Robert Kusmirowski does copies, simulacra, forgeries, mock-ups. Meticulously and masterfully. The result of his craft is an illusion. You believe you're in front of a relic from the past, complete with patina: a sepia photography, old newspapers, cigarette packs, but also a graveyard, the wagon of a '40s train or an entire train station. I never used to be fascinated by sculptures but the young artist put such a eerie, retro-innovative' spin to the genre that he won me over.
Information about the artist state that he started to make deliberate mock-ups as a child, building toys he couldn't get in socialist Poland. Elsewhere you will read that from an early age he painstakingly forged bus passes and postage stamps for his entire family.
The Polish artist currently has two works in Turin, one is UHER.C at Guida Costa Projects. The second one, DATAmatic 880, is on show at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo as part of the Turin Triennale.
Both use mechanics and electronics as symbols of a broader reflection on 20th century European history. They are suggestive, non-functional machines, they are nostalgic and absurd. They play with time and place. They evoke a period the artist is too young to have experienced.
DATAmatic 880 is a 1960's computer lab that comes straight from the time machine. Its name recalls the DATAmatic 1000, a large-scale electronic data processing machine, launched by American company DATAmatic in the '50s. As you can guess, Kusmirowski's DATAmatic 880 never existed.
UHER.C is another non-relic from the '60s.
Especially conceived for the Guido Costa Projects gallery, UHER.C is a recording studio. It is meant to be manipulated by rockers, not by neat scientists in white gowns. UHER.C is as cluttered, messy and dusty as DATAmatic 880 is glossy and hygienic.
You can only observe UHER.C through a window panel. In turn, the recording studio lets you take a peak at the future that has been (or might have been) but which appears obsolete today.
UHER.C is a classical, archaic sculpture that has gone berserk: it is both the nightmarish and joyous side of machine.
The press release says: UHER.C gets its name for phonetic, geographic and historical reasons (respectively Hertz; UHER a mountain region in the environs of Lubin; and Mr UHER.C, a researcher into the physics of sound). It is an extraordinary sculpture with a thousand souls, keyboard, oscillators, microphones, amplifiers, recording devices, cables, mysterious objects, pure inventions, sounds, voices and lights. It is a living sculpture that now and again unplugs one of its souls, caged in its circuits for decades, or it gives a voice to other souls born especially for the occasion.
Slideshow of the exhibition:
On view at Guida Costa Projects, Turin, until Saturday 28 February 2009. At the end of the exhibition a limited edition LP will be produced of music by Robert Kusmirowski.
See also Vernissage TV coverage of the opening of DATAmatic 880 in Berlin.
A quickie on painted and drawn goodies seen at Artissima, the international fair on contemporary art that closed on Sunday in Turin.
One of the few artworks that made me feel alive at Artissima is the series of clown paintings by Shane Campbell (at the booth of NYC-based Bortolami Gallery). His clowns are depressed and pathetic which has always been the way i saw clowns.
Galleria Perugi from Padova had many interesting paintings. They didn't have the one below but that won't prevent me from introducing you to Laurina Paperina.
Alexander Gray Associates had set up a solo exhibition by performance artist and political activist Karen Finley.
With Artissima 15 opening immediately after the United States Presidential election, the gallery decided to dedicate its booth to Drawings from the Bush Administration, 2000-2008 , a selection of Finley's works on paper made over the past eight years of Bush's presidency. The works reflected on social and political events such as 9/11, the War of Iraq, the rise of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, fictional journals of Laura Bush's dreams, the execution of Saddam Hussein, and Sarah Palin's vice-presidential candidacy.
Besides, visitors were invited to inscribe on the booth's walls the names of those killed in the War on Iraq, creating a collective witness, site for mourning and, ultimately, a call to action. The names of the nearly 150,000 deaths were gathered from internet sources.
The 15th edition of Artissima, the international fair of contemporary art in Turin, closed yesterday. 128 galleries from 19 different countries gathered under the roof of the city's historic FIAT factory building at Lingotto.
The event is certainly not as glamorous as Frieze nor is it as vibrant, invigorating and edgy as Art Forum Berlin. Artissima nevertheless scores a few points in the 'emerging galleries and artists' category and i'm going to document some of them this week.
