Monday, April 24, 2017

Marinetti’s rules for the perfect meal, first published in 1930 as the “Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine.”

Futurist cuisine and rules for the perfect lunch

1. An original harmony of the table (crystal ware, crockery and glassware, decoration) with the flavors and colors of the dishes.

2. Utter originality in the dishes.

3. The invention of flexible flavorful combinations (edible plastic complex), whose original harmony of form and color feeds the eyes and awakens the imagination before tempting the lips.

4. The abolition of knife and fork in favor of flexible combinations that can deliver prelabial tactile enjoyment.

5. The use of the art of perfumery to enhance taste. Each dish must be preceded by a perfume that will be removed from the table using fans.

6. A limited use of music in the intervals between one dish and the next, so as not to distract the sensitivity of the tongue and the palate and serves to eliminate the flavor enjoyed, restoring a clean slate for tasting.

7. Abolition of oratory and politics at the table.

8. Measured use of poetry and music as unexpected ingredients to awaken the flavors of a given dish with their sensual intensity.

9. Rapid presentation between one dish and the next, before the nostrils and the eyes of the dinner guests, of the few dishes that they will eat, and others that they will not, to facilitate curiosity, surprise, and imagination.

10. The creation of simultaneous and changing morsels that contain ten, twenty flavors to be tasted in a few moments. These morsels will also serve the analog function […] of summarizing an entire area of life, the course of a love affair, or an entire voyage to the Far East.

11. A supply of scientific tools in the kitchen: ozone machines that will impart the scent of ozone to liquids and dishes; lamps to emit ultraviolet rays; electrolyzers to decompose extracted juices etc. in order to use a known product to achieve a new product with new properties; colloidal mills that can be used to pulverize flours, dried fruit and nuts, spices, etc.; distilling devices using ordinary pressure or a vacuum, centrifuge autoclaves, dialysis machines. The use of this equipment must be scientific, avoiding the error of allowing dishes to cook in steam pressure cookers, which leads to the destruction of active substances (vitamins, etc.) due to the high temperatures. Chemical indicators will check if the sauce is acidic or basic and will serve to correct any errors that may occur: lack of salt, too much vinegar, too much pepper, too sweet.”

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Los Carpinteros (The Carpenters)

Curated by Ximena Caminos


Los Carpinteros is one of the most exciting artistic collectives to have emerged from Latin America in recent decades. Since joining forces in 1991, Marco Castillo and Dagoberto Rodríguez have garnered international acclaim for their installations and blueprint drawings that merge aspects of architecture, design and sculpture in unexpected and often playful ways. The adopted moniker, Los Carpinteros, refers back to the older guild tradition of artisans and renounces the notion of individual authorship. Working between Madrid and Havana, the award-winning Cuban duo explores the interface between functionality and art.

Los Carpinteros: Dismantling the World Essay by Paulo Herkenhoff
One might well start out by imagining all the things engineered by modern man being perverted by Los Carpinteros until the whole of their work coincides with the disconcerting totality of industrial society itself—or at least with such things as bricks and cities or beds and swimming pools. Yet such a prophecy shall never be fulfilled, for the mordant act of perverting everything in existence could never be accomplished in a subject’s lifetime, even if the subject were a group of artists. 
Art History 
Certain works in Los Carpinteros’ oeuvre instantly remind us of historic pieces of art from modernism to the present, by artists as disparate as Marcel Duchamp, the Dadaists, surrealist René Magritte, Joseph Beuys, Pop artists Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, minimalist Carl Andre, and neoconcretist Lygia Clark. Los Carpinteros may also be referenced diffusely to fairly recent Latin American art, as exemplified by the work of Cildo Meireles, Waltercio Caldas, Guillermo Kuitca, Jorge Pardo, Carlos Garaicoa, and Iran do Espírito Santo among others. The output of all these artists is reduced to the condition of stylemes that are devoured and metabolized by Los Carpinteros in a discourse of their own, including the form and material conditions of the sign or rule of their agenda by the signifier. Ironically, there is a material vocabulary with technical connotations that takes shape based on the concept of styling within the system of industrial objects, in which carpentry and watercolor—as well as chrome metal or industrialized tents—all become material and sign.
The Name
The choice of the name Los Carpinteros corresponded to the symbolic construction of the artists’ social status. In the case of the Cuban group, the name grew out of the praxis of art, out of that which refused to seek the useless transparency of merely indicating the division of labor, leaving an authorial vacuum. The name was given by other people, however, who identified the work of the artists with materials, tools, and forms that pertain to the work of carpenters. Because they are neither architects nor engineers, the name indicates the specific nature of their work and problematizes manual craft for the execution of ideas in industrial society. This is not only an affirmation of manual labor but also an operation that occurs within the field of the superstructure, at the forefront of which lies the problem of the division of labor and its relation to the production of the exchange value of objects.
 Economy of Pure Visuality: Manual Labor
The deliberate contradictions of the artistic practices, technical processes, images, and things produced by the group—in their double condition as artists and artisans—are inscribed within the historicity of collective existence. In the social process of knowledge, the art of Los Carpinteros chooses to replace cynicism with irony. The artists attack the separation between manual labor, technique, and imagination in the aesthetic object. The choice of the name emphasizes the “labor” factor in producing works of art—an evocation of the Aristotelian relation of techné as poiesis. The availability of materials in each place is a decisive factor in defining the form of an object constructed by them. A lighthouse can be a tent in Belgium, because the material is found there, or it might be a product of carpentry because wood is available in Cuba. What they have in common is that, to them, all materials must be correlative to human labor with regard to vocation or traditional trades such as plumbing or carpentry.
 System of Objects The universe of Los Carpinteros is centered on objects produced or constructed by man, that is, on commodities. Occasionally the transference or distortions of functions are modes of mutation of the logical regime of such objects. They established their discourse around 1995, a dramatic period in the life of that country, what with cold war Soviet protectionism suffering a collapse that was reflected in Cuba’s social dynamic and the u.s. boycott reaching maximum levels of effectiveness. Food and electrical power shortages resulted in rationing and long daily blackouts. In some cases the objects do not deal with technical deficiencies but with an economy of improvisation and precariousness, as in the tent-buildings of Ciudad transportable (Transportable City, 2000). Affluent consumer society can be seen only as the antithesis of the society of minimal, marginal, and rationed consumption. The irony and paradox staged by them are constituted in the consumption/ trash binomial that is planned obsolescence and the ecological imbalance of waste.
Their objects resist functional domestication (as in the case of gadgets or kitsch) or the extemporaneous, gratuitous associativity of forms and functions. They are operations in counterdesign. After all, revolutionary Cuba was never known for its industrial (or even gra- phic) design work. No matter how confusing the object’s identity, the convulsive beauty of these works does not stem from abjection or from the surreal quality of their structures but from the discomfort that they cause by establishing a world recognized as plausible but executed as the failure of a certain kind of instrumental reason. In the end, Los Carpinteros defend the existence of the world of objects at the brink of a total collapse of logic that affects the functioning of the world and the economy. […] 
About Los Carpinteros
Marco Antonio Castillo Valdes (b. 1971, Cuba) and Dagoberto Rodríguez Sánchez (b. 1969, Cuba) together form the collective Los Carpinteros. Contrary to the implications of their name, their artwork spans the intriguing and ambiguous space between conceptualism, activism, and formalism with monumental sculptural and architectural constructions. Works by Los Carpinteros are part of the per- manent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Foundation in Vienna, and the Centro Cultural de Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City. Their commissioned installations are featured at institutions around the world; the most recent, The Globe—a latticed beechwood structure inspired by Enlightenment illustrations—opened at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in December 2015.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Interview with Alan Sonfist by Robert Rosenblum

The following interview selection was taken from the book titled Alan Sonfist, published by Hillwood Art Museum. 

Robert Rosenblum: Alan, since I am primarily an art historian, the first thing I do is try to situate you in terms of decades, movements, other artists, and to learn how you feel about such things. One question I would like to start with has to do with something I read recently. It referred to the present "mood" as archeologism. The writer thought that the whole spirit of regression, of moving backwards, of exploring layer after layer of our historical past, whether recorded or pre-historical, was part of the mood of the past ten years or so. Does that ring any bells for you?

Alan Sonfist: Yes you're right, because that is exactly what my art is about. It is about trying to uncover the natural past of our cities. I see myself as a visual archeologist. The idea of digging up this research is to bring the past into the present.

