What makes a painter paint? In her Bedford-Stuyvesant studio, artist Jamian Juliano-Villani uses a digital projector to create surreal paintings and discusses the graphic source material that inspires her. Juliano-Villani’s Brooklyn studio is crowded with a wildly varied collection of books ranging from 70s-era fashion, to commercial illustration, to Scientific American-style photography, to obscure European comic art. This vast image bank—which the artist began collecting in high school—generates the building blocks for her mashup creative process. “When I’m working I’ll have thirty images in a month or two months that I’ll keep on coming back to, and I’ll try and make those work with what I’m doing, but they’ll never look like they’re supposed to be together,” says Juliano-Villani. “That’s when the painting can change from an image-based narrative to something else.”
Working quickly and intuitively with the projector, Juliano-Villani toggles through a series of potential images on her laptop as a way to discover solutions for content and composition. Long attracted to cartoons, the artist borrows from illustration as a way to deflate painting’s historical pretensions and to speak in a more direct language; and yet, despite her use of vernacular imagery, what her works ultimately communicate might only be personally understood. “Painting is the thing that validates me and the thing that makes me feel good. I care about it, and they care about me. That’s why I put the things that I collect and really, really love in my paintings,” says Juliano-Villani. “They’re helping me figure out the things that I can’t communicate to myself yet.”
Her trippy acrylic paintings combine cartoonish imagery from far-flung sources, some of them actual cartoons from artists like Chuck Jones. She calls her use of other artists’ work “simultaneous exploitation and homage.”
Juliano-Villani explained her thinking in a Facebook comment: “It’s important to realize that all visual culture is fair game for artistic content, ‘appropriation’ isn’t a ‘kind’ of work, it’s almost all art. When making a painting or a print or a sculpture, it’s nearly impossible to make something without thinking of something else. A good reminder that when dealing with images 1) once an image is used, it isn’t dead. it can be recontextualized, redistributed, reimagined. 2) It should have several lives and exist in different scenarios.”
The Trades of Others, 2008, and Finding Chopin: Dans l’Essex, 2014
Through live performance and audio recordings of spoken texts, Vonna-Michell relays circuitous and multilayered narratives that combine personal anecdotes and historical research. Vonna-Michell’s narrative structures are characterized by repeated detours, dead ends, and streams of association. Dense conglomeration of photographic material, from film and slide projections to photographic prints and other ephemera form a “visual script” that is animated by the artist’s recitations. Integrating fiction and factual information, Vonna-Michell’s narratives address the nature of coincidence and contingency, often referencing his personal history and artistic production. His practice builds on a process that is both recursive and prospective with images drawn from his own archive, including those from previous works, continually reappearing in new configurations.
By splicing the lived with the learnt, Vonna-Michell’s stories and actions form a personal analogue to that monumental act of dispersal and investigation: the large-scale destruction of documents by Stasi officials in 1989, and the new government’s subsequent commissioning of archivists (nicknamed ‘the puzzlers’) to reassemble the mountain of some 600 million scraps. For a month in 2005 Vonna-Michell holed up in a GDR-era Leipzig bed-sit alone with his personal archive of photographs, taking 36 exposures of each image before painstakingly shredding each one by hand. This fragmented portfolio was later presented at his Glasgow School of Art degree show, the resulting photographic slides now used in performance, mementoes of a partial re-enactment and an end-point to his earlier body of work.
Other objects that Vonna-Michell uses in performance have an insufficient and temporary quality: in hahn/huhn, a conspiracy thriller that ducks into the tunnels rumoured to lie under Berlin’s Anhalter Bahnhof, three blocks of dry ice squat in a line between artist and listener, chilling the feet and offering a shonky reminder of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall; episodes in Finding Chopinare represented by a newspaper clipping, an egg carton and a stick of rock. So ephemeral are these carefully gathered props that many were allegedly stolen during an exhibition in Brussels in 2006, after which the artist replaced them with a seven-inch vinyl recording, Short Stories & Tall Tales (2007). The record is the only saleable item Vonna-Michell has produced to date, the token of a failure to maintain an archive that yet gestures towards the continuing possibility of circulation. An archive attempts a totalizing collection of information, but what if, as in the case of the Stasi, it is kept safe or destroyed, hoarded or dispersed?
Vonna-Michell’s practice reflects on the possibility of recording and transmitting history through the spoken and written word, tracing the associative complexities of how histories and rumours are told.
Tris Vonna-Michell lives and works between Stockholm and Southend-on-Sea in the UK. Recent solo exhibitions have been organized by VOX Centre de l’Image Contemporain in Montreal, T293 in Rome, Jan Mot in Brussels, Capitain Petzel in Berlin, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, Metro Pictures in New York, and Cabinet Gallery in London. Vonna-Michell’s work has been included in exhibitions at the Tate Britain in London, Moderna Museet in Malmö, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Secession in Vienna, the Shanghai Biennial, and the Yokohama Triennial. Vonna-Michell was nominated for the 2014 Turner Prize, and was awarded the Baloise Art Prize and Ars Viva Prize for Fine Arts in 2008. He studied at the Glasgow School of Art, the Städelschule in Frankfurt, and Emily Carr University in Vancouver.
