John Divola, Theodore Street, 2012, San Fernando Valley, 1973 and Zuma Beach (1978/2006), 1978
“Abandoned houses are one of the few places where you can go and paint anything you want and nobody is going to yell at you” says John Divola.
Los Angeles–based photographer John Divola is perhaps best known for this series of photographs documenting the gradual destruction of an abandoned and oft-vandalized beachfront property at Zuma Beach in Malibu. Without a studio of his own in the 1970s, the artist roamed Los Angeles in search of vacant properties that he could photograph. Using them as his canvas, he sometimes spray-painted his own designs onto their interiors, photographing them before the buildings were destroyed. Reflecting his painterly manipulation of the physical site, Divola’s Zuma photographs skillfully frame spectacular sunset views within these dilapidated structures, making his visually compelling, color-saturated photographs more than just pure documentation.
Divola has taken his camera into a variety of environments over the past four decades. However, it’s the vacant, dilapidated home that have been a constant throughout his career. He has found the structures in the San Fernando Valley and in the shadow of Los Angeles International Airport, along the coast at Zuma and deep into the Inland Empire. The modern ruins provided a studio when Divola couldn’t afford one. Divola could add to a scene that already existed, perhaps with a few strokes of a paintbrush, and then photograph it. They remain a part of his work, even now that he has his own space amidst the business parks and storage units of Riverside. Ultimately, these venues held an intrigue that went beyond practicality.
“It wasn’t a blank canvas,” says Divola. “It was something that already had a sense of place and presence and prior activity.”
It’s the activity that captures Divola’s eye. “If someone kicks a hole in the wall,” he says, “I’m really interested.”
Helga Wretman aims to fill the body and soul of participating artists with endorphins to improve their creativity and self consciousness, whilst providing a platform for international artists to connect with peers in other parts of the world. “We can finally meet in a virtual space and get fit for life together.”
12 artists have been invited to represent their country, themselves as artists and their will to communicate. This will be a performance where no participant is passive.
The class begins gently with an organic warm up of the joints and major muscle groups that prepares your body for more intensive stages. There after we move on to the activate the cardiac functions in your body. That will start with some fun sparring in couples and then we do some classic aerobic and end with an intensive Jump-style tutorial. At this stage we are warm and ready to move on to the muscle training and floor-work without weights, including yoga and various classic body toning and strengthening exercises. To end the class we make a stretching session focusing on both big and small muscle groups.
Helga Wretman (born 1985 in Stockholm) lives and works in Berlin. She completed her training at the Kungliga Svenska Balettskolan in Stockholm for Modern and Contemporary Dance. Helga has also studied dance in London, Berlin and Stockholm.
Wretman has performed in venues such as Peres Projects, Berlin; Darsa Comfort, Zurich, and Kunsthalle Athena, Athens. She has also performed for artists such as Aids- 3D, Jeremy Shaw, Donna Huanca, Peaches, Reynold Reynolds as well as performing in numerous German films as a stuntwoman.
Oliver Laric, Touch My Body, Green Screen Version, 2008 and The Marble Player, From the series Lincoln 3D Scans, 2013
Oliver Laric uses memes, movable type, copies and collective agency to make art that is only partly ‘his.’ Oliver Laric once showed a 16th-century print by Flemish court artist Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder. The etching depicts a scene of iconoclasm, or Beeldenstorm, during the Reformation, when churches and public spaces in northern Europe were systematically purged of religious imagery, often by mobs. Hallucinatory in its detail, the print shows a swarm of figures on a mount pillaging icons, breaking statues, tossing altarpieces into a fire. Birds in the air shit on monks beside bare trees that crown a bald outcropping; broken relics and shattered crucifixes jut out like gravestones from a pit.
Gheeraerts’s work isn’t simply a depiction of image breaking. When viewed from afar, the mass of active figures in the print forms a new, anamorphic image: a grotesque, composite illusion of a monk’s rotting head. An assembly of small bodies forms a sagging mouth (full of drunken townsfolk), and a group of monks ploughs a field that’s also the head’s wrinkled brow; a monkey stands inside an ear, and the figure’s nose is formed by a crucifix about to be toppled between two hollowed-out eye sockets.
