Flash Art International no. 304 October 2015

We are pleased to announce that the October issue of Flash Art International is out now.

Coinciding with the opening of “UH-OH,” Frances Stark’s midcareer retrospective at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the new issue of Flash Art features a cover designed by the artist. Known from the start of her career for text-based work, Stark has increasingly employed typefaces to innovative and idiosyncratic effect, in pursuit of what has sometimes been identified as writing in space. The font Airsoft, developed together with her longtime collaborator Chris Svensson, appears here in a reworking of Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE image of 1965, which itself made the leap from a MoMA Christmas card to a case of writing in space, rendered as sculpture at sites around the world.

In a featured essay Flash Art US Editor Eli Diner highlights the depictive qualities, the cleverness and invention of Stark’s processes of self-figuring and self-portrait:“She has set an ongoing narration of the process and the travails of making art and living as an artist and making a living as an artist in a perpetual present tense: depictions of what’s going on right now — personally, professionally and in the world as glimpsed from her studio or home.”
— Eli Diner

In this issue:

Beau Rutland describes the skillful facture, playful wit and unassuming topicality of Rachel Rose’s videos.
“Rose creates spaces that look so much like our everyday lives, yet have been slightly augmented, perhaps with an unexpected jump cut to seemingly unrelated found footage.”
— Beau Rutland

Two recent exhibitions have invited a reconsideration of the institutional narratives associated with the scientific discipline of archaeology: Christodoulos Panayiotou’s “Two Days after Forever,” hosted by the Cyprus Pavilion at the 56th Biennale di Venezia; and the “twin” exhibitions “Serial Classic” and “Portable Classic,” co-curated by Salvatore Settis and held at the Milan and Venice venues of the Fondazione Prada. In conversation, Panayiotou and Settis contemplate the authority of ancient art and the many challenges that a political understanding of archaeology can pose.

Carlos Fonseca digs into the spectral echoes of the avant-gardes that populates Valeria Luiselli’s novels.
“Luiselli is a writer who has undertaken the project of rewriting the Latin American literary tradition purged of the ambitions — or pretensions — of representing the histories, moods and pathologies of an entire continent.”
— Carlos Fonseca

Ruba Katrib surveys the art of Heman Chong who questions the conventions of contemporary art reception, combining them with popular narrative forms like film and novels.
“Chong carefully dissects and aggregates information, letting associations run wild. He presents partial threads of communication, disperses authorship and creates situations.”
— Ruba Katrib

Veeranganakumari Solanki introduces the Indian emerging artists Nandan Ghiya, Sahej Rahal, Prabhakar Pachpute, Tanmoy Samanta, Rathin Barman, Prajakta Potnis, Hemali Bhuta, and Shreyas Karle.

Kari Rittenbach discusses the authorial non-production in the work of Cameron Rowland.
“Rowland’s examination of received standards stresses the deeply rooted injustice of American exceptionalism, drawing attention to the structural artifice of the white cube and the system of white-supremacist patriarchy in which the whole of high cultural production is circumscribed.”
— Kari Rittenbach

In Arena:

Sadie Coles, London; Eugene Tan on the National Gallery, Singapore; Robert Walser’s Looking at Pictures by New Directions; Charles Esche on the 2015 Jakarta Biennale; Angel Haze; Wim Peeters on Office Baroque, Brussels; Melanie Bühler on Lunch Bytes; Elysia Crampton.

In Reviews:

Sarah Charlesworth at the New Museum, New York; Sarah Ortmeyer at Bodega, New York; Karen Cytter at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; “Theories on Forgetting” at Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles; A.L. Steiner at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles; Teresa Burga at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano, Buenos Aires; Eloise Hawser at the ICA, London; “The Boys, the Girls and the Political” at Lisson Gallery, London; “After Babel” at Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Mathieu Malouf at Lars Friedrich, Berlin; Bill Lynch at Tanya Leighton, Berlin; Lawrence Abu Hamdan at the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen; Tony Oursler at Luma Foundation, Arles; Fausto Melotti at the NMNM, Monaco; “La Grande Madre” at Palazzo Reale, Milan; “Bartered Collection” at Mumbai Art Room; Ming Wong the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; Dinh Q. Lê at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo.

