We Were Here, 2011
Dir: David Weissman, Bill Weber, US, 90 mins
Beginning in San Francisco’s gay Castro Street district, around 1980, We Were Here manages to be both uplifting and powerfully truthful.
A riveting, moving, account of the fear, paranoia and prejudice that accompanied the AIDS epidemic as it ripped through the US West Coast gay community before making its way across the globe.
Combining first-hand testimony and archival material, this is essential viewing, documenting five survivors who chose very different paths to dealing with the epidemic. We Were Here reminds us what a terrifying enigma AIDS was at the outset, dubbed the “gay plague,” with almost half of San Francisco’s gay community testing positive within five years.
We Were Here emphasises the activism that challenged homophobic notions of the so-called “gay lifestyle” placing the spread of HIV in the context of the wider free-love generation.
As AIDS looms large across the world, infecting more people globally than at any time in its history, We Were Here is not only a testament to the courage and compassion of its original survivors but is also a timely reminder that this is something which has not gone away.
Paul McCarty, The King, The Island, The Train, The House, The Ship, 16 November 2011 – 14 January 2012
Hauser & Wirth London and Hauser & Wirth London, Piccadilly
Combining political figures and pop culture, ‘Pig Island’, on view at Savile Row, is a morally deviant world populated by pirates, cowboys, the likenesses of George W. Bush and Angelina Jolie, an assortment of Disney characters and the artist himself, all carousing in a state of wild and reckless abandon. The island is constructed from blocks of polystyrene piled high with wood, cast body parts, clay, spray paint and old fast food containers surrounded by a sea of blue carpeting.
Over a seven year period, ‘Pig Island’ grew to fill McCarthy’s studio, blurring the boundaries between the work and the workplace. It evolved from an accumulation of detritus and half-finished figures into a sculptural installation: every detail of the seemingly chaotic work meticulously positioned as if it were a carefully orchestrated film set, complete with film lighting. Unlike the picture-perfect Disney fairytales McCarthy so often references, ‘Pig Island’ flaunts its unfinished state and mechanisms, enabling the viewer to catch a glimpse of the artist’s process, the organic development of his sculptures and the rawness of a neverending work-in-progress.
Described by McCarthy as a ‘sculpture machine’, ‘Pig Island’ has given birth to numerous large-scale sculptures, including ‘Train, Mechanical’: a mechanical sculpture showing twin pot-bellied caricatures of George W. Bush sodomising two pigs. Each of the figures performs a choreographed set of actions – their asses move rhythmically back and forth, their mouths open and close, their heads spin and, when approached, their heads and beady eyes follow the viewer around the space.
‘The King’ presides over the main space of the Piccadilly gallery. This new monumental installation consists of a platform surrounded by large-scale airbrush paintings that were created on the easel that stands on the platform. Atop the platform is a throne upon which a silicone model of McCarthy sits stark naked with partly severed limbs, closed eyes and wearing a long blonde wig. Church pews arranged in front of the stage give the viewer a place to sit and contemplate the artist’s elevated status as they gaze up at his wooden throne.
McCarthy has been making mechanical sculptures as an extension of his performance-based art since the early nineties. His new mechanical work, ‘Mad House Jr.’, is an adapted version and, at the same time, a maquette of ‘Mad House’ (2008), first shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art. ‘Mad House Jr.’ is a small room-like cube with windows and a doorless entry. Like a miniature amusement park ride, the cube shakes and spins rapidly whilst a small camera installed inside the cube records all of its movements. This footage is then projected into the space, creating an environment of physical and mental disorientation.
‘Triumph’ at the Shirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt is Aleksandra Mir’s first solo show in Germany. Inspired by a friend who had been a famous athlete in his youth and kept mementos of his achievements, Mir placed an ad in the local newspaper in Palermo, Italy, where she lives, asking for old sports trophies. Within a few months, Mir collected 2,529 trophies and had them cleaned and archived. In the exhibition, the trophies are displayed individually and in groups on plinths and the floor, or piled on top of each other like detritus. Mir explores the power of the trophy, both a coveted symbol of accomplishment and a garish, mass-produced item of little value.
Each trophy has a story, and many of the trophies Mir collected, old and unwanted, reflect a common theme of looking back on lost youth and vitality, and holding on. As the cheap metal tarnishes and the memories of victory fade, the time comes when the trophies are taken out to the trash, or in this case, sold to Mir for €5 each.
Aleksandra Mir recently gained international attention with her ‘Plane Landing,’ a life-sized inflatable jet that was installed last year in Zürich as well as various sites around Paris. She is a participant in this year’s 53rd Venice Biennale. ‘Triumph’ runs May 14-July 26, 2009 at Shirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt.
Maybe everyday objects is the wrong term to use for my production because the way I refer to objects in my work is not about the everyday object in itself. Im interested in building up and sustaining a certain way of thinking which enables you to look at objects in a different manner. Thinking is the starting point for looking at things.
For example, my piece Oma Totem (Grandma Totem, 2009) combines a washing machine, a refrigerator, a crucifix and a television set, which all used to belong to my grandmother. The selection was made on the basis of a conceptual approach: these are the first things that my grandmother received in Germany. Thinking determined the sculpture not the fact that it was a fridge or a crucifix.
One of my earliest experiences of things not necessary being what they seem to be was my experience of vacation. Half my family lived in Germany, and the other half, including myself, lived in Denmark. Every summer, when all the kids had summer vacation from school, we went to visit our relatives in Germany. My family didnt really have an idea for vacation. In the summer, they would work either in the strawberry fields or peeling small shrimps that were delivered to and picked up from their homes. I think it was more about spending time together, but that meant work. This was my first idea of vacation, and I have only good memories of it. Like all the other kids returning sunburnt to school. We always look at things through our own history, our gender and social upbringing. Most everyday objects and conventions are very unfamiliar for me. And its through this empirical experience that I do what I do.
OMA/Progress, 6 October 2011 – 19 February 2012
Barbican Art Gallery
This autumn, the Barbican Art Gallery is transformed by an exhibition on OMA, one of the most influential architecture practices working today. Celebrated as much for their daring and unconventional ideas as their inventive buildings, the work of OMA and its think tank AMO anticipates the architectural, engineering and cultural ideas transforming our material world.
The show is curated not by OMA but by Rotor, a Belgian collective that has been occupying OMA’s Rotterdam office for the past few months, gathering materials and intelligence on the office. Foraging in the archive, and even in OMA’s wastepaper, Rotor has selected hundreds of objects from the last 35 years that tell a fresh and independent story of the office.
Anri Sala, 1 October – 20 November 2011
The Serpentine Gallery
Anri Sala (born 1974, Tirana) is a leading contemporary artist whose early videos and films mined his personal experience to reflect on the social and political change taking place in his native Albania.
Sala has attached a growing importance to sound, creating remarkable works in which he recasts sound’s relationship to the image. Linked to this development is Sala’s long-standing interest in performance, and particularly musical performance.
A central premise of this exhibition is that most of the works presented at the Serpentine either use a live performance as their starting point or could lead to a performance in the future.
The exhibition is conceived as a cycle, or loop, structured around pairs of works that echo each other