Review /

Paul McCarthy Schinkel Pavillion / Berlin

With a practice rooted in the depiction of the human body, Paul McCarthy’s exhibition at Schinkel Pavillon continues this visual reference, bringing together a tripartite rendering of the nude.

The tradition of this trope as told through a Westernized history of art is here denoted; and while typically the nude was used to express ideas of male and female beauty, McCarthy shifts this narrative to incorporate themes of death, spectacle and voyeurism.

The exhibition displays sculpture and video, dating from between 2011 and 2013, alongside new photographs presented for the first time. Horizontal (2012) is the centerpiece, a silicone reproduction of the artist’s body, lying corpse-like in the room’s center upon a door appropriated from the Bank of America. Replicating every detail of the body — deep wrinkles, fine hairs — one questions whether the form is breathing, awkwardness palpable as the eye briefly brushes past flaccid genitalia. While unnervingly realistic, the proximate work Rubber Jacket H. Horizontal (2012) reveals the casting process, placed on the ground as a strange or even fetishized bodysuit. Together, both blur the line between the idea of reality and fiction, the space of waking and dreaming.

When associated with the six-channel sculptural video installation downstairs, That Girl T.G Drawing Table – Drawing (2011–13) — with a correlative centrally positioned table surrounded by footage of a nude being demarcated with pencils — an added dimension of reality as perceived through film appears. Combined with psychedelic prints of the same female nude’s face, appearances of reality are questioned, exploring the tension between consciousness and agency.

Since the 1970s, McCarthy has used the body as a means to push the limits of social convention, exposing the hypocritical undercurrents that can drive a consumerist society. The grotesque mess or bawdiness normally associated with the artist is absent however, replaced with an elegant, sleek aesthetic — presenting a cleaner lens through which to consider how society perhaps sleepwalks in a consumerist daze.

by Louisa Elderton

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Arena /

Eugene Tan on the National Gallery / Singapore

The National Gallery Singapore, almost ten years in the making, opens on November 24, 2015. It is the result of a long-standing government initiative to position Singapore as a global arts city,

Director Eugene Tan has been instrumental in setting this stage for Singapore, and in 2010 he spearheaded the visual arts hub Gillman Barracks. Here he discusses the museum’s development and the important role it will play in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

How have you been developing the vision and direction for the National Gallery prior to its opening?

I’ve been with the National Gallery Singapore for just over two years, so I joined the project relatively late. When I was appointed, I began thinking about the relevance and significance of having a focus on the art of Singapore and Southeast Asia and what it means for a national institution. It goes without saying that knowing our own art history is important, which has been lacking and which will be the focus of the DBS Singapore Gallery, one of our two permanent galleries. At the same time, Singapore is closely linked with our neighboring countries in many different ways, so the relationships between the art of the different countries in Southeast Asia is an important focus as well, which we will examine through the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery. Furthermore, Southeast Asia is not an insular region, and it has always had links historically with other parts of the world. As such, another important mission of the National Gallery is to examine these connections through our special exhibitions.

Apart from a few museums and a handful of university galleries, there is little institutional infrastructure in Southeast Asia. How would you define the role of a museum in the region?

When we think about art museums we have an idea of what they are and what they should be. But the roles of museums in an already established art ecosystem and those in developing art scenes are quite different. In many ways, not just in Southeast Asia but across Asia, art has been introduced to the public primarily through contemporary art and through the market — through platforms such as biennials, auctions and particularly the art fairs that are very big in the region, rather than museums and institutions. Given the current situation in which the market is so dominant, you also see public institutions being affected by it. We need stronger institutions that lead the market rather than being led by it. The sense of history and understanding of how art arrived at the state that it has in the region is not very evident. This is where the value of the National Gallery Singapore comes in, to provide that understanding of history by presenting modern art from the nineteenth through to the twentieth century in Singapore and Southeast Asia and examining that development. This will be the first time it is being done anywhere in the world.

Research forms a key part of the museum’s focus. Would you say that research is an underdeveloped area in Singaporean and Southeast Asian art? What kinds of programs will the museum establish?

Indeed, the history of Southeast Asian art is still a relatively under-researched field. There is still no art history undergraduate program here in Singapore and few in the region. One of the initiatives we are working on is to start an art history seminar with one of the universities, in which our curators, who are experts in their field, will teach in the program. The core of what our curators do, as at many museums, is research. Other initiatives include “Ambitious Alignments,” a project in collaboration with the Power Institute at the University of Sydney and funded by the Getty Research Institute to foster new research in Southeast Asian art.

Some exciting collaborations with the Tate Britain and Centre Pompidou are already in the pipeline for 2016. What are the reasons for partnering with these European institutions?

