Wednesday, 31 October 2007
The selection of work explores through the notion of trust ideas of address, such as who is speaking and to whom, language as a block to understanding and constituting meaning and the construction of narrative, what we believe and how we relate to constructed stories.Yaron Lapid’s “You Have Not Found His Riddle” (2003) takes a documentary approach to discovering how an elderly Israeli couple copes with the husband’s depression. He is unnervingly at his most animated as he recounts several of his failed suicide attempts due to various technical oversights. What led to this reality is lost in favour of the immediacy and intensity these experiences produce. Translation, understanding and meaning are explored in more direct fashion in Chia- En Jao’s “Father’s Tongue” (2007) and Flávia Müller Medeiros’ “Fight The Enemy Abroad So We Don’t Have To Fight Them At Home” (2005) Jao stages a humorous literal version of Chinese Whispers, whispering words in Mandarin that recall one of his recent encounters in Paris to a non-Chinese speaker. The speaker’s concerted effort results in the correctly pronounced words appearing in English intermittently on the screen, the rest as ellipses. Michelle Deignan’s two works “Il Cittadino” (2007) and “Red Cheeks” (2006) explore the disjunction between conventional modes of address in the media from “trustworthy” sources such as television journalism and the information they relay to us through humorous anecdotal stories.
These works explore and expose the processes we go through as viewers on seeing them in diverse and often humorous guises. Dzuverovic, on the other hand, unwittingly adds a new dimension to what it means to “trust yourself” as she might do well in future to remember the names of the artists that feature in shows she curates.
Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Luminous Territories – Sept 13th – October 27th
Karine Teyssier, October 2007
"Please knock on the door, the bell is broken"
Lift out of order - pedestrians are kindly asked to use the other street.
The sheet of paper used on the door of the gallery doesn’t seem to be an exception to all the other daily dysfunctions of the city.
The city beats.
The door was knocked upon and then opened by itself.
The visitor has to penetrate into a dark territory before being flashed... Again. One more time.
Gradually the visitor starts to clearly recognize the rectangular structure of this monster: "Luminous Territories", made by scaffolding and hoarding, enwrapped in transparent industrial construction material, usually used to protect construction sites from the rain.
Flickering light cast on the structure are lighting the inside of the work irregularly, revealing small sections at a time, never the entire work.
In the lower gallery, "Black Cube" is made out of corrugated bitumen roofing sheets, sliced, stacked and bolted together. The longer you walk around it, the more it turns into a disturbing object. In contrast to "Luminous Territory", its spatial set up is easily understood.
"Black Cube" does not only create the sensation that it absorbs the light surrounding it, but also looks as if it contained within itself a secret world, another dimension, which seems close, yet actually remains inaccessible.
Related to Pirandello’s jails paintings, the reference to the labyrinth is clearly identifiable in this work.
"Black Cube" takes us through an urban labyrinth, similar to a city in which a multitude of parallel, different dimensions are neighbouring each other, dependent on its actors, the time and the weather.
The visit ends with a sculpture entitled: WLP4
The city becomes emptier and emptier and seems to suddenly be silent.
All of her inhabitants have gone home. Although she seems to be quiet, she is exploding inside of herself due to her increasing excitement.
The nervous shadows are flying about behind the windows, the cathode’s neon tube rhythming the colours of the street.
But then the lamps of the street are suddenly lighting…the red light coming from them transforms itself into a calm orange light.
The city has woken up.
The works by Nathaniel Rackowe, exhibited there, are definitely talking about the city, but the artist doesn’t show you a city; He tells it. He not only manages to feel the city, its poetry, its unattainable transformations which were described by Pierre Sansot in his book Poétique de la ville, but he also translates them, syntheses them, to extract a concentration of different dimensions in which we could briefly meet the phantoms of the “flaneurs” rich in spleen and ideal.
Sinead McCarthy, October 2007.
There is a promise of ‘sex in art through the ages.’ The exhibition features over 300 works spanning 2000 years. The Barbican have taken on an ambitious and controversial task. I intend to see whether they succeed.
Upon entering the space, one is immediately aware of the cries of synthesised sexual interplay. The curators are certainly setting the scene for a sensory imposition. As the exhibition space is navigated there is a definite impression that justification is key. The walls are heavily annotated with explanations prior to entering a new space and then on the wall within the new space. This didactic approach seems understandable in regard to how they have installed the pieces. The work, predominantly showing the phallus and various modes of sexual acts has been cautiously juxtaposed with explanation after historical contextualized explanation.
