Monday, 27 September 2010

What is your profession?

Last night, on Five, there was the TV premiere of "300".

Believe it or not, I went to see it at the cinema when it came out, with a more than enthusiastic husband. I laughed from beginning to end, as I did again yesterday.
Because, let's admit it, that movie is hilarious: "Spartans! What is your profession?" and the consequent Auh! Auh! Auh! was the most common joke among me and my friends, especially if we were involved in sport contests. It made us feel like total bonkers and at the same time it was nice, bonding.

The reasons why I am writing this post about a testosterone movie, as you might be wondering, are two: with this, I open a new section of the blog, dedicated to reviews and many other N.E.A.R. - Not Exactly Art Related things. The second is that "300", directed by Zack Snyder, is a literal shot-for-shot adaption of the graphic novel by Frank Miller.

In fact, visually speaking, "300" is a comic strip translated for the big screen and, because of this, loved or hated by critics and the public. I read with great interest about the complaints on historical mistakes, the grudge bore by Iranians because of the way Americans depicted their ancestors the Persians, and the nonsense of the dialogues (Persian: "Our arrows will obscure the sun!" Spartan: "Then we'll fight in the shade." Delightfully yob-ish) but I won't discuss the plot here, just the "translation". Movies are made of image frames, and each frame, in my opinion, constitutes a unique "artist" vision. Snyder's one is extreme, fascinating and unreal at the same time. And, for "unreal", I mean even more unreal than a movie normally is, because it is in the nature of a movie to be something else from reality. For its strong graphic flavour, with every frame digitally reduce to its essential contrasts of light and dark, the natural colours almost erased from the palette, this work is neither a movie nor a comic strip, entering the realm of the undefinable tableaux vivant. Images conceived for the printed paper will inevitably clash with the celluloid world if literally transposed to it.

Although the result of "300" is fine, and visually speaking acceptable in some ways as an extreme, interesting experiment, I think that, as a "visual artist", Snyder made just a little mistake: wanting to justify his particular vision through an allegedly accurate referral to ancient history. This is the so much sought after connection with reality, sometimes pursued by both directors and the public, that in the end spoils the magic of cinema. A movie is there to remind us that everything is possible... in our imagination. The moving images just give shapes to this idea, with no need to convince us about the plausibility of certain facts. Snyder himself called Miller's graphic world "surreal" and wanted to reproduce this mood in his movie, so what was the need for historical facts? Not digging properly into history may lead to superficial results and that's exactly what happens here: everything is left on a very baroque surface with loads of style, but no depth.

In the end, "300" is just an interpretation of a legendary battle, consciounsly parodying the notions of glory and dying for the honour of the homeland. Such an absurd - and indeed surreal - movie to become a classic.

All right, I did say this post would be not art related, but I couldn't help such professional bias. After all, what is my profession?

Saturday, 25 September 2010

You haven't learned anything

> Organising decent shows with the lowest budget possible: Curator's Stuff

So far, The Bay Window Project relied on a generous lender for a projector. But when the lender takes the projector back and says "that's it", all you have to do is thank him very much and find another -cheap- solution. Having discarded the possibility of other projector lenders (because the item always has to go back at a certain point, not to mention the consumption of the expensive lamp), the most plausible solution is only one: buy it.

And, seen the budget issue, you already know where: eBay.
This virtual auction website doesn't really need any further introduction: a receptacle of hidden treasures and desirable junk, it can really save your finances in the hour of need. But you need to be prepared: like you, hundreds of other buyers are glued to the computer screen, waiting silently to place the best bid and get the item they want. Perusing eBay can be turned from a pleasant and even funny experience to pure war, furiously fought through the beat of mouse clicks.

Let's get an example. There is this am-az-ing projector, right? Brand new, new lamp, thousands of ansi lumen, everything. Nine people are bidding for it but the price is still reasonable. No problem: with a grin on your face, you place the unbeatable bid, thinking no one will have the time to beat it at the last minute. In actual auction rooms, where real and expensive artworks are for sale to the best offer, there is what is recognised as the "aggressive" bidder: he or she who keeps the paddle up all the time, to show the others that the artwork already has an owner. Same attitude applies on-line, in the virtual world of html codes and numbers.

