When i read that Os Gêmeos were having a solo show in Milan, i nearly fell off the chair. I wasn't expecting it. Not that the guys aren't everywhere, they were part of the The Graffiti Project which invited Brazilian artists to paint the walls and turrets of the south side of Kelburn Castle in Glasgow, i discovered their huge mural in Berlin, they've exhibited at Art Basel Miami in 2005, etc. but while looking for exhibitions to check out this week in Milan and Turin, i found so many "recycling": yesterday i saw the Gilbert & George retrospective at the gorgeous Castello di Rivoli, yes that's the same show which took place at the Tate Modern in Spring. Last week i had a look at David Lynch's The Air is On Fire at the Triennale di Milano which had previously been shown at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. And the next one on my list is Vivienne Westwood at Palazzo Reale in Milan, the very retrospective set up at the London Victoria & Albert Museum in 2004. Although i'm quite happy to catch up with exhibitions i had missed, i can't help but be disappointed to see that independent galleries are not taking much risk either... Except the freshly opened Patricia Armocida. The gallerist actually told me that she jumped into the fire and opened her own gallery because the city of Milan was in need of a space dedicated to the independent underground art scene.
To launch the exhibition space, she turned to identical twin brothers, Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, AKA Os Gemeos.
In this show called Assum Preto (Blue-Black Grassquit), Os Gemeos are exposing six previously unreleased canvases paintings and two installations, in addition to new works painted directly on the walls of the gallery.
I particularly liked the noisy and lovely El Mentiroso. While wandering on a flea market in Italy Os Gemeos found an old tiny b&w television set, they zapped from one channel to the other until they discovered a telemarketing channel which fascinated them so much that it inspired a sculpture exhibited in the Milan gallery: El Mentiroso (The Liar.) Permanently set on the telemarketing channel the tv has most of its screen covered by a wooden portrait, so all you get is the sale pitch without the image.
The bad thing about seeing so many festivals and exhibitions is that i turned into that old lady who's constantly whinging and moaning about the amount of dull or downright crap interactive installations she gets to see. The good side of it though is that whenever i happen to find a really good work, i appreciate it much more than i would have when i was young and fresh to this new media art world.
Yesterday, bliss! I got to play with two such works as the lovely Carlo Vilma was giving me a tour around Les Yeux Ouverts at the Triennale in Milan. The exhibition space has recently invited Fabrica (the Benetton research centre on communication) to mount the show which the Centre Pompidou presented in Paris last Winter.
I had read about the first interactive work several times in the past but never actually got how fun and clever it is until i tested it. Juan Ospina's Flipbook! Deluxe uses a custom-built software application to enable anyone to realize animated clips out of simple line drawings. You create 10 pictures one by one, save them as individual frames and play them back sequentially as an animation.
When you have finished, you can save the film and it will be displayed online or emailed to friends. I could post a link to my awful animation but you might prefer to have a look at something better.
The second installation i really digged is We are the time. We are the famous, by Andy Cameron, David McDougall, Joel Gethin Lewis, Oriol Ferrer Mesià and Hansi Raber. Description: Visitors are confronted by a diptych of two real time images of themselves. One image slows down and blurs time as if it were a photo being developed; the other image fragments time into a sequence of frozen moments, like a strip of cinematic celluloid which appears to move across the wall. On one wall the spectator is encouraged to remain still in order to see his or her image reflected clearly, while on the other one he or she has to move in order to animate the sequence.
The still image is in reality a moving image, representing a length of time in motion, while the motion sequence is formed by a series of static moments in time. Time can be seen in two contradictory ways at the same moment. The title of the installation is taken from a poem by Jorge Luis Borges (funny how you never seem to go wrong when refering to Borges.)
Several reasons why i loved that work. The first one is that the piece doesn't need any explanation label. You enter the space and quickly discover how it works. Second reason is that it resisted well to my slight attention deificit disorder. I've learnt to be polite and pretend i'm interested in what i see in galleries but most of the interactive installations don't get my attention for more than half a minute. WATTWATF was awesome enough to keep me immersed for much much longer and i actually came back to the installation three time during my visit. It fills you with a sense of beauty, reacts immediately and elegantly to visitors gestures and playing with your own image is obviously irresistible.
