Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Rousseau, Rancière and Hugh Fernley Whittingstall

7th, 8th, 9th January, 2008, Channel 4, 9pm
Written by Robert Dingle

The horse, the cat, the bull and even the donkey are generally larger in size and have a more robust constitution, more energy, strength and spiritedness than they do under our roofs.
Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality

Hugh Fernley Whittingstall’s Chicken Out campaign is a call to adopt a more ethical approach towards poultry farming with regards to meeting increasing consumer demands within the market. In light of recent success, over the past several years, getting people to switch eggs from battery hens to free range (27% of egg production now coming from free range farms), Whittingstall’s experiment addresses the pressure poultry farmers are under to produce domestic fowl as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

Based in a shed in Axeminster, Whittingstall’s Chicken Out experiment recreates the conditions of battery farmed chickens in one end, and free-range at the other (both following regulations and guidelines set by the British agriculture ministry). Everyday the experiment was filmed and recorded, from the weeks of preparation involved in installing equipment up to the moment when the chickens would be ready to go to the slaughter house. What the experiment showed was that intensively reared chickens often meant birds with shorter lives, living in cramped conditions without ever seeing natural daylight. On top of this they would commonly develop sever injuries and disabilities, associated with unnaturally fast weight gain and restricted movement.1 In contrast, the free-range chickens experienced none of these illnesses, playing with brightly colored toys and spending between 8 – 10 hours outside everyday.

Throughout the experiment Whittingstall invited local residents from Axeminster, supermarket executives, members of the press, poultry farmers and a BBC television crew to come and experience the conditions within his experiment.

This type of inequality, relating to the conditions in which poultry is farmed (intensive and free-range), can be related directly to the economic and informative inequality among consumers. This dialectic offers Whittingstall the basis for his inquiry and relates to a general understanding of the term ‘inequality’, which Jean-Jacques Rousseau provides us with.

The human species has, I think, two sorts of inequality: the one I call natural or physical because it is established by nature, and consists of differences in age, health, physical strength, and traits of the mind or soul; the other kind we can call moral or political inequality. This inequality consists of the various privileges that some persons enjoy at the expense of others – such as being wealthier, more honored, and more powerful than others.
Rousseau, Discourses on Inequality

Supermarkets currently offer poultry farmers 3pence per chicken and if a healthy chicken does not make the correct weight it is automatically slaughtered. Responding to consumer demands, supermarkets are forcing poultry farmers to raise more birds, in worse conditions, for less money. Whittingstall believes that, not only are the production methods unethical and the quality of meat much lower, but the only way for change is to alter consumer demands, thus forcing supermarkets to adopt a policy in line with consumer attitudes.

Whittingstall acts to identify a current issue that is out of the public consciousness. He creates numerous campaigns to bring it into the public eye: working with locals in Axeminister to provide them with chickens for their allotments. Demonstrating how to be more economic with poultry (making two separate meals from one bird). Implementing changes to convert the suffering cafeteria of Axeminister’s largest employer into a green canteen. Demonstrating the stark contrast in current poultry farming methods. Inviting all Axeminister residents to a public talk about the experiment and current poultry production methods in the UK. Initiating a campaign to convert Axeminister into the first free-range town.

Whittingstall, in Ranciere’s term, acts in a sense, to re-distribute the sensible by indentifying an issue, creating a public and giving it a voice within the public sphere. His campaign has acted to change the public sphere, not alone but through a joint effort with Jamie Oliver, they have managed to influence specific supermarkets into making agreements regarding better labeling and setting dates to stop endorsing intensively farmed poultry.

