Over 500 students from over 40 countries will be exhibiting their work across media at the Royal College of Art from Thursday, June 20 to Sunday, June 30. Spread across their Battersea and Kensington campuses it will feature works across Painting, Sculpture and Photography Ceramics & Glass and Goldsmithing, Design Engineering, Animation and Visual Communication.
As the god mother of blipster chic, M.I.A. has been dragging out the release of her long-awaited Matangi and after her mix for Kenzo it was sounding like maybe she’ll be easing back on the “techno buzz fuck” of her sound, but not so. ‘Bring the Noize’ is as glitch-y and fragmented as ever, while the flashing gif background of her website, a spinning 3D globe with the words of the song-title rushing around it, comes as an apt expression of both her sound and the world at large. You will never sleep again. **
Antwerp-based photographer Jan Kempenaers is presenting his first London solo show at Breese Little, opened Tuesday, June 6 and running Wednesday, June 12 to Saturday, July 13. Featuring his famous Spomenik series of photographs taken of Soviet WWII monuments across the Balkans in former Yugoslavia, his images present a dystopian future, grimly offset by its awe-inspiring natural surroundings and the degenerating effects of time.
In a feature exploring ‘failed utopias’, Halciion looked at idealistic modernist architecture and its disappointments in the face of time and reality, while drawing parallels with the contemporary nostalgia for the hopefulness that the future once represented. Kempenaers work comes as close as your going to get at representing that very failure. See the Breese Little website for more details. **
The Geology Collections at UCL will play host to a pop up exhibition, Habits, cleavages, fractures, featuring artists and Slade school graduates on Friday, May 31.
On display between 1 to 5pm on the day, attendants will have the opportunity to view the work, meet the artists and hear a talk surrounding it at 4pm. Having undergone a recent revamp, organizers no doubt hope to boost interest in the collections, some of which go back as far as 1855. We’re more interested in how artists will interpret the brief and connect with those ancient remnants of time and nature. See the UCL website for more details. **
From South London’s vibrant art community in Peckham to the global art world of Venice’s 55th Biennale, Palazzo Peckham will be launching American Medium Network from their current location in the Italian island’s Castello district, May 28.
Featuring artists from across the globe, including Jon Rafman, Andrew Norman Wilson, Ed Fornieles and Jasper Spicero, the event will launch in physical space with a performance by MSHR and DJ set from Hannah Perry, while the network will feature new episodes and programs throughout the year. That includes transdisciplinary art and talk show Clump TV, hosted by NYC performer and artist Colin Self, KK/OK, created by Jake Dibeler and Mia Ardito and I, Decay, hosted by Ann Hirsch. See the American Medium Network website for more details.**
Haroon Mirza’s o/o/o/o installations at Lisson Gallery visualise minimalistic production processes, run electric dreams between sonic mechanisms, amplify insect movements across reverb chambers, and throw broken samples into site-specific wave patterns.
Industrial, stripped-back, bare, it is an exhibition where echoes of the minimal artist’s practice is laid bare. Squared to the entrance, ‘Untitled 2013’ visually marks out a borrowed aesthetic. Small and rectangular, divided into one green half and another blue segment composed from a series of commercially available LED lights, it clearly mirrors Dan Flavin’s use of readymade fluorescent lights, made up as luminescent sculptures in national art galleries. It’s famous, beyond the walls of most private contemporary collections and deliberately so.
Located within Lisson Gallery, ‘Sitting in a Chamber 2013’ takes a conceptual cue. Its homemade records spun over turntables reminiscent of Christian Marclay’s earlier Recycled Records played over decks as instrumentation, is a video work interacting with samples onscreen, close to ‘Telephones’ (1995)’s own mastery of sound and visual experimentation. Ideas and forms acquired from artists Mirza clearly admires, sampled and mixed together anew.
It is a blatant use. Like much house music, on which Mirza places great value, it is purposefully self-referential. A wall of noise for those new to the club but a new cut of sounds referential to genres, scenes, places, people, emotions and more, for those in the know. Here, Mirza produces a new track, made up out of sampled bass lines, high notes and rhythms, and at the same time a new artwork edited out of visual cues, concepts and sounds.
Importantly, sound is deconstructed visually. A video piece, part of ‘Sitting in a Chamber’ (2013) shows us a filmed screen shots of Audacity, a sequencer programme, on which the word “speech”, spoken out loud as a vocal and “articulated by speech” as an acapella, is looped into oblivion. Electronic music’s production process distorted first hand.
