November 28, 2013 "Quantum Cinema"
This morning in Vienna, I finished reading Geordie Greig's "Breakfast with Lucian": an irritating and illuminating portrait of the painter Lucian Freud, based on the author having been part of a small entourage who would regularly have breakfast with the reticent artist, during which he would talk. The book is overly focused on Freud's many affairs, relationships and various children (> 14). It paints a picture of a man without any conventional sense of moral at all, but who manages to get along in society through extreme dedication to himself and his chosen path. It's a fascinating window on this artist, who I didn't know that much about before. I got the book after having visited the exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, with some of my students. Today I went there again, alone but better informed. But there was no new revelation, not really. The huge fleshy canvases from his later years are surely imposing, but I'm not sure they will help me get along with life.... I rather prefer earlier paintings, with thin paint and a nervous line, extremely detailed. Paintings which don't declare their specialness in the same way, but which may actually be: special.
A couple of hours later I attended the opening of an exhibition of artistic research, organised on a grand scale at the Museum for Applied Arts, which lies beside the university. Ten projects of artistic research, undertaken at the University, or with people from the University. Hugely complex installations, often rather impressive but hard to actually "see". (Seeing like Lucian Freud: watching, watching, watching to make sense of what is in front of you). And there were texts. Which could indeed be hard to "read", very hard to read...
November 25, 2013 "No Name"
On October 20 I wrote a short note on an exhibition in BKV Potsdam (Brandenburgischer Kunstverein Potsdam) called "Anonymous". I was impressed and quite surprised with how interesting an exhibition it was, though I couldn't identify any artists' names.
Since then I have been back to see this show twice and I have met with the curator whose name of course must remain secret and today I can proudly say that I can name the artist behind one work, and that is myself. The show has been added to all through its run and in early November a piece by me was included. How this came to be must remain a secret, of course. It's great fun, though. I took some photos last Saturday, which can be seen from here. I can't tell you which is my work, of course and I was indeed worried that I would not be allowed to put the show on my CV. I asked, and was given green light. Apparently other artists are planning to insert a blank space in their CVs, or leaving this show out completely. This leads to an interesting question with this project and there are many more is where to locate the border between self annihilation as a beautiful act... and as simply annihilation.
As a potential model for the art world and for artists, this exhibition is a disaster, while at the same time being an unusually potent reminder of what exhibiting art can really be about. Creating unique meaning between independently meaningful objects in a particular situation in time and space.
It really works, which is highly peculiar. The last day of the show is on Sunday, December 1.
November 24, 2013 "Mars"
I saw Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks" again. What a lovely film. It has aged superbly.
November 19, 2013 "Thought Machines"
I'm in Vienna now, building the huge exhibition which my department the University of Applied Arts is organizing and for which we have invited the printmakers of the Royal Academy in London, Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig as well as the academies of Budapest and Bratislava. The project has been in the planning for a year. From 85 proposals we are installing 25 projects in the baroque rooms of the Heiligenkreuzerhof exhibition center in central Vienna. I'm the curator. The opening is tomorrow. If you are here, do join us!
November 10, 2013 "Quai Conti"
Paris is famous for its silvery light. Its light grey sky. When, on a November afternoon, you present aproject outside you want that famous grey to stay dry. Last Friday, it didn't. It didn't exactly pour down either, but on and off during my bouqiniste exhibition it drizzled. It wasn't the most romantic day on the Left Bank.
It was the only day, however, as we transported all the books to a large space on the Rue Thorigny in the evening, for the opening of the exhibition-cum-fair of artists' books, drawings and prints called ABCDays. Here the atmosphere was more forgiving, dry and comfortable.
On the Saturday I gave a presentation of "Parad / Parade", the two-book-project spanning 22 years. I was riffing on the fact that here the original appeared in edition – while the copy is one-of-a-kind. This time my presentation went better than last year's nervous ramblings at the Jeu de Paume. It helped that I had two full days of hanging out and speaking French before my stint of speaking in public.