This is chef acting activist. As Walter Benjamin identifies the author as producer to be an ‘operating writer’, whose mission ‘is not to report but to struggle, not to play spectator but to intervene actively.’ We see Whittingstall discarding his apron, Grande Toque and Judge Sabatier to become an animal rights activist, protesting, educating and demonstrating for a cause with a need to change.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Keith Tyson - Sophie Risner

Keith Tyson

Studio Wall Drawings 1997 - 2007

21.11.07 - 05.01.08

Haunch of Venison

6 Haunch of Venison Yard

'The Studio Wall Drawing exists in a space somewhere between a map, a poem, a diary and a painting'

Keith Tyson

The very nature of Tyson's most recent exhibition at the Haunch of Venison Gallery is something of a visual totem pole to the treasure trove of ideas and mechanisms that explode within Tyson's constantly irritated mind. In total we bare witness to 55 large framed pieces exhibited in a tirelessly over worked format onto freshly painted brown walls. Whilst the ground and first floor take a very specific position as predictably curated illustrative moments, the second floor is more intelligently worked. Placed directly next to each other the result is the creation of something tangibly close to representing Tyson's thought process and fear of specificity. Unlike the ground and first floor here, we have wall-to-wall Tyson. The Haunch of Venison's largest and most powerful space is dominated by the illustrator and turned into a shrine symbolizing thought made process. Tyson is certainly not an artist terrorized by procrastination as more than anything this show serves to isolate and belittled the spectator by the shear strength of Tyson’s illustrative command.

'The thing that keeps me awake the most at night, I have no doubt, is a very general terror of the specificity of things'

Keith Tyson

Here we find the main mechanism in understanding Tyson's feverish work ethic. His mode of representation is not one that finds harmony in the possibilities of subtly nor is he agreeable with an end product formulated by days or months of sifting and specifying. Tyson is an artist who wants you to bare witness to it all. The layering of ideas and irritations make up a complex poetry that demands hours to unpick. Mysticism is redundant in exploring Tyson’s path, almost walked over by years of negotiating the same artistic medium, it is evident that it is not the expanding of process that is key to Tysons work but moreover the expanding of the mind.

To expand on this intricate moment there has to become a moment of indulgence. Tyson is master of indulgence, most artists slave away forming a creation that at least heads in the direction of a conclusion, but with Tyson there is no fear of that, moreover the terror that Tyson brings us is the fear of conclusion itself. Shattering mere observation Tyson pulls at his thoughts to leave complexity in his wake. Problem in this expansion is not that it happens but that it serves to only create a hectic representation of an artist who seems unsure of his abilities, to counter what you think and produce is to criticize your approach whereas here Tyson merely embellishes his. The resistance to head towards conclusion makes this work often un-penetrable and predictable. So as I head towards my own conclusion I can’t help but question Tyson’s fear of specificity, does the fear of leaving out only mean that there becomes more room to put in?

Friday, 25 January 2008

The Heart is a Dark Forest

Nicolette Krebitz’s new film at its premiere in Hamburg, December 2007.

reviewed by Wiebke Gronemeyer

I didn’t really know what to expect, apart from assuming that Nicolette Krebitz’s second movie as a director would communicate across the grain from the usual event-movies of the young Berlin-school, as she already proved with her debut feature Jeans. My overall expectations for The Heart is a Dark Forest oscillated between anticipating a heavy romantic story and at the same time doubting that Jonathan Meese, only covered with a loincloth descending from the Cross as Jesus (or at least Jesus-like), could appear somehow romantic. It doesn’t, due to a beneficial lack of an overarching harmonious scheme; every scene in this film acts like a piece of a jigsaw-puzzle: at first it seems to fit everywhere but in fact fits nowhere; however, in the end, there is only one position; then, the moment, in which it is fitted, its particularity disappears and it is yet only one piece out of many.

This sense is reflected in the story of Marie (Nina Hoss), a mother of two, living in a typical middle-class bungalow with her husband, Thomas (Devid Striesow), who is a musician in the local symphonic orchestra. One morning she prepares breakfast for her husband and two children. An egg breaks on the floor. My attention has to adjust to the speed of the action, there is little to witness, little of what you would rather expect to happen on a stage than in your living room. The camera angle is as slow and without focus as Marie’s face is without any expression other then disorientation, boredom and lassitude. Short split screens show Marie and Thomas talking to each other, staged as a rehearsal for a theatre play. Marie is researching her relationship with her husband by imagining those clarifying communications, which seem to never have happened. If they had, maybe she wouldn’t have needed to cross the city of Hamburg by bike following her husband in order to give him his violin, as he had taken the case, in which his daughter had exchanged the violin for her puppet. Marie stops, where his car stops, but this is not in front of the music hall, but in front of another, very similar middle-class bungalow. Another, very similar young mother of a child opens the door. And on another, very similar breakfast table her husband sits and enjoys his second family breakfast that same morning.

