Saturday, 31 July 2010

Wicked. A nostalgic bohemian feeling

Yesterday, Hackney Wick opened its doors, and artist's studios doors, to the other side of the world for a three-days art festival. 

For a non-English mother-tongue obsessed with grasping every nuance of words' meaning, the name of the festival is a delightful and clever language game, swinging between "cool" and "bad": wicked. Very appropriate, if you consider that, as soon as you get off the overground, in normal days you would find yourself in the middle of nothing. Instead, the industrial and unattractive buildings (which, in fact, I find fab) are studios and homes for a large community of artists.

It feels like landing in another world, which you have to explore just with the aid of the - few - tools in your possession (a map of the area highlighting the main events' location) and a good dose of interpersonal skills, especially in  matter of orientation. The territory is not hostile of course, but you do feel like an outsider and start following the other +people, who know exactly where to go, like a stalker.

The many events were just unfolding around us, we could hear some music and percussion coming from the train station exit, and we had just missed our place at the dinner/performance organised by the curatorial collective Cosmicmegabrain. I just had the time to see one of the curators rushing to the terrace in Oslo House, wearing a shiny yellow foil hat with some flowers and cherries sprouting out of it. This is what I call landing on the job. After having bumped with pleasure in the only artist I know in the area (Martin Weswood, ndr), Habda and I ventured to see the studios and some art in the making. That was when I had the bohemian attack.

Known also as the Late Bohemian Sindrome, this rare and unlikely illness strikes subjects who are particularly sensitive to large, loft-like spaces, possibly with mezzanines, where art, great second-hand furnishings and private life are equally mixed. The first symptom is that the mind starts to wonder, imagining night parties like sin and a continuous, often stimulating confront with your neighboring peers. The attack carries on with drooling, a good dose of envy, loads of mental notes like the-day-I-will-have-my-own-house-I-must-remember-this-arrangement and, finally, it quickly fades away with the very down-to-earth thought: "But there is a common loo. No shower." The bohemian feeling lingers, though. The idea of something going on which maybe won't lead to the next generation of star artists to be born, but it will certainly be a tale to remember and tell: When I was twenty, I had a studio in Hackney Wick which I transformed into a living unit. I was painting everyday and partying every night - or the other way round -, we would talk a lot about art with the others and sometimes young critics and curators would join us. We organised shows and events, made things happen and... All right, I'll come off it.  It just made me think that all the famous artists and curators we know must have started like this: with a beer, a romantic kennel and a good chat. That's what they must still be doing, actually.

Moving on, we managed not to miss Roberto Ekholm's performance The Magnetic Man inside the show La Perruque: inspired by Michel De Certeau's writings around cultural practices and relationships, the show tries to manipulate commonplaces and make them habitable, which is to say, to use your own creativity space into the rigid and framed working society.

The evening was concluded with a quick - rainy - shower and my venturing up an emergency iron ladder to go to one of the building's roof and have a glance at the city landscape. On the other side of the river, the Olympic Village is taking shape and I couldn't help but wonder what will it be of these guys once this is turned into a fashionable residential area. Below, lights were glowing from the opened spaces, with people milling around, commenting the latest works. Looking down, De Certeau sprung to mind again for his most famous writing about the practice of everyday life (1984): the city seen from above is the result of the institutionalised bodies, who organise it in a grid and try to direct the experience and gaze of the person traveling in it. Below, people continued to get lost or get rid of the map, following their instinct instead, enjoying the dérive.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Mario (a post for connoisseurs)

22 July 2010.

The Bay Window is officially turned into a light projection box. Meaning: if you happen to stroll by Cleveland street, you will bump into Luana Perilli's magnificent video.

No picture can give it justice (especially if made by me and my antediluvian camera), therefore you will need to wait that my confidence in using Final Cut increases just that tiny little bit in order to edit another video, possibly in a better way than this.

The second Bay Window Project taught me a couple of important things that other budding curators might find useful:

The first: if you are projecting a video outdoor, in London, in the month of July, check the sunset's precise time before sending the press release out. This will avoid you panicking because at 7:30 pm you can't see anything and start hoping, wishing and praying that people will arrive the usual late. Which, in fact, for once doesn't happen.

