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Thursday, March 31, 2005

The internet often seems like an art playground. Works designed specifically for the net tend to be light, playful, entertaining... But I rarely feel that the artist thought much about the meaning of the work. Nice and fun and sometimes surprizing are the usual adjectives that come to mind. Daydreaming allowed. Thinking not always required.
Here is a work, called Fisheye TV, that, although technically and aesthetically it has its limits, is more than just an interactive toy.
Its author, Brian Kim Stefans, is better known as a poet, though he has been creating net work since 1998. His most known net art work is "The Dreamlife of Letters", a dada work gone flash. Maybe I'm not enthousiastic about it because it's been done by Dada without the need for flash? Maybe, because I have a friend, called Tadeusz Wierzbicki, a wonderful, crazy person, owner of a light and shadow laboratory, who made a light performance (yes, you understood well - light performance) about the letter "i" - more beautiful than any other Dada or Dreamlife or visual poetry art I have seen (a few pics of some of Wierzbicki's recent work can be seen on this French site).

In any case, this new work by Brian Kim Stefans is another story. Since I'm on my positive challenge, I will only say that I like the fact that I can see that there is a person, with thoughts and beliefs, behind the work. Hopefully, work like that will inspire others to go much further still, to dig, to sweat, and to enchant us all. Or at least a part of us.
(There are other works from this series by Stefans here - though I found their level quite uneven)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Ourmedia.org is an encouraging idea for promoting grassroots creativity:

Ourmedia is a global community and learning center where you can gain visibility for your works of personal media. We'll host your media forever — for free.

Video blogs, photo albums, home movies, podcasting, digital art, documentary journalism, home-brew political ads, music videos, audio interviews, digital storytelling, children's tales, Flash animations, student films, mash-ups — all kinds of digital works have begun to flourish as the Internet rises up alongside big media as a place where we’ll gather to inform, entertain and astound each other.

Ourmedia is several things in one. We are:

  • An open-source project built and staffed by volunteers
  • A destination Web site that freely hosts grassroots video, audio, music, photos, text and public domain works
  • A community space to share and discuss personal media
  • A learning toolkit to help our members create rich and compelling works
  • An archive so that these works can be preserved for the ages
  • A clearinghouse that allows anyone to search for licensed video, audio or music, download it and remix it, with proper attribution. Legally.

There are all of these theories about how maybe Shakespeare did not exist and these fifteen women wrote the plays...there's something doubtful about property and the invention. The essence of Romanticism and the Renaissance is that you're building a new world on the ruins of the old one, and that's creative, that's rich. All these people. Shakespeare and the Greeks, built a new world on an old one.
- Robert Lepage (1957-), Canadian (Quebecois) "experimental" theater director.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005



"You do turn round after a few years and look at your stuff and you think it's embarrassing."

"Some of my spin paintings I think are a bit silly."

Not all his bad ideas have come to fruition. "I was toying with the idea of putting vibrators all over a pig and I was going to call it pork you pine," he said. "I didn't do it."

"People come up to me sometimes and say 'You're in a position where you could put a dog poo onto a lobster and call it art.' But why would I? Why would somebody do something stupid like that?"
The above quotes come from Damien Hirst, an immensly successful (and reasonably controversial) artist whose works have sold for up to $2 million [correct that. that's $13 million].
Though Hirst has many critics, he is generally being justified in nearly everything he does. It is nice to know the artist himself doesn't go that far (here is the original article where the quotes come from). Although he definitely defends some of his most known works (like the below work, called). As does the humble author of this blog.


PS: One more quote:
"You can buy drinks for all the collectors in the world and get your stuff in the (museums), but in 200 years' time if it's crap, it's not going to be there, is it?"
Now, I don't mean to be a bad boy again, but doesn't that put an interesting light on how Mr.Hirst got his "stuff in the museums" in the first place? (And what drinks were those, by the way?)

There are a lot of people around still making objects, but I'm interested in a situation where what we call the sculpture is a catalyst for walking and looking and thinking about what you're looking at. If this work can do that, if it can just inform and change how you see, even minutely, that's a reason to do it. I mean, nobody thinks sculpture's going to change the world.
- sculptor Richard Serra
(from this interview, found thanks to artsjournal)

Dream

Last night, after publishing the Rebecca Horn review, I had a dream in which someone contacted me (by e-mail? phone? directly?) and said he was from the Association for Positive Input. He then challenged me to propose and encourage, and not reject.

Monday, March 28, 2005

At last! I've finally managed to see the Rebecca Horn retrospective at the Centro Cultural de Belem (Lisbon, Portugal).
The experience has been strange.
Rebecca Horn was an important figure of the so-called 60's avant-garde. She was what one could call a fashion designer gone mad. She created wardrobe that changed the way the body functioned. Her Finger Gloves (1972) are a classic, as is the Unicorn (1970). The first one is an actual pair of gloves (shown at the Lisbon exhibition) that one puts on the fingers. They extend the fingers by a meter and half or so. Thus, one can touch distant objects, though at the same time the body seems awkward, it is hard to consider it one's own body.

