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The Galapagos Syndrome Yokohama Triennale 2017

The statements of the three artistic directors of the “Yokohama Triennale 2017: Islands, Constellations & Galapagos,” which opens to the public on August 4, tell almost nothing about what these islands off South America have to do with an exhibition on an island located on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean.

However, they do allude to the “Galapagos syndrome,” a term in Japanese technological parlance that indicates a twenty-first-century phenomenon of technologies evolving only to cater to peculiar domestic needs and becoming useless on foreign markets. The term usually has a negative or ironic connotation: a manifestation of mixed feelings about being isolated from globalization and — as a reaction — a sense of heightened self-regard amid a chauvinistic atmosphere in Japan in recent years.

The number of artists participating in the Triennial keeps dwindling. Nearly eighty in the 2011 edition, sixty-five in 2014 and forty in the upcoming sixth edition. While highlighting international names such as Ai Weiwei, Zhao Zhao, Maurizio Cattelan and Olafur Eliasson, the exhibition also features Japanese participants for whom the term “Galapagos” befits, who are known within local art circles but scarcely exposed to the global art scene, including: Satoru Aoyama, Sachiko Kazama, Susumu Kinoshita and Tsuyoshi Ozawa. Each has a unique style characterized by painstaking handiwork and an introverted, if not obsessive, vision of the realities surrounding them.

Possibly to broaden the perspective of the scaled-down exhibition, “Yokohama Round,” a series of public symposia, will take place during the period, inviting as panelists an anatomist and a cultural anthropologist, among other intellectuals and exhibiting artists.

The “islands” and “constellations” in the title may refer to the exhibition’s layout, as Akiko Miki, one of the three artistic directors, suggests in her statement: “An aggregation of small solo exhibitions by a smaller-than-usual number of carefully selected artists, with many of them showing multiple works.” The two other directors, Eriko Osaka and Tomoh Kashiwagi — both from the Yokohama Museum of Art, a city-run institution serving as the main venue of the Triennial — emphasize the exhibition’s mission to raise public awareness of the role that Yokohama played in Japan’s history of modernization. To be seen will be to what extent this mainly public-funded exhibition can be both local-oriented and international.

by Satoru Nagoya

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South as a State of Mind / Documenta 14

Founded in 2012, South as a State of Mind is a biannual publication overseen by Marina Fokidis’ Kunsthalle Athena. After publishing five editions between 2012 and 2014, the three most recent issues have served as journals intended to accompany Documenta 14, defining and framing the aims and concerns of the exhibition.

Described as a “manifestation” of Documenta, rather than a discursive lens through which to view the exhibition’s topics, the three editions have nevertheless adopted the publication’s preexisting and politicized aims, just as Fokidis herself has transitioned into the role of a key curatorial advisor to the exhibition.

The title derives from an ambition to question the stereotypes of “the South” which, as the editors put it, “contaminate the prevailing culture with ideas that derive from southern mythologies” such as temperate climate, corruption and general chaos. The publication sets out to suggest that, rather than existing as a series of physical locations, “South” is in fact a state of mind. Its central hypothesis renders it an apt mouthpiece for Documenta, at the same time raising the question of whether the exhibition was drawn to the region out of curiosity regarding the South.

In its tome-like form, South as a State of Mind employs a variety of paper stocks, while maintaining a consistency of design across the editions that mirrors the approach of all Documenta communications. Yet its content is more striking, comprising diverse and quixotic writings alongside artistic projects. The third Documenta edition focuses on the notion of language as necessity, alongside consumption and hunger as political and aesthetic fields. These include a heartbreaking account by Neni Panourgia of the famine that gripped Greece during and following the Second World War, punctuated by contemporaneous illustrations, and concluding with a description of contemporary Greek poverty; Ross Birrell’s photo series depicting the artist tossing philosophical texts into bodies of water, embodying an “Angel of Post-History”; as well as a fascinating interview with Guatemalan composer and sound artist Joaquín Orellana, who has recently presented his Sinfonía desde el Tercer Mundo (Symphony from the Third World) at Documenta, a work that reflects the atrocities committed in Guatemala by the counterinsurgency against indigenous and mixed-race populations.

As Documenta 14 unfolds, these and other publications will represent an increasingly important body of archival material reflecting on attendees’ discussions. They serve to inspire further dialogue as this whirling discourse begins to solidify.

by Andrew Spyrou

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On Art and Surfing / Malibu

The Depart Foundation — a West Hollywood-via-Rome nonprofit — opens their current show even further to the west, in a former Banana Republic storefront in the high-end Malibu Village shopping center. The forty-six-artist exhibition is called “Sea Sick in Paradise,” and it’s curated by artist and surfer Amy Yao.

