Leila Heller: La Grande Dame of Middle Eastern Art.

Leila Heller: La Grande Dame of Middle Eastern Art in conversation with Hania Afifi.

When the clock turned 7:00pm, a second window appeared on my screen and I saw the familiar perfectly coiffed blond bob of Leila Heller, swiftly followed by an extreme close-up of glossy lips.  Clearly, like myself, Heller was still grappling with the new norms of social distancing and online meetings.  

“Hellooo,” I exclaimed, failing to contain my excitement for the opportunity of interviewing a Middle Eastern art market legend.  She responded with a beaming smile and we quickly settled into our roles of storyteller and listener.  

Portrait of Leila Heller, Courtesy of Leila Heller gallery

Heller grew up in Iran during the reign of Shah Ali Reza Pahlavi and moved to the United States of America in the mid-70s to pursue her undergraduate studies.  Initially, she intended to complete a degree in Economics at Brown University to follow through her father’s footsteps into the world of finance and business.  

Portrait of Leila Heller, Courtesy of Leila Heller gallery

“I had no intention of studying art at university.  I was very much into economics.  I wanted to go back and become an immensely powerful woman … to be on the same level as men running businesses in Iran.” There was nothing unusual about women joining the workforce in Iran in the 1970s.  However, it was unusual for women to compete in business and trade with their male counterparts.  Yet, this did not deter Heller from pursuing this course of studies and interned every summer break at her father’s company until the first year of college.  “I really felt I was a good student, but by the time I got to Brown, I realised I am really not that great”, she explains, frankly.  Her sudden exposure to modern mathematics and computers; an alien object she had never encountered in Iran, left her feeling bewildered and not on par with her fellow students.  Fortunately, she had also enrolled in courses outside her major one of which was a study in art history’s Impressionism period.  And so, the formation of Leila Heller the gallerist had begun.

Courtesy of Leila Heller gallery

Unlike the economic courses, the art classes proved to be a joyful ride for Heller.  She bolstered her wide art exposure during early life with academic understanding of historical contexts and artistic genres.  Her parents may have provided her with enticing visual experiences during museum visits across Europe, but it was Brown that shaped her artistic outlook.  Inevitably, she switched majors and left Brown with a BA in Art History and French Literature. Heller was determined to apply her newly gained art knowledge to further the work of the recently inaugurated Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in 1977.  She joined Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London to acquire the necessary museum management and curation skills.  Her uncompromising work ethos and strive for perfectionism is best exemplified when she spent two hours digging through Sotheby’s outdoor garbage cart at St. George’s Street in search for a small piece of twine.

Courtesy of Leila Heller gallery

“One day during lunch hour, I was at my desk and one of the gentlemen who worked in the front desk brought me a piece of plastic with twigs in it.  I asked him what am I supposed to do with this? And he said this is supposed to be a Christo, But Christo’s are wrapped!” she recalls vivaciously.  

It turned out the front desk had unwittingly unravelled Christo’s artwork and threw away parts of its assemblage which Heller rushed to salvage from the refuse pile of the auction house.  Although she re-wrapped the piece as instructed by her superiors, she continued to question its authorship until she met Christo many years later in New York.  He put her fears to rest when he re-asserted his authorship of the artwork, casting her as his inadvertent assistant.

Christo  
Wrapped Magazines 
1962  
15 x 12 x 2" (38 x 30 x 5 cm)  
Polyethelene, rope, cord and magazines  
Photo: Christian Baur  
© 1962 Christo

Her zeal for perfectionism led her to a second museum studies program at George Washington University in the US.  Being only one of a handful of institutions that offered a post-graduate degree in museum and curatorial studies at the time, Heller was boosting her chances of securing a notable position at Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art.  She opted to train at the Hirschhorn Museum during her final year where she worked with renown curator Miranda McClintic on the 1st ever retrospective exhibition for David Smith. “I learnt a lot from Miranda.  She was fascinating.  And I learnt a lot from Mr. Hirschhorn himself because when he would visit with his wife, I was put in charge of taking care of them.  He would show me a lot of the works he bought, where he bought them, why he bought them and why he collected so many French sculptures”, she fondly reminisces of that time.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 5: Leila Heller attends Inaugural Exhibition - March 6 - April 15, 2019 at Leila Heller Gallery on March 5, 2019 in New York. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/PMC)

Inevitably, all good things come to an end.  However, the end of Heller’s studies was nothing like she had planned.  Her final year at Washington coincided with the Iranian revolution of 1979 when the Shah of Iran was overthrown, and his government replaced by the Islamic Republic.

“My dreams of going back and becoming a curator in Iran never ever happened.  I moved to New York; where my brother had just gotten into Columbia Business Schools, without a job, not knowing what to do.  We were separated from our parents because our passports were cancelled.  For 2 years we didn’t see our parents.” Overnight, Heller and her brother found themselves stranded in a foreign country with cancelled passports, invalid residence permits and limited financial resources.  Once again, Heller was derailed off her chosen path by political turmoil.  In 1968, the student riots in Paris led her to switch from the French Lycée in Tehran and plans to study at the Université de Grenoble to an international school so that she can pursue her studies in the US.  Whilst the gravity of the situation was more intense this time, the outcome was the same.  Heller had to adapt and change course quickly.

“I reconnected with Lisa whom I knew from Brown at an event.  She was appointed Assistant Curator to Diane Waldman at the Guggenheim, and she offered to see what is available there”, recalls Heller.  She was content with whichever job was on offer and keen to acquire new skills.  She landed a position in public relations eventually working her way through the different departments at the museum until she was united with her friend and saviour Lisa Dennison, former director of the Guggenheim and current EVP and Chairman of Sotheby’s Americas, at the curatorial team. During her two years at the Guggenheim, Heller cultivated a support network who remain until today her best friends.  “I fell in love with being in a museum and the pain of being away from my family and being so scared about the future, they became my family.” She refers to the likes of Michael Govan; Director of LACMA, Wendy Lawson-Johnston; great grand daughter of Solomon Guggenheim, and the late Thomas Messer; former director of the Guggenheim museum as members of her extended family.

Heller moved from the Guggenheim to an investment bank where she became the curator-in-charge of their art collection.  She frequented artist studios like William Bailey and Martha Rosler to gain insights and a further understanding of artwork development.  During that period, the bank had acquired the renown French art publication Connaisance des Arts of Paris in which Heller became heavily involved learning the ins and outs of publishing and marketing.  When she obtained her green card and could travel again, she visited artist studios in Paris including Antonio Seguí and Fernando Botero.  By that time, Heller had witnessed and experienced all facades of an art piece.  From conception to resale, including exhibition, marketing, and promotion; she learnt it all and felt ready to embark on her own adventure.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 5: Leila Heller attends Inaugural Exhibition - March 6 - April 15, 2019 at Leila Heller Gallery on March 5, 2019 in New York. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/PMC)

“It was Studio54 days.  The 80s in New York City were fascinating.  All the artists were a buzz, Warhol was there, The Factory and all those young great talents,” she enthuses.  I glimpse a flicker of light in her eyes when she recalls the unexpected reaction of Leo Castelli when she told him she wants to open her own gallery.  “Tony Shafrazi [former art advisor to the Shah of Iran and to Karman Diba the former director of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art] took me to meet Leo Castelli to get his blessing for Tony’s Soho gallery opening.  Leo was a father figure in the art community.  He was so nurturing and immensely helpful to Tony, and I said well, I am thinking of opening up an art gallery.  He said, my daughter … go open.  Any questions you have anybody you want to meet, just come to me.”

Indeed, it appears to be that the 80s were a time in which the art communities were happy to connect, collaborate and network regardless of financial implications.  There was a business side to the art world, but there was also a social element at which Heller excelled in.  

“I remember one night when Shafrazi was opening his gallery, he asked me for USD 1,000.  He said, “I need a $1000 in cash.  This guy wants cash.  Do you have a $1000 on you?””.  Shafrazi offered Heller a choice between 10 drawings by Keith Haring or 5 portraits of her executed by an emerging eastern European artist in exchange for the immediate loan.  “I stupidly in my vanity chose the 5 portraits of me by the Eastern European artist whom I forget his name, even Tony forgets it too.  If I had lent him the money for the 10 Keith Haring drawings, I would not have had to work today.” Such is Heller, courageous and at ease when she acknowledges her shortcomings to me.  That courage was finally directed towards a business venture that made her a name to be reckoned with in the art market.  Arguably the inception had begun during her Parisian visits whilst working at the bank, when she met many Iranian artists living in exile.  Some of them she knew since her childhood days in Iran, others, she was newly introduced to.  “I felt guilty that they had left Iran and had no career in the west.  All of them were lost and did not know what to do.  I felt like I need to do something for my compatriots”, she explains the driving motivation to opening her first gallery.

It was certainly no easy feat.  The Middle Eastern artists had not yet acquired a space on the global art scene.  To sustain her gallery, she represented American, European, and South American artists who were collected by the New York crowd whilst slowly developing her Middle Eastern artists and cultivating a market for them. “I met YZ Kami in Paris and encouraged him to move to New York City.  His name was Kamran Youssefzadeh, but I sort of changed his name.  I told him Kami, it’s going to be hard.  Youssefzadeh is a long name and everyone is going to ask you where you are from.  Iranians right now are persona non-grata with the American hostage crisis”, she reveals the story behind how the prominent Iranian American artist whose has been collected and exhibited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and the Whitney Museum, to name a few, had acquired his trade name. Her big breakthrough came in the form of a curated exhibition by Jeffrey Deitch in the summer of 1984.  Entitled Calligraffiti, the show which explored the gestural brush stroke in artmaking, combined western graffiti artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf with Middle Eastern artists; amassed by Heller, who engaged with calligraphy in some of their repertoires including Etal Adnan and Hossein Zenderoudi. 

Jacob Hashimoto, 'The Eclipse', 2017. Courtesy Leila Heller Gallery

The unprecedented amalgamation of western street art and progressive eastern calligraphy showcased the subliminal influence of abstract expressionism and pop art, thus demonstrating to western audiences the shared modern vocabulary in artmaking.  Deitch and Heller’s show narrowed the gap between east and west, unveiling modern and contemporary middle eastern gems that were buried under political tension.

“There were 120 artists in that show.  Of the 120 artists, 60 were graffiti artists.  There was also the Letterists from France.  We had a nude performance by a Letterist artist.  It was quite shocking as we did not know it was going to be performed in the nude.  In fact, David Nahmad’s secretary had almost fainted when she saw the dancer”, recalls Heller. The attendees list of the frenzied opening read like a Who’s Who directory of the artworld.  Kenny Scharf rubbed shoulders with Andy Warhol, CY Twombly with YZ Kami, Shirin Neshat with Thomas Messer.  The movers and shakers of the 80s artworld were at Heller’s gallery that May evening, and continued to party along with 3000 guests until the early hours of the next morning at Area; a celebrities night club that stood on Hudson Street in Manhattan.

Courtesy of Leila Heller gallery

Her successful joint curated show was revisited 3 decades later in the fall of 2013.  By then, Middle Eastern modern and contemporary artists were breaking records on the global auction scenes.  In fact, they accounted for 42% of total sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s for that year according to a published report by the financial consultant Moore Kingston Smith.

“I now had 4,000 feet of gallery space. We had El-Seed do the windows of the gallery and it was the first time El-Seed was exhibited in America”, continues Heller.  Like its predecessor, the exhibition enjoyed great publicity and many reviews.  Some were aghast at the hanging of Dubuffet with wall painted LA2 murals, others felt the Twombly’s paled next to ROSTARR, but all enjoyed the playfulness and enticing experience of the show and commended the expertly written exhibition catalogue. Although most galleries deal with the secondary market to stay financially afloat whilst their artists grow into sought-after names, Heller highlights the historical significance and artistic perspective of the pieces on display to lend them an educational element.  This is evident in the fact that a lot of the artworks in her curated shows including Calligraffiti are not-for-sale and students from different art programs are invited on guided tours of her exhibitions.  The curatorial art history background had never left her, and she still employs it to this day when searching for new artists.

