Olala! I'm ridiculously late with the remains of my reports from the Artissima art fair which took place in Turin last November. I posted a couple of quick stories a while back then got on a plane and left catalogues, scraps of papers, hasty notes and memories home. I know new year's resolutions are made never to be respected, but i do hope 2011 will see some form of organization in the way i schedule my reports.
The last edition of Artissima was good. But then i'd usually say such thing because i love art fairs. The booth ladies always wear fancy, sexy attires, none of them has ever heard about the existence of art blogs, i see free booze in my fancy press bag, the concept of a fair makes it possible to ask questions you'd never dare to ask in a gallery or museum, and there are more artworks than even i can absorb. The event this year took place at at the comfortable and luminous Oval - a pavilion built for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin.
Artissima offered dance shows, performances, mega structures made of trash (see Artissima - the House of Contamination) and a few young galleries and artists i was happy to discover. This post will focus on the installations i found particularly striking:
One of the most amazing, yet simple, works at the art fair was a light projection by Ulrich Vogl. Neatly aligned projectors from all brands and sizes were casting onto the wall of the booth slide images that, seen together, suggested the night-time skyline of a distant metropolis.
In 1997 Carl Michael von Hausswolf initiated a series of works under the title "Operations of Spirit Communication", inspired by his research on Electronic Voice Phenomena techniques. His ready-made machines were showing the possibilities of ghosts and other kinds of life forms living inside a certain space or inside the electricity grids. Unfortunately for me the lovely person in charge of the Niklas Belenius booth was a friend of the gallerist and he could not give me much information about this particular piece. He merely gave me the name of the artist and had me press a couple of buttons.
Superflex was showing the Anti-Piracy Machine, from its Free beer / Counter game strategies series. Anti-Piracy Machine models the struggle against counterfeit goods. One player (the 'pirate') places bootleg material (represented by potatos) into the marketplace (represented by the launching tube). The other player (the 'police') uses the subtle and finely-tuned instrument of the law (represented here by a hammer) to remove pirate material from circulation. Five points to the pirate for every potato missed, one point to the police for every potato hit.
Niklas Belenius's booth (again!) had photo documentation of John Duncan's installation The Rage Room, part of The Dream House in which each room is specifically designed to evoke a specific state of consciousness.
Susan Norrie's stunning video installation was dedicated to the people of Porong and East Java who are battling the biggest mud volcano in the world. In 2006, an eruption at the Banjar Panji 1 gas and oil drilling well created an environmental disaster in the region that continues to this day. Company officials claimed that a distant earthquake had triggered the eruption; others believed that the catastrophe was primarily due to the mining company's operational negligence.
The toxic fumes spreading from the well include hydrogen sulphide, which causes long-term neurological and physical effects. The mudslide inundated villages, leaving more than tens of thousands of people homeless. It is expected that the flow will continue for the next 30 years.
Lou Reed lighting a cigarette on the first track, side one, of the LP Take No Prisoners, recorded live at the Bottom Line, New York, May 1978. The sound is played through a microphone connected to the headphones output of a 1970s reel-to-reel tape recorder.
And a very happy new year to you dear readers.
Another update from Artissima, the contemporary art fair taking place this weekend in Turin. There's vodka in the press bag, the art girls wear Melissa shoes, they still rock those pointy shoulder jackets, the men are strongly encouraged to make sartorial efforts, and photography seems to have fallen out of favour.
Meanwhile half of the public is either walking up and down the scaffoldings of raumlabor's life-size maquette of an experimental museum or relaxing with friends on the huge heap of smelly discarded clothes that the Berlin-based collective has 'erected' by the bar. When i saw the mountain of clothes from afar i actually thought it was a scaled-down version Christian Boltanski's Personnes at the Grand Palais in Paris.
raumlabor's construction -which you can find at the back of the exhibition space- was designed to host the fair's cultural offer, a program mixing dance performances, literature, film screenings and architecture. The idea is brilliant and the structure certainly attracts more passersby than the white rooms where the conferences usually take place.
The House of Contamination forms a parallel architecture in clashing contrast both with the sleek volumes of the Oval building where the fair is hosted and with the squeaky clean walls of the gallery booths.
The walls of this experimental museum are built with compressed stacks of plastic, paper, metal, fabric and wood. All the material is recycled. The books of the library are kept inside disused fridges, tables are installed on top of upside-down washing machines. A huge fan intermittently blows wind that moves the fabric walls of the corridor. Up there, a rudimentary skywalk allows visitors to get a better idea of the architecture of the museum.
As the description of the House of Contamination states, all rooms are intercommunicating, the only dividing wall can move merging cinema and theatre, simultaneously sealing the literary salon.
Let's see if this experimental museum gets a life beyond the 4 days art fair.