I do extensive research. My sculpture in New York City took five years of research. I discovered the history of the area by looking through the Dutch records of their lumber supplies and accounts of their walks to their favorite trout stream. From that, I was able to get some idea of how the city looked prior to man's intervention. So I find it to be an interesting work; digging up the multiple histories of an area, using them in an artwork and then placing that artwork in a contemporary environment.

RR: So, is it really a sort of natural history equivalent to art history? The whole tenure of the past ten, twenty years is to reconstruct the historical past, to dig it out and make it look like it was resurrected. You are doing that in terms of the natural history, of getting to the lowest strata of time-experience in terms of what was here before we were. There seems to be a parallel there, don't you think?

One of the things this makes me wonder about since this includes not only your geological and botanical strata in regression, but also your own regression to primitive states of being, is how do you fit that in? I mean, the things were you were caged in a zoo, and where you ran through the woods naked and so on.

AS: To answer the first part of your question, all my art deals with prime experience of the creation of the land, as with Circles of Time at Villa Celle, To enter into the main part of the sculpture, one must go into the earth, and rediscover our geological past. What I have created is a circle, rippling in waves of ribbons or rock, each ribbon representing a strata of time, thus visualizing the upper and lower strata of the hills of Tuscany. As one walks out of this ring, one enters an area representing the Greeks, who brought the laurel to Italy. One then goes through the laurel by an opening which is low to the ground. One can then feel and smell the Etruscan herbs. The passage rises, opening to view monumental bronze sculptures, composed of castings of endangered and extinct trees, that through the sculpture have been transformed into the Greek heroes the ancient sculptures depict. In the center of the circle, one experiences the forest vegetation of Italy, that which existed before human intervention. To complete the multiple histories of the land, I have shown its contemporary use of agriculture through a ring of olive trees and wheat.

In response to the second question, I would say that as humans, we are part of the environment. That is the prime concept behind my art. I feel that that was the difference between myself and the earth artists. They were involved in going out to the desert and doing the artworks there. My art is to rediscover my own past in the city. I grew up in New York City. How the caged animal performance came about is that, as a child, I used to go to the Bronx Zoo. I would observe the animals in their cages and sometimes sneak into the cages with the animals.

RR: What was the species? I'm trying to think of how you could get in.

AS: Mostly, I visited the antelopes and the deer, they were the most curious. Being a little child, the animals would walk right up to me. Sometimes I would just go in the cages and hide in the trees and play.

So, this is where these animal fantasies actually came from, my past. It's interesting talking about archaeology because it's almost like I'm unearthing my own childhood experiences. It goes back to growing up in New York City, and to when I lived next to one of the last virgin forests, which has been destroyed now.

RR: It seems like an ideal situation; a combination of both private and personal history, your own regression to your past, and also public history, because your experience is part of a general communal one.

I am always curious about the proportion of science as opposed to poetry, if they can be separated. That is, how much actual work do you do in terms of research, in order to find the truth about geological, botanical developments wherever you are working. Is it imaginary? I mean, what is the proportion of fact and fiction?

AS: In New York City, I have created four forests. Each one concerns its own unique vegetation which I get from site history of each sculpture. In Dallas, Texas, I have traced the history of the Trinity River, so that it could be reconstructed into a functional, natural waterway. The city is using this environmental sculpture as part of their master plan. I have also traced the historical streams of New York City, and proposed that a bronze line be set into the concrete, marking their past existence. During Earth Day in 1970, I marked off the natural boundary of New York City to show land boundaries that no longer exist.

RR: Have any of the official historians of New York, whether involved in social history or natural history, been concerned with your work?

AS: Yes, after the sculpture in New York was created, several historians from around the city called and complimented me on the historical facts used to imagine each site.

As far as natural history, I am creating not a true ecological model, but rather a romantic forest. My concern is to show the struggles within nature, which in reality makes for a true natural system. One would observe, within each of my environmental sculptures, the struggle of life and death, as well as the human interaction in a historical time forest. That's what the 19th century concepts were about. That is really what I am involved in, and what my thought process is trying to create. The natural cycles as opposed to doing an ecological model from a scientific point of view, or using pure history. It is like a palette. I see it as laying out facts, and then I make the aesthetic decision.

RR: It is like reconstructing Darwin. Have you ever thought of doing environments with animals?

AS: I proposed the New York City officials that they create an environment that would have historic animals, such as deer, foxes, and raccoons, that could co-exist with humans. It would be totally different from the typical zoo, which has all of the exotic animals. This is another concept for archaeological layering of the city environment.

In Dallas, Texas, I proposed to create islands that would be representative of primeval forests, and also have the animal life of the forests. Each island would have animals unique to the vegetation on that island. each island would have animals unique to the vegetation on that island. At this moment in time, the historic animals of the cities have become exotic, and lions and tigers have become common.

RR: It is the most thrilling irony to turn the least natural of cities to its natural origins. It almost seems impossible to get rom the present to the past. But obviously, you work in the in-between layers. But New York is the perfect place, the city to do it in.

AS: As the art center, New York is unique. But actually, all cities and suburban areas have obliterated their natural past, so my sculptural forests in Kansas City for example is just as meaningful.

In the last twenty years, New York has rediscovered its historical buildings. My work means that the city's historical nature can also become a functional monument to the fabric of the community.

RR: I know, I remember that there was a point when suddenly all of the 1930s buildings of New York, all of the Art Deco buildings looked like ancient architecture, and they were thrilling because they suddenly loomed as an historical strata upon which the present is built. So we are all interested in layers.

I am curious. We have been talking about the New York City and Dallas, but obviously you have worked all over. The west. The east too? Have you ever done anything in the Orient?

AS: In Japan, I have recently received a commission outside of Tokyo to create a Time Landscape in the inside lobby of a new building. This environment will show the layerings of time histories of the land in the area of the building. I will be introducing my concept of constant change in relationship to the Zen garden concept of a fixed moment in time.

RR: How do you adjust internationally? That is, so much of your work is involved with your personal history, in New York City, and what it means to you as a human being, and what it means as your own environment. But when you go abroad, to Europe especially, where you have done so much work, how do you plug into their history, natural and unnatural?

AS: Upon arriving at a new site, I immediately start sensing the land by walking, feeling, and smelling to absorb the atmosphere to associate with my past experiences. Then the process begins. I start creating a series of drawings, bridging my own history to my immediate observations of the site. For example, the Circles of Time, created at Villa Celle, began with hundreds of sketches about the environment that spoke to me of the history of Tuscany. The sketches were expanded into a set of etchings that connected the spiritual/historical understanding of this land to the universe.

I start collecting historical facts about the land, as well as natural fragments that became the stimulus to create a series of micro/spiritual etchings connecting the land to myself and the forces that shaped it. Therefore, the recollections of my past, to collecting of factual histories of the land and then connecting the environmental sculpture to the universe.

RR: Incidentally, just as an aside, did you spend a lot of time as a child in the Museum of Natural History?

AS: Yes, I would go to all the museums in New York City. I felt that there was no difference between the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Natural History. They both added magic to my own existence.

RR: It's interesting, just thinking about historical connections, because recent research on Abstract Expressionists has turned up that the Museum of Natural History was one of the major locales of inspiration for them, not only in terms of ethnological displays, but also in terms of geological and botanical displays in the forties. It's fascinating that you can connect with traditions in Western painting that go back as far as the forties.

But to get back to Europe, do you find a difference in the response to your work there from the response here? Are the Europeans more attuned to your viewpoint?

AS: I think it's interesting that the Abstract Expressionists were interested in the Museum of Natural History, since most of my early drawings were created from exhibits at the museum as well as direct observations of nature.

The museum showed me the multiple histories of the land, while the art museums were giving me a contemporary view of history. To this day I still go back to the museum to connect with my early experiences.

I feel that in Europe there is a clearer understanding of the multiple histories of the land since it has been inhabited for a greater period of time, Western art history has more meaning for them since it has been their existence. Therefore it's easier for Europeans to see the logical connection of my environmental sculptures in relationship to the history of art.

RR: How many countries have you worked in in Europe?

AS: Most of my art is in Germany and Italy. I am currently working on a sculpture park for a manufacturer in Austria. The concept of the sculpture park will be to create the archeology of the land from a primeval forest to archeology of the ruins of the historical Renaissance city in relationship to its contemporary boundaries. Fragments of the city will become settings for the future sculptures. My artwork becomes the setting for an international sculpture park.

RR: Do you have any connections with England? I always think of them as being the most earth oriented of European countries.

