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Friday 18 June 2010


Who says that art and fashion don’t mix? For me, I see a clear connection between the two worlds. Although, the politics and protocol of these worlds may differ, and words like “high” and “low” are gratuitously mentioned, I see a direct correlation. You may have read our feature on Rankin or Alex Box (the make-up artist), or even our feature on the new generation of fashion photographers (that fantastic cover with Raquel Zimmerman), and so I think the most intriguing aspect of the clash of these two words, ultimately is the debate which follows.

When I saw that Somerset House was hosting Maison Martin Margiela ’20’ The Exhibition, which is a major show that celebrates 20 years of one of contemporary fashion’s most influential and enigmatic designers, I knew this was going to be good. Following the success of recent exhibitions ‘SHOWstudio’ and ‘Skin and Bones’ the exhibition explores the designer’s artistic and conceptual approach to fashion. Granted, Maison Martin Margiela isn’t as known as Jean Paul Gaultier (although Martin Margiela was an assistant with Gaultier before he set up his own label in 1988) or Channel, but maybe that’s the overall point with Maison Martin Margiela –their white labels and rejection of celebrity culture is captivating. It’s ironic when we know too much about someone / something, we don’t care, but when there’s mystery, we can’t get enough. Maison Martin Margiela has an attraction in the company’s ethos, but the designs they create are beautiful. I look at things from an aesthetic point of view, and this show really drives home for me, the art of fashion, the creative process, exploration of concept and materials.

The show was conceived in close collaboration with Maison Martin Margiela and curated by the Mode Museum, Antwerp, this exciting show makes its London debut where it will be specially reconfigured for the Embankment Galleries, following critical acclaim at the MoMu, Antwerp and Haus der Kunst, Munich last year. Employing a "deconstructivist" approach - monochromatic palette, outsized garments, non-traditional fabrics, the use of recycled materials and exposing the construction of his clothes - Margiela displayed a radically new visual language that diametrically opposed the power dressing of the 1980s (Think Margaret Thatcher). In deciding to let his fashion speak for itself and remain anonymous, Margiela as a brand is driven by product and sheer invention rather than fad, hype and celebrity often linked to other fashion labels.

This multifaceted exhibition captures Margiela’s unique vision spanning the past 20 years, by incorporating installations, photography, video and film. The show offers visitors the chance to learn more about the brand and its philosophy through a visual examination of themes that underpin the essence of the fashion house since its creation - from its deconstructivist, subversive design aesthetic and avant-garde couture to its understated branding, unusual boutique interiors and ‘trompe-l’oeil’ or optical illusion and its couture atelier white coats. Various iconic pieces from both the women and menswear collections are on display, such as the highly replicated "Tabi" boots, as well as specially recreated garments for the exhibition.

Somerset House Director, Gwyn Miles said: “We are delighted to be bringing Maison Martin Margiela’s major retrospective to Somerset House. This forms part of our aim to host an exciting year round programme of contemporary cultural exhibitions and events that reflects current trends in the creative industries, particularly in fashion and design. I hope this exhibition stimulates debate and ideas, and will go some way in establishing Somerset House as a genuine creative hub for London”.

Based on visiting this show, Miles’ vision is being realised. Somerset House’s commitment to showcasing the world’s most celebrated creative talents across fashion, art and design is happening. The show is vibrant and exciting, with fantastic installations, and high paced audio-visuals; and “Birthday Room” makes made me feel like I was there, at the show, and part of the audience. I loved the aesthetics, confetti and overall experience.

Maison Martin Margiela ’20’ The Exhibition continues until 5 September. Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, Entry £6 www.somersethouse.org.uk


1. © Ronald Stoops.
2. Courtsey Somerset House
3. Artisanal © Marina Faust

Thursday 17 June 2010

Call for Entries: Aesthetica Creative Works Competition 2010

It’s here! At last – this year’s competition is more exciting than ever. With entries coming in from around the world, we are getting very energised.

I want to see your new work, read your ideas, gather inspiration and experience exactly what you are creating today and how this reflects, comments and debates with the topics of the day.

Here’s what you need to know for this year’s competition:

We are inviting all artists, writers and poets to submit their work into the Aesthetica Creative Works Competition 2010. Now in its third year, the Creative Works Competition is dedicated to celebrating and championing creative talent across three disciplines, identifying new artists and writers and bringing them to international attention.

•The Competition has three categories, Artwork, Poetry and Fiction.
•Winners and finalists are published in the Aesthetica Creative Works Annual.
•Winners of each category receive £500 prize money plus other prizes.
•Entry to the Creative Works Competition is £10
•The entry fee allows the submission of 2 images, 2 poems or 2 short stories.
•The deadline for submissions is the 31st August 2010.
•More guidelines on how to submit can be found online at www.aestheticamagazine.com/submission_guide.htm

CLICK HERE to download the Official Poster.

