Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nordens U-land? 
- Isländsk konst i kristid by craniv boyd

Nordens U-land? 
- Isländsk konst i kristid Erla S. Haraldsdóttir, The Icelandic Love Corporation, Ragnar Kjartansson, Hildur Margarétardóttir, Bjargey Ólafsdóttir, Ingvar Högni Ragnarsson, Rúrí, Magnús Sigurdarson, Hreinn J. Stephensen, Pétur Thomsen curated by Jonatan Habib Engqvist at Färgfabriken Norr Östersund


There is a big wooden red structure on a hill in the north of Sweden. The military has long since moved on from here leaving their training halls vacant in this hamlet near the ski resort Åre. Inhabitants of Östersund needed to find something to do with the buildings the army left behind. A European Union funded temporary Konsthall was the solution that created "Färgfabriken Norr".


This is the last exhibition that will take place in the space called Färgfabriken Norr, the exhibition hall will continue depending on external funding factors under another aegis (yet to be determined) the euro funded project turns its focus to a Scandinavian country that has yet to join the EU, Iceland. A freshly independent nation and a newly bankrupt nation in an exhibition titled, "Nordic 3rd World? Icelandic Art in times of crisis" curated by Swedish curator, Jonathan Habib Engqvist, who lived in Iceland for some years and is fluent in Icelandic.


It is a group exhibition with 12 participating Icelandic artists that calls into question recurrent themes found in contemporary Icelandic art. Ideas of pure nature, environmental change, post colonial inferiority complexes, corrupt politics and greed that lead to the crash in Iceland and of course the brand of paganism and superstition the Icelanders are so well known for the belief in trolls and gnomes.


The work of artists Hreinn J. Stephensen, and Magnus Sigurdarson, recreate natural Icelandic phenomena via installation art. Hreinn´s black box sculpture has a shallow pool of black liquid at it´s center. A sound recording of a television interview with former Icelandic prime minister Gier Haarde on BBC has been manipulated so that humans can not hear what he is saying rather they feel it when close enough to the black box, the sound waves shake the black liquid on the top surface making an eruption like a bonsai version of a volcano or geyser. "Storm" by Magnus takes its departure point from landscape painting. It is two tons of salt blown by two industrial strength fans in a cubic vitrine. Any one who has lived through a winter in Iceland immediately recognizes this kind of weather.


Erla S. Haraldsdottir touches on environmental change and global warming in her animation Reynisdrangar where a palm tree sprouts up on a beach near Vik in southern Iceland and a tropical pelican flys by. An oil painting of a wave accompanies this HD video emphasizing that the beautiful landscape does pose a real threat to mankind.


A Danish colonizer whips a terrorized Icelandic peasant into submission shouting slurs like "satans Icelander" and "devil" this video work where Ragnar Kjartanson poses as the oppressed Icelander deals with the history of power and oppression between Denmark and Iceland. Iceland gained its independence from the Danish crown in 1944.


Photographic documentation of the construction of the controversial aluminum plant Kárahnjúkavirkjun are what Petur Thomsen contributes to the group exhibition. His photographs were taken from a place that was under strict press blackout, many could not document or report on this, the result of a corrupt form of censorship.


Paganism crops up in the works of Hildur Margarétardóttir and Icelandic Love Corporation. Hildur made a paper machee replica of a severed horse head, a modern version of an old Viking curse. She used it in the recent pot and pan revolution that took place in the wake of the bankruptcy in Iceland. Icelandic love Corporation performed a synthesis of their previous performances from the time of the upswing in the economy in Iceland. It is a ritual that involves them building a structure up and tearing it down, making paper money and burning it right away in a trash can fire, shaking hands with the devil and drinking a toast.


Art in times of crisis, is a lively exhibition that presents several positions in the Icelandic art community. the former military training hall of Färgfabriken Norr is able to house these large works from a small country exceptionally well. by craniv boyd ©

Friday, October 29, 2010

Modernautställningen 2010 Moderna Museet Stockholm. by craniv boyd

Modernautställningen 2010 Moderna Museet Stockholm.

