Moving is in every direction

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Wolfgang Tillmans with Isa Genzken, Science Fiction

Every direction is go…

Last week I was in Berlin and a dear friend directed me to the Hamburger Bahnhof, which is an amazing art museum of contemporary art, in a train Station, specifically for the route of Berlin to Hamburg in the 1840s. It’s a beautiful building, painted simply in whites and greys on the inside, as a fitting backdrop to the modernity of the art it houses.

While I was there, there were 2 exhibitions in play- The Probably Trust Registry by Adrain Piper, taking over the main hall, and then Moving in Every Direction about the ground floor, the exhibition was of installation art from 1960 to today with a focus on narrative structures.

“There is at present not a sense of anything being successfully happening, moving is in ever direction beginning and ending is not very exciting” Gertrude Stein, is the quote Moving in Every Direction uses as their spring board.

The exhibition contains permanent exhibits from Joseph Beuys, Dan Flavin and Bruce Nauman, as well as temporary pieces from Fischli & Weiss, Edward Kienholz, Susan Philipsz, Thomas Schutte, Pipilotti Rist, and Wolfgang Tillmans with Isa Genzken.

“Viewing the narrative fragments and perspectives within the artists spaces constantly shuffles the visitors into new associations[,]” each room- for the most part one per artist, creating a portal into another’s work.  However, within the continuous narrative there were still some that stuck out.

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Fischli and Weiss’ piece “Ohne Titel ( Fragen Projektion)”  (Question Projection) is a slide show projection of overlapping questions, fading in and out, one on top of the others, both in English and German. The technique is something they’ve used before, notably in their flower series, which was my first introduction to them as artists, and are still some of my favourite pieces. Although I did not see it, I believe the piece may have been shown at the Tate Modern in 2006, in their retrospective Flowers & Questions, producing the book, “Will happiness find me?” as many of the questions are the same as the book with same title. These questions- mundane, profound, everyday worries on the minutiae of life as well as questions too large to answer, are all projected as swirling thoughts across a black backdrop, with only a tiny model of a bed as company. They are the thoughts rolling through our foggy brains as we stumble towards sleep, and here are witty, thought provoking and ultimately as mesmerizing as dream state, “tracking the mechanisms of the mundane.” 1

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Pippilotti’s Rist’s work The Remake of the Weekend,  is both an homage to the film of the same title by Jean-Luc Goddard, but also a comment on how we hold-up the weekend as a time to life our lives to the fullest, while quite contend to trudge through the drudgery of a 9-5, 5 days a week. The installation itself is a series of projections from the ceiling projected onto a series of pools of pebbles and sand, a reference to the Emily Bronte’s reflection on the pebble in The Weekend. The videos themselves are vibrant and carefree, beautiful overlapping, colour burnt, over and double exposed. The ones I loved the most were simply of 2 women exploring the beach, the shadows of their skirt and the freedom of the wind caressing the fabric about their legs.

The installation has been show in various incarnations, from it’s initial inception, shown at the Hamburger Bahnnof in 1996 after the artist did a DAAD residency, where it was shown on “a three dimensional, life-size version of a bus by using back projection screens[,]” “produced a light, floating effect[.]”2.

Showing the videos as puddles on the floor forces an entirely different viewpoint upon the audience, and presents them as more small moving paintings, than as video/ film work. Rist herself has described video as ” a painting on glass that moves, because video also has a rough imperfect quality that looks like painting… video has its own peculiar qualities, it’s own nervous, lousy, inner-world quality and I work with that” 3 and I think with this viewpoint, they indeed become paintings rather than film.

Horace Walpole said “Life is a tragedy for those who feel, a comedy for those who think” which is a quote that was used to describe The Weekend and is followed through beautifully in Rist’s work.

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Edward Kienholz’ room, Volksempfangers, feature radios of the same name  “a range of radio receivers developed by engineer Otto Griessing at the request of [Nazi] Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels[,]” 4 cheaply produced so that anyone could afford them, creating a powerful propaganda machine.

“Listening to foreign stations became a criminal offense in Nazi Germany when the war began, while in some occupied territories, such as Poland, all radio listening by non-German citizens was outlawed (later in the war this prohibition was extended to a few other occupied countries coupled with mass seizures of radio sets).” 5

“Hitler’s dictatorship differed in one fundamental point from all its predecessors in history. His was the first dictatorship in the present period of modern technical development, a dictatorship which made the complete use of all technical means for domination of its own country. Through technical devices like the radio and loudspeaker, 80 million people were deprived of independent thought. It was thereby possible to subject them to the will of one man…” 6 Albert Speer

The radios play news broadcasts, layered with Wagner, a composer appropriated by the Nazi’s, all of which have foot pedals that the audience can press to turn on, multiples together, or, thankfully, off.

