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Friday, 29 July 2011

Risk & Experimentation in Video Art: Project 35, Gertrude Contemporary, Fitzroy, Australia.

Text by Emily Bour

Melbourne's icy months present the perfect occasion to nestle in the dark and spend some quality time with Project 35. The new travelling exhibition is a video show, selected by 35 international curators, set up by the Independent Curators International (ICI) to celebrate their 35th Anniversary. ICI is a New York-based organisation, and as the name suggests, they are committed to promoting an international network for curators, having set up over 116 travelling exhibitions in 23 countries.

This show is touring throughout the year in a host of international art spaces. Currently, the show is on at Al Hoash Gallery, East Jerusalem, SPACE Gallery, Portland, Maine and Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York, and the journey will continue as it migrates to a range of geographically disparate lands including Cero Inspiración, Ecuador, Göteborgs Konsthall, Sweden and San Art, Vietnam. This physical dislocation is precisely the foil for contrast, however. There is something inherently connective to know that the work you are privy to in a gallery in Australia, is also being watched and digested by a viewer on the other side of the planet. This, of course, is no new phenomenon. Such cross-cultural interconnectivity happens on a daily basis, with our addictive penchant for information gloriously delivered to us by the net. However, the nature of the experience here is more formal.

Presented across Gertrude Contemporary’s two gallery spaces in four specially designed video projection spaces, these video works offer a diversity of approaches to video making, reflecting varying techniques, exploring a range of ideas and reflecting an enormous breadth of socio-cultural contexts. That being said, Project 35 has no thematic glue. It is organised into four DVD's, each playing 8 to 9 videos. The ad hoc manner may well be a response to the challenge of presenting 8 hours of video art, splitting up the range for a time-starved audience.

In an ideal world, all the works would be watched in their entirety. But some are less watchable than others. For example, Chen Chieh Jen's The Route (2006), a soundless, 20 minute video, is undeniably beautiful. We are initially pulled in by the imagery, but our attention wanes, largely due to our modern disaffection for patience. This should not necessarily be used to quantify its merit, however. Although different in context, compare that to an outside work such as Sleep (1963), Andy Warhol's six-hour video of a man sleeping. Despite its un-watchability, its conceptual roots anchor its place in art history, as with a lot of the works on show.

This form of presentation is vital, in the sense that we are given a choice. Each selection is idiosyncratic, of course, but the democracy of video as a medium is clear. Observe Columbian artist Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz's work: Topic 1: Contemporary Art (2006) that borrows from the DIY, viral video aesthetic. The Latino character Chuleta, is speaking directly to the camera, trying to bridge the gap between the art world and the world like us, like me and you, demystifying terms such as post-modern using colloquial vernacular. It is refreshing, and in her own words: “Yo, it's ill!”

But therein lies the irony. Much of contemporary art is cryptic, and many of those who will come see this show expect to be bemused. Thankfully, some critique this. Mai Abu Eldahab's choice of Guy Ben-Ner’s Berkeley’s Island (1999), leaves us in a position to question the position and role of the artist. Basic in its construction of makeshift sets and lighting, the humorous island placed in the middle of a domestic kitchen is, according to the narrator, “not a metaphor, it is a thing it itself and therefore does not exist.” He holds up a mirror to our expectations, and yes, we scratch our heads willingly. It is thought-provoking, intentional and also, fun.

Australia, regardless of globalisation, is still an island of considerable distance to its neighbours. To have its voice heard on the international art scene requires curatorial strength and insistence, so it is no wonder that the only Australian curator, Alexie Glass-Kantor has chosen local Tracey Moffatt's Other (2009). Of this work, Glass-Kantor says: “Other is rich and diverse, providing a funny, robust, and critical riff on the way ‘the native’ has been portrayed in popular cinema.” As a comment on Australia’s position within the broader global art context, Glass-Kantor’s selection mirrors the tongue-in-cheek nature of Moffatt’s collaged content as she goes on to say, “Other disrupts mild manners by resisting subjugation and not flinching from complexity, often using pre-existing moving images ironically to create an unsettling yet ribald narrative of compromised part.”

The mash up of videos from popular culture archives showcase the way the “native” is portrayed in film. This conversation includes the issue surrounding Aboriginal Australians as well as the universal construction of gender, identity and race, by imagery. It's fast-paced and also a little intimidating, as was the process of curation for Kantor in selecting for such a large project.

