While in Madrid, i discovered that Santiago Sierra had a show at the Helga de Alvear gallery. I dragged my paracetamols, high fever and microbes out of the bed and headed to Calle Doctor Fourquet. I felt so bad that day i thought nothing Sierra could do would affect me. The show is called Los Penetrados / The Penetrated and it is exactly what you imagine. Sierra hardly ever trifles with subtlety.
October 12th is the National Day of Spain. It used to be called Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) as a celebration of the day Columbus arrived in the Americas, the day Europeans encountered Native Americans. Several countries celebrate October 12th. Over time, however, Día de la Raza took the form in many countries of a counter to Columbus Day. It is used to resist the arrival of Europeans to the Americas and celebrate native races.
On October 12th, 2008, Sierra shot The Penetrated, a series of photographies and a 45 min video in 8 Acts.
Couples are geometrically arranged into compositions of up to 110 bodies with two colours. The Acts feature the various possible combinations of penetrator / penetrated: white man-white woman, white man-white man, white man-black woman, white man-black man, black man-black woman, black man-black man, black man-white woman, black man-white man. The persons' faces have been digitally erased to accentuate the modular character of the actors. A mirror set at an angle behind the actors multiplies the couples and the viewpoints.
The current reality of Spain can be applied to the body patterns.
The theoretical structural geometry of the action is echoed in a weave formed by the 10 blankets on which the successive couples are to be placed. The reality of the proposal is expressed when some of the blankets are left empty in those Acts in which the circumstances did not provide the necessary elements/actors to undertake it. For instance, in Act 3 there are only three couples, given that due to police pressure the majority of women did not turn up. On another note, social and cultural conditioning hampered the appearance of passive black men.
The final element of the action is the penetration and the negative connotation that almost inevitably accompanies it. The title of this work "Los penetrados" [The Penetrated] throws the focus onto the passiveness and submission of the penetrated.
Sierra explains his work as a comment on immigration and racial issues: "The traditional paranoia of white people towards black people or of Europeans towards Africans is linked to a strong phobia. We thinks that sooner or later we will have to pay for our past and present greedy misdeeds. But this white paranoia is also related to the size of the dick or to the fear of a sexuality that demeans us. Our female and males might fall in love with it and that frightens us more than the perspective to lose our jobs, only your boss can take work away from us. The political reflections and the actions that derive from them are more primitive than what is ordinarily thought. Behaviours of racial identity are very animal because we are animals."
Previously: Holocaust installation by Santiago Sierra, Guantanamo museum and other tales of extraordinary rendition at Helga de Alvear gallery in Madrid, Image of the day, All-Inclusive. A Tourist World.
Seen in New York this week and the one before:
Tina Kim Gallery is showing the delightful and eerie Kyung Jeon: a story, 13 works on traditional Korean rice paper that trace the story of a boy and a girl as they descend together into a symbolic world of dark forces and mythic transformation.
Drawing their influences from such disparate sources as children's fairytales, traditional Korean genre painting, and the worlds of Henry Darger and Hieronymus Bosch, Jeon's narrative follows a boy and a girl from the moment they leave their Edenic paradise. Along the journey, they stop at a crossroad and wonder which way, negotiate a labyrinth, meet allies and face enemies.
Totally different is SACRED_PROFANE, a solo exhibition by Alicia Ross at Black & White Gallery.
The images of the Samplers series are downloaded from search engine results, digitally removed from the original background and put through another program that translates its pixels into cross-stitch.
Using the sewing machine like a drawing instrument, Ross customizes the stitches, outlines and colours according to her inspiration. Besides, the line is being blurred between the types of websites that housed the original content. Some of the figures were fished in pornography sites, others were taken from sites that display famous works of art and fashion websites.
Covered in knitted an almost virginal beige yarn and fitted over a prefabricated sex-swing stand, Love Swing speaks to the wavering stability between woman as nurturer and woman as object of sexual desire.
In the Ishihara Test Series videos, web-sourced porn video is fitted into the template for testing color deficiencies. The twist in the work is that men are considerably more prone to colorblindness than women. Hence, Ishihara becomes an ideal mechanism with which to confound the male gaze.
Timely and heroic, the paintings and drawings examine the ongoing Russian/Chechen conflict and his personal and highly political response as a refugee. The series on show at Lehmann Maupin, Chechnya Women's Team of Parachute Jumping and Its Virtual Fans depicts young woman in varying stages of parachuting that recall the segregated teams Kallima observed as a child.
While Russian propaganda maintains that the conflict is over, the Chechen economy has been paralyzed and segregation is still prevalent.
There are very very few artists whose work i admire as much as Nathalie Djurberg's. Actually there's only one and she's a woman too. Her name is Gabríela Fridriksdóttir. These artists create universes which are dark and mysterious. But there stops my desire to compare one with the other.
I don't know what happened to Djurberg since the first time i saw her work, at the 2006 Berlin Biennale but her twisted tales have grown crueler and more menacing .
The protagonists of Djurberg's stop-motion animations are hand-modeled plasticine puppets. If this reminds you of some cute tv programme you followed as a kid then let me crush any nostalgia you might have. Djurberg clearly didn't see the same children animations as you and i. Her animations show human beings at their most crass, psychopath, sadistic and often disarming behaviour. The macabre atmosphere of her animations almost never come with words, just a languid and fidgety music composed by Hans Berg.
