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Anselm Franke on the 10th SHANGHAI BIENNALE

You have been acknowledged for constructing a unique curatorial model that incorporates your wide-ranging interests such as science and literature. Tell me your approach to the biennial format, and how you conceived the theme ‘Social Factory’ for Shanghai?

We tried to show how an exhibition’s thematic framing can produce questions with a wide range of repercussions in the social imaginary of various generations. The new generation thinks of social networks, the old one of the social question, for example. I always try to work with the tension between the works tendencies and the title of an exhibition, which has a powerful impact on how people look. So you could say that while many works reflect on the forces that produce society, all of them negate the very idea that society could be produced, or function like a factory. To amplify the contradictions of Chinese society, especially against the backdrop of Shanghai as a futuristic megacity, we have also included a whole section on the Chinese woodcut in the 20th century, which reflects artistic struggles, social mobilization and ideology.

 

You curated the Taipei Biennial just two years ago. How did this inform your understanding of Chinese modernity?  

How to modernize, and what kind of modern society to construct: These questions have defined Chinese history since the 19th century, often with very violent results, which overshadow the present and bear a lot potential for conflict for the future. In Taipei, our references to the history of literature and mythology provided a foil on which this history, and its impact on the present, could be registered. Now, for Shanghai, it was important to make references to Chinese tradition and connect them to critical questions — especially because we see a rising interest in the traditional forms in artistic production, and it is important to dissociate them from a narrow identitarian nationalism.

 

What is the relationship between the production of the social and contemporary art? Is the overall tone of the show a positive one?

Contemporary art is both a force in the production of subjectivity today (and in the past, think of the role of museums for constructing bourgeois society), and it enables us to reflect on the frameworks within which such production today takes place. Within the given framework, we tried to make an exhibition as a public site in which meaning, signification and difference — and hence, society — is negotiated in an exemplary, antagonistic and pluralistic fashion. Yes, the tone is actually really positive, but on guard.

 

What was the selection process for the participating artists?

We identified artists from China and the region whose work breaks new grounds and has substance, but is not necessarily in the focus of the recent market culture. We also identified a few key artists whose work could reflect and carry the theme — I think of Stephen Willats, Chen Chieh-jen, Joseph Cornell, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Ming Wong, Edgar Arceneaux and several others — and built the remaining exhibition around their work in a rather playful manner.

by Lucy Rees

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Russian Performance Garage Museum / Moscow

Russian performance as a medium of expression over the past one hundred years, from the 1913 Futurist opera Victory over the Sun to the controversial feminist punk group Pussy Riot.

The show is the culmination of four years of research and the collaborative efforts of curators, artists and specialists in art history, gender studies, theater and music. It is easily the most ambitious survey of Russian performance ever realized.

During the era of the Soviet Union, many artists were poorly understood in their home country. Performances by underground groups such as TOTART or SZ often took place in private apartments or on the outskirts of Moscow.

By selecting the most relevant works from each era, “Russian Performance” provides a chronological panorama in an international context. The curators divided the show into five rooms, each representing an iconic period in Russian art history. The last room is entirely dedicated to contemporary Russian   performers, including Elena Kovylina, Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe and Polina Kanis. The latter was nominated for the Innovation Award and the Kandinsky Prize, Russia’s two most prestigious art prizes.

Garage curators Yulia Aksenova and Sasha Obukhova also experimented with the fundamental aspects of performance: body, time and space. For example, a mobile application enhances the exhibition experience by allowing visitors to select a route according to theme: costume, body, text, sound, etc.

Garage also confirms its educational commitment by programming an impressive series of lectures, film screenings and children’s activities at the Garage Education Center.

More than just a history of performance, the exhibition is an immersive primer to better understanding one hundred years of Russian social, political and aesthetic history.

by Maulde Cuérel

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Daniel Baumann on his appointment as Director of Kunsthalle Zurich

You helped found New Jerseyy, a project space in Basel that has been instrumental in the development of the emerging Swiss art scene. Do you see your appointment as director of the Kunsthalle Zurich as the logical evolution of your role in the local context? And how will your experience at New Jerseyy affect your directorship at the Kunsthalle?