The subject of sex and the idea that this is an uncensored look at sex, combined with how it has been depicted, and how that has changed throughout history is not an interesting idea. It is rather obvious and at times repetitive. The exhibition holds far too varied work. The template and mission of the curators has been overly ambitious. . The work and the accompanying explanations are far too dense. The eras are shown in order to illustrate the history of eastern and western arts and their contrasting depictions of sex acts. The works lose resonance by being installed in such a way. The Barbican have chosen to attempt ‘shock’ in a historical navigation over 2000 years worth of work. The curators have decided to produce an exhibition that is doing the work for the viewer and making it appropriate to gaze upon the inappropriate. This is a mistake.
The only way that this situation could have been rectified and for this exhibition to vaguely work would have been for the curators not to have installed it chronologically. They are not giving the viewer enough credit. The entrance to the exhibition had the right idea; a video from Chris Cunningham juxtaposed with the work of the Greeks and Romans; the parallels within each of the works and great contrasts make the pieces more instinctual and sensory. The introductory text conveys an interest in the sensual side of the depiction of sex in art. The chronological, historically organized layout fails to deliver on this and loses the beauty and interest that could have been gained from the exhibition. In order for this exhibition to offer the viewer a valuable experience, the work needed to be positioned in such an instinctual and punctuated way. Placing Louise Bourgois’ ‘Couples’ amongst the Greek statues at the beginning of the show could have looked amazing. If only the curators could have seized this opportunity then there may have been scope for seduction.
Davina and Daniel’s 8 Weeks of Change, Space Station Sixty-Five, London.
Sinead McCarthy, October 2007.
Davina and Daniel’s Eight Weeks of Change proposes a tried and tested mode of self help that can make that all important change for you. The gallery space is transformed into a sterile, white walled waiting room and treatment zone, labelled and minimally decorated for an authentic take on the medical environment. The parallels between this and the obligatory white space of a gallery are comparable from the outset. Davina and Daniel are embracing ideas around participatory art practice, combining this with self help, to create their own brand of art therapy.
As a visitor to the clinic you are invited to take part in some pre-planned tasks that evaluate the treatment required. The artists’ have employed equally enthusiastic assistants poised to interact with you (to even sing to you) to make your therapy a success. This combination of artists and agents on a face-to-face basis is actually rather successful. It is easy to feel suspicious and unsure of the merits in participatory art of this nature. Indeed, the recent influx of relational work in order to symbolise a more overt interaction with the artist, combined with the public being instrumental in the success; is something that can not always be negotiated successfully and believably.
Davina and Daniel, however, do manage to succeed in this installation/performance for two major reasons; they are satirising self help, a genre which has already become something like public property. You are all collectively aware that their brand of therapy is not to be believed. Indeed, the disclosure of the artists’ self-created credentials in the press release emphasise this. Paradoxically, there is something genuine in this show and the intention they have to interact with their audience on this level. When they speak with you, you feel they empathise wholeheartedly with you. Perhaps this is all part of the plan, but the energy that they have devoted to this composition; from producing a Therapy of the Day to the One to One consultations you can experience, is a major investment on their part.
Upon leaving the clinic I felt invigorated and happy. And surely this was their intention. They offered me some therapy; an offer of a collective experience, which I accepted and ultimately I felt in retrospect, that this made me feel better. Perhaps this ‘therapy’ was purely a metaphor and the immediate interaction was its success, but I don’t think that this matters. Davina and Daniel are on a mission of life affirmation. Job done.
Space Station 65, is situated in East Dulwich. Davina and Daniel’s Eight Weeks of Change is on Saturday and Sundays until 11th November.
Paul Pfeiffer, The Saints,
Paul Pfeiffer recent work investigates crowd behaviour in relation to a spectacle. In his work, The Long Count he manipulates footage from the “Thrilla in
Pfeiffer’s recent exhibition The Saints, examines this theme further. The exhibition takes place in a warehouse situated in the corner of
This is in similar vein to his past works; however, entering into the rear of the white booth a further provocation is created. There are two juxtaposed screens in the booth, on the right plays the footage of the 1966, World Cup Final between
The use of the World Cup footage in an exhibition, metres away from the Wembley football ground appears to denote, English national identity and heritage. The cultural gap between English national identity and the Filipino crowd is where Pfeiffer conducts his experiment. By playing The World Cup to a crowd of Filipino’s he decapitates English football from its history. At first the Filipino crowd were quiet, prompted by Pfeiffer to voice boo’s and cheers at suitable moments. Despite the alien context and the staging of the experiment, a genuine energy proliferated amongst the crowd, the Filipino men bond under a foreign cause without understanding its tradition. Pfeiffer reveals how crowd behaviour is an instinctual rather than cultural phenomenon; it does not rely on collective memory so much as social interaction.
