Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Martina Geccelli

" I look at things as if for the first time in order to explore so far unnoticed aspects."

Martina will also exhibit some of her pieces in the show...still to be named. You can see and read about her practice here

Posted by Habda

Saturday, 20 March 2010

First Meeting: where we stand

I know, it is a bit too late for this since we had our first meeting...hum...two weeks ago now! But, as you might have perceived by now, I do like blogging and would like this experience to remain somewhere, even lost in the internet's mesh.

It was the 10th March, a grey afternoon, when this show finally took on some kind of definitive form, which now needs to be adjusted, polished or even reviewed. We went to The Big Chill Bar on Brick Lane, perfect if you are on a tight budget but nonetheless need something to eat to get the brain spinning. Maybe we had no idea that we were to spend all the afternoon there. The first point of the meeting was: which artists do we want and why? And there, our coherence of selection finally showed: five different heads came up with eight/nine very different artists who, thought, share similar concerns about the identity of the space we are trying so hard to nail down.

We started considering Unit 2's space in particular as active/inactive: show/no show; like a brain in a body and its various connections, a mental space. This clicked with Sophie Vent's practice of mapping: a map is a type of space, a way of setting boundaries and crossing them. She will identify a map of the endorphin when it's released in the body and then translate it to a dance with the collaboration of a choreograph. Will thinks her idea to have the choreography danced by children and filmed on video is great. Going on on Unit 2, we already said that the access is restricted: the gates will be opened during the opening, but then only people with budget will be admitted in. So one question might be: who is actually going to see the show? That's when Russel Chater steps in: he is "seeking to explore spaces and states that are in between or beyond". He will cover the window with a white element used to cover derelict spaces, blocking the view from outside. During the opening, people will be invited to draw or write on it, leaving a trace on this temporary space and, most important, allowing people from the street to peek into the gaps and take a glimpse of the space. Habda also proposed other two artists, Charlotte Bracegirdle (whose practice is already explained here) and Nathalie Guinamard: with her, we enter the realm of displacement; she works with collage, selecting unaltered sections of interiors and exteriors and seeing how they work in juxtaposition: spaces in between become even more important than the visible space itself; perhaps she will work on what she'll see in-between Unit 2, and we'll hopefully discover new connotations.

Although her work will certainly be the most complicated to install, Silvia Iorio is still up with her switches installation, described here. The lamp bulbs will be all outside Unit 2 and, apart from some that we'll try to keep visible, when someone presses the button imagination will take the lead to identify where a lamp bulb is actually going on and off. Light will cross the space's boundaries, showing it for what actually is: infinite. The space as interface, meaning point of interaction, is represented by the video artists Katja Pratschke and Guszstav Hamos, whom Francesca met at the Tate. It may seem that the body and its connections are the protagonists again, but in this case it is the space of the video as a medium that is questioned through the display of still and moving images. Last but not least, Martina Geccelli, sniffed out by Clementina. A German artist with an Italian name, Martina works with photography in connection with architectural and sculptural conditions. She shoots everyday, banal objects like books or cardboard boxes to show their often hidden relationship. We all liked very much the picture of two cardboard boxes arranged upside-down, holding up in a precarious balance enhanced by their almost touching flaps. Another kind of space, defined by its limitations, the physical outlines and that in between.

Wow. A lot of concepts have been dished out here, but personally I see no discrepancy between our artists. I see something that has just started to build up. Now we would need someone authoritative, a dead or alive critic, with a strong "space" concept to place at the beginning of the critical text, in order to convince us all that this is the right track.
Isn't it?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Transposed Bodies

Katja Pratschke and Gusztav Hamos
Fremdkorper (Transposed Bodies), video, Germany, 2002.

Based on the Thomas Mann novella The Transposed Heads, the film recounts the story of two inseparable friends, Jan and Jon, and their shared love of Marie. Inspired by the affinity and alienation of photos and film images, the film quite deliberately draws a line between the inside and the outside of bodies, between moving and non-moving images, between medical imaging techniques and photography. The protagonist's bodies, or more correctly the skin that covers them, is the interface between these two worlds.

The 111 photograph of the novel adopt the aesthetic of the French Nouvelle Vague films: some of the photos have been constructed in imitation of cinematic originals (such as the mirror situation from Bresson's film "Lancelot du Lac") or the clear quotation from "Jules and Jim". In each individual image, Transposed Bodies points beyond its context, from frame to frame, unfolding a narrative space.

Posted by Francesca

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Visit

On Wednesday, we went to meet a very important person and contemporary art collector here in London. The encounter took place in the outstanding Winfield House, in Regents Park, where the American flag waves.

