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Thursday, 23 February 2012

Rehearsal after Reflect Soft Matte Discourse | Malin Arnell, Clara López & Imri Sandström | Episode 2: A Special Form of Darkness | Tramway | Glasgow



Text by Bethany Rex

How do ideas of nihilism, darkness, subjectivity and abjection play out in experimental music, performance art, supernatural horror; in neuroscience or philosophy? Or: how can you trust what you think or feel? A Special Form of Darkness is an open, convivial music/performance/ideas hybrid - a cross between a festival, magazine and discussion.

Taking place from 24 - 26 February at Tramway, Glasgow, the full programme includes; Keiji Haino, Junko, Walter Marchetti, Deflag Haemorrhage/Haien Kontra, Taku Unami, Malin Arnell, Iain Campbell F-W, Dawn Kasper, Ray Brassier, Mark Fisher, Alexi Kukuljevic, Thomas Metzinger, Eugene Thacker and Evan Calder Williams. We caught up with Malin Arnell to find out more about Rehearsal after Reflect Soft Matte Discourse which will take place on Saturday 25th February.

BR: Could you give us Rehearsal after Reflect Soft Matte Discourse in a nutshell? What was the idea behind this re-enactment?

MA: In the earlier action Reflect Soft Matte Discourse, which I performed in May 2010, the idea was to re-enact and to understand Gina Panes action Discours mou et mat from 1975. With this action I wanted to test my own bodily limits and deal with some questions around intimacy, authenticity and pain. It is a discussion of the intimate body within different systems of control. It is an action that counteracts alienation trough its effort, exhaustion, and wounds.

After that experience I felt a strong need to continue my dialogue with that action and to explore and process my and my fellow performer Clara López feelings and reactions during and after the performance. Another aspect I wanted to include in the process was the reactions within the audience during the re-enactment - speaking out my name while trying to stop me from cutting my upper lip, and the absolute silence after the performance, when no applauds could be heard. I needed to take a step back and rehearse the piece that I never rehearsed, and to bring in Imri Sandström and Clara López to make it happen.

BR: In the introduction to the piece, you state that it’s an “allegorical performance of alienation, abjection and the female figure, of the extreme fragility of the body and the reality of suffering.” Why do you feel the need to self-wound in order to convey this message?

MA: The question of self-wounds is difficult. I don’t think I felt the specific need to self-wound, instead my interest was to experience the “action” from within, putting the score into practice again. Self-wound is just one aspect of the action. Today the reading or understanding of female self-inflicted wounds has a totally different implication than in 1975, I think. Today the mediatisation of self-harm and self-injury among young adulthood persons, mostly women, gives the act another framework than the one it had in 1975. Pane was strongly influenced by the psychoanalytic discourse in France, Jacques Lacan and the feminist writings by for example Hélène Cixious (écrritude feminine - female figure), she was also connected in some way to the art sociologique movement and took on the theories that Guy Debord and the Internatinale Situationniste was putting forward (alienation) and she showed her solidarity to the anti Vietnam War movement (fragility of the body and the reality of suffering). During this time Panes was using her own body as the medium through which to address socio-political issues on a collective plane. She understood the wound as “an establishment of a relationship with the other”. Her self-inflicted wounds were motivated by her desire to promote an idea of the body as a communal entity. For her, the presence and intensity that self-inflicted wounds entail were conditions for a collective de-anesthetisation.

BR: How has being a feminist affected your art – do you find yourself consciously trying to break down barriers, or can you separate being a feminist from being an artist?

MA: No, there is no way I can separate the fact of being a feminist and an artist and I don’t try to, but I mean there are other things I think that affect my life and my art practice even more – the fact that I/ we live in a capitalist society, that is inherently racist, sexist, patriarchal, heteronormative.

I don’t think braking down barriers has been the most important activity within the feminist movement/s – breaking barriers is just one method among others to open up for experiences of that something else is possible.

BR: Do you think that mainstream art will always be controlled by men and the male gaze, or are we experiencing a shift towards equality?

