As I pointed out in my last post, the German cultural season has hit London with full force. Two major museums are showing big retrospectives of German artists. But of course there is a good amount of brilliant British and overseas art currently on display too. Bypassing the super blockbusters of Rembrandt, Turner, William Morris and co, I present to you the 9 must-see exhibitions of contemporary art this November.
2. Anselm Kiefer, Royal Academy of Arts, 27 September – 14 December 2014, Kiefer’s monumental work as to be seen in person. It is then that the effect of his massive canvases with thickly laid on, relief-like paint truly unfolds.
3. Mirrorcity, Hayward Gallery, 14 October 2014 – 4 January 2015, This exhibition brings together London-based contemporary artists which are united by a common reflection on what it means to live in the digital age. Although this show has had mixed reviews, it is the first major museum exhibition dedicated to this topic.
5. Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Zabludowicz Collection, 2 October – 21 December 2014, The two artist collaborate again to create a super-modern, hyper-digital immersive nightmare. Trecartin’s schizophrenic films are complimented by Fitch’s grotesque gallery environments.
9. Jane and Louise Wilson, IWM Contemporary, 15 October 2014 – Sun 11 January 2015, Produced to mark the centenary of the First World War Jane and Louise Wilson’s film explores the construction of narratives of the time.
Millenials, Generation Y, Generation Me – Its demographic spans those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s and I am myself part of it. We are a generation that, according to Jean Twenge author of the book Generation Me (2006), is characterized by a strong sense of community, tolerance and confidence, but at the same time also a sense of entitlement and narcissism. Growing up in a post-Cold War world, we witnessed the delimitation of actual and metaphorical boundaries, the sheer unstoppable increase of consumer culture and, most importantly, the beginnings and the rise of the internet. Especially the latter was and is, as we all know, the catalyst that would change our lives forever.
Paradoxically, in today’s #YOLO-culture of seemingly infinite possibilities and opportunities, of #self(ie)-indulgence and generally accepted exhibitionism we often find ourselves in a state of perceived immobility and depression. The perpetual hunt for never-ending entertainment, for infinite jest, leaves us feeling empty and dissatisfied – A party that lasts forever is bound to become repetitive.
The exhibition Unendlicher Spass (Infinite Jest) at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, named after the book with the same title by David Foster Wallace, is concerned with this I at the beginning of the 21. century, the I of the Generation Me. The I which has boundless options and is simultaneously utterly unable to cope with this abundance. While in today’s world every nobody has theoretically the same chance of suddenly becoming somebody – be it through casting and reality shows on TV or by being discovered on the internet – there is also this sense of longing for normality, banality, and the average. This is reflected in such concepts as normcore, a fashion and lifestyle trend striving for the bland anti-style.
Unendlicher Spass is set up in a cluster of rooms, often accessible in more than one way, whereby it is free to the visitor to decide in which order to view the artworks. The curatorial set-up, with no real beginning or end to the display, thus mirrors the infinite self-centred circularity of the Generation Me.
Artworks like Peter Coffin’s Untitled (2008) and Alicia Kwade’s Journey without arrival (2012) directly translate perceived immobility or pointlessness. Coffin’s work takes as its model the conveyor-belt packaging system of a New York electronics shop. Instead of goods, Coffin’s belt now transports a bundle of balloons in an endless loop, up and down, and around the gallery space. Kwade’s installation consists of a bike which has been bend to form a circle, making it impossible to ride it in any other way than around itself.
The incessant occupation with the self is dealt with in Maurizio Cattelan’s Spermini (1997) in which the artist multiplies himself into scores of three-dimensional selfie-sculptures, spread out to swarm the walls. In Andrea Fraser’s two-screen video installation Projection (2008) the artist sits facing herself mimicking the patient on screen and the therapist on the other.
