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4 May 2009
NOWISWERE invites personalities to talk about their creativity with a subjective involvement. The passing of the ‘nows’ and the accumulation of the recent ‘nows’ does not only produce an urge to grasp and evaluate and understand but also to feel the unexpectability of the future. NOWISWERE aims to actively involve in the production of the ‘now’ through taking each now and then into account.
NOWISWERE Contemporary Art Magazine Issue Nr. 4 May 2009 Cover comissioned by Tanja Widmann 2003/2009 Cover Layout Design by Johannes Porsch NOWISWERE is open for submissions. Please contact email@example.com
Impressum: Co-Editors: Veronika Hauer, Fatos Üstek Contributors: Mara Ferreri, Nicole Miltner, Claire Louise Staunton, Tobias Hering, Gernot Wieland, Margit Neuhold, Oona Peyrer-Heimstätt, Jurga Daubaraite, Martina Steckholzer,Veronika Hauer and Fatos Ustek. Thanks: Adeena Mey Layout: Luca Hauer Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org www.nowiswere.blogspot.com
TH Image Contribution.............................................................3, 4 Rudolf Steckholzer EF Black Box...................................................................................6 Julius Pasteiner SF A Leopard, Some Monkeys, Numerous Butterflies, Dozens of Peacocks and a Sublime Vista*....................................8 Edward Clydesdale Thomson CC ‘I’m Thinking of You’ Franko B .......................................................................................14 Lisa Skuret TH POST-PROPAGANDA An introduction by Jonas Staal......................................................16 Jonas Staal TH EMPTINESS IN THE POST-COMMUNIST CONDITION : Struggles of Self-Definition..................................22 Jurga Daubaraite TH P(r)océder..............................................................................26 Jelena Martinovic CC Gulliver’s Travel into an Art Installation: On History, Identity and Difference Yinka Shonibare, MBE – Egg Fight.............................................30 Rana Ozturk Editors: Veronika Hauer & Fatos Ustek Layout: Luca Hauer Proofreaders: Marianne Mulvey, Ola Wlusek CC Hurvin Anderson Peter’s Series 2007 – 2009 ........................................................33 Marianne Mulvey AS Tu Zeng..................................................................................35 Fatos Ustek THematics: hosting texts up to 1000 words or image material of up to four pages focusing on a single theme. EF Expecting Future: Is a sub section of THematics, hosting texts pointing out possibilities of future and positioning the potentials of the to-come-true. As expecting future requires awareness of present, the section will be the gathering of the today’s variety of practices, attitutes, tendencies... AS Artist Specials: hosting evaluations on or interviews with artists. CC Critics’ Corner: hosting reviews on current exhibitions, performances, events, happenings... SF Special Feature TH Image Contribution...............................................................39 Martijn in’t Veld TH Looking at digital pictures: The image as part of an epistemological system.......................40 Claus Gunti CC Leap into Imagination The Islanders: An Introduction by Charles Avery......................43 Rieke Vos CC Smadar Dreyfus Mother’s Day ................................................................................46 Fatos Ustek TH Image Contribution........................................................49, 51 Rudolf Steckholzer
At some point after the line up in a Patpong brothel, the exotic thoughts, and her request for me to shower, the urge to be up there, above it all, flying over the world struck hard. I remember her saying “don’t be scaredy boy, take it off; clean”, rubbing her triangular muff with a small caramel hand. And for an instant things were clear; I saw myself, eyes hungry, standing with one hand poised on my belt buckle. Is he really going through with this? I thought. To see yourself from above, looking down upon yourself is a queer thing, no doubt. Wholly incredible if you think about the physical impossibility of it. But for an instant there I was, watching myself standing next to the bed, caught between desire and some weird ethical questioning. I just know he’s thinking this girl is probably poor; that this is her only way to earn a decent wage; that the slippery man with gold rings who asked him to “take your pick” receives the biggest cut and no doubt exploits, even abuses her; that this action will only continue her misery; that she has experienced hundreds of vile western men probing her with an entire kaleidoscope of cocks: small, long, stubby, bent, knobbled, STD infected; that she has lost all sense of what it is to be anything but a sexual object; perhaps this is all she has ever known? Perhaps, he thought - his mind swinging to another tact - in this city she is doing well for herself, considering her starting point; that to please a man is a skilled trade; that this will put her in good stead for a life of social climbing; that the money will put her through college; that she’s a Buddhist and sex has none of the sinful connotations of Christianity; that this will be the best sex of his life; and what would that mean? Maybe she even enjoys what she does - gets off on it in some way. But the act with all those vile cocks must be abhorrent, it must be; that at some point just prior to ejaculation she’s going to chop his cock off - she’s right to, who would blame her? And that maddening squeaky voice is saying, ‘I’m all yours, anything you want’ throughout. And I’m thinking this boy knows nothing, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. He’s turning inside out. I’m witnessing it happen, but there’s nothing you can do. Before I can slap him out of it, I’m sucked from my vantage, dragged into the harsh white light of a cheap hotel toilet, and I’m doing exactly what she said… My hands are cracked and bloody. I have evaporated all the complementary bars with my furious scrubbing, and my emergency supply was on the other side, past the doorknob, in the front pocket of my duffle bag beside the bed. And the girl waiting dutifully beneath the sheets, probably eyeing the ceiling with dazed boredom, is completely unaware of my predicament. She hadn’t made a sound. She knocked an hour ago. I think it was her? The knock was so gentle, hardly audible, as you would imagine it would be. Completely immersed in removing all this filth, all the residue that had collected on my body I had ignored it. The soap is constantly diminishing and the dirt, well, it’s the very basis on which I stand; how can I compete?
It could have been the booze withdrawing but the walls were moving into the sound of my heartbeat. Inching; imperceptibly. I was trapped. My clothes lay on the dresser outside, and there was no clean conduit to hand. How it had come to this? I was thinking that the trip would have to be cut short. I was also making a mental note never to shut doors when naked. To carry soap at all times: essential. But first to get out; to pass through a solid wall, ghostlike, without touching a thing. Taking the toilet roll I run it under the shower for several minutes until it resembled a well-sucked Polo. Then I layer it over my hands to form a pair of mittens. I catch my naked self in the mirror: I’m just under 6ft, pale, except for my forearms and bellow my knees which have a sandy glow to them. I think I’m basically plain looking though people say I have boyish good looks that I’ll mature into. My eyes have an ephemeral glint that I’m slightly proud of. A teacher once told me they were beguiling, another said they had the shiftiness of a thief; I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective. I’m eyeballing myself: I am ready.Yet the nagging thought of what the sweet girl would think was prodding my confidence. Already at the hostess bar the sight of so many girls wincing at the surgical gloves I had misguidedly chosen to cover my hands with - the hideous thoughts I could see they conjured - had been a lot to bear. Could I go through with this? If I waited she may just go, content with the thought I had passed out like so many other Western travellers before me in an alcoholic, drugged torpor. But I couldn’t stay here; I could feel the blood trickling, soaking into the recently constructed mitts and soon it would butcher them; and butcher my chances. I had to be brave, take on my psychology. A doorknob is just a doorknob, my hands are clean - everything is in its right place. I took hold of it and twisted. There was no grip, my mitts slipped round the polished chrome helplessly. Flippers; I had constructed a pair of flippers to do an intricate task. I’m a moron, I can’t think clearly. I must get out. So I wipe the sweat from my brow, rip off the soggy towelling, throw it to the ground and with a burst of desperation grab the handle, twist, and hurl myself through and into the bedroom. I land face down on the carpet (it has an aggravating scratchy texture to it, like wool on teeth). The lights are off so I get to my feet and pad around the walls for a switch to bring light to the situation. As soon as it comes on it’s obvious that the girl is gone; the bed’s made, her clothes are nowhere to be seen, my clothes are piled neatly by the dresser. Checking the mini-bar, several drinks are missing. It was probably me sobering, trying to keep my obsessions at bay, but Coke’s a strange choice to maintain alcoholic sedation. It must have been the girl? Not to see her lying in the bed, the sheets tucked up to her head, waiting for me, was a surprise. A surprise tinged with relief, regret and a wearisome embarrassment. It crosses my mind that maybe she was never there at all. I try to recollect what she looked like but I can’t. I mean, she was Thai and she had characteristics you would ascribe to a Thai girl, there’s just this otherness, a kind of arousing difference that flirts
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with me. Trying to invoke a clear image of the girl I see a note on the top of my clothes so I read it: littleblueeyes112@ gmail.com. Bizarre! I thought. I retrieve the Khao San Palace soap from the duffle and disappear into the bathroom to clean up. It’s a cheap soap coloured like white fat that crumbles like chalk. So dry looking it precipitates an icy shiver down my spine (I think this initial shivering has been inscribed into the ritual now). I turn the tap to a warm dribble and place my hands palm down underneath. At first glance they appear like an elephant’s arse; wrinkled, creviced, pinched with a dusty dry skin covering. To my mind, the more I look at them, they resemble an upheaval, as if my skin were the earth’s crust being disrupted by volatile fires beneath, splitting open the surface along weak fault lines. As though it were the aftermath of an eruption, my skin helplessly floats on the currents of a bloody lava. Letting the water trickle down from the tips of my fingers I watch it gradually fill the crevices and spill over into the next, like irrigation, channelling through the cracks until the entire network is overflowed from section to section. I then crack the soap in half, run one half under hot water until it becomes a paste, rub it all over my hands and scrub vigorously, feeding it into all the joints and gaps. This can take anything up to thirty minutes, usually I stop when all the soap has evaporated. Sometimes I repeat this with the second half, but today I must really want to leave this Hotel room. I wash away the remaining soapy residue with cold water. I can’t see any dirt being removed, but I know it is, I know these hands are now clean, safe; my own. Carefully I dry them with a fresh towel or tissue, which I carry with me. It is an arduous bitter-sweet procedure that, embarrassingly, is the central part of my life at the moment. It keeps me, in a strange way that I don’t thoroughly understand, more myself, in touch with Stanley Ventris. After the event the pain of the lesions start to kick in, and I am utterly frustrated with myself for giving in so easily to these ridiculous compulsions. Blood oozes out of the deep cracks on my knuckles and I can barely move my fingers because of the pain. Sudden actions can rip the skin and open up new wounds, causing further bleeding. The cycle is continual, squared: the more you wash the more you damage your skin, causing it to appear contaminated, increasing the chance of infection and the more you feel the urge to wash again… The source of these debilitating compulsions is obvious: it’s the dirt and grime that accumulates on everything. I have a heightened awareness to it like a Aborigine to animal tracks. Nothing escapes, I see it on the screen of your mobile-phone, on the underside of a jowl, in the dullness of unpolished silver, but mostly on these dumb hands of mine: the grimiest hands on earth. There’s nothing you can do.You can’t run from it, or hide. Stand still and dead skin, hair, dust encroaches like the inevitable clarity of dawn. I let the tap drip twelve times then turn it off. I check my watch, 7:15. I must have been in there hours; no wonder she left. I layer my joints with a light emollient stored in my bag, put on my clothes, stuff the note into my pocket, weigh up
if the surgical gloves are necessary but decide against them, put on my favourite Nike Cortez and leave. The hotel reception is quiet. The walls are white, carpet brown with beige box patterns. It all looks very familiar but expanded, bigger than previously. I’m sure this is the way I came in? The boy at the desk hands over the bill. It’s as I arranged but the extras are nearly double the room. Whisky, rum, two Cokes and bottle of champagne all tallied up. How they managed to check my mini-bar and get the message down to reception is beyond me; I had just left my room. He waits for me to pay up slouching casually, one hand flat on the desktop. His eyes have this knowing glint, like my face is ironic, like I’m a joke who doesn’t know he’s a joke. I’ve noticed this look before; it’s common to all Bangkok hotel staff when dealing with Western men. We’re all the same in their eyes: one big fucking cliché. Not to be insulted I think of the surgical gloves and the 23 bars of Khao San Palace in my bag, and my once embarrassing secret has shifted, morphed into reassured self loathing. I know I’m a fucking joke, you just don’t know I know…
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Edward Clydesdale Thomson
*A Leopard, Some Monkeys, Numerous Butterflies, Dozens of Peacocks and a Sublime Vista*
Part One *Tails from the Zoo* In the spring of 2007, I visited Rotterdam Zoo, expecting to find animals in cages presented for me to stare at. Assembled from every corner of the globe, they would be confined in small, bare, barred cages and pointed at by wide-eyed children armed with ice-cream and candy apples. I found that the animals, cages, children and ice-cream had a very different effect on me than I’d anticipated. I was intrigued, and to my surprise wholly enjoyed walking around, captivated by the experience. There were no bars on the cages, no sawdust on the floor, the enclosures appeared spacious, suggesting the natural habitat I would have imagined for each animal. The enclosures were not lined up in a row along a path, nor integrated into the landscape, but together they formed the landscape. During the subsequent weeks I returned time and again, observing, trying to understand the illusion and extract what I found so fascinating about it. The physical structure of the illusion became quickly visible, but knowing how the architecture that created the illusion was built, is not the same as knowing how the illusion works. I continued to visit and observe the way visitors reacted to each situation. Some behaved in the most unsympathetic manner, banging on the glass boundary of an enclosure to attract an animal’s attention. Others meandered along talking with friends, seemingly oblivious to the zoo. Some looked immersed in the experience, mesmerised. Patterns of behaviour became visible and it seemed certain locations attracted particular reactions, even conditioned particular modes of behaviour. Over the course of this essay I want to examine architectural tableaus as the material embodiment of political discourse. The seemingly perceivable effect, of the differing enclosures architecture, on the zoo’s visitors, compelled me to journey from one architectural tableau to another, in search of an answer as to how these constructions possessed such control over their users. Beginning with observing the manipulation of the observer in the zoo, I soon became attracted by a potential promise of equality of power, between the architecture and its user, I sensed in the English landscape garden. There the effect of the architecture on me became both the subject and object of study. This shift of focus led me in search of an architectural tableau where I thought the effect of its construction would determine the relation of power between me and its other occupants. Foucault’s general understanding of discourse as having a material effect on the technologies of power and discourse as a set of material practices that shape reality and the subject, affordes me a starting point to begin to deconstruct the power structures at play in these tableaus and compare their effect on the spectator. As Foucault starkly concludes in “The Means of Correct Training”, a key chapter of Discipline and Punish: “The individual is no doubt the fictitious atom of an ideological representation of society; but he is also a reality fabricated by this specific technology of power that I call ‘discipline’. […] In fact power produces; it produces reality, it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production.” (Foucault,1995 p.194) *Order In the Leopard Den* A winding path leads around the leopard den. Along the entire length of the path it is possible to see inside the enclosure, though not very clearly due to the dense vegetation, in which the fence is hidden. There are two points where the vegetation is cleared and the fence replaced with a large pane of glass. From these points the enclosure is designed to be seen, its typography rising in a semi-circular form that creates a spectacular landscape, the end of which cannot be seen. You hold the position from outside looking in – from an impossible, all encompassing, viewpoint. Despite this vantage point, I did not feel in any position of control or mastery; the staging required nothing of me. I felt disconnected from what was happening on the other side of the screen, though everything was laid out in front of me. I often sat at a bench, adjacent to the viewpoint, and almost half of the spectators I observed stood with their noses to glass, banging and waving their hands, in a futile attempt to provoke a reaction from the leopard. The glass was smeared with blotches and stains of greasy hands.