MA: Unfortunately I don’t see a shift coming. I just see backlash after backlash around me. And that is not just a question about men and their gaze. The global inequalities are produced by racial, class, gender, sexual, religious, pedagogical, linguistic, aesthetic, ecological and epistemological power hierarchies that operate in complex and entangled ways at a world-scale. And above all, the economic neoliberal policies are spreading its value system over every aspect of life and human and non-human relationships. I say: No equality without solidarity, and sometimes when I’m in a good mood I say: fuck the mainstream.

BR: Could you expand on what you mean by being political through being personal?

MA: I’m very confused about the use of the personal as if there are another way of being in the world that is not personal or the assumption that the personal always imply that there is a human subject with a specific identity that have the possibility to be personal, or there is also this implication that if you speak up from a minority position its personal, but if you speak from a privilege position you speak the universal facts. Used without questioning the understanding of what ideological foundation “the personal” or “the subject” are leaning on, the concept can work against itself. When Carol Hanisch put forward the concept “the personal is political” in a text written 1969, it was a respond to a criticism of women getting together in consciousness-raising groups to discuss their own oppression as “naval-gazing” and “personal therapy”— and certainly “not political.” This criticism came from many people within the radical movements of Civil Rights, Anti-Vietnam War, and Old and New Left groups. At this time the need to recognize and fight male supremacy as a movement was put forward in order to stop blaming the individual woman for her oppression. I think the important point today is to understand how to use “the personal” as a collective force that gives us agency to act and speak.

BR: Which other artists inspire you?

MA: At the moment I have this intense and fruitful love relationship with Gina Pane. I find her poetics distinctive and her writings and working methods fractiously inspiring. Of course I could list a hundred names here but I will save that for later…

BR: What advise would you give to female artists who are just starting out?

MA: Listen, learn and laugh together and don’t forget to make love to each other in all possible and impossible ways.

Episode 2: A Special Form of Darkness, 24/02/2012 - 26/02/2012, Tramway, Glasgow. www.arika.org.uk

The full programme is available now at arika.org.uk
For tickets please click here.

Aesthetica in Print

If you only read Aesthetica online, you're missing out. The February/March issue of Aesthetica is out now and offers a diverse range of features from an examination of the diversity and complexity of art produced during the tumultuous decade of the 1980s in Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, opening 11 February at MCA Chiacgo, a photographic presentation of the Irish Museum of Modern Art's latest opening, Conversations: Photography from the Bank of America Collection. Plus, we recount the story of British design in relation to a comprehensive exhibition opening this spring at the V&A.

If you would like to buy this issue, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Better yet call +44 (0) 1904 629 137 or visit the website to subscribe to Aesthetica for a year and save 20% on the printed magazine.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Jeremy Deller: Joy in People | Hayward Gallery | Southbank Centre | London




Text by Travis Riley

You wouldn’t be to blame if you assumed the large blue banner above the Hayward entrance, proclaiming "art exhibition", were a David Shrigley piece. It has the immediacy and humour of Shrigley’s work, and none of the seriousness that has in recent years come to represent Jeremy Deller.

In fact, for those only familiar with Jeremy Deller’s most celebrated work, The Battle of Orgreave (2001), the exhibition title, Joy in People, might seem a bit quizzical. The full-scale re-enactment of a particularly dark corner of British history is not a common definition of the term "joy". However, already visible from the entrance to the show is Valerie’s Snack Bar (2009), a recreation of a Bury Market café. The structure, surrounded by colourful parade banners, would be out of place in any modern gallery space, and in the Hayward’s high-ceilinged, factory-like rooms, it is wonderfully ludicrous. With my cup of tea I sat, staring out at the exhibition surrounding the stall.

To the left is The History of the World (1998) Deller’s spider diagram connecting "Acid House" and "Brass Band" music. The playfulness exuded by this work is joyful. It feels humble, like an idea conceived of over a pint, but that would never usually be followed through in the light of day. The evident mismanagement of grand-title and niche content is a humorous draw, which turns out to elucidate a greater point. It is easily possible to sit, tracing the diagram’s tangential connections for hours; there is a sort of disbelief that these two genres should ever be connected, and yet as with all distinct historical points, they inevitably find themselves related. Later on in the show there is a video of contemporary acid house music being played by Williams Fairey Brass Band (Acid Brass, 2007). Much of Deller’s work exists primarily outside of the gallery; the Williams Fairey Brass Band have continued playing Acid Brass gigs as recently as 2011.