There is a sound it is loud and confrontational, it is clearly noise and very disorienting. The noise is coming from black speakers attached to columns under the awning at the entrance of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the noise cannot simply be random but must be art, art participating in the Moderna Exhibition this fall.


This is the second time the Moderna exhibition is taking place. It is a Swedish exhibition about the Swedish art scene. Its intention to take recent developments in the galleries and present the art works and artists who are active in the Swedish scene to a larger public, the public of  a major national modern museum, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm.


The show is a presentation of the works of over two dozen artists of either Swedish decent or active in Sweden. And is occupies the halls and white cube of the Moderna.


All works are presented in the best capacity the best lighting the best hanging the best spacing, one wall one artist, roughly three artists per room.  A healthy diverse mix of art beyond art movements, token pieces of minimalism, abstract expressionism, video work, new media installations, interactive sculpture, cartoon painting, and of course political with relational aesthetic execution. It makes for very heady fare, and indicates dominant trend of the art world today is not to have a dominant trend.


I see a brushy painting of something that looks like a chocolate bar and i remember it. I turn to the catalogue of the exhibition and the description of the Artist reads „Victor Kopp paints chocolate." Nice and simple.


I see a political looking installation work in the hallway and i turn to the catalogue and it says "Fia Backtröm´s art oscillates between different discourses  relating to politics, authorship and the capacity of images to generate meaning." That's kind of simple too.


I take a walk into a box like structure that looks like a small Stockholm apartment and I turn to the catalogue and it says „All Axel Lieber´s works originate in ordinary objects such as cardboard boxes, clothes or furniture." Perhaps that is simple as well.


An Israeli new media artist once told me art that people could understand quickly without having to see in person first became successful. Works that people could understand quickly. I find that many of the works in the Moderna exhibition could be described in one sentence. Artist x paints y. or Artist w´s work straddles the discourse of x,y and z.


Is the art in this show there because the artists are making works that are easy to label? In turn are the viewers and public able to understand the work without really seeing it? That is hard to say.


The show feels dry, and very few pieces stand out. Should art be simple and convenient like shopping for the genre of pop music you like in a shopping mall or should it be a sublime uncomfortable experience one that evokes a kind of panic or fear? by craniv boyd ©

Friday, October 1, 2010

Willem de Rooij Intolerance Neue Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin by craniv boyd

Willem de Rooij Intolerance Neue Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


The main floor of Mies van de Rohe´s iconic museum building in former West Berlin, is darkened. The shades are drawn over the floor to ceiling window walls and in the hush that frequently resides in dimly lit spaces stands a wide grey rectangular monolith.


This temporary structure occupies the middle of the green stone floor. From the distance of the front entrance one cant be quite sure just what this box is doing there, its function remains partially obscured by a collapsing mobile wall behind the admissions desk. Proceed past this and it is clear at once, the purpose behind this large grey volume.


 29 objects are mounted on, or housed in vitrines in this structure, it is a work called "Intolerance" the orchestrator of this arrangement is Dutch artist Willem de Rooij who has organized an exhibition that draws on the public collections of several prominent museums worldwide to bring together the 17th century bird paintings of Dutch painter Melchoir d´Hondecoeter, (1636-1695). De Rooij juxtaposes these paintings with mantels and helmets made from the feathers of hundreds exotic birds. These objects Hawaiian in origin come to the Neue National Galerie by way of loan agreements with several ethnographic and natural history museums the world over. 


"At a time in which the cultural climate is increasingly subordinated to private interests, `Intolerance´ reflects on the relevance and use of public collections."


The works in the exhibition with extends itself in a three volumed catalogue with essays by various contributing theorists including Mr. de Rooij , photographic documentation of the installation on view in the Neue National Galerie, a catalogue resoné of both the Dutch painter d´Hondecoeter, a catalogue resoné of all bird gods; bird feather capes and bird feather helmets known to date.


