Federico Campagna @ RCAfe, May 25

24 May 2016

Existential philosopher and author Federico Campagna is giving a talk at RCAFE in London on May 25.

Campagna will be presenting research on the theory, practice and current relevance of esoteric knowledge, as developed in the Muslim Shi’a, Greek-Pagan, Hermetic and Italian Renaissance traditions. He will use the metaphor and structure of a Renaissance Italian garden to think about circles, inner circles, initiation and secrets ways in to things.

The Italian-born London-based writer who has published works like The Last Night: Anti-Work, Atheism, Adventure and has written extensively on forests, radical individualism and anarchism also founded writing platform Through Europe. He has collaborated previously with artists and thinkers such as Jesse Darling and Huw Lemmey in talk events and readings at exhibition openings.

The event is a part of a small festival called ‘Diaspore’ which takes place on the green of the West London Royal College Art school during May and June.

See the FB event page for more details.**

Federico Campagna, The Last Night (book cover). 2013. Courtesy Zero Books and Federico Campagna
Federico Campagna, ‘The Last Night’ (book cover). 2013. Courtesy Zero Books and Federico Campagna.


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TEXT2SPEECH: Proxy Politics As Withdrawal @ ICA, May 12

11 May 2016

The TEXT2SPEECH: Proxy Politics As Withdrawal evening workshop is on at London’s ICA on May 12.

Taking artist-writer Hito Steyerl‘s DIS essay The Terror of Total Dasein as a starting point, the event will feature presentations by anonymous art collective HARD-CORE, artist Maximilian Schmoetzer, and the Research Centre for Proxy Politics (RCPP) addressing the “politics of the stand-in and decoy”.

The workshop will explore “the idea of the proxy, a surrogate and decoy, as a method of withdrawal or protest,” and offers my supplementary reading in Boaz Levin and Vera Tollmann‘s contribution to Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017 publication Out of Body, called ‘The Body of the Web’ on the “age of proxy politics” in response to displaced power.

See the ICA website for details.**

HARD-CORE: STRICTLY DIGITAL (2015) Exhibition view. Courtesy Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdańsk.
HARD-CORE: STRICTLY DIGITAL (2015) Exhibition view. Courtesy Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdańsk.
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An interview with Martine Syms

10 May 2016

“I just didn’t see myself in that, so I was like, ‘I guess I’m not an artist’” says Martine Syms, about her formative relationship to art education that led her to be involved with independent music and film communities first. From working in the co-op of a small bookshop and then cult  Ooga Booga in her hometown of Los Angeles, Syms went on to open and run a space in Chicago for six years, as well work on film sets for advertising, making moving-image for a commercial context. It’s from these experiences that she named herself a ‘conceptual entrepreneur’ which was “really coming from this idea of self-reliance”.

I meet the artist in the downstairs cafe of London’s ICA after she has been taking some documentation shots of her current solo show, Fact & Trouble, running April 19 to June 19. Though mentioning she is tired after completing the install, she is relaxed, self-assured and generous with the explanations she offers as we sit down and unpack the thinking that led up to it.

Syms’ multifarious practice explores popular cultural representations, collective memory, performing identity and constructing an aesthetic of Blackness. Citing writer Fred Moten and film-maker Arthur Jafa as influences, her practice explores the circulation of pop imagery and how these get interpreted and transformed by local contexts. She also established Dominica Publishing as a dedicated outlet for artists exploring black aesthetics, including artist Hannah Black’s Dark Pool Party.

Martine Syms, Fact & Trouble (2016). Installation view. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy ICA, London.
Martine Syms, Fact & Trouble (2016). Installation view. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy ICA, London.

