Sunday, 24 May 2015

CHOICES UP NOW


The latest in my rolling top ten, together with previous choices which 
you can still see...

Sergio Camargo: Mármore @ Lisson Gallery, 52-54 Bell St – Edgware Rd


Three Untitled works from 1988 in Belgian Black marble

If you’re after poised cadence, head for the Lisson. The European reputation of Brazilian sculptor Sergio Camargo (1930-90) has risen steadily this century, but this still represents an unusually full British showing. He’s best known for white-painted wood works using serial curved geometries originally inspired – as he explains in an evocative accompanying film in which he claims Bachelard, Borges and pineapple ice-cream as influences – by  cutting across an apple. Here, though, we have a wide range of scale and form, and more works using marble - and not just white Carrara, but also a pitch-black Belgian stone which seems almost artificial in its purity. Need more? Shirazeh Houshiary is in top form with her immersive paintings derived from abstracted Arabic writing in the other space, and the viewing rooms behind Camargo  feature some spectacular - though much more visceral - Latham and Kapoor.

Untitled, 1978 - Carrara Marble 
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Sheree Hovsepian and Konrad Wyrebek: The Whole Other @ Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery,  533 Old York Road - Wandsworth Town


Sheree Hovsepian: Reveries of a Solitary Walker, 2015 Archival dye transfer print, graphite, acrylic, silver gelatin prints, wood, ink drawing on paper, brass nails and string,101.6 x 127 cm

This neat two-hander brings together Iranian-born American Sheree Hovsepian and London-based Pole Konrad Wyrebek, both of whom imply figuration through apparently abstract meets. Hovsepian has found a way to combine the various strands of her practice – the photograms for which she's best known, geometric string drawings, sculptural forms and photographs - into vitrine-like wallworks hinting at personal references which, their background in Gestalt theory suggests, might cohere into an narrative. Wyrebek takes on the modern fact of life that a world reliant on electronic data is also subject to its errors. He uses an elaborate process to mimic the corruption of communications so that his images are fragmented almost to abstraction, painting which generates a large scale beauty which may never have been there in the first place. Again, what is broken down emerges  surprisingly whole.
Installation view, with Konrad Wyrebek front
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Stirring the Pot of Story: Food, History, Memory @ Delfina Foundation, 29/31 Catherine Place – Victoria



Leone Contini: Uncanned Histories, 2015 (detail) - food tins from the WWI Austro-Hungarian front, now in Slovenia
No-one could consume the whole of the recently-expanded Delfina Foundation’s four year, multi-disciplinary, residence, research and event-rich programme ‘The Politics of Food’ - but this six artist exploration of power relations through food is an independently relishable morsel. Three new works commissioned by curator Nat Muller are the highlights: Mexican Raul Ayala Ortega has built the tower of babel out of fat, which will melt in the lights over the show’s run to expose a superstructure of bones; duo Cooking Sections propose to ferry bananas in glasshouse-like carry-on luggage; and Italian Leone Contini has spent three years obtaining tins dug up from World War I trenches in order to show them and their iconography in three forms – line drawings, filmed close-up, and the rusting metal itself as arranged to echo the skyline of Tripoli and trigger various takes on Italian history.

Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe): Cases of Confusion, 2015 (detail) - (50-20-20) and (55-40-20), the Ryanair and Easyjet carry-on trolley maxima - photo Sylvain Deleu



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Jeanette Ehlers: Whip It Good: Spinning From History’s Filthy Mind @ Rivington Place – Shoreditch





There can be a fine line between the simplistic and the elemental, and I these three projects by Danish Trinidadian Jeanette Ehlers may fall the wrong side for some: a hypnotic film of the sea, distorted into redness in post-production to suggest the bloody business of the slave trade; a performance in which Ehlers – and audience members, so made complicit – use a whip to apply charcoal to canvas (the resulting charged abstractions are shown alongside); and the harrowing film The Invisible Empire, 2010*, which recounts a modern version of slavery through the words of a girl cast into abuse and prostitution. She speaks in the voice and to the agonised image of an old man we take to be her father (but is actually the artist’s father)  lending a distance which increases the poignancy. That carries a question into the whole show: how much of this truly in the past?

runs 20 minutes on the half hour

From Whip It Good (2015) 8 minute video + 7 canvases of 100x200cm

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Can Altay @ Arcade, 87 Lever St – Old Street

To 20 June:  www.arcadefinearts.com

Light, 2015 (I'd never, incidentally noticed the blotchy ceiling before!)