To deal with this genre of seemingly un-exhibitable work, Deller presents a slideshow (Beyond the White Walls, 2012) in which he described several previous projects. From Karl Marx at Christmas (2000), to his "I love joyriding" bumper stickers, to a middle-class hand sign system (signs including "cup of tea", "radio four", and "antiques roadshow"), the works are equal parts culturally insightful and hilarious. The strength of these pieces is a restriction of scale, an almost effervescent quality. Each is a self-contained gesture, which Deller’s narration carefully and characterfully elucidates.

To the right of my spot at the café, a white-walled structure, about half the room’s height, dominates the landscape of the gallery. Inside is a recreation of Jeremy Deller’s teenage bedroom. He hosted an exhibition here when his parents were away on holiday, and although it might not have seemed groundbreaking at the time, the calculated transportation of the teenage art and ephemera to the gallery-space allows a it to become a catalyst for the other works. All the hallmarks of Jeremy Deller’s art are displayed here. There is work based on musical influence, cultural interest, and appropriation (borrowed text from graffiti in the British Library toilets, displayed on the walls of his own bathroom). The formats of event poster, archival history, and consumerist material, are explored, as they continue to be throughout the wider exhibition.

Moving on to the next room of the exhibition the inquisitive ebullience of the earlier spaces is left behind, there is no escaping the social weight of The Battle of Orgreave. The installation consists of an on-wall, month by month socio-political account of the events leading up to the clashes between miners and police, presented alongside the hour-long documentary of Deller’s Battle of Orgreave re-enactment. Despite the performance’s central role in the film, the documentary’s character is defined more by conversations with the out-of-character re-enactors. For every militant declaration, laying bare old wounds, there are numerous admissions of mistakes, and a lack of restraint on both sides. The film is by no means a celebration of the battle, but in its reconsideration of a moment in history buried through shame, there is also no condemnation. The positivity of the gesture, towards a situation always recounted negatively, shows through.

The piece It Is What It Is (2009) seems an extension of this idea. This time Deller takes a burnt-out car, a casualty of a Baghdad bombing, on tour around America in order to start a conversation with the American public, informed by the presence of an exiled Iraqi citizen and an American soldier. If approached as an attempt to bridge cultural divisions, Deller’s somewhat bleak version of the American road trip seems doomed to fail from the outset, but perhaps this was the intention. Deller terms the car "the conversation piece from hell" and as with The Battle of Orgreave Deller’s intent is to inform and confront, not to present a viewpoint on the war or make a judgement on America. The car fills the gallery space with a visceral truth much greater than its rusted metal parts.

The term "joy" is best defined as "a source of happiness", and it is in this sense that Deller has presented the Joy In People. This exhibition, Deller’s first retrospective, is built directly from his interests. The pleasure he takes in music, culture, and indeed, people, informs the show and is communicated throughout. His drive to investigate more trying, and often overlooked issues does not become an exception in this case, but merely a continuation of the same central principle. His art is honest, but thankfully, not at all naïve. Deller’s joyful and celebratory approach, far from demeaning his subject matter, affords it a grounded insight that has allowed him to tackle subjects from war to tea rooms with equal sincerity.

Jeremy Deller: Joy in People, 22/02/2012 - 13/05/2012, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX. www.southbankcentre.co.uk/deller

Aesthetica in Print

If you only read Aesthetica online, you're missing out. The February/March issue of Aesthetica is out now and offers a diverse range of features from an examination of the diversity and complexity of art produced during the tumultuous decade of the 1980s in Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, opening 11 February at MCA Chiacgo, a photographic presentation of the Irish Museum of Modern Art's latest opening, Conversations: Photography from the Bank of America Collection. Plus, we recount the story of British design in relation to a comprehensive exhibition opening this spring at the V&A.