Seeing paintings of fighting birds fighting chickens and exotic birds is strange especially for an exhibition of contemporary art. I suppose it is a new kind of institutional critique that is supported vehemently by the institutions. What art institutions are more institutional than the Metropolitan museum in New York  city , the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and of course the Neue National Galerie in Berlin?

However novel the collision of 17th century Dutch painting and Hawaiian religious cultural artifacts from back in the day, the premise of the show and the quiet effect that the museum gets when the shades are down adds up for a rather dry, cerebral experience. I cannot locate private interests in this nor does it make such a convincing argument for new uses and "relevance" of public collections. It would be unfair not to acknowledge that the coming together of this art one could not see together normally because of conceptual and geographical distances from one another is a rare and precious experience. by craniv boyd ©

Pawel Althamer Jacek Taszakowski mezalia at NEUGERIEMSCHNEIDERBERLIN by craniv boyd

Pawel Althamer Jacek Taszakowski mezalia at NEUGERIEMSCHNEIDERBERLIN


Refreshment sometimes comes in the form of seeing the unexpected in an art gallery. Diarahmas for an animated film objects that had their former life as a film prop or set. That but not only that is what Pawel Althamer offers in his recent exhibition titled mezalia at Neugeriemscheider Berlin.


Walking into the space one observes three large fragments of an alternate reality on stilts. One is part of a semi urban landscape with a bridge and two cartoon like youths with heads too big for their bodies playing at the side of a lake. Across from them stares a figure of an adult man from inside an apartment room, is he yearning for days gone by from his empty room with the detritus of the artists life, past exhibition catalogues on the floor, half eaten freedom fries on the table next to a broken mobile telephone. Newspaper obituaries scattered on the floor.


Which brings us back to the third fragmentary object a model of a modernist Warsaw apartment complex Ala Keizlawski´s classic film for polish television the Decalouge.


Together these fragments work like a series of  "cuts", Establishing view of the apartment house from a distance cut to medium shot of the artist looking despondently from his apartment window flashback to an idyllic moment in the artist´s past, a time when things were simpler, playing with a friend on the banks of a lake. That is one of many possible readings of Pawel Althamer´s installation.


The character of the miniature models of lakeside, room, and high-rise dwelling is friendly innocent and childlike in nature, it is the character present in many films made for children.  


One appreciates the attention to detail in the meticulously crafted miniature replicas of the artists catalogues on the floor of the miniature artist apartment. Those same catalogues appear on a shelf near the front office. Looking there one can appreciate the diversity of Mr. Althamers work, a series of educative collaborations with children were the subject of a one person exhibition at the Fridericianum in Kassel, another small book documents another project that was a collaboration with three African men who had become longtime residents of Poland. It brings awareness to the cultural and discriminatory issues these men face living in Poland. Seeing these one gets a sense that Pawel Althamer is an artist that gives back, to the community and to younger generations, an artist that goes further. by craniv boyd ©    

80*81 by craniv boyd

George Diez & Christopher Roth
Joseph, Ali, Ronald, Maggy, Andy, Phil und die anderen at ESTHER SCHIPPER


The founders of Google started their company with the question "What does the world want to know?" Similarly artists George Diez and Christopher Roth began the work for this current exhibition at Esther Schipper with a question they characterize as "simple". It is: What Happened 1980, 1981 this is the reference point and mission objective stated in the press release that reads like an enthusiastic artist statement or a hardball interview where the interviewees dominate the session.


I begin with the press release for this exhibition because it was crucial for my understanding of what I was seeing. I walked into a large empty white cube with the characters 80*81 ominously and cryptically hovering high on the far wall in the Helvetica or some such modernist classic san serif typeface; directly under a modest stack of unopened cardboard boxes with descriptions on the side of the contents of said boxes. A delivery from the commercial lithographer? The Inventory of a new DIY magazine boutique? On top of each of the stacks of boxes are casually displayed exemplars of the contents of the boxes, booklets, books, brochures, ephemera designed in a style that screams Postmodern, I.E. but not limited to, heavy usage of appropriated photographs, asymmetrical spreads + layout of type and pages of content and endpapers in places where you don't quite expect them.


