Magazine Contemporary Culture


Iman Issa


Triptych #6, 2009. Photographs, Text, Dimensions Variable

Issa’s Triptych series (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6) from 2009, is a group of six beautiful wall installations comprised of photography, video objects and texts. They are images of places she collected in New York and restaged; settings that occurred through a personal psychological process in order to reveal personal associations. As Issa says “At one point I realized that what might have attracted me to these spaces was that they reminded me of others…. In trying to be as precise as possible, I realized that the certainty with which I was able to construct and produce these images did not translate to my final photographs, that I no longer recognized my constructions.”

In an attempt to articulate the content of memories and associations, Iman Issa decided to start constructing settings that corresponded to them, settings which she would then photograph. The resulting images ended up constituting the second element in each of these triptychs.

In trying to be as precise as possible, the artist realized that the certainty with which she was able to construct and produce these images did not translate to her final photographs, that she no longer recognized her constructions, nor was she certain of their sources. This brought about the idea to approach these photographs in a removed manner – as if they were found or produced by someone else – and use them as a point of departure for another artwork, one which eventually became what is presented here as the third and final element in each of these triptychs.

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1 December; We Were Here


We Were Here, 2011
Dir: David Weissman, Bill Weber, US, 90 mins

Beginning in San Francisco’s gay Castro Street district, around 1980, We Were Here manages to be both uplifting and powerfully truthful.

A riveting, moving, account of the fear, paranoia and prejudice that accompanied the AIDS epidemic as it ripped through the US West Coast gay community before making its way across the globe.
Combining first-hand testimony and archival material, this is essential viewing, documenting five survivors who chose very different paths to dealing with the epidemic. We Were Here reminds us what a terrifying enigma AIDS was at the outset, dubbed the “gay plague,” with almost half of San Francisco’s gay community testing positive within five years.
We Were Here emphasises the activism that challenged homophobic notions of the so-called “gay lifestyle” placing the spread of HIV in the context of the wider free-love generation.
As AIDS looms large across the world, infecting more people globally than at any time in its history, We Were Here is not only a testament to the courage and compassion of its original survivors but is also a timely reminder that this is something which has not gone away.

1 December is the World AIDS day.

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Exhibitions: Paul McCarty

Paul McCarty, The King, The Island, The Train, The House, The Ship, 16 November 2011 – 14 January 2012
Hauser & Wirth London and Hauser & Wirth London, Piccadilly

Combining political figures and pop culture, ‘Pig Island’, on view at Savile Row, is a morally deviant world populated by pirates, cowboys, the likenesses of George W. Bush and Angelina Jolie, an assortment of Disney characters and the artist himself, all carousing in a state of wild and reckless abandon. The island is constructed from blocks of polystyrene piled high with wood, cast body parts, clay, spray paint and old fast food containers surrounded by a sea of blue carpeting.

Over a seven year period, ‘Pig Island’ grew to fill McCarthy’s studio, blurring the boundaries between the work and the workplace. It evolved from an accumulation of detritus and half-finished figures into a sculptural installation: every detail of the seemingly chaotic work meticulously positioned as if it were a carefully orchestrated film set, complete with film lighting. Unlike the picture-perfect Disney fairytales McCarthy so often references, ‘Pig Island’ flaunts its unfinished state and mechanisms, enabling the viewer to catch a glimpse of the artist’s process, the organic development of his sculptures and the rawness of a neverending work-in-progress.

Described by McCarthy as a ‘sculpture machine’, ‘Pig Island’ has given birth to numerous large-scale sculptures, including ‘Train, Mechanical’: a mechanical sculpture showing twin pot-bellied caricatures of George W. Bush sodomising two pigs. Each of the figures performs a choreographed set of actions – their asses move rhythmically back and forth, their mouths open and close, their heads spin and, when approached, their heads and beady eyes follow the viewer around the space.

