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Friday 23 July 2010

Wallpaper's August Issue: Handmade

Here at the Aesthetica office, our passion is magazines, and other than our own (obviously), some our favourites include Dazed & Confused, Creative Review and Wallpaper. This August, Wallpaper has produced an ambitious issue centred around a project that aims to harness the DIY spirit, and apply it to each aspect of the magazine. The Handmade Issue takes design and originality to an interesting new level.

Picking up the magazine, at first glance it’s easy to think – this issue doesn’t look ‘handmade’, particularly with Wallpaper's gloss and ads from companies like Patek Philippe, but as you delve into the concept of the project, it becomes apparent that each of the objects featured have been commissioned or designed by Wallpaper themselves. From food to furniture, jewellery to football strips, the team has taken on the role of “client, patron and creative director.” The magazine is putting its money where its mouth is by taking over ownership of the featured objects in the issue – it also makes for weird and wonderful ideas as the team let their imaginations run riot with twin bathtubs and new lawn games. The Handmade gets a tactile feel with seven different paper stocks making up the issue, and a bound-in sketchbook illustrates fundamental drawings in the design process. Perhaps one of the biggest tasks for this special issue was giving each reader a chance to design a front cover, which then graced their copy, making 21,000 differently designed front covers for the August issue.

There is definitely a buzz around ‘making’ at the moment, and in our June/July issue we explore the concept and ask what makes art and craft two separate entities? Focusing on Jerwood Contemporary Makers we explore the act of creating something wearable, functional and beautiful. This DIY ethic frees us from the limits of designers’ imaginations and allows us to produce what exactly works for us on every level. As a backlash to the disposable age, this process of making ultimately gives products worth, meaning and investment, making us more aware of what we need and, more importantly, what we’re thoughtlessly discarding. Since the recession we’re definitely thinking more about putting time and effort, rather than money, into things we want (think bookshelves from wooden pallets).

At Aesthetica, we belive in DIY too, and a few issues back published a 2 part Series on DIY Filmmaking.

Click here for Part One
Click here for Part Two

We want to encourage you to get out there and create their own films. Today we have the technology at the tools available, it’s time to start interacting and who knows try something new. We had a fantastic response to our Short Film Competition, showing that an inspiring number of great filmmakers are doing just that.

If film isn’t your thing, get creative with short stories, poetry, photography, painting or any other making process and enter the Creative Works Competition – we’re all about sourcing new talent and after seeing Wallpaper’s venture into new ideas and design, we’re freshly inspired!

Wallpaper’s Handmade issue is out now from all good news agents or visit their website www.wallpaper.com

Wednesday 21 July 2010

THE OPEN PRIZE for Video Painting 2010

Opening tomorrow at Nichols & Clarke (Blossom Street, London, E1 6PL) the Open Gallery presents the Open Prize for Video Painting. At Aesthetica, we are particularly interested in this new art form, and there are some fascinating works being created in film and video at the moment (check out the AND Festival in Manchester this autumn).

This prize celebrates experimental new works of art, and the Open Gallery is exclusively dedicated to video painting. Video painting – so what is it? Well, it’s a new form of video art developed by the Artscape Project. Video paintings are filmed in a single take with a stationary camera. Unlike other forms of film art, they contain no edits or subsequent manipulation. They show the world in real time and are non-narrative. There is no dialogue, no sound. In contrast to the film and video tradition which has been dominated by the provision of meaning and understanding, the video painting aims to escape our cultural and perceptual closures, freeing the viewer to play in the openness of the image. The gallery has developed technology that enables video paintings to be combined into collections so that they play in intelligent sequences, according to criteria determined by the artists. Unlike traditional video art, the collections don't operate on a loop system so there is no repetition.

The Open Prize was conceived to celebrate young artists working within the video painting medium, and attracted 500 entries for this year’s Award. The winner will be selected from the short listed group of ten and will receive funding towards their future video projects and exhibitions with Open Gallery.

This year’s judging panel includes Ziba de Weck (Parasol Unit), Marc Valli (Elephant and Magma Books), Ben Lewis (BBC) and Hilary Lawson (Artscape Project).

For further details, visit www.openprize.co.uk and www.opengallery.co.uk

The exhibitions runs from 22nd – 24th July, Nichols & Clarke, Blossom Street, E1 6PL

Tuesday 20 July 2010

The City & the Arts Festival - IF: Milton Keynes International Festival is on now

The inaugural IF: Milton Keynes International Festival opened last Thursday with great success. The festival is a new initiative to promote Milton Keynes as a centre of excellence for arts and culture and with MK Gallery’s recent exhibitions (Marcus Coates and 2008's Turner Prize winner, Mark Leckey), this doesn’t come as a surprise. The city’s unique architectural landscape has been transformed by a line-up of international artists and performances, which will last until 25 July, so you still have time to visit.

