Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Grey Ecology is Needed Now More Than Ever

The time of an intellectual having an influence is over. Who has an influence? It is the climate.
-- Paul Virilio, Grey Ecology

As we stare down the aftermath of another natural disaster, Paul Virilio's words, unfortunately, ring as true as ever. Within a world that is in a headlong rush into synchronized global emotion, we can begin to understand his concept of the integral accident. Yesterday, the accident happened somewhere, it was relegated to one geo-location. Today, the accident is integral, it runs the show. It happens here and there. Paul Virilio has been dismissed by some as a negative thinker who does not have the capacity to think past the destruction of World War II, where, as an 11 year-old child, "war became his university". Today, this university resonates with us to such an extent that we must begin to ask fundamental questions concerning the political economy of speed. According to Virilio, before the contemporary period one had time to prepare for war because strategists could foresee events. Today, within the dromosphere (the sphere of speed which produces the accident), the accident happens before we know it has happened. With any new invention, there is a loss. With the invention of the train, there was the train wreck. And so today, within a globalized culture, struggling to find novel ways of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and living within the aftermath of such fossil fuel disasters as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we must also have the courage to witness another "successful failure".

Japan, site of the end of the last world war, itself predicated on the successful failure of the atomic bomb, now becomes the disaster site of invention once again. The atomic age was ushered in with the advent of nuclear power, a ?more efficient' resource than fossil fuels. Hailed as an antidote to the depletion of out-dated energy sources, nuclear power also inaugurated the prospect of nuclear meltdown. As Hannah Arendt warned us so long ago, "miracle and catastrophe are two sides of the same coin". If we can begin to assess this tragedy that has spread through real-time networks, Paul Virilio's demand for a novel sort of ecology, a grey ecology for the man-made world of the dromosphere, can no longer be ignored. While the natural disaster of the tsunami belongs to the world of the natural climate, that domain where a green ecology can be examined in order to rethink the problematic of global warming, grey ecology makes it necessary to study and prevent the excesses of an almost fanatical human commitment to the idea of progress. A grey ecology signals the necessity to reflect, within the context of an accelerated culture, on the instant when "progress itself becomes propaganda".

Today, there is no malevolent dictator behind it all. The accident and its political economy of speed dictate the agenda. Consequently, we will need courage to recognize other accidents of the dromosphere. As the economy of speed leaves its destruction and rubble in every aspect of existence, as the workers of Wisconsin and elsewhere strive to demand a grey ecology within the man-made structures of governance, education, and excess wealth, we begin to see that catastrophe can be flipped on its head to provide for the miraculous. As the global networks share the pain and distress of all those suffering, whether in Japan, Libya, Egypt, or on any neighborhood street, we can perhaps begin to acquire the courage to demand a new ecology of progress. When scientists created atomic weapons at the end of the last world war, they were supposedly not in a position to understand their totally destructive nature. Today, as we continue our headlong rush into the future-present, as we desperately allow new inventive ways of extracting energy through clean-coal technologies, as we embrace without question novelty in the realm of instantaneous connection, we must also have the courage to face this medusa of progress with a critical mirror. Paul Virilio envisions no other way of proceeding than slowing down -- re-calibrating our position against the political economy of speed and unbridled "progress". Virilio is not against progress, but unlike our technological predecessors, who perhaps could not have anticipated that train wrecks parallel the invention of the train, that shipwrecks are the inevitable fallout of the invention of the ship, Virilio challenges us, in the name of the future that is already here, to rethink an ethics of progress and invention. A grey ecology is needed now more than ever.

Text by Drew Burk
Source :¨

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Le sommeil

Το διαμέρισμα του Patrick Proctor, 1970, στο κειμενο του Ettore Sottsass Jr, "Memoires di Pana Montata" , περιοδικό DOMUS 484, Μαρτιος 1970 για τον Charles Rennie Machintosh και τον σχεδιασμό εσωτερικών χωρων


"If you can improve the corner of your street"

Kaelen Wilson- Goldie, Kader Attia, Vasif Kortun and Wael Shawky on Art in the Middle East

Kader Attia
Untitled (Skyline) 2007
© Kader Attia
140 fridges, mirrors

Camille Zakharia
Hut 15 Muharraq, Bahrain 2010
Courtesy Galerie Lucy Mackintosh, Lausanne © Camille Zakharia
Archival inkjet print
56 x 56 cm

