The 2017 Venice Biennale is on at various locations around the city, opening May 13 and running to November 26.
The international art exhibition is now in its 57th year, and takes the title Viva Art Viva as “an exclamation, a passionate outcry for art and the state of the artist,” according to this year’s curator Christine Macel. In a statement about the Biennale’s title, Macel notes “Today, in a world full of conflicts and shocks, art bears witness to the most precious part of what makes us human. Art is the ultimate ground for reflection, individual expression, freedom, and for fundamental questions. Art is the last bastion, a garden to cultivate above and beyond trends and personal interests. It stands as an unequivocal alternative to individualism and indifference.” Artists to look out for include Phillippe Parreno, Rachel Rose, Guan Xiao, Agnieszka Polska, Shimabuku, and Frances Stark.
Held across the Central Pavilion, Giardini and the Arsenale venues, the programme will present 120 artists from 51 countries, and it is worth noting that of the participating galleries, 103 are taking part for the first time.
There are also a number of ‘Collateral Events‘ featured throughout the programme, including Open Table, Artist Practices Project, Unpacking My Library and Projects and Performance. Here are a handful of event and exhibition recommendations:
Rachel Rose is presenting her first solo show Lake Valley at London’s Pilar Corrias, opening on September 2 and running to the 30.
The press release is left completely blank and devoid of any text, with only four image stills hinting at the work. A fitting way to contextualize her practice, Rose’s previous films move beyond words and reach somewhere deeper within our shared, multi-layered existence, taking unrelated subjects and events and working them into one narrative.
I’m finally about to speak to Keren Cytter. Based between New York, Tel Aviv and Berlin, she’s an artist whose video work (most famously) seems to have long lead a critical example for the way that said media can incorporate content, imagery, style, feeling, experience and the viewer in such a broad and varied manner that often and with reliance Cytter’s extensive Vimeo account is looked at for brave video-making. The artist takes everything and makes it interesting and filmic, like a door opening, or a flatmate moving out, or the way a person is holding an open packet of butter, or a goldfish that swims across the camera, or a romantic milli-thought that someone might otherwise offer up to the atmosphere and put down to sentimentality. This in itself is a thought-process or a thing that occurs in some of Cytter’s directed scenarios too.
The artist and I had put the interview off and off again, maybe because we are both perfectionists in relation to finding the right moment to be in. There were emails which began while her recent solo exhibition of new wall-based drawings and paintings called Ocean was running was on at London’s Pilar Corriasearlier this year. Cytter gives laconic answers on when is the best time to speak, suggesting at first that 9pm my time is too late because she’s staying with her parents in Jerusalem and the Skype conversation might wake them. But then it becomes ideal as they would indeed be asleep and Cytter could talk late into the night when all around her has settled. When we finally connect she sits out on her porch, glowing from her laptop screen and we talk at length about how the artist moves from one piece of footage to the next, the depression of Europe, under-explaining decisions, friends in artworks, and somehow, present within it all, location and place, or placement.
One of the most seductive things about interviewing Cytter, who works with language so objectively inside each video, is the feeling of distance when venturing (or not) into a spoken conversation about words and their worth, their meaning and utterance. As I understand it, from seeing more and more of Cytter’s work before we speak, she uses language (i.e: French, Italian, Russian, Hebrew) as a way of producing mood and setting, or just as a way of indicating and matching together tone and effect. French, Cytter is often quoted as saying, is the language of love, and so she has her characters, or a voiceover speak it in pieces that seem right for this, like in the movies. It appears to me deeply attractive a trait in an artist, to reduce language so dedicatedly and with such elegance and impact.
In some ways it’s not about reducing language at all but suspending it, observing it, making it useful —or useable —structurally. Throughout our interview, I’m struck by the way Cytter talks and in doing so says what she means exactly. She speaks quickly, excitedly and vaguely about her videos, never pausing to qualify or tell me precisely which one she is referring to. It is so nice to hear that I don’t want to stop her mid-sentence, and the suspension and feeling that this small amount of information given is enough to let me interpret Cytter’s practice, or more specifically “the Russian movie”, she refers to repeatedly, which will be screened at her upcoming Selection exhibition at Graz’s KM-Künstlerhaus. It resonates with her work so much, although I still don’t know its title.
