Probably my favourite photo at Artissima art fair in Turin last week:
I wrote briefly about Arnold Odermatt in the past but i'm glad that the Springer Berlin gallery chose to highlight his work for Back to the Future, the fair's (utterly brilliant) section dedicated to artists active in the '60s and '70s.
Odermatt never studied photography. He was a traffic policeman in Switzerland and part of his job consisted in taking photographs of road accidents and of other members of the police at work. From 1948 till 1990, when he retired, he would make one set for the insurance or police reports and a second one for himself.
His photos of accidents are sometimes compared to the ones taken by Weegee, Mell Kilpatrick or Enrique Metenides who chronicled accidents, scenes of violence, suicides for newspapers or pulp magazines.
Odermatt obviously had a very different job but the settings for the car crashes and other accidents he documented makes his work even more distinctive. More scenic, with a peaceful and pleasant atmosphere. In the policeman's photos, the horror seems to be under the spell of the elegant landscape.
Yesterday, i had a quick tour of Artissima, Turin's contemporary art fair. I came back with hundreds of photos of the usual dubious quality and i still need to 1. go back to the fair with a camera which batteries aren't dying 2. sort out the pictorial mess that is my flickr feed.
But right now, the first impressions are (in no particular order): Polish contemporary art continues to impress me. The official bag of the fair is bright, pink and cheerful. The groupings of fire extinguishers are as feisty as ever. Galleries from Sicily are showing powerful works. Speaking of which...
Monica De Cardenas is a gallery based in Milan but one of the artists in their booth is from Siracusa: Valerio Carrubba. I remember being horrified by the (far too anatomical for my taste) paintings that appeared on most blogs i was following a few years ago.
However, I can't get enough of those hairy people (big fan of Demis that i am!) The portraits start as found images, Carrubba then paints over them and constantly reworks the image.
While writing my review of Artissima, the contemporary art fair that closed earlier this month in Turin, i left one project aside. I was so interested by Milica Tomic's Container that i decided to take some time to document it more thoroughly.
The work, which was brought to Turin by Charim Galerie (Vienna), challenges the 'representation' (or lack of thereof) of past violent events.
Container recreates the Dasht-i-Leili massacre, a war crime committed in Northern Afghanistan in 2001. Thousands of Taliban prisoners were locked inside cargo containers without food nor water and carted off through the desert to prison on a journey that took several days. When they begged for air, the Northern Alliance troops shot at the containers, "to make holes for air to come in."
Some were killed by the bullets, others died of suffocation. Those who survived were subsequently shot and buried in mass graves. Information about the massacre appeared in the media only two years later. Not a single image illustrated the story. But there were eyewitness reports, and there is a documentary, Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death.
Milica Tomic decided to produce the non-existing war image. The images would not only be fake, they would also be made in other locations and contexts. And with every reconstruction, Tomić came across new information linking host countries to various war zones or local episodes of violence.
The scene of the crime was first repeated on an empty cargo container in Belgrade, in a sport club where you can hire a "shooting service". Three professional shooters shot at the container. They received monetary compensation and did not ask any question. The artist and her team later moved the container to downtown Belgrade, where they photographed it with about 100 people inside.
The artist quickly realized that during the crime reconstruction in Belgrade, more crimes started to emerge: those committed during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. In order to pierce the thick container metal,, the shooters hired by the artists had to use Kalashnikov and the bullets AK-47/7.62 x 39mm. The bullets were produced in 1988 in Bosnia, and then used during the war in Kosovo until 1999, when the Yugoslav Army brought them to Belgrade, following the retreat from Kosovo.
Repeating this reconstruction in different countries produced different scenarios.
In Australia, the (re)construction had to take place only on private property. The only professionals who accepted to shoot at the container were roo-shooters, the kangaroo hunters. This time, the bullet used were the same that were used by the Australian army fighting the US-led war in Iraq.
Another reconstruction of the crime took place in Gyumri, Armenia, where shooting at a container would have been far too disturbing for the population. Containers were indeed used after 1988 to house many Gyumri residents who had lost their homes to the earthquake. Some are still in use today.
Besides, a total weapon ban had just been imposed in the country because of demonstrations that had ended in bloodshed a couple of months before Tomic's arrival in Armenia. This time the (re)construction of the war crime didn't go further than the renting of the container.
In Great Britain, this artwork was only possible within the BBC studios production. Another option was to take the container out of the country, and return it perforated to Great Britain.
The networks of military, economic and political relations, which appeared active during the process of reconstruction and begun to tell us its own criminal story.
By simulating this crime the discussion on global violence, hypocrisy of American wars in the name of democracy and anti-terrorism opens by default.
Previously: As seen at Artissima this month.
Another edition of the Artissima art fair just ended in Turin, another Artissima report on wmmna. I've always found Artissima brainier, edgier and less art supermarket than other art fairs (let's say that the mercantile side of the operation is a bit more subtle here.) I thought my first visit to Frieze in London last month would dethrone the Turin fair from its pedestal but that didn't happen. Frieze is not as avant-garde as its reputation wants it. At least not anymore. I hope to find time to blog about it soon-ish.
Along with the 102 galleries that form its Main Section, Artissima also introduced young galleries, which have been up and running for less than five years. Another section, Emerging Talents, is dedicated to emerging artists while Back to the Future brings the spotlight on artists who were active in the '60s and '70s and whose work has much affinity with current art practice. I'm going to mix and match everything i've seen in a single, almost devoid of any comment, post:
I love love love David Shrigley:
Views from the exhibition space at the Oval (images from the press kit):
Gabriele Arruzzo's proposal of a coat of arms for Italy celebrates the past glories of the country as much as some of the embarrassing clichés that characterize its current identity (or at least the way it is perceived.)