Our collaborations with international institutions form part of our mission to examine the links between the art of Southeast Asia and other parts of the world within a global context. The art of a place cannot be seen in isolation; it must always be viewed in relation to other cultures, and that speaks to what art can do for us as a society. The first exhibition that will be co-curated with the Centre Pompidou re-examines the idea of modernism from the perspective of Southeast Asia. It will draw from works from the Pompidou’s collection alongside works from our collection to explore and examine the development of modernism through points of connection. The collaboration with Tate Britain, “Art & Empire,” which will be co-curated for the presentation in Singapore, will examine art production in the region during the period of colonization.

Can you reflect on how the art scene has developed in Singapore since the announcement of the Renaissance City initiative that saw the government substantially invest in art and culture?

The Singapore art landscape has certainly changed substantially since 2000, when the Renaissance City Plan was published. But a concerted plan to develop the arts can be traced back to 1989 when the Report of the Advisory Council on Culture and the Arts was published, which was really the impetus to set up many of the museums we have today — the Singapore Art Museum and the Asian Civilizations Museum, which opened respectively in 1996 and 1997. This and the subsequent plan a decade later helped capitalize other parts of the ecosystem such as the non-profit spaces, university museums and galleries, the art fairs, and commercial galleries. It also led to the internationalization of the Singapore art scene, which led to Singapore’s participation at the Venice Biennale in 2001 and then the Singapore Biennale in 2006. The National Gallery was also a result of this planning. This gives you a sense of how the government has been developing the arts for the past twenty-five years. It takes time to develop an art scene, one that is complete, with its own ecosystem. The National Gallery obviously occupies an important position within this.

by Lucy Rees

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BoxOffice /

The Hunger

The hunger came and went. Twilight was released on November 21, 2008. At the time,
The Dark Knight was still lingering down the charts in 345 theaters; we hadn’t seen Harry Potter around since the summer before; The Lord of the Rings moved on but left a few hobbits behind.

Narnia couldn’t take the heat. Shrek, Spider­Man and Pirates of the Caribbean each faded in their third outings the previous May. We could sense a new phenomenon, and come November 2008, we got two in one month. Twilight might even have been the first movie you saw in theaters following Barack Obama’s election; after all, there were two more words to mispronounce in Quantum of Solace’s title.

By the time of Twilight’s third and final sequel, Breaking Dawn – Part 2, Obama had been decisively re­elected, and we were ready to say goodbye to Edward and Bella. You couldn’t remember much of the intervening years beyond a feeling of love that now receded warmly, a mother dimming the light from her child’s door as she slips into the hallway. That March we had gotten our first taste of Katniss Everdeen, wooded and breathless, born immaculate into $400 million as our hero for the second term. Commands we mouthed in darkness: unstill your quiver, Katniss, and let vampires sleep.

Typically, as with Twilight, a franchise starts off slowly before igniting a broader fan base. But The Hunger Games learned a lot from Potter and Twilight — of healthy midnights and $70-­million­-dollar opening days. We knew what it was doing from the start. To the public, its hype might have felt quieter than its YA counterparts, but come March 2012 you could hear it as loudly as “YOLO” echoing down a middle school hallway: echoing into classrooms, one nation clearly divisible as each student displayed their softcover of choice at the top corner of their desk. To whom to do you pledge allegiance: Bella or Katniss?

In November 2013, Catching Fire made good on The Hunger Games’ promise, carrying us further still into the known unknown, further past $400 million. We were excited when the competition opened with water, the tributes arranged in formation of a wicked star; the weekend before Thanksgiving still belonged to Scorpio. But a chill began a year later, in the November of 2014. Looking down at the same wool coat your wore to Twilight, now six years old, you noticed a tear along the elbow’s inseam, elsewhere the lining frayed.

In the arena, a single tear can mean the difference between life and death, and last year’s Mockingjay – Part 1 performed at a surprising decline from the previous two installments, down 21% from Catching Fire’s record haul. The franchise was less interesting without the games, we found, games that felt vital because we had always wanted to play them. Now we were cast out in the shapeless, imitative poverty of the Districts.

Between Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the Hunger Games franchise started to run for office. But for which office, and on what platform? It used to call us up to say “YOLO,” but now it sent us chilly form emails, twice a day at least. “Are you with me?” she would ask in the subject line. There were six months to go before Hillary Clinton announced her presidential bid, but everyone had heard the rumors.

Whatever happens to Mockingjay – Part 2 shouldn’t be regarded as a box office disappointment. Some will call its $114 million opening weekend tragic, falling one million shy of Minions’ opening in July, but others might say, “Remember when the first Spider­Man brought home that number thirteen years ago?” We remember. We were thrilled. Be proud of movies, regardless of their performance; be proud of your stake in them. Whether you’re going to bid Mockingjay a fond farewell or piss on its grave, be proud.

