Review /

Martin Creed Hauser & Wirth / Somerset

Martin Creed’s solo exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Somerset is hard to contain. The result of a two-month residency at The Maltings studio space in Bruton, “What You Find” fills the five galleries with ebullient energy and is a stimulant assault on the senses.

The uncertain process of negotiating one’s standing in the world is what makes Creed’s work so moving and humane. “What You Find” is a reflection on recognizing the way one is. The artist moves from the bold to the intimate: one of the main galleries features an austere glass wall partition that resonates with two videos housed in freestanding booths, Work n. 2533 Border Control (2015) and Work n. 2530 Let Them In (2015), which reflect on the arbitrary nature of borders and the ability to move freely, suggesting an alternative mood in post-Brexit UK. One wall features a black checker-patterned painting, while another is a colorfully striped mirror that reflects and multiplies the gallery space and its visitors. Three Fiat cars — a bright-green camper van, a red utilitarian vehicle and a light-blue coupe — are parked side by side, their booths open to display an abstract painting.

What one finds throughout the exhibition is “stuff” that the artist accumulated and kept in his Barbican apartment through the years, now repurposed as material for several works that are quite literally made through living. Work n.2711 (2016), made from crumpled plastic and paper bags, a lit desk lamp, a chair, cardboard boxes and newspapers, skirts the gallery wall in an incidental, casual manner. Vitrines house bouquets of now-desiccated flowers and even a flock of Creed’s distinctive curls. More orderly, jars and packages are placed by descending size to form neat stacks. Daily audio notes beam out of an array of diverse mp3 players and speakers. They invite the sort of attention that detectives bring to determining someone’s habits through their material traces.

The joyful video for Creed’s new single Understanding, about an argument, takes center stage. In it, the artist pops up in a variety of guises and hairdos, crossing genders and styles, his presence multiplied across the screen in quasi-psychedelic fashion. The song is part of the album Thoughts Lined Up, released last July.

Outside in the garden colorful carrier bags, agitated by the wind, flap from the branches of an otherwise leafless tree. Like the artist, they also seem to be caught in the stream of life. However, while everything is changing all the time, Creed is definitely having his moment.

by Silvia Sgualdini

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News /

I Love Kevin / Jill Soloway

I once got in a terrible fight with an ex wherein he told me he wanted to be a composer, and I simply replied, “Well, then do it.” He never could get over my cruel response, which had been bred into me by the artistically inclined, privileged company that I keep.

This kind of insider art-world drama is central to the first half of I Love Dick, an adaptation of the 1997 novel by Chris Kraus based on her marriage to Semiotext(e) founder and philosopher Sylvère Lotringer. Directed by Transparent’s Jill Soloway, I Love Dick premiered last Friday on Amazon. Many of the nods to “-ality” and group shows are cringeworthy, but Soloway does ultimately give us a reason for this gruesome and exclusionary setup of art jokes.

Soloway’s direction is reminiscent of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, with her occasional dash of absurdity and long, languid shots that seem otherworldly. However, it will be the thematic content, I expect, that will create the most buzz. The series has been heralded as being about modern feminism, and it certainly is, but there is something fundamentally more expansive about I Love Dick, something deeply self-critical and disturbing in its prescience about artistry and self-hatred.

After explaining the premise of her film about the oppressive weight of sexism upon women, as well as the woes she has had creating the film, filmmaker Chris (Kathryn Hahn) does not receive the sympathy she had expected from the men who surround her. Instead, the mysterious, sexy scholar Dick (Kevin Bacon) — who is running the Marfa residency where I Love Dick takes place — dourly turns to Chris’s husband Sylvere (Griffin Dunne) and says, “My guess is that she doesn’t want to be a filmmaker, because if you wanted to be a filmmaker, you’d be one.” Chris is naturally aghast, but then returns home to begin a long, erotic letter detailing her obsession with the decidedly misogynist Dick. She then reads the letter to her husband, who cannot contain his own arousal, and they produce a mechanical fuck that ends when Sylvere cums and hops giddily away.

I Love Dick is a feminist ode, to be sure, but it is also about the lies perpetuated by self-construction, by vanity, and the passionate masochism of lusting for our brittle egos to be shattered. Though Chris is a talented artist, it seems that she feels she is a fraud, and it is Dick’s painful, yet erotic, job to dismantle an already flailing self-esteem. I Love Dick is truly brutal, and it shows the lusterless ashes of creativity being slowly extinguished.