New Jerseyy was first a team of four, then of six: Mathis Altmann, Tobias Madison, Emanuel Rossetti, Dan Solbach, Anina Trösch and me. This experience of working as a team comes with me. As a group, you are your first public, and you discuss ideas together to make them better. The second thing I take to Zurich is New Jerseyy’s ambition to build a scene locally by bringing people in from Basel, Zurich and all over. We had a similar ambition for the 2013 Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, and both experiences made it clear that being locally relevant doesn’t mean being provincial. The third New Jerseyy experience might be called “irreverence,” not toward the art, but toward the languages, rituals and discourses the institutions are built on.

 

Your predecessor, Beatrix Ruf, ran the Kunsthalle for almost thirteen years, during which she organized a number of exhibitions that marked the zeitgeist in the art world. How do you see Ruf’s legacy relative to your vision for the institution?

Bernhard Bürgi, the Kunsthalle’s first director, and Beatrix Ruf brought this institution to fame and helped to make Zurich the renowned place it is. However, within the last ten or so years, the art world drastically changed. It used to be rather a small place. Today, it’s not even one world anymore: there is no art world, but art worlds served by hundreds of biennials and art fairs, thousands of galleries, collectors, curators, critics and the never-sleeping Internet. So what is the role of a Kunsthalle today? It remains a platform for artists, their thinking and their works. It is a place where our ideas of art are celebrated, questioned and expanded; it is an actor in a city, and it should take you, as often as possible, contre-pied.

 

Can you share some insight into your future program at the Kunsthalle?

Not yet. Or let me turn things around. Who is our public? Apparently it’s tiny compared to the attention and the glamour we get. Maybe 3%? So the future program of the Kunsthalle Zurich will go out there to also seduce some of the 97%.

by Michele D’Aurizio

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Item Idem Johannes Vogt / New York

Unease will creep in when one is openly confronted with guilty pleasures and private vices. Such is the case with French artist Cyril Duval’s sculptures, those installations and mantelpieces composed of neatly arranged, easily recognizable commercial products propped up by concrete cinder blocks and industrial shelving.

McDonald’s; Hostess Twinkies; Muscle Milk; Superman; Mickey Mouse; Quaker Oats; Kellogg’s cereal; Justin Bieber, his likeness unfortunately reappropriated for an off-brand “love doll” — they are all here, stacked tidily and presented without discernment, in “Voir Dire” at Johannes Vogt Gallery, Duval’s first exhibition in New York.

Sculptures such as Baby, baby, baby oooh Like baby, baby, baby, nooo (all works 2014) and Portrait of Mussolini as Prometheus nestle the brightly colored cardboard boxes of snacks and canned foods among fake flowers and fruit, while Halved (Moby-Dick), an inflated whale with a vacant smile, is beached nearby. The film JOSS, made with Chinese artist Cheng Ran, screens in an adjoining room, documenting joss paper objects — traditional funeral offerings in various Asian cultures — being consumed by fire.

This multivalent artist has already manipulated the readymade contextualization and precise designation that the name brand and logo can provide across various platforms and media: As one-third of the geographically fabled Shanzhai Biennial, the ongoing exhibition series and marketing machine of unclear motive that he presents with fellow artist Babak Radboy and stylist Avena Gallagher (and named not after the next art-world destination but rather the Chinese shanzhai, the practice of manufacturing and selling knockoff designer goods on the black market); as collaborator with the exclusive Parisian boutique Colette and Commes des Garçons and architect for avant-garde fashion designer Bernhard Willhelm’s boutique in Tokyo; in addition to numerous branding and communication projects for DIS magazine and New York’s Neuehouse, among others.

