Longitudes

Longitudes cuts across Latitudes’ projects and research with news, updates, and reportage.

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 throughout 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.

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dOCUMENTA (13) in pictures & as seen by the critics, 9 June–16 September 2012

 View of Kassel's Friedrichsplatz.

How can we begin to unpack the complex, multilayered, plural and expansive dOCUMENTA (13)? As the paranormal researcher Charles Fort wrote 'One measures a circle, beginning anywhere'. We photodocumented some of the works on view, and read (and still reading, therefore this blog will evolve over time by incorporating quotations from newly published commentary) several reviews by art writers and critics throughout the past few days which deserve re-reading and further sharing. Here are some highlights of the 2013 iteration.

The New York Times' review by Robert Smith sets the tone: "Ms. Christov-Bakargiev has assembled an immense, unruly organism of a show. It is alternately inspiring — almost visionary — and insufferable, innovative and predictable, meticulous and sentimentally precious. I would not have missed this seething, shape-shifting extravaganza for the world, and I’d rather not see its like again, at least not on this dwarfing, imperious, self-canceling scale."


Filipa Ramos' review on Art Agenda "Postcard from Kassel", begins unraveling the Kunsthalle Fridericianum where we started our tour.


(...) the total bareness of the first rooms of the canonical core, the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, is broken by the display of Kai Althoff’s letter to Christov-Bakargiev explaining his decision not to take part in the exhibition (“life” was more important)—although a work of Althoff’s is, despite this, still featured in the Rotunda [not in the catalogue].


Kay Altoff's letter on display in a vitrine occupies the first empty room of the Fridericianum only accompanied by Ryan Gander's light breeze titled "I Need Some Meaning I can Memorise [The Invisible Pull], 2012. More images of Altoff's letter here via Contemporary Art Daily.

(...) "Before getting there, Ryan Gander’s breeze, I Need Some Meaning I Can Memorise (The Invisible Pull) (2012)—a light wind that caresses one’s skin and hair—and Ceal Floyer’s audio piece, a melodious promise, repeated to exhaustion, of “So I’ll just keep on… till I get it right” (‘Til I Get It Right, 2005), hail the most attentive spectators.

The Guardian's critic Adrian Searle, also highlighted one of wonderful treats in the Fridericianum, the "(...) 400 beautiful, modest postcard-sized paintings of different varieties of apple, by Bavarian pastor and artist Korbinian Aigner. Imprisoned for his anti-Nazi sermons, Aigner worked as a gardener in Dachau and Sachsenhausen, where he cultivated several new varieties, one for each year of his internment. There's pathos here, among these rows of painted apples." [3D view of the room here]




Korbinian Aigner's 372 gouache and pencil drawings of "Apples" made between 1912-60s.

Making way up the Kunsthalle Fridericianum frieze magazine's assistant editor Christy Lange relates her highlights of the venue:

(...) The rest of the proved somewhat uneven in tone: lurching from Goshka Macuga’s large-scale digitally-printed black and white tapestry of a tableaux at a dOCUMENTA-related event in Kabul (featuring an oversized cobra front and centre), to the delicate and haunting hand-woven tapestries of Hannah Ryggen (1894–1970), who reproduced violent scenes of wars and conflicts in a medium that few in the 1930s and 40s would have thought to use to do so. [Here a great set of detailed photographs of Ryggen's work here via Contemporary Art Daily and a 3D view here]


Goshka Macuga's tapestry "Of what is, that it is; of what is not, that is not 1", 2012. 5.2 x 17,4m.

"Both of these works – Lange continues – focusing on weaving dovetailed nicely (if not a bit obviously) with one of the venue’s highlights: Mario García Torres’s installation, which documented his search for the One Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, a lodging house run by and resided in by Alighiero Boetti from 1971 until 1977, where Boetti worked to produce his famous series of tapestries made by Afghan weavers (which were supposed to appear in documenta 5, but never did)." [3D view of this piece here]



Mario García Torres at the Fridericianum's first floor.

(...) In the Fridericianum’s cramped Rotunda space, the exhibition displayed the kinds of curatorial flourishes that often seem to accompany a certain kind of anthropological curating that capriciously mixes anthropological artefacts and found objects with artworks. This kind of museological, cabinet-of-curiosities approach, having already been a trope of contemporary artists for a while now, seems especially dated in the hands of a curator. In this darkened space crammed with spot-lit vitrines, I had trouble making the connections between Giorgio Morandi’s paintings, displayed along with actual objects from his studio, and the neighbouring vitrines containing ‘Bactrian Princesses’ – a series of small sculptures of seated women created in the late 3rd and early 2nd century BC in what is now modern-day Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan. While these artworks and artefacts are no doubt fascinating, there is no apparent justification for their inclusion together, other than their need to be housed in vitrines, and the fact they probably couldn’t have been procured for any contemporary art exhibition other than this one.


Rotunda in the Fridericianum: the brain. As written in the Guidebook: "an associative space of research where a number of artworks, objects and documents are brought together in lieu of a concept". 

Filipa Ramos rightly observed the "(...) large amount of micro-museums, from Pedro Reyes’s Museum of Hypothetical Lifetimes (2011), an ode to human nature and social structure, to Kader Attia’s The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures (2012)—a horrifying yet astonishing research project on the impact and effects of francophone colonialism; to Michael Rakowitz’s cabinets of destroyed or lost books, and many, many others."

  Kader Attia's "The Repair", 2012. Slideshow projection and artefacts from Africa.


Attia’s 'Repair From Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures', "[is ] a daunting installation that reflects on art, colonialism and body scarification in Africa but draws its main force from a set of large carved-wood busts depicting the horrific face wounds suffered by European soldiers in World War I. Gripping yet also illustrational, the piece exemplifies several archive-like works here. It also reflects the continuing hegemony of late-late Conceptualism — now extravagantly materialized and labour-intensive — over the international exhibition circuit." (Roberta Smith in The New York Times). [3D view of this room here].

Mariana Castillo Deball's "Uncomfortable Objects. Finding Oneself Outside", 2012. 
Many more pictures of this wonderful work here, by Contemporary Art Daily. Otherwise a 3D view here.

Christy Lange continued to the Ottoneum, which in her opinion "(...) yielded some predictable ‘eco-related’ contributions scattered among the natural history museum displays of taxidermied animals and animal skeletons. (...) it’s worth the trip upstairs to see Mark Dion’s specially commissioned installation. Here he designed an elaborate wooden display case to house the Ottoneum’s unique ‘Schildbach Xylotheque’ – a ‘wood library’ made in 1771–79 of several hundred books carved out of different species of trees. The books are actually boxes that house dioramas inside. Dion’s installation and Schildbach’s library is a felicitous match made in nerd heaven." [360º panoramic view here]



Mark Dion, recuperates Carl Schildbach's 18th Century 'Schildbach Xylotheque' (a wood library) with a new hexagonal display chamber.

