Monthly Archives: April 2010

Unexpectations

Understanding the failure of expectations is to change one’s perspectives in a wise way.

Since I’m still not in the mood to talk about technology and art, I shall instead post here the work of yet another interesting American photographer who caught my attention in New York.

Dana Miller is a landscape photographer who decided to work in the city. That’s a challenge in itself and thus deserved my immediate appreciation.

Shunning cityscapes has become such an easy art form that it has become almost boring. Being a city person to the fullest, I can’t help but admire people who choose a path of no nature to portray life.

In her End of the Line series, Miller went to the last stop of New York’s subway system to capture images that exude life and people’s creativity and lifestyle even if there’s no one to be seen in them.

Seeing the expected is so easy and common-sense. It is much more intriguing to let the unusual mesmerize us.

But then, that is not for just about everyone.

Sensitivity. Sensitivity.

Music against homophobia

The day started really well today. Although I woke up already tired from days of too much work and too few hours of sleep, I was seeing things in a very positive way and basically loving everything. I had my tasks, chores and commitments for the long hours ahead of me but I did manage not to get desperate about them.

My plan was to continue my series about art and technology. But I won’t.

The ugly face of prejudice and homophobia made itself present this very day, so all of those positive thoughts about mankind vanished. Back to reality, one might say.

Then, I shall just post here a song by a group which has been able to cheer me up. For those of you who aren’t feeling so well today. here’s Michachu and the Shapes:

I know it’s not new and they have been talked about a lot already, but they do improve my mood.

A friend of mine who’s a fashion producer used this song for a fashion show the other day and I just thought it was quite cheerful.

So cheers to all of those who are not narrow-minded.

PS: Michachu (aka Mica Levi) is openly gay.

Easy inspiration

Here’s something to help us get through the day with a bit more inspiration:

Listening to Massive Attack changed the way I related to music in ways I can’t even begin to grasp.

Always inspiring. Always.

Double

I very often divide the different times of my life according to my music tastes of each period. In my mind, there is frequently a specific soundtrack for all the important moments in my existance.

Not surprisingly, the connectiion of music and visual arts appeals immensely to me. It is a powerful combination in the sense that it increases the amount of sensitivity one has to artistic expression. In an installation, one may be touched by the music but not by the material piece, as well as the opposite. The best option is when one is touched by the combination of both.

In that perspective, I must say that I am easily drawn to like the work of Janet Cardiff and George Miller. They have new work currently in exhibition at the Luhring Augustine gallery in New York. Yet again, their work pleased me immediately.

With The Cabinet of Curiousness, the artists use an antique piece of furniture with 20 drawers to store different types of music, from an opera to bicycle sounds. The contrast of sounds and the age of the wooden catalogue, together with the modernity of the sound system help elicit questions about memory and simplicity.

Sounds and music seem to awaken almost instinctive reactions from people and it easily gets us thinking (though usually with a little delay). It is as if the message or the idea of the artists could linger a bit longer.

I can’t stop thinking about how important it was for me to keep the music I liked in the past with me. It is like opening a drawer into past feelings and experiences through the channels of emotion.

No wonder I love Cardiff and Miller’s works so much.

Technology and the arts

Many are those who believe technology will some day replace traditional art tools such as brushes, chisels and even the canvas. These people often feel threatened by what the new forms of producing art may bring.

I personally do not share that idea. I have great respect for artists who use technology to expand their artistic concepts, enlarging the scope of their work. This is why I decided to write a series of posts on the subject.

I went to Inhotim again last weekend to check out the new pavilions and art works on display at the museum. One that really caught my attention was the piece done by Canadian artist Janet Cardiff and her partner George Miller.

The murder of Crows is an installation built in a way that the viewer can actually feel the space so that s/he experiences the voices and sounds of the piece in an expanded fashion.

The Murder of Crows

According to them,

(…) ‘The Murder of Crows’, continues Cardiff Miller’s explorations in creating sculptural and physical sound. Ninety-eight audio speakers are mounted around the space on stands, chairs and the wall creating a minimalist flocking of speakers. The structure of the piece tries to mirror that of the illogical but connected juxtapositions that we experience in the dream world. One soundscape moves into another with an electronic dreamscape composition shifting into sound effects such as factory noises, crashing waves or birds wings and then into a guitar and strings composition then into a choir sequence and marching band.

