November 25, 2013
Painting Now: Five Contemporary Artists

Tate Britain’s most recent offering within their plethora of exhibitions has allowed for five distinct positions surrounding the medium of paint to be made today. Within what many currently term as a ‘post-medium era’, Painting Now focuses on five contemporary artists’ abilities to use this natural yet artificial medium as a ‘tool’ whereby a critical discourse can be resurrected. Focusing on the work of Tomma Abts, Gillian Carnegie, Simon Ling, Lucy McKenzie and Catherine Story, this exhibition reveals a telling relationship between contemporary practice and traditional approaches to painting, picture making and image construction, whereby tradition allows these artists to break free from the conventions of painting.

Tomma Abts’ seemingly abstract painterly process is at once intuitive yet deliberate. Describing her work as concretely experiential through the material she uses, Abts juxtaposes conventional painting with an effort to break free of the canvas. This is exemplified clearly in two highlights included, Hope (2011) and Jese (2013), whereby a two-part canvas or a bronze casting of a painting, respectively, illustrate Abts’ intentions of constructing an image from nothing. Creating pictorial illusions through an unsettling interpretation of materiality, Abts is undoubtedly creating a new pictorial language entirely of her own.

Another personal highlight is the work of Lucy McKenzie whose immersive practice within the medium of paint goes beyond that of the purely aesthetic. Through an engagement with traditional decorative arts, such as fake marbling and trompe l’oeil effects, which at once dissolves distinctions between fine and commercial art techniques, McKenzie focuses on how the aesthetics of fascism have been played out in domestic interiors. Meticulous paintings of cork noticeboards pinned with reproductions – images of art deco objects, a photograph of deco-cubist Tamara de Lempicka, modernist architectural diagrams – also work by trompe l’oeil visual punning. This 2012 series, called Quodlibet – ‘that which pleases’ – has subtitles (‘Fascism’, ‘Nazism’, ‘Objectivism’) drawing attention to ways in which the modernist experiment was hijacked by political and philosophical extremists. McKenzie’s work is mesmerisingly surreal, giving the traditions of trompe l’oeil a definite 21st-century twist.

Painting Now puts a decisive end to the forever rumblings of the ‘death of painting’, instead celebrating five artists whose works have rarely been shown in depth. Paying deep attention to not only these living painters, but also contemporary art and the experience of the viewer, this exhibition marks a vital moment for painting.

Exhibition: Painting Now: Five Contemporary Artists

Venue: Tate Britain

Dates: 12th November 2013 – 9th February 2014

October 12, 2012
Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin: To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light

The work of Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin is no stranger to the stark-white walls of Paradise Row, with their latest exhibition, “To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light” successfully tackling the complex and conflicted histories of the photographic medium. The exhibition title is derived from a phrase used by the photo manufacturer Kodak to describe the capabilities of a new photographic film released in the early 1980s, one which would allow film stock to successfully capture black skin. A photograph of Kodak’s ‘Shirley’ vividly illustrates the industry’s racial bias as film was calibrated to capture white skin. Here, the ‘dark horse’ is in reference to the film’s supposed ability to transcend this bias and photograph black skin with equal detail. However, the Kodak film was famously declared inherently ‘racist’ by Jean Luc Godard in 1977, when he refused to use it on a filming assignment to Mozambique.

What becomes apparent from the work on display is Broomberg and Chanarin’s intentions to confront photography’s troubled relationship with colonialism and the representation of the ‘Other’. ‘Untitled (165 portraits with dodgers)’ is the largest and most poignant piece of the exhibition, in which the dodging tool, a device normally used with the intention to highlight areas of an image, has deliberately been used to deface 165 portraits of black men and women. The detachment from the sitter caused by the multitude of shapes further emphasises the racial difference that is implied by this specific Kodak film. Here the viewer is left yearning to understand who these faces are, trying to look deeper through the strict grid formation and see these people not as categorised ‘types’.

The Magic and the State series, completed on a trip to Gabon, again highlights the racial distance and cultural divide implied through Broomberg and Chanarin’s work. Having photographed young children playing in the water, their bodies have been cut out to reveal another image of nature beneath the original print. The children here are only represented by the shapes of their bodies in relation to the natural environment, rather than being fully captured in the photograph.

What is evident through Broomberg and Chanarin’s work is their continual scrutiny of the photographic medium, particularly in the Strip Test series, combined with the historically controversial relationship between photography and race. This exhibition is testament to the power of the photographic medium, specifically photography as a material object in an era where digital reigns supreme.

