Toby Ziegler: The sudden longing to collapse 30 years of distance

Toby Ziegler: The sudden longing to collapse 30 years of distance



Simon Lee Gallery presents The sudden longing to collapse 30 years of distance, Toby Ziegler’s sixth solo exhibition with the gallery, in which the artist explores the complex relationships between experience and memory, image and data, through the twin lens of figuration and abstraction.

Spider (R.I.P.), 2020
Paper on dibond
243.8 x 189.8 x 3.3 cm (96 x 74 3/4 x 1 1/4 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery

The exhibition can be experienced in two dramatically different states. The gallery is lined with a group of large geometric, non-figurative works on paper, reminiscent of Ziegler’s early works, juxtaposed with a group of smaller more figurative oil paintings on aluminium. Periodically though, the tranquil space of the gallery is transformed into a multi-projector video installation, in which a barrage of projected images covers the walls and overlays the 2D works, to a soundtrack that oscillates between melody and noise.

Anchorite porn, 2020
Oil on aluminium
246 x 171 cm (96 7/8 x 67 3/8 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery

In the works on paper, Ziegler takes as his point of departure a group of ‘ghost files’: digital images he lost to an unresponsive hard drive fifteen years ago that have recently been retrieved. Rather than returning to the original idea – distorted by the intervening years – Ziegler reconciles the past and present in an entirely new narrative, reactivating the files from their years of suspended animation.

Avatar, 2019
Oil on aluminium
150 x 194 x 3 cm (59 1/8 x 76 3/8 x 1 1/8 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery

In the oil paintings, which refer to works by Poussin and Jan Van Eyck amongst others, the artist expands this concept, connecting his interest in the abstraction of memory to a broader art historical context. Using an orbital sander to efface the surface of the panel, Ziegler directly contrasts the time-consuming process of figurative painting with the rapidity of erasure. Yet, these works give themselves to the viewer very slowly, compressing time, from the facture of the source painting and its ensuing life span, to Ziegler’s own reincarnation of the image. The strong formal connection that links the works connects Ziegler’s early and recent practice. Both sets of works walk the line between representation and abstraction, collapsing narrative and pictorial space at the risk of dissolving into pure abstraction.

Base rate, 2019
Oil on aluminium
165 x 142 x 3 cm (65 x 55 7/8 x 1 1/8 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery

In Ziegler’s new video diptych, one projection shows a sequence of images relating to historical forms of divination, such as geomancy, extispicy and tarot. The artist has fed these source images into an online similar image search, and presents the results in another projection, as an accelerating sequence of thousands of jpegs which morph from the original. Though ‘visually similar’, the algorithm throws up images that are wildly incongruous in content, juxtaposing fairy-tale cottages with an exploding sperm whale. These sequences reveal systemic stereotypes and power structures prevalent on the internet, but Ziegler also seems to be examining the human predisposition to find meaning and pattern in seemingly random arrangements of images.



by Kostas Prapoglou

The provocative personality of the late Chris Burden (1946-2015) was undeniably a landmark of artistic creativity in 1970s America. Engaging himself in all sorts of controversial practices –predominately jeopardising his own physical integrity – he pushed the boundaries of performance on an unprecedented scale. Burden made a name for himself with a succession of performances, two of them being Shoot(1971) and Trans-fixed(1974); during the first enactment the artist had himself shot in the arm by a friend and in the second he appeared lying face up on the roof of a Volkswagen Beetle with his two hands nailed as if he had been crucified on it. Burden soon moved away from his performance pieces and, from as early as the mid-70s, gradually developed a keen interest in producing installation works and establishing a clear reference to engineering and architecture, which he pursuit at Pomona College, Claremont, California. He began employing children’s toys for the construction of a series of large museum-scale sculptures; these considerably increased in size and complexity each time. Such works are Tale of Two Cities(1981), All the Submarines of the United States of America(1987), Fist of Light (1992), Hell Gate(1998) and Metropolis II(2011). In 2008, he created Urban Light, the iconic public sculpture evoking the shape of an ancient Greek temple, permanently installed at the entrance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and consisting of 202 restored street lamps from Southern California dating from the 1920s and 1930s.