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In “Techniques of the Observer” Jonathan Crary theorises a fundamental change that occurred during the 19th century, in the construction of the viewer, whereby the “modern observer” incorporated his own subjectivity into viewing: the individual’s physicality became part of perception. “Modernity, in this case, coincides with the collapse of classical models of vision and their stable space of representations. Instead observation is increasingly a question of equivalent sensations and stimuli that have no reference to a spatial location.”(Crary, 1992 p.24) This could be compared to the previous modal of the construction of observer, the era of ‘classical observer’. The Camera Obscurer, by isolating the viewer’s senses from the subject, in a space of only visual projection, is the characteristic technology of the ‘classical observer’ because it denies the subjectivity of the body, in favour of a monocular Cartesian certainty of absolutes where truth can be measured. In terms of the way the observer is positioned there are certain parallels between this ‘classical’ mode of attention and the technology of display in the leopard den. Manipulating its viewer, the den first builds up intrigue by shrouding its mysteries behind a line of trees, before delivering a sense of wonder within the careful choreographed landscape that unfolds as you address the window into the den. Looking through this window provides a spectacular diorama like cinema-scope image. It’s here that the den begins to mislead you, supplying you with an all-seeing vantage point, the position of Olympian-eye, and at the same time disconnecting all other senses than the visual, from the dens interior.Your are made to feel in a position of power and control over the den, yet nothing you do will change anything on the other side of the glass. I did not feel engaged nor enchanted by the image I saw through the screen despite its attempts at seduction. Perhaps this dissatisfaction came because the relation between observer and object was constructed in such an artificially ‘classic’ manner that I felt an attack on my ‘modern’ sensibilities. I too felt like the visitors who feel the need to bang on the screen in order to provoke a reaction on the other side. The den in control of its reading because it controls not only what, but how you will see in the moment of encounter, provoking discontent and a sense of powerlessness in the zoo’s audience. *Mutiny On the Monkey Island* Something different appeared to be happening at the Monkey Island. The visitors did not attack the enclosure, nor were they even compelled to look at it; more often they seemed content to continue chatting as they passed by. A narrow strip of water separates it from the land, with a path leading around the island. Looking away from the island the ground slopes steeply up in rocky, sparsely vegetated outcrops, becoming dense as they rise. There is an open view onto the island along almost the entire length of the path.There is nowhere what you could call a ‘viewpoint’, rather there is an open view spanning three hundred and sixty degrees of the island’s perimeter. I mostly observed people meandering around, stopping intermittently and looking toward the island. What was it that made the difference - surely the same people visited both attractions? Obviously the danger associated with leopards heightens the excitement of looking at the animal; the technology of observation embedded in the architecture exaggerates this, acting as a catalyst. The primary difference between the two is in the mode of looking that each architectural configuration demands. The leopard garden requires a spectacular form of vision where the event unfolds before you through the frame provided by the screen. The monkey island is a social form of vision where one chooses the point from which to observe, and viewing involves moving, walking around the island, hearing the noises, smelling, feeling the same breeze as the monkeys, mirroring Crary’s description of the ‘modern observer.’ There is no vertical barrier between you and the island, no desire to permeate the boundaries because they are invisible. It is social because neither the display nor viewer exerts a subjugating force over the other. In this way the monkey island allows the visitor to experience it within their sovereign subjectivity: at one’s own pace. In constrast, the leopard den subjects the viewer to a predetermined visual experience. *Bewilderment In the Butterfly House* The third location, the butterfly house, seems to have elements of both the active spectatorship around the leopard den and the rather melancholy passive viewing of the monkey island. It is a large traditionally constructed glasshouse. The planting is so dense it practically obscures the glass walls. The fleeting butterflies are the space’s attraction, innumerable yet almost invisible their presence fills the enclosure. I first visited the butterfly house on a quiet day. A young boy, about eight years old, stood in the middle of a path just inside the entrance. He held his arms out in a manner that looked a little like he was sleep walking. He looked happy, immersed in the space, enjoying the experience of letting the butterflies flutter around him. I found some kind of relief in this, and frequently returned looking for others so immersed in this experience; it wasn’t hard to find them. But this was not the only repetitive behaviour I noticed: there were many who would stalk the butterflies, sneaking up on them to get as close a look
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as possible, without the butterfly flying off. How does this relate to the previous locations? The fundamental difference between the butterfly house and the leopard den or monkey island, is that here one is inside the enclosure. The creatures ‘on display’ are so numerous and distributed so diffusely, there is no scopic hierarchy. Perception is fully immersive. The hierarchy of display, the relation between viewer and object, is broken so completely that it is impossible to know where to look. Everywhere you look flickers with activity, yet as soon as you focus on one point that activity has moved. The architecture neither determines from where you will look, nor onto what. The breaking down of a fixed visual positioning allows for various reactions: with immersive vision the viewer determines the activity or passivity of their spectatorship, entirely on their own terms. Some attempt to take control by using their camera to fix a viewer subject hierarchy. Others refrain from trying to master the space and stand mesmerised by the eerie stillness of the constant activity around them. Part Two *Island Discoveries* My experiences at the zoo made clear to me the manipulative powers an architectural construction holds over its users, and pointed out the possibilities in manipulating the hierarchies of power from one space to another.The spaces in-between displays at the zoo seemed, somewhat like the monkey island, not to subject any controlling force over me. They reminded me of an English landscape garden with their winding paths and distant follies. In “Suspensions of Perception” Jonathan Crary shows that material discursive practice has shaped successive scopic regimes through the construction of various modes of observation. One’s mode of attention is constructed by a particular discourse of looking. Modern “Attention implied that cognition could no longer be conceived around the unmediated given-ness of sense data. […] it made a previously dyadic system of subject-object into a triadic one, with the third element constituted by a ‘community of interpretations’: a shifting and intervening space of socially articulated physiological functions, institutional imperatives, and a wide range of techniques, practices, and discourses”. (Crary, 2001 p.45/46) The English landscape garden’s end as a contemporary style coincides with Crary’s proposed shift to a modern mode of attention. Visiting the Pfaueninsel, the epitome of an isolated ‘English’ landscape garden (though situated in Germany), a 19th Century Xanado located on an island in the river Havel, I meandered freely along its many paths. I tried briefly to take pictures on the way, but somehow it did not seem right. Initially unimportant, this inability to stop and make a photograph began to puzzle me. As I wandered along winding paths happening upon events, my journey around the island felt like a real adventure. The landscape was clearly completely artificial: the follies, especially the castle, were so crudely built they looked almost amateurish. This type of illusionary architecture I usually find utterly contrived. Yet the further I moved into the island the more ‘real’ it became. Had I become more willing to suspend my disbelief? Had the setting become more convincing? Had the durational experience of being on the island created a new logic in my perception of reality? Although the buildings looked out of place at first, the way one approached them, like a new discovery each time, seemed entirely natural. How did these proscribed paths that are perhaps more contrived than the follies, make the experience of wandering around the island appear so natural and enjoyable? I did not feel in any way subject to any form of power from the garden, it felt more like I was being encouraged to collaborate with it in a game of interpretations. *The French Formal Garden* If the English landscape garden embodied a ‘modern’ attention then what of its predecessors. The French formal garden is the direct predecessor to the English landscape garden. On a trip to Paris I visited the gardens of Versailles, the paradigmatic French formal garden. Despite the vastness of its scale, the formal patterning of the garden is repeated into the tiniest details. Walking around it was quite bewildering: the control over nature deployed over such a vast area was awe-inspiring. Yet the experience was often exceptionally boring, with every path straight and usually lined by dense borders. It was never a surprise to reach something after twenty minutes walking towards it; still, there were moments of amazement. Sublime vistas, overwhelming by their scale and the power in cultivating such an enormous area. Sublime in order, so regular, neat and formal that it even felt soothing to gaze upon them. Subjected to this sublimity, it was almost as if the park controlled
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the very experience of it. Walking around in the garden was merely to become part of it. It could not to be experienced as a subjective eye exploring and discovering what it found. My experience of the garden was twofold: both soothing and imposing. Leaving the park felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and yet it was mentally more strenuous. Perhaps this dual response, of being both subject to and pleased by the garden, was connected to a feeling of being under its control, or the one who sat in the castle above the park, presiding over it. *The Photographic Need* When I walked around the grounds of Versailles I instantly felt the need to photograph. I had taken my camera but had not expected to use it after the unwillingness to photograph I had experienced at ‘Pfaueninsel’. This need began as I was walked through one of the maze like areas to the left of the central axis. I took about sixty images, though I knew at the time I would not use them. It is not the images that are interesting, but the need to photograph as apposed to the unwillingness I experienced on ‘Pfaueninsel’. Why did one of the gardens produce a need, and the other an unwillingness to photograph? Is it related to the garden’s political construction and specific positioning of the viewer? In Versailles I somehow needed to mediate my viewing with the camera. The act of photographing establishes a new power relation between subject and maker, giving the subject a degree of ownership over his surroundings. My reaction to the imposing force of the sublime grandeur experienced in the gardens of Versailles was to photograph them, to create a new relation between myself and my surroundings through the camera. Certain objects and situations expect to be photographed. ‘Pfaueninsel’ is one of these situations. Its design begs to be photographed, even staging the images for you. As an artist working within photography I also feel an expectation to photograph, an expectation coming both from within, and from a cultural presumption that I should photograph. But despite these imperatives, I did not photograph on ‘Pfaueninsel’. The landscape felt incomplete, its illusion was not hermetic and I was deeply engaged there. In fact the degree of open-endedness allowed me to use my imagination as I wandered around. I even tried to photograph but it did not feel necessary. I had lost myself within the garden, it had annulled this imperative, I felt satisfied by just experiencing the garden.There was no need for me to negotiate my position in relation to the landscape through a camera, no need to assert my position in the landscape by taking photographs? Part Three *Peepshows and Panopticons* The landscape gardens shifted my attention away from abstractly observing the reaction of spectators to varying architectural constructs. The experience led me to perceive my own attention as historically constituted and as a material practice. My attention and its reactions to my changing environments had become my subject of study. In search of a concrete location in which to examine the effect of a given situation I became attracted to the idea of visiting a peepshow, as there the construction of power would not only relate to me and my environment, but also to directly to other people. In terms of the politics and architectural construction of visuality and visual pleasure, the peepshow is exemplar of the most extreme contrivance of power relations. The peep show consisted of a large central cylinder formed by multiple narrow doors, each numbered with a small cubical behind it. One third of the far wall was covered in a sheet of opaque glass, below which was a slot to insert money. A twoeuro coin turns the light off and the glass becomes transparent, revealing the center of the cylinder.This room is larger than the cubicles, and contains a circular rotating bed, lit by spotlights. The artist performs on the rotating bed, allowing them to address each spectator individually. The similarity between Bentham’s Panopticon and the peepshow is striking and fascinating, particularly in their subtle differences. In the peepshow it is clearly possible to see the performer at the center of the cylinder, they are spotlit for spectators lurking in the shadows. This construction performs a reversal of the panopticon, where the surrounding rooms are lit so that the person in the center may see in to them, without being seen themselves. As a spectator I was physically disconnected from the event happening before me. This separation of the visual stimuli and the body of the observer is reminiscent of the division the camera Obscurer makes. I looked from a darkened room through a void onto an object of desire, a super display, the performer. The performer absorbed my gaze yet when I took my eyes off them, I could make out, secluded in darkness, other spectators like myself. I found the reflection of my position as spectator startling. Suddenly it is possible to see myself from outside. This double separation of the visual and the visceral
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reminds me of Zizek’s description of the real. The moment I saw myself from outside, the thing I had been looking at, the performer, itself became a void. According to Zizek “the Real is not the pre-reflexive reality of our immediate immersion into our life-world but, precisely, that which gets lost, that which the subject has to renounce, in order to become immersed into its life-world – and, consequently, that which then returns in the guise of spectral apparitions”.(Zizek,2008 p.17) And he, reading Hegel, describes “a split which cleaves the One from within, not into two parts - but between Something and Nothing, between One and the Void of its Place.- And it is in this gap that the Real emerges: the Real is the “almost nothing” which sustains the gap that separates a thing from itself.”(Zizek, 2008 p.26) Looking away from the performer of the peepshow, the object of my gaze began oscillating “between One and the Void of its Place”. The performer occupies the position of the panopticon guard, yet by being on display, the power they relinquish in becoming visible is recuperated through their visual attraction demanding the spectator’s attention. The rotating performer looks at each spectator, using their gaze to compel each one to keep watching. One reading of the situation, would put power firmly in the hand of the performer who is able to see everyone and control their view. Yet Zizek illuminates the mechanisms at play in this complex viewing situation, when the object of the spectator’s gaze becomes a void, and the rotating body on display is overlooked. This reading puts power in the individual choice of where to look, and is not tied to the positions defined by the apparatus. It challenges my earlier analysis of the zoo’s power structure, presenting the possibility that there can be ‘an outside’ to the constructions determinism. In the peep show I felt the controlling gaze from the performer, and was confronted with an uncomfortable feeling where I had to choose between a whole host of socially accepted gazes in return, none of them adequate. This inadequacy made me look away and in doing so I saw the other spectators, at this moment the performer now inhabited a spot at which I could not look. Here in this apparatus of display where I had imagined the architectures subjecting force to be the most controlling of all the tableaus I had investigated, the relation of power rather than being produced by the architecture, as in the zoo, was now a negotiation between the performer and me. Could an understanding of ones gaze as a political tool provide a key in subverting architectures determinism?