There is an abundance of copy/pasting and cross-editing in Project 35. It makes the issues of authorship and copyright seem ever so passé. The nature of the medium has changed the way we look at ownership, undoubtedly so. And in Alice in Wonderland, or Who is Guy Debord? (2003), Robert Cauble literally rips the images from the Disney classic, meticulously re-configuring the narrative, to drive Alice on a search for French Situationist, Guy Debord. It's You Tube magic, with art school twist.

Even if you don't know who this Guy really is, it's alright, because as Alice exclaims of her encounter with the Dodo, we don't need “extinct birds rambling about art and transcendence.” And yet contrary to her statement, it seems, we do.

Project 35 continues until 18 August.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Still from Tracey Moffatt's Other (2009).
Courtesy the artist and Gertrude Contemporary.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

TEST Presents...The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Town Hall Hotel, London.

Text by Emily Sack

TEST Presents… provides Londoners with a different take on an art event. The online fashion, photography, and film magazine provides monthly screenings of films. The TEST team invites a local artist to select a film to share with the audience that has been influential in some way to their career, aesthetic or philosophy, and for the second event this summer, artist Julie Verhoeven selected The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972). Verhoeven, after struggling to find an adequate term to describe how the film influenced her life, stated the film leaves her emotionally drained although it is a “super duper movie.”

The film, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, is based on a play of the same title written by the director, and several aspects of theatre certainly come to play in character of the movie. The soundtrack of the film is rather minimalist – only when the characters actively place a record on the gramophone is there music. The film begins with two cats bathing themselves on a set of stairs as the opening credits roll to the sound of the cats’ licking. With the minimalism of sound and setting, the acting and costuming comes to the foreground.

The small cast consists entirely of women and focuses on the relationships between them in terms of family, friendship and romance. The protagonist, Petra von Kant is a successful fashion designer, though it soon becomes obvious that her secretary Marlene is the one who actually does the work. Marlene, present through the entire film does not utter a word and never changes her facial expression. Despite the lack of traditional means of communication, Marlene, through her manner of typing and walking subtly, though clearly, conveys an entire range of emotions.

After two failed marriages, Petra becomes infatuated with a young, aspiring model, Karin Thimm. The two live together though from the outset there is a clear power struggle throughout their relationship. Petra is wealthy and has an established career leaving her materially powerful; however, Karin does not reciprocate Petra’s love, which ultimately causes Petra to break down. Karin, ironically, chastises Petra for her treatment of Marlene who is clearly in love with Petra, though she acts in the same manner. The relationships throughout the film are tragic and filled with pain, but to a certain extent the audience can sympathize with unrequited love or troubled families.

What makes the film interesting, and explains Verhoeven’s selection, is the aesthetic that is simultaneously elegant and quirky. The entire movie takes place within one space – Petra’s bedroom/studio, and the alteration of furniture signifies the passage of time. The characters wear exquisitely fashioned dresses with jewelled bodices and luxurious fabrics, but Petra wears a selection of peculiar wigs that are a bit jarring by contrast.

The complexity of emotions is contrasted by the previously mentioned minimalism of setting, but the surroundings play a definitive role in the film. The cast of women is countered by the mural-scale replica of Poussin’s Midas and Bacchus, prominently featuring male genitalia. As a fashion designer, von Kant’s studio contains life-sized female mannequins, but only once in the film is a mannequin actually used for clothing. The majority of the time, the mannequins’ haunting stillness serves as a foil to the drama of the women’s lives, and their bizarre posing is a welcome relief in the intensity of the film.

The film, in German with English subtitles, is indeed draining to watch as Verhoeven initially stated, but it is certainly a worthwhile experience. The rather experimental cinematography and daring depiction of love and passion are still relevant today. The overall event with TEST Presents held in Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel is an enjoyable evening out to experience fashion and film in a new light.

TEST: Presents next event will be with Penny Martin. Tickets are £5 each and must be purchased in advance. Check the website for further information.


Literary Art: Covergence, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast.

Text by Angela Darby

Literature has long been an essential driving force behind many contemporary visual artists’ practice. The exhibition Convergence at Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast seeks to illustrate the symbiotic relationship between the two. Curators Chista-Maria Lerm Hayes, a lecturer at The University of Ulster and Peter Richards, Director of The GT Gallery have set out to ‘dispel the Modernist myth that artists needed to serve writers, that they were feeding the tribute industry, or lacked in rigour.’ Their strong selection of international and regional artists effectively supports the exhibition’s objectives.

