NATHALIE DJURBERG & HANS BERG, It Will End in Stars, 2018 at Julia Stoschek Collection


It Will End in Stars, 2018

Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin

From 25 January until 26 April 2020

by Elda Oreto

It Will End in Stars (2018) is a virtual reality project by Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg for Acute Art ( The project, directed and curated by Daniel Birnbaum, will be exhibited until April 26, 2020 at the Julia Stoschek Collection ( Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg create an interactive VR work that combines the aesthetic of a video game with that of an escape room. The work investigates freedom of choice and the way each of us reacts to different possibilities. In order to make tangible the importance of decisions and intentions in human action, the work requires the viewer to move and operate “actively” within the virtual space. A sensor detects hand movements and causes the VR to react accordingly.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

The viewer of the work, once the VR glasses are on, has access to the virtual landscape: in a dark wood faces the first decision — to enter an abandoned hut or to remain in the woods, wandering aimlessly, exposed to unknown dangers. Entering the hut, inside, there is a gray wolf sitting on an armchair near a fireplace. Around him are scattered various objects, including a gramophone and a skull. Enclosed in a small birdcage, hanging from the ceiling, there is a miniature woman. Djurberg’s disturbing images recall the typical motifs of her work, creating an alienating and obscene world, like those described in certain nursery rhymes for children. Djurberg continues her artistic research into the archetypes of western mindsets, with her charcoal drawings in black and white, together with text inserts and a soundtrack by Hans Berg. Strange words appear suspended in mid-air. They remind us of the voices in our dreams: they make sense but are truncated and only partially intelligible. Among the writings, two passages captivate the attention: Let’s keep memories they make me company… I am scared… 

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

The interactive element of It Will End in Stars requires the viewer to find an element or an object that activates the next level, in order to continue along the path and reach the end. The viewer must perform various actions: offering the wolf a cigarette, lighting it, touching the skull, touching the gramophone to make the wolf dance and finally, touching the woman in the cage. Performing these operations in succession allows to enter another dimension — the patio of a temple, where the tiny woman becomes a giant. While flashing, the woman turns into a skeleton that resembles some kind of primitive deity. Walking under the huge legs of the giant, who, among other things, seems to have cannibalistic intentions, one is able to escape the temple, becoming free into a starry universe.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

In It Will End in Stars, each choice leads to another choice and then to more. Time is always an eternal now, with a constantly flexible perimeter. If a choice we have made has not led us anywhere, we can correct it and revise it; we can go back and change it. There is no “game-over.” The past is reversible, without guilt. This double interactive and simultaneously programmed nature of VR creates a sense of openness to infinite possibilities accompanied by a limitation of choice.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

In Djurberg & Berg VR, what we encounter is more than a crossroad, it is like a three way junction. The past lies behind us, with the choices we have made (like the dark, endless wood); ahead of us is a future with two possibilities: following established habits (like the wolf on the chair who smokes cigarettes), repeating the choices of the past infinitely, inevitably leading us to the same point, as in a vicious circle, or changing, overcoming our fears (the woman in the cage) and evolving into something unexpected and bigger (the starry sky).

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s research revolves around the primary fears and instincts of the human soul – jealousy, avarice, lust – analyzing them when they are still in a primitive and concrete state and not yet defined abstractly as feelings, bound by logical measures and moral norms. The complex symbolic universe they create represents a short journey inside the dark zone of our soul, reflecting the opportunities that a person encounters in every moment of life, on order to achieve what he wants. Their work combines Djurberg’s characteristic clay animation, which she developed in 2001, and Berg’s hypnotic musical compositions and sound effects. By mixing cinema, sculpture and performance, their most recent works have also created immersive environments rich in symbolic meaning. These works include We Are Not Two We Are One (2008) and Tiger Licking a Girls’ Butt (2004), which present a visionary world made up of grotesque figures and anguished atmospheres. The artistic duo exhibited together at various events including The Secret Garden (2016) at the Shanghai 21st Century Minsheng Art Museum, China; the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art and the Australian Center for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. They have also participated in group exhibitions, including the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009). 