I don’t think Laric had ever seen the real Allegory of Iconoclasm (c. 1560–70) – which exists only as a smallish, unique print in the British Museum – when he introduced me to Gheeraerts’s work during a conversation about his own video Versions (2012), the third in his series of that name, in which the monk’s head appears briefly. I write ‘real’, although Laric’s information-driven videos and sculptures confound distinctions between real and fake, even making that effacement their subject. I write ‘own work’, despite Laric’s ongoing concern with the mutability of authorship and ownership. An author is fungible, particularly as enabled by recent forms of collective and participatory labour. Internet memes, popular and children’s films, super-cut YouTube videos, medieval sculptures, outsourced remakes and the ‘participatory’ labour practices of North Korean monuments are all found, re-remixed and translated in Laric’s works. And although I write ‘conversation’, that word only partially accounts for the hopscotching, hyper-medial surge of links, flickering images and n+7 web results that the artist retrieves, combs through and reassembles to display and comment on his own material, as well as that of others. ‘I sometimes Google terms that seem to have nothing to do with each other,’ Laric says. ‘“Mikhail Bakhtin and prosumer” or “Samuel Beckett and Teletubbies”. Usually, there’s an unexpected link.’ In the latter case, it might be Beckett’s Quad (1981), whose four actors could be proto-Teletubbies; in the former, it’s Bakhtin’s dialogic understanding of how production oscillates between collectives and individuals – a dialectical motor Laric puts to work in his collectively-based pieces.
There is no distinction between the material Laric finds and that which he presents as his own. Laric’s exhibition ‘Kopienkritik’ (Copy Critique) at the Skulpturhalle in Basel in 2011 took its cue from the 19th-century methodological approach to philology and ancient sculpture, which viewed (inferior) Roman ‘copies’ in terms of (superior) Greek ‘originals’, reconstructing those lost originals via the bulk typologizing of inferior later copies. Laric cast and grouped that museum’s collection of Greek and Roman plaster casts into typologies, alongside video monitors and heads cast by the artist. ‘Copyright did not exist in ancient times, when authors frequently copied other authors at length in works of nonfiction.’ This declaration does not come from a history of literary influence, but from the GNU Manifesto, written by MIT’s Richard Stallman in 1985 to announce an influential, free software, mass collaboration coding project (and the theoretical backbone to much open-source digital content today). ‘Be promiscuous,’ reads an Open Source Initiative manifesto encouraging coders to distribute their works free of charge. Laric draws on this ethos of collective reworking.
Although you can find it on YouTube, Laric’s Touch My Body: Green Screen Version (2008) is not really a video but rather a participatory game, or dare, that Laric intended to be appropriated and modified. For Touch My Body…, Laric stripped Mariah Carey’s music video for her 2008 song of the same name of all but Carey herself, and replaced it with a green screen, against which any background could be inserted. When Laric posted the piece to YouTube that year, users took the cue and began uploading amateurish, witty remixes using Laric’s template. (Including one with a background of zombie gore taken from Sean of the Dead, 2004). Today, the first result when searching for Laric’s piece on YouTube is not his original video, but an amateur mash-up, of which there are many.
Memes – like fame, lies and capital – accrue value and cachet as they circulate. But they also date and flatten, and while Touch My Body … lacks the complexity of Laric’s later pieces, it demonstrates the atmosphere in which his work arose: the newly ‘social’ internet; the advent of the ‘prosumer’ (‘producer-consumer’ or ‘professional-consumer’) technology that enabled easy editing by 15 year olds; online video-sharing platforms; freely accessible, though commercial, image repositories such as Getty Images and Flickr. On a larger scale, the points of departure for Laric’s works have been incipient shifts in group structures and collective agency (shifts not limited to the internet), the global political atmospheres of what in the mid-2000s began to be called ‘truthiness’: a simultaneous reliance on, and distrust of, circulated images and narratives.
The striking succession of historical images that opens the first of Laric’s essayistic video series ‘Versions’ (2009–12) is as much a comment on political shilly-shallying as an assertion of the masses’ new claim on image production and circulation. The video, which is a trove of examples of the fraught status of reproductions and copies from recent and contemporary material culture, begins with an image (released by Iran’s state media to Agence France-Presse in 2008) of four missiles, which was used to illustrate Iran’s missile tests when it appeared on the pages of the Los Angeles Times and the Financial Times, among many others; following this, Laric inserts a graphic that indicates how that image was clearly manipulated, if not fabricated, using Photoshop (the multiple missiles are effectively copy-and-pasted from within the image). And finally, a series of user-generated spin-offs of the Photoshopped image showing dozens of missiles, their streams in comic curlicues. I can’t think of any better way of exemplifying Jean Baudrillard’s ideas about simulacra and hyperreality in our age of truthiness than this simple slideshow compiled by Laric.