“I have been looking for great Emirati artists ever since I opened my gallery in Dubai.  Since the world fair, which was supposed to take place in 2020 and now is postponed to 2021, was taking place in Dubai, it was going to be the year of Emirati artists”, she laments yet again her derailed plans.

Despite this setback, she installed midst the pandemic a solo exhibition for Abdel Qader Al-Rais; one of the UAE’s pioneering painters.  By showcasing the different phases of his artistic oeuvre that span from representational realism to meditative abstraction, Heller presented the painterly alternative to current understandings of the UAE’s art history as rooted in highly concept-based and anti-aesthetic installations.  Like other guest curated shows, she preserved the educational and historical context.

It has become increasingly apparent throughout our conversation that this was not your classic rags to riches story in which the protagonist overcomes adversity through perseverance and sheer force.  On the contrary, Heller hails from the bourgeois Iranian society where notable figures like her parents travelled the world and collected fine art.  Even Andy Warhol had mistaken her for a Persian princess.  Instead, this was a story that made me reflect on Epictetus words nearly 2000 years ago, when he wrote “Circumstances do not make a man [or woman] they merely reveal him to himself.”  Heller faced every calamity with grace and the classic Middle Eastern traits of collaboration and extending familial support.  Your mentors and your elders become your uncles and aunts.  Your friends turn into your brothers and sisters.  You extend to them the same love, respect, and generosity that your freely give to members of your own family.  As Heller said, “I just could not get the Middle East out of me”.

It is that familial setting which she loves most about the business environment in the UAE.  Speaking about the handling of the COVID 19 crisis by the local authorities, Heller gushed, “In the UAE, I feel we are doing it very much as a family,  It’s really a family and that is a feeling you can never have in the west because it is a big country.  Whereas here [in the UAE] everyone is so approachable, so kind and I really feel like I belong here”.

To Heller, the concepts of Home, Family and Friendship denote to the same things: love, warmth, comfort, and security.  She can adapt to whichever situation she finds herself in and climb over hurdles that life throws in her path if the aforementioned needs are maintained through the circle of people around her.

Investigating photography. Duane Michals’ narrative shots.

Investigating photography. Duane Michals’ narrative shots.

by Lorenza Zampa

Duane Michals, Heisenberg's Magic Mirror of Uncertainity, 1998, 1998 / Courtesy MEF - Museo Ettore Fico, Turin

A situationist, precise, resourceful, innovative; rebellious, passionate, daring to document or more simply a lucky “seeker”: this is the profile of the good photographer or the characteristics one must have to aspire to being one, then it would be enough to leave the house well equipped and just wait for the world to enfold with its outstretched arms, offering interesting ideas onto which one could rest the gaze on, even before the mind. A lot of photography seems to have been produced and appreciated precisely thanks to the virtue of this imitative principle, which would make the surrounding reality appear as an incredibly suggestive place, and the human eye as a white space where to record the “impressions” that in the best of cases become “interpretations” -, a place inside a place, reactive like an effervescent tablet dissolving in water.  

But not everyone aspires to be like Steve McCurry, or Letizia Battaglia, or Salgado, or Doisneau, just to name a few. In fact, it may happen that they consider themselves more important than all those renowned and continuous images that wander in the mind, waiting to come out and to find a meaningful visual narrative and content almost as important as the idea itself, which came simultaneously. This is what happens in the aesthetics of Duane Michals, an American photographer, who is now over 80 years old, and who had the merit of freeing photography from the hindrance of having to be a linear story, faithful to concrete reality, giving us instead photographic sequences that are small narratives, emotional and cosmic, with titles and captions that have an eschatological value. Above all, Michals did not impose his vision of the world on us but sought to show how complicated, as well as fascinating, investigating the mystery of the feelings whether they belong to oneself or to others. Photography becomes a humble but profound act of generosity that frees itself from a purely documentary character. In a delightful video interview from 1980 (Visions and Images: Duane Michals), the photographer, with the proverbial positivity that belongs to his fellows, clarifies what the essence of a good photograph is, and that the mind is what is most involved in its realization. The mind is what builds the structure of the well-defined questions on the meaning of existence. In this regard we should mention photographs such as “The human condition” (1969), “The fallen angel” (1968), “Chance meeting” (1972), “Letter from my father” (1975), “Heisenberg’s magic mirror of uncertainty” (1998), “Things are queer” (1973) and “Boogeyman” (1972), just to list some that even after visceral scrutiny can still leave questions unsolved. In fact, after denying of being «reportage person» who is just waiting to stumble on some magnificent or fortuitous event, he says that “the great wonder is that each of us has its own validity, its mysteries and it is the sharing of these gifts what really makes an artists». Some people define it as surrealist photography. Or a photography where the inner reality really happens in the outside world, and what is returned to us is a set of interweaving visions and reflections, a labyrinthine succession of pieces of infinity, a bit like in Gilbert Garcin, another great living photographer. The sequence of images to which Michals is most closely linked is “I build a pyramid” (1978), in which he knows how to express all the “creative potential of mistakes”, as he himself said. What appears in the six shots that make up the photographic narration is Duane himself, funny and obstinate: he is not far from the majestic pyramids of Giza, and we can see him positioning, almost stacking them on the sandy ground, some rough stones, which will eventually form a small imperfect pyramid, “bigger than the others if looked at from the right point of view”, as the photographer himself says jokingly. 

“We must fill our ears, our eyes of all of us with things that are at the beginning of a great dream. Someone must shout that we will build the pyramids, it doesn’t matter if we don’t build them, we have to nourish the desire”, as said by Domenico, the old madman of the film Nostalghia by Tarkowskij (1983), a characther who shares with Michals the obstinate courage to give importance not to what we see but to what we imagine can happen.

Interview with DARA BIRNBAUM

DARA BIRNBAUM in conversation with Kostas Prapoglou

Since the mid-1970s, Dara Birnbaum (b.1946, New York) has painstakingly been investigating the multi-layered ways television and film are constantly being resculpted and redesigned, reflecting contemporary economic and socio-political conditions. American mass culture has always been in the epicenter of Birnbaum’s visual lexicon. Her pioneering experimental video works focus on specific qualities that define the construction and deconstruction of the identity of American household through the prism of televised imagery and its ideological follies. Repetition, fragmentation, image manipulation and visual analysis are only but a few key-elements in Birnbaum’s practice. Her video installations are often characterized by profound architectural elements echoing her primary studies in architecture. 

Dara Birnbaum
Erwartung/Expectancy, 1995/2001
(Partial view)
Video projection on Duraclear mounted on Plexiglas with quadraphonic sound
Dimensions variable
Installation view, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 2001
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
Photo Credit: Jon Abbott
Copyright: Dara Birnbaum
Dara Birnbaum
Damnation of Faust, 1984
Two-channel color video, quadraphonic sound, black & white photographic enlargement, and painted colored walls 
Dimensions variable
Installation view, S.M.A.K.(Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst), Ghent, 2009 
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
Photo Credit: Dirk Pauwels
Copyright: Dara Birnbaum

Spanning six decades, Birnbaum’s career is empowered by the in-depth evocation of the balances between public and private domains. Her solo exhibitions and screenings have been presented at various museums and galleries around the world, some of which are: Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo (MAXXI), Rome, Italy (2019); Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, USA (2017, 2011, 2002) and London, UK (2018); South London Gallery, London (2011-12); Serralves Foundation, Porto, Portugal (2010); S.M.A.K. Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, Belgium (2009); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008 and 1981); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria (2006); Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany (1997); Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt, Germany (1996); École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, Paris, France (1994); The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA (1989); Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland (1986) and The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Massachusetts, USA (1984). 

Dara Birnbaum
Portrait
Photo credit: Rehan Miskci
Dara Birnbaum
Self-Portrait

Her work has widely been presented in hundreds of international group exhibitions at museums, art foundations and film festivals worldwide such as MoMA PS1, New York (2019); Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, Germany; Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland (2019); National Portrait Gallery, London; Grand Palais, Paris (2018); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2018); The Met Breuer, New York (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (2017); J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center Los Angeles (2016); Hamburg Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany (2015); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014); MACBA Collection, MACBA, Madrid, Spain (2012); Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris (2012); MoMA PS1, New York (2011); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (2008); The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007); Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan / Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, Sydney, Australia (2006); The Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Israel (2003); Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2003); XXIII Moscow International Film Festival, Moscow, Russia (2001); Seoul Biennial, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea (2000); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (1999); Museum of the Moving Image, New York (1998); Guggenheim Museum Soho, New York (1997); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1995); documenta IX (1992), documenta VIII (1987), documenta VII (1982), Kassel, Germany, and Whitney Biennial, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1982). 

Dara Birnbaum
Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, 1978/1979 
(Video still)
 Single-channel video, color, stereo sound, 5:50 min.
 Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
 Copyright: Dara Birnbaum

She has also been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards such as The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Arts Residency (2011); the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2011) and the prestigious United States Artists Fellowship (2010).

Dara Birnbaum
Psalm 29(30), 2016
Six-channel color video and sound; 8 min., looped
Installation view, Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris, 2016
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
Photo Credit: Rebecca Fannuele
Copyright: Dara Birnbaum

Kostas Prapoglou: 

Your visual vocabulary engages with the architecture of those tropes that dictate how truth and reality are being presented and communicated by the media to wide audiences. What triggered your interest in such a practice? 

DARA BIRNBAUM: 

I had become good friends with Suzanne Kuffler in the mid-70s and subsequently was asked to present my work alongside hers at Artists Space, NYC. At that time, I had barely begun to seriously approach my own art and mainly had been working on some performance/conceptual works (Six Movements,1975.) Confronted with my first gallery show, I had to think about what was most important to me at that precise moment and I realized that it was the language of television. This was directly because the average American family, in 1977, was –according to the Nielsen ratings– watching television some seven hours and twenty minutes per day. I felt that it was thus our main vocabulary and language. Journals, important to me, like Screen magazine from London, were analyzing film but never –at that time– approaching television. Therefore, I thought this type of television analysis must be done. My first show at Artists Space, entitled Lesson Plans: To Keep the Revolution Alive (1977), consisted of five sets of B/W photographic panels. Each set of five photos depicted a reverse angle shot from a prime-time crime-drama series on television and it was matched with a text panel, which revealed what was being said on TV during each of the captured still frames. Together, these pairings revealed to the viewer the way reverse angle shots were the prime piece of vocabulary for such shows. However, it seemed that viewers exposed to my work, took this critical information, or dialogue, home with them to explore other programs on TV, including and especially political programs. My second work, (A)Drift of Politics: Two Women Are Active in A Space (1978) took the popular TV-show Laverne & Shirley. I utilized the ‘two-shot’, which had these two women actresses (Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Freeney, as played by Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams) confronting the audience, thus the world, together. In the beginning of each show, these two actresses sang a song, which included the phrase “doing it my way”. Again, this show was presented with Suzanne Kuffler’s work, this time at The Kitchen, NYC. I continued using prime tropes from TV with Technology/ Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978/9). That work, now considered a classic of video art, utilized a ‘special effect’, when the average secretary turned into a ‘Wonder Woman’ to help save mankind. 

Dara Birnbaum
PM Magazine, 1982
Four-channel color video, three audio stereo channels, 6:30 min; 
two chromogenic prints, Speed Rail® structural support system, aluminum
trim, one wall painted Chroma Key Blue, and one wall painted red
Dimensions variable 
Installation view “Cut to Swipe” at MoMA, New York, 2015
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
Photo credit: Jonathan Muzikar
Copyright: Dara Birnbaum

KP: 

Shooting methods, language techniques and other broadcasting manipulation systems employed by the media have been the focus of your filmmaking for years. Have you detected a shift in these practices involving specific changes in the aesthetics and ideologies as well as the ways subliminal political meanings are structured and transmitted? How are these reflected in your work?