Sascha Weidner, Am Wasser Gebaut, 2009, Lay Down Close By, 2012 and La lutte de J. Avec l´ange, 2006.
Sascha Weidner was a German Photographer and Artist, who lived and worked in Belm and Berlin. The work of Sascha Weidner deals with the creation of a radical subjective pictorial world. His photographs are characterized by perceptions, aspirations and the world of the subconscious. His work has been exhibited and published internationally. Sascha Weidner died suddenly at age 38.
“It’s not about putting pictures on the wall. I use the room to tell my story, to create a theme, a storyline, underlined by a romantic melancholy. It’s totally authentic, like I am. A lot of times, it’s also too much, like I am. Feeling too much and speaking too much.”
In his essay ‘What Is the Contemporary?’ the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben argues that contemporaneity is defined not by being attuned to one’s times but, on the contrary, by being disconnected and out of touch. For Agamben, the contemporary is precisely that which contrasts with the present so sharply that the latter’s contours become visible. I was reminded of Agamben’s thesis when visiting Sascha Weidner’s exhibition, ‘The Presence of Absence’. The show presented a wide variety of media and topics, ranging from photographs taken in a forest in Japan to sculptures referencing a family in Germany. There were also light-boxes and collages, pictures of graffiti and cherry blossoms. What connected each of the works, however, as the exhibition’s title made clear, was a concern with developing procedures to envision the invisible and the attempt to find traces of the past in the present.
Central to the exhibition was a series of photographs Weidner shot while hiking in Aokigahara, a forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. Rumoured to be so dense that no one who enters it ever leaves, it has long been the subject of Japanese mythology, inspiring folk tales, as well as appearing in modern literature, including a novel by Haruki Murakami. It is also a prime spot for suicides. Weidner followed the paths of people who entered before him, documenting traces of the journeys of those whose travels went unnoticed. Many of these photographs were sparsely and unevenly illuminated, reflecting the maze-like density of the forest, as well as alluding to the frail spirit of the wanderers. They included images of the ribbons people attach to branches every few metres in case they change their minds and want to retrace their path (Atropos II, 2013); bits of rope and plastic left to rot (Untitled, 2014); crushed red berries in the snow (Untitled, 2014); and the shadows of trees (Untitled, 2013). The idea was simple (sort of old-school Existentialism, in fact) and the execution expertly straightforward (some Romanticism here, some Pictorialism there). Yet, by showing both what Weidner’s predecessors on these paths might have seen and, at the same time, documenting what remains to be seen of them, the work was incredibly powerful – and, perhaps above all, complex – creating a mythological emotional territory of very real terror. Indeed, the closest parallel I could think of was Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary film about the Indonesian mass executions in the 1960s, The Act of Killing (2012).
The works in the show all articulated the presence of an absence by providing the contours of that absence, the ghosts of a past. In the moving looped video The Presence of Absence II (2014), a Chinese man dances a waltz on his own, his arms wrapped around an invisible woman (whose bag may still be visible in the margins of the screen). And the series of collages titled ‘Ecken’ (2014) features photo corners that no longer secure any photos, now functionless, they inevitably recall their prior use. They call to mind the notes that the elderly Immanuel Kant used to try to drive a particular person from his memory, writing: ‘The name Lampe must be completely forgotten’ – a method that was, of course, entirely self-defeating.
Weidner’s exhibition proved itself contemporary – in a time of simulacra and algorithms, of Post-internet art and Ulrich Beck’s ‘risk society’ – by sincerely reintroducing the ‘real’, retracing it as if it were still out there, an invisible thread to be revealed and unravelled. Of course, the artist understands that, after Jean Baudrillard and the post-structuralists, the ‘real’ is no longer an unproblematic register if, indeed, it ever was. But it can be experienced nevertheless, he seemed to suggest, as an affective performance. Weidner’s photographs and collages, his video of the dancing man: they all perform reality as mourning, an acting-out of the present by way of a script from the past, looking forward while feeling backwards. In this, they are a performance of contemporaneity itself – precisely in the way described by Agamben, connecting to the present by not being of it.
Written by Timotheus Vermeulen, published in Frieze, Issue 169, March 2015.
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.”
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.
“I knew about the gallery before I ever moved to the United States,” says Philippe Vergne, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art who first landed in the U.S. in 1990s. “If you look at the Los Angeles art scene, Regen Projects, together with a handful of galleries, was really the organization that promoted artists working here from my generation. They represent a group that has been extremely important: Liz Larner, Raymond Pettibon and Cathy Opie, who has been a very important to MOCA not only as an artist but as a member of the board.”
This is the gallery that gave the California-born Barney his first solo gallery show in 1991, when the artist was all of 24. And it was the first to represent L.A. artist Opie, whose elegant portraits of drag kings and S&M fetishists from the 1990s sent a gender-ambiguous lightning bolt through the world of contemporary photography. In 2004, the gallery served as the site of Glenn Ligon’s first solo gallery show in Los Angeles, an exhibition of his gritty text paintings, which borrow passages from a vast array of cultural figures, from Ralph Ellison to Richard Pryor.
