Denn es ist schon zu leben – Natalie Djurberg

In this piece, Djurberg works in stop animation in a similar style to her static, 3-D model installations. The narrative for the piece works as follows:

Lots of characters enter what appears to be stately home and remove their coats, passing them all to another character who is shown to struggle with them. The characters are led upstairs and the majority of them tumble down. Once they have all reached the top they enter a room where a chained tiger is situated. The tiger attacks the group except for one man as they seem to have a loving friendship. Downstairs a dinner table is set and the characters are shown to eat the food greedily. Afterwards, they are led to another room where tea and cake is laid out. From this cake, a woman of colour pops out and is led away by the same man who befriended the tiger. The other characters follow and sneak past the room with the tiger (who is sleeping) and enter a secret hidden door. The woman of colour is thrown into a padded cell with other women in a state of undress. One of the women tries to drown a man who attempts to touch her. More women enter the pool and remove their clothes. It is unclear whether this is by force or by will. Throughout a Germanic style horn fanfare is played.

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I did not find this piece engaging at all, whilst I appreciated the time and effort that went into creating such a piece, the narrative did not pull me in and I found the music which accompanied it rather irritating. This may have well been the intention but I didn’t personally find this element of the piece successful. In terms of the narrative, I found it very disjointed without any clear thread to unite the elements of dinner party, tiger and prisoners. It was a very stylised piece so perhaps I just didn’t grasp the themes and concepts Djurberg was trying to portray. However, I do enjoy her sculptural pieces, perhaps I just purely didn’t connect to the motion of her sculptures in the setting of video.

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Anémic Cinéma

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Anémic Cinéma -made in 1926 –  is considered the first artist film made by Marcel Duchamp. The film shows a series of rotating animated drawings (dubbed Rotoreliefs) alternated with french puns. The text, which spirals in a counterclockwise motion seem to be complete nonsense, or as observed  by a member of our group, tongue twisters or childish rhymes. However, this is subverted by the erotic language used. Duchamp creates a dualism between silence and loudness through images, image and text, and meaning and non-meaning . Duchamp signed the film Rrose Sélavy, the name of his alter ego.

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Rotoreliefs were a stage of Duchamp’s spinning pieces. in terms of process, Duchamp painted these designs on cardboard cirlces and spun them on a phonograph turntable. When they were spun they appeares as if they were moving: they seemed to come alive.

The title “Anémic Cinéma” is a palindrome and anagram of sorts, reflecting the cyckical nature of the piece itself and the nonsensical disposition of the french phrases included in the work. The title, therefore, acts as a well balanced summary of the work, one that relies on repetition and langauge.

Below are the included phrases in the film and the loose translation (as provided by google translate):

  • “Bains de gros thé pour grains de beauté sans trop de bengué.” Big tea baths for moles without too much bengue.”
  • “L’enfant qui tète est un souffleur de chair chaude et n’aime pas le chou-fleur de serre-chaude.” “The suckling child is a hot flesh blower and does not like hot-cup cauliflower.”
  • “Si je te donne un sou, me donneras-tu une paire de ciseaux?” “If I give you a penny, will you give me a pair of scissors?”
  • “On demande des moustiques domestiques (demi-stock) pour la cure d’azote sur la côte d’azur.” “Domestic mosquitoes (half-stock) are required for the nitrogen cure on the French Riviera.”
  • “Inceste ou passion de famille, à coups trop tirés.” “Incest or family passion, with too many shots”
  • “Esquivons les ecchymoses des Esquimaux aux mots exquis.” “Let’s dodge the ecchymoses of Eskimos with exquisite words”
  • “Avez-vous déjà mis la moëlle de l’épée dans le poêle de l’aimée?” “Have you ever put the pith of the sword in the stove of the beloved?”
  • “Parmi nos articles de quincaillerie paresseuse, nous recommandons le robinet qui s’arrête de couler quand on ne l’écoute pas.” “Among our lazy hardware items, we recommend the faucet that stops flowing when you’re not listening.”
  • “L’aspirant habite Javel et moi j’avais l’habite en spirale.” “The aspirant lives in Javel and I have lived in a spiral”

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Duchamp attempted to sell the turntable with the plates he created as optical devices  at an international trade fair but to little interest or purchase. Interestingly, by doing this Duchamp is commercializing his art, making it accessible to the public but also prescribing it a function that it was initially not intended. This breaches the gap between art and everyday life. This lack of categorization relates back to “Anémic Cinéma”, it is in constant movement, constant flux, and is evolving its language and dialogue between image and langauge, and art and function.

