First of all, a new year greeting to everybody - wish you an inspiring year ahead!
At the end of a long holiday after Christmas & New Year for most of us, the urge to plan the year ahead and carry out the plan in reality is probably be in your mind at some point over the past 2 weeks. To make it easy, it's always motivating to start with some travel incentives. Have you planned any art excursions ahead? The following may be useful: the Independent's must-see calendar 2011 for global art events. (If you would like to check out events within the UK, click on this instead)
Visitors in the Giardini
Here is a retrospective of the Venice Architecture Biennale last year, focusing on the British personnel involved. According to the offical website, the event had attracted a record attendance of 170801 visitors, that means over 3 million euro of just entry-ticket sales (full price entry is 20 euro for an adult person). Attendance for its sister Art Biennale in 2009 was 375700, and who knows how much is spent for all the red carpets during the film festival. No wonder Venice can survive the rising sea level - just with its three Biennales!
The British pavilion this year is commissioned by Vicky Richardson, Director of Architecture, Design, Fashion at the British Council and under the direction of muf architecture/art Llp. This is the official information from the British Council, how the commissioning process actually work? We don't have any further information from the page, so we cannot comment on whether the team selected has got the best idea. However, from observation, the British pavilion seems to be the only one who dedicated a significant portion of its exhibition to the host city, Venice, itself. And somehow this Villa Frankenstein (name of the British pavilion, which is also unique among the exhibitors that a name other than the country's name is provided) is quite fascinating indeed.
British humour displayed at the entrance - The Puddle, a concrete-formed pond & some paddington boots aside
Plan of the pavilion
The Stadium of Close Looking - a 1:10 scaled model of the Olympic Stadium for London 2012, designed by muf architecture/art (London) and built by Spazio Legno (Venice) + Atelier One (London)
The Ruskin Wing - showcasing reference materials about the British Victorian social critic & historian of Venetian architecture John Ruskin
The Lagoon - displays illustrating the fragile eco-system in the Venice Lagoon
A 15 sq m. ecologically functioning slice of salt marsh in a tank showing a close‐up view of the native floral and fauna of the Venice Lagoon
You can see from the above, the UK pavilion is a collaboration between Venice and the British team, in terms of concept, contents as well as execution. It is quite an enjoyable and educational exhibition. Apart from the British pavilion, we also found Zaha Hadid's works featured in the Austrian pavilion -
No matter you like her works or not, Zaha Hadid has now truly be recognised around the world such that her architecture is even featured in the pavilion of another country in the Biennale. This is a great achievement for herself and her office. Other british featured in the show are -
Joanna (chapter one), by Cerith Wyn Evans - the neon tube text at the background
Tony Fretton's Piazza Salone with artist Mark Pimlott at the Arsenale
If you would like to learn more about the UK's participation in every Venice Art or Architecture Biennale, check it out at this dedicated website by the British Council. Below are the full photo slide shows of the Biennale in the Arsenale venue, the Giardini venue and across the town.
Further Readings -
Page: Official page for the Venice Architecture Biennale
Review: The sprawling Venice biennale offers frustrations and rewards by Oliver Wainwright for BD magazine, 31.08.2010
Review: RA Magazine Blog: Biennale diary by Kate Goodwin, 03.09.2010
Review: Cerith Wyn Evans at the venice architecture biennale 2010 by erica for designboom, 04.09.2010
Youtube: official youtube channel for the Biennale
Youtube: Hans Ulrich Obrist's series of interviews with all the exhibitors in the Biennale
Hope that everybody in London have had a merry Christmas. So while public transport is not around, and most shops are not open today, you can have a very good view of Ben Eine's alphabets along Middlesex street around Aldgate -
Ben Eine's alphabets in Middlesex Street video link
If you do not know who Ben Eine is, below are a few pages and videos to get you familiar on his works.
Raven Row is currently showing Hilary Lloyd's intruging video installations in its elegant 18th century household premise. The stripped space, free of any furniture but with the wall linings, motifs and fireplaces restored, is sublimed to the 21st century with the injection of clinical-gestured flat-screens installed by Hilary.
Hilary's works are multiple projections of the same subject in each piece, varying in different manner. In Tunnel and Crane, a seconds-long clip footage is repeated on two split screens but of slightly different frequencies. You feel like watching two unsynchronised pendulum clocks going side by side in an empty household abandoned by its master. Eventually they overlap and go back in tune again, but for a very short instance. Then they diverge again. This seemingly endless cycle of overlapping/slipping clips is quite intriguing.
There are also other works which do not behave in cycles as unsynchronised pendulums. One of the highlights is the curated positioning of all these pieces with the physical space of the gallery - the projections on a wall to the windows by the street, the screen in the middle of a corridor etc. And the abundance of space help to separate the works from one another, such that when you walk past a piece with the sound distancing, you have a transition moment before picking up sound coming from another piece. The experience is enjoyable and memorable.
