Thursday, October 30, 2008

Landmark study records visionary architecture from the early years of the Soviet Union

Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922-1932—Photographs by Richard Pare

In the history of architecture, there are few moments that are richer and more challenging, more influential, yet enigmatic, than the birth of modernism. Within it, one of the most fascinating chapters of all was that which opened under the Russian Revolution, producing a body of work that, tragically, remained little known for six decades, until the Stalinist regime collapsed and plunged the Soviet Union back to capitalism.
Images of Soviet modernist structures now on view at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)in New York, and contained in a companion book published by Monacelli Press, may well illuminate, as never before, these precious artifacts and that early movement for modernism of which they formed a vital part.
“Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture 1922-1932” consists of a selection of 74 structures documented in photographs by Richard Pare, prepared with the support of the Canadian Centre for Architecture and its founder, Phyllis Lambert, and presented at MoMA by Barry Bergdoll, chief architecture curator, and Jean-Louis Cohen, professor in the history of architecture at New York University.
Pare made eight extensive trips to the former Soviet Union between 1992 and 2000, according to MoMA’s web site, “and created nearly ten thousand images to compile a timely documentation of these structures, many of which are now in various states of decay, transformation, and peril.”
The Russian Revolution was a monumental event, the first time in history that the exploited took power and retained it. Russian social development had been characterized by poverty and backwardness, but the country remained, as Trotsky noted, “a part of world economy, only an element of the capitalist world system.” In Russia, different stages of civilization and culture approached and intermingled with one another. Europe’s most backward country, still emerging from a peasant economy, was compelled to take the road of socialist revolution in 1917 because there was no other progressive answer to its social problems.
For one brief decade, the first workers’ state attracted leading architects and engineers from abroad to join their Soviet counterparts in carrying out some of the most inspired and far-sighted work of the time. The architects included Erich Mendelsohn from Germany and Le Corbusier from France, who participated in major projects. Albert Kahn Associates of Detroit filled a steamship with architects, engineers, their staff and equipment to build hundreds of factories in the USSR.
In their execution, however, innovative designs often confronted a scarcity of up-to-date materials and the limitations of building techniques that had not changed for centuries. These problems were exacerbated by the conditions of national economic isolation.

Pare’s study brings into focus a process that was, at the same time, both exhilarating and frustrating—lighting up the future while still gripped by the semi-feudal past.
The exhibit notes that the fertile period ended abruptly between 1932 and 1934, as the Stalinist bureaucracy reorganized professional associations by way of stifling criticism. By early 1933, Stalin’s policies had helped deliver the German working class into the hands of the Nazis and brought about the downfall of the Communist International as a revolutionary instrument.
From 1934, the bureaucracy imposed its anti-artistic and anti-Marxist doctrine of “socialist realism,” sinking its teeth into the country and sealing the fate of creative cultural life. The intellectual flower that had blossomed on the surge of revolution would soon disappear into the Gulag as the historical tide ebbed away.
“Lost Vanguard” begins with the dramatic image of the radio tower on Shabolovka Street in Moscow. Completed in 1922, it was the first major structure erected after the revolution.
Between 1914 and 1921, wars and counter-revolution had reduced heavy industry in the USSR to 20 percent of Russia’s pre-war level. As the exhausted economy began to breathe again through the New Economic Policy, initiated in the spring of 1921, the proposal for a radio tower to rise 350 meters above the Moscow skyline embodied the enlightened character of the new regime and its plans for electrification of the vast country.
Designed by Vladimir Shukhov, the tower combines six of the hyperboloid cages he had devised two decades earlier as supports for water towers. These diaphanous forms achieve exceptional strength and light weight by combining straight members in a kind of conical, tubular truss, which reduces the critical tendency of such structures to buckle.
Upper sections were assembled inside the lowest and hoisted into place. Still in use today for radio and television broadcasts, the tower stands at 150 meters, the original plan having been shortened for lack of steel.
From this dramatic starting point, the study and MoMA exhibition review factories, communal kitchens, apartment blocks, workers’ clubs, theaters, elaborate sports facilities, the headquarters for the soviets, garages and even a modest shelter for a bus stop. Examples are drawn from Baku in present day Azerbaijan, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Ivanovo, Gorki and Sverdlovsk in Russia and from Kharkov and Kiev in Ukraine.
Much of what remains is in bad repair and facing extended neglect, or even destruction, in the current orgy of real estate speculation. Still, the evidence is unmistakable. The output was, for its time, prodigious.
In 1925, Erich Mendelsohn was invited to construct the Red Banner textile factory in Leningrad. Having completed the Einstein Tower in Potsdam and the Luckenwalde hat factory, he was among the most prominent young architects working in Berlin. For Mendelsohn, accepting the Soviet commission was a risk worth taking.
While only the power house remains, its towering smoke stacks and half a dozen strip windows, rising the full height of the massive space for generating equipment, give a sense of the vitality of the early Soviet Union. Segmented, ribbon windows wrap semi-circular forms that protrude from the machine room; and the whole gives one the impression of a displaced ocean liner, plowing down Pionerskaia Street.