These first ten minutes full of abstract scenes tell everything about this partnership and its complicity and let me think of this as a critical engagement with the perfidity of relationships in German bourgeois society. But this inherent criticism is not imposed on the story, rather, the at first assumed notion of a romantic relationship is deconstructed and at the same time the again romantic notion of Marie fighting for her relationship or evolving from this experience to emancipation could be established by the viewer. This change in style oscillating between romanticism, tragedy and the reference to a society’s reality continues and demonstrates Krebitz’s sensibility and set of filmic possibilities.

Marie is the centrepiece in this drama, which as she tries to orientate herself evolves into a surreal version of a contemporary Medea. In the evening of that same day she attends a masked ball. She roams around the inside and outside of a solitary castle, in which twenty masquerades celebrate, her husband included. By referencing Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut Krebitz fables a revery-like situation, Marie’s mental breakdown, which only leads to one possible end.

Throughout the whole film Marie’s eyes are strangely wide open, but only slowly throughout the film they seem to discover the function of seeing, the sense of perceiving. Krebitz’s work is about opening eyes, portraying a private, individual story behind which general assumptions emanate. In this sense it functions as a piece of sociological research about gender. To whom is Krebitz proposing this inventory?

By letting Marie decide over her life and the ones of her children, her position in the puzzle of scenes and situations is defined. The reading of this end and the film as a whole contains the possibility of either preserving a surreal romantic notion, or destroying it. Hence, as always it is a question of interpretation. But, as Marie observes and questions: “Have you ever asked yourself in a dream: have I just dreamed this or is it true?”

Monday, 21 January 2008

Klara Liden at the Hayward Project Space

Klara Liden at the Hayward Project Space
22 November 2007 – 17 January 2008

Valentina Ravaglia

Swedish artist Klara Liden is a space hacker. Her formal training in architecture must have proved her that the spaces we inhabit have an enormous potential that is repressed by their customary, socially regulated use. They are supposed to be spaces for living, but end up being reduced to physical constrictions, marketable boundaries, boxes or containers from which our deepest insticts are rigidly kept out or neutralized as “inappropriate” or “futile”. In the four videos shown at the Hayward Project Space, Liden gets rid of all cultural constructions on how our habitat is supposed to be used and unleashes her creative energies into the spaces of our everyday life. Her performances are politically charged gestures of reappropriation that could easily be labelled by local authorities as antisocial, while it is precisely a well-regulated social sterility that they address.

Paralysed (2003) was conceived as an experimental project in rethinking urban planning, consisting in a frenetic dance performed inside the trains of Stockholm’s underground. Halfway between classical ballet and punkrock slamdancing (the soundtrack is in fact a track by the seminal “rock’n’roll performer”, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy), her choreography is as inarticulated as it harmonizes with the space it explores through its ab-solutus, unconstrained movements. All this in front of the perplexed eyes of other passengers, who are so blocked in their status of surveilled social bodies that do not even attempt to express their reactions, being them of amusement, annoyance or disapproval, both hidden behind and confined by the self-constructed barriers of privacy.