Very well, the end of the projector auction is approaching and of course you are in front of the computer, looking smug, because your bidding trick always worked before. You also have a fresher to impress: your husband never bid on eBay before and is still confused about how it works and, moreover, about your questionable plan.
15 seconds left and the figure doesn't increase.
10 seconds left: overexcited, you start the countdown, like it was New Years Eve.
4...3...2...1...and... you don't win the projector.


Wait a minute. How come you didn't win the projector? What happened? What the...
Let's rewind, shall we? While you were acting like an idiot, the bidders on the other side of the screen just overcame your offer, and that happened in the space of three seconds, making a counter-bid humanly impossible.
They knew how to do it. The aggressive bidder got distracted: game over. Your husband looks at your gutted face shaking his head and offers to help.

The research continues, this time on Gumtree, because you just can't take all this pressure (nor another shameful defeat) and your husband insists it is "safer": you start to be surprised about the quantity of people who wants to get rid of a projector. You make contact with a guy, an appointment is set the day after at 3.30 pm to see the item. The guy lives light years away from you, but nonetheless you make the journey. When you call him to know where exactly his flat is, reminding him that you are coming for the projector, the answer is: "Sorry, it's sold." WHAT??

Then, you remember. It's 3.27 pm and you are in London, the native land of the first-come-first-served basis with the addition of I-don't-have-to-give-you-any-explanation-nor-send-you-any-text-to-let-you-know. You have been living here for two years now.
You haven't learned anything.

And, sadly, you still don't have a projector.
Back on eBay, where you were monitoring some more of them, you find another suitable candidate... and win it this time! Although there was no count-down and your fingers were ready on the keyboard with an higher offer, you were the only bidder (hum...)
Collection: successful.
Computer connection: after a few curses and a pathetic phone call to the previous owner, successful.
Then you remember something about the ansi lumens, and discover that this projector has a brand new lamp bulb, yes, but it has less than half of the power of the previous one.

Perfect in a dark room, a bit poor with street lights on. Doh.

> Not knowing a rat's ass about technology: Curator's Stuff.

Friday, 24 September 2010




SybinQ Art Projects is currently looking for London based artists and curators who would like to be in the performance Meeting Ring by Marco Dalbosco.

"What could be the action that puts in relation a collective meeting with art?
What is the act that artist and curator have in common? Is there a specific moment to highlight in which these two entities relate to one another?
The answer could be a collective meeting of artists and curators in which the most common gesture of one meets/collides with the most common gesture of the other.
Curators and artists, unaware of each other’s role, will meet on a hypothetic ring to make their own action according to the role defining them, everything under the gaze of curious and passers-by. 
Through random actions in this virtual ring, these two figures will be forced to confront one another choosing actions that either identify or defy their roles."
(Marco Dalbosco)

The performance will take place on WEDNESDAY 13 OCTOBER at 1:30 pm in the East End and will be featured on the Fitzrovia Map, produced by MD in collaboration with SybinQ Art Projects, along with all the other special events happening in the area during Frieze's week. 

Should you be interested, please send an email with your name and contact details to:

You will then be emailed the address of the performance and a few instructions: all you have to do is showing up on the date and have some fun! 

Deadline for applications: Saturday 9 October

Sometimes, I forget that a blog is a very powerful tool for promotion. If the stats are not fooling me (and I have remembered to disable the tracking of my own page views), there are quite a few people out there reading the stuff I write. Well, first of all, thank you.
Secondly, if you would like to join us for this performance (and some networking afterwards in front of a beer), even better.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Designers, Artists and a touch of Red Sea

London's Design Festival 2010 is upon us. This sounds like a daunting sentence, but in fact it's just that there will be so many events scattered around town that you won't even know where to turn. Yesterday I gave it a start by going to an exhibition mixing together artists and designers in a former factory listed for demolition. In this difficult economic climate, pop-up shows in abandoned or empty spaces are thriving, giving creativity the chance to fill in the void and reinvigorating the old concept of philantrophy. I must confess that I am very fond of such spaces: their roughness, the mouldy walls, uneven floors and gigantic windows give a different flavor to exhibitions, dragging them closer to the viewer, lowering down the "sacrality" of the space to a much more relaxed experience. Of course the artworks are still for sale, but it won't be only about that.