On returning from the USSR, Mendelsohn published a book about his experience, in which he discussed the contradiction between the widespread aspirations for a socialist future and the conditions of backwardness that dominated the economy.
“Technique is Russia’s great problem,” he wrote, “because only its help can procure the long omitted, can provide the economic support for the idea of balancing the branches of economy; Russia, technique is the symbol of a future, on whose success depends the value of her dreams.”
Everywhere, there are signs of the sharp contrast between the new style and traditional methods of building. As Richard Pare explains, “These pristine modernist surfaces were actually quite medieval in their basic arsenal of materials and techniques. They were built by peasants who had no training whatsoever. They were farmers who came into the city in the summer while the harvest was growing. Here they are trying to interpret this radically daring architectural vocabulary, and yet they’ve never held rulers in their hands in their lives. For them to have succeeded so many buildings of such radical simplicity—with a kind of integrity and transparency—is astonishing in itself.” (In an interview with Liz McDaniel of Men’s Vogue)
The Russian Revolution was grounded in a world perspective, which recognized that the productive forces had outgrown and made obsolete the nation-state system. To establish the foundations necessary for a society based on social equality, only the resources of the global economy would suffice.
The great upsurges that followed in Germany, Britain and China, however, failed to extend the reach of the workers’ state during the 1920s, increasingly thanks to the policies of the Stalinist parties themselves. Isolated in poverty-stricken Russia, the revolution faced intractable conditions. Stalinism fed off those conditions. Mendelsohn, working in Leningrad at the time, must have witnessed the bureaucracy gaining in strength and distorting the early forms of state planning. He identified a tendency to romanticize the future in lieu of confronting the real problems in the actual development of technique.
“As Russia’s poverty delays her success,” he wrote, “the plan exaggerates the execution of the idea, its reality. Consequently, the realistic technique twists itself into a mystical future—the absolute reality is derailed into an erroneous path of romanticism” (Russland, Europa, Amerika, p. 114). Trotsky wrote in opposition to this kind of fantasizing about the future in his Problems of Everyday Life. Isaac Deutscher, in his well-known biography, noted that Trotsky constantly drew attention to the backwardness and poverty of everyday life, “from which the Russian only too frequently sought to escape into the realm of abstract doctrine.”
Nicolai Colli worked with Le Corbusier on a new headquarters for the soviets in Moscow, the Centrosoyuz building, which today houses a Statistical Department of the Russian government. There is a stunning, sculptural sensuality in the long, curving ramps that snake through the interior. Contrast the open interior with a bulky exterior volume skinned in 16-inch-thick red tuff stone from the Caucasus, which was employed to protect the interior poured-concrete structure from Moscow winter temperatures that routinely drop to -40º Fahrenheit.