Interactively, in ‘Adam, Eve, others and a UFO’ (2013) visible speakers placed in a circle around a faux studio room invite visitors to walk though a mapped-out track. Architecturally, in ‘Pavilion for Optimisation’ (2013), a chamber created in collaboration with his brother Omar Mirza is a space is created where echoes from samples of a shower and an ant are overblown live in sequence to a light that floods the space with a powerful effect. Online ‘o-o-o-o.co.uk’ allows for samples from the show to be downloaded, remixed and uploaded in a cycle without a potential end.
Where Mirza panders to highly conceptual pieces of work, he excels. Reference to Alvin Lucier’s 1969 piece, ‘I am sitting in a room’, insatiably produce a worthy back catalogue of footnotes. As an exhibition, however. o/o/o/o condescends in its attempt to link avant-garde composition with underground electronic dance music. Punk-rock aggression sanitised and sequenced, house music’s groove lost.
Another artist-run gallery in Manor House, London, The Institute of Jamais Vu follows up Lima Zulu‘s :: RHYTHM THING:: a couple of weeks ago with FERRY TALE at its own Omega Works space. Running May 17 to 24, and officially launching on Wednesday, May 22, artist, professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Nantes and IJV resident Fabrice Azzolin, will play host to several French practitioner’s works, as part of a week-long events calendar, including a performance workshop with Ludwig Meslet on Monday, May 20 and a Group Crit day on Thursday, May 23. See their Facebook events page for more details.**
The Deepest Darkestjourneys into Welsh born artist Robin Mason’s autobiographical past in a series of spectacularly surreal works set against Block 336 Gallery’s stark Brutalist backdrop.
Within the basement space Mason’s story begins to unfold against white walls and cold concrete floors. Soaked in the strip light’s harsh glare a disco ball’s reflection meditatively spins a showbiz sparkle over the amusement arcades of yesteryear. Each is outdated, yet their resonance is accentuated against the backdrop.
Every one of them has inescapable charm. A wooden slot machine takes a dime to predict your future; The Super Love Test lets you know you’re the jealous type, while a “Multi Horn – High Fidelity” valve-operated jukebox awaits your choice from a selection of chart hits, like Jimi Hendrix ‘s ‘Purple Haze’ and Altry Inman’s ‘Be Bop Baby’. It’s the barebones of a vintage theme park. In a sense, it is Mason’s childhood fairground; the place where he worked as a young man, watched revellers gamble their fortunes and collected his winnings. Now Mason invites us in to play the same games, follow his footsteps and slowly become enthralled by the curiosities his mind has paced over time and again.
Arrows out number any other symbol in The Deepest Darkest by ten-to-one. Across etchings and paintings, their simple black lines guide us through. Most obviously, a curved white arrow, adorned with colourful gem-like bulbs, leads us from one room to the next. More plainly, scribbled in a font commonly used by American diners, the word “Journey”, in bright neon acrylic paint, illuminates the appropriately titled painting ‘Search and Journey’. Travelling through worlds past and present, real and imagined, the discovery of missed details, the loss of old joys; these are the things Mason obsesses over. Across etchings, astroturf lawns, even mini-museums of exhibitions contained in hut-like structures, he rekindles memories and relives them. Most masterfully, in a behemoth canvass christened ‘The Funfair and the Altarpiece’ worlds touched on across the exhibition all collide.
A homage to Mattias Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece, where Christ is crucified in a contemporary landscape suffering from the same ergotism that caused plague victims’ to hallucinate, ‘The Funfair and the Altarpiece’ is a deliberate clash of Northern European medieval art history’s iconography with Mason’s own theatrical lexicon of pink English rock candy alongside wood-cut etching collected as he relived a childhood journey in 1968 from Porthcawl, South Wales, to the Black Forest in a search for his roots and the core of his identity as an artist.
As the exhibition unfolds, triptychs replace readymade arcades, small sharp works glean out of hidden nooks; colourful orange and pink paints descend on voids left by bold monochrome patterns. Darkness falls, a short animated film plays, and the viewers own journey into the dark forest begins.**
Navid Nuur‘s first UK solo exhibition at Parasol Unit London is inimitably concerned with phenomenology and art. That is, the way in which sculpture, painting and other media are experienced by the viewer. Naturally then, it is of interest to observe how exactly visitors to Phantom Fuel react to works on display.