Nathalie Djurberg was born in Lysekil, Sweden in 1978, and she received an MFA at the Malmö Art Academy, Sweden in 2002. Hans Berg was born in Rättvik, Sweden in 1978, and he is a musician, producer and composer, working mainly with electronic music. Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg live and work in Berlin, Germany.

Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures

Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures


until May 9, 2020 

The Museum of Modern Art announces Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures, the first major solo exhibition at the Museum of the photographer’s incisive work in over 50 years. On view from February 9 through May 9, 2020, in The Paul J. Sachs Galleries in The David and Peggy Rockefeller Building, Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures includes approximately 100 photographs drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection. The exhibition also uses archival materials such as correspondence, historical publications, and oral histories, as well as contemporary voices, to examine the ways in which words inflect our understanding of Lange’s pictures. These new perspectives and responses from artists, scholars, critics, and writers, including Julie Ault, Wendy Red Star, and Rebecca Solnit, provide fresh insight into Lange’s practice. Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures is organized by Sarah Meister, Curator, with River Bullock, Beaumont & Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow, assisted by Madeline Weisburg, Modern Women’s Fund Twelve-Month Intern, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange, Daughter of Migrant Tennessee Coal Miner Living in American River Camp near Sacramento, California, November 1936

Toward the end of her life, Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) remarked, “All photographs—not only those that are so-called ‘documentary,’ and every photograph really is documentary and belongs in some place, has a place in history—can be fortified by words.” Organized loosely chronologically and spanning her career, the exhibition groups iconic works together with lesser known photographs and traces their varied relationships to words: from early criticism on Lange’s photographs to her photo-essays published in LIFE magazine, and from the landmark photobook An American Exodus to her examination of the US criminal justice system. The exhibition also includes groundbreaking photographs of the 1930s—including Migrant Mother (1936)—that inspired pivotal public awareness of the lives of sharecroppers, displaced families, and migrant workers during the Great Depression. Through her photography and her words, Lange urged photographers to reconnect with the world—a call reflective of her own ethos and working method, which coupled an attention to aesthetics with a central concern for humanity.

Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange, Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma, August 1936

“It seems both timely and urgent that we renew our attention to Lange’s extraordinary achievements,” said Sarah Meister. “Her concern for less fortunate and often overlooked individuals, and her success in using photography (and words) to address these inequities, encourages each of us to reflect on our own civic responsibilities. It reminds me of the unique role that art—and in particular photography—can play in imagining a more just society.”

Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange, Farm Family, 1938

The exhibition begins in 1933, when Lange, then a portrait photographer, first brought her camera outside into the streets of San Francisco. Lange’s increasing interest in the everyday experience of people she encountered eventually led her to work for government agencies, supporting their objective to raise public awareness and to provide aid to struggling farmers and those devastated by the Great Depression. During this time, Lange photographed her subjects and kept notes that formed the backbone of government reports; these and other archival materials will be represented alongside corresponding photographs throughout the exhibition. Lange’s commitment to social justice and her faith in the power of photography remained constant throughout her life, even when her politics did not align with those who were paying for her work. A central focus of the exhibition is An American Exodus, a 1939 collaboration between Lange and Paul Schuster Taylorher husband and an agricultural economist. As an object and as an idea, An American Exodus highlights the voices of her subjects by pairing first-person quotations alongside their pictures. Later, Lange’s photographs continued to be useful in addressing marginalized histories and ongoing social concerns. Throughout her career as a photographer for the US Government and various popular magazines, Lange’s pictures were frequently syndicated and circulated outside of their original context. Lange’s photographs of the 1930s helped illustrate Richard Wright’s 12 Million Black Voices (1941), and her 1950s photographs of a public defender were used to illustrate Minimizing Racism in Jury Trials (1969), a law handbook published after Black Panther Huey P. Newton’s first trial during a time of great racial strife.

Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, March 1936

This collection-based exhibition would not be possible had it not been for Lange’s deep creative ties to the Museum during her lifetime. MoMA’s collection of Lange photographs was built over many decades and remains one of the definitive collections of her work. Her relationship to MoMA’s Department of Photography dates to her inclusion in its inaugural exhibition, in 1940 which was curated by the department’s director, Edward Steichen. Lange is a rare artist in that both Steichen and his successor, John Szarkowski, held her in equally high esteem. More than a generation after her first retrospective, organized by Szarkowski at MoMA in 1966, Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures uses both historical and contemporary words to encourage a more nuanced understanding of words and pictures in circulation.

Workwear between functionality and simbolic value / UNIFORM into the work / Out of the work

Workwear between functionality and simbolic value / UNIFORM into the work / Out of the work


Until 03.05.2020

Curated by Urs Stahel

by Alice Zucca

I wore a uniform for 8 years of my life, when I attended school at an institute of Dominican nuns. I was 4 years old when I entered and I left when I was 11. In that context it was all a matter of uniforms, from the various ones of the religious environment to the one that was intended for us students. And for the students there wasn’t just the classic uniform that was used to identify us, but more different ones of different colors, at times aimed to indicate specific varieties of possible behaviors – positive and negative – to identify us not only in our social framework among other students but even as a type of person. I haven’t had to wait a long time to understand that uniforms are a matter of identity. It is certainly peculiar in this context to notice that in Italian, to indicate the uniform, there are two words “uniforme” (from the Latin uniformis meaning to have one form) and “divisa” (from the Latin dividere, to divide, to separate). The first highlights the unifying aspect, the second a dividing element: terms that reveal inclusion and exclusion as two connected actions, and indeed, in this sense, they are.

Marianne Mueller
Untitled, from the series “M-Portraits” 1998
C-print, 45 × 30 cm
Collezione MAST / MAST Collection

The concept of identity concerns, on one hand, the way in which the individual considers himself as a member of certain groups and, on the other hand, the way in which the codes of those groups allow each individual to think, move, place oneself and relate to oneself in relation to others, to the group itself to which they belong and to other groups, intended, perceived and classified as external. The process of the formation of the identity can therefore certainly be distinguished in these two components of identification, recognition and exclusion.

Untitled, from the series “Dalliendorf”
© Albrecht Tübke
Series “Miners”
© Song Chao | Courtesy of Photography of

From homogenization to individual identity, uniforms communicate information and levels of belonging, of importance and credibility, they orchestrate social relations becoming over time a reference for fashion and mass production in the clothing industry. The uniform speaks to the others, the other and the individual self and has such an intrinsic quantity of encoded information that makes it able to develop an identity. I remember myself, being eleven years old, resting in the courtyard of that school, waiting for Christ to walk on the water of the fountain of the institute, while my shadow and my gaze, among the buildings, climbed up into the sky. But, as to Aleksandr Blok in Majakovsky’s A Cloud in Trousers, Christ decided not to appear to me. And from there, I am what I am now.

Roland Fischer
#1 from the series “Nuns and Monks” 1986
#2 from the series “Nuns and Monks” 1984
C-print, 170 × 120 cm
Courtesy of the artist

Olivier Silva is a young French boy who is followed by Rineke Dijkstra when he decides to enlist in the Foreign Legion and then during his 36-month training. The result is the impressive photographs, on display in the new exhibition at MAST, which show us in a brutal way how the time spent in the army, wearing the uniform, has changed the character of the young man.

#1 Rineke Dijkstra
Olivier, Quartier Vienot, Marseille, France, July 21, 2000 2000
C-print, 126,5 × 108,5 cm
Courtesy of the artist

#2 Rineke Dijkstra
Olivier, Camp Rafalli, Calvi, Corsica, June 18, 2001 2001
C-print, 126,5 × 108,5 cm
Courtesy of the artist

The event is actually the union of two exhibitions, both investigating the aspects of being and appearing through “the uniform”, whether it is an official one or otherwise, UNIFORM INTO THE WORK / OUT OF THE WORK includes WORKWEAR IN THE IMAGES OF 44 PHOTOGRAPHERS an artistic itinerary that presents 44 shots by famous protagonists of the history of photography and a monograph of WALEAD BESHTY “INDUSTRIAL PORTRAITS”, which is a collection of hundreds of portraits of professionals in the Art industry, who he met during his career and for whom clothing is a silent code, an anti-uniform, but also, professionally, a personal distinctive trait.

