Mudamis Luxembourg's very own and very classy museum of modern and contemporary art. I've been following their always exciting and bold programme for a couple of years and was very eager to see it but then you need a rock solid motive to spend a day in Luxembourg. The other day i woke up and decided that Mudam would be mine.
The bar-cafeteria and boutique might be the most elegant and cosy i've ever seen. Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec covered the canteen-style eating area with a cameo sky of heat-formed textile tiles. The shop -which received a similar roof- is set out like a market stall right in the middle of the exhibition hall. The 'slow food' food is nice but the offer at the shop is
There were half a dozen exhibitions to visit, my next post will focus on RRRIPP!! Paper Fashion. See you there....
In the meantime and in a rush, here's a couple of interesting artworks i discovered at the exhibition ELO. INNER EXILE - OUTER LIMITS, a snapshot of the contemporary art scene in Luxembourg (Elo means 'now' in Luxembourg.)
I almost jumped out of the room "Disco Guantanamo" when i saw a drawing of 'dungeon monster' and 'sex beast' (dixit the always subtle Daily Mail) Josef Fritzl. I was indeed wondering how long it would take to find him referenced in an artwork. That one was part of a series of artefacts by Filip Markiewicz, a musician and visual artist, whose work often denounces the 'blind spots' in current events.
Jean-Louis Schuller's documentary takes a peek inside the life of immigrants living in Chungking Mansions. One of the cheapest accommodations in Hong Kong, the building is supposedly residential, but it looks more like a labyrinth of guesthouses, curry restaurants, African bistros, clothing shops, sari stores, and foreign exchange offices.
The film Director writes: As perhaps the most diversely populated building on earth it is a paradise of multi-culturalism and low-end globalisation, uniquely belonging to no one and everyone. For years the building has been notorious both as a refuge for petty criminals and illegal immigrants, and for its unsanitary living conditions. Yet it exists as a perfect example of a city as an organic mega-structure, flexible enough to fulfill every need from religion to water supply, while providing an alternative to conventional space, culture and time. What is fascinating here, besides all the shortcomings, is that Chungking somehow succeeds, continuously evolving to accommodate the hopes of those that find themselves drawn there.
My film Chungking Dreams takes us into the heart of this Pandora's box, isolating characters and scenes from the myriad of options that exist layer on layer in the building, taking us into their most inner spaces and reflecting on a world in which we all have to fight for the space to live out our dreams.
Trailer of the documentary.
Paulistas much chagrined by the pauperism of this year's São Paulo Biennial pointed me to its Off version, the Paralela '08. They made sure to add "You know this isn't a huge event either but there are a few interesting pieces over there!"
Titled From Near and Far, the event nods to De près et de loin, a book that documents a conversation between philosopher Didier Eribon and anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. Curator Rodrigo Moura chose artists who invite us to reflect on the influence of space in their respective works. Although the selection stretches over several continents, most of the pieces are by Brazilian artists.
It's been a challenge to find information and good pictures about the artworks i liked the most so i'm going to highlight just a few of them and end with a slideshow, i added the name of the artwork and its author wherever i could so that you can get a better idea of what the Paralela was like (to see the titles of the pictures, i'm afraid you'll have to click on the images and go straight to clumsy clunky flickr).
By the entrance, the provocative and highly ironic photograph made by Rubens Mano shows the Niemeyer pavilion used for the Biennial since 1957. Empty, like most of the pavilion of the Biennial this year, it suggests the limitless potential of the unfilled site.
Lina Kim's Rooms are also empty but they have reached a stage of total abandonment. The photographer patiently archives rooms that have been abandoned to time. Sometimes, objects and equipment such as cables, tired wallpaper, peeling paint, fire extinguishers or metal cabinets subsist but nothing reveals what the former function of the room. But outside, the vegetation keeps growing.
Sara Ramo explores everyday life. In her photo series, Como aprender o que acontece na normalidade das coisas, Ramo investigates the moment when objects stop making sense in people's life and generate chaotic situations. Like when she has all shampoos, soaps, towels and brushes pulled out of bathroom cupboards and laid on the floor.
That was already it, i'm afraid.
On view until December 7, at the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios, Sao Paulo.
Cinema Sim - Narratives and Projections, currently on view at Itau Cultural in Sao Paulo, is one of those rare exhibitions you exit wearing the silliest smile on your face. You are happy. The selection of the artworks is faultless, each piece gets the space it deserves and needs, and the theme of the exhibition with tis mix of edginess and approachability is particularly appealing.
