Thursday, 28 August 2008
"Everything that begins as comedy inevitably ends as mystery”
Message Salon @ Perla Mode, Zürich
The works exhibited at message salon intended to create a situation, a sort of portal into formal jokes contaminated with psychedelic and political imaginary.
Three different yet interrelated projects conformed the exhibition. Weaving and clashing different examples of culture the pieces aimed to leave the public in a strange in-between moment. Each work became a bridge with the other works and also a bridge between the exhibition and its context.
This exhibition was then a personal response to the characteristics of Perla Mode, the works where adapted and modified from my original plan. Besides the art world and general public I had to consider that the exhibition space was located in the red light district of Zürich. My vision of the unknown (as a mental space) and the nostalgic (as history) clashed with the reality outside the windows; and this clash would hopefully leave a distance, with a specific energy, to think about.
The title of this exhibition is the final phrase of a chapter of "Los Detectives Salvajes", a novel by
Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño.
message salon downtown
Langstrasse 84 / Brauerstrasse 37 8004 Zurich
Exhibition: 27 August 2008 - 24 September 2008
Opening Hours: Mi 18 - 23 Uhr, Fr/Sa 15 - 18 Uhr
Sunday, 24 August 2008
Phil Collins: Soy Mi Madre
AUGUST 9 – OCTOBER 19, 2008
Aspen Art Museum
Eliciting the complex and ambiguous relationship between the camera and its subject, Phil Collins’ work examines individual and collective systems of representation. Collins’ multifaceted practice is based on a close engagement with place and community, and has addressed issues of ethnicity, gender, and political and linguistic identity through participatory events often organised in regions of social upheaval. In producing these projects, which have ranged from castings to a dance-a-thon to press conferences, Collins appropriates aspects of the documentary tradition and fuses them with elements of popular culture to create tender, affectionate, and sometimes melancholic descriptions of humanity.
In soy mi madre, Collins expands on these themes by using the format of the telenovela. Commissioned in 2008 by the Aspen Art Museum as part of the Jane and Marc Nathanson Dintiguished Artist in Residency Program, in this work Collins focuses on the Latino and immigrant populations of Colorado, a sizable percentage of which hail from northwestern Mexico. In Aspen itself, this community figures mainly as a non-resident low-qualified work force, dispersed through a ring of satellite towns from which it commutes daily. At the same time alluding to and refuting the preconceived glamorous image of Aspen, Collins made a work in resonance with the cultural context of this specific population.
The telenovela is one of the most popular products of Latin America. It is a format that exploits the world market through the articulation and preservation of cultural difference, and at the same time serves as a powerful tool of self-representation and the re-signification of the continent’s colonial legacy. Shot in México City on 16mm film, soy mi madre is structured as a standard telenovela episode. The script, written by hired Hollywood screenwriters and supervised by the artist, is indirectly inspired by Jean Genet’s The Maids, a violent exploration of the intricate power dynamic that exists between unequals. Revolving around ideas of role-play and performance, masks and mirrors, symbols and rituals, The Maids posits social identities as volatile and unbalanced—a notion which soy mi madre also takes as its point of origin.
Filmed with some of Mexico’s leading television stars, and including the contribution of the acclaimed production designer Salvador Parra (Volver, Before Night Falls), soy mi madre is a study in the aesthetics and politics of melodrama. Having grown up on the social-realist tradition of British soap, Collins is drawn to melodrama for, in his own words, ‘its disruptive potential to address, within a highly predicated framework, some of the pains and dilemmas of the private sphere.’ With its distinct cinematic qualities and use of professional actors, soy mi madre appears a significant departure from Collins’ usual methods. Yet his motivation remains the same: our need to reflect upon the pressing concerns of the current political debate. His film can thus be seen as an oblique comment on questions of race, class, and social politics in the United States.