The exhibition contains short films from the 70's presenting Horn's various inventions - and we can see how the Finger Gloves work, and how they impose a certain way of feeling (pardon the pun) reality. If this description reminds you of Tim Burton's charming Edward Scissorhands, you're on the right track: I'm positive Burton knows Horn's work in-depth. The Unicorn is a simple, very long cone attached to the (female, of course...) head. It seems almost trivial, but you should see the short film where the Unicorn appears and disappears on a forest road full of contrasting shadows and light spots. The oniric (dream-like) images are spell-bounding.
Upon watching this first chapter of Rebecca Horn's art, you get the feeling she was on to something. It's exciting to see her experiments, which never actually reveal any outstanding discovery, but appear to be getting ever closer... And then...
And then I don't know what happened.
Then we're back in 2005. And the world has changed. As have Rebecca Horn's sculptures. They are sophisticated, cut to perfection, well-lit and designed in the cleanest of ways. The "primitive" clock-like machines point to such nothings that we can always put something into them, the mirrors reflect just the right amount of gallery space (yes, gallery space, that's what this smells of). Even the dust is where it should be, even the ashes in the 2002 work Book of Ashes (referring vaguely to September 11th and to the Holocaust) seem incredibly controled after the amateurish films from the 70's that contained all the freshness of a naive but vibrant faith in new art.
These new works are much more mature. They are certainly thought out and executed in a very professional way. The problem is - I shouldn't be noticing this. I should be admiring their strength and depth or craziness or peace.
Instead I go back to those early videos. They are far from perfect: watching those filmed performances I get a similar impression when I see good, but not absolutely mind-blowing contemporary works: somebody's having a party, and I get to peep in. Sometimes somebody else's party can be a great discovery. Then again, sometimes it's just a party, with too much weed and cheap philosophy (like in the mirror piece, a costume made of several mirrors which reflect the room).
Today, Rebecca Horn knows much better how to hide. Even her apparently spontaneous and "free" drawings tell me little of who she is. But I'm a difficult play-partner, and someone hiding is not in itself enough for me to seek.
With an exception: Der Zwilling des Raben (The Twin of the Crow), a work created in 1997, which brings Horn's old theme of feathers up-to-date, giving it - a motor.
Two wings - or two mechanical birds, two machines, are having a conversation. Two quasi-beings endlessly caress each other. They are delicate. Their black feathers fold and unfold as in a subtle dance, where resting is crucial. One of them always ends up on top. Breathing.
And only upon closer inspection does my girlfriend tell me that the feathers have been cut.
Their shape adjusted, for a more sophisticated look.

Sunday, March 27, 2005



During the Expo 2005, spectators queueing to see a movie at Toshiba’s digital cinema are submitted to a futurecast, they place their faces into a hole in the wall for a few seconds. High-resolution digital cameras perform a quick scan from several angles, and everyone takes their seats.

The animated film, Grand Odyssey, begins as normal but the entire cast is made up of walking, talking digital replicas of people in the audience.

(from Times, via we-make-money-not-art)

On art.blogging.la there is a text about how to make art more accessible to the general public. I specifically like the great discussion below the post.
One issue is being sort of left out - and it shouldn't. The psychology of the art world. I think it could go as far back as the impressionists (so, the beginning of what some call "modernism"). It goes something along these lines: the artists create works that the general public refuses to accept. Since other artists create similar works, they encourage each other. What is being created is a "Us vs. Them" situation. We know the truth, we see it, and they are too short-sighted to understand it. This attitude translates to an even stronger rejection, and then a total ignoring, on the part of the public. As for the people supposed to make the connection between the art and the public - the critics, the owners, museums, they opt for one side. They either stick with the artists and justify them (some more, some less), or they agree with the non-specialized public, and move closer to "entertainment". In the latter case, they refuse to accept the "new", radical art, and demand "accessible" art. There is only scarce dialogue between the two camps: as ever so often, the negotiators are seen as traitors. And we're left with an art world where it's extremely difficult to justify a work of art in front of both milieus. It seems as if all the "elite" are afraid to be considered as traitors, entertainers, low artists. That's why a simple gesture like Banksy's can be seen with so much sympathy - it challenges this division. It says: look, I'm also an artist. Remember the Little People. Smile. Say a joke. Play with me. Stop being so goddamn high-fetched and isolated. Or you'll bore us all to death.

PS: How to engage the general public? How about: think about them. Don't think you're oh-so-good you only need to think about your work, your art, your idea. Make at least one work your parents would like. (Or your children. Or anyone that couldn't possibly make it.)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

TV art

Tired of TV? Think it's boring, and lacks imagination? Turn it into a work of art - use the Shine Box! It can display the image in a standard, or distorted mode:

(found at popgadget)

It was created by Aristarkh Chernyshev and a group of collaborators.
It reminds me of a song by the late French genius Boris Vian: "I had a TV/ but it bored me/ so I turned it around/ it's much more vibrant that way".
The song, written in hte 50's, was called "I'm a Snob".

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Beyond Banksy


This is a painting by Malevich, the Russian futurist/avant-garde painter from the beginning of the 20th century (author of the famous Black Square). It represents a white cross on a white background. The graffiti on it is a graffiti (and not part of the original painting!), and was made by Alexander Brener, a highly provocative and controversial contemporary Russian artist. In 1997, Brener went into the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum and spray-painted a dollar sign on Malevitch's Suprematism 1922-1927, a white cross on white background. More on the story: here, and here is a letter of support for the artist (who ended up spending many months in prison). There is also a note about Brener and other interesting/controversial/new Russian artists on this site.

Banksy was obviously not the first rebel with a cause (though his is not too inventive: "These Galleries are just trophy cabinets for a handful of millionaires. The public never has any real say in what art they see.") . An old article in the Guardian gives several more examples. There's even a book about purposeful destruction of art (The Destruction of Art by Dario Gamboni) - you can read this pretty crazy book's description at Amazon).

But Brener had something more: he had a conversation with art history. He dared to interpret it in a radical way. He reminded us that Malevich had ambiguous feelings towards art as a market, and towards the role of museums in the art world. Malevich was a serious rebel himself (and the cost for him was a miserable last stage of life). In his text called Suprematism, he declares

Suprematism is the rediscovery of pure art which, in the course of time, had become obscured by the accumulation of "things."

It appears to me that, for the critics and the public, the painting of Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, etc., has become nothing more than a conglomeration of countless "things," which conceal its true value the feeling which gave rise to it. The virtuosity of the objective representation is the only thing admired.

