The title alludes to the mock dictionary that Georges Bataille edited for Documents in 1929 and 1930. Like its famous precedent from Georges Bataille, Critical Dictionary aims to puncture pretension, bringing words and their referents down to earth using a playful manner to declassify or undefine terms. Abandoning the conventional approach of dictionaries and their solely supportive use of imagery, Critical Dictionary allows images to act progressively and many of the entries are illustrated by several examples leading to an evolving discussion on interpretation
70% of chicken, the UK’s favourite meat, is currently produced in an unethical and unsustainable manner. The welfare provided in intensive farming systems is insufficient and always will be. At the Centre for Unconscious Farming, welfare is eliminated. Chickens have their brain stem separated from their neocortex and are unconscious throughout the growing period. Their homeostatic functions continue but they are oblivious.
A few months ago, I read there was an exhibition of photos by McCullin at Tate Britain. I thought “That one can wait, it’s going to for ages and everybody knows the work of the award-winning war photographer anyway.” That was very presumptuous of me. I finally went to see the show and it is now clear that i had underestimated the impact his images would have on me. Especially his portrayal of the homeless living around London from the late 1960s to the ’80s
With HORTUS, the architects from ecoLogicStudio are inviting the public to become cyber-gardeners and “invent new protocols of urban biogardening.”
There’s a bright green carpet on the floor and hundreds of intravenous-style bags are suspended above our heads. The bags are in fact photo-bioreactors and they form a ‘greenhouse’ that hosts nine different species of algae, from chlorella to algae found in London’s canals. Visitors can blow into flexible plastic tubes, fostering the growth of the algae with their carbon dioxide and activating the oxygen production
The press view for the Samsung Art+ Prize at BFI Southbank in London dragged me out of bed earlier than usual today. I don’t know if the prize is the UK’s first digital media art competition as it claims to be, but it is remarkably good. The selection of artworks at least. I’m far less enthusiastic about the way it is exhibited
Yesterday evening i went to Foto8 in London again for the screening of How to Start a Revolution, a documentary tracing the global influence of Gene Sharp’s work. Sharp believes that non-violent struggle has a greater chance of success than violent resistance, because violence is typically the most powerful weapon used tyrannical regimes and they will always have the upper hand. His booklet From Dictatorship to Democracy provide a list of 198 “non-violent weapons”, including mock awards, alternative communication system, wearing of symbols, pray-in, boycott of elections, withdrawal of bank deposits, consumers’ boycott, renouncing honours, etc.
It took me longer than most to discover the work of Anri Sala but once i looked into it, i started seeing his work everywhere. A few months ago, i was invited to the Absolut Art Award in Stockholm to see some of his videos, attend a screening with popcorn of 1395 Days without Red and interview the artist. A few weeks after, Anri Sala had a solo show at the Serpentine Gallery in London. The show is now closed. I’ve waited far too long to write about Anri Sala’s work
The everyday lives of the British gangsters, pimps, prostitutes and players, as the world changes irrevocably around them
As many of you probably know, i love contemporary art fairs. Yes, it’s pure art porn and there’s too much to see, most of which is quite frankly bad. But there are good surprises as well and i don’t mind spending hours in front of painted horrors if at some point i stumble upon a piece that will move me. I’m that easy. Besides, art fairs expose me to works and artists i would otherwise never have looked at
The exhibition at Somerset House shows 28 projects shortlisted for a competition that invited architects, engineers, students and designers to submit proposals that reclaim overlooked spaces across Greater London. Inspired by success stories such as New York’s High Line, the competition aims to demonstrate how alternative way of thinking about urban space can inject new life and energy into some of London’s most neglected corners.
The selected entries range from underground climbing tunnels to Atlantic salmons in the Thames, firepits in Crystal Palace, bee keeping, rooftops of tower blocks turned into social hubs and artist studios nested inside church spires
The Nigerian photographer is one of those rare photo-reporters whose work is shown in newspapers as well as in art galleries around the world (you can check his photos right now in the Oil Show at HMKV in Dortmund). He was in London to discuss the Oil Rich Niger Delta series and his new book Delta Nigeria – The Rape of Paradise on the oil exploitation in the Delta region of his country
The title says it all: a law firm is sponsoring a competition of contemporary portrait photography and 60 of the best entries are exhibited in London.
