Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Underground Diaries: Generation Next

Full score plunder for the Underground Diaries today.
I have to say I don't really look for images, rather, they just appear to be under my nose and I can't help but press the...oh, I wish there was a normal side button to press on the iPhone! My lumpish attempts to keep the thin, black, rectangular thing still with two hands while trying to press the camera icon with a nail - or my nose, for crying out loud - would be worthy material for a documentary.

Central Line, London - Kidz

On the wake of this article by Tom De Castella about the iPod making us all antisocial, I got some inspiration for images.

All images Metropolitan Line, London

Generation next.
But I don't believe the end is near, as you are always free to press the off button and listen to the polite silence around you. Aren't you?

Finally, I caught two people on the same car reading a book that I absolutely loved: "One Day", by David Nicholls. Same book, different editions. I could even tell what point of the story they were at.

Circle Line, London

New Art Criticism_04_March 2010

New Art Criticism is no longer on-line, therefore I thought to copy and paste my contributions to the former website here. It is mostly exhibitions reviews and I hope you will enjoy the reading!


Some say to have fallen in love with the Berlin at the first sight. 
Personally, the grey sky, the hard icy snow pushed to the side of the broad streets and dotted with dog’s dung, and the strong sense of the actual passage of a devastating war, did make an impression, but it wasn’t love. I might call it sympathy.
It takes two strong legs and a good sense of distance to walk from popular Friederichstraße, passing Check Point Charlie, to the boulevard called Unter den Linden, that links the Brandebourg Gate with Alexander Platz. From the middle of this road, both huge monuments lay small and indistinct at each end. You feel very small in Berlin: it takes a long time to take in the buildings, the geography of the city, to recognize its distinctive European flavour, but to fail in trying to classify it in comparison with the other capitals.

The Temporäre Kunsthalle is in Schlossplatz, close to the so called Museum’s Island: it’s a small, square building that seems to be built out of dark mirrors. It stands on its own, not surrounded by anything else, giving, exactly, this sense of temporariness. When I stepped in I found a library, and two people taking bookings: there was a film program called Auto Kino!, devised by the British artist Phil Collins, and it seemed to be very successful because there were just a few places left. I am told that I had car number five, and at first I thought I misunderstood the language; but no, when I walked in the other room I realized that the huge inside was transformed in an old Drive-In, with second hand cars lined randomly in a semicircle. There was even a Volksvagen van equipped with a pop-corn machine, and I happened to be in it. The number was clearly written on the plate, 005. The comfort of the seat and familiarity of the inside of a vehicle made me temporarily forget why I was there and, with the screen still blank, I almost dozed off when someone else stepped in, on the passenger seat. The situation changed: there was an urge to say something, at least to introduce myself, just to be able to mentally justify being inside a van with a total stranger. But then, the projection begun and I occupied myself with eating caramel popcorn, because, I thought, it was part of the performance.
Drive-Ins were very popular in America during the 50s: a place to run away with your sweetheart and forget about morality for at least a couple of hours. Having one in Berlin, where the weather never did allow that kind of outdoor cinema to spread, was a sort of unique experience. The program run from 5th February to 14th March 2010, and on the 24th of February I could see Ich Deutsche Behorde (22 mins, 1981), by Ezra Gerhardt and Alf Bohmert, and Die Bewerbung (60 mins, 1997), by Berlin-based filmmaker Harun Farocki. The screening was focused on immigration and job interviews issues: the first movie, a documentary, was about the slight racism underlining the first immigration wave in Germany during the eighties. Foreigners were admitted in an office one by one, their footprints and picture taken, like they were mere criminals. They would leave without any certainty of a Visa. Farocki’s movie twisted the argument and unveiled a behind-the-scene workshop about how to be successful at a job interview. I learned that putting the hands on the interviewer’s desk is invading his space, that fidgeting gives a very bad impression, not to mention staying still. My car companion got bored and left before the end; I took the chance to make myself more comfortable, aware of the fact that Farocki’s movies make you unable to leave just until the end. I also couldn’t help but do some other car-spotting: people were enjoying themselves. As a temporary experience in a Drive-In cinema that never existed, they, like me, were having an afternoon out of the ordinary.