The festival is drawing on the vision of the city’s 1960s founders (designed with the grid-system most often found in North American cities), by making use of the landmarks, parks, boulevards, disused buildings and unusual locations of central Milton Keynes in an ambitious programme of performances and family-friendly events, both ticketed and free, which include new circus, theatre, dance, music, visual arts and sound installations. Over the 10 days several UK premieres will take place including the critically acclaimed inStallation - – a Swiss collective of aerial and high wire artists, dancers, musicians, horses and their expert handler who will showcase this breathtaking theatrical performance in a Big Top. Architects of Air will unveil their new luminarium Mirazozo, a large walk-in inflatable structure in which neon-like illuminated seams create visual illusions similar to those encountered in the geometric surface design of Islamic art and architecture.

Producers of extraordinary live events Artichoke, will work their customary magic bringing a mysterious and fantastical new experience to the festival in another UK first. With IF: Milton Keynes International Festival produced by The Stables, one of the UK’s leading live music venues currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, there is a strong music and sound theme underpinning the festival. Sound artist and this year’s inaugural artist-in-residence, Janek Schaefer, will create Asleep at the wheel, his new commission for the festival. Constructed in the old Sainsbury’s superstore, the immersive soundscape will feature several upended cars on a fake tarmac road running through the disused structure. Belgian Spiegeltent will be at the heart of Festival Central in Campbell Park and home to a live music, comedy and cabaret programme, with highlights including Karbido’s electrifying audio visual spectacle The Table, Adrian Edmondson and his folk punk band The Bad Shepherds, festival favourites Bellowhead, and Perrier award winning comedian Rich Hall.

Click here to download the programme.

Speaking with the Bill Gee, the festival’s Creative Producer, audiences can expect a world class event right at their doorstep.

AES: Can you give me an idea about the concept of IF: Milton Keynes International Festival, basically, how did it all begin? What are the key themes for the Festival?

BG: IF: Milton Keynes International Festival came about through a series of discussions between The Stables, MK Gallery and Arts Council England about the possibilities that Milton Keynes offered as an expanding city, - potentially with the 10th largest population in the UK by 2031 - to grow a new major cultural event. This would sit alongside all the music work and visual arts based work that currently are presented at the Stables and Gallery and the very strong local arts scene. The discussions in early 2009 led to the CEO of The Stables, Monica Ferguson, picking up the challenge and putting together a plan and a steering group of stakeholders from across the city to make the festival a reality. I was in discussions with Monica from late August 2009 and became the Creative Producer for the festival. Centrally behind the concept was the desire to make a festival that resonated through Central Milton Keynes and pulled attention to this planned and growing city. The fact that The Stables was leading the project meant that artistically we were looking for a sound and music focus to underpin the programme.

AES: Milton Keynes is a unique location in the UK; can you tell me how the Festival fits in with the landscape, architecture and dynamics of the city?

BG: It was an exploration of this planned landscape and city architecture that totally struck me as I walked and cycled up the boulevards. The central layout of Milton Keynes is based on a grid like many North American cities. The central route of this grid is Midsummer Boulevard; it’s called Midsummer because it is on the axis of where the sun rises and sets on Midsummer’s Day. The master planners in the 1960s had this visionary idea upon which to base a city for the city for the 21st century very much as you may have found Egyptian or Aztec’s older civilisations. This underlying vision of the city is something that I wanted to draw attention to, and as the work I curate is predominately in the public realm or in made locations it was something that could be done. So from when you walk out of the main railway station and see the inflated domes of Architects of Air’s huge sculptural structure Mirazozo, and going right up to Campbell Park where the beautiful Spiegeltent is, the sites for all events are either on or no more than 150M to either side of this line.

AES: With festivals like Manchester International Festival and the Liverpool Biennial now part of the fabric of large-scale city-wide arts and culture events, how will IF: Milton Keynes International Festival add to British arts festivals?

BG: IF: Milton Keynes allows for the opportunity to experiment with large scale programming in a way that hasn’t been seen in Milton Keynes previously. We are looking very much for a cross over of audiences between the more populist and less accessible events, thus we want the audience to go on their own creative journeys – I’d very much like to see the audience from the opening night large scale spectacular show – Full Circle venturing to download the MP3 tracks for Duncan Speakman’s Subtlemob and becoming themselves direct players in the work.

AES: You have several new commissions and UK premieres, can you give me an idea of how you developed the programme, and how this adds to the festival’s identity?

