Tomás Saraceno and the algorithms of infinite possibilities.

Tomás Saraceno and the algorithms of infinite possibilities.

The installations by Tomás Saraceno have the anguish of the trap and the safety of the nest. The work of the Argentine artist, who lives and works in Berlin, is also inspired by the world of spiders. There are many species of arachnids and all of them have something in common: they are aggressive, lucid, agile and without mercy. Yet in Saraceno’s installations, one perceives pleasure and calm. This is also what happens in the exhibition Algo-r (h) i (y) thms on display at the Esther Schipper Gallery in Berlinfrom November 16 to December 21. The artist built a structure that recalls a web, made of ropes of various sizes. The visitors are invited to enter the network and diverge within it. When a visitor touches, plucks or even caresses the strings, thanks to the tiny microphones mounted on the different ropes, they produce frequencies similar to those of micro and macroscopic scientific phenomena: from reproducing the signal of courtship of spiders to the melodies of the electrons of galactic nebulae. When more people touch the strings, the huge spider web resounds with synchronicity.

Tomás Saraceno, 610 MHz (MACSJ2243.3-0935 / Radio Halo), 2018 Algo-r(h)i(y)thms, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2019 Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin Photo © Andrea Rossetti

The universe of spiders is further explored on the “Arachnophilia.net” website, a living comprehensive archive developed by his team at Studio Tomás Saraceno, and through the “Arachnomancy App” a digital tool used to not only interact with the Arachnomancy cards that were presented in the artist’s recent installation at the Venice Biennale but that has also the aim to collectively map spider extinction. Being deaf and often blind, arachnids interact with the surrounding world through vibrations transmitted by the movements of their web. Only on very rare occasions they communicate with other spiders. For example during mating, motherhood and, rarely, to share a prey. In general, the only contact they have is with the victim, even when this is another spider. That’s because they are also cannibals. Algo-r (h) i (y) thms, title of the exhibition, has an ambivalent meaning; the combination of the words in Greek refers to multiplicity, to the concept of entanglement in physics, and to a possible and harmonious coexistence of different elements; but an “algorithm” is also a mathematical procedure for simplifying a complex system. In some ways it is associated with a form of control of few over many. The term Algo-r (h) i (y) thms can also be intended as the union of the words some (Algo) + rhythms – meaning different and various rhythms to be played in an orchestra which is the universe reflected in the diverse sounds that are present in the installation of which the visitor is the maestro.

© Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2018 *
* Tomás Saraceno, Webs of At-tent(s)ion (detail), 2018, Installation view at ON AIR, carte blanche exhibition to Tomás Saraceno, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2018. Curated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel. Courtesy of the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin.© Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2018

In Saraceno’s works, dimensions of the organic and inorganic, human and non-human coexist, building unpredictable rhythms and trajectories as in the On Airexhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, curated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel. Saraceno is also taking part in another project: Areocene, “an interdisciplinary artistic collaborative community that seeks to devise new ways of sensitivity, reactivating a common imagination towards an ethical collaboration with the environment and the atmosphere, free from carbon emissions”.

Tomás Saraceno, Aero(s)cene: When breath becomes air, when atmospheres become the movement for a post fossil fuel era against carbon-capitalist clouds, 2019
Installation view of Acqua Alta: En Clave de Sol, 2019 at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, titled May You Live In Interesting Times, curated by Ralph Rugoff.
Data livestream kindly provided by Centro Previsioni e Segnalazioni Maree, City of Venice.
Courtesy the artist; Aerocene Foundation; Andersen’s, Copenhagen; Ruth Benzacar, Buenos Aires; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
/ Los Angeles; Pinksummer Contemporary Art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin.
© Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2019

At the Venice Biennale 2019, May you live in interesting times, curated by Ralph Rugoff, two new installations presented in the Giardini and in the Gaggiandre of the Arsenale, offered a common space to exercise sensitivity towards the intertwining of all things; The Spider / Web Pavilion 7: Oracle Readings, Weaving Arachnomancy, Synanthropic Futures: At-ten (t) sion to invertebrate rights !, a room in which a series of webs float above tarot cards specifically made for the occasion. Aero(s)scene: When breath becomes air, when atmospheres become the movement for a post fossil fuel era against carbon-capitalist cloudsis an installation composed of a sculpture On the disappearance of clouds, and Acqua Alta en clave de Sol, a sound installation where the elements of water, earth, and air become an integral part of the work. 

Tomás Saraceno’s research reaches from biology to architecture,from art to astrophysics, adhering to an almost Renaissance idea of the art of universal knowledge. After studying art and architecture in Buenos Aires, Frankfurt am Main, and Venice, Saraceno settled in Frankfurt in 2005 and then moved to Berlin in 2012. His studio has a series of departments that deal with the research and development of various projects. Among others, Saraceno has also exhibited at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires (2017), at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2016); and at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2011). What is most fascinating about Saraceno’s work is the possible coexistence of opposites and the construction of an agile and independent alternative system to our reality, which eludes the discomfort of confrontation, the evolutionary power of crisis as well as the betrayal of anguish.

Elda Oreto

Tomás Saraceno, Aero(s)cene: When breath becomes air, when atmospheres become the movement for a post fossil fuel era against carbon-capitalist clouds, 2019 Installation view of On the Disappearance of Clouds, 2019 at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, titled May You Live In Interesting Times, curated by Ralph Rugoff. Courtesy the artist; Aerocene Foundation; Andersen’s, Copenhagen; Ruth Benzacar, Buenos Aires; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles; Pinksummer Contemporary Art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2019
Tomás Saraceno, Algo-r(h)i(y)thms, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2019 Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin Photo © Andrea Rossetti

Walead Beshty: tangible transparencies

Walead Beshty: tangible transparencies

Walead Beshty´s artwork takes on the archetype of a traveler as they acquire meaning in their journey around the world. The somewhat damaged outcomes of his work are co-produced through largely globalized systems that concern the crossing of borders. These include packaging standards, global distribution methods and border control systems.