At the gallery’s reception area the sound of a piano playing intermittently greets the viewer. The artist Michalis Pichler presents a spectral homage to the French symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé in both video and book form. The artist has cut the lines of text from Mallarmé's free-verse poem Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard (A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance) carefully following the typographic layout of the 1914 edition. These laser-cut paper sheets have then been placed into the mechanism of an auto piano. As the piano's drum rotates the video records the paper roll passing over the reading mechanism and in the process the perforations are translated into musical notes. Where words and verse once occupied the pages we are left with empty extractions that conceptually exist outside the constraints of their own function. The work is in it’s own right is aesthetically beautiful, captivating and truly haunting. Pichler’s contribution not only serves as an introduction to the exhibition but also sets a high standard and builds expectation for the rest of the selected works.

Situated in Gallery One the artist Pavel Büchler, has three works displayed. Naturwissenschaftliche Schriften (2006), is part of a series of studies originally created in preparation for a wall installation at the Goethe Institute in Dublin. The title references Goethe’s Theory of Colours (1810) and the text Pathologische Farben originates from the title of a chapter found in the book. Goethe’s theory was formulated in direct opposition to Newtown’s reductive mechanical model. In the poet’s view colours arise within a tripartite relationship in which light and dark are mediated through transparent matter. The artist claims that “the work is not about color, or nature or theory...it moves back and forth between reading and seeing, between philosophical and aesthetic experience.” The suggestion seems to be that we need to constantly question those conditioned preconceptions, which ‘colour’ our reading of our own perceptions.

A questioning of ownership is prevalent in the works of Tim Rollins, Andrea Theis and Simon Morris. In The Red Badge of Courage, (1988) the artist Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) have appropriated a section of pages that have been removed from Stephen Crane’s war novel, (written c.1871). The pages have been collaged together and parts of the text are obscured by paintings of blood red wounds and weeping postulations. This blatant appropriation is not an act of vandalism or defilement on the part of the artist and KOS but instead a tribute to the fight that one must endure in order to survive the rigors of life. Rollins described this collaborative outcome with his South Bronx students as a testimony to the 'civil war' of existence.

Over the course of five days Andrea Theis vigilantly stood beside the Goethe-Schiller Monument in Weimar, Germany. By refusing to move or leave her position when implored by the tourists the artist purposely sabotaged their attempts to photographically record their visit. Reviewing Image Disturbance displays documentation from this interventionist performance alongside footage taken from the Bauhaus Museum’s CCTV camera. Both sets of images reveal a diverse range of responses covering physical attacks, verbal abuse, laughter and handshakes. With overtones of a sociology experiment Theis lays claim to the monument to explore a theme which informed many of Goethe and Schiller's works, that of the human condition. Form reflecting content is also apparent in Simon Morris’ piece Fan nr 10: Reading as Art (2011). His black and white photographic composition features documented images of the artist reading text by Jacques Derrida alongside the text being read. The proximity sets in motion a perpetual re-contextualization as we move between reading and implied reading presented as image.

The love letters of Franz Kafka to his fiancée Felice Bauer are presented as documents to be examined and analyzed. Within this poignant and captivating piece the artist Joanna Karolina lays bear the personal existential crisis that this revered author endured within his own psyche. In response to the author’s self-negation Karolina symbolically defaces the letters by incrementally overlaying the text through repeated photocopying obscuring Kafka’s tortured thoughts. According to the curator Lerm–Hayes, the work of the ‘typosopher’ Ecke Bonk 'bridges the domains of typography and art pratice.’ The artist's miniaturized version of Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus logico philosophicus demands attention by forcing the viewer to move in close to examine a typeface that can only be deciphered with the aid of a magnifying glass.

Positioned in the centre of the gallery, The Buddhas of Bamiyan and a reconstructed Assyrian gate at the Iraq National Museum are rendered by artist Julie Bacon as puzzles to be played with. In the sculptural installation entitled The Twins two jigsaw boxes sit separately on the top of two tall, slim white plinths, spectres of 9/11 hauntingly placed on a Kalashnikov patterned Persian rug. Images of the aforementioned national treasures are depicted on the jigsaw box lids illustrating the violent destruction of culture by conflict. On an adjoining wall Bacon has reassembled the jigsaw pieces as a whirling constellation, directed by energies of a different order to those that have laid waste in the here and now. Entering a darkened space we are met with a blown up page from the Irish Times dated April 24th 1986. Accompanying the editorial a slide projector and the voice of a female narrator comments on the significance of the article. In Dear JJ, I read with interest..., Sean Lynch explores the story of an unofficial monument which was erected on top of Carrantuohill mountain in Ireland. The monument we learn was a commemoration of Flann O’ Brien’s work The Third Policeman.

