Review /

Hanne Lippard KW Institute for Contemporary Art / Berlin

To enter “Flesh,” one has to mount a spiraling milk-lemon staircase set in the middle of the main gallery hall. One could easily imagine this cinematic architectural constellation as the setting for a scene in a David Lynch film. On reaching the top of the ascent, the threshold opens out onto a luxurious salmon-pink carpet, making the enamel-clad staircase railing the only object in an approximately twenty-five-square meter glass-walled cube.

The room, situated at the top of the KW Gallery, has been engineered especially for the work; the site-specific environment is one of Lippard’s largest to date. However, the space is far from comfortable. The 1920s meringue-like color palette is relaxingly kitsch, but the ceiling is low. The panoramic view offers a mild respite when seated below the claustrophobic lowness of the roof, but one is only able to look out onto the walls of neighboring buildings, whose lines add to the urban severity of the installational framework.

Four speakers are set into each corner of the room, from which Hanne Lippard’s dulcet tones start to reverberate. Her voice is choreographed to move from speaker to speaker:

“How do you see yourself in ten years?

What is the reason for a human being?”

Lippard’s production of language focuses solely on the essence and use of the voice, merging content and form from the hyper-real everyday into a hypnagogic state. Her distinct vocalizations, gentle but probing, deliver prosaic texts in almost-perfect English, with a twang of a Norwegian accent. Lippard lulls the listener through clarity but articulates surreal mindscapes through free-form associative patterns. Her voice blurs into uncannily vivid scenarios in the viewers mind. Viewer’s ears are fed imagery via a Freudian-style shopping list, while Lippard moves from pickpockets to dick pics to picnic’s to lost earnings to lost earrings.

The work’s duration is around thirteen minutes in total, which is slightly disappointing as it’s the only work by Lippard in the gallery. Just as you begin to melt into the flesh of her voice you are brought back to your own physical presence. Abrupt and fleeting, Lippard disappears from our consciousness as we descend the stairs once more — from her maxi subconscious into the minimalism of the white cube.

by Penny Rafferty

read more
A Vogue Idea /

Promesse du Bonheur / ___fabrics interseason

___fabrics interseason was founded by Wally Salner and Johannes Schweiger. Since 1998, they have produced twenty-two collections, initiated a bachelor’s degree program in fashion design for Kunstuniversität Linz, and have participated in more than twenty exhibitions, including the third Berlin Biennale and Manifesta 7. The term “interseasonal,” which refers to clothing that falls outside the two major annual shows, is suggestive of design’s liminal space. 

Their work, along with labels like BLESS, has been canonical for opening new interdisciplinary models for fashion. While haute couture challenges wearability through the spectacular, ___fabrics interseason instead explores clothing codes through a sociopolitical approach to fashion rituals. Although the label ended in 2011, their nuanced criticality still echoes today, in contrast to the hyper exposure of the fashion industry.

___fabrics interseason was a curious example of a label that existed on the periphery. Your work dealt with installations, performances, music and material studies. What was your interest in anchoring this practice in fashion?

Johannes Schweiger: We had no background in fashion studies, but we both, Wally Salner and I, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. During my studies, my artistic projects already dealt with issues of clothing and fashion. It was not really about making garments or wearable props, but more about an institutional critique of the system of fashion — modes of presenting, mediating and consuming fashion.

In the beginning, ___fabrics interseason had a strong focus on the performative aspects of fashion, literally using the method and form of a fashion show as a tool to communicate social issues and phenomena. Even then the garments of our collections were not necessarily designed under a fashionable/wearable aspect. I would say this started when we founded the company and went to Paris to present our collections during fashion week and further sold them to shops worldwide. ___fabrics interseason had a broader brand philosophy, and its approach toward fashion combined design, fine arts, music, film and text in a simple and natural way.

Working from and at the periphery allows you to stay in focus. It might also mean that your gaze at the center is critical and objective, if the center represents a corporate-run brand whose only aim is to have a huge turnover by the end of the year.