"Nearby in the Neue Galerie, several visitors were fawning in unabashed awe and wonder over Geoffrey Farmer’s impressive installation, which evokes that same sort instantaneous reaction that Christian Marclay’s The Clock recently did, perhaps because of its sheer scale, meticulous detail and the obvious time and manual labour it took to create it." [See panoramic view here]



 Geoffrey Farmer's "Leaves of Grass", with thousands of pictures cut from five decades of Life magazine, in the Neue Galerie.

 Adriana Lara's "Purpose", 2012, also at the Neue Galerie, accompanied by sculptures by Brazilian Maria Martins.


Rossella Biscotti, The Trial, 2010-12, in the Neue Gallerie. Concrete sculptures made from casts from the architectural features of the courtroom where members of the extra-parliamentary left-wing Autonomia Operaia (including Antonio Negri and other intellectuals), were accused of being ideologically and morally responsible for Italian terrorism in the 1970s.

(...) On a side street near the Rathaus, in a dark hall in a backyard of a house, was Tino Sehgal’s installation, in which, as it only became clear once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, are about 20 young men and women in a circle chanting, singing, marching, and slouching against the wall. At a certain point, still in the dark, they start conversing about ‘income’ and ‘output’ and ‘satisfaction’ – I guess the point at which it starts to feel like a Tino Sehgal performance? But the performance still captivates for two main reasons: though it takes place in darkness, it unexpectedly becomes about our vision, or the limits thereof, more than any of our other senses. And because it still has that skilful Sehgal twist, which all his best piece have, by which you, the audience member, suddenly and unexpectedly find yourself centre stage, playing the somewhat sheepish performer. 

Adrian Searle also favourited Sehgal's "(...) magnificent performance piece behind a decaying Huguenot house. Performers stamp and sing, whisper, holler and dance. They go through little routines as I stumble between them. Sehgal's exhilarating 'This Variation' is among the best things in Documenta, as is choreographer Jérôme Bel's Disabled Theatre, a confrontational performance made in collaboration with actors with learning difficulties. Both Bel's and Sehgal's work concern presence and presentness, what it means to be a spectator." [In depth text on Sehgal's 'This variation' art-dance-music piece also by Adrian Searle here].



Façade of Kunsthalle Fridericianum.

Dan Fox, Senior Editor of frieze magazine, analisis went on describing the "punch-drunk with politically hectoring or ‘we are the world’ approaches to large-scale exhibition making that would make even Bono seem modest in his outlook, I expected more of the same, yet dOCUMENTA (13) is an exhibition of subtlety and imagination, if somewhat over-optimistic in its attempts to get audiences to engage with other areas of intellectual activity, such as quantum physicists (as could be found in the Fridericianum, next to Mario García Torres’ work about Alighiero Boetti’s One Hotel in Kabul)." Fox ends his report reflecting on this year's title: "(...) However, one crucial question remains. Does the overlaboured spelling ‘dOCUMENTA (13)’ herald a return of the early 1990s exhibition title? ‘Site/[in–]Sight’, ‘(in–)TERRA–gating Gender’…"

Sam Thorne's overview of Karlsaue's park: "Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev offered artists a prefab house to work with. Responses range from Pedro Reyes’s ‘sanatorium’ (offering art-themed counselling) and Raimundas Malašauskas and Marcos Lutyens’s hypnosis sessions to mini solo presentations, by artists including Rosemarie Trockel and Joan Jonas. Elsewhere, there are various takes on public sculpture, from gimmicky pieces like Massimo Bartolini’s wave pool and Anri Sala’s perspectivally-skewed clock [Latitudes' note: it seems to us that many failed to understand that the clock was 'frontly' visible from one of the telescopes (the Refraktor Linsenteleskop, 1976) placed on the top floor of the Orangerie] to a characteristically elegant collection of works by Carol Bove." 


 Pedro Reyes, Sanatorium, at Karlsaue Park, (as described in D13's website) "an ongoing performative project that involves eight types of therapy sessions offered to visitors of dOCUMENTA (13) “to treat urban ills.” The content and procedures for these sessions are prepared by the artist and carried out by art students who are trained by Reyes as therapists, analysts, and tutors to the visitors."
 
 Anri Sala, Clocked Perspective, 2012, at the far end of the Hirschgraben, one of the two canals in the Karlsaue park. More images here via Contemporary Art Daily.


 Carol Bove's tableau of elements in the Flora garden of the Karlsaue Park.

Thorne continues "Highlights for me included Pierre Huyghe’s beehive-headed (Maillol?) sculpture, installed in a swampy copse and invigilated by a pink-legged dog, in earshot of an immersive, atavistic sound piece by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. [See 3D view here] More difficult to locate is a shaded house crammed full of new and old work by the Brazilian septuagenarian Anna Maria Maiolino – though it’s well worth finding."

Pierre Huyghe's "Untilled. Live things and inanimate things, made and not made" (2011–12) photographed during the opening week. An entropic gesamtkunstwerk of plants, bees, concrete, mud, plants, tree branches, bacteria, dogs, construction materials... 3D view of the piece here


 Huyghe's piece photographed 100 days after during the last week of documenta (13). 


Jerry Saltz on Huyghe's work: "If anything here will put you in a mind to give up on definitions, though, it’s Pierre Huyghe’s craterlike ruins patrolled by two dogs at the far end of the park. (...) This is a place of no-narrative, an incubation chamber of new orders." 

 Anna Maria Maiolino, "Here & there" (2012) different coloured modeled clay cover the rooms of the former gardener's house in Karlsaue park.

 Brian Jungen's "Dog Run", 2012, a play zone only permitted for dogs and their owners at Karlsaue park. [3D view here]

Also at the Karlsaue park, behind the Orangerie was one of the contributions by US artist-activists collective Critical Art Ensemble's helicopter rides, a work titled “A Public Misery Project: A Temporary Message to Global Economic Inequality”, which as described by Rachel Corbett from artnet involves:

(...) erecting a crane-sized bar graph depicting wealth disparity in America, with every 1cm representing $100 and, when it got too tall, using a helicopter to soar 225 meters up in the sky to represent, hyperbolically, the top 1%. (...) On opening day, a red carpet stretched along the grass leading the 50 people who had bought tickets for a flight. The 99%, meanwhile, could pay a coin of their choice in any currency for a lottery ticket and the chance to win a ride. Between 10 am and 8 pm, the Critical Art Ensemble planned to give about 300 rides.

