Michaela Schwarz Weismann – Second Thoughts, Galerie Ruberl, Vienna

Michaela Schwarz Weismann – Second Thoughts, Galerie Ruberl, Vienna

Michaela Schwarz Weismann – Second Thoughts
May 14 – July 18, 2019
Galerie Ruberl, Vienna

1973: Three filmed interviews, three great thinkers:
Hannah Arendt / Simone de Beauvoir / Angela Davis

2019: Three portrait series, 24 frames

Each interview second is split into 24 frames and painted. The results are 24 portraits, minimally altered, without repetitions. Each picture influences the next. Finally, all 24 oil paintings are reassembled into a film, gaining speed, rushing in an endless loop. A new rhythm arises.

Michaela Schwarz-Weismann:

“These seconds are words, one breath long or shorter, that I have carefully chosen from the interviews. They are vague words, hints, intermediate pieces: Beauvoir says‘très souple,’ Davis – ‘constantly,’ and Arendt – ‘of course not’ Nothing precise is revealed; it’s an invitation rather than an explanation. An invitation to deal again with the themes and contents of these thinkers. Human beings trapped in an endless loop between the past and the future. 1973 is also the year of my birth. SECOND THOUGHTS is a work about becoming, as a symbol of life and time in its essential movement. It’s a narrative measuring of time, a fortification and investigation of this brief moment between the past and the future, while addressing the issue of constructing the present.”

Thoughts and emotions are reflected in faces. Michaela Schwarz-Weismann’s intense portrait series intensify this by offering additional levels of interpretation and identification through deliberately chosen language fragments. Thus her narrative is also about thinking about thinking and about measuring time, inviting us – as she puts it – “to investigate this brief moment between the past and the future” which is necessary in order to understand and retell the present. (A. Grubeck)

All images > courtesy © Galerie Ruberl, Vienna 

James English Leary “Small Fishes Swim Around Inside of Large Fishes” at Galerie Kandlhofer, Vienna

James English Leary “Small Fishes Swim Around Inside of Large Fishes” at Galerie Kandlhofer, Vienna

James English Leary
Small Fishes Swim Around Inside of Large Fishes
Galerie Kandlhofer, Vienna
24 MAY – 29 JUNE 2019

Galerie Kandlhofer presents the exhibition “Small Fishes Swim Around Inside of Large Fishes” New paintings by James English Leary. 

It starts with a finger. Permanently hooked in. Pulling back the cheek like a fish, haha. “He drinks too…”, the person says. He eats like a moth but he drinks like a fish. The finger casts itself like a shadow onto the coin of the head. The person spends themself wisely. When they fight with each other they scream straight into the other’s finger. The scream casts a shadow. There’s a finger within the finger. An ideal and true finger. It still fits perfectly into the imperfect and familiar and calm one. The pragmatic hand pragmatically measures the head. It registers its surprise: “There’s a hand in my canned ham!” There’s a yam inside my yam. There’s a face emanating out of its finger in the form of a fingerprint. The head full of thumbs resembles a bowl of cooked yams. A face glides toy-like along the finger like a miniature train. There are many fingers reaching up under the skull’s dress. The fingers raise up weightlessly like seaweed. The face telescopes into what it sees. The body folds up into a tablet. It halves over and over, and when it’s small and hard like a pill, you pop it in your mouth and swallow.


“Small Fishes Swim Around Inside of Large Fishes”, New York-based painter James English Leary’s second solo presentation with Galerie Kandlhofer, brings together a suite of works which continue the artist’s interest in the transposition of painted space into shaped grounds. These works take up the subject of the body at odds and converging with itself – the rhyming motifs of head-on-hand and hand-on-head. To coincide with this exhibition the artist has organized a group exhibition, “The Picture is a Forest” with recent works by Delphine Hennelly, Kathryn Kerr, Leigh Ruple, Nathalie Shepherd and Faye Wei Wei, whose works will be exhibited in Vienna for the first time. The works featured in this exhibition, while sharing strong allegiances to the problem of depiction, exemplify painting’s unique disposition to engage strategies of scale and space in the conjuring of intimacies and immensities.