AS: In the early seventies, I had a one man exhibition at the institute of Contemporary Art in London, where I exhibited a series of historical, natural artworks. I was later invited to create a historical forest surrounding the ruins of a family castle. The trees that were selected were under three feet, so that the ruin would eventually disappear into a mature forest, thus becoming another lost fragment of history, to be rediscovered in the future. This inspired me later to create the centennial commission for the Kansas City Art Institute. In this sculpture a young forest and prairie surround a thirty-foot bronze column of intertwining branches cast from the fallen limbs of endangered trees. Again, the bronze sculpture will disappear over the next 100 years into the forest I created.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mazdâ - Aïsha Devi [Review, Interview, Audio, & Visual]

Interview by Daisy Jones, Featuring Artist Aïsha Devi

Release Date: 2015
Album: Of Matter and Spirit
Genre: Experimental Techno
Style: Abstract Ethereal Techno

JaeOhEsH- I found this song and video after listening to Amnesia Scanner on Youtube, it was referred to me and just the visual thumbnail showing the performance directed by Chinese artist Tianzhuo Chen was enough for me to decide that I would be sharing this video and piece of music. There’s a lot of meaning in the visuals that are accompanied by the high pitched vocals and electronic techno structures. I strongly recommend this piece to any human that has the ability to press play, and without a doubt Aïsha Devi’s answers about artistic process and beliefs in this interview are really quiet impressive and extraordinary.

Daisy Jones: High-pitched, candy-coated vocals, shimmering synth lines and heart-thumping bass are stitched over images of near-naked people wearing rubber masks, drooling at each other and munching on the carcass of a raw chicken in this completely off-the-wall music video for Aïsha Devi’s electro masterpiece “Mazdâ”. If the video, which was directed by Chinese artist Tianzhuo Chen, feels overwhelming, then that might be because it’s so heavy with reference points that they all eventually bleed into one multi-coloured, iconoclastic creation. With symbols such as third eyes, the shiva, swastikas (a sign that was used universally before it was hijacked by the Nazis) and Sadhu ritualism, it can be hard to keep up. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to. We speak to Aïsha Devi so she can tell us more…

Daisy Jones : “This video makes me feel insane! Tell me about the ideas behind it.”

Aïsha Devi: For me, it started with a crush on Tianzhuo Chen’s work, who is the artist who made it. When I saw some of his artwork I totally fell in love. It was so powerful. A lot of the symbols he uses in his work, I use too, symbols that have a religious background but are used in a very iconoclastic way. These ideas corresponded exactly to what I was trying to do in music. So I wrote him an email and he also felt the same connection. We’ll probably continue collaborating together – this is just the beginning. He practices Tibetan Buddhism and he really uses his body as an expression and works on the limits of his body. It’s very close to bondage. But instead of inflicting suffering on your body for spectacle, it’s for enlightenment – which I feel a lot of this video is about.

Daisy Jones: Do you feel like the sound of your music has those same religious, or spiritual ideas?

Aïsha Devi: For me, religion is dogma, tyranny and mind control. If you see the application of religion it manipulates the masses, but also religion is about exclusion. Spirituality is about inclusion. It’s about including every single being in one form. I’m absolutely monist. I think that religions try and make us ignorant and worship icons that are images and outside of yourself. But if you drop this, you start working on your inside. All you can work on is your own energy. When I’m singing I’m in a meditative state and I’m mixing mantras and I’m working on the frequency of my voice more than the significance of the words. After a while, the repetition makes you lose the sense of the words and you come to a state of serenity. In Western Europe, we love words and we love a message. To me, pop music is so connected with advertisement and the format is so close to propaganda. I like to get away from that pop format and transcend that square vision of European music.

Daisy Jones: There is something very meditative about this track in particular – in it’s rhythms and repetition. 

Aïsha Devi: Meditation started as inspirational and then it became a method. I was an outcast and grew up very solitarily and depressed with no friends. When I started art school I met some people that helped me reconcile with humans and I realised that I was not the only person on earth. I was anorexic for fifteen years and had eczema all over my body. But when I started meditating, that all went away – which was a revelation. It was a healing process. Music was already a healing process for me and meditation was also healing. Then both methods merged and became one thing. Now when I make and perform music it feels like a transcendent form of expression, and a healing method.

Daisy Jones: Your new album Of Matter and Spirit is out today. What does it sound like?

Aïsha Devi: I know what I’d like to achieve with it, but I have no idea what it sounds like. I never listen to my music. It feels weird to listen back. But I think it’s very different to anything I’ve done before. I wanted to do something that was conceptually relevant. It’s called, ‘Of matter and spirit’ because I think we’ve lost the balance between the materialistic, external things and the spiritual, internal things because capitalists want us to only believe in what we buy and see and what we have in our hands, which isn’t true.

AS EP - Amnesia Scanner [Album Review & Preview]

Article by Kevin Lozano
Release Date: March 25
Genre: Experimental
Style: Experimental Electronic, Experimental EDM

JaeOhEsH- This is a project that can find itself heavily embodied by experimentation of mutilated vocal samples in addition of new sound waves and stylized sounds but more importantly one can still find this project in queue at a rave dance club, begging crowds to dance frantically and wildly through the organized chaos.

Lozano- The Berlin duo Amnesia Scanner make electronic music that feels both organic and alienatingly futuristic. Even at its most mordant, AS somehow remains accessible and exciting, uncomfortable music you can dance to.  The "mysterious European producer" gambit is a standard and well-rehearsed gimmick by now, with varying degrees of success: For every Burial you have 100 snide SOPHIEs. Berlin twosome Amnesia Scanner arrive in front of us with a terse press release, full of mystery. They are self-described "Xperienz Designers," but they refuse to give any “explanations" for what that means. Instead, they provide the curious schmuck who’s opened their PR email with six unnamed hyperlinks. As you click along, a pitch of absurdity slowly builds, moving from reviews of their work in multiple languages (English, Japanese, German), to a suspicious zip file hosted on Mediafire, and finally the homepage for the Protein Data Bank, an archive for three-dimensional models of biological molecules (proteins, nucleic acids, and the like). Amnesia Scanner's website, too, is a cacophonous visual medley. Their Twitter and Facebook pages don’t offer much. We know they are affiliated with Berlin’s Janus collective (Lotic, M.E.S.H., Kablam). They contributed to “An Exit” from Holly Herndon’s Platform, and they produced a very interesting Mykki Blanco track two years ago. So there it is, a skeleton of biography. Was the journey worth it? The music would have to be surpassingly vivid to stand out from its surrounding rhetoric. Luckly, the gumshoe Google chase matches the music, which feels like a puzzle that might kill you once you’ve solved it.  By the numbers, AS is misleadingly brief. The six tracks total to a slim 21 minutes, but as a whole the album feels much longer that that. Each of the songs is prefaced by "AS" ("AS Wood Gas," for example), which either signifies a contraction of the band’s name or one half of an unfinished metaphor. Titles like "AS Atlas" or "AS Chingy" just add another level of interpretative chaos. They beg the question of whether or not the song is supposed to embody the object it references. More likely than not, it’s another trap door. Is it possible that they sample late '90s pop-rap superstar Chingy in "AS Chingy"? That might have to be a mystery for another day. Describing the music of AS is similarly difficult. "Electronic" only suffices if you paint with the widest brush. Sure, the music here was most likely made on a computer, but at its core it is deeply organic. You may never hear a pre-made synth on AS. You are more likely to hear your gurgling stomach or something tumbling down a flight of stairs. These tracks are overflowing, sloshing full of content, and impossibly dense. They can suddenly and brutally evaporate the comforts of time’s steady flow by queering what you think three or four minutes is supposed to feel like. If there is a steady descriptor for AS, it's "unmooring." There's no way to know where they sourced a particular beat, chord, or vocal. This leaves a lot to imagination. The sounds of AS are primordial and alienatingly futuristic, recalling all the worst parts of the uncanny valley. If we can begin to imagine what a cyborg’s chaotic inner id might be like, you have to to listen to AS. Intense as AS may be, it never becomes a slog or overly complex. The EP has an acute grasp on the rhythms and mood that make people dance. Even at its most mordant, AS somehow remains accessible and exciting, and prompts discovery by tricking you into dancing along to the strangest sonic triggers. It is a testament to the skill and inventiveness of these producers that they can make tracks like "AS Chingy" and “AS Crust" into implausible bangers. Both are nauseating, vertigo-inducing tracks, stitched together from pleading processed vocals, defiantly herky-jerky percussions, and cold greasy synths. It makes Amnesia Scanner utterly confounding. Even with biographical information in hand, several music videos, and art projects, you can't put your finger on Amnesia Scanner for one second. Music this uncomfortable is rarely so euphoric.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Interview with Richard Long, by Mario Codognato, 1997

The following interview was taken directly from the book Mirage, a collection of Richard Long's work published by Phaidon.

