Review /

Boris Charmatz Volksbühne / Berlin

“I envision a choreographic forest in which no dancer ever repeats any of the gestures, each of which will be shown only once and will vanish as soon as it has been executed — like an ode to the impermanence of the art of dance.”

This is how French choreographer Boris Charmatz describes his most recent work, titled 10 000 gestes (2017). Choreography without repetition would seem an impossibility, but in the case of 10 000 gestes the brilliance of the idea is exceeded by what it produces.

Encountering this work in Templehof Hangar 5 in Berlin, we are stunned by what washes over us. We don’t know where to direct our gaze, but we have the certitude that we will never embrace the entirety of what is happening in front of us, just as we are never able to fully embrace what is happening to us in our lives.

In the studio, each of the twenty-five dancers produced four hundred gestures that Charmatz has accelerated and amplified by human screams. But our experience is something else. Mozart’s Requiem slowly soars above the process and permeates the dance with a sense of ultima ratio, a final reckoning that we are witness to but are also subjected to, since the dancers will end the show by swallowing and trespassing the audience’s space. The way the stage is invaded at the beginning of the piece evokes the way each of us arrives in this world, alone, to be then thrown into a casual network of encounters that here mostly resemble collisions. We can follow the individual journey of a given dancer, whose actions may evoke the patterns and cadences of life, with collective episodes suggesting birth, religious gatherings, events of joy or mourning, or solitary wandering.

“In 10 000 gestes it is the ephemeral taken to the extreme that engenders the gaze and the thought of the spectator. The chaos of expenditure is so perfect that it vergers on immobility,” adds Charmatz. The dance proposes nothing less than the pure human condition in its most urgent essence; performed before our eyes, it allows us to reflect on our condition.

by Emmanuelle Huyhn

(Translated from French by Patrick Steffen)
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Game State /

Bottle Flipping and Pokémon Go

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

—Marcel Proust

The summer of 2016 will be forever remembered (particularly by those who were middle schoolers at the time) as The Summer of Bottle Flipping and Pokémon Go. And while the differences between the two pursuits are striking, they have more in common than is immediately apparent.

One showcases advancements in augmented reality; the other uses a plastic bottle. One has made the software development company Niantic Inc. millions of dollars, while nobody, as of this writing, has successfully monetized bottle flipping in any significant way.

The bottle-flipping fad involved simply pouring water into a bottle and propelling the bottle with a flick off the wrist in such a manner that it “flips” in midair and hopefully lands upright on its base. The game is governed by the laws of physics on Earth. The volume of liquid, the velocity and thrust of the bottle and its subsequent hang time, in which the bottle momentarily appears weightless mid-rotation, and the pull of the Earth’s gravity are the mitigating factors that control the spin and landing of the bottle.

For months children everywhere were carefully lobbing one-third-filled plastic bottles with the desired quantifiable outcome of achieving elegant landings — much to the profound annoyance of parents, teachers, nannies and anyone else that was paying attention.

It was a charming pursuit that joyously illustrated the pleasure in re-familiarizing ourselves with the mundane, finding different ways to engage with a “thing.” Plastic bottles, fluids and the Earth’s gravitational pull are intrinsic components of probably everyone’s everyday life. Bottle flipping merely ascribed new meaning and purpose to these actors and asked what else could be done with them.

Pokémon Go was the logical confluence of recent developments in augmented reality and a twenty-year-old fictional wildlife franchise. Through a smartphone app, the Pokémon game world’s fictional inhabitants are grafted onto the external world. Familiar surroundings and routines — the walk to school, the local park — all take on new significance as potential Pokémon habitats. Players temporarily adopt a new way of looking at familiar sights with the specific purpose of locating and capturing the Pokémon that walk among us.

Bottle flippers are “playing” the bottle in the same way that Pokémon Go enthusiasts are “playing” the neighborhood. Both activities pull into sharp focus two distinct frameworks, layered on top of each other, that are essential to our understanding of reality: the rules of society and the laws of nature.

By reorganizing these rules, players create a space that game theorists such as Johan Huizinga, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman refer to as a “magic circle.” “The arena, the card table, the magic circle,” says Huizinga, “are all in form and function playgrounds… within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart.”

In the book Half-Real, Jesper Juul notes, “Huizinga is mainly interested in how such play activities persist after the game is abandoned: ‘the feeling of being “apart together” in an exceptional situation, of sharing something important, of mutually withdrawing from the rest of the world and rejecting the usual norms, retains its magic beyond the duration of the individual game.’” Juul goes on to say, “rules separate the game from the rest of the world by carving out an area where the rules apply; fiction projects a world different from the real world. The space of a game is part of the world in which it is played, but the space of fiction is outside the world from which it is created.”

