Tag Archives: political

Reza Aramesh, Restaging the (Objective) Violence of Images


Reza Aramesh, Action 65 – Egyptian prisoners captured by Israeli troops during the Six Day War in the Middle East, 09 Jun 1967, 2009 and Action 140: 12:30 pm Tuesday 20 December 2011, West Bank city of Nablus, 2014

The work of Reza Aramesh, on the face of it, may seem to utilize relatively traditional forms of media; namely, sculpture and photography. However, it is important to note that his work has a performative element to it inasmuch as the images we see in both his photographs and the poses of his sculptures have often been restaged by individuals taking their cue – with the artist’s guidance – from newspaper photographs and other visual material.

Since 2008 Aramesh has used media images of conflict from around the globe as sources for his numbered ‘actions’, re-enactments of scenes extracted from such images and staged, somewhat anachronistically, in slick modern apartments, stately British mansions, and art-filled museums. Documented as black and white photographs, these surreal transpositions serve as cruel reminders that such accumulated wealth is usually the result of war, conflict and oppression elsewhere, both historically and in our contemporary moment.

Aramesh prefers using amateurs in these ‘actions’, which feature a changing all-male cast drawn from Britain’s immigrant communities, who appear dressed in their everyday street wear; additionally, no weapons or other instruments of violence or torture are included in the re-enactments. Lacking such specific references, the ‘actions’ distill episodes of violence and conflict into studied tableau, each a particular configuration of poses, gestures and expressions. Events unfold as compositions and experience is recounted through physical and spatial relationships between individual figures or discreet groups. And while each ‘action’ bears a long subtitle – often the news caption that accompanied the source photograph – this neutral, factual description reveals little, and leaves one unable to fully locate Aramesh’s image in a specific time and place.

These forms of re-staging and re-framing – referred to as ‘actions’ by the artist – are integral to Aramesh’s work and the source material is often drawn from conflict zones worldwide; the very same zones that often crop up in our daily glut of print and televisual media.

As viewers we are bombarded with these images until they lose their sense of context and meaning. How, then, do we reinvest these images with meaning and thereafter a degree of critical purchase? It is at precisely this point that Aramesh’s images come into their own. In the restaging of the original  image, with the help of volunteers, the artist transposes a group of Palestinian prisoners into the environment of Cliveden House, a one-time stately home in England and now a luxury hotel. Aramesh reinvests this image, in sum, with an uncanny immediacy. What was once familiar, if indeed over-exposed in our media-saturated eyes, becomes unfamiliar and thereafter unsettling.

There is also another critical element at work here. In Aramesh’s transposition of these scenes and their restaging in other environments, he often leaves out the source of threat and original violence that existed in the source photographs, be it in the form of prison guards or soldiers; all are largely ‘in absentia’ in the final photographs. Whereas in the source images, the victim and victimizer, prisoner and prison guard, the living and the dead, all appear to be replaying history’s lamentable refrain of the victor and the vanquished, in Aramesh’s finished images such binaries are absent and so too are the certainties we associate with them.

Inspired by an exhibition of religious sculpture from seventeenth-century Spain entitled The Sacred Made Real that Aramesh saw at London’s National Gallery, his sculptures seek to (and accomplish) the reverse, imbuing documentary images of men forced to submit and suffer with the dignified aura of the sacred. Transfiguring experiences of humiliation into exquisite embodiments of heroic self-sacrifice, they are modest monuments to the human capacity to endure.

As viewers of this work, we potentially step into the realm of being a perpetrator in this symmetry of violence and fear. What place, if any, do we have here as we approach these abject figures: are we potentially victims ourselves, potentially subject to the precariousness of what Giorgio Agamben refers to as ‘bare life’, a life beyond recourse to law and justice? Or are we victimizers in waiting, fearful that for all our empathy there is a fine line, in times of conflict and the suspension of law, between being subjected to violence and administering it?

Source: Artforum International.
Text: Murtaza Vali, http://www.ibraaz.org/essays/28 and Anthony Downey, http://www.ibraaz.org/interviews/5.
All images belongs to the respective artist and management.

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Raf Simons, Fall 2017 Menswear, No Fear in New New York.

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Raf Simons, Fall 2017 Menswear

Whether it’s the Statue of Liberty beckoning over the curve in the horizon as your steamer approaches from the east, or a frantic cluster of handwritten “Have you been detained?” posters waiting outside immigration as the automatic doors of JFK whoosh blessedly closed behind you, every outsider’s first arrival in New York is as different as it is meaningful. For Raf Simons, a designer who is no less vaunted in fashion than he is sometimes ambivalent about it as an art form—i.e., deeply—that rule applies.

Simons is a recent immigrant arrived to take the mantle at Calvin Klein: The king is dead, God save the king. But before he Makes American Fashion Great Again in nine days’ time, tonight was about the transposition of his own 22-year-old brand from Europe to the new continent.