Mario Codognato: Your walks in the landscape and the sculptures made along the way, and recorded in photographs, maps or text works, are an essential element in your art. How do you choose your itineraries?

Richard Long: For many different reasons. I may have a precise, pre-planned idea for a road walk. Alternatively, especially on a wilderness walk, I will encounter places and experiences which are new and not predictable, and my ideas could change along the way. I like to use both ways of working. Sometimes I go to familiar places like Dartmoor, specifically using my own experiences and history for the work, and other times I could go to a very unknown (to me) place like Tierra del Fuego. Good places like that usually make good walks. 

I had a particular desire in the seventies to make my circles, and also the straight hundred mile walks, in different types of landscapes around the world. 

MC: Circles in most cultures are the symbolic representation of the fundamental elements of nature, like the sun or the moon, of the divine, of the recurring of time, of infinity. Lines often indicate continuation in space, distance communication, movement. Why have you chosen those forms so often?

RL: I made my first circle in 1966 without thought, although in hindsight I know it is potent for all the reasons you describe. A circle is beautiful, powerful, but also neutral and abstract. I realized it could serve as a constant form always with new content. A circle could carry a different walking idea, or collection of stones, or be in a different place each time.

A circle suits the anonymous but man-made character of my work. My ideas can be expressed better without the artistic clutter of idiosyncratic, invented shapes.

Circles and lines are also practical, they are easy to make. A line can be made just by aligning features in the landscape, and it can point to the horizon, into the distance.

The particular characteristics of each place determine which is most appropriate, a circle or a line. It's always obvious. A circle is more contemplative, focused, like a stopping place, and a line is more like the walk itself. On a twelve day walk in the mountains of Ladakh in 1984 I made a sculpture - marks along the way - literally on the line of the walk and the footpath. Walking within walking.

MC: Quite a few of your works are transient. A line made by walking on the grass disappears after a time. Often your mud works are cancelled at the end of an exhibition. What is your idea of duration and eternity?

RL: On a beach in Cornwall in 1970 I made a spiral of seaweed below the tide line. I liked the idea that my work, lasting only a tide, was interposed between past and future patterns of seaweed of infinite variation, made by natural and lunar forces, repeating for millions of years.

Often the transient is closely related to the eternal in nature.

In an ideal art world, I would prefer some of my mud works, especially the large majestic ones to remain after an exhibition.

MC: For quite a few years, I have been lucky enough to witness the way you install your works in exhibition spaces. You seem to give, almost magically, a sort of order from chaos. The viscosity of mud - the union of water and earth - becomes a vortex of energy which gives birth to the most beautiful wall work. An ordinary pile of stones becomes an amazing sculpture which invites contemplation and meditation. What are the roles of chance and time in the execution of your works?

RL: Particularly with the mud works, time and chance make them, in a way. Because they show the nature of water as well as mud - the wateriness of it - I have to work quickly to make the energy for the splashes. The image is both my actual hand marks but also the chance splashes which are determined by the speed of my hand, the viscosity of the mud, and gravity. There is the scale of the work both as a whole image and also the micro-scale of the splashes with their cosmic variety. I like being able to use and show the nature of chance in this part of my work. 

Time is the fourth dimension in my art. It is often the subject of a walk - time as a measurement of distance, of walking speed, or of terrain, or of fatigue, or of carrying stones, or of one stone to another. 

The sculptures contain the geological time of the stones. 

MC: Global warming and the devastation of many environments is more and more the concern of the general public and our culture. Many people see your work as about ecology as well. How do you define your art, and what is your view about this aspect of it?

RL: My work is just art, not "political" art, but I do believe - now more than years ago - that I have to be responsible, both in my work and in my general life, like anyone.

I first chose landscape so as to use the dimension of distance to make a work of art by walking. That was on Exmoor. I was intuitively attracted to such relatively empty, non-urban landscapes partly because they were the best places to realize my ideas, but also because such places gave me pleasure to be in. They had a spiritual dimension which was also important for the work. So my work comes from a desire to be in a dynamic, creative and engaged harmony with nature, and not actually from any political or ecological motives.

I believe if it is good enough, if a love and respect for nature comes through, if only indirectly, then that is my statement of intent. One of the main themes of my work is water, and water is more important than technology.

(Still waters run deep)

Making art in the type of landscapes which still cover most of our planet gives me quite an optimistic and realistic view of the world. I think my work is almost nothing, it's just about being there - anywhere - being a witness from the point of view of an artist. 

The landscape is a limitless arena where I can engage with those things that have the most meaning and interest for me, like rivers, camping, the weather, measuring countries by my own footsteps, mud, moving a few stones around, and being in places of profound experience. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tania Bruguera: the more the secret police torture me, the better my art gets.

Frieze Fair 2015

Tania Bruguera: the more the secret police torture me, the better my art gets.
by Hermione Hoby

The performance artist was hounded in Cuba for an artwork championing free speech. Why did she end up thanking the secret police who surrounded her house, cut her phonelines then jailed her?

Tania Bruguera sits down on the grass and crosses her legs, as casual and at ease as the undergraduates all around us. “This,” she says with a gesture towards the grand facade of Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, “is a really nice place for a recovery.”
As water flows out of the fountains and the well-trimmed lawns glow in the sun, there is nothing about the Cuban performance artist’s behaviour to suggest she’s just been through “eight months of psychological torture”.
She’s now a teacher at the Ivy League university, but in December last year she was in a Havana holding cell, being subjected to 26 hours of interrogation over a performance art piece. She refused to eat for the whole time. “In that situation, behaviour is your best communication tool,” she says. In the months that followed she was incarcerated three more times and subjected to twice-weekly “visits” from secret police, suffering 20 interrogations in all.

After her first arrest, she was incarcerated three more times and subjected to twice-weekly 'visits' from secret police

“I use the word torture very cautiously,” she says, “but I had moments in which I felt it was abusive and more intense than it should be.”
She had no access to a lawyer: even if her interrogators had granted her one, no Cuban would have dared represent her. “Legal vulnerabilities in Cuba,” she stresses, “are immense.”
The work that got her incarcerated, Tatlin’s Whisper, is brilliantly simple – just a live mic and an open invitation to enjoy one minute of free speech. She’d staged it several times before, including in 2005 at London’s Tate Modern where she employed mounted police to do arbitrary crowd control, corralling blocks of people through the space (most of whom had no idea it was part of the piece). In 2009, she did Tatlin’s Whisper at an arts centre in Havana, and several participants asked for freedom and democracy. Soon after, the government denounced the occasion as “an anti-cultural event of shameful opportunism”.
This time was even more politically charged, coming two weeks after the US government re-established relations with Cuba. She met with Ruben del Valle, the president of the National Council of Arts, who, after a four-hour meeting, denied her a permit to go ahead with the piece in Plaza de la Revolución, the huge square in Havana where Fidel Castro held rallies. Bruguera says Del Valle told her he washed his hands of her, and that whatever happened to her “legally or otherwise” was not his problem. None of this, of course, dissuaded her.

Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (Havana version), by Tania Bruguera, performed in 2009.

In the days leading up to the performance she stayed with her mother, “because she was really freaking out that some ‘accident’ would happen to me. I know Cuba pretty well, and I miscalculated one thing, which is how afraid the government is at the moment. And a government that is afraid is extremely dangerous.”
She adds: “In Cuba we’ve been in two dictatorships after the other,” referring to Fulgencio Batista’s authoritarian reign until the revolution of 1959, and the communist state that followed under Castro. “A lot of people don’t see it that way yet, and for me it’s hard, still, to say those words. People have been under fear. We need a process where people understand not only what their rights are, but what to ask for.”
That process began for Bruguera when she left Cuba for the first time in 1999 to take an MFA in performance at the Art Institute of Chicago. (Most Cubans can’t travel, but the government tends to give artists and sportsmen and women preferential treatment.) In her first class, a professor asked her the seemingly innocuous question: “Well, what do you think?” For Bruguera, then 28 years old, it was a revelation. After a rote Cuban education and the strictures of its regime, she suddenly found herself “in a participatory situation where every idea counts”.