CHRIS BURDEN Porsche with Meteorite, 2013 Restored 1974 Porsche 914, 390 pound meteorite, steel structure © 2018 Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Courtesy Gagosian

CHRIS BURDEN Porsche with Meteorite, 2013 Restored 1974 Porsche 914, meteorite, and steel 162 x 465 x 162 inches 411.5 x 1181.1 x 411.5 cm © 2018 Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Lucy Dawkins Courtesy of Gagosian

Two of Burden’s more recent works were recently on display at the Gagosian Britannia Street galleries in London. Titled Measured, the exhibition featured 1 Ton Crane Truck (2009) and Porsche with Meteorite (2013). Previously exhibited in Extreme Measures, a major retrospective on his oeuvre during 2013-2014 at New York’s New Museum, the two installations – or sculptures, as he would probably prefer to call them – reflect his continuing intentions to expand the perception of space and put to the test the limitations, deficiencies and unexpected properties and strength of all materials used for both works in literal and metaphorical sense.

CHRIS BURDEN Porsche with Meteorite , 2013, Detail Restored 1974 Porsche 914, meteorite, and steel 162 x 465 x 162 inches 411.5 x 1181.1 x 411.5 cm © 2018 Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Lucy Dawkins Courtesy of Gagosian

The bright colors and perfect condition of both vehicles – which according to the accompanying exhibition literature have been fully restored utilizing original materials – are redolent of toy or non-real cars. Yet, the direct declaration of the weight of the suspended cast-iron cube (1 TON) and the physical appearance of the hanging iron meteorite (purchased on ebay by the artist himself) in balancing act with the Porsche 914 (weighting 993.4 kg) articulate the imprint of objective reality before the viewer’s eyes. The emerging juxtaposition between the toy-looking vehicles and the almost surreal and unsettling symbiosis with their weighty counterparts blurs the boundaries of materiality. And although at first reading Burden seems to have liberated himself from his older devices of personal danger as means of artistic expression, the two works continue to convey and verbalize just that but in an allusive manner. The sturdiness of both vehicles and heavy weights undeniably create to the viewer a subliminal fear, a threat and a sense of vulnerability. And this is exactly what Burden was driven by in his 70s performances. Back then, he actively opposed in a corporeal and emotional capacity to the political backdrop during the Vietnam war period and simultaneously challenged social power structures and personal responsibility.

CHRIS BURDEN 1 Ton Crane Truck, 2009, Detail Restored 1964 F350 Ford crane truck with 1 ton cast iron weight 168 x 274 x 96 inches 426.7 x 696 x 243.8 cm © 2018 Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Lucy Dawkins Courtesy of Gagosian

CHRIS BURDEN 1 Ton Crane Truck, 2009 Restored 1964 F350 Ford crane truck with 1 ton cast iron weight 168 x 274 x 96 inches 426.7 x 696 x 243.8 cm © 2018 Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Lucy Dawkins Courtesy of Gagosian

CHRIS BURDEN 1 Ton Crane Truck, 2009 Restored 1964 F350 Ford crane truck with 1 ton cast iron weight 168 x 274 x 69 inches / 426.7 x 696 x 243.8 cm © 2018 Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Erich Koyama Courtesy Gagosian

The balancing act of his vehicles is a vibrant metaphor of the equilibrium he has been negotiating with, not only during the start of his career but also in his entire life. Through his visual vocabulary he unstoppably posed questions on issues around power and authority, conformity, moralism, humanism, private and public life. He fantasized of a future world where speed and space would perhaps play a pivotal role in our lives; a world where gravitational rules would not be as significant, yet still important enough to make us remember who we are and where we come from.

Chris Burden, Measured, Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street, London, UK runs through January 26, 2019.

Kostas Prapoglou

Dr. Kostas Prapoglou is an archaeologist-architect,

contemporary art writer, critic and curator

based in London, UK and Athens, Greece.

Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium

Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium

Whitechapel Gallery, London

until 30 Aug 2020

Since painting was pronounced dead in the 1980s, a new generation of artists has been revitalising the expressive potential of figuration. Charging their vibrant canvases with a social and political undertow, they echo the words of Philip Guston: ‘I got sick and tired of all that Purity. I wanted to tell stories’.

Michael Armitage 

#mydressmychoice, 2015 
Oil on Lubugo bark cloth
149.9 x 195.6 cm
Private Collection, London © Michael Armitage.

