“Unfolding” – the solo show by the Lebanese artist Akram Zaatri on Vimeo at Moderna Museet, Stockholm consists of written documents, videos, films and photographs that appear to capture memories and observations of his city Saida.
In the initial gallery, a film opens with a pair of hands typing on a Mac laptop. From the keyboard and hands, the film cuts to two men sitting in a dark room looking down at the Apple laptop (perhaps the artist and his father). The man on the right is middle aged wearing a charcoal hoody with a Japanese geisha and gambling cards. He is typing into the computer. To his right is a little old man wearing a white shirt, a tie, a sweater or scarf and a warm black jacket and black hat. As the man on the right stops typing, he leans back; they both wait staring at the glowing screen. A white light behind them to their right shoots across the room. The white light is reminiscent of a film projector. As the two men continue to watch the computer screen, colored lights alternate in the background – blue, red and yellow. At one point the lights dance about as in a discotheque. Eventually, the room goes black and the film ends.
I imagine that the film portrays the cinematic experience enjoyed through streaming video as most people enjoy films today. I did not catch what the fingers at the beginning of the film typed, perhaps YouTube. As simple as the film is, it has an elegance, an elegance that persists throughout Akram Zaatari’s exhibition “Unfolding” at the Moderna Museet.
While seeing Adrián Villar Rojas’s “Fantasma” exhibition at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, I was immediately reminded of Gabriel Orozco. The work, the objects, the installation and presentation were a second coming of Orozco’s efforts, however, unfortunately much more affected.
With Orozco’s work, I tend to be presented with a sense of discovery by mistake or happenstance. Many of Orozco’s photographs document a visually engaging observation that is about to fade or capture a playful intervention. And the objects as well, may be found objects with slight interventions or playful ideas that have been produced at human scale. Although Villar Rojas’s objects harken to Orozco’s sculptures, they appear entirely artificial and do not have a sense of playful discovery. They seem entirely manipulated and in the end not very interesting or engaging.
I wish that the large installation of objects were all in the vein of the defeated Robotech diorama in the stark white space preceding the larger hall (pictured above). At least this piece has more fun with the Fine Art museum setting than the pretentious tall island of stuff in the main gallery.
The museum presents an interview with Adrián Villar Rojas in which he unfortunately comes across as a bit pretentious. I’ll be surprised if this work is worth restoring and preserving.
Gether Contemporary’s “Beneath the Surface” features the work of five young artists from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts; Esben Gyldenløve, Oskar Jakobsen, Christine Overvad, Emil Toldbod and Nicky Sparre Ulrich. The only work that caught my imagination were the mixed-media sculptures by Emil Toldbod that comprise a series titled “Second Dive: Entering Another World”. Apparently the sculptures are employed in a film in which he wears and uses the sculptures to walk the surface of the sea digging through it’s ground. Below is what I imaging to be a test video in which he wears weighted boots to try and walk along the bottom of a swimming pool. The shoes in the video are pictured to the left.
At the bottom left of the image is a helmet that Emil wears in his film and to the right is a shovel that he pushes along the sea’s bottom. To the right of the helmet, are concrete rings that he wears on his thighs and in the back concrete weights that he drags along to help him remain below the water surface. The sculptures immediately brought to mind the literary genre Speculative Fiction as the artist crafted survival tools from found objects to allow him to trove the bottom of the sea after the waters have risen over much of the continents. These are make-shift tools assembled and crafted by impoverished survivors of a not so distant future that will help them continue living from the debris of past civilization. As I know nothing about the film or “Second Dive: Entering Another World” other than seeing a few sculptures on view at Gether Contemporary and a still on the Gether site, I’m just making all this up in contemplating Emil Toldbod’s work.
Above Gether Contemporary in Copenhagen’s Meat Packing district is Galleri Bo Bjeggard where I enjoyed the whimsical exhibition “Flowers for Poul” (PDF catalog for “Flowers of Poul”). “Flowers for Poul” celebrates the 90th birthday of deceased artist Poul Gernes by presenting the work of John Armleder, Cosima von Bonin, Paul Fagerskiold, Callum Innes, SUPERFLEX, Janaina Tscape and Eriwn Wurm as well as work by Poul Gernes. Flowers for Poul The exhibition is beautifully installed and visually engaging as large colorful works keep the viewer engaged from room to room. The works that stood out to me are SUPERFLEX’s “Information Machine” and “Commons Machine”. Although these pieces are simple and don’t function very well, particularly the make shift tops of “Information Machine” the pieces allow for simple interactivity that inanely reflect on our networked society.
