Art & Development

strange coincidences

Great Art + Strange Coincidences = Pretty Cool.

Strange Coincidence #1

Pavel Büchler, Eclipse, installation source

Strange Coincidence #2

Simon & Tom Bloor’s “As long as it lasts” exhibition at Eastside Projects, Birmhingham, UK. source

I came across images of “As long as it lasts”, a new exhibition by Simon & Tom Bloor at the Eastside Projects. It is an installation incorporating potted plants, birch trees, and text art. Yes!

  • One of the first things I did upon arriving for the Breathe Residency is buy a potted plant with the idea of incorporating it into an installation.
  • Christine Wong Yap, work in progress, 2009, light, potted plant. dim. var.*

    Christine Wong Yap, work in progress, 2009, light, potted plant. dim. var.*

  • The Bloor brothers’ past work includes really great text-based flyers. I’ve also been drawing little signs lately.
  • Fig. 2. Christine Wong Yap, Work in progress, 2009, papercut, vellum, light, 33.25 x 23.325 inches.*

    Christine Wong Yap, Work in progress, 2009, paper cut, vellum, light, 33.25 x 23.325 inches.*

    Fig. 3. Christine Wong Yap, untitled pair of drawings, ink on paper 7.625 x 11.5 inches each

    Christine Wong Yap, untitled pair of drawings, ink on paper 7.625 x 11.5 inches each*

    Fig. 4. Christine Wong Yap, "Expectations Occasionally Surpassed," Ink on poster board, 25 x 20 inches*

    Christine Wong Yap,Expectations Occasionally Surpassed, Ink on poster board, 25 x 20 inches*

    Fig. 5. Christine Wong Yap, "Dime Store Advice," china marker on foil-laminated cardstock, 11.75 x 16.5 inches*

    Christine Wong Yap, Dime Store Advice, china marker on foil-laminated cardstock, 11.75 x 16.5 inches*

  • The Bloor brothers are also exhibiting billboards in Leicester, and one of the other billboard artists is April Gertler, who I went to school with in Oakland, CA in the late 1990s.

*Produced in the Breathe Residency at Chinese Arts Centre.

Art & Development, Community, Travelogue

thameside art highlights

Shadows and lights on the Queen's Walk, Thameside, London. Sorry, none of the exhibitions allowed photography. What you see is what you get.

Shadows and lights on the Queen's Walk, Thameside, London. Sorry, none of the exhibitions allowed photography. What you see is what you get.

Some highlights from my recent trip to visit museums in London. It seems like there’s never enough time in London, but I hope to make it back for galleries and more fun.

Annette Messenger
Mark Wallinger Curates The Russian Linesman
Hayward Gallery

Messenger is amazing. The exhibition makes evident how she was influential in the development of installation art. The work highly symbolic and theatrical — “a dreamscene tableaux,” as Claire Bishop might describe it — so it’s not exactly my favorite type of installation art, but I was profoundly moved nonetheless. In particular, I really liked “Articulated/Disarticulated,” (see a photo on Urban Landfill blog) a recent, room-sized installation where stuffed human and animal forms were mechanically tortured. It really captured the essence of her dichotomies — both comical and horrifying, humorous and tragic, magical and corporeal. “Casino” is a giant installation — the most phenomenological of the works on view, I think — and it’s stunning.

Wallinger curated a show that probed perception and thresholds. Artifacts are mixed in with contemporary and historical works. It’s a really perceptive show. Fred Sandback’s space delimitations looked fantastic. I knew that the rectangular outline was comprised purely of black string, not glass or some other solid surface, but I tried to bring myself to interrupt the immaterial plane and I couldn’t. Good stuff.

Wallinger’s also got some of his own work, mixed in with a series of 3-D viewfinders of historical photos. They set a high expectation for excellence for the show, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Roni Horn
Rodchenko & Popova
Tate Modern

Horn’s work is highly idiosyncratic. I’m still mulling it over — especially the strange groupings of photographs, including the signature weather/model image — but two things immediately stuck. First, of course, I enjoyed “The Opposite of White” dyad — giant, solid cast glass sculptures in transparent glass and opaque black. Two irreconcilable, but true facts: white reflects light, hence its opposite is transparency; or is its opposite that which absorbs light (black)? Second, you have to see Horn’s hermetic, strange drawings. Reproduction doesn’t do them justice. They’re extreme — a pattern is loose and gestural, pencil marks diagrammatic, and cuts and inlays mechanically precise. They’re astounding, quiet feats, really.

