• Theo Jansen’s Amazing Creatures in Madrid

    Espacio Fundación Telefónica is currently showcasing Theo Jansen’s incredible Strandbeest (Beach Beasts) until the 17 January. Jansen is a Dutch artist who has devoted his life to the creation of unbelievable sculptural constructions which resemble creatures from a fairy-tale world that move and interact with their environment as if they were truly living beings. The beasts are made from plastic tubes and bottles and are powered by the wind. Jansen’s beasts live independently on the Netherlands’ beaches until they die; only to return to the artist’s workshop as fossils.

     

    Theo Jansen, Espacio Fundación Telefónica

    Animaris Ordis A, Cerebrum Period, from 2006. This creature is a unit with twelve legs

     

    Jansen’s original plan was to develop these animals in order to preserve the ecosystem and protect Dutch beaches, as they are slowly disappearing by the ever-rising level of the sea. However, throughout the years Jansen has abandoned his environmental project, letting his imagination run free to awaken generations and generations of beasts.

     

    Theo Jansen, Espacio Fundación Telefónica

    Animaris Currens Ventosa, Calidum Period, 1993-1994. The first creture able to walk using wind power. It has fins on its back which when activated by the wind should set the legs in motion. Image courtesy of Espacio Fundación Telefónica.

     

    As a matter of fact, the theory of evolution plays a key role in Theo Jansen’s art. Jansen divides his creatures into different species and several evolutionary stages depending on their degree of autonomy and capacity to move and adapt. Some of his creatures have a heart, a stomach and something similar to a brain, which allows them to evolve throughout time and avoid obstacles (such as the sea itself) by changing direction. They are self-sufficient and can adjust to the environment in order to survive. Every year the artist works on evolutionary improvements, striving to create a stronger and more efficient creature by experimenting with new mechanisms. Those which turn out to be useful to the beasts’ survival are passed on to the following generation, and those which prove to be useless are abandoned and eradicated. With the power of imagination and deep knowledge of art, physics, engineering and pneumatics, Jansen has brought to life the most marvellous creatures which, like all beings, live and die. Once their life is over, Jansen removes them from the beach and does not attempt to restore the damage caused by the weather; they become fossils.

     

    Theo Jansen, Espacio Fundación Telefónica

    Animaris Percipere Primus, Cepebrum Period, from 2006. the forward part of the beast has a stomach of plastic bottles capable of storing compressed air. If there is no wind, the creature can use this backup air supply to propel itself. Image courtsey of ssaft.com

     

    Built from simple materials, the creatures’ actual functioning is incredibly complex.  In Jansen’s own words “the walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds.” His works of art break away from the traditional understanding of sculpture, creating a new aesthetic experience by combining structure and movement and blurring the lines between reality and fiction. When looking at the creatures move one would think them alive; the artist himself refers to his creations as beings that think, breathe and take decisions, living their own, unique lives. In Espacio Fundación Telefónica two of the beasts are aroused at specific times so that everyone can admire the beauty and intricacy of Jansen’s achievement in action. Click here to see the Beach Beasts moving.

     

    Theo Jansen, Espacio Funadación Telefónica

    Image courtesy of strandbeest.com

     

    Theo Jansen’s sculptures are the result of a brilliant mind. Although he did not complete his university degree, the artist’s perseverance and passionate creativity have resulted in some of the most remarkable and wonderfully mind-boggling forms of art. This is definitely an exhibition worth visiting; you’ll be bewildered and charmed by the magic of Jansen’s Beach Beasts.

     Theo Jansen, Amazing Creatures, Espacio Fundación Telefónica, Madrid, until 17 January 2016.

     

  • Devotion at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery

    Excrescence: a projection or outgrowth.
    [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

    Now this vast principal bulk, of which the things you have named resemble excrescences and ornaments: Of what do you believe this to be made?
    Galileo Galilei, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican [translation by Stillman Drake, Modern Library, 1953]

    According to Hegel, the Universal can only be found in corrupted and impure forms. When we try to remove the flaws in an attempt to reach a purer Universal, what we obtain is its exact opposite.
    What is the sacred, then? Isn’t it a surplus – an excess, an organic and shapeless mass – not even capable of enjoying its own wholeness without having to continuously seek a counterbalance?
    That’s what this exhibition reminds me of: an excess of matter overflowing its own boundaries; the collapse of pureness.
    The show curated by Will Corwin at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery pursues the sacred, and not the ideal of sacred.
    Surprisingly, we realize that, in order to reach the sacred, what we really need is to draw from our own visceral and vile human condition.

     

    Escrescenza: quanto cresce e sporge sopra una superficie piana.
    [Vocabolario Treccani]

    E questa principale e vasta mole, della quale le nominate cose son quasi escrescenze ed ornamenti, di che materia credete che sia composta?
    Galileo Galilei, Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo tolemaico e copernicano [Booklassic, 2015]

    L’Universale secondo Hegel si trova solo in forme corrotte e impure. Nel momento in cui cerchiamo di eliminare da esso i difetti per arrivare a un Universale più puro, ciò che otteniamo è l’esatto opposto.
    Cosa è quindi il sacro? Non è forse un avanzo, qualcosa di troppo, un ammasso organico e informe che non riesce neanche a godere della propria pienezza e cerca continuamente un proprio contraltare?
    Ecco. La mostra che ho visto mi ricorda questo. L’eccesso della materia che deborda dal proprio confine, un collasso della purezza. La mostra curata da Will Corwin alla Catinca Tabacaru Gallery insegue il sacro e non l’idea di sacro, ed è sorprendente come, per arrivare a esso, ci si debba appropriare della viscerale e nauseabonda condizione umana.

     

    DEVOTION: Mike Ballou, Joe Brittain, William Corwin, Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels, Elizabeth Ferry, Rico Gatson, Elisabeth Kley, Rachel Monosov, Roxy Paine, Joyce Pensato, Katie Bond Pretti, Carin Riley, Paul Anthony Smith, Justin Orvis Steimer, Gail Stoicheff, and Sophia Wallace. Co-Curated by William Corwin at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, New York. Through January 17, 2016.

     

    Roxy Paine, Rachel Monosov, William Corwin, Catinca Tabacaru Gallery

    Exhibition view of “Devotion” at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery
    Upper shelf: Rachel Monosov; William Corwin
    Lower shelf: Roxy Paine; 18th century icon from Romania; Rachel Monosov

    Sophia Wallace, Catinca Tabacaru Gallery

    Exhibition view of “Devotion” at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery
    Sophia Wallace, Untitled (She Who Is), 2015

    Elizabeth Ferry, Carin Riley, Gail Stoicheff, Justin Orvis Steimer, Paul Anthony Smith, Katie Bond Pretti, Catinca Tabacaru Gallery

    Exhibition view of “Devotion” at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery
    On the wall (left to right): Carin Riley; Gail Stoicheff; Justin Orvis Steimer; Paul Anthony Smith; Katie Bond Pretti
    Sculptures (left to right): Rico Gatson; Elizabeth Ferry; Roxy Paine

    Mike Ballou, Rico Gatson, Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels, Catinca Tabacaru Gallery

    Exhibition view of “Devotion” at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery
    Throne by Rico Gatson; rug by Mike Ballou; wood site-specific installation by Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels

  • Grand Magasin Deux at French Riviera 1988, London

     

    Grand Magasin Deux, French Riviera 1988

     

    If you are still panicking about your Christmas shopping, it might be worth planning a visit to the Grand Magasin Deux, a special festive project organized by French Riviera 1988 in East London.

