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IFFR International Film Festival Rotterdam 2018

The past decade has seen a significant rise in the appetite for artist films on the European film festival circuit. Exemplary of this trend is the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) in the Netherlands. Although some artists have been reluctant to screen their work in a cinema space, many now seek to let their audio-visual work live a life beyond the context of a traditional exhibition.

This is reaffirmed by past winners of the Tiger Award for Short Film, one of the cornerstones of the festival: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Yto Barrada, Salla Tykkä, Erik van Lieshout, Duncan Campbell, and Mark Leckey. Leckey, who won the prize in 2016 with Dream English Kid 1964–1999 AD (2015), even went as far as to state that he felt like an intruder who stole the prize.

This year’s program also features many visual artists. One of the standout pieces from the competition, The Worldly Cave (2018) by Zhou Tao, was first presented as an installation at last year’s Venice Biennale. Monumental and otherworldly images of the Incheon Sea, the Balearic island of Menorca, and the Sonoran Desert are combined into a homogenous and disorienting dystopian landscape wherein human existence appears futile. The somber Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 4 (2018) by Korakrit Arunanondchai is built up around a mesmerizing performance by frequent collaborator Boychild and a loving portrait of his grandmother.

 

 

Both Diego Macron’s Monelle (2018) and Katja Mater’s As Much Time as Space (2018) take a specific architectural site as a subject for visual research, albeit with very distinct approaches. Mater alternates images of her drawings with details of the renowned Theo van Doesburg studio house in Meudon shot on 16-mm film. By letting the print run through two projectors — both set up in a different way and with an eight-second interval — she creates a fascinating interplay between the past and the present; her drawings moving from one image to another as if entangled in an uneven dance. In staccato flashes, Macron illuminates eerie figures in the dark rooms of Giuseppe Terragni’s Casa del Fascio in Como — images that resonate with its burdened political history. By using contrasting technologies — 35mm and CGI animation — Macron represents two opposing attitudes in film: structural cinema and horror. The rigid formal structure of the film is undercut by the disquieting actions of the protagonists: a man jumping off a balcony, the fearful glance of a child looking into the lens.

IFFR also saw two radical approaches to the refugee crisis, both of which were previously displayed at Documenta 14. Artur Żmijewski’s provocative Glimpse (2018) shows the deplorable conditions refugees in Europe are forced to endure, and meanwhile questions the ambiguous position of artists who choose to tackle this subject. Żmijewski is also being honored with a focus program at the film festival, which includes a retrospective of his work to date, and a display of his latest video installation, Realism (2017). In View From Above (2018) by Hiwa K, a camera hovers over a scale model of a bombed-out postwar Kassel. A voice-over recounts an asylum seeker’s carefully constructed story, told in order to prove their origin from unsafe territories.

Photographer Tobias Zielony delivers a captivating work with Maskirovka (2018), the title stemming from a Russian term for “covert warfare.” Two disparate series of photographs, one depicting scenes from the Maidan uprising, the other portraying the Kyiv underground queer and techno scene, find their formal opposition in a flickering stop-motion animation.

With Comfort Stations (2018), Anja Dornieden and Juan David Gonzalez Monroy present a collection of found images and sounds accompanied by an instructional text. As in their previous work, they pair craftsman-like control over 16-mm film with contemporary sensibilities, questioning the authenticity of the image.

The festival also offers a wide array of master classes, artist talks, exhibitions, workshops, and panel discussions contextualizing the program. “After Uniqueness,” a panel discussion preluded by a keynote presentation by Erika Balsom, author of After Uniqueness: A History of Film and Video Art in Circulation (2017), resulted in an interesting debate on film distribution that juxtaposed reproducibility and authenticity, or, mundanely put, BitTorrent versus the edition. In her artist talk, Laure Prouvost inadvertently addresses the subject with a projection of OWT (2007), in which curator Michael Conner professes: How can any film be an artwork, and how can any film not be an artwork? (Which gets mis-subtitled in Prouvost’s idiosyncratic way as “How may feeling a cow can always be in? Why he never felt like that when he kissed Madonna, even at work?”)

by Vincent Stroep

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Keith Farquhar Office Baroque / Brussels

Back in 2012, Keith Farquhar had a show at New Jerseyy in Basel, “Abstract Printings,” that focused on his interest in the appropriation of works produced by other artists. However, unlike Elaine Sturtevant or Sherrie Levine, Farquhar does not intend to create perfect copies of the artworks he references.

