maandag 29 februari 2016

Fooled by expectations

Dominik Lang- Haus der Wohnirrtümer- Tschechisches Zentrum Berlin
„Where is the art, I see only rubbish”, proclaimed one of the visitors on the opening of Czech artist Dominik Lang’s (1980) exhibition Haus der Wohnirrtümer  in the Tschechisches Zentrum Berlin (TBZ).  The people around him murmured uncomfortably that he stood in the middle of it, that this was the exhibition.
Domink Lang- sculptuur web
It reminded me of the sticker “Is it art, or can I throw it away”, which I saw for the first time on a wall  in an experimental art fair in the Netherlands in 2011. It seems to have come from a real statement made by a janitor in an art academy, who got (probably rightly so) frustrated doing his job.
If the before mentioned visitor meant it or was just fooling around doesn’t really matter, because he nailed the exhibition theme.  He exactly pointed out what it is about.
ExpectationsHaus der Wohnirrtümer  is about searching, going around corners and never find what you expect.  What at first sight looks like a huge column (spoiler alert!), turns out to be half open on the other side, making it something in between a sculptural object and an architectural setting.
Dominik Lang zuil- web
The walls are not real either, you can crawl behind them. They lead to a dead end on one side and on the other to a little bedroom. Although it is hidden from the inside of the gallery, it is totally visible from the outside.
You are standing now in the window display of the TBZ, which is furnished with original objects from the seventies. They are part of the design for the whole embassy, made by the Czech architect couple Věra und Vladimír Machonin. The building is still mostly in its original style, with a lot of wood and bright colors (this is, apart from the exhibition, the second reason why you should definitely go).
Domink Lang - etalage- web
The whole exhibition is about expecting to see something. And what that ‘something’ is, totally up to you. Because you see the backs of the supported walls, you’re first reaction is to walk around them to see what’s there. A display of some sort is anticipated.
It is interesting to realize what your reaction is. Are you surprised, disappointed, confused? In this case the real question is: Are you ready to be confronted by your own expectations? I guess the angry visitor was not.
Dominik Lang - wand web
Very contemporaryWhat is important to realize, is that you are walking not only in an exhibition but in an art installation. It is not an exhibition where different kind of objects are put together in a room. Here, the artist takes on the role of the curator. He decides the total atmosphere of the room, which is a very contemporary thing to do.
In that sense, the remark from the angry visitor, would have been great as a line in a performance. With his words, he could have activated the installation as well as the viewer. The gallery space would become a stage with a decor and in doing so even more “genres”(which of course is a term that doesn’t make sense anymore) would be thrown in the mix.  Again, very contemporary!
More info here
On view until April 9th 2016

woensdag 24 februari 2016

Manifesto of life

In Hamburger Bahnhof you can enjoy the complex and multi-layered thirteen channel work Manifesto, made by Berlin based artist Julian Rosefeldt (1965). Actress Cate Blanchett explains the viewer in thirteen characters (12 women, 1 man) a century of art history via its manifests, thus becoming one big über-manifesto by itself.
Julian Rosefeldt, Manifesto, 2014/2015
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016
In the last century, most of the new art currents came with its own texts, guide books and/or ground rules, written by the protagonists of the movement in question. This were often young men “bursting with testosterone” as Rosefeldt calls them, which makes their embodiment by a woman all the more interesting.
Blanchett personifies these movements in totally different looking characters. For Dadaism she is a speaker at a funeral, Surrealism is embodied by a puppet maker, who makes her own puppet-version. Manifesto’s for genres are also enacted.  Film for example is presented by  a primary school teacher. For architecture,  the actrice is a single mom, riding her scooter to work in a garbage incineration plant.
Julian Rosefeldt, Manifesto, 2014/2015
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016
Sometimes, the thirteen voices suddenly come together, when the characters look directly at the viewer and proclaim their statements in a monotone voice. It is a confronting moment where all the parts come together, form a unity for a short time, and fall apart again in their own personal stories.
The unity probably refers to the starting point of most of these manifests, their raison d’être. It’s usually a desire to break away from the past and present a vision for the future.
The word manifesto was first used in a political sense, with The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and published in 1848. Only in the early 20th century, the term made it to the art realm by the use by Filippo Marinetti in his Manifesto of Futurism (1909).
In total, Manifesto addresses 20 art movements  in text experts out of  53 manifests. In an interview (in German) with the Bayerischer Rundfunk, Rosefeldt calls them text collages which are linked to a certain persona. But why is it the funeral speaker that speeches about Dadaism? What has the housewife to do with Pop Art?
Rosefeldt uses the original text out of its written context, and puts it in a theatrical form. By doing so,  the artist points even more to what is actually being said. When the news anchor proclaims that “All current art is fake”, it gets new meaning. But also because the spoken text and the persona can conflict with one another. For example the conservative housewife, who  sits together with her family at the dinner table and starts praying. She presents exactly the scenery that Pop Art wants to break away from.
In that sense, we get thrown back to the origins of the art manifest, the need to break away. Rosefeldt links this statement to the thirteen characters, playing a role one could identify oneself with.
The texts are linked to real life characters, because, in fact, we all make our personal manifesto’s. It’s like a rite of passage, when we enter into adulthood. Everyone goes through the phase of examining ones past and choosing what will accompany us into the future.
So when the housewife is  praying out of Claes Oldenburg’s Manifesto (of which he insists by the way it is not a manifest but a literary effort), instead of the bible, it refers to our personal belief system. She prays: “I am for the majestic art of dog-turds, rising like cathedrals” and her children at the table laugh. But not for long, because when they grow up it is their turn to break free.