Exhibition: Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin: To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light

Venue: Paradise Row

Dates: 13th September - 20th October 2012 

<p><strong>Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin</strong>, <em>Untitled (165 portraits with dodgers)</em>, 2012, Wall installation:detail</p>

Also published on Line Magazine blog,

January 25, 2012
Pipilotti Rist: Eyeball Massage

Pipilotti Rist’s 30-year retrospective is one of the most intriguing, discombobulating and pleasing exhibitions recently on display at the Hayward Gallery. Strings of underwear greet the audience, hanging between the gallery and the numerous lamps on the South Bank concourse. Whilst Nothing, a machine that emits what Rist calls ‘bubbles, peace bombs or farts within trousers’ sits unnoticed on the roof. These are harbingers to the exuberant, surprising and at times, laugh-out-loud funny retrospective inside, which illustrates well why this Swiss artist is one of the world’s leading contemporary artists.

Eyeball Massage is Rist’s first major public survey show in the UK, presenting videos, sculptures and installations, bringing together over 30 works spanning her career from the 1980s to today. Highly accomplished technically and rich in dazzling colour, Rist’s practice fuses sensual images, music, and the occasional text to create mesmerising works.  Continually, the art of installation is reinvented; films are presented in diverse and imaginative ways from simple single screen video to environments conceived for particular space.

A hanging chandelier festooned with white underwear opens the show.Overlaying it is a flickering video projection that slowly reveals itself to be footage of travelling along a tube; a nod towards the bodily functions enacted by the area of the body contained within underwear - birth, sexual pleasure and defecation. Rist’s fascination with the human body – its strangeness, its sensuousness and its manipulation through media – is apparent as the exhibition unfolds further.

In Suburb Brain, the viewer towers over a miniature suburban bungalow reminiscent of Rist’s childhood home, and is surrounded by videos of Rist ruminating on the failures of marriage and family life. On the mezzanine, body-shaped cushions litter the floor beneath a labyrinth of diaphanous curtains in Administering Eternity. Though soothing when lying down, they are also unsettling with the continual eerie music throughout the gallery space. In Lobe of the Lung, 2009, one is completely immersed by the video, drowsily lying on cushions as green strawberries bob in pink water and tulips shine in microscopic close-ups against a vivid blue sky.

Throughout the exhibition there is a strong sense of an all-encompassing and limitless female sexuality, highlighted in the Freudian trope video images half-hidden inside velvet-lined handbags and curving conch shells. You can completely lose yourself in these works, deliriously drifting from space to space, from one pleasure piece to the next. The exhibition feels like entering into someone’s dreams or waking visions, until we return to the harsh realities of life, and it is then that one can reflect on the truly mesmerising work of Pipilotti Rist.

Exhibition: Pipilotti Rist: Eyeball Massage

Venue: Hayward Gallery

Dates: 28th September 2011 - 8th January 2012

Image courtesy of the Hayward Gallery and Linda Nylind.

Originally published on Line Magazine blog.

November 27, 2011
Reflection: Contemporary Visual Arts and Crafts in Edinburgh

The third and fourth floors of the City Art Centre are currently playing host to a great spectrum of works, ranging from ceramics, printmaking and textiles, to photography, jewellery, painting, glassmaking and new media. All of the 22 artists and makers exhibiting here have been supported by the Visual Arts Awards and Craft Maker Awards, run by the City of Edinburgh Council in partnership with Creative Scotland since 2000.

With the scheme now having run for a decade, this exhibition highlights not only the development and creative practices of these artists, but also emphasises the artistic talent that Edinburgh has to offer. Alan Kilpatrick’sFlame Tree, a stunning and soothing painting using henna and turmeric, is cleverly contrasted with Aeneas Wilder’s destructive video Est Nord Est, in which beautifully complex stacked creations are destroyed through Wilder’s forceful touch.

Beverley Hood reflects on the tradition of portraiture in the 21st century in her work, Doppleganger, depicting international artists in digitally printed portraits, disrupting the traditional notion of portraiture by producing almost computer game characters. Whilst Hood’s practice is clearly based in the digital medium, seen also in a video installation, many artists have taken to using everyday objects to create beautiful and sometimes dainty sculptures. Gemma Coyle’s Bonnie Biro Canvas 3, a delightful little caravan made out of biros, is presented almost regally on a rotating plinth, whilst Rebecca Wilson’s Memoria – 100 Cups of Tea, Never to Be…highlights the sadness of a beautiful broken object, turning the everyday into a collage of pleasurable extravagance.

