Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Studio Visit: Eloise Fornieles

Posted in Reviews by paulpys on October 23, 2009

 

London, 26/02, Paradise Row

 

Having meandered through the East End, I arrive at Paradise Row Gallery for the private view of Eloise Fornieles’ ‘A Grammar of Love & Violence’. Upon entering the space, I discover a dimly lit room featuring an installation, within which Eloise’s performance is set. The context of the installation – scaffolding, kissing chairs, carpets, hair strewn across the floor – invokes a sense of eerie domesticity and intimacy. Atop a tower of scaffolding sits Eloise, sworn to a month of silence, inviting participants to climb up and share a story. Intrigued, I join Eloise and tell her about a strange dream I had. The experience is somewhat bizarre – having told a story, one expects immediate verbal reaction. And yet all Eloise could reciprocate with was body language, a quiet hum or miming a word. Conversation dissolved, turning to a monologue.

 

By the exit, I find a stack of blank envelopes and letters. I write to Eloise with a question, attaching my address. I go home eagerly awaiting an answer.

 

London, Mid-May

 

No letter arrives. I contact Eloise with a set of questions regarding my IRP-A – questions relating to her practice and the curatorial agenda of the project – applying William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s Third Mind to exhibition making. I receive an enthusiastic reaction, followed by a flash of realization – Eloise writes ‘believe it or not, I have been carrying your name and address with me for some time and it now finds itself in the far reaches of the Pacific’. Again, I find myself eagerly awaiting a letter.

 

Copenhagen, 01/07

 

A chunky envelope drops through the door. Excited, I notice ‘Nippon’ on the stamps – the letter arrived from Japan. After tearing open the envelope, I find the envelope I had myself addressed, this time ‘customized’ by Eloise with a bizarre dragon-like creature. Inside that, is a large pink sheet of paper, folded like a puzzle – a puzzle which holds the answers to my questions. Smartly folded, I carefully thread question to answer, inevitably becoming slightly lost. I flip the sheet to discover Bruce Nauman’s ‘Body Pressure’ on the other side.

 

London, 12/10

 

Having missed Eloise by two days in Istanbul, we finally meet in London. I stand outside her house, an old vicarage in London Fields, carefully inspecting the pink letter. Her bedroom acts as her workplace, adding another level of intimacy to the already peculiar notion of a studio visit. We sit back in large armchairs, sniggering at how posh we look drinking Lapsang Suchong and eating figs. ‘Courtesy of my dealer’ pips Eloise and laughs her head off. Her desk is littered with small, intricate watercolours of horses, surrounded by large coffee table books of recent exhibitions at the V&A – magnificent, embroidered dresses from the Russian court, Uzbek tapestries. Whilst discussing her performances The Oyster Bar and Senescence, I catch myself screening the room for clues – things, objects, pictures that in some way refer back to Eloise’s practice. As we discuss her Beijing performance which included Eloise walking naked on a treadmill, whilst carrying a dead, shaved goat (wild!), I notice a photo of Zinedine Zidane’s face covered in blood and a series of drawings of animals, their spines painted as red threads running through their bodies. We talk about family origins and Eloise’s Anglo-Argentinian heritage. As I notice a book on Bas Jan Ader, Eloise describes a project she would like to carry out which includes her travelling to Argentina by boat and forcing herself to learn to speak Spanish. We veer towards practicalities – the IRP-A, the upcoming 176 ‘Testing Ground: Live’ weekend, yet without loosing the informal, chatty nature of our encounter. We discuss the letter as Eloise elaborates certain points. As I get ready to leave, she apologizes – ‘I’m sorry about all the animals, there are also mice, a cat and a snake, but the snake is at work now’. I hesitate and wonder whether or not question what exactly the snake’s ‘work’ entails, but instead I take it as a given, having already teased Eloise for her family stories sounding too much like a Wes Anderson script.

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Dan Colen at Gagosian, Davies Street

Posted in Reviews by paulpys on February 6, 2009

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Alone he wandered, lost Eurydice
Lamenting, and the gifts of Dis ungiven

 

It is that precise moment of imminent absence, as Orpheus emerges from Hades to face a lifetime of solitude, that air seemingly loses its radiance. Étonnante virginité! – cries Rimbaud, forlorn in a quest of true love. Ghostly contours permeate the scene, left with nothing but an impending sense of loss.

