spaces) globally, comes the question of, and tension between complicity and resistance in political art and social critique. Discourse is developing beyond ideas of visibility and representation to notions of assimilation into existing cultural paradigms, which is why AQNB was in Los Angeles to present the ‘Accessing Economies: Engagement & Withdrawal’ screening and reading at Club Pro LAon July 17 to interrogate the politics of identity within commercial or institutional spheres.
It’s part of an ongoing series of screening, reading, performance and discussion events lead by editor Jean Kay and organised in collaboration with video production partners Video in Common, and follows similar events already held in London and Berlin –two key cultural centres in the art editorial platform’s network. Titled ‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’ and ‘At the Backend’, together these earlier programmes interrogated the systems and infrastructures embedded in networked communication, and how this affects distribution, flows of information and power, as well as language, community-building and identity formation.
Meanwhile, ‘Accessing Economies’ carries on that conversation into the consequences of structural affiliations as both inspiring and influencing critical art practice, and creating new markets. Maria Gorodeckaya, for example, inverts the gaze through the lens of female sexual desire in ‘do it for me’, while Vika Kirchenbauer‘s queer subjects confront the high art voyeur with ‘YOU ARE BORING!’: “I mean, who wouldn’t want to fuck a work of conceptual art?”
Evan Ifekoya talks marginality as a lived position for AQNB/ViC editorial video commission ‘Genuine. Original. Authentic.’ and Sarah Boulton‘s poetry, read by Ulijona Odišarija, passively lingers in the margins, outside of valuation, by dealing with what the artist describes as “what you don’t need to say, and not saying it”. Imran Perretta‘s ‘Untitled (work in progress)’ explores the privilege of apprehension and self-analysis for a work in progress video, while Ann Hirsch and Cristine Brachepresent two videos that concisely and consciously apply for access to systems of power and control, only to complicate and disrupt them when awarded it.
Below is the full programme of video, audio and stills of the works presented in their running order:
Maria Gorodeckaya: ‘do it for me’ (2016) [5:11]
Moscow-born, London-based artist Maria Gorodeckaya explores the nature of women’s objectification,
reclaiming the gaze through the lens of the camera and re-directing it onto the male body. Inverting sexual power dynamics, Gorodeckaya’s work expands into poetry, sculpture and installation, building on her interests in desire and its suppression by religious, economic and institutional means.
London-based artist Evan Ifekoya discusses their ongoing music video series, questioning the notion of cultural or personal authenticity and what it means to be entertaining. Also working with collage, knitting and drawing, Ifekoya talks about deconstructing pervasive gender binaries, expressing the banality and importance of physical ‘making’.
Vika Kirchenbauer: ‘YOU ARE BORING!’ (2015) [13:44], ‘COOL FOR YOU – GIVEN YOUR CONVENIENT ABSENCE’ (2016) [2:25]
Berlin-based artist Vika Kirchenbauer looks at the transference of (certain) bodies and politics from subcultural to high art spaces and the new dynamics that emerge. In complicating ideas of performance and shifting the spectator’s perspective back on themselves, Kirchenbauer questions how power and self-understanding is renegotiated within an institutional framework.
Sarah Boulton: Poetry read by Ulijona Odišarija [2:59 min]
London-based artist and poet Sarah Boulton presents moments of inclusivity, engaging and implicating its audience directly or with distance, or both. Friend and fellow artist Ulijona Odišarija reads as a single clear voice without embellishment, expressing a certain creative ambience around perceptions and consciousness in relation to objects that refuse signification and thus capital value.
Imran Perretta: ‘Untitled (work in progress)’ (2016) [5:00 min]
London-based artist Imran Perretta explores the liminal space between socially and culturally constructed spaces, as well as the role of the body within that. Inscribed as they are with external assumptions, prejudices and, above all, concerns, Perretta’s film is an interrogation of white-washed narratives of privilege and their ideologies of self-actualisation, described in an aqnb review of his performance work as, “the over analyzed body in stark contrast to the under analyzed body”.