This beautiful sense of foreboding is amplified by Soloway’s masterful adaptation of a book — based on Chris’s obsessive letter — that has no traditional plot. Though it is Chris’s text that we can hear and see, Soloway creates a disorienting combination of desires, as if everyone could be speaking for everybody else. The result, a shared doldrums of mutual attraction and bitterness, is surprisingly resonant.

by William J. Simmons

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Review /

The Keeper New Museum / New York

The Keeper” assembles personal archives and artworks, documentation and curios; it addresses the human desire to collect and preserve, as well as the museum’s role in this process of valuation.

On my way to revisit the exhibition, I paused at Prince Street and Bowery. From across the street, the building appears like a messy stack of archival boxes wrapped in a gauzy, hypoallergenic cotton batting.

A showstopper of the exhibition is Ydessa Hendeles’s Partners (The Teddy Bear Project) (2002). A collection of three thousand black-and-white photographs of children and adults and their teddy bears, the archive takes the form of a densely packed library. Dark-stained display cases highlight more pictures, letters and several antique bears, and viewers have access to a second level via spiral staircases at each end of the gallery. The collection, which spans the twentieth century, is rife with melancholy and endeavors to recover a sense of lost innocence. At the same time, its overwhelming scale borders on a single-minded fanaticism — I partly dread that a photograph hanging at my parents’ house will end up here.

Many of the works test the boundaries of documentation. While a prisoner at Auschwitz, the anonymous MM illustrated the humiliation, acts of violence, and misery visited upon the prisoners at the camp. The caricaturist style of these drawings, however, feels incommensurate with the atrocities they reveal. What visual language would not betray its incapacities in the face of the Holocaust? Elsewhere in the exhibition, we find antiquities recovered from the National Museum of Beirut following the Lebanese Civil War. Melted, broken or fused together, these trinkets are symbols of violent historical upheaval and war’s distortion of material facts.

The Keeper sometimes risks fetishizing the impulse to curate and collect — how many boutiques imitate the room filled with knotted ropes and crystals? But at a time when the database is the locus of power and control, the exhibition exposes the political stakes behind the organizational impulse. In Susan Hiller’s The Last Silent Movie (2007–08), subtitles translate native speakers of extinct or endangered languages. They tell anecdotes and inscribe this last record of their language with humor and trauma, spirituality and scatology. The monitor is blank save for the white text — only the language remains when we do not.

by Sam Korman

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Report /

Reporting from the Front Architecture Biennale 2016 / Venice

The theme of this year’s Architecture Biennale, “Reporting from the Front,” focuses on the tangible effects architects can have on human and ecological crises — first and foremost the plight of people displaced by war and economic collapse.

The exhibition in the German pavilion, “Making Heimat. Germany, Arrival Country,” is one of its highlights. To epitomize the nation’s open-border policy and welcoming of over one million refugees in 2015, four large sections of the walls of the historic building have been removed for the duration of the Biennale, making it the only exhibit that will stay open at all times. The designers of this year’s exhibition, Julian Schubert, Elena Schuetz and Leonard Streich, founding partners of the young Berlin-based architectural practice Something Fantastic, focus on rapidly changing urban environments and on communal housing. Alongside Frankfurt’s Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM), curator Oliver Elser, project coordinator Anna Scheuermann and author Doug Saunders, they reflect on a comprehensive checklist of conditions necessary for the growth of neighborhoods where immigrants can thrive as actual citizens and not merely temporary guests. The lessons derived from Saunders’s painstakingly researched book, Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History is Reshaping Our World (2011), are clear: the key prerequisites for a successful integration process are affordable and high-quality housing, access to work, small-scale commercial spaces, good access to public transit, networks of immigrants from the same culture and a tolerant attitude that extends to the acceptance of informal practices.

Several projects address the global housing shortage and its underlying concerns, including urban decay (of note is Inês Lobo’s research on this theme for her project “Mosque in Mouraria” in Lisbon), unaffordability and gentrification. Anupama Kundoo and her practice strive to design spaces that are durable and humane as well as affordable. In her workshop “Life Afterlife” with local students of the faculty of architecture, she examined themes of urban obsolescence and the possibility of upcycling waste, including waste produced by the Biennale itself. The effect of unrelenting gentrification over the lives of some of London’s more vulnerable citizens is explored in the “@Gaybar” project. In collaboration with Daata Edition and Zuecca Projects, artists Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings display “Gentrification,” part of a series that seeks to “rematerialize historic gay bars as containers for queer discourse.” Set in the Bauer Hotel’s ground floor foyer, the exhibition features six videos of empty gay establishments and soundscapes.