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The other exhibition in the space, Adrain Piper’s The Probable Trust Registry: rules #1-3, is an installation in it’s own right, it seems particularly reverent, as it resonates within today’s political climate, particularly with proliferation of fake news, forcing the questions of truth and trust in the news.  However, the piece was actually created in 2015 for the Venice Biennel.  It features 3 infomation desks in which the audience can register their compliance with 3 statements, which is signed on a tablet and then printed out and given to the participant as a written contract that they have signed. Written above the desks are the statements

1. I will always be too expensive to buy

2. I will always say what I mean

3. I will always do what I say I am going to do

“[I]t raises philosophical as well as quite practical questions regarding democratic processes and individual responsibility.” 7

It’s a simple but powerful installation and it creates a bank of trustworthy people, “each individual voluntarily comm[iting] to align his or her future deeds with ethical principles such as honesty and reliability” that at the end of the project are allowed to contact each other, if both ends wish. 7 “In this way, Piper binds us together quite literally, between book covers, but also in time: anyone who breaks their promise to the agreement is somehow beholden not only to him or herself but also to the other people who have sworn to uphold it.” 8  This “database of signatories that will be held securely by the museum for a century.”9

The simple act of signing a a written contract with oneself, witnessed by another has weight and one that once initiated feels like an act of residence in a world where lipservice is becoming everything. ‘Her work, [the venice biennal jury] wrote, “invite us to to engage in a lifelong performance of personal responsibility.” 9

It’s a contract once signed does induce the audience to rethink their words and actions, self realization being everything.  I realized I’m terrible at #3, and am actively working on it!

Although Joseph Beuys’ work in the museum is part of their permanent collection, I was totally in awe of the pieces displayed. I have seen his work before, notably at the Tate Modern, as part of their permanent collection, but I have to say the explanation of his work always seemed lacking and never seemed to be a complete description of his full process ,or truly encompass the breath of the concepts of his work. Although it’s too much to go into all the Beuys’ work in the musuem here, as it’s extensive, the writings of Caroline Tisdall, Beuys’ travelling companion, which are fragmented around his work, are deeply insightful, and more can be read about their relationship and her work here. There is a book of her writings, Joseph Beuys: We Go This Way. 

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  1. http://www.cornerhousepublications.org/publications/will-happiness-find-me/

For more info on Fischli and Weiss see                                           http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/fischli-weiss

2. http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/remake-of-the-weekend/images/7/

3.https://thingsineversaidtoyou.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/9f4f2-200620pipilotti20rist030.pdf

For more on Pipilotti Rist see

https://thingsineversaidtoyou.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/9f4f2-200620pipilotti20rist030.pdfhttp://www.classicartfilms.com/weekend-1967

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volksempf%C3%A4nger

http://www.verzetsmuseum.org/tweede-wereldoorlog/en/kingdomofthenetherlands/thenetherlands,may_1943_-_may_1944/hand_in-

Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks; Andrew D. Evans; William Bruce Wheeler; Julius Ruff (1 January 2014). Discovering the Western Past, Volume II: Since 1500. Cengage Learning. pp. 350–. ISBN 978-1-111-83717-4.

For more on Edward Kienholz see

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-kienholz-edward.htm

http://www.smb.museum/en/museums-institutions/hamburger-bahnhof/exhibitions/detail/adrian-piper-the-probable-trust-registry-the-rules-of-the-game-1-3.html

https://hyperallergic.com/127622/adrian-piper-binds-us-with-impossible-trust/

https://frieze.com/article/adrian-piper-1

10 http://www.artnews.com/2015/05/09/armenia-adrian-piper-win-venice-biennales-golden-lions/

For more on Adrain Piper and her work with The Berlin Journal of Philosophy see

http://www.adrianpiper.com/

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The Library of Water 

  
I visited Roni Horn’s Library of Water yesterday while in Iceland, and then while wandering around town I found the regular library, and a very helpful librarian who was fantastic in finding me all the books they have on her and useful infomation around the subject.

The project is a interesting one, seemingly simple, but steeped in emotional resonance for anyone coming from a climate in which the weather informs your way of life in any small way. 