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Spotlight /

Jon Rafman Erysichthon

An obvious circularity is at the center of Jon Rafman’s Erysichthon (2015), presented at the 13th Biennale de Lyon, the final element in a trilogy of videos including Still Life (Betamale) (2013) and Mainsqueeze (2014).

Each takes as its base an exploration of subcultures through internet-user-created content and a literally mediated eye. Whereas Still Life (Betamale) begins exploring the erotica of the deeper internet and Mainsqueeze is anchored by the seeming aggression within this, Erysichthon cuts a broader path. The “Scream” films taught us that “true trilogies are all about going back to the beginning and discovering something that wasn’t true from the get go,” and here this happens as well.

Named for the mythological Greek king cursed with insatiable hunger, the video approaches subjects with both critique and reverence. The snake eating its own tail, appearing early and often in the film, is as mesmerizing as it is banal, referencing the film’s namesake’s demise and Rafman’s view of cultural intake. This symbolism is repeated with the likes of a drone circling its creator and someone on a swing set making a continuous loop. Different voices, once again, tie it together. A video of a child upset with other fans of the videogame character Sonic the Hedgehog becomes a universal indictment when pulled from its original source: “Your fantasies can never be quenched,” and “When will you learn that your actions have consequences.” Other times it sounds identical to Rosamund Pike’s slow voiceover in the film Gone Girl.

Rafman’s skill is taking the bizarre and normalizing it, meanwhile forcing the mundane to become mystical. In the finale of his trilogy he levels subcultures and forces the viewer to reassess the difference between the general and the specific. On the internet, any culture we mass consume becomes our own.

by Mitchell Anderson

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Report /

Toronto International Film Festival 2015

Nose down, night buses carry them through Toronto, zero dark whomever with a press pass. Across the street from a government housing project I check into my Airbnb; I’m asleep before I can even check whether Putlocker works beyond the American border.

Nine a.m. at “the Scotiabank”. I’m brushing my teeth before my first press screening, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour, his first since Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Anywhere else in North America, movies wake up around 11 am, the festival life is unreal to them, fleshless. The movies of TIFF need more than a pin-prick to discern their dreaming, revolving in the drowsy orbit of summer’s wake; and then early autumn, the prelude to awards season, an undertow flexes. In the multiplex bathroom I raise the toothbrush to my tender gums and think, If I see blood, I share it with Boonmee.

Cemetery of Splendour is an immediate highlight, a gracious host that leaves all its rooms unlocked while it runs a bath somewhere out of sight. It serves as a festival-city experience in microcosm: rangily spiritual, smiling weakly on an empty stomach, reassuring us that the great mysteries are soluble.

The top films at the box office over the festival weekend are The Visit and The Perfect Guy, both breakout hits. Toronto teems beside them, keeping its own shoptalk sequestered to the Ritz. There’s Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, whose maximalist art trash suggests Matthew Barney visiting the Grand Budapest Hotel; Joachim Trier’s Louder than Bombs, a sharp reboot of mid-2000s preciousness; Lace Crater and The Witch, two isotopes of slavishly authentic Brooklyn horror that, in the post-video wasteland of 2015, we can only imagine kids trying to sneak out of Blockbuster on sleepover night; Gaspar Noé’s Love, whose protagonists seek connection and find double penetration.

A friend in New York asks me what I think of the Oscar contenders: “Do you feel like you’ve seen Best Picture?” he clarifies. I consider the rolodex of awards movies at this festival, the known-unknowns. Spotlight has the righteousness; Room, the intimacy; 45 Years has Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, both great, and an attention to bourgeois texture that rivals James Salter; The Martian finds ecstasy in the labor of nerds. The Danish Girl is impressive, too: Tom Hooper finally gets a story with two long-suffering wives.