550 Jamaica Avenue (2004) is quite different in its intimate atmosphere, but no less libertarian in its content and proposition. In the short video we see the artist in an old apartment she used to illegally occupy in New York, mysteriously abandoned by its inhabitant with all their personal belongings. It is a mess of everyday objects, pieces of furniture, books, pictures, cloths, handwritten notes, a dusty collection of lost memories that the lens of the camera explores as in an archeological inspection. The lo-fi aspect of the footage gives it a spy-cam quality that subtly amplifies the tension. Showing her naked back, as in a negation of her own (sexual?) identity, we see Liden perform a series of acts that result quite incongruous in this melancholic mess, like working out on a training bike or playing a dissonant melody on a piano, while singing in an indiscernible mix of languages about memory and materialism. She seems to be squatting someone else’s life, embodied in a mass of things once necessary and meaningful, and now transformed into mere rubbish waiting for clearance and the consequent oblivion.

Her latest work on display, Bodies of Society (2006), depicts another way to misuse an enclosed indoor space, this time an empty room in a common-looking apartment, with familiar, reassuring features as a wooden floor and a white curtain. What is not familiar in this setting is the raw, destructive action the artist performs on a bike the artist had made out of found pieces, now torn into pieces as she beats it with a crow bar. With the excuse of giving vent to her anger and frustration after her own bike was stolen, this violent impulse is actually directed towards the general social and cultural situation in her native Sweden, in particular towards homophobia and religious bigotry. This last piece, the first the visitor encounters in the Project Space, seems to be the less convincing in the show, with its quite didascalic, naive symbolism, and even as a direct expression of anger its tension seems to be weakened by the calculated dance-like quality of Liden movements.

On a final negative note, experiencing these videos in a total acoustic chaos really doesn’t do them justice. Each of them has a calculatedly noisy, cacophonic soundtrack, but the role of sound in the individual pieces gets lost as the three projection rooms are not insulated and let the sounds leak in the adjacent spaces. Especially 550 Jamaica Avenue would have benefited from a quieter atmosphere. By dismissing Linden’s well calibrated choices as just indistinct noise, the installation numbs at least half of the strength of her videos, reduced to little more than the amateurish clips of an arty anarchist’s weird adventures.

Friday, 11 January 2008

MRNG25141090 - A

I can remember the night of my first visit to Vienna, when I walked down the streets of this city that I did not know yet, barefoot.
This absurdity arose from the fact that my new shoes, which I had bought for the invitation I had received and attended, hurt my feet terribly and the only possible relief was to take them off.
It was in July 2003. It was hot.
The pavement reflected the heat it had accumulated throughout the day and managed to burn the soles of my feet on top of everything else.
On this important night I was accompanied by a man for whom the passion that I felt and was to feel for the next three years makes me feel this same burning sensation even today.
That night in July 2003, I fell in love with the city at the same time as I fell in love with this man.
This consuming passion slowly made me dependent on this city which contained this man in its bosom.
Every street, every façade made me think of him.
His eyes, had they looked at this building? His feet, had they treaded down this path, this sidewalk, this entry?
I wanted to dissolve into this city so that he would look at me, touch me.
This desire to be an integral part of the city was most intense whenever I was in his street, which was frequently the case.


At night the soft electric motor of the blue and yellow neon lights of a store, at the beginning of the street, became a remarkable benchmark, like the door to a city that is reduced to itself and that is sufficient in and for itself.
A city reduced to its essentials, my essentials. Its intense humming sound seemed hostile, whereas the swirl of water when arriving at the mouth of the sewage system, seemed to calm me. Light startled me here, shit attracted me.
Anxiously I arrived at number 52.
The door to the apartment building that opened for me so graciously when I was invited has suddenly and too often become hostile. All the same the door had its favourites, those that possessed these keys that I did not have. The door jeered at me this time, once again and closed itself in front of me.
If I didn’t get to know the neighbours themselves, than I at least got to know their habits. Second floor, third window, there was always light burning even very late at night. First floor, first window, an old curtain sometimes let me have a glimpse of a light turned yellow with time. An old woman lived there.
She closed her window very early in the evening after having quickly glanced down at the street, and having recognized me. Then she pulled her curtains shut and the light slowly died out.
What must she think of me? Maybe she had also been madly in love with a man once. Maybe she understood. Maybe she did not.

