Posts Tagged 'exhibition-review'

Put the light out, erase a line

Trial and Error, Stockholm – The Stockholm Pride Festival 2007 has offered many things. The media, for example, still exclusivly focus on the flamboyant part of the gay community, all political parties (except for the christian conservatives) have competed in Pride exposure, and there has been a very good artist run exhibition.

Lord Peter Wright once wrote about the Swedes ”…they have an intonation which makes everything come out flat and boring; rather like Sweden, in fact.” This is one of the things the Swedish people is most afraid of – that we might be too square, and that other countries are funnier. With this in mind, it is not so strange that all the politicians has now been competing for exposure in the colorful Pride context. As long as it is cute and harmless, The Fab 5 glamour is very welcome in Sweden and that part of the non-heterosexual community has for a long time been the main focus in our media.

One recent reaction to this media focus is the book ”Bögjävlar” (approximately ”Gay bastards”), written by five gay men. ”The media has decided to portray the helpful gay as a service institution for the straight sociaty” one of the authors explains. The book and their blog aim to constitute a counter weight to that cliché.
”Bögjävlar” was published just before the Stockholm Pride Festival. The festival has traditionally been focused on gay rights and partying while contemporary art has been absent. But this year, an international contemporary art show has been initiated by two artists: Malin Arnell (curator) and Stefan Forss (working with the artist run gallery Studio 44). The exhibition was named ”PUT THE LIGHT OUT, ERASE A LINE” and, together with performances and a video screening, included twentyeight art works.

Malin Arnell choses not to call the show a queer exhibition, and writes in her statement ”in the exhibition /…/ we meet a number of artists that in different ways, momentarily, act entirely on their own terms”.

I especially want to mention two of the projects that I include with images:
Kajsa Dahlbergs project ”A Room of One’s Own / A Thousand Libraries” is a compilation of marginal notes made by readers in one thousand library copies of ”A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Wolf.
And Malin Arnell had a performance on the opening night, standing on a stool against the wall. Three members of the audience used four rolls of duct tape to fix her to that wall and then the stool was removed while Arnell was left hanging . The peice was named ”A better view”.

Read more about the exhibition at gallery Studio 44’s webpage >>

Rotterdam / exhibitions overview review

Vivianne Sassen, Untitled 2004, winner Prix de Rome 2007

The program in Rotterdam looked exciting this month: Prix de Rome (the Dutch Turner Prize), residency artists in Tent, the architecture biennale, Le Corbusier in the Architecture Institute and the graduation exhibitions of the art academy, a short review:

Witte de With Institute / Prix de Rome
Prix de Rome is the biggest art prize in the Netherlands, awarding the best artist under 35 with a loot of EUR 35.000! A promise for a fantastic art experience so I go and check Witte de With first. This year however the prize seems to be the product of an anemic compromise. On the one hand by splitting the exhibition in two, one part in Rotterdam, the other in Amsterdam (this is such a pathetic discussion between the first and second city of Holland). On the other hand by a very politically correct assembling of all disciplines: photography, installation, video, drawing etc.
However, the reason for this years’ mediocre quality could be much darker: the absence of true visionary talents.
Oops! Please proceed to next review.

Tent. / Wrong time, Wrong place
No reason to panic, I move on to Tent, a fresh and dynamic art institute who might have found the solution for the above mentioned problem: import artists! In agriculture we get our season workers from Eastern Europe, as in construction, so why not try the same with artists!
Well… The overview of 21 artists who stayed for a working period in artists residencies in Rotterdam is messy at best, pointless and completely lacking quality at worst.
I’m getting worried! If not abroad either, where else can we find good art?!

Willem de Kooning Academy / graduation show
So I turn my gaze hopeful towards the next and upcoming generation of artists. Unfortunately, no big venue was available for the graduation show this year (funny, ’cause I could think of two -mentioned above – myself). Therefore the art department was presented in their studios. And not for the worse, the exhibition is diverse, fresh and headstrong. The usual pitfall for graduation artists is the cliché, thirteen-in-a-dozen works, which this years students have gracefully avoided. Ruben Dario produced six beautiful photographs of the not-so-sustainable preparations of the next World exhibition nearby Shanghai, Wendy Bos makes small, poetic paintings and I-didn’t-catch-his-name very crafty weird paintings.
Well done guys! Thanks for saving the day!