Bibliography Crary, J 1992 Techniques of the Observer, Cambridge, Massachusetts,The MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-53107-0 Crary, J 2001 Suspensions of Perception, Cambridge, Massachusetts,The MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-53199-2 Foucault, M 1995  Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York:Vintage, ISBN 0-679-75255-2 Tagg, J 2007  The Burden of Representation, Essays on Photographies and Histories, New York: Palgrave MacMillan, ISBN 0-333-41824-7 Zizek, S 2008 For they know not what they do: Enjoyment as a political factor, London:Verso ISBN 1-844-67212-3 References Barthes, R 2000  Camera Lucida, London:Vintage, ISBN 0-09-922541-7 Deluze, G 1992 Postscript on the Societies of Control, essay in October 59, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-75209-0 Grundberg, A 2004  The crisis of the real: Photography and the Postmodern, one of a collection of essays in, The Photography Reader, London: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-24661-X Lutz, Collins 2004  The photograph as an Intersection of Gases: The Example of National Geographic, one of a collection of essays in, The Photography Reader, London: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-24661-X Foster, H 1996 The Return of the Real, Cambridge, Massachusetts,The MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-56107-7 Solomon-Godeau, A 2004  Winning the game when the rules have been changed, one of a collection of essays in, The Photography Reader, London: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-24661-X Sontag, S 2002  On Photography, London: Penguin Classics, ISBN 0-141-18716-6 Sween, M 2002 Inventing the Victorians, London: Faber and Fabe, ISBN 0-571-20663-8
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‘I’m Thinking of You’ Franko B Visions of Excess at SHUNT Vaults, London as part of Spill Festival of Performance
12. 04. 2009 I found Franko B illuminated (awash in gold spotlight, naked and smiling) on a converted gilt playground swing in one of the archways opening onto the dank corridors of Shunt. Accompanied only by the tinklings of a simple piano tune, the seemingly endless loop of swinging and sound carried with it the nostalgia of music boxes and lullabies. Occasionally making eye contact, Franko glanced as if in invitation to those watching him while enjoying a chat and a drink. Perhaps an attempt to welcome us into the fantasy, the invitation was an extension of one that Franko had made earlier in his open call for participants to inhabit the installation at hourly intervals. And as time unfolded, another ‘performer’ assumed his place on the swing, extending the image in cycles over a period of twelve hours. The multiple levels of repetition in ‘I’m Thinking of You’ seemed to echo like the persistent refrains in Franko’s past work.These have revolved around love (and the beloved) and around ideas of home (the place where love lives).‘Oh Lover Boy’... ‘I Miss you’ ... ‘Blinded by Love’ .........................blinded by love, I wonder what he can see in front of him? Can he see beyond a persistent image from the past? And if his performances are a type of re-enactment, what compels him to go back for more? Doing. Re-doing. Doing again. Magical undoing. A child hostage appealing from a state of abjection? When asked about this piece, Franko responded that it was not about him. (Indeed, he also reminded a few performers who may have been drawing attention to themselves, that it was not about them either.) Perhaps now, working with light instead of blood, performances which might previously be read as melancholic (re)enactment, circling around a central loss, act more as revelation coming in a blinding flash of love, or a blinding flash of love coming in revelation… In his most recent performance work, ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, the audience, temporarily blinded by light, was left with a perceptual afterglow. An image, similar to that created after looking at the sun for too long, temporarily persists. By contrast, in ‘I’m Thinking of You’, Franko, seemingly bathed in the light of romance, was the lived afterglow. The re-occurrence of this flickering image over an extended period of time invited us (some, literally) to enter into it while, at the same time, the twelve hour duration seemed to collapse into an extended residual image. Indeed, the participants and audience members that I spoke to remarked that the performance stayed with them, manifesting in feelings of “happiness”. An activating, affective takeaway?
Franko B, ‘I’m Thinking of You’, 2009 Photo: Richard J. Andersen
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‘I’m Thinking of You’, was brought to life in the context of Visions of Excess, a live art event co-curated by Ron Athey and Lee Adams as part of the Spill Festival in London. Billed in the supporting publicity as a “12 hour communion with the ragged spirit of Georges Bataille”, from 9pm until 9am Visions of Excess occupied its time with work from a number of international artists including Bruce LaBruce, Ron Athey and Kiera O’Reilly. In the main stage areas, David Hoyle acted as compère/health & safety, rep/sideshow host(ess) and tour guide for the performances. Tragicomic experiments in personal transformation were explored in works such as in ‘Til Death Do You Part - Marry Yourself!’ a one to one performance with an “encouraging priestess” where the participant had an opportunity to devise and enact a ceremonial commitment to themselves. In Zackary Drucker’s ‘work in progress’, the audience, encouraged by an acousamatic voice (reminiscent to that of a guide from a self-help audio tape), was invited to collectively build-up and channel negative energy (derived from personal failure) into the hair follicles of the artist dressed only in a blond wig, stilettos and panties. As a finale, in a futile collective act of gender re-assignment, the participants, now armed with tweezers, were encouraged to pluck hair from the artist’s body to the accompaniment of the disembodied voice’s chants of “you will never be a woman”. Albeit it in different ways, the work in Visions, responds to alienation from societal ideals ingested and then enforced by our ‘selves’. Captured by ‘images’ of perfection we are forced into repetitive patterns of behaviour. Our vision thus guided and media-driven, we get caught in the productivity of sterile cycles of consumption. And try as we might, steered by a hunger for completion never satisfied, we never quite manage to shoehorn into the confines of the ideal. In this way, happily ever after, we are destined to fail in the pursuit of an ideal romance modelled after an ideal childhood. And in these closed and enclosed economies, the excess produced by, while at the same time, excluded from the system, is neatly kept out of sight. Working with his own blood in previous live performances, Franko B’s wound was open to be interpreted in a variety of ways.The skin acted as a landscape to the visible surfacing of an individual psychological conflict (as in historical readings of persistent skin disorders such as eczema), marked him out as the bearer of stigma, and represented a collective vulnerability, and disgrace. A scarlet letter radiating a burning heat. As Erving Goffman examines in Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, stigma is something that marks the bearer out as different from existing, desirable, social norms. It is a mark, however small, of some defect in presentation of or deviation from the identity categories that form us and which we reiterate our self in relation to. Stigma, therefore, has to be ‘managed’ to a greater or lesser extent. Informa-
Franko B, ‘I’m Thinking of You’, 2009 Photo: Richard J. Andersen
Looking back at Franko B’s past, and following from Deleuze and Guattari’s work on ‘refrain’, one might say that the refrains in his body of work act together to create a territory or a terrain. But maybe this ‘home’ does not function merely as domestic refuge, but has the potential to become a more enduring act of production. By continually invoking an ‘image’ of home, home is brought into being. By externalising and actualising a need (to have a home and the love and security that, ideally, it contains), he has potential to integrate his creation and to carry it with him. A mobile home? In a similar way, by playing with a clichéd image, as he does in ‘I’m Thinking of You’, Franko B does not return to the nostalgia of personal memory only to repeat it in the future. By using a fictionalised image of ‘the past’, he opens up new possibilities for the future of that image. A processional self? By returning to a fictive time that has been ‘lost’, actualising a time which never, and possibly could never, exist (an ideal), something new is created in the slippage of that image’s boundaries.
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tion needs to be controlled, so that the individual is not labelled as different and then marginalized, or excluded. Since identities are relational, stigmatization may precipitate a crisis in self-perception that would require a readjustment of personal schema. For these reasons, the visibility of stigma is controlled wherever possible and concealed. When it does surface, so does a feeling of shame. And this shame may lead to anxiety and avoidance of social contact. Goffman goes on to explain that the stigmatized and the ‘normal’ are not so different from each other, in fact, he says that they run in parallel to each other and that “every individual participates in both roles”.1 As both a part and a product of a shared framework and system of rules, they are reciprocal and dependant upon one another. Even the so-called normal shares some, however small, stigma, as they desire but can never fully achieve an unattainable social ideal. In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari, in a concern with how to proceed in a war fought against what they recognise as a sick (neurotic) society, explore how a feeling of lack is created, maintained, and exploited by society and it’s mechanisms of power through repression (for example, in capitalism’s exploitation of the free floating desire created by repression). Similarly, this constant striving for, but never achieving a state of completion in an idealised and stable identity (itself an unattainable social ideal), creates a feeling of lack in the subject. As I see it, it is this lack, maintained in the self-perpetuating closed system of the ‘I’, which can be made manifest through stigma as excess. In this way, stigma performs as a symptom (as a positive symptom, perhaps), as a defect in the cultural machine, surfacing repressed desire and alterity. Surfacing what is kept out of conscious awareness has the potential to remind us of our ultimate alienation from the ideal, and by extension, society (and ourselves created in relation to it) - the alterity internal to ourselves. It also has a role to play in escaping the system. While some of the work at Visions of Excess was literally playing with systemic waste (think auto-fisting, blow-jobs, blood-letting), Franko B played with an ideal by bringing it to life.........and invited others to join in. In ‘I’m Thinking of You’, I see Franko B bringing a fantasy to light. This is not just a personal/reparative phantasy, or an idealised and fetishised image, but extends to include that of social ideal. There did seem to be some catharsis to be had in having the opportunity to temporarily embody (and in the process reconfigure the shape of) an ideal childhood/romance. In this piece, it is not the scars left by his past performances, nor the tattoos that capture my attention. Is it the face of an image with no fixed identity, collectively owned? Strangely, I noticed that once performers took to the driving seat, that they, although altogether physically different, shared a similar look. As one participant explained to me, his experience on the swing oscillated between self-awareness, “it’s cold”, “people are look-
ing at me”, and loss in what he described as ‘non-personal’ reverie...Blinded by love is he having a romance with himself? Has he, escaping capture, ‘returned’ home? And as an audience participant, over time, I can’t help but feel the image’s eidetic affect.
