Longitudes

Manifesta 9, "The Deep of the Modern", Genk, Belgium, 2 June – 30 September 2012 in pictures and seen by the critics

 Façade of the Waterschei industrial complex of the former coal mine in Genk where Manifesta 9 takes place.

Extra materials:  
40-page 'Shortguide' newspaper as a PDF   
Digital catalogue

In her prologue Manifesta founding director Hedwig Fijen, defines the difference and the strength of the current incarnation of the European biennial: "'The Deep of the Modern'" is the first Manifesta biennial to intentionally leave behind its strictly contemporary origins as the basis of its exhibition model. As an uncompromising European contemporary art event, Manifesta 9 distances itself from the much-hyped model of showcasing only the latest artistic production by emerging talent, typical of these mega-shows. Instead it embarks on a critical attemps to foster interdisciplinary and intergenerational dialogue between the history of the site and the sometimes overlooked memories of the mining communities."

The introduction of an art historical perspective into the project has been a way to appeal to a more diverse audience, as Cuauhtémoc Medina, Chief Curator of Manifesta 9, has noted in his introductory essay: "our hope is that the long historical perspective will attact a local audience in a region that has not customarily been a consumer of contemporary art, along with a number of scholars and the descendants of the miners that built the region."



Art Agenda's review by writer and Co-Director of Tulips & Roses gallery in Brussels, Jonas Žakaitis provides the backstory:

"Genk is a town built for the sole purpose of getting the black stuff out of the ground. Early in the last century, after geologist André Dumont discovered significant amounts of coal lurking in the area, something like 60,000 people moved in from various parts of the world to work in and around the pits, building several large-scale mining complexes with the town's modest amenities sprinkled around them. When heavy industry glaciers started moving out of Western Europe in the 1980s, Genk was left with a large useless hole right in the gut. The remaining fraction of the Waterschei mine (23,000 sq. m of it) is an involuntary witness to this process of de-industrialization, a derelict but beautiful and proud building. After Manifesta 9, or so it tells me in the press pack, it "will be redeveloped as part of a master plan to create Thor park (is this name a jolly wink to the Germanic god of thunder, I wonder), a business and science complex focusing on innovation and knowledge."

 Stairs connecting the first and second floor of the Waterschei.

Kate Sutton's Artforum.com review also framed the loaded context: "Chief curator Cuauhtémoc Medina, together with co-curators Katerina Gregos and Dawn Ades, selected the Belgian province of Limburg, “a mini European Union” also known as “Euregio-Meuse-Rhine.” The region has spent much of this century heavily dependent on coal production, but, with the last mine closing in 1992, Limburg is now eager to transition to new technology. Once a kind of Emerald City for coal miners, the garden city of Genk provides the ideal venue with its massive, Art Deco–style André Dumont mine."

Top floor of the Waterschei building.

As Javier Hontoria noted in his El Cultural review, Medina wanted to concentrate everything in the Waterschei, "favoring the concept of "exhibition" versus the "festival", and consequently emphasizing the metaphor of the vertical versus the horizontal to the light of new economic systems." (...) "The idea of ​​strata" – he continues –  "so tied to the world of mining, backbones the sense of the exhibition, which, under the title "The Deep of the Modern", unfolds in a concise and accurate way throughout the three levels of the building."

As explained in the press kit, 'The Deep of the Modern' begins with '17 Tons' "an exploration of the cultural production that has been powered by the energy of memory that courses through the diverse heirs of coal mining in the Campine region of Limburg, as well as several other regions in Europe".
  
Models of the Underground from the 1950s, 3D representations used to teach 14–17 year old boys mining techniques and location of the coal layers.
Works by Manuel Durán (an 82 yeard old self-taught artist and former miner for 19 years) who has been making "Miners' heads" sculptures since the 1950s out of potato pulp, coal, salt and paint.

 Lara Almarcegui, "Wasteland (Genk), 2004–16. More than 1 hectare of wasteland in public space." For the project, Almarcegui identified a neglected plot of land and scouted, surveyed and described the land. "Through negotiations iwth the City of Genk, Almarcegui arranged to protect the terrain from development for ten years (...). For Manifesta 9, the City of Genk agreed to extend the work for an additional two years and is currently in the planning stages of protecting it in perpetuity." (text by Steven Op de Beeck included in Manifesta 9 manual "The Deep of the Modern – A subcyclopaedia", Silvana Editoriale). Latitudes' visited the site back in 2007 (see blog here).

