During Ellen's birthday dinner tonight I was speaking with my brother Peter and the following title for an exhibition came to my mind:
MEGA-BELLIES: ARTISTS FROM MIDDLE EUROPE WITH METABOLIC SYMPTOMS.
During Ellen's birthday dinner tonight I was speaking with my brother Peter and the following title for an exhibition came to my mind:
MEGA-BELLIES: ARTISTS FROM MIDDLE EUROPE WITH METABOLIC SYMPTOMS.
June 2011 [NOART Exhibition review, Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.]
"Life Through Vegetable, Flour and Sand'
Ingredients: Vegetables, Flour, Sand.
Mix thoroughly, dry and form into patties.
List of Works upper wall:
Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Vertumne (portrait de Rodolphe II), vers 1590 painting, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Nature morte : L'Homme-potager, (tableau réversible), vers 1590 painting, Edvard Munch, The Lumberjack 1913, Liang Kai Sixth Patriarch Cutting Bamboo.
List of Works middle wall:
Guy Mayman collage 2010, Guy Mayman collage 2010, Craigie Horsfield, Krakow, 1970s, Kai Althoff Painting.
List of Works lower wall:
William Blake drawing, Clare Rojas, Untitled 2007, Wolfgang Tillmans, Haircut, 2007.
Toyota Art Management website has been running a relay essay section.
I was asked to write for June and my text is up.
Its about Holes, which is something I have been thinking about for some time.
I noticed that the Outsider Art Fair was held recently in New York, its 18th manifestation. This made me think about my own art background and the fact that I was taught by two of the most significant figures working in this field in the late C20th.
My art teacher at Aldenham school was John Maizels, the founding editor of Raw Vision magazine and author of Raw Creation. Although I never excelled in the studio, I remember John very clearly. He lived down the road from the school gates near the big Hare Krishna temple. My brother Peter, who is today an artist, worked closely with John.
My PhD supervisor and professor was Roger Cardinal, who then taught at Kent. Roger wrote the seminal book 'Outsider Art' in 1972, coining the term and outlining its parameters. I worked very closely with him for over three years, writing my thesis. Roger remains my most important mentor/ teacher.
Roger Cardinal, left.
It's never really occurred to me in a big way that the two art-related teachers in my life were also intensely related to outsider art. Thinking about this now, after working as a curator in the contemporary art world for over ten years, is quite interesting. For one thing I have never once felt the urge to work in a museum or a gallery, preferring the more unstable route of working independently and founding an art non profit. I can also point to certain experiences of art which triggered my move into studying art - Kurt Schwitters and Franz West are two important artists who I saw in exhibitions and affected me strongly. Roger Cardinal's writings on Kurt Schwitters are some of my favorite pieces of art writing. Franz West's work I think moves into the domains of fetishes, African art and wonderfully lumpen forms. My fascination with altered states, mysticism and psychedelics led to a Masters degree in the Study of Mysticism and Religious Experience at Kent - all subjects deeply related to John and Roger's fields. My imminent move to the forests of Nagano prefecture is also partly I think inspired by wanting to put physical distance between myself and Tokyo, the hub for art activities. I do often feel despondent, or at least worn, by the whole contemporary art world. I certainly find little pleasure in 'playing' the global art circuit of openings etc - and I say this as someone who has had the good fortune to participate in it as a biennale/ triennale curator.
I feel that it is a good time now to think again about what my two teachers are about. Whether this results in an extended hibernation or withdrawal from the Tokyo contemporary art scene....we'll see.