The fictional world of Pokémon as presented in the game Pokémon Go is equally experienced on an electronic device and in real-world locations. The fiction of Pokémon is on the phone but the rules that make the play possible are in both the phone and the world outside the game. And even once you’ve deleted the app, the Pokémon are still out there, roaming the streets.

Smartphones took on a different role in bottle flipping. Their function was more passive during play but integral to post-play activities. Flippers would record and share their most impressive flips by means of the phone, though countless gigabytes of storage space were doubtlessly taken up by video recordings of failed flips. The phone was integral to the craze going viral, but, crucially, the actual game was not taking place on the phone itself. It was not a downloadable bottle-flipping game to be played on a smartphone.

It so easily could have been. After all, the physics-based puzzles of the mobile game Angry Birds were phenomenally successful. Flipping imaginary bottles on a smartphones sounds like a thoroughly plausible and modern use of time. But if the touch screen interface of the mobile phone provides no substitute for the real thing, Pokémon Go has shown us how an augmented reality bottle-flipping game could work: flipping virtual bottles and having them land in real space. A hybrid of Pokémon Go and bottle flipping could be the game that pushes parents over the edge in 2018.

by Oliver Payne

Game State is a column by artist Oliver Payne covering the mechanics, aesthetics and ideas of video games.

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Review /

Li Shurui White Space / Beijing

The painting practice of Li Shurui has long been an investigation into the visual experiences of light and color, and her recent solo show “LSR · Deep White” embodies a continuation and an expansion of her work over the past decade. With an increasingly spatialized and immersive approach, the artist blends both immense scale and controlled minimalism. 

Beginning in the gallery’s cavernous left hall, three works form a colossal painting installation. Wave No. 6 (2015) echoes her earlier light-based works, though, without the figural elements and shadowy bodies that appeared in earlier paintings inspired by LEDs and Chongqing’s nightlife, it represents a move further into abstraction. In more recent works, her exploration of sound waves provokes a synesthetic experience that fuses the visual and the sonic; the picture plane is released from its two-dimensional limits, summoning both depth and movement from flatness and stasis.

In a subtler vein, Wave No. 10 (2015–16) employs a restrained color palette of subdued dark tones in gridded, plaid patterns. Mindfile Storage Unit No. 201708 (2017), positioned between these two ten-meter-wide canvases from the “Wave” series, is a pearlescent orb informed by Li’s research into natural forms and religious architecture. Combined, the three works form a cosmic flag, an occult tableau that could be mistaken for a set piece in an Alejandro Jodorowsky film. Questioning the boundaries of the frame, Li draws the viewer into an experience that is both intoxicating and sobering; when viewed up close, the canvases create their own bounded worlds of vision as the edges of the frames vanish.

In the adjacent hall, the exhibition’s eponymous work Deep White (2016–17) presents a mesmerizing array of 114 canvases of varying dimensions, installed together in a rectangular configuration. As a totality, the installation resembles a pixelated composite image, one that shares both the aesthetic tropes of Photoshop color gradients as well as the landscape painting idioms of a pastoral cloudscape.

While the works refuse to traffic in any direct, referential meaning, the paintings obliquely evoke the ubiquitous presence of digital screens that dominate our contemporary visual experience. The calculated repetition of airbrushed dots displays a meditative — perhaps obsessive — practice that might strike some viewers as cold and alienating, yet the works might also be read as preliminary experiments that open up new ways of seeing. The exhibition suggests a new relationship to the natural world, one in which the manual practices of painting are channeled through the digital apparatuses that mediate our vision.

by Benny Shaffer

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News /

Blanche de Lestrange on Parades / FIAC

The second edition of FIAC’s Parades, a special program dedicated to performative practice, will take place October 18–22, 2017, in conjunction with the international art fair held in Paris. Flash Art spoke to FIAC Head of Programs & Cultural Development Blanche de Lestrange.

The inclusion of a performance program in an art fair has been a trend in recent years, and it raises questions about exploiting performance art as a means of offering fair audiences something presumably lighter and entertaining. Are you interested in exploring this potential or are you trying to avoid it?

Blanche de Lestrange: This issue was central to us when designing the program for Parades. We have always been motivated by a desire to offer artists and performers unprecedented settings to present their projects, to give them a stage that could make their works potentially even more powerful. We strive to provide optimum conditions for the artists who perform in the context of FIAC. The idea is definitely not to show their works in a thoughtless way in the middle of the fair, disguised as entertainment, stripped of all intention and meaning.

The second edition of Parades is an homage to Trisha Brown. Why and how are you paying tribute to her work and legacy?