There are cute kids and celebs (sadly, there were no mature men in speedo this year) but because i’m drawn to documentary photos, that’s what my quick selection will be about
War veterans are homeless people too. They might go back to a house after the war, they might have a roof over their head but it doesn’t feel like home anymore. They are traumatized to various degrees and feel like they’ve become strangers to the place where they used to live. They don’t function like they used to. They have been conditioned to be constantly on alert, to react on the spot to any unexpected light, move, noise, etc. They can’t turn off that aggressive instinct when they go back to civilian life
This exhibition examines Russian avant-garde architecture made during a brief but intense period of design and construction that took place from c.1922 to 1935. Fired by the Constructivist art that emerged in Russia from c.1915, architects transformed this radical artistic language into three dimensions, creating structures whose innovative style embodied the energy and optimism of the new Soviet Socialist state
I wonder how Jake and Dinos Chapman would have reacted had someone told them in 2004 that their etchings defacing children colouring books would end up being shown at the V&A Museum of Childhood. Amusingly, the museum curators placed the works at children’s level so you have to bend down to have a look at them. Children won’t stand in your way. They are too busy running around the train models, teddy bears and robot displays to care about the exhibition
Earlier this year, Jeremy Hutchison sent emails to manufacturers around the world, asking them to produce a fairly simple and common item. He added a special requirement though: the product had to be imperfect, come with an intentional error. Moreover, the worker was in charge of deciding what error, malfunction or fault he would add to the good. No matter how much i had read and seen about the project, i still wanted to interview the artist
Some researchers have observed that apes held in captivity watch tv programmes. Some of them are fond of the Teletubbies, others favour emergency room dramas or Disney cartoons. But is it possible to script, shoot and screen cinema just for primates? That’s what Rachel Mayeri set out to discover with her work Primate Cinema: Apes as Family
It’s Photomonth in East London and i’ll be running around the area this week to catch up with as many shows as possible. My two favourite exhibitions so far are as different from each other as possible.
The first one was at Amnesty International UK’s Human Rights Action Centre. It’s a rather small event, only 5 to 6 photos from the three shortlisted entries in the Photojournalism category at the Amnesty International Media Awards
Reading through the online reviews of the museum makes me realize how much i’ve missed (namely the skeleton of ‘Irish giant’ Charles Byrne, the tooth of an extinct giant sloth donated by Charles Darwin, the brain of computer pioneer Charles Babbage and Winston Churchill’s dentures) during my short and shocked visit. Be sure that i’ll be walking around the place first thing on Tuesday morning
Summer is back in London and dozens of bees have now settled in the middle of Spitalfields. Real bees passersby don’t try to wave away. They are dead and hang on fishing lines as if they were caught in mid-flight inside a giant glass case, surrounded on all sides by office blocks
Kinetic light pieces, geometrical experiments, ropes and rope machines, balance, mathematical ratios and harmonics… I’ve discovered the work of Conrad Shawcrossa few years ago in an art fair and it was instant love. And that is in spite of having very inadequate knowledge of the mathematical rules his work alludes to. Maybe that’s part of the appeal. Shawcross’s work is currently at the gallery Victoria Miro in London and i doubt you can see a more exciting show in town this month
The Oramics Machine is a revolutionary music synthesiser that was created in the 1960s by Daphne Oram. Daphne had a strong passion for sound and electronics, and she created a visionary machine that could transform drawings into sound.
