At key moments in history, artists have reached beyond galleries and museums, using their work as a call to action to create political and social change. The Brooklyn Museum's exhibition Agitprop! explores the legacy and continued power of politically engaged art through more than 50 contemporary projects and artworks from five historical moments of political urgency. Agitprop! will be on view from December 11, 2015 through August 7, 2016 in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.
The term "agitprop"emerged from the Russian Revolution almost 100 years ago, combining the words "agitation" and "propaganda" to describe art practices intended to incite social change. Since that time, artists across the ideological and global landscape have adopted modes of expression that can be widely reproduced and disseminated. Agitprop! will feature a full range of these materials, from photography and film to prints and banners to street actions and songs, TV shows, social media, and performances. Connecting current creative practices with strategies from the early 20th century, these projects show artists responding to the pressing questions of their day and seeking to motivate broad, diverse audiences.
In keeping with the collaborative spirit of agitprop, contemporary artists participated in the selection of the exhibition's content, thereby opening up the process to reflect multiple perspectives and positions. Unfolding in three waves, Agitprop! kicks off on December 11 with five case studies in early agitprop and 20 contemporary art projects selected by the Sackler Center staff. The first round of participants will each invite an artist or collective whose work will be added to the installation beginning February 17; that second group will then invite a final round of artists, whose work will be incorporated on April 6. In total, more than 50 contemporary fusions of art and political action, involving hundreds of contributors, will be exhibited.
The first round of invited artists includes Luis Camnitzer (US/Argentina), Zhang Dali (China), Chto Delat (Russia), Dread Scott (US), Dyke Action Machine! (US), Friends of William Blake (US), Coco Fusco (US), Futurefarmers (US), Ganzeer (Egypt/US), Gran Fury (US), Guerrilla Girls (US), Jenny Holzer (US), Los Angeles Poverty Department (US), Otabenga Jones & Associates (US), Yoko Ono (Japan/US), Sahmat Collective (India), Martha Rosler (US), Adejoke Tugbiyele (Nigeria/US), Cecilia Vicuña (Chile) and John Dugger (US); and, in a collaborative work, The Yes Men (US) with Steve Lambert(US), CODEPINK (US), May First/People Link (US), Evil Twin (US), Improv Everywhere (US) and Not An Alternative (US), along with more than 30 writers, 50 advisers, and 1,000 volunteer distributors (US).
On view throughout the length of the exhibition, the historical examples explore the various ways that political aspirations took creative form in the early 20th century, from women as subjects and makers of Soviet propaganda to the cultural campaigns for women's suffrage and against lynching in America, and from individual practices such as Tina Modotti's socialist photographs in Mexico to the government-sponsored Living Newspaper productions of the Federal Theatre Project. The contemporary projects address urgent struggles for social justice since the second half of the 20th century, including anti-war demonstrations, AIDS activism, environmental advocacy, multipronged demands for human rights, and protests against mass incarceration and economic inequality.
"This exhibition continues the Brooklyn Museum's commitment to providing a platform for public dialogue around political and artistic issues and for placing contemporary work in the context of a vast collection that encourages audiences to make connections between the past and the present," said Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of the Brooklyn Museum.
Agitprop! is organized by the staff of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Saisha Grayson, Assistant Curator; Catherine Morris, Sackler Family Curator; Stephanie Weissberg, Curatorial Assistant; and Jess Wilcox, Programs Manager.
On the occasion of the current exhibition Hans Schärer: Madonnas and Erotic Watercolors, join us at New York's Swiss Institute on Wednesday, December 9 for an artist talk celebrating KALEIDOSCOPE's recentArt&Sex Edition, a special themed issue dedicated to all expressions of sexuality as addressed in contemporary art and visual culture.
The talk is based and expands on "Sex on Paper," a visual feature curated by New York-based painter Mathew Cerletty in the Art&Sex Edition, consisting of a selection of works on paper that "playfully reflect some of the many complications of human sexuality: fantasy, twisted obsession, unbridled lust, sweet vulnerability, and of course the simple beauty of a physical connection."
Alongside Cerletty, participants to the talk, moderated by KALEIDOSCOPE's newly-appointed associate editorAlexander Shulan, include featured artists Jonah Koppel, Emily Mae Smith and Betty Tompkins.
KALEIDOSCOPE's Art&Sex Edition will be available to browse and buy at the ARTBOOK @ Swiss Institute bookstore.
