We've moved


The Aesthetica Blog has moved:


Friday, 1 July 2011

Experiments in Time and Space: Q&A with Jane Won, curator of Catherine Yass, DLWP, Bexhill on Sea.

Catherine Yass Exhibition from De La Warr Pavilion on Vimeo.

Interview by Bethany Rex

Catherine Yass is a leading contemporary photographer and film-maker whose work captures the psychological impact of architectural space. This exhibition at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea presents her new and recent work from the last decade. We spoke to curator, Jane Won about the highlights of the exhibition and her experience of working with Yass.

The current show, Catherine Yass, features Lighthouse (2011) a new film of the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse, just visible from the Pavilion. Though never in slow motion, Yass’s films seem to occur at a glacial pace. How do you think this use of time feeds into the artist’s fascination with the impact of architectural space?

Catherine has always experimented with the element of time in both her photography and film works. In her light boxes she overlays two transparencies taken apart at around 5 seconds, and the movement between these shots are registered in the final print. One of the light boxes from the Lighthouse series in particular has a more prominent ghost-like gap between the images because of the rocking of boat where she took the images from.

Time is another dimension of space she deals with in parallel to architectural spaces and more interior, psychological spaces as you can see in the Sleep series. Naturally she works more directly with time and movement in her films. Time is one of the elements in her film that makes the viewer physically experience the impact of the architecture. She often deliberately shoots in a very slow pace and turns frames in 180 degrees. These already make it difficult to judge the direction of the movement and disorientate the sense of space. Then the film gets installed in a huge scale and audience gets immersed in a powerful cinematic experience. In Lighthouse there are scenes where the structure is upside down in her characteristically slow pace, which resembles a space station in space.

With her interest in typically slow-moving subjects – ships, opening locks – that appear to have ethereal aura, it would seem that an exhibition at DLWP with its unique location and history was an organic next step for Yass?

Catherine is not only interested in the formal beauty but also the idea of space. The DLWP is a structure built with the modernist aspiration of looking into future, and for many artists and thinkers buildings like the DLWP reflect their own continuing spirit. As we look out to sea, there is a lighthouse which stands alone guiding the ships and fighting the rough sea. When we started our conversation about the exhibition and the new commission, Catherine immediately spotted the Sovereign Lighthouse and from then on we very quickly started working on the project.

While Descent (2002) takes the viewer to a high rise structure in a Canary Wharf construction site, Lock (2006) is filmed on the Yangtze River in China. What role would you say location plays in Yass’s work?

Location is without doubt a key part of her work. Most of her film subjects so far are in an industrial scale which we don't normally experience. Because of the mental distance of these places in our minds and their sheer scale, it's a surreal experience to watch her films. In the lighthouse film, the structure of the lighthouse itself isn't as monumental as other structures as the high rise structure in Canary Wharf, but it's the particular location surrounded by never-ending sea and sky that provides the ethereal aura.

Yass’s signature colour images, overlaying negative and positive transparencies, are given a strong presence by being mounted on light boxes. How do her recent photographic works relate to early photographs such as Portrait Selection Committee for the Arts Council of England (1995)?

Her early portrait works contain strong psychological presence and she has carried on capturing this sense in an architectural setting. Since her Corridor series (1994) taken in a psychiatric hospital, she photographed neglected spaces like graveyards, toilets and empty stalls at Smithfield meat market. For her, space itself can reveal the psychological dimension more effectively without a human presence. The most recent series, Decommissioned (2011) was taken in a former car showroom just before its demolition. She also made a beautiful series called Sleep (2005-8) where she attempts to photograph spaces from dream, daydream and memory. So the range of space she deals with expanded in her recent work from the exterior to interior.

As part of the exhibition programme, visitors can participate in a trip on an RIB powerboat to the Sovereign Lighthouse. What role do you think this kind of experience plays in a viewers overall experience?