DB: 

In 1980, I did a work in collaboration with Dan Graham entitled Local TV News Analysis for Cable-TV. We did this through A Space, Toronto, Canada. The work showed an hour of local TV news and we formatted the footage so that it revealed: 1) the inside of the television station and its control booth; 2) a family-at-home watching this news; and 3) the actual news broadcast itself. This composite of all three elements was then screened the following night on a separate cable-TV station, exactly during that next night’s evening newscast. It turned out that the structure of the news was basically the same from one night to the next. This included the way that the news was announced, to when certain types of stories would occur, to when the weatherman/woman would take over, to a recap, with some humor, etc. I think that since the mid-60s the structure of major network news has stayed mainly the same. However, CNN broke the mold when they delivered 24-hour international news. Now certain stations will do breakaways to major breaking news stories. Or, for example in the U.S., if the president chooses to make a speech to the country during prime-time, the news will breakaway for that. Some roles have changed. More women have been given bigger roles/positions, such as ‘anchor women’ on major stations in the U.S. Also, the traditional weatherman will now sometimes be a weatherwoman. Dan had previously observed that the formatting of the news team actually resembled the family-at-home, with the anchor being male and thus similar to the post WWII man in the U.S. at the head of his household. However, across the last decade the gender of such role positions has changed. In addition, several years ago stations such as CNN would have reporters in the field. With the desire to keep production budgets down, now there is more use of online interviews and ‘panels’ that perform commentary and less in-the-field work.  I also think that the audience is now more aware of such structures and that there is less oblique or subliminal political meanings behind newscasts. There is more directness as to the political leanings of each channel, or station. So, it is directly known that i.e. FOX news represents primarily Trump and the Republican right. Whereas, stations such as CNN are more overtly ‘democratic’ and present a more complete news picture, with some attempt to present both the left and right opinions of news stories. On the left you have stations such as MSNBC in America. For my own work, I have usually used news stories for the content of their shot, such as showing how CNN and CBS were both taken off-air by the Chinese government, in the summer of 1989, in light of the Tiananmen Square uprising (Tiananmen Square: Break-In Transmission, 1990). There is also in this work the footage from a cable channel (Channel-L on Manhattan Cable TV), where a song performed by sympathetic Taiwanese students was aired. However, it was coming through very broken up, but they chose to transmit it anyway. Major news channels would never have allowed such broken-up footage to be televised. I showed each of these critical moments in the work.

Dara Birnbaum
PM Magazine, 1982
(Partial view)
Four-channel color video, three audio stereo channels, 6:30 min; 
two chromogenic prints, Speed Rail® structural support system, aluminum
trim, one wall painted Chroma Key Blue, and one wall painted red
Dimensions variable 
Installation view “Cut to Swipe” at MoMA, New York, 2015
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
Photo credit: Jonathan Muzikar
Copyright: Dara Birnbaum

KP: 

You have been working in the fields of video and installation since the 1970s. How have these evolved over the past five decades?

Db: 

The work has gone through several different phases. I would say that mostly from 1975-1982 I concentrated on being able to express several observations and concepts about the language of television. Hoping that by the use of different approaches –repeated edits, slo-mo, and then what became known as  ‘appropriation’ and ‘deconstruction’ of the vocabulary of this medium– I could reveal its hidden agendas and make this basically commercial media’s manipulation much more apparent. When I was in Documenta 7, in 1982, I felt that perhaps such manipulations were already becoming apparent, through my work and that of other artists (eventually known as The Pictures Generation) –such as Barbara Kruger and Sherrie Levine– whom I felt close to at that time. I decided to alter my strategy and started a series entitled Damnation of Faust Trilogy (1983-1987), where I composed my own imagery, yet again tried to dissect a mythology, that of Goethe’s and Berlioz’s versions of Faust. By 1987, when I finished this trilogy, I then took on other projects of interest –an Artbreak (1987) for MTV and Rio VideoWall (1989), as the winner of an international competition held by Ackerman & Company–for an ‘electronic art work’ for their commercial shopping center, designed by Arquitectonica. These projects, in ‘public space’ were an attempt to bring the investigations I was doing earlier on into a larger arena, while still providing a type of ‘deconstruction’. The 90s started a period of working more directly with political events, such as the kidnapping and slaying of Hanns Martin Schleyer (Hostage,1984) and the Gulf War (Transmission Tower: Sentinel, 1992). On the contrary, works from 2000 forward attempted to deal further with gender, such as Arabesque (2011) and Erwartung/Expectancy (1995/2001). By 2014, my focus went back to investigating how to express the necessities of our time, as through Psalm 29(30) (2016), which relates directly to Syria’s civil war and unrest and its subsequent devastation. This work compiles, in part, an interior chamber revealing footage from the World Wide Web, which soldiers –against the regime in power– shot while on patrol. The last work, which was also very political in nature, The Soul Train (2018) was actually censored by the very museum that commissioned it! This work explores civil unrest in this country in the 1960s. I thought its attempt at revealing this critical time period was crucial, perhaps too much so –given our current demonstrations and unrest in the U.S., which has emerged on the tip of the COVID-19 virus and as sparked by the murder of George Floyd.

Dara Birnbaum
Arabesque, 2011
(Partial view)
Four-channel video installation; four audio stereo channels; 6 min 30 sec., looped
Installation view, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 2011
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
Photo Credit: John Berens
Copyright: Dara Birnbaum

KP: 

Have you observed any significant changes in the way feminist artists express themselves through video or other/new mediums?

Db: 

I have basically followed the dynamics of the changes that have occurred in mass media over the decades. Thereby, my concentration has not been in feminist art, although I am included in the category of ‘feminism’ in the arts. I have definitely attempted to unwrap the role of women, mainly historically, through such works as Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, Arabesque, and Erwartung/Expectancy, etc. Works regarding the ‘role’ of men on TV have perhaps been less noted, although I feel they are equally strong, such as Pop-Pop Video: Kojak/Wang (1980). I think that grouping women artists into a feminist category can limit the reading of the work of the many women artists I know. There was a wonderful poster by the Guerilla Girls, which in part stated: “Don’t worry, any art you make will be called feminist”. This is not to discredit, at all, those women working very hard on the ability for women to strongly express themselves and also choosing to make strong statements directly affecting their voice through their gender. However, I have not followed through on those significant changes made by ‘feminist artists’ through video and other mediums. Perhaps now, with a bit more acceptance of ‘women artists’ their voices are all the more strongly felt and heard. 

Dara Birnbaum
Kiss the Girls: Make Them Cry, 1979
Two-channel color video, two channels stereo audio; 6 min 26 sec., looped
Installation view, The Art Institute Chicago, 2019
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
Copyright: Dara Birnbaum

KP: 

What does someone like yourself think when watching the news today, especially with all these ongoing disturbances set off by the global pandemic and the current social unrest? To what extent do you feel artists will get influenced by these and how will they respond?

Db: 

The only agreement I may have with our current president is that there is what he chooses to call ‘fake news’. Since the mid-60s in America, the news has been ‘owned’ by corporations, such as CBS, ABC, NBC, and CNN. Before that time, historically, news was not owned by corporations. The mid-60s was a turning point in America, with the killing of major important leaders ‘on the left’ such as John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. However, ‘fake news’ is also a horrible term –causing one not to believe in anything, or any attempt to get real news across to the people of a country. It is just that if one chooses to educate oneself, it becomes possible to read the prejudices involved with most news stations. I would say that the majority of reporters in this country make a great attempt to give facts, but during such difficult times, ‘truth’ is very hard to come by. The use of the term ‘fake news’ is for this president an attempt to shut down valid news reporting, so that nothing can be believed. That is a crime and takes away from our first amendment rights. Artists have always questioned a dominant way of looking at the world. I believe that one gift of art is that perception is challenged and new observations can be made. The currency of these times challenges all, including artists. I would think that many artists will comment directly on this unique and critical time period. Others may choose to carry on the work they already have been engaged with, despite the overwhelming crises of this time. I would like to think that it is not the responsibility of artists to always and directly reflect their times. However, many may choose this path and that certainly can be for the good of a society. Already some people here, in the arts, are almost readily dictating that the only path an artist can choose, at this time, is to reflect the crisis we are in. I think this will happen naturally but does not have to be a dictate that all artists must pursue.

Dara Birnbaum
Transmission Tower: Sentinel, 1992
(Detail)
Eight-channel color video, nine channels stereo audio, two sections of Rohm steel transmission tower, custom-designed hardware and brackets
Installation view “Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011” at MoMA PS1, 2019/2020 
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
Photo Credit: Alex Yudzon
Copyright: Dara Birnbaum

KP: 

Do you see the beginnings of a new era in artistic expression following such paramount events?

Db: 

Such epic events as the COVID-19 pandemic and recent protests and demonstrations, strongly based in current critical movements, such as Black Lives Matter, will certainly have an effect on many artists and creative people in the United States. I do think a new era in expression will evolve. In the U.S. there, for decades now, has been an emphasis on the marketing and commodification of art. Art was beginning to be seen as stock to some people, including investing and collecting enterprises. An earnest love of artwork seems to have been replaced by a wheeling and dealing mentality toward finding ‘genius’ artists, who are then collected. Just now, in the U.S., our unemployment is greater than it had been during the Great Depression. The art market is prepared for a serious hit. Perhaps a time of experimentation and freedom from commodification can re-emerge. That would seem to be a very good thing. We are at a point of inevitable destruction if we continue the ways in which we have lived and how we have treated our planet. We must choose a path out of this destruction, or we will be at the beginning of an end. Artists have, historically, paved the way for new insights and it is my hope that this can happen again.

The dream of life in the magical reality of Petrit Halilaj

The dream of life in the magical reality of Petrit Halilaj

The artistic research of Petrit Halilaj (born in Kostërrc, Skenderaj-Kosovo, in 1986) could be considered part of the artistic and literary current of the magical realism where reality and imagination, political and folklore elements, personal and collective memory are mixed.

Photo by Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy of ChertLüdde, Berlin and Petrit Halilaj

Petrit Halilaj operates on a traumatic past that links his personal experience to the history of his country of origin, Kosovo. Born during the war in the ex-Yugoslavia, the artist subsequently emigrated to Italy where he grew up and completed his artistic training. His practice consists in re-elaborating the facts of the past and the reality that constitutes it, transforming it into an imaginative universe in order to wake up the collective and personal consciousness.In a history of violence, the daily experience is interwoven with symbols that obsessively refer to  traumatic events. This characteristic can be summarized in the phrase: “I am here to remind you that that time you forgot something, but you survived” which is repeated obsessively until the everyday life is unbearable and the present is unreal.

Photo by Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy of ChertLüdde, Berlin and Petrit Halilaj

In Halilaj’s practice, the elements of reality that belong to history are transformed, they become part of a dictionary of symbols that includes birds, canaries and chickens, the nest, the ocarina, a Neolithic musical instrument, moths etc. Instead of being removed, these elements are reintegrated into a horizon of poetic creation that returns to act on reality by modifying it. Shkrepëtima, the exhibition presented at the Merz Foundation in Turin in 2019, curated by Leonardo Bigazzi, on the occasion of the awarding of the Mario Merz prize, is the representation of an awakening of consciousness. Shkrepëtima, in fact, is an Albanian term that means ‘lightning’, as in a ‘flash of genius’, or in the expressions “Eureka! I got it, I understand”. It is an expression that indicates the awakening of the mind, in the complete sense of body, soul and intellect. The exhibition was the final event of a project divided into three parts: the first consisting of a large-scale performative effort presented at the Casa della Cultura in Runik, the artist’s city of origin, on July 7, 2018.

Photo by Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy of ChertLüdde, Berlin and Petrit Halilaj

The theatrical performance was part of the final event, of a real and direct intervention by the artist within the space that had been left neglected and abandoned due to the war. Back in Runik, Halilaj decided to ‘occupy’ the House of Culture by reorganizing its spaces and cleaning it from the rubble. With the latter, he then created sculptures that gave birth to the scenography of the performance and which were subsequently installed at the Merz Foundation. The main work of this scenography titled Dreaming on, fast asleep, your face came to my mind.

Photo by Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy of ChertLüdde, Berlin and Petrit Halilaj

When I open my eyes it was nowhere to be found (2018), is a ‘nest-bed’ from which millions of fragments of wood that seem to have exploded branch off in the air. The plot of the show is the story of a boy who falls asleep and dreams of some characters, half man and half bird, who explain to him how he can save the House of Culture. Following the artistic performance, which also involved the citizens of Runik, the space was finally declared as part of the cultural heritage and, therefore, worthy of being preserved. Changing reality through imagination is an act of refuge and escape at the same time. Precisely through the creation of a parallel world we can accept reality and what is its very essence, the solitude and the absurdity of life. The second moment of this project was an exhibition at the Paul Klee Zentrum in Bern, an occasion that eventually represented a link with his previous artistic effort.