Syms’ work draws on the methods of Afrofuturism in drawing on historical and current events to create a fictional speculation or imagining of a different kind of black futurity. The ongoing work ‘Reading Trayvon Martin’ (2013) tracks Syms’ archiving and bookmarking of web pages relating to the case, and media representations of this miscarriage of justice. The most recent instantiation of this ever-evolving process is her show at the ICA, which includes sculptural installations mimicking a film set with metal stands and laser-cut plastic sheets or ‘cookies’ —to use the industry term —and an immersive visual essay including found images and excerpts from texts that sprawl across the gallery walls. Another room features ‘Lessons’ a video-based poem in 180 sections of 30-second clips at the centre, surrounded by large wall-based texts that reads ‘Lightly, Slightly, Politely’, taken from a slang glossary by writer Zora Neale Hurston that suggests life advice given from an older generation.

We talk about Syms’ process, which involves multiple, parallel trajectories of research that inform her essays, lecture-performances, films and installations. We discuss nostalgia, the longevity of popular cultural representations, how contexts shift and how places such as LA undergo changes like gentrification. Syms gives a background to the formation of communities and peer groups in the United States that have allowed her to sustain an alternative means of living and practicing as an artist.

Having only been in London for a week on this visit, we question the idea of whether the mainly US-American cultural material will have cross-cultural meaning, and how localised interpretations shape wider cultural understandings. The exhibition’s Fact & Trouble title comes from a phrase in Margo Jefferson’s Negroland, as explained in an interview between Syms and ICA curator Matt Williams that accompanies the exhibition. It was originally used by philosopher William James to explore the idea of constructing a real, public ‘self’ and the elements that disrupt this. It’s this space between historical fact and personal narrative, the convergence of cultural and personal significance, that Syms finds fertile ground for making work.

Martine Syms, Fact & Trouble (2016). Installation view. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy ICA, London.
Martine Syms, Fact & Trouble (2016). Installation view. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy ICA, London.

I just had a look at Fact & Trouble, in which there are multiple layers of text and images that the audience has to navigate their way through. I was just wondering: where do you begin? Do you have a system for filtering through all this source information?

Martine Syms: There are a few ways that I work, and there’s not one way to start, because I think there’s a sort of fluidity in the way that I work. Sometimes it doesn’t always have a place that it’s going to be yet. I’m constantly going through archives and libraries, as well as being online looking at what’s accessible digitally.

There’s this term I like to use or think about and talk about a lot: prosthetic memory, which is this idea that you can take on memories that aren’t your own through seeing images, that they can be externalised. These are sort of part of that prosthetic memory, and I think of it as maybe a public imagination. I like this term because there’s this great book by Robin Kelley called Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination that’s talking about the possibility to imagine another space being really fundamental to revolt and change. Tied to that, a lot of my subject matter is about cinema and television, so that’s another kind of shared imagination, but it’s obviously coming from a more commercial place, and there’s an overt narrative that’s being put forth that then everyone is kind of negotiating. I think I’m interested in where those two things intersect. Then I also think there’s a kind of much more hybrid space of that in a networked, web- based environment.

Over the last 10 years, with the increasing availability of audio-visual material online, has it become easier to find certain things that would’ve been harder before?

MS: No, not really, I actually think it’s a lot harder. They just become a replication of other mainstream systems; those distribution systems just get reproduced. I kind of joke with a lot of friends about this really interesting moment where there were all these music-sharing blogspots using Napster and peer-to-peer torrents, things that were never previously digitised, that were put on there. With Megaupload you could download like a crate, you could download every song someone ever made, you could download their entire collection. But it got shut down. The streaming stuff, there’s just much less available, and I think there’s this idea that ‘if it exists, it’s online’, and I really don’t find that to be true at all. It’s being just sorted, and sorted, and sorted.

Even just as I’ve been here in London, my search results are totally different than they are in the US. Even my search results for myself are different here than they are in the States. I guess maybe what’s more popular, what people are looking at here, is sort of influencing that. Who knows how they process the information. Plus, I mean, obviously everybody’s using new technology, and I’m just so excited by the things I see, you know? Like these teenagers in the middle of nowhere making these amazing videos [laughs]. Even just what people do with a six-second Vine, I think’s pretty incredible.