I think it is the best interpretation experience we can offer for this particular work. Experiencing the trip and the actual space describe more than any talk or exhibition tours. Catherine's work is a suggestion and never claims to be a complete picture on its own. There is always a space left for the audience to add their own thoughts and the boat trip would be an ideal way to do that in my opinion.

We’ve read that you’ve taken the trip with Catherine herself, what was this like? What were the artistic outcomes for you both?

It was surreal to be out in the middle of sea faced by this enormous structure which we could only see as a dot from the Pavilion. Every visitor and local residents have a fascination with this structure because they can only mentally registered it. There have been a lot of stories and myths about it as lighthouses usually have. It is very inspiring to have this experience and we are very lucky to be able to make this project.

As a curator, what’s been the highlight of this project for you?

Working with a living artist on a new project is the greatest thing. New commissions can be risky because there is no guaranteed result, but when you believe in the strength of the concept of the project by a great artist it is an exciting process. The filming itself was not easy because of the unpredictable weather condition and the fact that it involved helicopter, boat and divers. But when we tested the final film in the gallery space, it was immediately clear how fantastic the work was.

Catherine Yass continues at DLWP, Bexhill on Sea until 4 September.

dlwp.com

For more on Catherine Yass and her collaboration with Art Angel for High Wire see Aesthetica's article here.

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Twenty: Celebrating 20 Years of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin.

Review by Rosa Abbott

The Irish Museum of Modern Art is celebrating its 20th anniversary with Twenty - an exhibition drawing upon its existing collections to showcase the works of 20 of the most exciting contemporary artists it has acquired pieces from. The artists selected are linked predominantly by matter of circumstance, and not so much by aesthetic. All are Irish, or have a special relationship with Ireland (though many live abroad). All are around about twice the age of the twenty-year-old IMMA, and are on the cusp of establishing a solid international reputation. But beyond these three binding factors, the emphasis is on diversity, and so Twenty becomes a theme-less exhibition made up of various media, the only agenda being that of the institution itself: to celebrate the art that is being produced right now.

Painting is well represented in Twenty with works by abstract artists Fergus Feehily and Patrick Michael Fitzgerald; a William McKeown series titled Tomorrow and appropriated imagery from Nevan Lehart (who pillages the archives of that other avid appropriator, Richard Hamilton). However the downside of exhibiting painting in a multi-disciplinary exhibition such as this one is that the works can be easily overshadowed by the scale and three-dimensionality of adjacent pieces. It’s no surprise then that the most commanding work to be hung from a wall is Stephen Brandes’s contribution, Chandelier – an intricately decorated piece of floor vinyl measuring almost four metres by three metres. Brandes painstakingly recreates “a perpetually reinvented fictional world”, mapped out as a series of floating islands radiating from one central dystopian creation, in an arrangement resembling a light fitting.

Sculpture is a stronger area, with works coming from Corban Walker, Ireland’s representative at this year’s Venice Biennale, and Eva Rothschild – who is currently the subject of a large-scale show at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. These two names in particular stand out as artists who are becoming increasingly prominent on the international stage, and both their structures live up to their escalating reputations. Walker’s architectonic glass sheets glint in the light that radiates through IMMA’s windows – turning the static and angular work into a more fluid experience with the viewers’ movements. Rothschild, on the other hand, creates an atmosphere of threat with the jutting black spikes of Stalker (2004).

Katie Holton’s 137.5ยบ/It Started on the C train (2002) is another highlight. A seemingly chaotic sprawl of plant-like forms, the work looks like an organic exploration of nature stereotypically appropriate to her feminine materials of Irish lace crochet. However the artist claims the piece is actually governed by rigorous scientific and mathematical theorems, from the age-old Golden Ratio and Fibonacci series to maps of the artists’ Carbon Footprint – challenging the initial ‘feminine’ connotations of the work and thus undermining the binaries which give rise to such reductive divisions. It seems to be in installations such as these that IMMA’s Collection finds its strength: equally thought-provoking discourse is generated by the other installation artists in the exhibition, such as Liam O’Callaghan, Alan Phelan, Niamh McCann and Sean Lynch.