Jerry Saltz wasn't at all convinced about their contribution, and labelled the work 'immoral': (...) "viewers ride in a helicopter to heights corresponding to their net worth. The work is supposedly about wealth accumulation and is an anti-market gesture. Surely it cost more to stage for a day than many museums and galleries can spend or generate in a year, or than most artists earn in a lifetime."

 
Critical Art Ensemble's “A Public Misery Project: A Temporary Message to Global Economic Inequality”.

Natascha Sadr Haghighian's "Greening the rubble of Kassel: construction work on the war debris heaped up along the Karsaue for the Federal Horticulture Show". Picture of the staircase that connects Schöne Aussicht with the Karlsaue park via an 'alternative' route on a slope. "Onomatopoeic animal sounds in different languages emanate from the bushes and trees as the visitor descends to the park. The web-based trail d(13)pfad.de is a collaboration with Pola Sieverding and accompanies the physical trail. It contains materials connecting to the rubble, the plants, the animals, the people and the languages Natascha and Pola encountered on the trail." (from D13's web)

 Jimmie Durham's "The History of Europe" (2011) in a (hot) greenhouse at Karlsaue park. 
Additional images here by Contemporary Art Daily.


 Maria Loboda's moving forest of potted cypress trees "The Work is Dedicated to an Emperor" (2012). The army of trees is being moved through the landscape during the exhibition period following different military positions, progressively conquering the Orangerie. 

Jörg Heiser's reviewed Kassel's off-the-main-site venues on frieze blog, starting with a 'heads up' around their number and distance:

Given that there are 30 documenta sites in Kassel – one of which, the vast Karlsaue park, features 53 projects alone – you might be tempted to skip these off-the-main-sites ones. Especially if you also planned to take a few weeks off and devote a lot of time and money to also visit the official documenta events scheduled to take place in Egypt, Afghanistan, and rural Canada. (There seems to be a logic of overbidding in place: not only more, but evermore remote and difficult sites; in 2002, there were documenta ‘platforms’ in Lagos or the Caribbean; in 2007, ElBulli restaurant in Spain was declared a site; so how could the director of the next documenta in 2017 top that – Antarctica? Waziristan? Chernobyl? The moon?)

(...) A few houses down the street is an elegantly modest presentation by Francis Alÿs of postcard-size paintings juxtaposing fragmented scenes from Kabul with abstract colour studies reminiscent of television test screens, testifying to doubts about the possibilities of ‘appropriately’ representing a war-torn nation but the need to still do so (while a simple note pinned to a board read, line after line, ’1943, I think about Morandi painting on top of a hill surrounded by fascism, I think about Picabia finding inspiration in soft porn magazines on the Côte d’Azur… I think about Leni Riefenstahl filming Tiefland with extras from concentration camps… I think about Blinky Palermo born in the rubbles of Leipzig…’). 

 Francis Alÿs in a former bakery in Obere Karlsstr. 4

Heiser also highlights Tacita Dean, whose "film project involving a cameraman commissioned to film in various locations in Kabul didn’t come through because the footage turned out to be flawed, but Dean made the best of it by realizing a whole set of large-scale chalk on blackboard ‘murals’ filling most walls in a former tax office space [in Spohrstr.7] dominated by a beautiful brass-railed staircase and balustrade."

Adrian Searle went on describing Dean's blackboard drawings: "(...) some are near-empty, just turbid blackness; others are filled with moiling rapids and rushing rivers. There are sunlit mountaintops, dusty avalanches, chalky wipe-outs. The six panels are a sort of storyboard, an evocation of an elsewhere. Dean's drawings are, I think, about time: geological time, the flash of a life, a passing thought."

Tacita Dean, Fatigues (2012). Blackboard-drawings in a former tax office. 
More detailed photos via Contemporary Art Daily.

Back to Heiser's words – he made his way to the vaults of a bunker underneath Kassel's vineyard terrace: "(...) Here, Allora & Calzadilla’s film Raptor’s Rapture (2012) was congenially placed: its point of departure is the unearthing, in 2009 in a cave in Southern Germany, of a flute that was carved 35000 years ago from a griffon vulture’s bone. The artists asked a flautist to try playing the flute in a studio setting confronting her with the presence of a living griffon vulture. The animal reacted rather stoically to the flautist’s systematic probing of different techniques of blowing, suggesting a time capsule being opened for the first time (the equivalent of archaeologists in the distant future retrieving data from an ancient computer hard drive). Given that the griffon vulture itself is a highly endangered species, the staging of the animal listening to an eery tune whistled on a bone of its one species nevertheless had an intentionally perverse and tautological undertone, emphasized by the slow and painstakingly precise camera work."

Christodoulos Panayiotou' "Independence Street", 2012: electricity poles and cables removed from Odos Anexartisias street in Limassol, Cyprus. "The Sea", 2012: ceramic tiles from Cyprus lined up in the exhibition space using water from the Mediterranean Sea. [3D view of this room here.]

And then concludes with a long description of his experience when seeing Jérome Bêl’s 'Disabled Theatre' (2012) performance piece which "carried all the way through 90 minutes of uneasy, preconception-probing estrangement and empathy."

The curtain opens and a stoically calm ‘instructor’ seated at the side of the stage, operating a simple p.a. system and also doubling as a translator from German into English, announces that the actors of the piece have been asked by Bel to first appear, one at a time, on stage to stand still for about a minute. The eleven protagonists do so, and after a short while it becomes clear that the title of the piece is to be taken literally: a majority of them appear to be handicapped given the physical attributes of Down Syndrome. This creates obvious unease on the part of a self-assumingly ‘intelligent’ audience in terms of staring at a supposedly ‘handicapped’ person in such a way as if subjected to enforced voyeurism. But this was only the first of five stages that gradually unravelled that very unease, however never giving in to simple comic relief, cynicism, or sentimentality. The second part again announced and explained in simple terms just as the following ones, involved a microphone stand being put up at the same spot at the centre of the stage, this time involving the protagonists giving their name, age, and profession. As for profession, all of them said “actor” – which is indeed the case, since they are members of the Zurich-based theatre group HORA. The third part involved the question of them being asked what their disability was – and they simply stated it on a spectrum from learning disability to the different terminologies of ‘Down Syndrome’, ‘Trisomy 21’, or, as one protagonist said of herself in a proud retort to medicinal as well as derogative terminology, ‘I’m a fucking mongoloid’.

