backstrom

Re:post from Hyperallergic, written by Thomas Micchelli on August 16, 2014

The exhibition takes its title from a poem by Susan Howe, and its subject is aphasia, described in the gallery’s press release as “a cognitive disorder causing an inability to understand or produce speech.” The curatorial intention, drawing on concepts developed by the Russian-American linguist and scholar Roman Jakobson, is to present aphasia “as a cypher with metaphoric and metonymic implications.”

An intriguing concept: how to create an art exhibition about the inability to communicate? That is what curator Rachel Valinsky has set out to do in Itself Not So, the current group show at Lisa Cooley on the Lower East Side, and for the most part, her selections neatly vault past the inherent paradox of the proposition.

Typically (though not necessarily) caused by a stroke, aphasia ranges in severity from an inability to find the correct words for things to the complete loss of the capacity to use or comprehend language, whether spoken, written or signed. At the same time, it does not interfere with the patient’s mental faculties, which only increases the frustration of those suffering from the disorder.

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The exhibition, according to the gallery statement, has assembled a selection of artworks that “taken together, form a polyphonic response to the fundamental rupture between thought and expression that aphasia engenders.”

The metaphoric implications of aphasia’s “fundamental rupture between thought and expression” can be readily applied to the creative process, where the rupture between subject and form, idea and object, can often feel unbridgeable — and yet the connection must be made if the artwork is to hold together. And so how does one develop such a concept in the context of an exhibition? The curator’s answer is evidently to present works in which deliberate omissions and obfuscations are major components, as if they are confronting us with their own unmaking.

This idea is at its most conspicuous in a work like Michael Dean’s “Analogue Series (tongue) On the pronunciation of the letter L” (2014), which features a straight-back chair with a black (aphasic?) tongue in the place of one of its four legs, rendering it unusable. In a piece by Ryan Gander, which bears the impossibly long title, “Associative Template # 23 – (And all that chatter around your career) *Debit and Credit by Dan Fox, first published in Frieze, Issue 119, Nov-Dec 2008” (2009), aphasia’s gaps in comprehension are suggested by the holes left in a large, handprinted photograph from which sizable sections have been laser-cut and placed on the floor beneath it.

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The sensation of halting, unclear thoughts is visualized to striking effect in Fia Backström’s “An-alpha/pet-isms…” (2014), an installation consisting of sheets of clear vinyl film hanging from five standing steel frames, upon which letters of the alphabet float like obscured, distorted ghosts amid inky clouds, blurs and blots.

And there is “I Hate” (2007), a hi-def video by Imogen Stidworthy that focuses on a middle-aged man, presumably afflicted with aphasia, and his attempts to try and speak. All of these works walk the tightrope between clarity and unintelligibility in ways that are by turns visceral, heady, sensuous and whimsical.

The reason behind including some of the other works in the show is not as clear-cut, but that makes them no less engaging. There’s artist/musician Ben Vida’s “Slipping Control (pink/green/blue)” (2013-2014), an elegantly designed triptych comprised of three framed digital prints employing patterns of letters laid out in the spaces between pink, green and blue rectangles. The work is the basis for a vocal piece performed by the artist, whose repetitive, percussive soundings could be likened to aphasic stammering, but without the loss of control experienced by the patient.

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Rick Myers’s “Either side of the eye” (2010) offers two steel squares covered in lubricating flake graphite, one featuring a concave depression and the other with a matching convex protrusion. A quick glance can fool the eye as to which is which, but such visual ambiguity doesn’t seem to touch on the communicational handicaps stemming from the disorder.

Another work by Myers, “Study with BEFORE following AFTER” (2010), more successfully conveys the idea of expression held captive. The piece couldn’t be simpler — five black, vertical bands running the length of a narrow sheet of paper — but there is something compellingly dense, even layered about it. It is tempting to think that this impression is related to the work’s materials and process, which are described on the checklist as “Alcohol sealed sooted paper with etched soundwaves of the words AFTER, BEFORE, AFTER, having been spoken aloud and transcribed using a phonautograph.”

