Bildmuseet poses strong perspectives in Umeå

Jumana Emil Abboud's videostill in Bildmuseet-exhibition, 2017.

A tree blossoms, meadow is green, horizon is filled with stillness, which is almost touchable. The rich video footage by Jumana Emil Abboud narrates without noise. Palestinian artist, who lives and works in Jerusalem, uses video and audio to add into other mediums of storytelling. For her exhibition in Bildmuseet, The Horse, The Bird, The Tree and The Stone, the artist has added murals, and included drawings and sculptural objects to create installations that open up about personal and communal memories and losses. Her art handles belonging and peoples’ attachments to territories. For her project, she has visited sites, which carry haunted memory of the past. The artist visited wells and other water sites that no longer exist, but are retold in the oral history. Abboud’s current artwork carries magical components that mix with reality. The imaginary intertwines with researched material, which both influenced the art. The artist has collected stories and reinterpreted fairy tales from new perspectives. She used a story of Rapunzel, for example, to imagine lives of Arab women from a domestic point of view, to make it a women’s story that has universal visibility and resonance.

Abboud was born in Shefa-‘Amr, Galilee and moved to Ontario, Canada with her family. After returning back home, and moving to Jerusalem, she encountered personal questions of belonging, and started making her journey towards finding her own connection to the place. Her exhibition at the Bildmuseet, asks through visual images and oral performances, what the personal and collective memories can be, and what the myths can tell us about ourselves and our history. What stories connect us to the places that we live in?

Jumana Emil Abboud's videostill in Bildmuseet exhibition.
Jumana Emil Abboud’s videostill in Bildmuseet exhibition.

Abboud’s three-channel video installation Hide Your Water from the Sun (2016), goes back to 1920. The video is based on a study by ethnographer Tawfiq Canaan who dived into the Palestinian customs and folklore. The ‘haunted locations’ presented in the study, connect to multiple water sources, which are inhabited by demons, good or bad. Abboud visited these locations together with cinematographer Issa Freij. The original wells and springs pointed in the study have disappeared.  The artist applied the notion that in the Palestinian traditions the haunted or blessed sites become activated with storytelling and through fairy-tale practices.

Upon returning home as a young adult, the artist did not feel connection to the place called home. She found a new connection by looking at the landscape, which played an important part of her childhood. It acted again as a direct link to her past. Abboud had also experienced stories as a child. The stories were not written down, so she wanted to ask questions about them and find out, how the political layer attached to Palestinians had pushed the oral history down. In her mind, the landscape related to all the stories told about the people, creatures, monsters and goblins. Landscape related to the past, and what she had learned as a child, but also to collective memory, which belonged to others as well.

Abboud’s artistic whole, The Horse, The Bird, The Tree and The Stone, relocates the disappeared landscape, which went through alteration and changes of infrastructure. Many of the original sites have been buried. Only the older generation has memory of the haunted sites. Abboud’s installation include film, drawing and painting, reflecting the journey to the past that confronts the current political reality. The artist has also created recent performances out of the Palestinian folktales, which connect to contemporary life-stories of the people.

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More info about the exhibition at the Bildmuseet

Besides Bildmuseet, Umeå, Jumana Emil Abboud has had solo exhibitions in Tel Aviv and in Switzerland, among other places. Her work has been exhibited at venues such as the Istanbul Biennial (2009); Acción! MAD-Festival, Madrid (2010); Sharjah Biennial (2011); Bodies that Matter, Galeri Man, Istanbul (2013); the Venice Biennale (2009, 2015); Baltic, Newcastle (2016); and Kunstraum, London (2016). Bildmuseet represents artist’s first major solo exhibition in Scandinavia.

Bildmuseet.
Bildmuseet by Henning Larsen Architects in Umeå University.

Bettina Pousttchi explores world time and architectural history in east coast premiere

Bettina Pousttchi: World Time Clock at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Bettina Pousttchi is a Berlin-based artist working in photography, video, and sculpture. German-Iranian artist studied at the Kunstackademie Düsseldorf, and participated in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York from 1999–2000. Pousttchi has exhibited throughout Europe, including Amsterdam, Berlin, Köln, and London, and participated in the Venice Biennale in 2003 and 2009. She held her first U.S. solo exhibition in 2014 at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas.

Through photography and sculpture, Bettina Pousttchi is interested in altering architectural buildings and monuments as indicators of the past and media of remembrance. Currently, the artist exhibits in two different museum spaces in Washington D.C. First exhibition titled Bettina Pousttchi: World Time Clock is on view until May 29, 2017, at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden filling the museum’s third-level inner-ring galleries. Concurrently with the World Time Clock series, The Phillips Collection presents her second D.C. appearance with the works titled Double Monuments. This exhibition by Bettina Pousttchi  is on view until October 2, 2016.

