This weekend i'm in Turin for the Artissima art fair. I'll get back with a proper story about the event later. I suspect it's going to take the usual form of a photo heavy and mute post but right now i wanted to highlight Fired but Unexploded, a series of videos and photos of bombs that didn't explode.
Every day in Europe, unexploded bombs from WW1 and WW2 turn up during construction works and even in open fields and riverbeds. Approximately 15 unexploded bombs are recovered every day in Germany. In the forests of Verdun, France, "démineurs" still find about 900 tons of poisonous and explosive munitions every year. And i was very surprised to read that in my country, Belgium, between 150 and 200 tons are recovered each year. Most are stockpiled in a secure location and the most toxic and dangerous ones are wrapped in more explosives and destroyed inside a dedicated building.
Hungary's Unexploded Bomb Disposal Department gave the artist access to some of the explosives. They might be 60 years old but these bombs still pose a risk of detonation. Asztalos sees in them a symbol of conflicts among humans:
The unexploded bombs symbolize those places and situations that the sounds evoke, he told Funzine. They may symbolize political conflicts - in this case we hear the sound of street demonstrations; they may stand for the time bombs of consumer societies - then we hear someone going through TV channels; or they may represent issues in private life and partnership - then we hear someone doing the dishes without saying a word, and the tension in the air is almost palpable. We hear all these sounds and see this unexploded bomb. The question is only when it will explode.
The bomb collection.
Final post about Artissima, Turin's contemporary art fair. Once again, i'm merely going to format and paste as many photos as i can stomach and add sporadic comment.
I'm leaving aside the purely decorative artworks (well... kind of as the limber lady above these lines will attest) and focus on art that has bite and a story to tell.
I approach fairs in the most disorderly, most inept way. I hop from one booth to another, zoom in on a work i think i can recognize from afar, pay too little attention to the names of the artists (that's when the gallerists actually bother to add a label next to the works) and end up missing art pieces that would otherwise have been among my favourite. That's how i walked passed Danilo Correale's The Warp and the Weft hanging tartans.
I think Correale is one of the most exciting artists right now. For a number of years, the artist has been investigating the rites, gestures and codes of the global financial system.
Each of the tartans he was showing in Turin was woven using the colours of the logos of the 5 most powerful financial institutions in geographical areas where they exert the most powerful influence: North America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. The higher the assets of a financial corporation in an area, the stronger its chromatic presence in the fabric.
I actually discovered the artist through his photography-based work such as The Stumble which attempts to give a glimpse of the human beings hiding behind the stern facade of financial capitalism.
On their way to physical downfall, they appear as fragile and faulty as the economical system. I almost feel sorry for them.
Adrian Paci's video and photos were showing the transformation of a block piece of marble from the moment of its extraction in a Chinese quarry to a classical column. The process doesn't take place in a workshop but on a cargo ship. To ensure that the column will arrive as fast as possible to its final destination (Paci's gallery in Paris), sculptors carved and worked along the way, during the long weeks of transport by sea, to give the piece of rock its final form.
The Column is an extraordinary demonstration of the extent to which today's capitalistic laws of profit will go: merging manufacturing time with transport time.
In his series Invisible Presence, Israeli artist Ron Amir photographed the sleeping quarters in which Arab workers are living during the night. These are located on the very construction sites where the men work during the day.
I love Zagreb was a reference to the performance Zagreb I love you by Tomislav Gotovac from 1971. In slightly warmer attire.
I mentioned Nikolaus Gansterer recently. Here he is again, i just can't help it:
Since 1995, Francesco Jodice has been researching how landscape is shaped and seen as a projection of people's desires.
Images without comment:
Look! Visitors even had easy access to smoking spaces:
A quick and hopefully efficient post to show some of the works i've discovered at Artissima, Turin's contemporary art fair which closed last weekend. As i mentioned a few days ago, Artissima is, in my view, far far more exciting than Frieze London. Maybe i'll explain why in a coming story (and get my Frieze 2014 request for a press pass refused in the process?!?) I didn't exactly rack my brain to figure out how to screen the many photos i had taken or received in the press package. This post will be mostly black and white. I won't insult you and say how the next one will look like.