Cinema Sim - Narratives and Projections is not an exhibition about cinema, but rather about the idea and concept of cinema and how contemporary artists imbue their works with creative and aesthetic principles that hark back to the cinematic language and its means of expression, wrote Curator Roberto Moreira S. Cruz in the catalog of the exhibition.
The 18 works selected explore three core themes: narrativity, the illusion of visualness and the reference to the kinetic experiences of the pre-cinematic era.
To create its little cinematic devices, Brazilian artist Milton Marques uses all kinds of discarded technological instruments rummaged through second-hand shops: optical elements, step motors, printers, copy machines, fruit squeezers, cameras, mini-tv, etc.
There is magic not only in the way he infused a new life into the abandoned objects but also in the outcome of his manipulation. Itau Cultural was exhibiting three of his sculptures:
To activate the first one, you have to insert a coin in a slot and the photos of a photographic film will (almost) appear to become animated inside a tiny tv-like screen. Because the whole mechanism is exposed, the spectacle is also present out of the screen.
A mundane fruit squeezer powers another of Marques' work.
Marques' pieces provide some further thoughts on the analogy/dissimilarity between cinema and the 18 visual art works at Itau Cultural. Of course, the devices that project the moving images are quirky and ingenious. They clearly refer to cinema but even the space where they are exhibited is miles away from what you would expect to see in a movie theater. Visitors are not spectators bound to their seats, they can circulate and move from one screen to another. The screens themselves are worth a closer look. They do not come necessarily in the typical shape of a large-scale two-dimensional white canvas. As the rest of the exhibition demonstrates, some of these screens are tiny, one is the surface of a light bulb, one is made of sand, another one moves. Sometimes the images are split over multiple screens.
89 Seconds at Alcázar, a work by The Rufus Corporation + Eve Sussman, might look at first sight as almost cinematographic but it refers to other artistic disciplines such as performance, photography and painting. 89 Seconds at Alcázar is almost as haunting as the artworks it takes its inspiration from: Diego Velasquez's seventeenth-century masterpiece, Las Meninas.
Velasquez's painting is one of the most studied and discussed in the history of art. He shakes up the traditional rules of the pictorial architecture by placing King Philip IV of Spain and Queen Mariana both "outside" the painting as observers of the scene and "inside" the space through their reflection in the back wall mirror. Besides, he became one of the first painters known to address his own identity as artist by portraying himself in the act of painting the canvas.
In the ten-minute high definition video 89 seconds at Alcázar, the court of Spain is animated. Its protagonists murmur and whisper in each other's ears, they move in a slow choreography across the space to finally take up their position in the painting. But unlike in the original artwork, the scene is envisioned from Velasquez' perspective.
The fact that the protagonists in baroque wardrobe do not look very Spanish is a bit uncanny. That detail left aside, the instant frozen in time by Velasquez's brush is brought back to life true to its original objective: to capture a scene in the everyday life of the royal family.
Rosângela Rennó's Frutos Estranhos delicately plays with our perception. Each image, displayed inside a tilted portable DVD player as if it were a picture frame, presents what looks like a static image. Yet, because sound has been added and because the images have been edited and digitally manipulated, viewers have the feeling that they can perceive some type of subtle movement in photos.
In the early '70s Anthony McCall developed solid light films, which emphasize the sculptural qualities of a light beam as it comes in contact with particles in the air. In You and I, Horizontal III, he uses vapor from a haze machine to shape an almost tangible 3D ray.
There is much more to see at Cinema Sim - Narratives and Projections. The exhibition runs until December 21 at Itau Cultural, Sao Paulo. If you can't make it to Sao Paulo before the show closes, a consolation prizes awaits you: the catalog is available online as a PDF (now you'll just have to click around, cuz it is burried somewhere inside one of those Flash obnoxiousness.)
No proper building. Not even an architecture project that would give a hint of what its future headquarters would be like. That didn't prevent El Bòlit, a brand new Contemporary Art Center, from opening its borrowed doors a few weeks ago in Girona.
For many Europeans used to fly on the cheap, Girona equals Barcelona or the Costa Brava. Ever since one of the most famous 'no frills' airlines chose the airport as one of their hubs, hordes of travelers land there, grab their luggage on the rotating belt and hop on an hour bus ride that brings them directly to Barcelona centre. They never get to see Girona. They miss a lovely medieval city. Its cathedral is celebrated as one of the finest specimens of Gothic architecture in Spain, there's a local tradition of climbing steps to kiss the butt of a stone lioness and people will invite you to eat chocolate flies. And now there's that new contemporary art space called El Bolit.
