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Adam Pendleton’s Black Dada Reader

The assembled texts in Adam Pendleton’s Black Dada Reader (2017) are varied, difficult and niche in all the weirdest ways. Black Dada is a theoretical proposition, “a way to talk about the future while talking about the past,” the American artist explains in his manifesto. The poets and artists and literary theorists he selects each deconstruct, in their own way, the significance of both representation and language.

Although at first writings by the likes of Hugo Ball, W.E.B. Du Bois, LeRoi Jones, Ron Silliman and Gertrude Stein seem discordant alongside artist projects by Ad Reinhardt, Adrian Piper, William Pope.L, Sun Ra and Thomas Hirschhorn, under the general concept of Black Dada they function well because of how they inform one another. It is implied that in conjunction their ideas offer an approach to understanding Black Dada as a concept.

The nearly four-hundred-page hardcover book is an expanded version of a 2011 spiral-bound zine of photocopied texts Pendleton brought together to contextualize his work. This new version is organized into parts. It opens with several original essays by critics and curators presenting different interpretations of Black Dada and how it informs Pendleton’s performance, video, painting and photographic collage. Then the “FOUNDATIONS,” “LANGUAGE” and “ARTIST’S POSITIONS” sections round out a broad foundation of influences and exemplars of the concept.

Pendleton is concerned with black life and the absurdity of our present grammars of being. “It has been said that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, but what about the people the master treated as tools? That is, the ‘tools’ that were themselves capable of practicing abstraction, those three-fifths?” Pendleton asks in his afterword. “Black Dada is the name I borrow for the immanent historical possibility of this transformation: Black for the open-ended signifier projected onto resisting objects, Dada for yes, yes, the double affirmation of their refusal.” In many ways Dada allows a reconsideration of traditional “identity politics” discourses, which have been so inextricably tied to representation. Pendleton wants an afro-conceptualism. He suggests the subject-self can shift away from objecthood through abstraction, that politics are in fact an implicit part of abstraction.

In a very straightforward way, Black Dada Reader provides a theoretical background for engaging with Pendleton’s practice. By selecting the texts and outlining what Black Dada came from and can be, the artist deftly shapes an emergent concept.

by Yaniya Lee

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TV 70 Fondazione Prada / Milan

Conceived by Francesco Vezzoli with the aim of memorializing the role played by RAI, Italy’s public broadcasting company, in the evolution of Italian culture, “TV 70: Francesco Vezzoli guarda la Rai” is a journey through the innovations promoted by RAI’s palimpsests in the years between 1968 and the 1980s. Looking in particular at artists’ contributions to the “life” of television, the exhibition reflects on the ways in which Italian art has questioned the argumentative mechanisms of mass media.

“TV 70” proceeds through juxtapositions of Italian artworks and clips of RAI broadcasts. A corridor dotted with newscasts on the dramatic events that marked the so-called Years of Lead opens with Nanni Balestrini’s series “Non capiterà mai più” (It will never happen again, 1969-72), cut-ups of newspaper titles evoking the ideological cacophony of the era. At the end of the corridor, a film by Ketty La Rocca, the television adaptation of her Appendice per una supplica (Appendix for a Prayer, 1972), presents sign language as a form of ancestral communication, unmediated by words.

In another room some of RAI’s first women presenters, Raffaella Carrà, Mina and the Kessler twins, lampoon the tastes of male audiences in a clip from the cult variety show Milleluci. The video is projected on a group of works by Tomaso Binga, alias Bianca Pucciarelli, whose research on the female body emerged in response to the constraints of a still-patriarchal society.

These are only two examples of the many apt matches between art and television that the exhibition uncovers. By reviewing the linguistic experiments pursued by these two entangled sources of visual production, “TV 70” comes to sublimate the contradictions at the basis of contemporary Italian culture’s idiosyncratic identity. That Vezzoli is a talented interpreter of Italian imagery is well known; however, with this show, he offers a more passionate and, at the same time, scathing reading. And one might say he achieves this as a true public intellectual — just like those legendary characters who once were at the forefront of popular cultural production.

by Michele D’Aurizio

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Canton Express M+ Pavilion / Hong Kong

Celebrating a donation from Chinese collector Guan Yi, M+ Pavilion’s “Canton Express” restages the seminal show of the same name originally conceived in 2003 by curator Hou Hanru as part of the 50th Venice Biennale’s “Zone of Urgency” section.