Petrit Halilaj
Poisoned by men in need of some love (Falco Peregrinus, Falco berigora), 2013/2020
iron, cow excrement, soil, glue, brass
57 × 253 × 201 cm (22 ½ × 99 ⅝ × 79 ⅛ inches)

The sculptures of the series Poisoned by men in need of some love are hand-sculpted copies of many of the taxidermy animals once displayed in the former Natural History Museum of Kosovo.
Funded in 1951, the museum existed until 2001, when an official decree ordered that the museum’s entire animal collection would be removed and stored in a rather unsafe way, behind hidden doors in various cellar-like storage facilities. The artist discovered the the lost museum collection and its destroyed animals between 2011 and 2013. The video July 14th documents step by step their rediscovery.
The sculptures are made from a mix of earth and animal excrement, partly from the artist’s native Kosovo, and based on the found photographs portraying the state of the animals before they were removed. Copies from photographic copies of already dead originals, they convey a sense of absurdity, levity, but also incredible tenderness.
Halilaj’s project attempts to give the museum and its specimens another life and a renewed political resonance.


On display were some of the sculptures made in Runik and a video installation, The city roofs were so near that even a sleepwalking cat could pass over Runik without ever touching the ground (2017), where the artist shows the story of the archaeological findings of the Neolithic period discovered in the same region; among these there is also an ocarina, a musical instrument whose sound can be used to imitate the verse of birds, and which recalls the sound of a flute and that now is kept in the History Museum of Belgrade in Serbia. The exhibition also featured some installations of the RU exhibition presented in 2017 at the New Museum in New York. Among these, particularly worthy of a mention is the work Big Wall (2017), a wall built from a set of branches from which small sculptures emerge, as faithful reproduction of the archaeological finds discovered in Runik, to which the artist has added thin bird-like legs, creating half-object and half-volatile mutant creatures, entangled in huge giant nests.

Petrit Halilaj
I don't have a Room, I don't have a Mind. 
Nevermind!, 2014
Canary costume
Dimensions variable

The exhibition at the Paul Klee Center also presented a series of drawings of birds and the same fantastic creatures, object-bird hybrids, this time made on the documents and the accounts of the Theater. Birds are something that may appear seemingly innocent and that that we believe we can dominate and control for life, locked in a cage, perhaps a golden one. But suddenly they wake up, and they wake us up, with their singing and their voice.

Something that at the same time welcomes us and rejects us. Something that looks at us from the other side, they always observe us. No matter what we do, they constantly appear before us as intruders in our city life. The final phase of the Shkrepëtima project is the installation at the Merz Foundation, which reproduces the space of the Runik Culture House and where the sculptures and installations that served for the sets were transferred. Also part of the display were the ‘bird-man’ costumes, used by the actors and personally made by the artist, a figure, halfway between the human world and the natural world, with divinatory and supernatural powers. These characters cross the boundaries between dream and reality and like birds they communicate and they know no barriers or boundaries.

Petrit Halilaj, Alvaro at Night (13.01.2020), 2020
Wood, metal, fabric, speakers, mp3 player, sound, Variable dimension
40 × 23 × 43 cm (15 ¾ × 9 × 16 ⅞ inches) 10 min. 48 sec. loop

Alvaro at Night (13.01.2020) is a sound installation by Petrit Halilaj. In this work, Halilaj built a birdhouse and placed in it a recording of his partner and occasional collaborator, Alvaro Urbano, while sleeping on January 13 2020. 
Embracing the symbol of the nest as a shelter and a protective structure, the work provides a glimpse into the private sphere. Both charming and effacing, Alvaro at Night invites reflection upon the balance of love, the sometimes disruptive consequences of sharing a life as complementary parts of human nature.
The work is an ongoing series continued individually by both artists. Alvaro Urbano’s series Petrit at Night is a series of birdhouses with sound recordings of Halilaj sleeping. Each birdhouse contains a recording from a different night, and has a unique shape.
The two groups of works, which refer to each other, constitute the notion of a continuously developing portrait of a partner.

The bird man with a feathered hat allows everyone to dream, but not in order to close the world outside and not even to close it inside, but to sink into the abyss of the imagination, transforming the world into a possibility when also reality. The textile medium is continuously present in Halilaj’s artistic practice, we have a relevant example in the work Do you realize there is a rainbow even if it’s night? presented at the Venice Biennale in 2017 and at the exhibition at the Hummer Projects in 2018. The artist made a series of moth-shaped costumes by hand with the help of his mother, which were then worn by the artist to interact with the visitors of the exhibition. The costume and the mask are therefore the means that allows Halilaj to communicate what is not immediately conveyable, what in fact can only be expressed through body language, what is needed to find the strength that allows us to manifest our nature without having fear of showing our fragility. Like moths, which transform and evolve in various stages and in various directions. Starting in 2014 Petrit Halilaj began a creative journey together with the Madrid-born artist Alvaro Urbano. The two, in parallel with their individual practice, have developed a research that reflects the possibilities of a coexistence in a humanized horizon of natural elements. Almost at the beginning of their coexistence, Halilaj and Urbano decided to have canaries as pets in their study and to take care of them. But instead of locking them in a cage they left them free, or rather in a condition of semi-freedom. Thus starting a process that closely resembles that used by falconers and that in technical jargon in the breeding of hunting birds is called ‘manning’.

Photo by Andrea Rossetti Courtesy of ChertLüdde, Berlin and Petrit Halilaj

“For the birds” is the work conceived after a year of residence in Villa Romana in Florence and subsequently presented in the group show “Trouble in Paradise” at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn. The installation consisted of a path designed to make the canaries fly from the apartment where the artists lived to their studio, a tubular structure made of a fence net for chickens and of  wire which followed the flight of the birds.

The manning of birds in falconry is a very ancient art. The birds of prey in particular could not and should never be completely domesticated since otherwise they would lose their hunting instinct. In the manuals of the 17th century this coexistence without submission based on mutual respect is obtained through patience, gentleness and love. And still today in Mongolia, and in the regions on the border between Russia, Kazakhstan and in Korea, there are nomadic tribes that live together with the Golden Eagles. Eagles that are not restrained in cages but that share the same spaces as humans, sleeping and eating with them, exactly like the canaries of Halilaj and Urbano.

Halilaj’s research summarizes and expands within a horizon that goes from Surrealism to Arte Povera that then collects the most recent performative heritage that goes from Joseph Beuys to Felix Gonzales Torres. Petrit Halilaj’s art has to do with cure and remedy, even when this involves fatigue and pain. Imagination plays an important role here and can be understood in many ways. In Halilaj’s practice, in fact, he seems to gather the power of a defense mechanism, a barrier between ourselves and the world around us, which protects us when we don’t agree with it or we don’t like it. But it is also, at the same time, a remedy for pain when we cannot find the words to express it. Fantasy detaches from reality and leaves room for the intervention of various symbols that remind us of the power of life. These symbols bring with them what has upset us and how we have saved ourselves. They remind us of how we survived and what threatened us, acquiring the power to subvert and change reality. It is as if they were resurrecting a tree branch, a childhood memory, a piece of straw, and transforming it into something alive, like a nest.

Elda Oreto

Arcangelo Sassolino. The concept of becoming and the dynamics between risk and possibility.

Arcangelo Sassolino. The concept of becoming and the dynamics between risk and possibility.

by Alice Zucca

In the history of the Universe as taught by physics, what appears and disappears, or what from energy is transformed into matter and vice versa, the totality of the energy is not what is conserved, but what are preserved are its determinations. They appear and disappear, in their transformative process that begins with the primordial energy that generates them, and to which they return as they always transform themselves back into energy. The creation of individual determinations from the totality of energy and their transformation back into energy does not subtract and does not add anything to the totality of energy itself, because its initial value appears constant over time, in constants that do not increase or decrease the amount of matter that has existed and has conserved for billions of years, in its original meaning and in its determinations, in continuous change.

Arcangelo Sassolino, Purgatory, 2016

Physical processes do not create matter, they manipulate it, modify it, transform it, producing other objects with the matter that already exists; “modification”, “transformation” and “production” are the foundations that regulate the fate of all existing entities. Having said that, transformations always involve a degree of risk and this risk can have a positive or negative outcome, it therefore implies failure, but should failure be the outcome of the experimental process, would the risk only assume a negative connotation? “Failure is the sudden eruption of nothingness into existence” said Samuel Beckett, but if we have seen how the existing always has a constant presence over time even in its various forms and vibrations, a positive or negative transformation that occurs, always refers to the field of the existing, representing a possibility, which here we define as risk, so the field of what’s possible tends to the unknown, to the so called “nothing”, that, we can rightly say now, “it’s still something”.

Arcangelo Sassolino, THE WAY WE WERE, 2018

And this is true, if we think about Antonius Block and his short game interval with Death, where he must have experienced more than he would have done during a lifetime. In the end, he certainly loses, but he does something rare. Not only does he transform failure into art, but he manages to make the art of failing a profound part of the art of living. Arcangelo Sassolino, goes even further in the awareness of risk. He is aware that his experiments may not hold up to the forces that he himself puts in place but this possible collateral damage wants to represent an additional value, becoming precisely the existential metaphor of the concepts of risk and failure. His installations explore the behavior and mechanical limits of matter, he forces their characteristics to distort their shape, gravity, pressure, friction, statics, and of each possibility Sassolino contemplates the risks of collapse with its precise timing and programming.

Arcangelo Sassolino, THE WAY WE WERE, 2018

An artistic research focused on the interaction between heterogeneous forces and materials, often of an industrial nature, from which works characterized by a unique aesthetic are born. Arcangelo Sassolino experiments with the possibilities of matter by accelerating a transformative process that forces its physical limits, bringing out the unexpected as a form and as a sound, as he himself states. His dynamic sculptures are configured as systems of great psychic and emotional impact; they are existential metaphors of vital and physical processes linked to the consciousness of the spectator who is constantly placed in a psychological condition of tension and direct confrontation with the risks of a work in which real physical forces, tensions, frictions and pressures are set in motion, transformations that take place between materials and surfaces, masses and structures, spaces and men. The ongoing transformations to which the viewer himself is subjected make the works of Sassolino experimental models of emotion with respect to the sense of destruction and reconstruction in correspondence with emotional cycles, depressions (collapses) and exaltations (explosions) of the possible.

Arcangelo Sassolino, Figurante, 2010

One of the most relevant concepts that Deleuze offers us is the concept of becoming, he criticizes the traditional way of conceiving this concept, for us, conventionally, becoming means to transform, to pass from one state to another state, a series of evolutions that have a starting point and an almost inevitable end point. In Deleuze the becoming takes place in the middle. What does this mean? One of the most complex concepts of his philosophy is explained by Deleuze through the example of the novel Moby Dick. In this novel we witness the confrontation between a whale and a man, this confrontation, encounter, clash, of forces, between two very different and distant subjectivities constitutes in Deleuze the preconditions for the whale to become man and man to become a whale. This does not mean that a transformation is taking place in Ahab and that the whale can become a man. But what really happens at some point is that Ahab, through this interaction, begins to feel, to perceive, to get excited, to plan according to the rhythms dictated by the whale. The whale and the man are taken in a process of becoming that involves them and that transforms them leading them to meet in a middle zone in which one is no longer the whale and the other is no longer the man but they are linked. in a series of relationships, of concatenations that actually transport them into a dimension that is not the one from which they started. So, to start the process of becoming it’s first necessary to be taken, in Deleuze one never becomes voluntarily, it is not a transformation that is asked by our consciousness, it is more like being overwhelmed by a transformation.

Arcangelo Sassolino, Damnatio memoriae, 2016

What happens when we stand in front of a work by Sassolino and what happens in the dynamics of the undergoing forces and spaces that come into effect is primarily this principle. This game of balance between forces is especially transposed in the relationship between the whole system and the architecture that welcomes it and, most importantly, in the relationship between the work and the viewer that is placed in a psychological condition of tension and in a direct exchange with the variables of the risks of the installation, producing a real physical sensation. To better understand this point we could just think of installations such as “Rimozione”, at the Galleria Arte e Ricambi in Verona where he removed a portion of the floor from the space of the gallery, raising it, defying gravity, looming over the heads of the spectators.