Ann Hirsch: ‘Here For You (Or my Brief Love Affair with Frank Maresca)’ (2011) [14:06]
LA-based artist Ann Hirsch interrogates (networked) media and its false assumptions of personal freedom. Placing herself in the externally constructed environment of a reality TV programme and its culture of constant surveillance, Hirsch surrenders to the mechanism of production, where she and 14 other contestants vie for the affections of ‘Frank the Bachelor’ on camera with no control on how they’re viewed, edited or represented.
Cristine Brache:, ‘Sequence 02 1’ (2016) [15:56 min], ‘finally people are reading about me’ [00:14 min] (2016)
Toronto-based artist and poet Cristine Brache shows marginal women’s bodies and their reproduction as objects in circulation. In complicating and questioning economic, political and sexual power relations as both oppressed and empowered, Brache’s at times fetishistic work expresses a tension between aspiring for access and visibility, and the means by which one achieves it.
Last Friday, on March 4, aqnb editor Jean Kay, and Video in Common (ViC) founder Caroline Heron visited Berlin’s Import Projects to present a screening and short discussion with the title, ‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’ —inspired by the William Gibson interview quote from an article in The Economist.
As harbinger to an ongoing collaboration with Import, we shared some of the inspiration behind our ongoing video editorial partnership, available to view at the ViC YouTube account, with a selection of films that also address the theme.
At a time when it is becoming increasingly apparent that the global and democratising potential of the internet has been and continues to be restricted by surveillance, commercialisation and imperial neglect, the aim of the ‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’ screening was to explore its implications on art and artists on a political and economic, social and personal level. Where Rezaire advocates for challenging the visual aesthetics of exploitative structures and narratives of a western-centric internet via projects like WikiAfrica in her ‘AFRO CYBER RESISTANCE’ video essay, Schmoetzer presents the insipid effects of branding and corporatisation on mediated experience in ‘Preliminary Material for 2022’. And while Al Qadiri questions the construction of narrative fictions throughout history up to the newly established “heritage of oil” in the Gulf and its alliances with a largely English-based web and economic culture, Warwick explores an imaged reality through Google Maps renderings of the Californian landscape that teems with a history that’s couched in “dotcom neoliberalism”.
The conversation to follow touched on some of these themes, as well as the multi-dimensional nature of so-called ‘internet culture’ and the necessity for open discourse and communication across platforms —online, offline, and beyond.
Below are the full videos and excerpts of the films screened in their running order:
London-based Lithuanian artist Ulijona Odišarija presents a half-hour mix of music across media distribution platforms to produce an unsettling mash-up of mainstream popular culture, tourist videos and self-made social media celebrities to express a fragmented worldview through the ‘eyes’ of the web host.
Monira Al Qadiri: ‘Portraits of the End of the World’ (2015). [7:46min].
Amsterdam-via-Japan-and-Beirut-based Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri explores history as construction in a contemporary milieu of global capital and linguistic imperialism. In an age of networked communication, driven by the internet, the role of the English language and corporate branding becomes central to economic development and rapid cultural change in regions like the Gulf.
Johannesburg-based, French-Guyanese-Danish artist Tabita Rezaire explores the social, cultural and political context of online and networked art hegemony as one replicating ongoing colonial interests and othering of African narratives. Using Wiki Africa as a starting point, she presents an argument for a critical awareness of the world wide web as one controlled by exploitative western concerns and a need for digital resistance.
Steven Warwick: ‘A Postcard from LA‘ (2015). [7:23 min].
In this part anecdote, part observation video piece, Berlin-based British artist Steven Warwick (aka Heatsick) relays his experience of Los Angeles and its surrounds while on residency at German-US exchange programme Villa Aurora in 2015. Here he takes the viewer on a tour of the Californian region via Google Maps and muses on the self-actualisation narratives and neoliberal ideology that dominate its Silicon Valley tech culture.
Maximilian Schmoetzer, ‘Preliminary Material for 2022’ (2015). [9:17min].
Berlin-based German artist Maximilian Schmoetzer presents the dominant narrative of capitalism and corporate culture through a visually striking video where the empty absurdity of branded content, advertising taglines and entertainment tropes threaten to engulf human experience and potentially destroy its very existence.