Based on one of Morris Louis’s “Unfurled” paintings (1960–61), Abstract Printing (Digital America) (2012) is, in fact, a UV print on birch plywood. Likewise, Abstract Printing (In and out of Wool) (2012), based on Christopher Wool’s He Said She Said (2001), was made using the same process, this time on corrugated galvanized steel. Farquhar’s show at Office Baroque includes a new humorous “tribute” to Wool, Woolmark #6 (2015), which resembles a simple spray-painted graffiti on a found piece of sheet metal. “Iconoclasm is important. I’m a great admirer of both the Louis and Wool works, yet their iconic status doesn’t stop me from treating them with irreverence; cannibalizing their graven image to make anew,” says Farquhar. The interesting thing about this approach is that not only does it question the aura (and value) of celebrated artworks, but also the technology used to copy them: “As the printheads pass over the peak of the corrugation, a normal photographic image of the spray-paint gesture is printed; where they pass over the trough of the corrugation, a diffusion takes place,” he says. “Thus, the image alternates between a digital photographic image of spray-paint and actual spray-paint and back again ad infinitum.”

Also on display at Office Baroque is Ken and Cady Noland (2013–18), which uses a low-resolution image of Kenneth Noland’s 1961 painting Epigram. As a result, the printed brushstroke is highly pixelated. The work is an encounter between Kenneth Noland and his daughter Cady, with a recurring motif found in her sculptures of the mid to late 1990s: a five-holed wooden stock employed as a method of public punishment. For the opening, Farquhar held a face-painting workshop, in which kids would place their heads through the holes of the work afterward and pose for photographs.

In “Abstract Printings,” all of the printed works create a coherent whole — referring to similar topics in the same whimsical manner. It is therefore difficult to see how the new works created by Farquhar for the show fit into his production: brand new, colorful sleeping bags hung upside down, displayed with a basket holding a puppy dog and coffee cup (a different brand for each piece). The social message of a global economy producing a global poverty isn’t just unconvincing — and Gavin Turk’s sleeping bags produce a more striking effect — but the reference made by the artist to Kazimir Malevich’s “Peasant” paintings from the late 1920s and early 1930s is rather far-fetched. Here, the artist approaches the periphery of the system he has created.

by Pierre-Yves Desaive

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Art Stage Singapore 2018

Art Stage Singapore, which espoused the lofty goal of representing a regional identity with its 2017 slogan “We are Asia,” returned this year with a more consolidated fair: a foray into luxury consumerism vis-à-vis an art-design showcase titled “Art Meets Design: Cultural Trend or Fashionable Lifestyle?” and a special feature on the Thai art scene.

With the latter, Art Stage 2018 served up some challenging works by established Thai artists. Sakarin Krue-On’s Tale Bearer’s Tale: The Last Deer was particularly noteworthy. The work uses the now-extinct Schomburgk’s deer, a species once unique to Thailand, as a foil for considering the socio-historical landscape of Thai society. The work’s video element, presented alongside a beautiful but jarring severed head of a supposed Schomburgk’s deer on a desk, features local cultural workers and members of the Thai working class discussing the mythical deer, occasionally interjecting commentary on economic and social developments in Thailand. Another significant offering was Nova Contemporary’s installation of Tada Hengsapkul’s The Shards Would Shatter at Touch (2017), a piece that was to be presented at Cartel Artspace in Bangkok in 2017 before being censored by Thai military personnel. The Shards Would Shatter at Touch is a performative work in that the set of forty-nine thermochromic printed cloths are meant to be pressed against the viewer’s body to reveal an image and number. The number corresponds to a story within a set of documents attached to the wall, each dedicated to a human rights activist or political exile persecuted by the Thai military. Such presentations confirm the continued relevance of regional platforms as well as the fair’s agency and value in promoting challenging political work.