The end of the year is always hectic - particularly with lectures at AIT, but also Tama and Musashino Art Universities. My classes at Tama, on the City and Art for 3-4th year students and 1st year's Introduction to Contemporary Art, have four sessions to go each. The Musabi class on Reading contemporary art through texts also nears its completion, and an avant-garde has even self-appointed itself in the group to organise a 'nomikai' drinking session. As well as preparing lectures weekly, universities and AIT must also prepare curricula and schedules and guests for next year - I decided to stop at Tama, and continue at Musabi, and there is a new offer from Joshibi. I feel that Musabi is my 'base' in many ways. I get this feeling through the architecture of the place, its formal but also slightly worn seminar rooms, which contrasts with Tama's brilliant white and shiny halls. I really find it itchy being in white pristine spaces for too long, especially trying to engage students in discussion on complex topics that need time and thinking. I have found that the time-worn corridors of Musabi are more conducive to this. And there is the issue of how lecturers are situated. At Tama, we get a neat, little room to ourselves, next to the administrative offices. At Musabi we share a large open office with the admin staff, where the art magazines are stacked, photo-copiers whirr and bento is taken. This is clearly a better system. I am sure that the architectural, and by extension narrative, contexts mould the students in particular ways. I don't think universities should be white and pristine, like hospitals. They should be in dull shades of scarred and worn green's, blue's and grey's, because this gives permission to the students to use the space, to kind of take it over (by sticking posters on walls, hanging out in seminar rooms etc.). Pristine white spaces seem to say, 'don't touch me' and 'only occupy the centre of rooms'.
The International Festival for Arts and
Media Yokohama 2009, titled CREAM and directed by AIT colleague Fumihiko
Sumitomo opened last week and is now on across several venues in Yokohama. With
a focus on reproduced images, spanning film, video, digital, new media and
internet based art works and projects, CREAM attempts to explore the quality
and possible futures of a world awash in moving images.
I went along with the thought of how the exhibition would alter or re-formulate my experience of moving images, which is primarily and unconsciously rooted to television. One of the critical keys for me was how a collection of works using video, film and other medias could re-propose the spectacle of the tele-visual? After some three hours watching and wondering I can say that for me the exhibition component of CREAM at least, seriously engaged with these questions, offering a complex and layered experience and re-negotiation of how it is that we can watch today – extending the questions to who it is that can watch, how and with what kinds of faculties and into areas of the social, political and psychological consequences of the moving image.
The most memorable works were sited in the
BankART Studio NYK galleries.
One is greeted by an impressive and immensely fun four screen film montage by master sampler Christian Marclay. Composed of dozens of films, many well known, the film amounts to a jam session between sound-makers across time and across the films. Moments of extreme dissonance shift to passages of partial familiarity as another cinematic narrative and history is woven together before us.
Pablo Valbuena’s simple projection of
slowly morphing geometric shapes onto a corner of the gallery architecture led
me into Chantal Akerman’s quietly monumental installation comprising multiple
monitors showing scenes from daily life taken in former Eastern Europe. What
really struck me walking through the monoliths was being exposed to the back of
the television monitors which began to look like parts of the housing blocks
and city architectures conveyed in the images themselves.
On the uppermost floor one is greeted by Alfredo Jaar’s black box presenting a powerful film of mostly text. It tells the story of a South African photojournalist called Kevin Carter who took a Pulitzer prize winning image of a starving girl in Sudan, watched over by a vulture. The interior of the box where one watches the film is set up ominously with four flash-bulb lights either side of the screen. This un-nerves you. Why are they there? They must go off sometime. When they do flash, I physically jumped off the bench. It flashes simultaneously with the single and only visual image of the entire piece, which is the above-mentioned photograph taken by the cameraman. It very literally captures the jump from reading text to the physicality of the image, and its effect/affect on/in the world. As with many of Jaar’s works this experience stays with you for some time.
The most engaging work for me was Aernout
Mik’s film titled ‘Schoolyard’ (2009). Running for what seemed like a long
time, it is a film shot in Mik’s signature style – silent, painting-like scenes
that are played out by ordinary people with simple props and actions. The film
is projected on two screens side by side, showing similar scenes or scenes
delayed slightly in time. We see groups of young people, some hooded, some in
veils, people in suits and ties who may be teachers and large men in blue
shirts who try to police the situation. There is no definite story or
narrative. Sometimes the mass of people engage in a single act like carrying a
body aloft or climbing into and out of a car. Most of the time the mass reverts
to clusters of individuals sitting, chatting, staring. The yard becomes a
metaphor for a potent state of eruption, which never fully happens. The guard
men try to impose some order, but it is short-lived, and things revert to a
state of what can perhaps be described as a community of spectators which
pushes and pulls in on itself. The situation seemed like an allegory of the
world we live in today – a networked ‘Empire’ where relations sustain
everything, but in which it is difficult to propose or enact different scales
of time or space. There were moments when the film looked like a scene painted
by Breugel, a teething landscape of bodies and desires, and moments of quiet
beauty as when flayed bodies were carried high by group so people, reminiscent
of Christ carried from the cross. Mik often references mass drills for
emergencies, and this film also incorporated stuffed dummies, placards and
masks, that seemed to stand for a theatrical recreation of protest or riot.