The second: no matter how big the problem is, there is always a Plan B concealed as an ingenious idea. In our case, a little monitor with the video on in the lower part of the window solved the trouble of the poor visibility and became quite performative.

Finally, the third is Mario.
Mario is the famous art critic you must know and have to have at your openings. As reserved and uncatchable as Charles Saatchi, this eminent intellectual rounds on exhibitions undisturbed and has the power to launch or demolish whoever at glance. From where his words will fall upon you, is not for you to know. If he reviews a show, no one who attended is really sure they have seen him there. Most of all, Mario is so ineffable and so incredibly famous at the same time, that there is the tendency to forget his name.

A - You know, I know that famous art critic...
B - Do you?
A - Yes, you know...he's a very famous must know him! Oh God, what was his name again?
B - (encouraging) Mario?

That's it! Mario.
Mario is everywhere, and there is always a Mario for every opening. In the end, aren't we all waiting for Mario?

I would like to thank the artist, G2, my G, curator Francesca Cavallo from cosmicmegabrain, Alessia, Tati and all the others who attended the opening, making it a very nice and funny evening.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Coffee and TV: the next Bay Window Project

Tuesday 20 July.

Italian artist Luana Perilli (pictured) is in London for the first time for her solo show in The Bay Window Project. She's been traveling a lot lately between Rome, Milan and Naples, where she is having a residency at the PAN Museum.

We talk a lot about Naples' ill famed Spanish Areas, where she is actually living: after 9 pm there is a sort of curfew and you see no one around. After a shameless questioning (who are you, what you are doing here, how long are you staying for, who do you know), the owner of the bar where she goes everyday for a coffee decided that she is "not bothering anyone. Yet."

She likes London. The first impression is what it counts: I warn her that you may love it or hate it, it seems to be a very immediate reaction for every European. Black or white, no halfway house.

Before throwing ourselves into the setting up of the next Bay Window Project, I take her around the area to do some very essential tasks: grocery shopping. Very intellectual, but my opinion is: to learn something about a new country, you must start from the food. Then, after having made sure that we weren't going to starve in the following days, we go gallery spotting, straight into London's evening life.

Our Habda is opening a show at Medcalf: Alex Heaton, with Abyssal Worpeltinger

After a two-weeks break from the art world, it's nice to find the soft hubbub of an opening again, seasoned with smelling-good hamburgers that are being cooked outside. We exchange impressions on the show and are quite impressed by the huge paintings representing imaginary mountain landscapes covered in snow.

Back home, we wait for our men to arrive: they have the same name, and they both are late. My G. went to a congress and the following drinks, Luana's G2 is arriving from Heathrow: "I still have 18 stops ahead!" an SMS she receives complain. We try the video on the window: tracing paper is stuck on the glass, the size adjusted, the decision to blacken the lower part of the window and to project just on the upper part made. Si Dolce e' il Tormento, the tune that accompanies and gives the title to the video, fills the room in loop. So sweet is the torment, but I would listen to it over and over again (and so will the public on the opening day, because we are leaving the sound on just for that night!) The moving objects reflect themselves in the windows of the building in front of us. Luana peeks at it from behind the tracing paper, and is happy about the effect.

People already have started to look up from the street, intrigued.

Something MAXXI is happening in Rome

That's where I come from. I have been living in London for a long time now, and I really love it. I always think I do not miss Rome until I spend some days there, then things become embarrassing.
Like, for example, taking the car and throwing myself in the much dreaded road that goes alongside the river Tiber, the one I know it's always two hours traffic jam. Why? Just to say hello to some places. Just to see the beauty of my city once again, the magic of the Lungotevere, although I know it like the palm of my hand.

The little gothic church that is completely unmatched with its surroundings is still there. 
So is that bump on the road. 
Oh, look, there are more maintenance works for the third underground line, will they ever manage to finish it? 
Ah, here it comes Castel Sant'Angelo...
Oh, this is the place where I was with my friends on that evening when...
And so on.