Because letting go of the Hunger Games is more than a game. It’s letting go of a thought lineage around YA properties that really began in 2001, with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New Divergent and Maze Runner movies will appear for the next several years, dutifully collecting their respective $120 and $70 million payouts, but now they’re ghosts in a hallway gone quiet. A young stranger rushes past, an indistinct hardcover clutched to her chest; it’s her first day of school, and as much as she’d like to stop and listen to those ghost stories, she’s really gotta get to class. Do you even go here?

You’ll be there for Mockingjay, though maybe not for opening weekend. The lights will go down in the theater. Somewhere in the night, Caitlyn Jenner’s limo rolls through Panem. Katniss can’t be your hero for the next presidential term, to whomever it belongs, but you know she wouldn’t have it any other way; she points her arrow true to Thanksgiving 2016, where Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is waiting for Hillary, or Bernie, or Ben. Or Harry.

I have died a thousand years waiting for you…

The final seeds for Mockingjay Part 2 are sown in Century Gothic, the familiar font where everything began. Minutes to go before that last shot, you feel it, and the credits will begin. If you have any tears to cry, now is the time: here where they can be seen, and tasted.

Darling, don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years…

Text scrolls, the purity of white against black. You reach for your quiver and find it empty — you thought you had one arrow remaining, but it’s all right, Ma, just as well invisible. Instead you raise your three fingers back at Katniss, one last time. Your fingertips graze the projector’s beam of light, intersecting the children on screen. The dancing girl with the dark hair and blue eyes. The boy with blond curls and gray eyes, struggling to keep up with her on his chubby toddler legs. The children remind us that it’s never goodbye. Your wool coat hangs over the empty seat next to you. In a few minutes you’ll get up to leave without it, with and without tears.

I’ll love you for a thousand more…

by Keaton Ventura & Mike Spreter (Film Fun)

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Review /

Max Hooper Schneider High Art / Paris

Max Hooper Schneider’s “Nature Theater of Violent Succession” gathers five installations, mostly dioramic systems of uncanny coexistence. Radically rereading eco-art orthodoxy via Learning from Las Vegas, Schneider integrates detritus, garish artifacts and the rags of entertainment culture in his ecological laboratories.

Amid this delirious wasteland a vivarium is luxuriously filled with tropical plants and a neon sign that reads “virus”; a menacing bird “skeleton” elliptically follows the visitor’s movements; and a dishwater has been transformed into a nuclear aquarium for UV-reactive, genetically modified fish. As in the forests of Chernobyl, where radioactivity continues to generate a high level of abnormal decay in microbes, fungi, trees and birds, some species have found in this haunted arcadia a paradise. As his mother says in the press release, “Violence generates complexity.” With a highly delectable and baroque approach, Schneider visually orchestrates the difficult shift from anthropocentric hubris to a non-human perspective. Here, the Spinozian concept of monadism is assumed through a poisoned eye-candy tone. The proximity with Tetsumi Kudo’s toxic landscapes and the tortured flesh of Paul Thek is blatant. We can also think about the theatrical aspects of Robert Gober’s work. This spectacular aspect is combined with a hidden layer, a low-key dimension where the dark shades of green are slowly transforming these micro-worlds.

The sink installation with its anxious melody of a running faucet and its indecipherable surface perfectly exemplifies the visual ambiguity of these hybrid systems. Here, inputs have been promptly managed, whereas outputs remain in a state of deep opacity and unpredictability. Are his experimentations a land of Cockaigne or a theater of desolation? Do we face an irreversible alteration or possibilities of endless resurrection? In Max Hooper Schneider’s world, nature seems to not need us anymore.

by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos

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News /

Post-Identity Agenda Queer Thoughts / New York

Queer Thoughts was founded by artists Luis Miguel Bendaña and Sam Lipp in 2012 in a diminutive apartment on Chicago’s Lower West Side. The gallery recently moved to a larger space in lower Manhattan. Flash Art talked with its founders about this new opportunity.

What inspired the move and what will you do with all that space? 

After seven years in Chicago, we were ready to expand beyond the milieu of the university we attended (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago). We love Chicago but neither of us wanted to die in the Midwest. New York has been an adjustment, but we’re really excited to be here and showcase our artists in our new “big space.” Honestly, it is still so small. The greatest difference between the two locations isn’t really the size but that the old space was in our apartment and our new space is on Broadway in Manhattan. It is exciting and far beyond what we had in mind when we first began the gallery.

One would imagine that in the comparatively small art scene in Chicago there would be a certain sense of community and intimacy, as opposed to the competitive individualism of New York. Is there any truth to this? Do you feel like you traded community for centrality?