Roni Horn collected water from glaciers around Iceland, as ice, which she allowed to melt and then encapsulated them in clear columns, which after standing in this form, the sentiment of even the cloudiest water sunk to the bottam leaving clear tubes of water. 

The water reflects and distorts everything around it and moving through the space, and from outside the large bay windows reflect the sea and ships, becoming invisible save shimmers of refractions on the columns. It’s stunning and poignant. 

It’s combined with words that all describe the weather on the floor, both in Islandic and English, some of which don’t translate- although those that don’t are the most telling, I think, in terms of how we react to the weather culturally. 

   
 Roni Horn has consistantly come back to this in her work, how the weather affects our emotions and how our faces are our own emotional weather reports.  ( see her work You are the Weather). 

In a country in which the weather changes so suddenly, it’s a interesting correlation to make, and also one that personally resonates. As a sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder, when living in London I needed to make sure I was living in places with ample amounts of light, without which the damp grey fog would descent into my brain and render me incapable of surfacing without extreme struggle. I never felt like myself in winter, even with hour walks in the morning to try and instill as much sunlight in me as possible. The weather was a weight, a damp that got into my bones and my brain, infecting/ affecting my daily routines and relationships with others. 

Roni Horn has also written and documented extensively her trips through Iceland, in the books On Place, from motorbiking and hitchhiking through in the seventies and documenting hot springs- both as images and also written work describing the thrill of quietly undressing in the dark to lower herself into the water that creates and is Iceland; the start of portraits and You are the Weather Series, documentation of all the natural phenomenon of lava and rock formations in Iceland, and also written about the emotional journey through Iceland. She describes finding Jules Vernes’ entrance to the center of the earth and it’s nearby labyrinth remains both as a physical and also psychological journey, the weather a constant and influential passenger in a journey of self discovery.  

  

   
There is something about traveling in this small island with only yourself, and the weather, and an invisibility of yourself within the landscape that occurs. I brought books, but barely looked at them, the scenery taking over my emotional landscape.

 Roni Horn did a lot of her traveling in winter and so survival became a paramount concern. Even in summer, storms can sweep in, and traveling under the midnight sun, you can forget the time and your own lack of sleep as you negotiate the windy roads (the lack of sleep alone has been putting my emotions dangerously close to the surface). But the Island doesn’t care about your survival; awareness, alertness and intutivity are needed to traverse the landscape and a oneness with the weather can create an emotional Walden traveling with you around the island. 

All photos taken from Roni Horn’s Iceland 2, from the series On Place.

Roni Horn is an American Artist who describes Iceland as her open air studio. This project was mounted by Artangel in 2007, in a former library building overlooking the ocean in Stykklisholmur and is ongoing. 

https://www.artangel.org.uk/project/library-of-water/

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Sonic

So I thought I’d play with the idea of collage and sound, after seeing a fantastic collage by David Michael Reyes, on instagram (see here for the post.)

All in all, I think it needs to be animated somehow, but this is just the first stage, so we’ll see how it goes from here.

 

 

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Digital Experiments

“Burn it all down (to see what grows)” 2017

I love my photoshop, but I normally stick to my handcut cut and paste for collage work, knowing that using the digital renders me indecisive. There is never one piece created         (if there is, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg, that needs digging into). There are so many variations possible, that why have one, when you can mutate them for hours on end. With the 4 separate collage pieces I had, and the 20 odd pictures I created, these are my 2 favourites (I still can’t decide).

 

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To the Sea

I travelled to Puerto Rico this last summer, and ever since I have been obsessed with waking up and looking at the sea out of the window. Especially as that sea reflected the green of the lush jungle of the islands under the dappled grey of the sky, dusting listy across the sea. The colours are unusual for your typical seascape,  but nice to play with, and create mood with, while experimenting with dripping paint, and collage, across the canvas.img_6294

4ft by 6ft, acylic, ink, text on canvaspr-1

18″ by 24″, acrylic and ink on aluminum

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18″ by 24″, acrylic and ink on aluminum

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24″ by 24″ acrylic, ink and collage on wood

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18″ by 24″ collage, beads on card

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On Psychogeography

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Manhattan, fabric on wood, 18″ by 24″, 2014

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Iceland, fabric on card, 18″ by 24″, 2015

When I first moved to NYC, I looked for a map. In London there’s the A to Z a handy small map book you can take everywhere. But that doesn’t exist in NYC, people just asking others which way is X street- tourists and natives alike. I really liked this approach to navigation and along with Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, it made me think of other individual approaches to map making.

