The JUMP group exhibition is on at CAC Brétigny, opening November 19 and running to January 22.
Commissioned by Céline Poulin, 15 artists will show including Julie Béna, Aleksandra Domanović, Zackary Drucker, Dennis Rudolph and Sean Raspet, among others. These artists’ work exists on the edges of perception, looking at what it means to be seen and not seen and to be and not be real, questioning the essence of identity and its fluidity in the context of reality.
The exhibition will be presented in an installation designed by Jean-Pascal Flavien exploring these transitions — redefining and blurring our understanding of space and artefacts; as intimate, utilitarian, and ambivalent forms, or even passages between realities.
Unless you’re one of the 3,780 members of ‘Starwave’ —a closed group on Facebook of internet aware non-males who are active in the art world —or following Francesca Gavin’s @roughversionTwitter account, you’re unlikely to be aware of her plight. Rallying against occupational sexism and gender workplace binaries, the writer and curator has recently emerged from an endless media blackhole. Following the opening of the Manifesta 11Zurich, Gavin noticed the majority of press on the event —newspapers, blogs and journals —overlooked her role as co-curator, favouring her male counterpart Christian Jankowski instead. The white male as the patriarchal authority and thinker behind the biennale seemed a more titillating story.
As far as the reviews go, it’s an incredibly successful concept and well-executed festival focused on the theme ‘What People Do For Money: Some Joint Ventures’, where each artist is given a list of professions in the Swiss city that they could elect to work alongside. The chosen professional would then lead and host them over the course of the following months through a series of dialogues and activities. The outcome of the work is then nuanced by the social situation and idea of labor and production. Some enigmatic pieces came out of the protocol, such as Mike Bouchet’s compressed cubes of faeces collected from the city sewers, Andrea Éva Györi’s work with a ‘sexpert’ and Maurizio Cattelan’s highly commended collaboration with Paralympic champion Edith Wolf-Hunkeler. But was it all white-washed walls and glass ceilings in the end? Gavin certainly noticed the lack of credit on her part after she curated 100 out of the 130 artists but wasn’t even invited to the press launch.
Her specific role was to curate the four largest institutions in Zurich, The Migros Museum, Kunsthalle Zurich, Luma Foundation and Helmhaus with an accompanying program entitled The Historical Exhibition, which offered context and support for the new commissions and a sense of depth and understanding to the viewers. And Gavin is by no means a novice. She’s curated exhibitions internationally, including the performance and print programme for Chart Art Fair in 2015, The Dark Cubeat the Palais de Tokyo, E-vapor-8 at Site Sheffield and 319 Scholes in New York, along with numerous other shows in European project spaces, showing a keen and experienced eye, which was demonstrated in Manifesta 11 by including a diverse group of artists such as Martine Syms, Coco Fusco, Aleksandra Domanović, Trisha Baga and Frances Stark. Throughout this episode Gavin has nobly and defiantly held the line that throughout this marginalisation process sheis not blaming individuals but rather the whole institutional art machine. Her speaking out is to improve the workplace for women across the art world.
Looking at the concept statement page on the Manifesta 11 website —there is a depiction of a business woman with a worrying percentage marked under her, 31 per cent—this woman then changes clothes becoming smaller and smaller until we reach her micro-sized balancing on her 1 per cent. The rhetoric of this interview would not be taking place if this opening image wasn’t steeped in irony. Recently your role has been underrated, if not entirely written out of existence, as co-curator of Manifesta 11, right?
Francesca Gavin: My role was definitely marginalised. When the press started appearing it seemed clear but at this point it is still early days. I’m hoping that art publications are more thorough than web press and some newspapers. I realise my role as co-curator of a large section of Manifesta isn’t really registering with people. Christian Jankowski is being credited as the ‘sole curator’ and The Historical Exhibition we created together is been described as ‘his exhibition’. I have started to realise all the work I have put into this show isn’t being presented as equal to Christian’s dialogue. As Mark Leckey, one of the artists in The Historical Exhibition, so kindly put it on Twitter —this wouldn’t happen to Gavin Francesca!
At this point, we could call out the PR, or the Press, or Manifesta… but let’s unpack the whole system because if one of them was shouting your name out with Christian Jankowski’s they all would be, right? Why in your opinion is their agenda so fixated on the lone male curator? Why is it so much more enticing for the art world in general?
FG:I think the first reason is a systemic one —the story of the sole male artist curator is hot this year. This move away from the curator to the artist as the instigators of the cultural agenda is really in. Another example is, of course, DIS as the curators of the Berlin Biennial. The press want a super-curator, one person one brand name, it’s also something that is very easy to perpetuate. We could look at other mediums —everyone knows the name of the film director but not necessarily the rest of the cast.