    After the success of the first edition, artists Samuel Levack and Jennifer Lewandowski invited about forty creative makers to contribute with affordable artwork to the ‘shopping show’ – which will be on view until 20th December in the artist-run venue, a former shop then artist’s studio.

    The Grand Magasin Deux exhibition features a wide range of diverse practices, from sculptures, prints and ceramics to jewels and textiles, exploring the multiple aspects of the shopping experience; among them, the artwork by Ludovica Gioscia, who curated and co-realized the Pizzemblage sculpture project for Droste Effect.

    Grand Magasin Deux is at French Riviera 1988, London through Sunday 20 December 2015.

    With Daisy Addison, Fay Ballard, Owen Bullett, Harry Burden, Stuart Carey, Radio Cascabel, Pippa Choy, Dan Coopey, Will Cruickshank, Denise de Cordova, Marie D’Elbee, Ellen Mara De Wachter, Thomas Dozol, Tom Ellis, Kris Emmerson, Jessie Flood-Paddock, Seana Gavin, Ludovica Gioscia, The Grantchester Pottery, Vivienne Griffin, Lynn Hatzius, Holly Hayward, Fabienne Hess, Joey Holder, Siân Hislop, Rebecca Johnson, Beatrice Larkin, Melanie Levack, Samuel Levack and Jennifer Lewandowski, Cian McConn, Bryan Mills, Nicholas
    Pankhurst, Sonya Patel Ellis, Berry Patten, Lyle Perkins, Giles Round, Marianne Spurr, Nicola Tassie, Jennifer Taylor, Cicely Travers, Rocco Turino, Bea Turner, Jeremy Willett, Lucy Woodhouse.

     

     

  • A Walk Through The Art: Art Basel Miami 2015 – Miami Art Week

     

    Didem Civginoglu, Art Basel Miami 2015

    Miami, December 2015 © Didem Civginoglu

    The week commonly known as Miami Art Week or Art Basel Week now brings in the city more than 20 distinct art fairs located in both Miami and Miami Beach.

    If you missed this year’s edition on December 1 – 6, 2015, the following photo gallery is a walk-through of some of Miami Art Week’s main art fairs and a selection of collateral events and exhibitions.

    All photographs © Didem Civginoglu
    ART BASEL MIAMI 2015

    Art Basel Miami Beach is the most important art show in the United States, and the largest with over 500,000 square feet of exhibition space. Over 250 of the world’s leading galleries – from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa – show modern and contemporary art, drawing over 70,000 visitors each year.

    UNTITLED, MIAMI BEACH 2015

    Untitled is an international curated art fair founded in 2012. Untitled, Miami Beach selects a curatorial team to identify, and curate a selection of galleries, artist-run exhibition spaces, and non-profit institutions and organizations, in discussion with an architecturally designed venue.

     

    Toilet Paper Magazine, , Art Basel Miami 2015, Untitled art fair

    Toilet Paper Mag Lounge
    Untitled, Miami Beach 2015

    SCOPE MIAMI 2015

    SCOPE celebrates its 15th anniversary edition with 120 international exhibitors from 22 countries and 57 cities. Scope Miami Beach debuts a more spacious pavilion to showcase a robust VIP program featuring three curated sections: Juxtapoz Presents, the Breeder Program, and FEATURE.

     

    X CONTEMPORARY 2015

    The new art fair named X Contemporary made its debut during Art Basel Miami 2015. The X Contemporary art fair opened in the Wynwood district, across from Wynwood Walls, with a 28,000 square foot exhibition space.

     

    TWINS @ The Satellite

    TWINS by Mattia Casalegno is a site-specific, multimedia installation of flat screens displaying bondaged bodies, enslaved subjects, objects of both desire and cruelty. The project TWINS has been curated and produced by sarahcrown and Standard Practice on the occasion of The Satellite Project in Miami, December 1-6, 2015 and is the first public exposure of an ongoing research that will develop into a larger exhibition in NYC in 2016.

     

    Art Basel Miami 2015, Mattia Casalegno, The Satellite Project, Sarah Corona

    Mattia Casalegno, TWINS at The Satellite Project in Miami, December 1-6, 2015

    WALLS OF CHANGE

    Curated by Goldman Properties’ CEO Jessica Goldman Srebnick since 2012, Wynwood Walls’ program for Miami Art Week 2015, Walls of Change, included 14 new large scale murals and installations by globally acclaimed street artists, as well as a program of events within the art park that will be free and open to the public.

     

    Didem Civginoglu, Art Basel Miami Beach 2015

    Miami, December 2015 © Didem Civginoglu

    Didem Civginoglu, Art Basel Miami Beach 2015

    Miami, December 2015 © Didem Civginoglu

  • Alessandro Di Pietro and Jacopo Miliani at CAB Grenoble

    Until the New Year, the two upper floors of the Centre d’Art Bastille in Grenoble, France will be hosting artwork by artists Alessandro Di Pietro and Jacopo Miliani, who were selected for the Double Cross project.

    Developed within PIANO, the Franco-Italian curatorial platform directed by Simone Frangi and Vincent Verlé, the Double Cross project was created through a draft exchange, by following the specifics of the two organizations of which Verlé and Frangi are the main curators: CAB (Centre d’Art Bastille in Grenoble) and Viafarini DOCVA (Milano).

    The two curators respectively chose two Italian artists and two French artists who spent a residency of one month in Grenoble and a residency of one month in Milan (both in the Fall of 2015).

     

    Jacopo Miliani, CAB, Grenoble

    Jacopo Miliani, Not with a Bang, 2015
    Courtesy the artist, CAB, Grenoble, FRUTTA, Rome and Studio Dabbeni, Lugano.

     

    The name Double Cross was chosen because, in the current scientific language, the expression refers to a genetic process that produces a hybrid entity of two existing hybrid entities. The month of workshop and residency for the four artists led them to explore and hybridize their artistic directions.

    “I would say that our cooperation has had, from the outset, a predisposition not to be explicit. The placement on two different floors of the CAB made it impossible for a direct visual relationship between the various elements of our installations, but intensified the dialogue between two different methods of semantic re-elaboration in space.”*

     

    Alessandro Di Pietro, CAB, Grenoble

    Alessandro Di Pietro, AZATN – Props, 2015
    Courtesy the artist, CAB – Grenoble

     

    At the very first floor we can observe the modular installation proposed by Alessandro Di Pietro. The display is formed by six iron and concrete elements presenting the accessories to an ongoing project, based on the reinterpretation of a movie by Peter Greenaway, A Zed and Two Noughts. The artist decided to focus his attention on the last scene of the movie: Di Pietro creates a cluster of scientific, naturalistic and artistic images which analyze the real nature of the human being and its limits.

    The works of art presented at CAB show the symbolical elements of this scene and, at the same time, propose a rework onto them to create, de facto, a new script.

    The installation by Alessandro Di Pietro at CAB represents the third step of an ongoing project that will lead to the eventual realization of a film. The artist considers the production of a movie like a longterm research program, that starts with an installation, evolves into a performative act, and ends through a speculative phase (post-production). Due to that, the film won’t be a remake, but a new production. The works presented at CAB show elements of a cinematographic “grammar system,” that here are used as components for a plastic research. Here cinema is considered to be as a field of real actions that allows the artist to engender the raw material for his artistic research.

