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Collectivism after modernism

Martijn van Berkum, Rotterdam – – This cover could completely go without a book. My first thought at seeing the picture on the book Collectivism after modernism, a collection of essays that “explore the ways in which collectives function within cultural norms, social conventions and corporate or state-sanctioned art”, reads the back.


Needless to say, to a certain degree this weblog is a collective practice as well, and how I’d love to be with our members on that arrow-shaped boat. Even more when I read that the essays explore collectivism in social, cultural and political contexts. They are set in New York after 1975, the Cuban national crisis in the eighties, the sixties in Japan and in the last decade in Senegal. Not to mention the introduction which ambitiously plays out collectivism against the backdrop of the cold war in which collaborative practice is identified as suspicious communist activities and individualism is hailed as the prodigal practice of Western capitalists artists. Hmmm, this begins to look like a tasty menu.

Unfortunately, promising as it may sound, it seems like the authors forgot to add salt, pepper and a nice sauce. Very few manage to really give proper analysis of the relation between collectives and the contexts and surroundings in which they operate, on how they carry out political action, provide discursive places and alternatives and, most important for me, what kinds of strategies and methodologies they have developed.

To enable transformation on a social, cultural or political level, as the introduction promises, collective practices need to be translated to an operational level. How else can you be an actor in such societal fields? Only Okwui Enwezor manages to translate theory into practice in his text The Production of Social Space as Artwork: Protocols of Community in the Work of Le Groupe Amos and Huit Facettes.

It is a rich and intelligent text that combines insights from social studies, post-colonialism, community practice and collectivism to describe the political and cultural situation in Senegal. Situated in this complex framework he describes the practice and methodologies his case-studies Le Groupe Amos and Huit Facettes have developed. It is a theoretically complex and layered story combined with a very insightful, hands-on description of subversive collective practices. In all honesty: one the best texts I’ve read.

Therefore, my advice is to borrow the book, make a big coloured photo copy enlargement of the cover and put it on your wall. Photocopy Enwezors essay and lock yourself in the room with the poster and read it to last word! Inspiration guaranteed!

Blake Stimson and Gregory Sholette (editors), Collectivism after Modernism: The art of Social Imagination after 1945, University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota, 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0-8166-4462-9
Authors: Jelena Stojanovic, Reiko Tomii, Chris Gilbert, Jesse Drew, Rachel Weiss, Ruben Gallo, Alan W. Moore, Okwui Enwezor, Irina Aristarkhova, Brian Holmes.

Antonio Scarponi nominated for the Curry Stone Design Prize

Point of view is proud to announce that one of its members, Antonio Scarponi, has been nominated for the prestigious Curry Stone Design Prize.

The Curry Stone Design Prize is awarded every year to breakthrough design solutions with the power and potential to improve our lives and the world we live in. The Curry Stone Design Prize recognizes exceptional, emerging design innovations that contribute to the vitality of the world community”.
– from the Curry Stone Design Prize website.

Antonio’s practice takes place at the intersection between contemporary art, design, architecture and social engagement. Intertwining these discourses creates a framework that enables him to engage in the sheer complexity of the societal issues his work deals with. It renders Antonio an independent position where he can situate a critical and “subversive” practice of imagination.

Since 2004 Antonio has been working – in collaboration with Stefano Massa, Federico Pedrini and Antonio De Luca – on the Dreaming Wall project, a public space installation originally designed for Milan. It’s a green-coloured UV light sensitive wall that turns white when light falls on it. At night it displays text messages send by phone, or submitted on the Internet. A computer controlled UV laser beamer projects these text messages that last for fifteen minutes on the wall and then dissolve again. The project is a hacking of public space; it drifts away from the functionality of everyday life and creates what Antonio refers to as “the sub consciousness of a city asleep”.

On a personal level we enjoy working with Antonio, who has a beautiful mind, and a critical and passionate attitude that brings energy and innovative ideas into our collaboration.

Congratulations!

Read Antonio Scarponi’s posts on Point of view here and visit his website here
Read an article Antonio recently wrote about his “RIKEA” project.
The Curry Stone Design Prize.
And read their article on Antonio’s practice here.

Stealing beauty

Martijn van Berkum, Rotterdam — Busy, busy weeks. But I have to squeeze in this article since the art work in question is one of the funniest and most intelligent works I have seen the last months.

Stealing beauty is a 20 minutes video art work by the Israel-born artist Guy Ben-Ner. It’s a parody on typical sitcom soap opera’s on television, staged in different IKEA stores over the world. We follow the fictive lives of Ben-Ner, his wife and their two children as they struggle with problems that are drenged with moral and cultural issues. The camera is put up without authorisation of the IKEA stores and people are walking by, looking into the camera and intervening in the imagined lifes of the Ben-Ners, while price tags change from euro to dollar to yen.