Pousttchi’s exhibition at the Hirshorn is a premiere of her World Time Clock series, a project the artist began in 2008 and recently completed. The installation consists of a group of photographs that she created in 24 time zones around the globe over the last eight years. The artist has often contemplated systems of time and space in her art. To accomplish the World Time Clock photography, she traveled the globe capturing a portrait of a public clock in each time zones. In the final production, represented are locales far apart from each other, such as Bangkok, Moscow, Los Angeles and Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The circular format of the Hirshhorn’s inner-ring galleries on third floor works well with the theme of this exhibition.

Bettina Pousttchi's World Time Clock at the Hirshorn's third floor is on view until May 29, 2017.
Bettina Pousttchi’s World Time Clock at the Hirshorn’s third floor is on view until May 29, 2017.

 

The photographs each show a clock displaying the same local time: five minutes before two. Together the images suggest a sense of suspended time and what the artist calls “imaginary synchronism.” Seen in close-up, the clocks are united in a single scheme that calls to mind the historic role of Washington as the site of the International Meridian Conference in 1884. It was here that the Greenwich Meridian was adopted as a universal standard, determining a zero point for the measurement of both longitude and time.

Bettina Pousttchi’s second display, on view at the Phillips Collection until October 2, takes on from the notion of history and memory of architecture. The exhibition is part of the Phillips’s ongoing series Intersections, which interestingly highlights contemporary art and artists in conjunction to the museum’s permanent collection, history, and architecture. With her works Double Monuments for Flavin and Tatlin (2013), Pousttchi is in conversation with art and architectural histories, addressing the historic works of Russian Constructivist sculptor and architect Vladimir Tatlin from the 1920s, and American minimalist artist Dan Flavin from the 1960s. Pousttchi’s sculptural installation is composed of materials deriving from street barricades, and metal crowd barriers, which the artist transformed into sculptural forms. The objects create contrast and volume with neon that grows inside the powder-coated abstract forms. The sculptures include spiraling neon light tubes reminiscing those fluorescent light works created by Dan Flavin. The five sculptures range from 5 to 12 feet creating dramatic presence and enhancing both sculptural form and architectural setting at the Phillips. Their tower-like shape is a homage to Tatlin’s sculptural works, yet they have a theme and form of their own. Pousttchi’s works carry an idea of mystery of bringing in outdoor elements into the white gallery space. The white paint creates sophistication out of the raw urban elements while neon makes them settle somewhere in between the indoors-outdoors -scale.

Bettina Pousttchi Double Monuments
Bettina Pousttchi with Double Monuments on view at the Phillips Collection.

SFMOMA Serendipity

Richard Serra at SFMOMA.

The opening of a new expansion of the SFMOMA art museum was celebrated just a couple of weeks ago. The intention of the new Snøhetta designed museum, is to increase public access to the museum by creating more room for education for the arts and related fields, to bridge the gap between the exhibiting gallery spaces and unticketed areas, as well as connect the outdoor spaces around the museum. More room to hang out, to meet, to educate, to inspire and to be inspired. SFMOMA opened at its current location in 1995, when the construction was designed by Mario Botta. For the reconstruction, Snøhetta design team had a challenge to double the gallery spaces, and help create a museum, which is a hub for new things to emerge. The refurbished museum aims to bring together American and International arts, while the collections span through gestural modernism and conceptual art, to the emerging contemporary art from the Bay Area. SFMOMA has also promised to reach out to global art communities at large.

The new SFMOMA proves that it is possible to reinvent an art museum. First, the museum architecture plays a huge role in creating the potential for the artworks that are being installed, as innovative architecture contests the boundaries of the space. This time, museum interior communicates with the exterior. Snøhetta has created a construction, which is seamlessly woven into the existing building, adding into the city’s urban dreams. As a result, the museum goes beyond its construction site, and communicates with surrounding parks and alleys. This proves that the ‘institutional’ side of the museum’s bureaucracy is set in the background, and the numerous stages of the public dwellings offered to the visitors is more apparent. A visitor attains the key role through the alteration of the spatial elements. Having so many choices to play with, the architecture transmits the perception, and creates together with the artworks a unique encounter for each visitor. The architectural line, it’s material continuation inside and outside sparks into multiple directions. Second, art plays with architecture in a new and unexpected ways, and changes the constructions too. With Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt, and Alexander Calder, among others, it’s hard to make the space appear as null. But there is so much art in the world to add into the master classics. New works show as much potential to communicate with the space.