'Soy Mi Madre'
A Conversation Between Phil Collins and Michele Faguet
published in Celeste Magazine, Mexico, Spring 2009
MF: Let’s start with the most obvious question. This past Spring you were invited by the Aspen Art Museum to initiate its Jane and Marc Nathanson Distinguished Artist in Residence program, the mandate of which is to “further the museum’s goal of engaging the larger community with contemporary art.” How is it, then, that you ended up in Mexico City producing a film, soy mi madre, shot entirely in Spanish and based on the format of the telenovela?
PC: Hmm, yes, from Aspen to El DF in seventeen crazy steps…Where shall I begin?
It’s not the first time I’ve approached a place, or better still the idea of a place, by producing my work elsewhere, examining the links which bind us together. For example, for a show in Scandinavia in 2006 I went to the Sudanese border in Northern Kenya to find a fish factory built by the Norwegians and abandoned, after a litany of disasters, in 1992. How were they to know the nomadic tribe they were trying to help didn’t want to settle down, and hated fish? Or that the lake would dry up and there wouldn’t be enough clean water to re–frigerate the catch? These kinds of complications, I think, are more interesting than the often naïve and bafflingly limited idea of site–specificity formulated within an institutional framework where “site–specific” routinely functions as a byword for public relations or audience building exercise. Let’s just say I prefer out–of–site–specific.
In terms of this particular commission, a preconceived idea of Aspen seemed to me very present, even in the day–to–day dealings of Aspen people. It already seemed to me like a soap opera of the rich and famous. At the same time, I was interested to look at the machinery that keeps this glittering front in place on the most basic, practical level. For many in the States, Mexicans are thought of solely in relation to low–qualified, manual or domestic labour, and in Roaring Fork Valley rural Mexican and Latino immigrant communities would travel sometimes two hours in each direction to a job, mostly in the hospitality, building and property maintenance industries. Around the time I started researching the project, I saw a hideously unsympathetic report on NBC by Tom Brokaw about the issues facing undocumented workers in Colorado, and so the focus of the piece sharpened. I wanted to make something which would talk directly to this non–resident and, in Aspen itself, largely invisible community. So I decided to go to Mexico and make a telenovela.
MF: In her essay “Live Through This,” Liz Kotz refers to what she describes as an “unabashed belief in the redemptive power of popular culture” in your work.[i] In other words, it’s not as simple as reducing Smiths fans in Bogotá, Istanbul, and Jakarta in the world won’t listen (2004–07), or, for that matter, Palestinian teenagers in they shoot horses (2004), to victims of a homogenizing globalization. And yet other works, most notably the return of the real (2006), explicitly address your deep mistrust in the corporate interests that determine the content of so much of the popular culture we consume today. Can you elaborate on this? I’m particularly interested in how your most recent work, soy mi madre, plays into this discussion given your use of the genre of the telenovela, which we know has been so culturally significant in places like Mexico and Brazil.
PC: And in many more places besides. Soap opera, as the Anglo–American equivalent of telenovela, is often derided as a low cultural form that manipulates, in a shrewd and emotional fashion, the basest and most irrational passions of its viewers. I’d always quite liked soap for this. And its associated pleasures: the preposterousness of its narrative conventions, how the show must go on, and the potential to address, within such a highly predicated framework, some of the pains and dilemmas of the private sphere. I’m not saying that it necessarily does, nor that it’s a revolutionary form in itself, but it’s undeniably attractive and one which offers manifold possibilities for personal identification and projection. In soy mi madre I tried to retain the attendant delights but to create a hybrid form – something realer than real, I suppose – by overvaluing the visual register and calibrating the narrative arc by reflecting on class, race, power relations and the tensions of domestic labour. I adamantly didn’t want to make a satire or a pastiche of soap – with wobbly sets and bad camera work. In fact, I wanted to make something exquisite, purposefully cinematic, shot on 16mm, with beautifully dressed sets and leading telenovela actors.
