‘Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play’ was the theme of 2017's National Pavilion UAE exhibition at the Venice Biennale. We spoke to the curator, Hammad Nasar and participating artist, Vikram Divecha to find out what being on an international platform means for the development of UAE art and culture.
‘Unknown Cloud Caretaker’, an AI smartphone app, was created by artist duo Lundahl & Seitl to foresee the movements of an unknown electromagnetic cloud. The Cloud is based on the idea of humanity’s ability to communicate in large groups and over great distances. Linked by a shared experience and trust in the other participants, the cloud can only exist if we let ourselves believe in it. From September 20th until October 6th 2017, the cloud passed over both Stockholm and Bangalore, India simultaneously. Berlin Art Link compiled documentation of the Cloud’s appearance on Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin as part of Berliner Festspiele‘s ‘Limits of Knowing’ exhibition.
The ninth edition of Momentum, the Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art, was held from June 17 to October 11, 2017 in Moss, just outside Oslo, Norway. Since its inception in 1998, the festival has been one of the most exciting platforms for Nordic art and artistic ventures that engage with the Nordic context. The five curators were respectively from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland, but the participating artists were from all over the world. This acknowledgement of global interconnectedness is key to understanding the theme of 2017’s biennial, ‘Alienation’.
“Immersion means, basically, that you forget the medium,” explains Thomas Oberender, Artistic Director of the Berliner Festspiele, in his introduction to the 2017 exhibition ‘Limits of Knowing’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau. The range of works that were on display in ‘Limits of Knowing’, presented as part of the wider ‘Immersion’ program, played with our understanding of the borders of art, opened up spaces to enter and explore, and awakened perception and sensation beyond the purely visual. The artists presented in the exhibition aimed to activate concepts, familiar to our knowledge-based society, through sensations rarely considered as tools of reason: anticipation, premonition or bewilderment. The use of VR, smart textiles, sensors and apps propelled the visitor into the work on another level and create experiences often felt rather than fully understood.
Tracing one minute in every year of filmmaker Jonas Mekas' life, Douglas Gordon's memoir-style film 'I Had Nowhere to Go' begins with a story of the first image Mekas ever made, in his native Lithuania, under the authority of Soviet soldiers. In the second part of Berlin Art Link's studio visit with Gordon, he recounts the process of filming Mekas' life story; the film is based on Mekas' published book of the same name, about his flight from Lithuania through Europe to America. Gordon reflects on the visually bare quality of 'I Had Nowhere to Go', which highlights the importance of the voice in storytelling and the trail of hidden images in Mekas' own work.
Ying Miao is a Chinese net artist whose practice largely takes place on what she refers to as the 'Chinternet'–the heavily censored version of the Internet available in China–as well as her iPhone screen. Miao explores creative possibilities in this reduced sphere of the Chinese web by creating works that reflect critically and playfully on censorship. The absurdist visuals of her collaged website aesthetic, mashing together YouTube videos and commercial advertisements, also heightens the acknowledgment of web privatization and monopolization internationally. Other works deal critically with the placid, neutral design of iPhone apps, rendering them in enlarged versions on canvas or cushions. Whether reflecting on political censorship or laissez-faire capitalism, Miao's work takes the internet as its playground, decontextualizing mass information and launching it into the art world ether. We spoke to Ying Miao at Art Basel Hong Kong, where she presented two pieces at the Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder booth: 'APP-nosis' (2013-14) and 'Tech Abstractionism'(2014).
Belgian artist Rinus van de Velde‘s large-scale charcoal drawing exhibition ‘The Colony’ has dominated the upper altar space of König Galerie since mid-March. During the installation of the show, van de Velde told us about the concept behind his exhibition, which he presents as a fictional, esoteric artists’ colony, creating a narrative atop his interpretations of stylistic tendencies by art historical icons in a visually powerful and lively homage.
In the first of a 2-part interview series, Gordon invited Berlin Art Link into his studio for a glimpse at his process: a narrative unfolded that revealed his affinity for a wide variety of found objects and his remarkable ability to mobilize them in the pursuit of his work. With Gordon, nothing is wasted and nothing is without purpose: a collection of seven footballs and an assortment of weaponry all have a place in the process and outcome of his practice. Scottish, Berlin-based artist Douglas Gordon gained critical acclaim in the art world with his 1996 Turner Prize win and his piece '24 Hour Psycho', a rear-projected installation of Hitchcock's film 'Psycho' slowed down to last an entire day. Since then, he's created an impressive collection of works in photography, video, installation and public space, largely dealing with issues of collective memory and prompting novel reactions to the familiar.
In 2016 König Galerie presented ‘The Others’, a group exhibition that challenged established ways of portraying ritual and the body within Christian iconography. Curated by artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, the exhibition revealed a conceptual take on site-specific art: prior to being a gallery, the site at St. Agnes was a Catholic church, built in the architectural form of Brutalism. Through fifteen works by twelve artists, ‘The Others’ disputed moral edicts in religion as symbolised by the building’s former purpose. Through Elmgreen & Dragset’s curation, the exhibition establishes an interrogation of certain Christian morals, which continue to influence law-making and politics at the expense of humanity. It distorted and redefined the archetypal ‘other,’ forming a narrative that creates a new dialogue of dignity for moral and social issues, honouring those defined as ‘The Others’.
Lebanese sound artist and composer Tarek Atoui curated a section of 2016's Bergen Assembly, located in the recently closed community swimming pool Sentralbadet. In his piece 'WITHIN', Atoui continued his long-standing exploration of hearing diversities and how deafness can influence the way we experience sound performance. Together with the local deaf community, he interrogated different musical instruments that could address both deaf and hearing people. Accompanying ‘WITHIN’ at Sentralbadet, Atoui invited Paris based curator duo, Council (Grégory Castéra and Sandra Terdjman), to create the exhibition ‘Infinite Ear’, a series of “Sonic Therapies” such as Deep Listening and Sound Massage, a program of screenings and exhibitions looking at inaudible phenomena and objects. 'WITHIN' and 'Infinite Ear' were performed in the context of the Bergen Assembly, a triennial event in Bergen, Norway devoted to contemporary art and research. Additional sections of Bergen Assembly were curated by freethought and Praxes. Berlin Art Link Productions interviewed Tarek Atoui about the concept behind his contribution to this year's event.