 See Crowds in Power, 1960
 The English national identity has been built in a realm of collective fantasy, glorifying and mystifying past achievements. Whether it is a victory in football or war or reflecting on long-ago colonial conquests, the English continue to share this fantasy.
 …they sang “God save our gracious Queen…” and chanted “..ingla..” (
 or group mentality.
Monday, 29 October 2007
Arriving late on Tuesday night to accompany a friend to the opening of the Tate’s new show The World as a Stage I didn’t expect to be so rushed around the exhibition. From what my companion had told me it was open until 10pm and thus we had time to quaff free red wine, talk at length about our respective partner’s reception of art in comparison to our own (we realised our non-art specifically educated others gave themselves much more generously to the pleasures of viewing art than we did) and still have ample time to digest the show. However, the otherwise delightful door staff informed us as we left the bar area and entered the show proper that we had but fifteen minutes to see this work. With not a moment to lose we headed off into the exhibition, intent on getting as much as we could from the time allotted.
Forced into a not altogether unpleasant speed viewing (as anyone who has been to an exhibition with me will realise the haste at which I tend to negotiate these things) my companion and I got the briefest of overviews of the work. Whilst I would certainly return as paying member of the public to re-visit the exhibition, in particular the Jeremy Deller piece (background work for his Orgreave re-enactment and the subsequent film), I am forced into the question as to whether the process of ‘reading’ an exhibition such as this requires an extended process of contemplation. This is not to say that the work doesn’t necessarily demand a certain lengthy interrogation, but perhaps, that what art does is not so much operate as an immediate experience, in that one is able to, if one stares for long enough at a painting ‘get’ what is ‘meant’ by it (there is no immanent meaning within the work), but as the catalyst for a further discourse. What is to be made, then, of this deferred discourse? Is this deferral a moment that operates to allow for criticality to enter? And if so, what occurs in this moment? This moment of meaning to come. In this empty moment where the meaning of the work arrives, as it were, subjectivity operates to create for itself the meaning of the world. That is it is only through a movement of the subject that meaning can be created. Perhaps my swift appraisal of both the show and this subject can never quite grasp this always ungraspable meaning, which, I hasten to add is never transcendental as such, meaning does not arrive from somewhere else. But that the logic of this chase after meaning is always incomplete. There will always be another meaning.
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens
20th September - 11th November 2007
Focussing on Holographic Entry Point (2005)
In the east gallery of the Serpentine Matthew Barney has installed his work from 2005 Holographic Entry Point, overlooking the pavilion the large models squeeze into the available space, buckling at one end forcing the door on to the grass open. We shall follow the fiction of this work in an attempt to unpack it. The work consists of two models of the same thing, a sloped jetty on to which boats would be hauled using a winch at the top of the slope. The model on the right as you look at it is lifelike, covered in barnacles and ruined, as though it had hauled up a boat too heavy for its strength. The model on the left is a copy, mimicking the jetty as it would have been before the ‘accident’ that caused it to fail. It is made using Barney’s trademark white self-lubricating plastic. A rope from this jetty, in the same white plastic, runs through the galleries into the western most room, where it is looped around a large unidentifiable object, named Occidental Restraint (2005).
One imagines the scenario which caused the breakage of the first jetty, the object in the far room was hauled through and collapsed the ‘real’. The copy stands resolutely as though it has no problem repeatedly hauling the object, does this mean the simulacrum can pull the occidental? The west is drawn by simulation? We have lost the Lacanian real? It is important that the two works work together, as it were. To tug against one another. The holograph in tension with the western world. The work becomes, it seems, a rather trite metaphor for some Baudrillardian analysis of westernisation, the “generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal”.
Except the conceit doesn’t work. The ‘real’ jetty is shoved so far into the corner as to render its usage impossible; nothing could have been hauled on to it as the wall prevents adequate access to the bottom of the slope (this is if we are to follow the fiction that the work exists within this setting as though it were always here, and there seems no reason not to follow that line, indeed Barney’s work relies on the suspension of disbelief and a desire to follow his newly created mythology). So, if the original jetty could never have operated as such in its position, yet the copy is able to operate perfectly well, able to pull it’s charge up the slope, as the way to it is unimpeded by the internal architecture of the gallery, we have to believe that the white simulacrum has primacy over the jetty it mimics. The implication is that, as Baudrillard states, the real has no origin, the copy is a copy of nothing, “the territory no longer precedes the map […] it is the map that precedes the territory”.
