A new Paris art space La Plage brings a solo show by artist Ilja Karilampi, titled Truss Mi Daddy and opening on October 21.
The Swedish visual artist (now based in Berlin) makes a practice of exploring popular culture through different media, using what could be construed as underground or at least “local” iconography—like his Spätkauf exhibition in all his works, including video, installation, music and performance.
For Truss Mi Daddy, his first solo show in Paris, Karilampi plays with his personal blend of pop culture and transient expressionism, something Downtown Ilja, his Berlin Community Radio show, has become known for.
What a group of artists intend in cushioning themselves under the calamitous umbrella of the Caligula name is open for discussion. He was not a man known for his military or intellectual prowess, nor his humanitarian leanings; he was excessive, giving his pet horse a marble stall equipped with an ivory manger, and brilliantly vindictive, assassinating the very people that helped put him into power within the year. Nonetheless, Club Caligula, Stefania Batoeva‘s recent curation at Supplement Gallery in London, has joined her with three other artists under the questionable patronage of the mad ruler, whose feats of waste and carnage during his short four-year reign led him to be the first Roman emperor to be assassinated.
The Sofia-born and London-based artist continued her busy year with the small group show, this time modifying the London art space and inviting three fellow artists to collaborate and contribute to the exhibition. The once-bare gallery was transformed into a kind of South Beach, if South Beach knew about minimalism: white vinyl covered the floors, which had been transformed into a dance floor, chrome bar stools stood as if waiting for customers to sip sugary cocktails, and the windows wore PVC covering to block out the imagined hot Miami sun.
On the walls, Batoeva displays a series of new paintings, her characteristic large-scale canvases swathed in colour, but brighter this time, bloodier. The paintings, who abstraction only shows the glimmers of bodies or scenes, nonetheless spell disaster—they are aggressive, hostile, illustrating battles won and lost and suffered. Joining Batoeva in the exhibition were three international artists. From Berlin (and sometimes Sweden), Batoeva had invited artist and musician Ilja Karilampi. For Club Caligula, Karilampi produced a dubplate mix ripped from his Downtown Ilja radio show on Berlin Community Radio. The mix, to be played throughout the exhibition, came with a collection of vinyl stickers created in collaboration with Batoeva and distributed in various corners of the art space, displaying lyrics, tags, logos, and rules.
Batoeva invited the two remaining artists, Leslie Kulesh and Isaac Lythgoe, from London, where both are based. Kulesh, who returned to her limited “technomadic” womenswear collection, Temporary Autonomous Girl (TAG), for inspiration had transformed the existing pillars of the gallery with padded, digitally printed, electro magnetic resistant fabric used in TAG, while Lythgoe presents a sliding door-like piece called with a mouthful of a title, ‘here he is a serious dog, a democratic dog, but he doesn’t think he’ll spend a lot of time at the party today’ (2015).
The show’s press release comes in the form of an all-caps rambling description of an unknown narrator’s first trip on Jimson weed seeds that begins at a party and ends in a mental coffin somewhere on his/her friend’s couch the next day.
HAUPTSTADTREVIER comes as the second exhibition by POW (Post-Otherness-Wedding), curated by Solvej Helweg Ovesen and Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, and plays on Berlin’s long-standing history of branding itself. In the wide facade Windows of Berlin’s Galerie Wedding, Karilampi sets up a personal collection of symbols and brands that he has collected in Berlin, creating a kind of presentation of the city’s visual markers.
Exploring tag-detection, Karilampi examines how these symbols, which create a language that is always on the brink of erasure, tell the story of the city and also a story outside of it, as symbols do to preset minds. The exhibition opening on April 16 will be accompanied by a DJ set from Anastasia Filipovna, co-founder of Berlin Community Radio.
Batoeva mostly works with painting, creating large-scale canvases swathed in colour, often running high on blues, whites, and greys. She is joined for Club Caligula by Swedish-born and Berlin-based artist Ilja Karilampi, who also runs a radio show on Berlin Community Radio.
Taking over three floors of the complex and spread over five central halls, a metro level mezzanine and a public outdoor park, the exhibition encompasses over 80,000 square feet of Istanbul’s newly constructed Sishane Otopark, an import urban planning project and rare example of the city embracing the use of public space.
The exhibition will embed itself “within the fabric of the city and public circulation” and will include close to 50 different artists and collectives presenting the fruits of their three-month residencies, which brought together 35 international artists and 11 local Istanbul-based ones for a period of “intensive research, production, and public engagement”. Some of the names featured include, among others, Hito Steyerl, Ilja Karilampi, Jon Rafman, Amalia Ulman, Hannah Perry, and Harm van den Dorpel.