New Art Critcism_03_August 2009

New Art Criticism is no longer on-line, therefore I thought to copy and paste my contributions to the former website here. It is mostly exhibitions reviews and I hope you will enjoy the reading!


I was surprised when I red on the Guardian Week End an article by Oliver Burkeman, claiming that nowadays we should need “a revival of the artistic genre known as memento mori ” which was, in short, the continuous presence of a skull and a still life to remind us that our time on Earth is precious because we all shall return to ashes, one day or another.

In fact, contemporary art seems to be all about it now, everyone can confirm: from Damien Hirst’s skulls to Rachel Whiteread casts’ of time’s traces, from Polly Morgan’s taxidermy sculptures to Andy Warhol’s own pop skull to culminate in Chinese artist Zahng Huan wearing a meat suit. There is a continuous referral to the inevitability of death and decay by a long list of other living artists.

I won’t be saying that the subject is starting to bore a bit, especially in the hands of a talented young artist as Amelia Whitelaw. A graduated from Chelsea College of Art and Design, Whitelaw is certainly bringing Process Art back to its old glory, with a sprinkle of the old beloved vanitas we seem to always be so much in need of. In Whitelaw’s sculptures, art is not a finite product to sell like too many around at this time, but a creative process, a displayed page on which several different paragraphs can be written.

This is about the first time I saw Amelia Whitelaw’s performance: The Courtauld Institute of Art, February this year, a group show called, incidentally, Time and Time Again. Whitelaw was commissioned an installation for the five-storey stairwell and produced one of her now renowned dough sculptures. The images show 200 kg of dough starting a descent from the ceiling into four different sized nets, which limited and conditioned its vital movement. The dough was captivating; its fleshy-like, slow movements seemed to belong to an organic being trapped by unanimated structures built by men. At the beginning, its advancing through the first net was nearly imperceptible. Only tiny bits were lost, falling into the second net like a sketch of a left trace. And I found myself mesmerized by that moment, holding breath at each falling. I felt part of it, I saw time unfolding, and I saw the beauty of a simple yet powerful symbolic thing as the dough. Flour, water and salt, equally proportioned. Nourishment and matter. Effort. Effort to reach its goal, the last net, guided by the force of gravity and, why not, Fate.

After a couple of hours, the dough freed itself into a stalactite-like shape, longing for its next stop, while other bits of it were already reaching the end of the journey. But time was too short for it, water evaporated, mixing with people’s breath, and the dough dried out.
Dust to dust. 

End note: Amelia - Newton - Whitelaw's recent show reviewed on Dazed Digital.

New Art Criticism_02_March 2009

New Art Criticism is no longer on-line, therefore I thought to copy and paste my contributions to the former website here.                  
I thought things on the Internet would last forever, but even the Revolving Writer website is gone. This is what the project was all about.


Let’s start from the beginning: someone just wet the bed. Her name is Aisha, she speaks about herself like a sort of unwanted being, seems to be obsessed with “the history behind names”, is a Virgoan and her story has no beginning and no end. This was edition #1 of Revolving Writer. Basically a website, but in primis an international collaborative project started in 2006: writers, artists, musicians and architects had the prompt, or rather the initial commission, like when a site specific artwork is being produced. Then, a selection of characters identified by a Polaroid shot, and finally, their imagination and creativity. Two months as the elaborating time with the received material, about 60 days to think about why, as the contributions went on, this Aisha seems to suffer from split personality, what is going to happen with her life, who is she going to meet next…and interact not only with one, but many stories.

We now are at #18 and, during the precedent editions, the novel evolved with new and unpredictable characters, erased passages, deliberate editing, the insertion of videos, the recovering of the disregarded passages and someone who actually decided to become one of the characters and have a love affair with Aisha. Who knows what is going to happen next. “By now”, says the mind behind the name Charlie Byrnes, “we have a mysterious Mr. Pebbles to deal with.”