Turkish artist Can Altay also generates a stark resonance from three elements: the swollen silver globular door handle which has long been a feature of Arcade, but now provides a prequel for the same shape as a bulb – Light 2015 - swinging across the ceiling. Both are made less functional but not quite useless, as is the other work , Window, 2015, which just covers the gallery’s frontage with political comics, which are rendered semi-legible by their new role of keeping out half the natural light. It’s an atmospheric way of shining a light on dubious practices, only to find – should we be surprised? – that little is revealed.

Window, 2015 (with the earlier door handle from Distributed, 2012)

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Angela Bulloch: New Wave Digits @ Simon Lee, 12 Berkeley St - Central


Installation view, image courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery London / Hong Kong Photo: Peter Mallet

Berlin-based Canadian Angela Bulloch is known for the building the social context of instructions and coding into abstract structures which echo the screen. Here its the online gaming screen as she turns the gallery into an archetypal and  anthropomorphic cartoon desertscape. Bulloch generates a surprisingly  intense atmosphere from stacked polyhedra through the spatial ambiguity of colours and planes contradicting each other; the mix of regular and irregular shapes; the counterpointing of grey MDF in bare,  painted, or evocatively rose-oiled states; the internal light of some sections  (versions of her characteristic pixel boxes); and the superb installation, lit in subtly varied tones against a backdrop of horizontal and vertical motifs painted on the walls. If her subject, via cybernetics, is the integration of the human with the technological, then my warming to the show may have proved something…


There' also an offsite Heavy Metal Stack of Six in neaby Mount Street, playing quite differently off its historic context
 
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Karin Lehmann:Wiedergänger @ Seventeen, 270-276 Kingsland Rd – Haggerston


Karen watches Nino, her boyfriend and designated water-servant, fill some vessels
I don’t recall anyone before Kari Lehman being given all of Seventeen’s space in its eight year history, and it enables the upcoming Swiss artist so honoured to explore the properties if her materials at generous scale. First, by using casts of the floor to make rudimentary textured columns in what might be a reductio ad absurdum of the dream gallery space, which might be endless floor with no columnar interruptions. Second, by covering the floor itself with unfired pots in a wide range of clay tones. Tranches of these will be filled with water over the month of the show: I was surprised by how soon – about 45 minutes – they then collapse. The results of this sculptural performance are rather painterly pooling of water spill-out, vari-coloured by the clay it came from.

Sediment Sampling, 2014-15
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Jason File: An Ornament and a Safegaurd @ The Ryder, 19a Herald Street






Three shows in, it’s worth heralding this latest addition to the East End’s most interesting street. Anglo-American lawyer-turned-artist Jason File is spending his £5,000 Mead Fellowship on mounting ‘Decus et Tutamen’, to give the Latin version of its title, more often found on the side of a £1 coin. Given the 50% gallerist’s price share, it will cost you £10,000 to buy the only work in the show – that £1 coin itself, on which File has lavished the other £4,999 in order to lay bare the art world mechanisms designed to confer legitimacy and add value. Documents set it out: the cost of the display unit in which the money is housed; six weeks of the gallery’s rental; an advert in Art Review; having the show photographed;  publishing a catalogue; holding a dinner etc…  Fascinating and somewhat troubling – even though, as an accountant, I ought to like the clear costing…

 




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Patricia Treib: Mobile Sleeve @ Kate MacGarry,  27 Old Nichol Street - Shoreditch




Patricia Treib at the opening, dressed in one of her paintings’ most characteristic colours, with Hem, 2015

This is the London solo debut for the Brooklyn painter whose stand for Wallspace at Frieze 2013 made a big impression on me. Her loose-wristed single-take apparent abstractions draw you into the spatial ambiguities and muted chromatic interplay of what feel like 1950’s colours. The real pleasure, though, lies in how they’re arrived at – via several rehearsals – from the negative spaces in between the objects in her source images, and retain that sense of making something out of nothing. In what will I guess get called Treibal Art, painting becomes positively peripheral.