Photo © White Cube (George Darrell)

The paintings of Daniel Richter (b. 1962, Germany) draw from current events – the migrant crisis or Taliban mythology – as do Michael Armitage’s (b. 1984, Kenya) narratives of politics and violence in East Africa, equivocally conveyed in the lush, exoticised style of Gauguin. The rollicking surfaces of Cecily Brown’s (b. 1969, UK) canvases congeal into figures, whose sources range from pornography to art history, before dissolving back into painterly marks.

Sanya Kantarovsky 

Feeder, 2016 
Oil and oil pastel on canvas
190.7 x 140 cm
Tate: Presented by Stuart Shave © Sanya Kantarovsky; Courtesy of the artist, Modern Art, London, and Luhring Augustine, New York
Cecily Brown 

Maid's Day Off, 2005 
Oil on linen
200.7 x 198.1 cm
Courtesy of the Hiscox Collection © Cecily Brown. Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Nicole Eisenman’s (b. 1965, France) protagonists occupy a brightly lit universe that is both dream and nightmare, while Dana Schutz’s (b. 1976, USA) contorted figures give form to unconscious drives. Tala Madani’s (b. 1981, Iran) primal fantasies of abject men and children shift from comedy to debasement, from paint to shit. Sanya Kantarovsky (b. 1982, Russia) and Ryan Mosley (b. 1980, UK) look to art history, literature and children’s stories in their darkly humorous and carnivalesque scenes.

Ryan Mosley 

Cave Inn, 2011 
Oil on linen
Private collection. Courtesy of the artist, Galerie EIGEN+ART, Berlin / Leipzig and Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp. Photo: Dave Morgan

Artists also critique from within or expand on the styles and subjects of canonical male painters. In Christina Quarles’s (b. 1985, USA) canvases, groups of polymorphous nudes are intimately entwined, merging with graphically patterned surfaces. Tschabalala Self (b. 1990, USA) pieces together paint, fabric and print for a cast of characters inspired by the streets of Harlem. Exuberant and explicit, each artist revels in the expressive potential of paint.

Dana Schutz 

Imagine You and Me, 2018 
Oil on canvas
223.5 x 223.5 cm
© Dana Schutz. Courtesy the artist, Petzel Gallery, NY and Thomas Dane Gallery

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays

KÖNIG Galerie, London

Wed 1 Jul 2020 to Sat 8 Aug 2020

KÖNIG LONDON presents Ashtrays, an exhibition of recent works by Belgium-based artist Rinus Van De Velde. This is Van De Velde‘s fourth solo exhibition with König Galerie, and his first at König London.

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays; Installation view. Damian Griffiths, courtesy of KÖNIG LONDON.

As an artist working across a variety of media, Rinus Van de Velde has made a career of exposing the limits and potentials of art’s seeming unreality. Van de Velde’s work suggests that the fictitious quality of art relates to its distance from the particulars of everyday life. But if art is something that we can only experience at select – one might even say privileged – moments, viewers still have to account for the living, breathing personalities who shape a work. While centuries of criticism have claimed that art should aspire to disinterested formalism, Rinus Van de Velde foregrounds the strange identity of an artist with his art. The fact that he often uses an alter ego to sign off on his works serves to make the relationship between an artist and his art even more apparent – as well as wryly conspiratorial.

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays; Installation view. Damian Griffiths, courtesy of KÖNIG LONDON.

For Van de Velde, dramatic characterizations provide the key to an ongoing story about the imbricated relationship of art and life. In the current show, ashtrays become the symbolic complement of this narrative awareness. As objects referencing design, they nevertheless take on an expressive aspect similar to sculpture. The unwieldiness of Van de Velde’s ashtrays, which are replete with little creatures at work or play, denizens of a miniature Bosch-like landscape, compels viewers to become complicit in their still-frame lives. To the extent that we might think to actually use these ashtrays, we become little gods, ominously lording it over the majesty of an alienated creation, exhaling plumes of fire.

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays; Installation view. Damian Griffiths, courtesy of KÖNIG LONDON.

Rather than relying on an abstract notion of process, Van de Velde fleshes out the reality of process in the form of dramatis personae. Making ashtrays under the guise of an alter ego, which is both the artist himself and something of a literary guise plucked from his unconscious, he continues to pioneer a distinctive sensibility, known to manifest itself as large-scale charcoal drawings, or environing installations pieced together from rudimentary materials found in his studio. For Van de Velde, art is best dished in the form of a mask, a fictitious host. Simultaneously, his chosen persona takes on the borrowed flesh of the artist it recreates, simulating the individuated life of a person bound to the realities of birth, suffering, and death. Tracing out the contours of a projected self which is larger than life, or, in this instance, smaller than life, Van de Velde showcases the range of decisions made possible when art melds with artifice – whenever a fictive ego substitutes for biography.