If you would like to buy this issue, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Better yet call +44 (0) 1904 629 137 or visit the website to subscribe to Aesthetica for a year and save 20% on the printed magazine.

Captions:
1. Jeremy Deller Snack Bar (2009)
2. Jeremy Deller Open Bedroom (1993)
3. Jeremy Deller It Is What It Is (2009)
Photography: Linda Nylind

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Wind the Bobbin Up | Cotton: Global Threads | Whitworth Art Gallery | Manchester


Text by Liz Buckley

Cotton. You’re probably wearing it now. You probably sleep on it every night. The sheer abundance of this material all around us means it usually remains ignored and under-appreciated. The cotton industry at one point had its largest export centres in places far and wide; India, and closer to home, Lancashire. The new exhibition at Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery is a celebration of all things cotton, including both traditional and contemporary uses, mixed media pieces and installations, but most of all a well deserved celebration of the stuff. Cotton: Global Threads is an exhibition designed to amalgamate the cultural diversities of these fine threads and fabrics in a showcase of international talent and multiplicity.

As the first manufactured commodity, we remain constantly indebted to cotton and those who produce it. It is not unreasonable to assume that many residents of Manchester, which was once part of Lancashire, are unaware of just how pinnacle the county was to the cotton trade, rubbing shoulders with not only India, but many parts of Africa and America. Cotton has, and still remains to have, connotations of economical and moral issues, as well as labour exploitations, and while this exhibition celebrates this underrated fibre, it also offers a cultural analysis and historical chronology of the more personal life of cotton.

Despite being dedicated to a specific material, this exhibition offers a wide variety of media, showcasing the fine threads in both a traditional and contemporary manner. The Whitworth tends to pride itself in its thematic approach to exhibitions, as its curators feel they have more freedom and can be more playful with the inclusion of pieces, usually specially selecting works from their permanent collection to coincide with temporary installations. It is in this way that this new exhibit tells not only a global story, but offers an account of texture, colour and mixed media.
Liz Rideal’s piece, Ghost Sari (2001), is video footage projected onto gently floating drapes, and its translucency and fluidity make it hauntingly beautiful. Rideal has merged pre-recorded material with physical, moving fabric, creating a tactile piece which personifies the cloth, making it part of a global cultural language. Whether it is the clothes and textiles which can all be found on display in this diverse exhibition, or any of the other garments, carpets, wall hangings or pure works of art, what stands out is the symbolic and time consuming nature of the work. On show here are the very fibres of life, from places all over the globe.

Though it is well recorded that the labour force behind cotton’s production has often been exploited, this exhibition serves to mirror this with cotton’s own exploitation as a fabric, reminding visitors of the not only the laborious work which goes into producing it, but the incessant possibilities that this material has. The John Forbes Watson sample books on display as part of Cotton: Global Threads are volumes of textile swatches, and give a small but wonderful insight into the intricacy of cotton work, as well as all the potential for colour, texture and pattern. It is obvious that the most intricate and fine pieces of cotton fabrics on show for this exhibition, whether they are garments or a wall from Tipu Sultan’s travelling tent, are a sign of grandeur, luxury, and often majestic status. While some of the pieces in Cotton do have a regal background or connotation, many of them are more concerned with history and heritage. Liz Rideal’s work is certainly involved with the global heritage that is associated with cotton, and leaves both physical and mental impressions with her subtle cultural comments and folds of fabric. Aboubakar Fofana’s huge installation piece, Les Arbres à Bleu, which has transformed a whole room of the Whitworth into a beach, consists of numerous "trees," made from cotton dyed with indigo. Additionally the scattered yarns of cotton in amongst these cotton totem poles are meant to signify fallen fruit. This whole scene is reminiscent of Fofana’s homeland of Mali, incorporating his heritage and cultural background, and there is certainly something visceral and beautiful about the processes he has used.