J.G. Biberkopf performance at Sonic Acts 2016. [2:00 min, excerpt]. Courtesy Sonic Acts, Amsterdam.
Vilnius-based Lithuanian artist J.G. Biberkopf interrogates the images and technologies of the so-called Anthropocene era through live A/V performance. His work defines the mediated human experience through conceptual interpretations of speculative ecologies, hyperformalism and new materialism in a world of online information.
Hannah Black, ‘Fall of Communism’ (2014). 5:23 min. ‘All My Love All My Love’ (2015). 6:34 min.
Berlin-based British artist-writer Hannah Black explores what Rhizome describes as “the conditioning of bodies, or the condition of being bodied”. Her two video works tell of the tension between the interior and exterior self through text and moving image, where theory and autobiography, intimacy and commodity, desire and identity become conflated.
Waiting on the canal like something about to happen sits a show called Empathy and Burnout, with works by London-based artist Ulijona Odišarija and Claudia Pagès, curated by Gerda Paliušytė. It is the fourth in a 2015 series of shows at Amsterdam’s P////KT Gallery, all so far tied together with the title: Not Making Sense as Something Else. Each day at 2pm and for two hours thereafter Empathy by Amsterdam-based artist, Pagès, plays through large and bold and present speakers to a relatively empty and cold room. The space is bright and white and senses are heightened and attended to almost immediately. Everything is remarkable, and simple and delicate and everything feels like it is the most present form of itself: like it is all supposed to be there and if there were anymore, it would be too much. As a line in a previous video, The Tomato Song, by Odišarija, which is not online yet – she says, in a conversation about the show – just being worked on in her head, notes: ‘I don’t want to be ketchup, I want to be a tomato’.
P////KT’s Not Making Sense as Something Else series, which includes a set of commissioned texts from writers by artist Marnie Slater, invites a tenderness with which you encounter something you see or think about: be it the ‘attentive’ artwork of Bram de Jongheor the thoughts/ experience worded by Laurie Charles. The pieces have been equivalents or extensions to altering and faltering moments, rather than necessarily representations of them, which provides, as it does in Empathy and Burnout, a very present (and pleasant) viewing experience. Charles’ piece, ‘The Story Begins in 1974’, as translated by Slater, finds the words: “I look into this prism of coloured alcohol spread over the carpet”. Her descriptions are busy with ‘phantoms’, and things manage to fade up into the content with each change of word.
Pagès’ ‘Empathy’ piece, which she performed live at the opening event, is partly a country song with spoken words emphasised through the occasional falling into melody as though they are agreeable or persuasive towards the music, and visa versa. What is being heard on the way along the canal before entering the gallery is thoughts voiced around/surrounding the law that says that a person cannot be convicted of domestic violence towards a sex worker because of the lack of intended and time-based contact, devotion and togetherness. The gap between the people is the same as the gap inside the law and also the gap in Pagès’ work: sung and shaped into being by the words around it. The final line of the press release –which is presented folded in half down the long-side of the paper and wrapped inside an image of one of the empty Gallery walls –reads: “the impossibility of entertainment in its own right”. It is particularly striking and it makes you think about the weight held on to by entertainment, underneath it, behind it: like a dance between the front face of entertainment and what is not there –what is not performed, or, what does not need to be performed. And the work in this space feels empathetic to this.
Odišarija’s two-minute forty-two second video, ‘Burnout’ (2015) is gently brought into sharper view as Pagès’ voice slows and as the gallerist walks at 4pm each day to quickly close the gallery shutters in order to darken the room enough to at last make out cloud from steam; smoke from video fade in Odišarija’s looped projection. It has already been playing there: image burned out on the far wall. And then upon encounter –physicalised by the dance of the gallery’s shutters –‘Burnout’ becomes image faded on to memory (or eyeballs) and watching it starts to produce a déjà vu. Odisarjia’s work begins with a shot of the outside of a car being forcefully pedaled from the inside with handbrake on. It is paired with the noise of this action which gives rise to both the fumes, visually, and some strange relief in a music track that is faded into out of the seen smoke. More and more things emerge out of a smoky background, be it a scene from the place in the sky that sits immediately above the lowest clouds, or the next piece of footage out of the previous one. Both ‘Empathy’ and ‘Burnout’ as artworks are addictive to experience, and like an addiction you can’t really see or hold on to the thing or reason in the middle of it. You can experience ‘Burnout’’s cliché moment where the car’s accelerator is pushed too hard, but you know it only through smoke and sound and the shaky and blurred phone camera lens. As a viewer, you know the moment well –even if just on film.