Sure enough, when I popped into the huge room all I find is groups of friends, beer in hand, chatting among each other. The works occupied the space evenly, from objects like customizable squared ceramic vases or an interesting table lamp that is actually a lamp-table to a large size picture on the wall and a sculpture made of wood bark appearing behind a mirror. The boundary between design and art object in this show is indiscernible, because none of the design objects seem to aim at being functional. I guess the only difference is the interaction: you normally can't touch an artwork, whereas you'll definitely want to touch, for example, Alison Dunlop's corner mirror made of many leather gusset that you can open or close as you please, creating different patterns on the interactive surface.

I. Loved. It. Why? Because it becomes your playground, and your mark will be upon it until the next person decides to change it. It's democratic, ever-changing and not functional, as the reflecting surface doesn't really do the job. It's an artwork that you can touch and change.

Next door to all of this glittering and clattering, another show was there to be discovered, announced just by a timid red candle.
Inside: myself, two artists, and another guy. In terms of affluence, it reminded me of my openings. Maybe attracted by the empathy, one of the artist immediately approached me. She was elegantly wrapped in a white cloth which had the same consistency of sails and wears dizzy high black heels, her hair tied up and hanging down scruffily, making her look like an underwater mangrove:

"How did you hear about this show?"
"Er...I am coming from the opening next door..." No offence, we both are foreigners who go straight to the point. The Importance of Not Being Earnest rule doesn't apply here.

She handed over some literature with scatter sentences about the need to "invest physically" and "relating clothing to circumstances / creating history / sharing its process". I learned that the artist Arunas Survila "has gotten involved", but the girl's name was nowhere to be seen and I soon forget it.

She informed me that there will be a performance, later, and showed me some clothes, hanging from ropes, that were left soaking in the Red Sea. The process was filmed and the fabric felt heavy and rough under my fingertips.
That had the power of a Proustian madeleine: suddenly, the long gone days at sea in a summer that unfairly lasted too short came back to me, the salt flavour in my mouth, the thickness of the sea water permeating and beating my days.

Some other clothes had a less nice fate: they were filled in with raw meat and left to be tore by stray dogs: "There are a lot of stray dogs in Russia, you see?" she told me. Well, I think, I guess they had the time of their lives thanks to her. So why she did that? "To create patterns on the clothes", is the answer. Also, she wasn't very happy about the result because the holes are in far too precise points, they seem almost industrial. She described the whole process as "very hard and disgusting', then gave a good sniff right on the dried blood: "You can still feel it."

But I still don't get it.
Don't get me wrong, Mangrove, I did like your installations and think they had some potential. Some thoughts and sensations are still stirring if I think about it. But honestly, next time, just find yourself a curator. As I should find myself a PR.

Friday, 17 September 2010


Some changes are taking place to the blog.

Yesterday I have opened another show.
Next week I am seeing two artists, one per each day off.
I have sent 14 emails to 14 galleries to organise joint events during the approaching Frieze Art Fair week.
I am going to an opening tonight and will go to another tomorrow.
I need to own a projector.

Two weeks to the next press release deadline.

Shall we say that I am pretty busy?

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Bay Window Project: GUEST CURATORS

curated by sybin

CADAVRE EXQUIS VIDEO: opens Thursday 16 September at 7:30 pm.

SybinQ Art Projects
The window on Cleveland Street
(please note that there is no physical address: the window is visible where Cleveland St meets Carburton Street)

Information: 07913717999 -

SybinQ Art Projects is pleased to present GUEST CURATORS, where The Bay Window Project becomes the hosting place to promote outstanding curatorial projects, in the spirit of a constant dialogue among curators and artists on an international level.

Cadavre Exquis VIDEO / Cadáver Exquisito VIDEO / Cadavere eccellente VIDEO is a project conceived by Project Room Arte Actual / FLACSO and coordinated by María Rosa Jijon (Quito), Federica La Paglia (Rome) and Alexis Moreano (Paris).