The story began in the late 1980s, when Shaun Caley met Stuart Regen at an opening at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. Regen was part of an art dynasty, the son of prominent New York dealer Barbara Gladstone. He had worked at the experimental PS1 art space in New York (now part of the Museum of Modern Art) and later served as the director of the Fred Hoffman Gallery in Santa Monica. Caley, an art critic, had just landed in L.A. after a stint in Milan, where she’d served as managing editor of the magazine Flash Art. The two met for lunch. Regen offered Caley a job directing his soon-to-be-opened gallery.
“Stuart had always wanted to have an art gallery,” says Caley Regen, and the ’80s provided just the right confluence of happenings in Los Angeles. “There had been the opening of MOCA and the Broad Foundation. And there was a cluster of interesting galleries: Margo Leavin, Fred Hoffman and Daniel Weinberg.”
“We came to the idea that it would be an exciting venture and it was that simple,” recalls Weiner, who says the couple’s seriousness persuaded him that it would be the right thing to do. “It will sound pretentious, but they talked about the work and how it set a tone for the people they were trying to attract. I’d been showing in Los Angeles since the ’60s. I have very dear friends who I made projects with, from DeWain Valentine to Ed Ruscha. They saw me as an integral part of Los Angeles culture.”
A string of important shows followed: a light exhibition by James Turrell, prints by the innovative German painter Gerhard Richter and participation in a three-gallery tribute to Nicholas Wilder, an L.A. dealer who had helped foster the careers of painter David Hockney and minimalist sculptor John McLaughlin.
The gallery’s biggest coup, however, came in May 1991, with the first solo gallery exhibition by Barney, who would become one of the definitive artists of the decade. The show was a fusion of performance, sculpture, installation and photography. There were objects related to sports (a football jersey) and sex (bondage belts), as well as a metal cooling chamber that harbored an exercise bench sculpted out of petroleum jelly. The exhibition was a surreal examination by the former athlete of the cult of the body in relation to athletics.
“Stuart had seen his work in New York and was blown away,” remembers Caley Regen. “It was indescribable, so protean. He was using materials people hadn’t used: medical things, sports things, the body. I thought it was amazing.”
The show received a glowing write-up in industry bible Artforum. Kristine McKenna, who reviewed the show for this paper, described it as “rivetingly weird,” an installation that drew vital attention “to the complex and fragile interplay between spirit and flesh.”
“You put these things out in the world,” she says. “If you show great art, people will come to you.”
Co-founder of Seventeen Gallery, Hoyland, came to London from Shropshire to study at Chelsea College of Art & Design. “I wanted to be a ground-breaking performance artist.” Instead, in the late 1990s he went to work at Coskun Fine Art in Knightsbridge, run by Gul Coskun: “High heels, short skirts and Warhols. The hardest-working woman I’ve ever met.” Inspired, he opened Seventeen in 2005 with Nick Letchford, who he’d met two years earlier in a Hoxton bar. Specialising in video, the gallery on Kingsland Road represents nine artists, including sculptor Susan Collis and Oliver Laric.
How do you find artists? “I meet them in the pub. Finding artists is easy, finding people you like is harder.”
What kind of work catches your eye? “Detailed work with lots of labour involved. I like artists to bleed for it and to see that problems have been overcome.”
What’s been the highlight so far? “Being a gallerist is self-indulgent; it fulfils your art needs and is emotionally easier than being an artist. You get all the cream without any risk.”
Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin, established in 2008, is dedicated to developing a cross-disciplinary, trans-generational gallery programme with off-site projects, in collaboration with artists, filmmakers, critics, art historians, and curators. Its international exhibition programme reflects a variety of opinions and practices as well as Leighton’s associations with American and British experimental cinema, artist’s film and video, performance, minimal and conceptual art.
Solo exhibitions by established and emerging artists intersperse with conceptually-motivated group exhibitions and projects. The gallery engages in the re-examination of historical frameworks and practices, in order to bring marginalized figures, objects, events and contexts back into focus. Gallery exhibitions and events have presented and restaged historical works by artists, filmmakers, and designers such as unsung hero of British avant-garde cinema John Smith, Chinese-American painter David Diao, British conceptual artist Bruce McLean, and Italian master designer Enzo Mari. Leighton also produces and exhibits new and recent work by artists from North America, Austria, Britain, China, Colombia, Czech-Republic, Germany, Palestine, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Uruguay – including Ayreen Anastas, Pavel Büchler, Alejandro Cesarco, Aleksandra Domanovic, Rene Gabri, Sharon Hayes, Sanya Kantarovsky, Oliver Laric, Dan Rees, Lucas Ospina, amongst others.
A series of events at the gallery and at off-site locations have included performances by Norwegian musicians Nils Bech and Bendik Giske, Bulgarian artist Voin de Voin, British artist Ian White, and American artist David Levine. A special Artists Edition Series offers exclusive artists editions coinciding with the exhibitions and events. The first of the series includes new editions by: Matthew Buckingham, Douglas Gordon, Sharon Hayes, Anthony McCall, Martha Rosler, and John Smith.
Lauren Greenfield, Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood, 1997, Girl Culture, 2002 and Thin, 2006
Acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield is considered a preeminent chronicler of youth culture, gender, fashion, media, wealth, beauty, and consumer culture as a result of her groundbreaking photographic projects (Girl Culture, Fast Forward, and THIN) and her documentary films (THIN, kids + money, Beauty CULTure, and The Queen of Versailles).
