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I’ve wanted to see the Sydney Dance Company since forever. It seemed that I always saw the marketing material too late and as a consequence missed their performances. So, needless to say, I was very much looking forward to seeing 360º. Finally. And thankfully it delivered fully toned physique and physicality, which I love. Although, curiously I witnessed some of the palest bodies I’ve ever seen (particularly in Australia). Initially, there was some sensory overload (never thought I’d say that about anything, ever) and simultaneously, slow and meandering. Aside from some early twittering, cliqued movements (is contemporary dance still suffering a psychofrenic crisis?) and being distracted by such thoughts, my experience gradually settled into a better rhythm and became total. The male ensemble and the waves acts/movements produced some beautiful and compelling moving images. There were even some slippery yoga tiger moves and the pop light/music was perhaps the most pure.
Per the accompanying program note by Dramaturge Guy Cools, ‘Sacred Monsters. Monsters Sacres. The term was used for the first time in France in the 19th century as a nickname for the big stars of the theatre, such as Sarah Bernhardt. It marks the birth of contemporary stardom in which the icons of the arts and sports world are given divine status by their audience and the media…
But there is also a flip side to stardom. Having to live up to the expectations of your audience to be perfect, positive, good (at),… There is no more room for failure, imperfection, to express one’s real feelihngs and emotions. The divine status becomes inhuman, monstrous.’
The intense onstage collaboration between Choreographers, Dancers, Singers and Musicans becomes apparent form the initial moments. Differences in form are exhibited, namely in Akram Khan’s Kathak solo, an Indian classical dance form; which if compared with Classical Ballet, it would appear that the hands dance and almost lead the complex rhythms of the feet. The performance intersects with Khan’s spoken words about the early desire and struggles to represent Krishna. Later referenced in a duet when Sylvie Guillem has locked her legs around Khan’s waist and the rebellious questioners’ arms, and dark blue shadows, almost replicated the Indian god.
Guillem’s status as the super-ballerina of this era would seen unchallengeable. In an interview ‘Fear is the drug’ with Judith Mackrell, Guillem states, “When I am just dancing there is always something round me, a character, a role, that protects me. Here (Sacred Monsters) it feels much more myself.” Through the performance, the supple Guillem twists herself into a comical knot, like Khan she exposes fears, puts herself back together and re-emerges anew.
The impressive movements were interspersed with their desire to question classical inheritance, to push and challenge the conceptual boundaries of their dance forms. Questions were verbalised. What is right; what is the right movement; is this the right position or is this wrong? The processes (and exhaustion) are also literally performed when rather than exiting offstage, they sip water and towel down admist the minimal set, a torn white glacier. In its entirety, the work unpacks its self as it is performed.
Museo Nacional de la Lucha Bandidos P: D. Eckersley and L. Rollman, originally uploaded by cubamxc.
Of all the universally didactic, deja vu presentations with their decrepit vitrines, scratchy photocopies, blurred images and obscure personal effects this one has been our favourite so far. Here the exhibits have actually been maintained, the timber frame vitrines have aged better than the soviet style metal ones, and the content (which included a portion of US spy plane fuselage and lots of weapons) was more thoroughly considered. The Marquette’s here rocked, and included our favourite (pictured), depicting one of the many attempts on Fidel’s life, this one a rifle shot at the former Presidential Palace in Havana!!
We went to Fortescue the last time we were here, so Pippa organised a walk to Cape Hauy. The walk passes up and down through heath and woodland before coming to the dolerite columns and cliffs that plunge into the sea at Cape Hauy. And a picnic at the top provided Damian another opportunity to try and grill Pippa about what she put in the quinoa salad.
The recently refurbished Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) has been a resounding flop. Its former dagginess was a kind of museum within a museum, and admittedly humourous. Now, slightly less daggy than before, it’s just shinier.