1 Goffman, Erving. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Penguin Books, 1968, (163).
Jonas Staal “Art is seen as one of democracy’s most essential pillars: it is the space par excellence for the free expression of ideas, the experimentation with new models of society. However, when an artist takes this role too seriously and becomes too straightforwardly political, s/he is accused of demagogy or simply discarded as bad art” 1 Stating that every form of ideology is per definition a rejection of a world that consists of a multiplicity of truths and realities is of course an ideologically driven proposition in itself. There is even a clear system of consensus that represents exactly these ideals: I claim that this is what we call the democratic project, to which I refer to as democratism. Contemporary art constitutes the perfect face of democratism when it is self-critical, inquisitive, open, tolerant, continually under development and full of interest in others. And it is from this perspective only logical that our politics speak about how much it wants to leave art ‘free’ and ‘independent’. For this ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ are exactly among the core values of democratism and we as artists have become to constitute the perfect representatives of these values. For me the crucial question is the following: what does this specific notion of criticism mean in a society in which contemporary art is expected to be critical as such? I do not think we can speak of real criticism at all once these expectations are met. I state that real criticism is to be found at the moment when the profound entanglement between art and politics takes its place at the heart of the artist’s work. Or at least: when this entanglement forms the basis of operations performed in artistic practice. II. The first of my projects that I wish to introduce within this line of thinking was realized in direct cooperation with politician Ronald Sørensen, leader of the Rotterdam-based right-wing populist party Leefbaar Rotterdam. 3 In 2007 PvdA left-wing labour party member Zeki Baran proposed to realize a ‘Monument for the immigrant worker’ in the Afrikaanderwijk in Rotterdam. The Afrikaanderwijk is a neighbourhood built in the 1920-30s and is named after farmers of Dutch decent in South Africa. On August 10th 1972 severe confrontations took place when native citizens of Rotterdam invaded into immigrant workers’ homes and forced them to leave their houses with all their possessions. The reason of this violent intrusion was the amount of illegal housing that was offered to immigrants, which gave the impression that they were treated better then the native citizens, who also suffered from a shortage of affordable living spaces. The ‘Monument for the immigrant worker’ was meant to honour those immigrants who after the ending of WWII helped to rebuild, and settled in, the city of Rotterdam, which had been severely bombed by the Nazis. And of course, the monuments would also function as a plaster for the treatment the immigrants received when violently forced out of their houses.This monument was supposed to be realized by asking families of this first generation of immigrant workers to each donate one euro.
POST-PROPAGANDA An introduction by Jonas Staal
I. Since modern art has seemingly successfully obtained its status as a sovereign métier, the concept of propaganda has possibly become the greatest taboo for all cultural producers in the field. The trauma of the 20th century ‘state-art’ – art made in favour or under pressure of totalitarian regimes2 – has had a huge impact on our thinking on the relationship between art and politics. Contemporary art when concerned with socio-political issues is generally perceived as an arena of criticality, which ‘reveals’ to us the dangers of ideology. An arena that counters populist strategies and which instead of pleasing the spectator, challenges him to see the world around us as an area of multiple truths. The fear of propaganda is the fear of the unambiguous (political) positioning of the artist. Today it is expected from artists to show to us the world as an ambiguous place. To show us the world as a place which exists by a variety of truths. To show us a world that is in need of a continuous interest in others. This doctrine is based on the fear of stigmatizing (again) those who have suffered from totalitarian regimes in the past. To affiliate with those conservatives that represent the contrary, the ‘dangerous’ and inevitably ‘violent’ nature of truth seeking, is to affiliate with propagandists. For every claim on the truth or on the framework of reality as such would mean that other truths and realities would be rejected. Ideology within contemporary art is continuously discussed as a doctrine: as an inevitable first step to mass-murder and violent repression, even though the claim on ‘true’ art as a field of multiplicity and ambiguity is not any less dogmatic at all. In my essay ‘Post-propaganda’ I claim that placing the artist in this role as a ‘questioner’, as someone who merely ‘shows a mirror’ to society, is just as much – and even more – representing the current state of ideology as those artists whom we have learned to reject for their unambiguous bond with ideologically driven organisations. For the ideal of multiplicity, the ideal of the artists showing ‘mirrors’ to the world around us, the ideal of the artist ‘revealing’ the secret mechanisms of ideology and the ideal of the artist to exercise continuous tolerance are values that are obviously not at all free of an ideological basis.
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Monument for the chased-off citizens of Rotterdam - Interview still, 2008; Interview by Vincent van Gerven Oei and Jonas Staal
Politician Sørensen reacted furiously when hearing of Baran’s statement and immediatly proposed to realize a countermonument: a monument that he called the ‘Monument for the Chased-Off Citizens of Rotterdam’. The sketching phase for this monument was executed after several statements made by Sørensen in the media,4 and through a series of telephone conversations, to picture exactly what Sørensen had in mind. I presented a 3D model to Sørensen and the arts and culture representative of the party Anton Molenaar, while interviewing both of them. This conversation was conducted together with writer Vincent van Gerven Oei. In this interview Sørensen, in strong opposition of Baran’s suggestion of a monument for the immigrant worker, said the following on the issue: “A statue so as to express gratitude to and commemorate the hard-working immigrant, which would have given us our prosperity. Again, you don’t do such a thing, that’s nonsense. [...] Because that would entail that we owe our wealth and prosperity to these so-called guest-workers and that is absolute nonsense. It’s untrue. It’s only a hyper correct manipulation of history which always intensely annoys me and which is used time after time again. So, when Baran said “We need to erect a monument for all those people to which we owe all of this,” I said “Get real, this a lie insistently kept alive by the multicultural Mafia.” If you really want to honour someone in this city, to whom we owe our prosperity and wealth, it should be those people that worked their ass off for this city after the war. [...] But those people don’t feel themselves at home anymore in the Afrikaanderwijk, they have all left, or have been chased-off. So if you want to honour someone, honour the chased-off citizens of Rotterdam.” 5 When the model of the desired monument was presented to them for the first time during the interview, their response was as follows: “Ronald Sørensen: I think it’s beautiful. It’s a total surprise for me, but I think it’s beautiful. Anton Molenaar: Yes, I think so too. I’m not sure whether it’s on purpose, but it’s not really provoca¬tive. It’s just objective, there are many possibilities, so... RS:Yes, I think it’s beautiful.” 6 Obviously Sørensen’s statements concerning the realisation of this monument were, in first intention, only meant as a polemical strategy. His proposition was meant to force media attention to Baran’s – yet unrealized – ‘Monument for the immigrant worker’. It is therefore that he states that “It’s a total surprise for me” when he is confronted with the sketch that can be used to create the actual monument.This does not keep him from wanting to have it realized: it is just for the first time that he is actually considering its realization, as he himself never took his own proposition seriously in the first
place. It is in this line that other comments from him are interesting as well. For example when in the beginning of the interview he states that “I have no background in art. And as a politician, I don’t want to be involved with it.”7 This statement sounds highly familiar when thinking of the artist or the art institution which does reflect upon subjects of a sociopolitical nature, but when asked further, will always deny direct political involvement. As of course, consensus demands from contemporary art to always question, but never to acknowledge a direct ideological bond with what is being questioned, or the way in which this model of questioning functions. For this would make him a propagandist or at least a politician. Certainly not an artist. One could say that in the case of my production for Sørensen, my role is that of a propagandist: the role of a state artist in the most traditional sense of the word. But I claim that a great difference lies in the element of choice: my conscious choice to be involved with the representatives of the Leefbaar Rotterdam party. It is this element of choice that shows a difference in the balance of power when comparing my position with that of the classic propagandist. For it could just as well be stated that I am an instrument of the Leefbaar Rotterdam party for the representation of their political program, as that they are an instrument in my attempt to analyse and dissect the meaning and ideological structuring of democratism. I will try to specify this position by introducing a second example of a work that I realized for a local Rotterdam representative of the PvdA left-wing labour party named Robert Baruch. In 2006 Baruch proposed to start an investigation concerning the history of the street names in, again, the Afrikaanderwijk in Rotterdam. Baruch’s proposal was based on a petition that a group of African actors had sent to him. These actors had been shocked to find out that the street names in Afrikaanderwijk referred directly to the former Apartheidregiment. These were names that found their origins around the year 1900, when the people of The Netherlands were highly engaged with the Dutch-speaking ‘Afrikaanders’ who, led by Paul Kruger – also known as ‘Oom Paul’ (Uncle Paul) – fought in the ‘Boerenoorlog’ (The ‘Farmer’s war’) against English oppressors. In an interview Baruch stated that he was thinking to change the street names into names that would symbolize a ‘new Africa’.8 Among others he proposed to change the Paul Krugerstraat in the ‘Shaka Zoeloestraat’, named after the former leader of the Zulu’s, Shaka. After having initiated a public intervention in which I had the street sign changed according to Baruch’s wishes, I gave the assignment to Sign & Traffic – the organisation in the
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Monument for the chased-off citizens of Rotterdam - Model, 2008 3d model by Sjoerd Oudman
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Netherlands who produces all official public street signs – to realize an actual street sign that could replace the Paul Krugerstraat. Together with a letter signed by me on March 17th, these were shown in two art shows before being send to Baruch.9 In the letter I stated that I hoped to have been “at his service”10 in the continuation of his initiative: “Ik hoop u hiermee voldoende van dienst te zijn in het voorzetten van uw initiatief.” III. In both works, the ‘Monument for the Chased-Off Citizens of Rotterdam’ as well as the Shaka Zoeloestraat, political representatives state to represent the voice of the people: in the first case the voice of the male native worker, and in the second case the voice of the immigrant worker. Even though the goals of both propositions are seemingly different, both cases claim to give a voice to those whom are not heard at this moment. This is in line with the ideological framework that both Leefbaar Rotterdam and the Pvda claim to represent, namely that of democratism. At the same time both propositions function based on undemocratic grounds. For Sørensen and Baruch’s proposals are propositions by two individuals that are obviously in power: at least in power to make such propositions and create public attention by it to strengthen their political stances. But so far nobody controlled or forced neither Sørensen nor Baruch to make a concrete proposition for the realisation of their monuments (I consider the street sign to be a monument as well). Until I took both Sørensen and Baruch seriously, both propositions were dying a silent death in the realm of rhetoric strategies. I state that we should put the concept of the state artist to discussion once again. We should not be fooled by the current consensus ruling contemporary art production that there is always some kind of ‘independent’ role or function for artists, within which the concept of ‘propaganda’ – similar to populism – has become a dirty word par excellence. Especially in The Netherlands, where a large part of contemporary art production is subsidized by the government the question of who is in power is in need of an urgent answer. For as artists we, by our mere existence, form the face of democratism, representing its values of tolerance, freedom and the capacity of being (self)critical. If indeed we are the conscious or unconscious propagandists of the system, how then to address our actual hosts, politicians, who assign us this task to represent the values of democratism? How do we address them when they state that contemporary art has its own sovereignty of which they do not wish to comment or make any judgements when at the same time they are laying down the exact framework that we continue to represent? And think of how perfect this form of propaganda is in comparison to the propaganda of the past. For we as artists work
for the system, but the system itself does not have to be held responsible for this. We constitute a face for democratism that nobody dares to wear publicly. Politicians will always claim that the art made today is a ‘free’ art: free of the totalitarian influences of the past. But I find this concept of ‘freedom’ ridiculous when exercising and representing it is exactly the task given to us. My claim is that today the role of the state artist is not only to redefine democratism, but also to educate politicians. To educate them in the powers that they themselves represent, but do not acknowledge as such. To renegotiate the slogan ‘Power to the people!’ into a public questioning of the balance of powers by asking: ‘Power?... To which people?!’ And as artists, we should also allow ourselves to be educated and directed by politicians. Our inevitable position as state artists should be acknowledged both ways for “I would say that we are all always already serving”.11 The first objective is the following: to re-design politics as an artistic domain, and to redesign art as a domain of the political. And is it not interesting in this line of thinking to see how a right-wing political party such as Leefbaar Rotterdam, which in classical populist terminology claims to represent ‘the voice of the people’, a party which represents the ideal of direct democracy and rejects all forms of ‘totalitarian’ ideology from the past, from communism to socialism and fascism, when describing their wish for a ‘Monument for the Chased-Off Citizens of Rotterdam’ to basically describe an image based on the most representative aspects of socialrealism? And is it not interesting to see how a left-wing labour party such as the PvdA, in this case represented by a non-African politician, decide themselves who ‘new African heroes’ should be? And to choose an African warlord that most westerners only know from a 1987 Hollywood film that romanticized his existence? Is it not fascinating how the image, much more then the spoken vocabulary of politicians, is able to dissect the ideological grounds on which these proposals are truly based on? Not by means of an ‘outsiders’ critique, but from a fully embedded point of view. An embedment in which art and power are no longer falsely separated, but share one and the same spectre and objective: namely to redesign the meaning and the means of implementation of democratism today.