SUPERFLEX’S “INFORMATION MACHINE” “models the struggle between the desire to share information and the desire to contain information. Player A (represents the desire to share information) plays against Player B (represented by the pole in the middle) to choose between sharing information or containing information. The player with the most rings on the pole wins. If there are no rings on the pole the people do not have to choose between sharing information or containing information. The game is endless.” As described by SUPERFLEX, the players are our desire to share as well as contain information and their goal is to have us engage.
COMMONS MACHINE, I would enjoy a lot more if the tops actually worked. Built for 2-10 players acting as “software programmers are working together to develop an open-source system. The programmers are contributing by launching their SPINNING TOPs with open source codes (the spinning top). The source code must not end up in the proprietary domain area (the yellow area) but remain in the common area (the purple area). If any source code ends up in the proprietary area, the operating system is no longer free.” Unfortunately, the tops don’t really spin, it’s art.
From Bo Bjerggaard we walked over to V1 Contemporary Art Center which featured the art of two artists who began their careers as grafiti and tag artists in the Eighties – Barry McGee and Todd James. Their work is well documented and critiques, so I’m only including a few images more so for my own visual archive. I love Barry McGee’s patterns and the simplicity of Todd James’s fantasy drawings in his zine “Beyond the Gates” of viking-like warrior women.
Todd James’s drawings are powerful in their printed comic format, I do not find the paintings at all interesting.
Today, my second day in Copenhagen, art work in the gallery Specta caught my eye while wandering about the city, so my son and I walked in. The gallerist immediately greeted us and even gave us a tour of the show (as a New Yorker, I was immediately taken aback). The woman explained that the exhibition titled “Money Makes the World Go Round” (May 9 – June 13, 2015) features four international artists that use money as the subject of their work. All of them with a critical bend toward the power of money and yet featured in a swank art market gallery, of course.
The central piece upon walking in to the space is “Money Makes the World Go Round II”, by Spanish artist Carlos Aires who cuts iconographic silhouettes from the currency of the 30 wealthiest countries to create a sphere strewn with what appear to be fruit flies. The sphere is formed by pining the cutout silhouettes and flies to a white canvas surface.
Also by Carlos Aires are a grid of collages that cut news print figures into the country’s currency.
In his multi-tiled piece titled “Domino” Swedish artist Lars Arrhenius represents the flow of a piece of currency from an ATM withdrawal to any number of exchanges until it is redeposited in to a bank.
South African artist Frances Goodman has created bills from woven beads, beads once functioning as currency in various cultures. And in a separate series Goodman creates drawings from fake eyelashes.
My favorite and most striking work is by Danish/German artist Andreas Schulenberg who has created giant dollar bills from felt and in them replaced the portrait of a president with that of the “losers” in American society.
After getting lost in beautifully tucked away trails toward the north west corner of Central Park, the discovery of the S.S. Hangover made for successful end of art hunting in Central Park this past Saturday. The only one disappointed in our group of six art viewers was the 5 year old who had envisioned riding the boat along the lake as the music played. Fortunately the soft pleasant music performed from the boat by the brass sextet calmed our disillusioned interactive art connoisseur.
Upon studying the ship, my 6 year old immediately asked why there was a fat unicorn on the sail. A Creative Time attendant, corrected him that it was not a unicorn, but the winged horse, Pegasus from the myth of Hercules. To everyone’s disappointment, she went on to explain that the fat Pegasus represents the struggling artist who has gotten older and is unable to achieve artistic recognition and glory. I immediately wondered why the artist had to take a nice performative piece and stamp it with such a trite concept.
The boat appeared to circle around a small island as it performed a piece by Kjartan Sveinsson. We only remained for iterations that were relaxing and pleasant. As we continued to walk around the Harlem Meer, we encountered Karyn Olivier’s “Here and Now/Glacier, Shard, Rock” – a lenticular signboard that shifts between photographs of the immediate environment behind the billboard, a glacier and pottery shard that resembled a Western classical pottery work.
Upon exiting Harlem Meer and Central Park on the east side, we encountered Spencer Finch’s “Sunset (Central Park)” – a soft-serve ice cream truck that employs solar panels to cool and power the soft-swerve. The line for the free ice-cream was far too long for us to experience the solar-cooled ice cream.
Overall the work that we encountered was poetic and relaxing at a time when so much of the immediate social issues carry friction, stress and the growing schism between the rich and poor on our earth.