Naturally the idea mutated in several ways before I decided on the format of a 28 minutes long, self–contained episode, which would recognisably have many of the key elements of the genre, and which could, more importantly play on television itself. As I said, I wanted to work with something that the Latino community of Colorado could relate to directly, but whilst I was aware of the popularity and cultural significance of telenovela in Central and South America, I didn’t quite understand its global reach. I’d gone to Mexico right off the back of shooting a film in Kosovo, which was about the construction of political identities through language, but even there, within the most bitterly ethnically-divided communities, telenovelas such as Esmeralda were still universally beloved. And only ten years out of date! Equally, Russia, China, Japan, Indonesia, France, and, of course, the States, are huge global markets for telenovelas. I heard, although never confirmed, that in the 1990s the telenovela was Mexico’s biggest export, bigger than oil, car parts or silver.
At the same time, making a telenovela was a chance for me to revisit one of my favourite childhood memories. Growing up as I did near Manchester in the 1970s, the broadcast schedule was dominated by soaps, such as Coronation Street (still running today after more than forty years – and still every bit as good!) and, later, Brookside. If you’ve never seen them, they are wonderful examples of the topics and the kind of dialogue we were aiming for in soy mi madre — rich in inflection, combative, camp, gritty. These shows, like all good soaps, focus on the interior lives and domestic intrigues of a predominantly matriarchal structure. But in Britain, as opposed to the States for example, the working classes are the focus of the writing. In that sense, I wanted to try and marry traditions of outrageous excess, characteristic of the Americas’ soaps, and social realism, characteristic of the British, and to look from an oblique angle, from another country even, at the United States where the immigration debate remains one of the acute political concerns, especially in the light of such recent benchmark developments like the 2006 immigration reform demonstrations.
MF: A significant constant throughout your work has been the privileging of the production process, typically based on the convocation of individuals to perform a specific event determined by you, so that the resulting pictures and videos—although they are self-sufficient and do not necessarily require any additional information for them to have a significant (initially quite visceral) impact on the viewer—function as what Claire Bishop and Francesco Manacorda have called “residual traces of a larger aesthetic and conceptual scheme.[ii]” soy mi madre is the first time, I believe, that you’ve worked with actors and a formal script. Do you see this as a major departure from your previous working method in that the work no longer alludes to “a larger aesthetic and conceptual scheme,” but rather to a broader socio-political issue (to which these schemes, of course, are always intimately tied)?
PC: It did feel like a departure for me. It was the first time that I worked specifically with actors and a script, but on the other hand, conceptually, I don’t think it constitutes such a major shift. After all, as with my previous work, soy mi madre is an attempt to talk about issues, which I find important, and others often label “political”, and how they tie in with private desires and fears. Whether you do it with professional actors or a group of passionate amateurs is not completely irrelevant, nor paramount either, but if you’re making a telenovela why not start at the top?
In this sense, the biggest departure in soy mi madre, for me personally, is in aesthetic terms. This film certainly looks least like anything I’ve done before. Which is interesting because many aspects of the production remained the same: a relatively small team, an insanely condensed production period, and a similar organisation of the shoot, albeit on a much larger scale.
MF: Can you tell me a bit about your experience in Mexico and how you managed to make a telenovela with such high production quality in a short period of time, and in a country you’d never even visited before?
PC: Quite typically, I arrived in Mexico City eight weeks before the show was going up, with one bag and one e–mail as a contact. I began working on the script with P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, two wonderful American screenwriters who’d made a number of telenovelas. Again it was all very much a labour of love for all concerned, but I had the good fortune to fall in quickly with a group of people whose amazing passion for and dedication to the idea meant that we could proceed with style in spite of our budget: from Javier Clavé and Tania Pérez Cordova who infallibly overlooked all aspects of the production, to Pablo García of Tigre Productions and Juan García who generously allowed us to shoot at 5 de Mayo studios, to Damian García, an exquisite director of photography, and his team who lit and shot the film in two days. I was also incredibly lucky to work with Salvador Parra on sets, who had been the production designer on Almodovar’s Volver and Schnabel’s Before Night Falls, and Malena de la Riva on costume design, both of which essentially contributed to the look of the film which was central for conveying its meanings. And of course, more than anything else, I still can’t believe how completely jammy I was to work with such wonderful actresses like Patricia Reyes Spíndola, Gina Morett, Verónica Langer and Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez who are all major stars in Mexico and thus have an international reach.