Here’s an exhibition curated by project “staircase” founder and artist Fabio Santacroce, whose 63rd-77th STEPS usually presents its works on the last 14 steps of an abandoned 20th century building in the cosmopolitan ‘Quartiere Libertà’ in Italy’s Bari. It moved off-site to occupy a deserted bank over three days for AFA, from September 25 to 27, as part of a festival promoting a temporary revitalisation of the defunct businesses on Via Manzoni. The symbolism of reinhabiting a financial institution with art is unmissable, particularly in light of the recent GEC; the ‘occupy’ movements and soft selling gentrification to follow. The result is a dynamic and politically conscious global art community to emerge and the rather depressing awareness of the role these very artists play in the regeneration and corporatisation of online and offline space within neoliberal markets, thus effecting their own eventual eviction.
Hence the temporary positioning of AFA at the center of this derelict monument to late-capitalism as Joey Villemont‘s ‘relaax.in‘ website is projected onto a wall. It promises “a soothing atmosphere” for expelling the anxiety of internet connectivity, without simply disconnecting. Wavy images and soundtracks from artists like Hannah Lees, Rachel de Joode, Joey Holder and Ian Swanson provide a digital remedy for a digital problem, keeping its audience online at all costs. Much like YouTube channel GentleWhispering, a woman exhales “I am creative” over the undulations of a cushion-covered car in Antoine Donzeaud‘s ‘I Choose to Awaken’, mimicking the market-making mechanism of fixing its own malfunctions.
“Create new oceans”, announces the opening voice-over for Daniel Keller‘s ‘Blue Ocean Strategy (Eclectic Offshore)’ mix, playing through an iPhone hanging from a bit of Bari driftwood. It’s financial advice from a disembodied man’s voice that declares companies should be generating “uncontested marketing space” rather than competing head-on in one that already exists. This is no doubt instruction best heeded by a bank’s ‘Triple A’ clients – those ones with the highest credit rating and infinite borrowing capabilities, ensuring a competitive advantage and exponential growth. Thus Santacroce inserts these ‘AAA’s into every ‘a’, of every volume of Karl Max’s Capital with ‘CAAAPITAAAL’, while Carlos Noronha Feio (also of ‘anonymous’ collaborative art project Pelican Haus) materialises bonds as luxury items for the lucky few in ‘Silk Scarfs as Bonds V and VI’.
That’s all while Ilja Karilampi‘s big finance in the labour of fun and frippery comes in android screen conversations-as-window stickers (“Apparently we had 3 way kiss ?”) greets you at the door. It’s data inserted into a display that’s visible from both sides. Filthy-rich though frugal Scrooge McDuck is looking from the “LOBBY”. **
Lunch Bytes presents an all-day event, titled Structures and Textures: Sound, at Helsinki’s Sinne on June 10.
Structures and Textures: Sound explores the changes to sound brought on by digitization, its increasing presence in the contemporary art world, and how these experimentations with sound are treated in art versus music.
Ilja Karilampi is presenting solo exhibition SweSh Xpress at Geneva’s Marbiers 4, opening April 24 and running to May 17.
Following up Renaud Jerez’ Lucky Strike, running March 29 to April 19 at the same space, the announcement comes with an extended trailer originally animated by Daniel Swan as ‘RENAUD JEREZ / ILJA KARILAMPI *** GENEVA’ and featuring the familiar hyper-hip hop tropes of the Karilampi oeuvre.
Hence, as the global protagonist of last year’s The Hunter in the Armchair, published via Motto, Karilampi’s “countries almost making out”, as seen from high-speed cross-border trains meets the “Prada, Gucci, Young Thug, Napalm Death, Jean-Paul Gautier” of Jerez’ previous press release prose –all while cycling around the unified European countryside and listening to Juicy J.
A space for reflection: on the artist, their medium and our modern condition. To clarify, that’s ‘modern’ in the mode of Nadine Jessen’s “technologically advanced colonisers”, where the patriarchal drive to conquer has gone as far as penetrating our very minds; through a ‘progress’ that’s almost reached that Singularity of man–made devices superseding human intelligence. That’s planned obsolescence care of things sold to people as a necessary tool in the mundanities of daily life. Books are read, bills paid and idle chatter conveyed through these pixelated oracles, where information can be withheld and data surrendered to the Greater Will. So then, how much control do we have over these tools of convenience? More importantly, if these iPads and tablets are imbued with our thoughts, becoming embodied with our consciousness, then what else are we surrendering?