An ambitious education programme accompanies the exhibition, and many of the exhibiting pieces are for sale, offering an opportunity to invest in the city’s talent and support Edinburgh’s thriving visual art and craft sector.


Exhibition: Reflection: Contemporary Visual Arts and Crafts in Edinburgh

Venue: City Art Centre

Dates: 19th November 2011 - 12th February 2012

Originally published on The Journal website, 20/11/11

November 16, 2011
Interview: James Holloway

Emily Burke interviews James Holloway, director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in preparation for the grand re-opening.

Having been closed for refurbishments since 2009, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery may be a distant memory for some, maybe even never experienced by others. However, it is a definite must-see for all once it re-opens on 30 November.

‘Portrait of the Nation’, the project that has taken over the gallery, aims to “restore and reveal much more of the building than ever before; to show many more works of art by introducing a new, regularly changing display programme; and to create first-class education and visitor services”. This project has completely transformed the space and aims of the gallery, catapulting it to an entirely new level.

However, it has been an uphill struggle to get to this stage. Having been threatened 16 years ago with closure and the removal of its Scottish collection, it’s no wonder that James Holloway, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, is proud of their achievements. “It’s what I dreamt of, but I really never thought it would happen. To be honest, it’s exceeded my wildest dreams, and we’re just completely thrilled with how the building looks and how the collection looks in it.” And why wouldn’t he be proud? For 120 years, the original Robert Rowan Anderson building has only been used to half its original intention, with only three galleries in operation and the rest of the space taken over by offices.

Through this extensive renovation, the Portrait Gallery has now acquired an additional seven gallery spaces, along with a digital media area, a sumptuous Victorian library– now open to the public– and a spectacular glass lift that provides a view onto every level. “It’s going to be very unlike the old gallery” stated Holloway as we walked around the new gallery spaces. Though this is evidently true, it is pleasing to see that the integrity of the original building remains firmly intact.

With this new expanse of space, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery now has the great opportunity to display more of its extensive collection than was ever previously possible. Portraits that have never been exhibited in the gallery before will now hang proudly, including a portrait of the Earl of Wharton and his family from the 1740s, and an Allan Ramsay portrait of the King and Queen.

However, the focus of the gallery will not specifically be on Scottish art, instead being threaded through the exhibitions as a sort of narrative. “To be honest, so much of Scottish painting until about 1820 was portraiture, and still was actually until the end of the 19th century, so a gallery like this does tell the first chapters of the history of Scottish art.” This will allow more room for photography and landscape, genres that were touched on in previous exhibitions, but will come to the fore in the new exhibition spaces. Highlights of future exhibitions will include Imagining Power: The Visual Culture of the Jacobite CauseOut of the Shadow: Women of 19th Century ScotlandMigration Stories: Pakistan and War at Sea.

As a national institution, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is ‘the people’s gallery’, which has been emphasised through the ‘Portrait of the Nation’ fundraising scheme, allowing us to feel engaged and part of the gallery’s journey. Although their visitor profile has always been more Scottish based, Holloway hopes that more tourists will now enter through its doors, and so increase its attendance ratings by 50 per cent. However, with a £17 million investment in the gallery, it seems in no doubt that they will achieve this conservative goal.

Just walking through the gallery space, still a month and half away from completion, the buzz around it is electrifying. With a collection that spans from the mid-16th Century to the present day, it’s a daunting task for any director, but Holloway seems to be taking it in his stride, envisaging the gallery as “a big party, where you meet lots of different people and different characters - a great party is the variety of people that you meet.” And that truly is what the new Scottish National Portrait Gallery is – a celebration of an artistic nation, with many new faces to encounter.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery re-opens on 30 November 2011.

Originally published and printed in The Journal, 19/10/11

November 16, 2011
Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Drawings

This year has been a great success for one of the world’s greatest living sculptors. With exhibitions in Venice, Duisburg, Dallas, Edinburgh, and Paris (his exhibition under the glass pyramid at the Louvre was the first to be staged there by a living artist) and a Turner Prize to his name, it seems that Tony Cragg can do no wrong.

Since the late 1970s Cragg has been one of Britain’s leading sculptors, and the exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is testament to this. Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Drawings will be the first UK museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than a decade, and with such a vast range of work on show, the exhibition takes on almost a retrospective character, encompassing works from his Early Formsand Rational Beings series. The sculptures, both inside the gallery space and in the exterior grounds, are satisfyingly beautiful, incredibly tactile and do not fall short of technical brilliance. Alongside sculptures such as Bent of Mind and Outspan is a selection of some 100 drawings, watercolours and prints which offer a fascinating insight into the artist’s working methods.