     

    Alessandro Di Pietro, CAB, Grenoble

    Alessandro Di Pietro, AZATN – Props, 2015
    Courtesy the artist, CAB – Grenoble

    Alessandro Di Pietro, CAB, Grenoble

    Alessandro Di Pietro, AZATN – Props, 2015
    Courtesy the artist, CAB – Grenoble

    Alessandro Di Pietro, CAB, Grenoble

    Alessandro Di Pietro, AZATN – Props, 2015
    Courtesy the artist, CAB – Grenoble

     

    Stepping down to the second floor (the building has three floors but the entrance is at the top) we find a space completely dedicated to an installation by Jacopo Miliani. The second Italian artist chosen to take part in the Double Cross project dedicated his work to the novel Not With a Bang by Howard Fast. The story is about a strange phenomenon that happens one evening in front of the hero’s eyes: a hand appears from the horizon, takes the sun and makes it completely disappear.

    Miliani gives a conceptualized interpretation to this story, in which two fundamental elements (the hand and the sun) are represented in different aspects. The magnificent sculptural quality of these elements is underlined by the presence of three carpets that become like flat pedestals, and the peculiar displays both show and cover their captions: the story is shown just as a fragment that suggests but doesn’t reveal itself.

     

    Jacopo Miliani, CAB, Grenoble

    Jacopo Miliani, Not with a Bang, 2015
    Courtesy the artist, CAB, Grenoble, FRUTTA, Rome and Studio Dabbeni, Lugano.

     

    “As regards the constant fruition within the imaginative process, we could say that this was also the central theme of two workshops, which we conducted in parallel, with a few young Grenoble artists. With their imagination, we worked starting from two strong images from the stories we had taken as a reference: the hand that turns the sun off in Fast’s story and the figures of the twins in Greenaway’s film.”*

    * Quotes from an interview on PIANO

    Alessandro Di Pietro and Jacopo Miliani, Double Cross, curated by Vincent Verlé at CAB – Centre d’Art Bastille in Grenoble through January 3, 2016

     

    Jacopo Miliani, CAB, Grenoble

    Jacopo Miliani, Not with a Bang, 2015
    Courtesy the artist, CAB, Grenoble, FRUTTA, Rome and Studio Dabbeni, Lugano.

  • Defining the indefinite: Political Populism at Kunsthalle Wien

    Political Populism is a group show curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen for Kunsthalle Wien. The exhibition takes under consideration the concerning rise of political populism in contemporary society, and the increasing spread of populist aesthetics in media and social media. The border between political rhetoric and populism is quite tight. The American Heritage Dictionary defines populism as “a political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite”. In despite of any definition, populism is not a pure political philosophy – it changes over time. It has no precise statement and it acts as a metamorphic political agent. Populism is like a transversal phenomenon, a charismatic modality through which it’s possible to link voters to politicians. It is often a successful strategy, and politicians adopt it in order to receive electoral support. However, we won’t be surprised when we see politicians first use distributive rhetorics and then end up choosing policies in line with the interests of the rich elite.

     

    Christian Falsnaes, Influence (Videostill), 2012, Courtesy PSM, Berlin

    Christian Falsnaes, Influence (Videostill), 2012, Courtesy PSM, Berlin

     

    Political Populism arrives at a particular moment for Europe and for peaceful Austria. Europe is right in the middle of an epochal migration. It is a remarkable democratic event, a logical consequence of new world assets and new forms of internationalism. The globalization of markets brought to a globalization of migrations as a side consequence. The scar of mobility is represented in Flaka Haliti’s installation, where yellow bags filled with blue sand are a reference to uprooting and to the loss of possessions associated with leaving one’s home behind. The choice of moving is addressed in Jun Yang’s narration – the story of the artist’s parents’ migration told through a self-reflexive identity reconstruction. During the last Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, curator Carolyn Christov Bakargiev moved part of the exhibition to Kabul in Afghanistan. On that occasion, Goshka Macuga produced two tapestries: Of what is, that it is; Of what is not, that it is not No. 1 and No. 2. Part 1, originally shown in Kassel and now exhibited in Vienna, depicts a crowd of Afghans and Westerners in front of the Darul Aman Palace outside of Kabul. Part 2, originally exhibited in Kabul, shows an art-world crowd and protesters gathered outside of the Orangerie in Kassel. Both scenes are conceived as complementary halves and will never be exhibited together. These physical and ideal moments push us to conceptually think the entire panorama of migration from a different perspective. This exhibition not only explores the aesthetic potential of the contemporary nomadic condition, but also its media-related effects. Artwork such as the one by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, The Incidental Insurgents, Part 3: When the fall of the dictionary leaves all words lying in the street, are able to stress the boundaries of language and let the connections between facts and fiction emerge. The paratextual order of contemporary art strategies endorses the idea that visual art can “mediate across the borders and speak in immigrant tongues with multiple accents,” as Svetlana Boym pointed out in Immigrant Arts, Diasporic Intimacy, and Alternative Solidarity. On the other hand, it is funny to see how the so-called mass-media culture reacts to these democratic phenomena. The audience in the exhibition can easily compare different populist narrations on the subject of migration: as portrayed by the media on the one hand, and the exhibited artists’ critical views on mass media communication on the other.

     

    Installation view: Political Populism, Kunsthalle Wien 2015, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff: Goshka Macuga, Model for a Sculpture (Family), 2011, Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York; Of what is, that it is; Of what is not, that it is not 1, 2012, Courtesy the artist and Prada Collection, Milano

    Installation view: Political Populism, Kunsthalle Wien 2015, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff: Goshka Macuga, Model for a Sculpture (Family), 2011, Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York; Of what is, that it is; Of what is not, that it is not 1, 2012, Courtesy the artist and Prada Collection, Milano

    Installation view: Political Populism, Kunsthalle Wien 2015, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff: Jun Yang, Goldenes Zimmer, 2015, Eat Drink Art Business, 2015, Paris Syndrome (Indoor Plants), 2007–ongoing, Wiener Paravent, 2015, Wiener Sitzgruppe, 2015, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna

    Installation view: Political Populism, Kunsthalle Wien 2015, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff: Jun Yang, Goldenes Zimmer, 2015, Eat Drink Art Business, 2015, Paris Syndrome (Indoor Plants), 2007–ongoing, Wiener Paravent, 2015, Wiener Sitzgruppe, 2015, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna

     

    Political Populism doesn’t deal only with migration, for the idea of political portrayal and its connections with populism are also disputed – like in Simon Denny’s installation Secret Power Highlighted, in which the role of technology is diligently emphasized. In Denny’s artistic research the function of symbols is explored in relation to human knowledge and established power. Indeed, the exhibition seeks to destroy common (accepted) sense. The discourse is shifted to nitty-gritty contents, and to a wide-ranging articulation of issues and responses associated with the complex and contested concept of populism in the political – and thereby social – realm.