Kapoor's mirror-finish sculptures have a subliminal character which goes well with the natural setting of the park. You cannot say they have blended themselves in, as clearly they are all very visible and stand out from the surroundings. However, their existence seems to create an extra dimension to the space they inhibits. The distorted surfaces reflecting the surroundings produce a different version of the world to the audience, something intriguing even you have seen a hundred times. It is poetic sci-fi material, if you agree : )
Afterwards I turned to Serpentine Gallery to get my copy of 032c in their book shop. Since the demise of Borders, it has been a gain in my wallet but a loss in my magazine diet to explore periodical publications in London, with the exception of museum bookshops in Tate, Whitechapel Gallery & Serpentine Gallery.
032c A/W 2010
This is the 20th issue of the magazine. Based in Berlin, 032c has its 10th anniversary this year. Just like the reputation of Berlin being the hippest european capital from the millennium, nobody should judge this magazine from its sketchy graphic layout compared to perfectionist layout like Monocle. The magazine has one of the most lengthy articles I would ever willing to spend $ to buy a copy, and they consistently reach out to people from various disciplines to provide a dazzling spectrum of knowledge to the readers. Having said that, I have to admit the only time I can finish a whole issue is usually on a plane, striped out of any possible distractions so I can focus on reading and digesting the contents due to its "unfriendly" layout to my eyes... (clearly I'm a bit spoilt by conventional layouts!)
Odd addition to the Gallery facade
Before I stepped into the Gallery, I discovered a few little purple gloves on the window-wall. Are they part of the coming Philippe Parreno show?
Actually, the Gallery has just announced 2 weeks ago a new venue inside Kensington Gardens will be constructed and managed by them. Currently the Magazine Building, Zaha Hadid will transform it into the Serpentine Sackler Gallery with the donation from The Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.
Back to the bookshop. Apart from 032c, I also noticed Apollo has Antony Gormley on their cover -
Feature in Apollo (11/2010) on Antony Gormley: Figuring it Out
And then this mysterious new title caught my eyes -
The Hub's debut issue - Never Neverland
Turned out it's a new launch based in London. The Hub is essentially like what its name said, a collection of art, culture, fashion happenings selected for its readers - a printed concierge for the urban troops. I like its layout and use of hand-drawn illustrations (at least they appear like so), a stark contrast to 032c! But it takes time to see if this experiment is going to have the same level of success like its competitors, all over the shelf in the bookshop. Good luck!
We are invited by sosogay.org for a private view of the GFEST's annual visual arts exhibition. GFEST is a cross-disciplinary arts festival, providing a platform for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer artists, organisations and venues to promote LGBT and queer arts.
A variety of formats is featured in this year's selection of visual arts exhibits, ranging from photography, painting to installation and ceramics. The following are three of the pieces exhibited in the show -
Adventure of a Horny Dyke, by Helena Janecic
Forbidden Fruit, by Peter Garrard
Nuts by Simon Croft
Simon has explained his work above is to portray a sense of 'constructed masculinity' resembling that of the trans-gendered male. You can see the screws are not driven through the metal plate as they don't align with each other on both sides.
Nuts by Simon Croft (side view)
A preview of the other works in the show and the profiles of the artists can be seen here. For the exhibitions in the past years, check out the links below -
A year ago, Simon Oldfield presented Ben Ashton’s first solo show in a former monumental stonemasons at 17 Osborn Street. A year on, Ben held an open studio last month in his Bloomsbury studio to let the public see his preparation of his next show. We visited both events and did an interview with the artist -
1. Did you plan your first solo show with all the different formats (painting, photography, installation) featured in the beginning?
Ben Ashton (BA): I started my last series of work by photographing different poses/attitudes with a mind to using the images in different ways. Some of the material was immediately translated into painting whilst others either stayed in their original format or were turned into optical installations. It was only toward the final weeks leading up to the exhibition when I started building the larger installation pieces that fused the whole show together. I feel that from the initial photograph my work follows a gradual freeform evolutionary path till it reaches its final destination.
2. Are there any particular influences throughout your artistic career, e.g. other artists, certain types of music, certain social phenomenon etc?BA: I now have a very specific set of influences that I have narrowed down through the years. I try not to be overly influenced by other contemporary artists as I feel there is a risk of regurgitating what has too recently been done. I rather immerse myself in different parts of history, be that art history, the history of science or technology and innovation. I have been particularly interested in Victorian discoveries such as Stereoscopy and the Kaleidoscope. I meld these parts of history with my view of the contemporary world, often bringing to light things that have been lost through time.
3. Do you view your works to Cindy Sherman’s, as both of you are attempting to portray another person through yourself?
BA: My last series could definitely be compared to Cindy Sherman’s even though she has never directly influenced me. We both have used ourselves in the appropriation of other peoples’ images. In my next series of works I have moved away from playing out scenes from art history and instead my influence is much harder to place. In the context of the question, I feel that this is what separates me from artists like Sherman.
Artist's residence in the gallery during Ben's first solo show with Simon Oldfield
4. The curator/gallery owner mentioned that you are working in-residence during your first solo show. How does it influence you to have feedback from the audience directly or become a live exhibit of your own?
