Arena /

Eric Mézil on the Collection Lambert / Avignon

On July 11th the Collection Lambert opens its new exhibition space in Avignon. Flash Art sits down with Director Eric Mézil to learn about the institution’s future programing.

What has changed at the Collection Lambert?

The size of the exhibition space is going to more than double, and over two thousand square meters will be added to the current facilities, for temporary exhibitions and permanent display. Many sectors that we have been developing over the last fifteen years — such as public and pedagogical programs — will have a proper setting. We are building an amphitheater and developing spaces devoted to the conservation of artworks. Cyrille and Laurent Berger, the two architects who were chosen to work on the Hôtel de Montfaucon, the second building, helped us structure the new spaces. The basement will be restructured too, with three exhibition rooms and a screening room. The display of the collection will change on a yearly basis, and we will host three exhibitions a year, which will encompass solo projects, thematic projects and conversations between ancient art and contemporary productions.

The Collection Lambert is primarily Yvon Lambert’s personal collection, and it seems to function like a museum. How does the fact that it’s a former dealer’s collection interact with its status as a museum?

The fact that Yvon Lambert decided to donate the collection to the state in 2012 manifested his impulse to make it permanent — to make it a museum. This is a very rare gesture, especially in France. We are not a foundation — there is no private money involved. We are a public institution, and we function thanks to public subventions from the state, from the region, from the department, from the city of Avignon. We are an international museum in the French province, and we program our exhibitions in collaboration with the world’s leading institutions.

How involved is Yvon Lambert in the collection that bears his name?

Yvon Lambert has shown us a great deal of trust and support, ever since we started working on the collection. He is involved in a very positive way. This summer, the collection will host a major exhibition devoted to the work and world of the theater and film director Patrice Chéreau. Yvon’s support — that of a major donor to the French state — has been invaluable in arranging loans from many public institutions, especially from museums of ancient art, of which he is very fond.

When there was Galerie Yvon Lambert in Paris, people used to wonder — wrongly — about the relation between the gallery and the collection — a very French problem. Yvon closed his gallery in December 2014; now these views can all be dismissed, and we can look back at what we have achieved over the last fifteen years and see how productive Yvon’s contribution has been. For instance, Yvon’s collaboration and friendship with Cy Twombly was entirely disconnected from the market during the last years of Twombly’s life. But we continued this collaboration with a scientific, museum model, with two exhibitions, and soon a third one will be devoted to his work. Today, Yvon is very involved in developing new projects with artists. The collection also enables him to look at artists he had not yet been able to discover properly. However, we will of course continue the narrative of his conversation with certain artists, such as André Cadere.

At the same time that you are opening the new Collection Lambert in Avignon, you are developing new projects in Vence. What is the relation between the collection in Vence and Avignon?

Yvon Lambert was born in Vence. He has very strong ties with this town, where such prominent artists as Matisse and Dubuffet worked. It gives us considerable freedom to work and experiment with art and artists in new ways. For instance, the large exhibition we will devote to Adel Abdessemed in 2016, all over Avignon, will be preceded this year by an exhibition in Vence. The two towns are only two and a half hours driving distance. There is something very special about Vence. The Minimalist artists Yvon has always been interested in, such as Brice Marden, Robert Mangold and Richard Tuttle, look a lot at Matisse’s work in Vence. With our spaces both in Avignon and in Vence, we aim to pay tribute to the Mediterranean light, something that has been so important to Yvon Lambert himself, and to so many artists.

by Donatien Grau

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Flash Art International no. 303 July – August – September 2015

We are pleased to announce that the July – August – September 2015 Issue is now out.

In this Issue we delve into the appropriationist, realist and photorealist tendencies that characterize the practices of several emerging figurative painters.

In 1972, Harald Szeemann’s Documenta 5 challenged the mass media’s agency over factual representation. Titled “Questioning Reality – Pictorial Worlds Today,” the exhibition provided what is perhaps the most exhaustive account of pictorial photorealism.