Something I had been introduced to long ago was psychogeography, a concept of a map reflecting the pyschology of the city, created by an individual’s response to the city. No one’s two maps are the same, and built of the places we, as individuals, place importance on, rather than equally giving billing to every street/area on the map.

The term originates with Guy Debord, part of the situationist art movement, in 1955 and can be defined as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.”

It’s an idea that embraces drifting- the dérive-  exploring the city through a sense of wonder. In “Theory of the Dérive” 1958- Debord essentially created the manual of how to drift, “In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there… But the dérive includes both this letting go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities.“**

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Guy Debord’s map of Paris “Psychogeographic guide of Paris: edited by the Bauhaus Imaginiste Printed in Dermark  by Permild & Rosengreen – Discourse on the passions of love: psychogeographic descents of drifting and localisation of ambient unities” ***

The film Robinson in Space, was one really great example of pyschogeography in London, filmed by Patrick Keiller, it’s rambleurs journey of all the places Robinson loved in London.

However, I was more inspired by the idea of individual’s maps, and the idea that these maps can also change over time. Personally, I have moved back and forth between London and Los Angeles -incredibly different cities in terms of culture, people, architecture, urban planning- and the ping ponging between the two, would always inform how I saw the other- both as a memory ( i.e a memory of L.A while in London) and as a physical space ( going back to L.A after having grown in London), the other becoming idealized and more foreign the longer I was away. L.A became a city within one of Marco Polo’s travels in Calvino’s Invisible Cities, described by hazy memories, often which looking back were probably more fallible than not.****

The maps I created are of cities I have lived in, or visited, some with an immediate response, some with a response of many years of overlapping memories, some as a time capsuled response to a particular year.

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London, paint and sequins on organza, 29″ by 29″, 2016img_7103

Los Angeles, paint and sequins on canvas, 18″ by 24″, 2016img_7105

London II, paint, fabric, sequins, beads on wood, 24″ by 24″, 2014

 

For more basic info on psychogeography see here

For a great article of 2 British psychogeographers /writers- Ian Sinclair and Will Self see here

For another interesting set of psychogeographic skyscapes from Tokyo check out this

For a smell map of NYC see here

 

*Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography, 1955 by Guy Debord.

**Situationist International Anthology. Berkley: Bureau of Public Secrets, by Ken Knabb, 1995

***http://imaginarymuseum.org/LPG/Mapsitu1.htm

**** for an interesting read on the Science of Memory- look at Pieces of Light by Charles Fernyhough, which examines how we create memories, and how we remember them, often falsely.

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Kaleidoscope Hearts

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I’ve become a little obsessed with kaleidoscopes recently, I guess with the New Year upon us, the idea of seeing things through a new filter is interesting to me. And the idea that by rotating the way we perceive things- however minute the turn, we can change how we see them.

In this new political climate, especially, it seems important to figure out what we can twist and turn so that we are not just plunged into the darkness.

I started with this image of  Robert Longo’s- “Untitled (Throne Room)”,charcoal on paper,  2015-16, which was in the NYTimes recently with one of Jorie Graham’s poems and it touched me and inspired me to give kaleidoscope making a go.  If you don’t know of his work, he’s an artist working in charcoal to create photorealistic pictures and also recreations of other artists work, also in charcoal, which are just stunning to see.

The full article can be seen here

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And then I moved on to old paintings and collages of my own-

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For more on Robert Longo see his page on the gallery Metro Picture Galleries

There’s also a fantastic intro to his work in Kaleidoscope 

And here– from where the picture below was taken, which will surely be the inspiration for something else…

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Robert Longo, Untitled ( City of Glass), 2009, Charcoal on mounted paper.

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Houses for Homes

Playing with scissors…

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Lucky Cards: creating tarot collage

The last few months have been really busy with work, and although it’s finally started to slow down, it’s also been really great in terms of forcing me to make my own creative pieces as an outlet.