Her photographs have been widely published and exhibited, and are in many museum collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the J. Paul Getty Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the International Center of Photography, the Center for Creative Photography, the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), the Harvard University Archive, the Smith College Museum of Art, the Clinton Library, and the French Ministry of Culture.
In 2012, she received one of the highest honors in documentary film, the Sundance Film Festival Directing Award, US Documentary 2012 for her documentary film, “The Queen of Versailles”. In 2003, American PHOTO Magazine named her one of the “The 25 Most Important Photographers Now.” In 2005, she shared the number three spot of the “100 Most Important People in Photography” (American Photo Magazine). She is the recipient of numerous photography awards and grants, including the ICP Infinity Award for Young Photographer (1996), the Art Directors Club Gold Cube for Photography (2011), a National Geographic Grant, a Hasselblad Foundation Grant, the People’s Choice Award at the Moscow Biennial, and the NPPA Community Awareness Award.
In 2009, Greenfield was one of eight photographers featured in the inaugural exhibit (L8S ANG3L3S) at The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. In 2010, Greenfield’s work was also featured in a major historical exhibition at the Getty Museum entitled Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties (2010). Her THIN and Girl Culture traveling exhibitions, curated by Trudy Wilner Stack, have been seen by half a million people in over thirty venues around the world.
Greenfield’s first feature-length documentary film, THIN, aired on HBO, and is accompanied by a photography book of the same name (Chronicle Books, 2006). In this unflinching and incisive study, Greenfield embarks on an emotional journey through the Renfrew Center in Coconut Creek, Florida, a residential facility dedicated to the treatment of eating disorders. The feature-length documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 and was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Direction in 2007. It won the Grierson Award for best documentary at the London Film Festival, and Grand Jury Prizes at the Independent Film Festival of Boston, the Newport International Film Festival, and the Jackson Hole Film Festival. The project was featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Nightline, and CNN and was excerpted in People Magazine. Greenfield’s followed-up documentary short film, entitled kids + money, was selected for the Sundance Film Festival 2008, won the Audience Award at the AFI Film Festival, the Hugo Gold Plaque at the Chicago International Television Awards, the Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary, the Cinema Eye Honor for Nonfiction Filmmaking, and broadcast on HBO in 2008. The film is a conversation with young people from diverse Los Angeles communities about the role of money in their lives. Her third documentary short, Beauty CULTure, was commissioned by The Annenberg Space for Photography in 2011, and became the central installation for a record-setting exhibition in Los Angeles (also entitled Beauty CULTure). Shot in Paris, New York and Los Angeles, this film is a critical examination of “…beauty in popular culture, the narrowing definition of beauty in contemporary society, and the influence of media messages on the female body image”. The short was selected to premiere in the Tribeca Film Festival’s Shorts Program in 2012.
In January 2012, Lauren Greenfield received the Sundance Film Festival’s Directing Award, US Documentary 2012 for her documentary feature film, The Queen of Versailles, which was released theatrically in 2012 (Magnolia Pictures), and will broadcast on Bravo in 2013. The film went on to become on of the top-grossing documentary films in 2012, received numerous awards, nominations, and “Best of 2012” accolades, including the Grand Jury Prize from the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFFDOCS), a Best Director Award from the RiverRun Film Festival, a Special Jury Documentary Feature prize from the deadCenter Film Festival, and a prestigious nomination for Best Documentary Film, 2012 by the International Documentary Association (IDA). In 2013, Greenfield was one on only five directors nominated by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentaries for the year 2012. According to PBS/POV, The Queen of Versailles was ranked #2 of the Top 10 Documentaries of 2012, based on awards, nominations, peer recommendations, and other ranking criteria.
Greenfield graduated from Harvard in 1987 and started her career as an intern for the National Geographic Magazine. She lectures on her photography, youth culture, popular culture, and body image at museums and universities around the world.
Simon Denny, New Management, 2014, Screen Crush Comparison 1, 2013 and TEDxVaduz redux, 2014, Installation Views
In a clipping from a 1914 edition of The New York Times, it is reported that dancer Paul Swan collapsed in the middle of the stage during his vaudeville debut. Almost a century later, on the evening that Simon Denny’s most recent exhibition opened at Friedrich Petzel Gallery, a perfectly aligned row of freestanding double canvases imitating flat-screen television sets crumbled like dominoes after a visitor inadvertently knocked them over. Like the seven paintings on duty that night, the performer billed by the press as “the most beautiful man” soon returned to the stage, put back on his feet by assistants, and finished his number to ecstatic acclaim.
Appropriately opening with a physical collapse in the gallery, Denny’s first solo exhibition in New York drew its material from two market crashes. “Corporate Video Decisions” is the title of similar exhibitions he presented at Michael Lett gallery in Auckland, New Zealand, and now at Friedrich Petzel in New York – but also that of a trade magazine from the late 1980s, circulated to corporations to help them boost consumer confidence using video after a market meltdown. In addition to a company website called Diligent Board Portals offering “paperless solutions” to corporate boardrooms, the defunct magazine provided images and text that Denny appropriated for works shown at Petzel – digital prints on canvas, videos, and found objects tracing an arc in time between the current recession and one that took place some 20 years ago.