1 ‘Always Choose the Worst Option – Artistic Resistance and the Strategy of Over-Identification’ by BAVO, Episode Publishers, Rotterdam, 2007, p19. 2 ‘Did someone say totalitarianism?’ by Slavoj Zizek, Verso, London-New York, 2001. 3 Leefbaar Rotterdam – translated as ‘Live-able’ or ‘Endurable Rotterdam’ – is a local political party that came to being in 2001. During the elections of March 6th the former leader of the party, politician Pim Fortuyn, won 34.7% of the votes and thereby at once became the largest party in Rotterdam. Fortuyn was murdered two months later by an animal rights activist. 4 ‘LR wil beeld voor ‘verjaagde Rotterdammer’’ by Antti Liuku, AD Rotterdams Dagblad, 2007.
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5 ‘Monument for the chased-off citizens of Rotterdam - interview’ conducted by Vincent van Gerven Oei and Jonas Staal in 2008 and exhibited at Stroom,The Hague. Published in ‘Monumental Research’ by van Gerven Oei and Staal, Stroom, The Hague, 2009, p.14-17. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 ‘Apartheid-straten weg’ door Antti Liukku, gepubliceerd op 4 juli 2006 in het AD Rotterdam 9 These exhibitions were subsequently ‘Body-Double’ at the Nieuwe Vide in Haarlem (NL), curated by Emilie Oursel and ‘ACTIVISM DOUBT’ at De Veemvloer in Amsterdam (NL), curated by Radek Vana. Both exhibitions took place in March and April 2009. 10 This brings to mind the political slogan ‘At your service!’ with which populist politician Pim Fortuyn entered the 2002 Dutch elections before being murdered by an animal rights activist. 11 Andrea Fraser, How to Provide an Artistic Service: An Introduction, 1994. http://i1.exhibit-e.com/petzel/b82e289c.pdf
EMPTINESS IN THE POST-COMMUNIST CONDITION
STRUGGLES OF SELF-DEFINITION
“Future I saw a field full of sunflowers.They were all looking wrong way.” Dan Perjovschi Continuous displacements that operate discursively on the post-communist subject, result in a collective unconscious fear for the ‘new’ and the ‘other’. And in a paradoxical way it prevents a critical historical inquiry - nostalgia and a rather glorified historical victimisation become more reasonable ways of dealing with the complex aftermath of the communism. A certain psychological comfort was lost during the first decade of independence due to lack of promise of a comfortable stability that was previously a safety catch for the communist system. Therefore today in the times of capitalist market economy and democratic rule one can freely purchase nostalgically branded Soviet bread and mending tools etc. in a supermarket. “The post-soviet subject is longing for unified ideology and total order, according to which he would construct his life.The easiness and irresponsibility of everyday life supplied by accommodation are more important values for him than independence and freedom to decide for oneself.”1 Amorphous and unsettled times of still something else to come, are on an individual basis perceived with confused fear and disbelief so, as theorist Putinaite suggests, “reality released from ideological control reveals the ‘abnormality’ and doubtful reliability of those past everyday traditions. For instance, now a business relation based upon friendship is being called corruption.”2 Since the past is to be declined, terms and traditions revised, the self-perception of the post-communist subject becomes incomplete, dazzled and lacking a point of reference. It is relevant to compare these identification struggles with contemporary Lithuanian artist Arturas Raila’s work: Forever Lacking and Never Quite Enough, is a video cut of newsreels and short propaganda features from the 1940s.When it was shown for the first time in the Contemporary Art Center in Vilnius (2001) the artist invited dissident Genius Strazdas to read his patriotic-nationalist poetry alongside the screening of edited archive material. It is important to point out that the video material was provided by Lithuanian Image and Sound Archive, which as the curator of the show explains, is: “a state-run and chronically under-financed institution, over 30.000 films are kept in precarious conditions, but all those reels contain very few frames that we today would call ‘documentary’. Like its counterparts in other formerly totalitarian countries, the Lithuanian archive is a museum of the manipulated and manipulative moving image”. 3 In a
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Lithuanian Song and Dance Celebration; Nemunas Magazine
sense Raila’s piece is a distanced creation of a critical situation, where one ‘truth’ of ideological material is combined with another; resistance ‘truth’. Here the artist’s personal position is partly invisible, as voided, all there is represented is documentary archives and witness of the struggles during occupation. The focus is on their relation, between different history narratives of two perceptions of nationalism and resistance. As the edited footage continues rolling and the poet reads his poetry no “right questions” are being asked. Allowing both sides to perform, Raila approaches the manipulative silencing issue of post-communist discourse.Thus the artist says he dedicates this work to the stereotypical “older-generation” viewer in Lithuania - “this means someone who is an involuntary product of totalitarian worldorder and who does not have any of the conceptual tools to deal with recent history (or current world affairs) that are taken for granted by those brought up in some of the liberal, post-modern communities further to the west.”4 The screened images provide supportive conclusions about the paradigmatic self-image of an ethnically defined ‘self’ and latter modes of restructuring it after the fall of soviet state. Raila’s film could also be approached as a simplification and blurring of the current inquiries of history and memory, as he edits out the actual manifestations of events during occupation and leaves the spectator to encounter his (?) – our (Lithuanian) imaginary. “His idea is rather to visually re-create people’s unreflected, ingrained and indeed almost “automatic” reactions to the accounts of war and occupation that are traded in situations where there is little ideological control.”5 In addition to an un-questioning relation with the recent past it is important to point out the regional reception of these transition period’s processes, and the specific construction of a national identity as demonising attitude to-
wards the Western system just melting away, in turn it shapes ‘our own’ nationalist solution for the unanswered questions. Theorist Marius Babias’ article The Euro-self And The Europeanism explains the way, in his opinion, ideology of Europeanism reconciles socialism with capitalism and constructs a specific national discourse: “The preferred model, interpreting communism as a wrong way or a dead end is too limited.The contemporary process of restructuring the postcommunist society, as well as the self, as “European”, in the conditions offered by the dissolution of the communist past and by its profound cultural impregnations is not based on a critical approach to history, but tends to present a continuity of its national history, myths, traditions and cultural self-appreciations; but this heterogeneous presentation, offered by the new elites, represents the product of the “national discourse” of communism, dressed up as liberalism, which is dominant now.” 6 Although a positive EU identity policy aims to construct a pan-European community, where cultures and values would be shared, and diversity celebrated, in reality one can see creation of a new kind of hierarchy in the regions of Eastern Europe – according to the obtained level of Europeanism. Concerned with the integration processes a subject is struck by the double necessity to embody amnesia and become equal. Therefore authenticity issues are approached as a modern act of self-identification. This simulated reality of a numbed collective memory was lauded during the nationalist rally, if taking the Song and Dance Celebration as an example, which has a tradition of a hundred years in Lithuania, and was also accredited by the soviet system.Annual celebrations were the biggest and most prosperous cultural events organised, and were unavoidable
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for everyone living in the capital cities. To participate and wear a ‘national’ costume gave the possibility to demarcate one’s identity collectively – to celebrate it – on a basis of emotional national euphoria. Folk type songs and dances, that had been rewritten, harmonised by soviet composers and choreographers were a numb comfort for the occupied nation. (Putinaite names one of the many examples of invented abstract identification symbols during soviet times as the Baltic Sea; somehow entrenched as symbol of Lithuanian-ness and pureness, it was carolled in the songs and poetry of the period.) This kind of nationalist stream was a societal process, encouraging euphoria and solidarity within community. And again, after the decline of the communist system, these rooted traditions of self-articulation embarked on struggles within the search for some kind of ‘new’ authenticity, being able to avoid the right-wing nationalist wave of slogans. The locations of the so-called ‘Lithuanian-ness’ or other similarly defined identities still reflect the communist promoted salvation. The poet and academic Tomas Venclova, who has been living and working in the West since 1977, asserts such a position: “Eastern Europe is lagging behind from the viewpoint of civilization – partly for historical reasons formed over the course of centuries, and partly because of the unsuccessful “socialist” experiment that lasted fifty years. One should not worship this civilization lag and treat it as a sign of nobility or inner depth. Far more often, it testifies only to obscurity, sluggishness, and submission to cruel and limited patriarchal norms, which we tend to think of as national values or primeval goodness lost in modern society.” 7 The ambiguous and ambivalent situation of today’s postcommunist subjects’ self-definition could be traced in continuation of this National Song and Dance Celebration tradi-
tion today and its according current official rhetoric vaguely different from soviet propaganda. Therefore representation of national identity attributes to myths and appropriate re-interpretations of history. In 2008 an official website for Song and Dance Celebration hosts an article analysing the “tradition and symbolism” of this event. Here are some parts quoted from it: “From the cultural point of view the national song and dance celebration tradition is an expression of cultural-national identity based on a mass art lover movement of choir singers, dancers, and musicians.The artistic product they create as well as their existence per se performs the function of an intermediary between archaic cultural layers and modern professional creation. From the cultural historical point of view, the national song and dance celebration tradition largely contributed to the cultural development of Lithuania at the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. It proved to be the most important manifestation of Lithuanian national-cultural identity and a form of its preservation. It continuously emphasised the most significant part of traditional cultural heritage (especially singing that has been universally acknowledged to be the most valuable aspect of the song and dance celebration) as well as the most noteworthy treasures of professional contemporary and historical art. At present, the song and dance celebration tradition is well balanced. /…/ From the civic and political points of view, the song and dance celebration tradition has always been, especially during occupation periods, a means to maintain the national identity and a secret weapon to protect aspirations for independence.The fact that the independence in all the three Baltic countries was restored with the help of a ‘singing revolution’ in 1990 is largely a result of the mentality nurtured by the song and dance celebration tradition.”8 On the other hand Venclova, during the international conference in Vilnius (2008) Fall of the Berlin Wall: From Budapest to
Arturas Raila, Forever Lacking and Never Quite Enough, 2002-03; Installation view www.mke.hu/news/index.php?func=showarticle&art=14781d9e3e0f57
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Vilnius profoundly expressed concerns related to such nationalist spirit tradition. “One of the weaknesses that Lithuanian dissent nurtured was quite often exaggerated fight for Lithuanian national identity. Communist rule was not erasing, but castrating the nations – forbidding ideas about independence and democracy, therefore after Stalin’s death there wasn’t much emphasis on ethnical decline. So called “nationalist self-protection”/…/ sadly quite often was interwoven with anti-modernist position, provincial isolationist attitude, chauvinist, xenophobic, and even racist elements. The Lithuanian identity itself was understood narrowly, confused with “blood and soil” categories, peasant mentality and psychology.” 9 Thus I wonder what could be the authenticity definition for a generation that did not experience occupation and is not that easily manipulated by myths of the past. How could one re-articulate identity without ready-made and inherited patterns affirming the cultural and political designations “Lithuanian”, “European”, “communist”, etc.? Observing the current interpretations of experiences of daily life, political agenda and cultural definitions one could see an oppressive shift – a certain lamenting for a despairing dream. A prominent figure in the movement for independence V. Landzbergis uses H. Balzac’s “lost illusions” analogy of “inheritance always behind” to describe how a meaningful way of being is struggling in Lithuania today, and why there are so many lost illusions. “A previous regime in its new shape persists within its ruled territories, much wider than Lithuania. It is not gone, but strives to be, establish, fixate itself, and where possible – to avenge. Is it failing really? We have to answer it for ourselves.” And this situation scarcely repeats the concerns and hopes of the generation that lived during communism- that insecure lamenting over historical and cultural memory, when a possible real touch upon authenticity has been voided of its recognition. The post-communist self deals with inherited uncertainties arriving from the dualistic soviet reality, consisting of two parallel experiences: an ideological, representational one with prescribed ideals, feelings and values - and a personal, ‘real’ reality - experienced through everyday, where authentic lack of meaning and belief dominates over simulated utopia. The effect produced by this inability to be(come) authentic is a disrupted self-perception and deceitful representation of the (post)communist identity. “Democracy All the democratic and economic achievements of Romania in recent years resemble the success of the Romanian world boxing champion Leonard Doroftei: After the victory we are taken to the hospital.” Dan Perjovschi
1 Nerija Putinaite (2007). Nenutrukusi styga.[Unbroken String. Accommodation and Resistance in Soviet Lithuania], trans. J.D (p.205). 2 Ibid, (p.206). 3 Anders Kreuger (2008), Muted Realities seminar paper 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Marius Babias (2006), “The Euro-self And The Europeanism”. IDEA, 24. 7 Tomas Venclova (1997). “Berlyno sienos paunksmeje” [In the Shadow of the Berlin Wall]. Kulturos barai, 10 (394)/1997. 8 Dalia Rasteniene, “Tradition and Symbolism of the Song and Dance Celebration Process in Lithuania”. http://www.dainusvente.lt/index. php?1686180731. 9 Tomas Venclova (2008). “Etninis nacionalizmas padejo totalitarinei sistemai pratesti valdyma” [Ethnic nationalism tradition supported the power of totalitarian system]. http://www.lrytas.lt/print.asp?data=&k=news&id=1212 7553891212719115. 10 Vytautas Landzbergis (2008). From talk given in a conference Fall of the Berlin Wall: From Budapest to Vilnius, trans. J.D, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter/ konferencija?p_r=5887&p_k=1&p_d=77674.