Martine Syms, Fact & Trouble (2016). Installation view. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy ICA, London.
Martine Syms, Fact & Trouble (2016). Installation view. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy ICA, London.

How is it to see what you were working on in the ‘States re-contextualised here in London?

MS: I mean, I think it will translate, definitely. Part of what I am interested in is the circulation of imagery and how that is a part of its content: the way it circulates. I think a big part of this mainstream American media is that it does get heavily exported. Maybe one of the main exports is music, TV, and movies from America. But I’m curious how it will resonate or greet differently. I’m really interested in that.

I just had a show Black Box at HRLA in Los Angeles, with videos that were shot all over the city and there are some very specific things that are referenced that maybe you would get: places, or places that used to exist. I’m curious to hear responses to the videos, and how things change based on local culture.

I have a friend who is a video artist from South Korea, and he uses a lot of RnB, soul music, Motown, Northern Soul, and I was so confused by his usage of it. He was just saying that that’s the music that was really popular when he was growing up, like K-pop is so influenced by the RnB era. So the social, or maybe the specific context that I was kinda reading into it, wasn’t present; it didn’t mean the same thing for him, it felt very native to South Korea. I’m interested in what things get transformed by the local, and that’s part of that negotiation of popular culture.

I was also wondering how things might translate generationally. Do you think cultural references have a different resonance if people experienced it first-hand?

MS: Yeah, I would say the material that I’m working with spans from 1907 to the present. Yeah, definitely. I think that’s the other thing about popular culture over time. In Nite Life, a project I did in Miami last year at Locust Projects, I was looking at this live performance of Sam Cooke and using that as source material.

There’s an album called Live at the Harlem Square Club and it was recorded in 1965, but it was shelved and released in 1985, and I was kind of looking at that moment. I did this project that was based on his on-stage banter, but then I also did this sort of lecture that was thinking about that moment and what happened in those 20 years around the record. Because the record didn’t change and recording is static, but the context changed dramatically between ’65 and ’85, especially in Miami, especially where this club was. So that’s something which is a recurring interest for me.

Martine Syms, Fact & Trouble (2016). Installation view. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy ICA, London.
Martine Syms, Fact & Trouble (2016). Installation view. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy ICA, London.

In terms of taking historical events and incorporating them into a speculative imaginary, is this something like Afrofuturism?

MS: Yeah, I mean, for me, Afrofuturism is really just a way of working than a way things look. I think I’m interested in it as about asserting different values. It’s how can you create a story or an idea based on these new, different values, and then use that as a kind of playground for imagining something else. That’s kind of where that ties into Kelley’s idea of a kind of radical imagination.

For me, that’s where it really is exciting. Even if you look at, I would call them Black Americans, but at some point they were Negroes, and after that they were Coloured, you know what I mean? A lot of what’s been informing my thinking has been really Fred Moten’s writing, talking about blackness, it’s kind of philosophical. Thinking about the idea of the break that he’s talking about in improvisation and in jazz, but looking at this in art, a kind of black aesthetics. There’s the cinematographer Arthur Jafa who looks at Black visual intonation. I’m interested in thinking about what does it mean to create a black aesthetics? Taking some of those theoretical positions to maybe answer or just explore them visually.

I was interested in the sculptures in the show, which seem to be referencing lighting fixtures on a film set?

MS: Most of the time I’m referencing specifically lighting, and the sizes of photographs in the stands- those are called cookies. I’m interested in the way that that’s part of mise en scene, and kind of setting, really a way of creating affect in an image, and then how can you take that as a formal gesture, and what sort of affect that produces.

I feel like the film set for me is this metonym for the film industry at large, because the C-Stand is kind of this workhorse piece of equipment that’s pretty much on every set. It’s like a metonym for like the larger complex.

Is it your experience in advertising that led you to naming yourself as an entrepreneur? I was interested in that term because I find it has a troubled relationship with the corporate sphere.