There are also several film works on show, the most effective of which is Hereafter (2004), by Patrick Jolley, Rebecca Trost and Inger Lise Hansen. It is a harrowing depiction of Ballymun Flats - a notorious set of tenement housing blocks in a poverty-stricken area of North Dublin that is currently facing ongoing demolition. Dramatically set to a hauntingly entrancing soundtrack, the beautifully shot film documents the decay and destruction of the infamous structure in the final days before its demise. Abandoned bedrooms are left with cut outs from cheap teen magazines still adorning the walls. Water drips down, slowly filling the desolate homes with a dusty solution. Furniture crashes through a hole in a ceiling at the tension-swelling climax to the piece.

Though the visual impact of this film is no doubt any less for the many tourists who pass through IMMA’s doors, for Dubliners, Hereafter packs an extra punch due to the subject matter. Ballymun has acquired an almost iconic status (albeit as a symbol of destitution) since its erection in the seventies; the familiarity and recentness of the work contribute to its aesthetic effect when exhibited in Dublin. This is also, in a sense, the case for the exhibition en masse. After all, the selection criteria for Twenty is defined by spatial and temporal proximity, using recent works from artists linked to Ireland. The exhibition is thus somewhat unavoidably steeped in the specificities of a singular time and place, and though the artists’ approaches may vary, the collection works fairly accurately as a snapshot documenting where Irish contemporary art is right now. Whether that art is more affecting because of it’s proximity time can only tell, but right now, it’s looking pretty good.

Twenty continues until October 31 at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin.

imma.ie

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery, London.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A Major New Public Artwork: Martin Creed, Work No.1059, Edinburgh Art Festival.


2011 sees the unveiling of a major new public artwork by Turner Prize winning artist Martin Creed for the historic Scotsman Steps. Commissioned by The Fruitmarket Gallery, Work No.1059 is an impressive feat – 104 steps leading from the Scotsman Hotel on North Bridge to Waverley Station and The Fruitmarket Gallery on Market Street, each step clad in a different colour of marble.

Martin Creed is an artist of international reputation, who makes work of the highest quality. His work is generous, direct and convincing, with an economy of means that belies the complexity of its affect. In 2001, he won the Turner Prize with Work No. 227: The lights going on and off. His recent exhibition Down Over Up at The Fruitmarket Gallery was one of the highlights of the 2010 Edinburgh Art Festival.

The Scotsman Steps were built in 1899 as part of the Scotsman Building for the Scotsman newspaper. The Steps are contained in an octagonal stone tower and form a pedestrian link between Edinburgh’s old and new towns. The Steps were somewhat dilapidated, and have been refurbished by Edinburgh City Council and Edinburgh World Heritage. Creed’s sculpture forms a key addition to the refurbishment.

Work No.1059 sees Creed re-surfacing the Scotsman Steps with different and contrasting types of marble from all over the world, creating a visually spectacular, beautiful and thoughtful response to this historic artery. Creed describes the project as a microcosm of the whole world – stepping on the different marble steps is like walking through the world, the new staircase dramatising Edinburgh’s internationalism and contemporary significance while recognising and respecting its historical importance. This is both a typical Creed idea, involving as it does the direct engagement of the public in a work whose simplicity belies its conceptual and architectural complexity, and an appropriate response to the particular situation of the Steps. Built into the fabric of Edinburgh, this new work will become a new and joyful part of the experience of the city for both inhabitants and visitors alike.

Edinburgh Art Festival runs from 4 August - 4 September.

edinburghartfestival.com
fruitmarket.co.uk

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
Martin Creed Work No. 1059, 2011. New Commission for the Scotsman Steps.
Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Copyright: The Fruitmarket Gallery. Photograph: Gautier Deblonde.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Salt of the Earth: Ken & Julia Yonetani, Still Life: The Food Bowl - Artereal Gallery, Sydney.