Delft Icon, 2015
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Robert Therrien @ Gagosian Gallery, 17-19 Davies Street

To May 30:  www.gagosian.com

No title (Pots and pans II), 2008 Metal and plastic  274.3 x 167.6 x 203.2 cm

LA-based Robert Therrien is known for bringing a little surrealism, pop and minimalism to works which are big on scale, often recreating the charged perspective of a cild over whom furtiture looms. So it suits him to make plenty of the Gagosian’s smaller space: not just a teetering ceiling-high stack of 25 specially-made and dramatically enlarged saucepans, but a shelf-top version found from dollhouses, and a Dutch Barn door which, being black and in his gallery, inevitably invokes Richard Serra. If those spookify by scale, a cart of coloured discs presented as Buddhist meditational kasiṇa  does so by origin: they’re made from over-painted  trays from the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles – the one in which Robert F Kennedy was assassinated.  Does this explain why Therrien has fixed on the motif of a devil – which I haven’t seen from him before -  in the work on paper in the viewing room?


No title (Mini stacked pots and pans VI, two CorningWare), 2006 -  Metal and plastic     35.5 x 19 x 19 cm
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Taus Makhacheva: Vababai Vadadai! @ Narrative Projects, 110 New Cavendish St – Fitzrovia

To 30 May: www.narrativeprojects.com

 
Still from Super Taus, 2014 


One interesting space (New Narrative Projects) has become two (Christine Park at the original location and Narrative Projects in a new one). This second show at the new space takes us to the Caucasus, as the widely-shown Dagestan artist Taus Makhacheva brings a sharp insider’s eye to the enactment of masculine and feminine roles. A collection of vintage postcards sets up the stereotypes. A range of carved noses makes up the region’s characteristic mountain landscape. There are three films: male street posturing is recast as performative gesture; whereas a woman (the artist demonstrating her powers) unfussily clears a road of what looks like a massively heavy boulder; the post-Soviet inflation of marriage ceremonies with little authentic basis in tradition is mocked via the adoption of even more inflated dress. ‘Holy Moly!’ – or, as they say in Dagestan and in the show’s eponymous soundpiece, ‘Vababai Vadadai!’ 


Still from A Space of Celebration, 2009 
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Ravilious @ Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Rd - Dulwich



The Greenhouse, cyclamen and tomatoes, 1935
It isn't hard to work out why Ravilious's paintings appeal: his quirky eye for the objects and landscapes of the decade to his death in 1942 plays in to nostalgia tinged by the war to come or in progress; his apparently straightforward depictions are seeded with an almost vertiginous sense of underlying strangeness; he has a remarkable sense of how to build up a persuasive whole from detailed patterning of grass, sea, wallpaper or repeated flower pots, largely achieved by importing experience of making woodcuts into his watercolour production; and he has the most amazing watercolour technique, lighting clarity from within through  the blazing white of the paper. Art history has taken little notice, but these 80-odd paintings are your best-ever chance to enjoy a ravishing achievement.

Tiger Moth, 1942


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PREVIOUS CHOICES STILL ON
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Henry Wessel: Incidents @ Tate Modern




Tate has a recent penchant for arguably underappreciated American photographers: I can't say I wasn't bowled over by Harry Callahan but Henry Wessel is more impressive. He moved from New Jersey to California in 1971 to chase the year round light, and his pictorially acute affirmations of interest in the world feed into the 27 photographs selected and ordered to make his summary work 'Incidents'. These work persuasively individual images of strangers, replete with shadow play, unexpected tilting and internal rhymes such as between grass and hair, crutch and railing, thoughts and branches; and as a group they emphasise vantage points as they move between youth and age, men and women, singles and couples to build a putative narrative.