BA: I have always worked within my shows. I feel that it is important to show that the creative process never stops and I believe that it is interesting for the public to watch the show evolve over time. It is important for me to get feedback from the audience as I spend most of my time in complete solitude. I also think it is a great chance for the visitors to receive a different type of input directly from the artist and I hope this makes the whole experience more personal. The gallery is often perceived to be a cold and clinical environment and I wish to change that misconception.
A wall in the artist's studio during the Bloomsbury Festival Open Studio event
5. Do you have any future plans? What’s next?
BA: I am currently working toward a solo show in February 2011. This show focuses on my studio as a domestic environment, taking its starting point from the era of Dutch Genre paintings. I am interested in the confined environment that I work in and the close interaction with my wife who also inhabits the space. I feel this introspective view of our life breaks down the barriers I had built up in my work and gives a very honest account of my reality. Thank you Ben for the interview - looking forward to the show next year!*****Further Readings -
White Cube is showing Christian Marclay's latest film, The Clock, in their Mason's Yard gallery.
Editing from thousands of movies, the Swiss-American artist presents this project which shows scenes in movies when time is explicitly brought in, be it a clock at the background, a watch on the lead actress's wrist or a word from the mouth of the actor. The impressive part is that Christian has sewn all these clips together and actually make it "real time" - so the whole film lasts 24 hours, and the "time" displayed is exactly the moment you watch it, hence it's called "the clock".
Click here to read more about this piece of work from the Economist (with slideshow).
The gallery is also showing 2 other works of the artist -
Artist Ben Ashton is holding an open studio during the Bloomsbury Festival this weekend. He has been preparing his upcoming show in Simon Oldfield Gallery's Bloomsbury Studio and you can visit it this weekend to learn about all his interesting ideas and gallery mock-up installations.
Structured blank canvases awaiting the artist's strokes, made by the artist
Model of the studio, made by the artist
If you are not able to drop by in person, you can still visit online here. And this online open studio is going to be around even after this weekend.
Simon Fujiwara speaking at the Map Marathon at the Royal Geographic Society, organised by the Serpentine Gallery
Simon Fujiwara is the new kid in the contemporary art scene. If twitter to facebook is similar to facebook to google, then Simon is definitely the combination of twitter & facebook to established artists like the YBAs & Post-YBAs. Having graduated at the Städelschule in Frankfurt in 2008, he is receiving the Cartier Award from the Frieze Foundation (collaborated with the Gasworks) this year.
As the award winner, he resides in the Gasworks in Oval, London from last August to prepare for his masterpiece in the Frieze Art Fair. Although Simon Fujiwara has an architecture education background, his art does not resemble the monolithic nature of contemporary "starchitects". Instead of a grand signature over numerous productions which makes all his works visually homogeneous, his work is developed with a grand narrative and filled with numerous details created to enrich the whole story-telling experience. His signature is not on a visual language, but on the autobiographical label. He simply employs people's desire to read though a person's mind and life; and others' perception on himself to construct his works. He is like a master builder in the renaissance age, filling his work with ornamental details which are all beautifully crafted on their own, but also form a collective image of the grand picture when seen from a distance. Famous for his hybrid art-forms employing performances, lectures and installations to showcase his works, the Frozen City is no exception in its creation and presentation.
Map of the Frozen City - click here for an enlarged view
In the Frozen City, his take on the word "Frieze" (which sounds like 'freeze') and name his piece as the present perfect tense 'frozen' is a delightful play of language which also fits well in the time and space elements in his work with respect to the venue of the present art fair. With so many press coverage on the work already, we would not repeat here again on what the Frozen City actually is here. You can check the links at the end of the post if you need to find out more. We found this commission is more relevant and connected to the venue compared to previous years, which varoius artists are invited to create a piece on each own and be placed in various locations inside the fair tent. Because every artist has his/her own creation, even though some of them may be producing his/her works as a site-specific piece, they would seldom produce a collective voice that could link all these commission works scattered around the fair tent together. While one may argue this approach may help promote more artists, that actually makes the whole act weak, reducing them to simply place-holders between gallery booths, with not much attention being paid to.
Whoever in Frieze that decided to grant Simon the monopoly of the full venue to play with is genius. Of course Simon also did a brilliant job in finding a unique concept which could make the work most site-specific and maximise the advantage of colonising the whole tent. The creation of 'check-point'-like excavation areas across the 'site' makes the whole thing a journey one is tempted to embark on and complete. Simon has demonstrated his architectural sense in 'masterplanning' his works and subsequently developed each excavation areas like 'plots' in a masterplan. His take on engaging his works with the fair itself (both its nature of trading in a market place and its physical arrangement of various functions) has made visiting the fair the only way to experience it. Irrespect of artistic value, this non-transferable art piece with an expiry date is a huge brand-building (or perhaps more precisely brand re-inforcing?) success for both the artist and Frieze. And after you explored the Frozen City, we are quite sure you would agree on handing Simon the Cartier Award.
Tour guide explaining to the fair visitors in the 'archaeological' site
We congratulate Simon Fujiwara for his success and look forward to seeing his next masterpiece! If you are more interested in his works, remember to check out the 2 interviews listed below.