Prometeo is also representing Regina José Galindo, a Guatemalan performance artist who received the Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale in 2005, in the category of "artists under 30", for a video (click only if you're very brave!) that depicted the surgical reconstruction of her hymen.
Galindo's performances address social injustice, gender discrimination, racism and the governmental atrocities of her own country. In March 2008, she enrolled her family in a performance that protested against the U.S.' booming industry of private prisons.
The artist, her husband and their 2-year-old daughter locked themselves in the mobile prison unit for 36 hours. Gallery visitors could peep through the narrow windows of the brightly-lighted cell and observe the family as they tried to occupy themselves with books and drawings during their voluntary detention.
The performance refers in particular to T. Don Hutto "Family Residential Center," a for-profit private prison located in Taylor, near Austin, and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private jail company in the world with one of the highest stock market values on Wall Street.
T. Don Hutto is the first prison authorized by the state to lodge whole families: men, pregnant women, adolescents, children, women, and even babies. The inmates are not necessarily criminals, very often they are detained there while their immigration status is determined.
A 3 part documentary in english and spanish describing the conditions of life inside T. Don Hutto:
The lucrative market of private prison took off in the 1980s under the Reagan-Bush administrations, prospered throughout the 1990s, and today flourishes due to anti-terrorism measures and tougher immigration laws. Many organizations for human, political, and social rights consider these facilities a new form of human exploitation.
The private prison business is huge. It has its own commercial exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order catalogues. It works with hundreds of partner companies --from architecture and construction firms to plumbers and vendors of food, security equipment and uniforms-- that provide services, equipments and goods.
This must be my 145th post about Kent Henricksen. Please bear with me, yesterday as i was admiring his solo show at the Glance Gallery in Turin, i realized that i wouldn't be able to refrain from writing, once again (cf. Divine Deviltries
This series doesn't fail to present the usual merry and evil atmosphere where cute hooded characters steal the bourgeois, little girls stick out their tongues, skeletons dance and kill. The title of the exhibition, Absence of Myth, comes from a collection of writings by Georges Bataille on surrealism and related themes. As usual, the motifs themselves are taken from antique prints, illustrated books, history manuals or works of art from different eras.
Although Henricksen unmistakably produces Henricksen works again and again, his practices evolves and each exhibition brings new nuances and surprises. This time he treats us to several small goldleaf works on canvas and he covered the walls of the gallery with stenciled paintings representing a super slim winged siren.
For the first time, Henricksen is showing some ceramic sculptures. One of them shows his ubiquitous little hooded head, another one is inspired by a collage by Max Ernst, recounting the punishments for simony in the third circle of hell in Dante's Inferno.
Slideshow of the pictures i took in the gallery:
Good old Turin is currently hosting the third edition of C.STEM. The theme this year is Breeding Objects - Computational Design: from Digital Fabrication to Mass-Customization and while the spotlight is still on generative systems, it is, in many respects, very different from the first edition. This time, the main protagonists are designers, not artists.
Although, i have taken the habit of running swiftly in the opposite direction when i hear the word 'design,' i have to admit that the programme this year is remarkable. Especially because it brings that innovative focus i had hoped to see more widely explored in the schedule of the Torino World Design Capital. C.STEM showcases projects anticipating future developments in design process and technologies. What happens when domains such as design, creative coding and digital fabrication meet the new scenarios of mass-customization?
The exhibition and conference explores the way design is currently re-considered and shaped through the lens of information society and, more generally, new technologies. The work of young designers today involves a crucial paradigm shift: not only do they use the digital tools provided to them but they also invent, modify and produce new instruments themselves.
Another important characteristic of the new design production involves digital fabrication processes such as laser cutting and 3D printing (a few examples in the posts Rapid Products 1 and 2). The impact of digital fabrication is far from marginal: instead of churning out identical products, objects are created which, while they undeniably belong to the same family, are all different from each other. Beyond the creative process and fabrication, the digital tools and new design processes have also the potential to radically modify the marketing of design products and the way consumers engage with the creation of objects. Two projects presented in the exhibition, Nervous Systems and Fluid Forms (see below), have already been launched on the market and as such, exemplify new business possibilities.