FedEx® Large Kraft Box ©2008 FEDEX 330510 REV 6/08 GP, International Priority, Los Angeles–Tokyo trk#778608512056, March 9–13, 2017

If you read the above as a shipping document, you are not mistaken. Indeed, this descriptive fragmented sentence is both a shipping label and the name of one of the artworks in Walead Beshty’s most iconic series, FedEx Glass Works. A living project, comprised of several laminated see-through glass boxes of different sizes and dimensions displayed next to their corresponding FedEx shipping box in which they were transported. The names/labels which can run three lines long serve as both a historical record of the artwork’s journey and a linguistic manifestation of the relational aesthetics embedded in Beshty’s art practice.  Certainly, if one could sum up the wide range of Walead Beshty’s artistic oeuvre in a few words then “tangible transparencies” would be a fitting definition.  Whether it is via “flat”  outputs like his photograms or three-dimensional artefacts like the FedEx boxes, Beshty’s work is a reflective poetic acknowledgement of the entire creative process.  His full disclosure of the creative output doesn’t regard just the relational aesthetics during the set-up and display stages but also accounts for the materiality and the procedural development of the object creation. His photograms may be viewed as an artistic investigation of the medium itself.  They reflect his interest in the material components of photography rather than in the final image and its composition.  They are made by exposing photographic paper to light using predetermined set of rules which Beshty changes and adjusts while in the darkroom.  He explains “I think of it kin to game or gambling where a game is important not because of the outcome … parameters of that game are what make that game significant or create possibilities and I am more interested in these forces and how these forces can play out”.

Beshty’s photographic examination of the medium can be traced to a long lineage of experimentation starting with Man Ray’s rayographs in the 1920s and continuing with Beshty’s contemporaries such as James Welling and Liz Deschenes. However, unlike them, Beshty does not limit his artistic inquiry of medium materiality to photography alone. In his recent works which were displayed at Regen Projects gallery in Miami in 2018, Beshty experimented with ready-made sculptures and copper. He explains that “a meandering set of questions found a kind of form within an art context for me.”  These questions revolve around the same persistent theme of his practice, that is the analysis of the creative process and material transparency. Why and how do things appear the way they are to us? What is the relationship between an object and its frame or support structure? Stemming from the belief that all the forms of reception and production are fluidly integrated, Beshty’s latest artworks attempt to compose a narrative to showcase “how objectes were integrated into the systems that generated them”. For example, in his 2014 Transparencies photograms, Beshty exposed photographic film to airport security x-ray machines obtaining unplanned blue colour variation planes. It was the journey of the reactive photographic paper to its surrounding environment that shaped the outcome.  

Similarly, the high reactive quality of copper is what prompted Beshty to use it in his 2017 Surrogates modular artwork and subsequent metal sculptures thereafter.  He explains, “what initially intrigued me about copper was the way it was so reactive to its physical circumstance … reflective and mirror-like … it casts an image of its surroundings as it absorbs the effects of those surroundings”. Beshty’s unwavering fascination with the materiality of the object, its production process and its contextual reception continues to be the driving factor of his artistic inquiry.  He may work across different forms from photography to performance art (Mirrored Floor Works, 2009) and he may produce artworks of different sizes, shapes and colour, but the essence of his work always remains the same.

Hania Afifi

Jordan Wolfson NOTES WITH AN EMOTIONAL TONE

Jordan Wolfson NOTES WITH AN EMOTIONAL TONE

Jordan Wolfson is considered a post-internet artist, He was hailed as the Jeff Koons of the millennial generation who took inspiration from the contemporary information and consumer society. Born in the early 1980s, he achieved commercial success and collaborated with one of New York’s most notable art galleries, David Zwirner. His work attracts attention due to the formal solutions he uses his style of practice. Furthermore his objects wisely focus on themes that are crucial in this era and these days of social changes. Primarily, the comparison between Jordan Wolfson and Jeff Koons seems to actually reflect the commercial nature of their works. Both make use of various media in different unorthodox ways. Thanks to robotisation the sculptures gain very futuristic features. This means that seemingly prosaic objects like a doll or a mannequin become avantgarde and get the ability to move according to programmed guidelines. The creatures declare maxims that are important for Wolfson, while pop songs by artists such as Nicki Minaj or Lady Gaga play in the background serving as an ambiguous composition of polyphony that involves both media and contexts.

Jordan Wolfson, Detail of Colored sculpture, 2016
Mixed media, Dimensions variable with installation
Courtesy: the artist, David Zwirner

Jordan Wolfson creates a narrative with theatrical situations. This is what happens in the Colored Sculpture installation, in which a puppet with red hair and digital eyes, guided by a machine, communicates a bombastic monodrama which sounds like a threat. The artist’s recorded voice could suggest that he identifies with the characters he has created, although, as he claims, there is room for interpretation. In the situations he creates, the artist plays a supporting role which is definitely a  marked by strong emotions and extremism more in general.

Jordan Wolfson, (Female figure), 2014, installation view, David Zwirner, New York. © Mixed media. Overall dimensions vary with each installation. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York. Ph: Jonathan Smith

Percy Sledge’s song “When a man loves a woman” resounded in the white gallery walls during the MANIC / LOVE / TRUTH / LOVE exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Teijin Auditorium in Amsterdam in 2016. It was played from time to time and provided the background to an abstract expositional situation, with the raw sound of the puppet falling on the floor that was intertwined with the words. The whole act was complemented by the aforementioned monodrama of a boy whose appearance recalls a mixture of American icons such as Huckleberry Finn, Howdy Doody and Alfred E. Neuman. It sounded as follows: 

Two to kill you, three to hold you, four to bleed you, five to touch you, six to move you, seven to ice you, eight to put my teeth in you, nine to put my hand on you, ten to end inside you hair, eleven you’re right over my shoulder, twelve your mouth full of coffee, twelve I knew you, thirteen I killed you, fourteen you’re blind, fifteeen you’re spoiled, sixteen to lift you, seventeen to show you, eighteen to weigh you, spit earth! 