I got a little fixated on the Tarot cards. Niki De St Phalle’s  Tarot Garden in Italy that a good friend’s mother showed me years ago in Switzerland, when I was going through a really rough spot, has been a huge influence on me, and then 4 months ago I started reading Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies, a kind of modern Cantonbury Tales, with stories illustrated by drawing tarot cards, and told without words. I also read Rachel Pollack’s The Tarot of Perfection, another collection of stories all inspired by the cards, and which talked more about the history of creating stories with tarot, including Calvino’s process when he wrote The Castle of Crossed Destinies. All of which induced these

10 wheel of fortune11.Justice8. strength copy15 the devil9 the hermit 5. hieroplant copy 7 chariot copy 0 The fool6. lovers copy  3 empress copy  1. Magician copy2. the high preistess copy 12the hangman 13 death 14 Temperance 17 the star 19 the sun copy20. Judgement16. the tower   18 Moon 21. the world

For more on Niki De St Phalle’s garden here

For more on Rachel Pollack see here

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For Storms and Hurricanes

“Do the times make the artist or does the artist make the times? Both at different times are correct—I guess. Some times got Shakespeare others got Pope, one period got Lady Murasaki and Sei Shonagon at the same time. What can you say about a period that got stuck with . . . me. I really wanted to be great but the times didn’t need it of me. The times demanded my failure. I wanted a nice apartment to hang my pictures in, a drawing room somewhere above the din, and found the war was going on in my brain. I hitchhiked up Olympus and it turned out to be a volcano. How can I know what’s politically correct? I didn’t have time to stop and think whether what I was doing was right; I had to make my history quick because there would be no future, merely a gossamer world blown about on the zeitgeist, till zeitgeist, the wind of the times, is blasted away by kamikaze, the wind of God.”*

Rene Ricard- Art Forum Nov 1982

Reading a magazine last week, I came across an artist I had never heard of. Probably because he’s most famous as a art critic rather than an artist. Self described as a poet and movie star* Rene Ricard joined Warhol’s factory with small parts in “Chelsea Girls” and “Kitchen”, after pouring over one Warhol’s flower paintings at the ICA in Boston. As he tells it, “To support myself as a kid, I was a model at art schools around Boston. When I stopped working at 2 P.M., I’d walk up Newbury Steet, which is where the art galleries were. One day, I was at a gallery run by a friend and she said, “Rene, there’s something you’ve got to see over at the Institute of Contemporary Art.” I walked in, and there was a painting by Andy Warhol, the flower painting. It was orange, yellow, fuchsia, red, and green, and it looked enormous. Paintings weren’t that big at that time — this was ’64 — and, while looking at it, I evolved a theory about it. Andy had made a painting that was essentially flawless, but it was an actual painting. So he had this green background, and orange, yellow, fuchsia spots which were kind of pushing forward — they looked like they popped. I had never seen anything like it. I was in a trance. The guard tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, but the gallery’s been closed half an hour.” I completely planned out my life looking at that painting. **

As an art critic and essayist he was instrumental in the starting the careers of Julian Schnabel, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.  “As a critic, he only wrote a bare handful of pieces, but they were major events.”****

His life was decadent and self- destructive, happily squandering away a $10,000 gallery advance in a day at the Russian Tea Room and on Jean-Paul Gaultier underwear, which he washed, and left drying in the sun where it was stolen. By nightfall he was penniless and at a homeless shelter. ***

“Just as his life could vacillate between glory and squalor, his poems- which he eventually took to painting over his own or others’ canvases- are all heart-break and defiance, ruined love and declarations of an independence he insisted on even when he sat at the best tables.”****

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“I’ve seen beautiful things. I’ve been around so many years; how did I get to be so old. I’m pretty beat, and scarred like a whale from a million harpoons, but I’m still in the swim, y’all, I’m still out there. Oh I’ve seen so many waves. You ride it and when it crests you keep your balance or you get washed up. So I keep in the swim, go with the current, try to keep a sense of where I can land, sometimes swimming against the tide when I feel it’s getting too far out until one day I’ll drown or get stranded on the beach.”*

* from a biography in Art Forum

https://artforum.com/inprint/issue=198209&id=35549

** From Interview Magazine

http://www.interviewmagazine.com/culture/factory-workers-warholites-remember-rene-ricard/#_

*** from the Brooklyn Rail Memoriam by Raymond Foye

http://www.brooklynrail.org/2014/12/criticspage/rene-ricard-dec14

**** New York Times Magazine, Dec 28th, by Luc Sante

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/07/arts/rene-ricard-art-arbiter-with-wildean-wit-dies-at-67.html?_r=0

For more there’s a really great interview/conversation with him here:

http://artoridiocy.blogspot.com/2014/04/rene-ricard.html

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