Emerging from the partial darkness of Lynch’s investigative installation one is welcomed by a splendorous light emanating from David Cascio’s immense polyhedron sculpture Space for reading Ulysses by James Joyce (2004). Constructed from cardboard and neon lights with white fabric flowers strategically placed at adjoining corners in reference Joyce’s fictional protagonist, Leopold Bloom, the construction is an astoundingly beautiful space in which to repose. It offers a formal geometry in which to engage with a text that eschews linear narrative. Watt,the last novel written in English by Samuel Beckett is the subject of Nick Thurston’s piece He Wore, He Might Find, & He Moved, 2009. The triptych of bright orange and white screen-prints imitates the iconic cover design of the John Calder edition.

In the work Extreme Reading by Kenneth Goldsmith we experience the spoken word preserved, through transcription, in printed text. Artist’s Pavel Buchler and Simon Morris have recorded their telephone conversation discussing Kenneth Goldsmith’s book Soliloquy in which he catalogued every word he spoke over a week. Their utterances are presented, as a separate transcription which if read in isolation would lead to a speculative understanding. By preserving the formed sounds that would have otherwise been lost in the passing air they cleverly retain meaning within the necessity of context.

Cerith Wyn Evans' screenprinted text Permit yourself to...(2009) induces a trance like state through a guided visualisation relying on suggestion to transform conscious awareness of place and time. In another meditative work Brian O’Doherty systematically repeats sigla forms originally used as shorthand by James Joyce to denote characters from Finnegan's Wake. As an artist known to adopt aliases it seems appropriate that his print Sketch for H.C.E presents abstracted simulacra.

Tacita Dean re-presents a publication as a landscape-format panaorama of its contents. W.G. Sebald relates to a collision of personal ancestry, national history and sychronicity through which we learn that a random reading of Sebald's The Rings of Saturn placed Dean's great, great uncle as presiding Judge at the trial of Irish nationalist Roger Casement. This incorporation of existing narrative can also be seen in Rodney Graham's The System of Landor’s Cottage. The artist 'completes' Edgar Allen Poe's unfinished short story by inhabiting the existing protagonist and placing him in a set of new circumstances within an additional interior room. The emphasis on densely descriptive prose and self imposed formal constraints seem to reference Raymond Roussel's Locus Solus in which a group are given a tour of a series of inventions that progressively become increasingly complex and bizarre.

The curators, Richards and Lerm Hayes decision to invite the editors of the Happy Hypocrite, antepress and Allotrope to contribute are a welcome addition to Convergence. Maria Fusco, the editor of The Happy Hypocrite profiles a selection of articles from the publication. Allotrope is a new initiative by University of Ulster PHD students Keith Winter and Emma Dwan O’Reilly. According to Winter ‘the editorial process involves a making and remaking of meaning.’ With submissions from renowned artists such as Amanda Coogan, Deirdre McKenna, and Paul Hamlyn nominee Daniel Jewesbury the editors of Allotrope display an ability to harness a range of quality contributors providing images, prose, poetry and written criticism. An achievement, which perfectly reflects that of the curators’ vision for this excellent and thought-provoking exhibition.

Convergence continues at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast until 6 August.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Courtesy the artist & The Golden Thread Gallery

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Three-Dimensional Bibliography: The Book on Books on Artists' Books, Bloomberg Space, London.

Text by Lara Cory

Arnaud Desjardin is a French-born, London artist and author of catalogue: The Everyday Press (2011) and Business as Usual (2010). He is also the founder of The Everyday Press, publishing the work of visual artists as printed matter since 2007. Desjardin’s latest installation The Book on Books on Artists’ Books is showing in The Bloomberg Space as Comma 38, and nears the end of the gallery’s current series of exhibitions called Comma.