It can be assumed that the computer-controlled sculpture yells these words strictly to the machine itself that incapacitates him. The function is to reproduce an act between the two entities as if they were in a toxic relationship that has been programmed to resemble difficult and drastic love.

Jordan Wolfson, Riverboat song, 2017-2018, Sixteen (16) monitor video wall, 8:24 min,color, sound Dimensions vary with installation, Courtesy: the artist, David Zwirner

The sixteen channel video installation titled Riverboat Song is an extension of the story presented in Colored Sculpture. This time the character moves to a digital environment in which the song “Work” by Iggy Azalea is the main background. The character performs sensual dance moves in the rhythm of the song telling about the complicated path to the singer’s success: I’m not hating, I’m just telling you I’m tryna let you know what the fuck that I’ve been through. The red-haired boy is wearing black heels, it can be assumed that they are the same Loubotin’s that Azalea herself is singing about. They are something that gives confidence to both characters. They manifest the status of a busy and successful artist. Then his body begins to change. The sensual nature of the movements is transformed into vulgarity, huge breasts and buttocks grow out of the character, but quickly detach from the body and become a separate creature. At the very end, the character also loses his face. At first, the entire video may look like randomly selected scenes. However, they are full of symbolism that is not explicitly stated. Wolfson’s visual manifestation encourages people to search for their own contexts. One of the most important scenes are those directed directly at the viewer. The character is not afraid to speak to the observer directly: I’d like you to love you more than anything. And do as I say: Be strong empowered, sexy, stylish and sassy.

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Liu Wei

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Liu Wei

BY ALICE ZUCCA

Liu Wei’s artistic stance can be very briefly summarized by saying that the idea of art should not be intended as a creative action but rather as a “product” of extrapolation. Wei extracts from what already exists, new ways of interaction and fruition, capsizing the perspective and allowing us to see reality from a different angle. In doing so, Liu Wei experiments with several ways of expressing himself through the various disciplines of figurative art, producing his works by using diversified physical supports, in constant research for the best approach which would let him convey his message in the most efficient manner. He challenges us, provoking us to investigate our ability to grab the essence of reality, suggesting that our very attempt to comprehend it might disturb it due to the effort we put in trying to understand. The artist works with everyday objects which he re-elaborates and reorganizes converting them into complex installations. This process is never the result of pure chance, instead it is thoroughly thought out and consciously contextualized in a semantic stratification with the aim to deliberately induce in the viewer an instinctive and unavoidable reaction.  When it comes down to reproducing reality the key features of Wei’s work point inevitably to architecture and urban planning, in his analysis he has a positive opinion of the city as a space full of vital energy but he criticizes the structure and organization of life in urban areas. Growing up in Beijing during a period of strong urbanization, he was a witness of the uncontrolled expansion of the Chinese capital city and he found himself spontaneously driven to make buildings and cities as subjects of his works identifying them as a concrete and effective model for reality. 

Liu Wei, Purple Air 2016 No.1, 2016, Oil on canvas, 300×300 cm , © Liu Wei, Courtesy  Long March Space

In the “Purple Air” series, geometric shapes and digital lines recall vibrant urban landscapes, here Liu Wei makes use of digital techniques. The digital world is an infinite set of zero and one, which can be anything and its opposite, where everything already exists. Therefore, here, the choice has to be considered the only creative action possible. This is not meant to diminish or limit the artistic creativity since the digital realm offers a virtually unlimited number of options and, as the artist himself says, “this makes it more real, because life is a constant choice”.  The investigation of reality and existence are the keystone of his research, so urbanization and its consequences establish themselves as a fundamental part of Liu Wei’s art. 

Liu Wei, Discovery, No.17, 2006, Lightbox Dimensions variable © Liu Wei, Courtesy Lehmann Maupin 

In his 2006 series called “Property of L.W.”, here the artist, through the application of a label which recalls the title of the series, claims property of the debris coming from buildings which were demolished following the hectic urban growth which affected the city of Beijing amongst others. Taking inspiration from the practice of Duchamp’s ready-made objects, he goes a step further, also approaching a social connotation. Through labeling the objects with his name he wants to expose the fast obsolescence of goods in the age of consumerism and the human labor which is closely intertwined with it and it’s subjected to the same fate. Liu Wei’s art takes the ordinary, the usual, what is familiar and we gather almost unaware, and turns it into something to view from another perspective, detached from the eye of the common consumer but still linking it to the reality surrounding us which remains his preferred field of action.

Liu Wei, Panorama No.3, 2015-2016, Oil on canvas, 300×180 cm , © Liu Wei, Courtesy  Long March Space

Liu Wei’s work cleverly mixes fantasy and rationality. Comparing the unruly chaos of the contemporary urban landscape with the strict order of rigorously controlled political and social structures to accomplish a peculiar standard of artistic transposition. His multifaceted compositions (of digital lines, geometrical structures, found objects and so on) inevitably end up always evoking the urban layout of the contemporary city and the values, laws and feelings regulating the life of the inhabitants that animate it. And it is from the urban context and its being intertwined with the life of men, that his compositions arise, transporting the observer in the midst of a lively daily environment full of architectural structures and stimulating social interactions.

Liu Wei, Panorama No.2, 2015-2016, Oil on canvas, 350 x 800 cm, Installation view, Al Riwaq, Doha, 2016
Photograph: Wen-You Cai, Courtesy  Long March Space

Liu Wei’s paintings in fact depict architecture and urban life but, according to the artist, this is not a theme that he intentionally decided to explore, but he does so because buildings and cities are the model of human existence in itself. He transfigures urban architecture to describe anthropic life by using the buildings of the city to represent a model of the human condition. The large amount of objects found and used by Wei such as wood, various metals, water pipes, fixtures and other waste, is used to create large-scale structures that connect to the surrounding landscape becoming an integral part of the place where they come from. There is an evident creative correlation between the physical mass of objects and the function they had in the context from which they were extrapolated. In this perspective, it is easy to understand how the study of the development of the urban landscape leads the artist to inevitably analyze complex socio-political topics. According to Wei, art and politics are not connected in an abstract manner but they are concretely linked and always affiliated to the human existence, conditioning our lifestyle and our reality.