But Sicario is the best of them, a convoy of fixed personalities trucking through liminal horrors along the US/Mexico border. Afterward, I glance around Toronto’s festival street and feel dust in the breeze. A giant Netflix logo is projected against a brick wall like the Bat-signal, a distress call whose damsel is anyone with a monthly subscription.

At a bar in Kensington Market, I watch clips from Freeheld, another supposed Oscar contender in which Julianne Moore portrays a famous lesbian activist and wears a blonde wig. A drag queen sashays in front of the screen, stoic and wearing a blonde wig, too. I wonder whether red carpet at the Oscars gets cleaned every year before they roll it back out.

In the second season of True Detective, a prostitute stares at Rachel McAdams and grimly tells her: “Everything is fucking.” But they forgot the second part: everything is fucking and everything is sleeping. Similarly, TIFF rafts along between brutality and peace, the demands of a far-off desert industry overlaid with the city’s expansive pleasantness: the pin-quiet subway cars, the walkability and no one jaywalking; the casually diverse neighborhoods and their unexpected silences.

I dump my 3-D glasses in the bucket outside The Martian and float to the AGO, where Apichatpong is showing an audience screengrabs from a recent bedtime Skype session with his boyfriend. His installation Fireworks (Archive) is playing in a room nearby; inside it smells like piped-in eucalyptus, but the sound of fireworks detonating pierces the scent. At the press conference for Room, seven-year-old actor Jacob Tremblay sheepishly says that he likes being at this festival because it reminds him of Disneyland. “But there are no rides,” co-star Brie Larson corrects him. He shrugs: “There are a lot of people.”

Seated at an izakaya around the corner from the Ryerson, my friend gestures across the street to a vacant lot: “That’s where my condo will be,” she says. “The thirty-second floor. But it won’t be built until 2018.” 2018, the year of the Jurassic World sequel, Godzilla 2, the final Fifty Shades. It’s just been announced that Sicario will get a sequel from Lionsgate. Will it play here, too?

That evening I mill around the Princess of Wales auditorium before Jia Zhang-ke’s Mountains May Depart. The crowd is largely twenty-something Chinese fans; they convene from everywhere and form an endless line that snakes beyond coffee shops and Irish pubs, beyond the billboards for Kinky Boots the musical. Inside Jia appears onstage and his reception is Taylor Swiftian, cheering from the nosebleeds at the slightest mention of hometown Fenyang.

His movie, the best of the festival, unfolds in three discrete parts: 1999, 2014 and 2025, the year my friend’s condo turns seven. The final segment is the key: Jia’s self-acknowledged nod to youth culture, it experimentally relocates us from mainland China to the gold coast of Australia, dropping the mic on any critic’s attempt to petrify him within the Eurozone canon. Deliberately tasteless and full of wet life, it’s the craziest cinema this side of Furious Seven.

Seven again: day seven, my last, writing postcards in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel. I spent a few weekends at this hotel as a kid. Mom got tickets for The Phantom of the Opera; I remember it was at the Princess of Wales then, too, and that I had been in almost the same seat as I was for Mountains May Depart, twenty years removed.

In Toronto people speak of time as circular, the annual Main Slates and their open bars gone blurry, unforming, now visible. The festival and its Festival People, marching route-step with the foreign legion of auteurs, alternately ancient and larval; everywhere Time, and the denial of it. Sitting in a lobby I think that some things do go away, and stay gone, at least relative to one lifetime. The best that I’ve seen here — Mountains, Cemetery of Splendour, 45 Years — might agree.

by Mike Spreter (Film Fun)

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Arena /

Alessio Antoniolli on Gasworks / London

Having supported artists within the London scene for over two decades, Gasworks has recently undergone a major redevelopment by architects HAT Projects and reopened to the public on September 24.

With more studio space alongside a program of exhibitions, educational events and residencies, the expansion further enhances the organization’s role as a hub for the exchange of ideas between international and local practitioners. Director Alessio Antoniolli describes the challenges that Gasworks has faced within the rapid urban regeneration of London, and how its raison d’être as an organization primarily supporting emerging artists will remain the same.