The Bòlit was a game popular among children in Catalonia until the middle of the XXth century. "It's a metaphor for a dynamic center, one that is constantly moving and is pushed forward by people", explained its Director, Rosa Pera, to Spanish newspaper El Pais. The opening exhibition of the center proves that, if the center is still waiting for a proper building, it certainly doesn't lack a strong personality, a dauntless attitude and a very promising exhibition programme.
As the introduction to its current show, In Construction. Recipes from Scarcity, Ubiquity and Excess, states:Beyond the construction of a building, the creation of a contemporary art centre involves first and foremost the construction of a discourse, relationships and dialogue. This is why the first exhibition at the new centre focuses on processes that explore new methodologies to articulate narratives with the context as a starting point.
Heading the party is Santiago Cirugeda whose Recetas Urbanas (Urban recipes) are lined up for a retrospective made of models, videos and a brand new intervention. The work of the Sevillan architect fosters the dialogue between institutions and citizens in order to come up with better ideas susceptible to solve the issue of housing and public space management.
Santiago Cirugeda has sometimes been labeled as a "guerilla architect", "a subversive artist", "a urban hacker". His action/constructions are always adapted to the situation. Because his home town, Sevilla, would not authorize him to build a playground, Cirugeda obtained a dumpster permit and installed a playground on top of a dumpster container. In another intervention, he built and occupied a rooftop crane that passersby believed was there only to move building materials. He even posted on you tube a video to demo how to build a temporary flat in your rooftop. Cirugeda's recipes are cheap, fast, accessible to everyone and one of their key ingredient is that some of them exploit the gaps in administrative structure and official procedures. They intervene where the law falls short.
Cirugeda also developed a site specific architectural intervention on the roof of Girona's Sala de La Rambla (where half of the exhibition is hosted.) The temporary infrastructure has been designed with the aim of hosting artistic activities as well as providing a working space for Spanish and international artists invited to work at El Bolit. El Niu (the Nest in catalan) is made of several containers and covered with branches and leaves.
Probably more famous to the new media art community, Michelle Teran opens the second chapter of the exhibition, the one dedicated to Ubiquity. The artist is showing her recipes for making and re-making narratives out of everyday experience inside Girona's intimate Capella de Sant Nicolau.
In her performance series titled Life: A User's Manual, the artist applies potential literature methodologies and uses video scanners to pick up images recorded on wireless security cameras (inside hotel lobby, private home, bank entrances, etc.) Scenes thus recorded in 17 cities around the world are projected in the exhibition space. I had seen the work of Teran in countless exhibitions but it was the first time i had the opportunity to see displayed next to one another not only the videos of her performances, but also the wide range of devices she uses to host the video scanners. Suddenly i realized the breadth and complexity of her work. I was particularly struck by A20 Recall, a collective exercise in cultural memory carried out by the artist over the course of three weeks with the help of residents of Quebec City. The result of the experiment is an online map of made of texts and images documenting situations that arose in response to the fortification of Quebec City during the FTAA Summit of the Americas in 2001.
Technology is used as a tool to discover the significance of the trivial and to re-endow hidden stories with meaning, while fostering a critical spirit among citizens from their immediate surroundings. This is active, collective voyeurism used to combat indifference and oblivion.
The third part of the exhibition is From excess, recipes for an architecture of accumulative thought by Catalan artist Jordi Mitjà. The Catalan artist defines himself as an 'image collector'. He has carefully compiled and slightly edited images recorded by amateur film-makers in the 1970s in order to create a singular portrait of Empordà County in Catalonia.
Mitjà has also composed a large-scale installation for El Bòlit. An accumulation of old photos, fragments, left-overs, video, and findings, the piece builds up the foundations of argumental architectures that welcome and rebuff those who, trapped perhaps between illness and therapy, dare to enter.
The smart-looking little man up here isn't very concerned by the exhibition but i'd nevertheless like to introduce you to him. He is Sant Narcís (St Narcissus), Girona's patron saint, famous for having defeated French invaders by throwing swarms of flies at them.
More images from Girona and El Bòlit.
In Construction. Recipes from Scarcity, Ubiquity and Excess runs until January 11, 2009 at El Bòlit, Girona (SP).