The fourth and fifth part followed essentially the classic logic of climax and denouement: the fourth involved seven of the actors doing short dance performances according to their individual musical choreographical choices. (...). ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba is a song that moves me even if it is played in a Muzak version in a hotel lobby; here the same performer who had described herself as ‘mongoloid’ danced to it with Heavy Metal dedication – the applause was roaring, and mixed feelings gave way to a momentary rush of shared enthusiasm. But the fifth and last act involved the simple question put to the performers what they thought of Bel’s piece: some simply said ‘great’ or ‘good’, while others went into detail and told little stories. One of them quoted his mother saying she thought it was a freakshow but that she liked it anyway. Another said his sister cried in the car, saying he had been put on display like in a circus. This was not just a tired exercise of deconstructive self-reflection (as is so often the case with contemporary work) but a gradual shift from the authoritative, absent voice of Bel (...) to the autonomous voices of the protagonists themselves, who elegantly frustrate precisely the freak show tendency by taking the opportunity to voice their observations or, simply, performing their very own dance. 

There is a number of artists who could learn a lesson or two from Jérôme Bel’s piece, in terms of how it doesn’t shy away from difficult confrontations and yet steers clear of simplistic demonstrations of ‘taboo-breaking’ or – equally annoying – moralist complacency. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.

When describing the effect of seeing this piece, New York Magazine Jerry Saltz wrote he "was shaken to the core by the formal and emotional pathos in Jérôme Bel’s “dance” involving people with Down syndrome who simply stood onstage, danced for two minutes, then spoke about their perceptions of us watching them. A fourth wall shattered here into a fifth dimension."



 Paul Chan's "Wht is Wht? Why the Why?", 2012, at Friedrichstrasse 28.

Afghanistan was certainly present in many of participating artists' projects. In her review 'Kabul in Kassel, Kassel in Kabul', Emily Nathan from Artnet Magazine unpacks the lingering question of “Why Afghanistan?”:

"In answer to the question, [Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev] drew a parallel between Documenta’s original founding in 1955 amidst the rubble of World War II, and Afghanistan’s current state of reconstruction, such as it is. By inserting contemporary art from the west into the mix, she said, she wanted to create a bridge between Kabul’s vibrant international past and her own present -- “to act as if the situation was not what it is, as if the barriers, the conflict, the occupation in Kabul did not exist...continuing the daily life required by and inevitable while living in a militarized zone.” 


While this act of “radical imagination” is well-intentioned, it is nonetheless problematic, and the issues it brings up about art’s instrumentalization in places of violence and injustice were the subject for the panel, which featured the likes of Chus Martinez, Giuseppe Penone, Mario Garcia Torres, Francis Alÿs, Adrian Villar Rojas and a handful of young Afghan artists who participated in the seminars. In a gesture of cultural exchange, the work they created during the workshops is on view in Kassel’s various exhibition venues for Documenta, and will also be part of a final presentation in Kabul that opens this month. 


Adrián Villar Rojas field of sculptures around Kassel's Weinberg terrassen.

 Francis Alÿs small-sized paintings exhibited in a former bakery in Obere Karlsstr. 4.

(...) Most speakers followed suit, describing how grateful they were for the resources Documenta had provided and what they had learned. But one Afghan student spoke directly. “In the past few years,” he said, “Afghanistan has been entirely shaped by an infrastructure of ‘development.’ Documenta had no such pre-conceived program in mind for us; it made no claims for success or reconstruction. I found that liberating.”

Michael Rakowitz, an artist who led a stone-carving seminar in Bamiyan near the site of the stone Buddhas destroyed in 2001, was equally frank. “To ask how art might be enlisted in the service of rebuilding the culture of a devastated land and people,” he said, is “an incredibly problematic gesture, and that is what makes it good and important.” He sourced his decision to participate in the program to the realization that not participating would be a submission to his own sense of guilt, “which is related to political correctness,” which he sees as a sort of reverse-racism.
[3D tour of his contribution here]

Michael Rakowitz space in the ground floor of the Fridericianum.
More detailed images here via Contemporary Art Daily. 


 Detail of Rakowitz's installation.

(...) Indeed, the idea of context is one of the more salient issues in Bakargiev’s exchange program, since the works were made in Afghanistan during a particular period but have been displaced to Kassel for the exhibition. How can their significance be translated?

Another Afghan artist involved with the “Archive Practicum” project (...) took the mic. (...)“It’s hard, if not impossible,” he said, “to stay out of the mess of politics and war when involved in the cultural realm; one is translated onto and into the other. But what I discovered through these seminars,” the artist said -- lapsing into the kind of vague academic jargon that is all too popular on the international art circuit -- “is that it’s not about finding the ‘appropriate’ translation for an idea or a context, but rather problematizing the translation process and making space for its contradictions and limitations.”
 
“For me,” [Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev] concluded, “the image of Morandi sitting in his studio painting vases, one after the other, with Fascism all around him -- that is what art can do.

Back to Filipa Ramos' remarks on the Hauptbahnhof:

"Into the north wing of the train station, one happens upon an installation in a house by Haris Epaminonda and Daniel Gustav Cramer offering up an equally inebriating experience through arrangements of images, texts, letters, and found objects, mostly from domestic contexts, combined with multiple projections in a chiaroscuro labyrinth of rooms. This is surely one of Epaminonda’s most complex projects up until now, and it presents itself as one of the many museum-like configurations to be seen in Kassel."

 Haris Epaminonda & Daniel Gustav Kramer in the two floors and attic of a former office building behind Kassel's Hauptbahnhof.

More Hauptbahnhof highlights, and back to Dan Fox's words:

(...) A three-channel film by Clemens von Wedemeyer (Muster (Rushes), 2012) was a sophisticated and beautifully directed look at how historical meaning is established and grows across generations; its first chapter looks at Nazi atrocities committed in an old building in Kassel, then looks at a group of young actors attempting to make radical work in that venue, followed by a group of teenagers being taken on a tour of the grounds as an audio guide tells them of the horrors that had occurred there. Also of note was Javier Téllez’s film Artaud’s Cave (2012), elaborately installed in an imitation cave-cum-Aztec temple, and made in collaboration with residents of a psychiatric hospital in Mexico City; a film that excavated Antonin Artaud’s experiences in Mexico. [Great 3D view of the cave entrance here]
  
 Still from Javier Téllez's "Artaud's Cave", 2012.

And still some more highlights:

(above and below)  Lara Favaretto's "Momentary Monument IV (Kassel)", 2012.
More detailed images of her two-part presentation here via Contemporary Art Daily. 
A great 360º panoramic view here.


 Haegue Yang's motorised Venetian blinds in Kassel's former central station. 
A lot more detailed images here by Contemporary Art Daily.

 And off-site, at the Ständehaus:

 Dora Garcia's weekly TV show 'Klau Mich' (die Kalu Mich Show) studio. 
Fully comprehensive website here (with videos, agenda, blog...).