Shiga Leiko showed a ten minute photo/slide film composed of images she had taken. The fast-paced, jerky editing and monotone noise soundtrack created a mood of uncanny horror. Her photographs of people floating in the air, in slightly odd poses and brightly flash-lit scenes at night reminded me of the Black paintings of Goya crossed with the Blair-Witch video. I suppose in some senses Shiga’s photographic oeuvre touches that of the early Mike Kelley in its obvious formal references to spiritualist photography, but she also leans on recent Japanese horror cinema and the practice of artists like Nan Goldin and their coupling of photography with slide sequences and sound.
I came away from the exhibition with a peculiar paradox in my mind: that these works which use moving images, sound and time-based methods through elaborate editing, sampling and selection procedures, somehow produce effects which are closer to what John Berger in his seminal 'Ways of Seeing' series characterised painting by - as being 'silent and still'. This thought occurred to me as I walked home to the station. The effects of television or much cinema is largely one of immediate satisfaction, a kind of dullness that one nevertheless quite likes. Experiencing the works at CREAM today changes the rules. It is as if movement is recycled back into its constituent singular elements, and it is this that we experience. What Alfred North Whitehead called 'occasions of experience' - the basic aspects of reality that, in combinations and complexes form human experience and perception. It was as if the art works used motion and images to reveal the still and silent codes of the very fabric of experience itself.
In addition to the exhibition, CREAM happens through a series of ongoing events, performances, talks and online archives.
I strongly recommend going to see it, for its well selected works and general investigation into image and media now.
I went to see the Mike Kelley exhibition at Wako Works of Art yesterday. It is very good. Kelley is presenting four groups of photographs and a selection of recent sculptures from the 'Kandor' series. The photographs all relate to Kelley's long interest in spiritualist, symbolist and pictorialist photography. Of particular interest to me was seeing The Ectoplasm series, initially made in 1978 with artist David Askevold for a project entitled 'Poltergeist'. The Wako exhibition shows never-before printed images.
The exhibition made me think about fakery, the human body as an organ always on the verge of spillages and liquid excretions, and how artists have related to matter as some manifestation or extension of something totally Other, fluid and unspeakable, like ectoplasm.
If there is one artist who 'turned me on' to contemporary art it is the Austrian Franz West. I have always thought about his Adaptives - blobular sculptural forms which can be held and awkwardly played with - as something similar to psychic excretions, unformed unconscious shapes which we are invited to examine and behold. West has exhibited with Kelley in the past, and the two clearly share interests.
The idea of spillage may also be used in thinking about UFO phenomena. Carl Jung and Terence McKenna have both proposed that we think about them not as actual physical things out there, but as extensions or excretions of our imaginations - perhaps objects refracted back from some Other place into our here and now - into our imaginaries.
An interesting, but marginalised, scholarly resource that provides a useful theory into such speculations may be Julian Jaynes' 1976 "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind". In the bicameral state human beings actually heard voices which they interpreted as coming from Gods or spirits - the mind is conceived as still fragile, open to the interjections and disturbances of Mysteries.
This little painted stone by Max Ernst from 1934 is another favorite of mine. It reminds me of the human urge to mark material objects in order to somehow soften or prepare their surface for spillage to occur. My reading of archaic cave drawings and scratchings also follow this thinking. The preparation and ingestion of psychedelic substances by people through time and into the present can also be understood as a loosening of the bounded mind, allowing for temporary re-circulation and seepage.