At the fair I was happy to make the acquintance of the printer Michael Woolworth, whose giant woodcuts made for Gunter Damish I have seen in Vienna (and where I heard Gunter's praise for Michael). I spent an hour in his workshop on the Saturday morning. I then headed to the Palais de Tokyo to see Philippe Parreno's extravaganza. He has taken over the whole of the building (22 000 m2, I think) installing giant screens and various high tech event machinery here and there in the strangely undressed interior of this originally art deco museum. Going through the exhibition I felt rather irritated and annoyed with what I at first experienced as a very expensively produced lack of what I want art to be. The artist doesn't ever show his colours, it's all collaboration and show production and it must have demanded enormous efforts of negociation and teamwork and funding and public relations and schmoozing to set it all up. Like a Hollywood film. Afterwards I felt more ambivalent. When I had arrived I had had to stand in line for 10 minutes to get a ticket. When I left, people were queueing outside to get in. In the rain. I couldn't believe it at first, but there they were. Faithfully waiting for an art experience of ...emptiness?
I saw the show by Pierre Huyghe at Beaubourg as well. The two being friends and collaborators Parreno appears there as well, as does Huyghe at Parreno's. This show definitely had some version of a beating heart, but it was beating at a most fragmented pace, in some dark and fearsome place. You can tell that Huyghe has something he wants to communicate but you can't really tell what it is, neither whether his approach is earnest, ironic or cynical. It's scary. I have absolutely no idea what to make of this art, it doesn't make me happy, but there is something strangely commanding about it. I don't think it is ...empty.
In the very first room I was welcomed by a huge ruined stone sculpture brought in from some forgotten public square somewhere, and a sound piece. A male voice speaking fluent but accented French was mentioning a lot of artists' names, all from a certain era. There was something familiar to this voice. It took a while before it hit me: Pontus Hulten. I looked at the label and saw that what I was listening to was a recording from one day of Institut des Hautes Etudes en Arts Plastiques, during its first session in 1988. Then the shoe dropped:
I had heard this before, because I was in the room that day.
As was Philippe Parreno.
And the room was in Palais de Tokyo.
October 30, 2013 "Bouquinisme"
I read an article from a few days ago about artists who twitter... that's not for me, that's one thing I'm sure of. I wouldn't be able to keep a reasonable pace. I would ask myself too many questions and my days would get even more fragmented than they are now.
During the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time on a catalogue/book for an exhibition I organize in Vienna. It's called "Thought Machines" (great title, isn't it? Coined by Katrin). 25 projects by young artists from Vienna, London, Leipzig, Budapest and Bratislava. And a beautiful book, designed by Theresa Hattinger. The opening is on November 20.
Before that I have my own exhibition of books to take care of, in Paris on November 8. The title here (which this time I did come up with myself) is "Les livres de l'artiste", and as befits an exhibition of (mainly) books in Paris, it will take place in a set of bouquiniste stalls on the left bank. My friend, the artist Marie-Ange Guilleminot who is a great lover of books, has been mounting very precise art projects in her "La Boîte" since 1997. For my show I have produced a 2013 companion to my 1991 book of etchings called "Parad". The new book is called "Parade". I will present the two books at a fair of artists' books called ABCdays as well... where I will also give a presentation, in French. I'll do my best.
October 20, 2013 "Anonymous"
A few years ago I saw an anonymous exhibition at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt. I found it awful. The pretentions expressed in the pressrelease didn't at all compare with the experience of seeing the show. Today I saw a new attempt to create a contemporary art experience where the identity of the makers of the art (and the curators, apparently more than one?) is explicitly withheld. It's in the small but beautiful Kunstverein on the Freundschaftsinsel in Potsdam. And here I think it somehow works, even though I am really unable to identify the artists. It's a much smaller proposition than in Frankfurt and the works are smaller too. In Frankfurt there were several installations. Here it is more about haptic qualities – I think. I do not know what the actual combinatory concept has been, beyond the discussion of the anonymity concept. It's a strange idea, and for the future of course completely impossible. I mean, in the end we do take an interest in art because of the way it reflects a person, no? Or is it for the way it reflects on a person?