From an early age, Cragg has been captivated by the manipulation and chemical processes of certain materials, which can be seen clearly in both his use of drawing to understand experiments, and in the range of materials he uses in his sculptures – varying from bronze, iron, wood and Kevlar to plaster, steel, polystyrene and glass. However, what is most apparent about Cragg’s work is that they refuse to be categorised. Here is an artist who refuses to do what is expected of him, with always a hint of humour, something that is hard to find in the often-solemn world of sculpture.

Exhibition: Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Drawings

Venue: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Dates: 30th July - 6th November 2011

Originally published on The Journal website, 03/10/11

November 16, 2011
Reviews at Venice Biennale 2011: United Kingdom

United Kingdom: I, Impostor

Mike Nelson

An Unexpected Impostor 

As the largest of its kind, the Venice Biennale presents one of the world’s most important platforms for the dissemination of contemporary, international artwork. It would therefore be expected that each artist, either individually at the IllumiNATIONS exhibition or whilst representing their country at a pavilion, would aim to bring something new to the artistic palette. This year’s exhibition at the British Pavilion, I, Impostor by Mike Nelson, offers something far greater than that. Though the work that Nelson is exhibiting seems to have no obvious link to Great Britain, with the dark, dusty rooms and ever-continuing passageways evoking a traditional Istanbul house instead of the British tearoom-like building the pavilion once was, his work offers two things: Firstly, the chance for three very distinct cultures, Great Britain, Venice and Istanbul, to mix and intertwine through contemporary art, demonstrating the multiculturalism of our modern British society. Secondly, the opportunity for both artist and audience to see that in the contemporaneous climate, national identity and the ‘traditional’ Biennale idea of representing ones country is not straightforward or specific anymore.

Through his particular art practice, Nelson constructs site-specific, large-scale installations that represent a period of living and working in a particular location. His immersive works are intriguing and atmospheric, submerging the viewer into an unfolding narrative that develops through a sequence of meticulously placed articles and spatial structures. Throughout his career, Nelson has constantly returned and re-examined territories that he has already visited and experienced within his own art practice. Here, we can see this again, with the piece for the British Pavilion revisiting the work he created for the 8th International Istanbul Biennale in 2003, entitled Magazin: Büyük Valide Han. More often than not, the specific worlds that Nelson creates are deeply personal. He states that “in relation to the work in Venice, both cities have played a pivotal role in my life.  Istanbul especially has acted as a meter silently occupying a part of my psyche since 1987. Each time I return it has changed, as have I, and yet there is a history, a felt history.  In coming to make a work for Venice what I wanted to attempt to do was to make sense of the last 10 years that had elapsed since my last time there in 2001. Somehow I wanted to talk about how I perceive the shift in the world since then but to articulate these histories in such a way that they touch upon my own.”

Mike Nelson’s art has often been described as being only implicit in its cultural, social or political standpoints, with a certain amount of attention and imagination being required on the viewer’s part. Nelson’s work is also unrestricted by the stereotypical British point of view one may expect; instead it roams over many cultural territories and combines them to create a far more substantial art practice. Despite being selected to represent his country, Nelson produces a work that seems only to speak of a detachment from it. However, this is clearly the aim of his work for the Venice exhibition.

The work begs the question: do artists exhibiting at the Venice Biennale have a social responsibility to represent their country as a nation? Or is this view defunct, leaving the artists with only a responsibility to themselves? If we cling to the former, what was once an opportunity for countries around the world to present themselves on an artistic level has now turned into a form of artistic Olympics, where those with the biggest financial backing and greatest egos strive for gold, or in the Biennale’s case, the Golden Lion.

Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, the U.S. Pavilion’s chosen artists, are two of the main runners in this artistic battle, with their exhibition Gloria.  Their work puts forward a stereotypical view of America, one of joviality and over compensation through an excess of funding. Combining sculpture, performance, video and sound elements, the works use poetic shock and unexpected juxtaposition to reflect on competitive enterprises, ranging from the Olympic Games to international commerce to the military industrial complex. The title, Gloria, has the ability to reference military, religious, Olympic, economic and cultural grandeur, allowing this exhibition to cover all bases, but never really pinpointing on something solid.