Not interactive but worth a mention:
For COLORS Notebook, Fabrica collaborated with Reporters Without Borders and sent blank 30 000 notebooks to people whose voice is never heard: Chinese prisoners, South African children, Canadian priests, astronauts, disabled persons, artists and ordinary people the chance to express themselves without filters or censure. Over 1,000 copies returned to Fabrica, they are covered with words, drawings, paintings, collage, etc. COLORS Notebook is a tribute to a free press and freedom of expression. Some were really gorgeous.
I See, a photo exploration into the current trends of historical, cultural, artistic, social and economic development. Six photographers from Fabrica each picked up a story to represent one of the world's six main geographic areas: North America, South America, East, Far East, Africa and Europe. I liked the Oil Will Never End series by Lorenzo Vitturi who went to Azerbaijan to document the depletion of oil resources in the region.
Farbica's Industrial Design section seems to have some really good projects and objects. Wish i'd hear more about them.
Paul Etienne Lincoln was exhibiting for the first time the Panhard Special, a spectacular insect-looking vehicle planned and realised in 1976 and modified over the years. The life-sized prototype car is powered by an improved Panhard Levassor Tigre engine (launched in 1959) and fuelled by nitrous oxide, natural gas and linseed oil.
The construction started thirty years ago, in the midst of the first oil crisis when alternative energy sources were investigated. The work explores "breathing" (the introduction of oxygen and fuel into the combustion chamber of an engine.) The goal was to create a vehicle with the cleanest possible combustion engine, and probe the theme of respiration and the man/machine relationship.
Each part of the vehicle was designed and realized manually, with a partial knowledge of engineering and without using pieces already available on the market. The Panhard Special combines principles from early aviation and automobile design: its air-cooled Tigre engine is reminescent of the aluminium-clad nose of The Spirit of St Louis.
A specially designed suit allows the driver to precisely control the heated airflow from the engine to adjust his/her own body temperature. The suit, with a multitude of tubing sewn into a waistcoat, plugs via a tube into a control valve in the cockpit. Besides, inflatable implants in the back of the inner jacket insulate the driver from vibration, increased speed resulting in increased pressure in the implants.
The vehicle was accompanied by a collection of material describing the car's internal fuel system and construction history as well as a short film, The Velocity of Thought, that shows the Special driven up through the spiral ramp of Giacomo Mattè Trucco's Lingotto factory to Lingotto's iconic rooftop test track.
All information taken from the exhibition catalogue. On view until February 10, at the Guido Costa Projects gallery, in Via Mazzini 24, Turin. Big big thanks to the person who opened the gallery for us, let us enjoy the exhibition in peace and gave me the catalog.
Images on flickr.
Yesterday i went to see Paola Pivi's My Religion is Kindness. Thank You See You In the Future. The exhibition is organized by the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi. As far as i'm concerned, Trussardi is associated with extremely insipid ads of perfumes in women's glossies. But the Fondazione Trussardi, now that's another story. Two years ago, they commissioned Maurizio Cattelan's installation of plastic kids hanged on Piazza XXIV Maggio in Milan. Back in 2003, they invited Elmgreen & Dragset in town and the artists installed a white car and its caravan at the center of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, cracking the floor and destroying its precious marbles.
The Fondazione constantly searches for overlooked places in Milan that can be reshaped through contemporary art, this time they selected the Old Warehouse of the Porta Genova Station. Nothing new in taking over an old industrial place but it never fails to please the crowd (thus me.)
The world of Paola Pivi has often been described as topsy-turvy. It is ruled by the laws of irony and absurdity. Her Donkey has toured the art websites and her Little Orange Men make me want to jump on the bed.
The most surprising piece of her exhibition at the Old Warehouse is called Interesting and it's simply a collection of white animals living together (apart from two little fish in their tank and an owl in a cage) as in a countryside circus. Horses, ducks, cows, dogs, chicken, parrots, doves, Japanese round-fish and a llama (everybody went mad for the llama) transform the Old Warehouse into an albino Noah's ark. Gathering white animals in a warehouse might not seem like much but the ever-changing tableau was incredibly compelling, eerie and beautiful.