Can you feel the vibration that rings in those early 20th-century words and motivates Alexander Brener (and echoes in Banksy)? Brener learned his lessons right:
  1. He is quite original.
  2. His performances were powerful.
  3. He has guts even in the way he writes: The third world is the world of despised discourses and wasted hot flesh outbursts, spit and sperm in the poor districts of Mexico City and Brooklyn, in the Viennese Turkish ghetto and in the heart of Moscow. This excited, tongue-tied, pimple-faced third world also needs an artist. How else could it be? Then why can’t I be this artist and explain to you what kind of unpleasant art he is trying to create?
The only problem: Brener (contrary to Banksy) had already gained fame, and scandalous success. And then - nothing. He disappeared, and now I found some sadly low-quality paintings he made with his partner:

What a shame. What a shame. When the old Malevich was forced by Stalin to paint "realistic" paintings, he signed them with a little black square on white.
A little black square, about two centimeters large. That's all it takes.


A few nice quotes from an interview with Christopher Doyle, the cinematographer behind such films as Chunking Express and In The Mood For Love (and its sequel 2046)

(...) in Chinese, they say, "Your eye is high but your hand is low," which means you can't achieve what you want to do. You have all these fucking aspirations, you expect to do something great, and actually you complicate things. Because your hand is low.

That's the thing: the balance between being so fucking involved in something that it has energy, it has intimacy, it contacts people, and yet being removed enough to say, "Yes, no, yes, no, no." That's the job.

That's just it. I think the whole thing about filmmaking is that it has to be engaging enough that I have to believe enough of what I'm seeing that it becomes universal. It's really that simple.

I think this is what's happening, that we actually are moving into an area where the audience is more sophisticated than the critics.

How did you come up with the blurry skip-frame style that you used in films like Chungking Express and Fallen Angels?

Boredom. I think it was about boredom.

I also found another, calmer, interview with Doyle in the Guarian.

This is too gorgeous to be left out:

(the above image has been hanging at the Museum of Natural History, curtesy of Banksy, your mad rebel con-art-artist, who simply went in and glued the frame to a wall)

Is this art? It most definitely is. Is it new? Not quite - we've seen things like that for a century now. Can Banksy aspire to remain, say, at the MoMA? He certainly can. I wish they put him in there - so he suddenly becomes part of the game. (Or is he already?)

Digital Graffiti

I found this info on the Ars Electronica Futurelab project page:

In the future, cell phone users will be able to leave messages anywhere in the form of what might be termed electronic post-its. They will be able to post virtual messages referring to a specific location wherever they are needed.
What's the use? I think they're still not sure. Here's an example from the site:
Say, for example, that you’ve arranged to meet a friend for a stroll round town. While on your way you can simply leave a digital graffito, for instance at the arranged meeting point: “Just looking at a few CDs in the store opposite, come and join me.” If you wanted to send your friends the same message by SMS you would have to send every single one a separate message. This would be far more time-consuming.
Now, if it seems to you like they're hiding something, you're wrong. They're not hiding it:

Advertising messages could be placed in front of stores to draw attention to special offers. Anyone in the mood for shopping could switch on the advertising mode and wander from one offer to the next. People in a hurry simply switch this mode off.

I believe we've seen it in the Minority Report. Now it's becoming reality. What does it have to do with art? Well, do you know Banksy, The Exterior Art specialist? (we-make-money-not-art recently described Banksy's last "performance")

Imagine him, and all the other happy kids, having this new, wonderful digital toy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Then again, what others didn't do is really their misfortune (?).
And you people don't like long posts anyway, right?
So here's one for you: a nice Polish fine arts site, Artnew.pl. (in Polish, but nice pictures!)
(The picture above: "Adam & Eve" by Viola Tycz, 70 x 100 cm, ca.250 €)


Where is performance art on the net? There are tens of blogs about the fine arts, and not a single blog about performance art, or even performing arts (a much broader term) for that matter! Here is my hypothesis: I suppose that translates into one conclusion: nobody cares. They are quickly forgotten, rarely talked about. They aren't sure where to put themselves on the art scene, so the spectators are even less so.Performance artists and critics seem to have always thought of themselves as the true radicals, the outcasts. And they're proving their point. They will meet and "demand" to be recognized (and paid) as the great artists they are (and I believe they are indeed!), but then - nothing. Some writings, some conferences. Very little. They seem a lost tribe - and digitally, it is all too blatant. The page on performance art that has for years appeared on Google's #1 spot is this incredibly amateur and well, weak, page (in form, but above all, in content). The one "performance art blog" (A.D.2003) I found is... a curated show! It's nice to know the performance art critics know what a keyboard is, but why does it take a curated show for them to appear on the net?
The one hope is that in the last, say, 15 years, performance art has been progressively swallowed by "off" theater - and to some extent dance. Names such as the Wooster Group, Forced Entertainment, Jan Fabre or Xavier Le Roy create pieces so close to performance art, and so distant from mimetic-dramatic theater, they are the ones who today are considered the best representatives of performance (although often under other tags), much more than a Marina Abramović. It's a strange situation, but thanks to this mix-up we actually hear about performance from sources other than artists and their friends.
There are two other areas where performance keeps on: the fine arts and digital art. I personally don't believe the fine arts help it at all. It seems complicated logistically, a live artist is more of a hustle than, say, a TV set, and is much more difficult to sell. Also, the fine artists that go on that path belong to the group of the "lost sheep", in between the worlds. Of course, the argument that art goes beyond traditional forms is not only valid, but incorporated into the art world. On the other hand, the question remains: who is going to see you? Or: where will you get your audience, specifically, concretely, not just ideally. And of course: where will you get the funds? If nobody hears about you, or if you're marginalized by those that do, your work is truly "art pour l'art". Maybe that's why so many ("classical") performance artists end up creating fine art work - paintings, photos. It's a way of integrating. The theater and dance people don't need to do that.
Then there's digital art. Performance slowly moves into the digital world. Much slower, than was to be expected. Theater people are even slower here. We have Blast Theory, and some other examples - but mainly, artists coming from other areas use digital means imaginatively. Is that a way out? Frankly, I think that's a whole other story. Completely different, and leaving me much more optimistic.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Art gone curious


Another discovery brought to you by Fallon and Rosof's artblog: James Leonard and his art. At his webpage, you can discover little marvels of contemporary art: Dutch apple pies, lost phone conversations, comments on Iraq, water balloons and artificial hearts.
The works are based on "intellectual games" (Two monkeys' cudgel), well thought-out concepts (Lunar phases), and a very strong stance in regards to the world ( Scratch n sniff). Some pieces are too light for my taste, like My mother's dutch apple pie, which is basically a gastronomical piece more than anything else (something not that new if you come from the theater/performance world), and though I like the humor in it, the "buzz" created by giving out only six plates at any given time does not seem enough to make me buzz in my head. Then again, I haven't tasted the pie! Many of the works seem to have the care and touch of really great art (from what I can tell on the screen...), though some seem a little neglected in how they are shown. Also, I think Leonard explains too much about his works. He seems to be desperate to show their quality - and doesn't always let us dream by ourselves... But thanks for the good work!