A new contemporary art installation inaugurates the museum’s New Work -space. Leonor Antunes, has created work with a title ‘a spiral staircase leads down to the garden’ (2016).  This piece communicates with the architecture, showing diverse angles to enter the gallery space. The artist has stated that she carries ghosts with her into her works, in bringing artists, designers, and architects whom she admires to her installations. ‘a spiral staircase leads down to the garden’ is no different, appearing as a continuation of the space as an interior. The handcrafted materials cover the floor, hang from the ceiling, light the space, and block a direct path. The installation shows the artist’s interest in the Modernism, highlighting especially the woman practitioners in the history of craft and design.

Leonor Antunes, installation view at SFMOMA.
Leonor Antunes, 2016, installation views of her new work at SFMOMA.
Leonor Antunes, new work at SFMOMA.
Leonor Antunes, ‘a spiral staircase leads down to the garden’, 2016, Brass, cork, leather, hemp rope, nylon yarn, monofilament yarn, steel, electric cables, light pulps, brass and Bakelite light bulb sockets, and foam. Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City.

The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection creates much of the museum’s art collection. In particular, noteworthy is the display around the historic gestural abstraction, which started molding the American Art after the end of the World War II. The movement started to erase questions about the art’s capability to evoke thoughts and feelings. Perhaps it originated in the idea of believing in the healing mechanisms of the art. One work is particularly interesting. Joan Mitchell’s large size triptych ‘Bracket’ (1989), is a great example of the instantaneous moment in art. For her, painting could represent similar forces as the sculpture, forging out the movement and physicality.

Joan Mitchell, Bracket, 1989, oil on canvas, is an example of the gestural modernism.
Joan Mitchell, Bracket, 1989, oil on canvas, is an example of the gestural modernism.

The show around gestural modernism is well thought out as part of the SFMOMA’s new opening. It reaches up to redefining the concept of a gesture via selection of works. This becomes a red thread to other artistic displays as well. The museum exhibits plenty of work coming from the plural identities of the Bay Area, yet, some combining elements construct a more cohesive palette. The best part is that the transitional space of the West Coast and its cultural crossroads confuses the pattern of the gesture as something fixed, measured, white and universal. The inside of the culture is turned outside, as much as the architectural environment overlaps both domains.

Hung Liu's oil on canvas.
Hung Liu, The Botanist, 2013, oil on canvas.

The contemporary artworks do not create separation, but quite wisely culminate in supporting each other. Series of contemporary works follow black and white patterns, with a hip touch of pop art, and borrowing from chic minimalism of American interiors. These could of course be easily absorbed into the world of design and culture lending to Modernist and Postmodernist architectural patterns. Over all, the sometimes too heavy collective experiences are not so much emphasized, and there is more room for subdued artistic politics. Fragmented selves and posthumous experiences, ghosts of the artist’s personal influences as part of the installation define the process in the contemporary art.

 

Images: Firstindigo&Lifestyle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camilla Vuorenmaa carves wood into paintings

Camilla Vuorenmaa is a young visual artist focusing on the human experience and the everyday encountering between people. She creates portraits with full of affect that stem from an exceptional artistic medium. Her portraits appear on carved wood as vigorously painted characters. An award-winning Finnish artist had a recent museum exhibition at the EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art in Finland.

The main motive in my works is the individual experience and a sort of portrait. Effort, success and experiences of failure, the dignity of everyday life, affection, frustration and the experience of innocence and pain are subjects I reflect in my works. Mainly I portray the figures as themselves, doing some kind of a activity or being in the middle of it. Fundamentally we are all alone with our personal experiences. -Camilla Vuorenmaa

 

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you find your recent artistic medium, is it common that an artist combines woodcarving and painting together?

Camilla Vuorenmaa: I started to work with wood year 2010, when I had the first opportunity to work as a full time artist for longer period of time. I had wood on my mind already before, but then I knew it was time to start with this material. My work has though always been moving between 2 and 3 dimensional form. I have felt the need to add mass and structure to my paintings, for example continue it with foam rubber stuffed canvas, or continue painting to the wall, over its material form.

Using wood in sculpture and even painting on the wooden sculpture is quite common. But this combination, painting and carving on wood boards is not yet very common. My working method is actually closer to the graphic boards that graphic artists make as a basis for their prints. Difference is, that I use that basis as the art piece itself, instead of making prints out of it. I call them paintings; others might call them something else.

As an artist do you feel that you can associate with both design practices and with the fine art history?

Camilla Vuorenmaa: Hard to say. I guess the things you grow up with, see and smell, forms, colors, light and shadow, basically everything has an effect on the visual idea. I am sure that Finnish design and especially its patterns have had influence on my visual choices. It is more unconscious than relevant though.