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays; Installation view. Damian Griffiths, courtesy of KÖNIG LONDON.

Born in 1983 in Leuven, Belgium, Van de Velde lives and works in Antwerp. His solo shows include The Colony, at KWM Art Centre Beijing (2019); Now I am the night of nights, at Kunstpalais Erlangen (2018); Rinus Van de Velde, at Gemeentemuseum (2016); Donogoo Tonka, at SMAK, Ghent (2016); Kunsthalle Sao Paolo(2015); and CAC Malaga (2013). Upcoming one-person exhibitions will be held at Kunstmuseum Lucerne, FRAC Pays de la Loire, Nantes, and BOZAR – Centre for Fine Arts Brussels, Belgium. Rinus van de Velde was in- cluded at group shows in international institutions such as the Hayward Gallery, UK (2018-2019); Kunstmuseum Luzern (2018); Kunstmuseum Gelsenkirchen (2018); CAFA Art Museum Beijing, China (2014); and Nanzuka Underground Gallery Tokyo (2011).

Peter Peri / Course

Peter Peri / Course

Almine Rech Gallery, London.

June 18 — July 31, 2020

Almine Rech London presents Course, an exhibition of recent work by London-based artist Peter Peri, on view from June 18 to August 1, 2020. This will be the artist’s fourth exhibition with the gallery.

Peter Peri - Blind Field 1
2019; Marker pen and spray paint on canvas; 55 x 45 cm - Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

Candy-striped beams radiate around a quadrilateral shape, bleeding. Hand drawn with a ruler, aerosol paint and flecks of ink, the coloured lines exude demonic symmetry. Staring at Peter Peri’s large painting Super Topology (2019) resembles something like riding a carousel at a haunted, Victorian-style fun fair, whirling into the dark. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the artist’s earlier projects were inspired by horror novels. I sense the phantom of writer H.P. Lovecraft lurking beneath the saccharine grid on view here. In the 1920s Lovecraft – who was a real noxious ghoul – drifted around New England’s white, neo-Gothic buildings and picket-fenced, emerald lawns, penning weird tales inimitable in their vistas of despair and bone-soaking chill. Peri’s paintings, such as The Call (2005), referenced Lovecraft’s ‘Cthulhu mythos’: a cycle of stories about a Leviathan-like creature who rises from the depths of time to torment humanity. Peri’s spiralling compositions remind me of Lovecraftian narrative arcs: the writer’s monstrous ‘circling’ around a cold space. They synthesize a vortex and pull you into the centre.

Peter Peri - Super Topology
2019; Marker pen and spray paint on canvas; 190 x 280 cm - Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

As titles such as Super Topology suggest, the works are also imbued with the cerebral gloss of early twentieth century Modernism. In revolutionary-era Russia, for instance, artists painted geometric shapes against plain grounds in a visual enactment of radical philosophy. They probed deep mathematics and the laws of physics within their practices. And then watched them fall apart. Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist oil painting Black Square (1915) depicted a void of infinite blackness that swirled all logic into oblivion. It invoked a darkling lunarscape lifted from the Futurist opera Victory Over the Sun (1913), which imagined a solar system where the sun is caged inside a concrete cube, dripping crimson fire.

Peter Peri - Blind Field 3
2019; Marker pen and spray paint on canvas; 185 x 75 cm - Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

Nearby, in Peri’s drawing Soldiers March (2020), the artist smudges Suprematist sublimity with old-fashioned experiments in opticality. Created using a magnifying glass and pencil on unbleached paper, up close the hairline-like markings shimmer and flow. (The spidery texture is disarmingly real – I wonder if each strand may horripilate in cool air.) From afar, however, the metallic contours transmogrify into a jagged, three-dimensional structure, wielding points as sharp as a silver dagger. Step forward and disembodied faces float within the tan, leather-soft backdrop, gently rousing you out of the abstraction’s spell. The ground’s naturally occurring dots and slashes become an angelic eye, or an aquiline nose, with the wave of a warlock’s wand.