All the classic surfer signifiers are there: a barrel wave pavilion by Matthew Lutz-Kinoy (who is in something called the Horny Surf Club with Yao), documentary photos, boards aplenty, a sandy mattress by Samantha Jane Clark, beachcombed trash, environmentalist expressions, and loads of work by surf-art legends and insiders like Barry McGee, Billy Al Bengston, Jeff Ho and Alex Knost.

Yao’s personal surfing history gives the show that clique-y vibe — and it’s common knowledge that surfers don’t take well to outsiders. But there are plenty of entry points here, due in part to the humor and excitement implicit in surfing, and partly owing to the curation itself.

The show is reminiscent of “Swell,” a three-gallery exhibition held at Petzel, Nyehous and Metro Pictures in New York in 2010, but “Sea Sick” diverges from that in a few significant ways. For one, it isn’t exclusively populated by works from “artists who surf,” nor by “surfers who make art,” but by a unique fusion of both. Most striking, however, is the pointed emphasis on gender and race; the show includes voices not often heard in surf culture, let alone in art that has to do with surfing.

The exhibition can sparkle at times because of this: a video by Eve Fowler and Mariah Garnett looks at surfers who identify as lesbians in the context of a hyper-hetero beach scene; a painting by Cristine Blanco vibrantly depicts cool surfer girls draped on a car (Blanco is a surf instructor and makes flyer art for Bay Area collective Brown Girl Surf); and Hawaii-born artist Sarah McMenimen sources flotsam from her uncle — the former keeper of Mauna Kea, who was exiled near Parker Ranch in the 1980s — and hangs it on mic stands.

Like McMenimen’s sculptures, “Sea Sick” happily jumbles together overlooked treasures and gives them the amplification they deserve.

by Maxwell Williams

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Monika Szewczyk and Hendrik Folkerts on Documenta 14 / Kassel

Documenta 14 in Kassel will open to the public on June 10, 2017. Flash Art spoke to curators Monika Szewczyk and Hendrik Folkerts about some of the themes in this edition and the challenges of presenting a show in two such profoundly different cities as Athens and Kassel.

How has Documenta 14 manifested as a public presence in both of its constituent cities?

Monika Szewczyk: I think it’s important to say that the public program has already been taking place on a weekly basis in a place where people can access it, before the public openings. Some of it is in the municipal gallery in Parko Eleftherias, named after the statesman Eleftherios Venizelos; but of course, eleftheria means “freedom,” so there is a kind of resonance that comes with the name. We started the public program with “34 Exercises of Freedom” involving different artists exercising freedom in many different ways. Not much was prescribed, discussed or guided as to what freedom was supposed to be, so it produced, in some way, a real polysemy. There is a language of diversity and polyphony that circulates around public institutions, but I think this moment was different because it trusted artists to redefine the meaning of freedom through actions and rituals, or rather exercises — keeping in mind that freedom is never something you possess but something that must be constantly renewed to exist.

Monika, in a recent press conference you spoke about the notion of value — the way that museums or art institutions can be stores of value — and about how these forms of value relate to larger economic questions. Could you speak about this and the ways you’re hoping to realize it in Documenta 14?

MS: We’re interested in looking at the way value is asserted ceremonially, the way it’s a kind of social agreement rather than something stable and held, even though the ceremony often involves material substances that are highly stable: things to anchor oneself to. I think we arrived in Athens looking out toward the Acropolis at the EMST and asked ourselves, “What is this place?” The Acropolis was many things in the past; it began as a temple to the virgin goddess Athena Parthenos, and the statue of the virgin inside functioned as a kind of bank — holding a lot of gold and a lot of ivory looted by member states of the Delian League. So it was a place of worship and a space of constantly reasserted value; and then it was a Christian church during the Byzantine era, then a mosque as well as a gun store. Now it’s a tourist attraction, but one which still holds a kind of sacred value because people still have a sense — as with a lot of Greek antiquities, but particularly with the Parthenon — that this is a kind of holy place, a space of strong energy that need not be captured by institutional religion.

Hendrik Folkerts: As much as the EMST is a national museum of contemporary art, Documenta has, for a very long time, existed as a symbolic exhibition with strong connections to a particular German history and culture, with very strong political and ideological undercurrents. I think this movement between Athens and Kassel is about questioning that history and trying to assess what kind of a value Documenta adds — perhaps on a monetary level, as it continues to define its relation to the art market, but also on a historical, cultural and political level.

