Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Kutlug Ataman – Dictionary at Francesca Minini

Posted in Reviews by matteoconsonni on October 20, 2009
Dictionary, Installation View

Dictionary, Installation View

Milan is quite a strange place for contemporary art: its efforts to become more and more internationally renowed for something else from fashion are intermittent, and the presence of an interesting circuit of commercial galleries and of a challenging and ever-growing gathering of non-profit spaces under the common name of ViaFarini, contrasts with the absolute absence of an important art fair and, moreover, of an important institution, a contemporary art museum worth this name.

This situation may be one of the causes that brings more and more curators in the commercial galleries, being this only a marketing strategy or a responsible decision: Sara Cosulich Canarutto has taken over the entire program of the new and objectionable Cardi Black Box, Andrea Bruciati will  curate in November a show for the gallery 1000eventi, just to give two recent examples, and Maurizio Bortolotti is currently curating a series of shows called Insight Turkey for Francesca Minini.

Kutlug Ataman’s exhibition is the second of the series, and its title, Dictionary, reflects the interest of the artists in analyzing in this corpus of works the processes of translation, ideas-sharing, knowledge-transmission and, more in general, the struggle of every human being for communication and its relation to the globalized world.

As entering the space, what seems to be at a first glance one single installation is presented: in reality, the first room hosts two works: on the front wall, the animation Mesopotamian dramaturgies/The Complete Work of William Shakespeare transforms the entire transcription of the well-known English writer into a new, inaccessible code. The text is hand-written and shown at a high speed, making the viewer unable to read it, and to understand the big amount of work needed to write it down. The only possibility left is to experience it as a new, visual code, an abstract image. The relativity of language and its possibility of becoming an abstract presence are mirrored in the second work presented on both the side walls, English as a Second Language, where two young Turks are asked to read Edward Lear’s Nonsense Rhymes aloud. The nonsense content of the writing is not even approached by the two boys that, not knowing English, tend to transform the language in a succession of letters: a scattered singsong, where every letter from English is transformed into Turkish sounds. Language and visual habits are strong components of each one’s identity, and the artist’s aim is to play with them, to reveal the constant struggle between tradition and globalization. The universality of the English language is just based on a common need and a convenient habit but obviously lacks in being universal in the translation of everyone’s experience.

Language as a scheme then, a frame that keeps people together, with the use of different angles; the third work on show, Mesopotamian Dramaturgies/Frame tries to uncover the importance of different visual habits: the lightbox contains a photograph taken at the beginning of the 20th Century. The photograph was at the time a symbol for modernity, and it is evident how the malleability of the medium permits a certain visual tradition to take over; the group of soldiers is being portrayed in a very strong hierarchical configuration, and the camera shots the photograph from a very low angle, translating the byzantin visual tradition into a photograph. The lightbox itself plays with this idea, completing it with a gold layer.

In the second room, a very straightforward and, for this reason, not very interesting conclusion to the show is offered by the video installation Strange Space, where the artist is filmed walking in the desert, blindfolded. The press release of the show presents it as a metaphor for incommunicability and a “prophecy of what modern life will be in a globalized world”. A bit of an easy and negative conclusion, that doesn’t analyze in depth the interesting themes brought by the previous selection of works.

Is this result to be attributed to an excessive research for curatorial clarity, and a  strong adeherence to the main theme? Sometimes user-friendliness can be tempting but reductive.

Thomas Kalthoff

Posted in Reviews by matteoconsonni on February 28, 2009

img_70102MOT International, London, presents the first personal exhibition of the german artist Thomas Kalthoff, the first in the UK. The show highlights an artist that is still less known, because he always preferred to concentrate on his work, instead of  wasting time in the promotion of himself.

The new set of works presented is composed by some canvases and some sculptures, these ones made by wooden painted boxes.

The artists has always been interested in the tipycal shape of the box since the ‘90s, when he was involved in the active art scene of Cologne togethere with his friends Michael Krebber and Ulrich Strothjoahann. In this period he starts to paint some canvases with boxes, using some shades of grey. Thomas Kalthoff took his inspiration by the direct observation of the boxes that he used in the everyday’s life, like those used to pack the household appliances or the ones he used to bring the grocery shopping home. He ‘s always been interested in theyr specific presence, in the way they occupied the space.



Posted in Reviews by matteoconsonni on October 23, 2008
 Nina Beier and Marie Lund, 'Les Sabots', video, 2007

Nina Beier & Marie Lund, "Les Sabots", video, 2007

Is it possible for an exhibition to be in development while it’s open? The danish artists Nina Beier and Marie Lund (Denmark, 1975 and 1976) set up a project that tries to give an answer to this question. This will lead to a deep investigation on the concept of art show and on the relationship between the artist and the curator.