Model of Jean Nouvel's Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island
© Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Courtesy Louvre

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie: There is a common assertion, whether it’s right or wrong, supportable or not, that the contemporary artworks that have been produced in the Middle East over the past ten to fifteen years are quite heavy on politics, more so than in other regions. I think maybe you can approach this assertion several different ways. You could say it’s a matter of interpretation: that certain curators and critics over-emphasise the political content of the work that’s coming out of this part of the world; that they look to the art for what it tells them – or confirms for them – about various conflicts in the region. In effect, they instrumentalise the work. Or you could say it’s a matter of selection: that institutions and curators are immediately drawn to political work at the expense of everything else that’s out there. The assumption is that what audiences, particularly those outside the Middle East, really want to see is how the region’s troubles and tragedies are reflected in or expressed through artistic practices. So you end up with a really distorted representation of what’s happening artistically. Or you could say that it’s precisely the politics of the Middle East that shape the forms and strategies of artistic practice. Is contemporary art from the Middle East more political than from elsewhere, or is the work so politically loaded because the region itself is so politically charged?

Vasif Kortun: Quite a lot of work is interested in forms of narrative, producing meaning from different angles, engaging in the present, and that seems to come across as political, or is seen as political. I think if you asked that question about other places, for example the Balkans ten years ago, you’d get a similar answer. It’s not about the art from one region or another being more political. It’s about the position from which we ask the question. The people who pose that question seem to be asking it from a “centralist” position where there is actually a certain gamut of art that works in a particular way. I don’t think it’s a good question to ask. It isolates, and actually marginalises a context.

Kader Attia: In one way, I agree about the central position of who asks the question. But we also need to remember that the Middle East, from Morocco to Tehran, is an area where the presence of political authorities in everyday life (both the local actors, as in Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, etc, and the Western ones, as in Iraq for instance) and strong censorship systems gives artists (including writers, directors, etc) only little room for contestation.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie: What about the category itself? What does contemporary art from the Middle East mean? How has it been constructed? Is it a field of artistic production? Is it tied to a certain art historical lineage? Is it a market? Is it a larger infrastructure that includes a market, museum projects and different funding bodies? Given that all of you live in different cities, work in different ways and deal with different state systems, how did you see yourself or find yourself in this category?

Vasif Kortun: That’s a tough question. For me, it is predicated on the context of Turkey in particular, because having come from a place that actually occupied the region for a very long time – I mean, all except Iran – there is an historical trajectory. But up until almost the end of the 1990s, there was very little visible give and take between Middle East countries. The region did not exist for practitioners in Turkey. The order of discourse was vertical, in the sense that borders were closer to New York than Cairo, or wherever, depending on what the imagined power centre was at the time. After 1989 the Balkans came into focus following the break-up of the Soviet states. That was the watershed. It changed everything, which also made it inevitable that practitioners would start paying attention closer to home. I did, at least. In the past decade the region became in many ways the subject of great interest. This meant I was able to orientate my institution, the Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Centre, towards establishing very close links with places such as Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, or the Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art in Cairo – to start residencies and try to build relations with places that one feels much closer to. Incidentally, I don’t go to Europe any more, almost never. Even the travel routes and the context have changed. This all started around the time of 9/11, or right after it. Now we see a completely different situation in which we have to navigate everything differently.

Wael Shawky: Usually I feel defensive of the category, of course, but actually I felt it most when I was in the residency programme at Platform in Istanbul. I lived in Mecca during my childhood, and then I came to Egypt. Most of my work deals with ideas of nomadism, emigration and religion. I hadn’t been aware of any pressure to deal with or try to define an identity – of coming from an Islamic country, or from the East or the West. But I felt this tension during my stay in Istanbul. I didn’t make too many pieces in Istanbul, just The Cave (2005). I was trying to translate my experience there. That was around the time when everyone was talking about Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. At the same time, it is an Islamic country – you go to the mosques and you hear people praying. But then again, most of them don’t understand exactly what they’re saying, because they don’t speak Arabic. All these questions made me think back to my childhood in Mecca.