The upstairs gallery exhibiting Benjamin Duterrau’s The Conciliation 1840 has been repainted grey and rehung. In this instance, I’d prefer the red. In front of Duterrau’s The Conciliation now sits Benjamin Law’s busts of Woureddy 1835 and Truganini 1836. I was really taken with Woureddy’s direct gaze. As Mary Mackay has noted, it portrays Woureddy ‘as hunter, warrior and man-in-command, a Greek hero in kangaroo skin’.
Considered the earliest major Australian sculptures, they’re historically and culturally significant. Reportedly acquainted with the sitters, Law’s busts represent potent figures. Eight pairs and four individual busts are known to exist in public collections worldwide, including the British Museum.
By contrast, Piguenit’s watercolours and Raymond Arnold’s Unique States: Seriality & the Panoramic were captivating highlights.
Vip’s eh? Well done. Well. Fucking. Done.
Back to MONA, this time approached by MONA Roma 1 or MR-1, along the Derwent. MONA would have to be one of the few places open Good Friday. Luckily Walsh is an atheist. In the Posh Pit we’re served drinks, canapés and the question “So, have we all been to Easter service this morning?” and we all burst out laughing.
We’ve started to debrief about what we like and not so much: like the dimmed lighting, arguably overly theatrical, it’s a fine line, but it’s a relief not to be attacked by bright sunlight; the O, not so much, it’s spatially distracting; we really like the hospitality, this attention to detail, it’s welcoming. And we learn that all the front of house services are worked by hospitality staff.
It reminds us of a documentary about the Eames, which not only emphasised Ray Eames’ contribution to the partnership, but also their attention to the importance of being a good host. The care invested in a guest-host relationship, versus consumer, is a critical distinction.
We arrive, this time to see whatever we’ve missed. Namely, Death Galley with the mummy and coffin of Pausiris, and Christian Boltanski’s The Life of C.B. 2010-. What Boltanski’s has reportedly described as a Faustian deal with the devil. Boltanski has agreed for his studio to be live streamed and recorded in exchange for a monthly stipend. It’s a gamble, should Boltanski live longer than eight years, Walsh will lose the bet by paying more than the work is worth. “Walsh has assured me I will die before the eight years is up because he never loses. He’s probably right. I don’t look after myself very well.”
We’ve finally rocked up to see MONA and Theatre of the World in its final week.
Everyone must know about MONA. Opened January 2011, it’s a cavernous art bunker cut into a sandstone outcrop, clinging to the Berriedale peninsula in Hobart. Drawing on professional gambler David Walsh’s collection, it is the largest privately funded museum in Australia. Rex Butler has attributed it as one of only three significant galleries in Australia; and it’s worth noting that of the three, none are in Melbourne and GOMA is the only publicly funded institution.
It’s approached through the Moorilla winery or by ferry coasting the Derwent River. Designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects (FKA), with the heritage setting of the Roy Grounds houses preserved, descending into the subterranean sandstone is like entering some kind of tomb. It’s just very, very cool.
Theatre of the World, curated by Jean-Hubert Martin, presents a cacophony of objects freed from the habitual restrictions of historical and cultural categorisation. Martin is best remembered for his 1989 exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre George Pompidou, a response to the highly criticised Primitivism exhibition at MOMA. A 1989 New York Times review of Magiciens is available online.
Reminiscent of the Renaissance view that art and knowledge are inextricably linked, Martin rejects the notion that ancient and contemporary works of art are inherently different. Rather than present art in a way that dictates to the viewer how it should be viewed, he told Radio National’s Sarah Kanowski “You don’t go to a concert to learn about the history of music, and this is where museums went wrong, because they went too much in this direction, and they think visitors can only appreciate art if they know the history of art.”
The thing is, sometimes you want to know the history of an object, or at least something about it. We’d grabbed an O, a modified iPod, but it’s spatially distracting. Compared with GOMA’s consistently pristine and clinical presentations of Ah Xian, it’s refreshing to see an Ah Xian bust in a different context, buried amongst a multitude of somewhat random objects. But I wanted to know what some of those objects were. Instead of having a quick reference, I was pulled between being in the space, in the moment, and the O. Rather than a reading device, a super brief video, a more visual device would probably be better.