September 29, 2013 "Marathon"
3:36:01 here in Berlin, three hours ago. It was my 14th race, in 13 years and it is my best time ever! One minute better than in Chicago 2010. In other words: right now I am pretty tired and very, very happy. The conditions were perfect: sunny but quite fresh, perhaps 7 degrees C at the start and about 11 when I reached the finish.
Running one Marathon a year has become a must. Last year I ran two and that was one too many. Doing it once a year creates a rhythm which is simply good for me: for my head and for my body. Of course the training sometimes feels like torture and pain, but then on another day you have like an epiphany and discover "things are going pretty well right now". I had such a moment last Thursday when I ran my last training run (the final week before the race you mainly rest). I went out to do a very slow and leisurely six kilometres (which is an extremely short training run). When I came back and transfered the GPS-watch data to the computer I realized I had been running at a pace 2 km/h faster than I thought. That was a very good sign.
Another such sign came this morning, when I stood lined up with my 41 000 fellow runners on Straße des 17. Juni in Tiergarten, waiting for the start. Suddenly I felt a profound happiness coming over me, replacing my nervosity. A happiness to be exactly there where I was, at this moment, in this body: about to do what I was about to do. I thought: today it will either go very well or I will crash.
Then Haile Gebrselaisse (who is as close to a runner's God you can come) came on the sound system. He was there, right in front of us, at the start, being interviewed. Haile was going to fire the starting pistol in a couple of minutes. He joked and said that with this wheather he'd like to join us, but had forgotten his shoes. Under these conditions... he wished we would all run new personal bests.
Which I did.
As did Wilson Kipsang who broke the world record.
September 19, 2013 "Attitudes Becoming Something Else"
This time I'm in Venice and I have been to the Arsenale and the Giardini, but my comment is on exhibitions outside the Biennale. I went looking for "When Attitudes Become Form" but was not up to date with Fondazione Prada having left S. Giorgio. I went there but found no trace of any foundation called Prada, but instead another one which name I have forgotten... they had an exhibition, by Marc Quinn. First one is impressed by all the perfect surfaces and the supposedly "deep" humanistic content (a lot being perfect representations in white marble of severely handicapped people). Very soon though, these warmer feelings dissipated, confronted with this artist's perfect marketing instincts, and it's downhill from there. This work is awful. Exploitative and crass, hidden under a moralistic and traditionalist surface veener. It surprises me that this trick is possible to play.
I continued my hunt for the "Attitudes" exhibition and after one more false track (in other cases I'm very good with directions) I finally located it to a Palazzo next to Ca Pesaro. I didn't like this exhibition either, but for completely different reasons. When the original exhibition took place in 1969 it created an uproar, because of what the art was made of. Just stuff and material, stuff you pay per kilo or ton or per meter or square meter... and it was left more or less untreated in the exhibition rooms. Where was the art??? "This" is the art? the good burghers of Bern asked each other, and then they howled. But the exhibition won. Today's Biennale is full of stuff. The revolution became the tradition and now the Fondazione Prada, with seemingly unlimited resources has created a shrine to this early moment of transubstantiation. And it makes me sick. I felt the vibes already on the first floor, devoted to vitrines with letters between Harald Szeeman, the curator, and the artists. During the last couple of years I seem to run into vitrines with curators' correspondence from the 70's everywhere I go. Is this trend secretly motivated by today's curators dreams for their own correspondence? I'm afraid we will see many disappointments.
What really triggered my displeasure was a guard (in a Prada suit?) who not only stopped me from taking photographs, but then a moment later stopped me from actually coming close enough to some work to be able to really see them. I was kept at a distance of 4-5 meters from a certain constellation of smallish work. While faithfull reproducing the original exhibition's highly cluttered layout, the 2013 curators have created a situation where the audience can't be trusted to gather their own experiences of the re-made show. You're asked to believe rather than to experience and think for yourself. How radical is that?