Characterised by a recreational spirit either in its construction and its presentation to the public, CADAVRE EXQUIS VIDEO is the result of an open call to which followed the participation of 62 artists from Ecuador, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Argentina, Messico and Chile. The participants were invited to send a short video each, all then edited together in the order of arrival, to create something different, apparently with no sense or common thread but that of automatism and chance. The video is inspired by the parlor game “Consequences”, in which players wrote in turn on a sheet of paper, folded it to conceal part of the writing, and then passed it to the next player for another contribution, which would be totally disconnected from the rest. The Surrealists further developed these aspects of random composition, intuition and probability, arguing that creation should be based on collective, open dialogue.

After the success of the screenings in Quito (Ecuador) and Rome, the video is now traveling to London, becoming the Bay Window’s first group show.

Cadavre Exquis VIDEO is a video by:
Concetta Modica, Emanuele Napolitano, Silvia Stucky, Jacopo Benci, Edwin Carrera, Alterego, Galo Teràn Chico, Hugo Burgos, Manuel Carrion Hurtado, Lidia Tropea, Gruppo Sinestetico (Albertin, Sassu, Scordo), La familia producciones, (Andrés Ganchala, Robert Cárdenas y Christian Tapia), Ugo Piergiovanni / Haggar, Pablo Encalada Romero, Diego Paúl Villavicencio Ordóñez, Emy Díaz, Elsye Suquilanda, Tomas Astudillo, Daniele Prosdocimo, myfavouritecolor Enrico Zanetti, Enrico Marcon, Nicola Picogna, Giovanni Bai  Pablo Andres Quartagno Nicolò Vigna, Ingrid Falk & Gustavo Aguerre, Avelino Sala, Paulina León, Giovanni Zapata, Adelina Ducos, sybin, Werther Germondari & Maria Laura Spagnoli, Angelo Antonuccio, Pasquale Fameli, Manuela Viera-Gallo, Erich Breuer, Ilenia Zincone, Amparo Ferrari, conceptinprogress (art collective), Gastón Ramírez Feltrìn, Micha Otto, Alex Ferraté  Vera León y Pedro Cagigal, Chiara Girolomini, Karla Tobar, Sebastian Zabronski, Juan Zabala, Carolina Redondo, Parus Major, María Amelia Viteri y Colectivo Desbordes de Géner@, Luana Perilli, Benna, Rosa Jijon, Paúl Rosero Contreras, Annamaria Di Giacomo, Patricio Ponce, Eleonora Chiesa, Karina Cortez,Cyril Aboucaya, Julie Genelin, Francisca Sánchez, Cyril Gauthier, Guillaume Aubry, Laëtitia Badaut-Haussmann, Eugenio Percossi, Alexis Moreano, Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza.

Marìa Rosa Jijon is a visual artist living in Rome and working between Rome and Quito, Ecuador. Federica La Paglia is a contemporary art critic and curator in Rome; she is interested in Latin – American art, in particular socio-political and relational projects. Alexis Moreano is a cinematographic critic from Ecuador, also interested in some aspects of contemporary art; he lives and works in Paris. The Project Room in the Arte Actual Gallery FLACSO, Ecuador, is a workshop of ideas that, through short and informal presentations, encourage the diffusion of experimental and open projects. The Project Room is conceived by Marìa Rosa Jijon and coordinated by Paulina Leon.


Do you think THE BAY WINDOW PROJECT has the potential to become something bigger? Please recommend it for the FutureEverything Awards

Will come next: SILVIA IORIO plus Special Events, in October.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Getting to know your space

I did mention that the other curators and I are organising a series of shows in another window, didn't I?
Today we went to have a further look at the space. This is the result:

Hope the others are not going to kill me now. Especially because I always forget not to export videos in the 16:9 format.
Damn it.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Memory of a Goldfish

I have liken to this phrase a loooooong time ago.

High school, the 90s. I was in a funny mood and thought to remind a guy I barely knew that he had forgotten about my birthday. Instead of snorting, the guy thought of a funnier way of having me on a bit and started hugging me, moaning: "Oh my God, you're SO right, I am SO SO sorry...I have the memory of a goldfish!"

He doesn't know that this sentence is now my patented property, used and abused countless times. Especially because I do have the memory of a goldfish. Meaning: I forget stuff all the time (not the important stuff, though!). 
Here is a fresh, funny example.