The show does not have a binary relationship between presence and absence, it’s not in its language, somehow. The burnout in and of Odišarija’s work lasts beyond itself as a moment and as a video work and continues into its bleach out when sunlight comes. ‘A burnout’ is a moment in this show and in a person it is rendered a reaction or something physical: “I am burned out”. While that is felt after ‘Burnout’, Pagès speakers too remain present but unused and free of sound in the afternoon (Odišarija’s importantly comes out of other speakers, somewhere else, hidden in the space). They fade in and out in spite of each other (not instead of each other): they fade in and out anyway, which feels a bit like the title of Pagès’ recent work written in Marfa, Texason a short residency: “We need Help!, they exclaim. The help is already here, its underground, they say”. Included in one song are the words: “I want my hat to fit perfectly on my head, so I won’t borrow it. And your words won’t impregnate me”. There is an acknowledgment of the swirling everything that exists outside of an action, a being and maybe an artwork.
The second part of Pagès’ ‘Empathy’ piece is a group of empty terracotta vases, a plane made up of white, low square tables and a team of wooden crates, turned so the closed side is facing upwards, installed on the floor at opposite sides of the gallery. These aren’t clear, but they’re delicate, and intended, and do not require meaning, nor a reading in relation to the song or the video. They are just there, like a deep breath that is not a sigh.
Curated by Gerda Paliušyté, the exhibition follows the relationship between construction and the idea of absence, interacting within the gallery space, the two works representing that split. It opens with a live performance of Pagès’ “dismantled opera piece” ‘Encapsulated music or/and script for Empathy’, which will also be playing as a recording in the P//////AKT space for the duration of the exhibition, along with a video piece by Odišarija.
You’re standing in a small parking lot. You’re being handed a photocopied sheet of paper. Handwritten in black marker, it lists twelve artists and areas of a car that have been assigned to them to respond to with a work in the Mark IIexhibition. Air vents. Car keys. Ashtray, Maintenance, Hubcaps, Glove compartment. Rear window wiper. Sunscreen. Back seat. Stereo. Bumper.
You read the words on the sheet of paper and you look at the car. The car is a silver Nissan Micra, its ignition is on and its doors are open. It looks as if something debauched has happened and the owner ran away leaving the car as a recently deceased person leaves their home: all things intact and in mid-use as if they could be coming back any second to re-engage with the space. It’s like you’re part of a forensics team at the scene of a crime trying to determine what’s happened, or a voyeur that has come across an abandoned unlocked car in a parking lot, deciding to satiate your desire by looking deeply and maybe getting close enough to smell. You are the memory of the car and you are flashing back, revisiting every possible thing the car has ever experienced at once.
You begin to look for the objects in the car listed on the paper that now functions as a map. You’re in search of distinction as the art work seamlessly integrates into the car’s natural domain. A closer look is required to gain more insight into the curious narrative you’ve just stepped into. Perhaps these are some of the things organiser Harry Bix, whose choice of artist in relation to component parts seems carefully considered, wants us to feel.
The stereo spews self help. People in the car park are being told to “try ritual purification with wet wipes.” It’s speaking on behalf of Ulijona Odišarija who produces an eerie lo-fi mix tape called Revival 2015 that loops misshapen beats and chants, dedicated -isms that promise to change your life and make it better: “and if you need forgiveness in the present time just visualise that happening / do you want to party or cry? / Find that special place inside you where you feel no shame”.