MS: [Laughs]. Um, no. What led me to that was getting out of school and not making art. Because the kind of model of an artist that was purported was extremely studio-painter, white-guy oriented. I really came up through a kind of independent music community, everybody had their own labels, booked their own shows. So I went to Chicago knowing that I wanted to open a space like that. And so, for me it was really coming from this idea of self-reliance. I was thinking more about creating structure around the work I wanted to do and the work I wanted to see. But since then, the word itself has become much more tied to kind of the technology sector. I think for me it’s just much more about creating resources.**

Martine Syms is an LA-based artist. Her solo exhibition Fact and Trouble is on at London’s ICA, running April 19 to June 19, 2016.

Header image: Martine Syms, Fact & Trouble (2016). Installation view. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy ICA, London.

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MO’ TILE @ Union Pacific, Mar 18 – Apr 23

16 March 2016

The Mo’ Tile group exhibition is on at London’s Union Pacific, opening March 18 and running to April 23.

‘Motile’ is a word used to describe tiny organic forms of life that are able to move by themselves, i.e —spontaneously —as well as the movement of mental imagery that arises with bodily movements as position as opposed to as a reaction to images and other more externally sensory receptions.

Artists in Mo’ Tile are Neïl Beloufa and Cooper Jacoby whose solo show Stagnants is on at Berlin’s Mathew Gallery until March 19 and aqnb reviewed earlier this month set out to continue his exploration of “forms of capture nestled in ubiquitous interfaces”. Also involved is São Paulo-based artist Erika Verzutti, along with Marina Pinsky and Melanie Matranga, the latter of whom described her work as using and understanding “emotional structures” after installing a solo show at Palais de Tokyo.

See the Union Pacific website for (limited) details**

Marina Pinsky 'Gaussian Blur II' (2013). Courtesy the artist
Marina Pinsky, ‘Gaussian Blur II’ (2013). Courtesy the artist.


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there is a party @ DIY Space, Feb 16

15 February 2016

London’s DIY Space will host an event of readings titled there is a party on the evening of February 16.

Reading will be Jesse Darling, Rachel Benson, London-based Angela Shier who runs The Mall magazine, Christopher Kirubi, producer VÏSTAAurelia Guo –via iMessage if she’s awake, according to the FB Event page, and poet and video artist Steve Roggenbuck.

Roggenbuck is currently on tour and is also giving an artist’s tour at Goldsmiths on February 15.

See DIY Space event page for (limited) details**

Rachel Benson, Just Did It (2013) Courtesy the artist
Rachel Benson, ‘Just Did It’ (2013). Courtesy the artist.



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Neoliberal Lulz @ Carroll/ Fletcher, Feb 11 – April 2

8 February 2016

The Neoliberal Lulz group exhibition will run at London’s Carroll /Fletcher, opening February 11 and running until April 2.

The show’s press release explains the relationship between the collapse of the gold standard and the rise of conceptual and immaterial art in the early 1970s. How do artists avoid or address the issue of making a commodity now, in a neoliberal framework where the dynamic of the financial market is no longer necessarily understood to be in a volatile, global and sparse field but held by fewer and more powerful corporations.

Artists Constant Dullaart, Femke Herregraven, Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion, and Jennifer Lyn Morone are included in the show.

See the Carroll / Fletcher website for more details**

Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion, Les Nouveaux chercheurs d’or (The New Gold Diggers) 2015. Courtesy the artists.
Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion, ‘Les Nouveaux chercheurs d’or (The New Gold Diggers)’ (2015). Courtesy the artists.
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From Dust @ LD50 reviewed

2 December 2015

A background white noise awakens a feeling of being just a minimal part of something much bigger than ourselves. It acts as a subtle input to set up the mind, in order to navigate the bright quiet space of London’s LD50 running November 6 to December 3. It’s the sound of a storm on Mars: perhaps the next step within the to-do list of the posthuman subject and her new territories to colonise. In the gallery space, the works of the artists Juliette Bonnevïot and Christopher Kulendran Thomas converge in their joint From Dust exhibition, aiming to unify some inhuman traces while stretching boundaries and challenging the limits of representation.