The project has been very successful so far, but what she really wants to talk about is what lies ahead: “Revolving Writer apes a democratic society and aims to be as cohesive as possible”, she explains, “but I realized the novel might be just the beginning of other projects. We started using writing as a media and created something site specific. A site. Well, website. The novel is not being very sociable at the moment, because interacting with a given text can be a pretty solitary job. I now would like to work with the same material but different media: art for artists, not artists “acting” as writers; architecture for architects, etc. In short, I’d like to work with many sites.”

The website’s home has an announcement reading: “Major Developments from Summer 2009”. Does it mean that we will maybe see the characters coming to life or something like that? “Not really far from truth.” Charlie grins: “We want people to get really involved with the novel, like it happened when Revolving Writer participated to the High Tide Festival in May 2007. We had a performance with some Revolving Writers writing the story on computers, and the audience, through projected images, could see the computer’s screen and the story being written. Then, we asked them questions about the characters and, even thought they had no idea about the whole plot, we received the nicest contributions. We made them squeeze their brain.”

That sounds interesting, but isn’t there the risk of getting things a bit out of control? “Yes. That’s why, in the future, anyone who would like to contribute will be invited to discuss each passage with me and the other collaborators before proceeding. May it be exhibitions, photographs, acting, film, writing, performances, flyer distributions, we would like to hear from you.” And will all of this converge onto the website? “No, because the website is just one of many sites. Do you see what I mean? We are going to push everything out of cyberspace and organize, say, events around the world, still “Aisha related”. For example, we are thinking about a photographic campaign to get more Polaroid pictures for the characters: 3 different cities around the world, photographers in action at the same time, stopping the people, taking the picture, and asking them one particular question. Then, thanks to the modern technologies, we will map the areas the photographers worked into according to the concentration of people, like popular/not popular, and create 3D charts from that which describe the city from a psycho geographic point of view.”

And who are those revolving writers? “So far, I can mention among all gallery director Hannah Barry, Naomi Wood, artists Clayton Smith and Noon Day Demons, Nick Fleetwood, Architect Simon Fujiwara and the Independent Critic and Novelist Jay Merrick.”
Watch out for then. A new stage of the project is about to begin, and it might need someone just like you. Are you ready to meet Aisha and add more colored dust to the Mandala?

End note: even though the above link is no longer active, I have decided to keep it anyway, like a memorial stone. Ugh, melancholia is here?

New Art Criticism_01_December 2008

New Art Criticism is no longer on-line, therefore I thought to copy and paste my contributions to the former website here. It is mostly exhibitions reviews and I hope you will enjoy the reading!


Wandering and rummaging about which show was worth reviewing in this cold winter, I must admit that the only spotting of the Nettie Horn website made me decide to come and see this one: the small, pixel-made images were showing drawings beautifully made, with what I call a superhuman skill to make the pencil strokes disappear in a foggy, perfect sfumato.

It looked like a plant in a drawing you might well see in a Victorian botanical etching, however the orchid spreads from a dissected heart, whilst little bird’s skulls grow within the flower’s place; this can be considered as being very odd. Why are artists so obsessed with death now, I thought. Then, recalling the old still lives, I corrected myself because they’ve actually always been.

However, what sparked my curiosity were the use of the birds. As soon as I entered the gallery space, I was surprised to find another kind of artwork I did not know about: three sculptures, or rather assemblages, in the form of a funeral wreath. Flowers, of course, were neatly arranged in a circle and in the form of a heart shape. Again here and there we have “intruders” such as human hands and stuffed birds peeping, holding objects such as broken spectacles, trinkets and even chocolate cookies, whose icing drips down the hand in perfectly frozen drops.

I just stare, realizing that I have to do with a fairly Queen of the Composition: nothing is left to chance, nothing is random. A painstaking work made of intricately crafted components. In another sculpture, two crows seem to be stuck on a black flower wreath invaded by busy bees, their honey leaking all over like viscous glue. The bees, birds and hands should ring some bell now. It is not only about death and a strange obsession with taxidermy, I can feel there is something else those works are trying to say. But for someone like me, oblivious of typical English language expressions, it is quite difficult to get hold of the hidden meaning without obtaining some clarification.

