Max Andrews reviews 'Utopia is possible' in frieze magazine's October 2012 issue

Below Max Andrews' frieze review on the exhibition 'Utopia is possible. ICSID. Eivissa, 1971' currently on show (on view until 20 January 2013) at the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)An interesting follow up is Ethel Baraona Pohl's review on Domus (published 15 October 2012) which is accompanied by a lot more photodocumentation presented in the exhibition.

 Instant City, 1971. Col·lecció MACBA. Centre d'Estudis i Documentació. Fons Xavier Miserachs

‘This will be an ICSID Congress only 10 metres from the sea,’ read the welcoming Bulletin of the Seventh Congress of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design in 1971. ‘The environment, the climate and the sea bathing will act as a stimulant to the general business of the Congress.’ As 1,500 delegates registered at the ziggurat-like hotel venue in northern Ibiza, the more adventurous made their way to
 Instant City, an inflatable camp below on Sant Miquel bay. Three days of meetings, debates, performances and partying were to follow –a professional design conference that was also a beach-side experiment in leisure and the creative potential of industrial plastic. The exhibition ‘Utopia is Possible’ was not only significant as an exercise in advocating the pioneering importance of an interdisciplinary festival that predated the better-known Encuentros de Pamplona’ (Pamplona Meetings) the following year – both all the more astonishing as Spain remained under the grip of dictatorship until 1975 – but also (and following a sprawling exhibition about the latter at Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofía in 2009) as a corollary of the emergence of curatorial and exhibition history as legitimate fields of study, as exhibition.

‘Utopia is Possible’ remembered and celebrated an event that evoked a meltdown of academia, inflatable architecture, cinema, Catalan artistic vanguardism and countercultural ceremonies – part ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’, part technology enthusiast craft convention. Through teeming type and handwritten correspondence arranged in vitrines, hundreds of photographs, technical notes and newspaper reports – as well as four projections showing archival footage and a dozen monitors presenting newsreels and newly-made interviews with those involved – it revealed a project that clearly had a life-changing impact on those who experienced it. ICSID 1971 championed liberal social innovation and user-generated content. ‘This is an “open” congress’, declared its introductory statement, ‘a new experience […] for the first time the congress members will be able to participate to the utmost […] this is YOUR congress.’ The proceedings in the hotel comprised ‘Speaking Rooms’ with themes proposed by delegates, 65 talks including ‘The House Style of the Netherlands railway’,‘What We Are Doing in the Belgrade School of Design’, and ‘Basic Design with Computers’ – the latter led by the pioneering Centro de Cálculo (Computing Centre), a collaboration between Madrid’s Complutense University and IBM.

Down by the beach, meanwhile, the participation was of a somewhat different order – kinetic sculptural events with air, water, fire and food. Josep Ponsatí collaborated with members of the Grup Obert de Disseny Urquinaona (Urquinaona Open Design Group), who themselves collaborated in the pop-style signage of the congress, which was replicated in the show’s exhibition design. They tethered together 12 pairs of huge air-filled white plastic pillows that floated out over and on the bay like a giant flower. Vacuflex-3 (1971) by Antoni Muntadas and Gonzalo Mezza is a portable sculpture in the form of a 150-metre flexible plastic pipe which, with teamwork, can be variously carried around, used to spell out words on the sand (‘LOVE’, ‘LAND’, ‘HERE’) or floated on the sea. The opening dinner took the form of a multi-colour ritual orchestrated by Antoni Miralda, Jaume Xifra and Dorothée Selz; masked performers and diners wore green, red, blue and yellow cloaks, and feasted on similarly coloured paella and wine.

Yet Instant City took such multi-coloured experiences to architectonic dimensions, and it remains the ideological and pictorial emblem of the congress. Architecture students Carlos Ferrater and Fernando Bendito had persuaded architecture professor José Miguel de Prada Poole to transform their idea of inflatable student accommodation into reality. What resulted was a global manifesto for a new way of living intended to embrace the ‘nomadic and mobile’ values of impermanence and flexibility. Following publicity in colleges and magazines around the world, scores of volunteers came in the weeks before the congress to collaborate in stapling together a pop-up plastic community. Instant City was the backdrop to some of the exhibition’s most striking images, of bemused locals in traditional dress watching bearded design hippies building something between Hélio Oiticica’s ‘Penetrables’ and Maurice Agis’s ill-fated Dreamspace V (an inflatable environment that killed two women when it broke free from moorings in 2006). And although the taste of Utopian living was evidently challenged by the whiff of residing in sweltering polytunnel tentacles with too few toilets, it also inspired some soaring prog rock poetry that, perhaps more succinctly than any other words in the exhibition, gave a blast ofthe elaborate techno-paganism which must have blown minds at this extraordinary Congress. ‘Green cornfields alongside Instant City / Awaken to Ibizan sunrise’, read a typewritten sheet alongside module construction diagrams. ‘We are children of the future / Born into the paleo-cybernetic age / our minds extended electrically through the video sphere.’ 