Monday, March 21, 2005


Make the world a better place. Jump.
I tend to believe this is perfectly qualified to be considered a (potential) performance art piece.


By some considered an absolute genius, a "postmodern phenomenon", by others, nothing more than a skilled technician, Rauschenberg is one of the world's 10 most expensive living artists in the world. He first became famous in the 50's for his "combines", or works combining (3D) installation with (2(3?)D) painting. Then, as a good, short biography describes,

As Pop Art emerged in the '60s, Rauschenberg turned away from three-dimensional combines and began to work in two dimensions, using magazine photographs of current events to create silk-screen prints. Rauschenberg transferred prints of familiar images, such as JFK or baseball games, to canvases and overlapped them with painted brushstrokes. They looked like abstractions from a distance, but up close the images related to each other, as if in conversation. These collages were a way of bringing together the inventiveness of his combines with his love for painting.

Rauschenberg still creates "collages" today, though any art critic would probably be offended by this way of calling them. Why? Because for an artist to be considered good, he needs to be seen as evolving. And as ground-breaking:

Rauschenberg is an amazingly prolific and formally venturesome artist who, over the past 50 years, has nearly always risked aesthetic trespass, producing work deliberately just one degree or two from being merely ugly, banal, kitschy, gimmicky, showy, facile or, of course, excessive. (from this old review)

On artblog.net, a highly-specialized blog about fine arts (yes, they do forget that art exists beyond fine arts), there was an interesting discussion of art critics about Rauschenberg and modernism. (Do they really write 'modernism' with a capital letter? Heheh. Nothing like the good old idea of godliness in art. Sorry, that was meant to be 'Art'.)
Among much blabla (notice how they can't keep to the topic, and stray off into abstract talk), I found some insightful remarks about Rauschemberg and modernism:

They are cleverly and humorously organized, the color is good, and there are all sorts of visual puns and contradictions going on.

I find this quite delightful. Lightweight it may be, but in this case, so what. It is a relief from the academic tedium and horriblisme and pretentious foolishness we see every day around here. it is "fun art", if you will, with enough skill and wit to sustain it as such.

As far as i am concerned what has emerged since 1970, usually called "postmodernism", is just a degenerated stage of Modernism. Modernism itself, according to how you define it, is no more dead than good painterly painting was in 1850. it is just taking a rest.

I can see the work as pleasurable, if not outright pleasant. But the kind of work I really like is work that scares me, and Rauschenberg's does not.

Even when he uses "heavy" imagery, like JFK, it remains the work of a very talented graphic designer, with undeniable surface appeal but not that much depth or substance.

Art opinion is what it is, which is, historically, usually wrong. It is an interesting subject for a sociological study but it has little to do with art or making art, unless you let it. You seem to think in terms of "movements", and I feel that this frame of mind is a kind of blinder. And there may be an art movement right under your nose which you don't see precisely because of the myopia of that opinion. Put yourself back in Paris inb 1865, knowing nothing. Think about it.

These images are interesting. If they are large scale I am sure they could be quite fun to look at. It is his earlier work, the combines, that I think are quite wonderful. In other words, I see them as much better "Dada" and much better art, than any of Duchamps work. They seem to embody a lot of art history rolled into one,

Discarding a convention simply because it is one, or just for the sake of discarding, or to achieve some concept of "purity" or "open-mindedness" which may, in fact, be more like sterility or impoverishment or absurdity, is neither logical nor sensible--certainly no more so than hanging on to a convention because "it's always been that way" without objectively evaluating its value or utility.

As for the discussion about the difference between modernism and postmodernism, I think the question is way too young to be answered, but artblog.net helps answering it by being so bloody conservative - they seem somewhat blasé, old, afraid of anything with ambitions other than in the exact area (school) they specialize in. And, paradoxically, that old, worn-out attitude is what I would call modernism. For lack of a better word. Does this "looking back at modernism" make one postmodern? I find the idea of calling a movement modernism silly enough.
But if you need a label, you can call it Postboredism. I don't like to be bored, young and naive as I am. Thus, I ask from art to pull me in, to provoke me, and not only exist in an esoteric shell (though I admit the shell can be fascinating, too...). Fortunately, many artists today think it is not too much to ask. Are they postmodern? Or modernist? Or Great, or Small? How would I know. They make me feel richer. Is that not enough?

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Art too extreme?


On the excellent, though very textful art blog by Libby Rosof, a surprizing review of the art of Hermann Nitsch (second part of the review actually, though the first one is interesting as well). The artist was the most (in)famous member of the Viennese Actionists in the 60's, with performances resembling strange, often bloody and/or cruel rituals, sometimes with animals, sometimes with sex. He is also the only member of the group to still be performing today. And he is controversial. Which becomes quite clear, once you've read the review. And the word "controversial" sounds different here- it is not just cool - it is close to aweful, evil. If you dare use the word in art. Libby Rosof does.

PS.: But the blog has many sides to it. Look closer, and you might find this review by James Thacker another step towards understanding something about contemporary art. Here's a fragment:
I found his performance work disgusting, yet intruiging, as it often took place at his Austrian castle (or so I was told)! I thought his graphic work, with as much blood-letting as his mystery plays, beautiful. He was explicit about the analogy in his work beween blood (and wine) and paint. I think I realized for the first time how the material quality of paint could have symbolic value -- a revelation for an American artist hitherto weened on iconography, text book pictures and slides. In class, Nitsch had us replicate taste or smell sensations visually by coloring in a strip of boxes on paper with a succession of colors. The emphasis on sensation and the quality of the medium as an important, if not always obvious, component of visual art impressed me.