On the Opening day, at the One One One Gallery in London, a project space of the David Roberts Foundation, the starting point of the show was a proper personal exhibition, curated by Vincent Honorè. A lot of works among the ones displayed share a certain subversive tendency against the traditional way of exhibiting and the work’s creation process; a certain number of performance acts are declared through wall-labels, for example “all the best”, informs the viewer that all the mail received during the exhibition won’t be opened. The aim of some other works instead is to look into the relationship between an objective statement and all the different interpretations around it: “I wrote this song for you” is constituted by some speakers transmitting eights different versions of an unreleased song, first experienced and sang by eight different performers, while “a circular play” is the transcription of the first act of a theatrical play, written on paper at the same time it was viewed.

“the house and the back door” is a wooden crate that cointains a selection of  Nina Beier Mother’s books: those ones that became doubles when she got married and she mixed her collection with the one on his husband. The symbolic value of these paperback books is to represent an individuat identity even inside of a strong relationship, like a moderate resistance to the link.
A group of youg guys born in the years around 1968 is immortalized in “Les Sabots”: this black and white projection resumes a traditional composition for a group picture. But this composition is destroyed from the inside. In fact, the group of young people is makes faces at the camera, in a weak act of resistance to tradition ( sabots from the french sabotage, to subvert). Even if useless, this action calls to mind a series of revolutionary feelings, and makes us understand how the “spirit of rebellion” goes on and transmits in different ways. The work “42” instead resonates about the relationship between the artist and the curator, the different roles in the world of art and the ideative processes: the artists threw some dices and obtained the sum of 42, and asked the curator to install the work only when his throw will have the same result. The curator action is linked to the fate, and he becomes the final executor of the work.

The role of the curator becomes the fulcrum of the “developing” project of the artists: the solo show will become a group show, in fact from week to week some of the works displayed will be replaced with works of other artists, chosen by the danish couple, such as Benoit Maire, Johanna Billing, Cecilie Gravesen and Simon Dybbroe Møller. The curator cannot control this process, and his role swipes from the mediator to the one that is called to set all the mechanism of a process in which he will become the spectator.

The project of the show consists also in a performance night that took place on the 16th on October:
Jacob Dahl Jurgensen installed some frames that became the base for his action; using some magician’s ropes he tied the frames with knots, reflecting on magic and popular rituals. The final work took his place in the exhibition. One of the “performance labels” of Nina Beier and Marie Lund was  exchanged with the performance of Jiri Kovanda, a re-edition of his 1977 performance, in which he makes his way around an exhibition space, pressing himself as close as possible to the walls.
Other actions where performed by Dora Garcìa and Benoit Maire.
Nina Beier e Marie Lund adapted their subversive aesthetics to the whole structure of the exhibition, creating a on-site evolution; if the work of art is no more characterized by his “fixity” as in the past, so also the context that contains it can become dynamic.

Nicole Wermers: Public Rain

Posted in Reviews by matteoconsonni on October 14, 2008
Installation View
Installation View, Courtesy Herald St., London

I wonder if anyone of you remembers the colour or even the design of the floor at the airport where they’ve been last summer or the one in the shopping centre they visited the last weekend, or even the one where they trampled on during a cultural event, a fair or a concert; nobody cares about these materials, which are considered common and insipid. Their design is only related to their function, being the one of helping us in carrying our wheeled baggage, and not letting us slip on the floor.

One series of Nicole Wermers’ (Germany, 1971) works, presented at Herald st., is linked to these anti-slippery surfaces: it’s a series of four big aluminium panels, hung on a long wall in the main room of the gallery, decorated with embossed elliptical forms. The link to seriality is evident in the material used and in the title “Filialen” (the German word for the English “branches”), but the anti-slippery elliptical forms, which are supposed to be the useful element, are arranged in a random order, losing their proper use to become decorative, floating on the alluminium surface. Nicole Wermers steals some elements of everyday design to re-edit them and reveal only their pure forms.
In front of the series “Filialen” we can find a sculpture which is similar to a bench; “Untitled Bench” it’s an acryilic box that contains three big stones at its ends. There is a dynamic relationship between the human creation and the natural object that seems to anchor the structure to the floor, repulsing it at the same time. The stones seem to be there only to fix the bench, and there is no element prevailing on the other.

In the next room we encounter a third sculpture, “SPA”, which is similar to the installation named “Untitled Forcefield” presented with the “Filialen” series at the Produzentegalerie in Hamburg: in this maybe too little room the sculpture, composed by three stainless steel circles arranged to form a triangle, tries to relate itself to the three entrances. These big circles act as portals, and they recall all those thresholds in which we go through every day: commercial centres’ sliding doors, hotel’s revolving doors, and those security devices used in the airports.

The subtle relationship between desing and function is problematised in these works. Nicole Wermers in the past used to juxtapose incongruous element to form new realities, and now she plays with the hidden elements of reality.

Nicole Wermers – Public Rain

September 12 – October 18

Herald St. – 2 Herald street, London