Desjardin’s offering seems dry and rather academic at first but on closer inspection reveals a challenging, complex and unexpectedly engaging piece. Walking into the expansive space, the viewer encounters a long desk to the right, two tables in the centre and seven cabinets that skirt the edges of the mezzanine corridor. Everything is white, plastic and utilitarian in design. It is like entering the special reserve room in a university library.

The cabinets and tables display books about Artists’ Books from all over the world with titles like Artwork in Bookform, Printed Matter, Artists Books, Livre’s d’artists and Artists Bookworks, whispering names like Ed Ruscha, Yves Klein, Dieter Roth, Robert Filliou and Germano Celant. On the desk sits a computer, printer and a few stacks of various paper and card, next to which are a manual guillotine, a binder and some rubber stamps. This is the production line that facilitates the installation’s main event – the publishing of Desjardin’s latest book, The Book on Books on Artists’ Books.

But here’s the tricky part, The Book on Books on Artists’ Books is not simply Desjardin’s latest book. It is a working prototype which could also be seen as Desjardin’s own Artists' Book, sort of…

Desjardin’s contribution to The Bloomberg’s Comma series is like one of those pictures, within a picture, within a picture. The concept is dizzying and profound which comes as a surprise from an installation that looks like an arbitrary and casual selection of art books and a do-it-yourself printing press. This exhibition certainly doesn’t speak for itself, and understanding won’t be gained by simply looking at it. You have to almost enter into it. Look at the machines on the desk; see the stacks of paper and the red-stained rubber stamps. And then pick up the prototype that lies in front of you and take a glimpse through it. Go over to the table and pick up the books. Read them. Evaluate and assess. Walk over to the cabinets and see the rows upon of rows of books about Artists Books, exhibition catalogues, artist monographs, periodicals, publisher catalogues and other examples of secondary literature about the recording, promotion and distribution of Artists' Books.

You will notice that some are tomes of academia, some are instructive how tos, some are simply photocopied pages that are stapled together and some are ironic or even humorous. The point is there are galaxies of books referenced here, just in this small collection; imagine how many others are out there?

Clive Phillpot describes Desjardin’s work as a ‘three-dimensional bibliography’ where even though we don’t get to appreciate the initial work of the artist, we receive instead the bounty of creative expression and interpretation of the designers and artists who produce this secondary literature. Desjardin is inviting us to look at this genre itself as art. He is bringing a dry collection of lists and printed paraphernalia into focus and giving it inter-textuality by cataloguing the information and making it the centre of an art installation. The Book on Books on Artists’ Books is given further context and semiotic confusion as Desjardin transforms the printing, production and distribution of the book into a piece of performance art.

It’s difficult to see the artistic quality in lists, but Umberto Eco insists that lists are ways in which we give definition to chaos and infinity. In an interview with Spiegl in 2009, Eco stated that the commonplace act of making lists is humanity’s greatest contribution to culture, to art. He suggests it is our way of making infinity comprehensible and bearable. Eco states: “lists allow us to question the essential definitions.”

The Book on Books on Artists’ Books also encourages us to question the essential definition of Desjardin’s list. It is not simply an account of books about Artists’ Books. It is saying something about the tremendous proliferation of art in the last forty years; about the ways in which the artists chose and are choosing to express themselves, about the mediums and shape of art. It reveals the artists’ desire to be democratic in the dissemination of their work, valuing affordability and availability to everyone, their desire to break free from traditional methods, limitations and prejudices. Desjardin’s list tells the story of art in the last forty years.

Desjardin’s installation is underwhelming on first impression but soon becomes overwhelming as you realise the scope and concept of his intention. The Book on Books on Artists’ Books is exactly as its title suggests and yet so much more. It attempts to give shape to practices and a genre that might be impossible to contain but it remains imperative that we try.

COMMA 37/COMMA 38: GEREON KREBBER & ARNAUD DESJARDIN continues until 18 September.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to
and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Install shots of COMMA 37:Arnaud Desjardin for Bloomberg SPACE 2011

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Performative Landscapes: Shaun Gladwell: Stereo Sequences, ACMI, Melbourne.

Text by Emily Bour

Arriving at Shaun Gladwell's Stereo Sequences exhibition, currently showing at the Australian Center for the Moving Image in Melbourne (ACMI), one is greeted at the top of the stairs by the large-scale video work Pataphysical Man (2005). The image of the shirtless, helmet-wearing man spinning gracefully from the ceiling is, of course, upside down, but the cumulative effect is hypnotic. Such is the appetiser for the works that await visitors below.

