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Friday 20 May 2011

Two Events @ V&A - Friday Late: Yohji Yamamoto at Play and Fashion in Motion: Yohji Yamamoto

To celebrate the V&A’s current Yohji Yamamoto retrospective, the V&A will stage two events exploring the influential Japanese designer’s work and offer the chance for visitors to take part in a live casting from which couples will be selected to model at the V&A’s Yamamoto catwalk show.

To read our review of this fantastic show – Click here.

Friday Late: Yohji Yamamoto at Play
27 May 2011; 18.30 – 22.00
Admission Free; some events may be ticketed

On 27 May the V&A presents Friday Late: Yohji Yamamoto at Play, a free evening of music, workshops, live castings and fashion-inspired events. During the evening, representatives from the V&A and Yohji Yamamoto Inc will cast couples to model the designer’s creations in a July catwalk show at the Museum. There will also be the opportunity to screen print specially-commissioned illustrations on to tote bags to take home. Visitors can enter a surreal Yohji-inspired dress-up box created by fashion designer Russell Barratt. In homage to photographer Nick Knight’s collaborations with Yamamoto, guests can create their own paper silhouettes in which to pose for a fashion shoot with photographer David Poole.

There will be live music from Japanese electro-punk-metal quartet Bo Ningen, Arena Homme + art director Rory McCartney will lead workshops on how to create a fashion-zine and there will be related talks by V&A curators. Visitors can enjoy fashion illustration demonstrations, a ‘Walk-through Wardrobe’ created by artist Riitta Ikonen, screenings of Takeshi Kitano’s film classic Brother and late access to the Yohji Yamamoto exhibition.

Fashion in Motion: Yohji Yamamoto
1 July 2011; 13.00, 15.00, 17.00, 20.00
Admission Free; booking essential

The V&A’s Fashion in Motion: Yohji Yamamoto on 1 July is a day of free catwalk shows featuring pieces from Yamamoto’s mens and womanswear collections to date. The show will be modelled by London couples, cast from the V&A Friday Late event on 27 May and street castings. The concept echoes the designer’s Spring/Summer 1999 menswear show, which was modelled by real couples, cast from the streets of Paris.

Born in Tokyo, Yamamoto set up his own company Y’s Incorporated in 1972. From early on, his work has been fêted for challenging the conventions of fashion, his playful pieces feature asymmetric cuts and unusual silhouettes. His collections are also recognised for subverting gender stereotypes and have featured women wearing garments traditionally associated with menswear. Yamamoto's fabrics are central to his design practise and his textiles are created to specification often employing traditional Japanese dyeing and embroidery techniques.

As part of the V&A retrospective, an installation by Yamamoto can be seen at the Wapping Project (until 14 August 2011) and an exhibition exploring the lifecycle of one Yamamoto garment – from design to catwalk – entitled Yohji Yamamoto at Work is on at Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion from 10 June – 6 August. Yohji Yamamoto is on display in the V&A’s main exhibition court, with a number of satellite installations located around the museum until 10 July 2011.

Image: © Yohji Yamamoto Exhibition

Thursday 19 May 2011

Journeys & Location: Frank Bowling RA, ROLLO Contemporary Art, London.

Review by Emily Sack, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond the American International University in London.

Six years after being elected a Royal Academician, Frank Bowling remains an integral figure in the London contemporary art world. With the current exhibition entitled Crossings: From New Amsterdam, Berbice to New Amsterdam, New York via Holland and London, ROLLO Contemporary Art explores the artist’s recent works. Using acrylic on canvas with a frequent inclusion of found materials, Bowling’s work displays such an intense impasto that the paintings become almost as three-dimensional as sculpture. It is difficult to resist running a hand across the surface to explore the differences in texture between the rough canvas and the heavily layered paint.

Bowling uses colour and form in a style reminiscent of the Abstract Expressionists. The exhibition contains two main categories of paintings – one series employs splattered paint application and the other includes a strong vertical or horizontal line as the primary feature of the work. Chance may appear to be the fundamental consideration in the production of these paintings; however, the artist includes several important clues as to the careful planning behind the deceptively spontaneous work. For instance, the majority of the work in this exhibition is not on a single canvas. Bowling hand stitches pieces of canvas as a frame around the traditional stretched canvas. This artificial frame features different colours than the rainbow palette of the centre canvas. The selection of at times quite acrid colours prevents the viewer from passively viewing the work – it becomes essential to visually dissect the layers of paint to unravel the artist’s process.

The linearly oriented paintings present an interesting counterpoint to the spontaneity of the previously discussed works. The majority of the canvas is covered in a thin layer of pigment that is interrupted by the robust application of paint. The demarcation of the canvas into two separate hemispheres creates a profound tension and confusion of meaning. Does the line represent a division of space with a barrier (natural or artificial)? Or rather is it a tunnel or bridge from one pole to the other?