Featuring: Simon Baier on Anne Collier Matthias Reichelt on Helmut und Johanna Kandl Guy Mannes-Abbott on Ala Younis Cecilia Fajardo-Hill on Teresa Burga
Column: Cinenova—Feminist Film and Video Distributor
Processes that determine the distribution of political, social, cultural, and economic agency have long been playing out—not just starting with the events currently culminating around flight and migration in Europe—attesting to dislocation in terms of geography and politics. The current issue of Camera Austria Internationalfocuses on four artistic positions, exemplary and antithetical in equal measure, in an attempt to explore the issue of the construction and reconstruction of history, of remembrance, and of cultural memory. In the case ofAnne Collier, her work often deals with the re-representation of already published visual testimonials. AsSimon Baier notes, "most of the found objects originate from a past that, though not specified, usually goes back to the pre-digital era … [they] are obsolete media in our present day and age." But what does bringing supposedly obsolete material back into play mean, exposing it to a new gaze?
Helmut andJohanna Kandl have long engaged in travel, research, and photography, encountering a diverse range of people, friends of friends—in the Austrian Waldviertel, former Yugoslavia, former Czechoslovakia, and Ukraine. Memories, information, and pictures are arranged in an associative way, and banal motifs are constellated with world-historical ones—not as counter-narratives, but rather as a part of history, as commentary on and corrective of the grand narratives.
The contribution on Ala Younis in the present issue goes back to her participation in this year's Venice Biennale. In Plan for Greater Baghdad (2015), she references Frank Lloyd Wright's 1957 redesign of the city as "Persianate fantasia." Guy Mannes-Abbott takes a fragmented approach and contextualises the many misunderstandings and violations within history that were so fundamental to this modernisation.
We also invited Teresa Burga to present her work. Since the 1960s, Burga has been probing traditional conceptions of art, as well as the role and status of women within society. With her unconventional, critical stance towards gender and art issues, Burga is, as Cecilia Fajardo-Hill writes, one of those artists outside of the European and North American mainstream who "have, despite their invisibility in art-historical books, surveys, and key museum exhibitions, created some of the most radical and original art in the 20th century—works that we are only learning about now."
For this issue and the fourth and last part of this year's Column, the authors Madeleine Bernstorff and Sandra Schäfer, as part of the collective Cinenova Feminist Film and Video Distributor, explore "monocultures, asserting feminist objections, and liquefying dominant narrations through a mosaic structure" in films by Ruth Novaczek and Heiny Srour.
This issue is rounded off by Jan Wenzel's "The Revolving Bookshelf" and by responses to newly published books, as well as 15 reviews on 22 exhibitions from eight countries, including:  Places  Precarious Fields, Fotofestival Mannheim-Ludwigshafen-Heidelberg; Mark Leckey + Alessandro Raho: We Transfer, Secession, Vienna; Stadt/Bild.Image of a City, Berlinische Galerie, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, Nationalgalerie—Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin; The Aftermath of Conflict: Jo Ractliffe's Photographs of Angola and South Africa, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979, The Showroom, London; The School of Kyiv, various venues, Kiev; Back to the Future: steirischer herbst 2015, various venues, Graz and environs; Telling Time: Rencontres de Bamako—Biennale Africaine de la Photographie, 10ième édition, Musée National du Mali and various venues, Bamako; Zofia Rydet: Record 1978–1990, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw.
Camera Austria International Published quarterly, 104 pages, German / English
White Cube is pleased to present 6 x 6 An Improvisation by Larry Bell, an off-site project organised to coincide with Art Basel Miami Beach. For this exhibition, Bell has installed a major "Standing Wall" sculpture, previously exhibited at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas (2014-15). 6 x 6 An Improvisation comprises 36 individual glass panels. Responding intuitively to the dynamics of the space, Bell, in the process of arranging the glass panels, allows the particular conditions of natural light at different times of the day to transform the installation.
One of the leading exponents of California’s "Light and Space" movement, Bell has consistently focused on the properties of light and its interface with surface throughout his 50-year career. His earliest works from the 1960s, paintings on shaped canvases, corresponded to the silhouette of a box drawn in isometric projection. This exploration of spatial ambiguity eventually evolved into sculptural constructions made of wood and glass, and then glass cubes and standing glass-panel wall sculptures, for which he has now become well known. From 1963 onward, Bell began exploring the passing of light through his sculptures, deploying a technique of vacuum deposition whereby thin films were added to the clear glass panels. The resulting glass cubes, presented on transparent pedestals, offered the viewer the essence of captured light, challenging notions of mass, volume and gravity in one single measure.
Bell continues to employ glass in his work, harnessing in particular the material’s special properties of transmitting, absorbing and reflecting light. He has said: "Although we tend to think of glass as a window, it is a solid liquid that has at once three distinctive qualities: it reflects light, it absorbs light, and it transmits light all at the same time."