Last night, I was in conversation on Skype with Silvia Iorio:

Si - So, did you like Stockholm?
sy - Very much!
Si - Did you go to Fancy Space Of Which I Don't Remember The Name Right Now?
sy -, I didn't know about it...but it must have been closed, everything was shut for the end of the summer...
Si - Ah, shame!
sy - But I did go to the Moderna Museet.
Si - Oh, did you?
sy - Yeah, the permanent collection is very interesting. For example, I saw a video by an artist I didn't know, Martha Rosler...
Si - (makes a face)
sy - What?
Si - But it's the same artist!
sy - The same artist of what?
Si - Come on, don't you remember? I have brought you an artwork from Basel* by Martha Rosler!
sy - (blushing from head to toe) it...her?
Si - YES! (laughs)
sy - Er...really? Let me just check...
Si - (continues laughing)
sy - (fidgets with a rather torn picture representing three egg-shape forms in various colours. Checks the name behind. Capitulates) Ah, OK...didn't make the connection...
Si - (affectionately) You are terrible!
sy - Sorry...I have the memory of a goldfish.

> Writing down every single name of the artists you don't know and then forgetting them anyway: Curator's Stuff.

* We are talking about ART PARCOURS, organised this year at 41 Art Basel. Martha Rosler presented Fair Trade Garage Sale at the Museum der Kulturen: inspired from the American "garage sale", where one person's junk is another person's treasure, everything presented by the artist was for sale and the prices could be negotiated.

Curator's Stuff - Stockholm

Colder, cosier, and more expensive.

That is how I would describe Stockholm at the first impact, compared to jolly old London. I have just spent five days there, setting foot in Sweden for the first time to accompany a certain Cardiologist to the annual ESC Congress. Work for him, leisure for me: I have discovered that wandering around on your own in a new city is not the end of the world after all*. But it is very, very harmful for your pockets, because you're more inclined to give in to the impulse buy.

Five days are not enough to understand another culture of course, but I could try and sum it up this way:

The Swedish like: 
- Tall and narrow spiral staircases (pictured);
- Walking on the cycling path;
- Keeping bar's customers in line (see below).

The Swedish don't like:
- To give directions;
- To use the word "pineapple" instead of "ananas";
- To apologise when they bump into someone. Unless "grunt" meant "sorry".

Speaking of cycling paths, I must admit that I have started to rate my liking or not of a city based a bit too much on how good the bikes facilities are. This way, poor Rome would occupy the last place on the chart.
In Stockholm there is the same bike scheme just launched in London, with the fundamental difference of being able to keep the bike for free for three hours, rather than just half an hour.
I guess the Stockholmers made this very clever reasoning: "There's no way a tourist will get the names of our streets straight: we must allow plenty of time for them to get lost, find their bearings, and try again." I would like to thank them for having thought of me. On two wheels, the whole city is at hand: the paths along the canals, with highways running right above your head, are very enjoyable, and even the worst sense of orientation has a chance of redemption.

Another thing I very much liked about Stockholm: I didn't get a Huh? as a reply when I said that I am a Curator.

For my visit, the main targets were, of course, museums and galleries. Let me say that the end of August is not really the best time for this, because most of the places are closed and busy preparing for the autumn season, like for example Magasin 3: THIS FALL A GREAT STORY BEGINS a lot of banners shouted around town. Shame I will only be able to follow their promising next show through the Internet.

Luckily, not only the Moderna Museet was open, but it had on the Ed Ruscha retrospective that I had missed when it was at the Hayward Gallery here in London. That's what made me think of the "Curator's Stuff": sometimes, on Facebook and in my language, I see some square messages appearing as links on people's status. For example: "Being happy about having put the eyeliner perfectly on one eye, forgetting that the same thing should happen on the other: Women's Stuff". Or another one, more specific for working roles: "To separate form from content: Designer's Stuff". And so on and so forth. There are the most embarrassing (and truthful!) features for Psychologists, Architects, Teachers, Singles, Students, Art Historians...but no Curators.
I can give you one now, the first of a long series in this blog:

> Missing a traveling exhibition in your hometown and going to see it in another country: Curator's Stuff.