Le Corbusier and the Architecture Biennale reviews will follow shortly

Rotterdam / Architecture Biennale / different venues

This week the third Architecture Biennale of Rotterdam has started. This years’ theme is Power – Producing the Contemporary City, which makes me curious, since we’ve dealt with the subject of Empowerment quite much on this weblog. The programme is a jungle of exhibitions, lectures and discussions. I’ve tried to make a shortlist with my personal favourites. Reports and reviews will follow.


Five teams of architects and theorists have researched fourteen cities and came up with proposals for possible futures and answers to problems that will emerge there. The exhibition is curated by the Berlage Institute and involves – among many others – Supersudaca, about whom I wrote this post.

Shows the work of groups of architects and artists who, in their practice, are not interested in defining just the form of a building, but rather in stimulating collective processes, spontaneous creativity and activism in order to incite a new political role for architecture.
– From the biennale website

The Istrike foundation is organising a series of lectures, workshops and presentations at Stichting B.A.D. The events aim at developing new social and architectural strategies for the Charlois neighbourhood, recently labelled by the government as one of the ‘problem districts’ of Rotterdam.
Involves lectures from Jeanne van Heeswijk, Daniel van der Velden, Stealth, Siebe Thissen and others.


  • Open! Strategies for a better world – NAI – 28 May

multi-table debate involving our own Point of View contributor Francesca Recchia and furthermore Ana Dzokic (Stealth Unlimited), Zvi Efrat, Jeanne van Heeswijk, Dennis Kaspori, Matthias Pauwels (Bavo) and more.

  • Cultural Empowerment – NAI – 01 Jun

Lecture by Peter Sellars

  • Public/Private Power: Publieke ruimte en private krachten – 7 June, 17:30

Private sector developers seek involvement in public space. What are the opportunities and responsibilities for commercial property and land developers, builders and others in shaping the public spaces of the city?
With a.o. Hamit Karakus (Alderman, Housing/Spatial Planning, Rotterdam), Astrid Sanson (direcor, City & Housing Development, dS+V), Rudy Stroink (director TCN Property Projects), Margriet Drijver (board, Com.Wonen)
In Dutch

Rotterdam / MSLM Magazine & exhibition

MSLM: An exhibition and publication or magazine (hopefully the latter) that started off last friday. Dealing with fashion for and by Muslim women, the organisation succeeds at emancipation and positive image-building of Muslim women. However, they face a couple of possible pitfalls as well.

First of all: at last an exhibition at artists’-run space Mama that is worthwhile and takes up a subject that truly matters. After the gradual departure of its founding members, one of the most unique and innovative art spaces in Rotterdam slowly turned bleach by piling up one pointless exhibition after the other. MSLM takes up Mamas’ former street credibility and sense of momentum and adds a portion of biting political relevance.

In the public debate the headscarf that Muslim women wear has turned into a symbol of suppression of women and Islam fundamentalism. MLSM magazine and the accompanying exhibition strongly and very convincingly create an opposite image: that of a young Muslim woman who is self-confident and self-determined; who self-consciously puts on her headscarf and proudly wears it as both fashion item or accessory, and as signifier of her identity. MSLM proves the headscarf is mysterious, concealing, fashionable, seducing and very female, furthermore, it makes the user stand out as an individual.

Nonetheless, the organisers face some complicated issues. Despite the fact that the entire editorial team is comprised of young, female Muslims, the editor-in-chief is Dutch and not Muslim. She deserves all credits for pulling off a fantastic job and putting the issue on the map – the exhibition was on national news, front page news in the largest news papers and as such successful in putting Muslim women positively in the public debate. Nevertheless I wonder if the organisers should have put themselves in another position as such. For instance as initiators and project leaders and rather leave the entire editorship to Muslim women.
This is essential, because similar to the freedom of choice of wearing a headscarf, Muslim women should also be entirely in charge themselves in deciding how they are being presented. A final – and necessary – step the organisation needs to take towards complete emancipation.

Finally, my favourite piece in the exhibition: a video by Nicole Martens who filmed women one-on-one putting on their headscarfs. She lays focus on the pride and self-consciousness of the act, and puts the person who is putting it on in the center: a free and self-determined individual.

More on the magazine, check the website of Studio beige who did the better-than-vogue design
Until 10 June at Mama, Witte de Withstraat 29-31

Rotterdam / Joost Conijn / Museum Boijmans van Beuningen

Why would anyone want to put a gate in the middle of an empty desert? Why build a timber car (which runs on wood) and embark on an Eastern European odyssey? Why would anyone want to do that?!

