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Entries in installation (29)

Thursday
Oct082015

Thomas Hirschhorn: In-Between, 2015

Thomas Hirschhorn. In-Between. Photograph: Mark Blower

Thomas Hirschhorn's In-Between at South London Gallery has been reviewed in The Guardian under the title: 'Things fall apart: the beautiful Marxist bomb that's hit south London;  Artist Thomas Hirschhorn plays on our manic pleasure at seeing ruins by making a whole building collapse in on itself'   

But not really, it is in a gallery, which is still standing.  This is a simulacrum of a building collapsing in on itself.  Whatever he is doing, and it is explained in Adrian Searle's review, one has to ask whether or not such an installation does give us manic pleasure.  I'm not sure.  Hirschhorn quotes Gramsci's note, from Prison Notebooks, 'destruction is difficult; indeed, it is as difficult as creation'.  Well, whatever.  What is strange is that this art installation must be taken seriously in the light of the fairly simple destruction taking place in Palmyra, and the very similar images seen every day from Aleppo and Damascus.  Or even the destruction of the MSF hospital in Kunduz, which although it took half an hour, was relatively quick and one might say simple.  

Hirschhorn's ruins are actually made of cardboard and styrofoam standing in for concrete and steel, so technically, I suppose, a maquette, or a model.  He says, 'a ruin stands for a structural, an economical, a cultural, a political or a human failure' and it is failure he is giving form to.  Art is used here as an intermediary between real ruins and the causes of the real ruins, as if the lessons need to be spelled out.  Indeed Adrian Searle appreciates this.  If this exhibition is popular, does this indicate some sort of disaster fatigue amongst the general gallery-going first world public?  'oh god, another front page photo of a bombed building with little kids playing in the rubble. Can't take it in. Let's go look at Hirschhorn's ruin instead.'  

Compared to Jeremy Deller's It Is What It Is, his exhibition of the bombed car that killed 38 people in Iraq in 2007, In-Between is a limp thing, lacking in commitment and urgency,  It remains a maquette, and as such doesn't ask for much from the viewer.  Of course it is unfair writing about any work one hasn't seen, but I hadn't seen Deller's piece either, but I got it, or at least got what I needed to hear out of it.  And that is the point.  What, and how much, in any piece of art, passes a critical point whereby viewers find something to engage with, not just gaze at. In-Between seems a gesture, only. 

Tuesday
Aug042015

motels

Vincent Lamouroux. Projection: time and site-specific intervention on the Bates Motel, Los Angeles, 2015

No doubt everyone has seen this, the whitewashing of the old Sunset Pacific Motel slated for demolition on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.  Vincent Lamouroux is the artist, there are several videos out there about the process (big machines spraying the trees, the ground and the building itself); it was open as an installation from 26 April to 10 May, 2015 and then left to the weather, again.  

Much has been made of the informal reference to the motel as the Bates Motel and Hitchcock's Psycho, despite the motel in the film being one of those old auto courts beside a lonely stretch of highway, and not in a city at all.  But whatever, a motel is a motel, evidently.  Does any derelict and empty building become sinister because it no longer functions in society?  And are motels particularly susceptible to this? Motels in film always offer anonymity for antisocial plot and action, it is a building type that exists outside the narrative of law and order, family homes and settled, normative lives. 

The Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TennesseeMartin Luther King was shot at the Lorraine Motel, now part of a Civil Rights museum in Memphis.  As it stands, un-whitewashed, it seems conventional, disengaged from its history.  If it had been painted white, or black, or any detail-obliterating colour, would that have transformed it, empowered it, or rendered it exceptional?  This touches on a discussion in On Site review 33:land about the limits of architectural expression; how much of architecture is form, how much is typology, how much is programmatic history. 

The Sunset Pacific no-longer Motel has become a 1:1 white gessoed model piece in the greater model that is the actual city: its form is both heightened and made meaningless, its typology is lost along with its function, but its history is alive in both its nickname and in its original, hopeful, end-of-Route 66 name: Sunset Pacific.  This is old California, the palm trees, the deco assemblage of building parts, and it is middle California of Sunset Strip, sleaze and screens that got small – all clichés that made a derelict building very attractive for the transformative processes of art.   Now it is a French art installation in an arid city in an urban desert in a four-year drought.  