Peter Peri / Course; installation view; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery.

Looking at Peri’s paintings can also resemble falling down a pictorial wishing-well. In Tower of Rising Clouds (2019), for example, viewers are transported back through history’s silvery mist to the ninth century court of imperial China, where the painter Mi Fu is blotching a pane of silk with ink, glittering wetly. Dark, cursive brushstrokes and nude flushes feign the Chinese landscape. Back to the present: Peri’s vertical seams simulate three-dimensional curves. Their compositional arrangement reanimates Fu’s undulating hilltops as if now levitating in front of the canvas. Elsewhere, in Blind Field 3 (2020), bluish grooves cascade down another graphic landscape. Collectively, these works evoke the ancient Chinese painting technique and belief in ‘dragon veins’, along which waterfalls, mountains and luxurious greenery conjured the Earth’s enchantment. It’s as though the exhibition were the result of some transtemporal, art-historical meeting, existing, like a Lovecraftian extra-terrestrial, within the cracks between dimensions.

Peter Peri - Soldiers March
2020; Graphite on unbleached paper; 78 x 210 cm; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery.

‘Course’ also refers to progressions of time. The idea being that the works achieve, what I would describe as a ‘visual time’, from a sensation of their own making. But the noun ‘course’ also delineates a process in architecture: a slow, ‘continuous horizontal layer’ of stone within another wall. Peri’s rainbow streams are embedded within thick black grounds. He tells me this is a visual metaphor paralleling earlier artistic experiments with temporality. In H.G. Wells’ novella The Time Machine (1895), for example, the Earth melts into a state of entropy. As the protagonist time-warps they witness, and are sometimes sequestered within, layers of decaying rock. In the final pages Wells drops you onto what remains of the planet’s sweeping, white sands to watch a dying star. The smouldering sun grows to a perilous size, fading red.

Gabriella Pounds

Ewa Juszkiewicz: The Grass divides as with a Comb

Ewa Juszkiewicz: The Grass divides as with a Comb

Almine Rech Gallery, London.
June 18 — July 31, 2020

The Grass divides as with a Comb at Almine Rech London is Ewa Juszkiewicz’s first exhibition at the gallery.

Through the deconstruction of traditional, historical portraits, Juszkiewicz enters into discussion with the visual conventions that they represent, and undermines their constant, indisputable character. The artist confronts the schematic representation of women in art history. She critically refers to the position and role of women in society and culture in the past, and to their insufficient presence in the official version of history.

Ewa Juszkiewicz - Untitled (after Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun);
2020; Oil on canvas; 160 x 120 cm; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

As is well known, in previous centuries the absence of women was prevalent in many areas. Denying the role of women in the artistic landscape meant diminishing their existence by depriving them of the status of full artists and citizens, like Emily Dickinson, who had to publish her writing anonymously in 1850. The title of the exhibition is taken from one of her poems.

Ewa Juszkiewicz - Untitled;
2020; Oil on canvas; 90 x 70 cm; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

Juszkiewicz’s portraits recall paintings by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Joseph Van Lerius, and Joseph Wright, sending us into a world that is both classical and surrealist. By covering female faces and displaying their transfiguration, Juszkiewicz revitalizes Art History through a unique language. In her paintings, the sitter’s poses are familiar, but the intention is radically new. As the artist says:

Ewa Juszkiewicz - Untitled (after Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun);
2020; Oil on canvas; 130 x 100 cm; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

“My gestures are the tools to break a cliché and overturn a well-known order. I replace what is classical and connected with the canon into what comes from nature and senses. Paradoxically, by covering these portraits I want to uncover individuality, character, emotions. I want to bring out the vitality.”

Ewa Juszkiewicz - Untitled (after Joseph Wright);
2020; Oil on canvas; 160 x 125 cm; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

Like the surrealist game of Exquisite Corpse, Juszkiewicz creates hybrid characters and experiments with the form of the female figure. The faces are replaced by a bouquet of flowers, a textile arrangement, or an extravagant headdress. The details, curves, and draped fabrics are formed as if a sculpture, bringing out ambiguous emotions and balancing on the border of what is human and inhuman. It is a radical and contemporary act, that accomplishes a kind of symbolic demolition of the canon that this genre represents.