In 6 x 6 An Improvisation, Bell combines three types of glass: grey, clear and partially coated panels that have been treated with a thermal evaporation process, depositing a thin layer of nickel-chrome on their surface. Architectural in form and reference, the panels function as mirrors, windows and doors. Bell describes his "Standing Walls" as "improvisational," since not only do they change with varying light but incorporate a degree of experimentation in their final forms, as the technical process of their making allows for many possibilities and permutations. Highly dramatic and visually complex, 6 x 6 An Improvisation creates a sequence of layered reflections and shapes, converging hues and densities, while maintaining the illusion of volume.
Commenting on the series, Bell says: "In some cases, it’s highly reflective where the glass parts come together; in others, it is highly reflective where the glass touches the floor, and so on. And I like the idea of being able to just combine these things so they’d stand up, since the parts were all the same size. The balance is in the weight of their own vertical thrust, and they are anchored to the floor and bound together with glue. So they hold each other up, and I could change it any way I want."
Recent installations of the "Standing Wall" sculptures, in addition to the Chinati Foundation installation (2014–15), include 6 x 8 An Improvisation at White Cube Mason’s Yard, London (2015). Bell’s work will also be included in a group show, LAX-MIA: Light + Space, at the Surf Club, Surfside, Miami, from December 1–12, 2015.
Larry Bell was born in 1939 and lives and works between Los Angeles, CA and Taos, NM. He has exhibited widely, including the group exhibitions Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, Doug Wheeler, Tate Britain, London (1970); 11 Los Angeles Artists, Hayward Gallery, London (1971); and Phenomenal, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2011). Solo exhibitions include the Pasadena Art Museum, California (1972); Fort Worth Art Museum, Dallas, Texas (1975 and 1977); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1986); Denver Art Museum, Colorado (1995); Carré d’Art Musée d’art Contemporain de Nîmes, France (2011); and The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas (2014).
Quotes taken from an interview between Larry Bell and Marianne Stockebrand, White Cube Mason’s Yard, July 16, 2015.
Top: Park Kyong, City Mix: Exploding, 2015. HD digital video / audio, 43,681 x 3,340 mm, 2:05 minutes. Bottom: Park Kyong, City Mix: Connecting, 2015. HD digital video/audio, 43,681 x 3,340 mm, 1:30 minutes.
Imagining New Eurasia Project
A Project by Kyong Park
November 25, 2015–2018
The Asia Culture Center ACC Creation, Space 3 38, Munhwajeondang-ro Dong-gu, Gwangju Republic of Korea
For centuries, Asia and Europe were thought to be separate and distinct. But where exactly is the physical demarcation between them? Is it the Ural Mountains or Caucasus Mountains? Or do the linked bodies of water from the Sea of Marmara, Black Sea, and Caspian Sea to the Ural River separate Asia from Europe? The exact line of physical demarcation between Asia and Europe is still disputed and remains inconclusive.
The division of Eurasia is merely of a cultural construct, as history confirms. Rather than being defined by its supposed division, the horizontality of the Eurasian landmass has allowed various inventions, religions and languages to spread to the far reaches of East and West. Old Silk Roads, New Silk Roads, and the like are proof that the geography of the continent is a unifying force. Eurasia is a single continent, not only by its physical attributes, but also by its shared history.
Today, Eurasia is once again becoming one. Besides the Trans-Siberian Railways, now the New Eurasian Land Bridge connects Lianyungang with Rotterdam to allow shipments of materials from China to Europe. There are more proposals for new railroads and highways between China, India and Southeast Asia, while Russia has even proposed tunnels and bridges across the Bering Strait to North America. Furthermore, there are also many newly built and proposed oil and gas pipelines that will remake the Middle East and Central Asia a land of connections and exchanges, as they were during the Old Silk Roads era and beyond.
Imagining New Eurasia is a multi-year project to research and visualize the historical precedents and contemporary reconstructions of the continent as a union of Europe and Asia. The project imagines new relations between East and West, and a renewed identity for Eurasia. Through a narrative sequence of three distinctive chapters, each with different subjects, the Imagining New Eurasia Project will present the importance of cities, networks and territories. In so doing, the project envisions how the movements of commerce, migrations and cultural exchanges could bring about an age of balance, where greater relations and understandings between different societies could help avoid clashes of civilizations. Central to this project is the New Eurasian Pavilion, which will house panoramic projections of visualizations, accompanied by participatory exhibitions, publications and workshops.
Chapter 1 Here, There, and Everywhere: Eurasian Cities November 25, 2015–July 15, 2016
Director of Visualization: Jaekyung Jung Project Architect: B.A.R.E Curator: Jihoi Lee
The inaugural exhibition of the Imagining New Eurasia Project looks at the cultural terrain of Eurasia through the localized lens of different “cities.” The intention is to visualize the structures of cultural transitions, exchanges, and interactions between different places. Primarily consisting of three parts, “Atlas of a New Geography,” “City Mix,” and “Urban Poetry,” the exhibition seeks to animate a new way of understanding the relations between here, there, and everywhere of Eurasia.