Mary Vettise, assigned the car’s bumper, rebrands the Micra with her last name, “Vettise”, in cursive on its right side just above the silver “S” that denotes some special unknown attribute to the Micra. It’s a pun that doesn’t really make sense to most people; an inside joke as the artist says her last name is commonly misspelled “Vitesse”, which is french for ‘speed’ and often confused with the Rover make and model of the same name. The back seat of the car is full of cold medicine boxes and empty bottles of energy drinks left by James Lowne. A love letter rests on top of this pile explaining why he couldn’t be there. He is ill and sorry because he only thinks of you. Cristine Brache occupies a masculine object with feminine material by cutting a house key out of mother of pearl with the words “nothing but violence” engraved on it. The key hangs from the keychain, attached to the car key that powers the ignition.
The evening is comprised of three performances by Lea Collet and Marios Stamatis (maintenance) who dedicatedly wash the car, Sarah Boulton (air vents) reads poetry inside the car alone, leaving her audience with a powerful silence outside. They remain completely quiet, even though they can’t hear a thing. Boulton’s performance is, as she puts it, “fragrance-based”, challenging the audience’s expectations and desires by denying them access to her words, rendering herself mute. A few minutes into her reading people walk up to the car to put their ears near the window in an attempt to eavesdrop. Alex Carmichael concludes the evening by hotboxing the car in exaggerated form with a smoke bomb, fading it out of your voyeuristic gaze with the thick cloud. The stereo urges you to “say fast slowly”. You turn around and walk away but take this last mantra with you, whispering the word ‘fast’ very, very slowly. **
Earlier this year Ulijona Odišarija sent us what was the first YouTube mix we’d come across from her then-base of Vilnius in Lithuania; a screen recording of a live performance of her ASMR-inspired ‘Browser Windows‘. A makeshift VDJ set of sorts, the artist-photographer mixed music played from YouTube, Soundcloud and her own iTunes to produce an unsettling mash-up of mainstream popular culture, tourist videos and self-made social media celebrities to create an unsettling though intriguing pastiche of a fragmented world view through the eyes of the voyeur.
Now based in London, Odišarija performed a new installment from within the walls of the Slade studio space, where she’s completing an MFA in Fine Art Media, for the fortnightly Album Launch event organised by her fellow graduate students’ ‘East Anglian Records’; a night put on to present EPs, albums and mixtapes made by their colleagues. The audiovisual demonstration of Odišarija’s set – aptly titled ‘Browser Windows 2’ – was projected on a wall of a window-less, bunker-like white room, to a handful of peers and invited guests, with the artist mixing between browser windows on her laptop. The outcome is the following documentation via two videos, one from the perspective of the artist’s screen, the other from fellow MFA graduate student and artist Sarah Boulton‘s smartphone.
Running through a track listing that confuses distinctions between sound and sight, via a video hosting server used as a resource for both, ‘Browser Windows 2’ features footage of home recorded a capella raps, hanclap skits and an unsettlingly militaristic Japanese synchronised walking performance called ‘Collective Action’ (‘Shuudan Koudou’). They’re combined with tracks by Teams, 18+ and E+E, as well as a brilliant sum tonal karaoke version of All Saints’ 1997 single ‘Never Ever’ and a song by Italian pop rock star Umberto Tozzi. That, along with pop-ups of in-built macbook tutorials on how to use a track pad and a video of a Lithuanian preteen’s bodiless head dancing to Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ generates the strangely alluring experience of watching type and cursor move across tastes, ideas and thought processes, from the perspective of the brain that holds them. Here, the artist and the audience goes beyond watching from the outside, to observing from within. **
‘Hand clap skit’
Headlock – ‘Love Obscene’
Desmond Campbell – ‘The Phantom’
Teams feat. 18+ – ‘Paloma’
Vril – ‘Torus XXXII’
All Saints – ‘Never Ever (Karaoke)’
E+E – ‘Angel’ edit
Lentoliskot – ‘Martyr to Music
Rod Lee – ‘Dance my Pain Away’
Umberto Tozzi – ‘Ti Amo’