Report /

Condo 2018 / London

Partial, if temporary, ownership can be a welcome invitation. It suits, then, that Condo London — an initiative that sees local galleries host international colleagues — continues to grow, with an additional ten galleries participating in its third run. The current incarnation includes seventeen citywide venues with a total of forty-six galleries either dividing space or cocurating exhibitions. Winter’s trimmings, as snowflake-smears, are foregrounded in the Condo map’s distant twinkling coordinates, a construct that now typically prioritizes quixotism over the intelligible.

Arguably, that choice can be made from the season’s actual structural efficacy, though the arrangement itself — international, self-organized space swaps — has many a precedent. Utilizing a quiet month in the art calendar, the map also gestures to a larger curatorial ambition that, loosened from the art-fair booth assembly, generates some capacity for surprise.

Carlos/Ishikawa, (of whom Vanessa Carlos is director, and founder of Condo), presented L(I)FE, a show that hosted Queer Thoughts (New York) and Schiefe Zähne (Berlin). Large terracotta-colored cardboard sheets created a rectal-like entranceway to cloistered works by Richard Sides, Issy Wood, Lukas Quietzsch, Quintessa Matranga, Mindy Rose Schwartz, and Diamond Stingily. Spatial seclusion enhanced the theme of puberty, with “L(I)FE” opening out to a low false ceiling of meticulously torn paper, with Stingily’s sculpture The Last Stage of Love (2017) occupying the floor — a marble, hand-carved set of teeth, clenched over a baseball. Rigid and awkward, the grip is reminiscent of the pain of becoming, the ball’s engraving reading: pro touch. Three large gouache-on-canvas paintings by Quietzsch populated the backspace, and most works hovered mid-gallery from long wires, including an oil-on-velvet painting of a bloated equine ornament of spheroid proportions: Untitled (Daddy’s overdraft) (2018) by Issy Wood, a gloomy piggybank.

Installation view at at Carlos/Ishikawa, London
Diamond Stingily “The Last Stage of Love” (2017), Lukas Quietzsch “Untitled, Gouache on Canvas” (2017) installation view at Carlos/Ishikawa, London. Courtesy of Queer Thoughts, New York, Schiefe Zähne, Berlin, Carlos/Ishikawa and Condo, London.

Corvi-Mora and greengrassi collectively hosted JTT (New York), Lomex (New York), and Proyectos Ultravioleta (Guatemala City). The show opened with works on paper by Tatsuo Ikeda, presented by greengrassi. Realized between 1956 and 1985, the works on show belong to a generation that endured World War II and the Cold War in Japan. Conveying contemporary realities with ideas of human consciousness and cosmology, Ikeda’s delicate execution expressed attendant postwar anxieties through monstrous faces and animal figures.

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa (shown by Proyectos Ultravioleta) explores the entanglement of history and form following his displacement during Guatemala’s civil war, reinstating the subjective nature of historical narrative itself. His series of aquatints was inspired by a 1975 student production of Hugo Carrillo’s 1962 play Corazón de espantapájaros (Heart of the Scarecrow) — a protest of Guatemala’s repressive government, in which the satirical portrayal of juridical archetypes provoked one of the most severe censorships of the arts during the Guatemalan conflict. Across the series, bodies rearticulate themselves as they become episodically exposed. Meanwhile, Kye Christensen-Knowles (shown by Lomex) foregrounded the expressive potential of the vulnerable body. Her painting Cronus Contemplating Patricide (2017) depicts an apostolic physique, sinewy and tense, the musculature itself fashioned with pathos.

Upstairs, JTT presented two videos by Sable E. Smith, who considers how incarceration impacts individuals and their loved ones — how trauma and emotional violence can extend far beyond prison walls. Peripheries of gangster masculinities are examined in Men Who Swallow Themselves in Mirrors (2017), a film comprised of gunfire footage along with excerpts from an intimate video diary shot by the artist’s father while in prison. Contingency is clear as Smith restores a particular individual within a network of impersonal structural violence. Collectively, the works on show were momentarily clarified with flickering articulations of identity, memory, and violence, with Smith’s work a visceral endnote.

Sable Elyse Smith "Men Who Swallow Themselves in Mirrors" (2017, video still)
Sable Elyse Smith “Men Who Swallow Themselves in Mirrors” (2017, video still). Courtesy of JTT, New York and Condo, London.