This reminds me of what Cytter tells me during the smaller beginnings of our dusk Skype call: “I don’t search, I surf”, she says when I clumsily ask her how and what she finds online. “I just see what comes up on my social media, like public gossip about other artists. I engage in arguments to prove my points. I click on images of Scottish people to find out why they wear skirts because I told my father [men wearing skirts] is a chauvinist act and he said: ‘so then why do Scottish people wear them’…. and then I realised, it’s fashion…”
How does being in New York, Israel or Berlin change and affect the way you work? I’m asking this for a friend who is from Tel Aviv and she’s curious.
Keren Cytter: Ah, quite a lot I think. In Israel it was really fun, I didn’t think about art at all. And then when I moved to Europe, the depression came and my work became more about line and form I think, it stopped being about fun and friends. In New York, because I’d built a lot of stuff with language, English suddenly became important so I had to focus on content and develop that a bit, which changed things. Now I’m doing something in Russian –so I’m back to European.
And you feel like the chosen and spoken language directs the tone of the work?
KC: Definitely. In Russian it will be very political —just because they [the characters] will speak Russian. And in Russian you can address hardcore stuff because of the directness in the language, like porn or violence. I have rented a proper camera for it too. I always decide on that before-hand, depending on the feeling of the work. I think where the image will be sharp, it will jar with the content of the movie so it will be harder to define it and this movie shouldn’t be easy to define. There are some that are easier to define but not this one.
Once, in Israel, for example, we filmed some stuff and set the language to be Dutch and screened it in the Netherlands and people afterwards said it was a very Dutch movie. Language makes you blind, a bit.
It does the work for you? I wonder if this is quite a beautiful thing.
In your films, is there a love for making things you can’t see or get to?
KC: Sometimes there’s too much information but in a very delicate way, I really like it when that happens. I saw it once in Tarantino’s Kill Bill 1. There are little shots but you see how much attention there is in each one. There is a moment in my film ‘Four Seasons’  where a girl climbs the stairs while I was filming, holding sparklers and also a little disco ball right under the camera and my friend, she’s a sculptor, she helped me hold a snow machine in place. In the reflection of one of the Christmas tree balls that was in the room, you could see the snow machine that we were holding, but because I had bought the cheapest disco lights, I couldn’t turn them off so you can see them also flashing in the Christmas tree with the snow foam, which I love. I try to erase myself in the works to make them feel as though they are not mine, until it will look like someone else’s.
You have a few flat works called ‘Pattern of Violence’, which as a title, like a pattern, repeats. Does the title have anything to do with language, in that it makes things, and structures things in such a defining way?
KC: No, it was just related to the drawings. I wonder if I copied it as a phrase from somewhere or someone. Probably. But I did the drawings and it was just an attitude I had towards them. Two guys are shooting each other and it forms a pattern, it was quite simple. Now I don’t think I could do it —this pattern of violence: I don’t think I have the brain for the violence… Mmm, now you’ve made me want to do it again sometime soon…
Make a new one?
KC: Yes! Once you have a pattern, you just need to fill the inside, you know? I’m now trying to find an easy way to make drawings quickly. I saw a thing where you can order online tattoos and I thought, ‘Yes, I can just transfer drawings onto paper’.
It’s nice because once you use one, it’s gone. So it’s different to a print or some other method that allows you to do a repeat pattern. It’s more like a bee’s sting as opposed to a wasp’s. Each one is its own one.
KC: [laughs] Yeah, I had these kinds of fake tattoos and I put it on myself first. It was supposed to be for the Russian movie I’m making for Graz but it was too stressful…
KC: I don’t know. But then I found a box and put them on there and I thought, ‘These are drawings’. We’ll see —you heard it here first.