Commissioned by the Asia Culture Center—the ACC Creation and Asia Culture Institute. Supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Office for the Hub City of Asian Culture, Republic of Korea.
In keeping with its ongoing policy of bringing the visual arts and music together, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is presenting the Canadian premiere of from here to ear v.19 by French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, from November 25, 2015 to March 27, 2016. For this immersive installation, the Contemporary Art Square will be transformed into a giant aviary, one of the largest ever created by the artist, who represented France in the 2015 Venice Biennale.
"This presentation is another in our programme of exhibitions where art and music intersect: following Imagine and Warhol Live, it was only natural for us to present the Canadian premiere of this magical, poetic work by artist and musician Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. It's another first for the Museum, which is being transformed into a musical aviary—complete with live birds! We invite visitors to come and marvel at their collective performance," said Nathalie Bondil, the Museum's Director and Chief Curator.
An unusual musical pairing of birds and electric guitars, from here to ear v.19 "stars" more than 70 zebra finches. These enchanting little birds, native to the Australian grasslands, "perform" in their aviary in the Square, where visitors can stroll around "bird territory." The finches perch on guitars and electric basses plugged into amplifiers, producing live sounds on instruments tuned to open blues tunings or rock power chords to create a lively, organic, ephemeral piece of music, which changes as visitors walk around the gallery.
The first version of from here to ear was presented at MoMA PS1 in 1999. Since then, various works have been exhibited under the generic title from here to ear. While these installations share a common principle—an aviary where visitors can get close to the birds, whose activity creates a live piece of music—each installation is to be considered as a unique work determined by the circumstances of the exhibition setting. After New York, Paris, Milan, Linz in Austria, and Brisbane, this is the 19th presentation of the installation.
Born in Nice in 1961, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot lives and works in Sète, France. After serving as composer for writer and director Pascal Rambert's Side One Posthume Théâtre company, the artist, a musician by training, began to give autonomous form to his music by creating installations. Since 1994, he has been combining visual arts and experimental music while making use of the codes of live entertainment. Starting with the most diverse situations or objects, he seeks out their musical potential, conceiving systems that extend the idea of a musical score to the unorthodox configurations of materials and media he uses to generate forms of sound that he calls "living" music. In recent years, Boursier-Mougenot has expanded his practice to include choreography, applying his composition process to moving objects. He is represented by Paula Cooper Galleries in New York, Xippas in Paris and Mario Mazzoli in Berlin.
The exhibition was installed with the assistance of Yves Théoret, Head of Curatorial Affairs, Sandra Gagné, Head of Exhibitions Production, Richard Gagnier, Head of Conservation, and Marie-Eve Beaupré, Curator of Quebec and Canadian Art (1945 to Today). The Museum is also working with a team of veterinary technicians, and an avian veterinarian visits regularly to ensure optimal living conditions for the finches are maintained.
Source and information: Elisabeth-Anne Butikofer Press Officer, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts email@example.com
Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries are currently filled with a hauntingly beautiful sound installation by Susan Philipsz (main picture). The Scottish artist won the Turner Prize in 2010 for a sound piece that didn’t really work at the Tate. Intended to be heard under the bridges spanning the River Clyde in Glasgow, the recording of Philipsz's fragile voice singing sad folk songs was largely drowned out by ambient noise.
This time, though, she has been able to design the installation especially for this awesome space, which stands empty for the occasion. A central line of speakers hanging from the ceiling is augmented by others attached to pillars to create an evocative 3D soundscape. Notes from “The Last Post”, familiar from Remembrance ceremonies and military funerals, are played on brass and woodwind instruments damaged in battles over the last 200 years.
The oldest are two bugles – one from the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, found beside the body of a 14-year-old drummer boy, and another from the Crimean War of 1854, blown by William Brittain of the 17th Lancers to sound the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade during the Battle of Balaclava. The most recent – a keyed bugle and two transverse flutes – were found in the Alte Münz Bunker in Berlin in 1945.
(Pictured below right: Klappenhorn [ruin])
Philipsz was curious to see what sounds could be elicited from these severely battered relics, all of which are housed in British and German military museums. On video, one can watch various musicians attempting to play them, often producing little more than the sound of their own breath being funnelled through mangled tubing. “I am less interested in creating music than to see what sounds these instruments are still capable of”, Philipsz explains, “even if that sound is just the breath of the player as he or she exhales through the battered instrument.”