While some works, like Francis Alys’ Time is a Trick of the Mind (1998) show a more philosophical approach to the theme of cause and effect and circularity, it is especially Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch’s installation Living Comp (2011), that reflects the dystopian, dream-like state of the Generation Me most up-to-date.
In a sort of sculptural theatre with beds and benches spread across the room, the visitor is invited to consume Trecartin’s film Ready (Re’Search Wait’s) (2010). The piece is a tour de force of a home-quality video showing the artist assuming different roles and engaging in monologues that verge on self-indulgent hysteria. The whole assemblage is fast-paced and overlaid with flashing graphics. The artist presents an exaggerated, but shockingly accurate caricature of the 21 century I.
If you happen to be in Frankfurt, you can catch the last day of Unendlicher Spass (Infinite Jest) tomorrow.
Imagine you have a day in Berlin. For one reason or the other you want to stay away from the big sites. You may have been many times before, or maybe you just want to save yourself the queuing amongst crowds of tourists in front of the Pergamon Museum or the Bundestag.
Both of these reasons were holding true for me on my most recent visit to the German capital. Having been to and lived in Berlin before, as well as recently having been chewed through and spit out by one of the best techno festivals Germany has to offer, I was in the mood for taking it easy on my last day, before returning to the hustle and bustle of the big smoke, aka London.
Completely by accident, my friend and I came across a brilliant breakfast spot. Sucre et Sel, a French-style brasserie, just off Rosenthaler Platz, that offers a great value-for-money breakfast. When I ordered the Depardieu (€10), which promised to contain a mixed plate of original french cheeses and meat, an egg, bread and a croissant, I did not expect this:
Full and content I said good-bye to my friend and walked from Rosenthaler Platz via the Hackische Hoefe towards Oranienburger Strasse. Hidden in the side streets around this tourist strip, bursting with cocktail bars, are many of Berlin’s galleries and contemporary art venues, such as the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. However, this time I gave the former a miss in favour of it’s neighbour the ME Collector’s Room.
On its website, the Collector’s Room is keen to distinguish itself from the concept of the traditional museum or gallery space. While the top floor holds the permanent exhibit of the Wunderkammer Olbricht, a bounty of all kinds of paraphernalia, the bottom floor provides a space for the changing display of themed exhibitions which showcase artworks from private collections.
On the day of my visit and still up to the 21 September, the Collectors Room is showing works from the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Collection. Rebaudengo’s is one of the most important private collections of international contemporary art in Europe and has, for instance, been exhibited at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 2013.
Rebaudengo’s taste in art ranges from quirky to earnest, juxtaposing a keen interest in art that explores human emotion and psychology with a fascination with the quirky and whimsical. Stanze/Rooms is the focus with which the Collectors Room presents a selection of works that “recreate the idea of the stanza as the personal habitat of poetic reflection.” Hereby, the concept of room is understood as both physical and metaphorical as a place of withdrawal and reflection. A place to contain, to delimit a personal and mental, conceptual or actual space.
The visitor is introduced into the exhibition with last year’s Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost’s video work Wantee (2013). Set in the house of the artist’s fictional grandfather, this assemblage of close shots of a muddy interior, crazy teapots and deranged furniture with the artist’s own voice recounting her grandfather in a continuous murmur, jointly explores the diverse concepts of room mentioned above.
In this vein, the exhibition continuous, each artwork on show presenting its own stance, or ‘stanza,’ on the concept. Maurizio Cattelan’s installation Bidibidobidiboo (1995) and Andrea Zitter’s A to Z 1994 Living Unit (1994) present actual 3D containers of space, Cattelan’s plexiglass cube one that acts as an insight into a satirical alternative universe in which squirrels commit suicide, and Zitter’s in the form of a piece of functional compact furniture/dwelling/suitcase hybrid.