Arcangelo Sassolino, Rimozione, 2004

A becoming in the middle, of man and matter that are carried by the forces in action of which the work is composed. In fact, both the trauma of the tear in the floor obtained with the evident use of physical force, and the tension between the gravity of the sculpture and its aerial location are elements that hardly leave indifferent. Contrasts, frictions and scars mark an aesthetic of the risk, based on balances pushed to the limit and which by association of ideas recall those contrasts, frictions and scars that we experience every day simply through our intrinsic existence.


Interview with Jonathan Monaghan

Jonathan Monaghan in conversation with Alexandra Gilliams

Jonathan Monaghan is an artist working across multiple mediums, including installation, sculpture, and print, with a common thread exploring the fragility of dependency placed on technology and consumerism.

Using video game software and 3D printers, his haunting, yet playful pieces merge historical references with sci-fi, and morph contemporary anxieties into surreal, technological outcomes. In other words, the outcomes of a hyper-capitalist, technological society if it were to further develop and eventually succeed. By using classical, Baroque motifs, Monaghan intersects the future with the past through the repulsion evoked by decadence and exhibitionism, aligning it with similar feelings induced by social media and consumerist culture. Soft-looking cushions have been manipulated into obscure shapes, and are superimposed with electronics and golden surveillance cameras. Others tend to be ambiguous, resembling commercial products or spaceships mimicking Fabergé eggs, complete with cameras and consumerist objects created for convenience, such as bike-share stations and vending machines. Monaghan has created a new world: a dystopian, consumerist police state under the seductive guise of gilded ornamentation and decadent imagery.

Disco Beast 2016. video (color, sound), media player, screen or projector, 18 min loop. Music by Furniteur. Disco Beast follows a psychedelic unicorn as it wanders through a series of empty commercial spaces, including an abandoned shopping mall and a luxury hotel lobby. The work references both medieval iconography of a unicorn in captivity and its appearance in popular culture to build a new mythology about modern confinement by technology and materialism. This symbol of otherworldliness and the unobtainable in discord with banal, corporate spaces in the piece elicits subconscious anxieties surrounding globalization and consumerism.

AG: Could you describe what your days have been like during confinement? Are there any new pieces that you are currently working on?

JM: I’ve been in quarantine making artwork. I’ve had a lot of exhibitions and shows postponed and cancelled so this is an opportunity to make new work. It has, I think, influenced my work quite a bit. I’m working on a new piece right now following these wolves that are scavenging these empty grocery stores and environments from our consumer culture – so it’s a surreal, dreamlike film that looks at our fears and anxieties that we have about the current situation but also about the future in general.

AG: You’re working more with video animation than with sculptures and prints?

JM: It’s a little hard for me to work with the physical mediums right now because number one, there’s just not many opportunities to exhibit them right now, and number two, I work often with fabricators and other people – I use a lot of digital fabrication and a lot of 3D printing, so a lot of those services are delayed a little bit because of the situation. So I have been focusing more on the video work which has always been the central focus of my practice and it allows me to be more fluid in the ways I exhibit it.

Animus / Animus is a series of sculptures evoking animals entombed in ornamented couch-like skins. Fabricated in materials such as marble and gold, the works elicit the aesthetics of baroque decorative arts, while conjuring notions of confinement by technology and materialism.

AG: Your pieces are loaded with references: classical art, technology, surveillance, capitalism, consumerism, science fiction, mythology, video games… From where have you been inspired to make these references?

JM: A lot of what I do is combine elements that are very familiar to us from the present day, things like consumer products and company logos. This is very much in the tradition of American pop artists who look at our consumer culture with a critical eye, and examine this culture that we are all apart of. In addition to that, I take elements that have a reference to art history, whether that’s Baroque architecture or historical artworks, and I combine all of these different things together to create essentially what I call a “new mythology.” Mythological stories have traditionally been invented or used as a means to help people cope with the unknown, or with what they’re scared of. One that might have a relevance or pertinence to our present situation, so these different elements combined seem familiar but sometimes it can be new and alien, and dreamlike all at the same time.

Sentries 2019. custom wall decals Sentries is a series of custom wall decals. Candy-colored, yet unsettling, the large installations take on a confrontational presence. With computer-generated imagery of soft fabrics juxtaposed near ambiguous electronic devices and surveillance cameras, these cryptic works draw attention to the increasingly blurry lines between the organic and artificial.

AG: I find your use of Baroque motifs to be quite compelling, and you have mentioned the similar ties between social media and Baroque extravagance. What are some of your ideas behind connecting classical imagery with contemporary themes of technology and consumerism?

JM: I think we live in a very decadent time with our obsessions with technology and consumer goods and consumer items, so often I will draw references to the Baroque era through architecture and through the artworks of that era – I think decadence often leads to downfall. I think it provides a cautionary message for the way we live our lives today, and what that could lead to, particularly in the context of whether there are ecological consequences of our consumer culture or our open dependence on technology and the alienation that comes with that.

Beam Me Up 2019. powder coated steel frame, 3D-printed rose gold-plated brass, LED display. 18 in x 29 in x 3 in Beam Me Up is a series of computer animations housed in ornate frames. The video depicts an otherworldly scene where an egg-like form emerges from a portal, only to be sucked backed in. The work contrasts a wide-array of references, such as baroque architecture, science fiction, designer fabrics and organic life-forms. Combining both video and sculptural elements, the work defies boundaries while drawing attention to the increasingly blurry lines between the natural and artificial.

AG: Having described that you are “attempting to create a contemporary form of mythology while referencing historical mythology”, what does creating a “mythology” for contemporary society mean to you?

JM: In one of my films, Disco Beast – this artwork follows a psychedelic unicorn through different environments. This piece, for me, was a kind of recreation of unicorn tapestries; there is a famous series of these tapestries housed in the cloisters in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. They’re medieval French tapestries that show the hunt and capture of a unicorn; this is a multi-faceted mythology. I was looking at this unicorn that was hunted and captured and “confined,” and I was thinking about that as a metaphor for us today, and our relationship to technology and our relationship to consumer culture… we are very much trapped. When the Met wrote about this artwork, they said that the unicorn could escape if it wished, that it was a particularly “happy” confinement. That, I think, is a very interesting metaphor when we look at ourselves today and our obsession with or reliance on technology, within a security and surveillance state; I’m trying to draw these parallels. There are these deep, kind of psychological connections, these mythological stories which go into the unconscious – these kinds of raw human elements – and [what I am doing is] sort of connecting that with current elements, whether that’s technology, consumer culture, etc.

Police State Condo 2017. dye-sublimation on aluminum, 3D printed 18K gold plated brass, acrylic, 3D printed acrylate, MDF frames A dystopian tone characterizes these sculptural print works as security cameras, TSA checkpoints, and ATM machines blend with designer fabrics and penthouse views to create ominous vignettes reminiscent of advertisements for posh apartments. Each work in the series is titled with a corporate slogan of a defunct American bank affected by the 2007 housing collapse. Composed of both two-dimensional imagery and 3D printed sculptural reliefs, the works occupy the liminal space between the virtual and physical.

AG: I’m interested to know more about the relationship between the organic and artificial in your pieces, where despite having no human beings in the world you have created, there are eyes, teeth… organic elements adorning artificial ones.

JM: I always strive for a strange discordance between these natural and synthetic elements. For me, it is an examination of our very discordant relationship we have to ourselves and to nature, in the context of technology. So much of our lives are lived and so many of our emotions take place on these technological platforms, and the consequences of our society ecologically are quite drastic as well, so there is a serious imbalance, I think, that’s causing a lot of problems. I am trying to personify that visually, through these tensions, these contrasts and juxtapositions between these natural and synthetic elements in my work.

Wind 2016-19 Wind is an ongoing series of animated videos and prints which re-imagine highly-ornamented building facades as flowing organic material. The result is a dream-like discordance, which examines the increasingly blurry divide between reality and the virtual, between the natural and artificial.

AG: Do you think you will display or diffuse your work in a different way during and after confinement?

JM: I have been working experimentally on online presentations, considering how people might experience the work. Ideally, my work is experienced in a physical space – in an art gallery or museum or some sort of public space, so the videos are really not designed to be looked on on a small screen at home. There is actually no beginning nor end to my works, there’s not a spot where you are supposed to press play. These works are seamless loops, and so you enter a physical space and you are presented with the work at any point in time and you just sort of jump into this world for however long you want, and then you leave. So it’s definitely a different situation in terms of exhibiting in these online platforms.

AG: You work across a variety of disciplines, including 3D printed sculptures, inkjet prints, wall decals, and video animations. Would you ever consider making an interactive piece?

JM: I am very interested in these platforms, and I guess today they makes more sense. One of the things that I really enjoy when I display my work, [is that] I display them as these large video installations, so you go into a physical gallery and you see a large projection on the wall or on some sort of surface. You are oftentimes experiencing that with other people in the gallery, so there is a sort of communal, social aspect to these works, you are immersed in this world together, and I really enjoy that. Moving onto these more isolated viewing experiences, whether it’s at home, on the computer, or through a VR [headset], it’s definitely a different situation. That is a challenge for myself and other artists to remove the social aspect of experiencing artwork.

AG: What are a few things have been the most therapeutic or inspirational for you during confinement?

JM: Definitely cooking and food, I am doing a lot more cooking. I guess also, wine and alcoholic beverages are therapeutic! I’m a little ashamed of it, but I’ve been playing video games more than usual. We’re just so isolated in here and you can “get out” virtually.

Rainbow Narcosis 2012. video (color, sound), media player, screen or projector, 9 min loop. Music by Evan Samek. Rainbow Narcosis follows a headless lamb through a series of otherworldly environments. With a visual style that shifts between photo-realism and video games, the work highlights the increasing disconnect between whats real and whats mediated. From the Palais Garnier to an art-filled modernist loft, the subject matter references wealth and power, while maintaining an unsettling ambiguity.

Interview with JAKOB KUDSK STEENSEN

JAKOB KUDSK STEENSEN in conversation with Alexandra Gilliams

During a trip last year to Venice, Italy for the Biennale, I wandered into the Palazzo Ca’ Tron, a Venetian Renaissance palace that was hosting the Future Generation Art Prize exhibition. I walked into a long hall adorned with decorative molding, marble, and large-scale Renaissance paintings. Two sections of the floor were covered in wood chips, and in the center of these sections were metal towers hoisting black computer engines and holograms of forests. Next to them, visitors swayed in place, their heads softly turning underneath bulky virtual reality headsets. Intrigued, I placed one on and, through sense of sight, touch, and hearing, got lost in an alien forest, guided by the haunting echo of an extinct bird… RE-ANIMATED was my first experience in one of the vast and beautiful virtual worlds created by Danish artist and New York City resident, Jakob Kudsk Steensen.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen Field work in the Camargue, Saline de Giraud 
Credit: Courtesy of the artist

Immersing himself in a salt flat and wetland over 5 months, Jakob Kudsk Steensen documents salt crystals, algae, mud and bacteria at macro level. This is done by taking 100-300 macro-photos of single elements like mud, algae and salt, then converted into highly sensory and delicate virtually simulated worlds.  Credit: Jakob Kudsk Steensen, 2020
All visual and audio material is collected within the landscape. Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s work will accumulate as an ultra local engagement with macro-life processes, and how these relate to global patterns in wind, water and salt, in an international lucid virtual medium. 