Watching a young man put his lips to a crumpled instrument is a moving experience; it makes one aware of the damage that weaponry can inflict on metal and flesh and brings into sharp focus the moment when the original player was probably killed or wounded. But it's the sounds themselves that are the most evocative. They travel round the empty space paying melancholy tribute to all those who lost their lives. Commissioned by 14-18 NOW, a programme of events marking the centenary of the First World War, this wonderfully restrained piece would certainly have deserved the Turner Prize
View of “Tutttovero,” Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin, 2015. Image courtesy of Castello di Rivoli. Photo by Andrea Guermani.
November 25, 2015
It was difficult, having recently attended the opening of an art fair, to dispute Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s assertion that “we live in the age of oligarchs.” The recently appointed director of two of Turin’s most celebratedarts institutions(1) told me, as we meandered through the halfway re-hung galleries of the Castello di Rivoli, that one consequence of the international proliferation of private museums showcasing collections amassed by a small number of competitive collectors “with little interest in the past” is a phenomenon akin to cultural-historical amnesia. It is her responsibility, she said, to use the extensive public collections at her disposal to foster interactions between past and present, teasing out the connections between different eras rather than reinforcing the illusion that our times (and by extension our artists) are divorced from the past.
The architecture of Turin provides a neat analogue for the productivity of such intergenerational dialogue. My taxi from Castello di Rivoli—situated in the former residence of the Royal House of Savoy on the city’s picturesque outskirts—to Artissima—which occupies a Renzo Piano-designed conference center in the heart of what was once the city’s industrial district—passes ancient Roman settlements, Guarini’s dome for the Chiesa di San Lorenzo, and, adjacent to the fair, the splendid Lingotto FIAT factory designed by Giacomo Mattè-Trucco in the Rationalist style, complete with undulating rooftop racetrack. In purely art historical terms, too, it seems appropriate that the spiritual home of Arte Povera, Alighiero Boetti, and Italy’s historical avant-garde should position itself as the city in which contemporary art draws upon the past to move into the future.
This creative confusion of tenses was much in evidence at the fair, which presented two sections entitled “Present Future” and “Back to the Future.” The latter declares itself to be “dedicated to research,” on this occasion re-examining the period 1975–1985, but the bustle only serves to remind the visitor that the juxtaposition of past and present can be a market-based strategy as much as a purely curatorial one, premised upon the mutually beneficial exchange of canonical gravitas and contemporary glitz. Among the twentieth-century vanguards to have benefited from a recent critical and commercial resurgence is ZERO, represented here by Nanda Vigo—the curator of an influential exhibition of ZERO artists at Lucio Fontana's Milanese studio in 1965—in a joint presentation by Ca’ di Fra’, Milan, and Allegra Ravizza, Lugano. The neon wall piece, standing sculpture, and triangular mirror that comprise Vigo’s Frammenti di Riflessione (1979) elegantly conflate minimalist austerity with the weightless anti-materialism typical of the movement. Elsewhere in the same section, London’s White Rainbow shows a two-part photographic self-portrait by Japanese conceptualist—and founder of the Kobe chapter of ZERO—Chu Enoki (Going to Hungary with HANGARI, 1977). Inspired by a visit to the retrospective of Marcel Duchamp’s work at the newly opened Centre Pompidou, Enoki shaved one side of his body (“Hangari” meaning “half-shaved” in Japanese) in homage to the French artist, who had cut a star symbol into his hair on first visiting the United States (a further series of photographs shows the asymmetrical Enoki sightseeing in various European cities). The work is—in its execution and its aesthetic—unmistakeably of its time, but it’s a neat example of the currents of influence that run through even the most idiosyncratic practices.
History and place combine in Hayv Kahraman’s series of large-scale paintings “How Iraqi Are You?” (2015), exhibited by Dubai’s The Third Line gallery in the Present Future section. Appropriating the visual language of the Maqamat al Hariri, a twelfth-century Iraqi manuscript illustrating scenes from everyday life, Kahraman’s paintings memorialize her childhood in Baghdad and Sweden. Yet they also serve as something like an instruction manual to the newly displaced, in which the artist is depicted in the process of making such adjustments to the local culture as learning the language. A refugee’s attempt to constitute a new identity by combining the fragments of a culture from which she is exiled by both time and place with the circumstances of her new life feels remarkably pressing, even amidst the frivolities of an art fair.