“Canton Express” brought together artists from the Pearl River Delta, showcasing the first generation of Chinese practitioners concerned with a new globalized reality. At the M+ Pavilion, the original rectangular layout designed by artist Zheng Guogu has been adapted to the new exhibition space. Liang Juhui’s City (2003), a pagoda-like tower housing numerous transparencies of Chinese people photographed from behind in urban environments, has seemingly been cut down from its original thirteen layers to nine layers in order to fit the height of the exhibition space. Despite the recontextualization in a neat white box, these works remain powerful examples of artists reflecting on the process of urbanization.

Many of the works in the original exhibition were damaged or even lost. Some have been remade, like Feng Qianyu’s Difficult to Birth (2003), in which the original pupa-shaped photo holder is now a plain board; others were fixed, like Duan Jianyu’s Artistic Chicken (2003) — of the original one hundred pieces only forty survived, and these needed to be repainted by the artist. What’s missing is the broadcast project Can You See? by Xu Tan and Jin Jiangbo, in which the Arsenale exhibition site in Venice was connected with the Shanghai nonprofit Biz-art via streaming video feed.

U-theque Organization (Ou Ning and Cao Fei) re-present their short film San Yuan Li (2001) about the urban village of Sanyuanli — a visual symphony with a soundtrack by Li Jingsong. Zheng Guogu has reiterated the installation Sample Room, a nod to the productivity of Yangjiang, where forty percent of the world’s kitchenware is produced.

A reading corner allows visitors to browse documentation of the 2003 exhibition. A “mind map,” co-created by Hou Hanru and AAA’s senior researcher Anthony Weng, maps out key exhibitions, events and organizations related to the PRD’s art scene. Here one can also find the story of where the title “Canton Express” came from: apparently, the curator borrowed it from a Cantonese fast-food chain in Glasgow.

by Gu Ling

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On Latinx Art / Pacific Standard Time

Every few years, the Getty embarks on something called Pacific Standard Time (PST), a bat-signal to Los Angeles’s institutions, galleries and art spaces to fall in line with a “city-wide initiative” pertaining to a specific subject. For the 2017–18 edition, the Getty distributed a funding pool of over $15 million dollars¹ for projects, exhibitions and performances presented under the banner “LA/LA: Latin American & Latino Art in LA,” with the tagline “A Celebration Beyond Borders.”

Held in 2011–12, the inaugural edition, “PST: Art in L.A. 1945–1980,” dealt with post-modern Southern California art up until around the time the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) was founded, giving L.A. its first world-class hometown contemporary art museum, and making the world take note of an L.A. art scene that was considered theretofore provincial.

Some, including The New York Times’s Roberta Smith, think that PST’s didactic program of pre-1980 L.A. art finally javelined the metropolitan area onto a two-city art-hub map with New York, but others, like Dave Hickey, found it to be garishly boosterist. “It’s corny,” he said in an interview, also in The New York Times, saying it was something a Denver might do.

The second PST, “Modern Architecture in L.A.,” which took place in the summer of 2013 and was much less publicized and impactful, included some hidden gems like Machine Project’s performance super-series, but was ultimately miss-able by all except denizens of Angeleno architecture.

With “LA/LA” beginning in September 2017 and running through January 2018, the Getty’s series has returned bigger than ever, involving seventy institutions from San Diego to Santa Barbara to Palm Springs and, of course, the Greater L.A. area. The celebratory verbiage used for this particular iteration is a call for institutions to explore “important developments in Latino and Latin American art and performance in dialogue with Los Angeles.”

Most institutions obey the edict decreed by the Getty, though involving Santa Barbara and Palm Springs makes the “dialogue with Los Angeles” part a bit of a misnomer. And though most of the exhibitions will open after the official launch on September 14, some have already been on view through the summer, including MOCA’s presentation of work by Brazilian multimedia artist Anna Maria Maiolino; a Carlos Almaraz painting show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); and a group show called “Home—So Different, So Appealing,” also at LACMA.

Some of the more promising exhibitions opening in September include the cleverly titled “unDocumenta” at the Oceanside Museum of Art, an exhibition about being undocumented in the United States; “The US-Mexico Border: Place, Imagination, and Possibility” at the Craft & Folk Art Museum; “Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago” at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach; “Radical Women: Latin American Art 1960–1985” at the Hammer; “¡Murales Rebeldes!: L.A. Chicana/o Murals Under Siege” at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and California Historical Society; and Laura Aguilar at the Vincent Price Museum, to name a few.

Whereas the parameters of the first PST were time-based, this one is about location, but also, unavoidably, about race. The 2010 U.S. Census found that the population of L.A. is nearly half (forty-seven to forty-nine percent) Latinx. But, for instance, Los Angeles’s contemporary art biennial, the Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A., featured only eight percent Latinx artists in 2016. I can think of about five Latinx-specific art institutions in the L.A. area, and one of those, MOLAA, is in Long Beach.