Rodchenko & Popova is a major survey of the dynamic output of two pre-Stalinist artists. Paintings, graphic works (pleasingly tight in pen, weirdly wonky in color crayon, of all things), letterpress publications, films, textile design, furniture, posters, 3-D constructions, photographs and did I mention motion graphics?—means that there is loads to look at and appreciate. I really ‘get’ the Constructions in Constructivism now, and formally appreciate the simple compositions of repeated lines and circles. Most of all, I came away with the sense of avant garde fearlessness, as the couple was unafraid to make clean breaks from previous art styles, even their own. They formulated many new platforms and embraced integration and service to the public.

Tate Britain

Nicolas Bourriaud curated this triennial of mostly British artists. Bourriaud has coined “Altermodern” to describe an in-progress theory about the globalized, interconnected epoch to follow Postmodernism. He casts the artist as “homo viator, a traveller whose passage through signs and formats reflect a contemporary experience of mobility.” When I turned my gaze from the Tate Britain’s impressive pediment towards the Thames (where it’s easy to recognize the seat of imperial power), I wondered how fully a British art institution could embrace a new, multi-polar, Zakarian world. My skepticism was corroborated, when, in Global Modernities, the coinciding symposium, Walter Mignolo labelled the theory “a Eurocentric critique of Eurocentrism.”

I think altermodern an interesting term, and it may be useful for categorizing some existing themes in art — transitional sites (e.g., Walead Beshty’s FedEx boxes, “transit-specific works” as Galleon Trade colleague Eric Estuar Reyes would put it, see video at the Whitney 2008 Biennial site) and liminal states (Spartacus Chetwynd’s beanbag installation with psychedelic performative video, or Gustav Metzger’s crystal light show — I shit you not). The triennial is sort of, well, triennial-y: giant, well-executed spectacular installations, some big names, and limited thematic connections. Here’s what stood out:

Franz Ackermann posits what seems to be a critique of immigration and national identity. (Pics on ArtNet.)

Darren Almond delivers surprising, stunning photographs as usual.

Peter Coffin‘s staged projection- and installation-based museum exhibition, where photos and videos are projected on works from museum collections, e.g., bees on a painting by Joseph Albers. A virulent strain of MJT uncanny.

Navin Rawanchaikul‘s hand-painted Indian-style movie billboard is a riot; the accompanying documentary video of interviews of Indians who’ve relocated to Thailand seems pedestrian and conventional by comparison.

Bob and Roberta Smith create a “junk space” (as identified by Irit Rogoff, the consequences of global modernity) littered with disused stuff and the characteristically ironically upbeat-but-sad-sack enamel signs. One, “I wish I could have voted for Barack Obama,” (pic on ArtNet) is paired with a colorful plastic tricycle, highlighting the wishful thoughts of Britons. Smith pointed out that the exhibition is meant to be interrogative, but I think it’s pretty cool to have an explicitly didactic space within it via his signs. Extra points to Mr. Smith for avoiding the common UK mispronunciation of Barack (“BER-rick,” as opposed to “Buh-RAWK).

Simon Starling illustrates his brilliant reduction of forms with a series of desks commissioned by emailing low-resolution photographs to furniture makers. There’s more to it, of course, having to do with Francis Bacon and others, but the gesture is pure poetry.

Tate-to-Tate ferry
Brilliant, easy, scenic, affordable. You know, art institutions usually have short hours, so minimized travel during open hours is appreciated. Also, “Tate-to-Tate” is a nice sounding phrase, like a mirror, and also reminds me of the 1980s TV show, “Hart to Hart.”

Reconnecting with Mediha

This quote.
As an existentialist, I tend to agonize about my art/legacy/life becoming fodder for “the dustbin of history,” so it was surprising to hear the ever-optimistic M.D. say: “The great thing about history is that things disappear” in regards to the dominating influence of Conceptualism and Minimalism in contemporary art today.

Research, Travelogue

Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World

Global economic collapse.
The quagmire in Iraq.
Anti-American sentiment.
China, the sleeping dragon, asserting itself.