I took the train down and back to Kokura and Hakata for the second Kita-Kyushu Biennale and to see the fourth Asia Pacific Triennale at the Asia Museum in Fukuoka. Both were worth the five hour journey down.
The Asia Triennale is an important and pioneering exhibition which has also helped form the extensive Asia-Pacific collection of the Asia Museum. The fourth edition, held mainly in the museum, presented a mix of old works by established artists such as Cai Guo-Qiang, Xu Bing and Subodh Gupta and newer pieces by younger artists such as Yee I-Lan, Atul Bhalla and Seema Nusrat. Atul Bhalla (India) showed an impressive photo-text work which documented his journey along a river in a large Indian metropolis. Referencing in parts the land art approaches of Hamish Fulton and Richard Long, Bhalla's work was a poignant documentation of both the environmental and human effects of rapid industrialization. In a similar documentary vein was the powerful video and installation by Bangaldeshi artists Yasmine Kabir and Ronni Ahmmed. They filmed workers hauling steel and detritus from massive ship wrecks in a scrap yard along the Bangladeshi coast. From Japan the photographer Higa Toyomitsu's ghostly photographs of the Nanamui shamanic rituals and his images of the anti-base demonstrations in Okinawa during the early 1970s were utterly absorbing.
The 'Imin' exhibition over in Moji-ko outside Kokura for the second Kita-Kyushu Biennale was a silent, serious affair. Held in the disused former offices of Japan Railways, the exhibition consisted entirely of projected and monitor slide works. Takuji Kogo of Candy Factory Projects collaborated with Mike Bode (Sweden), Federico Baronello (Italy) and Charles Lim (Singapore) on documentary-type photo essays exploring immigration. All of the works shared a formal language which I found interesting - being translated into Kogo's signature method of slide shows which jitter between scenes. Each work was accompanied by an A4 text written by the artists explaining the contexts and situations of the respective places documented. Mike Bode and Kogo photographed Brazilian worker communities living near Toyota City. Federico Baronello's work explored the sinking of an illegal immigrant ship near the Sicilian town of Portopalo. Charles Lim contributed a work looking into the hiring of foreign domestic workers in Singapore. The artists group Second Planet created a collage slide show of historical images of Manchuria, which existed between 1932 and 1945 under various colonial and multi-ethnic formations. The fact that such an exhibition is under way in Japan is something to be recognised - and from talking with the organisers (the non profit alternative space Gallery SOAP, Kita-Kyushu), I learned that they were denied funding from various public sources because the theme and title was deemed too strong. They could have changed the title to something like 'Mobility', and shown the same works, and probably received funding - but the fact that they chose to go with 'Imin' is testament to the organisers and artists critical fibre. Having said this, the exhibition left me with a number of questions, particularly regarding the ethical position of the artist when confronting these complex issues. I kept pondering the difficult relationship which is necessarily created between the artist-witness and those who they film for an art work - migrant workers etc. What was this sense of distance which the act of photographing or filming produces? And how am I, as a viewer, implicated in this in the act of watching? The artists decision to use no sound and to stutter the images, so that a segment would endlessly micro-loop were perhaps attempts to address these issues and lessen the spectacular potential of the subject matter.
The opening symposium was held from 5pm to 7pm. I sat between two 'senpai' critics, Mouri Yoshitaka to my left and Noi Sawaragi to my right. Mouri spoke about the ability of those who could move in today's globalized situation and those who simply could not. I offered thoughts on my recent naturalization experience and trends in curatorial and critical writing towards things 'being on the move', nomadic and flowing - a position reflected in Nicolas Bourriaud's recent book 'The Radicant' for example. Sawaragi, in customary art historian mode, contributed three case studies about what he usefully termed 'Imin teki kouka' (immigrant-like effects) on Japanese art history. He cited Ernest Fenelossa and his use of Hegelian modes to write a Japanese linear art history, the 'dentou ronsou' of the 1950s between Jomon and Yayoi cultures as the true origins of Japanese culture (Okamoto vs Tange Kenzo/ Kawazoe), and debates around Mono-ha in the 1970s and the role of Korean artist Lee Ufan in theorizing it. Other interesting points which emerged included: Isamu Noguchi's 'haafu' identity, the essentialist writings of Bruno Taut in the early 1930s vs the counter essentialist position of Sakaguchi Ango, thoughts about architecture and issues about the mechanisms in Japan which continue to promulgate a Japan-culture centric discourse. The discussion centred largely around art and its writings rather than socio-economic issues of immigration, in line with the sessions title which was 'Immigration and Art'. Around seventy people attended the talk, which was held in Gallery SOAP, Kokura.