The questions Pacific Standard Time raises about race and representation are also questions about the power structure of the art world that controls those representations. Problems with unevenly distributed funding betray larger problems in the description of the initiative, as originally promoted by the Getty.

How does it make sense that institutions that are not specifically Latinx-leaning, like LACMA and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, are given huge grants of $825,000 and $585,000 respectively, while Boyle Heights–based Self-Help Graphics & Art — one of those rare Latinx-specific nonprofits in L.A. — is awarded $36,000? The problems go beyond the critical disparity in funding, and into a far more fundamental issue of language.

Namely, “Latino” is a gendered term — it’s increasingly common to use the term “Latinx” when referring to all people of Latin American. It’s a niggling point, but I have a hard time trusting a research institute that is controlling the narrative of art being exhibited in Los Angeles for nearly half a year if it can’t even get the verbiage of the exhibition straight from the start. The term Latinx is still relatively new — it first emerged on the internet in the early 2000s — but it is widespread, and this was a great opportunity for the Getty to teach about the term.

Not only that, but it was a great opportunity to address the biggest and most complex issue facing Latinx communities in Los Angeles right now, namely that of gentrification. There is a battle in Boyle Heights, with (mostly Latinx) residents boycotting galleries, and it is frustrating to see that no one could come up with a way to add this to the discourse in such a public sphere built for “important developments in Latino and Latin American art and performance in dialogue with Los Angeles.” It makes the whole conceit seem less “corny” and boosterist, and more colonialist and revisionist, as if its purpose were to provide a space for non-Latinx players to make safe, comfortable arguments.

While there are relevant Latinx artists, curators and writers in L.A., and there are some interesting Latinx independent voices being brought into the city to curate shows — Latinx-led institutions in the L.A. art world are few and far between. If Pacific Standard Time serves as some sort of corrective, it also points out institutional concerns that need further correcting. The Getty is admirably putting a spotlight on Latinx art for the season, but will it continue to foster the dialogue after the initiative ends?

Considering the disparity between L.A.’s demographics and the demographics of its art world, dismantling the status quo feels urgently necessary—here’s hoping the Getty helps engender those conversations beyond early 2018. If nothing else, Pacific Standard Time proves that there’s plenty of excellent Latinx art to draw from.

by Maxwell Williams

¹ A complete list of grants for Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibitions and programs can be found here.


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Feeling the Breeze ART-O-RAMA / Marseille

The eleventh edition of ART-O-RAMA, originally launched in 2007, took place at the end of August in the suggestive urban space of La Friche la Belle de Mai, previously a tobacco factory, in Marseille, South of France. In recent years, the nontraditional Marseillese art fair has grown considerably, but it always remains devoted to its original format in which a selection of local and international galleries are invited to curate their booths alongside artist projects. The goal is to appear more like an exhibition space than a traditional fair.

Flash Art spoke to director Jérôme Pantalacci and curator Luigi Fassi, together with Vincent Honoré, in charge of this year’s CURATORS TOURS project.

ART-O-RAMA has a more relaxed and intimate dimension compared to other international art fairs. In your opinion, what are ART-O-RAMA’s strengths?

Jérôme Pantalacci: ART-O-RAMA is held late August, in Marseille, which is located between the French Riviera, Camargue and Luberon — three areas where many people (collectors, gallerists, artists) go on vacation. We kick off the season after the summer break. People are relaxed because you can still feel the sweet breeze of holidays in the air.

We also put a lot less economic pressure on gallerists and focus on the artistic proposal. Therefore, gallerists are more relaxed and so are collectors. Everybody is able to take time to meet each other, to discuss and to discover. It is, obviously, also the small number of exhibitors that gives you the possibility to see everything and everyone. As we focus on artist projects and give the gallerists a lot of freedom, the fair doesn’t look like a traditional art fair. Each exhibitor has to design their own booth. We do not have a predefined size or shape. The spaces are mainly open and quite large, which creates visual connections between the different proposals and allows people to circulate even more.

What’s the story behind ART-O-RAMA’s name?

JP: When I was looking for a name, I didn’t want anything that sounded like “Art Marseille.” I wanted a name that contained “art” and which could be used in different languages without denying the link to Marseille. An artist and friend, Olivier Millagou, who is involved in the artistic committee, made a work titled SURF-O-RAMA. I thought that if we replaced “surf” with “art” that could work. So, I asked him for the right to use his idea and he agreed.

How do you envision the future of ART-O-RAMA?