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Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

WEIGHT FOR THE SHOWING: 23 APRIL - 13 JUNE 2015



WEIGHT FOR THE SHOWING


Curated by Paul Carey-Kent



At Maddox Arts, 52 Brook's Mews, London W1K 4ED



24 April – 13 June, 2015

I'll be at the gallery to take people round the show on  Sat 9 May 11-12 am and Sat 6 June 2-3 pm



Photos from the opening:  Thurs, 23 April, 6-9pm

Jen Harris and Liv Fontaine (who run the HA HA Gallery in Southampton)


Levi van Veluw, Nico Kos & Steph Carey-Kent


Me with Liv


Levi van Veluw, David Rickard and Carlos Noronha Feio


Ben Austin, Selma Parlour & Liz Elton


Uliana Apatina & Juliette Mahieux-Bartoli



Liv Fontaine performance - Plinth Piece






Post-performance Liv with Juliette

Pre-tour installation shot on 9 May


Of the many competitors for our attention when we look at a work of art – meaning, narrative, form, colour, gesture, scale, sound, movement – its weight is not generally high in the list, heavy as much sculpture and some painting may be (Bram Bogart's super-thick applications or Analia Saban's container canvases come to mind). Indeed, although WEIGHT FOR THE SHOWING is themed around weight, all the works have other interesting agendas, most notably perhaps the frequency with which they skew logic and the zest with which they engage with art history.  



Some artists  playfully substitute the heavy for the light or vice versa:  Gavin Turk’s bronze bin bags are well known, Andreas Lolis has made marble look very like card or polystyrene; Fishli & Weiss fashioned all manner of items out of polyurethane; and Sarah Sze recently made rocks out of photographs of rocks, which she showed alongside real boulders. Others have used surprisingly-weighted items, e.g. Andrew Palmer attaches rocks to paintings, and Aselm Kiefer fixes anything from soil to submarines to his canvases; Damien Hirst’s ping pong ball pieces might be the opposite end of that scale.


Such play is allowed here, but the show concentrates more on two other aspects: the relative weight of elements within or between works, which latter may be down to evident heaviness of mark, or else be a matter of ‘feeling’ heavy or light for no obvious literal reason; and the metaphorical association of weight with seriousness and being weighed down by troubles or history. There’s no neat division, but Barlow, Rickard, Schur, Ferro and Martinez are perhaps more in the first category; and Serra, Jankowski, Marin, Feldmeyer and Fontaine in the second.


Enough weight may also lead to collapse. Nietzsche worried about the possibility of Eternal Return, in which we’re doomed to repeat events for eternity, making existence a heavy burden, given the impossibility of escaping the cycle. Buddhism provides a potential way out of that by embracing the cycle, as does Milan Kundera when, assuming in contrast that such a cycle is impossible, he holds that 'life which disappears once and for all, which does not return is without weight...and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime...means nothing'. Decisions are then 'light' -  they do not tie us down - but meaningless and potentially empty. That isn’t entirely welcome either, hence the 'the unbearable lightness of being'. A more pragmatic view would be that we’re in the space between the baggage of the what's gone and the disintegration to come - but the interim phase may last a while yet, and we might as well enjoy it.  Just so, there’s plenty of wit in these works, so I hope they raise interesting issues but also contribute to visitors enjoying a few minutes of the gap.

INSTALLATION VIEWS





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WORK BY WORK




Christian Jankowski: (Born Göttingen, 1968, lives in Berlin) Heavy Weight History (Ronald Reagan), 2013 - b/w photograph on baryt paper, 140 x 186.8 cm





           

Christian Jankowski’s full Heavy Weight History project, as shown at the Lisson Gallery last year, consists of an installation, a 25-minute film with an over-the-top sports-style commentary and a series of photographs. The German artist invited a group of champion Polish powerlifters to try to pick up massive public sculptures in Warsaw, including more than one Communist-era memorial and the statue of Ronald Reagan seen here. That provides a light-hearted and populist way of engaging with the contemporary relevance of such monuments, and as the past they represent. The weightlifters’ attempts to hoist the burdens of history onto their shoulders had variable results: Reagan was among those to resist their efforts successfully.