Today, the pervasiveness of the internet and the progressive erosion of the “concrete” through the emergence of virtual realities suggests a theoretical update to the notion of realism in painting. These manifold realities animate the work of painters, providing subject matter but also informing their pictorial language in terms of technique and style. The “pictorial worlds” narrated by Szeemann have developed into a “co-reality” in which the real and the virtual co-exist within and upon the painting itself. The “co-reality” of the painting suggests that the question of reality in contemporary art production is no longer limited to the depiction of everyday existence, but necessarily deals with strategies of image-making on the canvas.In four roundtables — involving painters Sascha Braunig, Jordan Casteel, Leidy Churchman, Van Hanos, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Tomasz Kowalski, Birgit Megerle, Alan Michael, Greg Parma Smith, Nolan Simon and Avery K. Singer and hosted by Lauren Cornell, Michele D’Aurizio, Eli Diner and Martha Kirszenbaum — we discuss different levels of cohesion between the imaginary and the actuality of painting.

We raise questions related to subject matter and contemporary image culture; labor, technique and connoisseurship; the “gendered” gaze; and, finally, the role of technology in “producing” reality. Alongside the roundtables, we envision an alternative history of photorealism through a series of essays examining individual paintings by lesser-known figures associated with this tendency. Here, Marco Tagliafierro, Eva Kenny, Eric Golo Stone, Mohammad Salemy, William J. Simmons and Philip Tinari explore works by, respectively, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Franz Gertsch, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Lisa Ruyter, Betty Tompkins and Wang Xingwei. These painters, each in their own specific way, address photorealist conventions while inviting a reconsideration of the historical premises of the genre.

Also, in this issue: “Tom’s House”, a visual project by Marie Angeletti.

In Arena: Ralph Rugoff on the 13th Biennale de Lyon; Max Schumann on Printed Matter, New York; Abdelmonem Alserkal on the Alserkal Avenue, Dubai; Ccru’s Writings 1997–2003; Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; Susan Cianciolo, New York; Night Club, Chicago; Matías Piñeiro, Buenos Aires; Alessio Antoniolli on Gasworks, London; Leo Xu, Shanghai; Bart De Baere, Defne Ayas and Nicolaus Schafhausen on the 6th Moscow Biennale; Alex Waterman and Will Holder’s Yes, But Is It Edible?

And in Reviews: “All the World’s Futures” and National Pavilions at the 56th Venice Biennale; Jutta Koether at Bortolami, New York; Rey Akdogan at Miguel Abreu, New York; Loretta Fahrenholz at Midway, Minneapolis; Emanuel Rossetti at Karma International, Los Angeles; Peter Saul at David Kordansky, Los Angeles; Viola Yeşiltaç at Boatos Fine Arts, Sao Paulo; Hilary Lloyd at Sadie Coles HQ, London; Bojan Šarčević at BQ, Berlin; Cindie Cheung at Flotowstrasse 11, Berlin; “Love for Three Oranges” at Gladstone, Brussels; Marcel Broodthaers at La Monnaie, Paris; Le Corbusier at Centre Pompidou, Paris; Vaclav Pozarek at Francesca Pia, Zürich; Lara Favaretto at MAXXI, Rome; Dóra Maurer at Vintage Gallery, Budapest; Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; Susanta Mandal at Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi; Liu Shiyuan at White Space, Beijing; Leung Chi Wo at OCAT, Shenzhen.

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Review /

Cheng Ran Galerie Urs Meile / Beijing

Through a range of video, installation and photographic works produced during his two-year residency at Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam, Cheng Ran experiments with the ways stories are told.

He subverts narrative language and logic, constructing illusions of infinite space and time adrift. In the “work-in-progress” video Storyboard Film (2015), Cheng Ran appropriates the storyboard technique in film production, documenting plans and alterations vis-à-vis the actual creation of the work. He describes a series of proposed scenes, shots and camera angles while doodling on computer drawing software. However, his monologue, sounding like fragmented muttering, does not coincide with what is visually represented. The unfinished film becomes a deconstruction of storytelling, an exercise in free association that reveals endless imaginative possibilities and our subconscious inclination to seek them in the abstract.