There are two other abstractions in the show, both by James Hoff, though they look like the work of two different artists. “Concept Virus #1” (2013), in enamel on aluminum, looks like hyper-pixelated video snow, while “Stuxnet No. 5” (2014), a red, white, blue and black Chromalux transfer on aluminum, is a Gerhard Richter-like smear of color. Neither seems to fit under the exhibition’s umbrella, which is also true of a conceptual piece by Julien Bismuth called “A train of thought” (2011), consisting of four sticks painted different colors on each of their four sides. In the notes for this work we are told, “The sticks are rotated daily so as to go through all 24 permutations of the four-color sequence.” Perhaps the piece’s daily evolution is meant to correspond with the slow, frustrating grind of rehabilitative therapy?

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According to its wall text, another conceptual work, Research Services’ “If You’re Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me” (2014), takes the subject of aphasia “as a social phenomenon triangulated by politics, aesthetics, and technology.” The artists, soliciting phone numbers from the viewing public, plan to interview participants via “robotic avatars” and broadcast the conversations in the gallery.

The exhibition’s remaining pieces, all text-based, perhaps have the most tenuous connection to aphasia, but they point in some interesting directions. Sophia Le Fraga’s video, “W8ING” (2014), consists of scrolling cellphone text messages chockablock with abbreviations and emoticons — which, in their disuse of language, may or may not be signs of aphasia. “W8ING” is supposedly a riff on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, at least according to Karen Rosenberg’s review in yesterday’s New York Times, but the triteness of the dialogue makes the connection murky at best. (Le Fraga’s other video, “TH3 B4LD 5OPRANO; or, English Made Easy,” 2014, apparently applies the same treatment to Eugène Ionesco, but the piece was not available the afternoon I visited the gallery.)

Both Sue Tompkins and Christopher Knowles use typewriters to create their works. Tompkins’ handsome, 18-part “The Lost Weekend” (2014) runs in a horizontal line across two sides of a corner of the room. Incorporating typewritten designs and enigmatic phrases on letter-size sheets of newsprint, the piece’s mystery-shrouded words could be considered stand-ins for the confusion over precise meanings that aphasia can cause.

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Knowles, who received a diagnosis of autism when he was a child and came into prominence at the age of 17 when his poetry was included in the libretto for Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach(1976), has contributed two of his pattern-based, black-and-red typewriter pieces, “Designs” and “Butterfly Blocks,” both from the 1980s. At the top of “Designs,” he has repeated the words “black” and “red” in their corresponding colors. The self-evident meaning of those marks, which soon give way to complex streams and patterns of a single letter — the lowercase “c” — embodies a poignant literalism in search of human connection. There is no abstraction, no chance of a mistake: red is red and black is black, a simple truth that marks the first step in the stairwell toward a sense of surety and understanding.

The poets Susan Howe and Aram Saroyan employ their own poetry as works of art in very different, very potent ways. Howe uses another obsolete technology, letterpress, to create drifting, squeezed and fragmented shapes out of excerpts from her poems; we don’t know what to respond to first, the elegance of the designs or the music of the words (some of which are illegible). But this is an instance of neither/nor — the physical beauty of the objects creates a doubled meaning, with each element dependent upon and inseparable from the other.

Aram Saroyan, a pioneer of Minimalist poetry, is showing “Lighght” (1989), the yellow-on-white silkscreen he made from his famous (or, for some, notorious) one-word poem, “lighght,” which was first published in 1965. Like the orders of significance in the pieces by Knowles and Howe, the image in Saroyan’s print is suspended between, and compounded by, what constitutes a word and the indefinable visual resonances carried by its semiotic representation. These poets, rather than falling into the rupture between thought and expression, bring to their visual works an understanding of the limits of language and the tools — from the metrical to the symbolic to the typographic — needed to traverse them. To make art out of their poems is just another step along the continuum.

Itself Not So continues at Lisa Cooley (107 Norfolk Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan) through August 29.