James English Leary lives in New York City and works as an artist, filmmaker and teacher. He is a founding member of The Bruce High Quality Foundation and the Foundation’s free university, BHQFUIn 2010 his works were included at the Whitney Biennal and the „Greater New York“ Show at MoMA PS1Leary ́s recent solo exhibitions include “Another Family Romance”, Project Room, Galerie Lisa Kandlhofer, Vienna, 2018, “Hoi Polloi”, Nathalie Karg Gallery, New York, 2018, “Half a Mississippi Steamboat”, Andersen’s, Copenhagen, 2018, The Bursting Grape, Galerie Lisa Kandlhofer, Vienna, 2017, James English Leary & André Azevedo, SIM galeria, Curitiba, Brazil, 2017, “Family Romance”, Galeria Leyendecker, Tenerife, 2016, “Lady Chatterley ́s Lover ́s Lovers“, Four A.M., New York, 2016 and „Triple Motherfucker“, Vito Schnabel Projects, New York City, 2015. He is the recipient of a 2015 Tiffany Foundation Award and currently an adjunct professor at The Cooper Union School of Art.



FONDAZIONE PRADA, Milan Osservatorio
21 Feb – 22 Jul 2019

Fondazione Prada presents “Surrogati. Un amore ideale” (Surrogate. A Love Ideal), an exhibition curated by Melissa Harris, from 21 February to 22 July 2019 at the Osservatorio venue in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan. Comprising a selection of 42 photographic works by Jamie Diamond (Brooklyn, USA, 1983) and Elena Dorfman (Boston, USA, 1965), the project explores the notions of familial, romantic and sexual love. Both artists focus on a specific and unconventional aspect of this universal theme: the emotional link between a man or a woman and a synthetic representation of a human. As explained by Melissa Harris, “together, Diamond’s and Dorfman’s work presented in ‘Surrogati’ vividly and nonjudgmentally documents the interactions of humans with their lifelike, inanimate companions.”

In her series “Forever Mothers” (2012-2018) and “Nine Months of Reborning” (2014), Jamie Diamond documented the life of an outsider art making community called the Reborners, a group of self-taught female artists who hand-make, collect and interact with hyper-realistic dolls that fulfill a desire for motherhood. In her other exhibited project titled “I Promise to be a Good Mother” (2007-2012), Diamond played the role of a perfect mother, dressing up in her own mother’s clothes and interacting with Annabelle, a reborn doll. Inspired by and named after a diary she kept as a girl, the project evolved into an exploration of the complexity of social stereotypes and cultural conventions that surround and shape the relationship between mother and child.

“Still Lovers” (2001-04), a series of photographs that brought Elena Dorfman international acclaim, focuses on the domestic lives of men and women who devote themselves to lifesize, anatomically realistic sex dolls. Her photographs explore the emotional ties between humans and perfectly formed synthetic women, forcing us to evaluate our own notions of love and the value of an object that has the power to replace a human being. The artist’s interest was not to exploit the deviancy of these sexual surrogates, but rather to reveal the fascinating world of intimacy between flesh and silicone. Both photographers portrayed these lifelike surrogates as desired, fetishized, and idealized beings, “living” as such with their flesh and blood mothers and partners, and sometimes with their immediate families as well. As stated by Melissa Harris, “by showing these vignettes of traditional domesticity, love, and/or eroticism, Dorfman’s and Diamond’s representations take on an unexpected poignancy.”

All images > “Surrogati. Un amore ideale” Osservatorio Fondazione Prada. Photo: Mattia Balsamini

The Nature Rules: Dreaming of Earth Project at Hara Museum, TOKYO

The Nature Rules: Dreaming of Earth Project at Hara Museum, TOKYO

The Nature Rules: Dreaming of Earth Project
UNTIL July 28, 2019
Hara Museum, TOKYO

Hara Museum presents The Nature Rules: Dreaming of Earth Project, an exhibition conceived and directed by Jae-Eun Choi. The Dreaming of Earth Project was launched by Choi in 2014 to seek ways to protect the rich ecosystem that has emerged within the Demilitarized Sone (DMZ) on the Korean Peninsula during the 65 years since the armistice agreement. Its larger goal is peaceful co-existence with the creatures of the DMZ, between Korea’s North and South and among all lifeforms on this planet Earth. This exhibition is being presented to provide impetus for the realization of the project.