Before Falling Asleep (2013), a four-channel video installation, adapts popular bedtime fairytales sourced from Aesop’s fables, Ivan Krylov and Hans Christian Andersen. These fables — anthropomorphic in nature — are reinterpreted through Cheng Ran’s personification of an animal, a plant or a natural element. He reverses the symbolism of these objects, employing youthful actors to replace them; he thus gives faces to The River and the Pond and human forms to the pigeons in Aesop’s Two Pigeons. In his poetic and sensualistic retelling, the moral principles are lost and our perception of narrative space and time fades. Like a child, we fall into a liminal trance between a world of dreams and allegories and waking reality.

The exhibition title “In Course of the Miraculous” derives from Bas Jan Ader’s three-part performance In Search of the Miraculous, which culminated when Ader disappeared at sea while crossing the Atlantic in a one-man boat — an art world fable in itself. Ader’s narratives are both highly personal and obscure; the success of his work is never in its completion, but in its undertaking. It is purposeful in intention and conception, simple in execution. Cheng Ran also embodies this spirit. Continuing to explore the spatial and temporal territories between the language of storytelling and its visual elements, he leaves us anticipating his return from across the void.

by Sarah Sulistio

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News /

Peter Kersten on Dial Records / Hamburg

Dial Records is a music label founded in 1999 in Hamburg by Peter Kersten and David Lieske. On the occasion of the release of All, a compilation curated by Carsten Jost and Bianca Hauser to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the label, Flash Art talked with Peter Kersten.

How have the more radical transformations of clubbing culture affected the label?

Throughout the years Dial Records has always been a nonconformist label seeking a particular variety of club music — ambient, piano works, suicidal guitar drones — whatever seems to be interesting and relevant for us. With the appearance of James K, DJ Richard and Dawn Mok in the compilation All we are happy to continue our approach. Stefan Tcherepnin contributed with the United Brothers theme “I Want To Be Art,” which serves also as a link to the program of our gallery Mathew, based in Berlin and New York.

Does the fact that you are based in Germany, specifically in Hamburg, affect your programming in any way?

Dial is and has always been an international imprint. We never regarded the label as being German or American, just because we work and live in New York City, Berlin and Hamburg. We’ve never even had a proper office in these cities. That is maybe one reason why the label never got stuck inside a certain scene or genre.

The past few months have been marked by two releases of your solo project Lawrence: A Day in the Life for Mule Musiq, and Manhattan for Smallville. How do you deal with your dual role of owning and directing a record label and being a music producer yourself?

Plus touring as a DJ, having the band Sky Walking and running two galleries in New York and Berlin? It is just amazing to be part of so many influential projects. I can’t complain about boredom in my life — it has always been a bit too exciting.

by Michele D’Aurizio

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Arena /

Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island

U., the narrator in Satin Island, a new novel by Tom McCarthy, takes pains to lower reader expectations right at the outset of the book. “Events!” he says in an aside.

“If you want those, you’d best stop reading now.” Instead, what he offers is a claustrophobic glimpse at the inner workings of his mind as he tries to compile the Great Report, an ethnographic document that is meant to be the “first and last word on our age” — the age being presumably now, and the “us” being himself and his audience. Tasked to do so by his boss, Peyton, a corporate guru of sorts who speaks in meaningless aphorisms — “A city has no ‘character’; it is a schizoid headspace, filled with the cacophony of contradiction,” for example — U., an anthropologist, is less interested in discovering universal truth, and more in following the threads of his own dull imagination. Topics that consume him — including parachute deaths, oil spills and his desk at home — are peppered with references to theories posited by Erwin Schrödinger, Alai Badiou, Gilles Deleuze and his hero, Claude Lévi Strauss, as if to bolster his own brilliance through name dropping.