 Xabier Salaberria (although not listed as D13 participant) design for the Absolute bar at the foyer of the Ständehaus. [Panoramic view here]

One final observation from Quinn Latimer's review on Art Agenda:


"(...) despite the attention fostered by both Christov-Bakargiev herself and her critics on her vaunted interest in the nonhuman world, what I found most startling about Documenta 13 was how entirely human it was, and how engaged with the world that we (joyfully, sorrowfully, weirdly) inhabit. If that sounds lamely human-centric and passé, so be it. It’s a deeply intelligent, stringent, surprising, and entirely committed (yes, that word again) showing of the potentiality of private lives accorded the most public of stages."


And, more final statements by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev when interviewed by Rotterdam artists Bik Van der Pol: (...) "In order for democracy to move forward, we have to constitute the subject as a subject and give up any pretension of ownership and exclusivity that we might have about subjectivity. It is about empowering, and the right to determine the environment in which we all live."


More photo reports via Contemporary Art Daily and Flash Art online and Universes in Universe and preview videos via Vernissage TV and b
elow our slideshow with over 200 pictures:



All photos: Latitudes | www.lttds.org

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Conferencia "El contrato curatorial: analogías y casos de estudio". Jueves 14 Junio a las 20h, CGAC, Santiago de Compostela

 'The Last..." los diez números semanales que conforman el catálogo final de la exposición "The Last Newspaper" (New Museum, 2010). 
Foto: Latitudes | www.lttds.org

| ES |

"El contrato curatorial: analogías y casos de estudio" analiza modelos extraídos de personajes de la cultura popular así como la terminología legal que pueden ayudarnos a definir algunos de los códigos éticos y profesionales que se establecen entre artistas y comisarios. A través del proyecto editorial 'The Last Newspaper' realizado por Latitudes en el New Museum en el 2010, se especulará sobre dicha relación y sobre como ésta dialoga con el público como participante del proceso curatorial. 

Conferencia organizada en colaboración con el Máster en Arte, Museología y Crítica Contemporáneas, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, donde Latitudes será profesor invitado el viernes 15 Junio, y donde discutirá algunos de sus proyectos incluídos No Soul for Sale (en X Initiative y en Tate Modern), Portscapes, Campus y Amikejo

CGAC (Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea)
Rúa Valle Inclán s/n
15704 Santiago de Compostela
T: 981 546619 


Commissioner Gordon calls Batman: the institutional alliance with those operating outside the law.

| UK |

 The lecture "The curatorial contract: analogies and case studies" draws from popular culture and legal terminology to help define some of the ethical and professional codes at work between artists and curators. Through the editorial project 'The Last Newspaper' developed by Latitudes at the New Museum in 2010, the presentation will speculate on this relationship and how it dialogues with the public-as-participant.

Conference organised in collaboration with the Máster en Arte, Museología y Crítica Contemporáneas where on June 15, Latitudes will be visiting lecturers and discuss a range of their projects including No Soul for Sale (at X Initiative and at Tate Modern), Portscapes, Campus and Amikejo.

CGAC (Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea)
Rúa Valle Inclán s/n
15704 Santiago de Compostela
T: 981 546619 


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

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#OpenCurating Research Project awarded the 'BCN Producció 2012' grant


| UK |

Building on concerns explored by Latitudes during “The Last Newspaper” project (New Museum, 2010), and drawing on the emerging practices of so-called 'Open Journalism' – which seek to better collaborate with and use the ability of anyone to publish and share#OpenCurating is a research project which will investigate how contemporary art projects can function beyond the traditional format of exhibition-and-catalogue in ways which might be more fully knitted into the web of information which exists in the world today. #OpenCurating is concerned with new forms of interaction between publics – whether online followers or physical visitors – with artworks and their production, display and discursive context.

The project is structured around three elements: a Twitter discussion moderated around the hashtag #OpenCurating. Secondly, a series of ten new interviews with curators, artists, journalists and online strategists, each of which will be published as a digital edition, and a final public event in Barcelona.

#OpenCurating has been awarded the first BCN Producció 2012 Research Grant of the Institut de Cultura de Barcelona.

| ES |

Partiendo de las preocupaciones exploradas por Latitudes durante el proyecto editorial realizado durante “The Last Newspaper” (New Museum, 2010), y basándose en las prácticas emergentes del denominado 'periodismo abierto' ('Open Journalism') – que trata de mejorar la colaboración y utilizar la habilidad de cualquier persona para publicar y compartir – #OpenCurating es un proyecto de investigación que indagará cómo los proyectos de arte contemporáneo estan planteándose más allá del tradicional formato 'exposición y catálogo', analizando las nuevas formas de interacción entre los públicos – sean seguidores online o visitantes físicos – con obras de arte, su producción, exhibición y su contexto discursivo.

El proyecto se estructura a partir de tres elementos: una discusión en Twitter moderada por el hashtag #OpenCurating. En segundo lugar, una serie de diez entrevistas a comisarios, artistas, periodistas y expertos online, cada una de los cuales será publicada en una edición digital y por último, un evento público que tendrá lugar en Barcelona. 

#OpenCurating es ganadora de la primera convocatoria en la categoría de investigación de BCN Producció 2012, que otorga el Institut de Cultura de Barcelona.


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

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Newsletter #44 – June 2012


In June

Launch of the publication 'Amikejo' at the border tri-point (drielandenpunt) where the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet, Saturday 2 June, 17h.

Lecture "The curatorial contract: analogies and case studies", Centro Galego de Arte Contemporaneo (CGAC), Thursday 14 June, 20h, and visiting lecturers, Máster en Arte, Museología y Crítica Contemporáneas, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Friday 15 June.

+ info:


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Launch of the publication 'Amikejo' at the border tri-point (drielandenpunt) where the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet, 2 June, 17h


| UK |

Coinciding with the opening days of Manifesta 9, Latitudes will launch the publication 'Amikejo' at the border marker which represents the apex of the former Neutral Moresnet-Amikejo at Vaalserberg. This tripoint (drielandenpunt) that joins the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, was once a four-border-point before Neutral Moresnet was absorbed in Belgium. 

Confused? Then read Ryszard Żelichowski's essay included in the publication titled "Neutral Moresnet and Amikejo – The Forgotten Children of the Congress of Vienna" which offers an overview of how Neutral Moresnet (the state 'renamed' Amikejo in 1908) came into existence.

The publication accompanies the year-long cycle of exhibitions that took place at the Laboratorio 987, the project space of MUSAC, León, thoughout 2011, with exhibitions by Pennacchio Argentato (29 January–3 April 2011); Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum (9 April–12 June 2011); Uqbar (Irene Kopelman & Mariana Castillo Deball) (25 June–11 September 2011); Fermín Jiménez Landa & Lee Welch (24 September 2011–15 January 2012).