Four perspectives by four people around the above line which I have been quite affected by recently.
1. Aldous Huxley writing in a 1963 essay titled 'Culture and the Individual'. :
" BETWEEN CULTURE and the individual the relationship is, and always has been, strangely ambivalent. We are at once the beneficiaries of our culture and its victims. Without culture, and without that precondition of all culture, language, man would be no more than another species of baboon. It is to language and culture that we owe our humanity.(......) Since human beings respond to symbols as promptly and unequivocally as they respond to the stimuli of unmediated experience, and since most of them naively believe that culture-hallowed words about things are as real as, or even realer than their perceptions of the things themselves, these outdated or intrinsically nonsensical notions do enormous harm. Thanks to the realistic ideas handed down by culture, mankind has survived and, in certain fields, progresses. But thanks to the pernicious nonsense drummed into every individual in the course of his acculturation, mankind, though surviving and progressing, has always been in trouble. History is the record, among other things, of the fantastic and generally fiendish tricks played upon itself by culture-maddened humanity. And the hideous game goes on...."
2. Terence McKenna from a talk given at St. John the Divine's Cathedral, Synod Hall, New York, April 25, 1996:
"Culture is not your friend, no matter what your
culture is. And this is sort of not a Politically Correct thing to say,
because in the present ambience, (sort of, those who haven't gotten
the word) there's a lot of attention to recovering our ethnic roots and to
expressing our unique ethnicity, and so forth and so on -- I think that's
the beginning of understanding. But all terms that stress ethnicity are
words applied to groups of people. Have you ever noticed that? Have
you ever noticed that you're not a group of people, you're a person? So you
may be "Jewish", you may be "Black", you may be this, you
may be that but there is no obligation to take upon yourself the
generalized quality of these things, because the generalized qualities belong
to thousands of people examined at a time. If you misunderstand that
you become a caricature. You act out your ethnicity as a caricature.
So culture is not your friend, ideology is not your friend... Who's your friend? Well, to my mind, the felt presence of immediate experience is the surest dimension, the surest guide that you can possibly have. The felt presence of immediate experience."
3. Julia Kristeva writing in Revolution in Poetic Language, trans. Margaret Waller (New York: Columbia UP, 1984).
"Finally, in the history of signifying systems and notably that of the arts, religion, and rites, there emerge, in retrospect, fragmentary phenomena which have been kept in the background or rapidly integrated into more communal signifying systems but point to the very process of signifiance. Magic, shamanism, esoterism, the carnival, and "incomprehensible" poetry all underscore the limits of socially useful discourse and attest to what it represses: the process that exceeds the subject and his communicative structures. But at what historical moment does social exchange tolerate or necessitate the manifestation of the signifying process in its "poetic" or "esoteric" form? Under what conditions does this "esoterism," in displacing the boundaries of socially established signifying practices, correspond to socioeconomic change, and, ultimately, even to revolution? And under what conditions does it remain a blind alley, a harmless bonus offered by a social order which uses this "esoterism" to expand, become flexible, and thrive?"
4. Jonathan Meese published a manifesto in the January/ February 2009 issue of Art Review magazine:
1. Art is Total Baby
2. Art is Total Joy
3. Art is Total Power (no human power)
4. Art is no Culture
5. Art is Total Humility
6. Art is Total Leadership
7. Art is no problem, Art needs no victims, Art needs no humans
8. Art is Total sweet Metabolism
9. Art is the only political party of the future
10. Art is no Ritual