Participating Artists: Shigeru Ban, Minsuk Cho, Jae-Eun Choi, , Jaeseung Jeong, Tadashi Kawamata, Kim Taedong, Lee Bul, Lee Ufan, Seung H-Sang, Studio Mumbai, Studio Other Spaces: Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann

Jae-Eun Choi, hatred melts like snow, 2019 (reference image) ©Kim Taedong

Jae-Eun Choi
Jae-Eun Choi was born in 1953 in Seoul, Korea. In 1976, she moved to Japan where she studied the Sogetsu style of ikebana. From 1984 to 1987, she worked as an assistant to Hiroshi Teshigahara, the third generation master of the Sogetsu school and film director. In the years that followed, her work began to appear in international art exhibitions, including the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995 when she was selected as Japan’s representative. In 2001, she made her debut as a movie director with the film On The Way. In 2010, she held Forests of Aśoka at the Hara Museum, her first solo exhibition in Japan. As a student of the Sogetsu school, Choi learned not only the surface aspects of the art, but also its spatial concepts and cosmic view. Combining this knowledge with her rich sensibility, Choi extended the art form into the realm of installation. In her early works, Choi adopted such materials as plants, water, air, fire and earth to superimpose onto human life the time flow of plants encompassing the change from growth to decay. In doing so, she took ikebana in terms of both concept and scale far beyond its traditional boundaries. Choi began working on the World Underground Project from 1986 at various locales in the world, including Kyongju, Korea; Imadate in Fukui prefecture, Japan; and a number of places in Europe, the U.S. and Africa. Homage to Mozart (1988) in the Hara Museum Collection is one work from this revolutionary project in which washi (Japanese handmade paper) is buried within the earth for a period of time to allow the environment at each locale to take over the “completion” of the work, thereby striking a blow at the conventional idea of “art” as a product of human artifice. In later works, she used the microscope to explore motifs taken from the micro world. Through her career, the form of Choi’s artworks has undergone unceasing change. What ties them together are her ideas about and concern for life, which have continued to be the underlying theme in all of her art.

Tadanori Yokoo “B29 and Homeland—From My Childhood to Andy Warhol” at SCAI The Bathhouse, TOKYO

Tadanori Yokoo “B29 and Homeland—From My Childhood to Andy Warhol” at SCAI The Bathhouse, TOKYO

Tadanori Yokoo
“B29 and Homeland—From My Childhood to Andy Warhol”
31 May – 6 July 2019
SCAI The Bathhouse, TOKYO

Tadanori Yokoo’s practice embodies a unique perspective, using an astute and penetrating understanding of the times. His work always attracts international interest, and he applies his talent to a wide range of genres, from the visual arts to literature. As evidenced, for example, by the Y-Junction series, Yokoo’s art is characterized by playing out through a series of iterations on a subject while freely changing the mode of expression. There are as many different types of expression as there are works, and there are as many ‘Tadanori Yokoos’as there are different types of expression. This incredibly rich variety stems from the artist’s knowledge of art history and his inquiring mind.

©Tadanori Yokoo, photo: Tomoki Imai

The curious title,“B29 and Homeland—From My Childhood to Andy Warhol,”hints at the complexity of meaning encompassed by the exhibition. Born in 1936, Yokoo’s childhood coincided with the Second World War and its aftermath. Fragments of that period, such as occupation forces and aircraft conducting air raids, appear sporadically as motifs in his art. However, as memories and experiences, they creep onto the canvas naturally, rather than as the result of a conscious decision to make war the topic. One could say that to Yokoo, who grew up and produced his art along with the post-war era, the history of modern Japan and that of his oeuvre are inextricably linked.
The principal focus of the exhibition is on portraits of distinguished personalities, including historical post-war figures like Douglas MacArthur, the movie character Tarzan, and the cultural icon Andy Warhol. The portraits are combined with a smattering of Y-Junction pieces, creating a multifaceted world, something akin to a general retrospective of the cultural experiences of the artist during and after the war.