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Re-post from Highsnobiety

  • By Fritz Radtke

For about 20 years German photographer Michael Wolf has been living in Hong Kong – a city as beautiful and exciting as it is crowded. Being one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with an overall density of some 6,300 people per square kilometer, Hong Kong’s architecture is accordingly dominated by staggering highrise buildings. For his recent photo series ‘Architecture of Density’ Wolf has captured the city’s unique landscape. By removing skies and horizons, thus focusing on and highlighting the structures’ abstract elements, his photographs evoke a sense of endlessness – an ever-growing urban space.

Michael Wolf Website



P1200281Living here in Portillo is a trip, a place full of contradictions.  The spectacular scenery, world class freeride terrain for skiers and snowboarders and fully serviced hotel in the heart of the Andes.  However this is also one of the passes between Chile and Argentina, this picturesque place is a thoroughfare for trucks transporting all kinds of goods.  Its a hostile place with the road being subject to closures frequently due to the winding switchbacks that lead up to the border.  The parked up trucks display the amount of traffic that passes through on any given day navigating the pass.

The border itself is a ramshackle warehouse of a place.  Similar to a lot of the buildings in these mountains it looks temporary, subject to movement both by mother nature and man.  This living so close to a border in a man made utopia is quite surreal, the road provides a reminder to the real, the world that operates away from here.  For those not from here the road is understandable whilst the resort is itself a heterotopia.  A yellow hotel built within a South American country for those who have the money to enjoy the finer things in life and privileged enough to be able to ski.

I am sure it will be a time in my life that I will make me question daily where I am.  The idea of only knowing what is beneath your feet and not really knowing what the next step will bring.  This borderland seems to be less certain maybe similar to the buildings the ground is less certain or not as comprehendible.




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Dom Smith

Work from his oeuvre.

“My practice extracts forms from the physical world and reconsiders their image through fragmentation and reordering. The transferability from one state of being to another and then back again provides the basis for my content. This preoccupation has brought about a pattern in my work wherein physical objects and surfaces are re-created as illusionistic 2D paintings. My method utilizes computer-controlled environments to create and manipulate items which come to me from passive seeing in life and from the memory of seeing said items. I build the subjects of the paintings in the computer and then attempt to render them as faithfully as possible into physical presences. I began this work by taking classical surface features such as moldings, cornices, and friezes and breaking them into fragments. I would install these fragments in arrangements suggestive of inherent symbolic relationships. The intelligibility of these relationships originates with liturgical imagery and the hierarchies of symbols in the church.” – Dom Smith

Shame to miss this show back in London.  Ends the day I leave Chile, such a shame as the group exhibition has some great artists and works.

THE SPACE WHERE I AM | GROUP EXHIBITION

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THE SPACE WHERE I AM | GROUP EXHIBITION

17 July 2014 – 27 September 2014

The Directors of Blain|Southern are delighted to present The Space Where I Am, a group show exploring ideas of the void and emptiness from the 1960s to the present day.

The exhibition’s title is taken from philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s book The Poetics of Space (1958), which describes the lived experience of space and where he contended “it is better to live in a state of impermanence than in one of finality”. All of the assembled works examine the dialectic between absence and presence, primarily valuing absence in the construction of form.

An element of faith or belief is often required when encountering Tom Friedman’s (b.1965) works; the viewer is invited to engage with the idea of the work, which might not be immediately visually apparent. Upon first encounter, Untitled (A Curse) (1992) appears as an empty pedestal. However, the sculpture actually comprises an invisible globe of space, as a witch has been asked to cast a curse on an 11-inch sphere floating 11 inches above the top of the pedestal.

Donald Judd’s (1928-1994) Untitled is a historical work from 1969, exploring how sculptural space cannot exist without empty space. A long, hollow aluminium beam rests on blocks of various sizes, the spaces between these corresponding to the blocks in identical proportions (based on the Fibonacci sequence). Judd felt that both positive and negative spaces were integral to form, with the relationship between the artwork and its environment also being key. Indeed, Carl Andre’s (b.1935) 36 Aluminium Lock Square(1968), a tile pattern arranged on the floor, directly explores space and form, removing sculpture from the plinth so that it expands into the space of the gallery and physical remit of the viewer.