Jelena Martinovic P(r)océder 2008 Inkjet print. Plate of glass (20.9 x 29.7 cm), bichromated ammonium, arabic gum, sugar, water, pigment powder. Ink on paper (20.9 x 29.7 cm)
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Gulliver’s Travel into an Art Installation: On History, Identity and Difference Yinka Shonibare, MBE – Egg Fight
Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Egg Fight, 2009 Courtesy of the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery (London) and James Cohan Gallery (New York). Photo: Eugene Langan
In Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the first voyage of adventurous, travel loving Gulliver brings him to Lilliput, the land of little people, where in time he changes from a dreadful giant, to a friend of the country who is granted the highest title of honour and to a traitor that needs to be captured and blinded. In all these positions the relationship between Gulliver and the Lilliputians is one defined by the difference between them. The physical difference is actually an embodiment of Gulliver as an outsider, an observant of the country with all its absurdities and differences as they appear to Gulliver. Yet, the issue of difference is also manifested in the battles between Lilliputians and their neighbours, the Blefuscidians, which have been going on for “six and thirty moons” over the dispute about whether eggs should be broken from the larger end or the smaller end before eating. Seemingly a minor argument for Gulliver, the issue has actually become a display of power and authority for the two enemy countries that are seemingly identical to each other. This fight over eggs is the inspiration for Yinka Shonibare’s commissioned installation Egg Fight at Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane.
The installation is set up on a stage resembling a theatrical set in the first hall of the gallery space. Standing on the stage are two headless human figures wearing clothes made of African fabric cut in the style of European aristocrats’ clothing. They are pointing their guns at each other with a wall of eggs in between them. It is a tense moment; the battle has already started as it is evident with the hole in the wall and broken eggs on the floor, but the figures appear to be waiting to find the right position and timing for the next deadly blow against one another. The viewer encounters the work as soon as they enter the gallery. The position of the installation in the middle of the space forces the viewer to walk around the platform to see the work in the round, which also enables the position of the each figure to be seen from the other’s point of view. As the viewer, our bodily movements also participate in the moves that the two figures might be making and we are left in a position to determine which party we would like to side with. However, it is also obvious that whoever wins the battle, the result will be the same: the eggs that are the cause of this fight will be de-
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stroyed and wasted, regardless from whichever side they are broken. So delicate the eggs are, and so futile the fight is. With the possible death of one or both of the parties, the fight becomes a lose-lose situation. This particular story found in Gulliver’s Travels provides a solid ground for Yinka Shonibare to go into the territory that is constant in his work, which targets issues about identity, race, class, exoticism, questioning of the British history and colonialism. Published in 1726, Gulliver’s Travels is a satire of human conditions as observed by Jonathan Swift. In the book, Swift also criticizes the politics of England at the time of George 1st, as well as imperialism and the thirst for finding new land with colonialist ambitions, which had made England a great centre of power at the time. The war between the Lilliputians and the Blefuscidians that is parodied in this installation is a critique of the prolonged war with France, and the triviality of the battle between Catholics and Protestants and their constant fight for power. As an artist coming from a Nigerian family and living in England, Shonibare produces works that deal with his own mixed identity, extending towards a critical look at the formation of cultural identities and otherness as fictional constructs formed in the clash of different historical engagements with the other. Against the preconceived notions of specific national identities, this fictional identity is actually a hybrid one that appropriates and entwines different inputs through cultural, economic and political interactions to the point that what is original and authentic becomes questionable. As in many of his other works, in Egg Fight, Shonibare has dressed the two mannequins in traditional Dutch wax printed fabric, associated with the African culture. The paradox comes from the fact that these two figures actually posses the posture and the dress style of European noble men, with their guns completing their image. The beautifully made cloths suit them well, despite the fact that the fabric they are made of does not belong to the general clothing codes of western men. With this combination, however, a whole history of colonialism, international trade, European wealth and culture as opposed to slavery, formation of African identity, exoticism and all that is excluded from the western identity are intertwined. The artist often uses African fabric as a critical tool to indicate the entire relationships between different cultures. In the words of the artist himself: “African fabric: signifies African identity, rather like American jeans (Levi’s) are an indicator of trendy youth culture. In Brixton, African fabric is worn with pride amongst radical or cool youth. It manifests itself as a fashion accessory with black British women in the head wrap form and it can also be found worn by Africans away from the home country. It becomes an aesthetics of defiance, an aesthetics of reassurance, a way of holding on to one’s identity in a culture
presumed foreign or different. African fabric, exotica if you like is a colonial construction.To the Western eye this excessive patterning (difference) carries with it codes of African nationalism; that has become its contemporary use, a kind of modern African exoticism.”1 However, the story of how the fabric ends up being a national symbol of Africa demonstrates that it is far from being an original ethnical product, but rather an ambiguous byproduct of colonial transactions. These textiles have actually been produced in the Netherlands to imitate the Indonesian fabric and taste in order to be sold to Indonesia, another Dutch colony, at the time. However, upon unexpected failure in the Indonesian market, the textiles were started to be sold to the West African merchants around the end of the 19th century with several new design patterns that the people of Africa would identify with. The popularity of the textiles increases gradually to the point that they become a signifier of the African modernization and politics. Especially after the gain of African independence in 1950s, wax printed fabric became a sign of authenticity, nationalism and a break from the European standards of fashion. It has also been used as a way to express one’s political affiliations through the designs printed on the fabric. Nevertheless, after all the transformation the fabric has undergone, it just stands as one of the products of global transactions, even while it is worn as a way to subvert global consumption of fashion market with its assumed authenticity. The more powerfully it represents the national identity for Africans, the more exotic it becomes for the Westerner. By dressing the western body in a fabric identified with the Africans, Yinka Shonibare makes the complexity of these relationships visible. The satire and humour both in the story of Lilliputians and the artist’s own approach, as well as the beauty and delicacy of the whole installation scene work well in dealing with all the profound historical issues that still resonate in the culture and politics of today. Today, what is considered to be exotic is even closer to the western eye, through migrant and Diasporic communities living in the West. It is more about a look within rather than a look from the outside. The distances and relationships between cultures are much closer, therefore harder to ignore. It has become even more difficult to make a straightforward definition of ethnicity and cultural identity in a cosmopolitan city.There is no pure identity, but all identities exist in a multiplicity that is in constant change and interaction with others. As subtly manifested in Shonibare’s work, Englishness, Europeanness, Africanness, etc. are all shaped by centuries of contact through wars, slavery, colonialism, trade, migrations, which appear to continue in similar but transformed interactions in the so-called global market nowadays. It is also significant that this installation takes place in Ireland, with its colonial past and turbulent history with England, as well as its current position as a home for a large number of immigrants coming from many different cultures and nationalities.
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Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Egg Fight, 2009 Courtesy of the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery (London) and James Cohan Gallery (New York). Photo: Eugene Langan
While Irishness has a complex history in its interaction with the English, now it is also being permeated by other identities. This is even complicated with the notion of Europeanness as opposed to being non-European, and construction of new identities through political formations. What is Irish, what is European, what is foreign, what is exotic, what is local and native, what is it that makes it ‘from here’… How do we deal with the assumed commonality and difference between people and communities? Besides its historical implications, the installation also gives food for thought on our own identities, as well as our daily interactions and experiences with each other.
1 Quoted in by Okwui Enwezor, in Yinka Shonibare, Dressing Down, Ikon Gallery and Henie Onstad Art Centre, February 1998.
Apart from Egg Fight, a new series of collages entitled Climate Shit Drawings by the artist are also exhibited at Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane. Currently on show until 30 August 2009. http://www.hughlane.ie CC + 32
Hurvin Anderson, Peter’s Sitters 3, 2009 (Oil on canvas 187 x 147 cm / 73.6 x 57.9 in) Courtesy Saatchi Collection, London
Hurvin Anderson Peter’s Series 2007 – 2009
Tate Britain Art Now space Tuesday 3 February – Sunday 19 April 2009 A white, white ceiling lifts off into nothingness. Hurvin Anderson’s paintings of a small attic barbershop are unexpectedly vibrant and full of light – without being cheerful. Old gloss skirting-board, wood veneer and an assortment of mirrors and picture frames all reflect light, but do not give anything of their location away. Just how much of this intimate space to reveal is a question that haunts Peter’s Series, 2007 - 2009 in Tate Britain’s Art Now gallery. Hung with eight of Anderson’s elegant paintings, a sense of coolness pervades the room. Turquoise hues dominate the central portion of each: the walls of the attic-space we are peering into. Three relatively empty canvases washed with simple blocks of white, green and a burnt orange begin the series, variously punctuated with objects from the barbershop set-up coming into view. The direction of Anderson’s washes give the small attic room a verticality that opens up what we might think of as an intrinsically closed, cramped and dim space. It appears quite open to our presence, and yet we are unable to locate the room and it’s operation within our sphere of reference. Peter’s III has “pared back the space” to its bare structural elements, musing only on the configuration of walls that hint
at the attic’s hidden corners. Seen through a blue-green lens, the room at the top of the house appears to have been flooded with seawater. This watery view bordering on abstraction reflects Anderson’s conscious method of representing it, which is only ever half-remembered, and partially revealed. The artist’s protectiveness of Peter’s intimate history is (paradoxically) made clear through his simplification and obscuring of the space. For migrant communities such as those arriving in Britain from the Caribbean in the 1950s, who created their own services and entertainment centres, the barbershop was, and still is, a sacred social space. Thus Anderson, who was born to Jamaican parents in Birmingham, carefully negotiates the barbershop’s privacy, which his own father visits. The regularity of trips to the barber’s – at least fortnightly to get one’s cut or shave “sharpened” – makes it familiar as a friend’s kitchen, a place to sit and talk freely with fellow customers whilst waiting in line. For many of Tate’s visitors, the black barbershop is an “other” space they would not normally be given access to. The poignancy of precious memory in Peter’s Series brought me back to a sunny afternoon in 2006 when artist Faisal Abduh’Allah set up his Live Salon in the Hayward Gallery, affording a handful of visitors privileged access to the barbershop. The artist set out a red leather barber’s chair and a low table with few utensils: comb, clippers, brush. Shaving an intricate looping pattern into the back of his son’s head, he spoke about the history of barbering, his beginnings in the trade and how his shop both supports and informs, his artistic
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Hurvin Anderson, Peter’s Sitters 2, 2009 (Oil on canvas 187 x 147 cm / 73.6 x 57.9 in) Courtesy Zabludowicz Collection, London
practice. Faisal Barbers in Harlesden functions as meeting place for the local black community: both a vital forum for discussion and breeding ground for juicy gossip, snippets of which Abdu’Allah shared. Not only is shaving akin to drawing for Abdu’Allah, but his barbering and artistic practice are intrinsically linked: “if I gave up the barber shop, my work would die… There’s no end to the experiences and stories that I inhale in the shop.”1 Speaking and shaving with equal finesse, the artist opened up what is typically an “other” cultural and often gendered space, revealing it as discursive and performative. The performance of intricate skill and entertaining talk of Abdu’Allah’s Live Salon is only implicitly present in Anderson’s paintings of the tiny attic barbershop. The final three works in the series depict a customer seated in the barber’s chair. His upper body is covered in a delicately rendered pinstripe towel, and only the back of the head and nape of his neck are revealed to the viewer. Negotiating between the revelation and obscuring of Peter’s interior, Anderson also controls our encounter with the subject of his paintings. The art gallery is itself an increasingly performative and discursive space, hosting numerous discussions, performances and events such as the Live Salon I have remembered above. Anderson offers a view of a different social space, but in this most public of places – the art gallery – we are not met by the barber’s chatter, only the silence of his customer’s back. Thus the paintings in Peter’s Series, with their luscious turquoise and reflective surfaces invite us only part of the way
in. In this way Peter’s Series hints at the marginalisation of migrant communities, the struggle to find space for their own practices within a dominant culture, of a barbershop pushed into the attic, but will never tell the whole story.
