Mudamis Luxembourg's very own and very classy museum of modern and contemporary art. I've been following their always exciting and bold programme for a couple of years and was very eager to see it but then you need a rock solid motive to spend a day in Luxembourg. The other day i woke up and decided that Mudam would be mine.

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The bar-cafeteria and boutique might be the most elegant and cosy i've ever seen. Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec covered the canteen-style eating area with a cameo sky of heat-formed textile tiles. The shop -which received a similar roof- is set out like a market stall right in the middle of the exhibition hall. The 'slow food' food is nice but the offer at the shop is mindwallet-blowing. Apparently the museums has a designer and a trend forecast analyst tour the world to throw the most curious and design-y objects at your stunned face.

There were half a dozen exhibitions to visit, my next post will focus on RRRIPP!! Paper Fashion. See you there....

In the meantime and in a rush, here's a couple of interesting artworks i discovered at the exhibition ELO. INNER EXILE - OUTER LIMITS, a snapshot of the contemporary art scene in Luxembourg (Elo means 'now' in Luxembourg.)

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I almost jumped out of the room "Disco Guantanamo" when i saw a drawing of 'dungeon monster' and 'sex beast' (dixit the always subtle Daily Mail) Josef Fritzl. I was indeed wondering how long it would take to find him referenced in an artwork. That one was part of a series of artefacts by Filip Markiewicz, a musician and visual artist, whose work often denounces the 'blind spots' in current events.

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Pasha Rafiy, NYC Ghost I-X, 2008. Courtesy Pasha Rafiy


Pasha Rafiy
was scheduled to photograph John Lurie last Spring in New York. Waiting several weeks for an appointment that kept being postponed, Rafiy turned his lens to the inhabitants of the city. Until Lurie did eventually invite him home on the day of his actual departure.

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Jean-Louis Schuller, Dis-Connection I Shanghai, 2007. Courtesy Jean-Louis Schuller

Jean-Louis Schuller's documentary takes a peek inside the life of immigrants living in Chungking Mansions. One of the cheapest accommodations in Hong Kong, the building is supposedly residential, but it looks more like a labyrinth of guesthouses, curry restaurants, African bistros, clothing shops, sari stores, and foreign exchange offices.

The film Director writes: As perhaps the most diversely populated building on earth it is a paradise of multi-culturalism and low-end globalisation, uniquely belonging to no one and everyone. For years the building has been notorious both as a refuge for petty criminals and illegal immigrants, and for its unsanitary living conditions. Yet it exists as a perfect example of a city as an organic mega-structure, flexible enough to fulfill every need from religion to water supply, while providing an alternative to conventional space, culture and time. What is fascinating here, besides all the shortcomings, is that Chungking somehow succeeds, continuously evolving to accommodate the hopes of those that find themselves drawn there.

My film Chungking Dreams takes us into the heart of this Pandora's box, isolating characters and scenes from the myriad of options that exist layer on layer in the building, taking us into their most inner spaces and reflecting on a world in which we all have to fight for the space to live out our dreams.

Trailer of the documentary.

The exhibition ELO. INNER EXILE - OUTER LIMITS runs until February 2, 2009 at the MUDAM in Luxembourg.

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Ever since i heard the endearing and hilarious talk of Wim Delvoye (ha! every single gesture or word from this guy screams "Belgium!") at ars electronica last September, i'm trying to follow the episodes of his Cloaca adventure.

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Wim Delvoye, Untitled, 2004

The Casino de Luxembourg has recently held a retrospective exhibition of Delvoye's defecating machines.

The whole family was there: Cloaca Original, Cloaca - New & Improved, Cloaca Turbo, Cloaca Quattro, Cloaca N° 5, Super Cloaca and Personal Cloaca. Plus original drawings, 3D and x-ray photographs, models of Cloaca Clinic gates, videos, sealed bags of Cloaca Faeces and other paraphernalia.