Still from Wael Shawky's The Cave (2005)
Courtesy Galerie Enrico Navarra © Wael Shawky

Kader Attia: The situation is a little different for me because Algeria is a country that has been colonised for most of the last 2,000 years of its history, by the Romans, the Arabs, the Ottomans and the French. This idea of categorising an identity, such as Arab art world or contemporary Middle East art scene, is actually very French, something that developed during the Age of Reason with René Descartes. I fear the idea of giving a name to an area as huge as the Middle East. Edward Said said that the Orient starts in Rabat and goes to Tokyo. So I don’t regard my work as being inside of or beyond any frontiers or boundaries of the Middle East. I try to be an artist first.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie: In the period after 9/11, and before all the new museum projects were announced in the Gulf, institutions in Europe and North America seemed to become, very suddenly, interested in doing exhibitions of contemporary art from the Middle East. How have you grappled with that interest in your work? Have you tried to frustrate or complicate the expectations involved?

Kader Attia
The Landing Strip 2000 - 2002
Courtesy Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris © Kader Attia
C-type print

Figure #63 from Wael Shawky's film Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File (2010)
Courtesy Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut © Wael Shawky

Kader Attia: I don’t try to fulfil or frustrate any expectations. When I am invited to participate in an exhibition, should it deal with religion or the Middle East, or with any other theme, I first read the statement of the curator and see if he or she tries to tackle questions that seem interesting to me, or that I feel linked to. That will be the reason why I take part in a project. I have to feel 100 per cent concerned by what the curator is trying to do. As an artist, my main concern is to raise questions, with no specificity of geographical area or religious background, even if these areas and religions are part of who I am. This will show through my work, but not in a literal way.

Wael Shawky: I have been involved in many shows under the banner of Middle Eastern art and Islamic art, etc. And I have started to refuse to take part in them. Many artists now are doing the same. Because of 9/11, this interest touches the political or religious aspects I’m using in my work. But it’s because I’m coming from this religious background in Mecca that my work is dealing with these topics, so I don’t think I feel the problem myself. At the same time, of course, I have to reject this interest, as a political position.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie: Let’s look at the rise of these museum projects in the Gulf, such as the Guggenheim and the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, and Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, and also the new sources of funding for production in the region, such as the Sharjah Art Foundation’s programme, or the number of commissions for the Sharjah Biennial, for Art Dubai, or for the opening of Mathaf. The focus of Mathaf’s collection is on twentieth-century modernism, but it opened in December with the exhibition ‘Told/Untold/Retold’, which featured 23 newly commissioned works by artists “with roots” in the region. If your work were to be acquired by these museums and added to their permanent collections, would you feel that it would be at home there, however loaded the term home may be?

Vasif Kortun: I thought you were going to be facetious and say, would you feel your works would be marginalised! From the way I look at it, it is better for an artist’s work to be in a regional public collection than in the Tate Collection.

Wael Shawky: I don’t have a problem with that, honestly. I don’t even have a problem if these museums organise those kinds of shows with Middle Eastern themes that I was just talking about, because I think it’s very important to start with this, somehow. Then, in time, it will change. I think it’s fine. Contemporary art in this region in general is very, very new, and I believe it is important to start somewhere, with something, even if it’s not perfect.

Kader Attia: For me, it’s also fine. I think it’s another step, as Wael says. I was in Doha for the opening of the Museum of Islamic Art in 2008, and I think they did well. What I like very much is that they are doing it step by step. They have built this beautiful museum designed by IM Pei, and they have the collection. Even if the works have been seen before, this new dynamism is now visible. But to answer your question, I think all artworks, mine or those of other artists from any background, are at home in any museum of the world.

Scale model of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
Courtesy Gehry Partners, LLP. Photo: Tarik Iles

Artist's rendering of the exterior of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar
Courtesy Nafas Art Magazine, Berlin

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie: How would you compare the Gulf museum projects with the Modern Art Museum of Algeria (MAMA), which opened in 2007?

