Author Archives: Magazine Contemporary Culture

Spectacle: “Thousands queued up to view the corpse in a ­supermarket cold store”

Muammar Gaddafi, the deposed leader of Libya, died on 20 October 2011 during the Battle of Sirte. Gaddafi was found hiding in a culvert west of Sirte and captured by National Transitional Council forces. He was killed shortly afterwards. The NTC initially claimed he died from injuries sustained in a firefight when loyalist forces attempted to free him, although videos of his last moments show rebel fighters beating him before he was shot several times.

The interim Libyan authorities decided to keep his body “for a few days”, NTC oil minister Ali Tarhouni said, “to make sure that everybody knows he is dead.” To that end, the body was moved to an industrial freezer where members of the public were permitted to view it as confirmation. Gaddafi’s body was publicly displayed in a freezer in Misrata until the afternoon of 24 October. Video shows Gaddafi’s body on display in the center of an emptied public freezer in Misrata. Some people drove hundreds of kilometres across Libya to see proof that he had died. One viewer of the body said about the public display of his corpse, “God made the pharaoh as an example to the others. If he had been a good man, we would have buried him. But he chose this destiny for himself.” A Reuters reporter who saw the body said that there was gunshot residue on the wounds, consistent with wounds of people when they are shot at close range.

Gaddafi’s body was displayed alongside that of his son, Mutassim Gaddafi, who also died in the custody of Misratan fighters after his capture in Sirte on 20 October. The younger Gaddafi’s body was removed from the refrigerator for burial at the same time as his father’s on 24 October.

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Books: Oscar Tuazon

Oscar Tuazon, I Can’t See, 2010
Do.Pe. Press, Paraguay Press, Edition of 2.000. Silkscreen cover, color ill.

This publication is the first monograph of American artist Oscar Tuazon. It accompanies the exhibition Bend It Till It Breaks, organized by Chiara Parisi and presented at Le Centre international d’art et du paysage de l’île de Vassivière (Ciap), November 15, 2009-February 14, 2010; Oscar Tuazon, organized by Philippe Pirotte and presented at Kunsthalle Bern, February 13-April 25, 2010; and the exhibition with Elias Hansen, It Was One of my Best Comes, organized by Sandra Patron and presented at Parc Saint Léger – Centre d’art contemporain, March 20 – June 6, 2010.

Edited by Oscar Tuazon, Thomas Boutoux, Pierre François Letué, and Dorothée Perret.

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Liam Gillick

Liam Gillick, German Pavilion at Venice Art Biennale, 2009

Born in England in 1964, Liam Gillick emphasizes his roots in postwar Europe and his consequent distrust of authority as major influences in his curatorial techniques and artistic practices. Currently working in London and New York, “engaged with the processes of the everyday,” he rejects the use of the term “contemporary art” citing it as historical and redundant.

Working in a variety of different mediums including large-scale installations, inkjet prints, and music, as well as curatorial projects and theoretical writings, Gillick’s work transcends disciplinary categories. In 2009, he was selected to represent Germany in the Venice Biennale, and he was nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in 2002. Gillick has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College in 2012, as well as solo shows at institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2009), Rotterdam’s Witte de With (2008), Kunsthalle Zurich (2008), the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2005), and the Museum of Modern Art (2003). He has also contributed to magazines and journals such as Frieze, Artforum, and October.

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Documentary: A balloon to Allah

A Balloon to Allah, Nefise Özkal Lorentzen, 52 min, Documentary.

Norwegian-Turkish filmmaker Nefise Özkal Lorentzen wants to send a balloon to change the role of women in the Muslim culture. By following her grandmother’s path as a ‘sufi’, she embarks on a journey to rediscover the Islam of her mother’s mother. The film switches between her actual journey and her dreams.

She experiences the diversity of Cairo, Istanbul and Oslo by drinking tea with the Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi, finding hope and inspiration in the life of the 90-year-old author Gamal al-Banna and meeting a young Salafist. On her journey through the labyrinth, it dawns on Nefise that Islam is not the only place to search, but that there are correlations between the three Abrahamic religion and the oppression of women.

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Liliane Lijn

Liliane Lijn, In the valley of darkness Liliane Lijn, In the valley of darkness 1973

Liliane Lijn, In The Valley of Darkness, 1973

Partly, perhaps as an act of mourning; more obviously as a reparative act, Lijn conceived of her manipulation of prisms as giving them a kind of restorative posthumous existence to remedy their mutilated identity: “A prism on its own is lost. It has no feet, no legs to stand on”. Her fantasy ran that they had lost their function in a world of technical forms by no longer being “anchored into a machine, which one way or another will be a machine for seeing… I must give it a body”.