Your recent exhibition at the EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, was about people working by the sea. Could you tell more about this project?

CV: I applied to the SIM residency in Reykjavik on the winter 2014. I got the residency time to the September and October 2015 and it was perfect timing, since this project was on my mind before I knew about the prize and following exhibition at EMMA. All together, I had only nine moths to prepare EMMA exhibition, so it was good to have this idea already burning on my mind. I wanted to investigate the basis of the culture in Iceland, which is fishing. Everything in that country has basis on their fishing culture, so very simply, my aim was to go with the fishermen to the sea for some period of time, observe their working habits as an isolated community, atmosphere at the boat and individuals’ relation to the sea. I got connected to the MSC-Marine Stewardship Council representative Gisli Gislason in Iceland, and he told me a lot about the history of the fishing industry and helped me to connect with the Helga Maria ship’s crew. I went to the Atlantic Ocean with Helga Maria ship for one week on September 2016. During that time I photographed their working and used later these photos as basis of my paintings. The ship left from Reykjavik and went up until the northeast Iceland sea area. And returned. Gladly, weather was good most of the time.

 

What was your experience in working with EMMA museum; did you work particularly with a curator to build the show?

CV: Making an exhibition is usually a lonely work, but bigger shows definitely involve more people and more things to be taken care for. For EMMA exhibition I was closely working with curator Tiina Penttilä from EMMA. She came to visit me at my studio and also interviewed me for the catalogue several times during the making of the exhibition. I felt I got well supported by Tiina Penttilä and the whole museum crew during the making and building process. As an exhibition space, EMMA is wonderful and gives many possibilities to an artist. Especially I enjoyed making the wall paintings to the space. This was great experience as a whole.

Where does your artistic process start, from the idea of a canvas, or from the wood?

CV: Everything comes side by side, simultaneously. I choose material same time as I collect ideas. I take photos of something that interests me, like for example wrestlers. I made series of paintings based on the observation of the movement of one wrestling team in Helsinki. I do not really make sketches on paper; I see my photos as my sketches. I buy material, print photos that inspire me and spread them around the studio. Then I start to combine different sized wood panels and paint the beginning of the piece on the boards. I paint and carve, paint and carve until it is ready.

Wood has been my main working material for the past six years, but now I start to feel working again also with other materials.

You have worked with mixed media, how did you develop the techniques in each period of time, can you speak of artistic growth, or is it more like a seasonal thing?

CV: I guess all the developments on my techniques have had to do with the search of some kind of layer in between a painting. Painting on canvas, plexi glass, paper, mdf-boards, wood, wall, all these have circulated in my work. I can return to a technique I tried and worked with several years later and proceed with it further. I see working as a visual artist also some kind of work of an inventor, chemist, and alchemist. All the material details and accidents with them lead in to interesting paths and can start even a new process.

Camilla Vuorenmaa, Fisherman, 2015, painting (carving on wood), 200x120x2cm, EMMA -Espoo Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Ari Karttunen/EMMA 

What are you inspirations for creating your art, does it usually start with observations or fieldwork?

I used to collect inspirational pictures from old magazines. I spend hours and hours in old bookshops and went through dusty old magazines and photography books. The nostalgia and history inspires me, and also the idea that everything that happens in the world has already happened many times, they just appear in more modern form from century to century. Also my love to literature and books as objects has something to do with it. For the past years I have also started to use more my own photography as a basis of my paintings. I have become maybe more brave to confront the subject, or my curiosity has gone over my shyness.

 

How would you describe the education in Finland, much did you learn from your art education?

CV: My times in Finnish Art Academy were great. My teachers gave me a lot of freedom and opportunity to try everything. I was on the painting department but visited other departments regularly to try their material and working methods. For some, this kind of working freedom might have been too much, but for me it worked perfect. And if I needed support or comments, I could get that from the courses or ask studio visits from the teachers.

Is there something particularly Finnish in your art making?

CV: Well, I guess wood is pretty Finnish material. As wood industry is still so big in our country. Also I have understood from my colleagues and collaborators in Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and England that Finnish painters seem to have something peculiar and wild in their visual language. This has been of course great to hear – what a compliment to Finnish painters.

Do people ever ask you about the nature of your practice in regards to your gender as a woman making art, and your subjects for art, does the gender play any role in your art making?

CV: Well, I wish I could answer that “no – I have never have heard any questions that have something to do with my art making and being a woman”. But of course I have. Many people still seem to wonder how a small woman like me can handle big wood blocks, or do so big sized works. Once I even heard one man saying to me that your works are great, they look as if they are made by a man. I wonder what Louise Bourgeois must have heard! Good thing is that these comments are though not the first and the only thing I hear about my work and my working methods. Art is always political. So of course my art is too. I am more interested to hide my perspective of the roles of humans in my work, than comment it very straight in my work. But of course it is there. And I was the one who made these images.