One couple blast a path through the first darkened room. In little time they scan its contents: a chrome commercial skip on its side, a crimson neon crescent hung to the wall… even perhaps the piece’s rouge reflection, captured in a metallic sheet displayed on an opposite wall. These two gain an impression at most, an aura of the narrative Nuurr wishes to paint. Yet, as the march on toward room two, a characteristic intervention refuses such a basic engagement with the work. ‘Welcome/ Welcome’ is obvious, even to the oblivious, an installation made up of strips of sandpaper, hung from the top to the bottom of a doorway on both facing sides. It is beyond subconscious, beautifully simple, and a deliberate scratch on those who may have switched off their primal senses.
It is the on-off switch, the key to the puzzle and the beginningof an experimental engagement with materials in a contemporary art space, with which Nuurr wishes to toy. Small curatorial texts charmingly involve the viewer with artworks. Sometimes quite simply, as with ‘redblueredblue’ (2008-2013) a Nokia phone wrapped in modelling clay is activated as a sound work when rung.
More engagingly, a series called ‘These are the days, 2004-2013’ tapes together recycled debris, from previous Nuur exhibitions, over four torches to create what appear to be small scale sci-fi sculptures. Again, visitors are encouraged to interact with the work, and those curious enough will find small peep holes into the objects where tiny exhibition spaces, sculptural installations and figures walk through caves.
These are small-scale people, wandering around artificial spaces that remind us of our own existence in a place. The ground floor exhibition rooms have a view hole from one room to the other that exaggerates this notion of context further, given that from one side the work ‘From the eyecodex of the monochrome studies (study 92-95) 1998-2013’ seems to be in the background. On the other it is spherically framed reflecting specks of orange in the glow of light. Even the gallery itself is signified by a light box sign and work ‘Untitled, 2007-2010’ that flashes from the word “There” to “Here”.
Across the exhibition, Nuurr pushes these ideas further still. Mirrors without reflection playfully explore linguistics, piles of newspapers appear without a single printed word, ice-creams melt on projectors and a daring video presents a “timeline that captures the history and illumination of painting”, through hand gestures and the folding of a sheet of paper. Those who are curious will be rewarded.
Navid Nuur’s Phantom Fuel is running at at Parasol Unit Foundation until May 19, 2013.
German-based net artists and collaborators, Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschiedwill be appearing at The Photographer’s Gallery in London to discuss web culture in the 90s, digital vernacular and performative archiving. It’s happening on Friday, May 10, and runs in conjunction with their current exhibition One Terabyte Of Kilobyte Age, which focusses on the now-defunct and largely lost digital ruins of free web-hosting service geocities.com -founded in 1995, bought by Yahoo! in 1999 and then killed by social media platforms a decade later. Taken from the terabyte of data that the rogue collective Archive Team managed to salvage from the wreckage, 16,000 personal homepages are on display.
Delivering his audience from the evils of anticipation, London-based performer and artist extraordinaire Dean Blunt has dropped his second solo album proper, The Redeemer on Hype Williams label World Music and LA’s Hippos in Tanks.
Littered with subverted pop cultural references, Biblical allusions and samples of very private-sounding answering machine messages the album makes leaps in fidelity and composition. A typically cryptic baring of his soul and a wistful lament over modem love, pastiche and collaboration abounds, with a dedication that reads as follows:
Make of the what you will, buy the album and pay particular attention to ‘Demon’ featuring Joanne Robertson. Hands down, album of the year. **
In the lead up to Dean Blunt‘s highly anticipated, and we daresay brilliantly promoted, second album, The Redeemer, out on Hippos in Tanks, May 1, the musician, artist and self-made myth, has dropped a new track, not to appear on the forthcoming track listing but enough to get the romantic vibe, his press has been alluding to.
With the upcoming album to include track titles like ‘Seven Seals of Affirmation’, ‘Walls of Jericho’ and ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven’ there’s no mistaking the spirito-mystical bent of Blunt’s recent direction, in line with a growing post-science current towards a sort of neo-transcendentalism that new media artists like Theodore Darst and groups like The Eternal Internet Brotherhood echo. As they say, “where Science fails, God prevails”. See The Redeemer track listing below. **
1. I Run New York
2. The Pedigree
6. The Redeemer
7. Seven Seals Of Affirmation
8. Walls Of Jericho
9. Make It Official
10. Need 2 Let U Go
15. All Dogs Go To Heaven
16. Imperial Gold
“Hopefully that will be a way for me to make work outside of Lagos, outside of this box that I’ve put myself in,” says Karimah Ashadu over Skype from her temporary base in the Nigerian port city. Echoing the conflict that often comes with a measure of success, the artist, raised between Lagos and London, is spending the year touring her video, ‘Lagos Island’, across the US, Australia and Europe, including the recent transmediale. This week it will be screening at the European Media Arts Festival in Osnabrück, Germany, and although Ashadu is grateful for the opportunities the work has afforded her –including quitting the “nine to five” to focus on her art full time –she’s also anxious not to let location overshadow the complex multidisciplinary drive of her work as a whole.