1 Michael Edmands, The Guardian, 30 June, 2001
Fatos Ustek Tu Zeng Untitled Dawn, Winter/Spring 2008 (Selection of 5 from a series of 12 photographs)
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“Life is made up of contents that are increasingly impersonal and that tend to alter our personalities. In order to face up to these conditions, man adopts a patina of indifference in his search for commitments for survival” Georg Simmel In the picturesque views of a town, one wanders around looking for liveliness. Colours are sought for: colours to associate, to feel, to imagine… Tu Zeng displays a series of photographs from the town he is from, where smog is more present than anything else, except rain. He photographs from above, in detail. The town is haunted by the details of silences. Like the shrimps in the aquarium, waiting their turn to be consumed, sitting on top of each other. Their aimless swimming in a tank is like wandering through the town. The time spent waiting in silence, in a density of calmness intrigues me, occasionally. On the occasion of viewing his photographs, one after another, I try to form a prologue for a city. I imagine the city through these images by Zeng. The skyscrapers appear to contain nothing but their concrete. The ducks in the faint garden are as if surprised by ‘a’ gaze through a pointed camera. Another image from the series is marked by the pattern of continuity from trees to car bonnets. The nature within the built, and the built within nature exposes a mystery: a mystery of nothingness within people’s conditioned lives. The series is comprised of twelve photographs, Untitled Dawn, which picture Zeng’s hometown ChongQing in winter and spring, 2008. As a viewer of Zeng’s imagery I am intrigued. I recall Camus, especially the starting sentence of his short story ‘Summer in Algiers’ where he says: ‘The loves we often share with a city are secret loves’. I try to excavate the love of Zeng from the different tones and colours of his hometown. I try to decipher the secrecy of the images through my gaze. I take one and then another and then go back to the start. I wonder about the dilemma of impersonal and personal in the secrecy of love. How one crosses the zones of both, and how one can survive in the intersection. The image as once captured no longer there, causes a challenge, to visit, interpret and associate the town and an artist’s uncovering of its presence. I wonder about the love and the agony and joy that come from within. Where the state one is in, is the state one is…
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Martijn in’t Veld
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Looking at digital pictures: the image as part of an epistemological system
had entered a “post-photographic era”3, in which this indefinable bond was broken.4 During the same time-frame, roughly from the early to the late 1990’s, a growing number of photographers made use of the newly available capturing and postproduction tools. According to the aforementioned theories, their images should thus be considered “post-photographic”, because of the inherent differences they are supposed to bear. But interestingly, only a small amount of those images has been tagged as such. Early academic and institutional projects, but also more recent ones, have established a body of images5, whose central feature is not their digital “nature” – many of them do not even involve digital tools – but the fact that they look digital. Mainly concerned with the representation of an altered and manipulated state of the human body, those images are reminiscent of an era where technological developments in science (such as plastic surgery, genetic manipulations and cloning, etc.) as well as graphic design (morphing, 3D models, and Photoshop, etc.) have changed our conception of corporality. This brief reminder of the developments of digital photography shows two things; the history of photography has always, until very recently, tried to define photography, rather than photographic practice. Furthermore, it also shows that the relationship between the image and the subject it represents is often invoked to try to define the medium, disregarding the image itself, its formal features, the way it is perceived or the discourse it produces. Nowadays, if this rhetoric of radical rupture tends to fade, so does the interest for the digital as category. Even so, it seems legitimate to argue that computing did alter contemporary imagery and it seems therefore necessary to try to understand how it has done so.While technical differences between analogical and digital photography do not seem to be that important anymore – primarily because the spectator has grown familiar with the new aesthetics and uses of digital photography – a whole array of features directly linked to computer technologies, never systematically studied, seem to play an important role in photography. The first, maybe the most obvious, is the digital as subject. Image compression algorithms developed mainly for the needs of the Internet and consumer electronics, are probably the most apparent feature of the digital in photography. Widely used despite their relatively poor quality compared to lossless digital images, they do not seem to evolve much despite the exponential evolution of computing power and transfer bandwidths. As if they were accepted because they were recognizable, they seem to embody the paradigmatic digital aesthetics. Many artists have thus made use of this feature, directly addressing the digital in photography. The most famous example of this approach, Thomas Ruff’s .jpeg series, embracing not only the aesthetics but also the name of the most commonly used compression algorithm, consists of a selection of images found on the Internet, edited and printed as large scale photographs, thus triggering a
Thomas Ruff, Jpeg bd01, 2007 (C-Print with Diasec 266.1 x 185.1 cm) Copyright Thomas Ruff /David Zwirner
When in the beginning of the 1990’s digital photography became growingly popular, a wide spectrum of scholars claimed that photography had undergone an irrevocable shift. Photography as such, historically defined by the bond between image and the depicted subject Walter Benjamin or Roland Barthes had tirelessly tried to define, was now gone, undermined by the digital nature of the new capturing apparatus. The claim that the medium had undergone a radical change was dominantly based on an ontological approach, whose legitimacy relied primarily on a technical understanding of the medium: the fact that the digital image could be broken down into “precise and definite”1 units and that there was no original – a claim which paradoxically2 had already been used to question the legitimacy of photography as art in the early 20th century – was argument enough to argue that we
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dialogue between the virtual image and the object, between the low definition image and the artistic photograph or between the internet and the museum or gallery. A second implication of the digital in photography, also present in Ruff’s .jpegs, is the digital as apparatus, a system based on computing and exchange of information. While explicitly addressing formal issues in the .jpegs series, Ruff also engages the media itself, as a vector of exchange of data, recycling images that are very commonly consumed: using generic images (such as pornographic iconography) or documentary images everybody is familiar with (such as the burning World Trade Center), Ruff appeals to our relationship to images, addressing a new kind of spectatorship, focusing primarily on the image as part of a system, rather than reflecting on the image as archive. Building on this discourse on the way digital technologies influence our relationship to pictures, one could draw a third level of the digital in photography. Taking into account the omnipresence of computers, the role the internet plays in daily communication and the impact it might have on vision and perception, we could argue that such development must – at this stage of our research this is a mere hypothesis – not only find an echo in artistic production, but that such a phenomenon necessarily implies a whole new system of producing knowledge, which unavoidably interacts with artistic production. If we examine the way Jonathan Crary has unearthed an epistemological break during the 19th century, which implies fundamental transformations in vision and perception mechanisms6, it seems appropriate to suggest that digital technologies, and in particular the role of the photographic image as a vector of transmission of information, play a fundamental role in this hypothetical development. While investigating those transformations, we have to take into consideration that in recent days, the theoretical framework of numerous disciplines (and not only those primarily concerned with images), seems to undergo a shift towards epistemological considerations and, more generally, be responsive to issues addressing the mechanisms of knowledge production7. Our hypothesis thus derives, not only from the mere observation of a phenomenon, but also from the fact that many disciplines try to understand the way discourse is produced. Nevertheless, despite the methodological problems this coexistence presupposes – is epistemology a necessity to understand digital imagery or is it merely a trend ? – the question of whether contemporary technologies impacts on our habits of seeing is definitely worth considering.
4 Even though a critical historiography of those theoretical developments has yet to be established, some scholars have noted their inherent discrepancies and incoherencies. See for example Bernd Stiegler, Theoriegeschichte der Photographie, München,Wilhelm Fink, 2007 or Martin Lister, op.cit., chapter “Photography in the age of electronic imaging”. 5 Nancy Burson, Keith Cottingham, Aziz & Cucher, Orlan or Inez van Lamsveerde are some of the commonly quoted artists of this “movement”. 6 According to Crary, this shift is primarily based on the development of the status of sight in its relationship to knowledge. See Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: on Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century, Cambridge (Mass.), MIT Press, 1992 7 Biopolitics probably being the most eminent.
1 Martin Lister, in Liz Wells (ed.), Photography. A Critical Introduction, London, Routledge, 2008, p. 334. 2 The very idea of the original in photography is extremely ambivalent. 3 William J. Mitchell’s book, The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Postphotographic Era, Cambridge (Mass.), MIT Press, 2001 (1992), is one of the first to assert such a shift.
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Leap into Imagination The Islanders: An Introduction by Charles Avery
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Charles Avery, Untitled (Stone-Mouse Sellers), 2008 (96cm x 132.5cm (framed), pencil and gouache on card & brass plate) Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Charles Avery is an explorer of his imagination. His art evolves from the ‘anthropologic’ journeys he undertakes to an imaginary world. In 2004, he ‘discovered’ an island, which remains nameless until today. Since then, he has been profoundly exploring it, collecting many souvenirs that enlighten its curious features and inhabitants. The extensive show The Islanders: An Introduction at The Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam presents these artefacts and engages its visitors in the complex absurdity of Avery’s discovery. The artist’s lyrical descriptions and detailed epic drawings inform about the rituals of daily life, while maps, models of the landscape and sculptures of different creatures shape an encyclopaedic imagery of the island.The body of work – as presented in the show – is most reminiscent of a natural history museum, whereas Avery’s attitude is similar to that of an 18th century collector of anthropological curiosities. The island, nameless as said above, is inhabited by different communities, some of them are natives (Avery names them Gods and If’en) and others are stranded pioneers and researchers, who live together in tense harmony. Large-scale
drawings show them hanging around in bars or on the local market. They spend their days debating and arguing on various philosophic issues; particularly about the issue of the existence of the Noumenoun. This is a mythical beast that noone has ever seen and that lives in the inaccessible Eternal Forest. Its name is not coincidental, as it refers to Immanuel Kant’s concept of the unobservable thing-in-itself (ding an sich). Other curious objects at the exhibition are samples of the Stone-Mouse, a creature that lives on the island, “part animal, part mineral, whose heart beats only once every thousand years and for whom even the slightest movement is an agonising contortion” (wall text). The jars of Hendersons Eggs, are another one of Avery’s souvenirs.This local delicacy consists of eggs pickled in gin, to which most of the island dwellers are addicted. The drawings, sculptures and objects are appealing because of their formalistic craftsmanship, while their story allows for many layers to unravel. By inventing an island, Avery created a place, a ‘topography of land’, where he can ‘play’ with mythologies, philosophical theories, and mathematical con-
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Charles Avery, Ridable, 2008 (156cm x 51cm x 150cm, taxidermy)
cepts, without having to connect them in systematic logic or conclusion. Discrepancies, obscurities and misinterpretations that may sneak into his explorative research will not challenge the credibility of the project, but rather provide unexpected turns and openings for the audience to disentangle. This facet, again, is emphasised by the setting of a natural history museum, in which the visitor is not being transported into another world, but rather challenged to educate himself on the subject through the artefacts handed to him/her. Naturally, Avery is the dominator of his world and his imagination, and he fully determines both the appearance and the content of ‘his’ island.Yet, his position is that of a discoverer, rather than that of an all-seeing God. In a way, his creation thus parallels the natural biases that occur in actual science and philosophy. In this show, it is not about the ‘real’, in fact it is not even about the actual artworks that Avery produces. It is about the creativity of the thinking-process. Avery himself underlines this aspect by his proposition to consider art as a quality, ‘artiness’ as a feature of artworks and artefacts.1 The source of the artiness, in this case, lays off course in the mind-frame of the overarching, on-going project and the adopted procedure by which the artist is working on it. Avery says he is planning to spend many more years on his island and is even hoping to go back there after his retirement.2 So now, can we talk about a new approach, a new interest that characterises this work? According to Nicholas Bourriaud we can. In the Tate Triennial 2009, held recently in London, Bourriaud presented Avery as one of the models for his newest art historical catchphrase ‘Altermodernism’. This rather hollow-sounding terminology is clarified in a manifesto by a number of theoretical notions, one of them being: “a new type of form is appearing, the journey-form, made of lines drawn both in space and time, materialising trajectories rather than destinations”. 3 This description seems to apply very well to Avery’s work. Indeed, The Islanders articulates an itinerary, through a place that is too big to convey as a whole, without putting a definite ending to it. But, as explained earlier, in the context of Avery’s work, the logic of such theories is given an unexpected turn. This becomes literal in a drawing, Untitled (Traveller), 2008. The drawing is part of The Islanders-project. It depicts Nicholas Bourriaud closely inspecting a table with Island-souvenirs. So, while Bourriaud is attempting to include Avery in his over-arching story of art, Avery appears to be much more successful in including Bourriaud in his story of the island. It is within this gesture that we can begin to understand the logic of Avery’s practice, deprived from the inexhaustible source that is called imagination.