She started making performances, but initially didn’t dare use words: “When you are censored,” she explains, “you try to go through back doors.”
She found herself asking “not only what I want to say, how I want to say it and for whom I want to say it, but also how honest can I be? How nakedly can I present myself? That was when I started to become [politically] conscious.”
Bruguera is an ardent believer in “how art can give tools to people, make us freer, more aware ... help us imagine the future differently”. Gradually, her work (for which she’s been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship among other accolades) has become more direct – which in turn has made it far more dangerous for her.

Her idealism was put to the test when secret police surrounded her house “like I was Osama bin Laden”. At 5am on 30 December 2014 – the day Bruguera was due to stage Tatlin’s Whisper – she was woken by harsh knocking and an enormous crowd outside.
“And I go to use the phone,” she says, “but both lines are cut. This is what it’s like to live in a totalitarian state: they control everything. My mother and my entire family were very nervous. To be a political artist, you have to work with consequences as one of your materials. You have to work out potential outcomes, and you have to be responsible with that.”
She was taken to a holding cell and, “at that moment,” she says, “the piece changed. Because it became about how the government keeps the status quo, how far they will go not to lose the control they have. There was this artistic conundrum, this fight over ‘who owns the piece’. Me as the artist, the audience, or the government? And I think the government was so totalitarian they even wanted to be the author of the work.”
That the regime should unwittingly highlight its totalitarian tendencies, only bolstering the piece it sought to suppress, seems very ironic. She laughs: “At one point I wondered, do they not notice that they are making the piece even better!”
During one interrogation, she actually thanked the secret police.
“And they were so mad at me,” she grins. “They said,” she mimics them spluttering with fury, “‘what do you mean ‘thank you?’”
I replied: ‘Thank you for this – you actually made me a better person.’”
Her situation, like that of fellow dissident artist Ai Weiwei, elicited an outpouring of global support. Thousands of people worldwide, including Turner prizewinners Elizabeth Price, Jeremy Deller, Mark Leckey and Simon Starling, signed an open letter to the Cuban regime calling for her release. On 2 January, she was freed and her passport returned.
“When you do this kind of work,” she says, “you can never forget that you are an artist, but it’s hard because you have to be an artist, an activist, a citizen, everything simultaneously.”
As an artist, she says, “I am very happy ... even if it’s cost me quite a lot. It was beautiful to learn how solidarity feels – we use a lot of important words, without knowing their real meanings – ‘solidarity’ is one, ‘love’ is another, so is ‘friendship’, ‘support’. This year, I actually learned what these words mean.”

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Wilfredo Prieto and the Work of Art as a Direct Gesture by Laura Bardier

It was love at first sight when I saw Wilfredo Prieto’s work Speech (1999), the ceramic toilet roll holder carrying a roll of toilet paper made from Cuba’s official newspaper Granma. It was indeed something I had never seen before, but was awaiting all my life.  The piece proved that Prieto’s strategy is to reduce the metaphor as much as possible, compress the information in order to make it as small as a placebo, but with the intention to live in your head afterwards.
Wilfredo Prieto was born in 1978 in the town of Espíritu Santo, now known as Sancti Spiritus, located in the central part of Cuba. Though he lived in one of the most beautifully preserved colonial cities in the region, Prieto moved to study at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Arte (ISA) in Havana. In 2002, he graduated in painting, a discipline he has not practiced since.
In 1959, after the revolution, Cuban art became isolated, state-sponsored, and auto-referential. Artists  were developing their work in the turmoil of discovering and shaping a national identity. Later, this sense of renovation and nationalism will be degraded and tokenized to the use of Cuba’s geographical silhouette and flag.[i] Prieto’s work is atypical and emerges from a personal point of view of this history, where Havana is a main reference, but the outcome is universal.
Linked to conceptual art, Prieto stays away from conventional artistic practices—constantly changing his medium as much as his ideas. Through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data, Prieto has become an archeologist of concepts, primarily focusing his studies on society. The artist’s goal is to excavate these concepts as a means to better understand contemporary culture. In this process of analysis, the ideas are cleaned, catalogued, and compared as a channel for synthesis in order to create the most effective images. For example, Grease, Soap and Banana (2006) consists of a daub of axle grease, a bar of soap, and a banana peel placed in a meticulous little pile on the floor of an otherwise empty exhibition space. It is a piece that evokes the idea of falling, without the actual fall. The missing elements in Prieto’s work are often evident, and it is this blatant absence that creates a powerful meaning. The banana peel would not guarantee a fall but could still prove to be a very useful slapstick comedy device.
Prieto’s body of work is, by its very nature, created to be intellectually contemplated. He is connected to the Isouian movement, defined as the art of the infinitely small and the infinitely large.[ii] Untitled (2002), in which ink markings on a chickpea suggest a globe, is a work where the miniaturization of the planet emphasizes the subject of world destruction–not as a cataclysm, but as a slow process of homogenization. As Mike Kelley writes, “In low comedy and political cartoons, reductive and distortional practices exist side by side. Here, both approaches are set to attack false or hated authority, for in the context of caricature’s distortions the refined figure becomes comic butt. In ‘fine art,’ on the other hand, reduction tends to be associated with revelation of the ideal.”[iii] Prieto’s artistic vocabulary, strategy, and gestures engage in this pattern of witticism. The consistent irony in his work is achieved through the presentation of sense within nonsense and illumination amid bewilderment. Above all, it is the brevity in Prieto’s wit that is essential to his artistic production.  The point is to reduce the metaphor so that it can be assimilated in an instant, in order to gain the highest effect with the least possible intervention.
Prieto does not employ his sense of humor as a means for entertainment within the work. Rather, it serves to amplify the critical scope of the piece. His use of atypical taxonomies and dialectic disparities manages to provoke optimal impact. The subtle repetition of words or elements in his works, along with variation, are techniques not intended to provide clarity, but to augment reality. This practice can be seen in Time is Gold (2007), consisting of a gold watch hanging from the ceiling, and Mucho ruido y pocas nueces II (2005; Much Ado About Nothing)[lb1] , which displays several meters of a water pipe and cables with an electric generator capable of providing power to a whole city, just to bring light and water to one small potted plant.
The seemingly effortless formalism of Wilfredo Prieto’s work is misleading. The artist embodies the challenge as a personal competition that is in constant reach of an unachievable goal. His work is highly structured and well planned, realized through a careful association of ideas that interact  with one another in a spare presentation.  Like a principal ballet dancer, with elegance and grace he is able to hide the hard work that is put into the production of his art.  Significant in this respect is White Library (2004), consisting of  more than six thousand blank books, each designed with its specific paper, cover, and dimensions. Every day we are expected to select the information that enters our lives; through this piece, Prieto introduces himself  as an administrator of this knowledge. The irony in the work lies in the fact that the books are there to be viewed by the public, but there is no text. However, like zombies unable to control the urge to leaf through the blank pages, the gesture is an automatic impulse, therefore the missing element—which is the text–allows for the construction of a new mode of representation  in the collection of knowledge. The participatory element of White Library is the key function that creates  the framework for a library; without the public, it is merely six thousand blank objects.
For Prieto, humor, irony, and sarcasm are systems of communication that permeate culture and political criticism. Politically Correct (2009) consists of a photo reproduction of a watermelon made to fit a cube to be placed on the floor. The piece strives to be adequate, to adapt to its new form, but it also needs to lose some its essential characteristics: to be round. If all of us were squared, we would be all easier to stack and store![iv] At least it might be what the farmers of the Zentsuji had in mind back in 2001. Through the standardization of the attributes that Mother Nature provides, fruits, people, and places could lose their own significance. As Marc Augé argues, one of the consequences of hyper-modernity is the non-place,[v] and Wilfredo Prieto refigures in the work Airport – Madrid, Brussels, Roma, Paris, La Havana, Barcelona (2008) a series of photographs of the floors of international airports, where besides the title, nothing in the image could identify them.
Prieto’s widely recognized piece Apolitical (2003) consists of thirty one flags from different countries, where the representative colors are represented in grey scale. Here the artist examines the concept of citizenship with the assumed pretense of abandoning barriers of ideology, identity, and politics. By reducing the symbols or canceling the colors, as the character Cobb from the neo-film-noir Following (1998) summarized, “You take it away, and show them what they had.”[vi]
In broader terms, the work of Wilfredo Prieto does not intend to proffer a new reality as an alternative to politics, but rather identifies political reality for what it is, without apology. It therefore maintains a certain reservation about promoting or creating an apology for politics. As a commitment to demystifying and criticizing the self-legitimizing attitude of modernity, he develops a project of dissection in order to construct a lexicon for defining contemporary facts and situations. Many elements in Prieto’s work have strong local connotations, though they still hold significance in a global context. Examples can be found in the use of particular materials, such as  peas, bananas, yeast, sugar, rum, and lemon, which serve as references to Cuban traditional cuisine and the Cuban agriculture system.
Prieto’s work is direct, but it is also open to different interpretations. Crane (2006), for example, is a sixty-meter high crane that unsuccessfully tries to lift itself. It is an epic image of the poetry of infinite disappointment. Moreover, Crane is an iconic image that is related to other contemporary artworks such as Francis Alÿs’s series “Paradox of praxis,” which reflects the sense of impotence and impossibility that we experience when dealing with the bureaucratic system.
By employing ostensible simplicity as strategy, and drawing on everyday spaces and objects as a communication code, his work shares methods with other artists of his generation such as Ivan Capote, Tatiana Mesa, and Orestes Hernández.  Prieto’s pieces generate constant reflection, demonstrating the capacity to alter forms at will through installations, sculptures, interventions, videos, and drawings. However, through their various media the ultimate focus is to synthesize and express a concise idea. As Gerardo Mosquera comments, “Although Prieto is an artist of ideas he is not a critical artist, inasmuch as he doesn’t set out to produce political or social commentary. [ . . . ] Prieto is a critical artist who does not ‘do’ criticism: it merges from the very context of his works.”

