BoxOffice /

Best Foreign Language Film

Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you…

Sometime on the morning of Monday, July 13, 2015, manager Olaf Ihlefeldt was doing his usual rounds at the Stahnsdorf Southwestern Cemetery outside Berlin, Germany. Night still watched over America, where tickets were being tallied for the opening weekend of an animated blockbuster film about yellow things called Minions. That morning at Stahnsdorf, the knitted geometry of the headstones were unveiled to Olaf as far as he could see, the names he could remember and those he never could. The sun shone in a light beyond color, beyond yellow. Olaf himself was named for his great-grandfather, but his grandchildren would be named for Frozen.

Something was wrong in the cemetery. He could feel it as he crested the hill and set his gaze on the familiar tomb. The resting place of film director F.W. Murnau, master of Nosferatu and Faust, had been disturbed. What he discovered there was shocking: the skull of Murnau’s skeleton had been stolen from its iron coffin, separated from its sister bones. And this wasn’t the first time.

And everything you do
Yeah they were all yellow

Minions is and isn’t a “movie,” more so than any other movie — or any other thing for that matter. Minions is a happening. The movie itself grossed around half the amount that Jurassic World did on its opening weekend, but twice as many people were talking about it. (It did score the highest opening ever for a foreign-language film, dismantling The Passion of the Christ from its eleven-year stay at the top.) Even in Los Angeles, people were likely to spot the cast of Minions more frequently than they saw the sun. No one confuses the sun with anything else that’s bright in the sky, but we might’ve seen a crumbled-up piece of yellow trash and walked away believing we had encountered a Minion, not someone’s McDonald’s breakfast. The Minions’ supersaturated ad campaign seemed to pivot on this kind of perceptual seep. The brand is a division of light itself.

When you google “yellow things,” the first row of image results includes a rubber duck, a lemon, two photos of bananas, and Minions. Pikachu, Spongebob, and all of the Simpsons are absent from this Google image result, no matter how far down you scroll. That’s because Pikachu is Pikachu, Spongebob is Spongebob and the Simpsons live in Springfield. But we’re far away from all of them now, driving down the highway of Things — things we may or may not ever notice until we seek them out as such.

Your skin
Oh yeah your skin and bones
Turn into something beautiful

The gay sex-via-geolocation app Grindr was launched on March 25, 2009, the same weekend that Dreamworks Animation’s Monsters vs. Aliens ruled the box office, but it truly arrived in late 2010. That’s shortly after the release of the first Despicable Me on July 9, 2010, the foreign language film in which the Minions made their first appearance. And they have a lot more in common with Grindr than its citrus glow.

Like Minions, Grindr is raw data waiting to be parsed, a wall of yellow squares each containing discrete information. You might call it horny, but the better word is “frisky,” since that horniness rarely leads anywhere you want to go. Grindr’s interface suggests that some kind of order exists in sexual geography, just like how we assume Minions can tell themselves apart even when the audience can’t. The Minions are explicitly beta —they’ve been roaming the earth in search of a villainous master since amoeba times, kind of like gay men in New York City — but their shrillness and sheer volume makes them feel anything but. They also call themselves a “tribe,” a word that’s important on Grindr for a user to denote which gay subculture they think they belong to (“bear,” “twink,” etc.).

Minions especially don’t hide. They’re not faerie companions or animal familiars. If anything, they’re conspicuous in how obvious they are. All you have to do is look. But looking closer isn’t always looking better. The further you get along in your user experience of the Minions of Grindr, the less you can distinguish between them. The more that one square demands individual attention, the more inhuman the nature of their whole arrangement seems.

For you we bleed ourselves dry…

Minions have proven that finding a master is easy. Keeping one is the difficult part. Because even when they find their dom, they fumble the act of being dominated. #SQUADGOALS

In one flashback from Minions, we find the Minions surrounding the tomb of Count Dracula. When he arises, they surprise him with a birthday cake and gleefully swing the windows open, the sunlight blasting their master and evaporating him. If you add the “357” seen as candles on the birthday cake to Vlad the Impaler’s 1431 birthdate, we can assume the year of the flashback is 1788. The Minions wouldn’t see the Count again until 1922, when F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu was first released in Germany.