Juliette Bonnevïot + Christopher Kulendran Thomas, From Dust (2015). Exhibition view. Courtesy LD50, London.
Juliette Bonnevïot + Christopher Kulendran Thomas, From Dust (2015). Exhibition view. Courtesy LD50, London.

Opposite the entrance, a series of monochrome paintings take over the wall. Everything seems quite usual until getting closer to the works and reading what materials they are composed of, on a framed white paper hung above them. Juliette Bonnevïot’s ‘paintings’ are named after the pigment mixed with several materials containing xenoestrogens; a term derived from the greek word zenos, meaning ‘stranger’ and referring to natural or artificial estrogen-like compounds. The hormonal composites surface in the form of a coloured texture deployed on long canvases.

Two sculptures from Bonnevïot’s project Minimal Jeune Fille rest on the wooden floor. On one, her own plastic waste is crystallised in four blocks of bio resin acting like table legs. The legs prop a sheet of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, on top of which lies a microfiber cloth. An empty glass bottle lingers beside it. On the other, a folding-screen structure sustains more PET plastic, folded and moulded as if it was rippling. Made with the same kind of material, two transparent torsos, PET Women, hang on the opposite wall, almost floating. There is a very subtle handwritten text on all of them, transcribing tips that so-called ‘eco housewives’ share with each other through forums devoted to sustainable households.

Juliette Bonnevïot, 'PET Women' (2015). Detail. Courtesy LD50, London.
Juliette Bonnevïot, ‘PET Women’ (2015). Detail. Courtesy LD50, London.

On the opposite wall, Christopher Kulendran Thomas’ works add a very different tone to the conversation. Trapped behind a black web, some cuts from popular vintage magazines and some drawn existential motifs create the illusion of a nature-human merge. The collages and drawings lean on a wooden framed canvas, decorated with pastel brush strokes and greyish angry scribbles. The solemn medium of painting turns into a tactic structure where diverse realities are flattened.

These works carry data from other contexts in the same way each dust particle carries the data throughout the solar system –as mentioned in the press text quoting Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani. Materials are carriers of concepts and information, which, through encountering the gallery space, create a compound of meaning, recalling our networked, sometimes inhuman, condition. An escape to Mars would be perhaps the ultimate act of humanist hope. **

Exhibition photos, top right.

Juliette Bonnevïot and Christopher Kulendran ThomasFrom Dust is on at London’s LD50, running November 6 to December 3, 2015.

Header image: Juliette Bonnevïot, ‘Minimal Jeune Fille’ (2015). Installation view. Courtesy LD50, London.

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Frieze 2015 offsite + fringe events

12 October 2015

Frieze 2015 is on this week in London —running from October 14 to 17 this year—with a full schedule of exhibitors, projects, and events, including the Sunday Art Fair happening around it.

Here are our recommendations for the week’s offsite and fringe occasions, including events and exhibitions opening and opened:


‘Radical Data’ @ DigitasLBi UK, Oct 12

Adriano Costa @ White Cubicle, Oct 14

Sunday Art Fair, Oct 14 – 18

An Evening of Performances @ DRAF, Oct 15

Virgil’s Birthday @ X Marks the Bökship, Oct 15

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair @ Somerset House, Oct 15 – 18