In the research stages, I started where all good students should, with melodrama. I re–read Bleak House by Charles Dickens and The Maids by Jean Genet, both of which sat below the script. I wanted the film to be about class conflict but also to have many of the classic tropes of soap opera: mistaken identity, babies swapped at birth, bitter sibling rivalry, social mobility, and a mother as the source of a revelation. Films such as Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant were really important in terms of the look and feel of soy mi madre, as were the films of Almodovar. But I also went back to things like Bunuel’s Diary of a Chambermaid or La Cérémonie by Chabrol. I wanted to make something which looked out of time – a reflection on a luxury home in the States, as imagined in Mexico in 1985. Once in Mexico, we went back and looked at Cadenas de Amargura, Rosa Salvaje and, of course, Cuna de Lobos to capture the precise look we wanted.
Stylistically, I wanted to focus on the artificiality of the genre, how actors replace each other but play the same character; on the heightened emotional pull of melodrama, which goes back to Victorian Theatre and beyond, and the sense of playing out to the audience. It’s a very particular style and difficult to carry off. So we tried to build the work around tracking shots which would occasionally reveal the sets and production conditions and then pan around to find us on a new set, with a new cast of actors playing the same characters. For a while I was toying with the idea of working with non–actors, and a testament to this is the guest appearance of Almadella and Montse, two friends and members of the local transsexual–prostitute community.
MF: I’m going to indulge myself in a personal anecdote related to my own involvement in el mundo no escuchará- the first of the Smiths Karaoke trilogy the world won’t listen—filmed in Bogotá in 2004. After a frenetic two-month production period concluded on the eve of your scheduled exhibition in La Rebeca, we agreed upon a live karaoke session in lieu of a final product (which all of the hundreds of people who turned up for the opening were desperate to see of course). But then the lights went out in a massive black out that left the majority of Bogotá in complete darkness. I remember you expressing relief at my calmness, saying something about how in this kind of situation there’s usually a “curator off in some corner weeping.” But in assuming my role in that piece’s production (rather than that of the curator who would ultimately exhibit it) I fully understood that the significance that this work had for me, my little exhibition space, and all of those people who sang, had already occurred.
How do you (emotionally and conceptually) negotiate the potentially irreconcilable schism between the production and exhibition processes? You have often spoken about how lens-based media offer the potential for both exploitation and seduction. Is it uncomfortable for you to go back to these sites of production (as you have just done in Colombia for example) and show the completed work to those who participated in its production?
PC: People sometimes say that my practice puts equal importance on the conditions of production, the relationship between myself and the “performers”, and the final exhibition that you encounter in the gallery. No matter how complimentary such remarks are, they seem to imply a distinction between these elements, which I don’t really see exists. For me, they’re all part of the same, of a general idea which we are working towards from the beginning, and of which the gallery presentation is just one manifestation. In it, the viewer should hopefully be able to perceive the intricacies and the energy of the production, or the details of its relations, if that’s of any interest to them..
Of course, for me it’s always exciting to show the work in its original context, as the work oftentimes elicits the most relevant responses in the place it was created. My love affair with Mexico City began instantaneously, from the very first day. It was overwhelming. This project without a doubt could not have been made anywhere else. I can’t wait to come back and show it.