I learned from Marie Favier, curator of the show with Director Danielle Horn, that a “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. Excuse me? Ah, that is it…sexual meaning! We now enter the realm of language and its different expressions, ranging from one culture to another. Of course, the bees, the pollination…sex explained to children. The use of the orchid in the drawings evokes the ancient Greek belief that this plant sprung from the split semen of mating animals. There are then the skulls, Love and Death. Eros et Thanathos, no wonder Kate Street’s series of work is called “Little Death”, originating from the French term for orgasm “petite mort”.

We could go on for ages: Street uses words, proverbs and mythologies as a starting point to create sculptures and drawings tinged with a tongue-in-cheek approach to language. It is always interesting to see a young promising artist using something as simple as her own native language and turning it in something so complicated; imagery. Discomforted ones perhaps, which forces the individual to try and subvert the typical idea of romance into something far more intricate, perhaps beyond the usual classifications. It is familiar, yet extraneous at the same time. Those sculptures could seem an absurd baroque-style charade because sometimes that is what love longing can be. When desire is wasted, all is left is just a deep, aching sense of loss. How sad, simple and essential at the same time, though. If you are a fan of semantics and of the honourable art of cultural imagery, you will love Street’s work. Also, if you would like to see some not-too-cryptic contemporary art, you should definitely hit this show, which runs until the 21st of December.

End note: this first visit brought a further collaboration with Kate and a video work was proudly presented by me in a public museum, here

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Underground Diaries: a Friday morning.

Sometimes Fridays can be like Mondays.
Weariness seems to struck, and you're absolutely not ready for the week-end. Like saying "it is Friday already, and I am not." But thankfully, the ones with more energy are always there.

23 September 2011 - Victoria Line, London

23 September 2011 - Overground, London

23 September 2011 - Spots and Squares. Overground, London.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Se ti girano in senso antiorario è peggio

Sentirsi come una tagliola pronta a scattare, una tagliola piena di dentini di ferro minacciosi e arrugginiti, che devono fare un gran male quando affondano nella carne.

Scocciarsi per un nonnulla e ingoiare, che ancora non hai imparato a proferire eleganti accidenti in un'altra lingua, e comunque sarebbero diretti ad un oggetto inanimato quale il computer.

Pensare che non succede niente d'interessante, non sta succedendo niente d'interessante, non succederà mai niente d'interessante, in particolare a te. E stai gettando una decina di chilometri di momenti morti al vento perché non riesci a pensare a qualcosa d'interessante per sbloccare la situazione.

Guardare torva il cielo grigio, che senz'altro non aiuta. La temperatura che a tuo giudizio è glaciale in modo quasi offensivo per essere Settembre, certamente non aiuta.

In conclusione, il pensare che, di fondo, il motivo in particolare per cui ti girano così tanto, qual'è?
Il non trovare una risposta a questa domanda, o forse il trovarla e fare finta di niente per non cadere nei luoghi comuni dello schiavismo femminile da ormone, ti fa capire che stanno girando in senso antiorario, ovvero controcorrente.

Ed è decisamente peggio.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

24 June 2011: She Devil 5, Rome > Kate Street

In a young Curator's career (or "career"), there are certain occasions for celebrations. You know, little small satisfactions, like when you select a talented video artist whose work is then included in a group show, and the screening happens to happen - hear ye! - in your hometown's Public Museum: the MACRO - Museum of Contemporary Art Rome.
Your name, together with those of other 12 remarkable colleagues, shines in small white letters on a black panel, and your little critical text is printed on paper handouts, and passed from hands to bags.

I saw Kate Street's work for the first time at Nettie Horn and always wanted to realise a project with her. Some fortunate circumstances made this possible in grand style, and for it I am grateful to the artist and to Italian gallerist Stefania Miscetti. But let's skip the chatting and go straight to the copy-and-paste of what the event was all about, plus some pics of the evening.