“(pause) Focus Inside (on hold)”. That’s a quote from thelimited-run litany supplementing Eloise Bonneviot’s group presentation, The Meditative Relaxation Cycle. It sounds like the language you’re more likely to use on the phone or watching a DVD but in this scenario, you are doing at least one of those things. In the sparse curtained space of London’s Arcadia Missa, you’ve got one flatscreen, one remote control and 11 artists on the Main Menu to choose from, each one producing six drawings, rendered on an iPad or tablet and administered via the divine guidance of Surrealist automatism. This is a psychic exercise, an expression of the very “materialisation of spirituality” the exhibition leaflet alludes to, as revealed through a commodity.
As a gentle nudge to interaction with the 66 on show, images move forward one-by-one, zooming in from micro to macro, before diffusing and making room for the following. It takes time to view every series; 12 precious minutes to properly engage with the image in front of you. There’s the suspended motion of Anne de Boer’s vivid PaintShop swirls, glitching briefly at points, Ada Avetist’s disheveled default toolkit compositions, violently shuddering when they get too close, and FourfiveX’s white-on-black geometric patterns, becoming more intricate and expanding well beyond their frame. Digitally generated and captive to the grids and pixels of its artist’s chosen program (‘chosen’ insofar as being limited to the catalogue of software and computers they have access to), every image is a rendering of its creator’s character, an expression of their subconscious –their very personhood.
The results vary wildly in terms of approach. Hrafnhildur Helgadottir’s candid sketches use shape presets as for their gestures and Aude Pariset’s flat coloured strokes stand in stark contrast to Ilja Karilampi’s slinking, shaded ribbons and Sæmundur þór Helgason’s solid spheres. Already, it’s apparent that the aesthetic language, the creative lexicon has been set out by the tools used, even the dimensions of the frame, as Helgadottir’s light–blue tempest of circular scribbling demonstrates. Its rounded edges are slashed at the sides, being incompatible with the sharp 45-degree angles of the box it’s supposed to sit in.
But there’s also disruption. Juliette Bonneviot‘s coiled scrawl quivers as it magnifies, giving the illusion of spiralling ever-downwards while staying suspended in motion. Luca Francesconi’s thin, inky black line, not only trembles in response to its own contrast with a bright white background, but also conjures a whiter-than-white residue appearing as a silhouette in hue-less space, as visual focus flits across the screen.
To a degree, artistic response to the brief appears highly gendered. Karilampi, Helgasonand Gregory Kalliche fortify themselves against the perils of contingency, establishing order by creating depth, texture and tangibility to their CGI sculptures. Kalliche’s abstract scenes from his psychic depths, a procession of moulds that operates on textural juxtaposition, are overwhelmed, attacked and torn apart by an even more brazen image to follow.
But as stunning as they are, it’s as if there’s less, not more, depth to Kalliche’s renderings; their structure and stubborn substance blocking out the incidental behaviours that make the cookie-cutter sparseness of something like Helgadottir’s drawings far more dynamic. It’s an unruly energy that only briefly slips through a fissure on the crumbling surface of Helgason’s heavy, rounded orbs in the form of a flickering electric line buried in a crevice. Mostly, though, it’s in the space around his images where the fault lines of a pixelated fallout appear.
Actively confusing these formal distinctions, the blurry, feathered edges of Martin Kohout‘s strokes presented in high definition, mirror the nature of these images as a whole. As each one comes closer, blurring and sharpening at intervals, while its form imperceptibly dissolves into a grid-like skeleton, it becomes impossible to distinguish where an image ends and where it begins. All the while it reveals itself as both construction and imagination –its real world effect as actual as it is abstract.
“Does that say Beyonce?” asks a dude in a black Frieze t-shirt, before sidling up to Jonathan Horowitz’s ‘Beyonce’ –a full length, blue reflective mirror with the globally recognisable pop brand written below –to have his picture taken. This is the beginning of an exhausting trek through the Frieze Londonlabyrinth, where stall after stall presents works catering to infinite sensibilities and, importantly, bank balances. Most are up for sale, some “really not sellable” as one bright passer by points out, but no less significant. ‘You are what you buy’, as they say, and in a social strata that can be reduced to the online check boxes of the Frieze London search terms for “Artworks” (from Under £10k to “Unspecified”) this kid isn’t paying Horowitz’s Pia/Weiss gallery anything.