By studying and examining the building in all of its details, I wound up integrating it into my life and into myself.
It became a part of me, like the street that received it. Like the city that calms me when I am satisfied with my observations, but exhausted, the city strengthens and cheers me up on my way back with its calmness, its lights and its wide streets that seem to belong to me.
My observations, which I made daily, had reached the peak of my delirium, forced me to change myself into a hunter and the neighbours started having their justified doubts about my presence in their street….
A street has to flow. No urban furniture, no bench, no bus stop came to my rescue.
I did not have an alibi.
Not even the benefit of the doubt.
I had become a suspect, hence bothersome and a disturbance.
This street had become my street, a kind of extension of my personal space within a public space. The edge of the shop-window, of a shopkeeper for dentists’ utensils, had become my office and quite often I took out my computer and started working. But the neighbourhood had not integrated such concepts. I would therefore have to use stratagems, one more ridiculous than the other, so that I would once again be permitted to be in this part of the city.


Archizoom Associati 1966-1974

Archizoom Associati 1966-1974
From the pop wave to the neutral surface
20 september-30 november 2007
Polytechnic School of Lausanne –- CH
Karine Teyssier

It is a succession of unfortunate political coincidences that gave rise to the exhibition Archizoom Associati 1966-1974. From the pop wave to the neutral surface, at the Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL).

Archizoom Associati
was a group of architects and designers founded in 1966 in Florence and disbanded in 1974.
Archizoom Associati 1966-1974 is also a book written by the head of the theory and history of architecture laboratory, at the EPFL, Roberto Gargiani.
And Archizoom is now the new name of the exhibitions and lectures space at the EPFL.

First: The book.
This publication of 336 pages is an important historical research and critic about the theories and productions from the utopian Italian group containing a lot of remarkable archives such as plans and photos.

Second: The restructuring of the teaching group in charge of the exhibitions and lecture, due to the retirement of its curator.
The program of exhibitions and conferences in the architectural department has always been pertinent, successfully combining a didactic approach for the students as well as contemporary reflections about architecture that concerned professionals too.
Although the exhibitions could have seemed modest in their presentation, this discretion matched quite well to the teaching of a rationalist less is more architecture.

Third: The international influence
The direction of the EPFL has been over the years punctuated by a fashion and cronyism politic; An architecture competition for the future “EPFL Rolex (!) Learning Centre” has been organised in 2004, inviting all the top people in architecture - Jean Nouvel, Herzog & de Meuron, Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Kazuyo Sejima - to name only them.
This competition (won by Sanaa architects) has been an ideal opportunity to pump up the teaching body; In 2005, the department of architecture was proud to name Harry Gugger – a partner of Herzog & de Meuron- head of the Laboratory of the Architectural Production.
He teaches as well the project of architecture to the 4th year graduate students.

Whereas a good architect is not necessarily a good teacher, he could also be a bad curator.
From May 2007 Harry Gugger is also in charge of the program of the architecture exhibitions in the EPFL.; He says that the group set up a new global politic for the manifestation.
So, this new global politic begins with a new identity – a new name:

And what about Archizoom?

The justification of this appropriation is argued by Harry Gugger in this way:
(talking about Archizoom – the Italian group - )
“ The effort of ceaseless metamorphosis, the meaning facets, the notion of spectacle” are representative of the character that the team of co-workers intends in his turn to develop. It is not by coincidence that the new group (!) appropriated the name of the architects for its space of activities….

The engine starts up.
The concrete walls of the exhibition space are painted pink. A fake green grass covers the floor.
The original plans of the Archizoom projects are framed and hung on the pink walls while the textile production lie in showcases that are rationally arranged all over the grass.
Here and there some furniture of the group; the spectator is kindly asked to participate…by sitting on the sofas.
And because the relation between art and architecture is necessary, one of the lectures related to the exhibition will be given in the IKEA room (the official name of the lecture’s room) of the University of Art and Design of Lausanne.

