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Friday 5 March 2010

Jenny Holzer at BALTIC opens today

A major new exhibition of work by Jenny Holzer opens today in Gateshead at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. The exhibition, in one word, is stunning. The walk up to the BALTIC reveals the first insight into what is to come inside; the façade of the building emblazoned with “THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR WILL BE SECRET”.

Holzer’s use of text as art rises to a new political level as she takes classified documents from the US Government, made public under the Freedom of Information Act, and creates impressive LED sculptures displaying this information repeatedly in bright, flashing, almost blinding fashion. The documents in question range from emails between US Military officials, emails discussing the interest in oil as the cause of the conflict, and documents regarding prisoner-questioning methods. The sculptures themselves are breathtaking, filling the dimly lit white space with bright pink, green and amber, disappearing in to the walls in their various forms to give a sense of their endless nature. Whilst demanding your attention, it is clear that they are complex and often difficult to stand and read. While I think one of the major points to the work is to reveal once confidential material, just the fact that it is playing on a loop, always being released, unclassified and made public. A statement is always being made and cannot be stopped.

Also included is The Redaction Paintings Series, first exhibited in 2006. The series, taken from original official documents, depicts handprints belonging to US soldiers accused of crimes in Iraq. They have been defaced with heavy marks to erase the prints that differentiate them. By refusing to separate the convicted from the wrongly accused, Holzer demonstrates the failure of war to differentiate.

One of the earliest works of the exhibition, Lustmord Table (1994) is perhaps the most quietly unassuming, yet most disturbing of the show. Trigged by the conflict in former Yugoslavia, human bones laid out neatly on tables are collared with silver rings engraved with text. They illustrate directly the connection between physical and psychological consequences of conflict, war and trauma.

By moving to the upper floor, the exhibition takes a more personal turn into Holzer’s mind, with my personal favourite, Monument, a 20-foot-high LED sculpture, comprising of 22 semi-circular bands emblazoned with the artist’s Truisms and Inflammatory Essays, throwing out ironic sayings that always seem to relate to your own personal experiences. One of the highlights is a huge, floor-based sculpture, ideal for viewing from the top floor viewing platform – definitely recommended if you visit this show.

Holzer’s take on peace, conflict, love and longing and survival are perfectly captured throughout this exhibition, providing the viewer with the best of both worlds – incredibly stunning visuals, coupled with unsettlingly global and personal ideas.

Jenny Holzer is showing at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art from today (Friday 5 March) until Sunday 16 May. For more information, please see www.balticmill.com

Image credits:

MONUMENT(detail), 2008
22 double-sided, semi-circular electronic LED signs: 13 with red
and white diodes; 9 with red and blue diodes on front and blue and
white diodes on back
194.3 x 57.8 x 28.9 in.; 493.5 x 146.8 x 73.4 cm.
Installation: LIKE TRUTH, Diehl + Gallery One, Moscow, 2008
Text: Truisms, 1977–79; Inflammatory Essays, 1979–82
© [date of publication] Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society
(ARS), NY.
Photo: Vassilij Gureev

Thorax, 2008
12 double-sided, curved electronic LED signs with white diodes on
front and red and blue diodes on back
104.25 x 58.31 x 37.125 in.; 264.79 x 148.1 x 94.29 cm.
Installation: Jenny Holzer, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel,
Switzerland, 2009
Text: U.S. government documents
© [date of publication] Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society
(ARS), NY.
Photo: Lili Holzer-Glier

Thorax, 2008
12 double-sided, curved electronic LED signs with white diodes on
front and red and blue diodes on back
104.25 x 37.125 x 37.125 in.; 264.8 x 94.3 x 94.3 cm.
Installation: Jenny Holzer: PROTECT PROTECT, Museum of
Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago, 2009
Text: U.S. government documents
© [date of publication] Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society
(ARS), NY.
Photo: Attilio Maranzano

Wednesday 3 March 2010

¡México! Festival at BOZAR

In 2010 Mexico celebrates a double anniversary: the bicentenary of its independence and the centenary of its revolution. The occasion is being marked by festivities in Mexico and around the world, all year long. Belgium will play a prominent role in the celebrations. The bicentenary commemorates 200 years of Mexican independence or – to be more precise – the beginning of the country's struggle for independence. It was on 16 September 1810 that the "¡Grito de Dolores!" rang out, the call to fight the Spanish invader issued by Miguel Hidalgo, also renowned for his summons, "¡Mexicanos, Viva México!" About 100 years later the Mexican Revolution was initiated by those who resisted the rule of President Porfirio Díaz. In Mexico the Centenario celebrates the beginning of the Mexican Revolution, one of the first great social uprising of the 20th century. In the context of this double commemoration, Mexico has also organised festivities outside its own frontiers.

The ¡México! festival that will take place at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in 2010 will be the largest Mexican cultural event outside the country itself. Behind the clichés of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and revolutionaries in sombreros, you can discover, over three whole months, a rich and complex nation that is constantly inventing and deconstructing its own "Mexicanness".