By collaborating with field biologists, NGO’s, researchers, and artists across all disciplines, Steensen creates ecological simulations that envelop the senses and elicit connectivity to an environment. They are played on VR headsets, in large scale installations, and through augmented reality on cell phones. After periods of research, he ventures into rural landscapes for months at a time, where he quite literally plunges in. He crawls through the environment with a macro lens, photographing and experiencing his surroundings, and returns to his studio where he places his scans onto 3D models that he sculpts in virtual reality. One of his most recent pieces, The Deep Listener, was commissioned by the Serpentine Gallery in London, where he studied the environment of the Kensington Gardens. He created an AR application for smartphones that can be used while walking through the park that heightens the sense of sight and sound, immersing the user more deeply into their surroundings.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Catharsis, 2019-20
Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning
Courtesy of the artist
Catharsis installation, at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, 2020. Public welcome, free outdoor installation open 24/7 connected to a global live-stream video.
Catharsis is a large-scale, immersive installation that pulls audiences into a digital simulation of a re-imagined old-growth forest. Jakob Kudsk Steensen and his primary collaborator Matt McCorkle, and its virtual ecosystem and synchronized spatial audio were built from 3D textures and sounds collected from North American Forests. Catharsis draws on Kudsk Steensen’s concept of ‘slow media’, using digital technologies to draw to create new narratives on our ecological futures. 


I sat down with Steensen on Zoom to discuss the crystalline environment that he and his collaborators are developing during his residency at the Luma Foundation in Arles, France, as well as his plans for the future in the midst of COVID-19.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Catharsis, 2019-20
Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning
Courtesy of the artist
Catharsis installation, at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, 2020. Public welcome, free outdoor installation open 24/7 connected to a global live-stream video.
Catharsis is a large-scale, immersive installation that pulls audiences into a digital simulation of a re-imagined old-growth forest. Jakob Kudsk Steensen and his primary collaborator Matt McCorkle, and its virtual ecosystem and synchronized spatial audio were built from 3D textures and sounds collected from North American Forests. Catharsis draws on Kudsk Steensen’s concept of ‘slow media’, using digital technologies to draw to create new narratives on our ecological futures. 

ALEXANDRA GILLIAMS: First off, how are you doing?

JAKOB KUDSK STEENSEN: I am doing okay. Fortunately, we are doing a project in the South of France with the Luma Art Foundation, we already had a residency. We were given a nice, beautiful flat next to this wetland called the Carmague. In January, February, and March, I was 3D scanning different, beautiful crystallization processes in the wetland that are formed by algae, by bacteria, salt, water, wind – very basic life components. Right when we had the lockdown, I had already scanned the material and was entering a period of collaboration with different artists by building [the simulation] virtually. I have been coping with this situation by being able to really focus on my work as an artist and express myself, by working with these materials from the landscape, which is making me think a lot about the lack of physical touch and connection to a landscape, and what that means when you’re working with it virtually. 

We’ve been quite fortunate that we’ve had this residency and this big project lined up, but I also had multiple shows cancelled, and I was sad about that. But we are happy about the conditions we are under. I spent three months going to the landscape, and using a big macro lens I took about three hundred photos of different small objects, such as salt crystals. From those photos, I reconstruct them in 3D, I then have a whole landscape digitized that way. I had all the source material, all of the photographs… I did my last shoot the day before the lockdown happened, we were capturing different sky lights. The lockdown happened right before I was set up to fully work virtually.

I work with different people in Kiev, in New York, and Canada, and we have a virtual collaboration platform where we all log in, connect to a virtual space, and build together at the same time. It was kind of this uncanny thing where, I was working with these basic bacterial processes in a landscape, documenting them, and working in this international network platform that I had built for my studio right when COVID hit. So there was this uncanny condition where I felt like I was already working on something kind of similar in theme, and the way that I am creating, to what’s happening now. It almost feels like the future kind of became what I was working with before.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen, The Deep Listener, 2019
Courtesy of the artist
Selected as the first Serpentine Augmented Architecture commission, Kudsk Steensen created The Deep Listener, inviting the public on a journey to both see and hear the sights
and sounds of five of London’s species that are part of the park ecosystem that might otherwise be ignored, intangible or simply invisible. Through the innovative use of
Augmented Reality, VR, Spatial audio visual simulations and what he refers to as a Slow Media approach. His installations allow the public to experience the natural world in an
accessible, informative and playful digital format. Drawing on the principles of deep listening, Kudsk Steensen and sound artist Matt McCorkle to represent five species as Audio
visualizations drawn directly from organic source material from Hyde Park.


AG: Could you describe what your daily routine has been like while being in confinement?

JKS: I sleep, and then I wake up. I have coffee, and then I go for a walk by the river. It’s really cool because there aren’t a lot of boats, so there are hundreds of these massive salmon and giant catfish that you can see in the river… they swim right up to the side. So I’m walking in the morning in the sun, around 10 or something, down this river, watching the fish, and then I go up to my studio; I have this big, beautiful sunlit room. I turn on my computer, I have some more coffee, then I link up with my collaborators. What they were working on on the East Coast in the states, they check in the evening, then it arrives in my landscape when I wake up, then I start working on it. 

I just passed off the work to the sound artist who’s in Brooklyn right now. We were all supposed to be here together, but we can’t because of COVID. They were supposed to arrive in April through to the middle of May. There’s a sound artist that I work with who was supposed to record these insect and frog sounds in the landscape… we did some first recording with him in December but because he can’t be here now, what’s happened, which I find interesting, is that I have to connect with a lot of people from here and collaborate with them. We are using sounds from some natural history archives in the region, and there is someone that I work with on capturing sky lights, where you capture the light from the sky and you use that to create lights in the virtual landscape to get a texture of feeling – a kind of realism. He used to work on films in Hollywood and then moved back to France to this small town. It’s interesting because I am working with the local landscape and I am collaborating to a greater extent than I did in the past with people from this area. it’s making me think that in the future, I might do a project where the landscapes I work in, I will work with people from that region. They might know or have certain perspectives on an area that I don’t have.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen, The Deep Listener, 2019
Courtesy of the artist
Selected as the first Serpentine Augmented Architecture commission, Kudsk Steensen created The Deep Listener, inviting the public on a journey to both see and hear the sights
and sounds of five of London’s species that are part of the park ecosystem that might otherwise be ignored, intangible or simply invisible. Through the innovative use of
Augmented Reality, VR, Spatial audio visual simulations and what he refers to as a Slow Media approach. His installations allow the public to experience the natural world in an
accessible, informative and playful digital format. Drawing on the principles of deep listening, Kudsk Steensen and sound artist Matt McCorkle to represent five species as Audio
visualizations drawn directly from organic source material from Hyde Park.


AG: How did you first become interested in technology, and can you describe what drove your choice in pursuing the arts?

JKS: I was quite fascinated by video games when I was a kid. When I was about 13, I got this video game called Unreal, and it came with a software that you use to create the game, so you can modify it. As a teenager, I started modifying the games that I was fascinated by. The first thing I wanted to do was be an animator for video games, but then I did the test for animation school and I had to draw the same character seventeen times, and I just immediately knew that this was not the direction for me. From then, I wanted to be an artist, to go to an art academy, create art, so I started painting a lot in the beginning. My paintings were inspired by virtual landscapes, but then at some point six years ago, instead of creating virtual worlds and taking pictures of those landscapes and painting them, I decided why not just build them? 

It’s been a lifelong passion for me. What I grew up with first as a kid was more entertainment, gaming was more socially stigmatized than it is today, it wasn’t considered a mature art form, but there were artists making work about the culture of video games, the aesthetics of video games, but not many artists were diving deep into the technology used to create video games and doing something different with it. 

That’s how I really started professionally, doing projects, showing in museums, getting commissions… That’s when I really chose to focus as much as I could in reaching the core of my passion, and that is going to landscapes, digitizing material – kind of like an e-material form of extraction, where you are not taking anything physical, but sounds, pictures, virtual textures from reality – and using video game software to create something that doesn’t really have anything to do with video games but it’s more responsive, it’s alive. It has composition, color, sound, movement; there’s a lot of aesthetic, beautiful elements of that technology. I’ve been fascinated with this since I was a kid, but within the past few years I have become kind of self aware of why it is fascinating to me… making video game worlds without any video game element – no guns, no action – just poetic landscapes.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen, The Deep Listener, 2019
Courtesy of the artist
Selected as the first Serpentine Augmented Architecture commission, Kudsk Steensen created The Deep Listener, inviting the public on a journey to both see and hear the sights
and sounds of five of London’s species that are part of the park ecosystem that might otherwise be ignored, intangible or simply invisible. Through the innovative use of
Augmented Reality, VR, Spatial audio visual simulations and what he refers to as a Slow Media approach. His installations allow the public to experience the natural world in an
accessible, informative and playful digital format. Drawing on the principles of deep listening, Kudsk Steensen and sound artist Matt McCorkle to represent five species as Audio
visualizations drawn directly from organic source material from Hyde Park.


Jakob Kudsk Steensen, RE-ANIMATED, 2019
Courtesy of the artist
RE-ANIMATED, Installation at the 2019 Venice Biennial, Future Generations Art Prize nomination – 5 meter monolithic screen, Room-scale VR, 4k Video, Mulch, Wood
RE-ANIMATED is a magnificent reanimation of the bird and its song, inhabiting a distorted digital reconstruction of the Kaua’i ʻōʻō’s original habitat on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i. REANIMATED’s
virtual world comes to life with interactive audio that includes algorithmic music composed by Michael Riesman, Musical Director for the Philip Glass Ensemble. Plants, moss, and insects respond to the pulse of music generated in real-time, and the audience’s breath organically impacts the virtual atmosphere. As a result, the VR experience is unique for every user. 

AG: You have spoken about how climate change is a central theme in your work, but human emotions in relation to nature take precedent, and that you refer to yourself more as a romanticist than an activist. I’m interested to know what kinds of emotions you hope to evoke with your pieces, and what they mean to you in relation to nature and the climate crisis.

JKS: More or less, I am very drawn to a sense of immersion – immersion in my craft, immersion in the virtual world, and immersion in actual landscapes – there are these three elements that I work with where, for me, to create an artwork, I need to be very physically present in a landscape, sometimes for over several months. I have a suit that protects me from mud, and I crawl through mud to do photo scans – it’s very physical. There is something emotional in that – a sense of being in your own mind in a very busy time. I feel like, with social media, life today is very busy and you are bombarded with thoughts, so that creates a way of being, emotionally, where you could be constantly distressed… 

When you are in a landscape alone, for months at a time, or with a couple of people, you enter into another emotional state, and that’s the state that I am interested in working with – this sense of depth and focus, and also this sense of solitude or, looking for something that I feel like is lost. What is lost is, because of climate change, a lot of ecosystems, habitats, there is a lot of destruction happening on the planet; a lot of species are being lost. At the same time, I think being in this emotional state with a sense of solitude or focusing on one thing for three months in a specific location, is also being “lost.”

For me, all of these narratives are important, but in the end what drives me as an artist, rather than an activist, for example, is that I am driven by working with these mental states that are provoked through narratives and nature. So each project that I do I start in a specific landscape or with a specific story. I did a project with an extinct bird, and the project kind of revived that bird back to life. That was the last larger project I did, similar to what I am doing in France now. I think more and more about how the stories I work with in nature can also tell us stories about things that don’t have anything to do with nature, but is drawing a parallel. 

The project I am working on now is about bacteria and algaein the wetlands in the South of France, I am making the piece in a way where I am thinking about how that story in this specific landscape can be relevant in general, and how there are these invisible, organic processes that control all of life; this is what COVID is doing right now, too. I’m not making a work about COVID, it’s the same project I had planned to do, but I am thinking more consciously about how the narrative, or final form, can be about seeing all encompassing, otherwise invisible organic processes that shape life, in an entire landscape. This is how I typically work, which is why I think that I am equally or more, working with some kind of intuitive or imaginative approach to a landscape and the emotions that it evokes – some sensations which reach beyond what they are in nature.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen, RE-ANIMATED, 2019
Courtesy of the artist
RE-ANIMATED, Installation at the 2019 Venice Biennial, Future Generations Art Prize nomination – 5 meter monolithic screen, Room-scale VR, 4k Video, Mulch, Wood
RE-ANIMATED is a magnificent reanimation of the bird and its song, inhabiting a distorted digital reconstruction of the Kaua’i ʻōʻō’s original habitat on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i. REANIMATED’s
virtual world comes to life with interactive audio that includes algorithmic music composed by Michael Riesman, Musical Director for the Philip Glass Ensemble. Plants, moss, and insects respond to the pulse of music generated in real-time, and the audience’s breath organically impacts the virtual atmosphere. As a result, the VR experience is unique for every user. 