BG: The programme developed very much in response to identifying the different possible spaces in which the festival could present work in central Milton Keynes. One of the earliest meetings I went to was a discussion about the development of Central Milton Keynes, out of this one of the areas that was identified as lacking was that of there being a non-commercial city square – a gathering place for celebration or demonstration. I had seen the giant square carousel Le Manège Carré Sénart in the summer of 2009 when I had been at the Zomer van Antwerpen festival. The project had been commissioned by Sénart which is one of the new cities built around Paris in the 1970s. The commission was very much for it to be part of the physical and psychological city centre making. I hope in some way this may be repeated in Milton Keynes where we are closing a central car park for six weeks to house this special work by Francoise Delarozière. As well as enjoying the visual spectacle and the ride I hope people will also spend time in this space differently.

AES: The idea of immersive productions in the urban playground is becoming an increasing popular way for audiences to experience performance; can you tell me about Janek Schaefer as Artist in Residence contribution to the festival and some of the other immersive events?

BG: With the theme of sound and music and the desire to work in unusual spaces, identifying Janek Schaefer as the inaugural artist-in-residence was a choice made from having experienced Janek’s work previously. However, it wasn’t until the first meting with him that he told me that he had grown up in Milton Keynes between the ages of 5 to 15 and also attended the summer music camps organised by The Stables. The commission brief with Janek was to respond in some way to the city. Through discussion with his project producer Simon Chatterton, the car was identified. Many people know Milton Keynes as a city of roundabouts, because its extensive road system was constructed on the grid pattern and it is an amazingly easy city to travel around by car. We looked at a range of spaces from car parks to areas under flyovers and a few days before the end of 2009 we gained access to the vast empty former Sainsbury’s superstore. This enormous space - 200m long by 70m wide - begged out for a transformation. Whilst I negotiated with Sainsbury’s for use of the space Janek’s thoughts of the car took him to consider the issues of Peak Oil and lack of sustainability of the oil based economy, hence the name of the work, Asleep at the wheel…. The ghost road of cars seemingly hurtling to nowhere that cuts across the vast space creates one large immersive impression for the participant, but it is the invitation to open the doors of the cars, climb into the back seats and listen to the 10 individual sound worlds that really hooks the participant into contemplation of where the consumption driven world is heading. World class percussionist Evelyn Glennie and New York based experimental guitarist Fred Frith collaborated with UK based VJ Little Lumo in a late-night immersive improvised concert in Milton Keynes Central Church on the festival’s opening night, again bringing an audience to a different venue for a very different type of concert and extending their comprehension of the city.

AES: The festival is cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary; can you tell me about the decision to include such a vast array of art forms (dance, music, live art, sound art, comedy, etc) in 10 days?

BG: There is a vast array of art forms across the festival. What I hope knits them together is their presentation in the public realm - outdoor, found or temporary venues - and the desire of contemporary audiences to cross between arts and genres. I want to encourage the journeying between different events and genres, from the intense theatrical musicality of Karbido’s Table to the beautiful immersive quality of space, light and colour in Architects of Air’s Mirazozo.

AES: I believe that the cross-art aspect of the festival engages within the context of contemporary arts today, what was it like to curate such a complex range of events?

BG: I have been very lucky to be able to work with Alison Young, Head of Programming at The Stables, as she has taken a lead on the programming of the Spiegeltent with its own diversity of music, comedy and performance. This has enabled me to work on the matrix of other events and how they fit together. We have invested resources in a number of core projects that run for anything between 7 and the whole 10 days of the festival, this again being to allow the elusive word of mouth, Twitter and Facebook to build audiences for the work.

AES: What’s the one event not to miss and why?

BG: Picking out one event is an almost impossible task and one which is likely to get me into a huge amount of discussion, but I would have to say that for me seeing the work of the inStallation collective last summer in Lausanne was one of the most satisfying and complete theatrical experiences of the past few years for me. The interweaving of the different skills and artistry of the collective is compelling. Despite the work being a series of connecting scenes it has a totality which is akin to a composed through piece of music.

AES: Finally, what would you like audiences to take away from the festival?

BG: I would like the audience - and that’s a large and very diverse audience - to experience something unlike they have experienced before and by this to be moved to joy, or thought, or change or action. I would like the audience to take away a hunger for more of what they have experienced so we can look to do it all again in 2012.

IF: Milton Keynes International Festival runs until 25 July 2010, for more information and to purchase tickets visit www.ifmiltonkeynes.org or call the Box Office on 01908 280800.