Editor: Latitudes
Publisher & Distribution: Mousse Publishing
Format: 22.5 x 15.5cm, 216 pp, hardcover
Texts: Giorgio Agamben, Theo Beckers, Latitudes, Prof. Peter Osborne, Georges Pérec, Prof. Dr. Menno Schilthuizen, Ryszard Zelichowski
Language: English and Spanish
ISBN: 9788896501832
Price: 26 Euro
Purchase via Mousse (Milan) or Motto (Berlin).


| ES |

Coincidiendo con la inauguración de Manifesta 9, Latitudes presentará la publicación 'Amikejo' en el trifinio (drielandenpunt) en el que convergen las fronteras de los Países Bajos, Bélgica y Alemania, y que antaño fue un punto cuadrifinio antes de que Neutral Moresnet-Amikejo fuese finalmente absorbido por Bélgica.

¿Confuso? Lee el texto "Moresnet Neutral y Amikejo: los hijos olvidados del Congreso de Viena" del Prof. Ryszard Żelichowski que se incluye en la publicación y que repass la historia de Neutral Moresnet (el estado 'rebautizado' Amikejo en 1908).
La publicación acompaña el ciclo de exposiciones que tuvo lugar en el Laboratorio 987, el espacio proyectual del MUSAC, León, a lo largo del 2011, con exposiciones de Pennacchio Argentato (29 enero–3 abril 2011); Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum (9 abril–12 junio 2011); Uqbar (Irene Kopelman & Mariana Castillo Deball) (25 junio–11 septiembre 2011); Fermín Jiménez Landa & Lee Welch (24 septiembre 2011–15 enero 2012).

Edita: Latitudes
Publica & Distribuye: Mousse Publishing
Formato: 22.5 x 15.5cm, 216 pp, tapa dura
Textos: Giorgio Agamben, Theo Beckers, Latitudes, Prof. Peter Osborne, Georges Pérec, Prof. Dr. Menno Schilthuizen, Ryszard Zelichowski
Idioma: inglés y español
ISBN: 9788896501832
Precio: 26 Euro
Compra via Mousse (Milan) o Motto (Berlin).

Más fotos de la publicación aquí.
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Rita McBride "Public Tender" at MACBA and "Blind Dates" programme with Barcelona-based artists

Bartomeu Marí and Rita McBride (right) in front of the audience seating at McBrides' 'Arena' (1997).

Coinciding with the opening of Rita McBride's solo exhibition "Oferta Pública / Public Tender" (18 May–24 September 2012) that opened last night at MACBA, Bartomeu Marí, director of the museum and curator of the exhibition, was in conversation with the artist in the second floor galleries, where McBride's "Arena" (1997) has been installed.

Below the stream of @LTTDS' tweets posted during their conversation (chronologically from bottom to top):


One of the activities programmed around the exhibition is "Blind Dates", with the participation of Barcelona-based artists who will intervene in McBride's "Arena" once a month: Tamara Kuselman (20 June, 16–19.30h), Laia Estruch (18 July, 20h), Jordi Ferreiro (August, during museum opening hours), Ryan Rivadeneyra (19 September, 20h), Miguel Noguera (20 September, 20h). + info here.

Some of them made it to the talk...

From top to bottom, left to right: Jordi Ferreiro, Ryan Rivadeneyra, Tamara Kuselman and Laia Estruch.

All photos: Latitudes | www.lttds.org
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Ignasi Aballí at ARTIUM and Latitudes' text on 2009 project in Beijing and a 2010 interview

Ignasi Aballí "This is not the end". Courtesy of the artist.

On the occasion of Ignasi Aballí (Barcelona, 1958) exhibition 'This is not the end' at ARTIUM, Vitoria-Gasteiz (curated by François Piron, on view until 2 September 2011), we wanted to share two projects in which Latitudes collaborated with the Catalan artist.

Firstly, the interview 'Rank & File' between the artist and Latitudes for which we discussed his ongoing 'List' series. The text was originally published in 'The Last Star Ledger' (Issue #4 of 'The Last Newspaper' catalogue, New Museum, New York, 2010).


Read here: https://issuu.com/latitudes/docs/4_the_last_star-ledger/2



ARTIUM's 'This is not the end' includes the work "Tomar medidas" (Taking Measures, 2009), in which nine instruments are displayed measuring things we cannot see: dust particles, time, electrical fields, noise, temperature, intensity of light, radiation, etc. The first version of "Tomar medidas" was produced for 'Nothing, or Something' (22 May–22 July 2009), an exhibition curated by Latitudes for Suitcase Art Projects, the project space of the Today Art Museum, located on three floors of the Yintai retail centre in Beijing – see images of the exhibition. 

Following is the essay included in the small publication 'Nothing, or Something' produced alongside the exhibition – see images of the publication.




Detail of the publication "Nothing, or Something" published by Today Art Museum and edited by Latitudes.

'Ignasi Aballí: Nothing, Or Something'

The morning before Ignasi Aballí’s ‘Nothing, Or Something’ opened, we couldn’t help but overhear an American businesswoman having a breakfast meeting at our hotel. “We’re working very much with intangibles”, she declared – and, we had to concur, so were we. Aballí’s works for Suitcase Art Projects address immateriality, residues and traces. He prompts us to consider things that we cannot perceive directly or are too ordinary to be properly noticed. What is perhaps philosophy’s central and most enduring question – ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ – is simultaneously approached as a precise existential experiment and as if with the shrug of a silent comedian.

Despite drawing on the formal language of modernism’s impulse towards reduction and the ‘white cube’ of the museum as much as commonplace materials and unremarkable elements of daily existence, ‘Nothing, or Something’ has nevertheless been created for a situation that is neither fully ‘art’ (though presented under the auspices of the Today Art Museum), nor ‘life’, nor public space – but for a shopping centre. Walter Benjamin’s vast The Arcades Project (1927–1940) located the bustling arcades of nineteenth-century Paris – early versions of the contemporary mall – as heralding a decisive shift to the speed and commodification of things which signaled the emergence of the modern age. Following Benjamin’s concerns, Aballí’s project is preoccupied by the parameters of display while being experienced through a collision and confusion with its surroundings. The windows in which it takes place are located throughout three floors of the Beijing Yintai Centre, a recently opened retail destination hosting high-end fashion, jewelry and watch manufacturers in the heart of Beijing's Central Business District, in one of the tallest buildings in the city. In the context of an excess of brand visibility, signage and luxury product presentation strategies, the eight conceptually interlinked works which comprise ‘Nothing, or Something’ seek a counterpoint and temporarily make room for a different kind of looking, a slower revelation and, to borrow from Marcel Duchamp – to whom we will return – a ‘delay in glass’. The constraints and techniques of making something visible, and the very expectation of having something to see, become the projects’ points of articulation. 