This year’s Art Stage Singapore 2018 was perhaps more transparent in its value-creation mechanisms. For example, the fair presented an exhibition from the Tiroche DeLeon Collection, based on works acquired between 2011 to 2016 at previous editions of Art Stage Singapore. The art fund invests in artworks from developing markets through acquisitions, but also lends its works to prominent museums, exhibitions, biennales, art fairs, etc. — presumably an intelligent strategy for developing cultural capital and, by extension, the monetary value of its holdings. The exhibition exemplifies the role of the fair in creating value and enabling exchange for its customers.

Similarly, the notion of the collector as a key figure and benefactor of the art fair was on display in “Calder on Paper,” which presented a number of mobiles and works on paper from the private collection of Micky Tiroche. Another highlight of the fair was organized by the Southeast Asia Art Forum, who exhibited a design collection by The Artling, an art advisory and online gallery run by a prominent collector in Singapore, whose collection was featured at the fair in previous editions.

With Art Stage’s expansion to other cities such as Jakarta, the fair’s consolidated focus on its existing network could be limiting in terms of understanding the Southeast Asian art market as a cohesive whole. This is especially the case for a regional market diffused across multiple centers, which inherently forces a commercial enterprise to chase capital, moving from one center to another. Coupled with comparatively higher costs for manpower and space in Singapore relative to other countries in the region, it is no surprise that Art Stage is venturing forth to other national markets. Thus, instead of a regional market being defined by the brick and mortar of a singular marketplace, we may come to define the “regional” through the structured flows of capital and art. At least one thing is clear: Art Stage 2018 encourages us to reconsider how we think about a “regional market.”

by Kathleen Ditzig

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David Maljkovic Metro Pictures / New York

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then alterity is a deeper, more devious tribute, especially when self-inflicted. It’s also perilous creative territory, rife with dead ends: nostalgia, repetition, degradation, the sloppy “remix” that fatally poisons the original. Fortunately, David Maljković thrives at porous, overlapping margins, and his latest exhibition, “Alterity Line,” on view through February 24 at Metro Pictures in New York, revels in the fertile spaces between the self and the other, the found and the made, the end and the means.

Born in Rijeka, Croatia, and based in Zagreb, Maljković is an intrepid tracer of transformation and its consequences. The raw materials of this show are not only a selection of his previous works (drawings harvested from sketchbooks past, previous paintings and collages, visual fragments of a student performance) but also the typically concealed — yet suddenly compelling — tools of their production and display. Reconfigured on scales ranging from grand (multimedia installations) to intimate (a rolled up painting, encased in Plexiglas and leaning against a wall or propped on sawhorses), these works gain layers and levels, subverting expectations without erasing their origins.

David Maljkovic "Alterity Line," (2002-2017)
David Maljkovic “Alterity Line,” (2002-2017). Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures, New York

First up (or down, rather) is a trio of large floor pieces: acrylic grates that once resembled squashed and miniaturized Sol LeWitticisms — pristine white infinities of interlocking cubes. By the time Maljković found them, they had seen better days, and he put them to work. The bruised grids served as supports for the exhibition’s fifteen new, aluminum-mounted canvases while the artist performed painstaking feats of laser-assisted Etch-a-Sketching, often inscribing figures and forms in the act of projection (stylized movie cameras, orthogonal lines) atop oil paintings that date to 2002 or 2003. Caked with paint residue and set afloat in vitrines, the grates evoke, by turns, colorful maps, charred puzzles, or denuded honeycombs, while the laser-etched canvases flicker among past, present, and future.

Familiar notions of vision and revision are also upended by three video animations, in which line-drawn faces and figures are stretched, shifted, and reshaped — all on an endless loop. Concerns of hierarchy, whether in terms of time or space, form or content, are similarly shrugged off in Frustrated Painter or Something about Painting (2003–18): two large wallpaper works that transmogrify documentary images (a blank canvas, a helmet-wearing figure projecting a beam of light like a virtual paintbrush) through a haze of pigmented wheat paste. “Alterity Line” succeeds not merely by complicating questions of “Which came first?” but by rendering them refreshingly irrelevant.

by Stephanie Murg

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In Residence /

Orison II

Dan Bodan spent November 8 to December 8 in residence at the Goethe Institute in Tehran. Flash Art invited him to write a travelogue during his time there. This is the sixth and final installment.