What role has Gasworks played in the arts ecology of London — a scene that ranges from large-scale institutions to commercial galleries and then smaller-scale grassroots organizations?

For over twenty years Gasworks has played a unique role in London, working at the intersection between UK and international practices and debates. Process and development are fundamental to us, which is why most of our building houses workspaces. Through our programs we establish long-term relationships with emerging artists so they can confidently make a significant new step in their professional career, whether the outcome is a work-in-progress, an event or an exhibition. In a city that has such a strong commercial presence, Gasworks’ role as an experimental and process-based space adds significantly to the richness of the local scene. This is often highlighted through our partnerships and collaborations with peers that include other members of Common Practice, Open School East, Tate Modern, University of the Arts and many others.

How has the redevelopment of Gasworks broadened the scope of your programming?

We will continue to deliver our programs of residencies, exhibitions, outreach activities and events. Our architects, HAT Projects, have found fantastic solutions for reorganizing the layout of the building, carving out two extra studios for London-based artists, doubling the size of the gallery, creating a purpose-built events space and adding a much needed kitchen and a terrace to enhance the feeling of “home.” The building is also going to have a better presence on the street, making us a lot more visible and inviting to audiences. Renovating Gasworks is allowing us to think more ambitiously about our programs, focusing on the distinct role of each, but also considering how they may be integrated and where they intersect. Ultimately we will continue to be a space that serves emerging artists’ needs to research, make and show their work.

Located in the South East of London, will the redevelopment change the role and influence of Gasworks within this area specifically?

With the progressive closure of studio spaces in London to make room for regeneration projects, our main concern was first to purchase and then make the building that has been our home since the beginning fit for purpose. Achieving that means that we secured our future in this rapidly changing area of London and can continue to provide studios for locally based artists, as well as build on our longstanding outreach work with the local community. As the area changes we are going to be joined by Damien Hirst’s new space and Cabinet Gallery, which are both opening soon in our neighborhood. This is going to make Vauxhall an exciting destination for a variety of audiences and attract new people to the area.

Gasworks is a networked organization that connects with partners globally; how important is this network in terms of the opportunities that Gasworks can offer artists?

Gasworks is the hub of the Triangle Network, an international network of grass-roots organizations and projects worldwide. As such, partnerships are at the core of our exchange projects, both for international artists coming to do residencies in the UK as well as for UK-based artists doing residencies with our partners abroad. Our partners also guide our research and offer unparalleled access to emerging scenes in Latin America, Africa, Asia, etc. This means that we can reach artists at early stages of their careers and really make a difference to their professional development through residencies, commissions and other projects that give them opportunities to make new work and disseminate their ideas.

With the unveiling of the new space, there’s an exhibition of newly commissioned work by emerging South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere. What interested you in working with this artist for the reopening?

We’ve been interested in his work for a while. Although he is in many ways more established than most of the artists that contribute to Gasworks’ exhibitions program, he has not yet presented a solo exhibition in the UK. His interests in history and site-specificity also coincide with issues that have been relevant to Gasworks for many years. Wa Lehulere creates works, events and environments that explore the history and present-day realities of South Africa while at the same time engaging with the architecture of the places in which he works. We have therefore given him the gallery over the summer and are excited to work closely with him over this period to realize a whole new body of work for Gasworks’ reopening.

by Louisa Elderton

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Shop /

Sam Falls / The Four Seasons Forever

Published by Flash Art Books, a limited edition portfolio on the work of Sam Falls, The Four Seasons Forever, depicts 13 photogram works made by the artist, each pictured before and after its exposure to natural elements, such as sun, wind and rain.

The first section of the book shows Falls’s collection of classical music on vinyl, photographed lying on shimmery, silk material. Each record, accompanied by its original cover, serves as “elief” or “sun catalyst”, in order to create an impression of two geometric shapes (a circle and a square) on silk. Time, chance and accident combine in this series of works, which the artist created on the occasion of a year-long exhibition at Galleria Franco Noero, Turin. The publication includes an extended conversation between the artist and Nicolas Trembley.