This is the Press Release:

SHE DEVIL was devised in 2006 by Stefania Miscetti for Italian and international female artists and curators, from the youngest to the most successful. Different works and critical perspectives coexist in a multivocal discourse which reveals the many facets of the female world and vision. This broad spectrum of activities and aims can be seen in the exhibitions that have been organised over the past years, which have included 40 video works and involved 24 curators, as well as a special international edition held in Bucharest in 2009.
As part of its summer 2011 exhibition cycle, MACRO is hosting a new edition of the project, now in its fifth year, an event that is perfectly in line with the galaxy of cultural and artistic proposals that have defined the identity of the Museum over the past few years. On the opening night the videos in this new edition will be presented in the conference room of the Museum's new wing, the nerve centre of the New MACRO exhibition area. The wing, too, was designed by a woman, the architect Odile Decq, thus it is the perfect setting for the presentation of the video works.

The Fifth Edition is curated by: Antonia Alampi, sybin - susanna bianchini, Benedetta Carpi de Resmini, Dobrila Denegri, Maria Garzia, Laura Giorgini, Maria Cristina Giusti, Caterina Iaquinta, Manuela Pacella, Cristiana Perrella, Lydia Pribisova, Elena Giulia Rossi, Chiara Vigliotti.

Thirteen videos by International female artists were presented, among which Kate Street's Flowering, 2010 (duration 1'29''). It was the only video animation on display.

In Kate's work, nature is always scary or uncanny. In Flowering’s case, the artist used childhood memories, in particular the belief according to which, if you swallow a plant’s seed, this grows up in our stomach. We see the plant filling the frame and engulfing the figure; its expansion creates an intermittent, not linear time suggested by the images that converge one inside the other in an uncertain, non-fluid way. The animated sequence makes one think of a complex association of thoughts, which is a characteristic of femalès nature; sometimes, our same guesswork overpowers us and it is hard to swallow it back inside, to dominate it. At the same time the ending, though not encouraging, suggests an exorcism of these fears, which is favoured just by going through such violent experience. As it happens also in her precedent works, Kate Street’s guideline is the different and possible meanings that some images’ associations generate in the viewer.

Kate Street, Flowering, 2010, video still. Courtesy: The Artist

She Devil 5 is on until 8 January 2012 at MACRO, precisely in the V-Tunnel.

I went back home for the opening, and the Museum was packed with people visiting also the other shows that are currently still on. It was nice to see familiar and unfamiliar faces around.

Show me the Shoes you wear and I will tell you what kind of Curator you are: Curator's Stuff 

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Bay Window Project: Russell Chater

Artists in a Frame

curated by sybin

From: Monday 19 September 2011

SybinQ Art Projects
The Window on Cleveland Street, London, W1T 6DP. MAP HERE.
t. 07913717999

The Bay Window Project: Patrick Mimran once said that art is where you least expect to find it. A window that becomes a container for contemporary art pushes the boundaries of public and private, transforming an ordinary space into a place for public art. Unaware passers-by will stumble upon it, becoming unintentional witnesses of the evolution of site-specific art in a non-institutional environment.

The third artist invited to exhibit in The Bay Window is RUSSELL CHATER

A recurring interest in contained and transitional spaces pervades much of Chater’s practice. Works question the boundaries between inside and outside and the familiar and the unfamiliar - seeking to explore spaces and states that are ‘between’ or ‘beyond’. Familiar scenes are often denied their context or purpose, resulting in the viewers’ focus shifting from the immediate to the subliminal.

For The Bay Window Project, Russell presents the work SPECTATRE (Various elements, dimensions variable. Courtesy: The Artist and SybinQ Art Projects)

Inspired by the conditions presented by the private/public space of a common bay window, SPECTATRE (a word suspended between spectator and spectre) draws on the language of a shop window display. The site-specific installation is both kitsch and eerie as a spot-lit mannequin is revealed to passers-by from its theatrical stage. The piece is also surreal – presenting as it does a commercial shop-window arrangement in a domestic apartment window.  Indeed, the work draws on its surroundings, with a nod to the artistic displays of the gallery directly below as well as the numerous shop windows of central London. Ultimately, however, the work can be read as a (self) portrait – raising questions about what we hide and what we reveal, the private and the public. Fundamental relationships of figure/space, light/dark, surface/depth are framed, and wider readings around reflection and in particular the gaze are evoked. The work also acts as a kind of companion piece to a large-scale painting that the artist will be showing at London’s City Hall later in the year.