The ground floor of Hollybush Gardens, hosting Jan Mot, presented the work of Sven Augustijnen, whose work examines Belgian colonial history and the ethical quandaries inherent to documentary and archival forms. In Summer Thoughts (2012–ongoing), presented here, Augustijnen uses the form of the personal letter, in this case written to the curator Marta Kuzma from 2012 to 2016, to reflect on the politics of Hannah Ryggen’s tapestries. Pasted onto the walls, the letters consider how Ryggen responded to the Nazi occupation of Norway, and then proceed to trace the historical connections leading up to the present European crisis and the rise of fascism in the region. The letters incrementally reinforce a sense of deep historical affect through personal recollection; a selection of newspapers provides a selective cartography that reexamines media framings of past political climates. Via a personal trajectory, Augustijnen deftly magnifies the volatile flows of ideology.

Sven Augustijnen, "Summer Thoughts" (2012 - ongoing)
Sven Augustijnen, “Summer Thoughts” (2012 – ongoing). Installation view, CONDO, Hollybush Gardens, London. Courtesy of the artist and Jan Mot, Brussels BE. Photograph by Andy Keate.

Project Native Informant presented Tobias Zielony’s series “Maskirovka” (shown by KOW), a set of photographs produced during time spent within the Kyiv queer techno scene, following the aftermath of the 2014 Euromaidan uprising. The title literally translates as “masking,” a term used to describe Russian covert military strategies. Masking is also extrapolated in paintings by Ned Vena (shown by Project Native Informant), who works between the digital and the canvas in woozy recreations of his body tattoos (first captured on an iPhone and originally commissioned by others). Proposed as partial portraits, the smoked opacity of their multiple layers — paint, tattoo graphics, skin — generates a palimpsest lacking tactile integrity or slick reliability. Also on view, Shen Xin’s three-channel film installation Forerunners (2016) presents a dialogue between a manager of a DNA testing service and her Buddhist mentor. Originally presented live, here performers are transposed to motion-captured animations dancing across an empty stage. The dialogue exposes the revival of eugenics via DNA testing platforms that epitomize the neoliberal logic of the subject as perpetual consumer and optimized producer.

As a building or complex of buildings containing individually owned property, the term “condominium” instantiates a shared interest in the whole. Understandably, it is this “togetherness” that can slip into triviality — collectivity becoming merely a fawning sycophancy. Yet the Condo project speaks to a necessary presence of the neighborhood, however outstretched; with Condo we may see this sensibility as a useful strategy for collective safeguarding, if not a means of outlasting the lone wolf.

by Alex Bennett

read more
In Residence /

Orison I

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 fifth installment.

“Hey, why does everyone say спасибо instead of Дякую?” I ask him after the waitress brings us two steaming bowls of borscht and a plate of raw spring onion and salo (cured slices of pure pig fat). These words mean “Thank you” in Russian and Ukrainian respectively.

I have no idea what part of the city we’re in anymore. A driver brought us here and I’ve given up on trying to find my bearings in Kyiv. It’s been a week of marathon drinking and fashion events, and I’ve been shuttled around from place to place in a van with darkened windows so I’m feeling pretty discombobulated. I know we were just at a palace. And I don’t remember crossing the river. So I guess we’re still on the south bank? If that’s even what they call it.

This is the longest we’ve been together alone and sober, and the first time we’ve attempted an extended conversation without the aid of one of his ubiquitous model-friends functioning as our unwitting translator. It’s been previously explained to me that he had a traumatic experience with a particularly volatile English teacher in his childhood, which stunted his learning. I believe it; I watch the suffering on his face as he tries to string together the right words to form a sentence. I also realize that this is the first time I’ve directly asked him about the relationship between Russia and Ukraine.

“Many Russians in Kyiv. In Ukraine.” He finally spits out.
“Me — I am, mmmm…” he struggles again.
“You’re Russian?”
“…mmmm part.” He’s looking me in the eye intensely like he’s trying to pass on information telepathically. I think he’d like to elaborate but we’ve reached the extent of our common language skills.

Sadly, we don’t have ESP.

A little defeated, he retreats back into his phone to catch up with the constant flow of incoming text messages. He’s a popular guy and tries his best to take care of everyone. I fill the silence by speaking enthusiastically about nothing in particular and laughing at my own jokes, a special skill I’ve developed by living alone for six years.

It’s been almost a year since I left him in a taxi on a corner in Paris, and we’ve had very little communication since. A couple of messages here and there, a few interactions on social media. I have no idea what’s happened to him during this time, and as far as I know he hasn’t kept tabs on me. And yet we seem to have picked up pretty much exactly where we left off. Time folds and two chapters from either end of a book suddenly come one right after another. We’re still very much strangers, and in many ways I’m projecting all my desires onto him in a way that is probably unfair and unrealistic, but we’re familiar and comfortable in each other’s company, even when silent. Being around him calms me down.

