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Michel Auder and Józef Robakowski Fahrenheit / Los Angeles

The exhibition “Street Life” brings together four works by filmmakers Michel Auder and Józef Robakowski. Concerned with renovating the language of cinema, both artists use the camera as a tool for documenting the life of their cities with a neutral eye.

The films shown here collectively address the relationship between public and private space during two dissimilar political phases. By combining this selection of works from the artists’ prolific careers, the show touches the core of its subject, arriving at a more complex treatment of the theme than a mere formal approach.

In Blind Sex (1983, edited 2009) and Chelsea – Manhattan, NYC (1990, edited 2008) Auder reports on the ritualistic behavior of sex workers and clients in the streets of a big Western urban center, whereas in the recent Untitled (I Was Looking Back To See If You Were Looking Back At Me To See Me Looking Back At You) (2012–14) he delves into the realm of semi-voyeuristic pleasure by recording domestic scenes from nearby buildings. Situations witnessed by Auder mirror a social background in which solitude is omnipresent, despite the illusion of freedom.

Robakowsky’s From My Window (1978–99) narrates the life of a desolate square of concrete in Lods, Poland. The artist uses an ironic, omniscient tone to compile a precise visual diary of purely functional actions happening every day. Public space turns into a space of oppression; one can only imagine unseen private spaces as a zone of resistance, the only territory where individual life is thriving. Although this aspect is not overtly exposed by Robakowsky, the viewer is informed by what is projected in the adjacent room screening Auder’s work. When the participants of the ritual May Day parade march in the opposite direction of the previous years, it’s in anticipation of a transformation that will bring the collapse of the Eastern bloc. The square will become a five-star hotel, and the worlds portrayed by Auder and Robakowsky will eventually meet to become one unified global village.

by Patrick Steffen

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BIM 2014 Centre d’Art Contemporain / Genève

From September 18 to November 23, 2014, the Centre d’Art Contemporain of Geneva welcomed the 14th edition of the Biennale of the Moving Image, honoring the tradition originally set up by Andre Iten in 1985 with the “Semaine Internationale de la Vidéo.”

The BIM 2014 was curated by CAC director Andrea Bellini, in partnership with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Yann Chateigné. If in recent years the event seemed in search of an identity, this year’s version seemed to express desire for a more stable future. A series of structural and communication choices — the fact that it had no theme or title, no competition, the attractional logic of teasers and an investment in the production of new works — all converged toward a common goal. An intelligent branding effort confirmed the BIM as an important platform for the exhibition and, more importantly, for the production and the distribution of artists’ moving images.

In the main exhibition, each floor put the accent on a different display mode, echoing the long-fluctuant relationship of the arts with time-based media. The first floor welcomed performances and their aftermaths. The second displayed coexisting assemblages of multiple-screen installations. The third offered a stroll through rooms allowing a more intimate reception. The fourth presented a running program of five screenings in a small cinema and a room with TV monitors. Paracinematic interventions, parallel events and archival presentations completed the BIM. This multiplicity evokes the symptom produced by a certain illusion of digital mastery over all forms. Meanwhile, the relative absence of film, of flatscreens, of the internet as paradigm, as well as the omnipresence of ceiling-attached projectors that reinforce the immersive quality of the image, let single works optimally manifest their singularity: Jeremy Shaw’s ecstatic Quickeners (2014), Ed Atkins’s traumatic Happy Birthday!!! (2014) and Felix Melia’s topological Lammasu Flats (2014)stand at the top of the subjective list.

by Nicolas Brulhart

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Alighiero Boetti Luxembourg & Dayan / London

Commercial benefits notwithstanding, it takes some nerve to organize an Alighiero Boetti gallery exhibition these days. Universally celebrated if overexposed by a large number of posthumous accolades, including a robust Tate Modern retrospective in 2012, Boetti is one of those artists whose outstanding body of work is limited not only by quantity but also by repetition. In light of these considerations, what can a small-scale, generically titled show like “I Colori” possibly add?

Quite surprisingly, the exhibition at Luxembourg & Dayan manages to indicate the existence of a few threads in Boetti’s oeuvre that deserve further examination even if not entirely unexplored. The starting point is a diptych of red monochromes made in 1967, Rosso Gilera and Rosso Guzzi. For those not familiar with motorbikes, the debate around the Gilera vs. Guzzi brands in Italy in the 1960s was the equivalent of the Beatles vs. the Stones. Spray-painted on sheer metal using the same varnishes and materials adopted by the two manufacturers, the paintings are early examples of some of the themes dear to the artist, like similarity, specularity, mass production, exoticism and wordplay. Having established the evocative power of color in conjunction with language, Boetti would go on to create works along the same lines about nature (Rosso Corallo, 1967), cities (Rosso Adrianopoli and Blu Positano, 1967) and racetracks (Grigio Doncaster and Bianco Saratoga, 1968).

