Sunday, January 28, 2007

First Generation: Art and the Moving Image, 1963-1986 until 02.04 Reina Sofia, Madrid (ES)

First Generation: Art and the Moving Image, 1963-1986 was born with the intention of presenting to the public, in a contextualized manner, the historic core of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía's video collection, which has been built up in recent years with the goal of laying solid foundations upon which the collection could grow. Curated by Berta Sichel, director of the Museum's Audiovisual Department, the exhibition aims to reconstruct, via the acquired works and with the support of a small yet significant group of works on loan to cover existing gaps, a history of video which has been neglected for a long time. The exhibition has been organized around the different approaches and ideas of the artists who worked with video during the first 25 years of this medium. These include the inspiration of Fluxus, the critique of commercial television, the relationship between the medium and the viewer, feminism, performance and the legacy of minimalism and conceptual art.

First Generation does not aspire to be a thematic exhibition, nor does it try to follow a strict chronological order. Rather, it is a global vision of how and why a technology of recording, broadcasting and reproducing sound and images, which emerged in 1950 —and technically different than cinema— became an artistic medium; a “study” of the influence technology and mass culture had on the social and artistic changes of an era, at a time when cultural acceleration and the cross-pollination of ideas was beginning. In this sense, 1968 marks a before and after in this history: for that was the year in which a portable, relatively affordable television set appeared on the market, opening this medium up to a vast new group of people.

The original exhibition design by Angel Borrego challenges the traditional concept of “black boxes“ when showing media-based works. The show starts out with a work in the spirit of Fluxus: the documentary Fluxus Replayed (1991) by Takahiko iimura, which reproduces some of the key performances of Yoko Ono, Dick Higgins, George Brecht and Allison Knowles, among others. Behind this video, a unique document from 1979 is projected, created and re-edited by Joan Logue, who describes it as a “portrait” of a day in the life of Paik.

The first room of the exhibition features a group of pioneer works: 6 TV Dé-coll/age (1963) by Vostell, six works from the series Exposition of Music-Electronic Television (1963-65) and TV Rodin – The Thinker (1976-78) by Paik, plus The Bathroom Sink (1964), an installation by Robert Whitman which, shot in 16 mm, is a good example of the decisive years in which the moving image was being introduced in the art world. Upon exiting this room, we find Manhattan is an Island (1974), the work of Ira Schneider, one of the first artists who explored the possibilities of multimedia installation. This particular piece examines how the fact that Manhattan is an island conditions the physical reality and experience of New York City. It is followed by Face/Ings (formerly known as Back to Back), from 1974, made by Takahiko iimura with a closed-circuit video camera. In this work —just like in others in which he uses the closed-circuit video he had invented–, the artist explores the notion of feedback.

The next group includes all those works related to television as a physical and immaterial body: information, manipulation, time and light. This is the case of TV Interruptions, by the pioneer in English video, David Hall. Made for Scottish television and aired in August and September 1971, the interruptions appeared in the middle of a typical program without prior warning. This work is regarded as the first example of the intervention of British artists on television and the formative moment of British video art. Today it is shown as an installation, TV Interruptions (7 TV Pieces): The Installation, which can be seen in this exhibition. Another piece is The Live! Show, a compilation of the weekly "anti-television" program presented and produced by Jaime Davidovich for cable television and broadcast by Manhattan Cable from 1975 to 1984.

The critical attitude towards television and the media industry and the manipulation of televised information as a strategy to challenge our perception are also represented by three Spanish artists: Antoni Muntadas, with Between the Lines (1979), Joan Rabascall and Benet Rossell with Bio Dop (1974) and Eugènia Balcells with TV Weave (1985), which subjects television images to processes of abstraction and manipulation to expose culturally-coded ideas. Muntadas' piece reveals how the process of editing information for television manipulates the news, as well as what a tiny difference there is between news programming and advertisements. PM Magazine (1982), by Dara Birnbaum, borrows the name of a famous, very popular television show. Taking music and images from real broadcasts and transmitting them on five monitors, the artist seems to suggest that the viewer is willing to watch anything that appears on television, no matter how banal. The O. J. Simpson Project, by Roger Welch, takes its title from the name of the American football player. The installation situates the viewer between images of Simpson — the star — and the spectacular image of a huge crowd of anonymous fans during one of his games.