As I flipped through the books/magazines I was distracted by the sound of two vintage Kodak Ektachrome diapositive projectors on boxes on the floor, side by side; The periodic sound of their slide carousels clicking into position and dropping the next image into place in front of the light bulb. This stereo projection method reminded me faintly of Andy Warhol´s 1965 classic avant-garde epic film "The Chelsea Girls". However the dated looking images below eye level that appeared on the north wall of this white cube, looked like they came from the 1980´s. Slowly giving meaning to the cryptic numerals in black on the adjacent wall. Slide of prominent people like John McEnroe and Björn Borg, not as they appear today but as they did all those years ago when they took a publicity portrait back to back holding ancient 17th century pistols. Or Ronald Reagan, or Mohamed Ali or yes, Andy Warhol, Masters of the universe from 30 years ago making a come back.


Turing around I saw books in a row on the floor, as they would be on a bookshelf, among them Andy Warhol´s diaries, several tomes from the 80´s that seemed part of the source material Mr. Diez and Mr. Roth culled from in their 80´s nostalgic appropriation project. Near these books I vaguely remember seeing a disorganized desk with a (surprise) current iMac, something about this struck me as uninviting and I did not approach the desk.


In the north exhibition room of Esther Schipper was a set up of a grid of television monitors not flat screens whose antique appearance was reinforced by the content on the screens a seemingly chaotic mix of German television programming from the 1980s.


I was getting the picture by the time I read the press release for this, and form it I learned that it was an artist duo behind this work and that they started with a simple question that lead them to a world journey, a series of exhibitions, interviews and post modern graphic designey looking books that explore the past in the format of a rehash of the Situationalist International "derive" and a global exploration of psycogeographies. by craniv boyd ©

Renata Lucas & Dor Guez Al-Lydd Curated by Susanne Pfeffer at KW Institute for Contemporary Art by craniv boyd

Renata Lucas & Dor Guez Al-Lydd Curated by Susanne Pfeffer at KW Institute for Contemporary Art


Something is amiss. Can you see it? If you are like me the answer is no. It is the larger half of a sculpture by the artist Renata Lucas titled "Cabeça e cauda de cavalo" and it comes as an intervention into the urban fabric of Berlin in the form of a circle incised in the side walk at the entrance of KW on August Straße. How can you miss a circle that has been cut into the street entrance of a contemporary art space? Simple every thing has been preserved on the circle and shifted 7 degrees to the east, as if the street were a turntable, the curb and pavement of the pedestrian walkway is split.

Inside the main gallery on the ground floor this intervention is echoed by a smaller circle cut on the ground of the back end of KW. This circle is a moving disc that visitors can shift at their own risk and at most two people at a time. By placing ones hands to the wall and walking forwards slowly close the edge of the half circle visible on the floor of the exhibition space the polished concrete floor begins to spin revealing a half circle of green grass. Keep walking and the grass half circle disappears again returning to the half with polished concrete.


These two minimal gestures are a stark statement for a one person show at KW, the work strikes me as a kind of participatory Gordon Matta Clark, 1970´s minimalism meets amusement park.