Without technology, these effects would not be possible. Integrating different senses in the appreciation of one piece is quite hard to think without the use of modern tools. They create a more thorough feel to the work which definitely adds something exciting to the world of the arts.

Adding is the word, not subtracting.

Meditation

They really think they are building the future, it’s not like they’re protecting the past like here in Europe.

This sentence, by American-Argenitinian-French director Gaspar Noé says more than I could dare to think. His critique of the European art scene is as true as it gets.

Let’s meditate on it.

Learn from examples

Isn’t it great when city authorities decide to make life more agreeable for its citizens?

Although very few of the Brazilian ones are taking any kind of initiative in that respect, progress can be seen here and there. Still, it is nothing as grand as what was done in Seoul, South Korea, with regards to the Cheonggyecheon river.

After years locked up inside a tomb of concrete, the stream was quite recently set free and transformed into a lovely green space and recreation area in the middle of the city.

This idea is so worthy of praise I am not sure I have to words to describe my admiration.

What strikes me the most is the way the riverbanks were given life when vegetation was (apparently) let grow in its own way.

It is high time people try to interfere with nature’s course just because we live in big cities. As the volcano in Iceland has yet again shown, we are completely at the mercy of the planet’s natural forces.

Maybe we should start from there.

Combine and amplify

Still on the art meets beauty line, there is an American artist whom I didn’t see while I was in New York  but who is absolutely worthy of praise and admiration: Anthony Goicolea.

I was immediately impressed with his photography work taken from the series Semptemberists, from 2006. I was soon to find out that the actual work is a short film in black and white mixing explosive elements such as male-exclusive beauty, religion and American rural traditions.

Done in collaboration with fashion designer Thom Browne, both the movie and the pictures evoke the ever-so-present subject of religion versus pleasure (in this case visual) and all their perhaps sinful connotations.

According to Goicolea,

The Septemberists is a thirty minute black and white film that chronicles the preparations and processes associated with traditional religious ceremonies. A group of boys harvests materials in a dream-like landscape in order to construct the clothing and elements necessary to enact a series of semi-sacrificial rites of passage. Taking inspiration from Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” the musical score becomes a substitute for dialogue. Each group of boys functions as a pack of mute workers accompanied only by the sound of their designated musical instruments. Set on a farm reminiscent of an old southern plantation, the characters appear almost like a refined tribe or community living an existence removed from society; half military academy, half monastery. Like cloned worker bees, each group moves in silent, pre-choreographed unison, carrying out their individually assigned tasks. As one group herds and sheers sheep, another picks cotton growing in a steam filled greenhouse, while still a third group meets at a moonlit marsh to catch octopi and harvest their ink sacks.

I just love these sort of talented collaborations. It is truly inspiring when you see two different kinds of artists working together in creating something bigger than their own production. Magnificent.

Beauty from B: Arthur Sales

I’m in such a hurry today I had to choose a quick topic to write about.

Since I’ve been meaning to continue the Beauty from B series for quite some time now, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about Arthur Sales, a 20-year-old new face from Brazil:

Would it be too easy if I just said ‘enjoy’?

Well, do.

North Art in New York

It’s easy to tell I’m drawn to Nordic aesthetics and consequently to anything related to Scandinavian design and music.

Maybe it’s because I lived there when I was younger, so I probably get it in ways I may not even be aware of.

The first gallery I entered in New York housed an exhibition on Finnish photographers from the Helsinki School, an interesting art project engaged in promoting photography & video art from Finland. An idea that deserves not only to be praised but also copied all around the globe.

Two of the artists’ photographs featured at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery really caught my attention and interest. They are:

Yearly Growth, 2009 from the Possibility of Constancy series

The use of darkness and clarity, both in the lighting as in the settings remind me instantly of this important duality in Nordic life and everything it represents to them: summer-winter, grey-color and so on.

With fascinatingly pale colors and the ever present use of water, Majuri brings the unpredictability of shape into a static form of art such as photography.

Inspiring.

To love Valerie

I don’t know how many of you about this incredibly interesting French blog but I think everyone who likes music and funky 80’s (or 80’s-inspired) images should definitely check it out.

Valerie is the name of collective of musicians and music producers who post delightful and inspiring tracks and playlists on a daily basis.

They also organize parties in which some of their biggest names play. I went to one in Paris and it was really great.

I listened to this playlist several times and it is so good it almost made me get up and dance.

What a superb initiative. C’est fantastique.