What expectations do you have for the future, where do you see yourself going next?

CV: Now I am in the rare situation that I have exhibitions and plans made already until next year. Usually I have not known my ways for more than six moths. Interesting for me is to also see how this will affect on my artistic work, I have a possibility to plan and make long-term choices. My next big solo exhibition will be on January 2017 in Gallery Forum Box in Helsinki. After that I will take part to two group exhibitions in Sweden. I am more than exited and grateful for this situation. My aim has always been to make it possible to work as a visual artist without making compromises in the content. I follow that road.

Artist website:

http://camillavuorenmaa.com/

Janet Echelman’s 1.8

WONDER exhibition celebrates the Renwick Gallery’s reopened spaces. The museum’s new statement is to bring the future of art into its program. It is now confronted with large-scale installations by nine artists. Janet Echelman is one of them with her piece 1.8, (2015). A large suspended net glides across the ceiling of the Grand Salon, which is located upstairs in the museum. The work is composed as knotted and braided fiber with programmable lighting and wind movement, above a printed textile flooring. Echelman’s sculptural installation speaks in relation to a map of energy released through the Pacific Ocean, when Japan’s Tohoku earthquake and tsunami took place on March 11, 2011.  The title of the work implies the 1.8 millionths of a second,  which measures the earthquake as it shifted the earth’s axis.

Janet Echelman’s 1.8, 2015 from Firstindigo and Lifestyle on Vimeo.

Ai Weiwei @ Helsinki

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei’s exhibition opened in Helsinki in September 2015. Ai Weiwei @ Helsinki will be on view through the end of February 2016. His first solo exhibition in Finland features 25 works from 1985 to the present, including selection of wooden sculptures and installations, and taking materials from antiques and building structures of old temples. Ai Weiwei’s exhibition is connecting to historical China, raising contemporary questions and speaking of the critical voice, which requires to be heard. The exhibition narrates of the personal and the cultural, weighting the nuances that the artist has tested in practice.

Ai Weiwei is the artistic figurehead for thinking how today’s east meets west in many forms. I call my perception of the works ‘massivity of matter’. Firstly, the amount of matter in a museum space probably recalls any sculpture display as the intervention of matter over the space. In this exhibition, however, the sculptural speaks together with the space, the airy high ceilings are breathing with the objects. Second, the massivity of matter is more of a feeling that comes with the lack of scripture between the works. An echo of Chinese contemporary art, in which ancestral is disconnected from the line of reproducing the artifacts?

Map of China
Ai Weiwei, Map of China (2008) installation view.

Map of China (2008), is Ai Weiwei’s large opening piece to the exhibition. The sculpture is tall, hard to measure, and made of tieli wood fragments that come from ancient temples. This material is centuries old and told to be very rare today. Map of China is made with traditional Chinese woodworking technique bringing the pieces together. The challenge was to create the work without any visible seams. The configuration has the shape of the country showing how there was not a single history or culture in the first place, but only a forced effort to fit all the richness into a one state.

ai weiwei installation
Ai Weiwei, Traveling Light (2007) & White House (2015) installation view.

So a question arises, how to connect historical meaning and the general meaning of the past to those issues that define a contemporary consciousness of a man, after he had to struggle with the fascist propaganda and denial? I am not proposing this question as an individualist concern, but more as a rhetorical phrase to speak of a multiple choices. The artist can mirror his personal position on the power/to shed light on the power, which one-sidedly and univocally has taken over all the other voices, eventually starting to represent masses of voices. This is where massivity arises in artistic aesthetics. And perhaps this is why there is no single narrative imposed in the exhibition, because bringing together all the objects would already be a lot. They would utter so strongly, so let them escape the definition, and let the cacophony sing its well-orchestrated noise. Needless to say, as the wood is concerned, the aesthetics is well rehearsed, well mounted, the sculptural is well organized in groups, following up the international sculptural aesthetics of the moment. Working with wood, and collecting pieces that come from a cultural place with this huge time span; say, goes far beyond our contemporary time. This makes the works epic for today. Historical load is apparent. History arrives with the same massivity, as the ancestral would drive you over.

To be a political artist is not easy from the point of view of artistic aesthetics. Our art world needs the voices to break silences, but often the politics becomes massivity. It would perhaps be different to subtly speak without ruins taking over, as objects do have their own weight without us directly attaching them to ‘art’. In this case, the objects are not simply cultural artifacts as they appear in the art museum context, however they connotate in the form of temples, for instance. Some pieces come from temples – that is the shrine nature of a house, narrating about ancestry and patriarchal dominance. These fragments are ultimate references to the age of property, practice, and material attachments.