As a Fine Art graduate with a Masters in Interior and Spatial Design, Ashadu has had the last decade to explore her options beyond art making. From art to architecture, interior to product design, and finally branding, her experience across practices is vast and it shows. Not only do her videos explore rhythm, perspective and the body, through film and self-designed rotational devices, but her professional approach is one of formalism and discipline. There’s the minimal aesthetic and informative nature of Ashadu’s website, as well as her professional approach to expounding on her work in conversation. But, behind the reserved exterior there’s a self-proclaimed and paradoxical ‘ditz’, in the same way that producing work in the rapidly developing, though unpredictable conditions of Lagos is as easy as it isn’t at all.
Why do you choose to make your work in Lagos?
It’s so interesting. The visual landscape here is amazing and even the simplest tasks can look really beautiful, depending on how you present them. I think it goes really well with the instantaneous nature of film and video art; I like that gung ho quality. In London, I have to plan a lot more. I think my work, anyway, has a guerrilla sense about it and I don’t’ really like planning too much but, as time goes on, I’m finding that I have to. I never know when I’m next going to be in Lagos, so for that reason I should really learn to take my work outside of it.
You say you like the spontaneous nature of working in Lagos and the instantaneous nature of film but, at the same time, you’re forced to restrict that creative energy to a particular time period.
Exactly, it’s a complete juxtaposition. It’s something that I would like to change because it’s not the most sustainable thing to do and I only end up making a couple of films a year. They might be a couple of really good films, and I’d rather do that than make five really average films, but I’d love to do a residency somewhere else and make my work less about Lagos and more about the work itself.
For instance, ‘Lagos Island’ is a piece that’s been shown quite frequently throughout this year and the next piece that I’m filming tomorrow is called ‘Lagos Sand Merchants’. Everything seems to be about Lagos and, although I love Lagos, I feel like I don’t want my work to hinge on this city.
I think that’s the dilemma a lot of artists. You need people to be interested but you also don’t want one thing to define you either. It must make you question your artistic ability on its own merits.
It really does. There’s another film I made last year, a few months after making ‘Lagos Island’ called ‘Hindsight –a horse’s tail’. It was made in Lagos but it’s not necessarily about Lagos. It could have been made anywhere and I like that. I don’t want to become this gimmick, where everything else is about Lagos. Yeah, that’s the thing that people find interesting but if it weren’t about Lagos, would my work be interesting?
You’ve said it’s too difficult to make work in London but it sounds like the difficulties are equal, if not greater, in Lagos.
I don’t think it’s hard to make work in London. I’ve made work there before but I just don’t think I’ve focussed enough on it, or given it the concentration it deserves. The difference between London and Lagos is that, in Lagos, the most ordinary thing can look very interesting, just because of the way that it’s carried out, because of the lack resources that people have. So it does appear more interesting and that can be a work in itself.
Whereas, in London, things are more refined and it takes a while to search out things that are ordinary and can come across as extraordinary. That’s the kind of training I need, to force myself to look at things differently and that’s what art is all about, interpreting things in a different way.
It’s interesting you say that because I’m sure if you screened a video art work you made in London in Lagos, it could be quite extraordinary in that context.
Absolutely, you’re right. It’s a completely different kind of visual landscape. I’ve never actually screened any work that I’ve made in London here, because it’s been a while since I’ve made anything in London, but I think, moving forward, that will change. There will be opportunities for me to screen work that I’ve made outside of Lagos, here in Lagos, which will be really nice and open up that multidisciplinary dialogue, and that multicultural dialogue, that I’m all about, having lived in these two different cities.
There’s a strong focus on rhythm and perspective in your work. Is there a sociological concept behind it with regards to storytelling?
If there is, it has not been a conscious one. The idea of rhythm and perspective and all that sort of stuff was born from my multidisciplinary background. Although I studied art to begin with, I crossed over into architecture, which does have this rhythmic quality and it does have a focus on perspective. I wanted to see how I could physically bring that to life and that’s where this whole idea of rhythm and perspective came from.
