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.

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Capaci. 1980. Woman who believes her son has been killed. ©Letizia Battaglia

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Palermo, 1982. Nerina was a prostitute. The mafia killed her along with her two friends because she had not 'respected the rules' ©Letizia Battaglia

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.

Just like Weegee and Enrique Metinides Letizia Battaglia was covering the cronaca nera, the crime stories for a newspaper. In her case, the left-wing L'Ora in Palermo.

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.

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Palermo.1979. Judge Cesare Terranova, communist deputy member of the Antimafia Commission Parliament, has just been killed in an ambush. Marshal Lenin Mancuso, the body guard responsible for his safety, died in the hospital shortly afterwards. ©Letizia Battaglia

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.

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Letizia Battaglia, Dead man lying on a garage ramp, 1977

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.

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Palermo, 1998. Police Justice Roberto Scarpinanto with his bodyguards. Scarpinanto was lead prosecutor in the trial of former Prime Minister Andreotti ©Letizia Battaglia

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.

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Palermo 1976, Quartiere Albergaria. Letizia Battaglia

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Palermo, 1986. The day of the Dead. ©Letizia Battaglia

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Palermo,1982. The two christs ©Letizia Battaglia

Wikipedia has a list of webpages where you can find more photos of Battaglia.

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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.

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The Dirge , 2006

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A Whisper , 2008

mitterrand + sanz / contemporary art in Geneva featured the delicately hot drawings of Virginie Morillo.

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Come on baby, light my fire!, 2008

The Galleria Antonio Colombo in Milan had some merry and eerie drawings by the underground artist and musician Daniel Johnston.

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Daniel Johnston, Last chance to loose nothing, 20

The Kevin Bruk Gallery (Miami) was showing paintings by Christian Curiel

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Sinking Feeling, 2007

The Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Centre from Athens had a great diptych by Dimitris Andreadis

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DEAD, 2008

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.

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The Kiss, 2006

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.

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Mr. President, 2008

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.

0aartismmposterre.jpgThe 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 Gallery put up the most exciting show. but that's just my opinion and i lose any pretense to be objective the minute i see the name of Santiago Sierra on a wall.

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.

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Regina José Galindo, America's Family Prison, 2008. Portable jail cell, trailer. Installation external view

For her performance, America's Family Prison, Galindo rented a cell for $8,000 from Sweeper Metal Fabricators Corp and had it transported to the Art Pace gallery in San Antonio TX.

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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.

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Charles Reed/Department of Homeland Security, via Associated Press, via TNYT

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.

Related entries: YOUprison, Some thoughts on the limitation of space and freedom, Video of the day - Trapped: Mental Illness in America's Prisons and Artur Żmijewski: The Social Studio.

At the Artissima art fair last month in Turin, i discovered a new player on the local art scene: the Parco d'Arte Vivente (Park of Living Art).

It all started when i almost fell on my knees in front of an installation by Michel Blazy. The first time i saw his work was at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The installation Post Patman stank, rot, crumbled and formed mushrooms, attracted insects and birds but i love it.

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The work on show at Artissima, Le tombeau du poulet aux quatre cuisses (The grave of the four-legged chicken), is a skeleton laying on a bed of earth and surrounded by mushroom. The skeleton looks indeed like the one of a chicken, a giant chicken and as it is made of dog biscuits (made themselves from animal products) will be slowly desintegrating over time.

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The PAV was also exhibiting one of Jun Takita's sculpture Jusqu'aux recoins du monde, the sculpture of a brain recovered with bioluminescent algae. For years, the Paris-based artist has been interested in bioluminescence.

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Jusqu'aux recoins du monde

According to traditional classification, photosynthesizing organisms
belong to the plant kingdom. Plants transform light into energy but are not capable of bioluminescence --that is, they cannot emit light. Excepting a few species like the dinoflagellates, which belong to both the plant and animal kingdoms, bioluminescence is found in only a few animal species. Biological evolution has not
given rise to an organism that can both consume light as energy and use that energy to create its own light. However, over the last few years, genetic manipulation has made it possible to create bioluminescent plants. These plants/nonplants artificial organisms transgress the laws of nature.