AG: In your simulations, you augment different parts of certain plant and animal species, such as enlarging leaves or, as in your recent piece The Deep Listener, slowing the calls of birds in order to alter the viewer’s senses. When I saw your piece RE-ANIMATED during the Venice Biennale, I felt as though I was teleported into the middle of a forest that could have been on another planet. The installation was complete with the floor covered in wood chips which made me feel as though I was walking in nature. I remember the peculiar impression that I had from the angle in which I was viewing the simulation, which was very low, making the forest seem larger than life. What kinds of sensations do you hope to conjure up within your simulations, and how do you hope that these sensations might resonate with the viewer afterwards?

JKS: I think I hope to invoke a sense of curiosity that I kind of feel like you had when you saw the work. I hope to not just make a statement or story about something, but evoke a sense of curiosity for different stories, natural histories that might be overlooked or that people don’t think about. Within those, I am playing often with scale. The relationship between, let’s say, a human scale, feeling like you have a horizon, you have controlled space, you have architecture in a virtual landscape that you can very much relate to. And then, slowly over time, you morph into a different scale, where suddenly you are the size of a mushroom or an insect. But I do this transformation so subtlety and gradually over time that you don’t really think about it until maybe all of the sudden, you are like, wait, am I really that small looking up at a tree, when before I was looking at those trees? But I never do it as if it were a cinematic cut where it would be from a canopyto an insect scale. 

Because of these simulations, I can change perspectives, sizes, speed, everything. The speed of water running down a leaf, it could be realistic, but all of the sudden, almost be in slow motion – and that is just one detail in a landscape. The leaf is a real photo scanned leaf, but I might have increased the value of how reflective it is to the sun by about 20 percent, so it becomes a little uncanny, because now it’s reflecting light around it in a little, weird way, but it’s still a photo scanned leaf. I try to play a lot with these different physics that we normally use with our senses to understand where we are in a landscape, like light, humidity, the wetness of an object or if it’s dry, does something dissolve or does it feel hard and solid… These are kinds of material properties that I spend a lot of time morphing in my work, these kinds of real-time game engine simulations where those variables can just slightly change for anybody trying one of the artworks.

AG: I remember from RE-ANIMATED emerging from a cave into a forest where a sharp, seemingly artificial blue light was almost blinding, with some kind of a hovering aircraft in the distance. Nature surrounded me, and was moving in an unnatural rhythmic motion – tree branches swaying, leaves rustling, flowers blowing… but all in-sync. There were these small metal cages resembling mosquito traps hanging from elongated, twisted wood, and in the distance, a plant with branches appeared intertwined with a neon blue light. Though you create realistic simulations of forests, would you agree that there is an element of science fiction in your work?

JKS: Definitely, I do a lot of research for my projects and then I think about how can I convert that research; It’s inspiration for me as an artist. Then I take those literal perspectives and transform them. 

I am very inspired by a lot of science fiction writers. I think that some of the most interesting science fiction has an element of truth, and often for a lot of the writers I like, such as Jeff VenderMeer,he writes this wild ecofiction where everything is kind of morphed together into these muddy constellations, and he lives in Florida. There is a relationship – you kind of need to go out and see the Everglades in order to be able to write that way. I follow the same principle. I think more and more now, with the project that I am doing here, it’s becoming more abstract and emotional, but to create that, everything that I’m working on now here in France, I still need to be in the landscape for a long time to see things I wouldn’t have seen before: textures, sounds, natural elements… so science fiction is a big inspiration.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen Field work in the Camargue, Saline de Giraud 
Credit: Courtesy of the artist

Immersing himself in a salt flat and wetland over 5 months, Jakob Kudsk Steensen documents salt crystals, algae, mud and bacteria at macro level. This is done by taking 100-300 macro-photos of single elements like mud, algae and salt, then converted into highly sensory and delicate virtually simulated worlds.  Credit: Jakob Kudsk Steensen, 2020
All visual and audio material is collected within the landscape. Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s work will accumulate as an ultra local engagement with macro-life processes, and how these relate to global patterns in wind, water and salt, in an international lucid virtual medium.

AG: What direction do you envision your work moving towards post-confinement, and have you considered how you might display or diffuse your pieces in a different way?

JKS: Definitely, I’ve shown a lot of VR the past couple of years because I love the kind of attention it can bring to people. You put on a headset – there’s no cell phone, there’s no one around you – you are focused, and I think that’s a state of mind that we are kind of missing with digital mediums today. 

But, in a public space now, it’s going to be impossible to show VR and share headsets. It’s not happening. So that makes me think, since they are virtual landscapes and simulations, they can become many other things too, you can play the work regardless of if you have a headset or not. You can send out those signals to many other things – speakers, screens, projections. I’m gonna start taking my worlds and creating these larger, immersive, physical spaces, and at the same time I’m thinking about how I can fully distribute my work online. Something I would like to do more is to work with institutions, foundations, and platforms to make work fully available for people to download and then also have the larger, immersive installs, but those wouldn’t have VR. For people who have VR headsets, they can download it from home, or on their phone, like The Deep Listener.

COVID is kind of forcing me to do something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, which is crystallize the relationship between the capabilities of the virtual as something that can be distributed to people, but also as something that can create these pulsating, interactive spaces,so I’m gonna kind of take those two forms to further extremes, and do less in between them.But it is kind of sad because this piece I am working on right now was meant to be for eight people who enter this virtual landscape together as a kind of social or ritual experience in the museum, so that element I have to completely move to make something different.

Something I’ve been doing a lot actually are artist meetups in VR. Yesterday we were 45 artists meeting in a virtual space – you put on a headset and you have a virtual avatar and everything – and I think I’m going to start embracing these fully virtual formats more, and how they can connect to the specific landscapes. 

Jakob Kudsk Steensen Field work in the Camargue, Saline de Giraud 
Credit: Courtesy of the artist

Immersing himself in a salt flat and wetland over 5 months, Jakob Kudsk Steensen documents salt crystals, algae, mud and bacteria at macro level. This is done by taking 100-300 macro-photos of single elements like mud, algae and salt, then converted into highly sensory and delicate virtually simulated worlds.  Credit: Jakob Kudsk Steensen, 2020
All visual and audio material is collected within the landscape. Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s work will accumulate as an ultra local engagement with macro-life processes, and how these relate to global patterns in wind, water and salt, in an international lucid virtual medium
.
 

AG: So not necessarily just for people with VR headsets – this could be something that you could also download, say, on your cell phone or laptop?

JKS: Yes, I would like to make it as accessible as possible. But for people who have a headset, they can still enter – this work is made for VR, the first one will be for VR, so people who have the headset can do it. But after that I will begin working on a version for a laptop like a first-person video game, you explore the landscape, it’s a very different design… sitting down in front of a screen, moving physically everything responds to you. So, I have to redo a lot of elements but suffice to say that I’m thinking a lot about how in the future I will go to a landscape, work there, work with the museum to make an installation and as an extension of that installation there are parts of that world and work that is entirely designed for a much wider distribution and usage for people to experience the work. Similar to music or apps, virtual books and so on. I think institutionally it’s bound to happen too, because so many artists are interested in this more and more, and there’s no reason you should only show these ambitious virtual artworks in a museum, when they can be so much more. 

AG: Do you think you’ll continue to make the same type of work post-confinement? By working in nature so much, do you think that your process will be different once this is over?

JKS: Definitely, I will be traveling a lot less which I enjoy, so that part is nice. What the project here has made me think a lot about has been that there are these imaginary, alien worlds everywhere. I’m working now in a super-local landscape, when you first look at it, it looks flat and there’s not a lot happening, but then when you look from a really small scale you see all of these amazing, alien transformations by salt and algae, so it has really made me think that I could be in one town and do the same work in a backyard, or anywhere really, anywhere you can find these stories. They don’t have to be these big stories of extinct birds and exotic islands; you can find this kind of inspiration anywhere.

Also, there is a strong sensory element and a discursive element to my work. What I’m really feeling that is more relevant is the stronger, emotional, sensory experiences, the sense of calm, the sense of being closely connected to the art you are experiencing. In my work, there are textures, sounds, it can be anything… these very basic, essential capabilities of an artwork is more of what I feel for myself, and that is what I am mainly interested in right now. So kind of cutting it to the art of the artwork, more than the politics or the discourse, or the narrative of it, and make it even more basic, sensory, imaginative… That’s how I’m feeling now and looking at doing things.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Catharsis, 2019-20
Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning
Courtesy of the artist
Catharsis installation, at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, 2020. Public welcome, free outdoor installation open 24/7 connected to a global live-stream video.
Catharsis is a large-scale, immersive installation that pulls audiences into a digital simulation of a re-imagined old-growth forest. Jakob Kudsk Steensen and his primary collaborator Matt McCorkle, and its virtual ecosystem and synchronized spatial audio were built from 3D textures and sounds collected from North American Forests. Catharsis draws on Kudsk Steensen’s concept of ‘slow media’, using digital technologies to draw to create new narratives on our ecological futures. 

AG: How long have you been living in New York City, and what is your opinion on it?

JKS: I lived there for six years. I am so happy for having been there, I met so many great artists. But I feel lately, in the past few years – with rent and commercialization and everything – that a lot of the art that I started to be inspired by was rarely in New York, I did all of my projects outside, to create artworks I went somewhere else, to find inspiration I went somewhere else. 

I feel like I am becoming more and more interested in ideas, art, aesthetics, thoughts, way of living, in local areas, and how different local areas can connect globally rather than trying to think that everything global is centered in different cities. This art foundation that I’m working with right now, Luma in the South of France, that’s kind of their mission – to support local design, biology, art in Southern France, but they have a powerful international network, so they are still connecting it to other places. I’m thinking a lot about archipelagos, you have different islands, they all still trade and share things, but they are still relative individual entities. 

I think with COVID, this is a system that many people have been talking about supporting and moving towards in our culture, and I am thinking that we will see more action behind these words now because of it. I think most likely, in the immediate future, you will have a better life if you live outside a major city. The situation that produces a virus and viral activity like that, is created by this global system where people need to travel a lot, really fast, to clustered places. It’s a bit symbolic I think; it’s such a sad, hard situation but it’s also a biological fact that this is not a sustainable way of life for our planet, and we are seeing the repercussions of our own behavior as humans through a virus. I love New York, I love all my friends, I love all that it has given me as an artist, but more and more I am looking towards local places and how they can be connected internationally.

AG: Has your residency been extended because of the virus, and for how long?

JKS: It has been extended, we’ll see for how long…

AG: What five things have been the most therapeutic or inspirational for you during confinement? This can be music, films, podcast, television shows, food, drinks, etc?

JKS: Fortunately in France here, we’ve been able to walk outside so, looking at the salmon in the river everyday.

The VR meetups I have been doing regularly – I know a lot of artists that work in VR but I have never been with that many people with headsets on in online spaces. That has been really fun.

I sleep really long, that has been really nice. Lots of sleep.

Wine. Good, French wine.

I haven’t really played a lot of video games for many years, but I have been playing with friends – old friends, from high school – online a couple of times a week and that’s been really been really fun. Because of those games, because they are social landscapes, I have been connecting with friends that I used to be close to before I moved to New York and became an artist, and we’ve reconnected over that. 

DOUG AITKEN: kaleidoscopic synchronicity

DOUG AITKEN: kaleidoscopic synchronicity

American artist Doug Aitken is known around the world for his multi video installations. His work covers a wide range of artistic mediums, such as video, photography, sculpture, installations and performance. His presence on the stage of the contemporary art world is documented by individual and collective exhibitions in prestigious public and private institutions, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the MoMA and the Centre Georges Pompidou. It was in the late 90s that the artist made a name for himself with the video installations Diamond Sea (1997), exhibited at the Whitney Biennial in 1997, and Electric Earth (1999) which won the Golden Lion at the 1999 Venice Biennale. Diamond Sea reveals the structural elements of Aitken’s work early in the artist’s career. For this piece, which includes simultaneous video projections, Aitken produced films and images taken in a small area of the Namib Desert that for decades has suffered the exploitation of diamond mines. The desert is transformed into a post-apocalyptic landscape and the filmed sequences are of artistic interest as well as being an historic documentary. They record moments with an autonomous visual rhythm accompanied by sounds which, in addition to highlighting visual correspondences, create an enveloping spatial effect. In this work, the history of the place becomes the starting point of a timeless synthetic experience.