Fondle your weekend

Every week I promise myself I will take the time to write a proper post on Friday but then, when the day comes, I’m too busy or excited about the weekend to do something serious.

It won’t be different this time, I’m afraid.

But I will share with you another art discovery I made while in New York. For those who appreciate a little sexiness to inspire their weekend, here are some pics by the New York-based photographer Nodeth Vang:

Luc & Ryan

There is a project of his I really like. It works like this: he meets guys through the internet and asks them if they’re willing to take their clothes off for the camera outdoors or in. It’s quite interesting to see how different kinds of men would accept it and how they react to their own exposure, something that Vang captures pretty well in those series (on show at the Bruce Silverstein gallery):

Untitled (Victor with Grass)

May everyone have a sexy and cuddle-filled weekend.

Feeling

A good friend of mine who’s not an artist but is a person with really well-developed artistic sensitivity came up with a pastime which is so interesting it could almost be an art experiment.

Here’s how it works. You have to stop what you’re doing on any given day and try to identify the exact emotion you’re feeling that day. It has to be quite specific, nothing like just ‘happiness’. After you discover what it is, you google it and see what the first page on the search result page is. Only if you don’t find anything meaningful can you look for an image.

I decided to do it today. I was feeling true disappointment after having let down someone who’s really dear to me.

Here’s the quote I found:

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.

I must tell you it was such a relief to see it.

Illustration by Finnish artist Jesse Auersalo

May it be true too.

An art day: perfect

My greatest passion is traveling. I have come to this realization soon after I moved to Paris in 2008. Mind you, it wasn’t because of the change of countries that it became clear to me, rather it was the moving that made me see that this is what I enjoy most in the world.

I remember that I didn’t want to buy anything upon my arrival – no closets, no new mattress, no pans, no nothing. I am perfectly happy with little. I possess nothing except for my clothes (the ever-so-present manifestations of my moods), my books, my bed and my computer. All the money I save is for taking trips everywhere my mind wishes to take me.

So, what do I do when I travel that makes this experience so strong?

Plenty of things. For example, I usually try to find out from other connoisseurs what the coolest neighborhoods/areas of a city are and I just head there, practically without knowing anything. Then, I take my time to discover things just by walking around, appreciating everything that catches my attention.

This is how I discovered Chelsea, in New York. I knew there were art galleries there but I had no idea they were so many. And so nice. This was how I can say I practically stumbled upon Elliott Hundley‘s works at Andrea Rosen Gallery.

Jasiu With Leaf

Jasiu With Leaf, 2006

His choice and use of materials is fabulously intriguing, for they create images of beauty and mythical ideas out of simple objects and every day things such as plastic, glass, paper and wire. His mastery of the possibilities each element in the sculptures has is nothing less than impressive.

Luckily, this was just one of my first – though I have to say it was also one of the most striking – findings in Chelsea.

It was so much to see that I used lunch time to give my mind some space in order to absorb everything. Instead of going to a stylish restaurant, I happily chose to buy a sandwich in a street nearby and eat it in the lovely stripe of green space along the Hudson River.

This is how a perfect day while on tour for me is.

Presence, experience, change

When something really impressive touches me, I am very often incapable of talking about it for some time. It is as if the impact of the experience must take its time to sink in. This is exactly the way I felt after seeing the work of Marina Abramović last week at the MoMA, in New York.

Never have I been so close or felt so connected to an artist who gives herself so entirely to art. The idea of giving up oneself to the purpose of discovery and artistic expression is something I most honestly admire. This is how Abramović relates to her body of work.

The exhibition is divided in two parts: a thorough retrospective of her lifelong work and a second part, which is a brand new performance taking place at the museum. The first part is a highly illustrative introduction not only to the Serbian artist’s career but also to Performance Art as a whole, in an enlightening insight guided by Marina’s own explanations to every piece through the audio guide.

Performance Art is a very particular and unique manifestation of Art in the sense that presence is a key ingredient to its creation, be it the artist’s own presence or the audience’s. Marina Abramović was one of the first artists to become aware of the unavoidable exchange of energy between the performer and the audience, through a series of works in which she deliberately uses this interaction to create something new.

Exploring bodily limitations and sensations but also history, human empathy and the possibilities of the mind, Marina has often chosen to use the force present in the viewers’ curiosity to add extra meaning to her works. The audience becomes part of the art and thus begins to grasp its purpose and hopefully leaves the performance feeling quite changed.

The Artist is Present is a masterpiece.