Following the recent theft of Murnau’s head, police reports¹ indicated that wax drippings were found around the gravesite. Many speculated that it was the debris from some satanic ritual held in deference to Murnau’s filmography, but maybe there’s a simpler explanation, a yellow explanation. Maybe the Minions looked into Grindr’s yellowish glow and finally got just what they needed to get off: themselves. Or maybe they kept that birthday cake around all these years, ready to lay it at their master’s feet, cooing things we still don’t understand, not a Lost Language but the language of the lost. The candles on the cake still burning bright, still dripping. Oh, forget about the wax. The head is ours.

by Keaton Ventura & Mike Spreter (Film Fun)

¹ Film Fun was the first to be questioned, but not the last.

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Darja Bajagić Bed Stuy Love Affair / New York

Amy Fitzpatrick has been missing since New Year’s Day 2008. Over the last several years,
her story has grown more lurid: she may have been involved with an Irish hit man,
an investigating lawyer’s dossiers were stolen, her brother was stabbed to death in an incident that involved their mother’s boyfriend, and her mother recently published a book on the entire experience.

With eyes wide open and lips pursed — the profile-picture-pose duckface — Fitzpatrick appears on the flyer for Darja Bajagić’s solo exhibition with Bed Stuy Love Affair. The missing person wears a trashy branded tank top, the inspiration for the show’s title: “Diesel.”

Exhibitions at Bed Stuy Love Affair often feel intertwined with their context, but Bajagić’s inhabits the matte-black RV’s cheap rolled-out linoleum floors and walls seamlessly — it belongs to the tidy creepiness of floral-print sheets neatly tucked in with 3mm poly overlaid on the bed. Rows of regularly sized half-page collages line the bedroom gallery, culled together from Bajagić’s archive of grainy murderabilia, gore, Blog del Narco stories, Instagram selfies, memorial photographs, porn, missing-persons reports, erotic cartoons, etc. One demi-melodrama seems to depict a teen-girl hangout, careful to never reveal an actual killer. TV crime shows typically redeem their content through narratives that restore a sense of elemental justice, but Bajagić’s wavy papers appear like pages from an unapologetic diary of life in an attention economy. It’s an old story about power; an image’s moral ambiguity is as liquid as cash.

Does Bajagić accrue some debt of responsibility by using these images? In noir films, women tend to be strong and willful if somewhat damned by the power struggles of men. With the video Amazing girls. With wonderful personalities. There saints. Talk to them about life. Love. Politics…., 2015, Bajagić unrepentantly takes us through and beyond this authorial dichotomy. She asks several women to recount the same personal details outside of a goth bar. One woman describes her sushi dinner before awkwardly recounting the tragic story of her father’s death. Her parting words? No regrets.

It is perhaps this nostalgia, built into the web’s ethos, that compels us to share, no matter how dumb and meaningless it can make us seem. Power saw the same potential. However, in shades of humor both dark and absurd, Bajagić keeps these ubiquitous and traumatic images from resolving into the fully irreconcilable darkness built into human affairs.

by Sam Korman

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Tony Karman on EXPO CHICAGO

The 4th edition of EXPO CHICAGO will take place September 17–20, presenting 140 galleries from 16 countries. Flash Art talked with director Tony Karman.

EXPO CHICAGO goes into its 4th edition. Has a lot changed since the first edition?

Our effort to bring collectors and art professionals to Chicago is the same, no matter if you are in the first or twentieth edition. But we have a bigger global reach now, and the programs that we have established are maturing and building a legacy. We are taking the In/Situ program outside, siting works in the park district of Chicago. We changed the time frame to September, which is not only better on the international art fair calendar, but it coincides with the opening of the fall art scene. It’s a beautiful time to be in town.

Is the focus on Chicago and the region?

You cannot just be a regional fair, but we must make an international fair that is strongly rooted in the region. We have programs focusing on China, Italy, Germany and France. Our marketing strategy is to make sure that we are representing the greater Mid West, including Toronto, Cincinnati, Saint Louis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Dallas and everywhere in between. All places where there are great institutions and active collectors. Also, we fly in institutional curators from the greater Mid West.

What makes Chicago interesting for the arts?

There are excellent institutions like the Art Institute, the School of the Art Institute, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and many others. The gallery scene is growing. World famous artists like Kerry James Marshall, Theaster Gates and Nick Cave live here. All those things are coming together to form Chicago.