Collector, Los Angeles, California, October 8, 2013
courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Walead Beshty


The group exhibition “Workwear in the images of 44 photographers” staged in the PhotoGallery brings together photographs by 44 artists, including Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Walker Evans, Arno Fischer, Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, August Sander and contemporary photographers like Paola Agosti, Sonja Braas, Song Chao, Clegg & Guttmann, Hans Danuser, Barbara Davatz, Roland Fischer, André Gelpke, Helga Paris, Tobias Kaspar, Herlinde Koelbl, Paolo Pellegrin, Timm Rautert, Oliver Sieber, Sebastião Salgado, images from albums of unknown collectors and eight videos by Marianne Mueller. Today we still distinguish between “blue collar” and “white collar” workers, two expressions that have become established in many languages of industrialised society. Inspired by workwear, a distinction is made between different forms and professional and social categories: on one hand the blue tunic or coverall of factory workers, on the other the white collar as a symbol of the suit jacket, white shirt and tie of those who perform administrative and managerial functions.

Forlì, 1978
Young iron worker © Paola Agosti

The exhibition is an excursion through uniforms, calling for a reflection on being and appearing: the work tunics photographed by Graciela Iturbide, the aprons worn in the “small trades” – as Irving Penn calls them – of the fishmonger and the butcher, the coveralls of the coal dock workers in the port of Havana portrayed by Walker Evans, the clothes of the farmers in Albrecht Tübke‘s colour shots, the workers’ coveralls in Fiat’s assembly plants in Turin in the photographs of Paola Agosti.

Fishmonger, London
Irving Penn | Fishmonger, London, 1950 | © Condé Nast

In Barbara Davatz‘s pictures, the work clothes of the employees of a small factory in Switzerland are compared with the uniforms of the apprentices of the largest food retailer “Migros” photographed by Marianne Mueller, while the white collars photographed by Florian Van Roekel are a counterpoint to the black coveralls of the miners in the photos of the Chinese Song Chao and the workers of a clothing factory photographed by Helga Paris. Workwear also includes protective clothing, which is the central point of the images of the Mexican Manuel Álvarez BravoHitoshi Tsukiji who focuses on Toshiba’s safety gloves, and Sonja BraasHans Danuser and Doug Menuez who concentrate on coveralls.

The Fire Workers, Mexico 1935
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

Clothing doesn’t just reflect the different occupations, nor does it exclusively obey the function of the work, but it also indicates a distinction of class and status as shown in the great group portrait of the multinational Clegg & Guttmann‘s company executives, where the light illuminates only the faces, the hands and the dazzling triangles formed by the lapels, white shirts and ties. In the nine portraits by August Sander, considered one of the most famous portrait photographers of the 20th century, the symbiosis between person, profession and social role emerges more than the essence of the individuals themselves. In fact, the photographer’s focus is on the social function rather than the aesthetics of photography, with the intention of building a faithful image of the era.

Chapter Three, V
from the series “How Terry likes his Coffee”, 2010
© Florian Van Roekel

The exhibition takes us from work clothes to uniforms with the seven imposing portraits of the soldier “Olivier” by Rineke Dijkstra, the civilian uniforms from the series by Timm Rautert, the clothes of the monk and the nun photographed by Roland Fischer, and the portraits of Angela Merkel in the nine photographs by Herlinde Koelbl, the famous German artist who dedicated a multi-year project called “Traces of Power” to year-by-year portray some of Germany’s leading political leaders, starting in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell.

Kuwait after the end of the Gulf War – The oil fields continue to burn, causing a massive ecological disaster and large loss of money. Oil-well fire fighters from around the globe at work to put out the burning oil wells. Worker of the Safety Boss Company during a rest, 1991
© Salgado/AmazonasImages/Contrasto

Sebastião Salgado immortalises the moment of rest of an employee of the Safety Boss Company in Kuwait who was engaged in the operations of extinguishing oil wells set on fire by Iraqis in 1991 during the Gulf War.
The works of Olivier SieberAndré GelpkeAndri PolPaolo PellegrinHerb Ritts and Weronika Gęsicka describe the progressive transformation of workwear and uniforms into style and fashion together with Barbara Davatz‘s “Beauty lies within” series, which depicts some of H&M’s shop assistants outside the workplace.

