If you're in Dublin or anywhere near it, then this week is your last chance to see GLITCH 2014. Cash Rules Everything Around. GLITCH is Dublin's digital and new media art festival and the title of this year's edition is directly inspired by New York hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan's single C.R.E.A.M Cash rules everything around me.
The exhibition examines how artists use new media to investigate social and political systems to find their position within and in relation to these larger systems. In this fuzzy zone of information production, where boundaries and roles are increasingly blurred, the exhibition deploys humour and critique to reconfigure our ideas about our current digital economic climate.
The main gallery hosts a solo exhibition of Addie Wagenknecht. In a series of brand new commissions, the artist explores the topic of the festival under the 'internet angle', revealing how money voraciously seeps in and out of the internet.
Ironically, the backdrop of the exhibition is one that everyone working in the cultural sector is all too familiar with: the lack of funding. But if you're Wagenknecht, you don't let that stop you, you turn the limitation into a full-on exercise in alternative economies, authorship and nifty outsourcing.
The most thought-provoking result of the challenge is a series of paintings titled 'Outsourced Outsourcing.' First, the artist looked online for the most popular images associated with Google Street View. Amusingly, some of them were famous screenshot that Jon Rafman took of his computer screen for his photo project The Nine Eyes of Google Street View. She then downloaded and emailed the photos along with a few instructions to the manager of a painting factory in China. Asked whether she wanted painting of low, medium or high quality, she opted from "medium." A few months later, DHL shipped the works to Ireland. Upon arriving at the gallery the paintings were stretched and mounted onto canvases and subsequently hung under the direction of the curator.
So, it appears as if Wagenknecht didn't do anything. She never touched the canvas (but then neither do Takashi Murakami or Damien Hirst these days.) She even let google dictate the subjects of the paintings and discovered her own work as she entered the exhibition. But if Wagenknecht can afford to delegate every step of the creation and exhibition process, it is because she is an artist with a deep and playful understanding of some of today's most exciting issues in both art and society: the mechanisms of the intangible, the faith in data and processes, and also the critique of the notion of authorship:
In an interview with Totally Dublin, the artist explained: There's a romance and fascination in my generation with forgery, copies and bootlegs. It's a question of what is the original: the .mp3 I purchased on the iTunes store or the same .mp3 I downloaded from The Pirate Bay? Is the iTunes version the original because a corporation tells me it is, or is the one from The Pirate Bay the original because my friends tell me it is?
We are a generation that was born and grew along with the .mp3, Napster and Pirate Bay. I want to divorce the experience of art from authentication of the brand of the artist; the power of the artist name, our social investment in the concept of genius and of ownership of an idea, a shape, or colour. The certainty that something is real - is that even a possibility anymore? Forgery embraces fantasy. It is disruptive to the system, which is something art is supposed to do.
The work that hit me as i entered the room was a vanilla-smelling and candy-coated wedding cake masterfully baked by curator Nora O Murchú for the show (it was the first time in my life i met with a curator who can both code and bake.) What remains of the cake should still be there for people to eat and share and is surmounted by a unicorn ordered from Amazon. An internet icon topping a symbol of women's ultimate dreams and hopes.
Toy cars, once again ordered from Amazon, come crashing at the base of the cake podium. "Everything you ever wanted." The arc of the little red vehicle references Guo-Qiang's 99 taxidermy wolves. The car crash provides a dramatic ending to the futile race that takes place on a wall nearby where Scalextric tracks, purchased this time from eBay, have been installed vertically, a controller dangling at one end.
Two opposite walls in the exhibition echo contemporary worries in the most ironically joyful way. On the one side, 30 CCTV cameras keep a sparkling eye on gallery visitors. The cameras purchases from Chinese marketplace Alibaba and then wrapped with crystals in gallery by technicians reflect the "grown up" state of the Internet. A glamorous take on surveillance devices which ubiquity we've long taken for granted.
On the other side of the room, the handwriting of the artist repeats over and over a dilemma of our times: "I will not download things that will get me in trouble" until the words turn into "I will download things". Should you download for immediate personal satisfaction (and thus risk being punished if ever your 'act of piracy' is discovered by the apparatus of online surveillance)? Or should you act like a 'responsible' citizen and abide by the laws?