The design of the exhibition is poor considering the funding that would have presumably been provided, and yet on another level – perhaps more likely for two conceptually rigorous artists - Allora and Calzadilla are playing up to this stereotypical view that many other cultures hold of America. In a society that has so many misconceptions as to what that specific culture truly is, this buoyant and almost self-critical viewpoint is refreshing, if a little over the top. 

Though the U.S. and the U.K. representatives hold completely contradictory standpoints on the idea of national representation, both pavilions emphasise the fact that it is no longer possible in the globalised age, to portray a nation as a unified body without falling into cliché.  The U.S demonstrate this, the UK abstains – opting for the alternative.

It can be seen in Mike Nelson’s work that the weaving of fact and fiction are fundamental, and his constructs are steeped in both historic and literary references, whilst drawing upon the specific cultural context and geography of the location. Here in I, Impostor, Nelson has created a building within a building using cheap materials found in junkyards and skips in Venice and Istanbul. “I planned, and ultimately did, give the building two exteriors; one the neo- classical exterior of a bastardised tea house, an anglicised Italian building - the pavilion. Whilst the other was based on that of a courtyard in an Istanbul Han, a seventeenth century Caranavaserai remodelled and re-built in concrete, re-sited in the centre of the existing building by the removal of the roof.  The Han in question was the site of my 2003 work for the Istanbul biennale:  Magazin: Büyük Valide Han.  2011’s work references back to two previous works to make sense of two cities, their historical relationships to one another and their relevance to me and my own subjective history.”

Nelson continues: “My aims firstly were not nationalistic, they were like any other work to make the most interesting use of the context possible at that point in time, both on a conceptual or narrative level and on a structural or sculptural level.  Of course to deny an interest in the building’s identity and history would be disingenuous, and perhaps the gesture of removing the roof, letting the air in (and whatever out) whilst replacing the building with another building within, with an eastern identity is all part of that.” The ever-present multicultural aspect of Nelson’s work is the defining idea that emphasises the apparent demise of a stereotypical, national identity at the Venice Biennale. Paradoxically however, through his work Nelson has captured a very contemporaneous stance. After all Britain is no longer a tearoom-like society, both in culture and in art. In turning away from a nationalistic agenda and ignoring well-worn clichés, Nelson has avoided replaying the past and perhaps come closer to representing modern Britain than we may initially think.

Originally published on Line magazine: A Virtual Biennale blog and printed in Line Magazine: The Illuminated Artist edition.

November 16, 2011
Interview: Alessandro Librio and Margherita Berloni (Director of EB&Flow)

Palermo in Venice, Alessandro Librio

The project consists of a sound landscape adorning the city of Venice as if it were a dress that the city wears. The installation will bring to the city the only element that is present in all of the cities of the world except for Venice: traffic.

Presented by EB&Flow

Emily Burke interviews Alessandro Librio and Margherita Berloni (Director of EB&Flow)

Emily Burke: From a very young age you began playing musical instruments, and you have acknowledged that your encounter with Giovanni Sollima was fundamental in your development as a musician. He was born in Palermo, near to your birthplace, which also links to the title of your Venice Biennale project, ‘Palermo in Venice’. Is this coincidence, or an acknowledgement of his influence in your work?

Alessandro Librio: No, I chose Palermo because I lived there for 6 years and it deeply touched me as a place. Palermo is the most visually interesting city and an acoustic melting pot, where diverse cultures co-exist. Whilst Giovanni Sollima has influenced some of my work he did not really influence “Palermo in Venice” in any way.

EB: Has the traditional music from your home of Sicily influenced your work, which has since branched out to electronic and more modern forms of music?

AL: Through out time Sicily has had many conquerors (Greek, Romans, Arabs, Normans, etc…) and it’s evident that Sicilians have absorbed these cultures even involuntarily. They are part of our essence and have definitely influenced my work. Luciano Berio, even though isn’t Sicilian, has profoundly studied the areas music and Karlheinz Stockhausen has worked for long in Palermo along with Giacinto Scelsi and many others.

EB: Your work focuses on the link between art, music and video.  What are your views on the interaction between these three mediums? Do you feel that together they create a higher form of art practice?

AL: I don’t think that the bond between art, music and video is necessarily a ‘superior’ form of working. I have simply decided to work with everything that has movement or ‘curve.’ My work is based around energy and curve and movement are energy. I can create a video or move a sound-scape from one city to another but ultimately, at the base of everything is movement, the only proof that man isn’t dead and we are all alive and moving.

EB: How important is the practice of improvisation in your work?

