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TV 70 Fondazione Prada / Milan

Conceived by Francesco Vezzoli with the aim of memorializing the role played by RAI, Italy’s public broadcasting company, in the evolution of Italian culture, “TV 70: Francesco Vezzoli guarda la Rai” is a journey through the innovations promoted by RAI’s palimpsests in the years between 1968 and the 1980s. Looking in particular at artists’ contributions to the “life” of television, the exhibition reflects on the ways in which Italian art has questioned the argumentative mechanisms of mass media.

“TV 70” proceeds through juxtapositions of Italian artworks and clips of RAI broadcasts. A corridor dotted with newscasts on the dramatic events that marked the so-called Years of Lead opens with Nanni Balestrini’s series “Non capiterà mai più” (It will never happen again, 1969-72), cut-ups of newspaper titles evoking the ideological cacophony of the era. At the end of the corridor, a film by Ketty La Rocca, the television adaptation of her Appendice per una supplica (Appendix for a Prayer, 1972), presents sign language as a form of ancestral communication, unmediated by words.

In another room some of RAI’s first women presenters, Raffaella Carrà, Mina and the Kessler twins, lampoon the tastes of male audiences in a clip from the cult variety show Milleluci. The video is projected on a group of works by Tomaso Binga, alias Bianca Pucciarelli, whose research on the female body emerged in response to the constraints of a still-patriarchal society.

These are only two examples of the many apt matches between art and television that the exhibition uncovers. By reviewing the linguistic experiments pursued by these two entangled sources of visual production, “TV 70” comes to sublimate the contradictions at the basis of contemporary Italian culture’s idiosyncratic identity. That Vezzoli is a talented interpreter of Italian imagery is well known; however, with this show, he offers a more passionate and, at the same time, scathing reading. And one might say he achieves this as a true public intellectual — just like those legendary characters who once were at the forefront of popular cultural production.

by Michele D’Aurizio

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Canton Express M+ Pavilion / Hong Kong

Celebrating a donation from Chinese collector Guan Yi, M+ Pavilion’s “Canton Express” restages the seminal show of the same name originally conceived in 2003 by curator Hou Hanru as part of the 50th Venice Biennale’s “Zone of Urgency” section.

“Canton Express” brought together artists from the Pearl River Delta, showcasing the first generation of Chinese practitioners concerned with a new globalized reality. At the M+ Pavilion, the original rectangular layout designed by artist Zheng Guogu has been adapted to the new exhibition space. Liang Juhui’s City (2003), a pagoda-like tower housing numerous transparencies of Chinese people photographed from behind in urban environments, has seemingly been cut down from its original thirteen layers to nine layers in order to fit the height of the exhibition space. Despite the recontextualization in a neat white box, these works remain powerful examples of artists reflecting on the process of urbanization.

Many of the works in the original exhibition were damaged or even lost. Some have been remade, like Feng Qianyu’s Difficult to Birth (2003), in which the original pupa-shaped photo holder is now a plain board; others were fixed, like Duan Jianyu’s Artistic Chicken (2003) — of the original one hundred pieces only forty survived, and these needed to be repainted by the artist. What’s missing is the broadcast project Can You See? by Xu Tan and Jin Jiangbo, in which the Arsenale exhibition site in Venice was connected with the Shanghai nonprofit Biz-art via streaming video feed.

U-theque Organization (Ou Ning and Cao Fei) re-present their short film San Yuan Li (2001) about the urban village of Sanyuanli — a visual symphony with a soundtrack by Li Jingsong. Zheng Guogu has reiterated the installation Sample Room, a nod to the productivity of Yangjiang, where forty percent of the world’s kitchenware is produced.

A reading corner allows visitors to browse documentation of the 2003 exhibition. A “mind map,” co-created by Hou Hanru and AAA’s senior researcher Anthony Weng, maps out key exhibitions, events and organizations related to the PRD’s art scene. Here one can also find the story of where the title “Canton Express” came from: apparently, the curator borrowed it from a Cantonese fast-food chain in Glasgow.

by Gu Ling

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Heart of the Tin Man M WOODS / Beijing

The exhibition “Heart of the Tin Man” explores new intimacies between humans and intelligent machines. As a backdrop, museum venue M WOODS contrasts untreated industrial interiors, stripped back for this show, with pristine contemporary art spaces. Such divergence is echoed in works ranging from the shiny, post-internet aesthetic of a VR shopping experience, here created by the Institute for New Feeling, to a raw, unsophisticated informality.

Sheets of clear acrylic, printed with a cloud of anonymous e-mail addresses, slouch against the wall in aaajiao’s (Xu Wenkai) Email Trek (2016). Similarly laid-back, depositing murky sediment where they sit in a fridge, are Pamela Rosenkranz’s collection of suspicious looking potions in mineral-water bottles. Any guarantee of purity has been compromised.

In common with the organizers of other recent post-human exhibitions, the show’s curator and cofounder of M WOODS, Michael Xufu Huang, is wed to visions of android consciousness as found in movies such as Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015) and Andrew Stanton’s WALL-E (2008), rather than the intellectual capabilities of OK Google or of current smart phones and iPads. The international array of artists featured are used to creating interactive works that ask the viewer to suspend disbelief: a pair of animatronic eyes, set in the wall at wheelchair-user height, present a cartoon-like response in Ryan Gander’s Dominae Illud Opus Populare (2016). Their appealing manner suggests that interactions with nonhuman devices can be fun. Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Beneath the Surface (2015), on the other hand, proclaims with similarly graphic directness that such interactions are deadly serious. Hamdan’s work fills the room with an oppressive sonic mantra accompanied by stark black-and-white images of acoustic waves. Both sound and image correspond to the microsecond when a lie detection machine makes its verdict — a judgment that can change the course of a life.