The other gallery showed works by two Irish artists:
In her video installation The Pit, Breda Lynch used a short sequence from Anatole Litvak's 1948 film The Snake Pit. The film takes its name from a dream made by the main character, Virginia (played by Olivia de Havilland.) The character finds herself surrounded by other patients of the mental asylum where she is staying. The place is very crowded and she seems desperate to escape. Slowly, the camera starts to move upwards from the ground until the patients appear as tiny, nervous dots. Like reptiles in a pit.
Lynch muted the video, splits the screen in two and loops two channels as one sequences - the left-hand frame features the original sequence, the right-hand one simultaneously plays the same sequence in reverse. The result is a hypnotizing and communicate a feeling of anxiety and disequilibrium. As the curator's text explained, the images are visually reminiscent of a Wall Street Trader's pit, whilst conjuring up values of fear-driven greed, exploitation, and hyper-consumption.
Fergal Brennan's 'Italian for Beginners' could also be called "Gaeilge, English for Italian beginners" which would clearly be clumsier and far less seducing. Brennan's video is certainly as funny as the Danish film of 2000.
Brennan asked Italian people who live in Dublin to read out loud names of famous shop fronts. Some of these words are in Gaeilge, others are in English. The words then appear as phonetic deconstructions of three languages - Gaeilge, English and Italian- on the screen. The result is hilarious and mesmerizing. It reflects the multicultural city that Dublin has become. You walk down the street and meet people who were brought there by economic interests ranging from tourism to job opportunities. Yet in Dublin like in most major European cities, the language that unite passersby is english. It might be distorted, mangled and barely recognizable but (thanks to the unflappable patience of people whose main language is english) it is still english, the lingua franca of the contemporary economy.
More images from the show.
Last month, i was in Riga for the festival Art+Communication and this was undoubtedly one of the most pertinent and satisfying art & science events i've ever attended. I'll do my best to share my enthusiasm in a series of upcoming reports and interviews with artists. Let's start with a broad overview of FIELDS, an exhibition which was huge and surprisingly devoid of any weak work.
FIELDS investigates the place of contemporary art practices in society and the role artists can take not just as generators of new aesthetics but also as catalysts of active involvement in social, scientific, and technological transformations. While some of the works in the show present a critique of ongoing political or ecological issues, others go a step further by suggesting positive visions for the future.
The artworks exhibited explore alternative energy, others engaged with neo-liberalism, unemployment, surveillance, endangered bee ecology, global market crisis, climate change, genetic mutations, etc. A sense of urgency emanated thus from the exhibition rooms but any doom and gloom was compensated by hints of defiant counter-action and strategies of productive rebellion.
We were expecting proposals from artists, who are working with contemporary ideas and tools, science and technologies, yet are deeply engaged with social issues, curators Raitis Smits and Rasa Smite explained. We call them 'critical interlopers', because Fields artists instead of unrealistic future scenarious, propose constructive approaches towards more sustainable future and more then that - they act, through their creative practices obtaining a touch of reality.
Armin Medosch, the third curator of the exhibition, goes further: If we look at energy, agriculture, transport, systems of production, it is clear that the ideology of limitless expansion is driving us straight into catastrophe. Everybody knows that, but while there are many initiatives, mainstream society seems to be blindly following its course, unable to change. In this situation new patterns are urgently needed, new ways of thinking, but not just that, new ways of interacting with the world, with technology, with nature. An ecological turn is overly due, but to achieve this seems almost utopian within current social relations. In this situation art can provide new models, new directions, but those are models, like in a mini-mundus world. Art gives Form to the imagination, Herbert Marcuse wrote. And this artistic imagination we are talking about in Fields is involved in the construction of a new society.
This is Riga:
The exhibition presents almost 40 works. I won't be able to cover all of them but i'll bring the spotlight on a dozen of them over the coming days. Here are four of the art pieces i found particularly compelling:
YoHa (Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji) and Matthew Fuller's Endless War scours in real time through the data obtained from Wikileaks' release of the Afghan War Diaries. Characters on the screens show the slow process of going through over 76,000 files covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010.