The questions of geography and visual comparisons to topography arise in tandem with the titles Bowling attaches to the works. Some titles refer to specific, though not always identifiable, locations such as Thicket, Crossings: Eastwesttunnel, Crossing’s: Snakesheadpassage, or Crossings: Jonathan’s Manhattan. These descriptive titles do not always relate obviously to the painting, but inspire curiosity in the viewer as to the artist’s perception of the space. It is natural that journeys and location play such a significant role in the artist’s work. As a native of British Guiana, Bowling moved to London as a young adult to pursue his artistic education, and since has travelled between his two primary locations of London and New York.

The title of the exhibition at ROLLO emphasizes this theme by highlighting the images in the Crossings series. Additionally, opening at the end of the month, works on paper by Frank Bowling will be on display at the Royal Academy in the Tennant Gallery in an exhibition titled Journeyings from 27 May – 23 October.

Crossings: From New Amsterdam, Berbice to New Amsterdam, New York via Holland and London is on show at ROLLO Contemporary Art until 1 July.

Barney’sboon, 2011, Acrylic on canvas, 28 x 32 inches
Courtesy the artist and ROLLO Contemporary Art

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Announcing the Aesthetica Short Film Festival - Submit Your Film

Aesthetica Short Film Festival: Drumroll please! Announcing the launch of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival!

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) is a celebration of independent film from across the world. The Film Festival was created as an outlet to support and champion short filmmaking and has developed from the Aesthetica Magazine Short Film Competition.

Aesthetica has been supporting film for a long time: we have a dedicated film section in the magazine and have covered topics from Secret Cinema to the global appeal of British film as well as focussing on a range of interesting films including Clio Barnard’s award winning The Arbor and Yojiro Takita’s Oscar winning Departures.

We took our involvement in film one step further last year when we set up the Aesthetica Short Film Competition to offer short filmmakers the opportunity to access audiences in the UK. Along with the help of our longstanding partners, Rushes Soho Shorts Festival, Shooting People, Glasgow Film Festival and Raindance we aim to create a platform for short film internationally.

Last year we had an overwhelmingly good response to the Short Film Competition, with nearly 1000 entries from over 35 countries. Many of the films were fantastic and the judging process was incredibly gruelling but with only 13 spaces on our DVD, we could only make a limited selection. We were delighted with the final films that we chose but disappointed that more couldn’t have been included so this year we decided to create the Aesthetica Short Film Festival, in order to give a larger number of our entrants the recognition that they deserve.

Additionally, Branchage International Film Festival in Jersey have also added their name to the list of screening locations that we can offer the winner so it’s a really superb opportunity for filmmakers to run the gamut of the UK film festival scene from Scotland down to the Channel Islands!

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival will take place in the historic city of York from 3rd to 6th November. The screenings will cover a wide variety of genres and filmic styles, including narrative films, documentary, animation, music video and artists' film amongst others. Taking place across 14 diverse locations in the city, the Festival offers visitors a unique experience, with venues including the Olivier Award winning York Theatre Royal and the National Railway Museum, home to the famous Flying Scotsman. ASFF will bring contemporary short film to one of the UK’s best loved cities and combine the best in new filmmaking with a unique urban experience, from boutique cinemas to medieval halls. In addition to four days of screenings, there will also be a series of master classes and workshops with leading industry figures.

The films screening at this event will be selected from entries to the Aesthetica Short Film Competition 2011.

There are still two weeks left to submit your film into the Festival! Click here for full details on how to enter.

Deadline for entry: 31st May.

Explore York. Experience Film.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

New Connections Within The Polyphonic Whole: Janet Cardiff, Fabrica Gallery, Brighton

Review by Amy Knight

Sound has, perhaps more than any other sensory stimulation, a transcendental power that can immerse the listener in an all-encompassing awareness of being. It is this notion that forces itself into consciousness at the entrance to the Fabrica gallery on a small street in Brighton, where a sublime, choral sound seeps out the open doors of the building and catches the unsuspecting ears of passers-by. The choirs of voices that come from within are not emerging from human throats, but an oval arrangement of electronic speakers, each emitting the recorded sound of one person in a Forty Part Motet.

The renaissance composition, entitled Spem In Alium Nunquam Habui (In No Other Is My Hope) was originally created for Elizabeth I on her 40th birthday in 1573, by English composer Thomas Tallis. Breaking it down to its constituent parts and then reforming it through a new medium, artist Janet Cardiff enables the listener to climb inside the music, to physically move between the voices and immerse themselves in an invisible architecture of sound. The original piece was written for eight choirs of five voices, and this is translated identically through Cardiff’s inanimate ensemble; the shape of the arrangement physically surrounds the listener as the choral music simultaneously closes in. The architecture of the building is also transformed by the sound which fills it, and hence the piece has an intrinsic connection with the building as well; weaving together the corporeal, the architectural and the mechanical.

Originally made in 2001, The Forty Part Motet has since been exhibited in several white cube gallery spaces that detach the work from its religious origins, and on a visual level alone there is nothing to distract the eyes – the focus is purely auditory. The spectacle of a real choir is eliminated, as is the religious imagery that usually accompanies Christian church music, stripping the work down to the bare structural bones of the sound itself. Yet the ecclesiastical space at Fabrica brings back a vestige of its religious subject matter; as though the piece has come full circle and arrived, estranged, in its original context. The coming together of individual voices is, as Fabrica Co-Director Matthew Miller remarks, a timely reference to the political protests that have been so ubiquitous in recent months; the sense of community, of synchronising to form a stronger whole is reflective of the needs of our current societal epoch and ties in with the political direction of this year’s Brighton festival.