21st Sept - Oct 27 2007
Amid changeable weather, the scarf and the sun oscillating, London’s Hauser & Wirth Gallery’s new show of paintings by Michael Raedecker calms and agitates by turn busy Piccadilly shoppers. Greys and muted purples, large rough canvases brought together in triptychs, groups of four, or two, or some standing on their own, striated by thread, holes, hair and wool.
I don’t much care for painting as such, and am, therefore, going to pin-point one specific exigency in this exhibition, one moment of difference. The working of the exhibition itself, that is the intention, the expected meaning if you will, calls for something very different to what is actually produced. This operation of differentiation occurs at the moment of the relation between the works themselves and that that we shall call extraneous to the work. In this instance the extraneousness is produced by the internal architecture of the building, the stairs, the lift, the door ways, the vault and the safe in the vault.
If one follows the stairs down to the vault, where the exhibition is continued by two more works (denial and exhibit (sic) 2007), the final space is guarded by a solid Chatwood & Milner ‘Fire and Thief Resistant’ vault door. Inside the vault another interesting encounter occurs. Ahead and on the left wall the paintings hang, but on the right wall, in similar grey tones stands a large purposefully open safe, echoing in colour, dimension and some other formal qualities (for example, the way the safe is split into two compartments, a diptych, if you like) the paintings on this level and upstairs in the main gallery. An interesting curatorial decision has been made in this exhibition; the viewer is drawn into the space downstairs ostensibly to view more banal paintings, but encounters instead the trappings of the buildings past. All galleries have their quirks, each situation, or context imbues experience with meaning, exhibitions operate syntactically, sense overflows. And it is this production of difference, of something extra or other, that is of interest here. One may wonder whether this enaction of what Robert Bruegel would call ‘migration of form’ is intentioned by the curator. Whether it is or not, the excess created operates beyond what might be called a framing device; the extraneous objects in the space, in this case the safe and the vault door, are given the same attention as the work, supplementing Raedecker’s paintings with something beyond them.
Saturday, 27 October 2007
at Gagosian Gallery, 17-19 Davies Street, London W1K 3DE; through 17 November, 2007.
In this new series of drawings Ed Ruscha resumes and assembles various approaches to articulate a both particular and peculiar moment of an infinite nothingness.
His drawings of popped, punctured, fractured and shattered glass are executed with such perfection on originating light and shadow that it almost creates a kind of a surreal reverie. Here, the centre of attention is not the edge of the glass as one could assume, since it is not only the most striking object to draw but furthermore the inevitable charac-teristic of shattered glass. Instead, in constantly emphasizing on the effectiveness of light and shadow with and over the background colour, the artist refuses to suggest a certain perspective of the broken material.
Ruscha likes to isolate objects, questioning their assumed connotations and thus dis-solving their meanings. He has no interest in letting the drawing emerge through an in-trospective process, rather he claims the object to be what it is – translucent, widening the visual field, which paradoxically as a reversal of this amplification loses itself in the background colour.
The artist has a talent for making the banal seem significant allowing ambiguity. His works do neither impose a certain notion, nor do they indicate an interpretation or fold in any kind of annotation.
Busted Glass evokes an interior gaze and mood, which amounts to an act of funambu-lation: the obviousness of the drawn object turns out to be resurrected by dismantling the hierarchy of both subject and medium. Hence, the created mysterious uncomfortableness turns to a self-reflective debate of art with itself on the discourse of Realism/Illusionism, exceptionally intensified by the chosen object of shattered glass.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
November 16, 2006 – February 11, 2007
Kiki Smith is known as one of the most original and protean American artists of our time. Her art is about the most important issues human beings use to develop their own way of life: curiosity, intuition, inspiration and experience. For Kiki Smith these issues reflect her understanding of art: “It’s a collaboration with the material, and when it’s viewed, it’s a collaboration with the world. What your work is resides in between those different spaces” .
The Whitney Museum of American Art presents a full survey of her works over the last 25 years to enable a communication between the viewer, her work and, according to her, the world. The show is divided into thematic sections such as “Entering the body”, “The Figure Reimagined”, “The Natural World”, “Wunderkammer” and “New Mythologies”, which represent both Kiki Smith’s artistic development throughout the past 25 years and a curatorial perspective, which offers the viewer a topically focussed insight into Smith’s art.