MF: You’ve traveled all over the world to make work, from, amongst others, Belfast, Belgrade and Baghdad, to Ramallah, Bogotá, and Jakarta. Part of what motivates you is to challenge the conventional journalistic approach that suppresses the representation of individuals in favor of a generalized, simplified political collective. In your work we see, for example, teenager hipster in Jakarta who know all The Smiths’ lyrics by heart (dunia tak akan mendengar, 2007) or young Serbian men and women lying in the grass in an unbearable close-up (young serbs 2001). One aspect of your work, then, addresses the uneven distribution of cultural knowledge in which Western Europeans and Americans know little about those who live in the rest of the world, whereas presumably they know a lot about us through the exportation of our pop culture (but your work, it seems to me, also hints at how complicated this other assumption can be). When did you first become interested in this issue and how did your work develop into a nomadic practice?
PC: I suppose it comes very much from the experience of studying in Belfast in the late 1990s. I’d often found it difficult to reflect directly on a situation there, and whilst I was still at art-school, in 1999, I travelled to the Kosovan border to make a video called how to make a refugee in which I followed Western–media photographers and filmed them working. In many ways, this film was as much about the questions I was trying to articulate about Belfast and Northern Ireland at that time as it was about the conflict in Former Yugoslavia. In this sense, the methodology or motivation hasn’t changed much since. I go to places because I want to see for myself.
[i] From Phil Collins: the world won’t listen, edited by Suzanne Weaver and Siniša Mitrović, Dallas Museum of Art, 2007.
[ii] Claire Bishop and Francesco Manacorda, “The Producer as Artist,” Phil Collins: yeah…you, baby you, edited by Siniša Mitrović, Milton Keynes Gallery/Shady Lane Publications, 2005.
Friday, 22 August 2008
Federico Herrero Street Mural, 1400 18th Street, 18th and Missouri Street, Potrero Hill, San Francisco
By Jens Hoffmann
Over the last decade, the Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero has emerged as one of the most important figures in the field of visual art in Central America. Typically working in the medium of painting, his artistic practice is hugely influenced by the politics, cultural traditions, and natural splendor of his home country. Herrero translates the mix of colors, shapes, and forms of the streets of San José and the abundant tropical landscape that surround the city, onto gallery walls or canvases. His works are best described as a brisk and intense play between geometric and organic forms, from which he creates nonrepresentational narratives that are caught in the gap between figuration and abstraction.
Herrero is particularly concerned with the encounter between culture and nature. He carefully observes the tropicalized urban environment of Costa Rica, which is often on the verge of being reclaimed by an exuberant and seemingly unstoppable vegetation. Other inspirations include street signs, graffiti, tropical plants, colored curbs, found pieces of painted metal and wood, the multicolored houses of rural areas and suburbs, traditional painted advertisements, old billboards and other pictorial, non-language based forms of communication from the cityscape, as well as the long history of mural making in the region. Each of these sources unites in his vigorous works to create an unusual mix of traditional, at times seemingly folkloristic, elements and sophisticated abstract forms that often carry an improvised appearance.
The artist has stated that he views each painting as a continuation of the one he did before. Working on several paintings at once, each begins to form a relationship and communicates with the other paintings, forming a fluid connection to the artist's previous works.
Herrero's works are informed by the specific urban conditions of Central America, where cities grow larger and more sophisticated while always maintaining a strong connection to rural areas, and the cities' edges melt into the jungle. This becomes particularly evident in the works the artist has made in situ, within the urban setting of various cities. For Fictional Publicity (2000) Herrero placed a number of small paintings, most executed on pieces of found wood, in trees around the city, altering the meaning and function of each site. Some would stay up for weeks, others were removed only a few moments after the artists placed them among the leaves and branches, while others would disappear only to reappear months later at other spots. Working in direct response to the city, the artist not only created his own exhibition site but placed artworks into public circulation without having any control over their final destination. Moreover, Herrero fuses the idea of a studio for the production of artworks and the function of the gallery as a place for the display of art into the public sphere, with both accessible to anyone.