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David Rickard (born New Zealand, 1975, lives London) Ouroboros, 2013 Suspended weighing scales - dimensions variable



                                 



The hanging installation Ouroboros interlinks a series of weighing scales, each of which measures the cumulative weight of those below. With the lowest scale registering no weight the dials incrementally step around the face of successive scales up the height of the work as they weigh the increasing number of scales below them. Maddox’s 2.85m ceiling height allows for eight scales, such that the top one registers halfway round the 25 kg dial. That implies the self-reflexivity of the ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail. You might think, incidentally, that 16 smaller scales would have completed the full cycle in the given height – allowing the physicists’ puzzle question: why is that not so? 


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Richard Serra (born San Francisco, 1939, lives New York / Nova Scotia): Level IV, 2010 – Etching, Paper 73.7 x 165.1 cm - Edition of 22







Richard Serra’s fame rests on his mighty sculptural explorations of weight and space, but his super-dense applications of paint stick, and linked prints, capture much of that spirit. He draws as an act, giving process precedence over results. That leaves a residue which depicts nothing but the logic of that action on his material: the paint stick fuses with its support, so there’s no figure/ground relationship.  Black helps in this: Serra regards it as the most objective hue, and says that since it the densest colour material, ‘it absorbs and dissipates light to a maximum and thereby changes the artificial as well as the natural light in a given room’.  Level IV defines its space in just those terms.


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Nicolas Feldmeyer (born Switzerland, 1980, lives in London) 


Something heavy on something melting, 2010 – video, 1.03 mins



Trained in Zurich, San Francisco and London, Nicolas Feldmeyer’s varied practice tends to explore the energies of the world in ways which suggest, he says, that ‘there is much more to things and between them than I can understand’. ‘Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?’, we might ask along with Pope, seeing how weight picks on a substance which is losing its shape without any help.  Perhaps there a critique here of how we’re treating the arctic - an alternative end of times to go with Levi van Veluw's take. There's also a strong formal pre-echo of Serra’s Dead Load, 2014. Clearing Up II also hints at the meteorological, and contrasts with the Serra etching by making an evanescence out of blackness, by being medidatative where Something heavy on something melting is existential


Clearing Up II , 2013 – charcoal on paper 

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Richard Schur (born (1971) and lives in Munich) 
 


    Summer Lawns, from the Manhattan Series, 2015 - Acrylic on canvas 120 x 160 cm
              


The internal organisation of Richard Schur’s creamily sumptuous abstractions is all about comparative balance, weighing one colour and volume against another: look at the effect  such small sectors of yellow can have in these pictures.  But the whole painting can also seem ‘heavy’ (as in Up - though this had to replaced in the show by the somewhat lighter Silver Sun) or ‘light’ (Summer Lawns).  Yet Schur’s lightest touch is reserved for the tiller of art history - most obviously Mondrian – as he paints his way around the world in a series of residencies. History of painting meets a sense of place as his ever-mutating sequence of abstracts sails into actively serene visual spaces suffused with the light of those various locations - here, New York, the architecture of which is also evoked. 






Up, from the Manhattan Series, 2014 - Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 80 cm (nb substitute painting in exhibition due to a scratch)


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Livia Marin (born Chile, 1973, lives London): Nomad Patterns, 2015
       
  
Livia Marin presents objects from the series Nomad Patterns, in which the ceramic seems to have been arrested mid-melt, or knocked over only to spill instead of breaking, and then retained an improbable continuity of pastiche Chinese pattern. That poses questions of literal and metaphysical weight. Is that china or water?  A destruction or a restoration? Casually playful or threatening instability? Our judgement is likely to be affected if we know that much of Marin’s work deals with breakage and repair in the context of seventeen years of oppressive dictatorship in her home country of Chile…
 

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Levi van Veluw (born Hoevelaken, 1985, lives in Arnhem): The Collapse of Cohesion, Archive, 2014 – video, 8.36 mins, 2014