Transitory, public and shared spaces across cities and macro-regions are explored throughout the Biennale. Curated for the Australian Institute of Architects by Amelia Holliday and Isabelle Toland with urbanist Michelle Tabet, the arresting exhibition “From the Edge” presents the municipal pool as a vital public space in the culture and social life of the continent. Public pools, many of which are threatened by funding cuts, play a vital role in bridging barriers and bringing people and communities together. Personal and political identities are questioned and reframed in these oases of “everyday pleasures.” Elsewhere in the Brazilian Pavilion, one is reminded of the elegance, beauty and generosity of the public projects as well as the smaller domestic dwellings designed by Lina Bo Bardi. The farsighted Italian-born architect pioneered the incorporation of traditional building techniques and materials into the glass-and-concrete language of architectural modernism in Brazil, the country where she lived from 1946 until her death in 1992. The fine home she designed for Valeria P. Cirell in São Paulo (1958) has endured the whims of tropical weather thanks to its thick brick walls tied through lumber beams, its porches covered by dense shrubs. Bo Bardi’s larger multiuse spaces — the beautiful Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) is one — are welcoming spaces for gathering and public life.

The vast range of activist thinking, research and social engagement on display at the Biennale reminded me of artist Anri Sala’s touching tribute to his friend Edi Rama, the former Mayor of Tirana and Prime Minister of Albania since 2013. The sixteen-minute color video projection with sound Dammi i Colori (2003), one of the works on view in a recent retrospective at the New Museum in New York, considers the attempts to affect the urban transformation of Tirana and reverse its fortunes; from a city where one was forced to live to one where one wanted to live.

This Biennale’s good intentions make its shortcomings all the more striking. One example: for his first public event, the curator Alejandro Aravena assembled an all-male-over-fifty-years-old-active-in-the-global-north panel to discuss the topic of infrastructure. That no women, no practitioners from the global south and no younger practitioners were invited as speakers belies such a lack of awareness, to the fact that the current system it purports to criticize is, in practice, flawed and systematically biased, that it defies belief. Better then to remember the wondrous Peruvian “Plan Selva,” a large-scale educational project in the Amazon region, and recall Lina Bo Bardi’s unflinching conviction that “the spirit of modern architecture” is to be shaped by “a love of humanity.”

by Francesca Tarocco

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Review /

Urs Fischer Garage Museum of Contemporary Art / Moscow

One year into Garage Museum’s new life at its Gorky Park location, an Urs Fischer show opens: “Small Axe.” The programming neither offends nor surprises: a selection of broadly palatable works welcomes summer visitors.

While it’s easy to be glib about a practice that’s neither conceptual nor critical, one wonders if a museum can also be home to less complicated pleasures: a ludic approach to space and matter, a visceral feel for what’s interesting, a sense of style. I guess it depends on what you’re into. In Moscow, Garage wants to create a civic interest in contemporary art where practically none exists. To this end, the institution’s program is incomparably dense with public and educational initiatives. Urs Fischer’s large-scale installation YES (2011–ongoing), located in a courtyard adjacent to the museum, is consistent with this imperative. Every day the public is invited to manipulate wet clay into objects, which are then added to the existing collection of sundry unfired sculptures, an expanse of mute creatures and experiments.

Indoors, on view in the museum’s central gallery, are more choate sculptures — these authored by Fischer exclusively. Many are miniatures in cast bronze placed directly on the gallery floor: a snail on a reflective silver helmet, a small red-and-orange flame issuing from a group of logs, a cat on a chair, a swan. Among these are some of Fischer’s staple figurative elements: fruits, chairs, eyes, feet, mice, women. Elsewhere, two life-size seated figures are set in wax in a rainbow gradient, their heads each crowned by a flickering candle wick lit on the day of the exhibition’s opening. Bruno & Yoyo (2015), a portrait of the influential Zurich art dealers and collectors Bruno and Yoyo Bischofberger, are slowly melting over the course of the exhibition. It’s a gesture less dramatic than those Fischer has been known to make, and one whose interest in the role of the collector or the value of the art object reads as subsidiary to the work’s tepid, self-reflexive humor.

by Tess Edmonson

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Linear Notes /

Antropofagia

“What is a myth? If you were to ask an American Indian, it is very likely that he would answer: It is a story about the time when humans and animals did not yet distinguish themselves from one another.”