For the Bienal De La Habana in 2003, Herrero painted a map of the world on the bottom of a public swimming pool, allowing the local Cuban population to metaphorically explore and swim to any place in the world. One of his most well-known works is a series of pieces titled Carefully Repainted Yellow Areas that the artist began to execute in 2003. For these works Herrero repainted the city curbs where the color had faded, at times adding newly painted curbs in between the official ones. Most recently the artist made Paisaje (2007), his largest site-specific mural to date. A highly dramatic work produced for the exhibition Encuentro de arte contemparaneo Medellin, in Colombia, Paisaje covered the enormous columns that support the railway near the Parque Berrio's Metro station in the centre of the city.
Yet, Herrero always returns to the gallery space and the canvas, as places that offer refuge for discussing more personal issues in contrast to the surfaces of the city. In these private moments, Herrero's works consist of personal constructions of places and ideas realized within his canvases and murals in the form of cartoon like characters, small creatures that the artist describes as mental forms that represent distorted personal memories drawn from his daily experiences. For his Passengers solo exhibition Herrero will work outside the exhibition space to create a new mural on a street close to the Wattis Institute that will compliment the work Landscape(2007) exhibited during the Passengers group show inside the gallery.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
The Center for Aesthetics and Pablo Leon de la Barra present Situation 1:
A SLEEPWALKER IS STANDING
a new play by Milena Muzquiz
Monday, September 8, 2008, 9 PM
Bistrotheque, 23-27 Wadeson Street, London E2
RSVP, limited places
A voice narrates in darkness:
“I just couldn’t come up with anything, every time something came into my mind it opened a door and walked out. Every step penetrating particles of dust casting shadows on empty bottles and tangled webs. Then after a long day tossing and turning in bed I decided to go into the kitchen to heat up a small piece of chicken I had in the refrigerator. Finally, a woman walked into a restaurant, she had very high heels on and you could hear her footsteps, she wore a strange hat that decorated her head. She seemed nervous, but found a friend to sit with, and immediately started talking to him.”
Milena Muzquiz lives between Los Angeles, Rome and Palermo. She is one half of music/art collaboration Los Super Elegantes. Individually she also develops her own art, music and fashion label.
With Los Super Elegantes she will participate in the next Sao Paulo Bienal curated by Ivo Mesquita.
Without a permanent physical space, the Centre for Aesthetics creates exhibitions and situations in different cities and places, which engage with artistic production and public in non traditional ways.
The Centre for Aesthetics functions as an artists' cooperative.
New website coming soon.
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Dear friends and colleagues
I have started a new hobby in the last couple of months!
It is a line of souvenirs and it is called KRAZYCHIC.
I haven't stopped taking photographs, quite the opposite actually.
I have been shooting all over the world and you can see the results on my site and also on my blog!
KRAZYCHIC souvenirs features some of my favorite images, art work and a crafty logo.
You can buy thongs, t-shirts, hats, dog outfits, baby outfits, mugs and much more.
The quality is reasonable and the prices very affordable!
I personally recommend the stein mugs, hats and tote bags!
All the products are available online at:
Everything is delivered worldwide!
This is what some people are saying:
"Fine quality and unbeatable prices!"
"Art for everyone!"
"I got one of every coffee mug. I am so happy!"
"This is Krazy! But, oh! It is so Chic."
"My sex life has improved 100% after I got some thongs!"
"My dog is so proud of his new outfit"
"I am always late for appointments but now I smile when I look at the time"
“Buying Krazy Chic products changed my life. I have finally found happiness"
I hope you enjoy it wholeheartedly!
Saturday, 16 August 2008
Friday, 15 August 2008
Monday, 11 August 2008
Saturday, 9 August 2008
Noki - Cut the Brand
Pick up a branded t-shirt and cut it into shreds in this workshop installation.
Watch as the shreds are rolled into yarn, which will be used to create Noki's collection for fashion week in September.
Venue: 1 - 5 Exhibition Road, London SW7 2HE
Dates: Saturday 9 August - Sunday 10 August 2008
Time: 12.00 - 18.00
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
Karol Radziszewski and Pawel Kubara from Dik Fagazine in London