Given that the artist’s moniker, Item Idem, translates to “the same” from Latin, “Voir Dire” suggests that whether we are in the market for tokens of luxury and style or aspire to wholesome virtue through the purchasing of cornflakes and Aim toothpaste, the satisfaction we desire through consumption is flamed out quickly, and all item idem.

by Jennifer Piejko

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Liv Barrett on CHÂTEAU SHATTO opening / Los Angeles

Why did you decide to open a permanent gallery?

We opened Château Shatto to make exhibitions, and with a gallery you can make nearly as many exhibitions as you’ll ever want to.

Also significant was the overwhelming feeling of wanting to work with certain artists into the future, further into the future than what we could see. The idea of what these artists are making right now and the unknown possibilities of what an exhibition of theirs will look like five years from now were equally prompting. Nelson Harmon, the co-founder, and I live in Los Angeles so the location is inevitable, but it’s probably not a coincidence that the location lends the likelihood of Chris Kraus attending most of our exhibitions.

 

From Odilon Redon to Helen Johnson, the program doesn’t follow a specific generation. What is the core of your curatorial approach?

Redon was involved with Château Shatto without consent! He was, of course, not in a position to reject his inclusion in “Education Pig” (with Body by Body), and a wonderful caretaker of his work, Theodore Wohng, loaned us the lithographs. We proposed to Body by Body that they might absorb a selection of Redon lithographs into their exhibition; we’d speculated on the chemistry that might occur. They said yes immediately. The four artists we represent at present are naturally the focus of our program — Helen Johnson, Parker Ito, Cayetano Ferrer and Body by Body — and they have wildly distinct approaches to their work. Looking wider than this, the focus of the program is making exhibitions that are convincing, that feel full. The program of the gallery becomes its own text.

 

Can you give us a preview of upcoming shows?

In November, Marta Fontolan curates an exhibition called “To the End of the Line,” with works by Seth Pick, Rosa Aiello, Aids-3D, among others. Helen Johnson will open her first solo exhibition in January, and we open an exhibition with Parker Ito in January, off-site, called “A Lil’ Taste of Cheeto in the Night.”

by Patrick Steffen

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Djorje Ozbolt Taro Nasu / Tokyo

Traditional art from Asia and Africa served as a nutrient for the growth of traditional Western aesthetics into modernism. And such cultural catalysts are still at large, as exemplified by Djordje Ozbolt’s latest body of work.

This solo exhibition underscores the strenuous mind of the Belgrade-born, London-based artist: all the works on exhibit are from 2014, although the series to which they belong was started the previous year. The Colourful Dozen, the central work, is a wall-hung array of twelve different, apparently traditional African masks copied in polyester resin and dyed in twelve different colors. Even without ethnographical reference, the exhibit is visually exhilarating, with the most striking feature being the solid, artificially vivid colors. A set of six paintings in acrylic flanks the masks. Titled Les visiteurs, the paintings depict mysterious figures with faces similar to the masks. United We Stand comprises five polyester-resin reproductions of African statues in equally vivid colors. A deliberate kitschiness that characterized Ozbolt’s previous paintings is maintained in the gaudy coloring of the masks and statues, and in their polyester surfaces that imitate the original wood texture. Meanwhile, the sculpture Precious is an obvious parody of La Machine d’Argent (1754), a table centerpiece by 18th-century French silversmith François-Thomas Germain. Ozbolt’s translation is done in chrome-plated jesmonite as opposed to original silver, and the original cauliflower on top of the work is satirically replaced with a bag of French fries. The exhibition’s title, “Lost in Translation,” alludes to — besides the namesake film with a setting in Tokyo — the original roles and values that the masks and other artifacts had before being appropriated by modern artists. “Translation” may still be under way by the hands of artists like Ozbolt. But, in his works, enough is found for the viewer to enjoy a colorful and witty visual lingua franca, prior to any debates on cultures or art history.

by Satoru Nagoya

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