In 2011, Dutch artist  Levi van Veluw built three versions of his boyhood bedroom, covered with thousands of symmetrical wooden shapes to symbolise his ‘urge for order and fear of losing control’.  He has since developed that theme of the world on the edge of order or just tipping over it through charcoal drawings, installations, photography and film. Archive is part of his major project The Collapse of Cohesion. It shows cabinets laden with geometric forms crashing down in slow motion:  not only might that stand in for the failure of attempts to impose odrer on the world, hence for emotional trauma, the molecular references could easily link it to the ‘Big Crunch’ which will be the ultimate end of times.  And yet the fabulous aesthetic offsets that sufficiently to leave us in an ambiguous space. Archive is a performance of sorts, in which eight assistants pushed over the shelving: we see the four seconds action slowed to six minutes at intensely high resolution..Slowness might lead us to assume the ponderous edging towards heavy, but here it brings light and silent grace to what was a heavy cacophonous crash.  Van Veluw shows in Amsterdam with Ron Mandos, and also has a London solo lined up for 2016 with Rosenfeld Porcini.
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Phyllida Barlow (born Newcastle, 1944, lives London): no title: brokenboxtube

2014 - Cardboard, ply, polyurethane foam, scrim, bonding plaster, cement, paint, spray paint, PVA, sand - 40 x 30 x 33 cm








                                  

Phyllida Barlow has recently taken over Tate Britain, Hauser & Wirth Somerset and the Venice Biennale with her mock monumental installations, which act as obstructions to viewers’ progress through the space as they parody the pompousness of phallocentric traditions. She employs workaday builders’ materials, which used to get recycled into the next exhibition until her rise to international prominence in the last few years. Consistent with the deflation of portentous weight, her work typically looks a lot heavier than it actually is. That facilitates her putting sculptures on the wall, which plays up their often painterly surfaces, as in this mini-anthology of forms which looks as a whole disturbingly like a heart, as if to debunk in a parallel manner the symbolic importance of the heart as the location of sentiment.

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Knopp Ferro (born Cologne, 1953, lives Ammersee):   Raum 22-37, 2010 - iron and red colour - 124x109x87cm





                       

The Austro-German sculptor Knopp Ferro has a performance background, evident enough in the works he makes by slashing paper with a knife, but also implicit in his delicate mobiles. They repeat their slender units to lyrical effect, demonstrating a trembling lightness one might not – despite the precedents of Calder and Rickey - naturally associate with iron rods. The contrast is heightened when the sculpture hangs overhead, drawing a cloud in space. Here Knopp’s playful yet extreme deconstruction of the grid counterpoints  Phyllida Barlow’s rumbustious approach. The one bright colour shooting through the centre could be a reference to Dan Flavin's first, diagonal, light tube work.

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Cipriano Martínez  (born Caracas 1965, lives London) 

  




                      Orthodrome, 2012 and  - oil on canvas, 180 x 120 cm

                           


If Ferro’s mobiles are grids in a constant, yet always balanced, state of change, Cipriano Martínez’ paintings and silkscreen prints are static works which use optical dynamics to resist any stabilization of their grids. That may represent the constant, and so never quite conclusive, change in urban environments and the systems which keep them going – nowhere more so than in his home city of Caracas. His background is in civil engineering, and Orthodrome has an architectural feel as well as referencing the op-art legacy of both Britain (Bridget Riley) and Venezuela (notably Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesús Rafael Soto). It feels to me as if we’re looking up at architecture looming above, whereas the fluidity of the Colour Test series suggest a more open view, perhaps out of windows. Doubt, it has been suggested, defeats reason in Martinez’ world of cartography corrupted to the cusp of abstraction. A heavy agenda, perhaps, but delivered with a shimmer.




             Untitled (From the Series Colour Testing), 2013: oil on canvas, 180 x 180 cm



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Liv Fontaine (born (1989) and lives in Southampton), Plinth Piece, 20 min video loop +  performances



           



Liv Fontaine’s lively performance practice, recently seen at Shoreditch House and the ICA, typically uses alter egos to address sexual politics. Perhaps that cues in the phallic aspect of her would-be-flexible body’s battle against the constraint of a large and rigid plinth. Sculpture, of course, descended from the plinth fairly decisively in the early sixties, but nowadays it’s pretty common, nonetheless, to see small ceramics and sculptural items set atop a column – indeed, Fontaine says it was the number of such presentations which triggered her performance. Anyway, the plinth has come down along with the artist, cast here to reference the classic nude and so emphasise just what a weight of art history there is to be dragged around - and there is suffering involved...  maybe it's personal, too.  