Friday, March 18, 2005

you’re a beast, she said
your big white belly
and those hairy feet.
you never cut your nails. . . .

You might not know Charles Bukowski. Or not like him. But listen to him - he's funny, intelligent, subtly aggressive(and he's just so... American, I guess).

I know, I know what I was thinking (I think):
He's as close to a person as a poet can get.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Rebecca Horn

I'm going to see Rebecca Horn's new exhibition this weekend... guess where it is? I'll keep you informed on impressions. Right now, you can enjoy this short description by artforum:

Click to enlarge


This Rebecca Horn exhibition promises to prove that it is not mere platitude to speak of pencil and paper as an extension of the artist's body. The show places about eighty-five drawings alongside both her early fabric appendages, which extend their wearers' body parts, and four recent machine installations that perform repetitive bodily tasks. Though bios of Horn routinely mention the year she spent in a sanatorium recovering from lung damage after working with polyester and fiberglass, the artist's own body has remained a refreshingly puzzling absence in her work.

Christine Mehring




If you click on the image above, you will discover that this is not your average chandelier: it is made of tampons. Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos loves to play with the idea of femininity, of the "womanly knowledge", and to put it on its head.
As the French newspaper Libération put it, she uses out-of-date archetypes, but ones which still impregnate the collective memory, to update "portugality". Libération published an article about Vasconcelos, who has an exhibition in Paris, at the publicity agency BETC Euro RSCG. The place might seem strategic, if you hear her say provocatively that she "criticizes the action of consuming, which they are trying to sell". But this is more than a rebellion - it's a provocative flirt, in which the pieces turn discourses such as pop, or the aesthetic irony of kitsch, around and over themselves, adding a new ironic twist to the use of these languages and materials, as the Elba Benitez Gallery's site describes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Art Away

Once upon a time, in a place art, art away...
The quotes from Lauwers are supposed to encourage my Portuguese and Canadian friends/readers. It isn't easy to create art, namely theatre, in a country with limited background in the area. It seems like working on the desert, with scarce resources, feedback, context, leverage. One feels ridiculous in the face of such theatrical (cultural) monsters as France or the U.S. One may even get local recognition, but it just seems of an entirely different level than the real world (notice the irony in my voice...). Even the internet, with all the good you can say about it, does not solve the problem. You can know more and get a better feel of what's happening elsewhere (and this blog intends to be a small contribution to these objectives), but you're still where you were - everything from the language you use, to the web design you have (if you have a web page!), to the Google position of your group/show/project/notes seems to tell you you're still not there, you're still a provincial artist.
This might not bother many artists. Good for them. But those who are bothered by being provincial don't necesserily worry about fame or such - they genuinely realize there is something missing in what they do - and look for reasons. I believe this can be a very healthy process - but one needs to realize that being far away can actually be an advantage. Lauwers is just one example, Lepage is an even better known one. Those are people who found the lack of serious, powerful guidelines to be a blessing - it allowed them to spread their wings and experiment, without the pressure of a know-it-all milieu. This is not to say being far from the center is the only true way of being a good ex-centric. The likes of Pina Bausch and Robert Wilson, or even of Grotowski and Tadeusz Kantor, proved it isn't. But the other ones, the outsiders are more important - they give hope to the underdogs.

Two Quotes


With so much
reality being produced and filling our heads, it is ridiculous to try to create naturalistic theatre. Theatre must be a counterweight to the mass media and create its own reality.
- Flemish theater director Jan Lauwers

Unlike Britain, France or Germany, we don't have to compete with a great tradition. We are free to invent one.
- Jan Lauwers about why the Flemish avant-garde theatre is so good

Monday, March 14, 2005

Video Contest

I still haven't forgotten the promised posts (not that anyone asked...). I hope I'll have some time this week to sit down and write them. But if you're impatient, do something of your own - send that art video you've kept in the drawer for so long to a famous gallery!
The wonderful South London Gallery, which hosted artists from Gilbert & George to Christian Boltanski, is now creating a video library. Here is what they have to say to you:

Would you like to show your video or film work at the SLG? Following the recent success, with both artists and visitors, of our new video and DVD library, we are extending our request for submissions. Visitors can continue to enjoy a drink in the SLG lounge and watch tapes from our growing library of artists’ videos and DVDs. If you would like to submit a tape for inclusion in the library please contact Sara Raza on 0207 703 6120 or send it to the Gallery.

If you're still not sure if the Gallery is the right place to present your pure talent, see their web page. And keep me posted on the results!


Elizabeth McGrath's work reminds me of the darker side of Tim Burton, pushed way darker... The site is nice, too.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Don’t miss the final opportunity to submit your innovative cyberarts project to the Prix Ars Electronica. The entry deadline has been extended to March 18, 2005!

First, go to this old site by great performance artists who want to change the world.
Think about the site, what it says, it is, and the like.
Look at the date. Why does it seem as if nothing later happened? There is a strange feeling I associate with a lot of performance art - it is often strong, seems powerful... but somehow disappears, doesn't have quite the impact it theoretically should. And I'm sometimes affraid it's not because of politics, but because there is just something missing - some dynamics, some gesture which would help us retain whatever is the thing the artist would like us to leave with. This web page seems like a strange symbol of this struggle.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


(Found the link at we-make-money-not-art.com) The Wurst Gallery (Portland, Oregon, US) had an original idea - they sent a set of (blank) Russian dolls to several artists (mainly local) and asked them to treat the dolls as canvas. Many of the results are surprizing and witty. My only complaint is that... the "Russian" part is quite limited (one artist's stereotypical impression from her visit to Russia...) - the organizers didn't think of, say, working with Russian artists. I'm certain they wouldn't be difficult to convince, wouldn't be expensive, and could produce something even more suprizing...
My favorite quote is from the author of the doll you see above, Ademar Matinian, answering a questionnaire:
How did you get to where you are now?
Seizing the remnants of opportunities passed.

