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Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement Centre d’Art Contemporain / Geneva

The latest edition of the Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement opened its doors at the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva on November 9, just hours after the foreboding news of Trump’s election. Andrea Bellini, Cecilia Alemani, Caroline Bourgeois and Elvira Dyangani-Ose imbued this edition with somber tones, reflecting a dark era of social and political upheaval that seems to leave human beings increasingly alienated.

Many of the works on view documented manifestations of social inequality; but they perhaps required a viewer involvement that goes beyond empathy. Hovering throughout the show was the question of queerness — a politics founded on the affirmation of difference. The image of another self who escapes the more you try to frame her recurred as a structural pattern. However, the medium’s immersive nature favors an evolution of that attempt, in the same way that exoticism transcends into mystery, transsexuality into iridescence, ambiguity into dialectical confrontation. For example, in the work of British artist Emily Wardill, I Gave My Love To Cherry That Had No Stone (2016), the camera follows a dancer in the modernist spaces of the Auditorium Gulbenkian, in Lisbon; if initially the camera seems to stalk the actor, soon the building takes over, offering a thorough sweep of its architectural forms in relation to the human body. In Greek director Evangelia Kranioti’s medium-length film Obscuro Barroco (2016), the story of a trans in Rio de Janerio is told in parallel to that of a clown; both characters roam a mythical city, while the ecstatic events of the Carioca carnival slip into popular demonstrations for transgender rights.

In the end, the Biennale seemed to raise a dichotomy between a technique rooted in “craftsmanship” and the appropriation of the tools of mainstream cinema. Viewing contributions such as American artist Wu Tsang’s video Dulian (2016) — a work that transposes to the present a homosexual love story from fin-de-siècle China, but ends up diluting its subject’s criticality by emulating the style of a TV commercial — one is left wondering whether, in terms of a reconsideration of the normative role of technology, the queer gaze should also inform approaches to filmmaking.

by Michele D’Aurizio

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Social Fabric / Atelier E.B

Atelier E.B, the studio practice and collaborative fashion label run between Edinburgh and Brussels by artist Lucy McKenzie and designer Beca Lipscombe is preoccupied with dress as a phenomenon emerging from a lineage of industry, craft and labor.

On the occasion of the group show “’33 – ’29 – ’36,” curated by McKenzie and on view at the UM Gallery of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, and their latest book, The Inventors of Tradition II, published by Koenig Books, McKenzie and Lipscombe spoke with Flash Art.

What is the methodology behind how and when you disseminate your collections?

We do not work with the fashion timetable. Instead, we work slowly to let things develop at the pace it needs around our other work and lives. Nothing is fixed, and with each new collection we try something new — working with different graphic designers, photographers, models and mannequins. The clothes are something of a pretext to do other things we like to do together and with collaborators.

What does it mean to exhibit fashion objects in a gallery space? What does art’s critical framework offer Atelier E.B?

Within an exhibition format our work can be part of broader discourse around showing design objects in a gallery or museum — where hierarchies of status dictate how it should be read. Through showing in galleries we get financial and moral support without having to submit to the pressure and self-interest of the fashion industry, with all its gatekeepers in the form of editors, buyers and stylists.

There is often a feminist orientation to your work, particularly in “’33 – ’29 – ’36.” How do you relate to dress and its history as a women’s industry?

Examining history from a feminist point of view is especially rich for fashion as a field with many great female producers that are now being written about seriously. Academic writers like Elizabeth Wilson, Caroline Evans and Tag Gronberg all explore fashions’ inherent radicalism instead of regarding it only of interest because of its proximity to existing grand narratives. As if fashion is only relevant because male figures like Mallarmé, Benjamin, Loos or Simmel permit it. Atelier E.B wants to be part of the project that uncovers lost histories and celebrates marginalized figures, especially women.

Does your work attempt to critique or destabilize of fashion’s market framework?

We don’t start from such a negative or conceptual starting point. Primarily, we make clothes for ourselves and our friends for working and that make us feel strong. That we can only go about that in a way which ignores the traditional fashion market framework is secondary. If that is read as inherently critical then it shows how entrenched those market rules are. We are more preoccupied with finding a way for Atelier E.B to flourish with our set values and ethics; this is more invigorating and empowering than critiquing.

by Laura Gardner

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Bojan Šarčević Modern Art / London

“I have only ever experienced intellectual pleasure on the level of analogy,” declared André Breton in a 1947 essay titled “Ascendant Sign.” Analogy, both direct and indirect, pervades the practice of Serbian artist Bojan Šarčević. “Invagination,” the title of his third solo exhibition at Modern Art, London, is defined by the gallery’s press release as “the idea of something being turned inside-out, turned-in, or folded back on itself.”

First used by the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the term became dear to Jacques Derrida, who employed it to describe a narrative that folds upon itself, perpetually swapping the observer and the observed.

This exhibition stands as a unique cognitive exercise extended over three rooms, each different but echoing the others. The entrance desk has been transformed into a brutalist desk sculpture, exhibition element (MA-SARCB-00075) (all works cited, 2016), made up of gray stones and pink metal, whose raised position confers a sense of displacement on the gallery assistant, typing away. Two wall works, exhibition element (MA-SARCB-00081) and (MA-SARCB-00076), are positioned in the opposite corner, forcing viewers to pass the desk awkwardly as they enter into private, intimate space.