JP: Our aim is not so much about growing bigger. We could easily fill the space with sixty galleries if we wanted to, and make it a profitable business. That is not the core of the project. This year we have twenty-six galleries, six publishers and one nonprofit art space. We will probably have more exhibitors next year, but just enough to amplify a bit the project without losing the spirit of the fair. Our goal is that each exhibitor has enough space to develop their project.

In the future we want to be even more international. Galleries come mainly from Europe and a little bit from the U.S. We want to enhance our Mediterranean connections, and are very keen to develop Southern Europe, Northern Africa and a Middle Eastern perspective — without losing the links with Eastern and Northern Europe, obviously. Marseille is a good point of connection between the three continents. We pay attention to American, Asian and African art scenes as well.

Can you share with us some special news about the 2018 edition? Tell us about some of the programming you have developed for the next edition.

JP: Next year’s edition is taking place from August 31 to September 2, 2018, and will be called “ART-O-RAMA 2018, By the Sea,” as we will change the location of the fair from the industrial and cultural site of La Friche la Belle de Mai to the MJ1 maritime hangar. The MJ1 Hangar is the last shipping warehouse in Marseille. Located in La Joliette waterfront next to the Mucem, this gigantic site has been renovated into a cultural center by the Port of Marseille as part of the general EuroMediterranean project and the European Capital of Culture in 2013. It is a larger venue, and very well located. The fair will be situated between many visual as well as symbolic views: the city on both sides, and in front, the sea horizon, with Marseille’s islands and North Africa beyond them.

Luigi, last year you were invited by ART-O-RAMA to curate the Show Room section. This year you lead the first edition of CURATOR TOURS. What was your expectation for this new role? And how did the galleries react?

Luigi Fassi: Show Room is a series of four solo shows organized by selecting artists who have graduated from art academies in Southern France within the last five years. CURATOR TOURS, initiated by the fair in 2017, offers collectors and other visitors the chance to explore the fair as if it were an exhibition, under the guidance of two curators, me and Vincent Honoré. I have envisioned it as a proper show, titled “Transformative Experience,” one in which you make visitors realize how engaging and transformative a visit to an art fair can be.

During one of your tours you said, “Art can help the fact that you can perceive things not rationally.” Starting from this consideration, would you like to reveal to us three of your favorite artworks that provoked irrational feelings?

LF: Two laser-cut drawings on fabric by Marieta Chirulescu; Vajiko Chachkhiani’s Elephant On Her Way to Vanish, an attempt to translate poems by American poet Edna St.Vincent Millay into sculpture; and Utopias are for Birds by Alvaro Urbano, birdhouses built after unrealized twentieth-century utopian architectural projects.

by Marta Massara

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Heart of the Tin Man M WOODS / Beijing

The exhibition “Heart of the Tin Man” explores new intimacies between humans and intelligent machines. As a backdrop, museum venue M WOODS contrasts untreated industrial interiors, stripped back for this show, with pristine contemporary art spaces. Such divergence is echoed in works ranging from the shiny, post-internet aesthetic of a VR shopping experience, here created by the Institute for New Feeling, to a raw, unsophisticated informality.

Sheets of clear acrylic, printed with a cloud of anonymous e-mail addresses, slouch against the wall in aaajiao’s (Xu Wenkai) Email Trek (2016). Similarly laid-back, depositing murky sediment where they sit in a fridge, are Pamela Rosenkranz’s collection of suspicious looking potions in mineral-water bottles. Any guarantee of purity has been compromised.

In common with the organizers of other recent post-human exhibitions, the show’s curator and cofounder of M WOODS, Michael Xufu Huang, is wed to visions of android consciousness as found in movies such as Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015) and Andrew Stanton’s WALL-E (2008), rather than the intellectual capabilities of OK Google or of current smart phones and iPads. The international array of artists featured are used to creating interactive works that ask the viewer to suspend disbelief: a pair of animatronic eyes, set in the wall at wheelchair-user height, present a cartoon-like response in Ryan Gander’s Dominae Illud Opus Populare (2016). Their appealing manner suggests that interactions with nonhuman devices can be fun. Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Beneath the Surface (2015), on the other hand, proclaims with similarly graphic directness that such interactions are deadly serious. Hamdan’s work fills the room with an oppressive sonic mantra accompanied by stark black-and-white images of acoustic waves. Both sound and image correspond to the microsecond when a lie detection machine makes its verdict — a judgment that can change the course of a life.

“Heart of the Tin Man” proposes that human faith in data processing has evolved to expect something like clairvoyance. Computers, previously used to manage bank accounts and guide intercontinental missiles, are now invited to be involved in the emotional deliberations of human affairs.

by Andrew Stooke

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