Although the exhibition claims to promise a critical view of Archizoom Associati, this “show” is a poor literal translation of a book and the spectacle was not even entertaining. It is just the reflection of a “glitter and champagne” politic of a school that seems to forget its responsibilities toward the future architects it is producing.


Archizoom Associati 1966-1974
Roberto Gargiani
336 pages
Mondadori Electa
ISBN-10: 8837053320
ISBN-13: 978-8837053321



Thursday, 10 January 2008

Dominic Rich-‘Strange Events Permit Themselves the Luxury of Occurring’- Camden Art Centre, Curator; Steven Claydon.

Strange Events Permit Themselves the Luxury of Occurring’ presents over forty artworks splayed throughout four gallery spaces. At first Steven Claydon’s exhibition, seems steeped in curatorial concerns. He investigates how an artefact's presentation and material demarcates its status within art history. He also examines what is at stake when an artifact is re-contextualised. Indeed, Claydon’s art practice includes issues shared amongst curators. He prolifically appropriates and wittily alters intervenes with the many branches and twigs of art history with a penchant for late British Modernism. This is evident in Aspirin Nathandria, (2005), in which he incorporated an image of Lyn Chadwick’s, Pair of Sitting Figures III (1973). By absorbing them into his work he questions the artwork’s connotations, he deviates the artwork’s history, destablising its status as a work of art.

Camden Art Centres invitation to curate an exhibition must have been well received. The opportunity to incorporate original artefact's into his practice; to work with Chadwick’s original sculpture and to de-plinth it! Pair of Sitting Figures III was literally sat on the floor under Keith Coventry’s, Endangered Species, (2005). The sculpture stares at a wood-chip table, which holds a cluttering of artefact's. This table would feel more familiar in a Flowers East storage room. Amongst these objects Eduardo Paolozzi’s Untitled Maquette; a cast of the Incredible Hulk, small and dismembered, stands in the gaze of Elizabeth Frink’s Goggle Head (1969). Is he simply creating a chaos out of the connotations, categorisations and hierarchies, the history of art has given different movements and materials or is he making an egalitarian stance. Either way, Busts, Maquettes, props, relics, photo and video documentation of sculptures and happenings, objects that evade specific labels, bronze, copper, plaster, gelatin silver prints, ceramics; taxonomies are flattened like a pyramid of cards.

It sounds like a mess. Contrarily, the presentation is dry and austere almost to the point of boredom. Boring until the juxtaposition of archetypal museum and commercial displays comes to light. The gallery space, displaying Frink and Paolozzis' works is furnished like an archetypal parochial gallery. Carol Bove’s A Setting for A. Pomodoro, (2005), is knowingly reminiscent of many galleries on Cork Street. Bonnie Camplin’s Cancer, (2004) plays on a primordial television set, a model ubiquitous throughout British primary schools of the 90’s. Twelve or so empty school chairs watch the screen vigilantly, this could reference to educational programs.(1)

The chance to curate has added a new dimension to Claydon’s art practice, allowing him to play with the taxonomies and connotations of curatorial styles. For a student of Art History, Fine Art or Curating, this exhibition will resonate long after visiting hours. However to a member of the general public, the chaos made of connotations, taxonomies, materials and movements of Art History may have been lost anyway.

(1) This is perhaps a remark on Camden Art Centre’s transparent reliance, as an educational charity on such ‘educational programs’ for funding
Dominic Rich, Did the Republican National Convention protests achieve Jacques Rancière’s interpretation of equality through ‘political struggle’?

In ‘The Politics of Aesthetics’ Jacques Rancière shares his notion of equality, which is better described as egality. It suggests an extreme levelling of social hierarchies through political struggle. For Rancière a political struggle manifests between these established social hierarchies as the excluded ‘part which has no part’; the unrepresented who attempt to establish their opinion as legitimate in the name of egality. Can Rancière’s notion of political struggle be compared to the events that unfolded during The Republic National Convention (RNC) in Madison Gardens New York, 2004?