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Blood Work

A sound installation powered with 4.5 liters of the artist's own blood.

By Madeline Raynor

(Video available at source.)

Dmitry Morozov (also known as ::vtol::) really put himself into his latest installation. His blood, specifically. "Until I Die" is a sound installation that runs on batteries that generate electricity from the artist's own intravenous donation. The batteries power an electronic algorithmic synth module that creates the gloomy and experimental soundtrack you hear in the video above. A dark room and chandelier-like ceiling fixtures that hold the bottles of blood complete the installation. It took 4.5 liters of blood in all, but Morozov parted with it gradually, over a period of 18 months.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Rock Bottom" - Robert Wyatt [Full Album & Review]

Review by Jim Powers

Release Date: 1974
Duration: 39:29
Genre: Experimental Pop/Rock
Styles: Art Rock, Experimental, Experimental Rock
Recommendation by: Nate Aldrich

 JaeOhEsH- "Distinguishable absences of vocals in portions of tracks. Articulate presences of vocals are matched with rambling womps and whimpers to accompany a very pleasant instrumentation that moves through time for alternating durations!"
Powers- Rock Bottom, recorded with a star-studded cast of Canterbury musicians, has been deservedly acclaimed as one of the finest art rock albums. Several forces surrounding Wyatt’s life helped shape its outcome. First, it was recorded after the former Soft Machine drummer and singer fell out of a five-story window and broke his spine. Legend had it that the album was a chronicle of his stay in the hospital. Wyatt dispels this notion in the liner notes of the 1997 Thirsty Ear reissue of the album, as well as the book Wrong Movements: A Robert Wyatt History. Much of the material was composed prior to his accident in anticipation of rehearsals of a new lineup of Matching Mole. The writing was completed in the hospital, where Wyatt realized that he would now need to sing more, since he could no longer be solely the drummer. Many of Rock Bottom’s songs are very personal and introspective love songs, since he would soon marry Alfreda Benge. Benge suggested to Wyatt that his music was too cluttered and needed more open spaces. Therefore, Robert Wyatt not only ploughed new ground in songwriting territory, but he presented the songs differently, taking time to allow songs like "Sea Song" and "Alifib" to develop slowly. Previous attempts at love songs, like "O Caroline," while earnest and wistful, were very literal and lyrically clumsy. Rock Bottom was Robert Wyatt’s most focused and relaxed album up to its time of release. In 1974, it won the French Grand Prix Charles Cros Record of the Year Award. It is also considered an essential record in any comprehensive collection of psychedelic or progressive rock. Concurrently released was the first of his two singles to reach the British Top 40, "I'm a Believer."


"Plastic Ono Band" - Yoko Ono [Full Album & Review]

Review by James Chrispell
Release Date: December 11, 1970
Duration: 01:05:16
Genre: Experimental Pop/Rock
Styles: Experimental, Experimental Rock, Album Rock
Recommendation by: Nate Aldrich

 JaeOhEsH- “Gargling nothingness finds its home in this album with traditional rock and untraditional harsh instrumentations. A pleasant demonic possession takes place vocally amongst the moving shade of orgasming intense sound waves.”

Chrispell- “Recorded concurrently with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band album, Yoko’s features the same musicians, namely John, Ringo Starr, and Klaus Voormann along with the Ornate Coleman Quarteton one cut. Unlike John’s record, however, Yoko’s is much more a "jam"-sounding record. And while there are definite songs, lyrics are mainly vocal improvisations. Still, if avant-garde is your cup of tea, then check this one out. It's good, if only to hear John Lennon really get the guitar cranking on the opening cut, "Why." The 1997 CD reissue adds three bonus cuts: a previously unreleased version of "Open Your Box" (which would be used as the flip side to John Lennon’s "Power to the People" single), the previously unreleased, 16-minute improv piece "The South Wind," and a previously unreleased 44-second snippet of "Something More Abstract."

"Winter Songs" - Art Bears [Full Album & Review]

Review by Stewart Mason

Release Date: 1987
Duration: 01:09:48
Genre: Experimental Rock
Styles: Avant-Prog, Post-Punk
Recommendation by: Nate Aldrich

JaeOhEsH- “Winter Songs strongly resembles audio scenery that one would find waiting to enter a Scary Halloween Carnival. Or in comparison the journey back home after said event. Wonderfully volatile!"

Mason- “The second and third albums by the Art Bears, 1979's Winter Songs and 1981's The World As It Is Today, were originally released on the Residents’ Ralph Records before Chris Cutler reissued them on a single CD in 1997 on his own Recommended imprint. Winter Songs is the odd man out of the group's three albums, a set of brief songs based on themes taken from the engravings at Amiens Cathedral. A solemn but not at all humorless record, this is actually the Art Bears most accessible release. Unlike the group's first album, there are no outside players on Winter Songs (or for that matter, The World As It Is Today, and the relative sparseness of Cutlers drums and Fred Frith stunning guitar and violin work sets Dagmar Krause’s vocals into stark relief. The closing "Three Wheels" is a triumph of tape loops and dreamy, Satie-like piano under Krause’s overdubbed harmonies, sounding rather like a far more daring and discordant version of what Kate Bush would be doing in the next decade. The album's pinnacle, however, is the clattering "Rats and Monkeys," three manic minutes of Krause caterwauling vocals; Frith's most out-there, free-noise guitar runs; and Cutler playing as if he has six arms, each clutching a Louisville Slugger. It's the prog rock track to play for punk fans who think the style was nothing but Jon Anderson twittering about elves. 1981's The World As It Is Today returns to the explicitly political themes of the trio's days as part of Henry Cow, with that group's dry, academic qualities largely supplanted by a more urgent, insistent feel both musically and lyrically. The lyrics are despairing but defiant, looking at the world as it was in 1981, the dawn of the Reagan/Thatcher era, with a bleak sense of humor and a biting anger, most notably on the howling "Song of the Martyrs," which features the most pop-song-like chorus of the group's entire career. Simultaneously musically complex and sonically stripped down, The World As It Is Today can be a difficult record to penetrate, but it's most rewarding for those who make the attempt”

Arnulf Rainer
A la recherche inlassable de ce qui l'intéresse, comme il le formule dans son film "Loin et en vain", Arnulf Rainer fait figure de générateur d'impulsions toujours nouvelles.

Né en 1929 à Baden près de Vienne, il se décide souvent avec esprit de suite à donner une nouvelle orientation à sa vie pour se déterminer librement lui-même. Il quitte l'école vers l'âge de 15 ans, car il ne veut pas être contraint à peindre selon nature et décide de devenir artiste. En 1949, peu de temps après son admission, il quitte aussi bien l'Ecole supérieure des Arts Appliqués que l'Académie des Beaux-Arts de Vienne.

L'art de Arnulf Rainer se découvre par séries.

Dans ses premiers dessins figuratifs (1947-51), il se laisse influencer par les théories des surréalistes, pour s'en détacher ensuite en 1951, après une rencontre décevante avec André Breton à Paris.