AL: It is of vital importance. Improvisation cannot be separated from man. I believe, composition is the organization of material improvised mentally.

EB: Could you elaborate more on your concept of creating a soundscape using buildings, and the link between your performances and the different stages of a building’s renovation?

AL: I am extremely fascinated by places and in particular by their sounds. I have recorded sounds (through internal sounds) of architecture in construction, documenting the sounds of the different phases of these works and utilizing these different building stages for sound-video installations in which it is possible to hear the diverse acoustics of the place. 

EB: By bringing the traffic of Palermo to Venice, you are not only bringing the sounds of a different part of Italy, but also a different aspect of its culture – since Venice has no traffic and Palermo has the most in Italy, this must be an incredibly large part of the fabric of these cities. How important is it for you to combine these two very different cities by an aspect that differentiates them so clearly?

AL: Both Palermo and Venice are cities that vary extremely culturally however this is the reality of most places in Italy. In fact each region is characterized by specific traditions, culture and dialect. They are almost like individual countries. Palermo in Venice is an attempt to unite or at least introduce both cities to each other almost as if Italy has collapsed on itself.

EB: Do you feel the artist has a certain responsibility to widen a culture? Is this what you are trying to achieve by linking Palermo and Venice?

AL: This is a really great question. Yes, I truly believe artists have a responsibility to widen and distribute culture. I don’t know if my installation has managed to do that, but I know that Venetians after those 24 hours of me taking possession of their city started to listen to their surroundings in a different way.

EB: Do you think that through sound art you will be able to reach a wider spectrum of people, especially by broadcasting it across a vast city such as Venice? Do you have any plans to take this project on a more global level?

AL: Yes I would hope so especially as the installation was in a really public place; St Marks Square.  It would be amazing to eventually to apply the concept of this project to New York and India for another 24 hour installation.

EB: Music and art connect people from all cultures. Is this your aim by having the speakers throughout the city of Venice, the sound and video streamed back to Palermo, and it being simultaneously transmitted live to London?

AL: Yes I think one of the aims was definitely to connect people through my art.

EB: Do you see the city of Venice as a ‘building under renovation’?

AL: Cities continuously evolve, maybe Venice more slowly than others and renovation is a part of this.

EB: Will you be using ‘Palermo in Venice’ to inspire other projects while you are in Venice?

AL: I am working on a project on Palazzo Marcello but I’m not yet sure if it will be possible to complete it.

EB: How important do you feel it is to bring back the work of ‘Palermo in Venice’ to the gallery in London?

Margherita Berloni: I think it is very important as it completes the piece for only by seeing it in it’s entirety and especially from a different perspective (neither in Venice or Palermo) you give it validity and the spectator understands it’s full meaning.

EB: Do you feel that this project could have an effect in London, especially with it being a city with a high amount of traffic itself?

MB: This project obviously can not be transported into the city of London, meaning Palermo in London has no meaning of existing. However some specific sound installations could work. For example if you were to put up speakers in Borough Market of a traditional Sicilian market (for example the famous Vucciria) now that could create disturbance and displacement and vice versa. 

EB: By forming a long-term relationship with Alessandro Librio, do you intend to take his work on a much more global level? Or do you believe that will take away the specific cultural link of Italy that can be felt in his work?

MB: Yes I think the Italian essence of Alessandro’s work needs to be preserved therefore, as far as this particular project goes I would like to keep it local. However this doesn’t mean that his future works couldn’t work on a global level. All his works have roots into Italian culture and it would be great (being a proud Italian) to diffuse our strong culture on a global scale.

EB: Do you share a special link with this project, and indeed the Venice Biennale, with yourself being Italian?

MB: It has always been one of my dreams to do a project for the Biennale and thanks to Alessandro Librio this has been possible. 

EB: EB&Flow is a relatively new gallery, with one of your aims being to provide a platform for young artists. Do you feel it is a curator’s responsibility in this current financial climate to provide artists with this much support?

MB: Yes I would like to think so. I really don’t know much about the role of a curator as I feel I try to encompass all the roles offered in the art world. I have just embarked on a new journey with EB&Flow, my partner Nathan Engelbrecht and all my artists and I will do everything I can to make it a successful and prosperous one.

(Image provided by EB&Flow)

Originally published on Line magazine: A Virtual Biennale blog

November 16, 2011
Reviews at Venice Biennale 2011: Neoludica. Art is a Game 2011-1966

Artist: The event intends to promote the scientific work of GameArtGallery project, connecting the mediums of videogames, visual arts, music and cinema.