 

Dan Colen’s final instalment of a three part project at Gagosian Gallery ends with a solitary work – An Allegory of Faith – exhibited at Davies Street. The clean and brilliant white space envelops the oil painting portraying a single, marble bench, illuminated by a light hue of pink. Dark and wistful branches of an ancient willow tree act as drapes to the scene; leaves, flowers lay astrew adding to the mise-en-scene. A pulsating and yet momentaneous blue hovers above the marble bench, as if about to exit the scene.

 

The loss of human presence, replaced by a fleeting post corporeal mood creates a specific melancholic metaphysics. A deep sense of loss, disempowerment and nostalgia permeate Colen’s work. The cool marble invokes an imagery of ancient Arcadia – of simple, yet fulfilling existence. Despite the rustic charm of the theatrical setting, nature’s timeless beauty reminds of the relentless pace of passing time – of the frailty of existence, peripherality of experience and dissolution of purpose. As in Nicholas Poussin’s Et in Arcadia ego, death lurks not in a side gallery, but ahead by the proscenium, if not in the prompter’s corner. The moment of contemplation has ended, the bench – vacated, in turn leaving behind the peculiar crossroads of the human condition, fixed between the visceral instantaneous and eternal nature.

 

Intrinsic to Colen’s exhibition is a small booklet of photographs of benches in Central Park, shot over the course of an afternoon, evening and night. The glaring lights of the park stand in stark contrast to the painting, as if soulless, fabricated, sterile. Contemporary thought, pondering and finally – faith are perhaps left to the flawed individual inhabiting the metropolis, the spoilt and squandered Arcadia. Fatigued and surrendered becomes the human in An Allegory of Faith, for inevitably ‘Ennui, the fruit of dismal apathy / Becomes as large as immortality’.

 

 

References

Virgil, The Georgics (Part IV) 29 B.C.

Rimbaud, A. (1873) Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell)

Baudelaire, C. (1857) Spleen (Quand le ciel bas et lourd)

Candice Breitz – Inner + Outer Space

Posted in Reviews by paulpys on November 11, 2008

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Candice Breitz – Inner + Outer Space

 

There’s nothing more cringe worthy than auditions of pop idol contestants. The compulsively disillusioned ‘performers’ struggle for celebrity and lifestyle, recognition and admiration. As dreams are shattered, contemporary pop culture is littered with faux-divas and desperate wannabes. And then there are simply the loyal fans.

 

Candice Breitz presents Inner + Outer Space, at Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, an exhibition featuring three video installations Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon), King (A Portrait of Michael Jackson) and Queen (A Portrait of Madonna) from 2005 and 2006. In each of the works the artist has invited fans to perform an entire album of their most beloved pop idol. The final installation consists of synchronised videos of all the performers – singing, miming and, of course, improvising.

 

Each performer negotiates his or her own mediated ‘pop’ identity – some nearly perfectly mimic the tone and body language of Michael Jackson, whereas others, unblinking, mumble Lennon’s lyrics as if they were merely reciting a shopping list. Breitz’s work explores notions of a common intersubjectivity – how one interprets and stretches an existing cultural material. Ideas of identity become fluid, as performers appropriate the symbolism, the myth of their idol to improvise and play it out for themselves. The collective juxtaposition of all of the performers brings an insight into what makes up the constellation of ‘celebrity’. The fans consume their idols’ identity through clothing, voice tone, dance moves – after all one cannot pull off an MJ without the shiny glove. As the work progresses, the idea of celebrity becomes somewhat hollowed out; performances – increasingly repetitive and bland. The humorous representation goes on for a second too long, plunging into a depthless routine.

 

Breitz’s work is an unforgettable experience, a briccolage of the sweet and tacky, the cringe worthy and the ‘pop’, the spontaneous and routine. Each performer exposes ways in which we orientate ourselves towards ideas of fame, identity and consumption. As long as we still sing in the shower, we’re destined to be OK.

 

 

Candice Breitz

Inner + Outer Space

Part I 30.10 – 27.11.2008

Part II 28.11 – 28.12.2008

Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin

Schlossplatz, Berlin-Mitte

http://www.kunsthalle-berlin.com