C.STEM conference is over but you can still see the exhibition until September 27 inside an Ex Methodist Church. If i were you i'd run there, you don't see a show like that every year in this
Located in an ex-Methodist church in the center of Turin, the exhibition illustrates what is the state of the art of computational design through a series projects that range from everyday objects you can buy online to sweatshirts weaved with newsfeeds, and a 3D printing machine able to 'prints' most of its own components (not the original one but maybe even better, a version fatta in casa by ToDo design studio.)
The list of projects exhibited is online. Here's just a selection:
Ebru Kurbak and Mahir Yavuz' NewsKnitter project comments on the manipulation by the media in Turkey. Live data streams of information are used as an unpredictable base for pattern generation. Web-based information is either gathered from the Turkish daily political news or according to a theme that pervades global news. The data is analyzed, filtered and converted into a unique visual pattern for a knitted sweater. The system consists of two different types of software: one receives the content from live feeds while the other converts it into visual patterns, a fully computerized flat knitting machine produces the final output. The pieces of clothing are not for sale right now but the designers are working on that.
The jewelry designed by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg of Nervous System, on the other hand, is up for grab. The design is both heavily tech-mediated and inspired by organic forms.
Using two custom-made computer applications --one mimics branching dendrites, and the other the movement of particles--the designers generate forms for bracelets, pendants, and earrings.
The Radiolaria line, for example, is named after the plant cells whose structure was a source of inspiration for Buckminster Fuller. Jewelry from the Dendrite collection takes its cue from the aggregate growth of coral. The Dendrite algorithm both controls the aggregation and allows consumers to participate in the design process
Way more beautiful in real than on pictures, 1 of 1 design studio creates one-of-a-kind, made to order apparel. For The Tissue Collection, designer Cait Reas worked together with C.E.B. Reas. The artist generated the Tissue images by defining processes and translating them into images with code and software. Cait used a digital textile printing technique to apply the patterns to fabric.
In case you'd worried that this blog is turning into a geeky version of Harper's Bazaar, i'll have to mention that the best moment of C.STEM for me was to listen to Marc Fornes from theverymany. It's the second time i attend one of his talks and i'm still not sure i understand most of what he says but his work is so awesome that it doesn't really matter.
His presentation addressed failure. For example, he detailed how the Aperiodic_vertebrae structure that theverymany developed for Generator x - Beyond the Screen (a workshop and exhibition which highlighted the creative potential of digital fabrication and generative systems) in Berlin taught him that while computers facilitate many of the design processes much of the assembly still has to be done by hands. The Berlin version of the Aperiodic Tiling counted some 530 panels and nearly as many connecting components.
The core of theverymany approach is therefore to use computer to generate, not just many parts, but a logic between these parts. They applied the concept to the woven pedestrian bridge that Francois Roche from R&Sie is building on the boundaries of Poland and the Czech Republic.
My images from the event.
Related entry: Generator x - Beyond the Screen, a workshop and exhibition which highlighted the creative potential of digital fabrication and generative systems.
Established in 1933 in the austere and elegant Palazzo dell'Arte designed by architect Giovanni Muzio, the Milan Triennale regularly hosts some impressive design, art and architecture exhibitions of the 20th century.
Launched in the wake of the Stuttgart Weissenhof --an estate of working class dwelling which was built in Stuttgart in 1927, the opening exhibition at the Palazzo back in 1933 was dedicated to the theme of housing.
One of the Triennale's Summer exhibitions is revisiting the theme of affordable housing under a more contemporary side. Casa per tutti is pressing architects to give their attention to a theme that was central in the inter-war and post-WW2 reconstruction periods and is once again crucial in the current crisis of the postmodern metropolis.
The Milan exhibition is one of the many i've seen on a topic which is proving quite popular these days (only in Milan i have visited two shows related to the same issue: Alternative Living Strategies and Lucy + Jorge Orta's Antarctica expedition). The Italian Pavilion of the Architecture Biennale in Venice (September 14th to November 23rd 2008), entitled HOUSING ITALY. 12 Projects for Inhabiting and Re-inhabiting the City, will be concerned with a similar theme. In spite of its weaknesses (it's a bit confusing, poorly distributed in space, lacking in strong focus), the Milan show makes pertinent points, displays some fascinating projects and draws meaningful parallels between past works and contemporary prototypes.
Social housing today faces new challenges: the fragmentation of societies, waves of migration and their impact on local cultures, an increase in mobility, the awareness of the limited nature of resources, the need for higher compatibility between building and nature, and the necessity to "invent" more flexible and ephemeral spaces that would better respond to the needs and cultures of their users.