Hendrik, you’ve spoken of how spaces have expectations of audiences, of how they can exert a kind of pressure by their design or arrangement or, as with Documenta 14, by displacing and recontextualizing artworks from one institution to another in a way that crosses both physical and political geography. How do you see audience reception functioning in relation to this displacement and recontextualization?

HF: Something Adam Szymczyk raised in the very beginning — which I only later came to understand in full — was that in the experience of the exhibition there would be a sense of loss; not only because for over a month things will be going on simultaneously — so you’ll never be able to access everything at the same time — yet also because not everyone has the means or the will to visit both cities. So the exhibition’s bi-located structure, its displaced configuration, will play quite an important role in the experience; not in the sense of, “ha-ha you can’t see it,” but more symbolically — how to despectacularize and reconfigure the way we look at exhibition-making and spectatorship.

MS: You’re supposed to give people plenty; you’re not supposed to give them loss. Within people’s experience of both cities, I think there’s an expectation that people will actually get lost, so there’s this sense of loss where you can’t see everything, but there’s also a sense that in order to learn you need to lose yourself in a place rather than allow a Cartesian grid to organize all the information for you.

Shifting our focus to the works themselves: Monika, you’ve spoken about the role of weaving as a technology in some of the works on show. Given weaving’s resonance in Greek mythological terms, could you explain how it features in the wider exhibition?

MS: I have mentioned this amazing woman, Bia Davou, who was somehow completely on point in connecting cybernetics to the epic tale of Penelope through diagrammatic, graphic works. We also have another artist involved, Irena Haiduk, who works with weavers and seamstresses in the former Yugoslavia, and who also activates more industrial textile manufacture, aware of its history as a forefront in the industrial revolution, as well as the informatics revolution. So this story keeps circling back.

HF: In the exhibition at large we’re looking at how weaving, which is established on patterns, relates to a score as an object in contemporary art and performance. There has been a lot of discourse produced around scores, but we’re interpreting it quite openly, thinking of a score as, on the one hand, an instructional device yet also as a notation that can be interpreted and performed freely, by anyone. At the EMST, we’ll be presenting an artist from Hungary, originally from Serbia, Katalin Ladik, who’s been producing visual scores based on sewing patterns, newspaper clippings and actual music notation, but also on computer chips found in radios and handheld devices. She reads that source material with her voice and produces sound based on them. The relationship between pattern (the score) and the body (her voice) are open to many interpretations. So you’re going to see and hear how these relationships are woven together in this body of work, yet also in many other artists who deal with patterns, weaving and scores.

MS: There’s a center in Athens called the Mentis Center for the Preservation of Traditional Textile Techniques, whose director, Virginia Matseli, told me of how the various threads leading into the grooves of these machines actually follow traditional Greek dances. So you see the bobbins performing this incredible choreography on the machines, whilst there is this sense of choreographing as another kind of weaving, in a beautiful dialectic. We keep coming across these connections that open up once again a discussion about Greek mythology, in which weaving is portrayed as this ultimate way of making. Athena is a goddess who, amongst other things, is also the patron of weaving.

by William Kherbek

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Britta Peters, Kasper König and Marianne Wagner on
Skulptur Projekte Münster

This year, just as Documenta is engaged in a dialogue between Kassel and Athens, Skulptur Projekte Münster has sought to collaborate with Marl, a city that, despite its close proximity, has experienced a very different social and visual development since the end of the Second World War. The exhibition has always stood out for its sensitivity toward art’s democratic role within public space. The fifth edition will open to the public on June 10, 2017 and is a timely chance for reflection a decade on from the last. Flash Art speaks with curators Britta Peters, Kasper König and Marianne Wagner.

The “Out of” magazine series that accompanies Skulptur Projekte 2017 calls attention to ways in which our experience of sculpture has changed recently, mediated by an increasing digitalization of life. How do you see our understanding of public space having changed since the last Skulptur Projekte a decade ago, and how does this year’s exhibition reflect that?

Skulptur Projekte Münster: Since we are in the middle of a rapid development, it is hard to define the situation we are in now. But digitalization changes our ideas of public and private dramatically, that’s for sure. The term “private” today only seems to fit for property, no longer for private data or a private atmosphere. Numerous aspects of the term “public” might, these days, be understood in terms of “transparency,” which doesn’t necessarily lead to a critical public — think of Trump and how little all the knowledge of his lies and manipulations affected the election. In some sculptural projects the questions of digitalization are very much in the foreground — for example Hito Steyerl, Aram Bartholl, or Andreas Bunte — in others it is a more implicit subject. A lot of works are reflecting the body, which can be read as a way to think about digitalization; focusing on a body which disappears and is substituted through digital and mobile devices.