Liu Wei, Love It, Bite It No.3, 2014, Ox-hide, wood, steel, dimensions variable, Installation view, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, 2015 © Liu Wei, Courtesy  Long March Space

Love it! Bite it! is a miniature representation of a city with some of the most representative buildings of western society. It is built entirely from dogs chews and eloquently expresses the artist’s critical position regarding wealthy in society. Each building appears as decadent, evoking a sense of total destruction. When the artist happened to see his dog licking an ox’s ear (the ox’s ear in China is a metaphor for authority) he thought of removing from the city all the buildings that represented a symbol of the power. He compares man’s desire for power and with the dog’s desire to chew in order to present his spectacular and grotesque view of the world. The 25 buildings, from the Pentagon to St. Peter’s Basilica, from the Colosseum to the Guggenheim, from Tiananmen Square to the United States Capitol in Washington and the Tate Modern, are evocative emblems of political, cultural or military power. By showing us these buildings the artist encourages our disorientation, they are famous symbols of power deliberately made with fragile and malleable materials, they have their details distorted as if they were to crumble together with what they represent. The result is an impressive, emblematic and decadent post-apocalyptic scenario.

Alice Zucca

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Sohei Nishino

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Sohei Nishino

by Alice Zucca

“Cities amplify themselves, repeatedly. They emerge and disappear while they continue to integrate themselves”. It’s this consideration that motivated Japanese photographer Sohei Nishino to start his journeys from place to place and create his impressive panoramic series, made of thousands of photographs combined, half way between a map and a diorama. Sohei’s experience is not just a mere transposition of topography into collage, Nishino exacerbates the concept of topographic mapping, extending it to different aspects of the existent, to the experience of men in space and in time, integrating his personal point of view. 

Sohei Nishino, Shangai, 2004

In making his urban panoramas he doesn’t differ much from the modus operandi of ancient cartography – Sohei himself admits being influenced by the observations made at the beginning of the 19th century by Japanese cartographer Inō Tadataka and considers them the frame of reference for the beginning of his artistic research. The rigorous precision of satellite photography was not available to ancient cartographers. Therefore the distorted perception of spaces, derived from an exploration of the territory where the perspective of the observer was inevitably limited at ground level, led to an aleatory reconstruction during the mapping process. The final representation wasn’t truthful to the real proportions of the space analyzed but gave more importance to what was useful for the exploitation of natural resources or for commercial exchanges, more in general, to what served men for their understanding and experiencing of the world around them, consequently enhancing social activity.

Sohei Nishino, Rio de Janeiro, 2011

In the work of Sohei Nishino the planimetric view comes from his interpretation and aims to give an overall view of different levels (geographic, social, and emotional), of what’s visible and not visible that shape, model and animate our cities. The artist elaborates his concepts adding up details constituting a transgression from the exact planimetric rules which need to be scrupulously followed in order to analyze the spaces realistically and transpose them into the language of cartography: it is a conscious disobedience which overturns the functional role of the map.

Sohei Nishino, The Po, 2017 Courtesy MAST Foundation, Bologna

While working on his recent piece The Po”, Sohei claims to have found in the element of water the driving force of the world, something inextricably connected to the human existence. Nishino “flies” over the longest river in Italy, the Po, which being 650 km long, runs through 4 regions of northern Italy, providing water to those lands which helped the industrial fabric of the country to thrive. Sohei’s artistic research is not limited to the mere transposition of geography in the form of collage, it’s much more than that. He started his journey on the mount Monviso, at the border between France and Italy, and travelled for 45 days, from Turin he followed the river towards the Adriatic sea. During his itinerary he was able to experience the cultural and political environment of these places, meeting the locals who live in the area, fishermen, children, woodsmen, mixing with them and creating a portrait of the human presence near the bed of the river in an image which is able to picture the land, time and memories. A combination of 30 thousand photographs reproduces the essence of the river, a result Nishino was able to achieve after a meticulous and very long process.

Sohei Nishino, The Po, 2017 Courtesy MAST Foundation, Bologna

He works alone, in a sort of solitary ritual he develops the films in a darkroom, hundreds and hundreds of rolls which he then places onto contact sheets and subsequently cuts to shape, one by one. It’s an infinite and repetitive action which makes him recall his personal experience through the memory of the places he visited, their history, society, buildings, and the people he met who resurface united in their own uniqueness in the general view of the whole picture. The photographic process for Nishino is the unit of measurement between himself and the world – in the same manner a map fulfills its  purpose – and his practice of reconstruction of reality and memory means that every physical movement – both during the production and the elaboration of the project – is strictly connected to the micro and macro perspectives in the depiction of the existent. The different perceptive qualities of the space in our environment don’t alter the space itself, but they intrude our way of experiencing it, making us feel it, from time to time, as a familiar or an alien place. 

Sohei Nishino, San Francisco, 2016

It seems clear that the geographic transposition, which is the product of the emotive reconstruction of the places analyzed, in the end is realistic in its essence, even with its surreal quality that enables us to have a broader view of the spaces during their transformations, enhancing the connections between the human activity and its surroundings, relations that inevitably get lost in the turmoil of the different points of view which are the cause of individual and deceptive perceptions. We could take as an example the points of reference of a child, forced to experience reality from below, determining a peculiar viewpoint that is incompatible with the angle of view of an adult who observes the same reality from above. This is a very interesting aspect if we consider that our perception is therefore always fundamentally illusory and that photography in itself, as a tool, questions our knowledge of reality.