Patrizio Di Massimo, Col Sole in Fronte (With The Sun In Front Of Me), 2010
Col Sole in Fronte (With The Sun In Front Of Me) begins on the ground floor of the gallery with the video Duets for Cannibals. This work was commisioned by Milan City Council and Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation in order to make a portrait of an African boy, Abdullay Kadal Traore, who has been living in Italy for several years. I accepted that request but not standing behind the camera and filming Abdullay as an exotic subject. The video becomes thus a dialogue or a duet in which we reason together about staging my proposal for the commission that he initially accepts and then rejects, revealing the intrinsic limit that we are not disposed to go beyond although we are both paid.
On the first floor, the exhibition continues with a double video installation Faccetta Nera, Faccetta Bianca (Italian, Little Black Face, Little White Face). The drawing that I showed to Abdullay in Duets for Cannibals becomes an image through the use of two actors and a photography study. The video installation examines the problem of difference with a dichotomic and literal attitude, and it gains its real meaning when is combined with the mistaken interpretation in the songs in question. In fact, Faccetta Nera was composed in order to attribute a noble motivation to the Ethiopia’s colonial invasion (1935) encouraging the Italian and the Abyssinian to unite; while Faccetta Bianca was the subsequent request of the regime that didn’t relish the first song. Facceta Bianca attempted to overturn it, however it did not gain a general acceptance among those who still sing Faccetta Nera identifying that “Black” as the ideology colour. Faccetta Nera, Faccetta Bianca:
If you look at the sea from the hills/Young negro slave amongst slaves/Like in a dream you will see many ships/And a tricolour waving for you/Little black face, beautiful Abyssinian/Wait and see the hour coming!/When we will be with you/We will give you another law and another king/Little black face, beautiful Abyssinian/Our law is slavery of love/We will take you to Rome freed/YOU WILL BE KISSED BY OUR SUN/and a black shirt you will be too/Little black face, you will be Roman/Your only flag will be Italian!/We will march together with you/and parade in front of the Duce and the king
Little white face, when I left you/That day on the pier in the steam/With the legionnaires I embarked/And your black eye gazing at the heart/It was equally moved as mine/While your hand was saying goodbye to me/Little white face, my love/Goodbye little, pale, tired face!/Little white face, one goes where one’s already been/in the trench, already on my mind again/among so many misty faces/IS YOUR LITTLE FACE, BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN/Nearly contrasting these black faces/your sharpshooter is a flame and a light/Little white face, my only passion/The day the sharpshooter will clasp you tightly to his chest with emotion/will come/Little white face, one goes where one’s already been/And your little, beautiful, white face/Will rest on a tired medal!
The exhibition pertains to the sun, that is said to be Italy’s petroleum, to our heads and faces, to the intensive dialogue between the Italian contemporary society and its specific colonial past. The Italian song, through its use and quotation, interweaves all the works in the show and expresses historical, cultural and image ties. The exhibition also includes a rich selection of drawings made in 2009.
Col Sole in Fronte is then this press release that explains itself as an artwork within the exhibition. It explains and extends itself all around looking for that place in the sun which is Italy, which should be Italy, but has never been.
Go…my heart, from flower to flower/with sweetness and with love/go you for me…./Go…since my happiness/WITH THE SUN IN FRONT (OF ME)/and happy I sing/blissfully…/I wanna live and enjoy/the air of the mountain/’cause this enchantment/costs nothing!/Ah, ah! Today I ardently love/that impertinent creek, minstrel of love/Ah, ah! The blossoming of the trees/keeps in feast this heart/do you know why?/I wanna live like this/with the sun in front (of me)/and happy I sing/I sing for me!/Ah, ah! Today I ardently love/that impertinent creek, minstrel of love/Ah, ah! The blossoming of the trees/keeps in feast this heart /do you know why?/I wanna live like this/ with the sun in front (of me)/and happy I sing/I sing for me!/