From its beginnings Skulptur Projekte has engaged in a robust dialogue with municipal authorities and private entities, emphasizing its democratic foundations. Has the current political climate brought a greater urgency to this edition, perhaps informing its greater emphasis on performance?

SPM: The first two editions of Skulptur Projekte caused a number of conflicts with the citizens of Münster, additionally kindled by the local press. Since 1997 this relationship has altered towards one of greater acceptance, even including a misunderstanding of the exhibition as a city marketing tool, something the curators and artists are definitely not interested in. These days it is just part of the frameset we have to deal with. The interest in performance takes its starting point from various directions: the interest in the body, as well as questions about sculpture and time. What does material presence mean and how does this relate to a more ephemeral experience? The latter may also be felt very strongly, remaining as lively in its remembrance as the encounter with a material work of art. In Münster one encounters a lot of “ghosts” of former art works, and the performance pieces will add some new ones. It is important that the exhibition itself is always set up temporarily, even though many works have stayed in the city since 1977.

Of the more than thirty-six sculptural projects that remain in situ in Münster from earlier iterations of the exhibition, are there any that feel especially resonant to you right now?

SPM: The so-called public collection is very important, because it offers the public a longtime relationship with the presented works of art. Some of the contributions of the artists from 1977 to 2007 are stronger than others, but the majority hold great aesthetic power. Some of them, for instance Maria Nordman’s plant-based work De Civitate from 1991, lay “dormant” for over twenty years and now seem to get more relevant. By contrast, Bruce Nauman’s Square Depression, proposed in 1977, was only realized in 2007. It is certainly of the most interesting ones.

This edition is marked by the collaboration between Münster and the nearby city of Marl. What was the rationale behind this, and how has this dialogue been born out?

SPM: To put it in a nutshell: the identities chosen by the two cities after World War II — reconstruction and continuity in Münster, radical modern architecture in Marl — could hardly be more different. For various reasons, art in the public space plays a decisive role in both. Whereas the development in Marl can be understood, broadly speaking, as an integral element in the conveyance of a modern humanist worldview, it would be another decade before the first Skulptur Projekte was realized, in conflict with and in opposition to the conservative town society. All this makes the exchange very interesting for both sides. And it is not far between the two, only sixty kilometers by car — everyone can visit and appreciate the different settings. For the fifth edition of Skulptur Projekte this collaboration means to open a window: not only focusing on Münster, but to put this island-like city — with its educated, wealthy population working in administration or at the university — in a relation to the surrounding Ruhr region, which was formed by the rise and fall of industrial work.

by Alex Estorick

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Jim Shaw Inaugurates the Marciano Art Foundation / Los Angeles

Maurice and Paul Marciano, the two brothers who founded the denim company GUESS?, realized a tour de force with the opening of their new art foundation. Located in the Windsor Square neighborhood of Los Angeles, the Marciano Art Foundation is housed in the iconic Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, designed in 1961 by Millard Sheets. At its peak, eighteen thousand people were members here, all men, from very diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.

The space was renovated by Kulapat Yantrasast of wHY Architecture and opened to the public last Thursday with the first major Jim Shaw exhibition in Los Angeles. Bigger than “The End Is Near,” presented last year at the New Museum, “Jim Shaw: The Wig Museum” is a labyrinthine display of furniture, stage sets, robes, backdrops, wigs, regalia, paintings, drawings and sculptures across fourteen thousand square feet in the former masonic theater space.

Much of the material that the artist used (wigs and backdrops, for instance) was found on site, as they were props for masonic plays and initiation rites. When asked to curate the inaugural show for the Foundation, guest curator Philipp Kaiser connected the dots: Which L.A. artist, interested in the esoteric and emblematic figures of power, could do something fantastic with these monumental theatrical backdrops and other relics? Jim Shaw was the ideal candidate. After his New Museum show, this project seemed like a good fit, a natural progression for his use of occult imagery and reappropriation of found material. But the artist didn’t just stage the found artifacts. He airbrushed, cut through, manipulated and repurposed the original pieces, most of them from the 1960s and 1970s. He also found some pieces lying dormant in Hollywood warehouses, and included his own artworks. The result is a remarkable show that reactivates the temple’s aura and purpose, culminating in an ironic interpretation of the apocalyptic end of Anglo-Saxon power.

by Alexandre Stipanovich

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