‘Utopia is Possible’ offered a timely pre-history of participatory practice from a Spanish perspective and, against the backdrop of contemporary funding cuts, an object lesson in artistic solidarity and internationalism against the odds. 

– Max Andrews

 (Originally published in Frieze, October 2012, Issue 150)  


 Antoni Muntadas and Gonzalo Mezza Ceremonial and Vacuflex-3, 1971.  


Related materials:
  • Video where participants' discuss their experience here 
  • Tour of the exhibition by exhibition co-curator Teresa Grandas, here (both in Catalan)
  • Latitudes' writing archive




Moderation(s) meeting in Rotterdam and a few shows in Amsterdam

Last week we were in Witte de With, Rotterdam, for a two-day meeting in preparation for the 2013 project Moderation(s). Moderation(s) is a year-long programme of residencies, performances, exhibitions, workshops and research initiated by Witte de With’s director Defne Ayas and Spring Workshop founder Mimi Brown. At the core of the project stands ‘The Moderator’, incarnated by Singaporean visual artist and writer Heman Chong. More news soon, in the meantime you can read more in this interview with the artist. 
 Artist and writer Heman Chong (left) introduces the Moderation(s) programme to participants and collaborators.

At the end of the first day of the workshop, Witte de With director Defne Ayas, gave a tour of their current show 'The Humans', a year-long project by visual artist and writer Alexander Singh (image above and three photos below), which "includes a variety of formats, from presentations and rehearsals to discursive events that are informed by the props produced on site. Leading up to the final presentation of his play in the Spring of 2013, Singh transforms Witte de With’s second floor into an artist’s studio." (text from Witte de With's website).





The exhibition included spatial design by architect Markus Miessen, including "a multi-purpose yellow monolith. This giant modular cube consisting of sixty-four separate blocks constantly mutates in accordance to a series of events taking place in 2012, including Singh’s Causeries."
(from the website).


The previous evening to the workshop TENT and Witte de With hosted an evening of events which began with a lecture by Vivien Sky Rehberg's "Deschooling/Deskilling" lecture.


(Above) Rotterdam ladies on stage. Left to right: Mariette Dölle (Programme director, TENT), Vivian Sky Rehberg (Director of the Master of Fine Art at the Piet Zwart Institute) and Defne Ayas (Director, Witte de With) introducing the evening.

Downstairs TENT had the exhibition "Between the map and the territory" which included the below installation by curator Maaike Gouwenberg and artist Joris Lindhout, on their ongoing research into the "gothic as a cultural strategy". 

Bik van der Pol's piece "Accumulate, Collect, Show" (below) at TENT (originally produced as part of Frieze Projects 2011). View video of the piece changing the modular text elements to spell out a number of abstract idioms, quotes and maxims here.


(Above) view of 'Untitled (Assimilated being), version 2"( 2011) by Swiss artist Karin Hueber: "Hueber’s work consists of installations of architectural elements that are apparently waiting to be used, as pieces of scenery for a stage production, as attributes for a performance. Elements are bent, folded, doubled, reversed or enlarged." (from the website).

On Sunday 21st we visited Amsterdam, quickly visiting the new spaces of de Appel and W139. de Appel presented the group show "Stem Terug! / Vote back!" which included a new presentation of the 2010 work "Local regulation" by Amikejo artists Iratxe Jaio and Klaas van Gorkum (image below).


(Above) General view of the first room of the exhibition with works by Artur Zmijewski ("Them (Oni)", 2007), Iratxe Jaio and Klaas van Gorkum ("Plaatselijke Verordening" (Local Regulation), 2010) and Otto Berchem ("Blue Monday", 2011).


(Above) General view of the first room of the exhibition with works by Sam Durant ("Tell it like it is", 2005), Yuri Veerman ("Red White Blue", 2012)  and Otto Berchem ("Blue Monday", 2011).

 (Above) Otto Berchem's "Blue Monday", 2011. Courtesy Gallery La Central.
(above and below) The Yes Men spoof edition of the "New York Times Special Edition", 2008.

The nearby W139 hosted the group exhibition "The Research and Destroy Department of Black Mountain College" (below) with the participation of 30+ artists whose work share the idea of 'collecting'.