Another sculptural work by Ai Weiwei, is called Tree (2010). It is an assemblage of different woods deriving from individual trees. The dead tree trunks were collected from various locations in the mountains of South China. Differences between components is left visible intentionally:

‘We assembled them (the parts) together to have all the details of a normal tree. At the same time, you’re not comfortable, there’s a strangeness there, an unfamiliarness. And it’s just like trying to imagine what the tree was like.’

 

Wood as artistic material is so much about nature. Tree as a material is beyond our dominance. It exists and grows without our appropriation. But we did cut trees, we destroyed their existence, and we were cutting down entire forests. In the exhibition, the tree-sculpture is made from pieces to look like a whole tree, an original, yet at the same it is not. It is a look-alike, a not exactly, and a make believe of a tree, a form of a tree, a powerful signifier of a tree, of nature, of origin. It is quite interesting how this sculpture ended up being the center, as other objects are made of wood as well, representing crafty continuation of the artifacts as man made materiality, a continuation of time, which was before mass production.

The modernity of artificial materials, known as the mass-production is another question. Mass production creates massivity. Perhaps the ancestral places speak in the same manner as the modernity. The history is long; we communicate and paraphrase with it. Perhaps this exhibition communicates beyond art, becoming dynamic battlefield for matter and spirit, proposing final materiality in art. Where do we stretch the line between the materials that make the essence of an artwork? We draw from culture, bringing cultural objects into museum to speak for the culture. And this takes place ultimately not in the name of individual subjectivity but for all the collective consciousnesses.

After all, the dialogue between poetic and anti-poetic is what we are looking in the massivity. Poetry does not speak with the loudness unless it was dried out of mythological meaning and it communicates more with the naturalist approach to speak with metaphors. Metaphor can be standing for something, which is not invisible, and stands for something apparent, showing the evidence, creating presence of the political as inevitable. It is standing, yet changing?

There is an evident need for change in the cultural. The aesthetic is more of a repetitive force that takes form in the massivity. The criticism toward west comes in the undertone of the material in consumption, as enlightening force. The materialism is our new religion?

Traveling Light (2007), is a sculpture mounted on a temple pillar, appearing as being a gigantic table lamp or crystal chandelier. Ai Weiwei became interested in light as an object from the point of view of illumination and environment. The large sculpture stands for the idea that objects are close to human scale to be experienced physically.

Divina Proportio (2012), is composed of huali wood, referring to the golden mean, and as mathematical proportions to geometry in the Renaissance.

The exhibition includes two previously unseen works, White House, and Garbage Container, the former speaking of China’s developments and urbanization, the latter about five homeless boys who died tragically.

A new piece in the exhibition titled White House (2015) is an entire residential house of the Qing dynasty. The composition includes different woods and is constructed traditionally using nail-less joints. The work stands for the heritage, as the new developments in China have pushed away the traditional. The new white paint on a wooden surface creates questions about past and present, authenticity and change.

Ai Weiwei, White House, detail
Ai Weiwei, White House (2015), detail.

But cultures change slowly. The anthroposcience of human life shortly lived, continues in the legacy of a son who outlives his father (in a natural cycle). The artifacts have a longer life than we do, and this ends building the culture as fluid and as anatomically tilted. Objects lend to the patriarchal order creating legacy and interdependency. Objects echo about history, so in the name of the poetics and dialogue whenever they are on display there is an underpinning of voices that mesmerize with their presence.

The exhibition architecture divides the show into two large rooms. On the other side there are objects, which call much of the legacy that is darker, even more personal than the first exhibition space. Ai Weiwei became a prisoner after he was arrested in 2011 at the airport in Beijing. He was sometimes handcuffed to a chair while questioned. He also kept washing his one set of clothes while in prison, drying them on a hanger.

The art in this case becomes a historical conscience of a collective. It necessarily opens as a voice for the people whose history it is part of. The objects, their material consciousness and presence appear as inevitably non-corruptive, with presentation and physical presence, as non-poetic solidity. The substance is speaking through the stone, or the stones would shout, in this case wood objects.

Ai Weiwei’s role as a seer or visionary, means a hard position at home in China. His work Through (2007), is composed of tieli wood once again, having fragments of old temples from Qing dynasty. The scale is massive, and piercing, the tables and pillars form an almost cage-like atmosphere.

He says: ‘Artists are not in a position to decide the conditions imposed upon them but they can make statements about these conditions.’

Through
Ai Weiwei, Through (2007) & Frames (2013) in the background.