Throughout the past decades Kiki Smith has explored a broad range of subjects, including religion, folklore, mythology, natural science, art history, and feminism through her remarkable innovations in sculpture, printmaking, drawing and like this consistently reveals new metaphoric and symbolic potentials.
She is best known for her depictions of the human body, considered both provocative and aggressive towards the viewer’s perception. Smith started modelling the human body as her major focus of interest in paper and cast it in wax, plaster, bronze and resin. While her works have their visceral moments, they're strongly imbued with beauty and poetry. Her physical materials present the body entering new territory in the history of figurative sculpture. Smith's art renders the figure in frank, nonheroic terms, not contradicting but turning the figurative tradition in sculpture inside out, creating objects to tell stories not about their material existence, but about their transcendental potential.
Kiki Smith regards herself as a storyteller in the sense of reiterating over and over again themes like the figure, nature, life, beauty, joy and death, which humans have questioned for more than a hundred decades. It’s about finding aspects of life left out of art. Ways to discover some, but surely not the ultimate answers to those questions, which reside behind the continuity of stories with their features of redundancy, reimagination and relationship amongst each other.
“My work has evolved from minute particles within the body, up through the body, and landed outside the body”. The body in Smith's work becomes connected with stories, myths and fairy tales. Virgin Mary (1992) renders the Mother of God flayed skinless like an anatomical model with her muscles exposed and In Lilith (1994), a figure of a nude woman crouches upside down on the wall. The bronze sculpture seems fairly conventional until her face gathers the viewer’s attention. A pair of frightened eyes stares out from a dark, impassive visage. With these gestures she uses the body as a metaphor, drawing upon myth, spirituality, and narrative to consider the human condition, its strength and its frailties.
In her work she has been a traveller, meandering from human’s connection with the world to the cosmological realm that binds beings together. Kiki Smith uses the gallery as a space for creating narrative in the meaning of juxtaposing sculpted human figures with subjects from nature and the environment to emphasize our intimate, fragile and often questionable relationship with our outer slope, such as animals and landscape. In her Black Animal Drawing (1996-1998) the impact on the viewer’s perception might not be as strong when concerned with meaning and emotive effect if the spectator only regards the artwork as an isolated object in the gallery. In relation to the human form the drawing leads the viewer’s perception to examine various aspects of the natural world.
Smith’s work has a tang that transcends the sermonising of our time by a subtle narrative style; she sustains a persistent inquiry that results in works of extraordinary power, offering us to re-examine our history, our place and ourselves.
A Gathering, 1980-2005 represents an extraordinary invitation to Smith’s desired process of re-examination. The works are offered to the viewer so that one might gather one’s impressions and follow the most truly and strongest expression an artwork can have: “Things start telling you what you are supposed to pay attention to. It really just comes into you and tells you, ‘Pay attention to this”. The curatorial perspective itself could be described as a faithful servant to the dynamical evolution Smith’s art has on the understanding of the relationship between the human and its surroundings, nature, culture and its constant evolution and in this regard challenges the aim to conciliate her art as a request for undeniable need for a communicative relation and interaction between our intuition and experience.
Friday, 26 October 2007
Matt Calderwood: Projections
David Risley Gallery, 7 September – 11 October 2007
With this second solo exhibition at David Risley Gallery, London-based artist Matt Calderwood adds a new chapter to his series of investigations on the poetics of banal objects, in which their common uses and physical laws are defied, denied or pushed to their very limits. As his recent works generally took the form of video-recorded performances (see for example Tape, 2005, Light, 2004 and Battery, 2003), the choice of the exhibition title seems to ironically dissimulate his return to sculptural research. The monumental scale of the five structures, which occupy the whole gallery space, has thus a kind of unexpected effect on the visitor, who probably expects a dark projection room and is instead presented with a light-filled, labyrinthine environment, articulated around the very tangible presence of Calderwood’s plastic constructions.
The Projections series seems to investigate a relationship of physical dependency between two elements, a precarious equilibrium that transmits an eerie sense of uneasiness, as the inner tension that governs these awkward, vaguely menacing structures seems to subtly affect the perception of their surrounding space. In fact, it would be physically impossible for the five angular plasterboard sculptures to stand erect, without the aid of plastic barrels filled with water, strategically placed to balance their centre of mass. In spite of their trivial and rather dull material aspect, these unstable objects possess a true pathetic quality; far from being cold minimal abstractions or mere visual riddles, they powerfully work as embodiments of human fragility, of the need to hold on to someone or something, in order not to collapse. They are indeed quite irritating to look at, like temporary makeshift structures waiting to be fixed, conveying a sense of anxiety and danger somehow similar to the borderline state of mind that precedes a psychological breakdown.