Cotton: Global Threads most certainly offers visitors an international flavour of all the backgrounds, uses, and connotations of Cotton, showcasing everything from 1400 year old Egyptian fabrics from the Whitworth’s permanent collection, to Anne Wilson's Wind Up: Walking the Warp, a film installation incorporating dance into a machine like performance of weaving a cotton warp. This multi-disciplinary exhibition is seeking to bring back the forgotten cotton industry which once thrived in and around Manchester, as well as celebrating the connection which these threads have brought between many cultures. This significantly important and widely used fibre can be seen on show here in all its glory as much more than a bed sheet, and certainly as a permanent "global tie."

Cotton: Global Threads, 11/02/2012 - 13/05/12, Whitworth Art Gallery, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER. www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk

Aesthetica in Print

If you only read Aesthetica online, you're missing out. The February/March issue of Aesthetica is out now and offers a diverse range of features from an examination of the diversity and complexity of art produced during the tumultuous decade of the 1980s in Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, opening 11 February at MCA Chiacgo, a photographic presentation of the Irish Museum of Modern Art's latest opening, Conversations: Photography from the Bank of America Collection. Plus, we recount the story of British design in relation to a comprehensive exhibition opening this spring at the V&A.

If you would like to buy this issue, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Better yet call +44 (0) 1904 629 137 or visit the website to subscribe to Aesthetica for a year and save 20% on the printed magazine.

Caption:
Anne Wilson, Local Industry Cloth (detail), 2010
Collection of Knoxville Museum of Art

Celebrating Short Film | Short & Sweet | Roxy Bar & Screen | London


Text by Bethany Rex

Short & Sweet is an acclaimed, travelling short-film event series - a unique, international community of film lovers who father for lively events of short films and socialising. This winter Short & Sweet returns to London.
Aesthetica spoke to Jack Robinson, London Coordinator of Short and Sweet, to find out more:

BR: Tell us a bit about Short & Sweet. What's the idea behind it?

JR: Founded by my wonderful friend Julia Stephenson in 2006 Short & Sweet has presented some of the most innovative short films, music videos and animations: old films, new films, from established directors to completely undiscovered talent. The intent is to inspire all who attend, expose the best talent and ultimately celebrate film. From its early incarnation as London’s only weekly short film experience, Short & Sweet now screens to packed houses in London, Toronto, Cape Town and soon in New York City.

BR: What is it that you look for in a short film?

JR: We start off with the general criteria: we don’t screen branded shorts and we prefer films under 15mins. From there on, films that are engaging visually or narratively and have something to say really stand out. We always have an open mind and are often surprised by the amazing work we get sent.

BR: How can filmmakers get their films involved with Short & Sweet?

JR: The best way is to email a viewable link to submit@shortandsweet.tv that will get the work in front of the film editors. We will let you know if your film has been selected for London, Toronto and/or Cape Town, then we will require a high res version of your film that you can upload to our ftp. We have also had some fantastic idents created for us by fans like this one by Big Red Button: http://vimeo.com/35504244 and another gem: http://vimeo.com/26144975. Again if filmmakers want to submit a Short & Sweet ident please see the brief on our website (www.shortandsweet.tv) and submit the finished ident to submit@shortandsweet.tv

BR: You launched in Toronto last year, have you got any plans to take the programme elsewhere?

JR: Short & Sweet Toronto is almost 1 year old and still Toronto's only weekly short film evening! Jordan Crute is doing a brilliant job over there, screening short films from international and local talent every Monday night at No One Writes to the Colonel. We are now running in London, Toronto and hosting a special Valentines Day event in Cape Town at The Dream Factory. Over the next couple of years, our mission is to continue to expand our global community. First stop: New York City! For all the info about our forthcoming events and to join our mailing list go to www.shortandweet.tv

BR: You screen Music Videos and Animation as well, what do you think these different forms offer a viewer?

JR: We screen music videos and short animations as well as live action shorts to offer variety and add balance to a program. Each are quite differed but work together really well. Films are selected to take audiences on a journey: creatively, personally and emotionally. We hope to leave audiences both inspired and awestruck.

BR: Are there any short films at the moment that we should look out for?