The facility was advanced in many ways. Built of reinforced concrete, it combined multiple programmatic functions, such as, for example, office space for 3,500, a restaurant, lecture halls, a theater and other facilities. The design explores themes that would be fully developed in future work of the great Swiss architect.
One gets a whiff of the rising tension in the country and the coming assault on intellectual freedom, in a comment about the building by Stalin’s closest henchman. Referring to its soft, reddish veneer and slender columnar structure, the General Secretary’s appointed head of the Organization Department, Lazar Kaganovich, quipped it was a “pink sow with too short legs.”
Another jewel in Pare’s work consists of photographs of the Rusakov Workers Club on Stromynka Street in Moscow designed by Konstantin Melnikov in 1927. Around this time, Melnikov was collaborating with the engineer Shukhov on a number of large garages for the Leyland bus company. The two may have joined forces on this club design that combines beautifully engineered, cantilevered massing to achieve a powerful architectural effect.
Workers’ clubs had been built in other areas of Europe; but in their commissions, the local soviets imparted a new content to this building type. They became the concrete harbingers in everyday life of a new society, incorporating theaters, rehearsal spaces, meeting rooms, class rooms, office spaces and other functions under one roof.
The Zuev Workers Club in Moscow, designed by Ilia Golosov, provides a striking example of the architecture that the new tasks inspired. A vertical glass cylinder balances several massive rectangular solids in a unified, asymmetrical composition. Clear-cut contrasts, such as a glass skin juxtaposed to windows set deep into thick walls, define a fresh vocabulary in which the volume, skin, mass, structure and material are each articulated separately.
Marx praised the Paris Communards in 1871 for “storming heaven.” Could anything less have been applied to the Bolsheviks and the Russian workers? Perhaps, this helps explain why great cantilevers, aerial catwalks and sky hooks fascinated Soviet architects. Here Golosov balances a massive weight on a glass cylinder, manipulating components in a way that does not defy gravity, but demonstrates a confident mastery of its forces.

The exhibition reviews the suppression of creative work by the Stalinist bureaucracy, citing for example, the tragic case of Konstantin Melnikov, who was kept under house arrest and prohibited from practicing architecture from 1932 until his death in 1974. It also cites the dangers posed by today’s real estate speculators, who bulldoze a modernist treasure if the land beneath it can be turned for a profit.
Another, more insidious threat to the full appreciation of these works arises from another quarter. Nicolai Ouroussoff, writing in the New York Times, called the period of the exhibition among the most fruitful in modern architecture, “What distinguished it was,” he wrote, “the passion of its conviction, however naive, that architecture could be an agent for profound social change. That this vision was still born,” he continued, “only adds to its allure: as an incomplete experiment, it potentially could be renewed by future generations.”
Ouroussoff is clearly hedging his bets, not wishing to appear too heavy-handed in disparaging the ideals of the Russian Revolution. The condescending cynicism that dominates his outlook, however, is unmistakable. The assertion that the October Revolution was “still born” and that it was “naive” to believe that architecture could play a role in it speaks volumes about the contemporary intelligentsia.
To grasp the role of architecture as an art form, one must consider it within the context of society as a whole. Were the Soviet modernists engaged in a futile effort? Was it not possible that their work might contribute as the masses around them struggled to raise themselves to meet the tasks of building a new society? If architects could never organize and make conscious and, thereby, never concentrate the aspirations and strivings of their fellow beings, then it would be fair to say that they make no art, or no art of significance.
To illustrate this point, one need only consider a brief historical comparison. With modest means, local soviets erected innovative structures that entertained, educated and organized workers and their families in their neighborhoods. Today, vast sums are spent building casinos in the desolate center-cities of Detroit, Buffalo and Shreveport, with the sole purpose of hypnotizing, addicting and bankrupting those poor souls who are either stuck in dead-end jobs or losing them.

By Tim Tower

Source: World Socialist Web Site

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Floating House by MOS

Lake Huron, 2004-07

Don’t Just Do Something, Talk

One of the most striking things about the reaction to the current financial meltdown is that, as one of the participants put it: ‘No one really knows what to do.’ The reason is that expectations are part of the game: how the market reacts to a particular intervention depends not only on how much bankers and traders trust the interventions, but even more on how much they think others will trust them. Keynes compared the stock market to a competition in which the participants have to pick several pretty girls from a hundred photographs: ‘It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligence to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.‘ We are forced to make choices without having the knowledge that would enable us to make them; or, as John Gray has put it: ‘We are forced to live as if we were free.’

Joseph Stiglitz recently wrote that, although there is a growing consensus among economists that any bailout based on Henry Paulson’s plan won’t work, ‘it is impossible for politicians to do nothing in such a crisis. So we may have to pray that an agreement crafted with the toxic mix of special interests, misguided economics and right-wing ideologies that produced the crisis can somehow produce a rescue plan that works – or whose failure doesn’t do too much damage.’ He’s right: since markets are effectively based on beliefs (even beliefs about other people’s beliefs), how the markets react to the bailout depends not only on its real consequences, but on the belief of the markets in the plan’s efficiency. The bailout may work even if it is economically wrong.