At 4pm we joined the tour of the exhibition "Time, Trade and Travel" by Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam curator Jelle Bouwhuis (photographed below). The event coincided with the closing day of the exhibition.
 
View of the exhibition "Time, Trade & Travel" at Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam. More images here.
 

Following Bouwhuis' tour, there was an in conversation between American artist Zachary Formwalt and Dutch critic and historian Sven Lütticken in which they discussed Formwalt's film 'A Projected Geometry' (2012) (presented in the "Time, Trade and Travel") in relation to his previous film work such as "unsupported transit" (2011), amongst others.

Witte de With, TENT, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA), de Appel and W139 were all part of Latitudes' curated programme 'The Dutch Assembly': 30 hourly talks, readings, artists presentations, performances, book launches, in conversations and screenings presented last February over the course of the five days of ARCOmadrid.

All photos: Latitudes | www.lttds.org (except when noted otherwise in the photo caption)

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2012 "Frieze week" in pictures

A report in pictures from Frieze London (now in its 10th year!) & the inaugural Frieze Masters (11–14 October) as well as concurrent shows in London.


Rirkrit Tiravanija light box at Koo Jeog A floor at the stand of Pilar Corrias.

"Colosseum of the Consumed" by Grizedale Arts & Yangjiang Group was one one of the six Frieze Projects this year. (Unfortunately we didn't get a photo of the tomato battles.) There's a nice article about the endeavor over at Another Magazine.
Colosseum of the Consumed: Various advanced pickled food, kimchi and pickled eggs. Would make an interesting breakfast.
Too distracted by the boomerangs and Inuit carvings at Frieze Masters to take many photos, but the stand of Sfeir-Semler presenting works by the Emirati conceptualist Hassan Sharif was a highlight.
Back in the main tent, Geoffrey Farmer – he of the 'leaves of grass' Life magazine work at dOCUMENTA (13) – presented a solo booth with Casey Kaplan.
Chantal Crousel's stands are always immaculate ("What a Load of Rubbish" is by Claire Fontaine, the lamps by Haegue Yang). In the foreground is the seating area with Thomas Bayrle's "La vache qui rit" motif, another of the Frieze Projects.
The Modern Institute/Toby Webster: Simon Starling in the back, Jeremy Deller in the front (a work which refers to this relevation.)


 Adrián Villar Rojas's wonderful concrete and wood sculptures at kurimanzutto.
Aslı Çavuşoğlu's Frieze Project: ""Murder in Three Acts" was inspired by the representation of art in popular media, particularly in television crime series in which the artworks don’t solely exist in the background of the show, but become a vital part of the script: exhibitions function as crime scenes and art works act as murder weapons."
Vitamin Creative Space, with works by Pak Sheung Chuen, was awarded the Best Stand prize. Here, some left hand / right hand peanuts. 


 Thomas Bayrle's funky carpet salutes visitors entering Frieze Art Fair.
And elsewhere in London...
 
Tino Sehgal's Unilever series commission at Tate Modern's Turbine Hall (above and below). Go see it, photos don't do justice to the piece!

Gagosian (Britannia Street): works by the recently departed Franz West.
Detail of Franz West's show at Gagosian (Britannia Street)
 Bjarne Melgaard: A House to Die In until 18 November at ICA London.
Thomas Houseago at Hauser & Wirth
Thomas Houseago at Hauser & Wirth
Fischli & Weiss at Sprüth Magers. More installation shots here.
Sarah Lucas & Franz West at Situation / Sadie Coles (First Floor, 4 New Burlington Place). One of the most interesting shows in town.
Stuart Shave/Modern Art presented David Noonan, nine new silkscreen works on linen.
Ian Kiaer at Alison Jacques Gallery

Theaster Gates at White Cube Bermondsey. The Shard in the background. More info and images of the show (as photos were not allowed inside the gallery) in this Domus interview with Martina Angelotti.
Artist Placement Group 1966-79 at Raven Row. Always beautiful galleries and great shows.
Falke Pisano at Hollybush Gardens.
Mike Bouchet at Hotel.
Klaus Weber at Herald St.
Maureen Paley with the work of Liam Gillick.
The Drawing Room presented the first major exhibition by Paul Sietsema in the UK.
SUNDAY was organised by three of the participating galleries: Croy Nielsen (Berlin), Limoncello (London) and Tulips & Roses (Brussels).
Work by Spartacus Chetwynd at the Turner Prize show at Tate Britain.
And last but not least, a shot from the amazing Tarek Atoui-led musical extravaganza at the Serpentine on 12 October.

All photos: Latitudes | www.lttds.org (except when noted otherwise in the photo caption)


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