Last year's Art Winner: Image (c) Shadric Toop , Mind Map of Alan Thompson, photomontage, varnish, stains, acrylic paint, oil paint, electrical wire & solder on panel. 155 x 155 cm.

Winners and finalists of the Aesthetica Creative works Competition have gone on to represent Australia in the Florence Biennial, commissions for Channel 4, and have had exhibitions in London, New York and Paris. Check back soon for further information on last year's winners and finalists.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Everyday People: Spencer Tunick’s latest offering at The Lowry

Salford and Manchester are certainly not the warmest of places to get naked, something that is made abundantly clear in the video work of Spencer Tunick’s (b. 1969) latest exhibition, Everyday People, now showing at The Lowry, Salford Quays. On a weekend in May, Tunick undertook to orchestrate his latest installation in locations across Salford and Manchester. With the help of a large number of brave volunteers, who pose naked, Tunick creates works that incorporate the human body into the landscape in a variety of intriguing ways.

The resulting photographs from this weekend show the range of Tunick’s vision, with works that vary from the highly structured to more naturalistic images. The bodies milling outside the Lowry look as any post-theatre crowd might, with one notable exception – they are all, of course, naked. In contrast, Tunick’s installation in a Manchester park shows the mass of people arranged around the existing landscaping, reflecting the pinks and hues of the blossoms and extending and amplifying the careful manicuring of the park gardens. It is interesting to note how in the former photo your eye is drawn to study the individual body, whereas in the latter it is the lines created by the grouping together of so many bodies that is compelling: the geometric shapes and colours appear more significant when the groupings are more choreographed or composed.

Humour and humanity abound in these photos, which demonstrate subtle relationships between crowds of people. Tunick took his inspiration from L.S Lowry, famous for his depictions of Salford and Manchester. Lowry’s figures, set in crowds in an industrial landscape, always appear distinctly alone despite their proximity to one another and some of this is captured in Tunick’s contemporary interpretation: the nudity of the figures creates an incredible sense of community and shared experience whilst at the same time subtly forcing distance between participants.

The exhibition is remarkable in many ways, not least that so many people were prepared to give their time to stand naked in the freezing city. The video depicting the experience is a fantastic insight into the generosity required in such an artwork and the surrounding photos are testament both to the artist and the volunteers. It is debatable whether or not the artworks are controversial, but they certainly inspire discussion around the body, nudity and privacy, opening up the artistic understanding of the nude and offering an opportunity for celebration of the human form in the context of our landscape.

Everyday People is on at The Lowry, Manchester until 26 September. Entry is free. www.thelowry.com

Image (c) Spencer Tunick from Everyday People.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Altered Images to open at Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

Accessible, interactive and inclusive in ethos, Altered Images aims to stimulate engagement with the visual arts for the general public and particularly for people with disabilities. The idea that a visual art exhibition should be accessible to all is not a new one; most museums and galleries have an access programme that enables people with disabilities to experience artworks. However, selecting an entire exhibition with an emphasis on accessibility in a multi-dimensional way is relatively new in Ireland. The exhibition aims to enhance people’s engagement with the works through the tactility of relief models, by listening to the audio and artist’s descriptions. The exhibition includes work by artists Thomas Brezing, David Creedon, Alice Maher, Caroline McCarthy and Abigail O’Brien, with especially commissioned works by Amanda Coogan and Daphne Wright.

Altered Images is the result of a partnership initiative of South Tipperary County Council Arts Service, IMMA’s National Programme and Mayo County Council Arts Office. The exhibition works on many levels. Firstly, curatorial decisions were taken to ensure a cohesive body of work. The selected works all make reference to classical or art historical sources, either in the method of depiction or their subject matter. Each art work is accompanied by a multi-sensory display in order to provide meaningful access. In addition, an audio CD and Braille documentation of the large-print exhibition catalogue will be available on request. Artist Amanda Coogan has produced an interpretive signed-representation of the exhibition in the form of a filmed performance. Sign language tours will be available by arrangement and an accessible website for the project can be found at www.alteredimages.ie. Altered Images was shown at the South Tipperary County Museum, Clonmel, and at the Ballina Arts Centre, Ballina, Co Mayo, in 2009.

Padraig Naughton, Director, Arts and Disability Ireland commented: “What makes Altered Images an advance on what has gone before in an Irish context is the curation of a whole exhibition that has a multi-sensory approach to access thus having an inclusive appeal that will reach the widest audience possible. While in my reflections I have concentrated predominantly on my access requirements as a visually impaired person, Altered Images intends to provide access solutions that are cross-impairment while simultaneously creating an exhibition of equal interest and accessibility to a non-disabled audience. Consequently encouraging disabled people and their families and friends to come and explore the exhibition together. Furthermore it will for example allow people who are blind or deaf to explore the conceptual nature of visual and sound art along side non-disabled people.”