Liliane Lijn (born 1939), is an American-born artist who was the first woman artist to work with kinetic text (Poem Machines), exploring both light and text as early as 1962. She has lived in London since 1966.

Utilising highly original combinations of industrial materials and artistic processes, Lijn is recognised for pioneering the interaction of art, science, technology, eastern philosophy and female mythology. Lijn is particularly known for her timeless, cone-shaped Koan series. In conversation with Fluxus artist and writer, Charles Dreyfus, Lijn stated that she primarily chose to ‘see the world in terms of light and energy’. Lijn describes her work as ‘A constant dialogue between opposites, my sculptures use light and motion to transform themselves from solid to void, opaque to transparent, formal to organic.’

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Harm Van den Dorpel

Harm van den Dorpel Harm van den Dorpel

Harm Van den Dorpel, Animal series, 2008

Harm van den Dorpel (born 1981 in Zaandam, The Netherlands) is a Berlin-based conceptual artist. With his work he investigates aesthetic hierarchies and cybernetic organisations of art and contemporary visual culture in general. He explores how intuitive associative expression, and algorithmically structured information systems can operate in hybrid. His practice includes sculpture, collage, animation and websites. He is regarded a key figure in Post-Internet art. Harm van den Dorpel is represented by Wilkinson Gallery in London. His work has been shown in the exhibition ‘Free’ at the New Museum in New York, and the survey exhibition ‘Art Post-Internet’ at The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art.

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Balenciaga Spring Summer 2012

Balenciaga spring summer 2012

Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga, Spring 2012, 2011

At least five benches collapsed as people took their seats at the Rue Cassette space of the Balenciaga show. Too much soufflé last night, maybe? No one was badly hurt, just startled, but before another one could go crashing to the floor, a voice came on the loudspeaker and asked the audience to stand. It sort of felt like church. Which was fitting; the fashion set has long worshipped at the altar of Nicolas Ghesquière.

Even without the bench brouhaha, though, this would’ve been a memorable Ghesquière collection. He’s often gone back to Cristobal’s archives, but with other designers looking to midcentury couture this season, what set apart his own dip into history was the way he adapted traditionally haute constructions to the street. On the one hand, he asked himself, what are the elements of a classic urban wardrobe? And on the other, how do I Cristo-fy them with the legendary couturier’s floating, almost suspended shapes?

Quotidian jean jackets inspired spongy color-blocked numbers with shoulders as exaggerated as the short shorts paired with them were small. Denim made an appearance, too, but these weren’t the rear end- and leg-enhancing pants that are Ghesquière’s bread and butter. Rather, they were belted high on the waist and pleated for a fuller shape through the thigh. Sailor uniforms got an airing in the form of striped ottoman V-neck oversize tunic dresses. And even white T-shirts got the haute treatment, in a foamy fabric in slouchy, asymmetrical cuts. Some of these shapes were more challenging than others, but they’ll resonate with his fashion-mad fans.

Ghesquière really pushed the silhouette with the dresses at the end of the show. Patchworked from archival black and white prints or panels of tan and black, they came with Watteau backs that ballooned behind the models. With their large, elliptical brims, their visors (borrowed from a famous Irving Penn photograph) accentuated the bold diagonal lines.

If the Twin Peaks soundtrack playing before the show was any clue, unsettling the eye was at least part of Ghesquière’s point. (David Lynch, by the way, is having a moment; he designed Paris’ most talked-about new nightclub, Silencio.) No one can look backward and come up with propositions we’ve never seen before like Ghesquière can. Amen to that. Nicole Phelps.

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Gert Robijns

Gert Robijns, Tri de graver, 2010, Happy New Year, 2008 and Pro Deo, 2006

Gert Robijn’s exhibition Happy New Year shows six new pieces. They are characterised by a clear style and referring to everyday situations. Themes such as perception, organisation and classification are treated in an instinctive manner. Elementary scientific experiences are being displayed in a minimal fashion. An apparently new balance arises between concepts such as light/heavy, below/above, covered/uncovered, visible/invisible. The items on display have their conventions taken away, renewed, as if they had been painted over.
The objects have been placed in various ways on formica-coated showcases, which remind one of shapes that can be found in every house. Refrigerators, kitchen units, occasional tables, white, austere blocks. The sides are sometimes interrupted by a shade of grey, which makes one hesitate between a constant shadow and an area of colour.