JR: There are always fantastic films out there that need to be seen. Come to Short & Sweet every Monday in March to catch our selection! We are once again working with BAFTA and screening some of their official short film selection for 2012. One of the films that our audience absolutely loved from our last series of events in August was Dad’s New Girlfriend by Clay Weiner: http://vimeo.com/23693622

Short & Sweet will take place over 4 consecutive Monday evenings at the Roxy Bar & Screen, winner of the best entertainment pub in the UK. 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th March Only. Doors open 6:30pm, films start 7:30pm. Tickets are £3 and selling fast.

www.wegottickets.com/shortandsweet
www.facebook.com/shortandsweetlondon
@shortandsweetUK

DO YOU MAKE SHORT FILM?

The Aesthetica Short Film (ASFF) 2012 is now open for entries! ASFF is an international film festival hosted by Aesthetica Magazine. We're looking for short films of up to 25 minutes for this year's festival, which takes place in the historic city of York, UK from 8 - 11 November.

Films from across a range of genres and styles will be showcased across 15 iconic locations in the city, and in addition to four days of screenings there will be a series of master classes, workshops and networking opportunities with leading industry figures.

The winner will receive £500 and screenings at a number of other UK festivals among other prizes, and the runner-up will receive £250. A shortlist of finalists will be included on the ASFF sampler DVD, which will be distributed with the December 2012 issue of Aesthetica Magazine. Finalists will also be included in an editorial feature in the magazine.

Entry is £15 and the deadline for submissions is 31 May 2012.

Visit www.asff.co.uk for more information and to submit today, or for the latest ASFF 2012 updates, follow us on Twitter: @asffest

Monday, 20 February 2012

Canary Wharf Screen | Art on the Underground | Season 1 Film and Video Umbrella

'Celebration (Cyprus Street)', Melanie Manchot, 2010 (Excerpt) from Film and Video Umbrella on Vimeo.


Canary Wharf Screen is an innovative new motion picture screening programme that will launch at Canary Wharf Tube station at the beginning of next month. The project has been initiated and presented by Art on the Underground and will show some of the best artists' moving image, chosen by four of the UK's leading film organisations and institutions, including new digital commissions and rarely seen films from the last century.

The inaugural 2012 series will be split into four seasons, programmed in collaboration with Film and Video Umbrella, Animate, LUX and British Film Institute (BFI) respectively. Film and Video Umbrella (FVU) will curate the film season from 1 March - 27 May 2012, presenting The City in the City, a series of films by Marcus Coates, Melanie Manchot, Dryden Goodwin and Suki Chan that have been commissioned by the organisation over the last decade. A new site-specific film commission, Hold Your Ground (2012) by Karen Mirza & Brad Butler will also be premièred. Aesthetica has spoken to the artists about the piece and will publish the full interview online later this month.

The selected works in Season 1 of the programme explore how individuals navigate and occupy urban space. Within the environment of Canary Wharf station, surrounded by commuters, the programme considers the phenomenon of the crowd: as a fact of everyday existence, a source of collective identity and belonging and as a possible force and agent of change.

Aesthetica caught up with Steven Bode, Director of Film and Video Umbrella, to find out more:

A: What first prompted Film and Video Umbrella to become involved in the Art on the Underground project?

SB: Well, we were asked! Extremely nicely, as it happens! I’ve always liked the range and ambition of Art on the Underground’s activities, and we were flattered to be chosen as the organisation that would launch this programme of screenings.

A: Working through your back catalogue of artists’ moving-image commissions must have been some challenge. What was the selection process like?

SB: You’re right. There’s a lot of work to choose from! But we narrowed things down by prioritising pieces that had a conceptual or atmospheric fit with the Canary Wharf site, and that responded to its distinctive architectural and social context – its flow of people, its surges of movement, the presence of the crowd. There were works we'd made that met the brief that were ruled out because of format. But there’s a clear thematic logic to the choices, which comes across, I hope.

A: Do you think that, in relation to other stations, Canary Wharf has a specific character as an exhibition space?