Many of the works below were part of Back to the Future. The section presents solo exhibitions by artists active in the 60's, 70's and 80's and selected by a jury of museums directors and curators
Right, let's start with an image which isn't strictly b&w. The wall drawing below is a diagram showing internal correlations and their external consequences marked out by key figures of thought balancing between reflecting and representing symbols of power affected by the structures of human experience and the various forms of interpretation.
I'm not going to pretend that i fully understand Nikolaus Gansterer's constellations, diagrams and other representations of thought processes but i've been charmed and intrigued by his work ever since i discovered it. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.
I had never heard of Croatian artist Tomislav Gotovac before but he is a man who ran bearded and naked through the streets of Belgrade. A performance he reiterated 10 years later in Zagreb. Another one to keep your eyes peeled for, then.
Linda Fregni Nagler collected a thousand anonymous images of babies and young children taken between the 1840s and the 1920s. Apparently the conventions of the time wanted that the mothers were hidden or erased from view. Some of the feminine figures are covered with a piece of fabric or a carpet, others have their face blacked out from the photo, others crouch behind a chair.
It is only fair that after those painfully hidden mothers, i'd show how in the late 1960s, Valie Export brought to a crude day light the relationship between the sexes. She walked her partner, Peter Weibel, on a leash, taking to the extreme women's liberation from male oppression.
I wrote about the work of Sicilian photographer and photojournalist Letizia Battaglia in the post Portraying the Mafia. She spent decades covering the cronaca nera, the crime stories for the left-wing newspaper L'Ora in Palermo.
And now for something completely different...
I couldn't resist pairing it with...
One of the things i like about Artissima is that you won't see Frieze's usual suspects there. They might, however, make an appearance in other artists' photos.
Daidō Moriyama gained fame for the way he portrayed the dark sides of post-war Japan.
Probably not strictly speaking b&w either but since we're in Turin and the Mole Antonelliana is by far its most puzzling monument...
On Thursday i went to Artissima. Turin's contemporary art fair lands in the agenda almost straight after Frieze and compared to the London's fair, it feels lighter, fresher, edgier. It also demonstrates a greater attention for the design -in all its forms- of the event. I'm a fan.
That evening I've discovered a dozen of artists whose works i'll mention in the coming days (or weeks given my propensity to write at the speed of a banana.)
Let's start with Tatsuki Masaru whose photos were exhibited by Gallery Side 2 (Tokyo). The artist spent a decade following the Decotora (an abbreviation for "Decoration Truck") subculture, photographing the trucks of course but also their drivers and in the long series of "Japanese do it better", these vehicles have a panache and extravagance that never reach bad taste.
In an interview to Photoeye, the artist explains that the phenomenon is subject to trends and economic woes: There was a peak in say 1980, that was the peak time in terms of the number of decorated trucks existing in Japan. This trend got started somewhere in the '60s when Japan's economy was growing and people were starting to spend money decorating their trucks. In the beginning it was like, "Who has the most number of lights on the truck," that kind of competition. But then in the '90s there started to be a little bit more specialization, and one area which became popular was Gundam, which are like Japanese transformer movies, and anime type of decoration, so there are some stages to its development. Recently, because of the economic difficulties like Japan's recession, and governmental regulations, traffic laws and all that, the [truckers] can no longer do the things they used to do. So in a way, they're sort of going back to the '70s style, which is a little bit less lighting, more heavy on the paintings, a little bit more subdued decorating style so they cannot get busted by the police.
Maurizio Anzeri makes his portraits by sewing directly into found vintage photographs.
I'm quite convinced that in contemporary art, "The Poles Do It Better." Demonstration:
Pop is a waxwork of Turk as Sid Vicious in white jacket and black trousers, pointing a gun with the same gesture as Elvis Presley in the famous Andy Warhol's painting.