There is a close similarity between the speeches George W. Bush has given since the crisis began and his addresses to the American people after 9/11. Both times, he evoked the threat to the American way of life and the necessity of fast and decisive action to cope with the danger. Both times, he called for the partial suspension of American values (guarantees of individual freedom, market capitalism) in order to save the same values.

Faced with a disaster over which we have no real influence, people will often say, stupidly, ‘Don’t just talk, do something!’ Perhaps, lately, we have been doing too much. Maybe it is time to step back, think and say the right thing. True, we often talk about doing something instead of actually doing it – but sometimes we do things in order to avoid talking and thinking about them. Like quickly throwing $700 billion at a problem instead of reflecting on how it came about.

On 23 September, the Republican senator Jim Bunning called the US Treasury’s plan for the biggest financial bailout since the Great Depression ‘un-American’:

Someone must take those losses. We can either let the people who made bad decisions bear the consequences of their actions, or we can spread that pain to others. And that is exactly what the Secretary proposes to do: take Wall Street’s pain and spread it to the taxpayers . . . This massive bailout is not the solution, it is financial socialism, and it is un-American.

Bunning was the first publicly to give the reasoning behind the GOP revolt against the bailout plan, which climaxed in its rejection on 29 September. The resistance was formulated in terms of ‘class warfare’, Wall Street against Main Street: why should we help those responsible (‘Wall Street’) and let ordinary borrowers (on ‘Main Street’) pay the price for it? Is this not a clear case of what economists call ‘moral hazard’? This is the risk that someone will behave immorally because insurance, the law or some other agency protects them against any loss that his behaviour might cause: if I am insured against fire, for example, I might take fewer fire precautions (or even burn down my premises if they are losing me money). The same goes for big banks, which are protected against big losses yet able to retain their profits.

That the criticism of the bailout plan came from conservative Republicans as well as the left should make us think. What left and right share in this case is their contempt for big speculators and corporate managers who profit from risky decisions but are protected from failures by ‘golden parachutes’. In this respect, the Enron scandal of January 2002 can be interpreted as an ironic commentary on the notion of a risk society. Thousands of employees who lost their jobs and savings were certainly exposed to risk, and had little choice in the matter. However, the top managers, who knew about the risk and also had the opportunity to intervene in the situation, minimised their exposure by cashing in their stocks and options before the bankruptcy. So while it is true that we live in a society that demands risky choices, it is one in which the powerful do the choosing, while others do the risking.

If the bailout plan really is a ‘socialist’ measure, it is a very peculiar one: a ‘socialist’ measure whose aim is to help not the poor but the rich, not those who borrow but those who lend. ‘Socialism’ is OK, it seems, when it serves to save capitalism. But what if ‘moral hazard’ is inscribed in the fundamental structure of capitalism? The problem is that there is no way to separate the welfare of Main Street from that of Wall Street. Their relationship is non-transitive: what is good for Wall Street isn’t necessarily good for Main Street, but Main Street can’t thrive if Wall Street isn’t doing well – and this asymmetry gives an a priori advantage to Wall Street.

The standard ‘trickle-down’ argument against redistribution (through progressive taxation etc) is that instead of making the poor richer, it makes the rich poorer. However, this apparently anti-interventionist attitude actually contains an argument for the current state intervention: although we all want the poor to get better, it is counter-productive to help them directly, since they are not the dynamic and productive element; the only intervention needed is to help the rich get richer, and then the profits will automatically spread down to the poor. Throw enough money at Wall Street, and it will eventually trickle down to Main Street. If you want people to have money to build, don’t give it to them directly, help those who are lending it to them. This is the only way to create genuine prosperity – otherwise, the state is merely distributing money to the needy at the expense of those who create wealth.

It is all too easy to dismiss this line of reasoning as a hypocritical defence of the rich. The problem is that as long as we are stuck with capitalism, there is a truth in it: the collapse of Wall Street really will hit ordinary workers. That is why the Democrats who supported the bailout were not being inconsistent with their leftist leanings. They would fairly be called inconsistent only if we accept the premise of Republican populists that capitalism and the free market economy are a popular, working-class affair, while state interventions are an upper-class strategy to exploit hard-working ordinary people.