Chelsea Girls

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Chelsea Girls was an experimental underground film made in 1966 directed by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey. It was shot in the Hotel Chelsea and other locations around New York and follows the lives of the inhabitants of the hotel. The film is presented in split screen and alternates between color and black and white film. Sound was often layered between both screens at the same time. The original cut of the film is around 3 hours although we only watched a segment of the film for the screening.

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Personally, I did not particularly enjoy the film. I found it difficult to hear the dialogue and although the point of the film is to simply experience the authentic depiction of these people’s lives, the lack of narrative caused me to simply lose interest. I found it interesting how often the split scenes mirrored each other and how immediately the attention was drawn to the segment of film that had sound playing. I am unsure the significance to this I just know that the dynamic between these two screens were interesting.

 

Lovely Andrea

‘Lovely Andrea’ by Hito Steyerl is a documentary style film in which Steyerl searches for a photo of her from 1987 Japan where she was a bondage model for a brief time. The film discusses the industry, as well as some women who actively take part in it, as well as the male photographers and men running the business behind the scenes.

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There was a positive exploration of the bondage modelling area that explored the models personal experiences and feelings towards their discipline. What was interesting was the contrast between the tools of bondage and the freedom that accompanies it. Rope is synonymous of violence, prisoners and execution yet to the model that was spoken to, she feels a sense of freedom in suspension. Paradoxically, when she is bound she becomes untethered in herself.

“The more restrictions the better”

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Throughout the film Steyerl was told that it would be impossible to locate the picture, due to fact that little details were known about the photo, it happened so long ago and that the sheer quantity of bondage photos at the time were huge. What I found interesting was a section of the film where Steyerl thought she had seen herself in a photo, only to discover it was actually someone else. This led me to think about the shared identity these girls have. They are presented as objects, almost commodified, and are all used for sexual fantasy. They are given constructed identities – Steyerl’s herself is ‘Lovely Andrea’ – and their authentic self is abandoned.

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It was said in the film that the Japanese S&M scene is built off shame and that that acts as a libido of the brain. his feeling of shame not only relates to the people paying for the service the models provide but to the models themselves. Often these girls are tricked into the profession and so feel cheated when working. It was said that the industry is heavily mafia dominated and if they wanted to leave, it would be at a price.

“Bondage is work, work is bondage”

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The documentary is undercut by clips of pop culture inserted with aspects of the film. Is this meant to normalize the theme of bondage to the viewer or does it seem more strange? Personally I feel that by including these references the audience becomes accustomed to the subject. Instead of appearing lewd or weird, the insight the documentary provides to the profession – something unfamiliar – and familiarity of pop culture makes the film seem comforting. The use of montages draws visibility to an invisible discipline. Additionally, the cameraman himself if also included in the film. Where in any other documentary the cameraman is outside the film space, here he is included and welcomes instead of abandoned from the action. This, again, sheds light on things that are previously unseen.

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Another interesting feature to this film is the dual use of the translator. She not only helps contextualise the language, she also takes part in the industry and finds freedom in suspension. She inhabits a liminal space between participant and spectator to Steyerl’s film and also to some regard, editor, to what is being relayed to Steyerl. She is the anchor to layer on the fiction of the story.

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La Jetée

La Jetée is a 28 minute film centering around a man forced to confront his own memories in a post-world war three apocalyptic Paris. It is entirely narrated in french  – by Chris Marker – aside from a few sentences in German and instead of moving film, is comprised on individual images. The main character, known as a ‘prisoner’, is used as a subject in an experiment by some German ‘scientists’ to travel in time, to the past and then to the future, searching for help to rescue Paris from destruction. Within in the film it is explained that ‘Prisoner’ has a strong mental capacity for him to be able to withstand time travel and that this is partly due to a strong memory of when he was a child on a Jetty (La Jetée) where he saw a woman and witnessed a mans death. this memory reoccurs throughout the film and during these visits hes develops and continues a  relationship with the woman before going to the future and receiving from higher beings a power unit sufficient to regenerate his destroyed society. Once he returns to the present he becomes aware he will be killed by his experimenters and so requests he is transported to the world of the past where he can try and find the woman once again on the jetty. However, he is followed by one of the german experimenters and is eventually killed while he tries to pursue the woman. It then dawns on him that his own childhood memory of the mans death he had witnessed was actually his own.

The film engages with topics of society, war, destruction and permanency and perhaps most significantly, the inevitability of ones fate. At the time of production and release (1962) nuclear war was prominent in the news and such threats are shown through the anxieties surrounding destruction in the piece. The cyclical nature of events seem to replicate the cliche notion that history repeats itself and the same mistakes are bound to be made.