AGAINST COLOUR STROKE VECTORS at Massimo De Carlo gallery, Milan

AGAINST COLOUR STROKE VECTORS at Massimo De Carlo gallery, Milan

Massimo De Carlo, Milan, Belgioioso
From May 29 to July 12, 2019

Massimo De Carlo presents Against Colour Stroke Vectors presenting works by Günther Förg, Mario Merz, Emilio Vedova and Mary Weatherford. The exhibition brings together seminal works by each artist, with the aim to investigate the variations of the relationship between the dynamism of the medium, the spatial degrees of object-hood in the context of the canvas, and qualities of colour. All artists on display have, consciously or unconsciously, explored ideational, interpersonal or textual functions of the canvas and the work of art: from Förg’s daunting and materic bronze to Merz’s 1980’s investigations of nature, to Vedova’s propulsive energy and Mary Weatherford’s echoing glass light tubes – the discourse can always be drawn back to the complex yet unstructured space between thought and action. Absolute and infinite, void and darkness, gesture and logic, light and dimensionality are tangible in each work in the exhibition.

The two works on display by German artist Günther Förg, belonging to two different bodies of work, embody the artist’s reflections on spatiality and materials. In the bronze painting in the first room, a material that the artist started using in the late 1980’s, the artist challenges and evolves from the stereotypical notion of canvas by using bronze: the result is that these dimensional pieces have an immersive character, where the painterly gesture combined with the physicality of bronze draws the viewer to a reflection on the sublime and sobriety. The grey painting in the second room is part of a larger group of works that Förg first executed in 1973 continuing through to his death in 2013: these elegant, dense works showcase not only the artist’s evolving relationship with the monochrome, but also embody the multiple material and conceptual concerns found elsewhere across his broad practice.

In the second room, the viewer is confronted with a large-scale canvas by the Italian painter Emilio Vedova, that through Per la Spagna Nr. 14 (1962) expresses his radical stances on both paint and politics – combining his avant-garde techniques of exploring the dynamism of the painterly action between light and space to the desire to convey a message. The work is part of a cycle that the artist created for the 1962 exhibition organized at Ca ’Giustinian, in Venice, during the Biennale d’Arte. The canvas is aggressively covered in black and white oil marks and abstract symbols, a physical and creative answer to the spectacle of violence offered by the twentieth century, in this case in particular dedicated to Spain that at the time was living in dark times – under the helm of the dictator Francisco Franco. Mary Weatherford offers a contemporary reading of artists that use light and materials. In the second room, there is one of Weatherford’s signature works: a large abstract canvas is almost cut in half by a neon glass tube. The paintings are made using vinyl-based Flashe paint on linen canvasses made especially for the artist at a Belgian mill, and the neon tube is always made to order. The paintings are essentially invisible to the artist as she is working; only emerging after the canvas has dried. “Because the water reflects, I can’t really see what’s going to happen. It’s a quite a mystery,” Weatherford explained. “As the water dries overnight and the pigment sinks into the painting, it’s like watching a photograph develop. I come in the next morning and the image is there.” The combination of chance and manipulation is key in Mary Weatherford’s oeuvre that documents the orchestrated flow of organic material, where the artist alternates meticulous research to the creations of chance.

Iconic Italian artist Mario Merz, one of the key exponents of the Arte Povera movement, in his career explored the transmission of energy from the organic to the inorganic, using uncanny irony and the Shade of conceptualism to transform each thought into a vocabulary of sculptures and paintings. The small canvas in the reading room and the sculpture in the first symbolize Merz’s research of the late seventies- early eighties around the relationship between nature, logic and the varieties of gestures that can be encapsulated into art. Accumulation, reconfiguration and dynamism are some of the subjects that the eclectic artist conveyed into paintings and installations that capture force and delicacy and the wilderness of thought with the rigour of logic.

All images > Courtesy ©Massimo De Carlo gallery 

Ritratto d’un capello inquietante at Galerie Buchholz, Berlin

Ritratto d’un capello inquietante at Galerie Buchholz, Berlin

Julien Ceccaldi, Nicolas Ceccaldi, Mathieu Malouf, Heji Shin
Ritratto d’un capello inquietante
Galerie Buchholz, Berlin
7 June – 24 August 2019