– Milena Oldfield

Hito Steyerl: The Tower @ Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Hito Steyerl: The Tower @ Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London

16 Jun 2020 – 31 Jul 2020

Steyerl’s immersive installation The Tower (2015) focuses on the making of the video game Skyscraper: Stairway to Chaos by the Ukrainian company Ace3D, based on Saddam Hussein’s unrealised plans to reconstruct the Tower of Babel in Babylon, the ancient capital that he began rebuilding in the 1980s. Part of an origin myth explaining the development of different languages, the Tower of Babel has come to symbolise the hubris of humans aspiring to godliness and the chaos resulting from an inability to communicate. As the game developer describes in voiceover, the Skyscraper is a contemporary analogue to the Tower that connects to other dimensions, much as Steyerl’s film merges the virtual with reality. Precariously situated in a conflict zone, which he describes as a ‘1 km ride by tank’ from the Russian border, the developer explains how he has become part of a global network of technology firms, remotely contracted by European companies who outsource labour to cheaper economies, drawing attention to the physical labour underpinning digital culture.

Hito Steyerl: The Tower, installation view. Courtesy of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

As Zachary Small observes in his review of her Park Avenue Armory show, ‘An oracle of our end times, Steyerl is a crucial voice in a chorus of critics seeking to untangle the problems of contemporary culture. Meandering through the artist’s milieu of dystopias … one gets the sense that she is weaving together a 21st-century global tapestry.’ The installation for The Tower is adapted for each environment, but includes a red felt platform with futuristic red chairs, immersing the viewer in an alternate space that feels removed from reality. 

The gallery has taken careful measures to ensure the safety of all visitors and staff in accordance with governmental guidelines. They now invite visitors to experience the displays first hand. 

Life Captured Still: Harun Farocki, Hito Steyerl

Life Captured Still: Harun Farocki, Hito Steyerl

Thaddaeus Ropac, London


In response to the evolving circumstances of COVID-19 this exhibition is closed to the public until further notice. 

The first major posthumous exhibition of Harun Farocki’s work in the UK will show his seminal video and new media art installations alongside the work of Hito Steyerl.

Harun Farocki and Hito Steyerl are bound by a special form of collaboration, beyond any space-time framework. Though they belong to quite different generations they share a stubborn critical attitude that dismantles the pervasive biopolitical regimes of late capitalism. When there is no hope for a better world their images open up a crack in the system of art, no matter how discredited it might be. Call it the pragmatism of the hopeless. 

Their production unfolds in a world that accepts war and inequalities as basic conditions for a life style heavily dependent on asymmetrical realities. By bringing them together we get a unique opportunity to transcend their thematic obsessions and look into the details of a sounding critique. – 
Carles Guerra, 2020

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac’s upcoming London exhibition will bring together formative video installations by the artists Harun Farocki and Hito Steyerl, curated by Antje Ehmann and Carles Guerra, with exhibition architecture by Luis Feduchi. 

We invite the audience to immerse themselves in the works of Harun Farocki and Hito Steyerl … To spend time with and to explore the artists’ questions and doubts, their curiosities and anxieties; their investigations into the worlds between the analogue and the digital, between human labour and the labour of machines, between the worlds of capitalist exploitation and financial accumulation. – Antje Ehmann, 2020

The first major UK exhibition of Harun Farocki’s work in over a decade, Life Captured Still will explore the natural and multidimensional convergences his practice shares with the illuminating and provocative work of Hito Steyerl, who has been described by ArtReview as ‘the world’s most powerful voice of conscience’. Presented together for the first time, the exhibition will highlight the thematic similarities and contextual differences that resonate across both artists’ oeuvres. 

Revered as pioneers in the fields of documentary video and new media art across two generations, the artists’ expansive films interrogate organisational power structures, divisions of labour and the inescapable and shifting roles of the images that permeate contemporary society.