Throughout the world the video game phenomenon is continually growing, but the exhibitionNeoludica Art is a Game: 2011-1966 aims to highlight the great artistic qualities of video gaming that are being produced in our contemporary technological society. Though this may be evident in most of the work shown, what becomes particularly poignant is the total addiction that video gaming can hold over us, and the detrimental effect it will eventually produce. The artistic qualities in producing such high quality games are evidently clear in the array of works shown, but it is through two works, Game Arthritis by Matteo Bittanti and IOCOSE, 2011 and My Generation, by Eva and Franco Mattes, aka0100101110101101.ORG, 2010, that the negative effects of addiction to video games is clearly stated.

The six photographic panels of Game Arthritis display the effect that the continual use of video games have on the body, leading to gruesome outcomes. My Generation on the other hand shows secret filming of teenage boys and their reactions whilst ‘gaming’, emphasising the violent and sheer animalistic traits that continual video gaming highlight in the human psyche.

The exhibition aims to promote, advertise and pursue the scientific work undertaken by the Italian institution Musea_Game Art Gallery, but one is instead left with the clear feeling that this powerful medium, though indeed artistic, will eventually be damaging to our society.

Originally published on Line magazine: A Virtual Biennale blog

November 14, 2011
Interview: Hsieh Chun-te

Le Festin de Chun-te

Hsieh Chun-te

Emily Burke interviews Hsieh Chun-te

Emily Burke: As the largest Biennale, and one of the world’s most important platforms for the dissemination of contemporary international artwork, do you think that the Biennale participants have a social obligation to represent their various countries in a certain way?

Hsieh Chun-te: From the aspect of astronomy, we all know how to calculate the age and the distance of the universe. The farthest planet is 15 billion light years away from the earth. However, the universe without light doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist because its light doesn’t reach the earth yet. This implies to the limitation of human beings. When we stand on the ground, we are unable to the see the world beyond horizon. In brief, what we can not see doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Through the eyes of artists and their representations, we have multiple aspects to understand that the lives of the people from different areas. Therefore, the Venice Biennale of Art becomes the platform that we could realise what those artists from different countries have observed, and tried to say. With no doubt, I am one of them because I also expect that we could be seen and have the chance to communicate with the people around the world.

EB: How important do you feel it is to present the work of Taiwanese artists on an international stage?

HC: In order to answer this question, I would like to provide one example from the novel “The General in his Labyrinth “ by Gabriel García Márquez. When the general met the British officer who helped him constantly, he said, “Sir, although we walk side by side now, you have to know the cultural difference between us at least for two or three hundred years. In this moment, we are forced to walk together, but the cultural difference still exists.”

EB: Are there particular aspects of Taiwan culture that you feel need to be expressed through art?

HC: For many years, there was only one major political party in Taiwan, the Kuomintang (KMT). Until the day that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the election in 2000, President Chen Shui-bian invited one famous American economist to visit Taiwan for one week. When he finished his journey, he gave ten suggestions to Taiwan government and I want to underline two of them.

Firstly, Taiwanese society should regard the creativity as the social property. Secondly, we should encourage the young generation to bravely try and fail. The value system in Taiwan has changed a lot in recently years. All the medias, educational institutions, everything is talking about how to be successful, including how to succeed in love relationships, how to have successful business, how to succeed in the stock market. Nobody teaches the young generation how to face the failures. People forget that most of the successes are based on the accumulation of frustrations and failures.  This is the problem in Taiwan because our value system has been changed. That is the reason why our former president is in the prison because of the corruption sentences.

We have to solve this essential question: what is the value of human existence? In the recent twenty or thirty years, Taiwan is so called “the island of economy miracle”, or “the island of technology OEM”. I try to express what I have observed in order to provide a caution and a reflection.

EB: Do you think that artists in general have a certain social responsibility to represent their country, or in the modern culture that we live in do individual art practices take precedent over ties to our culture?

HC: My personality is to seek for those unseen, or to speak out for those unspoken. During those years when there was only one major political party (the Kuomintang, KMT) in Taiwan, I have participated in the opposition party and join the demonstrations in the street. At that time, we aimed to voice for the civilians in these activities. I hope to change the society. For an artist, I believe that he/she should express the dissatisfactions and precede the improvements for this world. Consequently, I make use of the tools that I am good at to express my opinions.

EB: How do you expect the audience at the Venice Biennale, being such a wide and diverse range of people from all areas of the world, to react to your work? 