Galerie Buchholz presents the group show Ritratto d’un capello inquietante at the gallery’s original location at Neven-DuMont-Straße. It will be the first time the work of Heji Shin, Nicolas Ceccaldi, Julien Ceccaldi and Mathieu Malouf is featured in the same group show in Cologne. The title makes reference to a work by de Chirico, La Musa Inquietante (The Disquieting Muse), a 1975-1980 drawing in which a pile of objects assumes the uncanny likeness of a woman. Ritratto d’un capello inquietante literally means Portrait of a Disquieting Hair. For the artists, it serves as a vehicle through which various anxieties related to bodily and mental decay are funneled. All three works by Julien Ceccaldi feature Stéphane, a character conceived as self-sufficient without any love interest. He was created to appear optimistic about being alone, and set upon achieving his dream of becoming a pop-punk star. In the painting Crack the World’s Shell (2019), he is depicted naked, breaking out of an egg, reaching for something high above. The composition is inspired by a Chester Brown drawing dedicated to his crush in his autobiographical graphic novel I Never Liked You (1994). It is a picture of a skeleton, symbolizing himself, floating in the cosmos and stretching his arm towards a bird that represents the girl he likes. Here, however, the hero is the bird, and his hand reaches for something out of frame.

Like the characters in the anime Utena (1996, dir. Kunihiko Ikuhara), Stéphane destroys the shell of the world, to avoid dying without ever being born. This recurrent image in the anime paraphrases a quote from Hermann Hesse’s bildungsroman Demian. “The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. That God’s name is Abraxas”. Stéphane’s purpose is also to represent positive experiences of anonymous casual encounters. In the painting The Little Bird in the Pants (2019), he fishes out a small wrinkly pink bird out of a stranger’s boxers briefs. He is startled but nonetheless happy to engage with it. It is a reference to Catherine Breillat’s Romance (1999), in which Marie (Caroline Ducey) is so deeply enamoured with her boyfriend that she thinks of his flaccid penis as a weak bird that she lovingly nurses to life. The shadow of a disturbing figure appears at the door. It sports a single pubic-like hair on top of its bald head. It could be a husband walking in on an affair, or Stéphane’s future self, revisiting this memory. The photographs by Heji Shin are based on the long history of “portrait of the artist’s mother”. Shin’s mother suffers from a psychosis that compells her to cook large quantities of food from the early morning hours until exhaustion every day, which she then packs into unmarked plastic bags to dump them as anonymous offerings in various locations across the city of Berlin – near hospitals, in front of police stations, fire stations, etc. The mother poses next to professional models and performs her habitual duties as a fictional version of herself, putting contrasting representations of the Feminine in relation to each other: the mother and the model, the artist and the child, and on a deeper level, the origins of art and the origins of life.

The pieces titled Eaux Saines (2019) by Nicolas Ceccaldi are at once ready-made floor sculptures and room dividers. Consisting of pillows arranged in a row that extends into the middle of each room, these pieces were originally conceived in an attempt to establish boundaries between two people sharing the same bed. While these sculptures formulate a concrete, modernist solution to body contact, three paintings, A Rose for a Rogue (2018), Only a Duke Would Dare (2018) and Le Temps Retrouvé (2019), treat human embrace through the embellishment of stock images: two impasto oil paintings of youthful couples and the puzzle-piece reconstruction of a serene fishing scene between an elderly man and his grandson. Bracketing the exhibition are Mathieu Malouf’s paintings The Enigma of the Milky Way 1 (2019) and The Enigma of the Milky Way 2 (2019). Both are based on nude photos of the artist taken by Nicolas Ceccaldi, cut up and reconstructed, suggesting multiple simultaneous perspectives and the illusion of limbs breaking through the 4th wall – a process the artist refers to as “body cubism”. The figures are depicted in a state of deep focus characteristic of the virtuoso, with eyes fixated on the viewer wherever they stand. Contrasting with the emotionally neutral faces, bodies are dramatically contorted and unload a powerful blast of raw emotion. Out of their enlarged nipples, breast milk squirts out expressively, recalling tropes of abstract expressionism and action painting, historical art forms long associated with the myth of male self-expression. Casting himself as a nude performer on canvas and allegorically positing the body as a universe in constant expansion, the artist engages in a seductive dance for a gallery audience.

H.S., J.C., N.C., M.M

Bani Abidi, They Died Laughing / Gropius Bau, Berlin

Bani Abidi, They Died Laughing / Gropius Bau, Berlin

Bani Abidi, They Died Laughing
Gropius Bau, Berlin
6 June to 22 September 2019

Bani Abidi is known for her distinctive approach to filmmaking, which derives from the dark absurdities of everyday life. They Died Laughing is an extensive presentation of Abidi’s works, bringing together moving image and print-based works that span two decades. Abidi often uses video as her tool for mnemonic recall while embedding the medium with a poetic function and layers of fiction. Currently based in Berlin and Karachi, she assumes the role of a storyteller and urban archaeologist in telling the stories of cities she has lived in. Fictional narratives traverse individual experiences and ask complex questions on patriotism, framed by the historic power struggles and geopolitical relations between neighbouring nation-states India and Pakistan. Her works spin tales of ambition and failure, while thematising the relationship between state power, patriotism and megalomania.