In the video “Corporate Video Decisions Archive Interface Design” (2011), played onto a Samsung LN46C750 46-inch monitor at the entrance of the gallery, one recession is literally dragged and dropped into the other. Produced with the help of a corporate DVD designer, the video is based on Cover Flow, an animated, three-dimensional graphical user interface integrated within iTunes and other Apple Inc. products for visually flipping through content. Loaded with a digital archive of the magazine Corporate Video Decisions, Denny’s video endlessly cycles through issues of the publication as one would through a collection of mp3s. Like a rare album downloaded from an obscure blog, the colorful 1980s graphic design and zany creative photography of the cover pages were imported into a familiar interface – not just that of Cover Flow, but of Denny’s work, in which the creative subjectivity of the artist virtuosically hearkens back to the artist’s role as a consumer free from the needs of production.
When iTunes abstracts physical records into digital files, it merely reflects what Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction,” a moment in which a part of the economy falters to make room for growth and innovation elsewhere – Cover Flow is one such digital music venture that was born from the demise of physical records. Denny’s work often functions by latching onto such economic cycles of obsolescence to generate artworks.
If those who lose their jobs during a recession usually have to settle for lesser pay elsewhere (that is, if they can find work at all), outdated objects like records, books, and electronics can greatly appreciate on niche markets kept afloat by collectors and hipsters. Something like this is happening when a television set thrown onto the curb or a defunct trade magazine becomes a painting or a sculpture in a gallery. For a residency, Denny once transformed photographic reproductions of an art center’s complete inventory of audiovisual equipment (including many outdated CRT monitors and VHS players) into relief paintings – a set of two canvases printed with the same photographic image of the television and superimposed using metal fittings adjusted to the real object’s thickness.
Produced using still images of the Samsung monitor hung in the same room, seven such canvases were shown freestanding on a drop cloth of transparent plastic at the center of Petzel’s exhibition space. Organized by the rigid architecture of Cover Flow, each canvas was an austere and cold, yet jazzy collage in which images of Corporate Video Decisions’s (the magazine) cover pages hovered above smaller images of their own content, which formed a tapestry in the background. Their display in a row formation was reminiscent of the production chain, or perhaps a waiting queue at the Social Security office – after all, aren’t these paintings literally just televisions that don’t work?
As the multiplying signs of social unrest amidst depressed economies and high unemployment may be demonstrating for the nth time at the moment, what we call “work” today is also, if not mainly, a means to keep bodies from doing something else. Typically at home in front of the TV or staring at the wall, the unemployed body is a sort of toxic asset whose destructive potential must be managed for the existing order to prevail. For “Decommissioned Trading Table/Workstation” (2011), a desk obtained from a recently bankrupt German corporation was disassembled piece by piece and hung on the wall to resemble a depressed financial graph. Here, Denny performs a prank he has been known for in the past: storing garbage in the smart fridge – or in other words, the gallery.
Mobilizing creativity to repackage and sell the sad relic – his “Decommissioned Trading Table/Workstation” functions as a sort of artistic Rettungspaket (rescue package) that ingenuously cures what the failing economy has transformed into junk by putting it back to work in the orgone accumulator of an art gallery.
After their collapse on opening night, the painting reliefs were back to a marching regiment formation in the center of the room, just in front of the disassembled trading table. If these hot canvases – hot in both the McLuhan-esque and “market” senses of the word – could catch on fire, they would burn like ice. Astutely directed by Denny, their invisible ballet exuded a sense of optimism. When screens and markets freeze, art still works.
Pennacchio Argentato, Survival Upgrade, 2013 and Dude where is my career?, 2009
In May 2013, footage emerged in the media of a man waving a bloodied meat cleaver in the air whilst reciting the mantra to the camera: ‘You [people] will never be safe’. The phrase formed part of a political message delivered in the style of a home video to the British public by the man who, along with one other, had hacked a British soldier to death on the streets of Woolwich just moments before. The footage was threatening, macabre and darkly arresting; its rapid dissemination on the Internet pointed to a grim, voyeuristic fascination with the brutal crime and its motivations.
It is this interaction of human events with the complex machinations of technology that appears to fascinate collaborators Pasquale Pennacchio and Marisa Argentato. The two artists wrenched the phrase ‘you will never be safe’ from this context as part of their exhibition ‘Survival Upgrade’ and hung it in the centre of Van Horbourg, a non-profit curator’s collective operating within a temporary art space in Zurich run by founders and co-directors Sandra Oehy and Roger Meier. Far from the original setting of the crime, the sinister words were objectified by the artists, who frequently use the technologies of fabrication and projection to attempt to engage with the hypnotic and transformative powers of technology.
Pennacchio Argentato cut the words out of Perspex with a light-transmitting film on one face. Behind this, a projector was set up at a distance to transmit swirling fractal images through the Perspex and onto the front surface of the text. The overall effect was that of gaudy kitsch, visually arresting when you first enter the space and face the text, but less convincing as you move around and to the rear of it. This was largely due to the material itself, which is flat and flimsy, slightly undermining its own apparent status as the centrepiece of the exhibition. The flatness of the material did however have one curiously confounding effect, which was to negate the very depth of the images projected onto it. By turning the freestanding words into a screen upon which the abstract receding fractals were projected, the artists managed to debunk any conventional optical illusion of depth commonly associated with filmic projection, or indeed with any projection onto the solid wall of a gallery, because in this case the audience could walk behind the ‘screen’. The projection, in other words, was revealed for the ruse it really is, while at the same time the words lost their meaning in deference to the hypnotic optical effects they have become a latent surface for.