The film perhaps serves as a warning that our actions are tracing the path to World War Three and that soon we will cross a point of no return: there will come a point where if we do change, it will be far too late. The use of multiple images and narration instead of film and traditional dialogue helps to uphold the documentary style of the piece, as if they were snapshots of the time.

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“In Black and Blue Carol Mavor describes La Jetée as taking “place in a no-place (u-topia) in no-time (u-chronia)” which she connects to the time and place of the fairy tale. By “u-topia”, Mavor does not refer to “utopia” as the word is commonly used; she also describes an ambiguity of dystopia/utopia in the film: “It is dystopia with the hope of utopia, or is it utopia cut by the threat of dystopia.”

Jake Hinkson encapsulated his interpretation in the title of an essay writing about the piece “There’s No Escape Out of Time”:

“What [the main character] finds … is that the past is never as simple as we wish it to be. To return to it is to realize that we never understood it. He also finds–and here it is impossible to miss Marker’s message for his viewers–a person cannot escape from their own time, anyway. Try as we might to lose ourselves, we will always be dragged back into the world, into the here and now. Ultimately, there is no escape from the present.”

Deirdre O’Mahony

Deirdre O’Mahony’s research and art practice is revolves around communities and an engagement with landscape. She began by talking about the associated life in Ireland having a stifling backwardness where she found it difficult to cope with influence Catholic church. Therefore she Retreated to London which was a well trodden path for artists at the time. The main focus of her work at this point was the idea of landscape as a potent force and the representation of Ireland as other.

The culture shock of moving to London helped O’Mahoney forge a sense of self in a foreign location.  Despite the Desperation she felt to shed her Irish identity she surrounded herself with other people who embraced their Irishness. She was unpacking what meant to be other or authentically Irish today and that is what has shaped her artistic practice. Once she had her child she instinctively moved back to Ireland. This is an area of extraordinary landscape formed by glaciation and farming. Here she was determined never to make paintings about landscape.

In her practice, she was trying to figure out the public complexities and desire of landscapes. She discovered that the botanical diversity around the area of  the Burren was produced by farmers and this method of farming was not recognised until a decade ago.

Some of her work is listed below:

SPUD – 2009

 

 

 

“The potato is a potent image to evoke in relation to food and food security in Ireland, exposing, as it does, conscious and unconscious attitudes to land and alterity within and beyond the nation state. SPUD was initiated in order to present a more nuanced understanding of the potato’s role in Irish culture, in relation to food security and globalised food production.”

“SPUD research follows four strands; indicating unconscious attitudes towards rurality, the land, identity and otherness in Ireland; re-imagining the relevance and use-value of tacit agricultural knowledge to food production today; tracing the potatoes’ importance to global food security; reflecting on new seed developments, seed diversity, seed sovereignty and cultural rights. By looking back to the Irish Famine, further back to the colonial violence that brought the potato to Europe, and connecting it to migration, famine and food security today, SPUD makes use of the potato to map controversies around these threads, providing an understandable and accessible entry point for a public discourse on sustainability, food security and tacit cultivation knowledge.”

Perishable Picnic

“The Perishable Picnic was the outcome of Deirdre O’Mahony’s residency in Lynders’ Mobile Home Park, Portrane County Dublin, part of Fingal Arts Office’s Resort Residency programme.  The picnic celebrated the history of fruit growing in North County Dublin. A giant ceramic, strawberry jam pot made by Glasgow-based artist Garnet McCulloch was the centrepiece for a feast of strawberry foods, drinks, and conversation.”

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A local post office closed down and O’Mahoney managed to turn the space into a place where the community could come together. She was able to make a temporary archive of stories that have been previously overlooked that will then hold some relevance to the people that learn about them. O’Mahoney stated that the hyphen in the title encapsulates her whole working practice, she is bringing two things together and creating a space in which they are united.

 

 

Links: http://www.deirdre-omahony.ie/

Cedar Lewisohn

Lewisohn describes himself as an Artist, curator and writer and works in various institutions. Because Lewisohn feels like he inhabits many roles in his practice he finds it difficult to define his profession when asked. He introduced us to his work in Norway called “The cult of Ramm_Ell_Zee” renegade workshop which was a performance art piece surrounding break-dancing and spray painting. The premise was that people from the future come back to earth find trash and they don’t know how to use it, so they use it in their own way. Curating this street art transported the work to a different realm.