What we got was this: Oversize satin-sheen topcoats and almost aggressively mundane boxy check jackets worn atop oversize pants with luxurious breaks at the ankle, bottomed by rope-trimmed chisel-toe shoes. The slightness of the models and the bigness of these pieces contributed to what Simons said he’d aimed to muster, a sense of children adopting their parents’ uniform. Sometimes the boys wore nothing but maître d’s waistcoats with their baggies, or attenuatedly utilitarian long-yoked work shirts. They almost always wore heaped beading at the neck.

Shiningly recognizable was the typographical design of Milton Glaser, transposed into rough-knit I heart N.Y. sashes and sweaters. Less so were the Raf Simons Youth Project tees, the service-industry Thank You (writ thrice) above Have a Nice Day graphics, and the seemingly random insertion of words including blow and forest in double-edged collegiate fonts onto split-neck sweats. Absolutely the standout detail—and gratifyingly cheap and easy to replicate at home—was the duct tape cinching at the waist of outerwear.

Simons’s rationale for all this was tangled but ultimately coherent. As he said: “I wanted to approach it from the combination of a mind-set of someone who comes to New York in the beginning, a kid let’s say. When you are a young kid you end up in the places that are very touristy, that confront you with all these things, the Statue of Liberty, the I Love . . . I wanted to go back to how I experienced New York in the beginning and combine it with how I experience it now. So this fresh young direction to the city and everything it stands for—and what is happening now.” The rise of Donald Trump after his personal move was arranged had changed everything, he added, and moved his process back to the DIY subversion of British punk under Margaret Thatcher.

Had his perception of New York changed since its Trumpification? Simons shook his head: “I can only see this city as a city that has incredible history, incredible inspiration, and incredible people . . . ask me do I think that you should stand up against what is happening in this country, then I say yes. Even in writing, I do not think people should be fearful—we should be more fearless—and not behave like everybody is expecting you to behave.” No fear in new New York.

Text: Luke Leitch, http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/fall-2017-menswear/raf-simons.
All images belongs to the respective artist and management.

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Martine Syms, Fact and Trouble, ICA London, Exhibition

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Martine Syms, Fact and Trouble, Lessons I-XXX, 2014, Motivational Text Message and Installation View of Fact and Trouble, 2016

Fact & Trouble is an exhibition by American artist Martine Syms that examines the space between lived  experience and its representation. Syms’s video series Lessons (ongoing), on view at the ICA, is a long, incomplete poem in 180 sections. Each piece is thirty seconds in duration and articulates a lesson from the tradition. One of these lessons is painted on the gallery walls. The videos use the idea of inheritance as a departure point, simulating the private-public unconscious of television shows, advertisements, animated GIFs, police cams, surveillance footage, Vines and other digitally-circulated formats. In the alcove, this abundance of signifiers manifests in an immersive floor-to-ceiling collage. To accompany and expand upon the videos, Syms has created an installation of double-sided photographs and cookies mounted on century stands, a standard workhorse of film production. The exhibition compiles original and found photography, alongside images taken by her father, weaving together familial, cultural, and historical legacies. Fact & Trouble demonstrates Syms’s multifarious artistic practice which includes video, performance and writing as well as publishing through her imprint Dominica.

Martine Syms (b. 1988) is an artist based in Los Angeles. Her artwork has been exhibited and screened extensively, including recent presentations at Karma International, Bridget Donahue Gallery, the New Museum, Kunsthalle Bern, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Index Stockholm, MOCA Los Angeles and MCA Chicago. She’s lectured at Yale University, SXSW, California Institute of the Arts, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University and MoMA PS1, among other venues. Upcoming exhibitions include Made in LA at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and Manifesta 11 in Zurich, Switzerland.

Source: Magazine Contemporary Culture.
Text: Press Release, ICA London.
All images belongs to the respective artist and managment.

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This is Exile: Diaries of Child Refugees, 2015

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This is Exile Diaries of Child Refugees

Mani Yassir Benchelah, This is Exile: Diaries of Child Refugees, Film stills, 2015

Over the course of a year, Emmy-award-winning director Mani Yassir Benchelah made this intimate portrait of Syrian refugee children forced to flee from the violence of civil war to neighboring Lebanon. The documentary allows the children to tell their stories in their own words capturing the truth of how they deal with loss, hardship and a political consciousness beyond their age.

This Is Exile is an extraordinary intimate portrait of child refugees forced to flee from the violence of Syria’s civil war to neighbouring Lebanon. The documentary tells the stories of the children’s lives in their own words and captures the moving truth of how they deal with loss, hardship and the poignancy of dashed hopes. Their testimony in this film is a beautifully crafted microcosm of the human cost of the ongoing civil war in Syria that has forced over 4 million people to flee; half of whom are children. There is still no end to the war in sight.

While her younger brother fetches water, Aya talks about how a soldier pressured her to provide information about her father. Little Nouredine lived through the siege of Homs and, stuttering, explains how he believes that President Assad’s soldiers are following him everywhere. Thirteen-year-old Layim harbors feelings of vengeance, although he actually likes nothing better than to help people, for example by handing out rations. Nearly all the children look forward to returning home one day, but Fatima, who is disabled, is thriving in Switzerland where she feels fully acknowledged for the first time. Mustafa desperately wants to study, but he has to work for the money his family needs so badly.