Actual rooms are juxtaposed with visual reproductions, such as the stills from Cindy Sherman’s films (1977-1980), and explorations of the room as metaphorical. The latter is explored in Sam Taylor-Wood’s work The Travesty of Mockery (1995). The two screen video installation shows a couple fighting, the mental restriction of the two sides of their argument reflected in their physical restriction to the left and the right screen respectively. Fixed by the diametre and reach of the camera shot, each of them is incapable of leaving their designated side.
Undertaking the curatorial venture of gathering a themed selection of works from a private collection can sometimes generate an exhibition outcome that seems forced, one where the works seem to have been pressed into conceptual molds they don’t really fit. Thankfully, this is not the case with Stanza/Rooms. Here the idea of the room has been explored and thought through to the end, enabling the visitor to gain access to a variety of diverse works through their conceptual connection.
Should you make your way to Berlin this summer, I strongly recommend you visit the exhibition, and of course you will have to fuel your visit with a French breakfast at Sucre et Sel.
Stanze/Rooms Works from the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Collection
02 May – 21 September 2014
me Collectors Room Berlin / Olbricht Foundation
Auguststrasse 68, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Tuesday – Sunday 12pm-6pm
Admission Wunderkammer and exhibition:
Regular 7 Euro / reduced 4 Euro
Just off busy Oxford Street lies a not so hidden gem, The Photographers’ Gallery. I had been wanting to visit for a long time and finally made my way there this past weekend to view the current display of nominees for the Deutsche Boerse Price.
Annually (since 1996) The Photographers’ Gallery awards a photographer of any nationality for his or her outstanding contribution to the medium of photography in the previous year. The Deutsche Boerse has been sponsoring the £30 000 prize since 2005. This year’s nominees were Alberto Garcia-Alix (Spain), Jochen Lempert (Germany), Richard Mosse (Ireland) and Lorna Simpson (US). On May 12th 2014 the prize was awarded to Richard Mosse.
The nominees’ works are displayed over two of the four exhibition flours of the gallery. Upon entering the lower floor, I was greeted with the black and white works of Alberto Garcia-Alix. The works of Garcia-Alix, who was nominated for his publication Autorretrato/Self-portrait, consist of his self-exploratory portraits, documenting his experiences with drugs, prostitutes, and the Spanish punk-scene of the late 70s and 80s.
In a kind of nostalgic retrospective of cause and effect, these relics from his youth are juxtaposed in particular with his 2002 self-portrait My Feminine Side. I found the latter especially engrossing, as it captures the photographer’s body as an ultimate testament to his past and present. The body, covered in tattoos, is at the same time seemingly emaciated by past drug-abuse. This stands in opposition to his clenched fists, a posture of determinism and strength, again contrasting his facial expression, which displays a sense of defeat and, as the title suggests, an air of gentleness or femininity.
On the same floor are displayed the photographs by Jochen Lempert. These formed part of his solo-exhibition at Hamburger Kunsthalle in 2013. I found his photography to be equally as intimate as Garcia-Alix’s, although in quite a different way.
In his work, former biologist Lempert has occupied himself closely with nature. He seems to have done so in a way that is twofold – firstly, in his subject matter, composed of plants and animals, and secondly, in his inquiry into the medium of photography itself through the exploration of the properties of light. These interests are mirrored for instance, in his photograms Four Frogs from 2010.
From afar, pinned directly and unframed onto the wall, the series blurs to a set of greyish monochrome papers with a few white dots strewn across. However, viewed closely, the white dots disclose themselves to be tiny frogs, which have, whether by chance or not, rested on the light-sensitive paper to leave their contour.
The works of the two remaining artists are displayed one floor up. Here the large-scale and impressively coloured photographs by Richard Mosse are given a lot more breathing space then the tightly hung works of Garcia-Alix and Lempert on the level below. This way of displaying Mosse’s photographs seems to reflect their grandeur, while the close hang of Garcia-Alix and Lempert’s works mirrors their intimacy.