“Heart of the Tin Man” proposes that human faith in data processing has evolved to expect something like clairvoyance. Computers, previously used to manage bank accounts and guide intercontinental missiles, are now invited to be involved in the emotional deliberations of human affairs.

by Andrew Stooke

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Matias Faldbakken Reena Spaulings Fine Art / Los Angeles

Matias Faldbakken’s exhibitions are usually initiated with a gesture of violence, perhaps ratchet-strapping a bank of lockers until they bloat, or cutting household appliances with an angle grinder. More subtly, he utilizes the ubiquitous craft of a tradesman by tiling, wheat pasting or taping gestures on walls and panels, in the process only flirting with any assertion of authorship.

Yet, at first glance, his recent exhibition at Reena Spaulings Fine Art in Los Angeles, “Why New French Art is Lousy,” seems like a departure. Here Faldbakken remakes portions of a charcoal drawing he found in the background of a photograph of his favorite Norwegian author, Dag Solstad. The original drawing is a seascape featuring a two-faced, pipe-smoking man lying with a nude mermaid who holds a bird. A sailboat floats in the distance. The work is made in a crude surrealist style, and it’s the type of drawing you might find at a rummage sale or hanging in your uncle’s basement.

The artist intimately retraces the unknown artist’s gestures in twenty-one individual works, and the viewer is primarily asked to reconcile Faldbakken’s relationship to the Norwegian author in the photograph. Move a layer deeper, however, and notice that several of the works feature a blue and red motif; this, combined with the exhibition’s and each work’s title, Why New French Art is Lousy, suggests an engagement with sociopolitical critique. Finally, his decision to use ubiquitous aluminum frames for some works but panels made of rebar and plaster for others, asks the viewer to evaluate the hierarchy of each work.

Set inside the context of Faldbakken’s practice these layers of content seem like false flags; what at first seems like an intimate exploration is a game designed to reveal our uneasy relationship with identity and craft, appropriation and authorship. Ultimately, we are asked if the gestures of a drawing can be treated like a found object and if the act of appropriation is truly a nonviolent one.

by Andrew J. Greene

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Amalia Del Ponte Museo del Novecento & Studio Museo Francesco Messina / Milan

The intuition underlying “Onde lunghe e brevissime,” a two-part exhibition at Museo del Novecento and Studio Museo Francesco Messina, consists not only in the presentation of two different decades of Amalia Del Ponte’s production, but also in the connection of two formats often considered antithetical: the philological and the sensorial.

At Museo del Novecento the curator Iolanda Ratti adopts an approach calibrated both critically and historically. Revisiting the artist’s research between 1964 and 1973, this section is focused on scientific and perceptual studies of light refraction on Plexiglas prisms, defined by Vittorio Fagone as “Tropi.” It concludes with How do you feel? (1971), a sculpture whose white concrete manifests the atemporal dignity of marble as filtered light is refracted and reflected onto it. This work was presented in 1973 at the twelfth São Paulo Bienal, together with Area Percettiva, the installation piece that won the sculpture prize.

The second part of the exhibition, curated by Eleonora Fiorani at the Studio Museo Francesco Messina, shows Del Ponte’s research on sound. Betweeen 1985 and 1995 the artist worked on sound sculptures called “Litofoni” –– sheets of tuned stone harmonized through careful choreography and activated by percussive performers. The selection here is articulated through video-documented performances with drawings and a number of “Litofoni.” The core of this section is Aria della freccia (1994), a stone triptych played at the opening as part of a new performance by Elio Marchesini. Although the presence of a permanent collection here precludes total sonic immersion, Marchesini’s agitated performance nonetheless revived the endless lyricism through which Del Ponte sought a balance between form and material, between science and Eastern philosophy, and between the visible and the sensual.

by Bernardo Follini

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Tori Wrånes National Museum of Norway / Oslo

Tori Wrånes’s survey exhibition presents evidence that the Norwegian artist’s outlandish dreamscapes were once real — their remnants are on view in the National Museum of Norway, placed amid classically detailed sconces and grand marble arches.

There is Rickshaw Ballet (2015), a harmonious collision of Bangladeshi rickshaw drivers transporting local singers in a chaotic chorus-in-motion; TRACK OF HORNS (2015), in which the ascending cars of a ski lift carry a line of singing, aged trolls high up into the Italian Alps; and an aerial recital in The opposite is also true 2 (2011), in which both the artist and a piano are suspended perpendicularly from a wall, playing a descending scale while singing an ascending one.

The survey also includes the debut of a new performance, Sirkling. Inverting the theater’s traditional relationship of spectacle and audience, guests are invited to take a seat on a structure resembling a seven-layer wedding cake frosted in industrial carpeting, situated in the center of the exhibition. Changes are so finely calibrated as to make one doubt any information delivered by one’s own senses: the rafters spin so slowly that the movement is nearly undetectable; the lights dim so subtly that the performers prancing in furry costumes — a species of fluffy white troll that often finds solace in Wrånes’s world, as in her previous work Shapeshifters (2014) — seem to have been there the entire time. Frolicking, pausing, hiding, catching up to each other, the band of trolls circumambulate the audience, while a menacing score of wobbling metal and softly harmonizing creatures fills the hall. Once the circling ends, viewers exit the scene, only to encounter a startling chorus of these wondrous creatures filling the museum’s foyer.

The artist is an advocate for the figure of the troll, who is feared or maligned for characteristics shared by all — aspects that only come to light once we are alone. While many of her daredevil performances operate on a theatrical scale, her many sculptures of purposeful misalignment and repetitive limbs and appendages — Mom, don’t you miss the real me? (2015), The Singer (2015) — embody this suspicion of our wild sides most accurately: they have evolved to thrive in a future we have yet to imagine.

by Jennifer Piejko

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