The reports were written by soldiers and intelligence officers and calculated by clocks, computers, and satellites. As the war is fought it produces entries in databases that are in turn analysed by software looking for repeated patterns of events, spatial information, kinds of actors, timings and other factors. Based on this analysis, military decisions are taken.
Instead of looking at the War Diary as a record of specific military acts, Endless War critically reflects on the database machines that generated it, showing how the way war is thought relates to the way it is fought. Both are seen as, potentially endless, computational processes.
Graham Harwood writes: If journalists tried to make the data transparent, to use it as a window to real world events, what we wanted to make visible was the data itself, and its role in a system of war in which we are also implicated. Endless War was an attempt to convey a sense of how the machine is able to read the entries in a way that is unlike a human, yet makes sense of the entries, ordering them in order to allow the human to participate in an intelligence that is not their own.
One of the keynote speakers of the conference that accompanied the FIELDS exhibition was Richard Barbrook, an author, lecturer at the University of Westminster who, as part of his research into the politics of ludic subversion, co-founded Class Wargames in 2007. This group of artists, academics and agitators plays and explores the possibilities of Guy Debord's The Game of War. While the game has sometimes been dismissed as Debord's 'retirement project', Barbrook affirms that it not only 'plays well', it also offers lessons in life and politics inspired by the tactics of situationism.
Debord's Game of War was inspired by Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and military theorist who stressed both the "moral" and political aspects of war. In the Napoleonic-era military strategy game, armies must maintain their communications network to survive. For Debord, The Game of War wasn't just a game, it wasn't about competing but about exploring ways for people to live their lives within Fordist society. By playing, revolutionary activists could learn how to fight and win against the oppressors of spectacular society.
Debord wrote in 1989: So I have studied the logic of war. Indeed I succeeded long ago in representing its essential movements on a rather simple game-board... I played this game, and in the often difficult conduct of my life drew a few lessons from it -- setting rules for my life, and abiding by them. The surprises vouchsafed by this Kriegspiel of mine seem endless; I rather fear it may turn out to be the only one of my works to which people will venture to accord any value. As to whether I have made good use of its lessons, I shall leave that for others to judge.
I was also intrigued by Hayley Newman's Daylight Rubbery.
As part of her work as a Self-Appointed Artist-in-Residence in the City of London, Newman is a 'bank rubber', she makes rubbings of the fronts of banks in the City of London. She performed dozens of bank rubbery on used envelopes to form a Histoire Economique, a sort of natural history of the banks in the City. The rubbings are exhibited in vitrines, like dried plants in the natural history museum.
I am interested in unconscious aspects of corporate life - what is repressed and what is revealed, the artist explained in an interview with Corridor8. Frottage seemed an appropriate technique to use in that it is often applied in an attempt to relinquish conscious control of an artwork. In Histoire Économique I use it as a method to help reveal something (the unconscious?) of the bank I am rubbing.
The food industry is exploring how the new possibilities offered by synthetic biology and biotechnology could meet the demands of a growing global population. Maja Smrekar embarks on a similar quest with her project HuMCC--Human Molecular Colonization Capacity, a line of yoghurt containing her own enzyme that she offers for public consumption.
Working with scientists at the University in Ljubljana, the artist combined her own DNA with that of a common yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae which, after being genetically transformed with the artist´s gene sequence, produces lactic acid.
The project also references Soylent Green, a scifi movie set in a future when most of the world population survives on rations produced by a corporation that produces Soylent Green, a green wafer advertised to contain "high-energy plankton". However, the main protagonist of the story discovers that the oceans no longer produce the plankton from which Soylent Green is reputedly made, and infers that it must be made from human remains, as this is the only conceivable supply of protein that matches the known production.
The artist explains that the work is located in the Soylent Green paradigm where the fear of ecological cataclysm turns into a subtle critique of corporate cannibalism: not only are corporations actually using people to continue to maintain themselves in their own lives but these same people are simultaneously yearning for those products! "Maya Yoghurt" is an overidentification tactical media product as means of producing pressure on the population--this infinite desire of capital to continue developing regardless of whether that would include even (sublime) levels of cannibalism.