The book is written very much in McCarthy’s signature style. Details are not merely mentioned; rather, they are obsessively described in flat, precise language that renders them colorless, beaten into the ground, so that when one pictures a scene from the novel, they see not a landscape, but rather a computer simulation emptied of human life. The difference between Satin Island and Remainder, a book about a man who recreates a catastrophic accident until he becomes the creator of the catastrophe himself, is that the former does not follow a linear narrative. Instead, it experiments with a current trend in literature — a trend that increasingly reads like laziness on the part of the writer. McCarthy is writing less a novel than a very, very long blog post, inserting anecdotes and observations as they come, and then leaving them hanging in the air, assuming that in their lack of resolution, the reader will consider them profound truths to be mulled over. It’s a technique also used by writers like Ben Lerner and Karl Ove Knausgaard, with better success — an obsessive description of the personal is used as a sort of allegory for contemporary life. But the role of a writer, arguably, is not merely to float ideas; it is to shed light on what has previously remained formless or unspoken. The most profound realization U. has in the entirety of Satin Island is that immortality may be gained by hiring someone to send text messages after they die — something that anyone who knows a deceased person with a Facebook account has already realized.

Despite the desire of the narrator in Remainder not to create events, but rather, to replicate them in exact, precise detail, the novel lent itself well to a cinematic adaptation by Omer Fast, which is completed but has yet to be released. The story had a resolution, and moreover, a gloriously violent one. It is hard to imagine that Satin Island could ever be made into a feature film — perhaps instead an installation in a colorless, gray box, with rectangular, gray boxes to sit on, and on screens scattered throughout the room, recreations of U.’s dreams, which are the only interesting thing about him, or the entire novel. In fact, the sort of floating, untethered format of Satin Island, in which the contemporary is shown in spits and bursts, fits itself perfectly in the current environment of the art world, which is dominated by exhibitions that capture an ahistoric “nowness” backed by mid-20th century theory but without context.

Toward the end of the novel, U’s self-reflexive narrative is broken by Madison, his occasional lover. She tells him a story about being arrested in 2001 while protesting a G8 summit in Genoa. After being beaten by police, she is taken to a villa outside the city. There, she is left in a room with a portly man who first shocks her with a cattle prod, and then directs her in a series of strange, vaguely erotic poses. Despite her exhaustion, he forces her to dance for hours. By the end, he is sobbing in ecstasy. Afterward, she falls into a deep sleep and then catches a bus to Torino-Caselle.

Madison’s story is rich with texture — a Buñuel film in a single chapter. But the implausibility of the situation she describes, especially given the fairly believable situations that take place in the rest of the novel — for example, U. goes to conferences and visits his friend in the hospital — calls into question whether or not U. is a reliable narrator. And if he’s an anthropologist working in the basement of a corporation, then does the U. stand in for “you,” the reader? And if that’s the case, is the Great Report, which U. never finishes, and everyone, even Peyton, seems to forget about, ultimately this novel? In the sort of formless void the narrative creates, anything is possible — the point being that McCarthy asks “you” to do the work, and absolves himself of the responsibility early on.

Satin Island is revealed to be an industrial dump of an island in one of U.’s dreams — he connects this place to the real world Staten Island. When U. travels to New York for a symposium, he takes the subway down to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal with the intention of connecting his dream world to the physical one, and ultimately, decides not to get on the ferry. To do so, he said, would be “meaningless.” In this case, the problem is not only the lack of resolution — if Satin Island in itself is meaningless, is that a comment on the meaninglessness of signs? — but also the venture into the real. The way U. describes not only the New York Harbor, but also the passengers of the ferry, is lazy — he says that the people waiting for the ferry are “bored, frumpy, tired, unhealthy, overweight and generally just very, very normal,” a generalizing observation that reads more like a judgment. The book works best when it frees itself from the mundane, and allows dreams to color the frumpy phrases. If only McCarthy had spent more time connecting the dots than proclaiming there were dots to be connected.

by Brienne Walsh

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LA Talks /

Archive Fever / ROGERS

Opened in October 2014, ROGERS is a storefront art space in Cypress Park, a neighborhood on the Eastside of Los Angeles. It is run by a shadowy curatorial collective. In lieu of a website or an Instagram feed, ROGERS has a Yelp page where exhibitions are announced and documented in terse phrasings and fuzzy images. They currently enjoy a perfect five-star rating.   