There is nothing new in strong state interventions into the banking system and the economy in general. The meltdown itself is the result of such an intervention: when, in 2001, the dotcom bubble burst, it was decided to make it easier to get credit in order to redirect growth into housing. Indeed, political decisions are responsible for the texture of international economic relations in general. A couple of years ago, a CNN report on Mali described the reality of the international ‘free market’. The two pillars of the Mali economy are cotton in the south and cattle in the north, and both are in trouble because of the way that Western powers violate the same rules that they impose so brutally on Third World nations. Mali produces cotton of the highest quality, but the US government spends more money to support its cotton farmers than the entire state budget of Mali, so it is small wonder that Mali can’t compete. In the north, the European Union is the culprit: the EU subsidises every single cow to the tune of five hundred euros a year. The Mali minister for the economy said: we don’t need your help or advice or lectures on the beneficial effects of abolishing excessive state regulations; just, please, stick to your own rules about the free market and our troubles will be over. Where are the Republican defenders of the free market here? Nowhere, because the collapse of Mali is the consequence of what it means for the US to put ‘our country first’.

What all this indicates is that the market is never neutral: its operations are always regulated by political decisions. The real dilemma is not ‘state intervention or not?’ but ‘what kind of state intervention?’ And this is true politics: the struggle to define the conditions that govern our lives. The debate about the bailout deals with decisions about the fundamental features of our social and economic life, even mobilising the ghost of class struggle. As with many truly political issues, this one is non-partisan. There is no ‘objective’ expert position that should simply be applied: one has to take a political decision.

On 24 September, John McCain suspended his campaign and went to Washington, proclaiming that it was time to put aside party differences. Was this gesture really a sign of his readiness to end partisan politics in order to deal with the real problems that concern us all? Definitely not: it was a ‘Mr McCain goes to Washington’ moment. Politics is precisely the struggle to define the ‘neutral’ terrain, which is why McCain’s proposal to reach across party lines was pure political posturing, a partisan politics in the guise of non-partisanship, a desperate attempt to impose his position as universal-apolitical. What is even worse than ‘partisan politics’ is a partisan politics that tries to mask itself as non-partisan: by imposing itself as the voice of the Whole, such a politics reduces its opponents by making them agents of particular interests.

This is why Obama was right to reject McCain’s call to postpone the first presidential debate and to point out that the meltdown makes a political debate about how the two candidates would handle the crisis all the more urgent. In the 1992 election, Clinton won with the motto ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’ The Democrats need to get a new message across: ‘It’s the POLITICAL economy, stupid!’ The US doesn’t need less politics, it needs more.

Slavoj Žižek

Source : London Review of Books

Friday, October 10, 2008

Show me, don't tell me

Geoffrey Farmer

For the first time in Brussels: a biennial for contemporary art. 7 exhibitions, 70 artists and an off-program with more than one hundred fifty artists exposing their artwork all over the city.

Brussels Biennial 1 opens on 19 October 2008, exactly fifty years after the closing of the 1958 World Fair. An international crowd of artists takes the visitor in tow throughout the history of modernization of Brussels. The participating institutions and artists, as well as practical information you'll find at the website

Brussels Biennial 1 is organized under the conceptual umbrella devised by its artistic director, Barbara Vanderlinden in an attempt to rethink the legacy of modernity in a global context. The individual exhibitions are curated by the contemporay art organizations: B.P.S.22, espace de creation contemporaine de la Province de Hainaut, Charleroi (Space for Contemporary Creation of the Visual Arts sector of the Hainaut Province); BAK, basis voor actuele kunst (Basis for Contemporary Art), Utrecht; Drik, Images, Communication & Information Technology, Dhaka; Extra City, Centrum voor Hedendaagse Kunst (Center for Contemporary Art), Antwerp; L'appartement 22, Lieu Inde;pendant pour la Creation Contemporaine (The Apartment 22, Experimental Space for Contemporary Art), Rabat; MuHKA, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp), Antwerpen; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; and Witte de With, Centrum voor Hedendaagse Kunst (Center for Contemporary Art), Rotterdam.