Continuing on the second floor we encounter 'The Age of Coal': "An art historical exhibition comprising artworks from 1800 to the early 21st century about the history of art production aesthetically related to the industrial era" (...) "organized into several thematic sections with artworks in which coal played an important role. Coal as the main fuel of industry, as a major factor of environmental change, as a fossil with significant consequences in the field of natural science, as the main referent of certain forms of working class culture and as a material symbolic of the experience of modern life". 

One of the three works by Marcel Broodthaers, "Trois tas de charbon", 1966-67.

David Hammons, "Chasing the Blue Train" (1989) "focuses on the powerpul metaphor of the railroads that have tgransformed the landscape and socity of the US since the 19th Century." (text by Mieke Mels in Manifesta's "The Deep of the Modern – A subcyclopaedia", Silvana Editoriale).

 Richard Long's 26 meter long black "Bolivian Coal Line" carpet from 1992.
 
 Rossella Biscotti, "Title One: The Taks of the Community", 2012. Biscotti also contributed with "A Conductor", 2012: On December 2009, the Unit 2 of the Ignalina Nuclear Poer Plant in Lithuania closed, consequently materials from the site were put up for auction. Biscotti acquired lead which have now been reused in Belgium into the new electrical wires to supply electricity for the show. She also acquired lead, which is the basis for her floor sculptures in the spectacular Sint-Barbara's hall.
Antonio Vega Macotela (below) Study of Exhaustion — The Equivalent of Silver (2011), "a (failed) venture to export a “boleo” of coca leaves from Bolivian silver mines represented by a boleo-shaped piece of silver, roughly the amount of silver one miner gets out in a day" (Jonas Žakaitis in Art Agenda); and Rossella Biscotti (above).

Finally on the top floor, we find the section 'Poetics of Restructuring', with "contributions from 39 contemporary artists, focusing on aesthetic responses to the worldwide “economic restructuring” of the productive system in the early 21st century". 

"This archetypal kind of socio-econo-political development from industrialization to de-industrialization to post-industrial capitalism—and the corresponding forms of production, geographies, and distributions of resources—is what Manifesta's contemporary art section, mostly on the third floor of the building, is about." (Jonas Žakaitis in Art Agenda)

Manifesta educational materials and leaflets: "developed by the Manifesta 9 Education & Mediation department. There are 3 different 3x3 Newspapers for 3 age groups (12-, 12+ and 18+), so make sure you have the right one for you."

Ni Haifeng's "Para-Production", 2008-12 (ground floor) several tons of discarted fabric from trimmings originated in Chinese factories are re-sawn into a massive tapestry; and Bea Schilgelhoff's silk-screens "I'm too Christian for art" (2012) (top floor).

 Ante Timmermans' "Make a Molehill out of a Mountain (of Work)" (2012), shelves full of packed A4′s to be manually perforated in his office space during the opening days to make a heap of confetti with the resulting paper, placed on a table at the opposite side of the room and overlooking the window that frames the also "perforated" mining mountain. This tiresome and repetitive administrative task concludes with stamping each of the perforated papers (with stamps designed by the artists) and filing them in binders placed in shelves.

 Ante Timmermans' "Make a Molehill out of a Mountain (of Work)" (2012).

 View of the landscape from Ante Timmermans' space and the remaining Waterschei building (not in use).

Goldin + Senneby's "The decapitation of Money", 2010. From the exhibition newspaper: "Goldin + Senneby and team test the hypothesis that Headless Ltd. (a mysterious offshore company registrered in the Bahamas) is a reincarnation of the secret society "Acéphale", founded by Georges Bataille and friends in 1936."

Emre Hüner, "A little Larger Than the Entire Universe", 2012.

Duncan Campbell's "Make It New John", 2009, 50' video. Depicting the "history of the DMC-12, the extravagant, futuristic automobile created by American engineer and entrepeneur John Delorean (1925-2005). Campbell documents the strange attempt to use its production as a tool of social engineering. Relying heavily on archival footage, and incoporating a few staged scenes that introduce a political and biographical allegory, Campbell attempts to construct a panoramic view of the polar extremes that have characterized the social life of this icon of consumerism." (text by Cuauhtémoc Medina in in Manifesta's "The Deep of the Modern – A subcyclopaedia", Silvana Editoriale)

Back to Žakaitis analysis: (...) The weird part though is that all of these things, displayed in a generic and anemic way, are fenced from Mijndepot Waterschei, a full-blown and fully functioning museum assembled by former miners themselves back in 2004. Be sure to go there if you visit this Manifesta, and check out hundreds of mining tools, helmets, saint statues, a small train, and a 1:1 scale model of a coal shaft: great stuff that can get you really sooty.  