September 13, 2013 "Steyr"
I'm in Steyr, deep in Austria, where in a few hours I will speak at he opening of an exhibition of an exlibris project we have made at my department of the Angewandte (= the short form for University of Applied Arts Vienna). It's been fun, even though it's not exactly the most celebrated form of contemporary art.
Steyr is a city where one can still find houses standing since medieval times. Two rivers meet here, and every once in a while the city is flooded. The worst recorded flood was in 1572, then in 1736, then in 2002. A hundred meters down the street from the hotel is a shop labeled "Fachgeschäft für Esoterik" (Specialist store for Esoterica – it sounds much better in German). Sitting down to write this I realize that today is Friday the 13th.
September 9, 2013 "Andratx"
It's evening, I'm looking for something on the net but type the wrong adress. Try a google search, then somehow I come upon information about an exhibition at CCA Andratx where apparently I have a work, a drawing. I had no idea. But I remember Andratx very well. The CCA is a huge exhibition space initiated by Danish gallerist Patricia Asbaek, whom I had got to know during the TAKE AWAY project in 2000.
The CCA has several guest studios, in one of which we spent the month of September in 2005. It was my very first visit to Mallorca. I was most surprised what a nice place this island is, not at all the tourist nightmare I had feared. Yet I found it difficult to work there, maybe because the surroundings where just too nice and interesting. I did make a series of chimney drawings, some in large format. One of them I gave to Patricia. It must be this drawing which is in the show now. I also made some experiments with drawings without chimneys (very daring indeed!) – one of which I came across recently and liked. It was lying around for a few days, then I added a little something – and tomorrow I have been planning to start a painting based on this 2005-2013 drawing. Learning about the exhibition is a good coincidence!
September 9, 2013 "Christa"
I'm preparing for my yearly Marathon, in Berlin on September 29. Yesterday, I made the last long run of 32 km, along a well trodden path of the Grunewald forest, together with my friend Michael. Only this time, we made a little excursion along the way and visited the "Selbstmörder-Friedhof" (Suicide Cemetary) which is located right in the middle of the forest, like in a fairytale. Also some dead who did not die by their own hand, have found their way here. Like Christa Päffgen, who fell off a bicycle on Ibiza. Nico, indeed. A long way from New York.
September 6, 2013 "Storytelling"
An amendment to the Trickster comment below: I do realize that it is not a singular choice to make. You can indeed project story into your work and at the same time work on the story of you, or have others do it for you.
September 4, 2013 "Trickster"
Yesterday I was back in Frankfurt and saw the Piero Manzoni exhibition that Martin Engler has curated at the Städel museum. Everyone knows at least one (type) of Manzoni's works, but this was my first exposure to the whole.
Manzoni was born the same year as my father, in 1933, but he died already in 1963. During his short career of six years he was astonishingly productive, producing a huge number of works of several types, which take their point of departure in an early exhibition of Yves Klein monochromes, borrow freely from Duchamp and prefigure conceptual art in their focus on various ways of expanding the definition of what art can be. Manzoni canning his own excrements is but one variation on this theme; always inventive, always ironic, very much a trickster at play.
Manzoni seems a typical example of an artist who died at exactly the right moment, from an art-historical point of view. One can easily imagine that the irony would have gotten tired and the jokes stale, had he lived beyond the age of 29. Look at those contemporaries: Ben Vautier, Arman, Spoerri... while Yves Klein managed to achieve immortality by dying young as well. As it is, now, there's a glorious logic to Manzoni's oeuvre, it's like it had been planned out in advance, and it is accompanied by great, staged photographs and even films of the artist at work. A great production. A perfect story.