On the upper floors the works of Dor Guez AL-Lydd are to be seen. They are heavy on identity politics and perhaps politics and people period. They show old family and portrait photographs reformatted, enlarged and given the sexy title of "Scanograms". The subjects of the clearly vintage photographs are of a minority population of Christian Arabs living in Israel. All works are presented and framed impeccably and I am positive who ever originally took these photographs would be proud of their impersonal display aesthetic. Yet I wonder if the original photographer would readily grasp the fact that the pictures they took one day early last century have now in 2010 been elevated to the status of fine art, by way of Dor Guez AL-Lydd and their process of "Manipulated Readymades". This process invokes artist Marcel Duchamp inventor of readymades the maverick who placed a urinal on a pedestal back in the day in 1917, singed it "R. Mutt" and gave birth to installation art as we know it today. Duchamp trickster as he was, was highly selective of what he proclaimed a ready made to be over the course of his career, his readymades tended to be the scarce industrially manufactured mass-produced three dimensional objects the like of bicycle wheel, snow shovel, and iron bottle rack. It is unlikely whether he would find a box of photographs a dead relative took long ago reformat the majority of the contents with a computer and pronounce the 13 matted and framed behind glass results all readymades. But that is just another can of worms.


There are several documentary type video works in the exhibition that introduce living members of the Arab Christian minority currently residing in Israel to the viewer. The videos make known issues of prejudice and history that the interviewees face. by craniv boyd ©

Tim Eitel Message to home at Galerie EIGEN+ART Berlin by craniv boyd

Tim Eitel Message to home at Galerie EIGEN+ART Berlin


The paintings are in dull colors, decidedly so. It is a statement and break with the past, with the artists familiar range, for Tim Eitel at his current show at the Berlin outpost of the Galerie EIGEN+ART it is a step in a new direction for a painter who became known for his bright colored landscapes and multi figured museum interiors.


The galerie press release informs us that the Tim Eitel has recently moved to Paris, his works contain no immediatley reacognizeable or obvious Parisian theame, for they are by and large depictions of people one to three at a time engaging in normal activities.


A small painting shows a balding young man. Closed eyes, his head leaning downwards perhaps he is meditating. Another dark skillfully painted picture at first glace appears to be a black square with a white stripe on the right side of the painting. Spending time with it reveals a plainly clothed figure in white from the shadows, holding a video camera that obscures their face. 


For me a central work in the exhibition is the same painting depicted on the exhibition card. It is of three young Caucasian males seated on the banks of a body of water on a fog-covered day. The men could be some of the scores of unemployed drink and drug obsessed that sit in the parks of Berlin all day. These figures are captivating because here is a representation in painting, a medium that historically glorified the existing power structure, of men who are ordinary and doing nothing special at all. by craniv boyd ©

FischGrätinMelkStand curated by John Bock at the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin by craniv boyd

“Visitors to the show are invited to embark on their own voyage of discovery.” claimes the press release. It is a dystopic Disney land for adults. It is visitor friendly. Sculpture the would look at home in the fluxus era, installtions in spaces where garbage (ie: Condomwrappers) figure as a key element, video projections beamed on walls, video displays on televisions, architectural models, architectural renderings on paper framed behind glass and fashion items commingle in compartments in a multi-level scaffold structure that is 11 meters high complete with ladders, stairs, bridges and a balcony. John Bock has assembled a group of 61 artists to create and populate a big work for the final exhibition at Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin that is a Gesamtkunstwerk that looks like a childs´ tree-house fortress on steroids.

The compartments have clever names such as “Sexy Socks” and “Mutter Tod mit Peperoni” and tend to juxtapose two to three artists in each room. The room titled “Virus Meadow” has music and music notation from 20th century composers the likes of Edgar Varese and Iannis Xenakis. The room called “Module II” has pristine white Architectural models by John Hejduk in plexiglass vitrines on pedistals.

The overall effect that this curator is able to inflict on his audience is that of the punk rocker turned housecat. Making institutional critique that at first glance looks revolutionary due to its chaotic appearance, but under closer appraisal is accepted norm. How random is the work of art when there is a careful plan for visitors to take from wall-mounted plastic holders by the entrance? Labels indicating each of the artists names and date, title and dimensions of the art work in the appropriate place for visitors to notice is the marker of professional conciousness that makes this work clearly politically correct.

The final group exhibiton is able to exemplify the institutionalzation of institutional critique. The Structure curator John Bock has implemented for this exhibition ends up looking consistent and coherent with other John Bock instillations. by craniv boyd ©