     

    Installation view: Political Populism, Kunsthalle Wien 2015, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff: Simon Denny, Secret Power Highlighted, 2015, Courtesy the artist, Galerie Buchholz Berlin/Cologne and Galerie Petzel, New York

    Installation view: Political Populism, Kunsthalle Wien 2015, Photo: Stephan Wyckoff: Simon Denny, Secret Power Highlighted, 2015, Courtesy the artist, Galerie Buchholz Berlin/Cologne and Galerie Petzel, New York

     

    What emerges from Political Populism is also that populism, as every aspect of life, is elusive to political sciences. It seems that the macrotheme could be forever indefinable. A sort of never-ending contradiction, that finds in the artistic representation not a crystallization, but simply another shape. Thus, all attempts to embody a strategy in a very specific format are simply a failure. On the one hand, indeed, the exhibition seems to claim for itself a critical role in a wider discourse, and on the other it outlines the incomplete perimeter of an increasing phenomenon. As in Hito Steyerl’s Factory of the Sun, the world depicted by Nicolaus Schafhausen is increasingly heterodox. In such populistic climax, we could observe a growing number of people ready to change their minds at any time. Political awareness can suddenly collapse, as pointed out by Anna Jermolaewa’s work. The 2-channel video Political Extras by Anna Jermolaewa is above all an interesting attempt to establish a parallelism between populism and art institutions. During the last Moscow Biennale, Jermolaewa paid around one hundred people to demonstrate both for and against the international art event. By selling their political bodies, the protesters became symbols of purchased media manipulation under the guise of a democratic form of protest. This affinity may not be based on a common belief, but rather on the very contradictory nature of contemporary society. So people – and established artists – can avoid paying attention or being ashamed of being immersed in an empty and hedonistic world. A world in which populism is growing, while we try to define it.

    Political Populism at Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier, Vienna till February 7, 2016.

  • Katja Loher’s Interplanetary Orchestration in New York

    On November 11, New-York based artist Katja Loher‘s latest production was at the center of an exhibition event named “Interplanetary Orchestration on 11.11,” that took place inside the artist’s studio loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The show was hosted by Emerging Collective, an NGO which supports artists working at the intersection of activism and the avant-garde. Fellow artist Arianna Carossa introduced us to Katja, and we were able to attend to her event night and interview her.

     

    Katja Loher, Interplanetary Orchestration, New York

    Katja Loher at her exhibition-event Interplanetary Orchestration in her studio loft in Williamsburg on 11.11.2015
    Photo by Yulia Rock

     

    Arianna Carossa: The severed tree pieces are among the most impressive artwork on show. Water-like bubbles emerge from the wood to englobe video projections of footage taken in natural environments and superimposed to performers in different insect costumes. How do you conceive these bubbles: like a growth from the tree or like something external to it? It made me think of Lacan’s concept of «excrescence», or growth, where organic matter gets created and grows towards the outside. He uses this concept often when he’s writing about art. So in this case the movement is from the inside to the outside, and not the opposite. Am I right?

    Katja Loher: Yes, that’s correct. It is part of the tree. There is anyways an opposition, as in human versus nature, because I use technology and artificial materials like acrylic. But at the same time it’s a symbiosis that’s being built with these tools. The delicate relationship we have with our ecological environment and the imbalance we are creating are some of my biggest concerns. In these most recent productions, I found an organic continuation to that topic. I assigned an element to each of the three trees: air, water and earth, as they nourish and sustain life symbiotically and synergistically. The element fire will follow, and it’s more challenging since it’s a destructive element of the sculpture itself, and it’s going to be translated into a constant deconstruction. When I choose a tree for these sculptures, it is very important that it’s already dead. I’m working on a big project on the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, so I would never cut a tree. It is dead wood, but gets brought back to life by the video. Some of the trees were already hollowed out by nature. They are found objects, that then we cut and modify as little as possible. Maybe we could call it a process of incarnation: dead trees become alive again!

    Arianna Carossa: For Hegel, nature is perfect and it allows one to feel the spirit. Art is another way of doing that. In this case, you use dead nature to create the same circle

    Katja Loher: The idea came to me while I was in the Amazon last year, and I was working and living with indigenous people. In Peru, they believe every plant has a spirit. I was always wondering, what is the spirit of a plant, what do they mean by that? Then I had the pleasure to meet some of them and that’s when that idea was born. One year later, here they are.

     

    Katja Loher, Interplanetary Orchestration, New York

    Installation view at artist’s studio loft. Photo: Andew Frost
    Tree#1 (back): What will replace the green when it’s all disappeared?
    Tree#2 (right): How is the shade of 3D printed trees?
    Tree#3 (front): Why do clouds cry so much when the forest becomes a void?
    Gray Elm Tree stumps with video-bubbles and sound

     

    Arianna Carossa: By looking at some of the playful displays that you have here – for instance, Endangered Species, Pollinators – I was asking myself if humor is an important part of your work.

    Katja Loher: I’m trying to translate important messages with poetic resonance, humor and playfulness. I’m not trying to make these things look real. For instance, in my videos I make a particular use of the green screen. I am passionate of 1970s sci-fi productions, where they would use the green screen but without trying to achieve perfectly credible special effects. I think that already has a certain irony to it. My choreographies are often amusing, employing patterns and movements that mimic the wiggle of bees for example. The point of observation changes when the bird’s-eye view is alternated with actions of zooming-in on the performers, to the point of capturing the expressions on their faces. But much of my work indeed addresses ecological issues and the future of humanity, dependent on overlooked details such as the plight of bees. The themes I address are complex – the more you look, the more you have to think about. You come to realize it’s very serious: all the bees are dying. The series you mentioned, Endangered Species, Pollinators, is dedicated to the four most important pollinators, that are disappearing due to pesticides, climate change, habitant lost, genetically modified crops, deforestation – leading to an environmental catastrophe. Having performance videos of humans in bee costumes is a way of pushing the viewer to identify with these creatures, that are often forgotten. Moreover, bees communicate through body language, so staging these dances was particularly appropriate. But all these works use a very easy approach – one aspect of which is beauty, and another is trying not to be too serious about it. That relates to my personality, since I had to stop taking things very seriously. There is a lightness in the depth.

    Arianna Carossa: As an artist you can be both ironic and serious, you don’t have to be rigid. I discovered, for instance, that my past artwork was much more rigid: I felt I had to be perfect and fulfill all the “requirements”.

    Katja Loher: I’m from Switzerland, and I noticed this tendency there, too. For example, there’s a bias against beauty. You can formulate a strong message only if it’s not “beautiful”, and the aesthetics of emptiness are far more appreciated. I adopt a bird’s eye view for each video to simulate the effect of looking through a microscope or a telescope to inspire my audience to find answers from another viewpoint.

     

    Katja Loher, Interplanetary Orchestration, New York

    Installation view at artist’s studio loft. Photo: Andrew Frost
    Front: Last supper? (2012), acrylic table with embedded video screen.
    Right: Endangered Species, Pollinators (2014), acrylic pills, video screens embedded in colored acrylic cases.
    Back: PORTALS (2014), acrylic hemispheres, video screens embedded in wooden white finished cases.

     

    Arianna Carossa: Video installations such as Earthplanet and Waterplanet, that you projected onto suspended spheres, cast very interesting shadows.