The show opens 17 June – 5 September 2010. For further information visit Altered Images at Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. www.imma.ie

Guest Blog by Sally O'Leary

Image: (c) Amanda Coogan, Seven Steps, 2009, Film work, Dimensions variable. Commission, Irish Museum of Modern Art, South Tipperary County Council, Mayo County Council, 2009

Monday 14 June 2010

Review of "Whose Map is it?" now on at Iniva in London

Whose Map is it? is the latest show to open at Iniva. Kicking off with a symposium on 2 June with delegates from around the world, this show is incredibly relevant on so many levels. Nine contemporary international artists question the underlying structures and hierarchies that inform traditional mapmaking. They provide individual insights that inscribe new, often omitted perspectives onto the map.

Maps are the visual manifestation of the social, economic and political stratification of the world. We look at certain areas and countries, and identities emerge, from money & power to oil & war. Granted these are surface judgements and stereotypes, which are often based on media representation, and although there may be some truth, the map plays a crucial role in creating these definitions. Maps and geographic locations in the broadest context underpin our worldviews. It’s not only about the physical location, but also the concept of nationhood and identity construction.

The show includes film, installation, print and audio, which are used to challenge the authority of the map and explore wider social and political issues. Whose Map is it? includes three new commissions by Gayle Chong Kwan, Susan Stockwell and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, alongside recent work by Milena Bonilla, Alexandra Handal, Bouchra Khalili, Otobong Nkanga, Esther Polak and Oraib Toukan.

For centuries artists have been drawn to the subject of maps to examine self- positioning and global geographies. The artists in Whose Map is it? continue this process by challenging the objective nature of the map. The exhibition opens a dialogue about contemporary experiences of space, and the meaning of the map today. Everyone has an experience, a journey and a story to tell.

Maps are part of debates around subjects such as resources, territoriality, identity and migration. Globalisation has changed how we see the world and the two dimensional map no longer represents the rapidly changing trans-national, multi-authored world that we live in. Our ideas of the map have also changed as a result of increasing access to GIS (Geographical Information System) and new technologies such as GPS (Global Positioning System).

Whose Map is it? combines a complex understanding of maps and how geography influences our lives. Can we re-define the map or will it always define us? Whose Map is it? examines this question in great detail.

With the installation, film, sculpture, print and audio on view, this show provides an immersive experience, and ultimately makes you think about your own place in the world, the perfect mix of universal and individual.

The show continues until 24 July at Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA. Free entry. www.iniva.org

Exhibiting artists’ work and biographies:

Milena Bonilla shows Variations on a homogeneous landscape (2006), this series of 27 posters depicts a dislocated map of America, questioning scientific means of cartography and its relation to landscape and history. Milena Bonilla was born in 1975 in Bogotá, Colombia and lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands. She is currently artist in residence at Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam. In 2008 she held a solo-exhibition at Valenzuela Klenner Gallery in Bogotá. Recent group exhibitions include X Havana Biennial, Havana (2009), BB3 Bucharest Biennial at Simeza in Bucharest and Umea in Sweden (2008), and Once More With Feeling: A Season of Colombian Photography at the Photographers’ Gallery, London (2008).

Gayle Chong Kwan presents Save the Last Dance for Me, the work consists of a large-scale map illustrating Laban notation techniques to record the movement and migration of a culturally specific dance, accompanied by a sound piece giving gallery visitors dance instructions. Gayle Chong Kwan was born in 1973 in Edinburgh, UK and lives and works in London, UK. Her recent solo-exhibitions include Terroir and the Pathetic Fallacy, ArtSway (2009); The Land of Peach Blossom, Graves Gallery, Sheffield (2008); Memoryscape Moravia (2009); Cockaigne and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Platform for Art (2006-8). Group exhibitions include Pot Luck, Art Circuit (touring exhibition), New Art Gallery Walsall, UK (2008-9) and Tales of the New World, Havana Biennial (2009).

Alexandra Handal’s Labyrinth of Remains and Migration (2000/01) is a series of mental maps charting spaces of obliteration, dispossession, memory and destruction in Palestine. Alexandra Handal was born in 1975 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and lives and works in London, UK and Jerusalem, Israel. Her recent exhibitions include: New Contemporaries, A Foundation, London and Cornerhouse Manchester UK (2009); Akhir al Layl/At the end of the night, Art Dubai 2009. Solo exhibitions include Alexandra Handal, Recent Work, International Center of Bethlehem, Al-Kahf Gallery, Bethlehem, Palestine (2004). She is currently completing a PhD in Fine Art (Practice & Theory) at Chelsea College of Art and Design, London, UK.