The idea of ‘co-‘ isn’t perhaps as easy to write about as the continuation of the zealous myth of the great white male artist. Someone shared an interesting Yale study with me recently pointing out that women working on their own do much better than those who collaborate or share!
Does this deter you?
FG: There are undoubtedly some problems with how I was presented that I think impacted on things. I wasn’t included in the press conference when the biennial opened in Zurich. The website and the press info didn’t help express my role in a clear way for people whipping through such a big project. My main concern up to the day of opening was installing and presenting the best show I could. I didn’t have time to check on how I was being presented or received, and maybe it wasn’t my job either. At this point I feel like I’m just a little hand waving a white flag saying don’t forget me!
I also know I’m just part of a much larger puzzle including the 30 larger new commissions in the biennial which are obviously of serious importance, arguably more importance. So I know that most reviews will focus on those works. It’s almost embarrassing to be sticking up my hand and asking for equal billing. However, when you secure 100 out of 130 artists, and 250 works for a biennial, you want to get the credit for it.
This is not an isolated issue in the Art World —only last week we heard of protesters storming the Tate London as it opened Carl Andre’s retrospective exhibition. They called for justice over the murder of Ana Mendieta not just for the inconclusive report on her death but also for equal billing of her work after her death. WHEREISANAMENDIETA calls for institutions to stop glorifying violent men —but also the double standards of exposure too. The New Statesman responded with the headline: ‘As protesters take on the Tate, is the fear of demonstrations causing galleries to take fewer risks?’. It seems inhumane that outing abuse results in institutional passivity, not support.
FG: I am pleased there are still protests about Ana Mendieta and I’m very aware I’m part of a wave of people (both male and female) rethinking how women are presented and included. It’s funny, experiences like this are making me more feminist. I do think that institutions, and even more so the art market, glorifies men. And the art market is really what funds many large exhibitions because it is in people’s vested interest for these artists to do well and have sustained careers.
When I was co-curating The Historical Exhibition, I made sure there was a really strong group of women artists in the show, as I felt that balance was vital. Especially in a project about the concept of work. I included people like Martine Syms, Adrian Piper, Coco Fusco, Aleksandra Domanović, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Susan Hiller, Louise Lawler, Giovanna Olmos, Trisha Baga, Rachel Harrison, Kim Gordon, Evelyne Axell, Alice Boner, Rosemarie Trockel, Frances Stark and many more. I didn’t include these artists just because they were women. The main reason was for the brilliance and depth of their work and how it suited the thematic focus on the exhibition. Yet, as a curator, I am happy to repeatedly bring attention to the breadth and equality of female artists in a strong conceptual setting (without necessarily over-emphasizing the role of their gender).
In 2014 Mira Schor writes about ‘post-feminism’ and ‘lean in’ feminism —for ‘Amnesiac Return, Amnesiac Return‘ for the Brooklyn Rail —which she dubs ‘faux feminism’. She states ‘There is a constant cycle of amnesia and return, of desire and demonization, commercialization and corruption of basic principles, and of impediments from without and dissension from within.’ It seems you have been caught in this cycle?
FG: I was really surprised to be in this situation and very frustrated —perhaps because it is something I had not experienced before. I have never felt marginalised and always had recognition for my writing or my exhibitions. However, I’ve never curated anything as large, or made something alongside a male counterpart. The experience has made me far more conscious of the roles within the creation of exhibition-making and the importance of people being credited for their work. It’s not just a feminist position. It’s more about a need to establish new institutional structures, including those of the media and the biennial systems.
This seems more accurate than ever in 2016, with Saatchi Gallery presenting its first all-woman show entitled Champagne Life, an odd title for a show that is supposed to celebrate the underrepresented. What will it take to finally put an end to sexism in art?
FG: I interviewed Kerry James Marshall once (actually, I have many times) but I remember talking to him at the time of the 30 Americans show at the Rubell Collection in Miami. He appreciated the exhibition, which highlighted an entire generation of African American artists but rightly said that he was looking forward to a time when artist like this were just included in the discussion as equals. I think female artists, curator, gallery directors, museum directors and critics, and women in all the other roles that made art so vital need to be given equal attention. Sexism will end when this balance is invisible and we no longer weigh one way or another.**
The exhibition opens the organisation’s spring programme and draws on “the marginalized position of women in sci-ﬁ and cyber-feminism” alongside her own personal narrative that coincides with “the rise of the internet” and the collapse of Domanović’s home in Soviet Yugoslavia.
Named after pioneering computer scientist Borka Jerman Blažič’s self-proclamation, Mother of This Domain is organised by Plug In ICA —where the artist’s show of the same name closed in January —and builds on the themes of private and public history established with Hotel Marina Lučicain Samos, Greece, late last year.