Simultaneously inflaming both legend and record, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro floats this anthropological riddle from Claude Lévi-Strauss and Didier Eribon’s De près et de loin in his own “Perspectivism and Multinaturalism in Indigenous America,” part of the crystalizing, fracturing anthology The Forest & The School / Where to Sit at the Dinner Table? Organized as a range of thematic arguments on this fissure of nature and culture by its editor, artist and writer Pedro Neves Marques, the index surveys anthropological perspectivism, both formal—Bruno Latour, Félix Guattari, Davi Kopenawa, in addition to Brazilian anthropologists de Castro, Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, and Garcia de Rezende—and informal, such as German soldier Hans Staden’s 1557 account of his own capture and preparation for sacrifice while being held in captivity by the Tupinambá tribe. It is as much omen as historical, primary text: Narratives of animist uprising and counter-colonization have been foretold from the origins of Amerindian culture, and stand germane amid today’s hesitant efforts to contain industrial deforestation and neoliberal plague.

Antropofagia—cannibalization—had fully coagulated as artistic phenomenon by the twentieth century, with Francis Picabia’s 1920 “Manifeste Cannibale Dada” mirroring in European avant-garde circles what had already emerged in Brazil: Playwright Oswald de Andrade published Revista de Antropofagia, releasing numerous issues by the end of the decade. Films concerning the custom clustered in the middle of the century, attributable to postwar nationalism as much as the continental ascendancy of Tropicália. The populist, cross-disciplinary movement, easily transmittable through its flashing visual acidity and lush, humid melodies, advocated for anthropophagy both literally and creatively, resulting in works such as Nelson Pereira dos Santos’s Como Era Gostoso o Meu Frances (How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman, 1971). Soft campaigns against Western cultural influence by force led to Cinema Novo, a hyperrealist film movement that erupted half a generation later. Emboldened to take direct confrontation to one’s colonizer, they stylized violence without flinching from it.

Marxist influence within Cinema Novo is communicated with more precision as the movement matures, as Glauber Rocha, leading figure of Cinema Novo and director of its defining films in the mid-1960s — Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (Black God, White Devil) and Terra em Transe (Entranced Earth) — writes “The Aesthetics of Hunger” and “The Aesthetics of Dreaming.” He details the instruments of his savagery in “Hunger,” describing a visual style dictated by physical necessity: the movement documents the violence that is to be expected of the starving, and says that it would be inaccurate to attribute the violence of the starving as primitive behavior. Violence is a language that would not be mistranslated.

This hunger is weighted significantly as a contributing factor; to acknowledge its depth is to draw a full form and identity of anthropophagy. Artist, architect and astute observer (described in his biography as an amateur anthropologist, but diaries of his expeditions to Indian communities left an extensive, important archive of film and photographs of the Indians’ first contact with outsiders) Flávio de Carvalho was ready: by 1956 he had designed the region’s “New Look” — a costume intended for São-Paulinos in their newly realized state: a breezy uniform of ventilated shirt and mini skirt, which addressed the realities of living in the tropics. His writing on hunger in the pages preceding Rocha’s forms a block of transcription on the reaches of this physical state. De Carvalho states plainly: “Religious feelings stem from the feeling of hunger.” If sustenance, a gift necessary for survival, is to be found, it must be divine, having been provided by a savior. The growing distance between human and resource, blocked by modernization’s complications, provides an answer for the question it has posed for itself before an ecosystem that had previously found this proposition irrelevant. Immediately following this grouping, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade introduces his 1969 film Macunaíma by proposing that cannibalism never went away — it simply morphed into our contemporary version of cannibalism: consumption.

Historicizing, and therefore underestimating, escape efforts from any stage of capitalism are futile, as this panorama illustrates for its readers. Activist Jean Tible, detailing the inevitable alliance of anthropophagy and Marxism in his text “Marx and Anthropophagy: Notes for a Dialogue Between Marx and Viveiros de Castro,” reminds us that these authorities do not grow in isolation, and neither are they extinct: “All had a taste of the other, except the executioner, who entered a period of reclusion and mourning.”

by Jennifer Piejko

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