Please excuse our appearance, for example, wryly offers the visitor an explanation for the apparent lack of anything in the display case beyond the out-of-place presence of pages from the Spanish newspaper El País (which has often been used by Aballí as the basis for his art) which are laid on the floor as if anticipating some messy activity. Summoning an in-between temporality of perpetual waiting, the vinyl text on the window requests pardon for an apparent hiatus in the rhythm of seasonal trends. Aballí’s work from 2005 entitled Próxima aparición / Próximamente / Coming Soon – a one hour film showing the text of its title – similarly places the audience in a irrational situation of viewing where the main event is declaredly taking place at another time. Coming Soon is also the title of the vacated shop scenario of ‘Nothing, Or Something’. Only traces are left on the premises. An inventory of products on sale are detailed in half-removed words on the glass. Torn posters hang from the side walls; dirty marks have been left by shelves at the back; the dusty outline of objects in a forgotten display case. Each is a remainders of what purports to have been a unit dedicated to photographic equipment. The awkwardly appended ‘coming soon’ vinyl text on the window creates some confusion, however, as to what has left and what has yet to appear. Dust has regularly featured as a material in Aballí’s work, bringing to mind not only Dust Breeding (1920) – Man Ray’s celebrated photograph of Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915–23) partially covered in a thick dusty layer – but less specifically a concern with entropy and the threshold of perception, where something is only readily perceivable through gradual accumulation or through its removal. Dust is “a very complex material ... a terminal, annoying, residual material that we don’t want” as the artist has described – particularly when it comes to photography.1 As he addressed in his recent exhibition ‘Without activity’, so many of the gestures and routines of (especially pre-digital) photography are concerned with cleaning, brushing and wiping-away.2 The depositing of dust also becomes an analogue for the exposure of light on photographic paper and in essence the inevitable passage of time.

Dust is, unsurprisingly, present in the atmosphere of Beijing. In the work Beijing Air, Aballí takes the small volume of the city’s air present in a window display as the subject of what seems to be an encyclopedic annotated diagram cataloguing its actual and speculative, or feared, components. Text fixed to the glass and indicating lines describe the common gases present in air as well as a host of industrial pollutants, various airborne viruses and environmental particulate matter such as pollen. Many artists have commemorated the notion of blankness or explored the radically empty and each different reasons – the void can represent the wiping away of content and yet the preparation for something new. Aballí echoes this legacy – alongside Duchamp once more, whose Paris Air (1919) consists of a small vial of air from the French capital – yet his pseudo-scientific indications that nothingness is in fact not so easily achievable, at least for an earth-bound artist, brings humorous bathos to one of the central myths of the avant-garde.

Taking measures similarly adopts the language of objective inquiry with an absurd twist. Eight identical plinths occupy a vitrine and present scientific instruments which detect and measure invisible forces for the duration of the project – a stopwatch counts time, a digital barometer records the atmosphere pressure, a compass shows the magnetic orientation, a thermometer-hydrometer measures temperature and humidity, while a lux meter detects light. A sound meter measures in decibels alongside an instrument for sensing radiation. It is no surprise that an anemometer reveals that it is not windy in the vitrine. Contrary to immediate, decorative, or pictorial appeals to vision, Aballí proposes an ongoing sensitization to perceptions that escape direct representation. Yet evidently, we are still looking at something and instead our aesthetic attention is displaced onto the design and the presentational mode of these instruments.

The vitrine opposite this, Scenic Viewpoints, presents the visitor with an arrangement of what appears to be blank white sheets of paper taped to the inside of the glass. As with several of the other works, in this shopping centre context it could well seem like an unfortunate-looking temporary situation. Something being changed, remedied, covered over and hopefully overlooked: nothing to see here! Yet the attentive are rewarded with an altogether different vision – looking through the gaps in the white ‘tiles’ through to the reflection in the mirrored back surface of the narrow space, one can piece together an exuberant compilation of sights. Each sheet is an enlarged colour postcard depicting views, events and landmarks from the artist’s home of Barcelona, a city whose popularity as a tourist destination lies in no small part to its presentation as a readily consumable and legible visual ‘brand’. Blankly monochromatic on the outside, Scenic Viewpoints refuses such a generalised overview. Its ecstatic orchestration of wide vistas and saturated spectacles is only visible to a peeping, prying viewer who then can only see a small part at one time, while linking “the abundance of images around us with the scarcity of meaning we can attach to them”, as Bartomeu Marí has described of another of Aballí’s works Revelations (2005).3 

The vitrines titled Illuminating and White Cube are sited facing each other. Illuminating consists only of the application of light. Very bright light. The installation of professional film lights which shine out from the vitrine creates a level of luminescence that is evidently excessive. With a seeming lack of anything in particular to illuminate, one is reflected in the mirrored vitrine in the looped process of beholding oneself beholding the work. A counterpoint to the tastefully spotlighted products in the neighbouring shops, the wastefully ‘incorrect’ situation highlights a stark condition of energetic consumption while literally highlighting its context. White Cube provides the backdrop to this intense reflexivity. It cancels the transparency of its vitrine through the application of whitewash on the glass, a technique commonly adopted by empty premises after going out of business. (Not coincidentally, some of the pages of the newspapers of Please excuse our appearance carry stories related to the recession, which are illustrated by closed-up shops.) As with Aballí’s Big Mistake (1998-2005) and other works using Tipp-Ex correction fluid (used to cover errors on writing or typing paper), the artist creates a quotidian monochrome, through a melancholic painting-like blanking-out activity that nevertheless is never properly a painting. If White Cube refers to a spectre of painting, Vitrines for a Vitrine seems to orientate around some missing sculpture or precious object. Yet as if the artist has been perpetually unconvinced by the plausibility of displaying something, no thing is on show – rather it is the condition of display which is demonstrated in a mise en abyme, itself within the regime of visibility of the shopping centre. Three clear acrylic display cases like those used in museums or in chic stores occupy the glass vitrine. Each contains one small photograph of different empty vitrines which the artist has encountered in various cities.