One dimension of the works of Dutch artist Joost Conijn is his manual labour: he has hand-build a car, an airplane and an automatic gate in the desert. It reminds me of the wonders of the industrial age: the beauty of an engine; the magic of a flying machine. This technique however isn’t an end in itself. It’s much rather the starting point for the art works Conijn produces with them.

I think these machines much rather function as ‘social tools’, vehicles that enable encounters and interaction. Wood Car is presented as a video that documents a journey through Eastern Europe; C’est une hek (It’s a gate) documents his journey through Marocco, where he builds a gate in the middle of the desert. Metaphorically speaking: it’s not the car, but the journey; it’s not the machine, but what it allows you to do with it.
Moreover, his alien devices force Conijn to step out of his point of view and into others’. The technique becomes an invented language that allows him to communicate with people he encounters. This is what I value most about Conijn’s work: his ability to find methods and instruments that enable him to step over artistic and cultural borders. Beyond these frontiers, Conijn goes where no artist has boldly gone before, which renders his work with an open and unpredictable character.

Joost Conijn’s work is on display in Museum Boijmans van Beuningen until the 6th of May.

Amsterdam / Mapping the city / City Art Museum

A series of posts relating to the exhibition Mapping the city in the City Art Museum in Amsterdam

Part #2: the dérive. (click here for part #1: the exhibition)

One of my favourite subjects the exhibition takes up is the dérive. In short, an instruction for a city-stroll in which the itinerary is determined by the participants’ intuitive response to the terrain.
What interests me from an artistic point of view is the double meaning of the dérive. In the situationistic sense it means ‘to wander off‘, however, it could also be understood as a ‘thing that leads to another’ (as in English, to derive out off…). Thus, when combined, the dérive could be interpreted as a method that leads to sudden or unexpected insights, by means of wandering off.

It reminds me of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, who defined knowledge not as given facts, but rather as an ongoing process of “becoming’. To study this process, Deleuze says, we shouldn’t ask the question ‘What?’, but instead questions such as ‘Where?’, ‘Who?’, ‘When?’ and ‘How?’. Which brings me back to the dérive, a method that allows you to directly respond to the terrain and put these questions into practice.

“When you are walking, you are aware or awake to everything that happens in your peripheral vision, the little incidents, smells, images, sounds…”
– Francis Alÿs

In the exhibition we see some works of Francis Alÿs who applies these Deleuzean methods in his work. Mexico City has been the setting for several walking performances, one of which is shown in the exhibition. Alÿs pushed a huge melting ice cube through the streets of the city, walked around with magnatic shoes that gather all metal garbage, drags a drumstick along the surface of city fences and walks around with a gun in his hand until he gets arrested. All these works explore the urban terrain, trigger events and encounters and ultimately reveal the dynamics and diversity of Mexico City.

More on Francis Alÿs here and here.

Amsterdam / Mapping the city / City Art Museum

A series of posts relating to the exhibition Mapping the city in the City Art Museum in Amsterdam
Part #1: the exhibition.

The exhibition Mapping the city in the City Art Museum Amsterdam sets out several subjects relating to site-specific art and urban art which I’d like to discuss in a series of posts.
The curators have taken up the theories of the flaneur (coined by Baudelaire) and the dérive (coined by Debord) as starting point for the exhibition. Both theories approach the city in a non-functional way. The dérive is an instruction for a city-stroll in which the itinerary is determined by the participants’ intuitive response to the terrain. Such methods open up possibilities for an experimental way of reading the city and have become starting point for many art works.

Unfortunately only few artists in the exhibition manage to maintain such an experimental attitude. Francis Alys, Wim T. Schippers, Doug Aitken and Valie Export prove that performance is the best technique to use the dérive as an artistic method. Only their work manages to explore the urban terrain, to respond directly to the environment and to provoke reactions among passers-by.

Of course, you can wake me in the middle of the night to come and see a real Jeff Wall photograph. The pictures of Beat Streuli and Philip Lorca diCorcia are beautiful frozen portraits. And I must admit that I couldn’t wait to the see the latest Sarah Morris film, and Miami lived up to all expectations. However, all these works study or document the city, just as it is.

I think the theory of the dérive is more than just a method of experiencing the city. As an artistic practice, it enables the artist to work with the dynamics of urban environment; to create works that adapt, respond, interact with the terrain and that ultimately manage to become part of the city flux. The themes the exhibition sets out, as well as the participating artists, are all individually very interesting. But all together they fail precisely on that point: they don’t become part of the city.

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