Friday
Jul172015

issues of representation

“Representation of Dark Matter,” mixed media 2015. Abdelkader Benchamma. (Jose Andres Ramirez/Courtesy of The Drawing Center)

Modernist me, in love with reduction and minimalism, I am suspicious of this drawing.  It is called Representation of Dark Matter, which isn't the same as a drawing of dark matter, which no one has ever seen, being a molecular void and therefore visually absent.  No, this is a representation, not of dark matter, but of Abdelkader Benchamma's idea of what dark matter ought to look like, which is a particularly subjective, layered, autobiographical presentation of one person's idea of cosmology.  So I find it not as interesting as, say, Christine Hiebert's work which makes no claims to represent anything.  

Here is a discussion between Benchamma and Maryam Modjaz, an NYU astrophysicist:  


The Benchamma drawing addresses the confusion I experience when watching almost anything on the news to do with space, or medicine or science: the text being presented is always a voice over a graphic which turns, for example, DNA into the helix, all striped and coloured with falling telomeres.  I don't actually know or understand whether the helix is a representation of a set of molecular relations that make up proteins, or if these make actual helixical structures.  I could look it up I suppose, but it isn't just this instance as graphic representations of all sorts of things abound, and whose veracity I mistrust.  

I doubt that veracity is the goal; a turning impossible-to-wrap-your-head-around concepts into graphics is.  As with the radio piece which is determined to introduce the topic in a slangy, non-threatening, cheery sort of way, I feel vaguely patronised.  The act of thinking about dark matter, its invisibility and its power, is full of possibilities and so rich compared to fixing just one idea of it in a giant drawing. However, in the absence of a million other images of what it might look like, this is the one that begins to represent it, that fixes it.  This is a disservice.  

Thursday
Jul162015

Christine Hiebert's blue drawings 2003-4

Christine Hiebert. Wall Drawing / The Drawing Room, Easthampton, NY 2004; blue adhesive tape, glue on wall. 11'-4h x 20'w

This is an artist who has made drawings with blue masking tape since 2000.  in this 2012 conversation she mentions when working graphically before computers learned how to draw everything for us, she would make curves using very thin tapes.  Yes, I remember this, a physical relationship between hand, tape and eye that was sensual and scaled to the arm: the automatic marks of the anthropos.

On her own website she talks about how the lines are flung out into space as a negotiation of the unknown, or the unexperienced.  It seems that how they land on the wall is not unlike a map that precedes experience, indeed, frames experience.  The selection of certain marks, the choosing of certain widths of tape, of placements, draws a map of desire and intention.  These are landscapes – they follow mapping conventions that are difficult to ignore.  However, just because they look like maps does not mean they are maps.  They are drawings that delineate planar areas where the borders of each territory are made significant: nothing is blurred, or ambiguous.  Some are strong, some weak – have I slipped into metaphor again?  Yes.  They are pieces of blue masking tape on white paper and white walls that spur us to think of things.

Christine Hiebert. Wall Drawing / The Drawing Center (view #4)

and a very small image, but showing that the scale is way beyond the hand and arm, it is now the wall, the ladder and the whole body. 

Christine Hiebert. RoundTrip. A wall drawing for the Pinakothek der Moderne, 2005

 

Monday
Mar302015

Shelagh Wakely: ground, 1991

Shelagh Wakely. Curcuma sul travertino, made up of loose turmeric scattered in baroque patterns on the travertine marble floors of the British School in Rome, 1991

What might be the opposite of all those assertive pieces of last week?  Perhaps Shelagh Wakely's large ephemeral pieces that lie flat on the floor, and if not a sheet of gold or turmeric, then small fruits and vegetables, covered in gold leaf, that slowly collapse.  Her potted biographical note shows both the RCA and a BSc in Agriculture which might be one of the roots of her affinity to the horizontal surface, its inscriptions and patterns.