I’ve been trying to teach myself to pray this past year, apparently shaken out of some spiritual hibernation by the tanks and explosions of last years’ war parade down Khreshchatyk Boulevard during my first visit. Now, every sunset, every body of water, every kind gesture is a catharsis in which I drop to my knees, rip open my chest in reverence, pull out my teeth and, with tears streaming down my face, mouth the words: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

It’s ridiculous but refreshing.

Friends have tried to ask me to define what exactly I mean by praying, and usually I say something like, “You know, nature, energy… that stuff,” because I really don’t have any better way to describe it, and I worry that if I put it into words I might break the spell and it’ll disappear.

This spring I’m walking with a friend through the Neapoli neighborhood in Athens, right where it slopes up to Mount Lycabettus, a hill formed when Athena dropped a piece of limestone after receiving bad news from a white raven (which she then turned black). I hear the sounds of vespers beginning from one of the ubiquitous orthodox churches that appear every few hundred meters. I suggest we enter, but my friend tells me she won’t, that she hates the Byzantines because for her they represent the end of the Goddess in Western culture. She does yoga every morning and lights a candle to Saint Expedite and a cast of deities she’s collected through books, study, and travel, and has developed a version of mythology on her own terms that forms an aesthetic center for her morning ritual and comforts her in times of crisis.

I, however, want to go into the church and demand they explain how they’re communicating with their god so I can better understand how to communicate with mine. I do finally step in one day, but I find myself feeling underwhelmed and a bit stifled. Guess I’m happier with my sunsets and the magic of pollen in the air than dark halls with bearded men in black robes. The sound of their prayer, though, is undeniable: a purity of belief that, regardless of my own feelings about big-brand religions, is impossible to disregard.

While buying milk at a convenience store in Tehran I notice, behind the till, the shop owner on the floor crouching in prayer, his body directed toward mecca. His co-worker walks over him to ring me up and then walks back over him to continue taking inventory, the ceremony never interrupted. That a prayer can take a form so simultaneously committed and casual, so integrated but performative, is a phenomenon to me.

***

So here I am: me, the sky, and this tiny drunk Ukrainian creature whose body treats mine with such kind firmness that every cynicism I try and invoke to pull myself out of this moment is immediately vaporized when I feel the pulse of his breath escaping. I convince myself that I am comfortable in this moment, even if the awkward position he’s pulled me into is killing my lower back. But I’ll stay here, my body curved in reverence and ritual.

I’m listening to his heart and it sounds healthy and Jiminy Cricket is whispering in my ear that I need to be careful about this guy, that I have a bad habit of investing considerable energy into too-short moments with friendly guys in foreign places. But I believe in these moments (whatever they are)! This moment of quiet ecstasy perfumed by the smell of his breath, an entire bottle of white wine and countless whiskey sours. Is this what the Sufis sing about? All the elements are here for a Rumi verse. I’m writing love letters in the sky with my eyes, dotting each ‘i’ in “i love you” with a new star. An infinite number of love letters directed nowhere and everywhere. Momentarily balancing complete selfishness with altruism.

I guess this is praying.

I follow the steps:
I tear my body apart to share and absorb with what’s around me at the same time.
I pull out my teeth to demand change.
I make a vow to try and never celebrate cruelty.
And I mouth the words: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Walking home, he picks me a marigold and I absentmindedly place it in my pocket and forget about it. When I find it a week later back in Berlin, dried up and shriveled, I place it on my window sill alongside a bottle of gold schnapps made by German monks, a white plaster bust of Nefertiti, a brass Omega sign I got from a fisherman in Piraeus, and a peach-colored sea shell I picked up on the beach of Kamakura. My collection of relics.

It’s my last night and he’s asleep next to me. I’m leaving in a few hours, so that’s where this ends. We’ll send each other hearts and flower icons, type “miss you” and gently tap a piece of glass to confirm our existence to one another with less and less frequency for seven days until we’re strangers again and he becomes another myth that I’ll spend a few sleepless nights like this trying to understand.

But for now my body is open.
My lips are almost raw from earlier that night. He’s folded himself into me again and is holding on so tightly I feel like I’ll rupture and burst into dust.

Moments like this happen so rarely that I’m convinced it’s a manipulation from god so that we’ll forgive ourselves for everything else.