In 2008 the Croatian artist Igor Grubić began a series of micro-political actions dedicated to the revolutionary movements of 1968 that ranged from personal dedications to provocative interventions in public spaces.
The retro section, Back to the Future, ended up being my favourite of all.
When in 1972 Franco Mazzucchelli abandoned some PVC inflatables (A. TO A.) in front of Alfa Romeo he involuntarily triggered a road block as factory workers played with the plastic shapes and created a barrier to block the cars.
My images on flickr.
While i ponder on my inability to be the queen of sexy titles, i'm going to give you a last breath of Artissima:
The first time i saw Jan Håfström's work was at the Venice Biennial. I remembered thinking that i wouldn't mind seeing it over and over again. The Brändström gallery in Stockholm has no idea how happy when they decided to fill their booth with Paradise Lost, Walker, Incidents of Grandma's Travel and The Eternal Return to Artissima. The cut-out wood panels create an instant dark cult atmosphere evoking Gustave Moreau, Edgar Allan Poe, secret burial ceremonies and Boris Karloff's hypnotic eyes in The Mummy.
Now the question i like to ask myself when i'm in an artfair is "if money was no object which work would i want to bag for my penthouse?" At Artissima, i'd have bought a Damien Deroubaix.
In 2007, Daniel Knorr decorated four trams in Bucharest with the symbols of key institutions: The Army, The Orthodox Church, The Red Cross and the Police. This intervention materializes the Kafkian relationship between institutions and citizens who live physically such relationship in regard to the tram (either if they are inside or outside it, either if it is empty or crowded), always repeating the same run (via.)
Gianni Pettena was one of the leading figures of "radical architecture" in Italy. The little i've seen of his work makes me think that he was a brilliant man, to say the least. Carabinieri were giant word-objects built out of corrugated cardboard erected in a courtyard and abandoned to the wear and tear of time and weather. 'Carabinieri' (the national gendarmerie of Italy) is an old word and it evokes authority. Rain and humidity have quickly and quietly reduced it to pieces.
Zebiba, by Hrair Sarkissian, is a series of portraits of pious men in Egypt who all have the 'Zebiba' or prayer scar on their foreheads, caused by kneeling on a prayer rug or a Mussallah (Stone of God) and touching the ground with one's forehead. On one level, the worshipper aspires to disinvest himself from earthly culture. Paradoxically, the desire to become invisible when facing God, renders him more visible within his social environment.
In 1993, while his country was facing a national identity debate, and a negative image abroad, Perjovschi participated to a Performance Festival in Timişoara with an "anti-performance" for which he had the name of his country tattooed on his shoulder.
Ten years later, he removed the tattoo in a surgical procedure that involved a laser bombardment of the tattoo, each black dot splitting into millions of pieces and each of the pieces carried away through his skin by molecules. The tattoo was not erased but instead spread throughout the whole body of the artist.
And that's it for the 17th edition of Artissima!
If you've seen the movie Gomorrah, you won't have any difficulty recognizing the location of Tobias Zielony's photos: Le Vele (The Sails) in Naples. Denatured by modifications to the original plans, obstructed by management failures, excessive housing density and insufficient services facilities, the monumental buildings are to be demolished. Three of them have already been razed to the ground. The remaining four "sails" are in an advanced state of degradation. Only about a hundred families still live in buildings which have now been reduced to ghostlike ruins (via.)
Zielony, whose images i discovered at the Artissima art fair 2 months ago, spent several weeks studying and documenting how adolescents "kill time" in Naples suburbia.
Let's not move away from the 'deteriorating architectural heritage' chapter immediately, shall we? This morning i read in The Guardian that UK's largest surviving estate of postwar prefab houses is set to be bulldozed. Only six of the 187 bungalows, erected from factory-built panels by German and Italian prisoners of war in 1945 and 1946, will be saved. The remainder of the Excalibur estate in Catford, south-east London, will be demolished, along with its tin-roofed prefab church, St Mark's.*
The story brought back to my mind another project i noticed at the Artissima art fair in November. Over a year ago, artists Lara Almarcegui came across a patchy assortment of cottages, classrooms and villas on the outskirts of Wellington, New Zealand. The houses are moved there from different places and remain on display until they are sold. The result is a ghost-town like street with empty buildings, some in state of disrepair, others in almost pristine condition.
For the One Day Sculpture project, Almarcegui traced the roots and individual stories of each building and communicated it through a tour and a catalogue which was published as an insert in Wellington's daily newspaper, the Dominion Post.
Caught between a distant history shared with an almost forgotten owner and their future reinstatement to another site, each house seems to be out of context.
There might not have been as many photographic works as in the previous editions of Artissima, but the ones i saw certainly made it worth the trip.
Thank you McCaffrey Fine Art for bringing Hitoshi Nomura to the art fair. Nomura gained fame in the late sixties with huge works created out of cardboard or dry ice, that he photographed to record their change in shape and aspect over time, thereby manifesting invisible concepts, such as 'gravity' or 'time'. For his Tardiology series (1969/2009), the artist constructed high cardboard towers that he then left to the mercy of gravity, time and weather. He photographed them as they started to sag, bend, and finally toppled. Simple and effective demonstration of the power of gravity over time.