SB: Absolutely. It’s like an epic amphitheatre – hugely cinematic. It’s only a stop or two away from "Metropolis" – very imposing, but full of echoes and associations. It’s arena-sized, and with some of the drawbacks that come with that. But it also resonates in other ways that, I think, genuinely add to the works that we’ve chosen.

A: Do the films have different stories or is it all very similar?

SB: The Film and Video Umbrella programme is called The City in the City - a play on Canary Wharf's particular place in the capital and, beyond that, a comment on the myriad communities that make up London. Many of the pieces address the phenomenon of the crowd, which, like the city itself, can look, from the outside, like an undifferentiated mass but, when you go closer, reveals an extraordinary complexity. So: there is very much a continuity of theme, but beneath that a diversity of different stories and approaches.

A: What should we expect from FVU in 2012?

SB: More newly commissioned film pieces by artists such as Simon Martin and Luke Fowler; an ongoing initiative for emerging artists, in collaboration with Jerwood Charitable Foundation, called Tomorrow Never Knows, plus some new ways of producing and disseminating work, using social media and other online platforms. Also coming up is Deep State, a longer companion work to Karen Mirza & Brad Butler’s Hold Your Ground, which premieres at Canary Wharf Screen. It’s an ambitious development of Brad and Karen’s ideas that revolves around a script by the author China Mièville. It will be finished in the Spring.

Season 1 will continue from 1 March - 27 May 2012, followed by Season 2 (Animate Projects) launching in June 2012 and Season 3 (LUX) in September 2012. The final season will launch in December 2012 and will see the BFI open up their archive to showcase a rolling programme of films.

www.tfl.gov.uk/art
www.fvu.co.uk
www.animateprojects.org
www.lux.org.uk
www.bfi.org.uk

All five films can be previewed on the FVU Vimeo page, however, this project is about how the chosen pieces resonate with this unique site so we would recommend you go and see the films for yourself.

Aesthetica in Print

If you only read Aesthetica online, you're missing out. The February/March issue of Aesthetica is out now and offers a diverse range of features from an examination of the diversity and complexity of art produced during the tumultuous decade of the 1980s in Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, opening 11 February at MCA Chiacgo, a photographic presentation of the Irish Museum of Modern Art's latest opening, Conversations: Photography from the Bank of America Collection. Plus, we recount the story of British design in relation to a comprehensive exhibition opening this spring at the V&A.

If you would like to buy this issue, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Better yet call +44 (0) 1904 629 137 or visit the website to subscribe to Aesthetica for a year and save 20% on the printed magazine.

Conflations of Form | Lynda Benglis | Thomas Dane Gallery | London


Text by Travis Riley

Lynda Benglis’ name has taken on mythical connotations in the art world. Her provocative photographic spread in Artforum in 1974, in which she appeared oiled and naked, brandishing a dildo, and sporting a "macherin"’ pose (Benglis’ own term implying a female form of "machismo") sparked controversy at the time, and has subsequently been awarded verbal accolades by countless artists, not least Cindy Sherman and Vito Acconci. The image is undoubtedly a satire on the machismo of the art world, taking particular reference from Robert Morris’ own machismo 1974 advertisement, but it is also an attempt to generate a simultaneous femininity and masculinity. This is a recurrent theme in Benglis’ art; feeling no need to take sides, she is willing to make a statement that walks the line between the two.

Benglis’ show at Thomas Dane Gallery opened in the gallery’s two spaces earlier this month, coinciding with a talk at the ICA, in which she historically and conceptually reviewed her past work. On show in the gallery is a slim retrospective of her art, containing 19 works made between 1968 and 2009. On the far wall of one of the gallery’s smaller rooms is Benglis’ Hoofers I & II (1971-2). Named after a tap dancing group at Harvard, the two and a half metre tall, slender sculptures imply a set of oversized spirit sticks. The otherwise minimalistic forms of the thin, wall-mounted lines are coated with drips of paint and glitter resulting in a rough, gaudy exterior.