Robijns’ Liter shows two milk cartons on the level of a kitchen table. While one is still in its recognizable, original condition, the other has had its top removed and has been filled with a plastic bag containing exactly 1 litre of water. This bag partly droops over the carton in small folds. One appears to be light, the other heavy. New Balance also seems to refer to heaviness and weight. Two shoes crushed under the edge of the case. A similar, absurd scene can be found in Dieet. An empty packet of biscuits is being displayed on a lower case. The glass has been positioned right in front it. As if a passer-by hastily ate the contents and then walked off. The shape of the showcase has been applied in a more complex manner in the work Lijn N°5. There it functions as a machine, maybe a fax or a printer. Five pencils, that can draw five straight lines, are submerged in the wood. Right underneath is a groove where paper can be inserted or taken out. Scanner is another example of a machine that has been brought back to utter simplicity. It shows how two loose objects can represent a very complex device like a scanner. Happy New Year shows five diaries of different sizes ranging from a small pocket size to a double A4. This work visualizes the difficulty of predicting how busy the year will be, how many new exhibition projects and artistic productions there will take place.

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Exhibition: See, We assemble

6. F image mark_leckey_see_we_assemble_2011_6

Mark Leckey, See, We assemble, Installation View, 2011

See, We assemble, 19 May – 26 June, 2011
Serpentine Gallery, London

Leckey conceptualises the past and present through his “performance” piece entitled Sound Systems, an on-going project since 2001. In the central space of the gallery, a tall bronze sculpture by Henry Moore faces a large stack of speakers, which appear to mimic the sculpture in terms of height and verticality. It seems as if Leckey has purported to match the present with the elegance of the past, as the arrangement of the erected sculptures assume an authoritative presence in the otherwise, empty gallery. The only other piece exhibited is a small poster that functions to inform visitors of the upcoming dates of performances, for the sound art changes week to week. The performance aspect of Sound Systems relies on the sound emanating from the speakers that aims to elicit a response from the Moore sculpture. The sound I experienced was irregular and menacing, reminiscent of the immense roar emitted by furnace/exhaust. It was however, very sporadic, often occurring in fifteen-minute intervals. Between the moments of vibratory clamor were low grumbles and humming that verified its animate existence. While occasionally unpleasant, the inclusion of sound, particularly in relation to the sculpture, achieves a theatrical presence that renders a true sense of chemistry in the communication between past and present.

While its status as a performance piece could be debated, Leckey’s final installation entitled GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction also exhibits aspects of theatricality. The temporary transformation of the gallery into a green screen not only provides a visual connection to the grassy fields of Kensington Gardens, but it also served as the backdrop in the production of the film that is exhibited here on two mounted flat screens. Located between them is the focal point of the work, the black Samsung “smart” refrigerator. Both the fridge and the Samsung name appear almost constantly throughout the film, whether seen against a natural landscape or viewed internally, in a scientifically-charged description that concerns its inner workings. The fridge not only stars in the video, it narrates it as well, in a muffled, robotic voice. The artist has reinvented the concept of the readymade by conveying its animate status in connection to the worldly, and out-of-worldly, environments. While Leckey’s elevation of the object to cult status may be interpreted as wildly propagandistic, it could conversely be interpreted as a commentary on technological advancements, particularly “smart” products which possess the abilities to think and function on their own in correspondence to the needs of its user. Thus not only do we become more dependent on these objects, but we form relationships with them as well. GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction may be understood as Leckey’s prediction of the future of technology in our lives, as well as its effects on the art world.

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Thomas Demand

Thomas Demand, Embassy VI, 2007

Thomas Demand is known for making photographs of three-dimensional models that look like real images of rooms and other spaces, often sites loaded with social and political meanings. He thus describes himself not as a photographer, but as a conceptual artist for whom photography is an intrinsic part of his creative process. Having studied sculpture under Fritz Schwegler at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf alongside Katharina Fritsch and Thomas Schütte, Demand began his career as a sculptor.

In 1993, he began to use photography to record his elaborate, life-sized paper-and-cardboard constructions of actually or formerly existing environments and interior spaces, and soon started to create constructions for the sole purpose of photographing them. The photograph he takes of this model with a large-format-camera is the final stage of his work, and it is only this image, most often executed in an edition, of six that is exhibited unframed behind Plexiglas, not the models. On the contrary, Demand destroys his “life-size environments” after he has photographed them. One notable exception is his large scale model for Grotto (2006), inspired by a postcard of a Mallorcan grotto Demand has never visited, which was later exhibited. The life sized models are highly detailed, yet they retain subtle but deliberate flaws and anachronisms, such as an unnaturally uniform texture; according to art critic Michael Kimmelman, “the reconstructions were meant to be close to, but never perfectly, realistic so that the gap between truth and fiction would always subtly show”.

