“In the photograph Thomas Hoepker took on 11 September 2001, a group of New Yorkers sit chatting in the sun in a park in Brooklyn. Behind them, across brilliant blue water, in an azure sky, a terrible cloud of smoke and dust rises above lower Manhattan from the place where two towers were struck by hijacked airliners this same morning and have collapsed, killing, by fire, smoke, falling or jumping or crushing and tearing and fragmentation in the buildings’ final fall, nearly 3,000 people.”
“The transformation of Clark Kent into Superman is always precipitated by a crisis, usually one large enough to potentially destroy the world. But what if it is not a monumental end-of-the-world that scares us, but the prospect of losing the small worlds that we inhabit and know: a bookstore disappearing, a public organization running out of funds, an independent gallery shutting down?
The crisis of funding in arts and culture threatens to destroy many such worlds with a slow petrification of our sensibilities, and the understandable impulse is to despair and bemoan. It is, after all, no coincidence that a state of the economy—depression—also names or appropriates an affective state whereby a self-fulfilling prophesy is initiated: an economy drained of capital produces a draining of life. An alternative economy would have to seek a language that does not just name a different economic process, but names different psychic energies amidst the prediction of gloom that normally accompanies the retreat of capital from all forms of life, including creative life. And yet it remains important to maintain that the mere presence of healthy public institutions does not guarantee a richer cultural life, just as their absence does not necessitate a poverty of cultural life.”
- Lawrence Liang, “Is it a Bird? A Plane? No, it’s a Magic Chair,” e-flux Journal 27, Sept.’11
I think Claire Bishop (unsurprisingly) asks the most pertinent question about the life and future of the international biennial exhibition:
““ILLUMInations” therefore presents us with a biennial impasse: If not discursive and pedagogic performativity, if not the globalized documentary turn, then what are our remaining options?”
Read her complete Artforum review here.
Daniel Birnbaum on Christoph Schlingensief at the German Pavilion (winner of this year’s Golden Lion) here.
I’ve come to realise that i’m just not a natural blogger. My silence on this forum hasn’t been for the lack of interesting conversations or research i’ve been involved in over the past few weeks…somehow it just doesn’t strike me to come home and blog about it! But that will have to change…
This past weekend saw two major openings around Delhi. The first, on Saturday night, was at the Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon - a show titled “Home Spun” curated by Bombay based writer, critic, curator, former editor of Art India (jack of all trades?) Girish Shahane. Devi shows are largely curated out of The Lekha and Anupam Poddar collection (the mother-son duo who opened and run this space), which features some prominent early works by the likes of Subodh Gupta, Rashid Rana, Bani Abidi, Hamra Abbas etc., many of which featured in this exhibition. As the title suggests, the show explored the idea of ‘home,’ with a focus on altering, subverting and rendering uncanny everyday objects and settings that constitute the domestic environment. From drainage pipes spilling blood onto a living room couch to a video recounting a medley of Bollywood potboiler plots, and a long gallery covered in carpets for the taking (scissors and bags were provided to cut pieces and carry them home), the show has high entertainment value and very crowded galleries (with works and that evening, people!). The curator made some interesting text insertions from sources including the Mahabharata and Dickens’ Great Expectations. Devi’s website and information about their past and current projects can be accessed here.
On Sunday afternoon, Nature Morte held an opening for Jagannath Panda’s new show Metropolis of Mirage, which is only on display in Delhi for a week before it travels to their Berlin gallery. Panda’s skilfully created canvases involve very precise applications of paint interspersed with collaged fabric and other elements. The overall effect is quite decorative even though the titles and imagery suggest a critique of capitalism and the ubiquity of brand names and logos. I find that a lot of work shown at commercial galleries here has a similar kind of surface seriousness, whether it refers to political and social issues or art historical precedents. A degree of rigorous and sustained engagement with the subject of the work is lacking, perhaps the effect of a production cycle dictated by the demands of galleries and fairs.
My own exhibition research was greatly enriched by my meeting with Gargi Sen from Magic Lantern Foundation. A documentary filmmaker herself, she now runs this Foundation and its associated label, Under Construction, which provides a channel of distribution for documentary films in India and abroad - one that favours filmmakers by minimising the distributor’s cut. We talked for hours about the evolution of the documentary form, the kinds of festivals, projects, and conversations she is involved in nationally and internationally and a number of films and filmmakers that I hadn’t heard of and who certainly haven’t shown within the context of an art exhibition. I am currently watching the films I acquired that afternoon, trying to establish connections and identify larger themes (both formal and contextual) that will allow for interesting and evocative curating. More on that to come very soon, once I have my concept finalised by the end of this week…