In CASA PER TUTTI, past examples of the approach are exhibited side by side with a wide range of contemporary dwelling solutions, from emergency housing to self-built houses, houses for specific users (student housing, hostels for girls, nomads' houses, workers' housing, the wearable house etc.), including research by artists who have put this issue at the centre of their work.
Anything by Vito Acconci is bound to get all my attention so i'll kick of the list of projects i most liked with Umbruffla. Conceived by Studio Acconci, this is a new umbrella you could wrap yourself up in. Fix one end to your waist, the other to one wrist, so that both hands are free. Wearing it, you could dodge a passer-by, turn it windward and even welcome a companion under it with you. Umbruffla is made from two way mirrored mylar. From outside the surface is mirrored, so while you can see through from inside, you would be camouflaged by the reflections of the city which shimmers on you as you walk.
The name of the object comes from English - 'ruffle'. When the object is closed, "the ruffles are gathered into a ruffle", but, when opened, "the ruffles unfold, fan out, spring out, into an umbruffla."
Massimiliano Fuksas, MVRDV, Jean Nouvel, Kengo Kuma, Alejandro Aravena, Cino Zucchi and other key architects were commissioned the building of a housing model which the Triennale exhibits in its garden.
One of these prototypes is Kengo Kuma's Umbrella House. Like Studio Acconci, the Japanese architect modified umbrellas but this time in order to build a fast, modular and cheap shelter. Zippers along the umbrellas outer edges are zipped together to create a shelter.
Oskar Leo Kaufmann's Carton House was an artistic proposal for an Art Biennale held in Turin a few years ago. The minimal house wasn't meant as an actual prototype for living on the cheap but as a way of giving visibility to the people who actually have to sleep in cardboard on the street.
The Carton House is foldable, weights 12kg and measures 1.00×0.66×0.20m. Once unfold, the living space measures 2×1x1.75m.
The Casa Per Tutti exhibition was divided in a series of sections. The Micro/Macro one reflected on two apparently opposite but in reality complementary ways of envisioning the habitat: the tiny one-person living unit and the large-scale complex of urban building.
The best example of Micro Macro is Le Corbuiser's prototype of the Maison Domino micro-house, which develops and becomes the repetitive element of the famous Macro-house Unité d'Habitation in Marseille.
Contemporary examples of Micro-Houses include Atelier Van Lieshut, Andrea Zittel, the wearable houses of Kosuke Tsumura and Lucy Orta but also altro_studio's Inflatable House.
Like many post-Archigram inflatable projects, this clearly evokes the Cushicle. The structure clearly refers to a traditional house style. It is composed of three inflatable elements anchored on the ground by steel platforms, zipped together, and set in such a way as to prevent that water soaks into the walls. Once the length of the house has been determined, each module is concluded in non-inflatable plugging panels, that can contain a door or window as needed. These elements, which allow for the ventilation of the internal space, are characterized by a side zip closing system.
At the other end of the spectrum are the macro buildings made of micro housing units which, unlike many of their predecessors, rise with so much grace and appeal on the urban landscape that they make us dream of a new sense of collective habitat. Examples are the 'Whale' installed by Cie on Amsterdam canals or the colourful blocks of MVRDV's Mirador in Madrid.
To those new paradigms of urban dwelling in massive structures can be added the more theoretical research of architectural studios like Dogma.
The Italian architects were showing an utopian concept called Stop-City, a city that develops vertically in an archipelago of dense urban island.
The project holds an ironic mirror to Archizoom's No Stop City , a 1969 concept that critiques the ideology of architectural modernism by pushing it to absurd limits. The city they envisioned had no boundaries either, but it grows horizontally, is artificially lit and air-conditioned.
That was just a partial, subjective, quick and dirty overview of the show, there's tons more to learn and see over there. My images.
Previous exhibitions seen at the Triennale: Fabrica - Gli Occhi Aperti, Beautiful Losers: : Contemporary Art and Street Culture.
Related entries: Alternative Living Strategies, Lucy + Jorge Orta's Antarctica expedition, the Shellhouse, Several ways to wear a mosque, Urban Nomad Shelter, paraSITE shelters, the Homeless Vehicle, Design for "urban nomads", etc.