Artists have their own life, their own existential power, their own presence and saying. When it comes to power propositions with artwork, let’s say this. It is hard to assume that the artist proposes his artwork knowing that the entire nature of the artwork would stand for the resistance of power. Cultural legacy changes in a moment, when it becomes ‘art’. The objects are in a terrain of global and international exchange of matter. When it comes to materiality in the sense or meaning, would not the objects have a saying only inside their cultural reference? Legacy or cultural speaking of the history changes with the art market. When legacy becomes art, it has become layered with different meaning; yet the objects are not entirely free of their cultural origins.

The Garbage Container (2014), impresses as a valuable huali wood piece, reminiscing of a cupboard, and looking like a container when it turned on the side. Another impressive piece is the architectural installation titled Ordos 100 model (2011), which was built together with Swiss architect firm Herzog & De Meuron. Made of carved pinewood, an uncompleted, miniature city was planned to be build in Ordros. Treasure Box (2014), is another construction made of huali wood. interestingly, all the objects seem to highlight the wallpaper, titled as IOU Wallpaper (2011-2013), which has decorative appeal, yet a message that makes everything seem unconventional.

Treasure box
Ai Weiwei, Treasure Box (2014) with IOU Wallpaper on the walls (2011-2013)

Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at HAM Helsinki in on view until February 28th, 2016.

Artist website: http://aiweiwei.com/

images: Firstindigo&Lifestyle

Loud power of art: don’t be silent

Dan Flavin’s fluorescent sculptures are ‘situational’ in a way that they get their appearance in relation to the context and space on which they are displayed. His sculpture installation untitled (to Helga and Carlo, with respect and affection), reflects blue light with immense presence. When the spectator walks through the installation path she sees the surroundings as altered moments taking in her own reflection on the floor. But why is Flavin’s work so important? The question arises because Flavin’s minimalist art has drawn on a plenty of attention at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in DC. The work extends more than ninety feet in size and is paired with the wall-mounted piece monument, which consists of white bulbs inspired by constructivist art. The first installation of the untitled was at the Kunsthalle Basel in 1975.

It speaks about architectural difference and boundaries. The sculpture-series recreates the architectural environment, it sets barriers making the room where the continuum is installed to appear as an infinite of the sculpture itself. And it creates a path in the space. The installation is composed of sculptural pieces varying in size and color.  By using industrial, somewhat regular fluorescent lights to produce artwork, Flavin shows how minimalist materials create powerful propositions about our environments and public spaces. The power lies in it that the every-day contest enters the museum space. What is this about, who am I when I walk this path? And this light brings me to the next door with words on capital letters that speak louder than I’m used to.

Dan Flavin&Barbara Kruger installations at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Now it is time to stop and look around again, or actually down, since the floor has a message. Barbara Kruger’s installation since August 2012 at the Hirshhorn Museum’s lower level lobby area mixes the architecture of the space into a complete mismatch. It draws us in with text written allover on the floors, walls, and on the escalator leading up. And the printed smileys amuse and terrorize the restrooms. Barbara Kruger’s installation Belief + Doubt, speaks a loud red, white and black language. The messages are those of the digital age. We dwell through the global consumerist culture, in which our omnipotence is created around a simple truth of “I shop therefore I am”, as stated in the most well-known work made by Kruger. The truth is, if we can say so in the days of pluralist opinions, that we need Barbara Kruger’s loud art. If the politics of the everyday, the human culture and the global age needs of the voice that has an innate power to speak with capital wordings, it is hers. Yet, as an artist Kruger is tricky avoiding the task of giving us simple reasons to be her fan and give complete answers why the words chosen in her art would set truth about anything. Say this, and don’t think you could destroy differences, and there is not a one truth?

“Belief is tricky because left to its own devices it can court a kind of surety, an unquestioning allegiance that fears doubt and destroys difference.” -Barbara Kruger

 

Barbara Kruger's installation at Hirshorn Museum
Barbara Kruger’s installation at Hirshhorn Museum

Kruger is the poet laureate of the age of the spectacle. In her early career, she was working for Conde Nast Publications in photography and design. In the late 1970s, the artist begun creating photomontages with found pictures adding texts in them that would alter or complicate the meaning of the images.  At the Hirshhorn Museum setting, printed vinyl words and sentences invite the public to get involved, ponder the words, and create their own meaning and association based on the moment and the environment. Meanings of these phrases are open-ended because the every-day life just is with all the power-structures that we face or try to avoid. But at the same time the words are not only words, they are shouting: get involved, speak out loud, speak freely, don’t be silent, there are so many important words! Both great installations are still on view in Washington D.C.