The purpose of the RNC is to nominate a Presidential candidate; in 2004 George W Bush was standing for re-nomination. The announcement of the RNC’s venue caused a legal protest to be organised. The protester’s main gripes were the conceived inequalities in the present electoral system, Republican suppression of voters, not to mention the Bush administrations aggressive foreign policy.

Protesting can be a good and legal attempt to get objections heard and understood by an established power. But were their objections heard? Did the protest show the world that America’s indirect voting system misrepresented the electorate? Probably not, floors in the American electoral system have been globally understood for a long time. Did the Bush administration take heed to the significant opposition to the Iraq War? Definitely not! So what effect did the protest have, did it help create egality?

To answer this question the events of the protest must be explained further. On the night of the protest New York’s over zealous police force arrested 1806 people at the protest. One of whom, Mr Dunlop was not active in the protest; he was trying to pick up an order of Sushi from a takeaway. Mr Dunlop was charged with being physically aggressive and resisting arrest. The prosecution gave video evidence of Mr Dunlop that coincided with the charge. However Mr Dunlop’s defence submitted the same ‘unedited’ video evidence showing Mr Dunlop accepting arrest in a passive manner. This video footage proved that the police had given false evidence and that the prosecution had tampered with the original video footage. The case was dismissed along with 90% of the charges brought against the protesters. This scandal was scrutinised by the media, the term ‘Testilying’ became the buzz word to denote the corrupt behaviour of the NYC police force. The questions were asked, if it were not for the presence of independent ‘videographers’, would so many of the charges have been dismissed? Would the corruption have been exposed?

Since the inclusion of cameras to mobile phones almost everybody is an independent ‘videographer’, such events can be recorded almost by chance. Established Western governments’ use of surveillance can be seen as a psychologically and spatially intrusive form of control; it does not simply monitor spaces and events, it instills the fear of being watched into its people; causing self policing. In this case video technology monitored the activity of New York’s’ law enforcement, exposing corruption within it. This growth of a technologically equipped public may force the New York Police force to self police.

The RNC protest did not destroy the social order or create egality. It did not cause a revision of the electoral system or affect Bush’s foreign policy. However, Rancière’s notion of equality does not state that the destruction of a social order is necessary for an act to be considered a political struggle; the attempt to create change is enough. The video technology did enforce an individual’s right to act within the law, and the enforcer’s obligation to abide by the law. Although the RNC protesters’ real effect was coincidental and fortuitous the consequences were dependant on the initial malcontent and action of the protesters. This effect can be seen as a disruption if not a minor reconfiguration of hierarchies. Rancière’s interpretation of equality has not been met, but a change has been made.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Santiago Sierra - Sophie Risner

Antagonism and the Divide.

Santiago Sierra

30.11.07 - 19.01.08.

Lisson Gallery

29 / 52 - 54 Bell Street

Santiago Sierra is not the easiest artist to deconstruct. Born in 1966 the Spanish artist lives and works in Mexico City. Previous work have included paying drug-addicted prostitutes the price of a shot of heroin to have a line tattooed across their backs as well as hiring Albanian refugees to move concrete blocks by hand across a gallery space in Switzerland. In New York in 2002 Sierras '9 Forms of 100 X 100 X 600 cm each, constructed to be supported perpendicular to a wall' had groups of three to four workers holding on their shoulders forms constructed from different elements - such as wood and concrete. The workers were paid $12 an hour and were sourced from local job centres. This is but a brief insight into the work of Sierra. His work which in itself rest on the shoulders of concepts that are politically motivated and complex beyond belief.

In 2002 Sierra's first show at the Lisson saw the closing of the gallery entrance with corrugated iron and the last time he was at the Lisson in 2004 Sierra was to be found spraying a number of Iraqi volunteers with quick setting Polyurethane. It is almost as if the tune of a Sierra piece is monumentally repeated, using the same idea just a different social minority or a different aesthetic form. The rhetoric of Sierra's show are painfully similar, with only his methods shifting in representational politics or representational aesthetic from show to show, gallery to gallery, country to country.