I guess i'm completely immune to the ever-seducing 'shock factor' of cannibalism. Out of habit of seeing art/design projects dealing with similar topic and also for the very mundane reason that i already take probiotics that contain human strains. The 'human dairy' scenario also reminded me of the breast milk ice cream sold in London a while ago.
I was however, very seduced by Smrekar's suggestion that our own body, this nutritious source of "uncolonized biotechnological materials", might hold a key to the way growing populations might be fed in the future.
The show remains open at Arsenals Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Arts Museum (LNAM) in Riga until August 3, 2014.
A couple of weeks ago i spent yet another fruitful afternoon in Brighton for the Critical Exploits. Interrogating Infrastructure event.
The day was part of The Lighthouse's ongoing exploration of the social and political implications of technological infrastructures. The curatorial research started in 2012 with the exhibition Invisible Fields in Barcelona and continued at The Lighthouse with exhibitions by James Bridle, Mariele Neudecker, Trevor Paglen, etc.) The last event brought together artists and critical engineers Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev, critical designer Tobias Revell, and activists from the Open Rights Group for a day of talks and workshops.
Critical Exploits showed how a new generation of artists, designers and engineers are taking a highly critical approach to the development and use of the engineered systems and infrastructures that we increasingly rely on for daily life.
This post is going to focus mostly on Oliver and Vasiliev's presentation which looked at black boxes in the context of infrastructures. The talk is already on youtube but i thought i'd sum up some of the observations that the artists made and add links to the artworks and documents they mentioned while they were in Brighton.
Their presentation started with a quote from Bruno Latour. Talking about blackboxing, the sociologist wrote that When a machine runs efficiently, when a matter of fact is settled, one need focus only on its inputs and outputs and not on its internal complexity. Thus, paradoxically, the more science and technology succeed, the more opaque and obscure they become.
Typical modern devices and infrastructures function (and actually also look) like black boxes, they are far more opaque than they are transparent.
If you look at a gramophone, you'll notice that its inner working is displayed externally. An iPod nano is at the other end of the spectrum, it is completely opaque. We can't actually explain what the many parts inside the device do. And maybe even what they do behind out back. As these devices get smaller, we get even less clue about their inner working. We cannot say we know the devices inside our pockets.
Our understanding of internet infrastructure is similarly foggy. Most of the time, our contact with it is clustered around firefox, safari, explorer, etc. Most users cannot see beyond their web browser. And there is indeed much misconception about the internet. Julian Oliver mentioned a quote he heard at the Chaos Communication Congress where someone said that the only people who talk about 'users' are drug dealers and software developers.
Very few people can actually give an intelligible answer to the question "What is a computer network?" Most people have no problem describing how a postcard goes from its sender to recipient but they are at a loss when it comes to explaining how emails are exchanged. In fact, the Oliver and Vasiliev described the Internet as a deeply misunderstood technology upon which we increasingly depend. Even the terminology used makes our understanding literally nebulous. Take the concept of 'the cloud'. A survey showed that the majority of Americans believe that cloud computing was affected by bad weather.
Another interesting fact their talk mentioned is that the net doesn't belong to the people as it is often assumed. If you have a look at the Submarine Cable Map, you quickly realize that most of these cables are privatized.
Vasiliev and Oliver take their distances from a traditional definition that sees engineering as the practical application of science to commerce or industry. Instead, they wrote, together with Gordan Savičić, a critical engineering manifesto which they regard as a frame for applied research and development that positions Engineering, rather than Art or Design, as primary within the creative and critical process.
The rest of their talk illustrates the manifesto using works of critical engineering. I'm going to simply write their titles down and link to the project pages but i'd encourage you to watch the video of the artists/critical engineers talk to get more background and comments on each work.
Don't miss the video documenting the other talk of the afternoon. Tobias Revell's talk portrayed current practices within critical design and the way the discipline can be used as an antagonist tool for provoking conflicts between set narratives, beliefs and ideologies for awareness, debate and alternate interpretation. The result is a lively and carefully curated inventory of all things Design Interactions at RCA.