Participating curators: Shahidul Alam, Bart De Baere, Charles Esche and Maria Hlavajova, Anselm Franke, Abdellah Karroum, Pierre-Olivier Rollin, Nicolaus Schafhausen and Florian Waldvogel.

Show me, don't tell me is curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen and Florian Waldvogel.


Bircken, Alexandra (DE)
Black, Karla (GB)
Corbusier (CH)
Denny, Simon (NZ)
Dkyndt, Edith (BE)
Engh, Marius (NO)
Farmer, Geoffrey (CA)
Fuller, Buckminster (US)
Gillam, Adam (GB)
Keating, David (AUS)
Kelm, Annette (DE)
Kent, Sister Corita (US)
Metzel, Olaf (D)
Micanovic, Danijela (BO)
Newby, Kate (NZ)
Ots, Jurgen (BE)
Pisano, Falke (NL)
Taller popular de serigrafia (AR)
Velonis, Kostis (GR)
Vermeersch, Pieter (BE)
Voss, Jeronimo (DE)
Votsis, Stelios (CY)
Wagner, Silke (DE)
Xenakis (GR)

Kate Newby

Artists general list:
Shahidul Alam (Bangladesch)
Victor Alimpiev & Zhunin Marian (Russia)
Tarek Al-Ghoussein & Chris Kienke (United Arabic Emirates/United States)
Pawel Althamer (Poland)
AMO - Rem Koolhaas & Renier De Graaf (the Netherlands)
Carla Arocha & Stéphane Schraenen (Venezuela/Belgium)
Art & Language (United Kingdom)
Hamdi Attia (Egypt)
Jochen Becker / metroZones (Germany)
Alexandra Bircken (Germany)
Karla Black (Scotland)
Richard Buckminster Fuller (United States)
Peggy Buth (Germany)
Edgar Cleijne (the Netherlands)
Vaast Colson (Belgium)
Contact Press Images (United States)
Cherika Convents & Roger Steylaerts (Belgium)
Patrick Corillon (Belgium)
Josef Dabernig (Austria)
Edith Dekyndt (Belgium)
Luc Deleu & T.O.P. Office (Belgium)
Simon Denny (New Zealand)
Nico Dockx Yves Vanpevenaege
Marius Engh (Norway)
Ninar Esber (Lebanon)
Seamus Farrell (Irland/France)
Geoffrey Farmer (Canada)
Mounir Fatmi (France/Morocco)
Daniel Faust (United States)
Gajaani (Sri Lanka)
Pablo Garber (Argentina)
HC Gilje (Norway)
Adam Gillam (United Kingdom)
Pedro Gómez Egaña (Columbia)
Nick Gooyvaerts (Belgium)
Flaka Haliti (Kosovo)
David Holloway (United States)
Sonja Hohenbild (Germany)
Francesco Jodice (Italy)
Valérie Jouve (France)
IRWIN - Dusan Mandic, Mirian Mohar, Andrej Savski, Roman Uranjek & Borut Vogelnik (Slovenia)
David Keating (Australia)
Annette Kelm (Germany)
Peter Kruger (Belgium)
La Cantine Populaire - Elodie Carré & Pascal Sémur (France)
Luisa Lambri (Italy)
Le Corbusier (France)
Yuri Leiderman (Austria)
Renzo Martens (the Netherlands)
Goto Masaru (Thailand)
Gordon Matta-Clark (United States)
Christine Meisner (Germany)
Olaf Metzel (Germany)
Danijela Micanovic (Russia)
Jerome Ming (Singapore)
Andrei Monastyrski (Russia)
Pavel Mrkus (Czech Republic)
Andreas Müller & Jesko Fezer (Germany)
Fatmir Mustafa (Kosovo)
Swapan Nayak (India)
Kate Newby (New Zealand)
Neo Ntsoma (South Africa)
Roman Opalka (France)
Els Opsomer (Belgium)
Paul Otlet (Belgium)
Jurgen Ots (Belgium)
Ulrike Ottinger (Germany)
Fahrettin Orenli (Turkey)
Marko Peljhan (Slovenia)
Falke Pisano (the Netherlands)
Michelangelo Pistoletto & Cittadellarte (Italy)
Potential Estate (Belgium)
Florian Pumhösl (Austria)
Gert Robijns (Belgium)
Ines Schaber & Stefan Pente (Germany)
Juliaan Schillemans (Belgium)
Dierk Schmidt (Germany)
Florian Schneider (Germany)
Stefan Schneider (Germany)
Susan Schüppli (United Kingdom)
Batoul Shimi (Morocco)
Sister Corita (United States)
Simon Starling (United Kingdom)
Mladen Stilinovic (Croatia)
Taller popular de serigrafΓ­a (Argentina)
Nahum Tevet (Israel)
Hans Theys (Belgium)
Koen Theys (Belgium)
Joëlle Tuerlinckx (Belgium)
Nicolas Uriburu (Argentina)
Kostis Velonis (Greece)
Pieter Vermeersch (Belgium)
Jeronimo Voss (Germany)
Stelios Votsis (Cyprus)
Silke Wagner (Germany)