Based on the principle that in our age matter should be transformed into energy and invade space in a dynamic form, Lucio Fontana’s(1899-1968) Concetto Spaziale (1964) consists of cuts and slashes to the surface of a bright monochrome painting. This gestural aesthetic blurs the distinction between two-and three-dimensionality, opening up sculptural possibilities with the appearance of a void behind, giving the spectator a sense of ‘serenity in infinity’. In a similar vein, work by Michelangelo Pistoletto (b.1933) addresses the spectator directly through a mirrored surface, blurring the line between the space of the work and the space of the viewer, unifying art and the changing realities of everyday life.

Integral to defining the aesthetic possibilities of video, one of Bill Viola’s (b.1951) rarer sound works, Presence (1995), offers a sensitive interpretation of human existence. First exhibited in the rotunda of the US Pavilion at the 46th Venice Biennale, voices from early childhood through to old age can be heard at the edge of audibility, whispering secrets and personal stories. The presence of the work can only be heard and felt, as sound vibrations pulse through the space.

In Schwarz, Rot, Gold (1999), Gerhard Richter (b.1932) abolishes form in favour of blank, reflective spaces; black, red and gold rectangles — recalling the German flag – become relational to the painting’s environment. Created alongside Richter’s commission for the entrance hall of the Reichstag in Berlin, celebrating the reunification of Germany, the work emphasises history’s untold stories, emptiness and reflectivity providing a vehicle to evoke memory.

James Turrell’s (b.1943) work is primarily concerned with light and space, and Pullen (Red) (1968) is created by projecting a single, controlled beam of light from the opposing corner of the room, so that it appears as a three-dimensional form. Working with simulation and real-time 3-D, John Gerrard’s (b.1974) work Sun Spot Drawing (Guantanamo City) 2012 (2012) is also created purely using light. The artist’s hand holds a magnifying lens which simultaneously casts a shadow and concentrates the sun’s rays into one pure white spot in its center. The work unfolds in this way, dawn until dusk, every day for a full 365-day solar year.

Taking a closer look into travelling sound and light waves, Continuum (2013) by the artist collective United Visual Artists (UVA), was born out of studies into interference and the way in which waves are refracted by environments that we occupy. Among other media, the sculpture uses coded LED lights in an attempt to merge the visible and invisible.

Best known for his paintings and sculptures that reflect concerns with the social ills of urban living, Keith Coventry (b.1958) often signals absent presences. Bench (1995), suggests an act of urban vandalism, presenting a bench characterised by its loss of function, its wooden seat gone to reveal a lonely skeleton. Rachel Whiteread (b.1963) actively casts negative space, inverting the presence of objects and nothingness. A work from the late 1990s, Untitled (Paperbacks) formally recalls minimalist sculpture, while incorporating hues of subtle colour; casting an impression of the pages of books, rather than their spines, it marks the removal of the object’s function and suggests absence or loss. Gordon Matta-Clark’s (1943-1978) silver-dye bleach-print Office Baroque (1977) marks the artist’s site specific work in a derelict building in central Antwerp where he made cut-aways in the different stories of the building, creating a vertical deconstructive sculpture.

Lawrence Weiner’s (b.1942) ROLLED INTO & ONTO THE SEA (1999) draws into question the relationship between sculptural form, signification and meaning. In the 1960s, Weiner challenged traditional assumptions about the status and nature of art. In doing so, he offered a unique insight into the difficulties of ascribing fixed forms and definitions, or perhaps even meaning, to both the practice of art-making and to the art object itself.

Rosy Keyser’s (b.1974) painting reaches beyond the limits of the canvas, inspiring a bodily response to our existence in the material world. Interested in the intersection between people and the matter that surrounds us, she forages for materials which she then gesturally moulds, tears or deconstructs to reveal their intrinsic fragilities. Using large stretchers that seem window-like and operate as a grid, these materials are applied upon voids of space to suggest a sense of ritual and renewal. Decay and absence are in flux, emphasising past presence and action; a palimpsest of existence that waxes and wanes.