The last room is occupied by just one piece, exhibition element (MA-SARCB-00085), a four-sided monumental construction of lacquered aluminum and cream plasterboard that challenges the viewer’s sense of perception. Hidden at the rear, a blue plastic bag containing dried meat is the source of an acute odor that imbues its ambient surroundings with a macabre tone.

Within this last room, what was previously unsettling at the entrance is all of a sudden pleasantly familiar. To fulfill the “invagination” premise we should start all over again.

by Attilia Fattori Franchini

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Edgar Orlaineta Proyectos Monclova / Mexico City

“History is taking flight and passes forever,” Edgar Orlaineta’s current exhibition at Proyectos Monclova, is a multilayered examination of formalism and history. Specifically, the exhibition is an incisive consideration of the intersections of modernism and design, and how both were influenced by the Japanese internment camps created in the United States following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The gallery is filled with sculptural vignettes carved to detailed perfection. However, upon closer examination, each object begins to reveal a dark history. Formally the works are reminiscent of Isamu Noguchi’s interlocking sculptures, in which discrete pieces fit together to form a larger piece. Anachronich Library-Historical Sources (after Isamu Noguchi) (2016) is one such interlocking sculpture. The work is also multifunctional; the negative spaces house historical ephemera and antique objects that illustrate anti-Japanese sentiment, such as a Japanese hunting license, two carved Japanese caricatures and anti-Japanese literature.

Moving from piece to piece within the space, the complexities of the stories, the references and the ephemera work together to illustrate a history within modernism that is not often told. The title of the exhibition, for example, is a sentence taken directly from a letter written by Noguchi and addressed to Man Ray while Noguchi was captive in an internment camp in Arizona. Indeed, many of the formal elements that Orlaineta borrows in the exhibition via Noguchi, Satama and even Komai, were created at a time when the artists themselves were held at internment camps. The corresponding ephemera is strategically placed to connect their stories with the formal decisions of the artists. Orlaineta illustrates the irony of modern design being influenced by cultural contributors who continued to produce even in the face of blatant racism.

by Leslie Moody Castro

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Etel Adnan Institut du Monde Arabe / Paris

The first solo exhibition in France of the works of Etel Adnan, organized by the Institut du Monde Arabe, whose home is a Parisian landmark designed by Jean Nouvel, brings together a selection of paintings, drawings, films, poetry, and tapestries by the ninety-one-year-old Paris-based artist.

Born in Beirut in 1925 to a Greek mother and Syrian father, and known primarily for her small, abstract paintings in bold colors, Adnan has also produced textile works inspired by Persian rugs, as well as a series of leporello sketchbooks that combine drawing and watercolor with writing and poetry. One of these, The Lost Mother and Daughter (1970), incorporates the words of Iraqi poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, whose revolutionary verses calligraphed in black ink contrast with a luminous blue-and-yellow background.

The exhibition is divided according to four themes. The first: “Texts and Poetry,” is based on her infamous 1980 poem “The Arab Apocalypse,” written during the Lebanese Civil War, and emphasizes the importance of writing to her practice; “Mountains” details the recurrent motif of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, California, across her oeuvre; while “Colors and Sounds” focuses on her production of tapestries. Her most poignant chapter, titled “Exile,” is organized around her frequent travels between Europe, the US and the Middle East. This section is rich in oil-painted landscapes, pastels and drawings but also films, such as the Super 8 movie Motion (1980–90), which portrays a shadowy, dreamlike New York as seen through the window of a friend’s apartment.

Throughout this intimate retrospective, Adnan’s voice, both feminist and pacifist, reveals itself through her interwoven influences, languages and techniques. She observes her itinerancy, from Smyrna to Beirut, and from Sausalito to Paris, with a generous and engaged eye — an inspiring empathy for our inward-turning age.

by Martha Kirszenbaum

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Untitled / San Francisco

Joining the ranks of art fairs recently cropping up in Northern California’s Bay Area — proliferating as in so many urban locales worldwide — Untitled launches its initial bid for distinction by basing its main exhibition site within the repurposing-before-your-eyes shipyard buildings of Pier 70 on the Bay itself.

The pier sits on the industrial-chic margins of San Francisco’s rapidly gentrifying Dogpatch neighborhood, an area embodying yet another cycle of creative placemaking in urban centers throughout the US. The topic of art practices as an attractor and particular bleeding edge of real estate development will be addressed specifically in a panel talk as part of Untitled’s programing by the well-resourced initiators of two such projects: Minnesota Street Projects in San Francisco and the Rubell Family Collection in Miami.

Untitled will also be reaching for distinction in its inaugural effort by featuring a small range of nonprofit art spaces among the invited presenters in the fair’s booth spaces, along with some other unique programming led by a panel on the Berkeley Art Museum’s upcoming version of the touring “Hippie Modernism” show. Featured off-site will be a series of boat tours launched by The Lab and meant to highlight the precarity of Bay Area housing for many of the region’s past and current residents, especially artists (made extra poignant and raw by the recent, highly fatal Ghost Ship fire in Oakland).

At the fair, from January 13 until January 15, the mingling of booths occupied by highly local cultural purveyors alongside those landing from international sites will make for an idiosyncratic mix of commercial galleries and alternative spaces, whose offerings could be as impelled by thematic concerns as those of the marketplace and collecting. Among the artist projects specially programmed for the fair are Paul Clipson’s filmic treatment of elements of the unique former home of deceased Bay Area creative favorite son David Ireland, and Brent Green’s quirky musical performances that include custom-made musical instrument costumes.

by Brian Karl

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