En 1950, alors membre du groupe de canailles fondé en 1950 à Vienne, Rainer provoque le public dans la pose du bouffon. Des microstructures à l'apparence organique voient le jour, ses destructions de formes annonçant déjà son désir de progresser par manipulation-destruction vers quelque chose de nouveau, de meilleur, comme dans ses retouches plus tardives. Sa peinture informelle avait ainsi déjà sonné.

Le désir d'atteindre les plus hauts sommets de liberté dans la peinture s'exprime notamment dans sa peinture à l'aveugle, avec les yeux fermés, et par une idée maîtresse qu'il formule comme suit en 1952 :

 "La peinture est une forme visuelle de la conscience intellectuelle. Le résultat d'un point par rapport à l'environnement est le moment de sa naissance. Le nombre infini de points (la surface homogène) les estompe. Sur les traces de la réduction permanente, elle aspire à une situation limite (la distillation et la dissolution). Pour la destruction des idoles du millénaire, un moyen de libération inlassable par rapport à une tradition qui est la deuxième."

 Dans les années 50 et 60, Rainer commence à retoucher en monochromie ses propres œuvres, ainsi que celles mises à sa disposition par d'autres artistes (par exemple, par Mathieu, Vasarely et Vedova). Le langage imagé utilisé dans les "retouches", qui ont donné lieu par la suite aux "ajouts de peintures", présentent un thème central dans la peinture de Rainer et de son plus grand groupe de travaux. La technique consistant à griffonner, peindre ou dessiner sur un travail lui sert également à conférer une expression plus significative à ses photos noir et blanc avec des attitudes issues de la gestuelle corporelle. C'est le cas également pour les retouches de photos "Face Farces" (1970), qui représentent toutes les poses corporelles imaginables de Rainer.

 Bien que l'artiste désigne les "retouches" comme des "antipodes dialectiques" à ses travaux faisant intervenir le langage du corps gestuel-mimique, il englobe ici la querelle des deux disciplines artistiques en une synthèse visuelle. Ses travaux de langage corporel ont commencé par des grimaces dans les cabines photos. Il expérimente d'une part avec son corps comme fond de peinture et, d'autre part, comme matériau dans sa peinture à la main et aux doigts apparue en 1973.

 Dans une citation significative, Arnulf Rainer nous explique pourquoi la retouche est un plaisir intérieur : "La peinture, pour terminer la peinture". Cela signifie : parvenir, par corrections et modifications, à une nouvelle expression, en relation dialectique avec un autre niveau, à une vue nouvelle, plus profonde.

 Voici ce que disait Rainer à propos de sa méthode de "retouches" : "Avec critique et hostilité envers tout, je parviens à corriger et à retoucher. Ce n'est que maintenant que j'ose détruire, parce que quelque chose de meilleur en sort. Les représentations fixes mais floues me comblent, se différencient et se concrétisent seulement pendant le dessin et deviennent quelque chose de nouveau. Après une ou deux heures, je suis épuisé. Les améliorations ne sont plus que modifications ou souvenirs. Les idées ne s'élargissent pas de ce qui est déjà fait."

Après un retour à sa période surréaliste précoce, et sous l'influence d'hallucinogènes, comme la Psilocybine et le LSD, Rainer crée des dessins figuratifs en 1965.

Plusieurs films sur l'avant-gardisme autrichien, qui influencèrent Rainer de manière décisive, et leurs rapports avec la drogue voient le jour.

Entre ses retouches par dessin de divers sujets, comme les grottes et les roches, l'architecture souterraine et les poses de femmes (1974-77) et sa série de retouches photos "art sur l'art" d'artistes célèbres, il n'y avait qu'un pas.

Dans la série des "têtes de caractère" du génie méconnu de la sculpture baroque, F.X. Messerschmidt, Rainer choisit par exemple des reproductions photographiques du "satirique" ou du "clown à griffes", pour faire des retouches par dessin. Il retouche d'autres photos d'œuvres de Dorés, de la "Caricature" de Zanetti, de Léonard de Vinci et, au début des années 80, des œuvres de Goya, Holbein, Blake après la Divine Comédie de Dante.

Il s'agit non seulement de rehausser l'expression par les lignes de contour, comme pour les têtes de Messerschmidt, mais aussi d'apporter des ajouts de peintures, des coupures gestuelles-visuelles, des modifications, suite à quoi on ne reconnaît plus le motif d'origine que sur le côté ou flottant ça et là. Par la suite, il étend sa méthode à des représentations de tableaux graphiques de feuilles, de fleurs et d'animaux et aussi du cosmos.

A cette époque (1977), Rainer est confronté à la thématique de la mort. Les croix avaient déjà été un de ses thèmes de prédilection, et il le reprit rapidement. On retiendra également un dessin précoce de "Rainer à l'article de la mort" (1949). Il s'agissait alors de masques mortuaires de personnages célèbres dans le domaine de la politique, la littérature, la philosophie et la musique (comme Uhland, Robespierre, Schiller, von Weber, Fichte, Puccini, Liszt, Haydn, etc.). Il est évident que le thème des masques intéressait Rainer depuis longtemps, notamment par rapport aux grimaces. C'est l'expression figée de la vie qui s'en va, l'extinction et le regard douloureux de ce qui n'est plus que corporel que Rainer a choisi comme fond thématique de ses retouches par dessin, que Werner Hofmann caractérisait de "obsession", comme une "excursion sur la crête entre art et rituel".

Hofmann et le prêtre Otto Mauer, qui avait fondé la très influente galerie d'avant-garde à Vienne en 1955, la "Galerie près de St. Stephan", voient la conciliation de la contradiction dans les travaux de Rainer, entre couleurs agressives et réconciliation (voir "Face Farces"), dans une perspective chrétienne. Johannes Cladders décrit les travaux de Arnulf Rainer de la manière suivante : "Ses tableaux ne sont pas des peintures en dialogue esthétique ou langage personnel, pas plus que des illustrations de quelque chose, des allégories de quelque chose, des symboles de quelque chose. Ce sont des actions, la victoire de l'inutilité, de l'infériorité".

En 1981, Rainer reçoit une chaire de professeur à l'Académie des Beaux-Arts à Vienne. En 1995, il est mis à la retraite à sa demande. Il vit actuellement à Vienne, en Haute-Autriche, en Bavière et à Ténériffe.

Lilian Haberer 

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Watch an Avant-Garde Bauhaus Ballet in Brilliant Color, the Triadic Ballet First Staged by Oskar Schlemmer in 1922
by Josh Jones

We credit the Bauhaus school, founded by German architect Walter Gropius in 1919, for the aesthetic principles that have guided so much modern design and architecture in the 20th and 21st centuries. The school’s relationships with artists like Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe means that Bauhaus is closely associated with Expressionism and Dada in the visual and literary arts, and, of course, with the modernist industrial design and glass and steel architecture we associate with Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles and Ray Eames, among so many others. 

We tend not to associate Bauhaus with the art of dance, perhaps because of the school’s founding ethos to bring what they saw as enervated fine arts and crafts traditions into the era of modern industrial production. The question of how to meet that demand when it came to perhaps one of the oldest of the performing arts might have puzzled many an artist. But not Oskar Schlemmer. A polymath, like so many of the school’s avant-garde faculty, Schlemmer was a painter, sculptor, designer, and choreographer who, in 1923, was hired as Master of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop. 06_early-prod-shot 

Before taking on that role, Schlemmer had already conceived, designed, and staged his most famous work, Das Triadische Ballet (The Triadic Ballet). “Schlemmer’s main theme,” says scholar and choreographer Debra McCall, “is always the abstract versus the figurative and his work is all about the conciliation of polarities—what he himself called the Apollonian and Dionysian. [He], like others, felt that mechanization and the abstract were two main themes of the day. But he did not want to reduce the dancers to automatons.” These concerns were shared by many modernists, who felt that the idiosyncrasies of the human could easily become subsumed in the seductive orderliness of machines. 08_triadicballetoskar-schlemmer4 

Schlemmer’s intentions for The Triadic Ballet translate—in the descriptions of Dangerous Minds’ Amber Frost—to “sets [that] are minimal, emphasizing perspective and clean lines. The choreography is limited by the bulky, sculptural, geometric costumes, the movement stiflingly deliberate, incredibly mechanical and mathy, with a rare hint at any fluid dance. The whole thing is daringly weird and strangely mesmerizing.” You can see black and white still images from the original 1922 production above (and see even more at Dangerous Minds). To view these bizarrely costumed figures in motion, watch the video at the top, a 1970 recreation in full, brilliant color. triadic-ballet-notes 