HC: The series of photos “Raw” is a project that commenced in 1987 and finished in 2011.

In the summer of 1987, I closed the workshop in Taipei city and moved to Sanchong city, which is located on the other side of Tamsui River. Most of the residents of Sanchong city are from the central or the southern part of Taiwan. Before they stepped into Taipei city, they stopped by the suburban city and waited for chances. Therefore, they had a processing factory of hardware on the first floor of their apartment. You might ask them, “Where do you come from?” Although they have lived here for around 20 years, they would still answer that they are from Changhua, Chiayi or Kaohsiung. (Note: Those are the name of the cities in central and southern Taiwan.)

I asked him, “Why don’t you say that you are the people coming from Sanchong?” They said, “Here is dirty and messy. I don’t want to be someone coming from here.”

Yes, each residence here was locked up. If you go to the streets and alleys, you would see trash everywhere.

Those residents in Sanchong city didn’t regard it as their hometown so they were not willing to devote themselves to this city. As for the place where they were born, it becomes the nostalgia in their minds. Therefore, I moved to Sanchong in order to hide the primitive desire in people’s dark inner minds so I started everything by myself.

Hopefully, I could make more people know our living circumstances in Taiwan since home is the most important thing in the world.

EB: Could you give us an insight into the work that is being presented?

HC: I would like to provide one particular point of view. About 20 years ago, there was TV news report that two policemen caught a stowaway from China. The policemen asked him the reason why to be a stowaway. He said to the camera, “I just arrived in this land later than you did!”

It is the universal problem for all the countries. The nationalism is to occupy the land first and announce their legal ownership. But, we all say that the civilians have the right to migrate. However, the fact is that you could move out, but nobody allows you to move in. So, how about the ownership of the earth? If we believe that land should not be regarded as private property, how could we tolerate the government to occupy the land from other people? How do we face this problem? At the same time, how to find an insight into my works?

If you take off the coloured glasses, I believe that you would see my works insightfully

EB: How integral is performance to your work?

HC: In the very beginning, I didn’t consider how to integrate the performance to my photography works. I believe that any art work should not be limited in any fixed space. It could be everywhere and anywhere. If so, space is supposed to be open to all kinds of art creations. Therefore, I attempted to put a performing artwork, such as my Cooking Theatre, in a still space. If you are willing to do so, the integration will come out naturally. 

EB: Do you aim to bring artist and audience closer together through food?

HC: Enjoy the performance, by being part of it!

When food becomes part of the art, the dish is not the only performer, and the dining table is not the only stage. There is no differentiation between audience and performer. Everyone will join and be part of the performance, and in the end, finish the act by eating it!

All the sensations towards this performance will occur instantly, and no one can ever predict the ending of each performance. When the scene of a food banquet is concluded, it will be a calling, a touching, a journey of true art.

EB: Some of the images you are displaying are quite harrowing. What is the aim of these photographs?

HC: The aim of these photographs is certainly not to scare anyone. There are two purposes in my works. From my experiences in stage and theatre photography over the years, I have learned that when I take a picture, the photograph itself becomes dissociated from the original space and process, and transforms into a different stage of images, engaged with the stage in a dialogue.

So when I express my childhood dreamscapes and growing-up experiences as photographs, using Sanchong as the stage on which they are acted out, these photos in themselves are no longer manifestations, of either reality or imagination, but opinions on the environment in which I live.

EB: Is there a story throughout your images?

HC: It is a story about the homecoming of the prodigal son.

EB: What is the link between the images you are exhibiting in the Raw exhibition, and the live cooking performance?

HC: I plan to present one sacrifice ceremony through Cooking Theatre. I saw a documentary where Eskimos would grab some snow and melt it in their mouths and pray for when they are going to eat small seals. Also, I have even been to the boundary between Russia and China in order to interview Oronchon people who are also called the last hunters in the world. They led me to the hunt and they also repent after they shoot animals. In brief, for the natural lives which are sacrificed to become human food, the aboriginal people often treat them with the feelings of appreciation and apology.

Let’s think about your own situation. It is the same that rice, vegetable, chicken, duck, beef and lamb are scarified for human food. How about us? This is what we should think about carefully. Now we are facing the crisis of lacking water resource and food. Through Cooking Theatre, I want to express my point of view that we should return to the beginning of everything to do the serious introspection.

Through the link between the images in the Raw exhibition and the live cooking performance, I hope to “explore” these question.

Originally published on Line magazine: A Virtual Biennale blog