The five exhibitions at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts this spring will offer a fine overview of Mexican culture, past and present. The keynote exhibition Imágenes del mexicano (11 February > 25 April) sketches, in 150 portraits, "the Mexican", as seen by both Mexican and foreign artists, including Hermenegildo Bustos, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Frida Kahlo y su Mundo (16 January > 18 April) offers an opportunity to explore the world of Mexico's most famous painter in an exhibition that presents the entire Kahlo collection of the Dolores Olmedo Museum (19 paintings, an etching, and 6 drawings), as well as photographs of the artist's family, friends, and surroundings. Photography and architecture are also represented, in Mundos mexicanos: 25 Contemporary Photographers (11 February > 11 April) and Mexican Modernisms (11 February > 11 April). In The Mole’s Horizon (11 February > 25 April) visitors to the Centre can also discover the work of contemporary artists such as Daniel Guzmán, Jorge Satorre, Ilán Lieberman, Teresa Margolles, Yoshua Okón and Sergio de la Torre. Throughout the festival (11 February > 25 April), moreover, Alejibres, fantastic papier mâché creatures from the Museo de Arte Popular de México, will be on display in the Horta Hall.

In addition to these five exhibitions, the performing arts will also be at the heart of the Mexico festival. There will also be literary encounters with Jorge Volpi (1 April) and Paco Ignacio Taibo II, two worthy successors of Carlos Fuentes. Cinema also features in the festival, with a panorama of the new Mexican cinema (at the CINEMATEK) and a day devoted to the new Mexican documentary, in the presence of the directors (25 April). Onstage, audiences can also see two works directed by Claudio Valdés Kuri, who made a great impression at the KunstenFestivaldesArts and at the Wiener Festwochen, El Automóvil Gris (17 April) and El Gallo (20 April). And on the evening of 19 March local audiences can discover the leading lights of the booming and extraordinarily dynamic Mexican contemporary dance scene. On 21 March, moreover, Party Time at the Centre will have a decidedly Mexican flavour.

For further information, dates and tickets visit www.bozar.be

Frida Kahlo y su Mundo continues until 18 April.

Image credits

Frida Kahlo
La columna rota (The Broken Column), 1944
Oil on masonite, 39.8 x 30.5 cm
© Collection Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco, México

Frida Kahlo painting the portrait of her father, 1951
Photograph : Gisèle Freund © Archivo del Museo Frida Kahlo. Banco de México Fideicomiso Museos Diego Rivera-Anahuacalli y Frida Kahlo.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Liverpool's Hidden Icons - Secrets of the Built Environment

The built environment is ubiquitous – we cannot escape the structures that define us. This milieu has altered greatly over the past 50 years. The concrete jungle is being replaced by smart, functional designs – there’s even a roof top garden in our building. So, I was delighted to find out about Stephen King’s first solo show – A Storey of Photography. The show reveals secrets and hidden iconic design of city store. It follows the announcement this week that the store is set to close in June for redevelopment. In a poignant turn of events, a contemporary fine art photography exhibition, Lewis’s Fifth Floor: A Department Storey opened 26 February and runs until 30 August 2010 documenting the current state of the store’s fifth floor of this Liverpool institution.

The first solo exhibition by Liverpool photographer Stephen King reflects his visits to the store’s ‘lost’ fifth floor, closed to the public for the last three decades. Its world of 1950s design has remained hidden since it was closed to the public in the early 1980s, being used as a storage floor ever since. King’s photographs record two aspects of the fifth floor, providing a rare glimpse of the spaces which originally comprised three restaurants and what was at one time the world’s largest hair salon, while also revealing the faces of 40 current and ex-employees.

National Museums Liverpool curator Nicky Lewis commented: “Lewis’s is a household name in the city, and we hope this will be a popular exhibition with local visitors who wish to re-capture memories of the store and a bygone age, particularly in light of its impending closure. “The exhibition will also be enjoyed by people who have a passion for history, interior decoration, photography and design. Stephen’s photography captures perfectly the unique aspects of the fifth floor, including specially commissioned artwork that put it at the forefront of interior design in its day. His portrait work with Lewis’s staff puts life back into the now deserted floor.”

Included in the exhibition are images of the cafeteria which once seated 600 people, with its Grade II listed unique hand-painted ceramic tile work still standing the test of time. Created by Carter’s of Poole, the 65 metre long mural is inspired by a mural at the 1951 Festival of Britain which celebrated the best of British design. The Lewis’s mural features condiments, utensils, vegetables and cutlery.

Other features typical of 1950s style were designed to inject vibrancy into the post-war years that saw Liverpool’s population, along with the rest of the UK, emerging from destruction and deprivation. The fifth floor flaunted bright colours and light.