In past exhibitions, notably ‘Five o’clock shadows’ at T293 Gallery, Rome in 2010 and the group show ‘Where Language Stops’ at Wilkinson Gallery in London in 2011, Pennacchio Argentato have exhibited immense planar forms cast from concrete, wood and fibreglass that slide, fold, slither or droop lazily across the floors and walls of galleries. But in the second part of ‘Survival Upgrade’, the artists’ almost comically anthropomorphic sculptures were reinterpreted as prosthetic human limbs cast out of Carbon-Kevlar, a material favoured by the US army for the manufacture of soldiers’ combat helmets and other protective gear. This is a new material for the artists, who have previously worked with cast concrete and Perspex, yet the experiment seems successful. The Carbon-Kevlar appears both sleekly organic and awkwardly mechanistic, able to mould itself symbiotically with the human body whilst retaining the appearance of a hard, shiny shell, cast off like the plasticized robotic detritus of some future world in which the technological extension of the body has already outlived its usefulness. These apparatuses occupied the periphery of the space in which the text formed the centrepiece, yet they were by no means secondary to it. Flung to the edges of the white room by some centrifugal force, either adhering to the walls or scattered about the floor for the viewer to pick his or her path between, the prosthetic limbs were rendered as junk, as the bodies they were made for have evolved – or mutated.
The Whitechapel Gallery is a public art gallery on the north side of Whitechapel High Street, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Designed by Charles Harrison Townsend, it was founded in 1901 as one of the first publicly funded galleries for temporary exhibitions in London, and it has a long track record for education and outreach projects, now focused on the Whitechapel area’s deprived populations. It exhibits the work of contemporary artists, as well as organising retrospective exhibitions and shows that are of interest to the local community.
The Whitechapel Gallery played an important part in the history of post-war British art, several important exhibitions were held at the Whitechapel Gallery including This is Tomorrow in 1956, the first UK exhibition by Mark Rothko in 1961, and in 1964 The New Generation show which featured John Hoyland, Bridget Riley, David Hockney and Patrick Caulfield among others.
The Whitechapel Gallery exhibited Pablo Picasso’s Guernica in 1938 as part of a touring exhibition organised by Roland Penrose to protest the Spanish Civil War.
Initiated by members of the Independent Group, the exhibition brought Pop Art to the general public as well as introducing some of the artists, concepts, designers and photographers that would define the Swinging Sixties.
Throughout its history, the Whitechapel Gallery had a series of open exhibitions that were a strong feature for the area’s artist community, but by the early 1990s these open shows became less relevant as emerging artists moved to other areas.
In the late 1970s, the critical importance of the Whitechapel Gallery was displaced by newer venues such as the Hayward Gallery, but in the 1980s the Gallery enjoyed a resurgence under the Directorship of Nicholas Serota. The Whitechapel Gallery had a major refurbishment in 1986 and completed, in April 2009, a two-year programme of work to incorporate the former Passmore Edwards Library building next door, vacated when Whitechapel Idea Store opened. This has doubled the physical size of the Gallery and nearly tripled the available exhibition space, and now allows the Whitechapel Gallery to remain open to the public all year round.
The Whitechapel has premiered international artists such as Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Nan Goldin, and provided a showcase for Britain’s most significant artists including Gilbert & George, John Hoyland, Lucian Freud, Bridget Riley, Peter Doig, Ian McKeever and Mark Wallinger.
Mark Leckey, From the Exhibition, See We Assemble, 2013
Mark Leckeyis a British artist, working with collage art, music and video. His found art and found footage pieces span several videos, most notably Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999) and Industrial Lights and Magic (2008), for which he won the 2008 Turner Prize.
Through a multi-disciplinary practice that encompasses sculpture, sound, film, and performance, British artist Mark Leckey explores the potential of the human imagination to appropriate and to animate a concept, an object, or an environment. Drawing on his personal experiences as a London-based artist, who spent his formative years in the north of England, Leckey returns frequently to ideas of personal history, desire and transformation in his work.
Leckey was born in Birkenhead, near Liverpool, in 1964. In a 2008 interview in The Guardian, he described how he grew up in a working-class family and became a ‘casual’ in his youth. He left school at 16 with one O Level, in art, and at 19 became obsessed with learning about ancient civilizations. In the Guardian interview he described himself as an autodidact, “That’s why I use bigger words than I should. It’s a classic sign.” Following a conversation with his stepfather he took his A Levels and went to an art college in Newcastle, but didn’t enjoy it: “It was the early 1990s, when critical theory had swept the nation. The place was full of hippies from down south who were reading Mervyn Peake and Tolkien, and suddenly they were made to read Barthes and Derrida. It was like a Maoist year zero. I became very suspicious of the merits of critical theory…”
Mark Leckey’s video work has as its subject the “tawdry but somehow romantic elegance of certain aspects of British culture.”He likes the idea of letting “culture use you as an instrument.” but adds that the pretentiousness that artists sometimes fall into is destructive to the artistic process: “What gets in the way is being too clever, or worrying about how something is going to function, or where it’s going to be. When you start thinking of something as art, you’re fucked: you’re never going to advance.” Matthew Higgs has described his work as “possess[ing] a strange nonartlike quality, operating, as it does, on the knife’s edge where art and life meet”.