vrijdag 12 februari 2016

Let's talk money - transmediale 2016

"We have to talk". This sentence usually implies it's time to get serious, to get real. The theme of this year’s transmediale, festival for digital art, culture and performance,  called Conversationpiece, aims to do just that. Focused around four directions: Anxious to See, Anxious to Make, Anxious to Share and Anxious to Secure, talking is presented not as something informal, but as a necessity. Two art installations in this 29th edition of the festival, held in Haus der Kulturen der Weltfelt anxious to talk about money.

Precarious Marathon
First of, the media installation by Dutch researcher/designer Femke Herregraven called Precarious Marathon, shows a virtual panel discussion between a moderator, a trader, an artist and a critic. They are each represented by their own screen, where we see lines moving, incarnating the four types. The artist, for example, could be the big knot, where ideas, thinking lines and associations come together in one big chaos. And the moderator has to be the screen with the three lines, trying to balance the input of the other three participants.

What we see is not a real discussion.The four characters are programmed chat-bots who each play their role according to a set of behavioral patterns. It’s a commentary on the changing art market, which is becoming more digital and virtual, where the majority of sales are made online, via a picture on Instagram (for more on this topic, read the excellent article by Marc Spiegler for the Art Newspaper).

Herregraven is interested in these invisible networks that never sleep, but mostly run through  tangible cables. These information streams are digital replacements for trading routes from the old days, like sea routes. Although more and more data is transferred by radio waves, Herregraven says it is good to realize that most of the data still travels through cables. Thus she proposes it looks more like a “never ending plate of spaghetti”, with lines crawling through one another. Now she uses these lines to incarnate four art types.

Interestingly enough, Herregraven includes a trader and not a gallerist. Like Spiegler states in the above mentioned article, it might be time to rethink the whole gallery system because the market as well as the type of collector is changing. It’s no secret the art world is becoming more and more financial. The number of fairs are still rising, accommodating a new type of busy, busy buyers who have no time to visit a gallery on a Saturday afternoon. Thus it may also be time to stop being so secretive about prices.

Market for immaterial Value
This is exactly what Valentina Karga and Pieterjan Grandy want to talk about. Their installation Market for Immaterial Value gives the viewer  the ability to actually participate in the art market, to be part of the making visible of it’s mysterious money streams.

The visitor is invited to buy an equity of an art piece, specially created for the occasion. It’s a small coin shaped object called Valentina and Pieter invest in themselves, made of gold, with the heads of the artists on one side. It can be obtained after discussing it with the artists, at a minimum of 10 euro's. If you buy a share, you get a certificate of the transaction, accompanied by a picture of the art work. This means that the actual art object consists of two parts, which could be sold independently, each creating their own market. Well, and actually there is a third part, a meta vision of how value is created.

At the end of the transmediale, the object was owned by 21 people, who paid together a sum of 324 euro’s for it. If one of the shareholders would want to exhibit it, the other owners would decide via an online referendum on such a request, discussing the terms. In theory, one new buyer could buy the rest out. In such a case the profit would be divided dependent on the original amount paid.
In fact, the project is a way to research a more sustainable way to run an art practice. But it also works the other way around. It inherently contains a vision, a proposal on how to be a future art collector. Why not co-own an artwork (or several) in the private sphere? There should of course be ground rules. For example to divide “hanging time” amongst its shareholders, rules for exhibiting and selling, sharing insurance costs, transport and (possible) maintenance.

It makes art accessible to a broader audience, rescues it from being put in depots and thus increases its visibility. It opens up new trade routes, from one owner's house to the next.

To yearn for

At the same time, it puts yearning back into play. Like the toy that was put away for a while, or the Christmas ornaments that you had to wait another whole year for. In a society with images ready available, it is a nice thing to long for, pine over or crave an image. That gives it new value.