Over the past year, I’ve been slightly obsessed with Vladimir Putin. As the annexation of Crimea occurred in spring of 2014, I took in all the news as I tried to understand why in this day and age following two world wars and the cold war of the past century a world leader would behave in such a manner. I understand that Crimeans speak primarily Russian and not Ukrainian, that Crimea was part of Russia until 1954 and perhaps culturally the Crimean majority identify as Russian. But to make the power play of absorbing a portion of another country immediately following a revolution, strikes me as a land grab of another era not reflective of our globalized, pan-capitalist world. I of course wondered if Putin is today’s Stalin, as many other people make the connection. In considering this annexation, I assembled this animation as I work on a slightly less shorter animated portrait.
My son and I were listening to WNYC this morning while having breakfast. The Morning Edition was reporting on the Supreme Courts upcoming decision regarding Gay Marriage. So my six-year old asked me what “Gay Marriage” is and I explained that it is when two people of the same gender want to be married and that currently in many states, it is not allowed, whereas here in New York gay couples are allowed to marry. So, he asked if they can marry here, why are they talking about it on the radio. I explained as best I could the Supreme Court and that if the judges decided that Gay Marriage is lawful, people would be able to marry in all states. And I asked what he thought – should gay couples have the right to marriage just as a man and a woman do across the country? He shrugged and said, “it’s none of my business, if they want to marry, sure.”
Celebrate Social Justice Journalism
Friday, April 24, 2015 @ 6:30 p.m.
Free & open to the public
The 25th annual James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism will go to reporters who have exposed the collusion of a major U.S. corporation with a vicious African warlord, the impact of violence on some Baltimore children, the growing legion of elderly Americans who work menial jobs in the warehouses of the world’s largest online retailer, the myriad costs of neglecting to care for the mentally ill, and the injustices that plague America’s Indian reservations.
Winners will discuss the inspirations and difficulties of reporting such stories at a free public presentation Friday, April 24 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lang Recital Hall at Hunter College, 68th Street & Lexington Ave, New York City.
Just some of the winners:
William Greider, Career Achievement
In a career spanning more than 35 years, William Greider has been a steadfast and tireless reporter and editor focusing on American politics. He has been the national affairs editor at Rolling Stone; an assistant managing editor at the Washington Post, where he was also a national correspondent and columnist; and the national affairs correspondent for The Nation. In addition, Mr. Greider has written several books and numerous articles for additional publications.
Nathan Fitch, Mikros Soldier (2014, 51 minutes)
Mikros Soldier investigates the Impacts of Militarization in the Federated States of Micronesia, an independent Island nation in the Pacific that has suffered very high casualty rates in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nathan Fitch, a filmmaker and photographer holds an MFA from the Integrated Media Arts program at Hunter College.
Sam Feder, Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger (2014, 72 minutes)
In this uplifting and timely feature-length documentary, Sam Feder profiles the brave, pioneering transgender performance artist and activist Kate Bornstein, who underwent sex-reassignment surgery in 1986 at age 38, to address the importance of being true to oneself while considering, more broadly, what it means to lead a fulfilling life. Sam Feder, a filmmaker and educator holds an MFA from the Integrated Media Arts program at Hunter College.
Eyebeam is a not-for-profit art and technology center that offers artists fellowships and residencies and presents new media exhibitions; it is one of a kind here in the U.S.. I have been an artist in residence and Eyebeam has always been supportive of my work. Although there are several art and technology institutions in Europe there are few to none in the United States that are dedicated to the creation and union of art and technology free of commercial interests. Please consider attending this important event or donating to Eyebeam. Below is the invitation.
Eyebeam’s first Award Benefit Celebrating Creativity and Courage in Art & Technology
21 April, 2015
6:00PM – 8:00PM
Sony Wonder Technology Lab
550 Madison Avenue (entrance on 56th Street)
New York, NY
For tickets please click here.
Join us at Eyebeam’s First Awards Benefit on 21 April! We will be honoring Ayah Bdeir and Trevor Paglen and featuring work by several current and recent Eyebeam artists.
Ayah Bdeir is being honored for enabling current and future generations to easily explore technology’s creative potential and Trevor Paglen for helping citizens understand the profound magnitude of digital surveillance through a variety of media. Together, their creative and provocative work demystifies public understanding of technology.
For more information see our announcement here.
Eyebeam is a nonprofit artist colony and R+D lab that supports creative and risk-taking work at the intersection of art and technology. Eyebeam exposes diverse audiences to experimental and interdisciplinary work, providing an environment for dialogue, collaboration, learning and discovery.
Last fall, I had the great pleasure of working with Hunter College Macaulay Honors student Ashley van der Grinten to create this beautiful animation. “Dance” is a collaboration between Ms. van der Grinten, videographer and dancer Shanika Powell and dancer Christina McEachern. The final animation is a beautiful and creative hand drawn work that brings to life an abstracted human figure that dances across your screen.