The display runs daily: 19 September - 6 October 2011

FINISSAGE PARTY on Wednesday 5 October 2011
Please join the artist and us at the Jet Lag Bar, 125 Cleveland Street, London W1. From 6:30 pm.

Russell Chater is a graduate of the MA Fine Art course at Central Saint Martins and has exhibited extensively in both the UK and abroad. Galleries include: Galerie Zurcher (Paris/New York); Grey Area Gallery (Brighton); Unit 2 Gallery/Whitechapel Art Gallery (London); Galeria Espacio (Valencia); Museum of Science and Industry (Manchester). Russell has also co-curated a number of exhibitions and was previously a Co-Director of Dalston Underground Studios. The artist lives and works in London. Upcoming exhibitions include shows at London’s City Hall and Schwartz Gallery, London.  
For further information please see:

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Underground Diaries: A Lifetime Together.

You saw it happening between your grandparents.

Even your parents are going along that way. Not to mention you in-laws.
After, say, 30-45 years of marriage, it can happen that you can't really stand each other anymore. 
The ailments. That unnerving bad habit of his that you didn't manage to change. The growing apart.

That is why, when I see something like this on the tube or anywhere else, I can't help but smile blissfully. 

14 September 2011- Circle Line, London. 

I took a similar picture in Rome, and published it here.

The Underground Diaries: Fashion Spotting

Like lot of other "igers" (detestable hashtag neologism), I am now completely addicted to Instagram.

Either for the nostalgia for a past era that, through our parents fading pictures, seems more real than ours, or for the frenzy of experimentation, this simple app seems to awake the potentially good photographer in you. The result is, you are always taking pictures, and one or two do turn out to be fairly good (even though you have no idea of what you're doing and only rely on your natural sense of colour and composition). Well, filters help to make something helplessly ordinary looking coooool.

Therefore, I am now starting a new section of the blog: The Underground Diaries.
I have recently stumbled upon, a website where people upload pictures of blokes they fancy, spotted by chance on the tube. The idea is that the photographed subject should recognise himself on this website, read the message attached to it and contact the person who took the picture, perhaps to live happily ever after.
How. About. That. slash Good. Luck. To. You.

Anyway, far from criticising or endorsing any dating method - we all need some love and romance, don't we? - the pictures I will post are, too, taken on the Underground. I have always been fascinated by the suspended dimension of the Tube and the varied chunks of humanity on it, coming and going from point A to point B, crossing by point C and reaching point D backwards, basically ignoring one another. I am not going to bang on the concepts of alienation, city life, etcetera, I just like to spot beauty into the ordinary.
The man I married once told me that, whenever he travelled on the tube, his main occupation was observing people and try to understand if they were happy.

So, this is the first shot of an ongoing series___

18 August 2011 - Hammersmith & City Line, London

___Do you think they are happy?

Monday, 12 September 2011

A Post Summer Update

If I had followers, I would write that I am an atypical blogger.

Posts are becoming fewer and fewer, and my will to write is in constant negotiation with the doubt of doing it properly in another language. Not to mention that I have no comments whatsoever.

Then I happen to see the stats and it says that I had 7541 page views since starting this blog. And the most visited one is The Guestbook, with FIVE VIEWS and absolutely no comment. Not even SPAM.
The internet is taking the piss.

However, summer has passed. September is here, and the longing for the warmth of that sun, and the taste of the sea on the skin, is still lingering. I went around and about. In the previous post, Berlin. Then Paris.

Paris that sometimes looks evil and distant in her everlasting charm and little snobbery. 
Cecì n'èst pas la place pour toi.

Finally, our little beloved village in Southern Italy, Porto Cesareo. And the black notebook following me everywhere, gathering ideas, shears of dialogues, random pieces of a story. Yes, I am writing.

Some new projects were developed over the summer, and some other are coming.
All I can tell you is, bear with me. I'll stretch my legs and start running again.