Harun Farocki and Hito Steyerl share an art practice that is characterised by both writing and media work. They both deal obsessively with image regimes and politics … And while addressing gravely serious topics, there remains an underlying humour to their games … Considering the natural affinity between the two artists, a show of this nature is long overdue. – Antje Ehmann, 2020

The exhibition will present Steyerl’s renowned films, November (2004) and Lovely Andrea (2007), examining the ways in which images circulate beyond their original purposes, accumulating fictional meanings and becoming lost to their original subjects. Amassing an eclectic array of sources, Steyerl’s films combine unlikely findings from her ongoing research practice with fragments of found footage to highlight and build upon the central themes and narratives. Both November and Lovely Andrea are linked to the artist’s teenage friend, Andrea Wolf. Having joined the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), Wolf was killed by Turkish police following her arrest in northern Iraq in 1998, and her body disappeared without a trace. Wolf’s image has since become an icon of martyrdom, displayed on posters at Kurdish protests, posters which Steyerl draws upon in her film to consider the ongoing transformation(s) of both Wolf the person, and Wolf the image: the fictional image of a character that circulates and transforms amongst the masses. 

Elsewhere in the exhibition, Farocki’s early video work, Two Paths (1966) also uses the camera as a tool for the dissection of an image: roaming close-up shots of a drawing deconstruct the scene it presents – a religious allegory for ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – alluding to the subjective, perspective-reliant nature of meaning and the instructional power of the image. Underscored by rhymes, Farocki’s methodological approach to the camera in this short video functions as a precursor to his later essay films and highlights the enduring themes at the heart of the artist’s practice.

Life Captured Still will also include the installation and ongoing workshop, Labour in a Single Shot (2011– ), a collaboration between the late Farocki and his partner, curator Antje Ehmann. Working as a team of like-minded producers, Farocki and Ehmann have collaborated on a number of artistic and curatorial projects since the late 1990s. For this last collaboration, the pair returned to the beginning of film history. Adopting the straightforward objectivity of early cinema, with reference to the Lumière brothers’, La Sortie de l’usine Lumière à Lyon (1895), a single-take film that features workers leaving a factory in Lyon, the extensive project uses the methodology of the single camera shot to explore the subject of labour. Over the course of four years, they travelled to fifteen major cities where they produced over four hundred short films with local video artists and filmmakers. The project recently resumed, producing more than one hundred additional films over the past three years. These films show forms of work that are paid and unpaid, material and immaterial, traditional and brand-new, industrial and pre-industrial. They visualise work in the 21st century from a double perspective: as an individual act, but set in the midst of collective constraints. Conceived as a symbolic editing table, the project invites the spectator to contribute their own personal film, creating a surprising montage of social histories, a highly organised, global encyclopaedia, and a condensed reading of reality. 

Further delving into the notion of labour, and in direct homage to the Lumière brothers, Farocki’s 2006 installation, Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades will be presented as an immersive and totalising experience alongside Comparison via a Third (2007), The Silver and the Cross (2010) and the large installation Re-Pouring (2010). In cinematography, perception and concept diverge; Farocki plays on this by offering multiple beginnings, ranging from a single screen to a twelve-monitor work that simultaneously presents scenes of workers leaving a factory drawn from different periods of twentieth-century film history. Farocki multiplies the exits and, in turn, the worlds of labour, transforming the workers into actors who play themselves. Utilising the tools and methodologies of cinema to explore the limits and possibilities of the medium itself, Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades highlights and exemplifies the concerns shared by both artists with the potential to simultaneously identify, examine and resist the frameworks of the modern political terrain and structural organisation that governs everyday life. 

The work structure synchronizes the workers, the factory gates group them, and this process of compression produces the image of a work force. As may be realized or brought to mind by the portrayal, the people passing through the gates evidently have something fundamental in common. Images are closely related to concepts, thus this film has become a rhetorical figure. – Harun Farocki, 2002

A perfect grammar of cinema’s spatial turn … the staging of labour precedes commodity infatuation. – Hito Steyerl, 2014

Steyerl’s immersive three-channel installation, The Tower (2015/2016) extends Farocki’s concerns with the portrayal of labour-as-image to explore the role of digital technologies in the dissemination of information itself. Taking over and transforming one of the upstairs exhibition spaces, the work plunges visitors into a sea of red walls and carpet, confronting them with works in which the movement of digital information forms an intrinsic part of the subject matter and making of the videos themselves. Loosely centered on a Ukrainian video company – whose studio is based on a border rife with conflict and who once designed a shooting game set in the Tower of Babel – the work considers the company’s physical and technological position amidst a worldwide network of similar organisations. Oscillating between region and subject-matter (both real and virtual), Steyerl’s work exists at the intersection between the digitally-constructed image and the image of lived experience and considers the apparent accessibility of immaterial concepts in contemporary society. 