Mosse’s images are beautiful to look at with their vibrant tones of red, contrasting a foggy green and pale blue. However, their subject matter is that of a landscape infiltrated by human tragedy and war. These works, part of the exhibition The Enclave which was displayed at the Irish Pavillion at last year’s Venice Biennial, show the landscape of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The incredible colours are in fact the result of the use of military surveillance film, rendering the landscape in the vibrant spectrum of infrared light.
In a corner of the upper level, almost hidden, hangs Lorna Simpson’s work LA ‘57-NY ’09 (2009). It consists of numerous small square black and white photographs from the 1950s and 1960s in which a black women, performing household tasks or striking poses within her domestic environment, coyly poses in front of the camera. These photographs are almost indiscernible from a second set of photographs that intersperses the former. In these the artist herself can be seen imitating and re-staging the historic pictures.
By juxtaposing the black women’s past and present, Simpson comments on gender and memory and thus, goes on to explore her own identity. In this context, it appeared as a (unintentional) paradox to me that her work was given so little space in the exhibition.
Mosse, whose works without doubt are equally visually stunning, as well as, in regards to their content, fascinating and at the same time disturbing, was chosen as the recipient of the prize. Nevertheless, for myself I have to say, I was a lot more captivated by the intimacy of Garcia-Alix’s self-documentation, or even Lempert’s close encounter with nature. Simpson’s work, for some reason, left me rather untouched and indifferent. Then again, I imagine that it is precisely the fact, that all four artists are so different (and produce work so different from each other) that makes this year’s nominees and the display at the Photographer’s Gallery especially exciting.
The exhibition is still on until June 22nd.
Find the Photographers’ Gallery at 16 – 18 Ramillies St, London W1F 7LW. Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
Mon – Sat 10.00 – 18.00, Thu 10.00 – 20.00, Sun 11.30 – 18.00
This Friday I was lucky enough to be able to attend the press view for the opening of the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain’s new exhibition “Vivid Memories” which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Foundation. For the last three decades, since it’s launch by founder Alain Dominique Perrin and artist César in 1984, the foundation has been supporting contemporary arts. As part of their patronage they have been commissioning great artworks, truly launching several artists’ careers, and holding seminal music and performance events, including a reunion concert between Lou Reed and the rest of the Velvet Underground in 1990.
If you are happening to be around Paris sometime between now and September 2014, I strongly suggest you drop by the Fondation and check out the exhibition. It is housed in an amazing glass structure, designed by star-architect Jean Nouvel (he also designed the Quai Branly in Paris and the One New Change in London). While some of Nouvel’s designs have received mixed receptions, I was positively surprised by how well he incorporated the open glass structure of the Fondation inside a garden. Arriving at street level, the building is hardly visible between all the fauna surrounding it.
In the spirit of connecting the building with its surroundings, the exhibition begins in the garden. Here, emerging from the plants, geometric and at the same time organically shaped lamps by designer Issey Miyake have been installed. Inside the large open exhibition space a selection of artworks from the Fondation’s collection by diverse artists such as Chéri Samba, Alessandro Mendini, David Lynch, Beat Takeshi Kitano, Marc Newson and many more are on display.
Below you can find some more impressions from the exhibition and my experience at the press view.
Vivid Memories – 30 Years of Stories is on from 10 May – 21 September at the Fondation Cartier, Paris. In October 2014 the exhibition will be replaced with a newly created installation by architects Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio. The new display will allow an outlook into the Foundation’s future engagement with contemporary art. I imagine the second part of the 30th anniversary celebrations will be equally exciting as this first survey on the Fondation’s history as a pioneer in corporate patronage.
All photos (except the first one) are my own. Please give credit when reproducing.
As part of the curatorial team of the New Media Gallery (INMG) I have been involved in the conception of an online exhibition. I am happy to announce that it went online today. You can find more information and links below. I hope you will check it out!
The International New Media Gallery (INMG) is pleased to announce the opening of its second exhibition, ‘Thomson & Craighead: A Short Film About War’ (20th May – 25th October 2013).