    Katja Loher: The shadows are a very important part of the installation. I project my videos bigger than the spheres themselves for the purpose of creating an eclipse effect on the wall behind, that adds another dimension to the artwork. In general in the installations located upstairs in this exhibition, part of the video footage of the video composition is recorded in the Amazon in Peru, then is combined with choreographies performed on chroma key backgrounds. In this series, each video contains questions that are related to the element they represent. It is in a way a text-based work, realized through performance. We can discover questions like: “How does transparency taste?”, or “How does honey taste like when it’s made by robot-bees?,” and “Can Co2 be eaten by invisible hummingbirds?”. These questions are created in collaboration with Gian Maria Annovi. I incorporate the written word in my “Video-sculptures” by choreographing dancers in a bird’s eye view onto a green screen as they perform my “Video-alphabet.” During the post-production phase, I assemble these dancing letters into a series of poetic questions. Other parts of the backgrounds in the videos are created in my video lab, where I experiment with cymatics, the study of visible sound based on vibration. I’m working more and more with video, traveling to places to record footage. I’m planning trips to paradise nature and I’m starting to choreograph outdoor on site. My next big project is in Miami, where I’ll learn how to use a camera drone, so I can record bird’s-eye views outside in nature. All my work has also a sound layer, especially composed by long-term collaborator and audio designer Asako Fujimoto.

     

    Katja Loher, Interplanetary Orchestration, New York

    Left: Earthplanet (2014)
    Right: Waterplanet (2014)
    Video projections onto floating spheres
    Photo: Andrew Frost

     

    Matilde Soligno: Your video sculpture Time bubble contains a video featuring Philip Glass. How did this collaboration happen?

    Katja Loher: I made a series of bubbles containing different video installations, as part of an ongoing concept where I imagine to conserve artifacts from planet Earth – like a DNA to rebuild Earth when it’s gone. I was working on the Time bubble, and the idea was to see time as an artifact. This piece consists of a two-channel video composition, featuring the Master of Time on one side. In the other bubble we discover a group of dancers who imitate the mechanized movements of a clock’s various components, following the composer’s directions like sections of an orchestra. I was producing this piece and I was just looking for the Master of Time when I met Philip Glass. I asked him if he was willing to be the Master for my Time bubble, and he said yes. And that’s how that happened.

     

    Katja Loher, Philip Glass, New York

    Katja Loeher, Timebubble (2011)
    With Philip Glass
    Two-channel video composition, 3:10 min each, looped
    Hand-blown glass bubbles, video screen embedded in an acrylic pedestal
    36 x 36 x 25cm (14 x 14 x 10 in.)
    Photo: F. X. Brun

     

    Arianna Carossa: In your artwork, you use video projections, a two-dimensional medium. At your exhibition event, you had performers dressed as different animals engaging the audience. How did you decide to go from one to the other?

    Katja Loher: I started with live performance as a student, then for some time I took part in many group performances, Video Orchestra: we traveled throughout Europe doing multimedia live performances. The live show aspect is something I find fascinating. Choreography and dance are my tools to create my videos. At my opening, I brought characters in as part of the installation. The idea is that these creatures are visiting us for a moment of time. It’s a way to connect the viewer more directly with the artwork.

     

    Katja Loher, Interplanetary Orchestration, New York

    Katja Loher, Interplanetary Orchestration, New York

    A performer in a bat costume interacts with the audience at Katja Loher’s exhibition-event Interplanetary Orchestration on 11.11.2015. Photo: Yulia Rock.

     

    Matilde Soligno: What are your next projects?

    Katja Loher: I’m working on a few bigger commissions: a museum commission based on a big tree trunk, and an Art on Architecture intervention in Miami, that will inaugurate in May 2016. The Miami installation will be in a passageway of a new building, where we will embed a number of 8ft-diameter video circles into the ceiling. I’m also working at an art architecture project for the new constructed building for the headquarter in Switzerland, that will open in 2 years: for SwissGrid we will work with artists and architects on part of the building’s structure. In December, some of my artwork will be in Miami for Art Basel. I’m also getting ready for my next solo shows: one in December in Bogotà, one in January in Zurich, and one in April in São Paulo. Lastly, a book will be published next year about my last 10 years of career.

     

    Katja Loher, Interplanetary Orchestration, New York

    Katja Loher’s exhibition-event Interplanetary Orchestration on 11.11.2015. Photo by Yulia Rock

    Katja Loher, Interplanetary Orchestration, New York

    Installation view at artist’s studio loft- Photo: Andrew Frost
    Top: Videoplanet (2014), video projection onto floating sphere.
    Right: PORTALS (2014), acrylic hemispheres, video screens embedded in wooden white finished cases.

  • SPRINT is back / The independent publishers’ salon in Milan

     

    SPRINT, independent publishers, salon, Milano

     

    Milan is buzzing this weekend. The third edition of SPRINT will be held in town on November 27-29th. This publishers’ and artists’ books salon, successful outcome of the collaboration between Spazio O’ and Dafne Boggeri, aims at showcasing the most interesting experiences in the international independent publishing scene.

    Special guest of this year’s edition is the charming artist Nathalie Du Pasquier, who needs no introduction. Her exhibition TOMORROW I COULD SAY SOMETHING ELSE at Agalma opening on Friday 27 at 6.30 p.m. will mark the beginning of this three-day event. Various talks and video screenings are other highlights of the event. Thanks to the workshop RISOGRRRAPH, participants are given the possibility to test an eco-friendly printing system that enables everyone to print small editions in a cheap and professional way. The tradition of BLADE BANNER continues, a correlated event in which various artists are invited to produce an image and print it on a silk fabric module. The result will be shown during the salon, with the idea of building a traveling exhibition.

    From its first edition in 2013, SPRINT has made a special effort to extend collaborations and experiences, involving new publishing and artistic realities. Last but not least, you cannot miss the SPRINT PARTY, Saturday 28, from 11.00 PM to 03.00 AM, with DJ sets by Alieni and Isamit Morales, at Giorgio Di Salvo Bar Vintage, Piazzale Lagosta 6, Milan.

    SPRINT independent publishers and artists’ books salon is in Milan on 27-29 November, 2015.

     

    SPRINT, independent publishers, salon, Milano

    Nathalie Du Pasquier, Burundy, Memphis textile, 1983

  • Interview with artist Guendalina Cerruti

    Cabinet, a not-for-profit space founded in Milan by Antonio Di Mino and Maria Chiara Valacchi, for several years now it has been running the Studiolo project, an exhibition platform for showing new work by Italian and international young artists. The artists represented by Studiolo distinguish themselves for their simple and often similar aesthetics. Studiolo recently presented the first solo exhibition of artwork by Guendalina Cerruti. The young artist (b. 1992), who lives in between Milan and London, has developed and tries to carry forward a formal artistic taste with a mature critical sense.

     

    Guendalina Cerruti at Studiolo, Installation view, 2015  - Courtesy Artist and Studiolo, Milan

    Guendalina Cerruti at Studiolo, Installation view, 2015 – Courtesy Artist and Studiolo, Milan

     

    ELEONORA SALVI: Looking at your artworks here exhibited – bundles filled with gravel and tied with rubber cables – I could deduce a strong attention to contrasting materials. What is the expressive component of the materials you use?

    GUENDALINA CERRUTI: I am very interested in the narrative aspects of materials, in the reflections that are generated by the project: as contrasts or convergences; and by following the process from a material’s physical and aesthetic properties to practice. Tying a rubber band around the bundles stuffed with gravel isn’t simply connecting these elements, it becomes a denial of separation. Gravel, a material that comes from the natural fragmentation of solid rocks, plays a very important role in the installation. It is a key point in the investigation on the differentiation of the self, starting from early mother-child separation.