You are also actively cooperating with art schools.

When you can see great talent coming out of schools in your backyard, that is a pretty strong opportunity to take advantage of. Many of the collectors who are coming to Chicago want to find the next generation.

How will the art fair develop?

My plans are not to expand in size, but to stay put. This is as big as the fair ever gets, with 140 galleries. Our growth will be not in size but in significance and quality.

by Jurriaan Benschop

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Le Corbusier Centre Pompidou / Paris

Le Corbusier’s retrospective at the Centre Pompidou would have left no traces on the art calendar had it not been accompanied by the release of three books detailing the architect’s relationship with Fascism.

Held on the fiftieth anniversary of his death, the show conspicuously ignored this issue, implicitly ceding its examination to journalistic scrutiny. While a birthday is never a good moment to start an in-depth analysis of such filiation, the total absence of any comment is an autobiographical distortion to say the least.

The exhibition is organized around the modulor, a metric system invented in 1944
by Le Corbusier in order to adapt each of his constructions to human scale. This starting point was chosen by the exhibition curators in order to dwell on the architect’s less-known artistic vein, which departed from functionalist dogma to adopt more symbolic tones. If the industrial still life that he realized in the context of the Purist movement shared similarities with his architectural achievements, the “acoustic” sculptures that he started in the 1940s overtly assumed expressionist accents. The exhibition offered few others highlights from his already well-covered oeuvre. His collaboration with Iannis Xenakis for the Phillips Pavilion realized in the context of the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958 is one of them. Conceived as an electronic poem, the building was an organic synthesis of music, architecture and the visual arts; composed by Edgard Varèse, the music accompanied a filmic collage of vivid colors, pop references and African sculptures. The interior design of the pavilion mimicked the stomach of a cow and could “digest” five hundred visitors every ten minutes, a prophetic gesture that seems to have foreshadowed some contemporary mega exhibitions.

Yet by eliding Le Corbusier’s affinities with the French fascist regime, the retrospective slips into an institutional liturgy immune to biographical facts. Due to what is known as the “Streisand effect,” a term that characterizes the media frenzy that follows an attempt to hide information from the public realm, this omission tends to cloud the celebration of the modernist icon.

by Charles Teyssou

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Ccru: Writings 1997–2003 / Time Spiral Press

No one knows exactly when or how the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, or Ccru,
came about. Even less is understood of who (or what) speaks through it.

Its existence has been denied more than once, and despite repeated attempts to excise all record of its strange intellectual and aesthetic experiments from institutional histories, it always seems to return, each strain more virulent than the last. The fateful story of the Ccru’s exile from academia in the late 1990s is well known, and frankly unsurprising, as the increasingly exploratory nature of the Unit’s research took it out of officially sanctioned spaces of academic investigation and into a weird underworld contoured by cyberpunk, systems theory, occultism, electronic music, vodou and mathematics. Its members’ status as pariahs of the university system — an ironic effect of their reckless fidelity to the Deleuzian maxim that it is the problem that determines the trajectory of thought (not the other way around) and that such investigations cannot be simply broken off when one pleases — grew in equal ratio to their notoriety in the philosophical, artistic and sonic underground of late twentieth-century Britain. As with any good subterranean microculture, rumors of strange activities abound. Intense drug use, shamanic rituals, disconcerting diagrams etched into nightclub walls, demonic possession, poetic odysseys of xenoglossic click-drift, snake-becomings, time travel, psychological collapse, schizophrenia — the kind of thing that happens when your research takes you somewhere “you” weren’t prepared to go.

Time Spiral Press’s publication of the Ccru’s collected writings marks an important juncture in this game of inoculation and recontamination. Up until now, only hearsay, grim speculation and several bizarre artifacts of uncertain authorship, dredged incautiously from the darkest depths of the Net, have served to give any real insight into the true nature of the collective’s unusual research program. “Unusual” is an understatement. What these documents unmask is nothing less than the fundamental dubiousness of phenomenal reality itself, with the master code of chronological time forming the backbone of a highly sophisticated control system.