Kader Attia: I support the MAMA. Algeria has a lot of problems with fundamentalists, especially in the south now, and it’s a country that only recently came out of a civil war. The fact that the government invested money in culture is very important. It’s more than a sign, it’s real. When the MAMA opened, it was amazing to see the people who came. There was a great sense of energy. I think the director, Mohammed Djehiche, is very open minded and is really aware of how difficult it is today to show contemporary art in a country like Algeria. My involvement with the museum is not just as an artist; I’ve also been asked to propose curatorial projects. Nevertheless, in relation to what I said earlier about the tight space available for criticism of the political system in Arab countries, I think showing political contemporary art in the MAMA is going to be a difficult job for everyone. Let’s see…

Vasif Kortun: At Platform, we have developed an active resentment against projects that put forward this kind of representational politics. I try to dissuade artists from participating in such projects. I am not sure if an artist’s work is at home everywhere. Also, I don’t see any museums in the Western hemisphere destabilising their narrative. I don’t see any creating situations where there is a serious openness to artists that come from other places, unless those artists are used to perform certain premeditated roles for the collection. I think that the acquisition policies of such institutions are still very much about buttressing the narrative and working with a very limited stable of galleries. So a project such as Mathaf – which has a very, very impressive collection – seems more like home to me. If I were an artist, then I would feel very much at home there, because there is space for me, there is room for me, and it is possible to interact with a different kind of narrative for me.

Dia Al-Azzawi
Folklore Mythology 1968
Courtesy Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art © Dia Al-Azzawi
Oil on canvas
58.1 x 181.3 cm

Ahmed Basiony
Performing Symmetrical System at Mawlawiyah Palace, Cairo, 2009
Courtesy Nafas Art Magazine, Berlin © Estate of Ahmed Basiony

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie:All of you are involved in the running of art spaces in your respective cities. Why, in addition to your work as artists or curators, are you doing this? Are these spaces responding to specific needs that you’ve identified as crucial in the art scenes of Istanbul, Alexandria and Algiers?

Vasif Kortun: We are just shifting from a contemporary art institution, Platform, which had a basic library and an archive and a residency programme and an exhibition space, to a larger institution, SALT, which is much more based on research, archives and intellectual production. We are moving into publishing, which we had not done before in any serious way. We are moving away from contemporary art as a privileged medium. This also has to do with the fact that we are expanding with and utilising the experience of two other institutions – the Garanti Galeri, which is about urbanism and architecture, and the Ottoman Bank Research and Archives, which is about social and economic history – so it is inevitable that we move on, but we are trying to move to an interdisciplinary format, where questions of medium and discipline are not our primary concern.

Walid Raad
Let's be Honest, the weather helped (plat 008_Finland) - Detail 1998/2006-7
Courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London © Walid Raad
Lightjet print
48.8 x 72.4 cm

Jeffar Khaldi
From Fade Away 2010
Courtesy Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art © Jeffar Khaldi
Oil on canvas. Series of one diptych and four paintings
Dimensions variable

Wael Shawky: MASS Alexandria opened recently. Originally, it was my studio, but I decided to divide it into eight studios for eight students. Each will have his or her space for six months, during which time they will host professionals, artists and curators, and organise workshops, seminars and talks. I felt this was the only way to create something parallel to the University of Alexandria’s art faculty, because it has a lot of problems. It’s extremely conservative and academic. The idea is for MASS Alexandria to create a channel for students to gain exposure to contemporary art. Alexandria is my home town. I graduated from the university. Every year, more than 500 students graduate from the art faculty. Yet we still don’t have a contemporary art scene. Somehow, I knew that opening MASS Alexandria wasn’t my responsibility, that it wasn’t up to me to make this space alive. But I was pushed to do it. I always talked about it, and I always said this must happen, we need to have this space in Alexandria. I never thought I would do it. But somehow everyone was just waiting for me to do it.

Kader Attia: We, the artist Zineb Sedira and I, have been working on our space for two years now. We are scheduled to open with an exhibition in the next year. The idea of this project, which will be named ‘Art in Algiers’, is to use both the geographical and historical situations of the country as a bridge linking the culture of Africa to the Arab world. It’s an Afro-Arab project. We’ll be inviting artists, curators, philosophers and critics – many different sorts of intellectuals from all over the world – to come to Algiers to give lectures and share their knowledge with Algerian people, because many of our art students are not allowed to travel to Western countries. They won’t get a visa for the West, but they will for the rest of Africa and Arab countries. We want to create an agora to gather people from all over the world with this idea of discovering each other and sharing Afro-Arab culture. It is something I’ve wanted to do for many years, because I grew up between Algeria and France. I have both French and Algerian nationalities and passports, but I always felt the huge gap between the West and the East. I want to fill that gap. And maybe in the end it will become a bookshop, because in the beginning the nature of the project was more editorial. The aim was to produce publications, because it is difficult, technically and politically, to publish books or reviews in Algeria. But I need to think about it. It’s also just about opening something in the country where I’m from, and where all my family lives. It’s not a sort of militant project, but it’s the idea that you can improve your country by yourself, even if it is on a small scale. If you can improve the corner of your street, that’s the beginning of something – that’s progress.
Exterior of the Townhouse Gallery, Cairo