‘The King’ presides over the main space of the Piccadilly gallery. This new monumental installation consists of a platform surrounded by large-scale airbrush paintings that were created on the easel that stands on the platform. Atop the platform is a throne upon which a silicone model of McCarthy sits stark naked with partly severed limbs, closed eyes and wearing a long blonde wig. Church pews arranged in front of the stage give the viewer a place to sit and contemplate the artist’s elevated status as they gaze up at his wooden throne.

McCarthy has been making mechanical sculptures as an extension of his performance-based art since the early nineties. His new mechanical work, ‘Mad House Jr.’, is an adapted version and, at the same time, a maquette of ‘Mad House’ (2008), first shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art. ‘Mad House Jr.’ is a small room-like cube with windows and a doorless entry. Like a miniature amusement park ride, the cube shakes and spins rapidly whilst a small camera installed inside the cube records all of its movements. This footage is then projected into the space, creating an environment of physical and mental disorientation.

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Alexandra Mir


Alexandra Mir, Triumph, Detail, 2009

‘Triumph’ at the Shirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt is Aleksandra Mir’s first solo show in Germany. Inspired by a friend who had been a famous athlete in his youth and kept mementos of his achievements, Mir placed an ad in the local newspaper in Palermo, Italy, where she lives, asking for old sports trophies. Within a few months, Mir collected 2,529 trophies and had them cleaned and archived. In the exhibition, the trophies are displayed individually and in groups on plinths and the floor, or piled on top of each other like detritus. Mir explores the power of the trophy, both a coveted symbol of accomplishment and a garish, mass-produced item of little value.

Each trophy has a story, and many of the trophies Mir collected, old and unwanted, reflect a common theme of looking back on lost youth and vitality, and holding on. As the cheap metal tarnishes and the memories of victory fade, the time comes when the trophies are taken out to the trash, or in this case, sold to Mir for €5 each.

Aleksandra Mir recently gained international attention with her ‘Plane Landing,’ a life-sized inflatable jet that was installed last year in Zürich as well as various sites around Paris. She is a participant in this year’s 53rd Venice Biennale. ‘Triumph’ runs May 14-July 26, 2009 at Shirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt.

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Sculpture: Danh Vo

Danh Vo, Oma Totem, 2009

Maybe ‘everyday objects’ is the wrong term to use for my production because the way I refer to objects in my work is not about the everyday object in itself. I’m interested in building up and sustaining a certain way of thinking which enables you to look at objects in a different manner. Thinking is the starting point for looking at things.

For example, my piece Oma Totem (Grandma Totem, 2009) combines a washing machine, a refrigerator, a crucifix and a television set, which all used to belong to my grandmother. The selection was made on the basis of a conceptual approach: these are the first things that my grandmother received in Germany. Thinking determined the sculpture – not the fact that it was a fridge or a crucifix.

One of my earliest experiences of things not necessary being what they seem to be was my experience of vacation. Half my family lived in Germany, and the other half, including myself, lived in Denmark. Every summer, when all the kids had summer vacation from school, we went to visit our relatives in Germany. My family didn’t really have an idea for vacation. In the summer, they would work either in the strawberry fields or peeling small shrimps that were delivered to and picked up from their homes. I think it was more about spending time together, but that meant work. This was my first idea of vacation, and I have only good memories of it. Like all the other kids returning sunburnt to school. We always look at things through our own history, our gender and social upbringing. Most everyday objects and conventions are very unfamiliar for me. And it’s through this empirical experience that I do what I do.

From Frieze d/e, Issue 2, 2011.

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Exhibition: OMA/Progress

OMA/Progress, 6 October 2011 – 19 February 2012
Barbican Art Gallery

This autumn, the Barbican Art Gallery is transformed by an exhibition on OMA, one of the most influential architecture practices working today. Celebrated as much for their daring and unconventional ideas as their inventive buildings, the work of OMA and its think tank AMO anticipates the architectural, engineering and cultural ideas transforming our material world.