I am guilty of imagining that you are the sort of artist who hangs out with groups of friends and that work comes out. I think I have applied this fantasy to some of your films, at least. You keep mentioning ‘we’ and I presume you mean you and your friends when you make the films together, about each other, but directed by you.
KC: I mean, yes. Mostly the same scenarios are in my life and in my films. My friend in ‘Atmosphere’  really was moving out of the flat and really did just come for four days to stay, but ended up living with us for four months. She was living in the living room, which is where the film is based. It’s mostly fiction though, I just take what surrounds me. It’s not necessarily that the relationships and dynamics come into play personally, I don’t need that inspiration. It’s just that the scenario matches the idea. And, anyway, now I live by myself so it’s different.
Can you talk about rhythm?
KC: Yes, it’s very important.
It seems that if you have three or four bits of footage, they will be arranged in a rhythm that’s based on something like weight or essence, for example, the innocence of some thing. The rhythm is based on something indescribable —not necessarily the obvious things, like aesthetics or actual sounded beats.
KC: Yeah, I saw some videos by some artists and I thought to myself to criticize them. They are really false because the rhythm is just based on the beats in the music. It’s too easy and rational. It should lean on whatever content is in the work, whatever content means. It doesn’t have to mean a story.
Do you think art now has become very much about the medium only?
KC: I think there is some kind of depression or something —where nothing develops, except for technology. There is too much corruption in institutions and that leads to lots of bad scenarios where everything becomes a material and that there is no content. People produce ugly things and they don’t look any more. It’s becoming like the way I put stuff on Instagram —I don’t really care. I put cats to ease the audience. And I think it’s the same thing with art. I think it’s collapsing.
I feel maybe fiction and warmth is coming back in.
The thing about Frieze London 2015 is that it’s kind of going on or happening anyway, even if you don’t go to it. You don’t need to go to the big ‘thing’ because you know it’s happening. It sort of frames something and allows things outside of that frame to use its edges and say – we’re doing this, thanks for the frame, ‘cos we gonna do another thing’ [sic]. So you walk around and bus around and get a sense of the state of things in relation to the big ‘thing’ that hovers in the mind. It sort of presides over the whole experience until, if you keep walking far enough, on the fringes, you can turn around and it’s almost gone.
Walking up Kingsland road into Hannah Perry’s show Mercury Retrograde at Seventeen Gallery might seem like walking into a shop. Not a shop to buy things but a dead shop that communicates through arrangement and display. There is music playing whilst looking, cut up pieces of ambience, and then beats come on. The gallery is divided by hanging rubber latex, dark cherry red, that allocate areas where things are on display –pieces of printed and painted aluminium. ‘I don’t want you to feel like I have the dominance over anyone’ (2015) shows an image of a cracked and smashed iPhone printed onto corrugated aluminium. I look at my cracked and smashed iPhone and think –‘this is how I find out about the big things’. A series of four works, ‘Gas Lighting 3, 6, 2 and 1’ (2015), are pieces of dented and punched out aluminium sheets immaculately finished in autobody enamel, the cherry reds and blueberry colours matching the hanging latex. In front of these sitting on the floor, ‘Will You Be Topless’ (2015) is what looks like part of a wrecked car, again with a perfect gloss finish of cherry red autobody paint and a piece of rubber draped over it. If this is a shop then now it’s a workshop –a car spray and repair shop.
Then travel to Evelyn Yard, to see Jamie Jenkinson’s show Video. The press release speaks of Jenkinson’s interest in ‘digital phenomena’ and his ongoing investigation into expanded cinema. Before I get much time to look around one of the gallerists comes to tell me as much about the show as possible, talking about the importance for the artist of ‘information transfer’ and the ‘glitches’ and ‘noise’ that occur in this process. The centrepiece, ‘Colour Correction’ (2015) is a projected colour field that shifts its colour hue slowly over ninety minutes. This work and all the other video pieces were shot on iPhone 6 which I am told is important for the artist because of its everyday relation to the body. Because everyone has iPhones. A monitor on the floor shows ‘Net Storage’ (2015), a durational still(-ish) close shot of a piece of netting –the pun opening up a dialogue on how things can be stored: as objects –what things can slip through the netting? Or data –what information is lost in the transfer to the iPhone? Whether the artist agrees with the ‘information transfer’ spiel or not is unclear, what is more apparent in the show is an interest in the formal qualities of film/video and (expanded) cinema. ‘Digital phenomena’ may be casting too broad a net.