Both art scenes are similar in that they are constantly repopulating and redefining themselves in relation to the institutions there — so our temporary tenure in Chicago is a common aspect of the art ecosystem there. The presence of the market is definitely stronger in New York, which informs a lot of what happens here and how people behave. But just because Chicago has a more insular community doesn’t necessarily entail that it was more supportive. There are supportive and unsupportive micro-communities in both cities. We have experienced both. The advantage of living in New York is the incomparable access to art, to artists and to institutions, and as artists ourselves that is inspiring. Likewise, we are grateful for the time we spent in Chicago. There is a great community there and a unique sensibility, which definitely informed our project. Chicago has always supported grassroots initiatives, and there are still many exciting things happening there like New Capital and Night Club and more recently Born Nude, Beautiful Gallery and Boyfriends, among others.

You’ve frequently used the term “post-identity” to characterize the work that interests you. What does that mean exactly?

It means a lot of things and maybe it means nothing, but the term allowed us to define ourselves in relation to what we were not. When we began the gallery in 2012 we wrote on our website that we promote “a post-identity agenda,” which seemed like a funny incongruity to designate ambiguity as our political or aesthetic objective. But perhaps the term invokes a certain indeterminacy of language, which is of interest to us and relevant to the work we show. Choosing the name “Queer Thoughts” was another instance of this indeterminacy, used as a political strategy to undermine a certain concretization of identity. We prefer slipperiness.

Before you opened the New York space, you spent almost a year globetrotting, having shut the Chicago space at the end of 2014: art fairs, organizing exhibitions at galleries here and there, and a show at three locations in Nicaragua. What was the story behind that exhibition? 

Miguel’s family is from Nicaragua and it has always been an aspiration of his to participate in the community there as an artist. It was important for us to organize an exhibition in Nicaragua at that time, with the construction of the new Canal de Nicaragua looming (which is now in the midst of construction). This new canal is displacing populations and destroying rainforests, and will connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake and source of freshwater in Central America. Of course this is a complicated situation — the dreams of urbanization and industry to prosper in an impoverished nation versus the preservation of an almost untouched volcanic landscape. After we organized that exhibition we met Oliver Kandt, who is the new curator of the Nicaraguan Biennial upcoming in February 2016. We will be exhibiting works ourselves and organizing a small section of the Biennial at the Palacio Nacional in Managua.

Could you tell us about qt.pdf?

The qt.pdf was a way to create content to be specifically experienced in digital form — in contrast to the exhibitions themselves, which we always conceived of as inherently experiential in person. It is just an extra thing. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass for us and the artists, but it’s quite nice to go back and look at them later. We are in the process of redesigning the format to coincide with our new location. Oliver Apte is doing the new design and we will be releasing the second volume soon. Stay tuned for that!

What’s coming up for the gallery? 

We are currently preparing for NADA Miami Beach, which will be our first participation in a Miami fair. In February we will be organizing a section in the Nicaraguan Biennial, and to coincide with that we will be opening an exhibition at our new second location, Queer Thoughts, Nicaragua. We’re also excited for our upcoming solo exhibitions in New York with Siera Hyte, Chelsea Culp, Diamond Stingily and Chloe Seibert.

by Eli Diner

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Review /

Stuart Middleton Carlos/Ishikawa / London

On entering the gallery you are greeted by an anemic white light that is intensified by the pristine white walls and multiple neon strip lights. The contrast with its external urban surroundings is stark.

A large tent occupies the gallery, fitting snuggly within the formal and practical constraints of the building’s architecture and offering just enough space for the viewer to navigate its perimeter and locate its entrance. The internal space of the tent feels disconnected from the gallery. The void inside the structure retains the overall minimal aesthetic with the exception of the linear support structure that plots the internal area. As I leave the tent I notice in a corner of the room an old, disused shower unit, exposed temporarily for the purpose of the exhibition. Placed in a soiled basin is a selection of exquisitely detailed hand-crafted miniature items of furniture, modeled on the type you could find in an old pre-IKEA bedsit.

Immersing myself in the obligatory silence of the installation, I focus upon the accompanying exhibition text written by Middleton. The text is imbued with a British sensibility reminiscent of Fawlty Towers or Armando Iannucci; darkly humorous, it charts a hierarchical email exchange between a bureaucratic employer and employee regarding a private sexual encounter. The text artfully encourages the viewer to apply multiple scenarios to what is ostensibly a blank canvas. The simplicity and the potential readings of the architectural structure evokes Mike Kelley’s Educational Complex (1995) and J.G. Ballard’s The Enormous Space (1989), a short story that maps the physical and psychological space within the walls of a house in a London suburb, revealing the fears of urban life and ultimately the darker side of human nature. Both of the aforementioned examples raise questions regarding the conventional and habitual systems that society adopts. Middleton too adopts a similarly ambiguous position as a way of inviting audiences to examine the arrangement of these codified objects collectively. These objects operate like any successful artwork or novel — the more you are willing to immerse yourself within them, the better they become.

by Matt Williams

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