Bani Abidi. Karachi Series I, 2009 Courtesy: the artist & Experimenter, Kolkata © Bani Abidi

For the exhibition at the Gropius Bau, Bani Abidi developed a new project, The Lost Procession, based on the experiences of the persecuted Hazara community from Quetta, capital of the Pakistani province of Balochistan, who have fled to Germany in recent years. While Abidi sketches encounters between these inhabited landscapes, she focuses on themes including expropriation, refuge and captivity. This project is commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation, where Bani Abidi will have a solo exhibition in October 2019, curated by Hoor Al-Qasimi and Natasha Ginwala.

“Land of the Lustrous” UCCA Dune’s first summer exhibition

“Land of the Lustrous” UCCA Dune’s first summer exhibition

Land of the Lustrous
23.04.2019 – 08.09.2019
UCCA Dune, Beidaihe

From April 23 to September 8, 2019, UCCA Dune presents “Land of the Lustrous,” encompassing work by ten artists both in and beyond China. Each artwork in this exhibition relates—materially or formally—to the figure of the stone, approaching this age-old object from novel perspectives. Participating artists weave their individual concerns together, drawing from, and sinking into, ancient collective memories. “Land of the Lustrous”—UCCA Dune’s first summer exhibition—has been devised to fit the unique spatial characteristics of the building, and the surrounding environment. Designed by by Li Hu and Huang Wenjing of OPEN Architecture, UCCA Dune is nestled in the sand by the BohaiSea in the Aranya Gold Coast Community, 300 kilometers from Beijing. As with all of UCCA’s endeavors, this exhibition proceeds from UCCA’s core mission ofbringing urgent positions in contemporary art, both Chinese and international, to an ever-widening viewing public. The exhibition is curated by UCCA Curator Yang Zi.

Artworks in “Land of the Lustrous” serve as explorations of a single animistbelief: that rock, a piece of seemingly inert matter, is actually endowed with life and thought. Wang Sishun’s Apocalypse 16.9.1, for example, personifies a collection of three found stones; arrayed in a line, they stand rigidly upright, in cautious dialogue, as if participating in a tense religious rite. Zhao Yao, Lin Xue, and Miguel Angel Ríos, similarly, have selected stones of unassuming appearance and brought them to life by cleverly manipulating their details, positions, and “postures”: Zhao Yao has placed an enormous red Mani stone on the margin of sand and sea surrounding UCCA Dune, like a giant cell, absorbing sunlight; Lin Xue has drawn a series of fruit pits, collected from a mountainousforest, transforming them into a set of heavenly bodies, or a life system. Ríos’s film records a cascade of tumbling spheroid stones, reminding viewers of the vigorous movements of antelope.

The proposition that stone “is alive” results in several ancillary questions—is humankind the measure of the universe? Is it shortsighted to base values solely on human needs, universalizing our limited ways of understanding the world? As urbanization and modernization progress, will such nearsighted forms of knowledge bring about a corresponding rise in alienation? After all, only humans can consume, produce, and create surplus value in the world of capital; in this game, “nature” can serve only as dead material. Timur Si-qin and Su-Mei Tsestrive to imagine models and rubrics that are separate from “nature itself.” Si-qin’s Juniper, produced in 2019, is a kind of billboard for the Anthropocene, advertising the spatial and temporal concepts attendant to this new epoch. Su-Mei Tse’s “Stone Collection,” on the other hand, reminds viewers of the Ancient Chinese custom of collecting oddly-shaped stones to serve as foci for ouryearning for nature, for mountains and water. Tse’s presentation of these stones, however, carries a touch of the existential—as we are faced with the inhuman, shaped as it has been over millennia, does our tendency to measure time by our own lifespans not seem absurd? Li Weiyi’s Cairn gives a humorous take on this absurdity: as viewers wear VR goggles, they are transported to the interior of a stone, its sturdiness fusing with that of their bodies. Other artists use these mysterious, self-contained images to create a spectral stage on which to perform their own, fantastic tales. Lu Pingyuan has taken thestory of an art collective, “Meteorite Hunters,” scouring the earth for fallen meteorites and launching them back into outer space, and carved it on the surfaces of three stones. Yan Xing has enacted one of his own stories of industrial design in Republican Era China, featuring the radiant exchange between a piece of jade and an indoor light fixture. Wang Xiaoqu’s paintings explore the rich middle ground between two different interpretations of a photograph—that of the photographer, and that of the artist. Wang purposefully “misunderstands” photos of everyday life and of travel, and turns Chinese sayings—such as “feeling for stones as one advances”—into outlandish diagrams.