     

    Guendalina Cerruti at Studiolo, Io-Sè con corda, 2015  - Courtesy Artist and Studiolo, Milan

    Guendalina Cerruti at Studiolo, Io-Sè con corda, 2015 – Courtesy Artist and Studiolo, Milan

     

    ES: You are very young, but you seem to have taken a very coherent artistic path. Is there something that haunts on you, from which you cannot free your work?

    GC: I am very attached to consistency, as a synonym for constancy and, in some way, continuity, even in restoring a reflection on its opposites. In my opinion, it represents an openness at work, an emotional availability. There is something that fascinates me greatly and, perhaps haunts me somehow. Maybe because I identify it every day. It is the importance of emotional and cognitive development in the relationship with external reality, with the environment as well as with the expression of this complexity in the relationship with any object.

     

    ES: Compared to many similar artistic operations we are witnessing nowadays, your work stands out because of its formal sense. Could you describe your imagery? Who are your mentors? What do you gain from their work?

    GC: My imagery is based mainly on places, such as large stores with large amounts of objects and materials. I like shops that include a wide variety of different products, from linens to electronics. I’m interested in IKEA, because of its spaces built from items for sale, and because of partially divided items intended for installation; I am also interested in experiencing environments, like public swimming pools, hospital bathrooms, the bedroom, the dressing room, the basketball court, the broom closet, Stonehenge. I have many mentors; for example, in terms of approach to sculpture, Robert Gober, Jimmie Durham, Alex Da Corte, and Louise Bourgeois with her reflections, writings and diaries. Then I’m interested in Austin Lee’s research on the pictorial surface, and Cathy Wilkes’ awareness of materials.

     

    Guendalina Cerruti at Studiolo, Ritratto Fagotto #1, 2015 - Courtesy Artist and Studiolo, Milan

    Guendalina Cerruti at Studiolo, Ritratto Fagotto #1, 2015 – Courtesy Artist and Studiolo, Milan

     

    ES: The concept is very deep and brings about antinomical and universal reflections. What is your real intention? The delicate way you deal with the subject made me think of Jacques Lacan’s “mirror stage”, what do you think about this?

    GC:  I really like Lacan’s image in his “mirror stage”, and certainly it is a topic that interests me a lot. I have read several studies about the subject written by other psychoanalysts, like Winnicott, Fairbairn, and Bowlby. They have studied the dynamics and problems of this step towards identification, and the relationship with the other, once taken awareness of this separation. These discussions are very important in my research, and more specifically they influenced the installation on show here. Its intention is to restore a reflection through objects, and then, to experience it as environment.

     

    Guendalina Cerruti at Studiolo, Ritratto Fagotto #1, 2015 - Courtesy Artist and Studiolo, Milan

    Guendalina Cerruti at Studiolo, Ritratto Fagotto #1, 2015 – Courtesy Artist and Studiolo, Milan

     

    ES: This exhibition seems to crown the research “Giocando sulla Soglia”, guided by Adrian Paci, a group exhibition that took place in June. In what does this exhibition diverge from that experience, and what are its connections with it?

    GC: I think that “Giocando sulla Soglia” had more interpretive levels because of the diversity of exhibited works in terms of research and language, despite their strong synergy. Instead, what puts the two shows in contact is a certain atmosphere, a careful attention, and a care for spaces, in favor of a broader system. And, in my opinion, this is due to a complicity in sharing studies and experiences among ourselves and with Adrian.

    Guendalina Cerruti at Studiolo, Milan, September 16 – November 8, 2015

     

    Guendalina Cerruti at Studiolo, Installation view, 2015 - Courtesy Artist and Studiolo, Milan

    Guendalina Cerruti at Studiolo, Installation view, 2015 – Courtesy Artist and Studiolo, Milan

  • Venice Returns to Proportions at Palazzo Fortuny

    This is the last weekend if you want to visit the show Proportio at Palazzo Fortuny. The exhibition is the result of the latest collaboration between Alex and Mary Vervoordt Foundation and I Civici Musei Pubblici di Venezia. Preceded by Artempo (2007), Infinitum (2009), Tra (2011) and  the solo show dedicated to Antoni Tàpis, Proportio is, once again, the confirmation of this fruitful relationship. Common thread of the three-floor exhibition, revealed by the title, is the concept of proportion and the role it plays in our lives. Proportions, which have been gradually moved to the background in contemporary art practice, are instead a useful mean to read the structures that shaped the present. In harmony with the series of shows by Vervoordt, the theme is investigated here in a variety of fields: art, human body, nature, music, science, design and so on.

     

    Proportio, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice Biennale

    Exhibition view of Proportio at Palazzo Fortuny, second Floor

     

    Sight, hearing and olfaction are called together in order to fully experience the show. In the darkness of the ground floor the first thing to hit the public is a pleasant, although strong, smell. The weak light reveals five cubes of different dimensions made of hemp, built according classic and mathematic proportions. The dialogue between lights and shadows in the five pavilions, such us in the marble surfaces of Eduardo Chillida’s sculpture, gives the viewer, who is going through the space, the sensation of being in a sacred place.

    As usual in exhibitions curated by Axel Vervoordt, a remarkable number of art works crowd the higher floors enchanting the senses. Entering the first floor the spectator is overwhelmed by the multitude of art creations combined with the richness that characterizes Mariano Fortuny’s apartments. Like in a modern Wunderkammer, masterpieces from the XX century are gathered together with artwork specifically commissioned for the occasion, Old Masters’ paintings, archaeological artifacts, and architectural models to be shown off.

     

    Proportio, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice Biennale

    Exhibition view of Proportio at Palazzo Fortuny, second floor

     

    The overabundance of the first floor contrasts the poetically white second floor, which smartly makes fun of the viewer’s perception skills, creating a confusion among visual certainties with artworks like Golden Dream by Ann Veronika Janssens, Build Up by Kees Goudzwaard, and The Trascendental by Ryoji Ikeda.

     

    Proportio, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice Biennale

    Exhibition view of Proportio at Palazzo Fortuny, second floor

     

    At the last floor, the wabi pavilion, a sort of dark labyrinth in the middle of the room, monopolizes the space by creating a shade area in which artworks are dedicated to the void dimension, silence and cosmos proportions.

     

    Domimique Stroobant, Proportio, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice Biennale

    Domimique Stroobant, Tre Fonoliti, un omaggio a Elmar Daucher, 2015

     

    In this show, Axel Vervoordt conceive proportions as the key to read universal connections and imagine the future.

    If you are going to Venice for the finissage of the 2015 Biennale, don’t miss this!

    Proportio is at Palazzo Fortuny, Venice as part of the 2015 Venice Biennale (through November 23)

     

  • ‘Gradi di libertà’ at MAMbo, Bologna. Are we really free?

    Gradi di libertà is a showcase for contemporary artists who wish to explore and transgress the limits of freedom. Organised by Fondazione Golinelli in association with MAMbo the exhibition aims to combine art and science in order to delve deeper into the meaning of freedom and the social limitations that restrain our complete liberation.

    Gradi di libertà opens with Susan Hiller’s Die Gedanken Sind Frei (Thoughts are Free), name of a popular German song which celebrates freedom of thought. This installation contains 102 protest songs regarding political freedom, benches, books, headphones and a jukebox – the perfect invitation to reflect on how music can be a powerful means of promoting freedom. Hiller’s artwork combines text and audio, inviting visitors to be interactive and exert their free will by choosing the song that will be reproduced in all headphones. Hiller not only strives to reconsider the concept of freedom, but also wishes to find a universal meaning by including popular songs whose message is ubiquitous.