Tobias Kaspar‘s photographs of embroideries taken from the archives of a Swiss textile manufacturer close the exhibition.
On large monitors eight security staff in service uniforms, the protagonists of eight videos by Marianne Mueller, “watch” the visitors.


The monographic exhibition of the American photographer WALEAD BESHTY “INDUSTRIAL PORTRAITS” staged in the Gallery/Foyer brings together 364 portraits divided into seven groups of 52 photographs each: artists, collectors, curators, gallery owners, technicians, other professionals, directors and operators of museums. The photographs portray people the artist came into contact with in his working environment, while making his art or preparing exhibitions. Over the past 12 years Walead Beshty has photographed around 1,400 people with a small camera and 36 mm analogue film, mostly in black and white. From all the pictures taken the photographer selected one portrait for each subject, and 364 were selected for the exhibition at MAST.

Nonprofit Founder/Artist, Oak Park, Illinois, September 19, 2008
courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
© Walead Beshty

Inspired by the early 20th century work of portrait artist August Sander, Walead Beshsty’s goal is not to express the appearance, character or nature of the person being photographed – objectives that studio portraiture has pursued since the dawn of photography – but rather to represent people in their working environment (which is also his own), their function and the professional role they play in the art world and market. Hence the title of his work “Industrial Portraits”. “On the one hand in this title we can see the reflection of a technique that is in some ways standardised, on the other hand we can say that the portraits in the exhibition and the series as a whole (1400-1500 elements that continue to increase) are in turn a sort of ‘portrait’ of a specific industrial reality, i.e. the art industry as a whole. In this sense, the ‘Industrial Portraits’ make visible and shine a spotlight on the actors who move in this sector, which tends to be free of hierarchical structures”, explains the exhibition’s curator Urs Stahel.

Gallery President, Los Angeles, California, December 7, 2010
courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Walead Beshty

Beshty’s 364 portraits highlight the protagonists’ resistance to the uniformity of professional clothing. They don’t want to look like the others, standardised, mass produced. However, there is a risk that this negative definition will once again prove to be a uniform and standardised attitude for all the actors operating in that environment. Despite the effort made by each individual portrayed to show a unique, personal and original presence and image, the protagonists seem to remain dependent on the context, prisoners of their individualistic attitude.

Digital Print Technician, Beijing, China, September 24, 2011
courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
© Walead Beshty

Niki de Saint Phalle: The Tarot Garden

Niki de Saint Phalle: The Tarot Garden

by Lorenza Zampa

Niki de Saint Phalle’s esoteric sculpture garden based on the Tarot cards, located in Tuscany, Italy. An astonishing project started in the late seventies and ended when Niki passed away in 2002.

Some parts of the 20 year long venture stand out in particular, starting from the beginning of the project when Niki de Saint Phalle was hospitalized in St. Moritz, in 1974, due to a pulmonary abscess caused by the excessive contact with polyester, raw material of her works. It’s there she finds Marella Agnelli Caracciolo, who she had previously met in New York during the fifties, and is able to explain and describe her the idea of a sculpture garden inspired by the 22 major arcana of the tarots. Marella is immediately enthusiastic and finds her a piece of land in Tuscany, in Garavicchio, so that Niki could start working on the kaleidoscopic Tarot Garden in Capalbio (Grosseto). From an unfortunate event, such as the prolonged convalescence of the artist, a majestic and ingenious project was born. And this was undoubtedly the sign of a fate that became benevolent to Saint Phalle.

What strikes is also how Niki was able to involve a large and varied group of people in creating her park, including locals such as the postman Ugo Celletti, who was responsible for building the small stone paths which outline the itinerary among the sculptures and «a true poet» – as Niki defined him – and master in the art of arranging the iridescent glass fragments, put on the bare bodies of the sculptures made of steel and concrete.