We Are All Very Anxious @ Doomed Gallery, Oct 15

Transformation Marathon @ Serpentine Galleries, Oct 17 – 18

DJ SLIINK @ Body Party, Oct 15

‘Institutionalising the Digital’ @ Goethe-Institut London, Oct 16

‘Beauty as power, privilege and inequality’ @ Rich Mix London, Oct 16

East Anglia Records compilation launch @ Assembly Point, Oct 16



Dan Coopey @ Belmacz, Oct 12 – Nov 11

Zhang Ding @ ICA, Oct 12 -25

Matt Ager @ A_SPACE, Oct 17 + 18

Jamie Jenkinson @ Evelyn Yard, Oct 12 – Nov 14

Sanna Helena Berger @ Jupiter Woods, Oct 13 – 31

Ian Cheng @ Pilar Corias, Oct 13 – Nov 14

Laura Morrison + Beatrice Loft Schulz @ Res., Oct 15 – 31


Jumanna Mana @ Chisenhale Gallery, Sept 17 – Dec 13

Peles Empire + Agata Madejska @ Project/Number, Sep 25 to Oct 18

Fiona Banner @ Frith Street Gallery, Sep 18 – Oct 31

Kara Walker @ Victoria Miro, Oct 1 – Nov 7

Hannah Black @ Arcadia Missa, Oct 1 – 31

ÅYR @ Project Native Informant, Oct 7 – Nov 7

Jon Rafman @ Zabludowicz Collection, Oct 8 – Dec 20

Hannah Perry @ Seventeen gallery, Oct 9 – Dec 10

Puppies Puppies @ Vilma Gold, Oct 11 – Nov 14 **

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Events + Exhibitions, Mar 9 – 15

9 March 2015

In London, Rye Lane Studios is winding down its days at the Peckham studio space-cum-soon-to-be-luxury apartments with a screening event aptly-titled INVENTORY on the week starting March 9. Limehouse Town Hall reinforces said notion of endings with its clothing pun in THE OVER BALL dance party, featuring some suspected visual artist DJ sets and garment-making. Flat Time House is hosting the first of a monthly programme of film, performance and discussion at Peckham Plex and Jupiter Woods is opening a group exhibition featuring Andrew Norman Wilson, Harry Sanderson, Susan Schuppli and Tom Tlalim. Samuel Levack and Jennifer Lewandowski have their own show at Evelyn Yard.

Outside the city, Micachu & the Shapes are putting on their GOOD BAD HAPPY SAD performance at DIY theatre and art space Cube Cinema in Bristol, while London spaces Banner Repeater and Auto Italia, as well as Birmingham’s Eastside Projects, are collaborating in a UK/South Africa exhibition at Johannesberg’s Ithuba Arts Gallery, which also includes CUSS Group.

In Berlin, Francesca Gavin is curating a group exhibition with Aleksandra Domanović, Anthony Antonellis, Benedict Drew, Nina Beier and more, New Theater is putting on a new play with music by Dan Bodan and Mathew Gallery is showing Yuki Kimura. Meanwhile, Kareem Lotfy is one of the DJs playing at Native Self in Amsterdam, Heatsick performs at Villa Aurora in Los Angeles and Rachel de Joode, Marlie Mul and Anne de Vries are among those taking part in DEEP SCREEN in Pougues-les-Eaux, France. 

There’s more so see below:


Emily Jones online @ Cosmo Carl now


Daoism and Capitalism: A Workshop @ Goldsmiths, Mar 10

Adriana Ramić @ Exhibition Laboratory, Mar 11

The Best Scene is Off-Screen @ Flat Time House, Mar 11

Desire and Repetition @ Open School East, Mar 11

Digital Québec @ BFI, Mar 12 – 13

Tender Loin @ Artsadmin, Mar 12

Hotel Moon @ New Theater, Mar 12 – 18

INVENTORY @ 3236rls, Mar 12

Micachu & the Shapes @ Cube Cinema, Mar 13

Binary Static #2 @ The White Building, Mar 13

Native Self @ OCII, Mar 13

AirBNB Art House, Mar 13 – 15

Heatsick @ Villa Aurora, Mar 14

THE OVER BALL @ Limehouse Town Hall, Mar 14
, Mar 14

Destroy Contemporary Art: Approaches to the Posthuman @ Area 51, Mar 15


GCC @ Sultan Gallery, Mar 10 – Apr 2

Samuel Levack and Jennifer Lewandowski @ Evelyn Yard, Mar 11

༼ つ ͠° ͟ ͟ʖ ͡° ༽つDEADLINE – Voryn jäsennäyttely ༼ つ ͠° ͟ ͟ʖ ͡° ༽つ @ Cable Factory, Mar 11 – Apr 25