Here in 2007 Sierra commands both of the Lissons sites on Bell Street. 29 Bell Street pulls together the culmination of works recently realised in Venezuela and Mexico. On entering the space the first aesthetic shift choreographed by Sierra is the complete blacking out of the gallery windows with black paper and tape. This creates an uncomfortable environment as with any small gallery space that has a doorbell entrance you feel on-entering that you have been let into the show unintentionally early and that the Lisson is mid-set up. This concept is exemplified by the rubbish and packaging detritus that litters the floor. To the left is a projection of 'Four Black Vehicles with the Engine Running inside an Art Gallery' which was first shown in Sala Mendoza and typically was a comment on the cities and other large cities pollution crisis, using the fumes as an unquantifiable mass being pumped back into our atmosphere. Opposite in the right hand room Sierras 'Concert for a Diesel Electric Plant,' set in Chicago uses a blacked-out room to disperse the turbulent sounds of a diesel electric plant. Played loud enough in a small blacked out gallery just off Edgware Road and the experience is Sierra antagonism at its best. Downstairs details one of Sierra's largest works to date; 'Sumision' is a project that saw the word Sumision (Submission in English) almost tattooed onto the landscape of Anapra (the Mexican side of the Mexico / America boarder). This word not only navigates the social housing and geo-political crisis of a country forced to abandon a whole community due to lack of state funds, but highlights the tragedy of poverty that cuts Mexico and America apart.

'Santiago Sierra's most challenging sculptural projects to date,' is based at the Lissons second site on Bell Street. '21 Anthropometric Modules made of Human Faeces by the people of Sulabh International, India' is a 2005 - 06 project that decides to focus Sierras political subjectivity on the 'scavenging' crisis in Sulabh, India. Here, mainly woman are employed to clean public latrines and open sewers, being forced to walk sometimes up to four kilometers with the content balanced on their head. This, coupled with the poor living conditions and the rainy season - which often finds the contents oozing from the baskets and into the scavengers hair and face means that disease is rife, with TB being the most common. For us though, we get 21 very precisely moulded rectangles of brown earth-like substance, treated with Fevicol and left to degrade to become completely harmless. There is always an element of safety needed to display within a gallery space, especially a European or American one. This leaves Sierras message isolated from the product and devalues its content creating an uncomfortable void between subject and object. Santiago Sierra obviously has an accomplished understanding of world problematics, but the question is how does this transcend into the gallery?

Claire Bishop in her critique of Nicholas Bourriads 'Relational Aesthetics' looks at the claim that Sierra's systematic exposure of social division creates a base for less confrontational work to exist harmoniously. To compare the work of Sierra to Nicholas Bourriads 'Relational Aesthetics' is an interesting one; as we certainly do not have any kind of relationship with the objects crafted by Sierra. In fact it can almost be said that Sierra intentionally wants to impose a distance on us; between what he creates and how we experience it. This creation of antagonism between the 'us' and the 'them' so beautifully and expensively moulded by Sierra lacks a justifications of education that would be tantamount in underpinning any politically motivated work. Unfortunately it merely leans on the repetitive nature of a formation well rehearsed and tirelessly activated and paid for by galleries who enjoy a stunt as much as they enjoy a good piece of work. Saying this the system of reading Sierras work is bursting with arguments waiting to happen. He begs for the separation of the 'us' and the 'them' yet he charges his concepts with the discursive fire that could only help to educate this very separation, here he tricks us and unintentionally the work becomes just as much us trying to pick our way to the 'them' as it highlights the division so articulately. Like pawns we fall into Sierras conditioning too easily. Essentially there's almost no way out of a Sierra, try with all your might through discussion to pick your way out of his manipulation of guilt and divide, you will still end up right where he wants you. This manipulation does well to justify his method of critique and finds not so much a controversial note within the gallery space moreover an appropriate note. In an age flooded with 'Live Aid' and the justification of charity it's a challenge to react to crisis through object, a challenge it seems Sierra work tirelessly to maintain.