I get on a bus and go to Cabinet gallery for the opening of Mark Leckey’s new work ‘Dream English Kid 1964 – 1999 AD’ (2015). The place was pretty packed and the bus stop outside was like some sort of hang out if you were either waiting for the 243 or waiting to get into the gallery. I go inside and from the surround sound system I hear the words, spoken through some NASA style intercom, “3 – 2 – 1 – Mark” and so begins a journey through found footage of The Beatles, NASA rockets, British public information broadcasts and Joy Division gigs. The film is kind of a biopic. The artist’s memories of mediated events re-found as images now feel like they can transcend any ‘real’ memory, creating a kind of new ‘present’ memory. A scene from a 1970s public information broadcast shows a frisbee landing precariously on an electricity pylon, one of several references to electrical energy in the film –and the subtext running through the work could be amplification. From Joy Division’s electric guitars through to the saturation of images that comes with digital technology, it folds back to the amplification of the memory to something greater than a dream.
At Pilar Corrias is a huge wall size projection of the latest moving image work by New York-based artist Ian Cheng, who in 2012 created a 3D animated music video for Liars, where humans and rabbit characters dance and twist and rip and tear apart from their rigs. The current exhibition, Emissary Forks At Perfection, continues Cheng’s distinct imagery and colour pallet. Out of the grey landscape, orange dogs play and speak and chase a corpse like a humanoid avatar through vibrant green foliage and littered water bottles. Beyond the surface qualities is the interesting fact that this work is a ‘live simulation’ of ‘infinite duration’. A flow chart on the wall when you come in seems to hint at the complex algorithmic procedures that might be at play, with the quite funny headline, ‘Horizon of volatile uncertain complex ambiguity (VUCA)’. The press release says ‘a story may escape its classical fixity and indefinitely procrastinate its conclusion’, so I wondered if they shut the power off at night.
I walk to Deptford to get to Res. Here artists Laura Morrison and Beatrice Loft Schulz are working as part of a project called Bain Marie. “What does Bain Marie mean?” I say to Schulz. She tells me it could be something like a thing that melts chocolate slowly so as not to burn it, kind of warming it up. I started to think that the space they have started creating is having the same effect. Some rubber tiles cover part of the floor and arranged across them are plenty of books that the artists had brought with them –novels, Finnish poetry, theory –all sorts. Over the other side of the room are a couple of portable old fabric and wooden makeshift beds, upon which each has a vintage dress draped over it. The materiality of the objects creates a sense of warmth in the space –paper, wood, fabric, nylon. Also drawings are being made onto veneered wood –a fox, a map of slow worms, a vagina, an arsehole. Both artists seem reluctant to consider it a collaboration, preferring to state that they are working on their own separate things. This strikes me as interesting, a beginning point for a discussion on the nature of collaboration and what it means to even state the word in different situations. Schulz mentions the notion of ‘the collaborators’ during wartime. A performance event is planned for October 30 and, I believe, should be highly recommended.