Spinning Heads in Reverse (2006) by Tim Noble & Sue Webster (b.1966; b.1967) actively plays with positive and negative space. Self-portraits of the artists appear to be both physically absent but simultaneously present, perhaps only truly resonating in the viewer’s imagination.

Employing a metaphorical interpretation of absence and obstruction, Michael Joo’s (b.1966) Emigrant (2012) explores notions of exclusion and socio-economic division. Delicate self-entwining rope and stanchion forms are constructed of mirrored borosilicate glass, both absorbing and reflecting their own surroundings. As familiar objects that define space and segregate people, Joo suggests a new space, a cyclic space, which breaks down any social or physical divide.

Through the dialogues created by the juxtaposition of these artworks, the exhibition assesses how absence can actively give form to space, a subject that has preoccupied artists over the past half century, as well as examining how viewers might encounter these ‘empty’ spaces.

For further information on the exhibition, please contact Mark Inglefield
T: +44 758 419 9500 | E: mark@blainsouthern.com

Image above:

Michael Joo
Emigrant
2012
Mirrored borosilicate glass
Approx. 139.7 x 61 x 81.3 cm (55 x 24 x 32 in)
Photo: Peter Mallet 23.04.2012

 

Re-post from This Is Tomorrow.

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The Hidden Passengers

‘From the press release’

Productivity and growth are the philosophical premises of the present day. Working processes are being optimized to increase efficiency, working hours are being deregulated until the distinction between work and leisure time disappears. Artistic work seems to follow other criteria, but in this field too professionalisation and self-optimisation are on the rise. But what would happen if ‘doing nothing’ or ‘inaction’ were to become a source of inspiration for a refusal to produce.

New Ways of Doing Nothing devotes itself to a form of artistic production that opposes activity, doing and manufacturing, and instead gives an affirmative slant to forms of doing nothing, of refraining or asceticism. Here, refraining from something not only leads to a critical moment but also a creative one. New Ways of Doing Nothing – the title derives from Swedish artist Karl Holmqvist – focuses on positions in contemporary art in which ‘doing nothing’ generates its own potential with respect to the requirements (and impositions) of a society that concentrates on activity and productivity: for example in Natalie Czech’s variation on a diary entry by the Russian avant-garde poet Daniil Charms, who in 1937 noted: “Today I Wrote Nothing. Doesn’t Matter.”

Artists: Robert Breer, Alejandro Cesarco, Etienne Chambaud, Natalie Czech, Oskar Dawicki, Edith Dekyndt, Mathias Delplanque, Heinrich Dunst, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Marina Faust, Claire Fontaine, Ryan Gander, Lasse Schmidt, Hansen, Julia Hohenwarter, Karl Holmqvist, Sofia Hultén, Jiri Kovanda, Rivane Neuenschwander, George Perec/Bernard Queysanne, Superflex, Mario Garcia, Torres a. o.

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Things have been fast paced in the last few weeks.  I would normally be writing this from Queenstown, New Zealand where I have been based for the past thirteen winters however a month ago a new opportunity arose in Chile, specifically in Portillo.  So since making the move and taking on the challenge of learning a language in no time at all I am here in Portillo, Chile.  I spent two weeks in Santiago at a language school which gave me the basics and now I am in the thick of it trying to teach English, Spanish and Brazilian guests to snowboard.  I have to admit the office is pretty inspiring.

Whilst in Santiago I made a day trip to a city a couple of hours away call Valparaiso.  This is an inspiring city with a bubbling creative scene.  The street walls are painted in vivid colours and in addition some of the best street art I have seen in a long time.

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I am starting to build some new works around the digital collage that I made last year in Athens, Greece.  I hope to have a new piece up and running sooner rather than later.  I am also putting together final plans for my time in Armenia in October at the ACSL artist residency.  My nomadic life will continue for now, however I am looking for a base to create some works that are ready to be fabricated.  I guess this will always be the balance with this lifestyle and trying to balance the two sides of my life.

 

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