So, in search of work worth seeing that isn’t a part of the Frieze week fringe events (read more here), the aim is to wade through artworks trying to out loud each other by sheer mass, or size of the name behind it. “Art is just like an advertisement of itself already” as Katja Novitskova pointed out in an aqnb interviewearlier this year, and here, it’s nowhere more apparent. But what’s more striking than the obvious and highly problematic economics behind art production, this rambling knot of works from around the world (but centred on its traditional capitals) is how reflective they are of a particular context.
There’s the moneyed investment capital one, for example. Eye-rollingly obvious, maybe, but that doesn’t make the Picasso’s, Magritte’s, Ottoman carpets and Medieval church plunder on sale at the ‘luxury art’ sector of Frieze Masters any easier to digest. Here, copies of the Financial Times are liberally handed out to patrons (not me) and tribal art can be ogled accompanied by complimentary Turkish treats, while I’m reminded of CANAN’s ‘Turkish Delight I’, a reanimated Orientalist nude looking up from a translation of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, across from Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin’s ‘Elite’ in Frieze London’s Rampa space. The talks at Frieze Masters are of a particular ilk too, featuring painters and photographers concerned with the specifics of their practice and presented by representatives of major art institutions like the V&A, National Gallery and Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. There’s Nil Yalter’s ‘Temporary Dwellings’, images of displaced migrant communities to be bought and displayed on walls far removed from their reality, while discussion on ‘Sexuality, Politics and Protest’ or issues of “Black British identity” with John Akomfrahare relegated to Frieze London. Annie Leibovitz’s ‘Isabella Rossellini and David Lynch’ is about the closest Masters comes to the post-Warholian pop cultural obsession of emerging artists scattering the Frieze London tent, a collective fascination with the Kanyes, Clintons and #NSFWs of recent, to extremely recent history pointing to the total infiltration of mass media, post-2000.
The boy with the bowl haircut who so adored Horowitz’ ‘Beyonce’ turns out to be a part of the performance of James Lee Byars’ ‘Four in a Dress’, along with three other heads poking through a drape of black cloth. An awkward interaction ensues when a dashing young man with blue blazer, flashy watch and winning smile engages him with, “so you’ve had your haircut but the rest…?” That feeling of unease continues with a monolithic print from the Bernadette Corporation at Greene Nafatali, obstructing entry into the Wilkinson space is Ilja Karilampi’s ‘VICKI LEEKX’ banner –last seen on M.I.A.’s 2010 mixtape of the same name –and there’s also KyungA Ham’s dazzling embroidery ‘SMS Series / Greedy is good’. David Lieske’sgaudy works on paper, ‘Style and Subversion (I-V)’, illustratesthe monstrous art-fashion hybridisation, the tension between aesthetic and concept, dogging emerging art today –where everything is art, everything is commodity and vice versa, a-la the now infamous ‘Jay-Z gallery’ (aka Pace) nearby.
Yet, all is not lost and there are still ways of evasion, at least for now. Ephemeral art and sound is as always less present, its very nature as immaterial an impossible sell. Although there are efforts to solve said ‘problem’, a brilliantly integrated wall-mounted video installation by Diana Thater, ‘Day for Night Four’, a case in point, while Sturtevant’s ‘Trilogy of Trangression’, featuring a three channel video of a blow up doll’s back side being penetrated by Rosary beads, a Coke can, a tube of toothpaste, in film resolution akin to 90s pornos, states “THIS VIDEO IS NOT FOR SALE”. The Tate just bought it.
The more interesting works offer an experience rather than an object to contain and be packaged. There’s Emdash Award winner Pilvi Takala’s video and performance work, ‘Drive with Care’, screened in a space resembling a lounge room, as the Finnish artist describes how a role as advisor intrudes on her life, from texts outside office hours, to organising a burial for a dead goldfish. Ian Cheng’s ‘Entropy Wrangler Cloud (Chang & Eng)’ at Miami’s Formalist Sidewalk Poetry Club presents augmented material and spatial reality through 3D goggles, while another Karilampi, ‘October’s Very Own’, explores pop cultural memory by entombing it in a single space, across timelines. A documentary-like video of Jimi Hendrix’s infamous arrest in Sweden in 1968, ‘Hendrix Incident’, screens on the wall of the imaginary hotel room the performer destroyed in Gothenburg. Resembling an early 90s underground nightclub, an onlooker familiar with the era explains the plywood chairs as iconic before pointing to a bench decorated with shards of glass, “this is where someone really inspiring would play”. Meanwhile, Karilampi’s ‘realness mixed emotions’ inkjet print, an iPhone interface referencing Zurich nightclub House of Mixed Emotions, hangs above the scene as ominously as the installation title’s reference to RnB heavyweight Drake’s ‘OVO’ label.