The show is curated not by OMA but by Rotor, a Belgian collective that has been occupying OMA’s Rotterdam office for the past few months, gathering materials and intelligence on the office. Foraging in the archive, and even in OMA’s wastepaper, Rotor has selected hundreds of objects from the last 35 years that tell a fresh and independent story of the office.

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Exhibition: Anri Sala


Doldrum, 2008, Installation view

Anri Sala, 1 October – 20 November 2011
The Serpentine Gallery

Anri Sala (born 1974, Tirana) is a leading contemporary artist whose early videos and films mined his personal experience to reflect on the social and political change taking place in his native Albania.
Sala has attached a growing importance to sound, creating remarkable works in which he recasts sound’s relationship to the image. Linked to this development is Sala’s long-standing interest in performance, and particularly musical performance.
A central premise of this exhibition is that most of the works presented at the Serpentine either use a live performance as their starting point or could lead to a performance in the future.

The exhibition is conceived as a cycle, or loop, structured around pairs of works that echo each other


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Lernert & Sander

Lernert & Sander, Trampling, From the Series, Elektrotechnique, 2011

Dutch designers Lernert & Sander create pieces that reflect on the remarkable, often messy endeavor of art-making. In their surreal, Pantone world, the creative process is always beautifully exposed.

Though not yet a household name, the Dutch duo have amassed a considerable body of work – including TV commercials, short films, print pieces, and art installations – that’s darkly humorous and eminently engaging. We first got hooked on their witty films series “How To Explain…” and “The Procrastinators.” In the former, Lernert & Sander film conceptual artists as they (painstakingly) attempt to explain their work to their parents. In the latter, a series of artists confess their struggles with procrastination. Further digging led us to “Chocolate Bunny” and their first “Revenge” film, which elegantly stages and then documents the destruction of a single, innocent egg.

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Gerhard Richter

Uebermalte fotografien, 5 october 1998, Uebermalte fotografien, 8 september 2004 and Uebermalte fotografien, 2 march 2005

Gerhard Richter is a German visual artist and one of the pioneers of the New European Painting that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. Richter has produced abstract as well as photorealistic paintings, and also photographs and glass pieces. His art follows the examples of Picasso and Jean Arp in undermining the concept of the artist’s obligation to maintain a single cohesive style.

In the early 1960s Richter was exposed to both American and British Pop art, which was just becoming known in Europe, and to the Fluxus movement. Richter consistently regarded himself simply as a painter. He began to paint enlarged copies of black-and-white photographs using only a range of treys.

The evident reliance on a ready-made source gave Richter’s paintings an apparent objectivity that he felt was lacking in abstract art of the period. The indistinctness of the images that emerged in the course of their transformation into thick layers of oil paint helped free them of traditional associations and meaning. Richter concentrated exclusively on the process of applying paint to the surface.

As early as 1966 he had made paintings based on colour charts. Although these paintings, like those based on photographs, were still dependent on an existing artefact, all that was left in them was the naked physical presence of colour as the essential material of all painting.
All vestiges of subject-matter seem to have been abandoned by Richter in the paintings that he began to produce in 1976. Even these supposedly wholly invented paintings retained a second-hand look, as if the brushstrokes had been copied from photographic enlargements.

The extreme variety of Richter’s work left him open to criticism, but his rejection of an artificially maintained consistency of style was a conscious conceptual act that allowed him to investigate freely the basic principles of painting.

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Sarah Braman


Sarah Braman, Small Fry, 2008

Sarah came from rural massachusetts. She had been accepted to other, fancier schools, but luckily for us, she was broke and the one thing our Philadelphia school had to offer was big scholarships. I don’t remember much about the work she applied with other than it was sculpture and mainly purple or blue and she arrived holding a six-month-old baby in her arms, which was mainly pink.

While everyone was sweating it out trying to be the best artist, Sarah was making work about failure and love and personal offering, which came easily to her. When the faculty threatened to fail her, she protested by making more purple sculpture and having another baby. For the past 10 years she has collaborated in owning and running Canada, a gallery on the lower west side of the Lower East Side.

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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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