F.A.T. GOLD Europe - Five Years of Free Art & Technology is the European streak of the GOLD exhibition that opened at Eyebeam in New York last Spring. F.A.T. Lab was born in 2007 but 5 years sounds better in a title than 'almost 7 years' (the show was originally scheduled for November 2012 but got postponed because of Hurricane Sandy, hence the "5 years".) In any case, I'm grateful to MU for having brought the show so much closer from home.
I'm sure most of you know F.A.T. Lab, the international group of 25 artists, hackers, engineers, lawyers, musicians, and graffiti writers who collaborate on projects that look at technologies and media in a critical but also entertaining way. F.A.T. Lab is committed to supporting open values and the public domain through the use of emerging open licenses, support for open entrepreneurship and the admonishment of secrecy, copyright monopolies and patents.
The exhibition allowed me to catch up with works from F.A.T.'s early days and discover new pieces they launched on the opening night. I'm sure curator Lindsay Howard had a ridiculous amount of fun looking into the dozens of projects that F.A.T. has been churning out over its (so far) brief existence. I wish i could mention them all and even add a couple more but i'll keep it short and fast by highlighting only a couple of exhibited works that are particularly representative of the ethics and ethos of the group.
The gloriously acronymed Free Universal Construction Kit is a set of adapters that enable children to connect and lock together blocks from ten construction toys made by different companies. Lego®, Duplo®, Fischertechnik®, Gears! Gears! Gears!®, K'Nex®, etc. The complete interoperability between otherwise closed systems allows for designs that had so far been restricted to children's imagination.
Adapters can be downloaded from Thingiverse and other sharing sites as a set of 3D models and then fabricated using personal 3D printers.
The Free Universal Construction Kit isn't just about playing and building though, the project is also an invitation to look at the complex issues of copyright-protected artefacts that accompany the future of 3D printing. "This isn't a product. It's a provocation," explained Levin. "We should be free to invent without having to worry about infringement, royalties, going to jail or being sued and bullied by large industries. We don't want to see what happened in music and film play out in the area of shapes."
But some F.A.T.'s works are just what they seem to be. Absurd and provoking. Only that quite often they lead to surprising repercussions. Greg Leuch spent a few hours making an extension that would hide all mentions of Justin Bieber on the webpages you visit. He posted it on the F.A.T.'s blog and got on with his life but the extension garnered far more attention than expected. The press loved it. Bieber's fans not so much and the artist was soon inundated with messages from indignant teenagers and grateful parents.
@gleuch i freaking hate u... go somewhere and never come out. u old molester creep fag. BIEBER fans are about to pee in ur face for this.
Mum just showed me that she did block justin bieber on the computer. So ive locked myself in the bathroom and im crying.
In fact, Leuch received so many emails and tweets about the project that he's now sharing the most amusing of them on tumblr.
I'm obviously a big fan of Ideas Worth Spreading, as i am of any project, article or thought that challenges the TED cult. Just go to the MU gallery with your own Power Point presentation and deliver a talk that will stun/delight/horrify the audience using the fake TED stage complete with headset, camera, gigantic red letters, screen, spotlight, etc. After that go home and edit and upload your own pirate TED talk.
GML, or Graffiti Markup Language, is an open file format designed to store graffiti motion data.
Currently, there are over 40,000 tags in the #000000book database. The projection screens tags in chronological order, from the very first ones drawn by Tempt1, to the most recent captured by a variety of GML-powered apps.
Each year, Ars Electronica's Golden Nica awards give rise to intense debates, frustrations, satisfactions, anger and congratulations in the art and tech world so I love the super simple idea behind the F.A.T NIKA award. The 3D modelled replica of Ars Electronica's statuette is copied from a wikipedia photograph. Geraldine Juarez prints one each time she wants to award a prize to an artist whose work she admires. You're very welcome to head to the project page and do the same.
A few more photos from the show:
F.A.T. Lab members are Mike Baca, Aram Bartholl, Magnus Eriksson, Michael Frumin, Geraldine Juárez, KATSU, Tobias Leingruber, Greg Leuch, Golan Levin, Zach Lieberman, LM4K, Kyle McDonald, Jonah Peretti, Christopher "moot" Poole, James Powderly, Evan Roth, Borna Sammak, Randy Sarafan, Becky Stern, Chris Sugrue, Addie Wagenknecht, Theo Watson, Jamie Wilkinson, Bennett Williamson, and Hennessy Youngman.