Pure Digital Art


I know Apartment by Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenberg is an old work (2001). But how come art on the net is supposed to be new to be good? Shouldn't it stand up against time? I think this work does - and has become more fascinating since its creation: a world living a life of its own.
And here is a good review.

Friday, March 11, 2005


As I searched for solutions and opinions about Google's ads on the internet (is it worth keeping something which makes me look like a passionate conservative politician?), I found the pretty project Google Adwords Happening by French artist Christophe Bruno. I would call this a brilliant modern take on haiku :). And I bet he ended up making, not losing, money with it.
On Bruno's web page, you can find several other works he made using Google. The best one is maybe the invented word ("sorgoine") that he put on the internet (in 2002) by means of a page announcing its creation. Two months later the word was already appearing in 5 places on the net. Try searching for it on Google today - 2200 entries!


This was supposed to be only about Bruce Nauman's latest work, Raw Materials, at the Tate Modern (London) until the end of March. The work consists of speakers spread around the huge Turbine Hall. Or rather, it consists of sounds. Words coming out of the speakers. A looped "Thank you" or "OK", a few abstract sentences. Moving around the space, one discovers new combinations, immersed in the depths of sound.
There is also an online version of the work. Or is it just a reference to it, or an entirely independent work?
Is it intriguing? Somewhat. Does it seem Great? Certainly not on the web site. Ay, there's the rub - creating a "parallel" version of a conceptual (can somebody tell me if I am allowed to use the word here?) online is extremely risky. We get the concept, but we don't get to walk across the Turbine Hall. So the whole thing seems intriguing, but not that exciting. It's something like watching performing arts on screen.
Or is it?
As I was looking for reviews and opinions about the exhibition, I found this insightful post about it by Ivar Hagendoorn, a neuro-scientist and choreographer. As I browsed through his site, I found an excellent fragment of a dance of his online. I've seen similar rule-based works before, and I'm not a dance specialist, so I probably miss out on most things, but I discovered it was really watchable online. Although it's just a one-camera one-shot recording of a dance, with all the imperfections of such a technique. (here is a description of the piece, called Communications from the Lab and performed by Ballett Frankfort)
Maybe there's hope for all us technology dummies then?
(Oh, and compare the dance with the image of Nauman's installation. Suffice it to say the photographer of Nauman's installation was the dance's choreographer...)

Coming soon

  • Of Goldfish and Men - using (and abusing) live animals in art
  • What is right about pain? - personal tactics in Body Art
  • Humiliation as Art? - Santiago Sierra

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Recommended

Arnaud Jarsaillon's site has great, modern (don't you love the word?) design: it's original, suave, and comfortable. His excellent graphic works help, of course.

Think forward

I've been doing a lot of abstract painting lately, extremely abstract. No brush, no paint, no canvas, I just think about it. - Steven Wright

Interactive art


On Martin Rieser's Mobile Audience Blog, there are two articles about different installations allowing visitors/passers-by to create/manipulate images on the screen through movement. The basic idea is the same: the body of the on-looker (obviously, the term is here out-of-date) is used as a tool. The spectator (another "old" word) is somewhere between the artist and the work. He is at the same time the creator (since he is the one giving the actual form to the work) , the spectator/participant, and the work (since his interaction with the machine is also watched and admired by the other spectators). But was exactly is the difference between this situation and the one we encounter in many games, both classic and modern? Here you have the wonderful aesthetic experience - right? Wrong, at least according to the admirers of Blast Theory, the British high-tech theatre group which creates (among others) works right between the worlds of "high art" and down-to-earth entertainment, such as the famous Desert Rain. Actually, it isn't between those worlds, it equally participates in both.

Obviously, no sociological work is ever about us. It might be about those who surround us, but we ourselves are different, unique.
The idea of the automatedbeacon.net is simple: The beacon continuously relays selected live web searches as they are being made around the world, presenting them back in series and at regular intervals. Both simple and fascinating.
------------------
Note: This beacon began in January 2005. I believe a similar device has been working for several years (?) at the Google headquarters. I even tried with some colleagues to use it once to send a message to the people at the company. I wonder what it would have taken to have it work.

-----------------
The authors are quite ambitious in their way of seeing their work: The beacon has been instigated to act as a silent witness: a feedback loop providing a global snapshot of ourselves to ourselves in real-time.

Watching the new words appear for several minutes, I realized how false that pretension is: all of the quests I saw were in English. What sort of a distorted snapshot is this? It is the snapshot of the internet, of how we see the world, of what our glasses look like and how far (near) they allow us to see. In real-time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

new art

Art-in-nature

Land art has great future. There is more and more money being spent on public spaces, parks, squares, ambiguous-nobody-knows-whats - and progressively the idea of the exterior being "adaptable" to our imaginations is spreading and developing. That is not to say - forget the landscape! But realize what the landscape actually is, and try to work with it, play with it, improvize on it as you improvize on a melody. I find this often much more interesting than sculptures in public spaces, which oftentimes seem hopelessly lost, abandoned and reduced by all this... well, space. That's why I was very happy to read about the Dutch initiative of creating a permanent art-in-nature program.

Esoteric Art



This was a very big post about today's art, and how it's dangerously close to something esoteric, how we are given little freedom from the "art professionals" to not like a work they appreciate (while at the same time admitting they don't know how to even describe it or what it's about). My main source (often criticized by me) was a very interesting old article at artnewsonline.
Some of the quotes I used were:

"It's brilliant work and, fortunately, I continue to fail to understand it."
"The nature of really serious art is that you don't know what you're looking at. You're impressed by some quality or bothered by some quality. You don't know why it's the way it is or how it came to be that way."

I questioned the concept of "serious art".