The real Ben-Ner and his family themselves have migrated to the United States and in a very comical way the video issues problems of migration, of trying to fit in, trying to adapt to a Western way of living. “Honey, I’m hohooome”, is the first thing Ben says when he arrives in an IKEA living room. But their foreign accents, and their hilarious comments on the peculiarities of Western-American culture reveal that they don’t fit in precisely. References in their texts to Marxism give a hint, for instance when the children yell “children of all nations unite” when they are arguing with their father. The want for dissolving into a collective, symbolized by the globalized IKEA consumer ideal, is apparently stronger than maintaining your own identity.

For more information, please check this great article in the New York Magazine Art Review.  

A four minute trailer of the video:

What is art and what is painting – and how can either help?

In the infamous prison Bang Khwang in Bangkok, Thailand, prisoners are being trained to become painters, or artists.

In a full-page article in The Bangkok Post we get an explanation of the project. It is initiated by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri, and she says that "the aim is to equip the inmates with skills to make a living after they leave the prison."

So in order to prepare inmates in Thailand for the rough real world outside, they train them to become painters. Or as they also are referred to in the article: Artists.

According to the article the course took place between March 12 and May 31, two hours per week, for a total of 40 hours(?). (Explain to me like I’m a two-year-old how that adds up to 40 hours.)

69 prisoners were offered to take the class, 52 of them passed. It does not say why 17 failed. Maybe they were released before the class finished.

The "artists" that passed the class claims that painting helps them concentrate, it gives them hope for the future. Which of course is good. But what hope is it?

One prison painter says: "The art class is not just a candle, but a spotlight which shows me the way. I know I will not be jobless out there and will not return to a life of crime."

So apparently there is a shortage of painters, or artists if you like, in Thailand. The inmates works were mostly based on pictures; postcards and photographs. Nice views and, yes of course nude pictures were the most common motives. Walking the streets in my own neighbourhood I can say that it does not seem to be a shortage of artists nor painters that can produce cheesy pictures – rather the opposite actually. And considering that Thai authorities ban art exhibitions before they open due to risk of too many people showing up, uncontrolled in a public space, I don’t really know where these newly trained artists can go to sell their work.

All of this causes a bit of a dilemma for me to be honest; Bang Khwang has a large number of prisoners or inmates, some say 7 000 some say 11 000. We can just establish that the prison is HUGE. It has a nickname; ‘The Big Tiger’ – because it tends to eat people alive. Probably ‘eaten’ by a number of things, death penalty being one, diseases that they don’t get any cure or medicine for, killings and of course suicides.

If art or painting, helps these prisoners to feel better and to feel better about themselves that is great. Absolutely.

But 69 out of thousands – is that really something to write home about?

Secondly, if they decide to prepare the inmates for the real world, outside the walls, could there be anything else perhaps that could be of more use for them than to become artists? And of course something that could be of more use to the society.

I am not saying that artists is not of use to the society, real artists are. I just don’t think it is fair to the inmates to trick them into believing that they are artists, or painters for that matter, after 10 weeks, 2 hours per week of training – which by the way adds up to 20 hours, not 40. But is fairness considered in a prison where they still might be using shackles?

I’d say it does not matter – fairness should always be considered.

So I wonder if this is an honorary initative and the way to go for more prisoners – educate them to become artists in 10 weeks –  or if it is a waste of time and just silly propaganda?

Of course I don’t mean the usual ‘silly’ by the ‘silly’ I used, but I assume that is understood.

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“Veiling the unveiled truth”: the conceptual art of Silvio Berlusconi

Antonio Scarponi – Italy. We all know that the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a man of talents. First of all he is a man of spectacle, a perfect actor from the old school. He is able to dance, sing and his practical jokes are famous world wide. As an actor he also have very good make up artist in his stuff. He is also a good soccer coach as well as many other talents including the playboy skills he uses for his diplomatic aims. For instance he ‘seduced’, as he publicly declared, the Finnish president in order to elect the world capital of ham and Parmesan (the Italian city of Parma), as the European Capital of Food. We all know these skills, but recently in two occasion he demonstrate also to have great talent as conceptual artist.

Together with his Architect Mario Catalano, his consultant for the media design appearance, also famous for the design of the set of a sort of ‘soft porn’ TV show  from the eighties named ‘colpo grosso’ ( a sort of strip poker, see video below) they have decided use a Tiepolo painting as background for the press conference room of the Parliament. Tiepolo painting is titled “La verità svelata dal tempo” (the truth unveiled by time)

Recently they have noticed that the naked nipple of the allegoric figure representing the truth was distracting the attention of the TV audience. In the picture below you can see the press conference set with two representative members of the female gender of the Italian power. On the left there is the president of ‘Confindustria’, the association that represent Italian industries. Here you can also see the naked nipple. On the left image you can see Mara Carfagna, former show girl, now minister of the “equal opportunities” between the genders. As you can see the nipple in the right image has been covered. It is not photo-shopped, no, that is a solution that only cheap artist uses. It has been painted over the real thing!Well we do not want to say anything about Berlusconi as prime minister. The time will ‘unveil’ perhaps the wiseness of his political will, but as conceptual artist he definitely worths Duchamp. I find the idea of using Tiepolo painting as background for the press conference in the Parliament a brilliant idea. Especially with the iconographic symbolism that it has… “the truth unveiled by time” … excellent. But the real geniality of Berlusconi’s Art is to to cover the nipple that distract the TV audience! He plays with iconography of one of the masters Italian painting. “re-veil the truth unveiled by time” this is the title of Berlusconi’s Work. We can look upon it as manifesto of his politics. A genius.