Curated by Sarah Tutton, Shaun Gladwell's major show launches Horizons, a series of ACMI commissioned works that will continue to show throughout the upcoming seasons. This decision alone is rather telling of Gladwell's rising star status in the art world, since his emergence onto the international scene in 2000. Engaging in a multi-dimensional practice that includes painting, photography and sculpture, Gladwell is famous for his video works recording subculture sports, from BMX bike riding, to skateboarding. This subject matter has become his signature mark.

The ambitious nature of this show could be said to demarcate from Gladwell's earlier, more amateurish modes of production. There are eight major pieces; the largest of them entitled Parallel Forces (2011). The multi-channel work presents four pairs of parallel images along a darkened corridor. Each pair displays machines of motion with a cameraman filming outwards, towards the viewer, who must venture between the choppers, muscle cars, racing bikes, and moving walkways. The observer (now the observed) must negotiate their own real-time trajectory down the hall. It is a somewhat nauseating affair. However, the artist looks to question the gaze and the hierarchy of viewpoints, not just in art history but in a modern world so mediated by the camera.

Thankfully, the sense of physical unease is thwarted by Centripetal Forces (2011), one of the most visually enchanting video series of the show. The projection panels are suspended from the ceiling, beckoning the viewer to lie down on the structures below and immerse themselves in the work. It is a solar-system formation of one central, circular screen, surrounded by rectangular satellites. We are shown a range of performers, each negative image displaying a different spinning body from a bird's eye view. Different styles all take their part, from the traditional to the contemporary, the ballerina to the pole dancer. This simple study of movement is, however, grand in its intention, alluding to the capitalised notions of Space/Time/Movement with poetically charged enquiry. Gladwell is moving onto a different platform here, teasing out a dynamic beyond the physicality of the body, expanding it to the ethereal.

Though perhaps a bit literally, this work bears a link with Planet & Stars Sequence: Bondi (2011). In this dual projection, the artist wears a gas mask, framed against the splashing waves. Aerosol cans are used to produce images of mini-universes which, once completed and displayed to the camera, are immediately erased. He starts again. In Ihor Holibizky's interviews, Gladwell speaks of the desire to: "make the popular representation of certain subcultures problematic", which undoubtedly he has achieved. No meaning is fixed, and the artist does not wish to be dogmatic: "I consider most of my recent work as speculative and also collaborative, which moves away from the largely impossible role of clear transmitter of intention."

Repetition and introspection are central themes here. Nowhere is this more apparent than a reworking of a past work Endoscopic Vanitas (No Veins Version)(2011). Originally exhibited in 2009 at the Australian Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, an open human skull suspends from a metal frame in an enclosed room. An endoscopic camera moves inside, and a second explores its exterior with an LCD screen displaying one of the images. The other is projected onto a mist screen that curtains the entrance. The image from the outside is difficult to decipher: a silhouette, a figure, an eye perhaps. We are told from the exhibition catalogue that this is his play on the 'memento mori', a reminder of our mortality. It is effective and appeals to the instinct, as I watch a child unwilling to cross the barrier, afraid. This work is challenging, a veritable collapse of logic: "I was thinking of Duchamp's exhortation to 'use a Rembrandt as an ironing board' as relevant to the subversion in terms of function."

As viewer, we are placed into positions that are unnerving, perspectives that we are unused to occupying. In Sagittarius/Domain +Prelude (2011), both shots are filmed from behind. In one screen, a figure is lying on a skateboard travelling on a moving walkway. He looks as though he is cascading toward a bottomless abyss, even though in reality his trajectory is purely horizontal. Gravity has been manipulated, and so has our method of thinking. Even as a formal experiment this work is arresting, and represents the germination of what may ultimately become the urban sublime.

Shaun Gladwell: Stereo Sequences continues until 14 August.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery

Monday, 25 July 2011

Multi Sensory Experiences: InTransit Festival, 22-31 July, London.

Text by Nathan Breeze

Built in 1962 by the Architects Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners, The Commonwealth Institute, characterised by a distinctive parabolic copper roof, became a prominent centre of education comprising of permanent exhibitions, a dedicated library and played host to special events. Forty years later, as popularity waned and its funding was cut, the Institute closed with the collection disbanded across various other cultural organisations.