Well I am not completely crazy, my journey of that day was aimed to a destination: the new museum for architecture and contemporary art that has just opened in Rome last May. It's called Museum of the Arts of the XXI century. In a word: MAXXI. How clever is this? We romans waited something like 10 years to see this museum finally completed. 
Ten. Years. 
I will save you the details on politics that would explain you why-on-earth did it take so long.

I went there with two friends: an artist and an architect. 
From outside, the concrete structure devised by Zaha Hadid seems to challenge the laws of standing buildings: from top to bottom, some parts entwine one in the other like a living geometric snake, with a section at the top culminating in a gigantic window facing the city. Inside, industrial stairs climb to the top in a net of patterns to follow, making the visitor unable to really orientate and therefore enhancing his or her curiosity. 

Not an easy space to put up shows (but which one is, nowadays?). After having enjoyed the beautiful solo show of Gino De Dominicis, in good company with Kutlung Ataman and the works from the Museum's Collection, I have asked my friends what they thought about it. The architect said that in his opinion the building, which should just contain art, was taking over a bit. The artist didn't really reply: she was completely mesmerized by De Dominicis' work, as we can see below.

I was really disappointed to hear that many of my fellow citizens criticised the fact that the project was given to a foreign architect rather than to an Italian: there was a context, and the best project won, that's all. Sometimes we seem to have this patriotic sparks only in the most inappropriate contexts.

I am proud that this Museum finally saw the light, and really liked the complex, not-white-cube-like space where art has to stand out in order not to be sucked in. When you reach the last level, where the big glass window is, you literally have to climb up the floor, which is slightly steep. All around the main hall, an installation by Maurizio Mochetti tries to draw in the the air with red tubes, interacting with the rest. On the middle level, a video by Studio Azzurro slowly scrolls about.

People were there. Not just arty people: families, tourists, youngsters, oldies, you name it. They sold 3500 tickets just on the first day and there was a queue as long as one for Madonna's concert.

Being Rome the capital of classic and ancient art, it has always been difficult for contemporary art to really find some public space. We have the MACRO Museum, and now there is also the MAXXI, but the attention was never great. Could we say that this might be a good start for the big leap forward everyone is waiting for?

Before leaving for some holidays*, in which I will go to the beach everyday and be exactly like the picture here on the right, a special mention to this picture, on the MAXXI's website. That really gives the idea of great team work.

Well done!

*this post was meant to be published on 07/07. I have now finished my holidays and came back to London, where the second appointment with The Bay Window Project is on.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

A goodbye and a rehearsal

In the picture: SITE GALLERY, Centre for Contemporary Art, Sheffield

Call me an hopeless romantic.
Call me even pathetic, but when a show ends, a show you worked on with enthusiasm and dedication, you do feel a bit sad. 

Yesterday, Martin Westwood's Flat-field went down from The Bay Window and the curtains were replaced, making it an ordinary window again. 

The project is not finished of course.
More artists will come, in fact one per month until December, and right during these days, just before the holidays, I am working on the next project and press release, which you will soon find published on this blog.

We had a glorious rehearsal moment yesterday. 
OK, I am disclosing just one thing about the next project: it's a video.
How do you project on a window? By using normal tracing paper. This allows the image to be seen from the other side, too. Well, this was just in theory, and yesterday it was the moment of truth (I must confess I was a bit concerned).

I would have liked someone taking pictures of us staring at the window from the other side of the street, dumbfounded. Not only it works, it's mesmerising.

Can't wait for the opening. Hope you are curious, too.

Friday, 2 July 2010


When you put up art projects with no physical place, is very difficult to keep track of feedbacks. And it's the feedback that allows a project to evolve, to grow. Without people's opinion, we risk to fall in sterile self-contemplation.

In short, we would like to hear from you.
Did you see Sorry, We're Open, spotted some interesting things and would like to speak your mind? 

Have you just bumped into The Bay Window or missed the opening in which there was an actual notebook to sign? 

This post is for you.
Please leave a comment.

Posted by sybin