I wrote about art charlatans who manipulate the (re)viewers by putting a rich network of references which give the work "depth".
I hinted this could be - but isn't necessarily - the case of Matthew Barney.
I forgot to tastefuly hint that he lives with Bjork.

I also suggested that if someone insists on knowing your opinion about a work you feel completely out of your world, you can either say "it's nice" (and thus make a statement), or compare it to Donkey Kong.
And then, I previewed this huge post, and did a silly thing, and erased it all. So you just have to use your imagination.

Oh, and I talked a little about John Cage and suggested you might like him as well, and recommended this album , and then I think I wrote something about not really liking Matthew Barney but said that this Cremaster (3) is probably the one generally considered the best. And I wrote it would be nice if you helped me maintain the site and entered through my links... And now that I've wasted 3 hours, I think it would be bloody great.

Monday, March 7, 2005

Ugly and GOOD

(This post is copied from my older blog, by popular demand)

1. As this blog is about art, aesthetic concerns should be important.

2. I believe Plato has had a bad influence on the development of human thought. He is to blame for many things, but one of his worst ideas was associating Beauty with Goodness and Truth. You see, Socrates only really cared about Goodness (correct me if I'm wrong). Plato, on the other hand, used Socrates' philosophy to creat one mega-idea which combined pretty much everything (ethics, aesthetics and ontology). This three-for-one all-you-can-eat concept is only fine if everything you do or stumble upon in life is beautiful, good and true. How often does that happen ?

3. That's where this blog comes in.

This blog is ugly [that was about the old blog. this one is just a little better]. I hate the layout, I don't like the type of fonts, I don't like the fact that I don't have any control over what language appears on the buttons and links. I think this formula is outdated, and am disappointed with my complete designing ignorance.

This place should be as nice, as pretty, as fresh-looking as I hope its content will be.

But then, can't it be ugly and interesting at the same time? Attractive even? Don't we read books that all look pretty much the same? I mean, those are only letters! If they have something interesting to say - I'll like them, if not - who cares about the design, right?

Well, I'm not sure. After all, web pages are increasingly associated with aesthetic qualities. And with innovation. And even a blog is now receiving the same sort of judgement as an "artiste's web page". And will be criticized -and often punished by ignoring - for not being full-of-form.

The thing is - isn't it better to have content?
As in life, the question remains: if it's ugly who is going to stick around to discover it?

Sunday, March 6, 2005

Tarnation "is thirty-one year old director Jonathan Caouette’s inspiring documentary self-portrait, chronicling his chaotic upbringing in a dysfunctional Texas family and the unexpected relationship that develops with his mentally-ill mother Renee."



It is far from being the first time someone made a piece of art out of his own life. Literature is overfilled with real-life-stories which make the drastic, in-your-face Tarnation seem like a fairy tale. So what makes this one so different? Maybe it's the fact of filming it, of making it impossible to escape from. Or the trendy editing that allows us to sit through Jonathan Caouette's story as if it were "quasi-real", that is, comfortably distant? Or is it the incredible patience, the tender and careful approach which, unlike in some other self-centered documentaries, shines from Caouette the director, the hero and the person?

The idea of making a piece of art out of one's "ordinary" (?) life is quite present on the net. Two sites caught my attention, medicine films and learning to love you more. Both of them are based on the idea of presenting one's life to others - suggesting that this is art. The funny thing about any such initative is that the people who show "just their normal life" often (always?) end up trying to put it into some sort of form, to make it appealing... Even the simplest videos have comments which suggest some special meaning. This reminds me of Allan Kaprow, the "inventor of the Happening", a performance artist who worked closely with John Cage and several other masters of contemporary art. Kaprow at a certain point stopped calling his works "happenings" (he said he would have to make commercials if he were to continue) and started calling them simply "activities" - which from all I know he still does. The interesting thing about Kaprow in this context is that he loved the idea of creating things that are actually almost impossible to distinguish from "real life" (whatever that might be). He still teaches that and works that way, avoiding publicity and generally enjoying the low-profile status of the "activities". But look at what he is doing, look at Tarnation, look at the "everyday artists" - isn't it fascinating how the form remains present and important?

(If you're interested in this stuff, you can get Kaprow's true classic Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life at Amazon and help me develop the page!

Our Secrets


Do you have a secret? Want to share it, but remain anonymous? Want to turn your secret into art? Here is how.

There is something very appealing about this project. The incredible level of intimacy, the frankness. Although some commentators treat it more like an "interesting human experience" and don't pay that much attention to its artistic value, I think quite the opposite - the human side is here framed in a very contemporary and aesthetically appealing form. Now, it obviously depends on how the author sees it (and chooses to speak about it). If Duchamp himself hadn't seen a Fountain, there simply wasn't much you could do, was there?

Favourite toy

Found on a Public Computer

My Fovoite Toy Robote

M y favoite toy is a robote becuos it can shout misels and it can jump and it can shuot at the same time and it can run and it can tock and punch and it can kick and it can jump and shout at the same time and it can do a back flip and do a frunt flip and it can jump on a bed . my our favoite toy is a rc car becuos it can do sharp trns it can baowns up and down it can make scidmarck and it can run in to stuf and it can jump of ramp .


My comment: isn't this exactly the contrary of Laurie Anderson? This is the "what can it do" thinking. The capacity challenge: how good you are means what capacity you present. How many functions, how many add-ons, how much "stuff" you can do. I'm fascinated by this kid's note, because it puts in the clearest of ways what many people unconsciously or hypocritically dare not say: that what they like are gimmicks. Tricks. We like to be tricked. To have them do something we never could.
And that's how they become our favourite toy.