One of the most impressive, soaring spaces within Theatre of the World exhibits dozens of tapa or bark cloths collected by missionaries and stashed away by TMAG, reportedly since 1850. Here, they’re abstract, extricated from their original function to wrap protectively around the bodies of newborn babies, young men and women as they came of age and finally the deceased.
A likely nod to Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, the most focused space within the exhibition surrounds the viewer in an abject spectacle of brutalities. Works include Jake and Dinos Chapman Great Deeds Against the Dead 1994, after Goya’s etching A heroic feat! With dead men! Wim Delvoye Osama tattooed pig skin 2008, Roman Signer Aktion Mit Fassern 1992 and a wallpaper by Robert Gober Hanging Man / Sleeping Man 1989. Its unnerving motif depicts a lynched black man, an image taken from a late 1920s political cartoon in Texas, alongside a sleeping white man, from a Sunday newspaper advertisement for sheets at Bloomingdales.
Michael Brenson, Juxtaposing the New From All Over, New York Times, 20 May 1989
Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you can see, 17 October 2012
Museo Rufino Tamayo, 2 December 2005
￼We’ve had a wonderful Saturday evening sipping sake from the pouting lips of a ceramic globe and splitting up to eat wedding cake.
We were at this APT artist party, telling Elizabeth about our friends engagement party on the rooftop. Actually, it was so much fun we’d been telling everyone about it and had become somewhat determined to do more. Elizabeth was so energised by her recent research associated with the Experimental Food Society in the UK, we offered the rooftop as a potential venue for her to experiment.
We’ve been meaning to have a Valentines dinner with friends ever since we saw the film Julie and Julia, so this helped set a date. After returning from Thailand, we met to discuss and develop. Someone, probably Elizabeth, said something that reminded me of ChikaLicious, a Lower East Side dessert bar, and in an instant the idea was crystallised.
Elizabeth Willing Dessert 2013 presented a five course dessert. As the pictorial menu hinted: we consumed round vanilla and triangular cocoa crackers made by Elizabeth, with soft and sharp handmade cheeses paired with, applying our lessons from a desert wine tasting at Mondo, a sticky Sauterne; sipped sake from the pouting lips of a ceramic globe; indulged in a citrus themed series of tarts and amazing brownies with chilli, balanced on a fulcrum that tipped from one side of the table to the other; after eating with scented porus spoons, Ellie reintroduced us to Limoncello; and for the finale, we popped a celebratory demi sec and split up to eat marzipan topped with wedding cake (pictured). I don’t like fruitcakes, but Elizabeth loves wedding cakes and this one was spectacular.
Given the weather forecast, we’d prepared to decamp to the downstairs terrace, like Banyan Tree in Bangkok. However, the humorous conversation mostly held back the rain. Recalling Epicurus and the pursuit of happiness, happiness is sharing a meal with great company, with friends. And the best accompaniment was great company, with interesting conversation and a lot of laughing.
Well over a year later we’re still talking about my own private neon oasis. The first really public forum was Pecha Kucha (or Pecha Kucha), just days before the launch. Most recently, Lisa Smith of Sunnybank Plaza and I have been guest blogging for Arts Queensland. My post, We Love Sunnybank was published late last week and Smith’s, The day the museum came to us… earlier this week. Prompted by the AbaF QLD Community Award, it’s been another wonderful opportunity to debrief, share and revisit our experiences of the project. Comments, broad and strategic, would be most welcome.
I should explain. The onset of spring and the forthcoming summer was evidenced by the appearance of my first pineapple. I planted it almost two years ago, sometime in February 2010. As I understand, it takes two years to grow the first pineapple, then every year after that. Talk about pineapple commitment! It’s a test. I planted a few, but I’ll have to plant a lot more.
Now, not only have we returned from Thailand to find that it’s fully ripe, but there’s another pineapple! It’s been two long years and I can’t wait to eat pineapple!