Alexandra Bircken

Adam Gillam

Brussels Biennial 1
Date: October 19, 2008 - January 14, 2009
Location: Former Post Sorting Center, station Bruxelles Midi, Brussels, and other locations

Just Bring that Malevich Down

Glen Baxter
Just bring that Malevich down
colored pencil & ink on paper
70 x 56 inches

Laugh Track

Marshall McLuhan said: “We have now
become aware of the possibility of
arranging the entire human environment
as a work of art.”

The disappearance of art into our
everyday life was already established and
accomplished a long time ago, from
Warhol on, we consume art and visual
culture repeatedly everyday. But what if
this ‘disappearance’ is a persistent
condition from our
Culture? Just as the disappearance of
ideologies and politics by their constant
repetition on media; or the disappearance of
sexuality and pornography by their cyclical
appearances in television and advertisements.
Well, the first ‘disappearance’ of art was
original and critical. But can the one we are
experiencing today still be critical? Is Art still a
critical body that reflects on the society?

Artists list

Jorge Cabieses,
Francisco Camacho,
Tania Candiani,
Cacahuates Japoneses,
Ehsan Fardjadniya,
Maria Karantzi,
Kristen Lovelock,
Yoshua Okon,
Wilfredo Prieto,
Tracey Rose,
Dan ShawTown,
Kostis Velonis,
Andy Wauman,
Phillipe van Wolputte,
Erik van der Weijde

Curators: Oliver Martinez Kandt, Ehsan Fardjadniya
YUM 21C, Brussels
19 october- January 14, 2009

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Graphs on the death of Marxism, postmodernism, and other academic fads

We are living in very exciting times -- at long last, we've broken the stranglehold that a variety of silly Blank Slate theories have held on the arts, humanities, and social sciences. To some, this may sound strange, but things have decisively changed within the past 10 years, and these so-called theories are now moribund. To let those out-of-the-loop in on the news, and to quantify what insiders have already suspected, I've drawn graphs of the rise and fall of these fashions.

I searched the archives of JSTOR, which houses a cornucopia of academic journals, for certain keywords that appear in the full text of an article or review (since sometimes the big ideas appear in books rather than journals). This provides an estimate of how popular the idea is -- not only the true believers, but their opponents too, will use the term. Once no one believes it anymore, then the adherents, opponents, and neutral spectators will have less occasion to use the term. I excluded data from 2003 onward because most JSTOR journals don't deposit their articles in JSTOR until 3 to 5 years after the original publication. Still, most of the declines are visible even as of 2002.

Admittedly, a better estimate would be to measure the number of articles with the term in a given year, divided by the total number of articles that JSTOR has for that year, to yield a frequency. But I don't have the data on total articles. However, on time-scales when we don't expect a huge change in the total number of articles published -- say, over a few decades -- then we can take the total to be approximately constant and use only the raw counts of articles with the keyword. Crucially, although this may warp our view of an increasing trend -- which could be due to more articles being written in total, while the frequency of those of interest stays the same -- a sustained decline must be real.

Here are the graphs (an asterisk means the word endings could vary):

Source and posted by agnostic

Monday, October 6, 2008

Continuous city for 1.000.000 human beings

Alan Boutwell/ Mike Mitchell, Continuous city for 1.000.000 human beings.
In: Domus 470, Milan, 1969

Collage. Cut, Paste

Exhibition with paintings and constructions of modern and contemporary greek artists that show the history and evolution of collage in Greece. The exhibition’s purpose is to pinpoint the influence that collage had in all visual arts and how it evolved into assemblage and site specific art.