Last week, just a few hours after having landed in Switzerland for the IETM Autumn Plenary Meeting (which focused on the very sexy theme of 'misunderstanding'), i was sitting in a train to Basel. Like an automaton, i had been drawn to the city to visit Balkanology, New Architecture and Urban Phenomena in South Eastern Europe, the ongoing exhibition at the Swiss Architecture Museum.
SA M explores contemporary architecture and urban design from a trans-disciplinary perspective, not just at national level as its title might suggest, it also puts architecture into a global context.
Having been very impressed by their previous show, Re-sampling Ornament, i was more than eager to get very enthusiastic about the current one. Expectations were high. Expectations were met.
It started well right from the start. The exhibition design by Thilo Fuchs & Oliver Mayer of Tatin, with Oliver Theinert was a delight. Floating panels, writings on the floors, elegant typography and graphics.
Now about the content of the show: Balkans generally refers to South Eastern Europe, a region with varying geographical definitions. Going beyond clichés and the pathos, the Balkanology exhibition focuses on the impact of recent socio-political changes on architecture and urban planning, drawing a variegated picture of urban development in the region and the forces that determine it.
Curated by Kai Vöckler, the exhibitions focuses on two main themes:
- the way inhabitants solved the lack of housing and initiated construction projects on their own account.
Since the collapse of the socialist economic system in ex-Yugoslavia and Albania and the war that lead to the split of Yugoslavia, a new form of urbanisation typified by extensive informal building activity has appeared on the territory. Taking advantage of sketchy legal frameworks and governments initially too weak to enforce rules and regulations, inhabitants have taken the issue of housing shortage in their own hands, they started building new dwellings from scratch and adapting existing edifice for their own purposes.
In this context, a term often used in all its negative connotations like Balkanization takes a radically different meaning: it stands for the improvisation and adaptation skills of architecture. Some of the many questions the exhibition aims to raise iinclude: how can a combination of governmental and social control offer the best possible basis for a successful retro-active 'post-regulation? To what extent unregulated, informal urbanism develops new typologies and urban forms, and how these forms could also emerge under the banner of neo-liberal de-urbanisation in the rest of Europe.
These unregulated forms of urban developments have often bypassed the expertise of architects. This makeshift architecture has nevertheless developed its own style and culture characterized by a new intermeshing of spaces through visual worlds communicated by the media, migratory movements and cash flows.
As part of a broader research on Belgrade informal architecture, Dubravka Sekulic and Ivan Kucina have compiled a fascinating archive of Belgrade roof extensions. The project in longer run wants to examine the cultural habits that provoke this kind of action in the city and their implication on architecture and public space of the city.
In the other chapter of Balkanology, examples found in Belgrade, Zagreb, Kotor, Prishtina and Tirana illustrate the way architects, artists, urbanists and activists from South Eastern Europe are dealing with these rapid new transformation processes. The outstanding yet hardly known buildings of socialist modernism in Yugoslavia are compared with contemporary architecture.
Using selected cases, Maroje Mrduljaš, editor of Oris, and architectural historian Vladimir Kulić show how Yugoslavian architects and planners have tackled "modernity" and "internationality". As you will see in the following examples, the outcome of their investigation oscillates between the depressing and the exhilarating.
New Belgrade, a residential area built across the river from Belgrade by Tito after 1950, was conceived as a city of 'light, sun and future' and planned following the principles of the CIAM (the International Congress of Modern Architecture). The challenge at the time was to erect as many buildings, as fast as possible, in order to accommodate a displaced and quickly growing post WW II population. The initial vision of functionality and modernity was translated into what has been defined as a 'brutalist architectural approach'.
One of the most striking projects that demonstrates the modernity of Yugoslavia is Rijeka's Flexible Swimming Pool, designed by Vladimir Turina in 1949. The auditoriums of this 'architectural device" would have been place on railway tracks to be moved from inside to outside depending on the weather. The inner pool could be easily turned into an exhibition hall or an airplane hangar. All the elements could have been constructed with the technology of the time. I couldn't find any image of the project online so let's drift to another project i found particularly appealing:
Zlatko Ugljen was a student interested in the reinterpretation and modernization of Bosnian Ottoman heritage when he started the Šerefudin's White Mosque project in Visoko, Bosnia and Herzegovina. What started as a modest project made pro bono for the local community ended up as one of the most internationally celebrated buildings in former Yugoslavia: it was awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1983 and in 2007, Hungarian architects declared that the mosque was one of the three best designed sacral places in Europe. More images.
Balkanology, New Architecture and Urban Phenomena in South Eastern Europe runs until December 28 at SA M, the Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel.