Through the prism of their testimony, we gain perspective on the fate of millions of Syrian refugees, half of whom are children.

Source: Arab Film Days Oslo.
Text: International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.
All images belongs to the respective artist and managment.

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Sarah Abu Abdallah: You Will Never Have Full Custody of Your Life

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Sarah Abu Abdallah, The Salad Zone, 2013, Saudi Automobil, 2012 and Video Still from The Salad Zone, 2013

Sarah Abu Abdallah works primarily with video and film as a medium. She grew up in Qatif, Saudi Arabia has an MFA in Digital Media at the Rhode Island School of Design. Recent participations include include Prospectif Cinema Filter Bubble in Centre Pompidou, Paris, Private Settings in the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Arab Contemporary in the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, Migrating Forms in NYC, the Serpentine Galleries 89plus Marathon in London, the 11th Sharjah Biennial 2013, Rhizoma in the 55th Venice biennale 2013. Contributed to Arts and Culture in Transformative Times Festival by ArteEast, NYC and the Moving image panel on Video + Film in Palazzo Grassi, Venice. See her catalogue of work on Vimeo here.

Sarah Abu Abdallah studied art in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia’s more liberal neighbour, making her return to the strictures of life in Saudi Arabia hard. Her film Saudi Automobile tells of her frustration at the ban on women driving. It features a car she found crashed by the side of a road, which she painted pink. ‘This wishful gesture was the only way I could get myself a car,’ she says. “Painting a wrecked car like icing a cake, as if beautifying the exterior would help fix the lack of functionality within the car. This wishful gesture was the only way I could get myself a car – cold comfort for the current impossibility of my dream that I, as an independent person, can drive myself to work one day.”

Saudi Automobil, 2012 depicts Sarah Abu Abdallah painting the shell of a wrecked car with light pink paint, a gesture of defiance against Saudi Arabia’s prohibition on women drivers, which makes mobility the exclusive privilege of men. After sweltering in her abaya under the hot sun, Abdallah finally retreats to the passenger seat, reflecting her place in Saudi society. For the exhibition ‘Soft Power’ Abu Abdallah installed the painted car in the gallery space, further emphasising the limits of her rights to vehicle ownership.

‘I don’t call for extreme freedom,’ she says. ‘But we grow up at a very young age here and the more you grow up the more you realise you will never have full custody of your life.’ Her work, it seems, is Abu Abdallah’s lifeline. She reads about it rapaciously, ordering massive tomes from abroad about abstract expressionism and performance art. ‘Being a woman in Saudi may be really restricting,’ she says, ‘but being a female Saudi artist is very good at the moment. I want to join that wave.’

Sifting through the absolute, the predefined, constructs of anxiety, and the absurdity of the agreed-upon in a time of excess, in her work The Salad Zone, 2013. How does one place one’s coordinates in the physical, metaphysical, and the digital citizenry? It is said that the gravitational forces exerted by the planets affect the circulation of human bodies and emotions as much as they affect the oceans. Youtube and google image search help to assemble an uncomfortable space for a question spanning practices of compulsion and purification. Continuing on a previous question of how in a hyper-connected world, does one place one’s coordinates in the physical, metaphysical, and the digital citizenry.  Sarah Abu Abdallah’s series q-VR, draws a mental collage using the everyday, references to virtual reality and old photos of the artist’s father in his youth to make up a fictional world through images.

In her work The Turbulence of Sea and Blood, 2015, we see disarrayed glimpses of multiple narratives such as that of: familial domestic tensions, a juvenile dream of going to Japan, the tendency to smash TVs in moments of anger, and eating fish. While using scenes from the artist’s surroundings and life in Saudi Arabia, like streets or malls, it never attempts to provide the whole picture, but takes a rhizomatic approach to tell a story of the everyday life.

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Patrizio Di Massimo: Col Sole in Fronte (With The Sun In Front Of Me)

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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!/

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Exhibition: Image Counter Image

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Image Counter Image, installation view Haus der Kunst, photo Wilfried Petzi

Radenko Milak, What Else Did You See? I Couldn’t See Everything! (No. 5), 2010–2012 and Installation view of the Exhibition

Image Counter Image, 10 June – 16 September, 2012
Hause der Kunst,Prinzregentenstraße 1, Munich

The exhibition Image Counter Image at Hause der Kunst, presents artistic positions that focus on the critical analysis of violent conflicts in the media, beginning with the First Gulf War of 1990-1991 to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and ending with the events of the Arab Spring of 2011.

Media coverage has changed significantly in the last two decades. While the media image of the First Gulf War was based on a memorandum that advised units of the United States military to channel information flow to serve the military operation’s political objectives, the images of the attacks on the New York World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, were transmitted on all possible channels. They showed a worldwide audience its own, and global, vulnerability. Through the Internet and, more recently, via Web 2.0’s social media, communication channels have been expanded to include opportunities for direct peer-to-peer exchange. Because of their decentralized structures, these channels are difficult to control and are used as an alternative source of reporting on political events.

The question remains who, in this changing media landscape, tries to secure control of both the production and interpretation of the content, and what purpose it serves.

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