The collection descriptions are often long, impressionistic explanations of cultural phenomena, functioning as ficto-critical analyses to frame the collection. Topics have ranged from Tupperware, Japanese consumerism, masculine anxiety, etc. What was one of your favorite collections/works?

That’s difficult to answer after such a long time, but it might be a trilogy of collections dealing with the subject of normality projected on the surface in different fields (Spring Summer 2002, Fall Winter 2002/03, Spring Summer 2003). The series was called “constructed normality” and had the subtitles #PromesseDuBonheur, with the focus on “New Poverty;” #ModernNervs, dealing with psychic (ab)normality; and #clubMed CHLOR, in which we concentrated on the idea of gated holiday resorts and female sex tourism in the 1980s.

Your collections often addressed a loose fabric that, as an abandonment of the anatomy, is also explored in your installation work. This provocation of fashion’s boundaries was also being tested by another label, ffiXXed, who approached fabric’s multiplicity in translating non-garment outcomes. What is your relationship to fabric in your installation work — for example the piece for Manifesta 7?

For Manifesta we continued with a project we realized a year before (tapestry #1). In this open-air installation we worked with handwoven rugs and carpets that were made of the leftovers from all the previous collections, cut into thin strips and woven in the most simple way you can imagine: warp and weft. The idea behind it was not really a recycling aspect but more the leveling of different collections (with all their concepts) into a new design product. The carpets/textiles can also been seen as a form of painting and have different dimensions, the biggest ones measuring two by twenty meters.

One of my favorite collections was “Adhocracy f/w 2004/05,” which was also featured in the third Berlin Biennale. Could you explain this work?

“Adhocracy” was conceived both as a collection and an installation piece that included a performance for the third Berlin Biennale. Then, almost fifteen years ago, the rise of smart technologies and the phenomenon of the flash mob was quite virulent, and we linked this idea of Dadaistic nonsense gatherings with the Surrealists, who handed out heads of lettuce to passersby to bring some fantasy to the course of standardized, everyday life. But do not forget: the surrealists were an elitist group. Anybody who acted against the imaginary disordered rules was quickly conjured away!

The principle upon which these ad hoc groupings came together was simple: sometime, somehow, somewhere. We questioned if this phenomenon could be the future of democracy, a kind of a high-speed variant of democratic consent-formation in the age of wireless communication. For its presentation during Paris fashion week, we organized a fake flash mob at the Louvre/Union Central des Arts Decoratifs, where the group of models lip-synched Kevin Blechdom’s interpretation of Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer.”

What was it like heading a fashion course at the university in Linz? What was your approach to fashion pedagogy?

Working with students is a matter of giving and taking. Of course there are specific curricula to which you have to stick to, but the most important thing with teaching is to stimulate and promote independent thinking: free thinking is for free! I am still doing design seminars in Linz and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, but I mainly teach at the Technical University of Dortmund, at the Institute of Art and Material Culture/Anthropology of Textiles. Wally Salner is teaching in Munich.

Are you still interested in fashion today?

Of course, I follow fashion. I still think it’s an interesting and powerful tool to communicate with your surroundings and mediate certain issues via fabrics and garments.

by Matthew Linde

read more
Review /

Evelyn Taocheng Wang Château Shatto / Los Angeles

The ubiquity of massage parlors in Western cities has not completely divested the practice of its associations with exoticism. In the 19th century, they suggested hidden thrills for Orientalist painters, like Gerôme, whose imaginary baths teem with scantily clad maidens.

They provided fertile grounds, too, for Leopold Bloom’s masturbatory fantasy in Ulysses: “Time to get a bath round the corner. Hammam. Turkish. Massage. Dirt gets rolled up in your navel. Nicer if a nice girl did it. Also I think I. Yes I. Do i in the bath. Curious longing I. Water to water. Combine business with pleasure.”