Rock Steady @ Future Gallery, Mar 11- Apr 11

Jac Leirner @ Galerie Albert Baronian, Mar 12 – Apr 18

HANDS OFF! @ Room of Requirement Berlin, Mar 12 – Apr 5

Slavs and Tatars @ Trondheim Kunstmuseum, Mar 12 – May 3

Yuki Kimura @ Mathew Gallery, Mar 12 – Apr 18

The Cipher and the Frame @ Cubitt Gallery, Mar 12 – May 17

Vanessa Billy @ Limoncello, Mar 12 – Apr 18

Lauren Elder @ Rod Barton, Mar 13 – Apr 11

DISTANCES @ Jupiter Woods, Mar 13

Deep Screen @ Parc Saint Léger, Mar 13

Does Not Equal @ W139, Mar 13 – Apr 12

Edward Sanders @ Westminster Waste, Mar 13 – 28

Jan Kiefer & Dora Celentano @ Belle Air, Mar 13 – 28

LAB @ Ithuba Arts Gallery, Mar 13 – Apr 2

We Come From The Water @ Lychee One, Mar 14-Apr 11

Andrés Ramirez @ Exo Exo, Mar 14 – 20**

See here for exhibitions opening last week.

Header image: Jac Leirner @ Galerie Albert Baronian.

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An overview of Frieze 2014 on the fringe

20 November 2014

“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 TerraceIt’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.

Shanzhai Biennial No. 3: 100 Hamilton Terrace (2014) @ Project Native Informant. Install view. Courtesy the gallery.
Shanzhai Biennial No. 3: 100 Hamilton Terrace (2014) @ Project Native Informant. Install view. Courtesy the gallery.

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”.

Rachel Lord, Jesse Darling & Leslie Kulesh at Total Freedom's Burning Head Collage Zabludowicz Collection (2014). Courtesy the artists.
Rachel Lord, Jesse Darling & Leslie Kulesh at Burning Head Collage @ Zabludowicz Collection (2014). Courtesy the artists.

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 of  Maja 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.

POLYMYTH x Miss Information, exhibition detail (Pinar&Viola), Auto Italia, 2014. Image © Max Creasy.
POLYMYTH x Miss Information, exhibition detail (Pinar&Viola), Auto Italia, 2014. Image © Max Creasy.

“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.LY streams 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 Object film-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 online 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”.

Anna Zett 111-verfall-animation
Anna Zett, ‘DINOSAUR GIF’ (2014) video lecture gif. Courtesy the artist.

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 Apartment and Lüttgenmeijer present at the Ambika P3 event, among a Laura Aldridge installation of string, soda cans and prints at Studio VoltaireFlorian 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 Experience solo 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”. **

Amalia Ulman, The Destruction of Experience (2014) @ Evelyn Yard. Courtesy the gallery.
Amalia Ulman, The Destruction of Experience (2014). Courtesy the artist and Evelyn Yard, London.

Select arrow top right for exhibition photos.

Frieze Art Fair runs in London’s Regent’s Park annually in October. The fringe events happen elsewhere.

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Trisha Baga @ Zabludowicz London, Feb 26 – May 11

26 February 2014

Three previews are happening at Zabludowicz London, including a solo exhibition by Trisha Baga, February 26 to May 11.

There will be a live event by Baga to open the show, which features new installations, alongside collection pieces and key early works. The New-York based artist explores the precarious state of human perception and its concept of the present by deconstructing online behaviours and associations across video, painting and sculpture, often challenging notions of completeness by presenting her audience with the opposite.

Read a review of Trisha Baga’s Rock at Vilma Gold and see the Zabludowicz London website for details. **

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Takeshi Shiomitsu @ Lima Zulu, Dec 11

9 December 2013

London-based artist Takeshi Shiomitsu is presenting You Are Beautiful at Lima Zulu, December 11.