A long tail (as they call the local style of boat) ferried us across for snorkelling around the incredible shaped island. We’d been gazing at it for days from the beach in front of our hotel. As a national park, you can’t stay there but it’s well visited.
On entering the water Louise spots a Lionfish straight off, Damian a leopard shark. We also saw many Sea Anemones, with their collars in various states of closure, and all sorts of other fish. We visited several choice spots around the island. Damian got good at diving down and holding his breath (thanks JdP for the free-diving practice). We swam past Viking Cave, where Sparrow’s nests are harvested twice yearly for use in Chinese bird’s nest soup and a significant part of the local economy.
We by-passed a surreal sight: don’t bother with The Beach, or fictionalised Maya Bay. There were hundreds of people and too many boats from nearby Phuket. The damage was evident on the seafloor where we tried to dive nearby, the speedboats churning up the sand, destroying the coral.
Not to end on a depressing note: last stop turtles. Well turtle (singular), spotted by Ellie, our gang of snorkelers in turn alerted nearby scuba divers. The poor thing really got a lot of attention while it fed on the bottom, but it didn’t seem to mind at all.
Th Nimmanhemin (Opposite Soi 13) Western Chaing Mai.jpg, originally uploaded by mxccuba.
In Bangkok we went to Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho with its Reclining Buddha. In Chaing Mai we’ve been to so many. Wat Phra Singh, Wat Phan Tao with its amazing weathered teak buildings (and Monk Laundry, previously pictured), Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Mahawan, Wat Chaimongkhon and now Wat Phra That Dui Suthep (pictured) with the most delicate details of all (and where we learnt Jackfruit grows directly from the trunks of trees).
Feeding, more feeding, bathing, only to roll around in the mud pit, protecting their skin from the sun, more feeding and elephant hugs.
It never occurred to me that riding elephants is a thing to do in Thailand. Damian explained this while we were making plans, but because they’re mistreated we should go to a refuge. Instead we’d be feeding, bathing and learning about elephants. Fine. I didn’t give it much thought. When people asked us about our plans, we’d laugh about going to Chaing Mai to give some elephants a bath.
I was trepidatious at first. With good reason, they’re big and wild. But we warmed to each other. Our guide Noi kept prompting us, “don’t worry they’re vegetarian”. Like Damian, they eat a lot and we spent much of the day feeding them. Elephants spend 18 hours a day eating up to 10% of their body weight. The Elephant Nature Park (ENP) has an elephant kitchen where trucks piled high with bananas, watermelon and pumpkins are continually delivered to keep up with the appetites of their 34 elephants.
We met many of the elephants, including Hope and Jokia amongst others, but mostly hung out with two particular elephants: Medo and her protector Mae Lanna. They’re inseparable friends; it’s an elephant thing. They form these tight, supportive bonds, often where one or both have an injury or disability. Both of our new elephant friends have had rough lives, as most do at ENP. Medo has a very unusual gait as she has broken hips from forced breeding and Mae Lanna is mostly blind. Now they live without mistreatment in a caring, loving environment.
Our day was punctuated by a lot of picture taking. After having washed and cooled down with the elephants, really the highlight, there were more photos. I was standing between the elephants and they started to lean in. One’s trunk was encircling my waist and I had a cartoon image of being picked up and thrown. But Noi was insisting, “no, no, no, don’t move! It’s an elephant hug! This is very special, it rarely happens”. For Damian: we got lots of photos of and with the elephants all day long but this, the most memorable experience, went unrecorded, Louise was the recipient of an elephant hug!
We happened to spend a sunset at Wat Chedi Luang. We’d just been next door at the teak temple Wat Phan Tao. This temple was really different which seems to be a thing in Chiang Mai, successive rulers built temples in their own style to assert their power. It makes for lots of varied styles which is interesting and they are all Buddhist of course.