I've just spent the afternoon at the professional sneak peek of Artissima, Turin's contemporary art fair. Since i'm still uploading the hundreds of pictures i took, going through the catalogue, trying to identify the performances and screenings worth attending over the coming days and wondering whether i shouldn't get away from this screen and head to the Share festival right now (whoever decided that the few interesting art events in this town should be crammed together in a couple of days should be submitted to the ordeal of hot water), i'm going to do the lazy thing and give you an easy preview of Artissima using a selection of the press images i received a few hours ago. I promise to be more diligent tomorrow. In the meantime, here are the goods:
I loved this one and i'll add that the Polish galleries rocked the fair this year:
Artissima, Turin's contemporary art fair is open to the public on November 5, 6 and 7 from 12.00 to 8.00 pm.
I've written about Artissima, Turin's contemporary art fair, in my previous post (Artissima, Turin's contemporary art fair), I'll let the photos do the talking this time, except when they document performances or installations.
Matej Andraž Vogrinčič's installation Untitled (56 Boats) was a collection of 56 upturned rowing boats placed inside the bombed ruins of the Gothic Era St. Luke's Church in Liverpool.
Kutlug Ataman's two-channel projection Journey to the Moon is a docu-fiction about an urban myth that in 1957, a group of villagers in eastern Turkey were conned by a politician into believing he would build a spaceship factory in cooperation with the US, in return for their votes. The film explores the idea that the villagers were the victim of American style westernisation in Turkey in the late 50s and perhaps also of the early stages of globalisation.
In 2006, a gas and oil drilling well created an environmental disaster in East Java that continues to this day. Experts speculated that an earthquake in central Java had triggered the eruption of this unstoppable "mud volcano"; many believed that the catastrophe was in fact primarily due to the negligence of mining company Lapindo Brantas.The toxic fumes still spreading from the well include hydrogen sulphide, which causes long-term neurological and physical effects. The attempts at stopping the mud flow, whether they involve inadequate 15ft high dams of earth or the sacrifice of animals, have all failed.
Since the first eruption, 13,000 families (some 50,000 people) have lost their homes and land. Susan Norries dedicated Notes from Havoc to them.
The Bruce High Quality Foundation's photographs, Public Sculpture Tackle, documents an ongoing series of performances in which the artists dressed in makeshift sports attire and padding hurl themselves and lunge against various public sculptures in Manhattan. In a contest between individualistic energy and engineered public adornment, we all know who will win.
Lara Almarcegui used the debris of a demolished house from the center of St Truiden in Belgium to raise an antimonumental sculpture.
Seen at the booths of Laura Bartlett and Bugada & Cargnel, the Cairns series by Cyprien Gaillard. The photographs depict the aftermath of the demolition of high rise social housing in Glasgow and the Parisian suburbs, shot and printed after Düsseldorf school of photograph's codes and photographers such as Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth, while pushing them to their ultimate stage: monumentality, frontality, absence of narration and time reference - ie impossibility to identify the season of the year or the time of the day; but instead of picturing an arrogant modernist building, only remains a pyramid of ruins.
Talking of Thomas Struth...
Every picture shot by Hans Op De Beeck for his "Room" series features only one protagonist presented in interiors that are computer-designed but which provide information about the presumed life and social background of the person portrayed, as well as about the specific moment and the stage of life that the individual has reached.
Each of the characters has that kind of introspective gaze one can observe in Old Masters such as Rogier van der Weyden. The references do not end there. The series also alludes to the film noir.
Let's end with a picture seen at the booth of my favourite gallery in Turin
And hop! Another photo set.
Spain has ARCO in Madrid, France FIAC in Paris, the UK do Frieze in London, Germany has Art Cologne and art forum in Berlin, etc. But what is the main contemporary art fair in Italy? Do sit down please because the list is getting longer. There's a contemporary art fair in Bologna, one in Milan, in Bolzano, in Verona. And then there's Turin. Surely there must be one in the South of the country but i don't think i've ever been told about it. I only go to Turin, not just because i have the misfortune to live there, but because Artissima, which closed a few weeks ago, never disappoints me. It is decidedly the edgiest and most exciting contemporary art fair in the country. In fact, you'd almost think that people come here because they love art, not just because they want to buy, invest and speculate.
Over 45,000 visitors visited the fair and the sales went fairly well (at least that's what you tend to hear and read in times of crisis.) Not everybody was ecstatic though. There was the scandal of the catalogs (one of them compiles interviews with gallery owners some of which were not present at the fair and were therefore not contributing to the financing of the catalog printing, the gallery owners who had not been interviewed for the booklet felt they had been cheated), others lamented Turin's decision to focus many of the city's art events in November, with the effect that collectors and visitors had less time to spend at the fair than gallerists might have hoped.