Miners museum in the Waterschei's first floor.

Nicoline van Harskamp, "Yours in Solidarity", 2009–12. Video, audio and archive material.

Praneet Soi's slideshow "Kumartuli Printer, Notes on Labor Part 1", 2010, which "parsed out the gestures of a printer's hands as he interacts with an ancient pedal-operated press in Calcutta. As the operator feeds paper into his anachronistic machine, it spits out grainy, high contrast images of his own hands, immersed in labor" (text by Cuauhtémoc Medina in in Manifesta's "The Deep of the Modern – A subcyclopaedia", Silvana Editoriale).

 Maarten Vanden Eynde, "Plastic Reef", 2008–12: a collection of melted down plastic trash collected while swirling in the Pacific Ocean. For more info see his comprehensive website.

As for the publication "The Deep of the Modern – A subcyclopaedia" (Edited by Silvana Editoriale), the curator writes that it has been "designed to suggest the complexity of meaning involved in the whole project as well as the richness of the individual elements themselves. (...) We have chosen to publish a book that breaks from the mould of conventional exhibition catalogues. We evoke the form of the encyclopaedia as a means of organising a whole made up of multiple unities (...). This Subcyclopaedia will thus serve as a record of the research process behind the biennial. (...) Our neologism is meant to suggest a comparison between the use of this reference book and the exhumation of modernity's underworld in the heritage, culture and history of coal mining.".  

 One of the pages of "The Deep of the Modern – A subcyclopaedia" (Edited by Silvana Editoriale).

Despite this intention of "breaking the mould", the 320-page book does include the traditional institutional forewords (to be precise, four) and an introductory curatorial essay by Medina. Many other texts are disseminated thoughout the publication, which is organised in alphabetical order A to Z, mixing concepts (starting with "Accumulation", ending with "Underground as Hell"), with artist texts by a network of over 30 writers, and essays by Gregos ("Poetics of Restructuring: On the question of production in the contemporary section of Manifesta 9") and Ades ("The Age of Coal: An Underground History of the Modern"), amongst other long form texts (by Medina himself, Svetlana Boym, as well as misfit entries such as "The Legacy of Manifesta" by Hedwig Fijen). 

Manifesta 9 curator Cuauhtémoc Medina (purple shirt) giving a tour during the opening weekend.

These and more photos (93 total) on Latitudes' flickr:




'THE LAST STAR-LEDGER' AVAILABLE NOW! #4 issue of the 10 Latitudes-edited newspapers for 'The Last Newspaper' exhibition, New Museum

'The Last Star-Leger' – Issue #4
(READ IT ON ISSUU)

Table of contents:

Picture Agent - Our singular picture agency:
Haegue Yang (cover)
Media Habits:
Nicoline van Harskamp
Focus:
Collin Munn on 'The Last Newspaper's work 'Untitled' (2006) by Dash Snow
Feature: Latitudes on the
'The Last Newspaper's partner organisation StoryCorps & archive interview between journalist Ed Pierce and his grandson Scott Cole
Interview:
'Rank & File' Ignasi Aballí on his 'Lists' series

The Next Newspaper: Latitudes interview with Nick Mrozowski Creative Director of Portugal's newest newspaper 'i'
1989 Patricia Esquivias on…:
Communism
'Dirt Sheet':
Janine Armin's column
100 Years Ago...:
'The Tacoma Times' (Tacoma, Washington) 1903–1949, October 27, 1910.
Weekly cartoon strip: Francesc Ruiz
Advertising department:
Ester Partegàs with Rob McKenzie
 

Watch this or other issues on Latitudes youtube channel.

EXCLUSIVE CONTENT!


Nick Mrozowski during his visit to 'The Last Newspaper' exhibition holding a copy of that days' New York Times. Photo: Latitudes. 

THE NEXT NEWSPAPER: i

Fresh from putting together a 40-page on-site weekend newspaper for the Society of News Designers conference in Denver – Michigan native Nick Mrozowski, the Creative Director of Portugal's newest newspaper, simply called 'i', stopped by 'The Last Star-Ledger' newsroom.