In a way, though, the formal purity of these sculptural works manages to counter their threatening nature, the same way as the weight of the water alone opposes the mechanic entropy of gravitational laws. Still, the choice of industrial, mass-produced materials underscores the ambiguous quality of Calderwood’s works, which deny familiar objects their use and, with it, their meaning. The final effect is a hybrid of ready-made aesthetics, minimalism and poverism, with a nineties flavour that reminds of Graham Hudson’s similarly dramatic plasterboard constructions. Yet these sculptural works manage to appear subtly original and intrinsically equivocal, at the same time unhomely objects and monuments to a sense of pointlessness and frustration that feels way too familiar. The choice of materials could also refer to a temporary state of living, to a denial or restriction of pleasure, to the suffocating anxiety of working for mere survival or of economic dependency... The shades of strain that can be projected on these objects by the viewer are potentially infinite, ranging from the personal experience to the social sphere. In this sense, they can reflect and reveal some of the grimmer sides of the human condition, but only to those who can look at them with a keen, sympathetic eye.
Comissioned by Artangel.
You can navigate the narrative of this work by using several well known paradigms. The first is of art work that deals with a sociological experience as a form to ponder on deeper questions of what we as a society deem important. The second the trope of a large scale installation piece that unfolds to become many different layers of readable qualities. The Third a chance intervention of an artistic practice in an area that lacks the gentrification of artisan activity and finally the wonderful elements of a performance narrative that are the hegemonic trope that keeps this piece pumping.
I for one can see how all of these key themes come out to play in Pfeiffers most recent foray into the art world. It's a bold statement and easy to misinterpret the value of a show that demands you to travel beyond the comfort of zones 1 and 2. For those well versed in the grammar of an Artangel production this has all of the aforementioned tropes that very often find their way into the world of Artangel, but by saying this we beg the question how much is the artists vision and how much is this just another moment within the well rehearsed narrative of Artangel art production.
The work screams a silence that begs you to navigate a large wholesale container with undue precaution. It leaves you isolated and unbearably visable as you edge around the room in a romantic dance almost mimicking the wave and play of the edited footballer in the small screen film at the end of the room. By drawing your attention to the end of the room we navigate a wall that leads us to the documentation and essence of this triumphant sound scape behind. I was awestruck and yet bemused at this choice. In comparison with other London shows Artangel have chosen to lobby their weight on the economic value of Wembley arena Vs it's sociological and patriotic value. It's not an attack per se at the multi million pound over spend but it's pulling at the strings of our conscience to beg questions over its creation. By using art it also forecasts a tragic shadow over the 2012 Olympics as the art world will inevitably suffer. Is this an ironic statement or the curtain call of a already doomed future which sees the diminishing importance of art as a tool of social progression?
26th September – 28th October 2007
Commissioned by Artangel
Whether we agree or disagree that sport in contemporary culture has, or is about to supersede art (in terms of government funding). The issue remains debatable regardless of their shared similarities. Alternatively whether or not football can become art (and it could be argued that it already has vis-à-vis Douglas Gordon’s Zidane and Sam Taylor-Wood’s David) Pfeiffer directs his attention towards England's strong sporting cultural heritage and, to what some see, its finest hour.
Paul Pfeiffer’s The Saints, situated in a former retail unit on the site of the original Empire Exhibition (the cause for which Wembley Stadium was initially constructed in 1924), turns its focus away from the iconic figures on the pitch and bears its attention towards the crowd. The constellation of speakers installed into the roof of the disused warehouse reconstruct the original crowd noises from the 1966 World Cup Final. Pfeiffer’s sound installation contravenes the busy industrial park as the noise and clamor resonates away from the building and towards the new Wembley Stadium.
At the far end of the cavernous space the audience is confronted by two dissimilar images of itself. The first being the crowd that gathered, forty-one years ago, for the final between England and West Germany (and from which the sound installation is based), and the second being the crowd of young Filipinos brought together in Manila to re-enact the experience. Pfeiffer has purposefully assembled an audience to re orchestrate the sound of the original match day crowd. Having been brought up in Philippines Pfeiffer outsourced the audience to a region that does not share a similar cultural heritage (the Philippines has little interest in football and was never part of the British Empire).
The exhibition assimilates an imprint of Baudrillard’s notion of the simulacrum as the young Filipinos (given nothing but Red Bull for sustenance to further more vigorous cheering and beseeching) fully immerse themselves into replicating the crowd from the World Cup final. The result is a response of simultaneous similarity and difference.