Rachel Foullon's barn objects from the Clusters installation look like props from a Western movie. They look worn and faded but they are also impeccably clean and their fold, creases and position seem to be the result of a careful study.
Teresa Margolles asked people she met in the streets of Juarez what they thought about the city. The answers were incised on keys hand-made by a local artisan who works on the streets.
Random views (i visited the fair on press day, hence the empty space):
An art fair is not the best place to discover works related to science, technology or politics. And when there are indeed such works on offer, they are not easy to spot. Galleries exhibiting at art fairs don't usually accompany the artwork with a text explaining what the piece is about. In fact, several galleries don't even write down the name of the artists they exhibit. You have to go and ask them. Which i do when i'm desperate but most of the time, i just want to keep on walking from gallery to gallery (there were 172 of them this year at Artissima) and see the rest of the show before my head explodes.
I did however, spot a few gems at the latest edition of Artissima.
The paintings of Taisia Korotkova immediately got my attention. There is something odd and slightly off-putting in the way she portrays childbirth. In the Reproduction series, Korotkova combines her impressions of her recent stay in the hospital with imagery of recent technology for artificial insemination. the intimate subject of child perception is tripped bared from any privacy by depicting the process as purely scientific, hightech and machine based. The anti-utopist Korotkova stresses that she recreates the already observed with sharper edges, while her style is reminiscent of optimistic illustrations of the 1960s with the cold pastel tones.
Korotkova paints her modern icons in the technique of traditional icon painting in tempera with a dip of humanized social realist painting.
The Castello di Rivoli was showing a black and white photo by Simon Starling. As its ultra long title suggests, the work is inspired by Christopher Williams's seven photographs of the Grande Dixence, the Swiss dam where Godard shot Opération Béton (Operation Cement). I'm mostly copy-pasting the description provided at the fair (the Castello di Rivoli is a museum, hence the magnanimous addition of information): Starling re-photographed Williams's shots and exhibited them with a title that describes how Switzerland profits from the resale of energy. Actually, the work is based on a stratagem that Switzerland carries out, buying electrical energy at night from nearby countries, at a low cost, then using that energy to pump water into the dam's holding reservoirs, generating hydroelectric energy, which is then resold by day at a higher price to those same neighbouring nations. Taking his cue from this small escamotage, or evasion, the artist carried out an analogous action that, through his appropriation of Williams's photos, causes his work to take on an already substantial value, which he then increases by printing these same images using a platinum rather than silver salt process - the former being a much more costly process than the one originally used. In this way Starling adds the material value of the means employed to the 'artistic' valie of the acquired photographs, infusing Williams's work with new meanings and adding another stage in the object's evocative path.
In the 1780s mineralogist August Nordenskiöld was employed by the Swedish king Gustav III to discover the legendary alchemical substance Philosopher's Stone and turn base metal into gold. The gold was intended to finance Sweden's military and economic expansion, but Nordenskiöld had a different agenda, he aimed to produce so much gold that its value would be lost and the "tyranny of money" abolished. One of the few remaining artifacts from Nordenskiöld's laboratory is a coal burning alchemy furnace.
In the project The Nordenskiöld Model, Goldin+Senneby (a duo of artists as elusive as an offshore company and who have been exploring the abstract nature of money for several years) explore the relation between contemporary finance and Nordenskiöld's utopian ideals and alchemical experiments.
Kamen Stoyanov's Tomato Product takes forms and ideas from the physical to the virtual and back. The work started with a very literal take on the Facebook game, Farmville, in which players receive a small piece of land to grow virtual crops and raises livestock. The artist used the garden of a historically significant building in West Hollywood (a city associated with an 'unreal' lifestyle) to grow tomatoes. Each plant pot measures 12x12 inch, the size of land ones get starting to play Farmville. Stoyanov also prepared tomato soup, canned it, added a label and put it on display, as a reference to Andy Warhol.
And a happy new year to you, dear readers!