On Pleasure Bent is a body of work in which Leckey attempts to form a kaleidoscopic memoir, assembling his past from the imagery that he believes conditioned him. The exhibition will include all new works, several being exhibited publicly for the first time. Objects will include LED screens featuring looped animations, animated screens made up of highly-magnified computer screens silk screened with images, as well as cinema lobby style ’standees’ and a trailer for a new video.
Ari Benjamin Meyers, Songbook, Installation view, 2013
Ari Benjamin Meyers artist, born 1972 in New York, is an American composer and conductor working in the experimental, electronic, new music scene in Germany. He is also active in the field of contemporary art.
While primarily known for his work with the ground breaking dance club-orchestral mash-up, Redux Orchestra, he has also worked with many other artists most notably Einstürzende Neubauten and Anri Sala. Other collaborators include Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Anri Sala, Tino Sehgal, La Fura dels Baus, The Residents, raumlabor.berlin, Ricardo Villalobos, Staatsoper Dresden, Staatskapelle Berlin, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York, Morton Subotnick and The Orb.
Meyers’ catalog includes operas, music for plays, dance, and film as well as music for diverse chamber ensembles. As evidenced by his arrangements for the live performancesRedux Orchestra versus Einstürzende Neubauten, Meyers’ work often takes the form of productive sabotages: he constructs and deconstructs musical situations and deliberately plays on the expectations of a given audience. Although personally distancing himself from the term “Crossover”, his work is often discussed within that context.
Nikolas Gambaroff, Untitled, 2011 and exhibition view of Tools for Living, 2012
Artist Nikolas Gambaroff work questions the process of painting and its support structures by deconstructing and re-evaluating traditional methods of production and display.
As Gambaroff himself puts it, “In my work I try to dissect, deconstruct, and re-evaluate (mainly within the limits of the activity painting) the customs, expectations and myths that painting as part of our visual culture brings along.” Works that ostensibly echo the age-old impetus of subjective self-expression are, therefore, conceived as platforms through which to question notions of authorship, distribution and exposition alongside issues such as the social and economic value of art itself.
In addition, Gambaroff’s “staging of the space that a viewer experiences painting in” is designed less to highlight interplay amongst the works themselves, than focus particularly on “the problems of support structures in art (material/architectural but also ideological).”
The introduction of elements from ‘outside’ the traditional compass of painting provides further opportunities to deconsecrate and demystify painterly production in order to debate the mechanisms that confer artistic status.
Real Estate, view setup , 2013, Loulou , 2013 and Smokes , 2013
“Growing up in Los Angeles, I have spent a majority of my life in traffic, looking out the window watching disgruntled individuals make their way from point A to point B, then C, into eternity. You find yourself staring at your reflection in the waxed surfaces of the cars next to you looking for some sense of purpose in the homogenized population of vehicles of the freeways (and in many ways not so free at all). As you continue your journey moving forward, you lean back, and rest your head.” Statement written for “Heavy Hand” and exhibition by Nina Beier at Standard, in Oslo, Norway.
Of any artist working today, 35-year-old hyper-mixed-media artist Nina Beier is creating some of the boldest examples of the contemporary artwork in crisis mode. This has a lot to do with the unstable, in flux, usually-referencing-something-absent, often-crushed-or-pieced-together, and likely-to-change nature of her sculptural explorations.
The Danish-born Beier gets much of her creative impulses from philosophy and literature (Heidegger and Lewis Carroll are recent touchstones). But for all of the theoretical uplift, the end result is provocatively tactile. Her most recent productions include dipping photographic stock images in glue and hanging them to dry on mass-produced household items, thus using an image to utterly envelop an actual thing. Another series involves found secondhand fabrics stuffed together inside a frame to create an almost Arte Povera-esque surface on the verge of busting open.
Beier has been living in Berlin for the past three years after starting her career in London. “I moved mainly because I was attracted to the qualities of an underpopulated city,” she says. “I guess the pace of the city is a little slower than other cities I have lived in, but I find the contrary to be true when it comes to the productivity of artists who live here.”
Marfa Journal Issue 1 is a new publication created by artists for artists to connect contemporary high-end fashion and art. Marfa Journal‘s overriding concept is inspired by the small desert town of the same name in Texas, which has attracted the art world since the 1960s and continues to be a capital of cultural disorder despite only having a population of 2,000. The first issue premieres with a bang, with two cover options featuring either Erik Brunetti shot by Victor Saldana or the cast of the new film The Total Princess shot by Alexandra Gordienko. The magazine is split into six sections: raw, casual, decadent, romantic, obscure and progressive.