Review by Isabella Andronos

A decadent feast appears in the space at Artereal Gallery; a table set with goblets and candlesticks among abundant seafood, fruit and wine. Rococo style pillars topped with urns spilling fruit, an enormous chandelier and five detailed frames also occupy the space. These are sculptural works made by Ken and Julia Yonetani, each comprised entirely of salt. The works explore a contemporary interpretation of a traditional theme in painting, the still life, taking this idea into the third dimension.

Salt is vital for all living creatures. It is essential, but salt can also be deadly. The work of Ken and Julia Yonetani has particular relevance to contemporary Australian issues, related to the highly saline groundwater along the Murray-Darling Basin. Supported by the Australian Network for Art and Technology, Sunrise 21, Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre and the Australia Council for the Arts the works emerged as part of a Synapse residency in Mildura. Salt from the Murray-Darling area was used to create the sculptural works. Enacted entirely of salt, the works herald a link to this site, challenging audiences to consider the destructive implications of salinisation and the possibility of environmental decline.

There are obvious visual ties to the decadent table spreads in traditional still life painting, particularly of the Vanitas genre. Showing painted depictions of indulgent spreads of food, wine, flowers and skulls, these works aimed to represent the brevity of human life and the problems associated with a hedonistic lifestyle. Understanding salt as a destructive element, as in the case of the Murray-Darling Basin, the works can be seen as a warning, as an ominous symbol for the possibility of the death of the ecosystem. Devoid of colour, the white of the salt acts as a stark distinction between the Yonetani’s work and the boldly coloured images of the traditional still life painting. Their work transcends the two-dimensional painted surface of traditional still life painting, drawing sculptural elements together to create an intimate representation of contemporary issues. By depicting a lavish table setting, the Yonetari’s make reference to the global issues related to food; food wastage, food shortage, and human destruction of the environment.

An enormous chandelier, comprised of 5 000 individually cast grapes, hangs close to the front window of the gallery. Each grape has a grainy textural surface, every single piece created using Murray-Darling salt. Suspended from the ceiling, the small cast shapes appear like crystals. At over two meters high, the sculpture becomes an enigmatic representation of bourgeois decadence. Also in the gallery space is The Five Senses, a series of five ornamental frames made of salt which are displayed on the walls of the gallery. There is no picture within the frame; the void space shows only the wall it is displayed on. The intricate pattern on the surface of the frames can be linked to the traditional gilded frames of the Renaissance period. The small grains of salt which comprise the structure glisten as they catch the light from the gallery. The title of the works comes from the series of paintings, The Five Senses, 1617-1618, by Jan Brueghel and Peter Paul Rubens, each which depicts one sense; taste, smell, vision, touch and hearing. These paintings, with all the decadence of the Renaissance aesthetic, depict elaborate scenes busy with objects, furniture, human figures, animals, paintings, food, musical instruments and both the interior and exterior landscape. Removed from the lively and chaotic traditional images, the Yonetani’s work appears quite minimal. Subverting the traditional use of the frame, seen as a means of hanging a painting, the frames created by the Yonetani’s act as aesthetic objects. They are paired back and stripped of their traditional context. They exist as objects in themselves, rather than acting simply as a structure to contain an image.

Salt aids in the formation of clouds, it was used for funeral offerings in ancient Egypt, it was traded for wine and commodities by the ancient Celts; it is essential for life but also dangerous in excess. The work of Ken and Julia Yonetani is enigmatic, salt structures have been created which symbolise the importance of balance within ecosystems. Using salt from the Murray-Darling Basin, the works create awareness about salinisation and problems with environmental decline in this area.

Still Life: The Food Bowl by Ken + Julia Yonetani continues until 2 July, 2011 at Artereal Gallery, Australia.