The spectacular Fiat G91 at the back of the menagerie made my day. Not because it was upside down (after all Pivi had done it several times before, with a Camion or a Helicopter) but because it was splendidly restored and because i had no idea that Fiat used to make and brand airplanes. First presented at the Venice Biennial in 1999, Untitled (airplane) announces a blissful apocalypse in which objects come to life reshaping the order of things: a menacing war aircraft is flipped on its back and, while challenging physical and engineering rules, stages a radical overturn of our daily life.
Last piece in the exhibition, Guitar Guitar is a gigantic archive of thousands and thousands of brand new objects of any dimension, from dolls to trucks, each presented as identical twins. A vision of consumerist society gone mad.
Runs until December 10th, 2006.
Fabio Paris Art Gallery (from Brescia, Italy) was showing a couple of nice works at Artissima, such as Space LED, by Tonylight (see previous post.) My favourite piece at the booth was an eerie picture of a guy i though i'd recognized. He was dressed in white and was cautiously walking in the greenest fields you can dream of. Looked like Hans Bernhard from Ubermorgen to me ;-)
The gallery's press release explained the work as follows: "Hans Bernhard is loaded with 10 years of internet & tech [digital cocaine], mass media hacking, underground techno, hardcore [illegal] drugs, rock&roll lifestyle and net.art jet set... Hans Bernhard's neuronal networks are connected to the global network, and his mental illness - the bipolar affective disorder that in March 2002 sent him to a mental hospital - is the network's illness." That experience, in which those two levels - digital and real, bio & tech, nervous system and operative system - merge is summed up in several works, Psych|OS - Hans No. 02 is one of them.
At some point i heard the gallery owner talk about the artists he was representing. Adorable. Like a dad who's dead proud of his kids. He was particularly delighted to explain visitors the latest project of Eva and Franco Mattes (a.k.a. 0100101110101101.ORG), a portrait series of Second Life avatars they made after having lived in the virtual world for over a year. Btw, the 01.org are presenting "13 Most Beautiful Avatars", a Second Life portrait series, at Second Life's Ars Virtua gallery, as part of rhizome Time shares exhibits, on November 15 - December 29, and a "real life" show at the Italian Academy will run November 30 - December 19.
SL is very trendy these days, the Jen Bekman gallery's current exhibition is called Photographs from the New World. The work, by James Deavin, documents user-generated landscapes in Second Life. In New York until December 9, 2006.
It's very hard to ignore Serrano's work. He's been spending the last decade(s) shocking the world with photographs that use semen, that depict a masturbating nun or Jesus Christ on a crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine (the Piss Christ.) I usually try to avoid using the word "beautiful" in my posts but in the case of Serrano's work it's proving too hard. I entered the gallery thinking i'd have a nice time watching a few fashionably scandalous pictures hanging on walls. I definitely wasn't prepared for what i felt there.
Starting with the Black Supper which dominates the first room and mesmerized me for some time. The artist realised the photographies by spray painting statues of Christ and the Apostles in black. He then submerged them in water. The statuettes started to fizz and as a result, the characters are surrounded with a halo of bubbles.
Pieces from Serrano's most famous series art part of the Milan show: American archetypes, Church, Nomads, Budapest, The Interpretation of Dreams, A Hystory of Sex, etc. The Klansmen series of portraits of Ku Klux Klan members is particularly stunning. All you can guess from the personality of the men (and women!) hiding behind the hood can be gathered from the eyes that peer through the fabric. Klansmen are spooky (especially if you naively believed that KKK was a thing of the past), but there's a lot of irony in that series when you think that the Klansmen posed for the camera of someone from half Honduran, half Afro-Cuban background. They can even be a bit grotesque at the same time when you look at the title they give themselves: Imperial Wizard III, Grand Dragon of The Invisible Empire, The Grand Kaliff, etc.
The exhibit ends with Serrano's "The Morgue" series, photographs of different means of death. From the most peaceful, "Fatal Meningitis," in which a small child seems to be only sleeping, to the most horrifying, such as Burnt to Death or Killed by Four Great Danes. There are pictures online but they look sad and even more disturbing than the one i saw (though they are the same). The Morgue pictures were certainly disturbing and sad but they were not threatening nor did they make you feel like you were some kind of nasty voyeur. Probably because they nearly looked fake. The skin on the bodies could be made of butter and the wounds had some aesthetical qualities. The crude stitches made me wince though.