Doug Aitken Underwater Pavilions, 2017, 303 Gallery, Victoria Miro, Regen Projects Video/Film video installation with 3 channels of video, color, sound

He presents his work as if it was an investigation of the many ways to perceive time from the experience. The idea of fragmentation is something that has always attracted him in the sense that, in contemporary culture, there is always a tendency to identify things in a linear way. The artist has always wanted to break with this logical perception, but always remaining in the experiential context. We are immersed in constant change. We are building new tools to mitigate it, but these only intensify the vortex of transformation. Aitken is interested in breaking the usual perception systems of the observer, as well as the traditional idea of contemplation of the artistic work. The spectator must move around and occupy all the spaces of the structure where his work is displayed. Although we are immersed in a world of increasing acceleration, to capture the individual experience is one of the aims of his art. The reproduction of a real situation produces a dissociative effect that refers to the receiver at the moment of perception. This effect offers the artist an infinite number of suggestive and thematic possibilities, free from being committed to any specific reference, as other works confirm. 

Doug Aitken migration (empire), 2008 Courtesy the artist; 303 Gallery, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; Regen Projects, LA Film Still © Doug Aitken

Migration (2008), for example, is a paradigmatic work in which a very unusual situation manages to compress its otherness into the parameters of its own normality. For this work, Aitken films wild animals in motel rooms without human presence. With no other obstacle than space itself, animals live in a foreign place, generating a situation that is both paradoxical and coherent. On the other hand, the scenographic component of the installation recalls the same feeling of timelessness which is expressed in the video sequences. Aitken creates an environment composed of three simultaneous video projections, but with minimal synchronous delay, which generates a suggestive visual rhythm with which the receiver interacts in real time.

DOUG AITKEN, installation view, Black Mirror, 2011 © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2015 PH. Norbert Miguletz

DOUG AITKEN, Black Mirror

The Black Mirror video installation (2011) highlights the elements developed in previous works. The actress Chloë Sevigny stages a character without past or intimate connections. Her performance consists of a permanent journey around the world. From country to country, from hotel to hotel, her motto is: “Check in check out/ … Customs security delay / One room single / Check in check out”. The piece presents a series of unconnected scenarios, but related to an unusual situation, triggered by a character whose unique attribute is to be like a “blank canvas”. The ability to condense the aesthetic experience in the present is related not only to the content of visual sequences or to the kaleidoscopic effects that are provoked by the simultaneous repetition of images in the same context, but it is also a property of the sounds that encapsulate the scenery. 

DOUG AITKEN, Black Mirror

DOUG AITKEN, Black Mirror

This aspect is of paramount importance in Aitken’s work, for whom sound is as crucial as the visual and spatial components and becomes an especially important factor in works like the Sonic Fountains (2013/2015),  sound installations where faucets distributed in a grid, drip with a distinctive tone according to a precisely written partition. In the water, microphones record the sound and broadcast it live in space, as if it was a concert. Sonic Fountain is a deliberately abstract work that exposes architecture and reveals rhythm, tempo and language. The search for an absolute present is seen by Doug Aitken as aesthetic parameter. However, we are talking about a multidimensional present that covers not only the expression of an epoch, its mechanisms of production and reception and its Zeitgeist, but also a deep reflection on notions such as space, time, perception and interaction. Without pathos or nostalgia, he thematizes the conditions and contradictions of a contemporary world that modestly reveals its own vulnerability. In the contradiction that arises from the attempt to deprive the present of its own history, the artist claims the autonomy of art and thus contributes to its historical renovation. 

Séverine Grosjean

Will Dubai Present the New Economic Model for the Art and Culture Industries?

Will Dubai Present the New Economic Model for the Art and Culture Industries?

by Hania Afifi

Dubai’s creative industries received a massive blow when their golden art season which starts at the beginning of February was cut short before its biggest event Art Dubai; the largest Middle Eastern art fair and its accompanying activities like the Sikka Art Festival, DIFC Art Nights and Galleries Night were realised last March.

“In my gallery for one, we truly depend on Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art for 65% of our [Middle Eastern gallery] revenue”, explains Leila Heller, owner, and director of Leila Heller galleries in Dubai and New York City. Like many other participating commercial galleries and studios, Heller’s revenue during this season and Abu Dhabi art week covered their entire annual operating expenses.

Although most of the participating galleries and institutes rushed to replace the cancelled festivities with digital versions, the authorities knew it will not suffice. Not only were the planned activities conceived for the physical realm and thus may not migrate the full experience into the digital world, many of the participants were not equipped with the necessary digital business tools and expertise to carry out online financial transactions that can sustain the needed liquidity.

Dubai Ideathon, Zoom-Still

“An immediate action responding to the COVID-19 crisis came shortly after we understood how disruptive this pandemic is going to be to the cultural sector, especially the most vulnerable communities being freelancers and cultural SME’s.” says Ghassan Salameh, Dubai Design Week creative director and member of Art Dubai Group.  

Within two weeks members of the Art Dubai Group, Alcove Advisors and Atölye (creative services company) carried out exploratory research to identify the key challenges the industry is facing.  By collating the findings from 70 participants in 7 focus groups, they identified 6 challenges which they put forth in an open call to the public under the Dubai Ideathon banner:

  1. What solutions could be created to protect jobs and employees during crisis?
  2. How can the creative community self-organise? And what kind of public-private collaborations can we explore to help support the cultural industries?
  3. How can companies start reducing their fixed costs?
  4. How to improve company / client relationships and collaborations?
  5. How to maintain the flow of supply chains?
  6. Are businesses able to generate revenue from digital shifts? And how?

Within two days, the organisers received over 300 submissions which they filtered down to 150.  The selected applicants were invited to a two days online workshop where they were divided into 12 groups and asked to develop their ideas into solutions that they can present to Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (DCAA).

Similar efforts are currently taking place across the world.  However, few have asked the general public to contribute their thoughts on policy and other possible opportunities to rebound after the lockdown.

Dubai Ideathon, Zoom-Still

“I feel there is a very solid listening ear at the other end.  And this spirit of collectivity that we have … There is a sense of urgency to collectively protect the cultural industries and mitigate damage to businesses and prevent talent drain to the extent possible”, emphasizes Ayeh Naraghi, Director of Alcove Advisors; a culture consulting firm.  All members of the organizing committee in addition to the participants volunteered their time and forewent any fees to assist the authorities in finding solutions.  The committee is due to present the proposal within the next few weeks to DCAA outlining the necessary steps to implement the suggested solutions. 

The Arts and Culture Sector has never had a better opportunity to demonstrate its importance in our communities.  During this crisis we turned to the two most often undervalued and underfunded sectors in a given economy for relief; healthcare to attend to COVID-19 patients and the creative industries who provided us with the mental stimulation while we soldiered in self-isolation.  The question which remains now is will the policymakers in Dubai and across the world acknowledge the significance of the industry and implement the necessary solutions?

Germano Celant Dies at 80. A chapter of Italian contemporary art has closed and is definitively handed down as part of history.

Germano Celant Dies at 80. A chapter of Italian contemporary art has closed and is definitively handed down as part of history.

We could follow the definition adopted by the voices of the national media to mourn the death of the ‘theorist and father of Arte Povera’ Germano Celant, who died today at the age of 82, months after being diagnosed with Covid-19, but it would seem reductive to summarize in this way the pioneering role of the first independent curator of contemporary art Italy.

Germano Celant – Post Zang Tumb Tuuum. Art Life Politics: Italia 1918–1943– Foto Ugo Dalla Porta, Fondazione Prada

Having trained in the theatrical and literary avant-garde circles in Genoa, Celant collaborated at a very young age, invitated by the founder Eugenio Battisti, to the first interdisciplinary magazine in Italy, Marcatré, as a correspondent for the art news section.

He participated in major national cultural events – such as the conference of the Gruppo ’63 in Palermo or the Critica d’Arte in Verrucchio – getting to know some of the most important Italian artists and gallery owners – from Fontana to De Martiis to Sperone, Paolini and Pistoletto in Turin. Since 1965 he has collaborated with the publication ‘Casabella’ with Alessandro Mendini and in 1967 he published his first book, a monograph on the first Italian designer, Marcello Nizzoli. The interest in this subject in and industrial design soon led him to approach with his research, the currents of Arte Programmata and Ghestaltic Art, which, with their investigation of the relationship between art and technology, will influence him in years to come. In December 1964, Celant curated one of his first exhibitions in Florence, Proposte strutturali, plastiche e sonore, which perfectly sums up the debut and the background of the Genoese critic.

When in 1967 Celant published the manifesto-article Arte Povera, Notes for a guerrilla, he has already matured the vision of an art that, rebelling against the acceptance of the inventions and technological imitations of the system, indicates the freedom of man in the contingency of the event. This hypothesis will be clarified in the double exposition Arte Povera-Im Spazio, at the Galleria La Bertesca in Genoa that same year, in which the historical core of Arte Povera is presented for the first time. The theoretical formulation of the movement was moreover consolidated in the dialectical opposition to the demands of the Programmed Art, as Celant himself had illustrated in the intervention in the catalog of the exhibition Lo spazio dell’Immagine, which preceded the exhibition by a few months at La Bertesca, which was inaugurated at Palazzo Trinci in Foligno in the summer of that year.

Tuned on the revolutionary frequency and the ideological premises of 1968, an artistic adventure begins in dialogue with all shades of reality, from historical point of wiev and the social reference to the international environment, following what happened in the United States with Minimalism, Conceptual Art and Land Art.

The wide success of the national and international exhibitions that follow the Arte Povera movement, go together with a global-wide opening of the art system and with a critical-militant strategy as an onemanband, as Celant himself defines it. He was, in fact, the first to give an example of a model previously unknown in Italy, a model that was independent from the institutions and able to rely mainly on a network of contacts and curators for artistic promotion.

Hence the success thanks to the creation of large exhibitions such as the one at the Arsenali in Amalfi, Arte Povera plus Azioni Povere, in 1968, promoted by the collector Marcello Rumma or, the inclusion of the movement within the historic exhibition in 1969, When Attitudes Become Form, at the Bern Kunsthalle, thanks to the friendship with the Swiss curator Harald Szeeman.

But Celant’s activity of critic and curator continues beyond the end of the movement in 1971, as curator of the exhibition Ambiente/Arte created in 1976 on the occasion of the 37th Venice Biennale and aimed at further investigating the relationship between artwork and the space surrounding it, which remains a constant thread throughout his research. Worth of mentioning are his roles for the curatorship of major Italian exhibitions abroad, such as Identité Italienne. L’art en Italie depuis 1959, at the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1981, aimed at formulating a first historicization of the Arte Povera movement. Or the collaboration with the Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, with the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1989 or with Palazzo Grassi in Venice, where in 1989 he proposed a retrospective on the Italian art from the early twentieth century to the second post-war period with the exhibition Presenze 1900-1945.

The nineties, on the other hand, are the time of the works at the Biennials, from the one in Florence in 1996 Arte e Moda, to that in Venice in 1997. In the year 2000 he curates the Vedova Foundation in Venice and then he is responsible of the artistic direction at the Prada Foundation in Milan, which led him to win The Agnes Gund Curatorial Award promoted by the ICI of New York in 2013 – the year in which he organizes a remaking of the 1969 exhibition in Bern at the Prada Foundation in Venice, When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969 / Venice 2013, in a dialogue with the photographer Thomas Demand and the architect Rem Koolhaas.

Then it’s the Art & Food exhibition at the Milan Triennale in 2015, created for the World Expo and finally the great retrospective of 2019 on the artist ‘street companion’, who died in 2017, Jannis Kounellis, at the Venetian headquarters of the Fondazione Prada. 
Germano Celant’s career ends on the latest monographic exhibition inaugurated in October 2019 at the Mart in Rovereto featuring the artist Richard Artschwager, and which was later on display at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

With the death of Germano Celant, a chapter of Italian contemporary art has closed and is definitively handed down as part of history.

Giulia Pollicita


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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