Bouchra Khalili shows the film series Mapping Journey #1, #2, #3 (2008/09) aiming to reveal the underground and hidden maps of displacement that migratory experience produces. Bouchra Khalili was born in 1975 in Casablanca, Morocco and lives and works in Paris, France. Her recent solo-exhibitions include Storytellers, galerieofmarseille, Marseille (2008); Focus on Bouchra Khalili, Museum of Modern Art, Salvador do Bahia, Brazil (2007); Méditerranée, Méditerranées, Caixa Forum of Art, Barcelona (2006). Group exhibitions include Tarjama/Translation., Queens Museum of Art, New York (2009); El Sur de Nuevo Reina Sofia National Museum, Madrid (2009), Middle East Channel: Résistance(s) I & II, and The Third Guangzhou Triennial, Guangzhou, China (2008). In 2010 Bouchra received the CulturesFrance Hors les Murs Award.

Otobong Nkanga includes Delta Stories (2005/06) which is a series of 18 drawings, narrating ecological, political and social transformation in the oil rich Delta region in Nigeria. Otobong Nkanga was born in 1974 in Kano, Nigeria and lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium and Paris, France. She has exhibited widely internationally. Recent shows include: Animism, Extra City Kunsthal and MuHKA Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp (2010); Flow, Studio Museum Harlem, New York (2008); Africa Remix (touring exhibition), Hayward Gallery, London (2005); Snap judgments: New Positions in African Contemporary Photography, touring exhibition New York (2006). In the last five years, she participated in the Sharjah, Taipei, Dakar, São Paulo and Havana Biennials.

Esther Polak’s NomadicMILK (2009) follows dairy transporters and Fulani nomadic herdsmen in Nigeria, mapping both their routes with GPS to visualize the variety and economics of dairy transportation that take place throughout Nigeria. Esther Polak was born in 1962 in Amsterdam, Netherlands and lives and works there. She is a pioneer within the field of locative media art. Recent exhibitions of NomadicMILK include Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria (2009), Transmediale, Berlin (2009). Other exhibitions include Spiral Drawing Sunrise Medialab, Prado, Madrid (2008), Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria (2005), Making Things Public, ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany (2005) and AmsterdamREALTIME-diary in traces, Municipal Arvive, Amserdam (2002).

Susan Stockwell’s work is concerned with issues of ecology, beauty, mapping, colonial histories, trade and global commerce. For Whose Map is it? Stockwell was commissioned to produce the site-specific window piece Red Road Arteries (2010). Susan Stockwell was born in Manchester and lives and works in London, UK. She has exhibited at The National Museum of China, Beijing and The Katonah Museum of Art, USA. She will be part of the group shows Quilts from 1700 to the Present Day, Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2010), and The Creative Compass, The Royal Geographical Society Gallery, London (2010)

Oraib Toukan presents The New(er) Middle East (2007), an interactive puzzle in the shape of a territorial map of the Middle East, humorously playing on the so-called ‘New Middle East Map’ suggested by an US Army Lieutenant. Oraib Toukan was born 1977 in Boston, USA and lives and works in Amman, Jordan and New York, USA. Her recent shows include Istanbul Biennial (2009), Talking Heads, IMOCA, Dublin (2010) and Counting Memories, Darat Al Funun Amman (2007). In 2009 she was international resident artist at Delfina Foundation, London and at Artist Alliance, New York.

Emma Wolukau–Wanambwa’s new commission includes charts that juxtapose British narratives of exploration and conquest with touchstones, landmarks, peaks and triumphs of British bourgeois life. Emma Wolukau–Wanambwa was born 1976 in Glasgow, and lives and works in London, UK. Currently Emma is participating in the LUX Artists Associate Programme, London. Recent solo-shows include A Brush for Robben Island, Butcher's Projects at Rokeby Gallery, London, UK (2008). She participated in selected exhibitions and screenings including Complex Financial Instruments, S1 Artspace, Sheffield (2009); Wo ist Jetzt?/ Where is Now?, Würtembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany (2008); and Bang Hwang Ha Num Byul/ Wandering Star: British-Korean Landscape, Gana Art Gallery, Seoul, Korea (2008).


Susan Stockwell, River of Blood 2010
Vinyl cut-out, 3.73 x 8.5m
Copyright the artist. Photo: Theirry Bal

Milena Bonilla, Variations on a homogenous landscape (detail) 2006
Series of 27 posters, each 21.5 x 28cm
Photograph courtesy of the artist

Bouchra Khalili, Mapping Journey #1 (film still) 2008
Video. Courtesy of galerieofmarseille. Produced with the support of Artschool Palestine. Copyright the artist

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