F.A.T. GOLD Europe - Five Years of Free Art & Technology is open until January 26 at MU in Eindhoven.
In a show which title refers to a passage in Marx and Engels' Communist Manifesto, Deller takes a personal look at the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British popular culture, and its persisting influence on our lives today.
This is not an exhibition of Deller's work (apart from his film about glam rock wrestler Adrian Street.) Neither is it a historical treatment of the industrial era. Instead, Deller brings side by side historical artefacts and contemporary works to explore several threads that expose the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British cultural life.
I was particularly interested in the connections drawn between the digital revolution and the Industrial Revolution, in particular working conditions. They were notoriously harsh in the 19th century: low wages, long hours, child labour, etc.
A document entitled Rules to be Observed in this Factory, Church Street Mills, Preston (c. 1830) informed workers that to give their notice they must do so on Saturday only, in writing and one month in advance. Whereas the "Masters have full power to discharge any person employed therein without any previous notice whatsoever." The same documents states that workers are to be at the factory from 6 in the morning to 7.30 at night, with half an hour allowed for breakfast and one hour for dinner.
But accounts from the time deplored the fact that managers did as they liked, with clocks brought forward in the morning and back at night. Some clocks were even made to measure productivity as time. One of the artefacts in the gallery is a two-faced clock that was connected to a watermill at a silk factory and would show 'lost' time if the wheel did not turn quickly enough. The time would then have to be made up at the end of the working day. The struggle to shorten working days was hard fought by successive generations.
Nowadays however, the growing use of 'zero hours contracts' in the low wage sectors of the service and digital economy is shaping a new form of day labourer, imposing another time discipline where the worker is informed often at short notice if their labour is required. A tapestry (by Ed Hall, maker of remarkable protest banners), hanging near the clock, is adorned with the words, 'Hello, Today you have day off', a message texted to a worker on a 'zero hour' contract on the morning his shift was due to start. No work, no pay.
Also next to the clock are photos from Ben Roberts' series that documents the inside one of Amazon's nine UK 'fulfilment centres' where employees spend 10½ hours a day picking items off the shelves.
Visitors have no problem joining the dots by themselves....
The last object on that wall is a Motorola WT4000, a computing device worn on the wrist by people working in a warehouse. Retail giants rely on this kind of device to monitor the speed of orders and the efficiency of its staff in fulfilling them. It can also send warnings if the worker is falling behind schedule.
But as can be expected with Jeremy Deller, there's a great deal of music in this show. Here he is posing next to a jukebox visitors are welcome to activate. Pressing buttons triggers archive recordings from factory machinery, folk songs or quarrymen singing at work.
All That is Solid Melts into Air also looks at heavy metal and rock bands such as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Happy Mondays and Slade and at how they are the products of the industrial towns their members came from. Many came from working class backgrounds and their music echoed the loud and traumatic rhythm of the factories.
The only Deller work in the show is a film about Adrian Street. Street was born into a Welsh mining family but he refused to follow in his father's footsteps and spend his life working in the coal mines. He left home as a teenager and became a flamboyant wrestler and for a brief time also a glam rock singer.
The photo showing Street posing next to his father in the Welsh coal mine he had fled from embodies a country attempting to get to grip with its new role: services and entertainment.
More images from the exhibition:
All That is Solid Melts into Air: Jeremy Deller is an exhibition curated by an artist so don't expect academic interpretations and rigorous narratives. It is an eclectic and thought-provoking show that confronts with each other elements from our past and present, draws parallels, and triggers all kinds of associations.
All that is Solid Melts into Air Curated by Jeremy Deller is at the Manchester Art Gallery, until 19 January 2014. The exhibition will tour to other cities known for their strong industrial heritage: Nottingham, Coventry and Newcastle.
Related stories: Ed Hall, the art of protest banners and Audio CD review - Jeremy Deller: Social Surrealism.