Athanasopoulou Eleni, Akrithakis Alexis, Anagnostakis Manolis, Antonakos Steven, Valaoritis Nanos, Varytimiadis Nikos, Velonis Kostis, Golfinos Yiorgos Elytis Odysseas, Kamma Eleni, Karas, Christos, Kariotaki Fotini, Kessanlis Nikos, Kountouras Christos, Kyrou Klitos, Lazongas Yiorgos, Lyra Eleni, Balatsos Vassili, Panonidou Elpida, Petropoulos Ilias, Polymeris Manolis Ragou Rania, Romanos Chrysa, Sahinis Nikos, Sidiropoulos Ioakim,, Simopoulos Alexis, Siskos Yiorgos, Spahis Aggelos 1930, Spiropoulos Yiannis, Stefopoulos Kostas, Tsarouchis Yiannis,Tserionis Yiorgos, Tsizek Karolos, Tsoklis Kostas, Fokas Yiannis, Chrysidou Elli, Psirrakis Lambros, Psychopedis Yiannis, Psoma Lia

S.M.C.A, Moni Lazariston, Salonica
22.10- 7.12.2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Museum staff preparing African Lion Group

Photo by Thane L. Bierwert.
American Museum of Natural History Library

Elephant Gun

If I was young, I'd flee this town
I'd bury my dreams underground
As did I, we drink to die, we drink tonight

…Far from home, elephant gun
Let's take them down one by one
We'll lay it down, it's not been found, it's not around…

…And it rips through the silence of our camp at night
And it rips through the silence, all that is left is all that I hide..
(from the songElephant Gun, by Beirut)

Bargain prices on Elephant Gun is a commentary on how the individual adapts to the requirements of contemporary society. Contemporary forms of social relations develop in the space of the old antinomy between the personal and the collective, or social. Though individual freedom is by now a well-established principle of social organization, society continues to reproduce itself on the basis of rules and laws that eventually force it into a state of crisis, reducing it to a mere product of social mediation.
Contemporary lifestyles, generally aimed toward consumption, challenge the sense of identity and ultimately the integrity of individuals exposed to them.

The notion of interdependence is of particular importance in this context: what, in other words, is the relation between individual perspectives on contemporary lifestyles and individual action? To what extent are our present choices our own? If the past determines the future, what, or who, determines our present?

The artists participating in this exhibition tell their personal stories about resistance or compliance, about defying the workings of the system or finding ways to exist alongside it, about our choices with respect to what we leave behind and what we stick to in our effort to move ahead.

Works in the exhibition explore areas where there are no rigid distinctions between theory and practice; where the boundaries between the two seem to blur. They conjure up a universe of individual worlds that invoke contemporary awareness and use it as a prism through which to look upon how we experience reality. We all try to survive amidst the chaos of contemporary life. The exhibition poses questions regarding our sense of unease and anxiety, the individual’s incorporation into the social body, the call for freedom, the possibility or impossibility of a coexistence of the personal and the collective, the desire for change. Widely acknowledged as the international centre of the unified European Community, Brussels inaugurates its first contemporary art biennial in 2008. The Brussels Biennial responds to the ever-increasing critical impact of Brussels and its potential to provide a specific context for the presentation of contemporary art. Characterized by its intuitive insight into the art scene of the highly urbanized region between the Netherlands, Belgium, France and parts of Germany, the biennial takes place from October 2008 through January 2009. With contributions from more than 40 international artists, the biennial incorporates exhibitions by experimental art institutions located in two deserted buildings along the North-South railway axis in Brussels. The biennial represents a first step in a larger project designed as a trans-national endeavour that will unfold in two steps until 2010.

Participating artists: Yves Ackermann, Dimitris Andreadis, Dimitris Antonitsis, Dimitris Baboulis, Vassili Balatsos, Petros Chrisostomou, Dimitris Foutris, Ry Fyan, Jenny Marketou, Eleni Kamma, Thanos Klonaris, Caroline May, Maro Michalakakos, Eva Mitala, Tereza Papamichali, Antonis Pittas, Angelo Plessas, Dimitris Tsoumplekas, Kostis Velonis, Maria Zervou.

Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Center
group show curated by Katerina Nikou,
9th October - 25 November 08,