Stephen King commented: “The fifth floor is a great place for photography. However, the randomness that 30 years storage brought to the stylish 1950s and 70s interiors needed making sense of in some way. It became obvious that it was necessary to involve the people who had worked in these spaces to breathe life to the fifth floor once again with integrity. What started out as a purely documentary project now incorporated the new dimension of 40 portraits with ex-employees photographed in their original place of work. I tried to create a series of images that correctly translated both the glamorous and eerie atmospheres that make the fifth floor the strange place it is.”

Lewis’s Fifth Floor: A Department Storey is part of a wider project developed by Neutral Spoon, who also commissioned local artist Jacqueline Passmore to produce a film for the exhibition. Capturing the ghostly abandonment of the fifth floor through the use of old-fashioned cine-film footage of the floor as it is today, the film is overlaid with the voices of the participants recapturing their memories taken from hours of filmed interviews.

The exhibition reminds Merseysiders of their own stories of Lewis’s, but provides all viewers with a unique insight into the history of shopping culture. Stephen’s sympathetic approach to capturing his subjects not only immerses the visitor in the eerie emptiness of the floor but also evokes a feeling of joyful nostalgia and a longing for a time that once was.

National Conservation Centre Whitechapel, Liverpool

A Storey of Photography
Lewis Department Store, Liverpool
Until 30 August 2010

Images (c) Stephen King

Monday 1 March 2010

10th Annual Chutzpah! Festival in Vancouver

As Aesthetica is making international ties from Australia, New Zealand and Japan through to the USA and Canada, I wanted to bring you details about one of the most exciting performing arts festivals in Canada.

Chutzpah! opening later this week in Vancouver runs from 4 March until 8 April, and promises to captivate audiences with a stunning repertoire of dance, music and theatre with a special pre-festival presentation of the Vancouver based dance troupe, Move: the company’s Legacy Repertory Project. This year, to celebrate the Festival’s 10th anniversary, Artistic and Managing Director Mary-Louise Albert has programmed a particularly exciting and eclectic selection of gifted artists from around the world and here in Canada.

Mary-Louise Albert commented: “This is a very special year for the Chutzpah! Festival. I’m so proud of how much the Festival has grown and matured over the past 10 years. The high calibre of music, dance, theatre and comedic artists that Chutzpah! is now able to present, offers Vancouver audiences a very diverse and dynamic experience. I’m particularly excited that we will be celebrating the Festival during the Olympic period as this also offers us the opportunity to show off Chutzpah! to the international stage”.

Kicking off the Festival is The Idan Raichel Project, who burst onto Israel’s music scene in 2002, changing the face of Israeli popular music and offering a message of love and tolerance. With an enchanting blend of African, Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern sounds coupled with sophisticated production techniques and a spectacular live show, the Idan Raichel Project has become one of the most unexpected success stories in Israeli music history, regularly selling out shows worldwide.

For dance enthusiasts, Aszure Barton & Artists return to Chutzpah! with her full company of 9 dancers for a breathtaking and explosive repertoire show. The company will be presenting two works: Busk (2009) retains Aszure Barton's signature style of precise whole-body expression. Original, evocative music by Russian violist and composer Lev Ljova Zhurbin, along with a powerful selection of world sound (including choir music from Sweden's Orphei Drangar), enhance this dynamic piece. Blue Soup (2009) is a bubbling mosaic drawn from Aszure Barton's notable past creations. Dynamic, physical action and emotional honesty propelled by a score of global sound build a powerful, pulsating environment. “Full of surprise and humor, emotion and pain, expressed through a dance vocabulary that takes ballet technique and dismantles it to near-invisibility.” - The New York Times. Gallim Dance from New York with special guest Sidra Bell Dance New York will also enthral audiences. The work Gallim Dance will be presenting, I Can See Myself In Your Pupil, is a suite of dances set to the vibrant music of the Israeli band, Balkan Beat Box.

Theatre go-ers will enjoy a special treat with three great plays. Odysseus Chaoticis by Israel’s Ish Theater is a fantastic cabaret show based on the travels of Odysseus, King of Ithaca. Parts of the mythological Odyssey are intertwined into a story of an eccentric Italian family; a romantic-dreamer husband, his uptight dominating, but loving wife, a needy old Papa and their noisy newborn baby all packed like sardines in their small home. The day-dreaming husband escapes his mundane routine and takes an imaginative journey inspired by Homer’s Odyssey – this is one of the most entertaining hours you will ever spend in the theatre! “An amazing balance between sharp directing and the brilliant improvisational skills of the three clowns, each one of them bursting with talent” - M.Zur-Glozman, Ma'ariv Online.

Also the world premiere of Donald and Lenore - a wild and seductive play about survival set in an underground Tahitian Lounge by internationally renowned Vancouver based playwright Tom Cone, directed by David Bloom and starring Linda Quibel and Billy Marchenski.

With its interdisciplinary nature, Chutzpah! 2010 offers an insightful programme and vast range of performances.

To download a programme, purchase tickets or for further information visit www.chutzpahfestival.com

Images (c) the artists.

Photo 1: Steven Schreiber
Photo 2: David Lee

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