A few days earlier he’s invited me to his friend’s wedding, or rather the after-party, in the empty hall of a new museum constructed to reflect the architectural vernacular of prewar Europe, only with cheaper materials: hollow granite, plastic marble, drywall interiors. It’s become a popular style in recent years and I can’t help but draw some line between the emergence of a Disneyworld neoclassicism in our capital cities and the rise of a weird retro-futurism in international politics.

He wants to make out and he’s relentless.

He demands an intimacy from me in a way I’ve never experienced from another guy before. He doesn’t seem to have a filter through which to express his affection. He adores dogs, and I’ve observed the way he interacts with them; it’s not entirely dissimilar to the way he handles me, simultaneously trying to calm and conquer. To soothe his way into my space until I’m comfortable enough for a mutual embrace. To have me on my back as though it were my choice. He bulldozes my expectations of how men are supposed to touch one another — a difficult thing to write when I reflect on how I’ve been treated in the past, and, more worryingly, how I may have treated others.

***

Do you remember the last time I held you before we lost our love? I’m not sure I can. I remember one night when I couldn’t sleep and was tossing and turning until you gently grabbed my arm and folded my body into yours with a tenderness that surprised me so much that I passed out almost instantly. I remember when you punched my rib and told me you hoped my flight later that day would crash, and I remember discovering the bruise while showering at the hotel that night. I Remember when I finally hit you back at a crowded bar and people applauded me and declared me the winner, not because good had triumphed but because cruelty is far more entertaining and it confirmed their expectations of how men should communicate: assured mutual destruction.

And I remember the last time we tried to have sex, and instead of making new love the old simply melted off of our bodies and onto the dirty sheets around us like oil absorbing into a paper towel. Congealing and staining and finally being crumpled up and tossed away.

But the details of our stories fade with time.

Oh, time.

***

He’s literally ripping apart my face with his stubble. At one point I have to hold his arms behind his back just to keep up a conversation with the other guests at the party.

Eventually he wrestles free and turns and says, “Hey, Hey! I love you. I love you.” And starts to kiss me again.

His eyes are almost closed and he’s so wasted he can barely hold himself up straight. I’m not sure he’s really aware of what he’s saying, so I smile noncommittally and say, “Yeah, I love you too,” and let him destroy my face again while I process the sentence over and over in my mind. The last boy to tell me he loved me would leave me with a bruised body and a broken spirit within the course of a year, so, drunk talk or no, it’s a complicated thing to hear. At one point he goes to find a cigarette and I quickly Google Ukrainian translations for love. There are two apparently. Любов (platonic) and Кохання (romantic). When he returns I consider asking him to say it in Ukrainian so I can get a better grasp of what he meant, but I decide that would be a dick move and, anyways, I wouldn’t know how to respond to either.

He finally relinquishes my mouth for a moment while he takes a short nap on the steps outside the main hall. When I make a move to go to the bar he grabs my arm tightly and wheezes, “No, stay!” and pulls my head down to rest on his chest. I can hear his heavy heartbeat while Ukrainian techno plays in the background and the Dnieper River expands out below us under a cloudless sky freckled with white stars. With my temple on his chest and my eyes toward the moon I attempt a prayer.

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

 

Previous installment

read more
Dance Office /

The Master and Form

As a child, my biggest dream was to become a ballet dancer. Fascinated as I was with ballet’s extreme bodily self-discipline and ethereal elegance, for years I begged my mother to buy me a tutu and bring me to a class in a nearby town. When she finally caved in and brought me to my first rehearsal, I was terrified by the whole situation; the tyrannical teacher as much as the athletic demands that was suddenly put on my body. I didn’t stay for more than 10 minutes, and I realized that my affinity for classical dance was predominately aesthetic, and later, highly erotic.

I was reminded of this as I admired the elegant choreographed movements of five young ballet dancers as they perused in unison through the ornamented wooden interiors of the Graham Foundation in Chicago, as a part of Brendan Fernandes’ latest performance-installation The Master and Form. As hinted at in the title, the work takes the masochistic power dynamics of ballet into the realm of sculptural formalism, presenting the dancer’s athletic bodies as para-objects that nonetheless forever exists in organic flux, dynamically negotiating space, desire, and physical endurance.