©Shelagh Wakely. Partial recreation of Paisagem Inutil, 1997.   Camden Arts Centre – Shelagh Wakely: A View from a Window, 2014. photo: Marcus J Leith

Monday
Apr072014

Phyllida Barlow, dock 2014

Phyllida Barlow, dock 2014. Tate Britain, London

Phyllida Barlow is the artist chosen for the Tate Britain Commission of 2014 and her work has recently opened – riotous spills of debris from the doorways and halls of the neo-classical Duveen Galleries.

The Tate Gallery has always been about British art and there has been much problematising of its founding and its legacy: Tate & Lyle was a Victorian Quaker sugar refinery established after the abolition of slavery, nonetheless sugar as a prime commodity was part of the infamous Atlantic Triangle of the eighteenth century: Africa for slaves sent to the Americas to extract resources shipped to Europe for refinement and consumption. The International Slavery Museum shares the Albert Dock with Tate Liverpool.  Henry Tate had the Tate Gallery built to house his art collection which he donated to the state. Duveen was an art dealer whose family wealth came from importing art and antiques to Britain.  He funded the extension of the original 1890s Tate in 1926 and again in 1937.  Patrons and collectors of art – Clore: finance, property, retail, Courtauld: textiles, Tate: sugar — without them, and many others, Britain wouldn't have its public galleries at all.  

With this kind of financial, industrial and accumulative spatiality, Phyllida Barlow's work is particularly human, warm, messy, chaotic, inexpensive, temporal and ephemeral. She has worked her whole career with detritus gathered from skips and building sites.  Her project is not the diamond encrusted skull that critiques the twenty-first century art market, rather it is the making of 'things' from rich found materials, the assembly of structures from the unusable. Barlow herself saw the Duveen site as having 'two particular contradictory aspects: the tomb-like interior galleries against the ever-present aspect of the river beyond'.  dock ambles and shambles through several galleries with vast paintings pinned to complex wooden constructions that both crawl and tower.  It is, apparently, much like most of Barlow's work: massive installations that are dismantled after their exhibition, i.e. work with no commercial value but clearly of great import.

dock isn't just great piles of junk; the name itself takes one to the noise, the cranes, the hectic nature of docks from a time when they dealt with more than just shipping containers.  Once on a passenger ship docked briefly at Le Havre, I watched as a crate of wine being winched aboard fell back to the dock splintering into a pile of sticks, bleeding burgundy across the concrete.  Docks were full of tremendous incident.  Even watching logs loaded at the CPR docks in tiny Nanaimo was fraught.  

Although I can't see Phyllida Barlow's dock, from the photographs one senses that these pieces must rustle and creak – they are wood, wood always moves.  Leaving the term dock aside, as sculptures they are unfixed, they cannot be perceived without walking in, around and through them, as one does architecture.  The scope of this installation is complex and extended, it rings of bomb sites and redevelopment clearance, poverty and an obsessive love of materials, no matter what their status. 

Phyllida Barlow, dock 2014. Tate Britain, London

Tuesday
Oct082013

street farms

Noisivelvet with AltgeldSawyer Corner Farm, Logan Square, Chicago, 2011

This was a four-hour, 3,000 square foot urban park, done with a Block Party permit from the City of Chicago.  What is the point if it is only for an afternoon?  To give people an alternative view of the city where there are not cars and roadways become lawn? 

I bit more useful are Havana's agriponicos, below, where raised beds are built on rubble sites, old parking lots and in city parks:

Havana, CubaIn response to the US blockade, in place since 1961 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, between 1989 and 1994 these were mixed subsistence farms with animals and crops with all products consumed by the producer. After 1994 restrictions were eased and crops could be sold by the growers at markets. 

It makes one question the luxury of the whole concept of the public park – a space for the eye and the mind – we have in our cities, that produce little in the way of material well-being.  The Chicago pop-up above is its apotheosis: wasteful of resources and energy to make a rhetorical point.  Meanwhile we have to drive long distances spewing fumes and exhaust to get to a local-ish farmers market, or else get our vegetables sent from the US because for some reason this is cheaper for supermarket chains to do than to buy locally. 

Our open-space values need some revision here, not just fun projects, but serious and permanent connections between urban open space and food provision.