1 Morton,Tom. “Cosmopolity of an Island. Charles Avery on The Islanders” in: Metropolis M, #5 October/November, 2007. 2 Morton,Tom. “Cosmopolity of an Island. Charles Avery on The Islanders” in: Metropolis M, #5 October/November, 2007. 3 http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/altermodern/manifesto.shtm
Charles Avery, Untitled (Traveller) 2008 (Pencil and gouache on paper, 59.4 x 42 cm) Image courtesy of the artist and Photographer Andy Keate. Copyright courtesy of the artist
Charles Avery’s The Islanders: An Introduction is showing at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, until June 7 2009.
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Smadar Dreyfus Mother’s Day,
Extra City Antwerp September 2008
It was past three, in the morning. I was staying at a friends place in Dalston, in her room where the large windows face the street. It was past three and I was in between being awake and asleep. From the street I heard someone cry out. A cry, which I struggled to decipher as whether it was joyful, or full of pain. A person was screaming out loud: was he/ she crying because of some violation, or was he drunk and celebratory? There was another person he was addressing his screams, who did not make a sound, who is possibly the cause of his indecipherable state. I could not make out the gender of the screams. When I convinced myself it was a woman who was violated, the voice shifted towards masculine. But I could only be sure of the fact that the source of the voice was singular. I turned in bed and was too afraid to get up and look out of the window. I could not understand what was being said. Except for the cursing words, the language was unclear. My memory tends to construct a narrative associated with the situation, to clear the smog in my head. Though there are gaps that cause me to remain unconvinced. The image in my head comes purely from the voice I heard. I try to recall details, and am haunted only by the strength of the image I produced during the event rather than the sounds, the tone and the words. … My first experience of Mother’s Day took place in the studio of Smadar Dreyfus in London. I did not know much about her work, except her piece Lifeguards, which was premiered in 9th Istanbul Biennial in 2005. I first saw the film Mother’s Day on a computer screen and was impressed by its strength in revealing such a condition in a delicate way. I was impressed and saddened by the separated state of youngsters from their mothers due to a political consequence. Seeing the piece was an encounter that Deleuze would possibly define as ‘affective’. The piece produces a double imagery: the viewer’s imagination as to the sources of the voices in the film, and the image of the place where they encounter them. Beyond the narrative that lies implicit in the piece, its aesthetics of producing subjectivity and correlation with the geographical aspect has a high impact. Mother’s Day was filmed at the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line in the Golan Heights, across which the local Druze community has been geographically separated for several decades, in the absence of a peace agreement. The Israeli government does not recognize the Druze community, and does not provide education for their youth. However, the Syrian Government CC + 44
Smadar Dreyfus, Mother’s Day 2006-08, a three channel HD video and 5.1 channel audio installation, 15 min. stills from video.
offers an opportunity to be educated on the condition that the students will be resident in the Syrian schools for eleven months of the year, with a one month holiday to visit their families across the border. Boarding schools provide these children with an education based on the Syrian politics and values. On mother’s day, the first Sunday of May, the students are allowed to travel to the hill across their village to greet their mothers through megaphones. Named Shouting Hill, the place is separated by the ceasefire line where Israeli and Syrian governments are in control, and where an American control unit is also positioned at the top. A sound system of megaphones is set up for the occasion of the greetings, where mothers and children communicate with each other one by one, without being able to see one another clearly. Mothers recognize daughters and sons through their voices. As a result of this controlled occasion, the greetings are generic rather than specific. The voice becomes the only bearer of deeper content: a longing for togetherness that accumulated throughout the long nights of solitude. In Extra City, Antwerp, the work is installed in an elegant way. The audience entering the platform is immediately surrounded by the piece as if they are included in the actual moment and place of the encounter between mothers and their children on this day.The exhibition space had been specially constructed so as to embody the installation. In other words, it is less exhibition space and more extended location of the event itself. As a viewer entering the installation, one blends into this challenging space of accumulated emotion and imagery. A balcony with bars where the audience stood acts like the viewing point for a sublime landscape, where clouds are floating over the hills. However, the sounds heard shift the pleasurable experience into a political encounter, the association of feelings in the viewer reproduces the socio-political condition of the original event. The piece is composed of two videos, one displaying the hills the other the voices of students and their mothers, in turn, where meaning conveys the medium. On a visit to Extra City in Antwerp, I attended a talk by Mladen Dolar, Slovenian philosopher, cultural theorist, film
critic, and author of the book ‘A Voice and Nothing More’, entitled ‘What’s in a voice?’ under the framework of Dreyfus’ solo exhibition. His speech on acousmatic sound was ‘an experience’ almost like a performance. The combination of listening to his talk, delivered in his mesmerizing voice enabled one to experience the concept he was explaining. The fact that the subject’s states of joy, agony, pleasure, and insecurity are present in his/her voice was demonstably audible in Dolar’s own calm voice sharing his thoughts. The voice as object of study did not come to major importance until the 1960’s when Derrida and Lacan, simultaneously proposed it as a central theoretical concern. Dolar in his book on voice takes the Derridian idea of phonocentrism further and positions the voice as an embodiment of the psychoanalytic object (objet a). Moreover, quoting Dolar: ‘I will try to argue that apart from those two widespread uses of the voice—the voice as the vehicle of meaning; the voice as the source of aesthetic admiration—there is a third level: an object voice which does not go up in smoke in the conveyance of meaning, and does not solidify in an object of fetish reverence, but an object which functions as a blind spot in the call and as a disturbance of aesthetic appreciation.’ Hence, Dolar proposes a third way of understanding the voice, besides the two common receptions, that is, voice as an object that can be seen as a lever of thought. Dolar investigates the object voice on many levels such as: the linguistics of the voice, the metaphysics of the voice, the ethics of the voice (with the voice of conscience), the paradoxical relation between the voice and the body, the politics of the voice. Within these investigations, one wanders through intersecting zones of meaning, aesthetic pleasure and psychology of the voice-source in its socio-political spheres. That is to question, when one hears the meaning, does one overhear the voice? Does the source communicating meaning overcome its aesthetics? Or is it rather a blended state of layered causalities? What do we come up with when we think of Dolar’s argument that aesthetic pleasure obfuscates the object voice, turning it into a fetish object when the concentration on the
Smadar Dreyfus, Mother’s Day 2006-08, a three channel HD video with 5.1 channel audio installation, 15 min. Installation view at Extra City Center for Contemporary Art, Antwerp, 2008
voice is only on aesthetic reception, and the voices of the protagonists of Dreyfus’ piece. Like the students greeting their mothers in cracked voices, which are accumulated with sadness of not actually embracing their mothers and joy of hearing their voices thus their well-being. In this relation, how can we articulate the voices we hear as the audience of the piece? Since the voices we witness are actually voices that are decoded by its recipients over familiarity. That is to say, mothers and children are familiar to each other’s voices, their separated state increases the longing for overhearing the voice, as well. Hence, once the voice of the beloved one is heard, in Golan Heights, it is an intermingled state of aesthetic pleasure and object voice. As the audience, we lack this familiarity but we fulfil with imagining a similar condition where the alike sensations rise. Therefore, my question follows: Is it possible to only concentrate on the aesthetics of the voices, and not what they convey in conditions marked by socio-political decisions? For instance, one of the sons starts singing a song to his mother, a song that bears the intimacy of longing in its tone, but not in its lyrics. Can we, besides this double state of conveyance only receive the aural presence? In Dreyfus’ piece, the longing for being together is marked by the longing of hearing the other’s voice. The voice is the point of entry into complex relationships between individual and society, between social and political, between what is said, what we select to hear, and what we make this selection from.Voice immediately resonates the self-presence, whereas in Mother’s Day it becomes the intersection of presence
and absence. Mother’s Day in its scale makes a significant impact as Dreyfus’s first solo exhibition in Antwerp. Not only through the installation of the piece and its inclusion of the venue as the place of itself but also through the presence of its artist as she positions herself in-between the two sides, where she becomes a participant and observer through recording the sounds and the landscape. Hence Dreyfus’ sensitive choice to focus on the voice, which is the medium of communication in Golan Heights, as the object and subject of her work Mother’s Day is the main line of strength in her work. … While I am finishing this text, another mother’s day is due.
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Contributors Edward Clydesdale Thomson is a Scottish/Danish artist based in Rotterdam. He is a graduate of the MFA program at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam and the BArch architectural program at the Glasgow School of Art. Notable shows include ‘Observing Construction’, Netherlands Architectuurinstituut (NAi) Rotterdam. ‘My Travels with Barry’, Tent, Rotterdamt. ‘JUST WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES THAT THING SO DIFFERENT, SO APPEALING?’ Expodium, Utrecht. ‘tracing changes’, Schloßmuseum, Quedlinburg, Germany. ‘Edward Clydesdale Thomson’ SECONDroom, Brussels. ‘cells st. peter’s seminary Permutationen’ Superhorst, Berlin. His practice revolves around the politics of representation. Jurga Daubaraite email@example.com Claus Gunti is research and teaching assistant at the Film Studies Department of the University of Lausanne (UNIL). He teaches in the Humanities program of the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL) and is lecturer at the University of Art and Design Lausanne (ECAL). He is currently writing a thesis on the impact of digital technologies in the photography of the Düsseldorf School. Jelena Martinovic * 1981 (CH), lives in Lausanne, Artist and Researcher. She currently holds a fellowship in the Ph.D. program Pro*Doc Art & Science, supported by The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). Marianne Mulvey is a freelance writer and curator. Marianne completed her MA in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths 2007-2008 and curated performance programmes for the Hayward Gallery and Gasworks, London. In September 2009 she will begin a PhD in Performance Studies at Goldsmiths, provisionally titled Hollow words, failed relationships. Rana Ozturk currently lives and studies in Dublin. She is originally from Istanbul, where she completed her BA in Management at Bogazici University and MA in Art History at the Istanbul Technical University. Until now she took on various roles in the art field including writer, curator, translator and coordinator for different art events and organizations. Julius Pasteiner spent most of his time thinking anthropologically, writing commercially and wishing for that dream job. Recently he scrapped it all to write fiction under the pseudonym Julius Pasteiner: he’s a well staring at the stars. Lisa Skuret is an independent writer and artist writing in the intersections of contemporary art, politics, and life. Lisa received an AHRC supported MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths College and she has produced art projects for live performance and online intervention. Her installation and moving image work has been programmed as part of the National Review of Live Art (NRLA), and the Dance on Screen Film Festival and she has collaborated for live performance including at the ICA and ROH2. Lisa’s forthcoming writing projects include publication essays on Sharif Waked, and Lara Baladi and she is currently writing a series of pieces on ‘optimism’. www.lisaskuret.com Jonas Staal studied monumental art in Enschede, The Netherlands andBoston MA, USA. His work functions in the domain of public interventions: installations, performances and Aktionen, executed (illegally) in public space. His artistic research anticipates and deals with the political developments in contemporary society in form of lectures, essays, pamphlets and exhibitions in the public domain as well as institutional contexts. Staal works and lives as a visual artist in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. http://www.jonasstaal.nl/ Rudolf Steckholzer Artist - lives and works in Vienna and London Fatos Ustek Independent art critic & curator, lives and works in London. Martijn in’t Veld * 1979, studied in Rotterdam, Berlin and Bergen. Lives and works. Rieke Vos *1981 is an art historian currently based in Rotterdam. Her fields of interest range from site-specific art and curating to urbanism and architecture. She is now working as a researcher, editor and exhibitionmaker for the architectural office Powerhouse Company. Tanja Widmann works as an artist, author, curator. Lives in Vienna. Recently: Group exhibitions: Miete Gas Strom (INSTITUT [for contmporary art] at Quartier21, Wien 2009), Empfindung. Oder in der Nähe der Fehler liegen die Wirkungen. (Augarten Comtemporary, Wien 2009). Curated shows: Nichts ist aufregend. Nichts ist sexy. Nichts ist nicht peinlich. (Performanceseries at Mumok, Vienna 2008). Co-editorial (with Emily Pethick, Marina Vishmidt) of An Ambiguous Case. CascoIssues XI. Utrecht/Rotterdam (2008). Regular contributions for Texte zur Kunst, springerin.
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