The symbolic and enchanted space comes to life and becomes a place to be fond of. Especially Niki, obviously, is very attached to her sculpture garden, so much that, in 1983 (after 5 years from the beginning of the project) she decides to move and live inside one of them, The Empress, that she defines as the «womb of her mother». Eventually in 1988 she moves again, this time in her new loft apartment she had built herself still inside the garden, in order, according to her, to “escape” from the Empress. At this point the artist is one with her creation and starts to feel the terrible weight of the all-embracing relationship.

The monumental and architectural sculptures that were shaped by the artist and her team, even thought they are adorned with a delicate and chromatic phantasmagoria of the countless mosaic tiles and appear a bit naif, are also powerful and obscure entities that judge silently whoever looks at them or walks through them. The suspended atmosphere that one can feel inside the Garden makes the visitors aware that silence is, in fact, a primary condition for every initiatory journey.

«The Arcana», as Jodorowsky said, «are structures that immediately promote fertile conditions». Fertile as the soft and sinuous bodies of the Tarots of Capalbio which represent the peak of Saint Phalle’s artistic research that started during the first half of the sixties with the first Nanas which marked the definitive break with her recent artistic path.

Among the most fascinating sculptures of the Garden we find The World, the last of the major Arcana: here an egg, symbolic common element in art history – we could mention for example the ostrich egg, sign of maternity and rebirth, hanging by a thread over the heads of the characters of the Sacred Conversations painted during the 16th century, worth mentioning is the Pala di Brera by Piero della Francesca – doesn’t appear over the heads of the characters but it’s instead placed underneath as a base for the feminine figure that stands on top of it on its left leg. There is also a colorful striped snake that wraps the golden egg and comes out from the curvy thigh of the mysterious woman. Is this the legendary cosmic snake that according to an ancient pagan myth holds tight in its coils the shell of the primordial egg that gave birth to life?

That’s hard to say. The word “orbit”, referred to the path of celestial bodies, in that case would come from orbes, the Latin word for the coils of the snake. But even the origin of the game of Tarots and its etymology are uncertain. It seems that the word “Tarot” belonged to several ancient cultures, both in the west and in the east, it is possible that it might come from the ancient Egyptian (tarot = tar+rot “royal”+“path”), or that has Tatar origin (tarot from tan-tara meaning zodiac) or even from Sanskrit (tarot as a combination of tat = “the whole” and tar-o = “fixed star) or Hebrew (tarot from tora meaning “law”); alternatively it could be of Latin derivation (from rota = “wheel”, or orat = “talk”) or also from Chinese (from tao = “the path to excellence”). We are indeed talking about ancestral knowledge with common roots.

Going back to Capalbio, the planning of further works in the Garden stop abruptly with the death of Saint Phalle as she left written in her will. And this is something else that we need to remember if only to underline the poetic essence of the artist’s stance, strict but right. Niki conceived a magical place, she built it and opened to the public still maintaining it uncontaminated and this was, is and will be her personal dream of a lifetime.

Lorenza Zampa

All images > Niki de Saint Phalle: The Tarot Garden

Photo, Fabrizia Di Palma © XIBT

Tomás Saraceno and the algorithms of infinite possibilities.

Tomás Saraceno and the algorithms of infinite possibilities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elda Oreto

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

Walead Beshty: tangible transparencies

Walead Beshty: tangible transparencies

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

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

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

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

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

Hania Afifi



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Liu Wei

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Liu Wei


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alice Zucca

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Sohei Nishino

Anthropic landscapes of urban environments / Sohei Nishino

by Alice Zucca

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

Sohei Nishino, Shangai, 2004

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

Sohei Nishino, Rio de Janeiro, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Sohei Nishino, San Francisco, 2016

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

Sohei Nishino, NYC

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

Sohei Nishino, YAMA

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

Sohei Nishino, YAMA

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

Sohei Nishino, I-LAND

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

Alice Zucca

Martine Gutierrez: Fashion indigeneity.

Martine Gutierrez: Fashion indigeneity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dolores Pulella





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