The ruinous chedi isn’t visible from the street. Like a number of structures in Chaing Mai it has awesome exposed brickwork, such as the old city walls and the entrance to Wat Chaimongkhon. The light on the terracotta coloured form was one of Damian’s favourite things (he must have been missing TRI). Well that and the elephant buttresses.
Dating from 1441, it’s believed to be one of the tallest structures in ancient Chaing Mai. The famed Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha), now held in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew, once sat in the eastern niche here in 1475. Stories say the chedi was damaged by either a 16th-century earthquake or by the cannon fire of King Taksin in 1775 during the recapture of Chiang Mai from the Burmese.
In the early 1990s Unesco and the Japanese government financed an incomplete restoration of the chedi. The effect is somewhat controversial and easily spotted. Namely, four of the five elephants are cement restorations. Only one, on the far right, without ears and trunk, is the original brick and stucco.
We took the overnight train to Chaing Mai. Checked-in, borrowed bikes and rode into the old city for a pre-scheduled Thai vegetarian cooking class. We spent the afternoon in an unassuming shop house, being guided through the preparation of a dozen dishes by Duan of Mai Kaidee. It was fast and furious.
Firstly, we prepared the vegetables we’d be using throughout. Then Peanut Sauce, Pumpkin Hummus and Pumpkin Soup, which were all sampled with crackers. Next Tom Yum, Tom Yum with chilli jam, another with a little coconut milk and Tom Kha Soup. The completion of each course would be met with Duan announcing, “It’s easy right”, while we sampled. Masaman and Green Curry. Then Phad Thai and Fried Vegetables with Cashew Nuts: “It’s easy right” and more sampling. Our bellies quickly reaching full capacity. Thai cold Spring Rolls, Green Papaya Salad. It was really amazing just how quickly each could be whipped up: “It’s easy right”, more sampling. Lastly, Mango and Banana with Sticky Rice. Our bellies were full; we couldn’t eat anymore. They packed up this food for us and sent us home, with ourdinner in tow.
“It’s easy right”.
Notoriously difficult to grow, the Queen of Fruit is linked to an unsubstantiated story traced to a 1930 publication by ‘fruit explorer’ David Fairchild, about Queen Victoria offering a reward to anyone who could deliver her the fresh fruit.
Like many tropical fruit tress, the mangosteen has its uses in folk medicine. The bark and skin are used to treat upset stomachs, while in Indonesia it is used to control high fever.
We like it a lot.
We spent the night before suffering vertigo at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC). On a corner opposite three multi-story shopping centers; how is this space financed? It’s a strange space. It’s like two stacked Guggenheims. The first has a series of creative businesses, bookstores, where we perused and bought graphic books and icedea, a conceptual ice cream parlour. The second has a maze of galleries, the better exhibition being Hear Here.
Yesterday, we liked Speechless by Nipan Oranniwesna at 100 Tonson, chatting with Rene at 338 Oida Gallery and Narawan at the The Reading Room. As it turned out, we’d inadvertently already met Narawan earlier in the week, when we were looking at DIG, installation and research materials of forthcoming film Boundary, at Messy, a shop house where Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Gallery VER was once located.
So, I’ve been researching artists and exhibitions to check out; but it’s unlikely I’m going to see more work by Phinthong.
‘During the second phase of the exhibition How to Work (More) for Less Thai artist Pratchaya Phinthong contributed a timely commentary on Fischli/Weiss’s How to Work Better 1991. In 1990, the Swiss duo had come across a list of ten ‘commandments’ in both English and Thai, hung on the wall of a pottery workshop in Thailand (starting with ‘1: Do one thing at a time’ and ending with ‘10: Smile’). They then reproduced the English version on the façade of an office building in Zurich. In Basel, Phinthong installed a sheet of one-way glass in the door that usually shields the Kunsthalle’s library from view from the gallery space; through the glass, visitors could peep at the original photo of the list taken by the Swiss duo. The installation was a visual reminder that what usually remains invisible in these kinds of transfers is not only the original language version, but also who produces many of the things we consume, contemporary art included.’ Refer: Frieze Magazine | Archive | Pratchaya Phinthong.