As i mentioned a few weeks ago, the fair had the objective of being affordable, introducing young artists at "prices you can buy." The definition of 'affordable' being open to debate, Artissima opened THE STORE, a shop curated by Adam Carr, at the back of the exhibition space. Plebeians like you and me could snap a poster, bag, lollipop, video, postcard, mug or balloon for 0 to 450 euro (i was told you were even allowed to bargain) by artists such as Nina Beier, Stella Capes, Tomas Chaffe, Claire Fontaine, Ryan Gander, Liam Gillick, Loris Gréaud, Arunas Gudaitis, Henrik Plenge Jakobsen, Jonathan Monk, Paola Pivi, Mario Garcia Torres, etc. I got the Jonathan Monk bag with the press kit so i'm as happy as a clam (never inquired about the degree of felicity of a clam but i found the expression on google and thought it sounded adequate.)
Now I'll just throw a few pictures and artworks at your face, go back to my "English Period drama tv series" viewing and come back to you tomorrow with a post focusing on the photographic works i discovered at Artissima.
The entrance of the fair was particularly eye-catching thanks to the Constellation section which presents a museum-style selection of installations, sculptures, videos, and large-format works selected by Heike Munder, from the Migros Museum Für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich. I only paid attention to it at the end of my visit when i saw these alpine lads falling half-asleep during a dancing marathon on a rotating podium:
Stas Volyazlovsky's artworks are painted on bed-sheets, pillow-cases and towels dipped into a strong tea which is very popular among inmates of Russian prisons. They figure Pushkin, Hitler, "lolitas", mutant nurses and Dracula among obscene words and motives that remind criminal tattoos.
Naïma Bourquin, Johan Wacquez, and Vassili Lavandier are three fictive persons. Artist Jonathan Delachaux sculpts then photographs them for the realization of his paintings. Everything in the painting is very realistic. Except the characters, they retain their eerie puppet appearance.
Carsten Höller reminded us that he was trained as a biologist by filling a series of vitrines with Doppelpilze (Double mushrooms). Each replica of mushroom was halved and then coupled with a different kind of mushroom.
Amusingly, this slot machine which seemed to work like your usual slot machine was defined "an interactive sculpture." You'll notice an artwork featuring skulls just behind this -now that i think of it- rather uninspiring 'interactive sculpture'.
I saw an awful lot of skulls at Artissima.
See you tomorrow!
Picture on the homepage: Seb Patane, Absolute Körperkontrolle, live audio-visual mixed media installation, 200. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London and Galleria Fonti, Naples
On Thursday, i did a tour of Artissima, the contemporary art fair in Turin. One of the objectives of the fair this year was to be 'affordable'. "We are not interested in having artworks that costs 10 million euros. We want to enable young people and those who have a passion for art but a limited budget to become collectors," explained to La Stampa Andrea Bellini, the Director of the Turin art fair. I didn't ask for any price so i'll take his word for it. I did notice a fair amount of young and i must say rather exciting artists in the booths.
Well, that was a pretty inappropriate introduction because i'm actually going to focus on a photographer who gained fame in the '70s and '80s for her documentation of the internal war of the Mafia in Sicily at its bloodiest, and its devastating impact on the rest of the society.
In 1974, when the mafia moved from organised crime to heroin trafficking, mafiosi became more brutal. They murdered anyone who would stand in the way of their business, from the chief of police to family rivals. By 1981, there was one killing every three day. Sometimes many more.
At the time, the Cosa Nostra was identifiable. It had faces one could photograph and associate with crimes. Today, mafia is much less visible. Battaglia's pictures, because of the corruption, silence, violence and suffering they laid bare, played a crucial role in the anti-mafia campaign. They show anti-mafia Judge Cesare Terranova shot in his car, corpses of mobsters abandoned by the road, tears of the wives and mothers when they discover the scene of the crime, arrests of a mafia boss, teenagers pretending to be though guys with attitude and guns.
Some of her photos were even used as evidence of corruption against Giulio Andreotti, a man whose authority in Italian politics was so powerful he was known as Divo Giulio, "divine Julius" an epithet of Julius Caesar. In 1993, when prosecutors in Palermo indicted the ex-prime minister, the police searched Battaglia's archives and discovered two 1979 photographs of Andreotti with an important Mafioso he had denied knowing. These pictures were the only physical evidence of the politician's connections to the Sicilian Mafia. Battaglia's life, after she retired from photography, is as awe-inspiring as her images: she's a photoreporter known for taking risks but also an editor and environmental writer and politician.
The Cardi Black Box gallery in Milan brought the work of Battaglia to Artissima, along with two other photographers of tragedy: Enrique Metinides and former Swiss police lieutenant Arnold Odermatt who during almost 50 years recorded car accidents.
Wikipedia has a list of webpages where you can find more photos of Battaglia.