0aacloamini.jpgThe brand new 8th Cloaca, Mini Cloaca (on the left), was premiered at the Casino. The tubular structure is made of metal and glass, and composed of mechanical organs that swallow, grind, digest and defecate a given amount of food. While Super Cloaca consumes 300 kg of food and produces 80 kg of faeces per day, the quantity of food ingested by the dwarfed one is equivalent to that of a breakfast.

The idea of a mechanical reproduction of the human digestive system goes back to the Digesting Duck by 18th century engineer Jacques de Vaucanson and just like Piero Manzoni 's Merda d'artista [Artist's shit] Delvoye's machines can be regarded as an assault on the system of art.

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The best part of the exhibition for me were the video extracts of tv films about Cloaca.

Favourite is an extract of "Is This Sh*t Art", an episode from the very very brilliantissimo Art Safari.

Ben Lewis had a series for BBC4 where he'd go and meet the most iconic figures of contemporary art. He condensed his approach in an article he wrote about his encounter with Delvoye:

I will go to any lengths to find out if art means something. Just talking to the artist and looking at the work is never enough. The artists are usually inarticulate, or English is their second language, or they're just not very bright. None of these criticisms was true of Delvoye - but his art was so ambiguous it was impossible to work out what it meant. Was it raising up the lowly, or humbling the mighty? Was it optimistic or cynical?

In this case not only did Lewis get himself the same tattoo as one of Delvoye's pigs (video extract), he also ate the same meal as a Cloaca machine, gathered some of the product of its digestion, went to the toilet, collected some of his own faecal matter and brought the two samples to a laboratory. The scientist compared the two samples bacteriologically and found them very similar. Video:

I could not find the other videos online, except this extract from Eurotrash. Definitely not the best of what i've seen there but if you're interested in cloaca's farting problems and the solution to it...
Video:

I realized that what i liked best in Delvoye's work was not that much the work itself but to listen to Delvoye talk about it. Cloaca, he said in an interview, is not about aesthetics. Each machine is in total synchronicity with the advances of technology, there is no frivolity. Every single element you see has its function: you pour the food into the "oral" side of the machine, it is then processed by a series of mechanical organs (there is the stomach, the small intestine and the colon). Yet, Cloaca is not a commentary of science and is not either meant to be useful. The artist actually refused to sell one of his machines to a diaper company that hoped to use it for tests.

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Delvoye also set himself the task to insert the products of Cloaca in the global economic system. The Casino Luxembourg had a special Wim shop where you could buy a Wim action figure but also a whole range of Cloaca products: Cloaca T-shirts, a 3D Viewmaster, Cloaca toilet paper, posters, etc. But that's just a merchandising detail: the Cloaca machines are works of art which produce works of art. On show were dozens of vacuum-packed Cloaca eliminations made during the 5 first exhibits of the machine around the world. There's apparently a waiting list of collectors eager to buy one of those, and the faeces made during the New York exhibition are the most sought-after. The matter is irradiated with gamma rays to kill bacteria, dried and vacuum-packed. After that they are packed air-tight in a plexiglass box. In 2003, they were offered for sale online. The faeces were also integrated into the company Cloaca Limited as a contribution in nature.

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Cloaca-X-Rayed, 2003

Cloaca X-Rayed immediately brings to mind another famous art piece by Delvoye: his X-ray views of people having sex which he then turned into stained-glass church windows. Utilizing mammograms, sonograms and MRI's in addition to standard X rays, the artist captured skinny (they had to fit inside the machines) models tongue kissing, masturbating, or doing blow jobs. The key to getting such images was to slather the models with barium powder mixed with Nivea cream in order to "illuminate" the bones during x-raying.

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I give the microphone back to Ben Lewis: Delvoye's work satirises the art world, with its inflated prices and daft intellectual cul-de-sacs. Cloaca makes the ultimate criticism of modern art - that most of it is crap; that the art world has finally disappeared up its own backside. 'When I was going to art school, all my family said I was wasting my time, and now I have made a work of art about waste,' he told me happily.

My set of images.

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