Slotting together fragments of coded narrative, the reader finds themselves rapidly sucked down into a disorienting vortex of agents and double agents, insurgents and counterinsurgents, secret societies, dissident technocultures hooked on neuroelectronic drugs, alien abductees, rogue ethnographers, exiled priests, clandestine artificial intelligence research labs, experiments with synthetic time, mind control, demonic rituals gone awry … an incandescent field crosshatched with alien signal and saturated in zygonovic turbulence which maps — perfectly disturbingly — onto our own reality. Nothing is what it seems and no one can be trusted. Coherent conceptions of truth and falsity, reality and unreality, quickly begin to fall away. Splice in some H.P. Lovecraft, William S. Burroughs, PKD, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, ancient Sumerian mythology, British esotericism, Detroit techno and the biggest, baddest cosmic bootstrap paradox you’ll ever encounter, and you’re starting to get an idea of what these documents contain. The real climax, however, is the intricate elaboration of the Numogram, an occult numerical diagram and asignifying semiotic system retrieved from the depths of time by Miskatonic Virtual University’s resident expert in Lemurian cultural history, Professor Echidna Stillwell. The Numogram’s arithmetic elegance is bracing, and this alone would be enough to justify its place as the centerpiece of the anthology without ever having to mention anything so arcane as time-sorcery. And yet, adherents of Neolumerian lore, from the Black Atlantean cargo-cult, Hyper-C, to Professor Daniel Barker, Iris Carver and the K-Goths, routinely describe the Numogram as a “time-map” — a triumph of virtual cartography marking access points to the nonlinear backchannel of laminar time.

This is not just a story. It would be a mistake to treat these texts as fiction in any trivial sense of the word. Fiction, for starters, relies on a clear sense of truth and falsity. Following Ccru informant William Kaye’s elaboration of writing as “a sorcerous operation,” these texts should be understood as an explicit tactical assault. A gauntlet thrown down on the battlefield of cosmic warfare — what the Ccru has notoriously theorized as “hyperstition.” Any recommendation to delve into the contents of this volume (a recommendation earnestly advanced here) must be issued with the following warning: “Just because it’s not ‘real’ now, doesn’t mean it won’t be real at some point in the future. And once it’s real, in a sense, it’s always been.”

Two thousand and three ostensibly marks the date of the collective’s retreat into the shadows, yet it would be foolish to imagine that we have seen the last of the Ccru. This volume is a signal. If there is one thing these texts have to teach us, it’s that certain things can be counted on to return.

by Prue Nort

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Giovanni Anselmo Konrad Fischer Galerie / Berlin

The art of Giovanni Anselmo, now in his eighties, has an air of empirical objectivity that is belied by its persistently directing us beyond its material parameters. Minimal and conceptual idioms prove to be Romantically inclined.

“Oltramare” means both “ultramarine,” as in the blue pigment, and “overseas.” Oltramare appare (1978–2015) is a blue rectangle, painted with slabby thrusts of a palette knife onto the wall. The title’s double meaning defines it as an area of raw material as well as an abstraction (a rectangle) and a symbolic window onto an elsewhere. Its materialism is contingent on its illusionism. The palette knife stabs are both the waves on a blue sea and an index of performative process. The blue rectangle even comprehends an allusion to Yves Klein’s International Blue monochromes of a decade earlier.

The word “PARTICOLARE” is projected onto the foot of a wall or across the gallery, materializing on your leg as you pass. It means “part” but seems to contain a sense of the word “particle.” Light, the quantum physicists told us, is both particle and wave, both substance and energy. Anselmo has the word reflect on the medium that makes it visible (VISIBILE is a word he projected in a 1971 work), suggesting that we are looking at a material (present) as well a part of a whole (elsewhere) it can only negatively invoke. This is the defining modesty/extravagance of Anselmo’s art. He requires an evidential basis he can establish in order to taken an imaginative leap into the unknown. Apparently, his fascination with the properties and metaphorical implications of light began with an epiphanic experience in 1965 when he climbed the Stromboli volcano at dawn and found his shadow cast upwards towards infinity. While earth finds its bearing (2002–2015) is a mound of soil with a magnetic needle embedded in its crest, an image of the volcano’s orifice that places it at the center of an anecdote at the same time as pointing away to a remote time and place that leaves the work as a merely symbolic sieving of soil onto the gallery floor.

by Mark Prince

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