Nothing, or Something’ undoubtedly triggers perplexing situations for the shopping public, and the workers of the centre who were more-or-less familiar with the art project’s presence or witnesses to its installation. For many the works may well go completely unnoticed. Are we seeing what we are supposed to be seeing? Where is the work? When is the work? Yet it is not the intention of Aballí’s project to be disingenuous or confrontational. On the contrary, it operates through orchestrating and modifying simple possibilities for observation, deduction and reflection. Something or nothing is happening, is not happening, is not happening any more, or is yet to happen. Enhanced by memory and hindsight the project allows a disarmingly humble visual retirement – the kind of complexity that emerges through ceasing or waiting. How and why are things added and subtracted from the world, or from sight? What is worth looking at, having or keeping, and what is to be doubted or erased? What does it mean to be more aware of the things we cannot see? Perhaps we are all working with intangibles?

Latitudes (Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna)
 
1 Ignasi Aballí, 0-24 h., Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2005, p.25
2 Sem Actividade / Without Activity, Museu de Portimão, 2008
3 Ignasi Aballí, 0-24 h., Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2005, p.11

Text originally published in 'Nothing, or Something', the publication accompanying the exhibition that took place in the Suitcase Art Projects, Beijing, China, 22 May–22 July 2009. 



This is the blog of the independent curatorial office Latitudes. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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Latitudes | www.lttds.org (except when noted otherwise in the photo caption)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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RECUERDA: Presentación de la publicación 'Amikejo': Martes 22 Mayo, 20h en Múltiplos (c/ Lleó 6, 08001 Barcelona)


NOTA DE PRENSA

Presentación de la publicación 'Amikejo' editada por Mousse Publishing en colaboración con MUSAC.

Martes 22 Mayo, 20h
Múltiplos (c/ Lleó 6, 08001 Barcelona)

Presentación a cargo de Fermín Jiménez Landa (artista) y Latitudes (editores y comisarios del ciclo expositivo 'Amikejo').

La publicación concluye el ciclo de exposiciones 'Amikejo', que a lo largo del 2011 ha incluído muestras de Pennacchio Argentato; Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum; Uqbar (Irene Kopelman & Mariana Castillo Deball y Fermín Jiménez Landa & Lee Welch en el Laboratorio 987, el espacio proyectual del Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC). (+ info...)

El volumen incluye textos sobre cada proyecto escritos por los comisarios del ciclo, así como reimpresiones de Giorgio Agamben ("Notas sobre el gesto", 1996) y Georges Perec (extractos de "Especies de espacios y gestos Otras Piezas", 1974 ), vistas de las exposiciones y biografías de los artistas participantes.
 

Además cuenta con una serie de ensayos de académicos y científicos especialmente escritos para la ocasión:

Peter Osborne (Profesor de Filosofía moderna y director del Centro de investigación de filosofía europea moderna de la Kingston University London) con el texto ‘Fragmentos del futuro': Notas sobre el espacio proyecto" que se centra en peculiar idea de la 'sala de proyectos', espacio que se caracteriza por ser total en su idoneidad para un determinado tipo de temporalización: la temporalización del proyecto. ¿Cuál es su distintiva espacialización?, Y ¿cómo le afecta la codificación específicamente artística de un proyecto?.

Ryszard Zelichowski (Profesor y Director de Investigaciones Científicas en el Instituto de Estudios Políticos de la Academia Polaca de Ciencias) contribuye con el texto "Neutral Moresnet y Amikejo - Los niños olvidados del Congreso de Viena" ofrece una visión general de cómo Moresnet Neutral (el estado rebautizado como 'Amikejo' en 1908) llegó a existir.

Theo Beckers (Ex-profesor de Estudios de Ocio de la Universidad de Tilburg y en la actualidad miembro del cuerpo docente del Centro de Sostenibilidad de Tilburg y profesor visitante de la Academia china de ciencias)** escribe el texto "El tiempo libre. Auge y caída de un proyecto social", en el que rastrea la relación de la sociedad occidental con el trabajo y el tiempo, desde Séneca el Joven, a través del auge de las fábricas y de los 'Principios de Administración Científica' (1911) de Frederick Winslow Taylor, hasta la actual confusión hoy en día entre trabajo y ocio.

Menno Schilthuizen (Científico de investigación en NCB Naturalis, Cátedra para la biodiversidad de los insectos en la Universidad de Groningen y Profesor asociado en la Universidad de Leiden) escribe "Sobre las imágenes especulares en la naturaleza: cómo formas idénticas pueden ser totalmente distintas", principio que se refleja en la exposición del dúo Uqbar entorno a la quiralidad: en animales y plantas asimétricas, a veces ambas formas especulares existen lado a lado, pero a veces sólo existe una de ellas y el otro es "prohibido".


Título: Amikejo
Edita: Latitudes
Publica y distribuye: Mousse Publishing en colaboración con MUSAC
Fecha publicación: Abril 2012
Formato: 22.5x15.5cm, 216 págs, tapa dura
Idioma: inglés/español
Distribuye: Mousse Publishing
ISBN: 9788896501832
Precio: 26 Euros
Compra online

La publicación estará disponible durante la presentación.

Múltiplos es una librería y distribuidora independiente de Barcelona especializada en libros de artistas.


All photos: Latitudes | www.lttds.org (except when noted otherwise in the photo caption)
Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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SAVE THE DATE: Presentation of the publication 'Amikejo' with artist Fermín Jiménez Landa. Tuesday 22 May, 20h at Múltiplos, Barcelona

All photos: Latitudes | www.lttds.org

Latitudes will present the publication together with 'Amikejo' artist Fermín Jiménez Landa, who will discuss the project presented together with Lee Welch for the final exhibition of the cycle. Jiménez Landa will discuss one of the works, 'Himno Nacional' (2011), in which a marching band was commissioned to compose and play a new national anthem. Composed in the most archaic tradition, markedly romantic, military and patriotic, the anthem enacted a parodic attempt to reach a futile objective: the conquering of a small island in the Aegean Sea through invasion-by-sound.

The publication accompanies the cycle of four exhibitions by Pennacchio Argentato (29 January–3 April 2011); Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum (9 April–12 June 2011); Uqbar (Irene Kopelman & Mariana Castillo Deball) (25 June–11 September 2011); Fermín Jiménez Landa & Lee Welch (24 September 2011–15 January 2012) that took place at the Laboratorio 987, the project space of MUSAC, León, thoughout 2011. (+ info...) 

Editor: Latitudes 

Publisher & Distribution: Mousse Publishing 

Format: 22.5 x 15.5cm, 216 pp, hardcover 

Texts: Giorgio Agamben, Theo Beckers, Latitudes, Peter Osborne, Georges Pérec, Menno Schilthuizen, Ryszard Zelichowski 

Language: English and Spanish 

ISBN: 9788896501832 
Price: 26 Euro 

The publication will be available for purchase during the presentation
Múltiplos is an independent bookshop that specialises in artists publications.

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