Choi Jeong Hwa at Market Square June 2011 P: R. Shakespeare, originally uploaded by cubamxc.
Further to the AIA Art & Architecture commendation, the AbaF QLD Community Partnership Award and best practice recognition, my own private neon oasis has now been awarded the 2012 Gallery and Museum Achievement Award (GAMMA), presented by Museum & Gallery Services Queensland (M&GSQ).
The judges’ citation recognised the project for its leadership in the delivery of an innovative, off-site project that developed new audiences, and provided alternative reasons to visit Sunnybank, to gain a better understanding of its cultural identity and narratives. The strong community outcomes were evidenced by the care undertaken in the development of relationships and partnerships. While the bilingual collateral provided increased access, profile for the project and extended the project’s influence and reach.
Importantly, the award recognises the relationships, the people involved, the people who invested in the project. I acknowledge them in the publication, but it seems fitting to reiterate here: the collaborating international and local artists and designers, the Exhibitions and Design Manager, the entire installation crew and volunteers, the writers, editor, graphic designer, the photographers, Arts Queensland, Lisa Smith, David Shaw and colleagues of Retail First, Andy Liu, and of course Tracey, Tina and the staff at iNails. The goodwill and investment of these collaborators cannot be underestimated.
The publication my own private neon oasis is available to purchase in selected stores. For further information visit museumofbrisbane.com.au/mopno/publications
Parekowhai wrapped up P: D. Eckersley, originally uploaded by cubamxc.
How often do you see a bronze arrive by boat – never! Well, Daphne Mayo’s bronzes would have arrived by boat, but not literally craned from the Brisbane River onto the site.
Despite that the commission commemorates the opening of GoMA and the 20th anniversary of APT, Fiona Foley and recently Sam Watson (Snr) have argued that an Indigenous artist should have been commissioned. Parekowhai’s the wrong kind of Indigenous. And of course the political mileage ensues; as if $1 million would make much difference.
However, the positioning of the work at Kurilpa Point, the significance of the site, is an issue at stake. As I understand, the view to Kurilpa Point from kuril dhagan at the State Library of Queensland (SLQ), as well as the seat designed in consultation with Indigenous architect Kevin O’Brien, might be blocked by the underside of The World Turns. GoMA, which obstinately faces the Windmill and its roof extends to claim Kurilpa Point, seems to continue to disregard the distress expressed by Indigenous representatives.
Close your eyes while I say ‘Los Angeles.’ What comes to mind? Your fantasy of the place is no less true than the diverse daily lives of it’s actual citizens, and part of the unique charge of this city happens when the quotidian and fantasy congeal. To read more… What We Mean When We Say L.A.. It’s all too familiar.
Michael Parekowhai The World Turns 2012, originally uploaded by cubamxc.
There’s been more art-bashing by politicians in the media today. Arts Minister Ros Bates has branded The World Turns a shocking misuse of taxpayer dollars, while insisting her comments were “not a smear on the artist or the sculpture”. Now let’s keep in mind that this is the Arts Minister, someone who’s supposed to be advocating for the arts, not rallying against it!
The Parekowhai commission commemorates both the fifth anniversary of the opening of GoMA and the 20th anniversary of the Asia Pacific Triennial (APT). The work reportedly acknowledges the small “kuril” or native water rat, after which Kurilpa Point is named, as caretaker of the site, who upends the elephant with its cultural and intellectual weight.
Embroiled in a nepotism scandal, the burden of Bates objection was that “more than $1 million was spent on this single piece of art, commissioned by an artist who doesn’t live in Queensland – or Australia for that matter”. It’s described as costing taxpayers just over $1 million, when in fact $750,000 has been funded through art+place, Queensland Public Art Fund, with the remaining $250,000 raised by the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation. Furthermore, the shortlisted artists were of the Asia Pacific, which appropriately reflects a work commemorating APT’s 20th anniversary.