Sohei Nishino, NYC

Misleading perspectives then, where everything is hiding behind something else, in a stratification of visible and invisible levels of the urban landscape and of the assumptions of the people populating it. The map of a city which exists but it’s invisible, where the speculative imagination has to alleviate the lack of descriptive intents of the conventional means of representation of reality. The I-Land and Yama series well represent this shift of reality to the mnemonic imaginative. 

Sohei Nishino, YAMA

Working on Yama, Sohei climbs a certain mountain for a period of time, studying it and photographing fixed points documenting the change of vegetation over time. The result is the collage of an ideal mountain which exists but at the same time doesn’t exist in reality. Nishino with his shots captures its transformation and eventually its perception during the different time periods, it is always the same mountain but it’s depicted in its life cycle.

Sohei Nishino, YAMA

In I-Land, an evolution of Nishino’s diorama maps, the Japanese artist recreates an ideal city from scratch, using photographic fragments from various urban spaces, it is, in fact, a reconstruction of a particular city of personal memory, obtained through the interaction and the relationship between memory and reality, a series of past experiences that recall sensations which come from experiencing certain places that are still alive in our thoughts and in our memories.

Sohei Nishino, I-LAND

Furthermore every imaginary place on one hand echoes and sublimates our perception of everyday life, on the other hand highlights and keeps track of the multifaceted and varied reality that we pretend to understand and rule but incontrovertibly transcends our comprehension, leaving us often stunned and disoriented. Sohei’s maps, like every map, document information about space, but he travels mainly “through time” in search for an unknown past or a possible future transfigured into somebody else’s present. Moreover every thing that exists intersects the imaginative, influencing the intertwined relationship between reality and subjective perceptions, always misleading and intrinsically unreliable. 

Alice Zucca

Martine Gutierrez: Fashion indigeneity.

Martine Gutierrez: Fashion indigeneity.

Gender sensitive, Latino, Queer, Martine Gutierrez’s work is all of this. Born in 1989 in Berkeley, California and raised in Vermont, she is of Guatemalan origin, those same origins that characterize and influence a large part of her work. After studying at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Gutierrez begins to examine through the use of various media the relationship between being indigenous and her own image, and she does it through the tracks of gender and ethnicity. As she herself said in an interview,“being black and transsexual is very cool today”; Aware ofthis aspect, Gutierrez takes advantage of it to extend her controversy against the prevaricator, that western world that superficially misappropriates the expressions of Latin culture, almost as if they were an exotic fashion.

Martine Gutierrez, Masking, Plantain Mask, p52 from Indigenous Woman, 2018. © Martine Gutierrez; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

To carry out this type of criticism, the artist uses her own personal mythology, appropriating the language and means of the fashion system. In autum 2018 Gutierrez presented atthe Ryan Lee Gallery Indigenous Women, a project which had kept her busy for four years. The work is presented as a glossy magazine entirely conceived and created by her, for this endeavour the artist has taken on the role of editor, photographer, stylist, model and director, carefully studying the language of advertising. The world of fashion and pop culture have always had a certain charm on Gutierrez, and in fact for Indigenous Women she makes extensive use of the aesthetics of fashion magazines to communicate her artistic research. The cover is a not so subtle tribute to AndyWarhol’s Interview Magazine, and in the 146 pages various photoshoots are featured in which the artist’s image is always protagonist together with her “dolls”, always displayed and positioned carefully in the shots.

Martine Gutierrez, Demons, Queer Rage, Growing Up Bites, p64 from Indigenous Woman, 2018. © Martine Gutierrez; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

The criticism of the western “white” world is eloquent in photographs such as White wash Ad, where at the center of the composition there is a white bar of soap and on its packaging the inscription saying: “100% purebleach… because sometimes white is right”, or in Queer Rage, P.S. Your parents are nuts in which a Barbie and a rag doll, typical of Latino cultures, appear as if they are in a comparison. In the photographs dedicated to beauty face masks, another Western beauty obsession, Gutierrez pays tribute to Irving Penn and Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s paintings, covering the features of the faces with plants and food elements.

Martine Gutierrez, Demons, Yemaya ‘Goddess of the Living Ocean,’ p94 from Indigenous Woman, 2018. © Martine Gutierrez; Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.

In the artist’s work there is also a reference to the Latina muse par excellence, Frida Kahlo, who immediately comes to mind by looking at the photographic self-portraits. Furthermore in a series of Indigenous Women, Demons, Gutierrez personifies several pre-colonial Aztec deities, such as Tlazolteotl (goddess of lust), Xochiquetzal(goddess of beauty), Chin (divinity associated with homosexuality), whose iconographies are well suited to communicate the opposing concepts of duality and gender fluidity; that same fluidity that is emanated by the photograpic advertisement for the perfumeDel’Estrogen, which recalls Greed by Francesco Vezzoliand, if we want to go back even further, Duchamp’s Belle Haleine. Gutierrez took part in the Venice Biennale 2019, exhibiting in the Central Pavilion and in the Giardini with her work Body en thrall, a series of photos mainly in black and white taken from Indigenous Women, in which the male element is complementary and placed in the shadow enhancing the image of the artist. Martine Gutierrez currently lives and works in Brooklyn and is represented by Ryan Lee Gallery in NewYork.

Dolores Pulella

Jason Shulman: PHOTOGRAPHS OF FILMS

Jason Shulman: PHOTOGRAPHS OF FILMS

The research of the London based sculptor and photographer Jason Shulman reflects around the categories of space and time by exploiting the mechanisms of vision, obtained through expedients of distortion, superposition or cancellation of perception.

Jason Shulman, The Great Beauty (2013)

Through simple optical procedures or the manipulation of the function of the media that he uses, Shulman’s work focuses on the reception of reality mediated by devices, as is the case in his cycle of works Photographs of Films, a collection of long exposure digital photographs that portrays the integral projection of some masterpieces of cinematography. From the reproduction of films such as A fistful of dollars (1964, directed by Sergio Leone), TheGreat Beauty (2013, directed by Paolo Sorrentino), Suspiria (1977, directed by Dario Argento), The Gospel according to Matthew(1964, directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini), or La Dolce Vita (1960, directed by Federico Fellini), the artist captures shots that are able to give back the feeling of the duration and the dynamic sense of the film through extending the shutter speed and through the visual effect of motion blur, a particular blurring obtained by applying specific filters. The artist had already experimented with this technique, characterized by the impersonality of the execution, in 2014 for the winter Olympics in Sochi.