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Light only Light, by Jun Takita. Image Yusuke Komiyama

It is easy to perceive a figure in the landscape within 10° of one's line of sight (the size of the visual field of a fist held out at arm's length). For example, constellations are based on the principle that one reads stars at a distance of up to about 11° from one another as part of a group. Even when we look at the sky, the human hand is the unit of reference for measuring an image. If an object exceeds this 10° visual field, we have to move our eyes in order to perceive it in its entirety. Vision is then constructed by the accretion of several images memorized by the brain. In 1998, the artist started to work on a garden project based on this phenomenon.

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On the left, portrait of Jun Takita

The elevated garden is to be situated on top of a building in Tokyo. As Tokyo is a very polluted city, it is not unusual to see gardens being grown on the top buildings by inhabitants in order to cool down a bit the temperature of the city.

The central element of Takita's own garden is a mineral sculpture composed of three walls forming a cave and a bush pruned into a hemisphere. The inside of the cave is to be covered with a bioluminescent moss produced with genetic engineering technology. The moss will emit light via photosynthesis. The visitor is led to a viewpoint along the axis of the sculpture, where the bush is framed by the cave. The distance from this point to the bush will permit the eye to perceive the whole installation at once.

The visitor is invited to discover a visual experience made possible through genetic engineering. During the day, the light of the sun is much stronger than the one emitted through bioluminescence, therefore the form of the bush will be lit by the sun, and its shape will serve to distinguish it from a dark background. After sunset the opposite happens: the bioluminescent background will be broken up by the silhouette of the bush, forming a negative figure (via Takita's paper and the notes i took during the artist's presentation during the round table, titled Places and creative processes of the living arts, and organized by the Parco d'Arte Vivente at artissima).

One of Jun Takita's works will be part of sk-interfaces which opens at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool on 01 February until 30 March 2008.

Last week i went to the temporary headquarters of the PAV to check out their exhibition Living Materials. It closed yesterday but will be traveling to Austria. I do not have the details about that second show yet. But when i do, i'll let you know because Living Materials is a very charming exhibition.

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Every work presented involves the public in a timed process cadenced by the cyclic rhythm of biological and ecological phenomena. Life and death are simultaneously present and aesthetically represented in the continuum of procedural works which ask us about the man-nature relationship in the age of biotechnology.

The works on show include Le Poulet and photos of Jun Takita's work but also:

0alemoncelli9.jpgEnnio Bertrand, The creator has a master plan (first created in 2003 under the title Lemon Sky and revamped for Living Materials).

An array of hundreds of lemons are pierced with small metal sheets, they are in fact Volta batteries supplied with citrus energy which powers tiny Leds, one every 4 lemons. Originally the lemons looked like the ones you can see on the image above but when i visited the PAV, the lemons were a yummy green as you can see on the image on the right. I actually liked that a lot, in yellow, they were too perfect, too plastic looking, but covered with decay they were more living than ever.

The artist writes: I imagined that the lemons during their "work" of withering and decomposing would give back the sun stored by the tree in his fruits during its productive phase in form of small flares.

I think it's fascinating that a fruit of nature through an electronic device can palpitate for some days. It seems the proof to me of our dependence on the environment, of our tight and deep bond to nature.

The project proposes a reflection on the energetic resources of our planet and re-explores one of the artist's theme of predilection: time. Six months of ripening, several days of life for the work and very short flashes of light, like snapshots of the passing by of time.

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The last work on show is Food Island, by Andrea Caretto & Raffaella Spagna. The complex water system feeds several interconnected little islands containing various natural elements: stones, plants or animals.

A pump dipped in a water container sends water which reaches each island through transparent tubes. The water produced through various natural mechanism or which is not needed by the island is then collected and sent back to the main water container. the whole installation constitutes a kind of hypertextual narration which explains phenomena of growth and transformation of the material, from inorganic to organic and vice-versa.

All my images.
and the press pictures from three sixty. Video interview of Michel Blazy.

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After Aix en Provence i'm in Turin for Artissima, the contemporary art fair. Not as exciting as the previous years but there're still a few discoveries i'd like to share with you.

Starting with Canadian artist Jon Pylypchuk whose psycho puppies were pretending to behave kind of decently on the floor of the Alison Jacques Gallery booth.

The fugly pets are made using mostly trash materials: scraps of wood, bits of fabric, felt, fake fur, glitter, and glue.

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erections pointing at stars and angels, 2004

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 ;-)

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psychos_hans_02

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.

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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.

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