If it does have a sociological focus, it was never intended to begin with but now I look back on ‘Lagos Island’ and, in going to film this work with the sand merchants tomorrow, I think it’s naturally become that way. It’s naturally become about social structures, especially in a city like Lagos.
When you talk about rhythm and how difficult it is to coordinate in Lagos as compared to London, do you think it comes through in your work?
Absolutely, the thing is that, although, in Lagos, it’s quite difficult to plan things, there’s also this element of freedom that I find working here. I don’t really know how to describe it but it does feel quite free. I don’t know whether it’s because it’s an untapped source, whether it’s quite a new thing to do. It’s a developing country so everything is changing and that’s really exciting.
For instance, if I’m filming here then I expect to have a bit of bother. I expect people wanting to know what I’m doing, people are very curious, people get angry, people get excited and I think all of that energy helps me feel, ‘right, this shot really counts. I can’t do this again’. Whereas in London, I could do this over and over again because I can, no one’s really going to bother me, so to speak. Although it’s stressful making work in Lagos, I think that energy really helps me create work that is hinged on this kind of excitement.
In your performative piece ‘pace: part five (the viaduct)’, you’ve discovered, framed and filmed an area of North London that a local might not even recognise. That reminds me of photography’s recontextualising the ordinary, finding beauty in the mundane.
I love the idea of approaching something that’s been done, and done, and done again in a different way, which, I think, is where my mechanisms come into play. I love video, I love my camera, I love filming and I love designing and building things. I like that physical making of things and I think they go quite well together.
It’s funny because I initially trained as a painter and I think that idea of framing and enclosing is something that’s carried on, even though I’m working in a different medium. It’s all interlinked, photography film, video and architecture, and I love that. In a way, it doesn’t make me feel like I’ve stopped painting, it feels like it has evolved. It’s a moving image with a mechanism but it’s still an image.
Even your processes are a form of framing because you’ve had to limit your creative energies to a schedule. Do you think that working within those restrictions conversely offers greater opportunity for spontaneity because you only have the one chance?
Absolutely. Something that I don’t like doing as an artist is revisiting things. I feel like, when something’s done then you shouldn’t overwork it too much. Although I reedit films as time goes on, the initial footage that I have doesn’t change. That makes you very disciplined as an artist because you’ve got to make the shot count and you can’t have take, after take. And although I’m working with the digital camera and you can edit things and you can chip things, it’s not static film, so to speak. I don’t make things too easy and it does give the film a sense of urgency. It just makes it feel really relevant to the moment, which I quite like.
It’s interesting you say you don’t like to make things easy for yourself because I get the sense that when things are too easy, the paradoxical effect of having all the ideas and all the resources in the world available to you, it makes it more difficult to create something new.
Exactly. I think it makes you think a lot more. It makes your brain work a lot more. I definitely don’t like it when things are too easy and maybe that’s what I feel, that London is too easy, whereas here in Lagos, although there’s a lot of material visually, it’s hard to capture it. So you have these juxtapositions but I feel as an artist you have to make things work and it’s all about adapting.**
Scout Niblett might not exactly fit the aqnb mission of progressive music but her commitment to her unique style, rooted in grunge and indie rock must be commended. Especially, when it’s as strange and as harrowing as anyone alone with an electric guitar, an abundance of eccentricities and consciously clumsy drumming skills, can be.
This next album, It’s Up To Emma, out May 20 on Drag City, will be her sixth since her early days as Emma Louise Niblett in Nottingham and promises to be another emotional journey through insecurity and self-evaluation. There’s no word on any preview sounds as yet but there is the promise of a few interesting collaborations and her brilliant TLC cover ‘No Scrubs‘ on the track listing. See below.**
After hearing Inga Copeland‘s brilliantly moody ‘BMW’ last year, suddenly the prospect of Hype Williams potentially disbanding became easier to bear. That, along with the great work on her cohort Dean Blunt‘s ‘The Narcissist’ and the unfairly short teaser of an upcoming EP produced by Holland’s Martyn (aka Martijn Deykers) and London’s DVA, means things aren’t just looking up but are potentially even better than before.
That’s why the aformentioned 12″ with Deykers and DVA, Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going is another welcome addition to the post-Hype Williams empire. Available for pre-order on Boomkat the record is out through Hippos in Tanks and Blunt/Copeland-run World Music Group, on March 4. It features Martyn and DVA sinking deeper from their combined dubstep and DnB past into a dub-infused haze, while Copeland carries on with the fractured universal hip hop of Hype Williams along a uniquely smoky vocal.**