Since its closure a failed attempt was made to remove the building’s Grade 2 Listed status in order to completely redevelop the site to the south of Holland Park. Subsequent talks on how best to develop the existing building ended with it being named as the future home of the Design Museum, expected to open in 2014.

With its future secured and work shortly to begin on its extensive renovation, the former Commonwealth Institute was temporarily reopened to the public for a site specific ‘audio-kinetic’ journey of discovery entitled Common Sounds; Touching the Void. Taking the unique, liminal state of the building as inspiration, a diverse and overlapping collection of immersive theatre and dance performances, art installations, sculpture and classical music, aimed to reawaken this sleeping architectural gem; exploring its past, present and future.

Welcomed by Neo Futurist Invigilators, seemingly the last remaining inhabitants of the building, we were first led along a series of dimly lit corridors to a ‘secret garden’. In Something Green; an installation by artist Hannah Jerrom, grass grows out of the dilapidated carpet of a damp room. Offering a Post-Industrial vision, it reveals the fragility and impermanence of a once important civic building eventually and inevitably consumed by nature.

From there we moved through to the breathtaking exhibition hall; centralised in plan with tiered levels climbing up under a sweeping concrete roof dramatically penetrated by natural light on two sides. Visitors were given the freedom to explore and wander through the shadowy spaces with a string quartet playing on the lower level, images projects on the top and choreographed dance throughout the space. Entitled People in Transit the movements of the dancers and the accompanying music explored transitional spaces where a multitude of different narratives and languages are heard.

As we stood on the top level looking down on the immersive multi-sensorial spectacle, dancers moved through the visitors to the extent that one wasn’t sure which was which. This interaction came to a climax when audience members were chosen to wear red boiler suits and take part in a fascinating ritualistic dance entitled Battle – Wasteland. Following the instruction of a man using a megaphone, they ‘clashed’ with members of the London Contemporary Dance School and Rambert Dance Company who circled around them utilising the generous series of stairs and landings around the performance space. The boiler suits, the megaphone and the dramatic music and lighting conjured an almost dystopian vision.

The final section of the night was entitled Orpheus and the Underworld; an intimate and beautiful combination of opera, classical music, contemporary dance and visuals projected in the old cinema space.

After over two and half hours of overlapping performances I felt the evening verged on being slightly overwhelming and there were certainly instances when dances and musical pieces, beautiful in their own right, competed for the audience’s attention. It is however a credit to the production team for bringing together a multi-disciplinary cast of over 100 in a largely coherent manner, doing justice to an extraordinary space

Common Sounds; Touching the Void was the launch event for the InTRANSIT Festival organised by the Arts Team at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Described as the only arts festival that geographically (as well as emotionally) moves its visitors, InTRANSIT includes a rich variety of inexpensive events in a series of forgotten and undiscovered places across the borough.

Particular highlights include the return of the pedal powered Cycle-in Cinema produced by Magnificent Revolution. With the help of at least 20 cyclists hooked up to a generator they will be screening the Belgian Animation A Town called Panic. Furthermore the Zero Hour Bus Tours produced by Forest Fringe will transport visitors across London with a series of audio pieces design to accentuate this surreal journey.

This festival and the future relocation of the Design Museum form part of an impressive series of developments (including the Amanda Levete’s V&A extension as well as the Zaha Hadid’s new Sackler gallery for the Serpentine gallery) that will further establish the Borough as one of London’s prominent artistic and cultural centres.

The InTRANSIT festival takes place between the 22-31 of July across various locations in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Common Sounds: Touching the Void
Dane Hurst, Dancer
Fruit for the Apocalypse
© Zhana Malaya

Scratch-and-Sniff: Celebrating the 2011 Vice Photo Issue

This July, VICE has surpassed itself. As the self-proclaimed coolest magazine in the world, Volume 18 Number 7 is a visually stunning compendium of photography by Terry Richardson, Richard Kern, Mick Rock, Martin Parr, Peter Sutherland, Jim Mangan, Jennifer Osborne, Danielle Levitt and many more.

Personally, I enjoyed the scratch-and-sniff cover, which, in a world where the intangible reigns supreme, provides a welcome sensory experience. This continues beyond the cover, where each of the 39 photographers in the magazine has contributed a photo essay of some sort, with each section featuring a narrative or aesthetic experience.

This issue of VICE certainly encourages conversation, but the visuals are where the real meat lies. Pick one up and treasure it.


Courtesy the artists

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