Pfeiffer’s work employs a measure of self-reflexivity, not within the physicality of the work, but within the exhibition more largely. The self-awareness that is generated acts as a precursor to a criticality that allows the viewer to view oneself in relation to the work. The Saints transcends cultural boundaries between two distinct geographical locations. What prevails is a sense of similarity and participation. The audience outsourced for the work (the specific reason being its lack of sameness) illustrates that crowd behavior is not culturally determined. Raising issues of singularity and collective behavior, similarity and difference, the work brings to attention the idolization of individuals in possession of unique talent. This can be seen as being analogous and reflective of the art worlds tendency to promote certain artists (the cannon of western artists).
As the sound of the original 1966 crowd hovers beneath the recording as though asserting its mythical status in England's collective memory (a past time of triumph as world champions). Has the time also come for an economic fall in the arts with regards to what has been predominantly seen as England's most prosperous period? In the similar way that every four years the World Cup trophy pass hands from one country to another could the same to said for the center of the art world? One certainty remains, only time will tell.
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
David Batchelor is known as an artist and writer. Through both disciplines he has explored the use and reception of colour. In his book Chromophobia, Batchelor, (as the title implies) focuses on Western cultures’ fear of colour. Concentrating on visual art and literature he explains how the controllers of Western society are discriminative towards colour, associating it with that which is debased, unfamiliar or separate. He asks why this is so. Whilst deconstructing his examples he proposes that colour is a phenomenon which possesses an order outside of imposed ‘symbolic order’ . This concern is present in the current exhibition and in particular his collection of works called Parapillars.
On the ground floor of the ‘Unplugged (remix)’ exhibition stands a forest of Batchelor’s Parapillars. A collection of metal tree-like structures puncture the cavernous white gallery space providing a ubiquitous and vibrant display of colour. Ranging in height from one to three metres the sculptures pose, methodically decorated with hundreds of cheap and colourful domestic consumer products. From pegs to hair brushes, toys, power balls and baubles these bits and pieces are mainly arranged by different themes; some based on colour, others on purpose or on form, some containing or denying all three themes.
These objects were bought from “pound shops” situated close to the exhibition . The process of accumulating these objects within the galleries neighbourhood and displaying them in a gallery context causes reflection on the realities of global capitalism’s all encompassing hold; how it penetrates even the most everyday, culturally void, ephemera. It also references other contemporary artists’ obsession with everyday objects and counter-capitalist agendas; such as Tomoko Takahashi , Christoph Büchel and Tony Cragg . Perhaps Batchelor is suggesting that within the gallery context artists’ preoccupations have come to govern the meaning of everyday objects; becoming as integral to the objects as its colour or function. It is here that Batchelor shows that colour has its own order existing independently from imposed symbolics order or governing meanings.
Hiraki Sawa’s solo exhibition at the Chisenhale Gallery includes his recent video-animation installation, Hako. Hako, involves six 12 minute looped projections (each with its respective name ). They are cast onto their own large, propped, deliberately placed rectangular boards. They act as the only source of light in the gallery. Hako uses animation, narrow depths of field, varied visual rhythms and audio tempos to create lonely situations and a disorientation of the senses. Familiar symbols like a house, a boat, a clock, a cultivated garden suggest vague and esoteric narratives.
Hako translates as box in Japanese. Sawa is referencing his interest in a strand of psychotherapy known as “Sand Play” or box therapy. The idea is to use the unconscious mind as a form of healing. Through the somatic experience of arranging objects and figures in a box full of sand one can lose self-awareness thus engage their unconscious psyche. One can imaginatively create an inner world of symbols, finding an individual “space” related directly to their unconscious. Sawa must see a connection between this idea and his art practice, possibly attempting to reinvent it.
Sawa’s interest is evident throughout Hako, most particularly in the ‘For a Moment’ projection. In the frozen shot of a seascape sits an ambiguously silhouetted building. The notions of foreboding isolation and the relief of anonymity are felt simultaneously. I am informed that this is footage of a Japanese nuclear power station. As this information had previously been lost in visual translation, Sawa has allowed me to understand the silhouetted building using imagination. I have created a subjective symbol, perhaps placing it in my own sand box.
Using the power station as “real” footage, Sawa creates a continuum between it and his animated symbols. The projection pursues, waves lap along the shore beneath the power station. A crudely animated Ferris wheel fades in. A boat sails on the horizon; it is difficult to recognise that the boat is a superimposed animation. Sawa’s boat negates the chance of finding a divide on his continuum. This blending of appropriated footage from fabricated image presents disorientation, uncertainty and confusion. This provides a frustrating and exciting void, a lack of knowledge that can only be filled with imagination.