Our program honors the pioneers of performance and investigates intersections between music, contemporary dance, theater, performance and poetry. Over the last three years we have developed a focus on contemporary dance, with invitations extended to historical figures of postmodern dance such as Simone Forti, Yvonne Rainer or younger choreographers such as Jérôme Bel. Trisha Brown is a monument to contemporary dance. When she passed away earlier this year, it seemed obvious that we should pay tribute to her as one of the most creative choreographers of the twentieth century. Thus we invited the company to present historical works in various museum settings, such as the Petit Palais, the Orangerie and the auditorium of the Louvre Museum.

Trisha Brown’s practice corresponds to the identity of Parades: the idea of presenting dance not only on stage, but also outside, in museum contexts, in the street, on roofs as she did for Roof Piece (1971), and other unusual and atypical places. In the context of an art fair, it is fascinating to reflect on how her work connects with the visual arts. She was a bridge between disciplines, something we really want to encourage during FIAC. She is one of the main figures responsible for bringing an urgent form of contemporariness to dance, by underlying daily gestures, repetition, organic abstraction and human mechanisms. Trisha Brown was and still is an inspiration for successive generations of dancers and choreographers. With this homage, we seek to honor her sense of modernity and audaciousness.

What are some highlights of this edition?

We collaborated with the Ballet national de l’Opéra de Paris for two performances: Á bras le corps (1993) by Dimitri Chamblas and Boris Charmatz and Pour un abîme (2017) by Nicolas Paul. These are exceptional choreographers, who continue challenging the notion of body and weight, of relations and relationships. In the gardens of the Petit Palais, François Chaignaud and Marie-Caroline Hominal will present Duchesses (2009), exploring an unearthly, all-encompassing and captive dance, using the hula-hoop as an incessant choreographic instrument. It is important to us that the vast majority of the works we present in the context of Parades are performed in iconic spaces, and interact with their identity in a very unique way. In collaboration with the Festival d’Automne, we are featuring two projects by Gerard & Kelly at the Palais de la Découverte and the Centre Pompidou. With Songs and Book (2016) by Ivo Dimchev, we will present a medley of songs of his own composition. It will be a wonderful opportunity to discover the fascinating practice of this Bulgarian artist. His voice and his poetic universe are fascinating.

As stated earlier, every art fair in the international circuit offers a performance program. What makes FIAC’s performance program unique?

What is very central to Parades is that performances are held in prestigious spaces such as the Palais de la découverte, the Louvre or the Petit Palais — iconic venues that belong to Paris’s heritage. Each project is initiated in an intimate dialogue with the artists, giving them innovative possibilities for creating new works or adapting proposals. We are thrilled when artists create specific performances only for FIAC — and indeed for the fair format itself.

Among the most interesting proposals within your program, there is a performance that made the history of contemporary dance, the aforementioned duet À bras le corps. On this occasion it will be performed by two classical dancers of the Ballet national de l’Opéra de Paris. Can you explain the main differences between the two versions?

When Boris and Dimitri presented À bras le corps at the Centre Pompidou in 1993, the performance had the effect of an electric shock. It was one of the most striking duets in recent choreographic creation: a story of friendship but also conflict, of confrontation but also dependence between two men. The choreography pushes the dancers to the very limit of exhaustion. Yet although fatigued, sometimes seemingly reduced to a state of collapse, they always strive to stand. This year, the Opéra de Paris added to its repertoire À bras le corps. Dimitri Chamblas and Boris Charmatz transmitted this powerful choreography to two prominent étoile dancers from the Opéra de Paris, Karl Paquette and Stéphane Bullion, although they will also continue to perform it themselves.

During the fall season, with the presence of Le Festival d’Automne as well, Paris confirms its tradition as a leading capital for dance and theater.

Historically, France has developed a very unique relationship to dance and performance. It is refreshing to see that we are not only famous for our classical tradition, but also for innovative and pioneering endeavors in so many disciplines. Our ambition for Parades is that, in its own way, it can perpetuate this tradition. As an art fair, it is crucial for us to be a rendez-vous for high-level transactions in the art market, but also to make a concerted and energetic effort to support creation even when it is immaterial and therefore falls outside the usual logic of commercial exchange; to facilitate the emergence of projects, however ambitious; to create the conditions in which collaborations can be concretized; and to foster the public’s discovery of contemporary creation in its many diverse forms.

by Patrick Steffen

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Review /

The Overworked Body Ludlow 38 and Mathew Gallery / New York

Is it the 2000s or the aughts? Would you say post-9/11, the Bush years, or the war on terror? Housing bubble or housing crisis? Your twenties? MySpace? That time you lived in Williamsburg? Does “last decade” indicate our stern preference to not talk about it?

The same anxiety troubles “The Overworked Body: An Anthology of 2000s Dress,” an honest eulogy to that ten-year span of time. The exhibition collects radical fashion between spring/summer 2000 and fall/winter 2009 into a historical hall of mirrors in which dozens of studiously garmented mannequins recount the era’s feverish obsessions. Put another way, the show’s fitful attachments exhibit a budding angst.