‘A Short Film About War’ (2009) is a two-channel video which explores the way contemporary conflict is represented on the Internet. The left-hand screen is comprised of photographs found online, released under a creative commons licence. The right-hand screen references the source of each image. Weaving the sequence together is narration based on blog posts, written by individuals involved in the events depicted.
This year is the anniversary of two important events: twenty years since the first web page went online, and ten years since the second US-led invasion of Iraq. The INMG’s current exhibition marks both of these occasions. The Internet has had military connections since its inception, and this exhibition aims to explore some of the current links between the two. Since 1993, the Internet has become a dominant tool for communication. This has changed our understandings of war: today at the touch of a button we can access a myriad of blogs, photographs or footage by soldiers or citizens from across the world. As certain conflicts unfold through real-time Twitter updates, sometimes it can be hard to shift through the excess of information; turning each web user into a data-hunter in a vast archive.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with contributions by Jo Chard, Edwin Coomasaru, Alan Ingram and Tom Snow. It can be downloaded for free at:
Snow places ‘A Short Film About War’ within the context of the essay film genre and discusses the impact of digital technologies as artistic medium. He also discusses the representation of war as a circulation of digital data. Chard and Coomasaru approach such issues with Thomson & Craighead in an interview, focusing on the way conflict is mediated online. In their conversation they also deliberate tensions between the Internet as a tool of mass surveillance and platform to organise collective political activity. Ingram’s essay also touches on this point. His text investigates the idea that ‘A Short Film About War’ might be engaging in an experimental geopolitics, reflecting on information infrastructures and the links between technologies and power.
What is ‘Outsider Art’? The term is used to describe art that is ‘raw,’ ‘primitive’ and uncontaminated by culture, work by artists that create for the sake of creation alone. The artists included in the exhibition at the Wellcome Collection have been diagnosed with cognitive or mental illnesses. This disposition is mirrored in the often naive and impulsive qualities of their works. However, when viewing the exhibition the “disadvantages” of the artists translate into artworks with an aesthetic quality that is highly appealing to the senses, evoking a feeling of connectedness to the creators’ subconscious. Subsequently, the show is populated by strange creatures in bright colours, full of patterns and decor, and works that often contain an element of obsessive and even manic repetition and detail. I definitely recommend you to go check it out! You can still do so until the 30th of June.
Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE
Open Tues, Wed, Fri and Sat 10:00-18:00; Thurs 10:00-22:00 and Sun 11:00-18:00
Hikaru Fuji’s films ‘Project Fukushima!’ and ‘3.11 Art Documentation’ which are included in this group installation are concerned with the aftermath of the triple catastrophe of the Tohaku earthquake, the tsunami and the partial meltdown of the Fukushima Daichii power plant in March 2011. While ‘Project Fukushima!’ focuses on the artistic activities, such as the FUKUSHIMA! music festival, undertaken by tsunami survivors to come to terms with the disaster, ‘311 Art Documentation’ shows what happened to artists, staff of art NPOs, art and cultural institutions in the affected areas, documenting their efforts to clean up and pick up the routine of a normal life while still living in the state of exception of contemporary housing settlements, exposed to an invisible background noise of continuous radiation exposure. Films also included in the installation and continuing a concern with nature and landscape are Katie Goldwin’s Silent Landscape’ and Owen Daily’s ‘Restoration.’ While, in my opinion, the juxtaposition of Goldwin and Daily with Fuji is not quite successful, the show and especially Fuji’s films are well worth seeing! They are on show until the 28th of May.
Husk | Gallery & Project Space at DEPARTURE, 649-651 Commerical Road, Limehouse, London, E14 7LW
Open Tues 11:00- 17:00; Wed-Fri 11:00- 18:00 and Sat 10:00 -17:00
Have you seen either of the exhibitions? What did you think?