Exterior of the Townhouse Gallery, Cairo
Courtesy Townhouse Gallery, Cairo
Kader Attia is a French- Algerian artist. His works Untitled (Ghardaia) (2009), Oil & Sugar #2 (2007) and Untitled (Concrete Blocks) (2008) were recently acquired by Tate. His art is featured in the Cornerhouse exhibition 'New Cartographies, Algeria-France-UK', Manchester, until 5 June, while his 'Art in Algiers' project with Zineb Sedira opens in November 2012 in Algiers.

Wael Shawky is an Egyptian artist based in Alexandria. He is the founding director of MASS Alexandria, an independent education space for young artists. His work Telematch Sadat (2007) is in the Tate Collection. His exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary runs until 26 June.

Vasif Kortun is a curator, writer and teacher, and director of research and programmes of SALT, Istanbul, and curator, UAE Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie is a journalist and critic based in Beirut.

Further recent Middle Eastern and North African art acquisitions by Tate include work by Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakhar, Hala Elkoussy, Samira Eskandarfar, Lamia Joreige, Emre Hüner, Rabih Mroué, Marwan Rechmaoui and Nazgol Ansarinia.

The Modern Art Museum of Algiers opened in 2007, Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar, opened in December 2010; Zaha Hadid's Museum of Contemporary Art, Bahrain, is due to open in 2012, Guggenheim and Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed respectively by Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel, will open in 2013. The new National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel, is scheduled to open in late 2014.

Source: Tate etc, Issue 22 / Summer 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Like a sudden cloud’s shadow

Like a sudden cloud’s shadow,

a sea-visitor swoops by

rippling past with a sigh,

along the embarrassed coast.

An enormous sail lifts austerely,

deathly-white, and the wave

shrinks back – not yet brave

enough to hug the shore so nearly:

and the boat, rustling the waves,

like leaves…

Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Elusive Object of Art

The project presents itself as a typical show of artifacts in space. It focuses on the exhibits’ character as objects, which is treated with denial, irony, or mystification. The artists participating in the exhibition have rethought and reinvented this aspect by physically abusing or rearranging the objects. They find this characteristic of an artifact both repulsive and unavoidable. The project is grounded in the never-ending struggle of contemporary art with its own materiality. It highlights the irritation of artists from Eastern Europe, who are generally neglected by the market and turn toward the material aspects of art and its understanding as a commodity.

Galerie Dana Charkasi, curated by Iara Boubnova, as part of curated by_vienna 2011: EAST by SOUTH WEST

Stefania Batoeva
Alexandra Galkina
SOSka Group
Pravdoliub Ivanov
Vikenti Komitski
Ivan Moudov
Samuil Stoyanov
Sibin Vassilev
Kostis Velonis

"Το μοντέρνο στη σκέψη και τις τέχνες του 20ου αιώνα"

Η γεωγραφία του μοντερνισμού του 20ού αιώνα περιλαμβάνει πόλεις όπως η Βιέννη, το Βερολίνο, το Παρίσι, η Πράγα, η Μόσχα, το Λονδίνο, η Νέα Υόρκη. Η Αθήνα, η οποία φιλοξένησε το 1933 το 4ο Διεθνές Συνέδριο Μοντέρνας Αρχιτεκτονικής (IV CIAM) πώς τοποθετείται στον χάρτη αυτό; Ποιός ήταν ο δικός της μοντερνισμός; Στο συνέδριο πρόκειται να ερευνηθούν οι μορφές και τα ιδιαίτερα χαρακτηριστικά που πήρε ο μοντερνισμός, και ειδικότερα ο ελληνικός, στη σκέψη και τις τέχνες του 20ού αιώνα.