...want to use it." - Laurie Anderson. An interesting case (not the only one) of a performance artist that goes "unplugged". Laurie Anderson gained fame making huge solo multi-media shows. She often played the electric violin, but also sang, but also projected images, mixed sounds, remixed sounds, images, lights, words... And when in the early 90's audiences started expecting more of the cutting-edge hi-tech than anything else, L.A. backlashed - and took away nearly all the technology. In 1993, Anderson said: "People expect music and high-tech visuals. I think they're rather surprised that I'm asking them to think so much instead." And in 1996, she proved her point

Has it been working? Depends on the viewer, but this one thought (and explained in a pleasant poem-style review, that could have done without the poem form...) that it wasn't not quite enough in Anderson's last (2004-2005) show, "The End of the Moon". I think it's much more difficult to "get down to basics" than it may seem. After all, it is stepping down from a comfortable position which allowed her to speek louder, to communicate in a more...overwhelming way. And when I'm overwhelmed - I'm in, am I not?

On Metroactive, there is an interesting article about her. Here are some updates on what she's been doing:

Most recently, she raised eyebrows when she did some rather unusual research for Happiness, including taking a job at McDonald's and living on an Amish farm.
(...)

"I've changed my life totally in the last year, more than I ever have in my whole life," says Anderson. "I decided to do everything outside. I was burning out on those screens, I just could not do it another second. That's why I'm doing this garden project in Japan. I'm also doing a lot of projects where I'm just walking places."

She doesn't mean walks around the block, either--she usually allows about 10 days for each one. The last walk she did was from Athens, where she had been working on a project for the Olympics, to Delphi. But it's not about the physical endurance--in typical slightly-odd-but-surprisingly-well-organized Anderson fashion, she tries to come up with a single idea and develop it over the course of one walk.

"I'm going 20 miles a day, three miles an hour--nothing. It's not to prove I can do this, because if I can't make my distance, I just call a cab. It's not like, 'Well, I marched from here to there!' It's more about trying to feel free, and trying to be free, and feel what that really is like," she says. "'Cause I honestly felt really trapped, and I think a lot of Americans do, too. You're free to what? Have a Coke or a Pepsi?"

I admire Laurie Anderson for the quiet, yet powerful way she thinks. Some examples from interviews:

Techno is music without a foreground. But that's all right. I've got plenty of things to do in the foreground.

I am more worried about turning into a schlump than into a prune [=becoming old and wrinkled].A schlump is someone who doesn't care about anything and who is just protecting their own turf, which is getting smaller and more meaningless, and then they disappear.

I like to be in groups of actual people, as opposed to their clones or their avatars or whoever they send out on the web to represent themselves.

[yes, that last one was about us, folks...]

Oh, and to give a you a hint of what sort of shows Laurie Anderson creates, here is another fairly recent review.

One thing fascinates me both in Althamer's work Bródno 2000 and in Alys's When Faith Moves Mountains. They manage to convince "normal" people to do "artistic" things, and "artistic" in the most contemporary sense, that is, one that may escape easy aesthetic judgement. There are some other good examples of that in the art world today. Soon about that.

Althamer

Paweł Althamer, a Polish, "international" artist, has his first retrospective exhibition in Warsaw, at the prestigious Zachęta (national) gallery. His works are so diverse, it is difficult to sum them up. He is perhaps best known for his ingenious installations/performances, like this one:


You guessed it, it was made in the year 2000. This is a real building, and the photo has not been retouched. Meaning - what you see is what you get. As long as you think about it - because, as often with contemporary art, you might not get much out of it if you don't want to :). For me, it is above all about one guy walking from door to door and convincing his neighbors to do something different, a little strange, crazy and seemingly useless to many of them. The building is the actual building he lives in, in a poor and ugly part of Warsaw. You can read more about the new exhibition, which contains mainly sculptures and films, at NonStarving Artists, a good fine arts site. (For the English version, scroll down or click on..."English":)).
I don't like Althamer's sculptures as much, and don't know his films at all, but I must admit they have something in them:




On the State-owned site culture.pl, you can find a slightly longer Althamer biography.

Saturday, March 5, 2005

Avantgarde

"Today's current theatre avant-garde includes reruns of the historical avant-garde as well as the practices of formerly experimental artists whose work is by now 'classical' in terms of its predictability, solidity, and acceptance. (...) The current avant-garde offers no surprises in terms of theatrical techniques, themes, audience interactions, or anything else. (...) The current avant-garde is not only dominated by a group of oldsters (of which I am, for better or worse, one), but it is also quite clearly an established style of performance, one that in many ways is not distinguishable from orthodox theatre and dace. What innovation comes from the current avant-garde, is mostly emanating from performance art, where people are exploring such things as explicit sexual art and the combining of the extremely personal with the political." - Richard Schechner (theatre/performance theorist and practitioner)

"I've never really been interested in theatre as such." - Robert Lepage (theatre director, of course) (other info about Lepage here and here)

Now this is really strange... By some total coincidence, I discovered yet another take on The Gates (read previous post for explanation...):


From The Boston Globe:

"Geoff Hargadon -- Hargo, now that he's a star -- is the creator of The Somerville Gates, a micro sendup of the saffron extravaganza now in New York's Central Park. And he has become almost preposterously famous.

After he posted photos on his website of his 13-gate installation -- made from stuff he picked up at Home Depot that he glued together and painted orange -- Hargadon received more than 4 million hits, so many that he had to take it down yesterday because his Internet service was charging him for every visit. He owes thousands, he says.

Museums across the country are after him. Manhattan's Pratt Institute wants a Somerville Gate for its permanent collection. Ditto, the Browne Popular Culture Museum in Bowling Green, Ohio; the Portland Art Museum in Oregon; and Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. Someone from Tufts University invited him to display the work in a juried art show.

...
The Somerville Gates came into being one night while Hargadon and his wife watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on television, discussing the hype around Christo and Jeanne-Claude's $20 million-plus Gates in Central Park. They ran to the store, plunked down a total of $3.50 for supplies, and spent the evening gluing and painting. The photos they took depicted the same 13 gates arranged in settings around their Somerville loft, usually marking paths walked by his cat, Edie."

Oh, don't you just love art? :))

I'm sure you know about Christo and Jeanne-Claude's latest work, The Gates:
.

Well, this is an amazing alternative artwork, The Crackers:


You can find more about this masterpiece right over here. Enjoy :)

 

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