Meanwhile, Glasgow-based, Canadian artist Corin Sworn has a solo presentation of two works —’Endless Renovation’ (2010) and ‘Vibrant Matter’ (2014) —running in parallel at Oakville Galleries’ Gairloch Gardens space, and exploring methods of narrative production and its processes.
What do you make towards when you are presenting a series of work?
Hotel Marina Lučica was a solo show by Berlin-based artist, Aleksandra Domanovićthat ran from July 20 to October 10, 2015, at Art Space Pythagorian, a former beachside hotel resort on the Greek Island, Samos. The hotel was one that Domanović used to visit in former Yugoslavia, where she lived until its dissolution in 1992.
It is fascinating how specific the imagery is in the works throughout the show. The pieces are illustrative of scenes that the artists remembers about the hotel, personally. In one room a tender moment is captured in an image drawn and shaped as though looking through a tear in a wall. It is of a man and woman looking out to sea and it is printed on the side of a column of individual sheets of white A4 paper. More columns, all ‘Untitled’ and made in 2012, have other things on their sides: an illustration of some flowery shrubbery hanging below a hotel, for example. All of the stacks of paper have a couple of rounded stones on top of them, which among other things reveal how white and bright the paper is underneath.
Domanović has also made a few digitally rendered portraits of the former leader of Yugoslavia, which hung in The Art Space Pythagorian – like they would have done, according to the press release, in many public buildings and hotels. Except she has made them look soft and layered -like the individual sheets of paper.
Then there is the plant room, which makes you think maybe this hotel also had a plant room, or a greenhouse. This just contains potted plants. Then there is a large outdoors chess set, but not one whose players have heads that represent or say other things that art can otherwise sometimes do. The mediation between the hotel and the work here is very slight. This is just a large outdoors chess set.
It’s as though Domanović is seeking and gaining meaning through the hotel (the actual hotel: the building; the chess set; the lobby; the experiences and the memories built into the views; or the views built into the memories). Then there is the room with the videos. One of them is called ‘From Yu to me’ (2014). Hotel Marina Lučica asks of art-making, how close the memory can be to the rendering, how close the end part can be to, or from, the beginning. **
The media of the show is diverse, ranging from classical modes like painting and sculpture, to experimental video and animation, and using the tropes of science fiction including dystopia, cosmology, and fantasy to restructure narratives and create alternate realities.
The panel of writers, artists, and academics will examine notions of property and theft, how they change between material and immaterial worlds, and how power structures shift with the flow of digital media.
They’ll be discussing their upcoming exhibitions at Colchester’s firstsite including Denny’s The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom, exploring the Megaupload entrepreneur’s rise and fall among charges of copyright infringement. Building on these ideas of the personal as political is Domanović’s From yu to me, looking at the history of Yugoslavian domain ‘.yu’ in parallel with the violent dissolution of the state in the early 90s.
There will also be a coach to Denny and Domanović’s exhibition opening at firstsite that afternoon from Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood.
London’s Carroll/Fletcher is presenting A Group Exhibition of Artists’ Film, running January 16 to February 22.
Featuring videos by Aleksandra Domanović, Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, Mika Taanila and Michael Joaquin Grey, among others, the exhibition explores the fundamentals of film making through experimentation across technique, narrative and the historical and cultural context of its references. That’s why Domanović’s splicing of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall audio with Getty Images stock photos in ‘Anhedonia’ (2009) and Bourdy & Lorenz’s ‘To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation’ (2013) -along with its multi-layered references reaching across from Pauline Oliveros’ avant-garde composition to SCUM founder Valerie Solanas -are so relevant.
Mapping the rapid change in relationships between “image and text, language and body, body and space, subject and object”, the Speculations on Anonymous Materials group exhibition at Berlin’s Fridericianum will be presenting the work of some of the most interesting contemporary artists practicing worldwide, September 29 to January 26, next year.
Ryan Trecartin, Aleksandra Domanović, Timur Si-Qin, Simon Denny, Jon Rafman and Katja Novitskova, among others, explore a de-subjectivised approach to image, space and object production in a world abstracted by over-production.
At the entrance of No one lives here, the latest exhibition by MA Curating students from the Royal College of Art, is a research display focused on the Pionen White Mountain Data Centre based near Stockholm, Sweden. Three-dimensional renderings, alongside a short film, show how unique this converted bunker space appears, juxtaposed as it is with plants, geometric glass offices and whirring computer servers. It’s everything a James Bond villain could wish for and as the architect Albert France-Lanord explains in an interview, deliberately so. Its over-sized doors made to look secure, its sci-fi aesthetic designed to draw clients in closer to a vision of the future.