Heatwave Wrinkle”, Evelyn Taocheng Wang’s current exhibition at Château Shatto, promises a different kind of business and pleasure, with an unorthodox trio of elements: painting, drawing and—you guessed it — massage. The exhibition, which takes up a single room, is dominated by five blue-curtained screens that partially obscure the view of a cushioned table. Human touch is its own currency here, with a ten minute massage setting you back $10. If you bring along a photograph of a landscape, you get a discount and a personalized narrative from your masseuse.

The glimpses afforded by this coy arrangement might heighten a sense of erotic tension, if in fact a rubdown were taking place. However, the table was unoccupied on my visit, and the artist, who has herself dispensed the massages in previous exhibitions (as well as professionally, during her studies), was absent. Consequently, the space felt somewhat denuded, which was exacerbated by the sparse hang of three paintings on the surrounding walls. Depicting various kinds of vessels, executed in thick, bold strokes, these large acrylic on canvas works look a little hastily made. While Untitled No. 5 (2016), a faint sketch of a vase with a Greek key pattern on its neck, has a spare elegance, it feels rather surplus to requirements.

Through two simple gestures – using screens to disrupt the gaze and endowing the masseuse with a narrator’s role – Wang transforms the parlor from a site of voyeurism into one actively authored by the participants. This is underscored by two delightful works on paper installed by the entrance, in which long-haired figures relax amidst fine-leafed foliage and the eddying flows of a river. In these delicate rice paper drawings, Wang takes care to represent people taking their own pleasure rather than performing for the pleasure of others.

by Ciara Moloney

read more
Review /

Elevation 1049 – Avalanche LUMA Foundation / Gstaad

Nestled among snowdrifts and Louis Vuitton boutiques, the Swiss resort town of Gstaad gives off an eerie, unnatural vibe — luxury seems to flow down its tiny, sun-drenched streets. Here, Olympia Scarry and Neville Wakefield have curated a selection of site-specific works on the edge of the unreal for the latest installment of Elevation 1049.

Each piece gives off a certain uncanny reality effect, none more so than Nicole Wermers’s The Violet Revs (2017), situated in a deserted pavilion terrace next to an iced-over swimming pool. A collection of cheap plastic chairs are reserved by black leather biker jackets. Silver studs glisten in the afternoon sun, but there is no sign of the rebel owners. Have they been abducted, perhaps? Will they return? Or are they all dead, lying at the bottom of the pool? The silent scene inspires a mixture of fear and glamour, and something else that is on the tip of your tongue.

Yngve Holen’s Leichtmetallräder (2017) also lends a touch of horror to the Swiss architecture. Bespoke alloy hubcaps glisten, their rims having been removed by a five-axis water-jet cutter. The sharpened and reappropriated readymades are mounted on the outside of a Bugatti showroom situated on the main promenade. The works blend into the ornate carved façade, mimicking Switzerland’s national flower, the Edelweiss. Traditionally the flower grows only amid the highest mountain terrain. Its bloom symbolizes a wild and daring temperament, for which the convertible cars below are just a modern-day symbol, their metal bodies drenched with adrenaline and a lust for hairpin turns.

A sense of the immaterial and our own insignificance is reflected in nearly every viewing experience. Douglas Gordon and Morgane Tschiember’s work As close as you can for as long as it lasts (2017) pays homage to the kind of ephemerality often found in early Land Art. A simple fire ring billows smoke into the glass-blue sky, accompanied by a call and response between the two artists — an oblique reference to yodeling. Their interpretation, however, takes on a more bloodthirsty, wolf-like cadence, as if stalking the range in a fit of desire and loneliness.

It is admittedly hard to define the exact narrative links that Elevation 1049 conjures, but this, in a way, is its strength. The exhibition offers moments of reflection as you wander up tiny alleys or hover in cable cars above alabaster peaks. In an art world that is normally dedicated to art-star tourism, the satisfactions of “Avalanche” are refreshingly fleeting. The surreal works sit majestically inside a traditional Swiss landscape, familiar to all. Like a luxury chocolate bar, the festival conveys an evanescent pleasure, sweet and fleeting.

by Penny Rafferty

read more
News /

Daniel Garza-Usabiaga on Zona Maco / Mexico City

As Zona Maco gears up for its 2017 edition in Mexico City, artistic director Daniel Garza-Usabiaga provides insight into this international art fair, now in its thirteenth year.