'In Cambré à Terre,' study for 'Brendan Fernandes: The Master and Form,' (2018)
‘In Cambré à Terre,’ study for ‘Brendan Fernandes: The Master and Form,’ (2018) at the Graham Foundation, Chicago. Collage: Norman Kelley

A series of exquisite dark-tainted wooden structures with added leather fittings, designed in collaboration with architecture and design collaborative Norman Kelly, occupied each their own room of the Prairie-style building, acting as “training stations” for the group of dancers. Not unlike real-world instrument such as ballet foot-stretchers—meant to minutely enhance the arch of their foot—these structures, some anthropomorphic in shape, serve to extend, improve, but also support the dancer’s body as it poses, leans, or stretches. Catching a ballerina in rehearsal is a big faux-pas; and not surprisingly, the effect is one of deep and projected masochistic fascination. Several delineated, cage-like structures serve as “safe spaces” for the dancers to decompress if and when needed, which only further complicates the standard representation of the dancing body.

Fernandes’ wide-spread theoretical interests skillfully extended this highly site-responsive scene construction, set in a former family home, into a larger web of social and aesthetic references, including post-colonial identity, queer domesticity, and BDSM culture. Ballet’s courtly bows (a derivate of greetings for Louis the 14th), consensual Dom/sub sexuality, and the politics of fetishising the bodies of others: Fernandes shows that despite the complexities of power, it always manifests through the body as it interacts with space.

by Jeppe Ugelvig

Dance Office is a column dedicated to contemporary dance and performance art.

read more
Review /

Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd and Morris Sprüth Magers / London

Inaugurating the new year in the immaculately refurbished Sprüth Magers in London, “Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd, and Morris” charts a minor territory of Craig Kauffman’s career between 1966–71, spotlighting the artist’s work during this period alongside fellow contemporaries Donald Judd and Robert Morris.

Though primarily known as a Los Angeles-based artist, the period in focus aligns Kauffman to his life in New York — his friendship with Judd and Morris — during which time Kauffman refined his approach to structure, form, dematerialization, and process. It suits that Morris and Judd be in dialogue with the center — Kauffman — whose sculpture actively declined keyword labels, unlike Judd’s “specific objects” or Morris’s “unitary forms.” Nevertheless, any series generates traction, and so with Kauffman decidedly more lively descriptors would travel over loose lips: “Washboards,” “Bubbles,” “Loops,” and “Hurdles,” to name a few icons of the Kauffman estate.

In this way, Kauffman’s work on show demonstrates an unchallenged desire for phenomenological observation, a project of formal pleasure that distends from concerns of figure and ground, wall and support, industrial procedure and material contingency. The ground floor features Kauffman’s bulging biomorphic and bullishly lusty vacuum forms, shellacked and uniform like candies in chronic tangerine or extravagant duotone: ridged carnation pink protruding from a lacquered jade. Each one has its own resolute charm.

Upstairs elaborates Kauffman’s easing of painting’s formal properties, with continuations of process-oriented work presented alongside Morris’s Fountain (1971) and Untitled (1968), two large-scale undulating felt works. Here, Kauffman’s “Loops” really shine. Large gradient-dipped vertical sheets of plexiglas, each “Loop” is draped from a wire allowing the plastic to curve as it cools, effectively suspending itself, irrepressibly relaxed. In the two examples on view, pliant steel pink or apple green both succumb to a dilatory lemon crown; needless to say they operate best in morning daylight.

Installation view: 'Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd and Morris' at Sprüth Magers, London
Installation view ‘Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd and Morris’ at Sprüth Magers, London, January 19 – March 31, 2018. Courtesy Sprüth Magers. Photography by Stephen White.

Archival exhibition catalogues illustrate the trio’s various intersections, as well as portraits and original drawings of Kauffman’s. A second room upstairs displays ink sketches and a clear plexiglass relief with horizontal bars, a “Hurdle,” replete with splattered drops of translucent color — turquoise, raspberry, chartreuse — casting atomized, glorified shadows in a pattern much like the skin of a discus fish.

All three artists began as painters, but it is Kauffman that identified himself as such throughout his entire career. This constant, along with his intersections across San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, prove Kauffman to be a useful figure in reimagining Minimalism’s bicoastal relationship. At Crossroads, Kauffman is the line of enquiry, the channel that liberates the assertive framework of Judd and Morris.

by Alex Bennett

read more
Review /

Emma McMillan Bad Reputation / Los Angeles

Reverse psychology. Self-prescribed permission to wander off the moral path. A vice of my own, to have and to hold. It’s tough to pinpoint or map out any real claim to accurately explain why we have become the drug addicts we have become, or how it happened so fast. What we do know is that life is a living hell — and it’s a miracle we’re not dead yet.

Live Burial, Emma McMillan’s current solo exhibition at Bad Reputation in Los Angeles, is similarly a matter of life and death. In her usual fashion, the artist exhumes and dissects sacred material from “the junkie’s crypt,” as she refers to it, the activity comprising a prolific period of methamphetamine-fueled output.