Beyond Artissima, the compulsion to play eras and styles against each other was also apparent in “Tutttovero” [sic], a wildly eclectic, citywide exhibition spanning four venues. Curated by Francesco Bonami, the thematic show drew on four of Turin’s most prestigious collections—Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAM), the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, the Fondazione Merz, and the Castello di Rivoli—to address the theme of truth though art accumulated in Turin over the past two centuries.(2) The presentation at GAM was soundtracked by John Baldessari’s deadpan video work I Am Making Art(1971)—in which the artistadopts a series of unchallenging physical poses while intoning said statement as mantra or defence. Yet even this broad invocation could not force coherence upon so disparate a selection, and works including Giovanni Anselmo’s Torsione (1968) were overwhelmed by their proximity to a muddle of objects ranging from Thomas Demand’s Grotto (2006) to nineteenth-century portraits.
More successful was the remarkable installation at Castello di Rivoli, which brought around 50 sculptures into the long, narrow room that once served as the Savoy family’s picture gallery. Maurizio Cattelan’s Novecento(1997) and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Architectural Fragments (1985) dangled precariously from the ceiling; Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Venere degli stracci [Venus of the Rags] (1967) piled up against the wall; Gilberto Zorio’s giant, swinging broomstick Barca nuragica (2000) swept over the heads of visitors. Yet for all that “Tutttovero” promised, in Bonami’s curatorial statement, to “explore [the notion of truth] at a time when augmented reality and the faster communication of facts raises doubts on the credibility of any news,” the display was more effective as sheer spectacle. Indeed, it seems so obvious that art has always had a slantwise relationship to truth, irrespective of the speed at which news travels, that it was hard to find a firm theoretical foothold amidst the pageant.
A more effective symbol of the unreliability of the image was provided, albeit incidentally, by the banner outside Parco Arte Vivente, host to “Earthrise: Pre-Ecological Visions in Italian Art 1967-73.” Curated by Marco Scottini and inspired by William Anders’s famous first photo of the Earth from the moon, Earthrise (1968), the exhibition presents a selection of pioneering Italian artists whose work during this period might be seen to have anticipated contemporary approaches to ecological and environmental art. Yet the written material nowhere acknowledges the misleading history of the titular photograph, which was not in fact taken from the surface of the moon (as one might assume) but in the course of Apollo 8’s orbit around it. Prior to its publication, the picture was turned through 90 degrees so as to satisfy the human assumption that the ground should run along the bottom of the frame, beneath one’s feet.(3) It’s a neat, if incidental, illustration of precisely the skewed relationship of image to truth that “Tutttovero” sought to interrogate.
Featuring work made by Piero Gilardi, Ugo La Pietra, radical architecture group 9999, and Gianfranco Baruchello around the end of a turbulent decade, the exhibition proposes that Anders’s image of the Earth as a glowing speck precipitated a dramatic shift in human perspective.(4) With the recognition of our planet’s vulnerability came a new humility, a “return to the earth” that acknowledged and sought to counteract the widening gap between headlong industrialization and ecological sustainability: the 1971 manifesto published by 9999, for instance, warned that the “ecosystem is at crisis point” and urged its readers to respond creatively. It was a challenge taken up by Baruchello’s experimental farm Agricola Cornelia (1973–81) and La Pietra’s urban vegetable patches (both of which are documented here). “Return” is figured as an affirmative, progressive action, and it’s hard not to notice how much more pertinent to our time are these experiments in living than shinier, newer baubles on display elsewhere in the city. Sometimes, it seems, we might have to look backwards to move forwards.
(1) Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev formally takes over as the director of Turin’s Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAM) and Castello di Rivoli – Museo d'Arte Contemporanea on January 1, 2016. (2) By the time of my visit, the iterations of “Tutttovero” at the Merz and Re Rebaudengo foundations had closed. (3) James Bridle addresses this in his short essay “Armies Will Vanish,” www.thewhitereview.org/white-screen/armies-will-vanish. (4) This shift in perspective is echoed by Katie Paterson’s Timepieces (Solar System) (2014)—on view at Parafin, London in the Present Future section of Artissima—which comprises nine clocks telling the time on our solar system’s planets.
Ben Eastham is assistant editor at art-agenda, and co-founder and editor of The White Review.
Vettor Pisani, L'eroe da camera. Tutte le parole dal silenzio di Duchamp al Rumore di Beuys (The Hero chamber. All the words from the silence of Duchamp to the Noise of Beuys), 1972.*
Ennesima. An Exhibition of Seven Exhibitions on Italian Art November 26, 2015–March 6, 2016
Triennale of Milan Viale Alemagna, 6 20121 Milan Italy
Triennale di Milano presents Ennesima. An Exhibition of Seven Exhibitions on Italian Art, curated by Vincenzo de Bellis, with the artistic direction of Edoardo Bonaspetti, curator of Triennale Arte. Not “one” exhibition of Italian art but, literally, an "exhibition of exhibitions" that, via seven paths, tries to explore the last 50 years of contemporary art in Italy, collecting more than 120 works and over 70 artists, from the early sixties through to the present day, in a display extending over the whole first floor of the Milan Triennale.