As Terry Sweetman points out, ‘It was an easy kick – particularly among people who can’t get off the couch to go to the football, let alone patronise a public gallery – but the funding and acquisition of art is long recognised as a legitimate role of government’.
Despite Sweetman’s subjective misgivings of the commission, he acknowledges that the Queensland Cultural Centre precinct had an unlikely godfather in Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and that ‘the precinct’s reputation is not built on government funding alone. It also rests on enlightened and imaginative stewardship that has, at times, been allowed to defy conventional wisdom and tastes’.
Continuing his study of regimes of paranoia and easily mis-identified symbols from underground sub-cultures globally, Gardar Eide Einarsson’s I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul 2007 constrained the white-box by creating a chain-link fence using spray paint and a stencil. A sterile steel bench placed at the centre of the gallery and a photograph of the back entrance of a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, added another layer highlighting the opacity of certain forms of representation – of insider and outsider – versus demagogic appropriations of branding and style.
His text based works are a little more direct. Mining the graphic design and advertising methods that manipulate public beliefs, particularly the distilled and sharp morsels of meaning found in slogans, speech bubbles, logos, or flags emblazoned with fighting words such as ‘Liberty or Death’ and ‘Come and Take It’, which echo the sentiments of nationalism and revolt. Einarsson recontextualizes meaning, creating a tension between imagery and the action it compels the viewer to take.
Referencing a range of iconic phraseology from 1960s and 70s protest movements and counterculture, for example, the infamous Manson Family or recasting a line from a play written by Theodore Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber. A wall painting using the logo of underground record label SST is subtitled Sic Semper Tyrannis, in Latin ‘thus always to tyrants’ – a phrase shouted by John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated Abraham Lincoln and a favourite of American terrorist Timothy McVeigh. Einarsson is similarly fascinated with the visual language of comic books, using speech bubbles and comic typefaces to produce bold statements on gallery walls. In another example, he bleeds the entire colour out of the iconic Captain America shield. He relies on the viewer’s recognition of a familiar format or icon and the attendant uneasiness that comes when that object or language is stripped of colour, context and its usual meaning.
Einarsson also borrows imagery from underground subcultures, including criminal and left-wing militias, portrayed in a primarily black-and-white palette, meticulously produced using, for example, computer-generated stencils. This austerity gives Einarsson’s work a hard-edged rejection of sentiment. Combined with a self-conscious acknowledgement, reveals an ambivalence and irony at the heart of politicised works while flirting with the problematic style of ‘radical chic’.
Einarsson purposely problematises his work to avoid didactic, facile expressions of negativity or controversy. His use of text allows for a directness that both recalls and critiques artworks decrying political injustices made during the 1990s by artists such as Barbara Kruger. By staging textual works alongside abstract objects, propped paintings and images, Einarsson embeds his politics more deeply in a search for answers, and through Minimalist formalism he offers opaque or ambivalent translations of his skepticism toward established power structures.
Investigating varied forms of social transgression and arguments for political subversion, as well as the administration of justice, Einarsson seems to focus on notions of the unwanted outlaw or extreme rebel, exploring how such an outsider becomes a tragic figure.
Lara Favaretto Gummo IV 2012 Iron, car wash brushes and electrical motors, originally uploaded by cubamxc.
I’m often asked, but what is it? Media reps in particular, insist that people need to know, is it paining or sculpture or what? It’s contemporary art, painting or sculpture isn’t necessarily relevant, is a response that’s often met with annoyance. Sculpture is Everything, a current exhibition at GoMA, offers a very tidy description:
Contemporary sculpture is extraordinarily diverse. It can encompass anything from found objects to kinetic structures, from monuments to installation and land art, from pop assemblages to ritual objects. Form, material and three-dimensional space have been considered to define the medium of sculpture, concerns which can be shaped through film, photography, painting and/or performance. As epitomised in the work of artists including Ai Weiwei, Francis Alys, Brook Andrew, Gordon Matta-Clark and Erwin Wurm.