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During college Lewisohn said that he was obsessed with the art world and wanted to be Jeff Koons but it didn’t really happen that way.  He was also interested in Art Magazines and he believed that if you were in an art magazine you had made it. For his Final Degree Show  he took out an ad in Frieze Magazine with an image of his mum with no other content with the caption: “Isn’t my mum the greatest”. He stated that he had never seen a black woman in magazine but he also realised that this ad was also perhaps a dumb statement this magazine is all that he displayed in his degree show. His dissertation subject was a 10 step guide to success art world and this process of writing.

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In the late 1990’s Lewisohn took part in lots of shows. He discovered that you don’t need to be artist to also be a writer. A man he was interviewing at the time that was working ona project called “Lost in Space” gave him this idea and that he should start writing in art magazines.
a magazine he started writing for was called ‘Flash Art’. He didn’t want to just do straight writing, but to respond or subvert to art pieces or things he found interesting.  He was especially interested in inserting fiction or lies into his writing in order for this to come across. Someone dubbed this ‘Gonzo Art Criticism’.

His first cover feature was an interview with Tim and Sue Webster in 1999/2000 he used fiction as way to explain the artwork better. He stated that he got into fight in the interview so that people may or may not have believed him creating an ambiguity.

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Around the same time, Lewisohn got involved with a project where music and sound was involved from various artists from hanging around artist spaces. He said that a lot of curators currently are very precious as to who and what is included in a show, but the project he was involved in was very relaxed. This ‘Open House’ method was very interesting to him. 2001 he used his previous interest in graffiti as a teenager as a driver for his work. After graduating he saw how a new hybrid form graffiti was surafcing in east London street art at time and that fine art galleries were working with various forms of graffitism. He later met an editor for a graffiti magazine and began writng for them for a brief while.

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Eventually Lewisohn got a call from the Tate Liverpool who asked him to write a text on an exhibition called “Remix” about Contemporary Art and Pop (2002) . He wrote the standard piece about the exhibition and also created a fictional interview with Puff Daddy. This was a particular turning point for him as he was asked to write something for a highly regarded art institution. Lewisohn said that he quickly became broke and due to the fact he wasn’t making enough money, he moved to Glasgow working crappy jobs at a theatre and multiple bars. At the same time he was writing for magazines and looking at articles as exhibitions in themselves. He found that writing articles were very much like curating. Lewisohn was interested in bridging the gap between London and Glasgow and organised half a show called “Old Money”. Additionally, he edited a section of the third edition of “Frozen Tears”. In 2005 with little hope, he had a interview at the Tate for a curatorial training scheme for minorities, although he didn’t initially like it as a concept he nonetheless applied. During the interview he proposed a graffiti project for their Turbine Hall, though he didn’t think he would be offered the job he received as call the same day.

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For Lewisohn, this new job was a completely different curatorial experience for him as he was working with two other people. This show was called “Irritable Force” and centered around the economy. He couldn’t agree with his collaborators so he asked instead to be given his share of the money so he could produce publication which could be given out as part of the show. With the job at the Tate it was difficult to continue making his own art. He produced a self published book but he was unhappy with the quality of the print. Only ten copies were made of this publication.

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As part of his job Lewisohn had to “author” his own project which meant he had to organise his own exhibition. Due to his love of writing and publishing he decided to create a book. One of his main ideas was creating a book about graffiti and street art. In total, the word count reached between 60/70,000. The main concept behind the book was to situate it within a historical art context. Whilst there are publication produced exploring these topics, there seemed to be little to none that spoke about them in a historical setting. He focused on artists that made and produced their art illegally. In total it took 18 months to compile and write. As part of the graffiti project at the Tate, Lewisohn suggested that the exhibition take place on the outside of the building itself meaning that the usual 3-5 waiting period for the exhibition wouldn’t matter. So many people within the art world are opposed to street art and graffiti Lewisohn finds this internal opposition interesting. A large portion of his career revolves around organising street art in various ways. This work ethos carries on after the exhibition. After his curatorial training fellowship ended he stayed on six months as he was offered a job within the department. He consequently moved to Tate Britain but they didn’t know what to do with him. He noted how working within this institution was sometimes really political as at the time the current director had just left leaving a void that needed to be filled.

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Lewisohn mentioned that he is dyslexic so he is particularly proud that writing is a major part of his practice. His career now focuses on organising and curating street art and graffiti projects. Throughout his career he has published many books and other pieces based on text, curating others work and conducting interviews.

 

Artist Site: http://www.cedarlewisohn.com/