Marcelo Krasilcic, Devra and Elaine, New York, 1996 and Untitled, From the book, 1990s, 2013
Part of a generation of photographers that includes Juergen Teller and Terry Richardson, Marcel Krasilcic (born 1969) moved to New York in 1990. He quickly became known for his spare but erotic photographs of liberated youth, artists, designers and musicians, such as Maurizio Cattelan, Chloë Sevigny and Everything but the Girl–photographs that captured the spirit of the 1990s in situ. Krasilcic went on to forge an international career as a fashion photographer, portraitist and director of art, music and fashion videos.
His work has appeared in several fashion publications such as Dazed & Confused, Harpers Bazaar, Vogue, Elle and Vogue Hommes International. He created campaigns for Nike, Moêt & Chandon and Bergdorf Goodman among many others; and photographed actors and musicians such as Willem Dafoe, Joaquin Phoenix, M.I.A., Caetano Veloso and Drake.
Krasilcic is exhibiting his work at the Colette in Paris, where he will also be presenting his new book, an over sized, cloth bound two-volume publication which chronicles the photographer’s iconic and intimate aesthetic that continues to inform today’s lifestyle and fashion photography.
Thea Djordjadze, The easy isn’t done easy, 2007, Coated steeland Installation view, Our full, Malmö Konsthall, 2012
It’s rare that art as apparently spartan as Thea Djordjadze’s can be so tantalising. The thin wooden or metal frames and glass vitrines that frequently star in her sculptural assemblages suggest a minimalist sensibility and evoke the pristine, poker-faced displays of museums. Yet these elements of her art rub shoulders with more worn-in, personal fare, including rugs, reconfigured furniture and rough, hand-moulded lumps of uncooked clay. Things look fragile and faded, like relics from a lost civilisation.
Djordjadze’s materials are worked fast and arranged intuitively, with an eye for colour, texture and lines drawn through space that hints at her early training as a painter. Growing up in former communist Georgia has also left its mark on the Berlin-based artist’s sensibility. Her work often features the country’s local carpets, while its pared-back appearance and flimsy materials echo the clean, definite forms of eastern-bloc architecture, belying a shaky political regime. In place of modernist purity, she creates poetic, allusive arrangements of objects, hinting at stories that never sit still.
Thea Djordjadze (born 1971 in Tbilisi, Georgia) lives and works in Berlin. She studied at the Academy of Arts in Tbilisi from 1988 to 1993. The academy closed in 1993 due to the Georgian civil war. Djordjadze moved to Amsterdam to study at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. After a year she moved to Düsseldorf, where she studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie until 2001. Selected solo exhibitions: The Common Guild, Glasgow (2011), westlondonprojects, London (2009-2010), Kunsthalle Basel (2009), Kunstverein Nurnberg (2008). Selected group exhibitions: dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel (2012), Carré d’Art, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Nîmes (2011), Sculpture Centre, New York (2011), Hayward Gallery, London (2010), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2010), Barbican, London (2008), the BB5 – 5th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (2008), Venice Biennale (2003).
Isa Genzken, 15 November 2012-12 January 2013,
Hauser & Wirth London,Savile Row
“I have always said that with any sculpture you have to be able to say, although this is not a ready-made, it could be one. That’s what a sculpture has to look like. It must have a certain relation to reality”. Isa Genzken in conversation with Wolfgang Tillmans
Inspired by the stark severity of modernist architecture and the chaotic energy of the city, just as much as by art history, the aesthetics of the great American artists of the Sixties and pop culture, Isa Genzken’s work is continuously looking around itself, translating into three-dimensional form the way that art, architecture, design and media affects the experience of urban life. From 15 November, Genzken will present an exhibition of new and recent works at Hauser & Wirth’s Savile Row gallery. Genzken’s totemic columns, pedestal works and collages combine disparate aspects from her many sources in seemingly nonsensical, yet harmonious sculptural compilations.
The bust of Nefertiti, an ancient icon of feminine beauty, is one of the most well-known and historically significant sculptures. In Genzken’s new series of sculptures, she appropriates plaster reproductions of this bust, which the artist first saw at the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, gives them sunglasses and places them upon tall, white pedestals. She pairs Nefertiti with a reproduction of the Renaissance icon of feminine beauty, the Mona Lisa, whose famous portrait leans against the foot of each pedestal. Genzken then overlays her own self-portrait on to the reproduction of Mona Lisa, playfully inserting herself and her own practice into this multimedia exploration of the lineage of feminine beauty and the place of women in art history.
Genzken’s sculptures are precariously stacked assemblages of potted plants, designer furniture, empty shipping crates and photographs, among other things, arranged with the traditions of modernist sculpture in mind, traditions which are then manipulated by the artist. With this cacophonous array of objects, Genzken undermines the classical notions of sculpture and, in the North Gallery of Savile Row, re-creates the architectural dimensions of the artist’s beloved skyscrapers and the riotous colours of the city streets. Devoid of the weightiness and overpowering scale seen in the sculptures of her Minimalist predecessors, these works abandon notions of order and power, allowing the viewer to relate to the works’ inherently human qualities of fragility and vulnerability.
Both sculpture and photography combine and overlap in Genzken’s collages, whose dense surfaces are formed from the materials of the artist’s world: magazines, flyers, snapshots of friends, self-portraits and reproduced artworks. Genzken makes use of all surfaces of the gallery, including an on-going series of collages that span the floor of the space, like a pavement down a busy city street.