     

    Susan Hiller, MAMbo

    Susan Hiller, ‘Die Gedanken sind Frei (Thoughts are Free)’, 2011-2012. Image courtesy @Susan Hiller

     

    Further on, you bump into Dr Lakra’s Initiation to Nothingness, an incredible mural depicting a surreal and grotesque world governed by symbols. These symbols are recognisable and derive from religion, superstition and pop subcultures. Dr Lakra uses a blue ballpoint pen to put into action his skills as a tattoo artist and bring to life devils, animals, skulls and pop icons. Nothing is arbitrary, for a deeper message lies beyond the artistic and visual pleasure of the artwork. The aim is to raise a question on how religion and superstition inhibit and constrain individual and social freedom.

    All throughout the exhibit, glass cabinets displaying objects such as model cars, money and items of technology remind us how progress, which we often take for granted, has helped mankind develop freedom by granting people more free time. Projections on the walls also insist on how essential freedom is to our existence and how society is often the main constraint on individual freedom.

    Vanessa Beecroft’s static models defy our understanding of reality and appearance. Although seemingly human, the models could be confused with mannequins because of their static and lifeless demeanour. The piece examines society’s relationship towards the feminine body, which is constantly scrutinized and bound by strict, uniform models of beauty which efface any form of individuality.

     

    Vanessa Beecroft, MAMbo

    Vanessa Beecroft, ‘VB26 021′, 1997, Vibracolor print,101,6×152,5cm, Image courtesy Galleria Lia Rumma, Milano/Napoli

     

    Igor Grubic is also featured in the exhibition. His 366 Liberation Rituals are photographic instances of his peaceful intervention in the cityscape of Zagreb. By means of small, apparently unnoticeable acts such as writing messages on banknotes and placing red noses on the city’s statues, Grubic fully exercises his freedom and trespasses the established order to gain possession of public spaces. Grubic also brings to light the limitations of individual freedom in public spaces due to tacit social norms.

     

    Igor Grubic, MAMbo

    Igor Grubic, Scarves and Monuments. Action in public space (2008), from the series ’366 Liberation Rituals’. Image courtesy http://www.irmielin.org/

     

    Ryan McGinley’s work captures the beauty and freedom of youth. His Polaroid snapshots of naked teenagers radiate vitality, rebellion and a desire to conquer and discover the unknown world, unrestricted. The same energy is portrayed in Halil Altindere’s Wonderland which records the feelings of hope, rage, and revolt against society of a group of teenagers from Sullukule, a decrepit neighbourhood in Istanbul which is slowly being taken over by gentrification. The video-clip hints at hip-hop and cinema culture and focuses on the gang of teenagers running free through the streets of their decaying neighbourhood, reclaiming it as their own and rising against authority. Against gentrification, the video-clip aims to portray social inequality and how music can become a weapon to fight against the destruction of the historical memory of the neighbourhood.

     

    Ryan McGinley, MAMbo

    Ryan McGinley, ‘Untitled (Hot Spring)’, 2005 C-print, 27.9×35.6 cm. Image courtesy Team Gallery, New York

    Ryan McGinley, MAMbo

    Ryan McGinley, ‘Whirlwind’, 2004 C-print, 101×68 cm Image courtesy Team Gallery, New York

     

    This is only a sample of what is to be found at Gradi di libertà. Other artists showcased include Tehching Hsieh, Cao Fei, Bob and Roberta Smith, Ryan Trecartin Pietro Ruffo and Nasan Tur. So if you’re in Bologna do not miss the chance to go and possibly be inspired to join the ongoing struggle for absolute freedom.

    Gradi di libertà, presented by Fondazione Golinelli and curated by Cristiana Perrella and Giovanni Carrada, is on show at MAMbo – Modern Art Museum of Bologna until November 22, 2015.

  • Rooster Gallery: In a 5-year relationship with the Lower East Side

    Rooster Gallery celebrated its 5th year of activity in the Lower East Side of New York City with an exhibition dedicated to Factory Records, a landmark record label with a unique artistic line; on show the record covers from their 14 years of life from 1978 to 1992. Together with Arianna Carossa, one of the gallery’s in-house artists, we talked with gallerists Alexander Slonevsky and André Escarameia who outlined Rooster Gallery’s history, line of work and its relationship with the peculiar area it is located in.

     

    Factory Records, Vinyl Design, Rooster Gallery, New York

    FAC512: Factory Records Vinyl Design 1978-1992 / Rooster Gallery’s 5th Anniversary on October 22, 2015

     

    Matilde Soligno: We should start from the beginnings of Rooster Gallery. How did the project take shape?

    André Escarameia: Alex and I met in 2008 at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York. Right after we graduated, the crisis hit, and finding a job was hard. As a foreigner, I had no credentials to stay in the country. Eventually we both ended up working for Janos Gat Gallery on the Bowery. Janos was a mentor for us, and inspiration in the pursuing of our project. When Janos decided to close his gallery in 2010, we were resolved to open our own space, and we did. It was a bold move. Janos’s was another type of gallery, he used to work with more established artists. At that time the Lower East side was really beginning what then became an explosion. Back then there were only around 20 galleries in the area, and real estate was very different, more affordable. We had budget for a year. We found a space, and we’ve been in this market for 5 years now.

    Alexander Slonevsky: We always said we wanted to open a gallery, we would joke about it. But when we got out of college, and we both were struggling to find jobs, we decided we would pursue our project after all. At the beginning we organized pop-up exhibitions, but we quickly realized that was not what we were interested in. When we found this space, we said, let’s do it. Many people advised us against it, because it’s a hard business, and the city is very competitive. But you have to take some risks. You have to be cautiously optimistic – we could fail, but we don’t think we’re going to. Many think one wants to be in art because there’s a lot of money, crazy parties. But if you look at our program and at what we’ve done since we opened, it’s clear we don’t choose the easily sellable shows. We got into it because we had a vision of what we wanted to do, and we’re trying to execute that vision with every show. People always ask us, how’s the gallery doing? We just put one foot in front of the other. We keep meeting people, going to studio visits, and trying to find new things that are interesting to us. I think it’s what every gallerist wants to do, to put their own fingerprint on the art world. Of course there’s an economic side to it, but we never do shows just because we want to sell. We find an artist we want to work with, and we show them.

    André: And there was also the risk of putting together two very different people. Alex was raised in New York, I am from Coimbra, Portugal – two very different cities. But we knew we agreed on the essential, and we were able to cultivate our differences through our diversified gallery program, without it ever being a problem. It is a common project, with its own unique idiosyncrasies. This explains in part our broad program. Like Alex said, I think the economic part of it was only secondary somehow. But we’ve always been able to stay afloat in such a competitive market.

     

    Andy Rourke, The Smiths, Rooster Gallery, New York

    Andy Rourke (The Smiths) at the opening of FAC512: Factory Records Vinyl Design 1978-1992 / Rooster Gallery’s 5th Anniversary on October 22, 2015

     

    MS: Your dynamic approach to the gallery space is a strong characteristic in your program.