There are so many geopolitical reasons to be anxious, afraid and pessimistic. Like many Americans, I’ve been feeling a foreboding sense of decline. In The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria* argues that America will not be the same kind of lone superpower it has been, but we have many reasons to be optimistic. Indeed, he posits that if the US faces the coming challenges with cooperation and adaptability, we can help shape a secure, prosperous post-American world.

The post-American world is “not about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else,” Zakaria writes. Globalization and rising economic powers means that past paradigms (“integrate with the Western order, or reject it”) no longer apply. As he puts it, “The world is moving from anger to indifference, from Anti-Americanism to post-Americanism.” China and India are becoming major players. They will work to secure their interests and expand their influence. It’s not that the American share of the pie will get smaller, but the pie itself will get bigger.

After all of the boosterism, accusations, and cynical “othering” around the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I found Zakaria’s perspectives on China quite refreshing. China’s rapid growth has caused some Americans to fear China as an evil, inscrutable state. But Zakaria argues that the Chinese government is not intentionally malicious — its major priority has been non-confrontational economic growth, which has lifted millions out of poverty in the past 30 years. Furthermore, Chinese manufacturing flourishes, but it’s not a threat to America yet, as Americans are good at innovation and adding value. We benefit from the high profit areas of development and retail/marketing.

Innovation, of course, is key to growth, and growth is more critical for future success than wealth. For example, when Europe was reeling from the Black Plague, China could have led the world in discovery and innovation. Instead, it closed itself off, and disregarded new technologies.

Another country that paid a dear price for failing to innovate is Great Britain. It was known as the world’s workshop in the 19th century, but failed to compete against U.S. innovation in the 20th century.

But America is different; our economy demonstrates unique advantages. Even though “The Post-American World” was published before the mortgage crisis led to bank collapses, I suspect that the author would still maintain his optimistic views. Despite all our problems, the U.S. economy — however weakened — is still the largest in the world (comprising a quarter of the world’s G.D.P.).

There’s our “demographic vibrance.” As Zakaria points out, “Europe presents the most significant short-term challenge to the U.S. in the economic realm,” but Europe’s population is declining, and unlike the US, it is reluctant to allow and assimilate immigrants. Zakaria asserts, “America’s edge in innovation is overwhelmingly a product of immigration” and “this is what sets this country apart from the experience of Britain and all other historical examples of great powers.”

Then there’s our technology and innovation. Zakaria dispels the myth that our students are outperformed by foreign counterparts. The averaged statistics mislead (or rather, they reveal the inequality in our schools). Still, many of the top universities are located in the U.S., which attract top talents from around the world. We should retain them, too, instead of implement regressive immigration policies.

Unlike Great Britain, whose biggest challenge in maintaining its superpower was economic, Zakaria argues that America’s biggest challenge is political. He says that the post-American world will be multi-polar world. America can help this world be prosperous and stable by taking an active role, guided by principles of cooperation, consultation and compromise. The U.S. can’t make exceptions for itself when it comes to rules like nuclear weapons. The U.S. can’t solve all the world’s problems, but some larger problems, like climate change, require an organizer, and only if the U.S. maintains great relationships with all countries, can it be a successful facilitator. The U.S. must stop cowering in fear from terrorists (and overreacting to them), asserting its military might when diplomacy would do, re-gain its confidence, become open and inviting again, and re-gain legitimacy.

I think Zakaria is saying: It’s not only possible, but necessary, to approach the future with optimism.

Will America be optimistic, and take these steps towards mutual respect and collaboration? I hope so. Next on my optimism/pessimism reading list: Barack Obama’s Dreams of My Father.

*A note about ideology: I think Zakaria makes many valid points grounded in research, reason and pragmatism. This should be adequate grounds for discussing his ideas; I hope ideology doesn’t get in the way of discourse. Some progressives may not find Zakaria sufficiently leftist, but I think that’s a poor reason for discrediting his work. I value his rigor in making clear, persuasive arguments. For example, when John McCain threw a Hail Mary and nominated Sarah Palin (and successfully galvanized the right), it seemed like lefties couldn’t recover from the sheer audacity. They hysterically bashed Palin amongst themselves, instead of responding productively and bringing the conversation back to real issues. So when Fareed Zakaria published an editorial articulating why Palin is bad for America, I took note.]

Book Review by Josef Joffe, NYTimes

Excerpt, Newsweek