Images © Ashley Bingham–Taylorbingham
inStallation at IF Milton Keynes International Festival
Architects of Air, Mirazozo at IF Milton Keynes International Festival
Janek Schaefer, Asleep at the wheel at IF Milton Keynes International Festival

Monday 19 July 2010

Review: Wolfgang Tillmans at the Serpentine Gallery

Review by Elisa Caldarola

Until 19 September the Serpentine Gallery will be showing a large collection of photographs by Wolfgang Tillmans. With some pictures dating back to the 1980s and the bulk of them from the last decade, it’s a rather kaleidoscopic exhibition, where Tillmans seems to be making a point of demonstrating that almost everything can be done with photographs.

There are some small, touristy pictures, simply sticking to a wall: an LED screen in Times Square with a creative advert for a sports brand, a group of bikers in Heidelberg, all covered up in high-tech suits, looking like characters from a sci-fi movie beamed out of thin air onto a street corner. It felt a bit like paying a visit to a student friend with the gift of photography, who had hung on his bedroom walls the recent results of his excellent explorations with the camera. But on the contrary, Tillmans has so much control of his medium that he's not afraid to put on display pictures that do not bear any particular signature trademark, but simply cast a fresh gaze on their subject, which is probably why he won the Turner Prize in 2000.

He is a master of the photographic medium, and this is evident from his pictures of everyday objects, which come to look quite extraordinary in a 2.5 x 1.8 m format: egg boxes piled on a supermarket shelf, the close-up on a sports jacket, the somehow anguishing picture of the glass surface of a photocopy machine. The stunning abstracts Urgency XXI, XXII XXIV (2006) and Ostgut Freischwimmer (2004) are very big, emotional, beautiful C-type prints of photographs of (almost) unidentifiable objects that appear like delicate ink designs on pale monochrome surfaces. It feels like looking –– from the perspective of an ant –– at the traces of pollen from a flower vase may have left on a table. Or, in the case of the Freischwimmer, at wisps just cut, blowing in the wind. Among other abstracts there are some sculptural photographs, where glossy monochromatic surfaces, folded or crumpled, acquire three-dimensionality and a group of flat monochromes completely adhering to the wall, which enhances their bi-dimensionality. Rome (2007), the luminous oversized image of a simple white, gently curved, sheet of paper, reveals the virtuoso nature of Tillmans’ work: two white flat surfaces, light, and shadow make all the magic.

I especially liked the big black and white pictures set in Germany (Wald Reinshagen, Wald, An der Isar II, 2008). The first two depict just trees, while the third is a man lying on the grass. However, what really matters is composition, texture, and the interplay between light and shadow. The large-grained texture might be reminiscent of Sigmar Polke’s deliberately rough photo-painting in black and white, with the difference that here Tillmans is giving to photographs the character of paintings (by means of stressing surface qualities and conferring to photographs of rather banal objects the size of traditional history paintings), while Polke was going the other way around, making paintings bearing some of the distinctive features of photographs.

Not to be missed are also the political pictures in the last room: an image of the great iron gates on the borders between the USA and Mexico, one of the wall dividing communities in Jerusalem, and a third, apparently more innocent, of remains of picturesque wooden boats on the seashore of Lampedusa, a small Italian island between Sicily and Africa. If we think that Lampedusa is the place migrants from the African continent desperately try to reach in order to enter Europe, and that many of them die in water before they can reach the island, the picturesque character of the picture vanishes.

There are plenty of images in the exhibition and I can by no means give an exhaustive account here. This is a show that brings together many –– maybe too many –– themes. There is a very small photograph stick on a wall that can easily remain unnoticed, but I like it to think that it could be a metaphor for the whole exhibition. It is the picture of many colourful minerals on a multi-shelved glass cabinet, possibly in a Natural History Museum. Once I discovered the picture the beautiful colours and variety of configurations of the minerals as well as the glasses and mirrors of the cabinet attracted my attention for long. It occurred to me that I was looking at a micro-Wunderkammer within the macro-Wunderkammer of the exhibition itself.

Wolfgang Tillmans is at the Serpentine Gallery in London until 19 September.

To read more on contemporary photographers, read our feature on Sean Raggett in the June/July issue of Aesthetica.

Images (c) the artist:

Wolfgang Tillmans
Installation view Serpentine Gallery, London
(26 June – 19 September 2010)
Photograph: Gautier de Blonde

Wolfgang Tillmans
Eierstapel 2009
C-type print
61 x 50.8 cm
Courtesy the artist and Maureen Paley, London

Ostgut Freischwimmer, right 2004
Inkjet print
231.1 × 607.8 cm
Collection of Kunstmuseum Basel
Courtesy the artist and Maureen Paley, London

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