For various reasons, The Triadic Ballet has rarely been restaged, though its influence on futuristic dance and costuming is considerable. The Triadic Ballet is “a pioneering example of multi-media theater,” wrote Jack Anderson in review of a 1985 New York production; Schlemmer “turned to choreography,” writes Anderson, “because of his concern for the relationships of figures in space.” Given that the guiding principle of the work is a geometric one, we do not see much movement we associate with traditional dance. Instead the ballet looks like pantomime or puppet show, with figures in awkward costumes tracing various shapes around the stage and each other. triadic-group-photo-and-eight-scene-photos 

As you can see in the images further up, Schlemmer left few notes regarding the choreography, but he did sketch out the grouping and costuming of each of the three movements. (You can zoom in and get a closer look at the sketches above at the Bauhaus-archiv Museum.) As Anderson writes of the 1985 revived production, “unfortunately, Schlemmer’s choreography for these figures was forgotten long ago, and any new production must be based upon research and intuition.” The basic outlines are not difficult to recover. Inspired by Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Schlemmer began to see ballet and pantomime as free from the baggage of traditional theater and opera. Drawing from the stylizations of pantomime, puppetry, and Commedia dell’Arte, Schlemmer further abstracted the human form in discrete shapes—cylindrical necks, spherical heads, etc—to create what he called “figurines.” The costuming, in a sense, almost dictates the jerky, puppet-like movements of the dancers. (These three costumes below date from the 1970 recreation of the piece.) 10_tradic-ballet-3-figures 

Schlemmer’s radical production has somehow not achieved the level of recognition of other avant-garde ballets of the time, including Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Stravinsky’s, Nijinsky-choreographed The Rite of Spring. The Triadic Ballet, with music composed by Paul Hindemith, toured between 1922 and 1929, representing the ethos of the Bauhaus school, but at the end of that period, Schlemmer was forced to leave “an increasingly volatile Germany,” writes Frost. Revivals of the piece, such as a 1930 exhibition in Paris, tended to focus on the “figurines” rather than the dance. Schlemmer made many similar performance pieces in the 20s (such as a “mechanical cabaret”) that brought together industrial design, dance, and gesture. But perhaps his greatest legacy is the bizarre costumes, which were worn and copied at various Bauhaus costume parties and which went on to directly inspire the look of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and the glorious excesses of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust stage show. 

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Enrique Martínez Celaya’s “The First Kierkegaard”

Kierkegaard has been a constant source of inspiration for the Cuban-born painter Enrique Martínez Celaya, one of a number of philosophers and writers whose work he has studied, absorbed, and responded to.

Enrique Martínez Celaya, “The First Kierkegaard” (2006), oil, wax, and tar on canvas, 100 x 78 inches, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Gift of the artist in honor of Klaus Ottmann, 2015 (courtesy The Phillips Collection) In the opening of his first book, the two-volume Either/Or (1843), Søren Kierkegaard asked “What is a poet?” and promptly answered his own question: “An unhappy man who in his heart harbors a deep anguish, but whose lips are so fashioned that the moans and cries which pass over them are transformed into ravishing music.”

Kierkegaard has been a constant source of inspiration for the Cuban-born painter Enrique Martínez Celaya, one of a number of philosophers and writers whose work he has studied, absorbed, and responded to (the roster includes Robert Frost, Joseph Brodsky, Mandelstam, Rilke, and Maeterlinck). Celaya has produced a series of paintings related to the Danish existentialist, starting with “The First Kierkegaard,” 2006, which is on view at the Phillips Collection through April 2.
Celaya’s painting portrays the spectral figure of a thin, naked adolescent boy standing both against and within a dark background, the surface of the painting resembling a blackboard that has been scratched and erased over and over. The boy’s body, painted in a soft brown tone, is lightly outlined, with his anatomy minimally delineated: facial features, collar bone, nipples, genitals, feet. His left arm rests by his side while the right is held straight and slightly away from his body. He wears a thoughtful expression on his face — something like resignation — while turning slightly to the left.
The figure stands just off center, with a circular scattering of small colored dots above and to the right of his head. In the middle of this circle the name “Kierkegaard” is inscribed in simple script. Is this an imaginary portrait of the Dane in his youth, beginning his quest to understand the world?

Dr. Klaus Ottmann, art historian and the Phillips Collection’s deputy director for curatorial and academic affairs, ties the figure in Celaya’s painting to Abraham in Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling (1843), which revolves around the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. Asked to sacrifice his son, Abraham finds himself, in Ottmann’s words, “in the in-between of nothingness and anxiety, between the Imaginary and the Symbolic, the ‘disquieting supervision of responsibility’” — a kind of limbo such as Celaya depicts in his painting.

In 2015, Celaya gave “The First Kierkegaard” to the Phillips Collection in honor of Ottmann. He was subsequently invited to be part of the One-on-One series, for the third exhibition since Ottmann launched the series in the spring of 2011, shortly after his arrival at the museum. Learning that Peter Doig would be giving the Duncan Phillips lecture at the museum in April of that year, Ottmann invited the Scottish painter to select a work from the collection to hang alongside his own. Doig chose Georges Braque’s 1956 “Bird”; it was exhibited with three paintings of ravens he had made in Trinidad for the first One-on-One. The second One-on-One, in August 2015, featured Washington, DC-based artist Carol Brown Goldberg, who juxtaposed one of her paintings with Matisse’s 1948 “Interior with Egyptian Curtain.”

When Celaya visited the museum in 2015, Ottmann took him into the Phillips’s art storage and showed him a number of works, including several Albert Pinkham Ryder paintings. Celaya connected to the American painter on several fronts, including their shared use of tar (bitumen) in place of black paint. In addition, recounts Ottmann, the dark, mystical quality of Ryder’s works, with their religious underpinning, seemed “a fitting match for Celaya’s painting.”

Three of Ryder’s greatest works hang across the hallway from Celaya’s: “Macbeth and the Witches,” from the mid-1890s and later, “Desdemona,” 1896, and “Dead Bird,” 1890s. Without forcing a dialogue between Ryder and Celaya, you can make those aforementioned connections: the shared love of a richly worked surface and the ethereal quality of the imagery. (In 1926, Duncan Phillips, who was a champion of Ryder’s work, wrote that the painter was “always superbly plastic with simplification which contains powerful suggestions and persuades us to believe in the reality of his visions” — a commentary that could apply to Celaya.)

At the same time, Ryder turned to Shakespeare much as Celaya turned to Kierkegaard: as a source for models of worldly doubt. Macbeth and Desdemona confront their own existential situations; Ryder heightens their angst through the dark settings in which he situates them. Likewise, Celaya’s vulnerable youth seems caught in a moment of transition: in the transom of some invisible doorway between innocence and knowing.

Art historian Elizabeth Broun wrote of Ryder’s “Dead Bird” that it was “perhaps his single most affecting image” and noted how the image distills “pathos to a monosyllable.” She further remarked, “The extreme isolation of the image demands the most intense concentration from the viewer.” Pathos, too, is provoked by Celaya’s isolated individual, a distant relative of Giacometti’s “Walking Man” and other icons of modern dread.
One-on-One: Enrique Martínez Celaya / Albert Pinkham Ryder is hung in a hallway portion of the second-floor gallery space in the Phillips’s central building. Just behind it is the museum’s Rothko room, a fitting neighbor — the color field painter also found wisdom in Kierkegaard. As Ottmann has noted, the abstract expressionist “had Kierkegaard in his veins.” He points to Rothko’s biographer, James E. B. Breslin, who reported that the painter kept a copy of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling next to his bed.
In a conversation with Ottmann at the museum back in October, Celaya offered thoughts on what the act of art means to him. “Art is, for me (but I think not just for me), it’s not really a cathartic experience, but rather … you have a sense of clarity. What happens is, it reveals the luminosity of the secrets sitting underneath all things. And in some way that luminosity is some sort of guidance or clarity, but it is not an answer in the conventional sense. But there is a promise in there, that if you continue on, somewhere around some corner, when I am 175, I will actually have some insights into what’s really happening.”
Celaya is Kierkegaard’s poet, able to transform anguish into visual beauty: the tender boy on the brink of experience. The Ryder accompaniment only underscores that perception.
One-on-One: Enrique Martínez Celaya / Albert Pinkham Ryder continues at the Phillips Collection (1600 21st Street NW, Washington, DC) through April 2.
The following was copied from the website Hyperallergic written by Carl Little