The exhibition features a number of significant recent acquisitions made with funds from Tim Fairfax. Including Lara Favaretto’s Gummo IV 2012, comprised of five carwash brushes, each a cool shade of blue or violet, attached to a metal slab and a motor that causes them to spin. Like much of Favaretto’s work, Gummo IV employs a strategy of displacement, whereby a found object or readymade is removed from its usual surroundings and situated out of place. Stripped of their intended function, the appearance of five spinning carwash brushes in the gallery results in these familiar objects appearing simultaneously absurd, gleeful and mesmerising.
Another recent acquisition, with funds from Tim Fairfax, is Gordon Matta-Clark’s Office Baroque 1977, 16mm 40min, restored by Generali Foundation. I wasn’t previously familiar with this work. Matta-Clark is best known for his ‘cuts’, for which he sliced abandoned building in half or removed sections of walls, floors and ceilings from abandoned buildings.
Or my personal favourite, Fake Estates (1973-74), for which Matta-Clark purchased microplots, small unusable sections of curbsides and alleyways, at public auctions for 25 dollars a piece. Matta-Clark collected and montaged images, maps, deeds, other bureaucratic documentation attached to these surveying and zoning irregularities, some as tiny as one square foot. Quite simply demonstrating the arbitrariness of public/private property demarcation. Or Food (1971-74), a restaurant co-founded, managed and staffed by artists at the corner of Prince and Wooster Streets. Refer When Meals Played the Muse, New York Times, February 2007. Food in particular, reminds us of a decaying, pre-gentrified New York.
For Office Baroque on the other hand, Matta-Clark cut through a five-story Antwerp office building. The ‘cuts’ were organised around two semicircles that arced through the floors, creating a rowboat shape at their intersection. The 16mm film displays a bare-chested Matta-Clark in blue jeans and a dust mask, a year before his premature death from pancreatic cancer, labouring, wielding a chainsaw. Which recalls Richard Serra in his lead-spattered boiler suit. And, for me, a quote I recently came across by Monica Bonvicini, “I decided to art because it was the only way to a worker and an intellectual at the same time.”
I was also reminded that, like his father, the Surrealist painter Roberto Sebastian Matta Echaurren, Matta-Clark studied to be an architect. Architecture, with its inextricable relationship to private and public space, the economic implications of private property, urban development and decay, became the subject matter and material of his work.
The exhibition is also accompanied by a catalogue, with multiple essays addressing subjects including performance as sculpture.
Eighty-one-year-old pensioner Cecilia Gimenez’s shocking DIY restoration of the 120-year-old fresco Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Spanish painter Elías García Martínez, in the Sanctuary of Mercy church of Borja, Zaragoza is probably the worst and most hysterical restoration of all time.
Gimenez insists she had permission from the priest to touch up the painting. She told Spanish television, “the priest knew about it. Of course he did. How could I do something like that without permission? I did not do it in secret. Anybody who entered the church was able to see me painting.”
Spanish jokesters have renamed the fresco Ecce Mono (Behold the Monkey); (While others have produced such images). By late August, more than 10,000 people had signed an online petition to retain the botched-restoration, with one supporter describing it as “street art by seniors.”
According to Spain newspaper El Correo […] tourists started flocking to the church. To prevent the disruptive hordes, the Santi Spiritus Hospital Foundation, which owns the sanctuary, started charging a fee to visitors. Within four days, the church raised about $2,600.
Gimenez now wants a cut, to be compensated for her work! And a thank you wouldn’t hurt either.
The image and all variants have been trademarked as well, in order to prevent “improper or grotesque abuse.” Because when you let someone with no experience go at an irreplaceable painting, you want to make sure no one reacts improperly.
The lesson to be learned here is that you can do whatever you want and show the exact opposite of remorse and you won’t go to jail for it as long as you’re old. I can’t wait to turn 85. I’m going to tag every bridge and shoplift bags of onions (for my belt) all the time. And if any coppers give me the business, I’ll just yell, “My food stamps pay your salary!”