At 6 am on the eleventh floor in a hotel room painted pink,
out the window sunlight is lipping a gold-topped church and a radio tower with its first breath
and I am stroking your eyebrows and the loose hairs come off on my thumb
and for each one I make the same wish: that time will bend to my will and stretch this moment out for millennia and we will turn to marble.

You press your chin into my neck and I am completely undone.

 

(“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”)

Dan Bodan is a musician who lives in Berlin. He has spent the past seventeen months traveling.

 

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Verbier Art Summit 2018

Just as Las Vegas seeks to rebrand itself by investing in gourmet dining and smart clubbing instead of musty gambling halls, so apparently do premier Swiss alpine regions (old-world charm Engadine, exclusive Gstaad, and, since 2017, the Valais skiing resort of Verbier) seek new audiences by identifying as the latest temporary Shangri-Las of contemporary art and edutainment.

In textbook Marxist fashion, capital proper got there first and continues to call the shots. The Jackson Hole Economic Symposium in distant Wyoming first took place in 1981, while closer to home, literally, the inaugural edition of what has since become known as the World Economic Forum was already held a decade earlier in the winter sport hub of Davos. In fact, this second edition of the Verbier Art Summit, themed “More than Real: Art in the Digital Age,” took a key chapter from its underwriters’ playbook with its concept of trickle-down discourse, as closed sessions produced sound bites for the subsequent public program. (For example, novelist, artist, and designer Douglas Coupland’s ruminations on a “pre-internet brain.”) There’s nothing surprising or particularly “wrong” about holding these casual yet nonetheless tiered networking mixers in the kinds of destinations already frequented by energized patrons, both actual and potential, and their managerial-cognitarian entourages. Granted, the prospect of debating transformational shifts in VR and algorithmic technology as it affects the conception, production, and experience of art within neoliberal consumer societies in some drab suburban venture-capital non-place seems pretty uninviting; but considering the summit’s fuzzy if occasionally amusing contemplations and hypotheses, any engagement with this vast topic may benefit from cultivating more proximity and exchange with the concrete sites and people that develop and market virtuality, for the sake of whatever reciprocative insights and projects that may whence ensue. Put differently, and to recap Olafur Eliasson’s keynote talk concluding the summit, there seems to be some ambiguity over the intent and reach of such post-institutional endeavors beyond presenting an arguably stimulating company outing.

That ambiguity colored some of the more defined presentations by mostly art-world regulars, ranging from Anicka Yi to Ed Atkins and Michelle Kuo. While the latter introduced her art-historical research into the pioneering yet eventually faltering 1960s group E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology) by revisiting the collective’s exuberant techno-architecture pavilion funded by Pepsi-Cola, Ed Atkins performed a dense text on the current image industry’s edict of “losslessness” and its subversion at the hands of art, proposing a Freudian scenario of melancholic perversion updated for the age of 3ds Max period dramas. His was more riveting, in my view, than the likewise dense and heavily detailed presentation by the neuro- and bioengineering researcher Paul Verschure, who in the past has realized multimedia environments, including audio-visually experimental imagings of a concentration camp. In direct opposition to Atkins’s recursion to a vector-based Freudian yet noninterpretative phantasmagoria of mourning, Verschure’s artistic projects aspire toward previously unrealized, educative sensorial experiences, overwhelmed by charts, graphs, and newfangledness. The Stedelijk’s new media curator Karen Archey’s brief art-historical primer on the dichotomy of 1990s net art and its disappearance vis-à-vis marketable and alluring post-internet art cropping up in the mid-aughts seemed applicable to the notable difference in style and intent of these two respective positions deploying the digitally produced virtual. But furthermore, the presentations also exemplified the often uneasy dialogue — or lack thereof — between the worlds of “rationally” guided scientistic projects and protocols seeking “creative” cross-pollination and the chatty and entitled while equally dismissed and ridiculed rhetoric favored by the art sphere. As to the humanist crisis stemming from art’s impotence in the face of the fast-developing expanded cinema of VR and its spectacularly violent or erotic or otherwise engrossing dreamworlds that summit curator Daniel Birnbaum halfheartedly voiced, Coupland merely retorted that the “real” world was a “dump” to begin with. True that — if easily forgotten in a winter wonderland.

Daniel Horn is an art historian based in Zurich and Berlin.

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