    André: We soon understood we had to make as much as we could from this space. This is important because at the beginning, despite this being a regular gallery, we related to the fact that the space is relatively small, actually a typical situation in this area. Real estate in New York is not easy, particularly now, after the crisis, when all the rents are increasing – especially in the Lower East Side. For instance, with artist Arianna Carossa, when we first invited her to work with us – before her first solo show with us, Il Gattopardo – we really wanted to do something right away but our calendar was already full. Arianna proposed she should have her own show in the bathroom. Arianna’s ideas on how to intervene on this unusual space were a further confirmation that this was the beginning of a fruitful collaboration.

    Arianna Carossa: I used towels with holes cut in them and aluminum pipes to modify the space. I chose towels because they remind me of Deleuze’s concept of thingness – they are a neutral object that gets invested by their owners’ individuality. The hole is a characterizing element in this space, since the drain is the center around which a bathroom’s function revolves. I called the project Water [a wordplay based on the Italian word for "loo"]. It was a wonderful experience, but challenging. In fact, at the last show I did in Milan [I funghi del guru at Spazio O’] the owner of the space told me: “I saw your resume, and I come after the bathroom.”

    André: But it’s an honor! [all laughing]. Our friendship with Arianna has been very important for us, and it was clear from the beginning that she was willing to do awkward things with us, to cooperate with us whatever the project was. That is something we really appreciated, and in a way made her part of the project. She is one of the people that will always work with us, regardless of the situation. She really has the ability to put herself in a situation, and give her contribution to whatever it is. I remember she received some criticism for holding a show in a bathroom, but she accepted that as a challenge.

    Arianna: If you’re sure about your work, a space can’t bias it. You are the one transforming the bathroom, and what really comes out of it is your artwork. If an artist thinks otherwise, it’s a problem.

    André: We want to make a connection with the area we’re in, its peculiarities and its position in the art world. We thought of Gracie Mansion in the 1980s having her gallery named Loo Division because it was inside a bathroom here in the Lower East Side. So in a way we didn’t come up with anything new, we just understood where we were, what the situation was regarding real estate here, and that previous experiments can actually be translated, 30 years later, into something that is relatively new. This type of action reflects a particular mode for which Chelsea galleries wouldn’t necessarily be available, for instance.

     

    Arianna Carossa, Gattopardo, Rooster Gallery

    Arianna Carossa’s show “Water” inside Rooster Gallery’s bathroom in 2014

    Arianna Carossa, Gattopardo, Rooster Gallery

    Exhibition view of Arianna Carossa’s solo show “Il Gattopardo” at Rooster Gallery, December 2014

     

    MS: Rooster Gallery’s diversity of program is another signature mark of your project.

    André: Besides the main gallery and our experimentation with unusual spaces, we host a screening project with video curator Mark Boswell. He is always welcome in the space to show experimental cinema, work with live musicians, and so on. We have broad interests, and an open look at what contemporary art is. For instance, design can be part of the dialog, like in our current show.

     

    MS: Rooster Gallery’s 5th Anniversary exhibition, “FAC512: Factory Records Vinyl Design 1978-1992 / Rooster Gallery’s 5th Anniversary,” shows original cover design from Factory Records’ prolific production. Why did you choose them for your anniversary show?

    André: Alex is a graphic designer, and I grew up in a city with a strong musical scene and background. We both like punk rock and alternative music. For our 5th Anniversary, we decided to pay homage to Factory Records because it relates to us on a very personal level, and it is in many ways similar to what we’ve been developing with this gallery. Look at the progression of their graphic design and the type of artists they were releasing. For instance, at the hype of rave parties in the late 1980s and 1990s, Factory Records ran a classical music sublabel. Their catalog showed how broad Factory Records’ interest in music really was. Our line of work is inspired by the same principle. We had exhibitions on landscape architecture, we showed Joseph Beuys, we worked with graphic designers, and music in this particular case. We’ve worked with so many media and approaches, and we’re even interested in showing together pieces of art from different time periods, back and forth in time in a single exhibition. FAC512: Factory Records Vinyl Design 1978-1992 / Rooster Gallery’s 5th Anniversary in particular relates to both of us on different levels, and it resonates to the way we both want to approach the space. We relate to the space with respect to what the space already is, rather than like owners. Hence, it has always been a collaboration between us, the space, and the artist.

     

    Factory Records, Vinyl Design, Rooster Gallery, New York

    FAC512: Factory Records Vinyl Design 1978-1992 / Rooster Gallery’s 5th Anniversary on October 22, 2015

     

    MS: Many Chelsea galleries are moving or opening a new location in the Lower East Side. As businesses open but more close down, what’s your observation as insiders?

    André: Businesses open and close at a fast pace. Just on this block, on Orchard Street in between Stanton and Houston, in the 5 years we’ve been here 24 businesses have closed, and more have opened in their place. I thought of it the other day because American Apparel just closed down on this block. The same turnaround happened with a number of galleries around here, which tells a lot about how the market works but also about the role of real estate in the city’s development. Many are doing well, they carry on interesting projects, but real estate is just merciless.

    Alex: New York City has always been changing. The only surprising thing is the rapidity at which the Lower East Side has changed. I grew up on Roosevelt Island, and I used to come down here because I had friends who lived in this area. Back then, there was a lot of crime and drugs, now it’s a completely different place. I don’t think there’s even a single store left from that era.

    Arianna: Except for Rosario Pizza at the corner of Stanton.

    André: But I think he probably owns his own space.

    Alex: It’s a common New York City thing: your lease expires, they double or triple the rent, and that’s it. You’ve got to go. Obviously, as galleries move in, it’s a signal of gentrification, and they push real estate prices up.

    André: This hasn’t happened to us yet, but we’ll see. Obviously if your rent triples, the dynamic of your business has to change as well. As of now, things have been absolutely sustainable for us. When we first opened, there weren’t many galleries here, most of them are clustered near the New Museum and south of Delancey. In the meantime, many good spaces opened, such as Louis B James Gallery and On Stellar Rays, that also helped defining the area for their really good art program. James Fuentes Gallery on Delancey is my favorite in New York, he has a really relevant program – he recently had shows with Jonas Mekas, Fluxus artists such as George Maciunas, and so on – which really inspired us. So it’s actually good that we’re north of Delancey but at the same time close to such landmarks. I think they helped us in a way, and they resonate with the direction we want to work in.

     

    Robert C. Morgan, Rooster Gallery

    From Robert C. Morgan’s exhibition “The Swimming Lessons (1981)” at Rooster Gallery in 2013

     

    MS: What’s your next exhibition project?

    André: We go back to archives once again. 72-year-old artist Robert C. Morgan, that already had a solo show with us on his 1970s conceptual production, will be showing his archives. Largely known as prolific writer and art historian, he never gave up his artistic practice. His journals are an in-between medium: they contain writing but also drawings and sketches for his paintings and video production. We enjoy digging into archives. I remember that the first time we met Robert 3 years ago, we went to his place. He was showing us his paintings, when he started going through his archive. He started pulling out his lifetime production, and we loved the work he showed us, and that is how we started working together.

    Robert C. Morgan will be on show at Rooster Gallery, New York City starting December 1, 2015. Arianna Carossa has an exhibition planned on the gallery’s rooftop for this December.

     

    Arianna Carossa, Alexander Slonevsky, André Escarameia, Matilde Soligno, Rooster Gallery, New York City

    Arianna Carossa, Alexander Slonevsky, André Escarameia and Matilde Soligno at Rooster Gallery, New York City

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