A shorter, but equally thin piece faces the right of the Hoofers, positioned off-centre on the opposite wall. The painting, Untitled (1972) is made with beeswax and resin on wood, and in its tones, green merging through yellow into deep orange, it immediately recalls a rich, moist, fungus. Its disjointed, lumpen surface contributes further to this likeness. The matt smoothness of the wax finish creates a very tangible skin, and contrary to its resemblance, the object is impalpably beautiful. Looking back across the room it is hard now not to see these three objects as tree trunks, one old and moulding, two decorated and ostentatious.

Spreading in the doorway between this room and the next is, Baby Contraband (1969), one of Benglis’ floor paintings. Made of brightly coloured, poured latex, it contains the phosphorescence and transience of an oil slick, but also has a fixed skin, an almost human quality. Benglis’ beguiling explanation of these paintings’ conception at her ICA talk takes us back to moon landings. Looking back at the earth from space, distance is trivialised, and all matter becomes evident simultaneously. The metaphor doesn’t need to be laboured, for the fallen paintings quite literally capture the shifting form of the earth at a distance, matter frozen in time, seen from above.

The gallery’s second space, just down the road from the first, takes the form of one large room. The pieces within are all set to the soundtrack of Female Sensibility (1973), a video work containing two heavily made-up women kissing and caressing against an insipid purple backdrop. The close attention to gesture gives the sense that this event is being enacted for the camera, and prevents the women becoming objects of a gaze, male or otherwise. The soundtrack in question is an appropriated passage from an American AM radio station. The music is country, and the talk all uncomfortably stereotypical in its masculinity, made worse by the later introduction of a preacher sermonising on the creation of Adam and Eve.

Two further floor works are shown in this room. Not contented with flatness, these attempt to rise up from the ground. The first, Night Sherbert A (1968) is a small heap of polyurethane colours, deep oranges, greens, and reds, simultaneously distinct and touching. The second, Eat Meat (1973) is a bronze cast, almost black in colour, piled high and slumped with a much greater sense of weight. Although the resulting forms are quite similar, the distinction between these two pieces is significant in Benglis’ art. Eat Meat represents a movement away from the action, spontaneity, and consequent expressionist reference contained within the previous, poured floor paintings. The bronze contains a much richer art-historical reference, and the casting process implies an established intent rather than a sporadic gesture. The work is still a result of formal experimentation, but has a sculptural fixedness that pervades the later works in the show, particularly Scarab (1990) and Kajal (1980). Two, folded and misshapen metal sculptures hung on the walls of the gallery space.

As the exhibition press material makes explicit, Benglis has borrowed from numerous schools of art, especially expressionism and minimalism. What is not made clear in the release is her simultaneous defiance of these traditions. Benglis’ sculptural forms are dimensionally and materially indebted to minimalism, but then are polluted by expressionistic markings and bodily references. She created large scale, expressive works, but with the addition of dayglo colours and glitter, the machismo of abstract expressionism is forfeited. There is a deliberate blurring between the two artistic ideologies, and consequently also between painting and sculpture. Benglis often finds herself labelled as a feministic artist, but in her Artforum ad she did not pose as a defiant woman, but a representation of both genders. Using the language of feminism she did not only defy the male gaze, but any construct of gaze. In her experiments with form Benglis walks a continual tightrope between structural conventions, creating an art which stands above categorisation.

Lynda Benglis, 10/02/2012 - 17/03/2012, Thomas Dane Gallery, First Floor, 11 Duke Street, St James's, London, SW1Y 6BN. www.thomasdane.com

Aesthetica in Print

If you only read Aesthetica online, you're missing out. The February/March issue of Aesthetica is out now and offers a diverse range of features from an examination of the diversity and complexity of art produced during the tumultuous decade of the 1980s in Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, opening 11 February at MCA Chiacgo, a photographic presentation of the Irish Museum of Modern Art's latest opening, Conversations: Photography from the Bank of America Collection. Plus, we recount the story of British design in relation to a comprehensive exhibition opening this spring at the V&A.

If you would like to buy this issue, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Better yet call +44 (0) 1904 629 137 or visit the website to subscribe to Aesthetica for a year and save 20% on the printed magazine.

All images copyright Thierry Bal

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