Ανάμεσα στους στόχους του συνεδρίου είναι η αποσαφήνιση των όρων που περιγράφουν το μοντέρνο (νεωτερικότητα, νεώτερη εποχή) αλλά και όρων που συχνά σχετίζονται με τον μοντερνισμό (πρωτοπορία, μεταμοντέρνο, σύγχρονο).
Ενδιαφέρει να αναπτυχθεί ένας διάλογος για τις μορφές που πήρε η εκδήλωση του μοντέρνου σε διάφορους χώρους. Από την Αρχιτεκτονική μέχρι τη Φιλοσοφία, από τη Μουσική μέχρι τις Φυσικές Επιστήμες και τα Μαθηματικά, από το Θέατρο μέχρι τη Λογοτεχνία.

Παράλληλο το συνέδριο στοχεύει στη διερεύνηση και ανάλυση των χαρακτηριστικών του μοντέρνου όπως η αυτο-αναφορικότητα, ο κατακερματισμός της συνέχειας, η αφαίρεση, ο φορμαλισμός, η λειτουργική καθαρότητα, η ορθολογικότητα και το παράλογο, η έμφαση στην πρόοδο, η αναφορά στη μηχανή και την τεχνολογία, η ρήξη με την παράδοση, ο ελιτισμός, ο κοσμοπολιτισμός, η ουτοπία.

Οι ομιλητές είναι : Αντονάς, Αραμπατζής, Βαλτινός, Βελώνης, Βιρβιδάκης, Δοξιάδης, Ζήκα, Καγγελάρη, Καρράς, Κιντή, Κούρκουλας, Ξένου, Ξηροπαϊδης, Παπαβασιλείου, Παπαγεωργίου, Παπλωματά, Τουρνικιώτης, Τσιαμπάος.

Σχολή Αρχιτεκτόνων Μηχανικών του Εθνικού Μετσόβιου Πολυτεχνείο, Τμήμα Μεθοδολογίας, Ιστορίας και Θεωρίας της Επιστήμης του ΕΘνικού Καποδιστριακού Πανεπιστημίου Αθηνών.
Με την υποστήρηξη του Ιδρύματος Παναγιώτη και Έφης Μιχελή και με την ευγενική συνεργασία του Μουσείου Μπενάκη

14/05/2011 - 15/05/2011
Μουσείο Μπενάκη

Congress "The Modern in 20th c.thinking and the Arts"
The geography of 20th century modernism includes
cities such as Vienna, Berlin, Paris, Prague, Moscow, London and New York. Does Athens, host of the Fourth International Conference of Modern Architecture (IV CIAM) in 1933 have a place on this map? What was the nature of Athenian modernism? This conference will investigate the forms and particular features modernism, and specifically Greek modernism, took in 20th century thinking and art.

14/05/2011 - 15/05/2011
Benaki Museum, Athens

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Sea and Sinbad's Ship

Far from home,
sailing a sea neither friendly
nor hostile to us. Plying our trade
in the much-maligned towns of that coast.
Their women were known as small-breasted
and cheerless. Then why were we so happy?

At sea by day, the sun held us under
its burning-glass. Distant islands
fumed in watery glaze. Hot breezes
pressed us slowly up along the coast.
Our ecstasy: taut line between sky & sea.

Nights in port were a drunken splendor.
Deserted by the bitchy women, we drank
and sang and puked the night away.
The lives of sea-going men, we sang.

Nights at sea: sea singing sweetly
under our keel, stars slipping by overhead,
spray on our faces, the night sea-wind.
Ship on the sea, sea under ship,
cupped in the hands of earth and starry night.
Our brooding silence was a wail of joy.

Halvard Johnson: from Winter Journey, 1979

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Mother" Jones

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (August 1, 1837 – November 30, 1930
Labor community organizer

May Day (Inverted flower and Broken)

May Day (Inverted flower and Broken) 2011
81 x 14 x 10 cm
wood, acrylic

The cats' strike

The cat's cough wakes him at night.
He turns in bed, gets up.
Puts on his dressing-gown because it's cold.
Puts on his slippers because he's barefoot.
Slowly he approaches the window.
Drawing open the curtain, stares:
In the street,
As far as Republic Square
Thousands of phosphorescent flares
Thousands upon thousands of cats
Thousands upon thousands of raised tails.
He closes the curtain.
And returns to his warm bed.
He mutters:

Novica Tadic
(translated from the Serbian by Michael March and Dusan Puvacic)

Straat van Sculpturen : the third sculpture

The Bijlmermeer, circa 1968.