This might just give the right tip about whom we had the privilege to shake hands with: Ambassador Marjorie Susman. Skipping over the details about how in the world we ended up drinking tea and eating brownies with her, our visit was focused on the exploration of the house and the art collection, which the Ambassador graciously opened to the public. The house's interiors, those of an historical residence where many other Ambassadors lived, are enriched by a contained Neoclassical taste with matching furnishings, in some cases hosting sculptures by, for example Claes Oldenburg or the contemporary David Smith. To keep company with the traditional portrait of President Washington there is la crème de la crème of American Art from the 50s, when Abstract Painting arose. The Rothko up there is just a small example, then we found a red Ad Reinhardt's canvas perfectly at ease in a room with green, flowery wallpaper on the walls, or a Lichtenstein's mirror in a yellow room. The deep equilibrium of that was disconcerting, as you'd normally see such painting in a white cube, with the proper light and the proper aura.

It was nice to look at each other's faces while we were been taken around, dumbfounded. Not only were we taking in the grandness of the place, and the meaning of an Ambassador's role, which after all includes the transmission of a Country's culture; we were seeing landmark artworks in their natural context, that they were created for: a private home.
And how differently they looked, what a warm welcome they gave us, not from behind a protective plexiglass but within reach, illuminated by natural light, off the pedestals, human again.

The Ambassador also told us about her role as patron of the MCA - Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago: a one-year long Curatorial Fellowship, which bears her name, is available; an opportunity to work closely with the museum's collection, with emphasis on the aspects of art history and research.

Now, this has nothing to do with the show, but it has to with the course we are part of. I think seeing private collections is an important experience, because it makes you perceive the artwork differently.

Thank you to the Whitechapel Gallery for this opportunity.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

A bit of info

Here's a quote, which summises a little of what I feel about exploring the notion of Unit 2 being an exhibition space:

"......that space becomes a question, ceases to be self evident, ceases to be incorporated, ceases to be appropriated. Space is a doubt: I have to constantly mark it, to designate it. Its never mine, never given to me, i have to conquer it"

"spaces melt like running through your fingers. Times bears it away and leaves only shapeless shreds"

Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and other Pieces, p.91 c

About an artist:
Charlotte Bracegirdle (fabulous name!)
She interupts the scene of famous pre-modernist paintings e.g Courbet's The Artist's Studio, see above. Original can be viewed here.

She uses prints which she then paints in the detail, so she is adding to subtract. Charlotte makes her alterations honest and visible from the disturbed surface of the print and the slight reflection from the paint that she uses. In other words she doesn't choose to hide her hand and thus adds to the discourse of the original piece.
I like the way in which she plays with the notion of a space within the painted image, however not sure if the aesthetic of the piece suits our show - it could be a good point of difference??

Posted by Habda

The Kite Flyer

Sometimes thoughts just strike at 8:30 in the morning.
I was thinking over the relationship between curator and artist just in front of the bathroom mirror and came up with this conclusion: a curator is like a kite flyer.

I like the idea of the artist as a kite: they like to fly free, beyond imagination, and sometimes above reality. If there wasn't that tiny string linking them to a flyer, they will get lost. Or crash on a tree. Or smash to the ground when the wind stops blowing. On the other side, the curator leads the kite, guides it, but cannot totally control it. Even pulling the string doesn't guarantee the kite to follow the instructions; it may start turning, twisting and flipping, because the wind is too strong. And paying it out too much string may bring the kite to fly too far away, and eventually fall. Sometimes, kite and kite flyer found themselves stuck: when there is no wind, no matter how hard they try. When the kite gets stuck to a tree, and the kite flyer somehow has to rescue it, trying to minimize damages. Sometimes, the kite would surprise the kite flyer by doing unexpected acrobatics, things that happen by chance and can only be repeated through experience, time, trial and error.

That's a very special, complicated relationship, based on a delicate equilibrium. The string that unites them doesn't mean subordination, for any of the two. It's about working together and be able to fly high without falling. Kites and artists are very fragile, and sometimes curators and kite flyers are inexperienced. But all can be fixed, including flying skills and torn paper, if they learn to trust and support each other.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Suz has gone into a lot of depth about the idea of space - nice and juicy stuff. Cheers for that, love. I'm still not really sure what I make of unit2, I really don't like its name and the other day coming out of Whitechapel across the road the vile purple sign above looks more like a shit Birmingham night club than a gallery.

Sophie Vent, a recent graduate from Goldsmith, has agreed in principle to be in the show which is more than exciting. She works in a really interesting way which I wont try to explain but instead push you towards this link where you can see some of her lovely work.

I'm not sure that we are at a position to go into details of the work that she will be producing for us. But she will be making new work, its performance based. And may involve live children.

I think that we are getting to the point where we will be outlining more of a concrete idea of the exhibition, with artists and perhaps some nice talks or events. Maybe even a catalogue if you're lucky.