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James Turrell

James Turrell, Alta (White), 1967

James Turrell (born May 6, 1943) is an American artist primarily concerned with light and space. Turrell was a MacArthur Fellow in 1984. Turrell is best known for his work in progress, Roden Crater, a natural cinder cone crater located outside Flagstaff, Arizona that he is turning into a massive naked-eye observatory.

“Well, my interest is working with light and space.
And you got light and you got space, there’s no doubt of that. And it’s always something to work with light in the outdoors.
That’s something that I wanted to do, wanted to shape space, to use the light that was here naturally.
Also, I wanted to use the very fine qualities of light.
First of all, moonlight.
Also, there’s a space where you can see your shadow from the light of Venus alone – things like this.
And also wanted to gather starlight that was from outside,
light that’s not only from outside the planetary system
which would be from the sun or reflected off of the moon or a planet,
but also to emanate light from the galactic planes
where you’ve got this older light
that’s away from the light even of our galaxy.
So that is light that would be at least three and a half billion years old.
So you’re gathering light that’s older than our solar system.
And it’s possible to gather that light,
it takes a good bit of stars to do that,
and a good look into older skies, away from the Milky Way.
You can gather that light and physically have that in place so that it’s physically present to feel this old light.
That’s something that you can do here in a place like this,
where you have good, dark skies.
So to have this sort of old blended light and to have this sort of new,
eight and a half minute old light from the sun.
And I wanted to look at light that way, because to feel it physically,
almost as we taste things, was a quality I wanted.”

In 1966, Turrell began experimenting with light in his Santa Monica studio, the Mendota Hotel, at a time when the so-called Light and Space group of artists in Los Angeles, including Robert Irwin, Mary Corse and Doug Wheeler, was coming into prominence. By covering the windows and only allowing prescribed amounts of light from the street outside to come through the openings, Turrell created his first light projections. In Shallow Space Constructions (1968) he used screened partitions, allowing a radiant effusion of concealed light to create an artificially flattened effect within the given space. That same year, he participated in the Los Angeles County Museum’s Art and Technology Program, investigating perceptual phenomena with the artist Robert Irwin and psychologist Edward Wortz. In 1969, he made sky drawings with Sam Francis, using colored skywriting smoke and cloud-seeding materials. A pivotal environment Turrell developed from 1969 to 1974, for The Mendota Stoppages several rooms in the former Mendota Hotel in Santa Monica were sealed off, the window apertures controlled by the artist to allow natural and artificial light to enter the darkened spaces in specific ways.

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Richard Prince

Richard Prince, Untitled (hippie drawing, Allen Ginsberg), 2000 – 2005

Richard Prince (born 1949) is an American painter and photographer. Prince began appropriating photographs in 1975. His image, Untitled (Cowboy), a “rephotograph” of a photograph taken originally by Sam Abell and appropriated from a cigarette advertisement, was the first “rephotograph” to raise more than $1 million at auction when it was sold at Christie’s New York in 2005.

Starting in 1977, Prince photographed four photographs which previously appeared in the New York Times. This process of re-photographing continued into 1983, when his work Spiritual America featured Garry Gross’s photo of Brooke Shields at the age of ten, standing in a bathtub, as an allusion to precocious sexuality and to the Alfred Stieglitz photograph by the same name. His Jokes series (beginning 1986) concerns the sexual fantasies and sexual frustrations of middle-class America, using stand-up comedy and burlesque humor.

After living in New York City for 25 years, Prince moved to upstate New York. His mini-museum, Second House, purchased by the Guggenheim Museum, was struck by lightning and burned down shortly after the museum purchased the House (which Richard had created for himself), having only stood for six years, from 2001 to 2007. In 2008 the painting ‘Overseas Nurse’ from 2002 fetched a record breaking $8,452,000 at Sotheby’s in London. Prince now lives and works in New York City.

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Armando Andrade Tudela

Armando Andrade Tudela, Untitled (Rattan 4), 2009

Armando Andrade Tudela (born 1975, Lima, Peru) is an artist living and working in St Etienne, France and Berlin, Germany.

Andrade studied at Pontifícia Universidad Católica, Lima, Perú, The Royal College of Arts, London, and at the Jan Van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht. He was a founding member of the artist run space and art collective Espacio La Culpable, Lima, Perú.

Andrade has taken part in the 2006 São Paulo Biennial, the 2006 Shanghai Biennial and the 2005 Torino Triennale.

His latest solo show, INKA SNOW is an extension of the artist’s ongoing research practice into forms of Tropical Modernism. In previous works, like CAMION (2004), his series of Billboard Photographs (2004-5) and Fragmentos de Escultura (2005), the artist has recombined existing and imagined forms out of a growing interest in local manifestations of the informal that occur on the precarious boundary between the historic and the new.

Tudela is represented by Carl Freedman Gallery, London.

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