Why “ROGERS”?

We all had an admiration of the art of Roger Payne as his treatment of the frame reminded us of Pere Borrell del Caso’s Escaping Criticism (1874). This became a metaphor for the space of the gallery. At the same time, we were all interested in social and communal pain as we watched the slowing-down Roger Federer end his epic career. And of course the colloquial CB talk of “roger that” meaning, in all ways, the affirmative, we got it! The gallery becomes an explosion that insists on breaking social conventional structures of the commercial gallery, yet always a depressing resignation of the winding-down of an aspiration: that has a depressive and analytic tone, knowing one is at the end of a moment just as we have begun.

What were the organizing principles, interests and intentions in creating an anonymous, collectively run art space?  

There is an influx of spaces around town and the idea was to do something as casual as possible. No exhibition cycle as such, no formatting or scheduling constraints, no program, and no so-called curatorial vision. We wanted to revisit the idea of “paper exhibitions,” but almost taking it too seriously while simultaneously disregarding it on the spot, and ending up with exhibitions in the space. To play with the idea of decision making in curating, and how collectively we can make shows that are not coming out of a kind of consensus, as is usually the case – so in a way thinking about the questions of taste, network, publicity and visibility. Therefore we also, for instance, only have a Yelp page that our visitors can like and in a way thinking about the conditions of criticism today.

Iconic Artworks from 1920s to Present from the collection of Aaron Moulton w lamps by Pentti Monkkonen” was your first exhibition. What are the contents of Aaron Moulton’s archive? 

The idea behind that show was to throw Aaron’s archive into the woods. The archive represented a period of Moulton’s active engagement with documentation of artwork and how it’s represented in print media – pre/post-internet questions around circulation, dissemination and reception of art beyond its immediate context and therefore expanding its site/context/reception, etc. But the trees here turned the gallery into the kind of opening, or Lichtung, as Heidegger refers to. Here the archive is more of a fragment, a cul-de-sac, a “woodpath” that perpetually reaches out and yet never throws itself out of the woods.

Your second show was George Stoll. The exhibition, according to your Yelp page, consisted of “works that haven’t been shown bc the body of work evolved or turned into something else, some prototypes and preliminary models.” What was your interest in showing these abandoned pieces and prototypes?

It mainly came out of the discussions with the artist. The question, which is a very common question, is when is the moment of completeness, what separates a prototype from a work? Perhaps the exhibition was the respondent to the call, the famous telephone call that Ronell talks about. We were hoping to respond to the call of the work that was rarely seen and that the ideas in the works are very much visible in lots of current works that come many years after George’s experiments.

Your current show is Oliver Payne and Nick Relph’s “Mixtape.” As I understand it, you’ve recreated the original installation from Gavin Brown in 2002. How did this come about?

When the idea of this show was presented to us, we were particularly interested in showing this piece that, in a way, browses through the rapid changes in subculture and how it, in a way, now kind of resonates in the neighborhood as the cultural landscape of this side of town is going under transformation. It also very much sets precedence to lots of works that followed it that set similar conceptual structures and brings together diverse sets of cultural references but is now streamlined with recent digital technology and such.

In all three of the exhibitions so far there seems to be a bit of “archive fever” going on. Was this planned? Do you see the program as predominantly concerned with the archival in some way?

We were really thinking about how Bassam el Baroni thinks about contemporary art as the moment when the canon was replaced by the archive. He talks at length about this, but in general this also coincides with the expansion of the art world and globalism in general. So while ROGERS is not strictly speaking an archival research project, it does look at how these kind of practices are now the everyday material of making exhibitions.

by Eli Diner

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