photos: FirstindigoandLifestyle
photos: FirstindigoandLifestyle

Sarah Oppenheimer’s reoriented space

Sarah Oppenheimer’s installations and public art works “W-120301 x P-010100” were commissioned for the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Contemporary Wing which reopened after its complete renovation in 2012 (built in 1994). The two-part permanent art work was concretely made in conjunction with the architectural space. It involved cutting holes in the museum walls and ceilings of various galleries. The holes, then, were filled with panes of metal and reflective glass to create new dimension for viewing at the space and art on different galleries, including visitors – who happen to be wandering through spaces simultaneously; and are reached by multifaceted and virtually charged viewing. The holes created ‘sightlines’ between the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Contemporary Wing and through the wall between the contemporary and Cone collections. What the installation claim is that the museum visitors can get glimpses and optical illiusions into spaces that are on different levels. Oppenheimer’s works radicalize the notion of museum space from a contemporary virtual perspective. The ’holes in the walls’ change the viewer’s perception when he/she suddenly sees others randomly passing by their visual screen that the artwork is.  The unexpected encounters create experiences with others simultaneously in the museum. My own ‘looking-at’ the sightlines makes me perceive someone on the other part of the museum as if they were sharing my experience. Its partially theoretical, and yet is twisting seriously with the architecture. With this installation, we can view art museums from a new perspective, as if this kind of illusory tool enables us to grasp art simultaneously from various historical eras. The sightlines allow viewers to see unexpected views of fellow visitors, art works, and galleries above, below, and across from them.

The Baltimore Museum of Art is the first art museum to commission a site-specific installation by award-winning artist Sarah Oppenheimer. Anyone interested in Oppenheimer’s works would also say that the architectural dimension is much more than ”just” art. In fact, the installation combines art and curiosity borrowed from sciences that are engaged in visitors’ participation. The museum as architectural space and as encounters, interacts with its visitors and the institution’s daily life. The installation does not only play with space and our perception, but it encompasses it on a new level. Museum architectures might sometimes appear as ‘static’ and locked in particular histories.  The artist’s intervention of architectural space is a dynamic way to create interaction, encounters, and puzzles, and bring also art history discussions into new levels.

 Artist’s website:  http://www.sarahoppenheimer.com/

 

 

threeASFOUR spring/summer 2014

On September 8, 2013, avant-garde fashion collective threeASFOUR debuted their spring/summer 2014 line at The Jewish Museum as part of threeASFOUR: MER KA BA – exhibition. The collective’s fashion and art is inspired by the geometric patterns found in synagogues, churches and mosques throughout the world. For the nine sculptural dresses featured in MER KA BA, they use laser-cut lace, origami pleats, and 3D-printed textiles to unite symbolic patterns from diverse religions.

(Video by Brian Gonzalez)

The collectives 3 designers were born in different cultures:
Gabriel Asfour is from Lebanon, Adi Gil from Israel, and Angela Donhauser from Tajikistan. Their approach to fashion is poetic and socially conscious. For threeASFOUR, couture is about more than just beautiful clothes; ‘it is both wearable art and a platform for their free-spirited philosophy.’ 
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threeASFOUR’s MER KA BA installation exhibition is on  view until February 2, 2014, at the Jewish Museum in New York. Check the exhibition site.

Chinese Watersleeves

Shuixiu is Chinese. The word can be translated literally to ‘water sleeves’. The sleeves are amazing part of the costume, or dress, which a Chinese stage performer wears. Not only are they made of fabric and is part of the costume, but the word refers to performer’s extraordinary skills to perform various movements with the sleeves.

Water sleeves are ‘double white-silk sleeves attached to the cuffs of a costume’. The long sleeves can express performers’ mood. Overall, the gesture variation that one can perform with the sleeves, are hundreds. These include movements of ‘quivering, throwing, wigwagging, casting, raising, swinging, tossing, whisking, rolling, folding, crossing and so on’.

Water sleeves can be used for many functions. For example, the sleeves wigwagging in front of face means a fun; one hand pulling another water sleeve sidewards indicates politeness or bowing; sadness and shyness are expressed by one hand pulling another water sleeve to cover the face; wiping tears and whisking dirt on costumes by water sleeves; raising and put up two persons’ water sleeves to embrace each other; water sleeves also indicates the music band when the singing performance starts (cultural-china.com).

Here is a Female Dancer, a sculpture from Metropolitan Museum’s collection. It depicts fine water sleeves being a fine example of dance in the Chinese sculpture. This model is earthenware with pigments, and it is from the Western Han dynasty (206 b.c.–9 a.d.), 2nd century b.c. China. More information about the sculpture on the museum website here.

Female Dancer, the Western Han dynasty (206 b.c.–9 a.d.), Metropolitan Museum of Art.