Getting back to the issue of space as I feel I possibly should George Perec is always a nice one to read, Species of Spaces, a particularly good choice. I'm not really sure how relevant it is to this show but I'm sure it probably will influence my input as these texts always seem to. He rambles in a nice gentle tone, picking up objects and parts of our surroundings that seems droll to most of us and pulls some little gem from his lovely little head.

bye now.

Posted by Will

Again about the concept of the Space

I am just browsing Foucault's "Of Other Spaces".
At the very beginning of this show's planning, Habda mentioned the concept of Heterotopia. If you don't understand philosophy, like myself, it can drive you mad. But the minute you understand it, a whole new world unfolds right before your eyes, and you start to wonder how is it that you have wasted so much time without even trying to approach such books, too scared to feel like an idiot in front of the vastness of such concept. Just the first two or three lines of that small essay were illuminating.

We decided to write a short paragraph each about our conception of the Space, so I'll try not to cheat, reprising the philosopher's words, and go for what I feel, and know, about it.
For me, the space in relation to an exhibition is like an interface between it and the showed works that is undoubtedly necessary but could, in a way, be defied. Of course, an artwork needs to be in relation to the space in order for it to properly communicate with the viewer, but sometimes the view of the space seems to take over and influence the work's display too much. There is only one example, in the case of the "space taking over", that comes to my mind: Kiesler's space for Peggy Guggenheim's gallery, The Art of This Century (1942).

Unit 2 is a space with a strong identity, meaning that it isn't an actual commercial gallery, or a museum's section, which may both be considered as mere containers where just artworks do the talking. It is in response to this identity that, in my opinion, we are choosing certain artworks and artists to create the show. So far, the proposed works all require the public to interact and create different means of communication beyond the space's physical boundaries. This should activate a different perception of the space: not just a mere container, but an active entity that works with the artworks without overwhelming them, and creates an experience for the public at the same time. As an active entity, the space can be considered organic, and consequently become active or inactive, opened or closed, intersected or left to be, expanded or contained. All this sounds very elusive, but I am sure I can define it better by the end of the month. At least, it's a beginning.

Two words about the picture I have put there: it is by Luisa Lambri and represents Oscar Niemeyer's Casa Das Canoas in Rio De Janeiro. Try to take a step back, just before I revealed what it is: does that space look like anything recognizable in that picture? Lambri's practice, extended from spaces to places, is about a personal interpretation (not documentation) of the space, which leaves the viewer with no reference but, in turn, a different personal perception of it.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Black and White Berlin

Last week we went to Berlin with our tutor for a four days full immersion in the art scene.
It was really great. Berlin, which not all of us visited before, looked like a black and white photograph: the sky was grey and the streets covered in snow, salt, ice and dog's dung.
The presence of the war strikes you there like nowhere else: missing houses, bullet holes, silence and cranes everywhere. I had the sensation that Berlin never fully recovered from that, including the heavy heritage the war brought along.

But the art scene is something different: it is like East London in its golden days. Not spoiled yet, vibrant, affordable and with a definitely different attitude. We met curators and artists, and all were keen to talk to us open hearted about their different experiences, even if this required a good deal of chance and improvisation. In plain words, less academism and more generosity. A big, international artist community is operative in Berlin; I would have never imagined to catch up with some of my peers, totally by chance.

Of course, this brought new lymph to the show: we met Italian artists Silvia Iorio and Cesare Pietroiusti. Me, Clem and Fra went to Cesare's talk at the NGBK and found his dissertation about how he conceives the space truly inspiring. I will just quote one single sentence from that night, which in my opinion says it all:

"When I was eight, my family and my grandparents used to live next door to each other. Every night, I would go to bed at the same time and my Grandmother would knock from the other side of the wall, just to wish me goodnight. I then started to think about how I could reach the other side to go and see her whenever I wanted, and the most obvious way was to dig a hole in the wall. I would hide under my bed and work on it with an accomplice friend of mine. When my mother discovered it, she wasn't very happy. I have quoted this episode because I think that my whole artist career is an attempt to get to the other side of that wall, but I am still stuck in the middle."

Silvia is an old friend of mine, even from high school. Our paths always crossed since then, and always by chance. It was a pleasure to find her in Berlin. We shared a table at the traditional German restaurant Max & Moritz and got totally taken away by the description of her work. Science and art, in a charming mix. She told us about how she, herself, tried to defy space's boundaries by using light as a mean of communication. She created a work with colored switches connected to lamp bulbs which can be dislocated beyond the gallery space - in a building nearby, in another room, even in another area - and can be turn on or off, perhaps used to send a message. Space. On. Off. Something clicked here.