Long thought lost, the machine was recently recovered and added to the Science Museum’s collections in co-operation with Goldsmiths, University of London
A new exhibition celebrates the role of making in our lives by presenting an eclectic selection of over 100 exquisitely crafted objects, ranging from a life-size crochet bear to a ceramic eye patch, a fine metal flute to dry stone walling. Power of Making is a cabinet of curiosities showing works by both amateurs and leading makers from around the world to present a snapshot of making in our time
Good Wives and Warriors is the creative partnership of Becky Bolton and Louise Chappell, who met while studying at the Glasgow School of Art. Right now the creative duo is based in London but the young ladies have traveled the word to paint mandalas, collaborate with design companies, create ads, think about the cosmos, cover walls with paintings or simply exhibit their illustrations
Sorry for being so silent over the past few days. A combination of medicine-proof flu and weak wifi at the hotel have thrown me into the arms of Jo Nesbo again and i’ve only emerged from this lethargy now. So here’s a last and light post about the ongoing London Street Photography Festival where i discovered Anahita Avalos’s tableaux of everyday life in Villahermosa, Mexico
With prosthetics, robotics, cybernetics, virtual reality, transplants, and neuroscience altering the way we perceive and experience space, the body has re-emerged as an important architectural site. See Yourself Sensing reports the experiments of artists and designers on the intimate scale of the body, and explores the influence of such experimentation on architecture, installation and new media
Presenting animation as a distinctive and highly influential force in the development of visual culture, Watch Me Move offers a timely insight into animation as a cultural and socio-political phenomenon and will delight visitors of all ages
French nanny Vivian Maier relentlessly photographed New York and Chicago. She didn’t show her work to anyone, died in poverty, and left behind 100,000 negatives. Her work was discovered when a young estate agent bought the content of her storage locker. Now, with some 90% of the archive reconstructed, Maier’s work is part of a renaissance in interest in street photography
Watching rows of small portraits on a beige background might not be your idea of an exciting afternoon but Taryn Simon’s body of work provides strong narratives that immerse visitors into the story of feuding families in Brazil, a polygamous Kenyan healer living with his nine wives and 32 children, victims of genocide in Bosnia, South Koreans abducted by North Korean agents, the body double of Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, children living in an orphanage in Ukraine, and the reviled descents of 24 European rabbits in Australia
This exhibition brings together 3 pioneers of sound art, Max Eastley, Takehisa Kosugi and Walter Marchetti. Each artist has developed a distinct approach to the problem of representing immateriality, while sharing a lightness of touch, approaching sound with patience, restraint and fidelity. As well as presenting new and historic work, the exhibition features live performance, and material from the artists’ archives
Rhode presents five animations that take the chair designs of Dutch designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld as a starting point. Most of the time the protagonists of his short silent sketches have no qualms in abusing the famously uncomfortable piece of furniture
Heathrow Heritage is a series of excursions run in cooperation with the activists, historians and residents living around the London airport. Lisa Ma also enrolled the complicity of the airport deacon who invites stranded passengers for bike tours around the ancient villages threatened by the expansion of the airport
In October 2010, Simon Norfolk began a series of new photographs in Afghanistan, which takes its cue from the work of nineteenth-century British photographer John Burke. Norfolk’s photographs reimagine or respond to Burke’s Afghan war scenes in the context of the contemporary conflict
A time machine, a giant self-balancing mechanism, a highly frustrating pinball machine, forensic photography that captures your movements before the picture was taken, etc. Each work in the room looked at a different type of energy –electric, mechanical, potential, mass, sound, thermal, chemical, and gravitational– in a way that makes us realize how little we know about energy
Photography from South Africa comes with a heavy luggage. Long before it played its documentary part in the fight against apartheid, the medium was used as an instrument to classify people according to racial type. A few years after the fall of the apartheid, a new generation of artists and photo reporters is attempting to rebuild the picture of a country where the old rules of codes and structures governed by race have (somehow) started to crumble. A number of these photographers, however, have chosen to turn their back on the culture of realism that defined South African photography in the years of the fight against the segregation and are exploring a more purely artistic aspect of photography
The implied narrative of this experimental fiction is communicated through voiceovers, wire tapped telephone conversations and snippets of a job interview between Mr. Holz and his prospective employer, Mr. White. It becomes evident that the character is controlled by a city and the code he is working on, as the course of the story is controlled by the code that edits the film
A new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London takes a closer look at something that surrounds us but that we are often reluctant to confront. ‘Dirt’ travels across centuries and continents to explore our ambivalent relationship with filth, waste, grime, impurity and soil
Laid to Rest was inspired by the commercialisation of waste in Victorian London. A few months ago, Serena Korda asked the public to collect and donate dust. The artwork consists of hundreds of commemorative bricks. Each brick contains the specific dust of its contributor (quite literally since much household dust is made of skin and hair particles) and is imprinted with information describing its origins
Currently on view at Tate Modern’s Level 2 Gallery, Out of Place features four artists who explore the relationship between dominant political forces and personal and collective histories by looking at urban space, architectural structures and the condition of displacement
Apologies for updating this blog only once in a blue moon. I’ve been spending the past few days on a quest for the perfect flat. Now that mission is accomplished, i can announce that normal service will resume on Friday (tomorrow i’ll be visiting a couple of shows in Florence.) In the meantime, here’s some of the most stunning images i saw this afternoon at The Museum of London which is running a London Street Photography show until September 4, 2011