The title is inspired by a work by Giulio Paolini, Ennesima (appunti per la descrizione di sette tele datate 1973), the first version of which, dated 1973, is divided into seven paintings. This gives the number of exhibition projects included in de Bellis's exhibition for La Triennale: seven independent exhibitions, in the form of notes or suggestions that explore different aspects, links, coincidences and discrepancies, as well as the exhibition grammar in the recent history of Italian art.
Seven working hypotheses through which we can read, reinterpret and tell Italian art also through the analysis of some of the possible exhibition formats: from the solo exhibition to the site-specific installation, through to thethematic group show and chronological group show, the group exhibition on artistic movement and the medium-based group exhibition and on to the archive exhibition.
The path of Ennesima starts therefore with the thematic group exhibition entitled To Write an image, focused on the analysis of the centrality of iconography in the Italian artistic production from the sixties through to the present day, to continue with the group exhibition on an artistic movement entitled The image of writing: Group 70, visual poetry and verbal-visual investigations and dedicated to Visual Poetry, and then withAlessandro Pessoli: Sandrinus, the whole before the parts, the artist’s first solo exhibition in an Italian public institution. Central hub of the path is the medium-based exhibition The Performance Where Time Stands Still: Tableau Vivant between Reality and Representation, hinging on performance, with the objective of presenting an analysis of its development by focusing on the tableau vivant sub-genre, followed by A Choral Archive: The via Lazzaro Palazzi Space, the Experience of Self-Management and AVANBLOB, the exhibition of documents that, 25 years later, pays homage to the activities of the artists working in Milan proposing a first attempt at historization. 2015: present time, indefinite mood, a generation-based exhibition ends the path, revolving around a selection of artists born between the mid-seventies and eighties. The whole project is finally studded with site-specific interventions at crucial points of the exhibition path, gathered under the title of Here, Now and Elsewhere: Site-specific and Thereabouts, that fit transversely in respect of the other six exhibitions.
Artists: Vincenzo Accame, Vincenzo Agnetti, Alessandro Agudio, Mario Airò, Yuri Ancarani, Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Francesco Arena, Stefano Arienti, Massimo Bartolini, Gianfranco Baruchello, Vanessa Beecroft, Alighiero Boetti, Monica Bonvicini, Lupo Borgonovo, Ugo Carrega, Elisabetta Catalano, Maurizio Cattelan, Giuseppe Chiari, Francesco Clemente, Roberto Cuoghi, Danilo Correale, Gino De Dominicis, Patrizio Di Massimo, Luciano Fabro, Lara Favaretto, Vincenzo Ferrari, Linda Fregni Nagler, Giuseppe Gabellone, Alberto Garutti, Francesco Gennari, Paolo Gioli, Massimo Grimaldi, Adelita Husni-Bey, Emilio Isgrò, Jannis Kounellis, Ketty La Rocca, Via Lazzaro Palazzi Space (Mario Airò, Vincenzo Buonaguro, Matteo Donati, Stefano Dugnani, Giuseppina Mele, Chiyoko Miura, Liliana Moro, Andrea Rabbiosi, Bernhard Rüdiger, Antonello Ruggieri, Adriano Trovato, Massimo Uberti, Francesco Voltolina), Marcello Maloberti, Lucia Marcucci, Nicola Martini, Fabio Mauri, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Eugenio Miccini, Luca Monterastelli, Liliana Moro, Maurizio Nannucci, Alek O., Martino Oberto, Luigi Ontani, Luciano Ori, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali, Diego Perrone, Alessandro Pessoli, Lamberto Pignotti, Vettor Pisani, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Paola Pivi, Luigi Presicce, Carol Rama, Pietro Roccasalva, Andrea Romano, Gianni Emilio Simonetti, Rudolf Stingel, Santo Tolone, Franco Vaccari, Francesco Vezzoli, Luca Vitone
*Vettor Pisani, L'eroe da camera. Tutte le parole dal silenzio di Duchamp al Rumore di Beuys(The Hero chamber. All the words from the silence of Duchamp to the Noise of Beuys), 1972. Collection Mimma Pisani. Courtesy Elisabetta Catalano Archive. Photo: Elisabetta Catalano.
About the exhibition "In this hour, when the entire world cares for nothing but the sound of cannons, we have found it our duty to provide a certain artistic current with the opportunity to express its freedom and its vitality." –Opening statement from the catalogue of Art et Liberté'sfirst exhibition of independent art, February 8–24, 1940.