But this is not the only prove of his wicked artistic talent. The girl on the right picture above was democratically elected as minister of the ‘equal opportunities’ between the genders. She was a very talented showgirl recently involved in a sort of ‘sex scandale’. Gossipers wants her as mister president lover, perhaps this is a bit of an exaggeration, more likely she is one of several, as we all know Berlusconi’s sensibility towards beauty. In fact the scandal apparently was about some telephone tapping of a theoretical conversation between her and another minister (woman) discussing mister president’s preferences about blow-jobs. We are not allowed to know details about this conversation, a specific law was designed to protect the public integrity of the political forces in order to protect them by the known communist forces of the magistrates that missuses their power to discredit Parliament representatives. And nevertheess is not our business not interests. So we are not allowed, now we want to know about this. But if there is some truth about the love affair, I would propose to democratically elect mister Berlusconi as one of the greatest conceptual Artist of our time. In order to elect as minister to the equal opportunities between the sexes one of his lovers, he really have to be a conceptual genius. In the picture below a picture of our minister before the public mandate.

Perhaps it is a bit courageous to say that Berlusconi is a great conceptual artist… perhaps we have to give time to time to “re-unveil again the truth” of Gianbattista Tiepolo nipple. Or maybe we have to unveil again the one of Mara Carfagna that it has been recently covered by tailleurs, a costume more accurate for her new public mandate?

What geography is really about

Made In Sweden

Trial and Error, Stockholm –– On a recent journey we visited two well-known Asian landmarks: The Chinese Dragon Gate and the Royal Thai Pavilion, both located in remote places in Sweden.

Dragon Gate
The Chinese businessman Jingchun Li discovered a run down road tavern in Älvkarleby north of Stockholm in 2004. Because of the good energy of the area, he bought land and began to build a Dragon Gate – a gate to happiness and wealth according to Chinese tradition.
This Dragon Gate will be a center for Swedish-Chinese financial relations and Mr. Li has invested 15 billion € in the project. The center includes a restaurant, a 300 square meters kung fu school, 200 terra cotta warriors, a hotel with 56 rooms individually designed inspired by the 56 provinces in China and much more.

All the building material, machines, workers, masseurs and others have been shipped from China. This has met some troubles, since Sweden is a very regulated country. One example is that in China, doors open inwards to welcome people, but in Sweden they should open outwards, in case of a fire. But despite clashes like this, the center will finally open this fall. And in the future, Mr. Li wants to import live pandas and build the largest Buddha in the world.


The Thai Pavilion

In 1868 King Chulalongkorn ascended the throne in Siam. He was, and still is, very loved since he introduced modern laws, including abolishing slavery. According to one story, a Swedish sailor in Bangkok saved one of his children, despite the threat of a death sentence for anyone who touched a member of the Royal family. Grateful for this deed, the king wanted to visit the sailor’s village in Ragunda. Another story is that he simply accepted an invitation by the Swedish king Oskar II. Anyway, he came to Sweden in 1868 and chose to travel north to study the forest industry. People everywhere honored King Chulalongkorn and his vast company, the roads was decorated and in Utanede, in Ragunda Municipality a road was named after him.

In 1992, a traveling Thai folk dancing group visited Utanede. The road named after their former king fascinated them, and things were set in motion. In 1994 a committee for Swedish and Thai interests was formed and in 1997 they began to build the only Royal Pavilion outside Thailand. The ground was blessed by monks from Thailand and ten billion € made the pavilion possible.

When we visited, carps swam in the pond, Thai people came to pray, orchids was grown from Swedish birch trees in the green house, pop versions of traditional Thai music filled the air, a light summer rain trickled down and we loved it. Much thanks to the energetic guided tour led by the project manager Ulf Edström, who also told us about his bold future plans.

Asia grows, maybe not geographically but influentially and in Sweden local initiatives have outrun Stockholm in the competition for important international connections. In Ragunda the question is: Will the Swedish prime minister Reinfeldt cancel his vacation to welcome the Thai prime minister, who will visit July 19, to celebrate the Day of King Chulalongkorn?

Official website Thai Pavilion: www.swethai.com
Official website Dragon Gate: www.dragongate.se
An earlier post on China: povblog.wordpress.com/2007/05/29/the-art-space-race/


Recent articles

“Veiling the unveiled truth”: the conceptual art of Silvio Berlusconi
Published August 3, 2008 by Antonio Scarponi

We all know that the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a man of talents. First of all he is a man of spectacle, a perfect actor from the old school. He is able to dance, sing and his practical jokes are famous world wide [...] We all know these skills, but recently in two occasion he demonstrated also to have great talent as conceptual artist.
...
Made in Sweden
Published July 9, 2008 by Trial and error

On a recent journey we visited two well-known Asian landmarks: The Chinese Dragon Gate and the Royal Thai Pavilion, both located in remote places in Sweden.
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