There are many ways through this exhibition, which converts Mathew and Ludlow 38 into overcrowded showrooms. Connections between designers are largely intuited. Some were especially captivated by the apparatus of control. At the former space, Ann-Sofie Back’s cocktail dresses and reworked trench coat expose the shameless will to power behind the austerity of business casual. A Victorian-inspired Jean-Paul Gaultier dress employs new (at the time) photographic fabric printing to simulate patterns and ruffles, complimented by an infamous Stephen Jones shoe-hat flopped on the mannequin’s head. Decadence tends toward irreverence in other designers: Final Home’s mesh coat filled with all sorts of office trash (e.g., a Diet Coke can and FedEx shipping form); Margiela’s military-style vest made out of puffy ski gloves; the torched sequins in a Shelley Fox dress. Behind the naughty pastiche of ’90s styles is boredom in the KEUPR/van BENTM Fall/Winter 2000 show, a video of which is on view. Each time a model takes their turn, a Looney Tunes bonk-on-the-head sound effect is heard.

Neoliberalism spread rapidly during the aughts. Wealth flowed upward. Designers may have sniffed out clues to the nihilism driving our current predicaments, having made light of the ill-begotten popularity facilitated by the internet. It’s tough to name. The flipside involved special credence paid to New Age spiritualism and countercultural chic. Innocence, frivolity and joy describe several looks displayed on a catwalk-cum-skate park packed into Ludlow 38’s entryway — rejoice in fabrics and textures. Hideki Seo’s contributions, two school uniforms that transform the wearer into a scaly mythological chimera, speak to the narrow distance between animism and imagination. Bedazzled outfits by Andrew Groves and a gown by Arkadius balance frump and glamor; A.F. Vandervost’s dress is Weimar club gear; and an abundance of BLESS demonstrates their coy, cult-like sensibility, drawing connections between universal football fandom and featureless, unisex onesies.

The exhibition takes place definitively downtown, in a section of Chinatown and the Lower East Side that many of the designers included here, especially Susan Cianciolo or the late Ben Cho, helped to popularize. The proximity is voyeuristic. During the same era, galleries moved there, too. It’s been almost a decade and we keep coming back to sneak a peek.

by Sam Korman

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News /

Silvia Ammon and Clément Delépine on Paris Internationale

The third edition of Paris Internationale, the “convivial” art fair supporting a younger generation of galleries and artists, will take place October 18–22, 2017, in the former headquarters of Libération, the legendary French newspaper cofounded by Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973. Flash Art spoke with Paris Internationale co-directors Silvia Ammon and Clément Delépine.

With art fairs proliferating, a clear identity is pivotal to the success of newer ones. How do you define Paris Internationale in that regard?

Silvia Ammon and Clément Delépine: A large-scale art fair can be intimidating even to veteran fairgoers. The term “convivial” was used a lot in reference to Paris Internationale — to such an extent that it became a private joke among the team. One particular comment we received from our exhibitors and visitors is that they enjoyed the “deceleration” and being able to take the time to more thoroughly discuss an artist’s work. The fair is nomadic, founded by five galleries to promote the work of a generation of like-minded galleries.

One of the main new features of this edition of Paris Internationale is its location in the multistory car park previously home to the newspaper Libération. Can you elaborate on this choice?

The inaugural edition in 2015 took place in a grand but derelict mansion undergoing renovation. In 2016 we used a truly magnificent hôtel particulier, which was originally the Parisian residence and home to the collection of Calouste Gulbenkian. For the upcoming edition, we wanted to propose something new and to completely depart from the aesthetic codes we’ve explored thus far. On our first visit we were immediately drawn to the brutalist feel of this building.

The fair will be located in the heart of Paris, between the politically loaded Place de la République and Le Marais, Paris’s traditional gallery district. Will this new location color the fair?

Politically speaking, this venue is an appropriate context to address current challenges to journalism, freedom of speech and urban development. We worked closely with the Parisian collective The Cheapest University, which organized a program of collaborative work events titled “What’s in My Bag…?” Inspired by the eponymous TV show, the reflection was driven by the current security-driven political climate in which bags of citizens are systematically inspected. This year again, we benefit from the support of the Fondation d’entreprise Ricard to organize the public program.

One of the distinctive features of Paris Internationale is the presence of nonprofit art spaces. What is their role within the fair?

Nonprofit spaces spearhead and promote an emerging scene. In Paris specifically, nonprofits are definitely agents of the city’s dynamism, which is why we decided to focus on Parisian spaces this year. PI always supported nonprofits by inviting them to partake. As you know, the venue was originally conceived as a parking lot. Libération had platforms built along the spiraling ramp to install journalists. We positioned the nonprofits on these platforms, at the very center of the fair.

by Charles Teyssou

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