Straat van Sculpturen is a five-part apparition that manifests itself within the public realm of the Bijlmermeer, an area in the Southeast of the Amsterdam. As one of the purest forms of modern utopia/distopia, the Bijlmer is now one of Europe's largest urban renewal planning. The foundation critically examines these progressions by appointing another curator for each edition who will, together with other cultural practitioners, generate an expository vision that will, over the course of 10 to 15 years, produce an artistic heritage, which reflects the history and redevelopment of the area.

The first edition entitled Open Source Amsterdam, took place in 2009 and commissioned works from a.o. Thomas Hirschhorn (The Bijlmer Spinoza-Festival), Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla (U.N.B.Q.Q), Pascale Marthine Tayou (Les pisseurs d'Amsterdam), Jennifer Tee (Totem Today) and Michael Beutler (Big Satellite, Small Milky Way) a.o.
Krist Gruijthuijsen (NL) has been appointed as curator for the second edition, which will take place in the spring-summer of 2012.

Projects of urban renewal often result in a process of gentrification, implying the confrontation between spatial planning with her 'ideal' inhabitants and the existing (organic) infrastructure that originated from an earlier—unsuccessful—attempt at spatial planning. Within the Bijlmermeer, the existing structure is often indicated as an informal melting pot of numerous cultures and religions that organically introduced 'new' rules within the dominant architecture; a mentality that has resulted in a peculiar 'street scene' with a performative quality.

Are artistic expressions relevant, when (institutionally) imposed upon a social environment and to what extent does a neighborhood actually need to be 'artistically enlightened' and at what point does this artistic attempt dissolve within a social environment, thus shifting its context?

The starting point for the second edition is based on the complex practices of artists Ben Kinmont (Vermont, USA, 1963) and Lygia Clark (Belo Horizonte, Brasil, October 23 1920–Rio de Janeiro, April 25 1988), both of whose works have dissolved in their social environment. Their artistic positions touch upon the essence of this proposal in which notions of transience and performativity coincide with thoughts around 'sculpturality' and 'heritage', questioning the paradoxical element of its interaction.

What significance does an institutional and subsidized structure, such as that of a large-scale art manifestation, have on a problematic residential area of other urgent needs and how does this develop into an interesting heritage that makes connections between the collective (memory, cohesiveness) and the autonomous? To come to such a result, the existing codes within the area have to be managed in order to reintroduce and reformulate them through a transformation, thus rekindling curiosity.

As Thomas Hirschhorn's 'The Bijlmer Spinoza-Festival' demonstrated, the local inhabitants embrace a "simple" social proposition in which a festival-like structure connects with intellectualism in a very simple manner. The second edition of the Bijlmer Art International will build upon these ideas, but will primarily concentrate on the (functional) sculpturality of these performative propositions. Several permanent architectural elements such as a pavilion and a restaurant will be introduced as primary base from which further projects will be developed. These constructions will function as sculptures in themselves while also maintaining a social function.

A survey of the work of Bik van der Pol will connect the various locations throughout the area, in which new commissions and/or reconfigurations are realized by Charles Atlas, Stefaan Dheedene, Beatrice Gibson, Liam Gillick, Ernst van der Hoeven, KesselsKramer, Roosje Klap, Ben Kinmont, Germaine Kruip, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Runo Lagomarsino, Gabriel Lester, Nils Norman, Falke Pisano/Luca Frei, Alexandre Singh, Hito Steyerl and Carey Young.

To gradually "insert" The Third Sculpture within the context of the Bijlmer, several events are organized in 2011 such as a re-installment of Allora & Calzadilla's work from the previous edition and an international conference in September with (among others) Thomas Hirschhorn, Lars Bang Larsen, Falke Pisano & Luca Frei, Ben Kinmont, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rem Koolhaas.

Straat van Sculpturen Foundation
Bijlmer Art International 2012
Amsterdam Zuidoost, Netherlands
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