A couple of weeks ago, i was in Derry/Londonderry. It was my first trip to Northern Ireland. Beautiful landscapes as i'm sure everybody knows, super friendly people, vegan-approved yummy food at the Legenderry Warehouse, some stunning socially-engages exhibitions i'll tell you about later and a city-wide event called Lumiere. Lumiere is a festival of 17 projections and installations that lit up as the night came onto the city. It is a crowd-magnet, a place to bring your family and marvel at what artists and designers can do with light. But don't be mistaken: some of the works had depth and bite.
Here's some of my favourite:
I don't think i would have been that impressed had i seen Change Your Stripes by Ann Cleary and Denis Connolly inside a gallery. But in the street of Derry, when evening is coming and people are out to walk the dog and stumble upon the installation, it gains a touch of magic. The artwork only comes to life as you walk past.
The huge ondulating black and white stripes are projected on the facade of the Derry Credit Union. They move as people walk by it. Passersby silhouettes are multiplied and distorted in a fluid, dancing stream like in a living version of a fairground Hall of Mirrors.
At this point, i feel like i should add a few words about Derry/Londonderry's political context. First of all because i found the installation to be absolutely brilliant but far less fascinating than the surrounding Bogside murals. And second because it is difficult to avoid mentioning politics when you find yourself in a city which carries political tensions in its very name(s). Please skip the coming paragraph if, unlike me, you are not crassly ignorant about the local history.
The Free Derry Corner might be a good introduction to the whole Derry or Londonderry issue. It was painted in 1969, shortly after the Battle of the Bogside, one of the first major confrontations of The Troubles, the 30-ish year old conflict about the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the relationship between the unionists and loyalists (the mostly Protestant community who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK) and the Irish nationalists and republicans (the Catholic community who dreamed of a united Ireland.) If you're a nationalist you'll call the city Derry, and if you're a unionists you'll use the name Londonderry.
Now allow me to open a parenthesis. From now on i will refer to Derry/Londonderry as 'the city'. I'm already tired of typing that double name over and over. End of the parenthesis .
The sum up above is a bit rough but that should provide you with some context. The Bogside is also the area where Bloody Sunday took place in 1972.
But let's get back to Lumiere.
Some artists openly engaged with the local context, others didn't. As was to be expected, Krzysztof Wodiczko created a sharp, deeply moving work about local people's perception and memories of the past conflicts and their hopes for the future of the city.
Public Projection for Derry~Londonderry was a series of extracts from interviews the artist had conducted with local people. Their words were screened from an ambulance (a fairly ubiquitous vehicle during The Troubles) onto several facades throughout the city .
Wodiczko talked to a cross-section of people, from ex-police officers to victims of the Troubles, from young people growing up in the aftermath of the conflict to people who had got into troubles for being on the 'wrong' side of the political divide at a certain time.
I saw people with tears in their eyes in the crowd....
Tim Etchells installed a few words that paid homage to Derry-Londonderry's shirt-making industrial past on top of the old Rosemount Shirt Factory.
The work was 23 metre long and 2-metre high making it visible from afar.
And so was Teenage Kicks. By this time, you've figured how much i (and the Lumiere festival) like to see big letters invading a city.
The 30m-long neon sign reading "A teenage dream's so hard to beat" sat on top of the city's BT building. It was inspired by the 1978 pop song of the same name, the greatest hit of Derry band, The Undertones.
"My impetus for this artwork is to celebrate a key moment from the history and culture of Derry," explained Deepa Mann-Kler. "I am an Indian woman who grew up in England, but came to live in Northern Ireland in March 1996. One of my abiding memories while growing up in Leicester, were of Northern Ireland during The Troubles, the TV footage of the army, rioting, and then the music of The Undertones."
Fire Garden by Compagnie Carabosse lit up the whole St. Columb's Park and made you feel like you had just stepped into the set of one of those lavish BBC period drama.
The empty plinth was originally topped by a statue of Governor Walker, until it was bombed (twice) by the IRA in 1973/4. It has remained unadorned since then.
These sound like suitable words to close the post.
A few more images though...
Related: Krzysztof Wodiczko: The Abolition of War.