The person invigilating the aforementioned Sandy Brown space strikes an oddly comforting pose in the face of the pink champagne and plush port-a-potties of the Frieze London venue-at-large. His Nike sneakers a gesture to that familiar self-reflexive irony that Karilampi’s work plays on; a dejected hedonism that appears to pervade much of the more interesting work on show. That’s excepting, perhaps, the more constructive site-specific work of Angelo Plessas in the Frieze Projects space, where, along with Takala’s youth-centred ‘The Committee’ commission, engages primary school children in his Temple of Play. Bridging the gap between Internet and IRL, a spiralling Styrofoam construction and interactive touch screen are the setting for posed snaps of Plessas with a group of Year 5s crafting their own emoticon masks from cardboard and stickers.
Beyond broadening the art interaction age bracket, breaching the world beyond the West, however disproportionately, is the presence of Bidoun magazine, wedged in the corner among the Kaleidoscope and Harper’s Bazaar Art China magazines at the publication stands, while the Gulf, a region with so much of a global stake but so little outside understanding of it, is best opened up through Sophia Al Maria’s ‘Between Distant Bodies’ –unmarked save for her name, and featuringtwo stacked cuboglass TVs screening video of unsettlingly grafted imagery exploring physics and communication. Veteran Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy’s Muqarna-inspiredcut glass sculpture ‘Seven’ also features at The Third Line stall, while Grey Noise, a gallery from the same Al Quoz industrial district of Dubai, is easily overlooked for its smaller nuanced works of Mehreen Murtaza‘s framed multimedia collages combining Sufi imagery and sci-fi logic, ‘Transmissions from a missing satellite’. In the same way, the chilling implications of a light-box colour transparency of swamp vegetation by UK film maker and artist Steve McQueen could be missed if not for its title, ‘Lynching Tree’, a didactic component that necessitates reading but many don’t.
Across from The Third Line is one of the most impressive surprises of the fair, a video by Nelisiwe Xaba & Mocke J Van Vueren. Here, duplicate Xabas emulate the human chain of the Venda Domba dance in South Africa’s Limpopo province, with reference to virginity testing and the omnipresent male gaze, care of its title ‘Uncles & Angels’, it’s imagery made all the more unsettling by the 3D glasses and uncanny-sounding score by João Orecchia.
The industrial backdrop to all this production and consumption is best represented by Thomas Struth’s ‘Ulsan 1 and 2’, colossal wall-width photographs of high rise apartment blocks, a commercial district and industrial smoke in the background, while Tabor Robak’s four channel video projection of ‘Screen Peeking’ illustrates its outcomes through CGI. The films’ lenses slowly pan across the nauseatingly cheery and abundant products in an otherwise empty supermarket, a video game banquet and a showcase of grotesque conceptual dishes, offset by a screening of organisms at a micro-level. In the same team (gallery inc.) space, probably the most hip of the fair, the new establishment art of Cory Arcangel’s ‘Diddy/Lakes’ –the slightly pixelated pop persona stepping off a light plane into a shimmering, seemingly endless puddle –Ryan McGinley’s ‘Me and My Friends’ photos and Robak’s fetishised rendering of a 90s processor in ‘1998 Pentium II Xeon’ are probably the most knowingly commodifiable artworks. The implicit critique is indistinguishable from its own complicity and as literally internalised as Xu Zhen’s MadeIn Company art production business venture. The Chinese artist’s ‘Unification is a reductive process rather than a process of gain, in which loyal believers never feel complete or secure’ acrylic on canvas work, that resembles a PaintShop job, easily draws parallels with the problems of globalisation and late-capitalist hegemony, buttressed by a digital culture that these artists represent.
All this matters because, as a major win for the online-and-in-the-bedroom artist, Petra Cortright’s Frieze Film commission, ‘Bridal Shower’, not only produced a fair highlight but potentially opened the floor to similarly DIY artists. Extending on her famous selfies, the dreamy single shot video features self-love to a soundtrack by Nightcoregirl, whileone wonders, as experience becomes commodity, so too must the ephemeral arts and the artists that come with it. **