Jason Shulman, Rear Window (1954)

Shulman borrows the underlying assumption of his language from cinema, reproposing the idea of temporal compression of the long sequence shots: as in a cinematographic long take, real time overlaps with the narrative of the film, in Schulman’s work the synchronic flow of the projection of the film overlaps first of all with the timeframe of the plot, with the execution through the photographic medium and finally with the instant vision captured by the viewer’s eye, which is the point of arrival in a pyramid of temporal rays arising from the image matrix of the film. But the temporal level is not the only layer to be affected by Shulman’s actions: from the medium of film to its reproduction on a device, from the lens of the camera up to its transposition on canvas, the artistic result is developed as a hybrid work that also embodies a transmedia quality.

Jason Shulman, Inferno (1980)

Some scenographic and photographic choices also significantly affect the final aesthetics of each work: Salò or the 120 days of Sodom is for example a film mainly characterized by scenes shot indoors, as suggested by the architectural setting of the final work. For A fistful of dollars or The Great Beauty favor instead a greater chromatic specificity and focus less on architectural incisiveness, probably influenced by the prevalence of ocher in the colour tone of the large desert areas of the west or the green of the Roman landscapes.

Jason Shulman, Mean Streets (1973)

This concept ultimately requires an overall complete fruition from the viewer, which has a structural attitude or a gestalt approach – as Shulman himself likes to define it. It is the mechanism of interactions that stimulates a mnemonic and synthetic vision of the artist’s work, so the viewer is forced from time to time to project his memory on the mechanical memory of the work itself. In this sense, Shulman’s intention is to focus his attention more on how than on why, introducing a reflection on the mechanisms of perception and the consequent repercussions they have on experience and memory.

Giovanni Albanese: Art as a supreme form of synthesis.

Giovanni Albanese: Art as a supreme form of synthesis.

Having arrived from Puglia in the Italian capital in 1981, Giovanni Albanese, takes his first steps in Rome in the 80s. These were the peak years of the San Lorenzo district,headquarters of many prominent artists of the time, the years of the Pastificio Cerere, ofthe transavantgarde and the active militancy of the art critic Achille Bonito Oliva, a central figure in the art scene who pulled the strings of the avant-garde machine in Rome.

© Giovanni Albanese

During this decade Albanese explored a pictorial dimension, aligning himself with those positions that predicated the overcoming of conceptual art, in favour of an art “of activepenetration, diurnal and fluidifying”, which artists such as Cucchi, Chia, Paladino, De Maria, Clemente already practised under the theoretical wing of Bonito Oliva. It was clear during those years that the art world was attempting a reconfiguration of key features and its physiognomy. And talking about the actual physiognomy, we can say that it wasn’t already a defined and unitary concept but rather fragmented and with segmented contents: it is no coincidence it was also at times defined as “quotationism”and characterized by stylistic eclecticism. A rediscovered orientation towards the warm material pole of artistic production serves as the substrate for the work of the artist. Giovanni Albanese fully responds to the widespread need in the Italian art of the end of the century, finding the feedback for his artistic output in reality. Although he soon diverges from the pictorial medium and finds himself involved into the scene with its own individual variation on the theme, as one of the possible solutions in the range of opportunities that were emerging in the artistic research of the various artists of the time, a fragment among fragments.

Giovanni Albanese, Self-Portrait, 2002

And still today he feels as such, as a piece of an immense mosaic that continues to be enriched with new shades. It’s in the 90s when in Fortezzada Basso, Florence, he conceived and displayed his first Calculators, some Summa Olivetti towhich he gave new life and that marked the birth of an artistic style on which he had been already working for some time. A style that takes shape, or rather borrows its shape, reincarnating in the form of an ex-industrial product, like some scrap metal which buzzing loudly enters the scene.

Giovanni Albanese © Dino Ignani

These are objects subjected to a process of transversal and inverse functionalization, revised with the idea to remove ideology from the work of art – an example of this is “L’Annunciazione” (The Annunciation), from which resounds “what hasbeen and will not return”, that is the International, the communist hymn – which gives birth to a provocative style that wants to reflect upon the subversion of the consumerist rules of modern society. A style that lives in a close dialogue with the viewer, who finds himself engaged in the metaphysics of the gaze, a way of looking at art that sheds light on the possibility of the work to transcend its productive dimension and its origins. A work that is rethought as an artifact, as a cultural fetish.

Giovanni Albanese, “Caimano” 2011, 400 aluminium crocodiles

All this, however, is a consequence of Giovanni Albanese’s the need to overcome the barriers of non- communication and non-dialogue,in a relationship of equal exchange and mutual enhancement between subjects, as they need not only to express themselves but also to be understood. Personal redemption and the breaking of the silence is a theme that is deeply intertwined with the artist’s personal story, but also with of all of us, in a time when sharing is an important part of our of virtual presence. Precisely for this reason it is a style that produces communication, that is designed for listening but especially it is about emotion: the simple and unexpected joy and happiness of a small bright gift of light. The objects that the artist uses are considered waste but they are elevated in a process that takes them away from their destiny that would see them as arrived at the conclusion of their life and their use, as indistinct objects among other objects. It is then the artist starts a process of extraction of their hidden potentials, bringing out the unseen, making poetry from prose and the exceptional from the ordinary, the spiritual from the material – example of this metaphor is the Little God of hunger, made from a scale and kitchen cutlery. In short, rather than Duchamp’s objects trouvès in Albanese’s case we could speak of Objects selects, as Bonito Oliva points out, chosen by the eye of the artist’s imagination and brought to a new vocation. Entering Giovanni Albanese’s studio is a bit like entering a universe, a sacred magic energy flows between him and his creations, the artist is the demiurge of this fantastic dimension: seeing him operate his Robot Mother,or turn on his Constellations is like attending a show where each piece has its own performance. With the same playful lightness of the showsof the Cirque de Calder, with which he shares the poetic vision, with a delicate but significant and intense irony.