The Moderna Museet knew its golden age in 1960 with the curator Pontus Hulten, who managed to create a bridge between Europe and America by hosting shows of young American painters, among which were Jasper Jones and Robert Rauschenberg. Later, in the 90s, he started to emphasise the direct participation of the audience to the shows by proposing broader themes like poetry or utopian societies.

> Spending four hours in a Museum, making sure you have read all the labels: Curator's Stuff.

The permanent collection has some real flagships, divided in chronological periods: for example, the Cow Wallpaper by Andy Warhol, in which the museum was wrapped up in 1968, Martha Rosler's Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975 (embedded below: I found it illuminating) and a Surrealist woman I didn't know anything of: Dorothea Tanning.

> Getting annoyed because you have confused Eva Hesse with a relatively unknown Swedish artist: Curator's Stuff.

The day after was a Monday, vacation day for most of the exhibition spaces. The only arty place open was the Thielska Galleriet, at the far end of Djurgarden. No bike station was available down there, so my unfortunate travel companion (another lonely doctor's wife) and I parked the penny-farthing and embarked in what we thought was a 20 minutes walk to reach the spot. After 45 minutes, a rain shower, countryside landscapes and some moaning, we arrived at this lovely house from the beginning of XX century, owned by the banker Thiel, art patron of his times. The collection comprises remarkable examples of Nordic art from late XIX and beginning of XX century, not to mention the outstanding furniture and the poignant, decadent atmosphere of the place.

> Walking 4 kilometers to get to a remote public gallery just to see Edvard Munch's paintings in the flesh: Curator's Stuff.

* I am Italian: compulsive sociability is deeply rooted in my genes. We hate eating on our own, traveling on our own, and even talking on our own.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Message in a bottle

"Walked out this morning, don't believe what I saw / Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore / Seems I'm not alone in being alone / 
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home." 

Trafalgar Square on a cloudy Sunday afternoon is a place bursting with people: Londoners, tourist competing to have a picture on the lions at the base of Nelson's column, families with children running around freely, skating teens. I have a very nice memory of an hot afternoon back in 1993 when I had my first school trip to London to learn English: people were bathing in the two fountains, with children even wearing bath suits. Of course, although I was fully dressed, I joined them. Not even in your most forbidden dreams would you do it in Bernini's fountain in Piazza Navona, Rome: you'll get arrested on the spot, no questions asked.

At that time, I didn't noticed the empty plinth. 
It sparked my interest when I learned, several years later, that it was being used to commission temporary site specific artworks: from Rachel Whiteread to Marc Quinn, the plinth joined his equals to host contemporary art which exquisitely mixed up with the eldest in the monumental square.

Now, under the corner stare of neighbor George IV, the Fourth Plinth hosts Yinka Shonibare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle. You would say it is overshadowing from the pictures and the various reportage on TV; instead, at that height the bottle seems contained, almost disappearing compared to the imposing plinth. A little monument for a big square, directly linked to the historical victory of Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar at the beginning of 1800, which freed the seas allowing England to get in touch with different cultures, and to become the cosmopolitan country we live in today. The colored patterned sails, made out of Shonibare's trademark African textiles, refer exactly to this: the British colonialism legacy.

The so skilfully realised ship, rich in details, is enclosed in a giant bottle, like the tiny traditional handicraft work; this seems to make the concept behind its creation small and contained, almost silenced. Shonibare is not an artist who leaves anything to chance, therefore even the fact that you can’t really make out the ship’s details nor the sails patterns by looking at it from the bottom of the tall plinth means something.

It’s the first time that the empty plinth hosts a work so directly linked not only to the history of the square, but also to the city of London in particular. The multiculturalism and immigration Shonibare is talking about is all there, making London the seaport she wanted to be: people arrive and leave all the time. Maybe they'll leave traces of their passage, maybe they won't. Strangers are so many in this city you can hardly make out the features. Multiplicity often leads to confusion, and then tolerance steps in: polite smiles, shifts to one side to make some more room, just a tiny bit. London’s social and cultural structure is indeed a very colorful and patterned fabric like the one in Shonibare’s ship, but every community is an island, trying to look at one another from too much a distance to figure out the details.

An updated version of this post is going to be published as an article on the magazine Arte e Critica n.64