Tell us about some of the programming you have developed for this edition.

Within New Proposals — one of the five sections of the fair — and together with curator Humberto Moro, we are creating a new initiative called SAMPLE that will provide exhibition space for artists from the galleries participating in that section. Luis Silva and Joao Mourao are curating Zona Maco Sur for the third consecutive year, and they have created a section that is witty, astute and gathers a group of interesting and experimental proposals. Cecilia León de la Barra has been leading Zona Maco Design, and this year the section will gather a larger number of participating galleries featuring notable historical and contemporary examples of design from Mexico and abroad.

What is the role of the conference series?

The conference program is developed with the curators of the various fair sections, which makes it very diverse and interesting. We have invited speakers such as designer Nikolai Haas, artists Pedro Reyes and John Houck among others, and a performance by Regina José Galindo. I am particularly happy that this year will include the presentation of projects highlighting collaboration between individuals and institutions in the North American continent. Specifically, the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles/Latin America” and “Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1900–1950,” an exhibition organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Mexico’s Ministry of Culture. For 2017 the fair is also introducing two new awards: one for public art projects and one for artists participating in the New Proposals section.

What are you most interested in this year overall?

I find the whole fair very exciting, but I am also excited for everything that happens outside the fair. Local galleries excel in their exhibitions during Zona Maco, as do institutions. I am looking forward to seeing “Paint the Revolution” at the Palace of Fine Arts and Lawrence Weiner’s project Forever & A Day based at the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico, which also includes work at iconic sites around the historic center of the city.

by Leslie Moody Castro

read more
Review /

Liz Glynn Paula Cooper Gallery / New York

Rodin loved a remix. He often worked with fragments, grafting a bit of one sculpture onto another and leaving proud traces of his collaging on gouged, turbulent surfaces. This profoundly modern practice — of infusing works with not only the process of their making but also the hand of the artist — led Liz Glynn to embark on a Rodin remix of her own.

In 2013, Glynn convinced LACMA leadership to allow her to take partial molds from Rodin sculptures in the museum’s collection (that the works had been cast posthumously, in the 1960s, greatly helped her cause — and added questions of value structure to the project). She then recruited eight younger artists to join her in a temporary recreation of Rodin’s atelier, and they recombined the cast fragments with mounds of plaster and oil-based clay to recreate the Rodins in a two-day performative frenzy.

In the course of returning the bricolaged bodies to bronze, Glynn retained the messy hand scrapes and frayed burlap bits, at once preserving Rodin’s original gestures — walking, pondering, proclaiming — and warping them, embedding elements of chance and speed. The cloaked figure of Balzac (controversial in the original — one critic dismissed the work in 1918 as “a huge comic mask crowning a bathrobe”) is mashed up with that of a beseeching burgher; the famed Thinker has shifted his posture from contemplation to sobbing as he gazes wistfully at his detached foot; a crouching figure grimaces with determination, hatching a plan to unravel its muddled limbs.

Grotesque and melty at first glance, Glynn’s figures soon engage the viewer with their vitality. The makers’ hands come alive in bony torsos, grasping hands and contorted stances that unite the past and the present. The bronzes are joined by a second room of twenty-seven small ceramic works that underline the intimacy of Glynn’s approach to gesture; in unglazed stoneware and terracotta, they are paused in the process of becoming, of being kneaded and pinched into life. Both bodies of work reveal the artist’s interest in disappearance — what exists, what is lost — and the threshold of believability: building, hypothesizing and rebuilding to understand how a fragment surrenders its link to the whole and comes into its own.

by Stephanie Murg

read more