In the accompanying punctuation-free blurb, references to (ex-)Neocon Francis Fukuyama, cleaning products and telecommunications point to the pervasiveness of a suffocating modernity and ends with a reference to the Dutch still-life of Vanitas, which presumes mortal life as generally meaningless. That sense of futility is certainly something that trails Shiomitsu’s work and an ideal end the oppressive year that was.

“images of rapture creep into me slowly, even in the most beautiful images I painted the room with white supermatte emulsion thickened with bleach white printer pigment ink (quick note on Francis Fukuyama in japanese fuku means to wipe or to mop & yama means mountain) caulk pen ink odourless deodorant chalk and limewater bleaching cream pigmentation corrector changing all interior fittings to anti-ligature alternatives the semiconductors driving communication technology are manufactured in a cleanroom i washed the brushes and rollers in bottled sparkling water and used a branded low-odour solvent to clean oil-based dirt roller sleeves for the application of matte paints were used exclusively contaminatory particles are minimised in these environments and actively filtered out through controlled airflow I mopped the parquet floor with a subtly scented alkali solution the lean production system is designed to minimise waste and deliver maximum value to the end consumer We are always unaware of being sure of something we really don’t know all glassware was installed by professionals wearing the correct safety apparatus taking the correct precautions sometimes I think I eat too much we approach the landscape like a vanitas handle ornaments like a mirror”

See the Lima Zulu website for details. **

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Farringdon Factory, Nov 21 – Dec 18

6 December 2013

A month-long occupation in a disused office block, starting November 21, and culminating in an open day on December 18, Farringdon Factory is an initiative by Natasha Cox and Keira Greene of Inland Studios in South London.

The space is running on 20 Farringdon Street in Central London between, November 25 and December 18, as an open studio along with 20 artists, encouraging discussion and public participation. The curated programme will also include invited speakers presenting “methods of research and production linked to both filmmaking and the temporality of the site”. There’ll be a cinema programme starting December 9.

‘The typical surface of the new urbanism… is the shining surface of the mirror, of chrome, polished metal, polyesters, the surface which, by reflecting what is in front of it, denies what is behind it.’

‘Ralph Fasanella and the Experience of the City’, John Berger

See the Farringdon Factory website for details. **

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Lawrence Lek – ‘KI$$’ video

4 December 2013

Mediating one’s image is one thing but translating that into a portrait of your feelings is another. London-based artist Lawrence Lek tackles digital representation of emotion with this video ‘KI$$’, through “3d self-portraits, computer-controlled fabrication and rendered sculpture”.

With its ability to replicate live scenes and in the face of internet hegemony, you could argue that the 3-D printer threatens to “replicate, streamline and standardise” everything but Lek’s speculative sculpture is an attempt at showing that that doesn’t have to be the case.

Here’s blurb to explain how:

“KI$$ revolves around two lovers recording themselves at the moment of touch. Each holds their position, as the other moves around them, photographing them from all angles; when the capture is complete, they change roles. These images are recombined into a three-dimensional digital animation, which is then projected back onto full-size 3d-printed figures. As the film plays, the virtual male and female figures are projected onto their plastic doubles, revolving in an endless loop around the kiss.”

You can see a ‘making of’ over at Dazed Digital and watch the video below. **

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Sophie Jung performing @ Ceri Hand, Nov 29

28 November 2013

Finishing off a month-long exhibition at London gallery Ceri Hand, London and Basel-based artist Sophie Jung is closing with three performances of works from Learning About Heraldry, on November 29.

Based around wordplay and mnemonics the exhibition focusses on Jung’s idiosyncratic narratives across brands, slang and webspeak, as illustrated by the audiofile extract-become-exhibition-become-blurb ‘****SoYeah’: “(pointpointpointBLANK, man!) the FKNG narrative has to set in…“.  Learning About Heraldry runs until November 30.

See the Ceri Hand gallery website for details. **

Header image: Sophie Jung, ‘****SoYeah’  (2013). Image courtesy of Ceri Hand Gallery.

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