Order here

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Report /

Burning Los Bar / Wonder Valley

It took about fifteen minutes from the hurling of the first Molotov cocktail for Los Bar
to reduce completely into a crackling field of embers. It was a blunt coda to a project that had provided a steady rhythm through the summer in Los Angeles.

Every Friday since the end of May, growing crowds had been congregating in and around a studio at the Rudolph Schindler-designed Mackey Apartments, transformed by MAK Center residents Christoph Meier, Lukas Stopczynski, Andreas Bauer, and Robert Schwarz (the former an artist, the other three architects) into a 0.65:1 replica of Vienna’s Loos Bar. Their bar was smaller, so they called it Los.

In the early days they slowed the music down according to the same ratio. But more than a kind of proportional fidelity, the playing with scale at Los Bar seemed driven by an appetite for physical awkwardness, a slapstick re-scripting of social interaction and of that between people and a built environment. Loos Bar is already quite small—Los Bar comically so at 2 ½ x 7 meters. You could pack in maybe forty people—and they often did—but even with ten inside there was barely enough room to pass by those lucky enough to have grabbed a spot at the bar, and only the tiniest of asses could comfortably rest on the seats of the banquettes. Weekly performances, on a 90 x 75 cm stage, often overwhelmed the bar with sound, precariously performing the space itself.

And there were plenty of gags built on unwieldiness: they served their signature cocktail, the TGV, a repulsive mix of several liquors, in plastic cups affixed to cumbersome concrete plinths. A “secret” bong built into the bar itself required two people to operate, and even then it wasn’t easy.

So when the four collaborators disassembled the bar and rebuilt it as a freestanding structure in Wonder Valley, where it would be burnt to the ground after one final gathering, it was again a play of scale: a shack engulfed by the empty expanse of the desert. Unless it wasn’t a tiny bar but rather—built of MDF, cardboard and paper—a very large architectural model.

The details—clever, sometimes whimsical—revealed themselves at each turn of the head: the banister at the bar made of a foam swimming pool noodle, the checkerboard floors in duct tape, wall sconces of packing foam and the banquettes upholstered with HVAC filter material. The elegant touches of Adolf Loos reimagined on a Home Depot shopping spree. Every week new elements were added by the creators of Los Bar and increasingly by visitors as well—not only in the performances but also in the material and décor of the bar itself. Matchbooks, ashtrays, texts—as these additions accumulated, Los Bar became increasingly protean, assuming multiple meanings.

The Loos original, officially the Kärntner Bar, is also commonly known as the American Bar. Both names appear above the entrance—the former on a glass prism with crystals in the form of the American flag. The notion of an American bar—as opposed to a café or Weinstube—in fin de siècle Vienna was of a place to meet and drink not segregated by class. If class antagonism has everywhere in the developed world long since taken on a subtler, more American style, the burning of Los Bar in the Mojave suggests another process of Americanization implicit in the project.

Schindler had studied with Loos before moving to Los Angeles, where he introduced a mode of domestic modernism that would develop into a Southern California architectural vernacular. Those buildings, in turn, fell out of favor before—inevitably—returning as a fetish, stoked by the skyrocketing prices of a now resurgent real estate boom. Heads shake at the thought of Schindler, Neutra and Lautner houses demolished during that benighted interregnum before this stuff became fashionable again. There are coffee table books and tours devoted to LA modernism for those not lucky enough to live within such sharp angles and clean lines. This, of course, marks just one of the countless afterlives of modernism—a trivializing aesthetic commodity, a fetish whose flimsiness becomes all too apparent when set aflame.

In one of those calendrical coincidences, the reassembly and burning of Los Bar—culminating on the night of September 11—coincided with the anniversary of the Destruction in Art Symposium. Held in London in 1966, the conference brought together artists involved in Fluxus, Happenings, Vienna Actionism and Concrete Poetry among others who—the vast differences notwithstanding—saw destructivity as intricately connected with creativity. The implications are obvious, and, sure, maybe the incineration of Los Bar marked its consummation. But next Friday will be a little boring.

by Eli Diner

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