Giovanni Albanse, “SINFONIA” 2001, 281X154X100 cm. Ph. Claudio Abate

A parallel universe of large hot sun – Stargates – and vast Constellations. The reddish glimmers of tungsten bulbs that permeate the environment and embrace the spectators seem to be the pulsating soul, the mystical halo of these living creatures, capable of loving and making themselves loved. These anthropomorphic objects create in the most extreme simplicity and estranging beauty a supreme form of synthesis: the high art concept of Giovanni Albanese.

Giulia Pollicita

Two lives devoted to art: Luisa Casati Stampa and Peggy Guggenheim.

Two lives devoted to art: Luisa Casati Stampa and Peggy Guggenheim.

Venice, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Canal Grande, also known as the unfinished palace, yet so infinitely eloquent, was the home of two of the most well known patroness of the art of the last century: Luisa Casati Stampa (née Amman) and Marguerite Guggenheim better known with her name of Peggy. Their paths seemed destined to meet; wealthy heirs of industrial empires, one an Italian noblewoman, and an American of Jewish origin the other, they had much more in common than a palace in the lagoon of Venice. Their lives were totally guided by art in all its forms; insatiable and eccentric collectors, always surrounded by artists, they spent their fortunes purchasing varied works of art, driven by the thirst for aesthetic pleasure. They didn’t exactly portray of the ideal of beauty, but they possessed the aura that only the charm of a cultured mind can give.  Casati was a slender androgynous figure with sphinx-like eyes, as D’Annunzio loved to call them, and a mind tormented by the obsession with the possession of the most varied and bizarre items, she wandered among Venice, Rome, Capri, Paris and London with her collection of exotic animals, including the boa constrictor Anaxagarus.

Peggy Guggenheim arranging Alexander Calder’s Arc of Petals / Greek Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 1948

She purchased in 1910 the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, where she loved to host epic masked balls of which she enjoyed being the protagonist with clothes specially tailored for her by Mariano Fortuny and bijoux made by René Lalique, doing the same thing in Paris in the Palais Rose a building that previously belonged to Robert de Montesquiou. She knew Marinetti and the futurists to whom she commissioned many works, however portraits were her greatest passion, of which obviously she loved to be the subject; in addition to the two famous portraits of her made by Giovanni Boldini, the story of her image on canvas is intertwined with extramarital love: she was one of D’Annunzio’s lovers with the pseudonym Corè, but Kees Van Dongen, Augustus John, and the her safic love Romaine Brooks were the ones that most successfully portrayed the “Divine” marquise with the strokes of their brush, with her typical copper red messy hair and her large circled eyes that couldn’t hide her opium addiction, she was also immortalized in 1922 in a series of famous photos by Man Ray who at the time was still mostly unknown; it was the American photographer who also photographed the young fellow compatriot Peggy Guggenheim who arrived in Paris following her first husband Laurence Veil, a bohemian painter with whom she shared a stormy life made up of excesses and two children at the mercy of their own destiny. 

Peggy Guggenheim (1898 – 1979)  leaves in a gondola from her musem home located in the ‘Palazzo Venier dei Leoni’ on the Grand Canal 1968 Venice © Tony Vaccaro
Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino (23 Jan.1881-1 June 1957)

Thanks to her husband, Peggy came into contact with the European artistic avantgarde, of which she was immediately an avid supporter, purchasing works and financially supporting the artists. In January 1938, together with Jean Cocteau, she inaugurated the “Guggenheim-Jeune” gallery in which, among many others, she also exhibited Kandinsky, and it was from this date until around 1946 that she collected a large amount of contemporary artworks, between one troubled love affair and the other; after her divorce from Veil her life was a whirling succession of tormented love stories that pushed her to the perpetual search for inner peace that she saw embodied in various male figures such as the writer John Holms, Yves Tanguy, Marcel Duchamp, Samuel Beckett, thanks to whom she met James Joyce, and her second husband Max Ernst. The surrealist painter though was still very much in love with the artist Leonora Carrington and the marriage with Peggy therefore could not last long, but they fled together from a Europe destroyed by Hitler, arriving in New York while the city was in full artistic ferment. Here Peggy inaugurated the “Art of this century” gallery by promoting Jackson Pollock, who with his particular dripping technique pioneered the art of the second half of the twentieth century. 

Luisa Casati Stampa by Man Ray, 1922

Having now made the European avant-garde movement known to American artists, after World War II, she decides to move to Venice where in 1948 her collection was exhibited at the 24th Venice Art Biennale. She then permanently moved to the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni opening its doors to the public in 1949, where her collection is still on display under the name of the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation.

Dolores Pulella

A conversation with Enzo Cucchi

A conversation with Enzo Cucchi

Enzo Cucchi is interviewed by Agostina Bevilacqua

Enzo Cucchi is one of the most prolific and eclectic contemporary Italian artists. His works are famous and in demand all over the world. Originally from Marche but Roman by adoption, his self-taught training is a consequence of his personal need to make art, to be an artist. Conventionally linked to the name of the Italian Transavanguardia, Cucchi’s art is multifaceted. He uses sculpture, drawing, painting and places them in space in an always original way. His range of work is varied from huge canvases to small sculptures. In the same way as the large strokes of blinding color leave room for detailed drawings. Drawings that take shape through words. The large, small, ancestral or ultramodern sculptures take shape from the matter as if they were prisoners from Michelangelo’s time though they want to tell us about the present time, the time of art. There are no conventions or convictions. Cucchi’s works confront us with the only truth which is that the only way to make art is to be an artist.