Postscript:


Performance on 22 April 

It's the way of performances that they should take on a logic of their own, and Liv's half hour on 23 April certainly achieved that. Comments to me included:


'Does she need help?' 
 'I have been wondering her falling off her plinth only to have to carry it around - the burden of man's shifting gaze strapped to her back'. 

'Cruel and exploitative'

'I found myself drawn away from plinth and body towards the face the longer it went on...'

'Liv's performance aptly balanced aesthetic sensitivity with meaningful confrontation. It drew in art historical references of the nude and her objectifying podium, denounced that podium as burden through the evident effort of scraping across the floor, and used it as a weapon of confrontation (I was nearly pinned to a wall on the night of the opening!) as well as a compositional device (very obvious when 'paused'), thus anchoring this performance strongly in the visual tradition it is wryly critiquing.'

There's a fascinating account at http://blog.artlyst.com/the-artists-statement/this-is-not-a-plinth-anxiety-performance-and-the-weight-of-sharing in which Nico Kos says that 'there was a general confusion amongst the onlookers as to how they ought to react. It was closer to the theatre of cruelty Antonin Artaud than what we have come to expect from performance art, although it carried the same anxiety. Soon the voices around began to hum with indifference – interest in this woman as snail was fading. And perhaps this was the point – the disinterest of a crowd to a woman clearly mortifying herself for a reaction. The crowd decided they were finished and the performance, so sensational to begin with, ended without even an applause. However this fade of interest in the actual experience was diametrically opposed to the conversations that followed, in particular the sharing of iPhone video clips. It was like a rash spreading far and wide. To me – despite her obvious physical discomfort – it was an important visual milestone. Seeing a real, un-photo shopped, naked woman dragging around her own plinth made me feel a profound sadness about the representation of women today. Her paler than pale flesh more reminiscent of marble statues from another century became grey as she wormed her way round the gallery floor. This was anything but a celebration – she seemed also to be suffering with the burden of her own naked body. I wanted to go and pick her up, rip off what was binding her to the plinth, stand her up, and put her on it.

Liv herself said later:

'Since doing the performance I feel very differently about the whole piece, I had expected to feel vulnerable and uncomfortable during but actually I felt powerful and commanding. Previously I had felt my body being strapped to the plinth made me fragile and pathetic but as the performance went on I felt I was taking ownership of the plinth and the audience’s gaze was transferred to me, this is how I found pleasure within the performance. 

Its that point when the audience stopped being so interested that the performance changed. Actually it was almost like two different performances in that respect. The arranged 'performance' where the audience is told what do look at and how to feel and then this after performance where I had to behave differently, all of a sudden without such organized gaze I became very relaxed experimenting with ways of how to regain the attention but perhaps becoming more of a uncomfortable distraction for some. The pressure of 'performance' wore off and I just felt like myself again just on the floor without any clothes and with a plinth on my back!

I very much enjoyed it, although I am still hurting even today!'  





After the performance a video of a previous version was run on a tablet placed on the plinth so that it was ready for Liv to be strapped to it again on 22 May. It is, as one visitor noted 'opposite Richard Serra's piece, so that an unknown woman is up against the heaviest-hitting man in the show, and also the heaviest work in the show, given the metal frame on Volume 4'. Only too late for the weighing did it occur to me that I should have listed the work by weight, not by dimensions...

Performance on 22 May with Liv's highly supportive mother Joyce nearest the camera!

Liv’s second performance, on 22 May, felt very different. Instead of the opening night’s audience, mainly of artists and regular visitors to London openings, it was watched by a more international crowd of 30, with a high ration of collectors. There was silence, where on the opening there had been chatter, and so the sound of the plinth dragging across the floor was far more prominent; and the audience attention was more constant and intense, Liv said it felt far more ‘staged’, and that she was under more scrutiny.  Responding to that, perhaps, her actions were more aggressive – as if, said one spectator, Liv was out of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a beetle with a plinth wing-case advancing on us.  The performance was also shorter, 15 minutes feeling like enough of that more focused attention. What didn’t change was the interest and attention Plinth Piece generated… See also i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/liv-fontaine-is-getting-naked-in-the-name-of-art-history






About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09)and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, The Art Newspaper and Border Crossings. I have curated five shows in London during 2013-15 with more on the way.Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.

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