Although I have suggested that Hako, could be interpreted as a reinvention of “Sand Play”, any art which investigates sensory experience will always hold more than the presentation of one concept. However, Sawa’s is clearly influenced by the notion of “Sand Play”; the disorientating experience disarms, self awareness is faded by intrigue. The ambiguity of symbols and the suggestion of narratives force understanding to be created through ones own imagination (whether I am healed remains inconclusive).
Buchel has created through his colossal installation a setting for artistic enquiry into contemporary social and political issues. The installation comprises three main spaces; a hotel space, a makeshift warehouse, and a refrigerator sales room. The hotel space’s appearance is a down at heel seedy nightmare. A warren of interwoven narratives and stereotypes are unveiled in its rooms and corridors. The effect is a genuine affront on the senses.
The confined dimensions cause anxiety and claustrophobia. The hoarding of personal effects creates a barrage of references that heighten this oppressive feeling. Buchel’s techniques hone in on contentious populist issues such as poverty, vice, crime, terrorism and capitalism. He uses his inventive play with narrative to explore the clichés and myths associated with these themes, forcing the audience to contemplate issues of social responsibility.
Narratives are created through the artist’s strategic cluttering of cheap consumer objects. Operating as evidence, the audience observes, investigates contemplates, and intrudes. An ethical crossroads between exploration and voyeurism is generated. Exploitation for the sake of encouraging artistic questioning is challenged. The abundance of references encourages the audience to let curiosity override its ethical quandaries and fears. Art through installation serves as a vehicle for creative analysis.
Music of various genres plays in different parts of the installation. It filters, echoes, merges, and supports the constructed narratives. The music connotes a mix of people occupying the space; it is a temporary dwelling for countless numbers of socially deprived people; fallen women, travellers, freedom fighters, terrorists, drug addicts and vagabonds. The narratives are stereotyped. For example, one of the smaller rooms is dirty, with used tissues strewn among discarded condoms. Tawdry garments and seedy magazines inhabit the room’s corners. The centrepiece is a soiled, unkempt bed. It is clearly the intimate setting of a prostitute.
Half made meals, open doorways, journals and general disorder suggest a sudden departure of the hotel’s occupants. This is reminiscent of Arthur Conan Doyle’s story “Ghost Ship”, an elaboration on the “Marie Celeste” myth dating back to the late 1870’s. It is based on a small ship discovered in the straights of Gibraltar; unmanned, dry, in good condition, with clothes laid out on the floor and a meal prepared and ready to eat. The inexplicable disappearance of the ship’s inhabitants is a central element of intrigue in Conan Doyle’s story, however, the public found the author’s narrative so convincing that the British and American governments had to respond with an official investigation. Buchel’s installation is like Conan Doyle’s story in two ways. The first is the sudden inexplicable disappearance of people. The second is the artist’s and author’s command, their inventive use of mediums to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction.
To fictionalise implies motive. “Simply Botiful” acts as Buchel’s microcosm of present western culture. It seems a personal and jaded representation. Initially the audience is prompted to assume the installation exploits common tragedy; Buchel pursuing his own fanciful agenda, a selfish absorption into sensational myth making. However large segments of the warehouse and sales room have been appropriated by Buchel and installed in their original state. Whole, real life contexts are presented, not just objects. One such context appears within the warehouse space; a metal storage container decorated with lurid pornography. Amongst the pornographic images is a small photo of a proud five-a-side football team.
Buchel’s juxtaposition of fabrication and appropriation exposes the deceptive nature of myths and clichés. He demonstrates that clichés and myths are both fusions of truths and lies. Furthermore he shows that clichés are often truths masquerading as lies, and myths, lies masquerading as truths. “Simply Botiful” emphasises the difficulties that exist in deciphering myths and clichés; the (fabricated) prostitute’s narrative is as credible or incredible as the (appropriated) porn containers.
Buchel’s distortion of fact and fiction is similar to Conan Doyle’s representation of the “Marie Celeste” event. Nevertheless both had different objectives and outcomes. Conan Doyle melded facts and fancy; captivating people of the time to such an extent that they believed his story was true. Buchel contrasts his own fictional narratives against imported contexts. Masquerading as a story teller he subtly unearths truths. He exposes contradiction and unfairness in the dominant attitudes of society. Buchel’s use of objects and referencing are so directly taken from western society that it forces the audience to contemplate the environment they inhabit and apply artistic enquiry directly to their reality.