Baby Elephants Die Alone: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1930s - 1940s) is the first ever comprehensive museum exhibition of its kind about the Art and Liberty Group (Art et Liberté—jama'at al-fann wa al-hurriyyah), a surrealistically inclined, politically engaged artist and writer collective living and working in Cairo mostly from the late 1930s until the late 1940s. Initiated by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, deputy director Catherine David has invited curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath to bring their ongoing research on the topic and work closely on developing this historic exhibition. Upon its conclusion in Paris, the exhibition will travel to the K20 in Dusseldorf and the Tate Liverpool.
Founded on December 22, 1938 upon the publication of the manifesto Long Live Degenerate Art, the Art and Liberty Group sought to instigate a rupture within their cultural and political milieu. Through their bulletin, entitled after the group's name, and their two periodicals, Don Quichotte and al-Tatawwur (Evolution), all published in 1939–40, the several works of prose and poetry they released through their two publishing houses Éditions Masses and La Part du Sable, and the numerous interventions and exhibitions of independent art that they mounted, including five seminal group shows between 1940 and 1945, Art et Liberté provided a generation of disillusioned Cairo-based Egyptian and non-Egyptian artists and writers, women as well as men, with a heterogeneous platform for cultural and political reform. Through their negotiation of Surrealism, the group sought to achieve a contemporary literary and pictorial language that was as much globally engaged as it was rooted in local artistic and political concerns. Art et Libertérejected what they perceived as an imported academicism endorsed by a propaganda-seeking State/Monarchy, rebelled against an oppressive colonial power, and broke away from a conservative bourgeois morality that celebrated "art for art's sake." A decade later, not without scandal, several of the group's members were already in prison or in exile. This, along with a formal letter dated July 26, 1948 from Georges Henein, one of the group's main protagonists, to André Breton declaring withdrawal from the Surrealist movement, signaled the beginning of the end. "Baby elephants die alone," Henein would declare years later when looking back at Art et Liberté's short-lived yet intense existence. In borrowing this statement for its title, and through the retelling of their remarkable story, this historic exhibition addresses the group's long lost, often misconstrued legacy. It explores at once the cultural and political background from which they emerged, as well as the impact they made on a younger generation of artists and writers who were to become some of the leading figures of Egyptian modernism over the decade that followed.
Five years in preparation, curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath have consolidated the findings of their extensive primary research and hundreds of field interviews conducted in Egypt and worldwide. They have selected around 200 paintings, works on paper, and photographs dating from the late 1920s until the early 1950s along with an extensive body of archival documents, historical photographs and primary manuscripts that have never been exhibited before. The traced artworks are carefully drawn from over 30 public and private collections coming from Egypt and 15 other countries. In reuniting these artworks and documents, this historic exhibition charts a precise chronology of Art et Liberté making for the first all-encompassing museum presentation of the group to date. The curators' ongoing research on the subject was introduced in their acclaimed international touring exhibition Tea with Nefertiti(2012–14) where they dedicated a chapter to Art et Liberté in the exhibition and its respective multi-lingual catalogue. The lack of accessible archival documentation is often cited as the main justification for the incomplete art-historical chronologies of modern art from the Arab world. The exhibition Baby Elephants Die Alone, along with its accompanying publications, addresses this gap by showcasing a large number of mostly unknown artworks and primary documents, making them available for the first time to art historians and the general public alike.
Set against the backdrop of the Second World War, the exhibitionsheds light on Art et Liberté's stand against the alignment of art and political propaganda. Moreover, it highlights the group's rejection of fascism, which beyond its firm grip over Europe, had been on the rise in Egypt since the early 1930s and was beginning to pose a highly-felt threat at home. The group's entanglement with a complex network of diasporic artistic and literary hubs dispersed in cities as far-flung as Cairo, Beirut, Athens, Paris, London, New York, San Francisco, Fort-de-France, Mexico City, Santiago de Chile and Tokyo, just to name a few, challenges the regionalist approach to the study of modernity. These global networks and other aspects of Art et Liberté'sliterary and pictorial output will be explored, beyond the exhibition itself, through a number of public programs, academic symposia, forums of oral histories, film screenings and theatre productions.
Publications A 450-page academic monograph on Art et Liberté authored by Sam Bardaouil and published by I.B.Tauris will be released. It will include a select anthology of literary works by various Art et Libertémembers, transcriptions of rare primary documents, and a comprehensive visual inventory of artworks most of which have never been published before. The exhibition Baby Elephants Die Alone: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1930s - 1940s)draws on the wider research that is covered within this book. Given its breadth of scope, this monogrpah will be the first exhaustive academic work of its kind on the art, as well as the literature, of Art et Liberté.
In conjunction with the exhibition, a fully-illustrated catalogue will be published in English, French, German and Arabic as separate editions, and will be available for international distribution.