The very humanness of the piece is seemingly removed through the installation of these mechanical objects to release the forty voices; yet it is the inanimate nature of the choirs that makes a mutual interaction between sound and listener possible. Reactions to the work are as vital as the music itself, as listeners moving towards and away from the speakers create fluctuations in the clarity of the sound. The experience of each listener will vary uniquely depending on which choirs they move towards and at which time, dissecting and reforming their own version of this sonic collage through the physical positioning of the body. As Miller adds, the work is about bringing these distinct voices together in a ‘homogeneous whole’, and the overwhelming act of experiencing the soundscape makes the listener another element in this polyphonic entity.

While each private engagement with the work is different, it is experienced amongst others in a public, open environment, and is therefore both inclusive and deeply personal. People come and go, some only staying for a few tentative minutes, others in a meditative state, sitting with eyes closed in the centre of the room. Its original Latin words, adapted from the Book of Judith and later re-written in English, are about hope, and this remains obliquely communicated through the sound alone. As with all works of art, it is the experience of it that makes it meaningful, and in the elusive yet immersive experience of wandering amongst these clusters of speakers, as waves of sound build, climax and vanish, the listener can for a few moments take pleasure in the condition – whether religious or secular - of being part of something bigger, beyond explanation; in relaxing into insignificance.

The Forty Part Motet, a sound installation by Janet Cardiff continues until 30 May at Fabrica Art Gallery.

Installation View 2011. Courtesy the artist and Fabrica.

Monday 16 May 2011

The Globe Shrinks for Those Who Own It: Barbara Kruger, Sprüth Magers, London.

Review by Laura Bushell

There’s a game children play when they want to enrage their siblings; that of repeating verbatim everything the other says. Maintained to a suitably relentless level, this method of throwing someone’s utterances straight back in their face is passive-aggression at its most potent, with humiliating and infuriating results.

Over the course of her career as a visual artist, Barbara Kruger has enacted something akin to this in her work, drawing on the crisp imagery and pithy language from her days on magazine editorial to pitch consumerism, sexism and other unsavoury cultural mores right back at the viewer. But intriguingly, rather than provoking the wrath that childish repeating games guarantee, Kruger has managed to maintain her place as part of the mainstream that she skewers. Her striking monochrome images, dashed with red and bearing deadpan slogans like ‘I shop therefore I am’ and ‘Buy me I’ll change your life’ are so slick she even sold them to Selfridges as advertising.

In interviews Kruger often restates her desire to show society the way it represents itself, the social semiotics that codify how we create meaning for ourselves. This she has continued in her work in video installation since the early 1990s, most recently with The Globe Shrinks at Sprüth Magers in London. Inspired by cultural theorist Homi Bhabha’s observation that "the globe shrinks for those who own it”, Kruger’s multi-channel piece plays out across four large screens in a cavernous former Royal Mail sorting office occupied specifically for this show.

It’s hard to distill exactly what happens across the looped 12 or so minutes of the film as there’s no beginning or end, just a series of vignettes that dart around the four screens. Scenes include a stand up comedian telling a joke about a talking dog; a pretentious male artist explaining his practice; various religious rituals; a woman sat opposite a fan; and being inside the car with a woman chatting on her mobile phone as well as the enraged man in the car stuck behind her as she weaves along the road. There are title cards with trademark Kruger slogans such as “Shove It”, “Doubt It”, and “Believe It” and text that talks implores “Don’t leave. Please. Stay. It’s nice to be in the dark, right? You can relax a little…” as the screens and space conspire to plummet viewers into momentary pitch darkness.

The Globe Shrinks is a wholly immersive experience, containing polyphonic visuals and sounds that have viewers flitting their heads around to keep up, or which capture viewers in the crossfire between screens and speakers. Space and scale are integral to the piece, with the slightly intimidating chasm-like architecture of the room echoing the imposing structures and architecture of power that Kruger so disputes as being wrongly ingrained within global society.

Working in installation formally expands Kruger’s work both spatially and temporally whilst retaining her preoccupations with language, image and direct address. What’s interesting about her forays into the medium of video installation is that the form takes her out of the accessible mainstream of Selfridges posters on the Tube, images printed on t-shirts and endless imitations to a more of a niche audience of contemporary art gallery goers. Kruger has nibbled the hand that feeds her with her critiques of consumerism leveled at the magazines and retailers that have employed her, but in this converted space in Westminster she deploys work that’s a bit less accessible but all the more probing for it.

Barbara Kruger, The Globe Shrinks, presented by Sprüth Magers Berlin London at 10-12 Francis Street is on display until 21 May 2011. For further information visit www.spruethmagers.com

Barbara Kruger
The Globe Shrinks, 2010, installation view
© Stephen White
Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers Berlin London

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