In a future, better life, we will sit together at some beach and will observe the irregularity of the seas’ swell. – Antje Ehmann, 2020

Images > Installation view, Harun Farocki & Hito Steyerl, Life Captured Still, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London, © the artists, courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London. Photo: Ben Westoby

Bernard Cohen, Interiors

Bernard Cohen, Interiors

Flowers Gallery, London / Cork Street

21 May – 20 June 2020

Bernard Cohen is considered one of Britain’s most significant abstract painters, whose paintings tell stories about identity and experience. This upcoming exhibition of recent works at Flowers Gallery demonstrates Cohen’s sustained enquiry into the complex chaos of everyday existence.

Bernard Cohen
Pictorial , 2017

Since the 1950s Cohen has developed a wide range of inventive techniques and processes of painting, creating labyrinthine compositions of line, shape, pattern and colour. Cohen’s paintings will often tell many stories at once, using distinctive strategies of layering, superimposing, and condensing multiple images to establish intricate networks and relationships.

Bernard Cohen
How to Paint the Milky Way, 2014

In a display in 2017, Tate Britain described Cohen’s paintings, both individually and as a whole, as “a series of diagrams about painting.” This approach developed during the 1960s, with works that incorporated many small independent paintings. (For example, Matter of Identity, 1963, in the Tate collection.) Cohen refers to the inner paintings as ‘small objects’, that together establish the identity of the whole painting. In his recent works, Cohen interlaces recurring individual figurative motifs such as doors, windows, airplanes and railway tracks, to form an accumulative coherence and logic.

Bernard Cohen
Clown, 2019

The composition of the painting How to Paint the Milky Way is underpinned by a cosmos of dots, contained by various cube-like planes and lattices, suggesting elements of domestic interiors. Bernard Cohen recalls: “During a long stay in New Mexico I experienced a daylight that was so bright that it voraciously consumed objects, while at night at 10,000 feet, away from any artificial light, the Milky Way appeared as one overwhelming physical object. What is a painting and what fills it? Where is its all-containing identity? I continue to ask myself these questions.”

Formafantasma CAMBIO

Formafantasma CAMBIO

Serpentine Galleries, London

Until 17 May 2020

COVID-19 UPDATES > This exhibition is closed to the public until further notice

Formafantasma (Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, b. 1983 and 1980, Italy) are designers who dissect the ecological and political responsibilities of their discipline. Their holistic approach reaches back into the history of a particular material used by humans, out towards the patterns of supply chains that have developed to support and expand its use, and forward to the future of that material’s survival in relation to human consumption.

Cambio, from the medieval Latin cambium, ‘change, exchange’, is an ongoing investigation conducted by Formafantasma into the governance of the timber industry. The evolution of this form of commerce over time, and its tentacular expansion across the globe, has made it difficult to regulate. It grew out of the bioprospecting that took place throughout colonial territories during the nineteenth century, becoming one of the largest industries in the world both in terms of the revenue it generates and the impact it has on the planet’s biosphere.

The earliest objects in the exhibition are samples of rare hardwoods first exhibited in the Great Exhibition of 1851, a few hundred metres from this building, some of which come from trees logged to the point of extinction. The newest are the exhibition displays and seating designed by Formafantasma, all of which were made from a single tree blown over in a storm in northern Italy in 2018. Contained in every piece of wood is an archive of climatic change and the movement of natural materials around the world. Cambio also references the cambial layer, a membrane that runs around the trunk of trees, producing wood on the inside, a record of the tree’s past, and bark on the outside, enabling it to keep growing. Like the rings of a tree, the central spaces of the exhibition present data and research in the form of interviews, reference materials and two films made by Formafantasma in response to their research, while the perimeter spaces offer a series of case studies that provide insight into the way wood is sourced and used. Each of these investigations represents a collaboration with experts from the fields of science, conservation, engineering, policymaking and philosophy. Together, they move from a microscopic analysis of wood and its ability to store carbon dioxide to a metaphysical understanding of trees as living organisms.

This multidisciplinary exhibition highlights the crucial role that design can play in our environment, and its responsibility to look beyond the edges of its borders as a discipline. The future of design can and must attempt to translate emerging environmental awareness into a renewed understanding of the philosophy and politics of trees that will encourage informed, collaborative responses.

Images > Formafantasma, Cambio, Installation view, Serpentine Galleries, London Photo: George Darrell




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