The exhibition also provides a series of myths—many from China’s deep antiquity— that center on the figure of the stone, forming an interpretive framework for the artworks. These visual misreadings closely resemble the oral transmission—and mutation—of myths. As the Chinese scholar Yuan Ke has said, “the circulation and evolution of popular myths is a complex affair, one that is difficult to investigate.” In this exhibition, a discourse based on precedent and change links to a more capacious visual system, an interchange that dependsless on precision than on inspiration. “Land of the Lustrous” hopes to uncover and awaken several possibilities often overlooked in the context of contemporary art. China has a long, fruitful history of worshiping stone deities; this most ordinary of objects has gained an aura of ineffability in popular consciousness. This aura suffuses the artworks, too, circumventing that anxiety plaguing Wittgenstein as he described “pictures placed in language.”


UCCA Dune is an art museum buried under a sand dune by the Bohai Sea in Beidaihe, 300 kilometers east of Beijing. Designed by OPEN Architecture, its galleries unfold over a series of cell-like spaces that evoke caves. Some are naturally lit from above, while others open out onto the beach. As a branch of UCCA, China’s leading independent institution of contemporary art, it presents rotating exhibitions in dialogue with its particular site and space. UCCA Dune is built and supported by UCCA strategic partner Aranya, and located within the Aranya Gold Coast Community.

All images > Courtesy © UCCA Dune

Leila Alaoui: Ya Rayah, Galleria Continua, Beijing

Leila Alaoui: Ya Rayah, Galleria Continua, Beijing

Leila Alaoui: Ya Rayah
23 Mar 2019 to 28 Jul 2019

Galleria Continua presents for the first time in China an exhibition of the work of Franco-Moroccan artist Leila Alaoui. The title of the exhibition has been borrowed from the Algerian song by Dahmane El Harrachi, Ya Rayah: ‘O, you who are leaving’. This song of exile was written in the 1970s and remains popular to this day. Its words are steeped in homesickness and the sufferings of exile, while its melody distills an unspeakable melancholy. Whether in No Pasara, her first work as a professional photographer, for which she worked with Moroccan youths yearning for a nearby yet distant Europe, or in her unfinished project with the immigrant workers of the old Renault factory in Boulogne- Billancourt—L’Île du Diable—, or in her encounters with Syrian refugees in Lebanon for Natreen or Sub-Saharan African migrants for Crossings, Leila Alaoui was consistently aiming her lens at exiles, those who have been abandoned, left to disappear behind clichés and statistics. In so doing, she brought into focus the faces and the return gazes of men and women and children, with all that these told of the loss of home, of waiting, of regrets in the face of harsh reality, and of hope despite everything. Alaoui’s encounters with these people are humbly revealed in a sensitive body of work that she herself defined as primarily social.

Leila Alaoui – Les Marocains – Series 2010-2014, Inkjet print on wall paper, Site specific dimension. Photo: Dong Lin

The exhibition opens with the series Les Marocains, in very large format, on the same scale as the exhibition space. This long- distance project, inspired by Robert Frank’s Americans, saw Leila Alaoui travelling through Morocco with a mobile studio, weaving together a multifaceted portrait of a country through its inhabitants. Arabs and Berbers, women and men, adults and children can be found side by side in a mosaic of traditions, cultures, and aesthetics. As many customs were gradually disappearing in the face of unbridled globalisation, these portraits constitute something like the outlines of a visual archive. But more than a simple documentary, Les Marocains was also a way for the young photographer to seek out her own heritage, to bring together the distance implied in the whole apparatus of camera with a form of intimacy that drew on her Moroccan roots and that was forged through the encounters she made with the people on her journey. An irrevocable way to make a claim for an autonomous aesthetic, freed of all Orientalist folklore and focusing on the dignitity of individuals and of a country.