It often starts well. In one video, a mother plays in the bedroom with her kids. In a second video, three beautiful girls get naked to take a bath in the pond. A third film shows a pretty eskimo girl walking on thick ice. After a few seconds, the children start disappearing inside their mummy's vagina turning her voluptuous, elastic and Fellini-esque body into a monster creature with multiple arms and legs, the girls chase and burn the young lad who was peeping at their nudity and the eskimo does what any eskimo is supposed to do: she harpoons a walrus, remove its bowels. Only that she won't eat it. She sews herself inside the animal's skin and quietly leaves for a crawl on the icefield.
The videos address a fair amount of intense issues such as violence, sexuality, sadism, cruelty, death and brutality. Made all the more upsetting by the fact that the artist messes with our moral codes and would never point to us where is the right and where is the wrong. She takes us on a roller-coaster and all we can to is try and keep track of our landmarks.
The artists filled the exhibiting space of Fondazione Prada with models that work as counterparts to her videos, there's a huge sprouting potato, the plump bum of a woman, a little house . These models become pavilions inside which the videos are projected.
You have until June 1 to check out the show. Previously at the Fondazione Prada in Milan: Tom Sachs.
All images courtesy of the artist and Fondazione Prada, Milan.
One of the most striking and enchanting pieces i saw at BAC!, the contemporary art festival in Barcelona, is Yamila Fontán's Nocturna. The audiovisual installation uses several artistic disciplines to tell a very intimate story in a very intimate way. Nini is a cabaret performer and Ema is selling the tickets at the entrance. They are friends and lovers.
One night Ema wakes up and Nini is gone. She'll dreamingly go through the city looking for her friend.
You enter a booth, the size of the ones you'd find in train stations to make passport photos. Or is it the kind of booth they have in peep shows? Nothing tells you what might happen in there, only your own curiosity will have you take the following actions:
You enter, sit down, the curtains are red, the armchair is red and comfortable. Adjust your seat, lean on and place your eyes in front of the binocular-like apparatus. The story unveils in 3D images which change when you press a button, just like the View Master. There's also a sound track which changes and brings a new atmosphere each time the protagonist visits a new location. You can't choose your role, you have them all: you're a voyeur, a curious child, the reader of a fotonovela and an art lover.
Each stereoscopic image is made of 2 photographies which were taken with a 35mm camera featuring a double objective lens. What the spectator sees is in fact two diapositives displayed at the same moment.
The 34 images of the story are mounted on a cylinder and at its center is the screening light. The cylinder moves the photos and is activated by a motor which in turn is controlled by a PIC microchip which adjusts the sound track and the intensity of the light as well.
I really felt sucked into another world, the images were exquisite, the women made me question my heterosexuality, the soundtrack mysterious, the story... Well, you get it, right? I loved that work.
All images courtesy of Yamila Fontán.
Do you want to replace the existing normal?, a collaboration between Fiona Raby, Anthony Dunne and Michael Anastassiades, looks at designing for complicated or irrational needs... Just like their previous Anxious Times project did a few years ago, but this time, the designers focused on electronic products rather than furniture.
The work, which was partly supported by the Arts Council is currently part of Wouldn't it be nice, an exhibition, curated by Katya Garcia-Anton and Emily King, which addresses the application of wishful thinking in art and design today. You can visit the show until December 16 at the Centre d'Art Contemporain in Geneva, then at the Museum für Gestaltung in Zürich. After their litle Swiss tour, the objects will fly to New York to be part of MOMA's upcoming exhibition Design and the Elastic Mind (February 24–May 12, 2008).
There will be 5 objects altogether, here are the first ones:
S.O.C.D* is for people who enjoy porn but feel a bit guilty watching it, or think that it's wrong. You put a dvd into the black box and hold onto the rubber part of the object. The long bit is made of rubber, it's shiny and soft like a dildo, except that the section is square. The metal bits sense your level of arousal and pixelate the image accordingly in real time. The more you get aroused, the bigger the pixel size, and the more distorted the sound gets. If you let go the film goes blank.
To enjoy your porn video, you need to hold on but try to de-arouse yourself at the same time, which parallels your contradictory feelings.
Electronics: Erik Kearney, software: David Muth.
The Statistical Clock checks the BBC website for technologically mediated fatalities: car, train, plane, etc and pulls them into a database. The clock checks it every minute or so, and each time it finds a new one it speaks it out loud... 1, 2, 3, etc. The way the object works was partly inspired by the Number Stations', you pick them up on short wave radio and can hear usually a female reading streams of numbers, words, letters, tunes or morse code. They were probably used by spies in conjunction with one-off code books that could only be used on a specific day with a specific chain of numbers.
Each technology has its own channel on The Statistical Clock. You can select the channel you want to listen to. The object is meant to re-sensitise you. When you read about deaths or see them on the news they don't really have any impact. But if the clock suddenly says '1' and you are eating your dinner, you are much more likely to find it disturbing. That feeling reconnects you with the reality behind the statistics. It's not intended to be morbid, but to genuinely give meaning back to something we just take for granted.
The object is made from acoustically transparent foam, like the material used for speaker covers, it's 600 mm long and 400 mm diameter at its widest.
Electronics and programming: Chris Hand.
The Risk Watch speaks a number when you place it to your ear, the rubber deflects and activates a specially built device inside. The number corresponds to the political stability of a country.
This watch is not connected to the telcoms network right now, but if it was, it would subscribe to one of several commercial providers of up-to-date risk assessments usually beamed to employees' blackberrys. There are 5 levels. It's meant to be reassuring when in an unstable country and relates to local geographic position.
Electronics: Erik Kearney.
The Herald Tribune has a review of the exhibition.
All Images courtesy of Anthony Dunne.