Another monochrome, The Thin Thumb, one of Boetti’s rare excursions into the English language, was originally exhibited at his inaugural show at Galleria Christian Stein in 1967. Part of a larger series based on phrasebooks his wife, essayist Anne-Marie Sauzeau, would use to teach English in Paris, the work here assumes the double function of a tribute to Eugéne Ionesco’s La Cantatrice Chauve as well as to a woman who played a significant role in Boetti’s salad days and who regrettably passed away last September.

by Michele Robecchi

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Melissa Chiu on her new position at Hirshhorn Museum / Washington, D.C.

Melissa Chiu is the new director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Previously she was Museum Director and Vice President of Global Art Programs at the Asia Society in New York. Her appointment at the Hirshhorn promises to open the museum up to further exploration within the realm of international contemporary art as well as a broader investigation of new media, all seen through the eyes of a woman. 

What do you hope to bring to the Hirshhorn Museum?

The same month that I joined the Hirshhorn they celebrated their fortieth anniversary. They have an extraordinary collection of postwar American and European art — one of the best in the U.S. It has a remarkable building with a central location, and those fundamentals work as a great foundation for us to be able to do much more. In terms of thinking about where we’re headed, I’m still formulating what that should be, now in my second month, but the top of our agenda is “What does it mean to be a museum in the twenty-first century?” When the Hirshhorn was founded, I think being an international museum really meant being European, and today that might mean also including artists from Latin America, Asia, Africa and also maybe parts of Europe that haven’t had much exposure in museums and the art world. This is where my interest lies, and it [will manifest] in museum programs, exhibitions and public initiatives.

Do you see technology as a force within the context of a museum?

Technology is a big piece of where museums are putting further emphasis. I think the Hirshhorn, both because of its scale and track record, especially in film and video, results in our focus on artists who work within these media. We plan to look at the ways that mobile technology, including social media, can help people to better understand what they are seeing.

Something I find exciting in museum culture in our present age is the marriage between art-historical and contemporary objects — ways in which the two can interact and open up a dialogue between old and new.

 I’m very interested in looking at the past through the eyes of the present. We’re seeing that in a bit of a curatorial exercise with the revival of certain important historical shows, but we’re also seeing a really interesting revision of the art history that we all learned in art school or university. It was a Western-based art history that transitioned from Paris to New York. Now we’re witnessing a rewriting of that history with Gutai in Japan, Dansaekzo Yesool (Korean Monotone Art) and Fluxus, which was also a global movement. We’re really looking at how these specific artist communities have interacted internationally. At the Hirshhorn we are very interested in looking at where the latter twentieth-century interstices might exist, and we can provide scholarship for better understanding.

What is upcoming that you’d like to share with our readers?

Next up is a survey on Shirin Neshat that opens in May 2015. More often than not she is thought of as an artist working within either an Islamic view or a view on gender. When in fact, each of her works has been a reaction to modern Islamic history. The show will give a viewpoint on geo-political world events as visited through her practice. An exhibition of Surrealist sculpture will open in Autumn 2015.

by Katy Diamond Hamer

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Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman Marlborough Chelsea / New York

“A fever dream” is how Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman refer to their own work. Collages, imaginary books with fake and hilarious titles, improbable props, issues of their fictitious magazine Artichoke, vintage wallpapers, crystal cactus or rice sculptures, mirror canvases, capsule installations, dusty corridors and rooms inspired by another era, architectural scale shifts, music and poetry… Their media seem infinite.

Smell is the only sense they haven’t explored yet. Their art suggests a Venn diagram with three circles overlapping: real references, illusions, and fictional narratives. As spectators, we constantly shift from one circle to the other. We navigate through different realms of consciousness: aesthetic awe, hallucinatory excitement, blurred memories, sensations of déjà-vu, and this strange feeling that we are on an investigation, about to solve a mystery. Or maybe we are just trekking through a dreamscape.

The centerpiece of the show is a thirty-two-minute-long film entitled Floating Chain (2014), composed of shorts inspired by ’80s vintage commercials. Organized like a Rube Goldberg machine, a psychedelic musical score alternates with surrealistic spoken words. This soundtrack creates a feeling of hypnosis. Many of the props used in the movie are on display across the different rooms.

Like their previous shows, “Floating Chain (High-Res Toni)”is a linear succession of installations. Through curtains, broken walls or secret doors, each room-to-room passage has a different affect. The progression is an art form, the passage an art piece that acts like a mental palate cleanser: we are not the same person, nor have we the same mindset, when entering as a guest (though a welcoming door) or as a intruder (through a broken wall).