 
The Last Star-Ledger:
Tell us about the origins of i [pronounced ‘ee’] – was there a lot of research done into what people wanted from a newspaper in 2009? Was it independently started?


Nick Mrozowski:
The guys who launched the paper are seasoned pros in the Portuguese market. They've been directors of other newspapers so they're well-versed in the economy and business. i was started by a public-works construction company in Portugal. They happen to have a publishing branch – they publish regional newspapers – and wanted a national newspaper. Innovation Media Consulting, started in Spain, consulted on the editorial ideas and design before it launched. Even more than their knowledge or research of the market, they tried to create a newspaper based on their instincts and ideas that was totally different from anything else. The staff we hired is very young and capable of serious journalism, but with a lot of spirit, energy, and humor. That naturally found its way into the newspaper and because of that our audience is even younger than we initially thought.
The newspaper has about 55 or 60 people in the newsroom now. I'm the sole art director, though I didn't design the initial project. The graphic model was done by Javier Errea, who is the most famous Spanish newspaper designer now. He just won the Society for News Design's Lifetime Achievement Award at forty-three years old! In the last fifteen years that his studio has been going, they've probably been involved with most of the newspapers in Spain and Portugal.

Cover i, 7 October 2010

TLS-L: The design is obviously a critical part of the newspaper. To what degree did the staff have either design or press backgrounds which came together in its visual journalism?

NM: We have reporters and designers of different functions. My degree is in journalism, but I focused on design. In all the newspapers I have worked on, I've been asked as much to be an editor as a designer. Our newsroom at i is a total open-plan. We work in the same room without cubicles or dividers with zones designed for communication. In the center are the top editors and then spiralling out are the various news desks, designers, and photographers.


TLS-L: Is there a typical way an article is put together?


NM: An editor or reporter decides there is going to be a story about something. They would then come and speak to one of the designers about what they're going to have for the page. We have our own jargon for types of stories or design elements to make it faster. That's pretty standard. The thing we do that's a little bit different is how we start a page. Throughout the course of a day we change it a million times, not only because an article comes in longer or shorter, we change it because somebody has a new idea. There are five designers, one design editor, and myself for the design portion.

Cover i, 26 July 2010

TLS-L: And you have 4 sections which are not at all based on traditional newspapers...

NM: i is 25 x 35 cm (9 8/10” x 13 8/10”) x with 48, 56 or 64 pages. It starts with ‘Opinion’ on the first four pages to get you thinking. The following short section ‘Radar’ is all the news you need to know from the last 24 hours in different formats: a few briefs, a portion of quotations, a photo that tells a story by itself, an info-graphic that has no text accompanying it. The big ‘Zoom’ section is more in depth, more analytical, with longer format, bigger stories, mostly two-page spreads. At the end we have a section called ‘Mais’ (meaning 'more') which has culture, sports, and lifestyle. We don't have this feeling that we need a 'national' or 'international' section with a set number of pages or stories with a certain length, the editing is much more fluid. Although we have developed some habits over time, nothing is set in stone. It changes from one hour to the next, making it harder to work but producing a better result. For some newspapers, it’s a way forward: to be more aggressive, not just in reporting, but in the way we think about how we report.

TLS-L: You must hear people talking about the decline of the traditional newspaper all the time?

NM: I see what's happening but I don't believe it. I think there are a lot more to come. They're going to change, they have to change, but it's good change. Obviously the internet is not going anywhere. We talk about it a lot in the industry. Everybody has different points of view and every couple of months there is a prevailing strategy, idea, or criticism. News used to be a printed newspaper – it's not anymore – but a newspaper isn't necessarily an online thing. I read the online version of the New York Times all the time in Lisbon because you can't buy it (you can only get the International Herald Tribune), so I read it in the morning before I go into work, I read it during the day.

Cover i, 19 June 2010

TLS-L: Yet in a traditional newspaper you find things you wouldn't otherwise read.

NM: When I go online I read a lot of stories because there's little investment in clicking a link, if a headline caught my eye, or an illustration. Funnily enough, now that I’ve been reading the New York Times on printed format here these last days, I find it really strange to navigate as an object.


TLS-L: Can you give our news team any advice?


NM: A good newspaper should have texture and a feeling of some immediacy. Try to highlight the liveness of it. Save yourself one part each time and only do it in the last thirty minutes so you have no idea what it's going to be. Desperation is a reality of newspapers!

 
– Interview by Latitudes. Edited by Greg Barton.

 
+ images of i covers here.

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Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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