Leila Alaoui – No Pasara – Series 2008, Lambda print mounted on Dibond, 73 x 102 cm. Photo: Dong Lin

No Pasara, Alaoui’s first photographic project, acts as a sort of manifesto for her social engagement. This series shows the many faces of a Moroccan youth looking for a passage to Europe, candidates to an uncertain exile, uprooted in the heart of their own country. Remarkably humble as a portraitist, Alaoui knew how to observe them, to listen to them, only taking up her camera after long periods of shared time and exchange. She wished to grasp as best she could something of the lives, the dreams and mirages of those called Harragas (‘those who burn’), along with the necessity they all felt for leaving their birthplace. Crossings, with its portraits of Sub-Saharan African migrants, is also the expression of encounters. This series, which began as a video work before becoming photographic, approaches these women and men who have left everything behind in their quest for a better life on the other side of the Mediterranean, with all the dangers of a journey in which others have lost their lives, and attempts to let them speak. Those who made it as far as Morocco, washing up almost at the door to Europe, bear the visible or invisible scars of their unfinished voyage. In the intensity of their gaze and of their stories, one discovers a continuity both with the No Pasara photographs and those of the Syrian refugees fleeing war and chaos in another series, Natreen, which Alaoui made in Libya in 2013. Men, women, and children in a foreign country, dispossessed of their land and their property, hoping for a better future but stuck in an apparently interminable holding pattern. Morocco, Syria, Central Africa: other places, other reasons to flee. Everywhere, the same uprooting, the same hope, illusions crashing against the same reality. Leila Alaoui determinedly fixed her sights on this reality, making herself into an echo chamber for these distant voices, even while she was able to delicately, humbly retranscribe the beauty of these people already become something more than the anonymous figures of the news.

Leila Alaoui – Les Marocains – Series 2010-2014, Inkjet print on wall paper, Site specific dimension. Photo: Dong Lin

The project L’Île du Diable, which is presented here in video format, is a work that Alaoui began near Paris in Boulogne-Billancourt, where she had sought out the one-time immigrant workers of the Renault factory that used to be situated on Seguin Island—nicknamed ‘the Devil’s island’ by the workers. The factory, which today has been completely demolished, was one of the biggest in the country, a veritable pin-up of French industry that over its years in operation, from the 1930s until 1992, employed a large number of foreign workers, especially from Africa and Asia. After her first projects, in which she sought out people wishing to migrate in order to tell the story of their attempts at departure, their hopes, and the obstacles lying in their way, Alaoui now turned her gaze to those who had arrived. Uprooted workers labouring in difficult conditions, they were actors in the great social struggles of the 1960s to defend their rights and their dignity. This unfinished project of Alaoui’s aimed at letting them tell their story, letting them recount the social memory of immigrant workers. The video presented here shows their faces, either in portraits or as witnesses returning to the site of the old factory. The video was to be the first part of a larger project, in which the younger generations of immigrant workers were to have been invited to speak also, contributing to a global perspective.

Leila Alaoui – Natreen – Series 2013, Lambda print mounted on Dibond, 40 x 60 cm. Photo: Dong Lin

Leila Alaoui, Franco-Moroccan artist, photographer, and video maker, was born in 1982. She studied photography at City University in New York. Her work explores the construction of identity, cultural diversity, and migration in the Mediterranean. She used photography and video art to express social realities through a visual language situated somewhere between documentary and visual art. Her work has been exhibited internationally since 2009, including in Paris at L’Institut du Monde Arabe and La Maison Européenne de la Photographie, in Sweden at Malmö Konsthall, and at the Cascais Citadel Palace in Portugal. Leila Alaoui’s humanitarian engagement includes photographic commissions from NGOs including the Danish Refugee Council, Search for Common Ground, and the Human Rights Commission. In January 2016, while working on a commission from Amnesty International about women’s rights in Burkina Faso, Leila Alaoui fell victim to the terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou. She died from her wounds on 18 January 2016. The Leila Alaoui Foundation was created to preserve her work, defend her values, and inspire and support humanist artistic engagement.

Leila Alaoui – Natreen – Series 2013, Lambda print mounted on Dibond, 40 x 60 cm. Photo: Dong Lin




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