The duo also refers to Superstudio, the Italian architecture firm, using the small scale of their white, tiled and bent designs as telescopes to glance between rooms. Lowe and Freeman have created nostalgia for a world that never existed; that might be the strongest way to impact our imagination. As Justin told me: “The more you look, the more there is. It’s all there for you if you want to dig deep.”

by Alexandre Stipanovich

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Stuart Krimko and Arlo Haskell on Sand Paper Press / Key West

A small poetry press based in Key West, Florida, featuring authors such as Harry Mathews and Héctor Viel Temperley, Sand Paper Press is about to publish an anthology of two writers from Buenos Aires, Cecilia Pavón and Fernanda Laguna, founders of the art space Belleza y Felicidad, which gives the collection its title.

Belleza was also a publishing house and a literary salon of sorts, and became a turning point in the contemporary intellectual history of the city. Translator Stuart Krimko and co-founder and lifetime friend Arlo Haskell tell a bit about the book and their commitment in publishing to the most secret of objects — poems and relationships.

Your involvement with Buenos Aires and its literature is very peculiar.

Stuart Krimko: I first read Héctor Viel Temperley and Osvaldo Lamborghini when I came to study at the Universidad de Buenos Aires as a guest student in 1999. And I began translating them right away after coming back home. Then I came back in 2010 to work on Lamborghini and I happened to meet César Aira, who then introduced me to La Internacional — a bookshop where many writers gather — and I first met Fernanda and Cecilia there. Everything then evolved naturally. We became friends and I came back in February 2011 and in the winter of 2012 to work and to spend time with them.

At the same time you began translating Cecilia, she began translating you and other young poets from the USA, like Ariana Reines and Dorothea Lasky. Two separate strains of contemporary poetry came into rich contact.

SK: I was happy to learn that some of what I love about Ariana’s poems — for instance disarming frankness, from a feminist perspective, about sex and relationships and metaphysics alike — could also be found in Cecilia and Fernanda’s writing going back more than a decade. This is very much on display in their co-authored epistolary work Ceci y Fer (2002), which served as an initial inspiration for the Sand Paper Press volume. Given this common ground, it made sense that, through translation, an extended literary family would be formed.

Sand Paper Press is based in Key West, and though its literary landscape is much wider, it seems to conserve a local flavor. To quote you: “Key West is a beautiful town they will succeed at one day in ruining.”

Arlo Haskell: Key West is my home, where I was raised and where I live still. As a child I was acquainted, through my mother, with some of the great poets who were then still living there — people like James Merrill, Richard Wilbur — and later on, at Bard College — where Stuart and I met and became friends in the late 1990s — I became aware of how important the island had been to poets like Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Olson. This Key West is a thing that inspires both of us — the idea of a small place marked by (and leaving a mark on) close or casual relationships and friendships that radiate out through poems and novels to impact the larger literary world: the personal and the intimate as launching pad for literature of broad impact. We share that, I think, with Cecilia and Fernanda, and that has made this project very dear. As for the poem you quote from — it’s true. Key West has been ruined before and will be ruined again. Lots of people say it’s ruined now. But the literary energy here remains very vital, and I think that’s apparent in our books.

SK: This reminds me of a kind of deal Arlo and I had with each other when we finished our studies at Bard College. The two of us went on a road trip to Northeast Canada, we made our way through the state of Maine and then through Nova Scotia and then finally to Newfoundland, way out in the North Atlantic… At this moment Arlo and I had conversations about putting together some kind of book of our friendship, a record of our correspondence, something, in a way, like Ceci y Fer. That book never materialized, but I think that Sand Paper Press, in a sense, has become that book, which makes this Belleza compendium even more personal and intense for us. Over time, we realized that it was more important to broadcast our shared view of the world, of literature, of what it is really capable of as a vessel for virtues, through careful scholarship and bookmaking, through conversations. Because “writing” is not just composition, it is listening and care and editing and feeling drawn toward things for reasons that can’t be chalked up to paper and pen. Books need to make you travel and they need to give you people and they must, in the end, help clarify the spirit. This very much informs our approach to the mundane aspects of the books too, as we tend to take overwhelming care over the editorial details, sometimes to a degree that draws out the length of the process beyond what we originally envision.

In a sense Belleza and Sand Paper were like mirror initiatives — a brother and sister separated at birth, who acknowledge each other in the final act.

SK: Of course Sand Paper Press didn’t have the sort of cultural impact Belleza had in Buenos Aires, as a gallery, etc., but yes, I guess the important idea is that relationship is often where art happens. Of course we produce books, we work hard to make them beautiful and believe in the integrity of them as physical objects, but I still believe the real work is the process of personally relating to someone, of having conversations and maintaining a friendship. For instance, I met Cecilia and Fernanda almost by chance. The relationship comes first; it’s the foundation for the literature and all the rest.

by Claudio Iglesias

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