Still Life continues to Arts Mildura as part of Mildura Palimpsest #8: Collaborators and Saboteurs 9 – 11 Sept and
GV Art, London from 6 Oct - 22 Nov.

kenandjuliayonetani.com
artereal.com.au

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
Ken + Julia Yonetani
Still Life: The Food Bowl (installation shot)
2011
Murray River salt
Dimensions variable
Images courtesy of the Artists and Artereal Gallery, Sydney.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Edinburgh International Film Festival: Round-Up

Words by Carla MacKinnon

Early Sunday afternoon in Edinburgh's Filmhouse, and a packed room is being addressed by the University's Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience. Following a screening of Memento the professor is explaining, in a thick Italian accent, the relationship of memory to the brain. Several hours later, a cinema full of awed cinephiles sit reeling from the impact of Bela Tarr's Turin Horse. The film is very long, impossibly slow and deeply moving, confronting the audience with boredom and beauty by turns. When the legendary Hungarian director shuffles to the front of the stage he is greeted with rapturous applause. Charmingly gracious and grave, Tarr is generous with his audience, discussing his thoughts on cinema and the reasons why the film will be his swansong. Under normal circumstances these two events in such quick succession would leave me speechless for days, but mere hours later I am sitting in yet another cinema to watch The Last Circus, a crowd-pleasing, blood-spattered Spanish thriller centred on machete-brandishing circus clowns. This year's Edinburgh Film Festival poster bears the slogan 'something for everyone', and it has to be said that it delivers on its promise.

The 11 day event follows a year of nagging controversy and press speculation for Edinburgh. Artistic Director Hannah McGill stepped down in the autumn of 2010, and in the perceived chaos that followed many wondered how the festival could possibly come together for 2011. However the appointment of a new director, James Mullighan, in December, brought with it a welcome change of direction. Mullighan announced that the 2011 festival would step away from red carpets and press-pandering, offering a more open, diverse programme of events – indeed, something for everyone.

A tight timeline and reduced budget was evident in the slimmed down programme of feature films, with a focus instead on short film and compelling unique events. That said, the festival had to lay on additional screenings for the several thousand people who descended on Edinburgh's theatres for the European Premiere of Perfect Sense (with Ewan McGregor in attendance) and Page Eight (with Sir David Hare and star Bill Nighy present). The rest of the week also saw its share of stars, from Sex In The City's Kim Cattrall to The Kings of Leon, who premiered their documentary at the festival.

The real meat of this year's festival though was to be found in the details and packed out cinemas and buzzing audiences were not reserved for big features or star appearances. There was a genuine freshness and excitement to be found in the smaller and riskier events. A Wellcome Trust supported initiative 'Reel Science' brought neuroscientists, bioethicists and roboticists to the festival to discuss films as diverse as Terminator and Brainstorm. Project Nim, the new offering from the team behind Man on Wire, received its UK premiere (a premiere shared with Sheffield DocFest) at the festival. The film's screening was accompanied by a fascinating discussion with an animal activist and a bioethicist. Later in the week neuropsychologist and author Dr Paul Broks presented a captivating event looking at neurophilosophy and film – examining identity and consciousness through neuroscience and the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Meanwhile the festival's 'conflict and reportage' strand, in association with Frontline Club, presented hard and challenging material. Hell and Back Again has particularly grabbed critics and audiences. Shot on a Canon 5D strapped to the filmmaker's front, the film puts the viewer right in the action of war-torn Afghanistan, offering a completely new kind of war documentary.

The non-film content has also been a rich mix. In Subtlemob's immersive, interactive audio event Our Broken Voice, a group of participants, unknown to each other, simultaneously listen to a narrative on their personal mp3 players in a public space. This emotional, fictionalised audio tour of a cinematic narrative within one geographic space brought a welcome taste of transmedia storytelling to the festival. All this was set against a solid daily industry programme of training and networking, with well-received events looking at financing, self-distribution, career sustainability and new technologies.

The festival has had more than its fair share of criticism in recent years, and it is true that significant support will be needed to help it regain its status and reputation. This year's event has sown important seeds for that journey. The UK's financial and cultural landscape is changing, and it is essential that festivals are able to adapt. This means audience development, interdisciplinary and brand financing and a fresh approach to programming and production. The work done by Edinburgh this year is a brave step in the right direction.

edfilmfest.org.uk
asff.co.uk

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Blog archive