Emma McMillan "Guide 4 The Perplexed" (2017)
Emma McMillan “Guide 4 The Perplexed” (2017). Courtesy of the artist and Bad Reputation, Los Angeles. Photo by Gillian Steiner.

The show comes together as an art-historical investigation of archaeological proportions, summoning palimpsests in paint that form a basis for emergent Christian icons — however nonmiraculously. Canvases previously coated with innumerable layers of paint, then for some years abandoned, have been revisited and given new life, the artist this time using a high-speed rotary tool to shakily inscribe divine counterparts into the original muddied grounds of their built-up surfaces. Velocity, it seems, has been left in the hands of a blind driver. The paintings-cum-sites of linear excavation uncover two routes toward figuration, suggesting dual but disparate timescales that manage to harmoniously cross paths. Breaths align and pairs of bodies collapse into each other. They meet for a moment, then freeze in simultaneity as the accumulation of both additive and subtractive gestures remain, in the end, painfully evident. But are there actually morals to each and every story? Allegorical lessons entombed? Too much addition becomes an addiction, and the all-time highs do not descend without carving steep valleys on their way out.

It’s mostly a blur. What’s lost of one’s memory disengages from its author, and a covered-up fuck gets named the Immaculate Conception. Sorry I’m not sorry. (Please God forgive me.) A lapse in cognition requires that bridges be built in order to successfully retrieve actions carried out during dissociative states.

And it is this absence of self, a mysterious vacancy, which becomes the anomaly to observe and savor in hindsight. The artist’s then-altered state — characterized by inhibitions diminished or delusions drawn out — paved way for radical exercises in freedom and instinct. Transcendence can be reached via any number of available avenues.

by Chris Viaggio 

read more
Review /

George Egerton-Warburton Château Shatto / Los Angeles

Liberty means different things to different people.
I have never liked lying in bed in the morning.
Law did.
My mother does. [1]

George tells me in a letter that the beds he makes make a rhythm of recesses, and that they set a tempo to work with. That during one summer spent in a grad-school induced June gloom reading novels like Madame Bovary, Two Serious Ladies, Wuthering Heights, i.e., stories about those who abscond between the sheets when shit gets real, he started to appreciate the bed as a site for self-actualization. The idea, or the dream, was that the perspectives of the sprawled-out and the horizontal, the half-dressed and the lethargic could be productive ones, as the pressures of participation — be they from colonialism thinly veiled as tourism, capitalism as sex and shopping, or more plainly art as a “scene” — are done away with. What is left is time, lots of time, to do like James Schuyler might and sit, stare blankly at stuff, and step inside that space of boredom and deadness to prod at it and find its form. Or at least vicissitudes of form, form’s pastimes. “I started to make these beds, one per day,” George writes to me, “because I needed something to ‘realize.’”

George’s exhibition at Chateau Shatto, “English,” might be about language, and how it foams, like all things redundant. That would certainly be the easy way to read the rote groan of motors in the space, running on empty, unattached to anything useful except maybe conceptually the William Carlos Williams dictum that “a poem is a machine made of words.” But nahhh. If the brain’s word-machine is invoked in these, or anywhere in the exhibition, it is to signal some systemic breakdown. (Getting in bed, staying in bed.) The motors sit atop cardboard plinths, each “labeled” with a copper plaque respectively etched with invoices, one-liners, and flash fiction. Here, language slurs like speech in a dream, or like it might after three martinis and some ketamine taken for calm, or the sake of composition. Instead of asking to be interpreted, the words become bodies, with weights and measures, a materiality. The trick is to treat the purring sounds and concrete poetry as proportionate to the other textures present in the exhibition, understanding that it all fits, as one plaque reads, “somewhere between a kōan and a groan.”

In the grō-an, if I may, the body is recuperated, but also its waste. The language of George’s materials is excess, surplus, spill. The bright fuchsia foam that spouts out of a Rube Goldberg-esque machine into a fun and toxic kiddie pool, the dog poop wedged into framed photographs of sweet-snouted truffle pigs, and the beds, the rote hum, all have in common the featherweight feeling of total precariousness. Anecdotes like being in bed too long, all summer, or taking equanimous, drunk walks through a forest to sober up before going home, or working as a garbage man in the zenith of your sexuality; all dredge up the glut of youth and its laconic, irreverent, and maybe poetic acts. George’s “English” is a paradox between dredging up, say, the scent of sex from the earth and having its association come back to you through the whiff of dog shit. This movement is a game in which nothing imitates or represents “life,” but points to where words resemble things, sculptures read like verse.

by Sabrina Tarasoff

read more