First Generation also shows works by an international group of women who made significant contributions to the development of video as an artistic language. The importance of this female presence in the so-called "alternative" media and artistic forms (performance, artists' books, video, etc.) is undeniable. During this period of artistic exploration and political explosion, a large number of extremely coherent and inspired works were produced, acting as a link between modernity and post-modernity. Artists such as Hannah Wilke, Mary Lucier, Ana Mendieta, Carolee Schneemann, Joan Jonas, Ulrike Rosenbach and VALIE EXPORT are represented in the show; most of them exposed their body and their nude self as a way of claiming control of their own bodies. Another woman who contributed to the aesthetic transgression of the Seventies was the Vice President of Fluxus, Shigeko Kubota, who applied the Fluxus concept of performance and event to video. Duchampiana. Nude Descending a Staircase (1976) is inspired by the famous, transgressive painting by Marcel Duchamp to provoke, in turn, another transgression. This broad selection of works shows how women found their own voice against discriminatory policies, inside and out of the art world, and makes clear the very different use they gave to video with respect to their male counterparts.

Next to the work of these women, there are pieces by internationally-recognized artists with very diverse influences: painting, film and minimalism. Peter Campus, Gary Hill, David Lamelas, Thierry Kuntzel, Bill Viola, Juan Downey, Rafael França, Vito Acconci and Bruce Nauman address themes ranging from perception to performance.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"All About Laughter: Humor in Contemporary Art" 27.01-06.05 Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

We all tend to submit to the whims of the world that surrounds us, and in particular to the so-called “powers that be.” Yet we also share an utter fascination with the invisible powers of nature and science, with the unfathomable nature of our sensations and emotions, and with the notion of creating something that is new. One of the roles of contemporary art is to bring these attractive yet inexplicable phenomena to our attention, enabling us to experience or visualize them directly. Sometimes art might point out new ways of looking at our world, or new approaches for ascertaining otherwise elusive truths. If contemporary art is sometimes disquieting, it is because it shows us things that we usually can not see - things hidden beneath the surface, things outside the bounds of convention or acceptability.
When considered this way, art plays a similar role to that of the jokes, parody, satire, irony and absurdity that make us laugh. Laughter defuses tension, and humor challenges the "straight" view of things by undermining the "common sense" or conservative tendencies of the “powers that be.” Humor is highly personal and subjective, often pushing up against the limits of our private “comfort zones.” This exhibition explores the laughter that plays a supporting role in art, throwing light on the messages conveyed through humor in each of the exhibits. Here a completely new world awaits the visitor - the world revealed when laughter is enlisted to loosen the constraints on our sensibility and make us more receptive to new experiences.

Comprising four parts, and including works that make us laugh in addition to works that make us think about laughing, "All About Laughter: Humor in Contemporary Art" brings together over 200 videos, photographs, installations and other works by 50 creators of contemporary art from around the world.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ezra Johnson until 06.05 UCLA Hammer Museum, L.A.

Ezra Johnson's new animated low-tech digital film, What Visions Burn (2006), uses lushly colored paintings and collaged figures to tell the story of a pair of art thieves in New York City. Each animation is a laborious process, as Johnson paints and repaints the surface of his canvases to create each frame of film, which uses visual elements and sound effects to narrate the scenario. Johnson's amusing depictions of the art world's many characters and his poetic representations of the city tell a story both romantic and unexpected.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Doug Aitken sleepwalkers 17.01- 12.02 MoMA, NY.

The Museum of Modern Art and Creative Time, the New York–based public art organization, have jointly commissioned Doug Aitken to create the artist's first large-scale public artwork in the United States. The project is also the first to bring art to MoMA's exterior walls. Continuous sequences of film scenes will be projected onto eight facades, including those on West Fifty-third and Fifty-fourth streets and those overlooking The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. Inspired by the densely built environment of New York's midtown, the artist will create a cinematic art experience that directly integrates with the architectural fabric of the city while simultaneously enhancing and challenging viewers' perceptions of public space. The project, filmed in New York City, will be shown daily from 5:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m., and is intended to be visible from many public vantage points adjacent to the Museum.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Unmasked Sidney Nolan and Ned Kelly 1950 - 1990, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (AUS)

Sidney Nolan’s original Ned Kelly series, painted at Heide during 1946–47, has been widely acclaimed and extensively researched. Much less attention however, has been given to the artist’s numerous later representations of the legendary Australian bushranger. This exhibition explores, for the first time, Nolan’s ongoing artistic engagement with the Kelly myth after he left Australia permanently in 1953, a fascination that lasted for the next three decades.

For Nolan, Ned Kelly was an intensely compelling figure: he was of working class Irish–Australian stock like the artist himself; a natural leader with an instinctive command of language; and an archetypal tragic hero. As Nolan’s career developed, he became
inextricably associated with Kelly and the iconic black square mask he had invented to represent the outlaw.

This exhibition reveals the ways in which Nolan's Kelly, behind the black mask, was a complex figure whose significance reaches well beyond the shores of his native homeland.