One final recommendation: get your hands on S AM No. 6 - The publication accompanying the exhibition Balkanology - New Architecture and Urban Phenomena in South Eastern Europe, edited by Francesca Ferguson & Kai Vöckler.
Related entries: The K67 kiosk.
Heartland roughly follows the Mississippi River, taking in an area from New Orleans up to Minneapolis in the north and including Omaha, Kansas City, Detroit and Chicago. The curatorial team, a collaboration between the Van Abbemuseum and the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago, commissioned new pieces and selected existing works by contemporary artists who live in the region or have undertaken residencies there in order to produce new work. The programme includes musical events at the Muziekcentrum Frits Philips, debates, lectures, a photo exhibition, a magazine and publications.
Heartland is a precious exhibition. The U.S. are all over our (European) newspapers because of the upcoming presidential elections. Yet, most of us know very little of the art and culture of the area that lies between the East Coast and the West Coast. And what we think we might know can often be reduced to a bunch of cliches. One of the main objectives of the exhibition is to offer a more penetrating picture of the 'Heartland'. Indeed, each of the works on show engages dynamically with the city and area it comes from, rising issues peculiar to that place and the people who live there . Another aim of Heartland is, as the curators added in their press release, to questions traditional definitions of cultural centers and peripheries.
Alec Soth 's photo series Sleeping by the Mississippi brings you right into the heart of the subject. The result of several years of road trips along the legendary river, the photographic prints capture America's "third coast". While the area appears to be the essence and backbone of the whole country, its landscapes, people and interiors evoke a sense of neglect, loneliness and melancholy.
Marjetica Potrč has spent several months studying the changing landscape of post-Katrina New Orleans. With the help of FutureProof (a sustainable design consultancy), she focused her researches on issues of sustainability, water, and the emergence of new geographic and political territories based on changing ecology.
The 'Shotgun House with Rainwater-Harvesting Tank' builds upon two recent trends in New Orleans: the revival of the local architectural style known as the Shotgun House, and the move toward self-sustainability. Inhabitants have customized this local style by adding elements that allow them to harvest rainwater and solar power. These post-Katrina developments reflect the search for a new social contract for democracy. The two caryatids represent the citizens of New Orleans whom she sees as the 'supporting columns' of the reconstruction of the city.
The drawings and prints that accompanied the installation echo the ways in which infrastructure is created from the bottom up by individuals either in response to political or ecological change or simply to improve their lives. The societies she examines, including New Orleans, have undergone political or climatic changes that have made Modernism's social contracts untenable.
The exhibition presented also independent cultural organizations and artists' platforms whose activities are deeply rooted in their local environment. One of them is the Tree of Heaven Woodshop is a Detroit-based network of specialists, craftspeople, researchers, artists and enthusiasts who work exclusively with wood processed from what the Chinese call the Tree of Heaven. In the Detroit, the tree received also the nickname "ghetto palm" because of the way it populates abandoned lots and deserted factory sites all over the city. The tree survives, even in a polluted area, where there is poor or very little soil as it is often found climbing out of abandoned factories and houses, lamp posts and even sidewalks and concrete structures, make this tree the plant of post-industrial landscapes.
The quantity and height of Tree of Heaven specimen indicate how long a place might have been abandoned. Interested in the ongoing effects of de-industrialisation on communities and environments, the Tree of Heaven Woodshop decided to take advantage of the tree ubiquity. By using existing infrastructure and supporting small local businesses, the Woodshop turn the tree into an agent of communication. Processing trees into raw material for sculptures or furniture might not be regarded as a very sophisticated concept. But in the light of this specific city and the qualities of this specific tree it becomes a demonstration of the possibilities of this place in time.
A whole wall was covered with the comics (more images) of Kerry James Marshall. Marshall used to read a lot of superhero comics as a kid and one day, because all of a sudden the character of the Black Panther appeared in the Fantastic Four, he and many other with him realized that there were no black heroes in comics. Hence this ongoing project, Rythm Monstr, which explores black American culture through its own super heroes. They are the comic, swearing, talking (in both Chinese and english) and jumping version of archaic African sculptures. Each of them subtly summons issues of racial tensions, the civil rights movement, Afro-American traditions and communal solidarity in the 21st century.
The Wexner Center has a nice video interview of the artist.
If you can't make it to Eindhoven, internet comes to your rescue: the curators traveled the whole 'Heartland" to research the exhibition and posted their impressions and photos on the Heartland Research blog.