Enzo Cucchi © Gianfranco Gorgoni

AGOSTINA BEVILACQUA: 

Let’s start from the beginning, from the word, or rather from poetry. In the first poetry collections published (“Head is an extension of the mind”  from 1973 or “The poison was lifted and transported” from 1977) you write that you favour total illiteracy and you are against the language. Language becomes a mediator, a filter through which we transform an idea that by its nature cannot be “fixed”. Words and language change the meaning transforming it into something else. Rimbaud (which you very much love and present in your works), struggled in search of the meaning as the true essence trying to transform the word into pure matter and sound. A utopian and romantic struggle where the medium remains the alphabet. It would seem that you wanted to tear the pages of poetry in a less utopian way, naturally landing in the field of painting and art. If the meaning of the word is the sound, then the sign and the drawing becomes also a meaning. “…Painting is only that of legends, which really happened, because painting is real. They are not things that are told. Here in Acitrezza the cyclops threw the stones into the sea and that is true: here I see the stones where they landed.” (Enzo Cucchi 1979). The words tell a story, but that is a representation and is not enough, painting is reality. In your poems there are always drawings in the middle of words, they’re like children eager to walk with their own legs. Do you remember if there was a moment, a place, a vision, an illuminating thought where the word gave way to art? When the word/sound became sign/painting. Was it a moment of reflection or was it a natural and necessary process? A redemption perhaps for the poet Rimbaud who died in the hope of transforming the word into existence.

ENZO CUCCHI:

I never said I was a poet. If I wrote some texts, I did it out of necessity, like writing a letter to my girlfriend. There was no redemption between sound and painting, there was not even a passage, I have always done only what was necessary for me. Rimbaud did not want to transform the word into matter, Rimbaud wanted the word no longer to change the matter, he therefore wanted to be able to create a material that was “impenetrable” to the word, or he dreamed of enunciating words, sounds free from matter and that would not influence it. Rimbaud investigated, through this research, the temporal crossroads, the parallel universes. If Rimbaud has ever managed to produce a sound whose echo has not influenced the external matter, we will never know it in this timeline of events.

Enzo Cucchi, Quadro Santo,1980

AB: Art is spiritual and conceptual matter that is expressed in tangible and physical artifacts. The idea is shaped by the action and the artistic artifact is the result of it. Having started making art during the period in which many artists used their body as an expressive medium (Acconci, Burden, Oppenheim, Pane, to name a few) were you involved or attracted to any of these actions? Artaud wrote in his letter to the Balinese: “I am a body / a mass, / a weight / a surface / a volume / a dimension / a side / a slope / a facade / a wall / a laterality /…” declaring the importance of the materiality of the body as opposed to the metaphysical vision of the body as a mere ‘prison’ of the spirit. And again he writes in his final work “Ideas do not move forward without limbs, and then they are no longer ideas but limbs, limbs at war with each other” where the release of the gesture is the ultimate goal of the artistic expression. Do you agree? How much are your ideas connected to the body and how are they filtered and modified by it? What is the relationship with your body, hands, legs, eyes? For your works you used many media, paper, canvas, marble, plastic, have you ever thought of using your own body or someone else’s as a medium?

EC: Artaud was one of the greats, his writing in images always moves me. But I don’t think that artistic expression has any purpose (release of the gesture? And from what? From the limits of the body that allowed that gesture to be true? These are frustrations typical of John Baldessari). A purpose is the result of a calculation, performing calculations is stuff for engineers, I decided to be an artist just to not have to deal with engineering. The matter regarding the body is a problem that does not exist. It is the result of a spoiled and luxurious society. The body is what it is. It is an applied and modeled mass serving various functions. Using the body as a medium… I am not a tattoo artist, everything that looks even vaguely medical disgusts me. Furthermore, in a unitary vision of reality, doesn’t holding a pencil and drawing on a sheet of paper mean that my hand, as a part of my body, is in itself the medium, together with paper and pencil, of that drawing? Drawing, together with sex, is the most powerful act that humanity can ever do. With sex, pleasure is elevated with the (potential) act of creating new life. With the drawing, I make the material plane and the conceptual plane interact in the most direct and faithful way possible. That of drawing is a two-stage act: – first I mark the mind with the thought, then I mark the paper with the pencil.

Enzo Cucchi at MAXXI © Agostino Osio

AB: Let’s move on to the last moving work on display at the MAXXI in Rome, on display in the spaces of the Gian Ferrari gallery. A cherub made of black marble peers through the hand making the gesture of the telescope, seeing his own big toe with a scorpion clinging behind it. A work full of iconographic references that run throughout the history of art and mythology. Here the scorpion is peacefully resting behind the big toe and the child does not seem to be terrified but intrigued. What does the scorpion symbolize for the artist Enzo Cucchi? In biological terms it is one of the oldest animals which has remained almost unchanged in evolutionary terms. As for the symbolic and mythological aspect, the scorpion has represented a multitude of meanings related to the concept of death and rebirth. Symbol  of heresy during the Christian Middle Ages. Agrippa in the human body associates it with the genitals and with Mars, his passion and his generating force. It is also your zodiac sign, does it have any meaning or is it just a coincidence? 

EC: How do you know that the cherub was initially meant to be black!?  It is carved in gray bardiglio, but the initial idea was to take black marble, which then I didn’t find. The scorpion looks like an ant, it doesn’t symbolize shit.

AB: One last question. You are a self-taught artist. Outside the academic frameworks. What, if any, are the rules you follow? In your drawings and in life.

EC: What rules… I don’t know. The method is important, as in everything. The method derives from everyday life. Drawing every day, even when (especially when) the head is completely empty, it is necessary.

Enzo Cucchi, Paese amato, 1996


PUBLICATION LISTED IN THE ITALIAN PRESS REGISTER BY THE SASSARI COURT OF LAW WITH REGISTRATION NUMBER 447/2017.
EDITOR IN CHIEF: ALICE ZUCCA

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