Then I walk to Peckham to get to Assembly Point to an event from East Anglia Records. EAR is an ongoing project by Harry Bix which started at the Slade School with his ‘album launch’ nights. Here, at Assembly Point, the lights have been turned off and there is a smoke machine and a stall to buy EAR branded merchandise. The place is pretty rammed. Taylor Smith reads some beat style poetry about curry clubs and petrol stations, Harley Kuyck Cohen animates a talking Toby Jug with a torch. Lea Collet presented ‘Ricardo’ in drag brandishing a screen in front of another screen. Audience participation gets interesting with Richard Seaholme’s longer piece –interesting because of the audience’s growing disinterest and Seaholme’s manner in which he continues on regardless, occasionally telling the crowd to shut the fuck up. Leaving before the end I missed the performance by Ulijona Odišarija. I had seen a previous incarnations of the work –the artist posed enigmatically in front of a camera to the soundtrack of Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’, while the image is simultaneously broadcast on a screen. I get in touch with the artist to ask how it went this time. “It’s basically the same as before but I was more of Sweatlana this time with a JLo-esque weave and spotlight in my face.” Who is Sweatlana, then? “She is sort of cool, sitting in the spotlight with a lot of drama in her face and all eyes on her”.
Thinking about “all eyes on the spotlight” I think that if the light shines too bright then you can get stuck in the glare of its presence –the big ‘thing’. But transiting the streets by phone light allows smaller things to become much brighter. **
Milan’s MiArt 2015 art fair will be running this weekend from April 10 to 12, with an invitation-only preview on April 9.
The fair, which focuses on modern and contemporary art, has carved out special sections and parallel events designed to cross disciplines and to nurture the varied structures and realities of the art scene, including sections concentrating on established international galleries, and emerging and avant-garde ones.
Named after the neurological phenomenon of a body part, even organ, that’s missing or amputated but still felt in its absence, the Phantom Limbs group exhibition expressed a dearth in its abundance. Running at London’ s Pilar Corrias between June 27 and August 1, eight artists exploring “notions of consciousness” within a digitally mediated existence were presented across its two floors.
Ken Okiishi‘s ‘E.lliotT.: Children of the New Age’ (2004) presented a surreal look into a mediated suburban dead end via amateur aesthetics and the disembodied mumblings of its performers, featured in its own white box display just across from Charlotte Prodger‘s ‘Compression Fern Face (2014)’ installation. A Sony reference monitor displayed a 3D animation filtering human experience through found texts in the latter artist’s work, YouTube clips, 16mm film and spoken narratives presented as “two coded abstract symbols move in tension with each other” on the screens white, framed background.
Philippe Parreno‘s ‘Happy Ending, Stockholm, Paris, 1996, 1997’ (2014), one of ten transparent glass scultpures, stands near the gallery reception, as easily overlooked as when an earlier incarnation of the work mysteriously disappeared from a 1996 solo exhibition. Antoine Catala‘s ‘: )’ (2014) and ‘(::( )::) (bandaid)’ (2014) are emoticons made material and moving on a motor on the floor beneath ‘Storage’ (2014) – an image of a fridge with an impress of pot and pan in it – while Ian Cheng‘s live computer simulations, stood in a corner across, present basic algorithms acting as “DNA that seeds the generation of endless, mutating sequences of behaviours between objects and characters”.
Films by Rachel Rose and Cécile B. Evans, ‘Palisades in Palisades’ (2014) and ‘The Brightness’ (2013) appear in the darkened downstairs. The former is a 3D monitor featuring choreographed, rootless teeth and an interview with a Phantom Limb specialist, also called Cécile B. Evans, her speech consciously and self-reflexively out of sync with the movement of her mouth. The latter uses scripted, documentary and post-production processes to explore the major consequences of “images and data overflowing from the flat surfaces of the screen” across historical timelines, while Alisa Baremboym‘s ‘Leakage Industries: Clear Conduit’ (2012) – a sculptural construction of organic and synthesised materials converged and suspended from the ceiling – flows top-down but is constrained by its context as the materials list describes its product as “dimensions variable”.
From here, other works by the same artists intersperse the two floors across media, including the sculptural incarnation of the CGI of Evans’ ‘The Brigthness’ in ‘Lost, Teeth’ (2014) and Okiishi’s ‘Holding my arm/phone above the visual barrier to see it becoming a cyborg’ (2013 – 2014) inkjet print wallpaper confusing notions of space, materiality and authorship. Together they reveal a chilling examination of a language and experience in perpetual, ungraspable, motion. **