All art being a product of the invention of language is ultimately based in, or dependent on, some form of storytelling, some form of narration. The difference is where the story is proposed. Traditionally it would be as a mechanism within the work itself and today we see a grand revival of this academic attitude: the work as vehicle for a message. On the other hand, many successful artists today as well as in earlier days – direct all their efforts into making themselves the story. The work is meaningful because of them, not the other way around. And then we have the great unknown: an artist's life after death – an artist's life in art history. What is here the decisive factor? The work... or the projections of its maker?
Of the ca 90 small cans of "Merda d'Artista" only one, as far as is known, has been opened (# 05). It happened in 1989. This transgressive act was performed by French artist Bernard Bazile. The open can is included in the present exhibition. When I asked, I learned that it had been given the same insurance value as the intact cans – and that Bazile had been disappointed.
August 22, 2013 "Tinkering"
I couldn't stop myself, I went back to the piece from two days ago and rewrote parts of it. The subject, Kraftwerk, seemed to demand it. The situation in the world keeps getting more and more precarious and threatening, yet I keep tinkering with a text about an artist/an artistic collective, a text no one has asked for. Is that responsible? Consider it responsible. Consider Ralf Hütter himself, who has kept tinkering with and re-working "Radioactivity" for 38 years. It was the most moving piece of the show. See picture.
August 20, 2013 "Radioactivity"
Edvin and I went to see Kraftwerk's debut gallery exhibition, at Sprüth Magers one of Berlin's most prestigious spaces. The exhibition consists of two rooms, the first with a kind of giant poster on the wall: the four behind their computer stands, pixelated. I can't really say what it was, because I hurried into the main room, which was empty, except for a triple video screen on one wall, very large. Oh, I forgot, before entering the show we received disposable 3D glasses.
The show is indeed a screening of eight songs and their accompanying 3D visualizations. Autobahn, Radioactivity, TEE, Man Machine, Numbers/Computer World, Technopop, Robots, Tour de France ("new" version).
I have seen Kraftwerk live four times. The last time was in Berlin 2004, two months before Edvin was born (and before their introduction of 3D visuals). These concerts count among the most intensely magic experiences I have had which is rather strange given the extreme inactivity of the four performers. What is it actually that creates this intensity? First, the music itself. The extreme precision of the compositions, both the audio and its visual accompaniment, and how these components interact. Then, in the live situation, two important factors which were lacking today. In the gallery the sound quality was good but not great. Less good than in most clubs. Kraftwerk onstage, however, generate a sound which is FANTASTIC. It's always been their pride. The Man Machine knows how to set up their machinery, anything else would be such a comedown. The bass, the treble, the separation, the balance, it's just astonishing. Whether they actually play anything "live" is the old question, which can be answered with a 99 % "no" but when you are there it doesn't matter, because of the precision and the aural and visual perfection provided and something more: the actual presence of four real people, creating and insisting on "reality" with their presence and demeanour.
In the gallery that reality was missing. I guess that was the point. A concert situation is a form of performance art. Here it was performance without the performers. In order to truly enter the contemporary arts canon, which seems to be Ralf Hütter's current obsession, he will need to transcend performance (which bonds him to the music context) and present work which doesn't demand his own presence. His solution, or attempt at solution: focus on the visuals. The audio holds him back, as it is so firmly a part of another canon.
Based on today's experience I'm conflicted. On the one hand I think that what I saw and heard is work of true genius, and I am deeply fascinated by the way Hütter continues to tinker with the details of both music and visuals. I can still remember the first time I heard a Kraftwerk track, in 1979, and the shock it was. I also remember my reaction to an interview given by Hütter at the time of Electric Café in 1986 (retroactively renamed Techno-Pop): "he's so controled, he just keep repeating the same answers, the same sound bites". (In early July this year, Hütter gave a surprising interview to a Swedish daily. In essence, he had not changed a millimeter. The man is super-human...:) What I saw and heard today was utterly familiar, of course, yet these exact versions were all new. All remixed, reconfigured, rethought. Still, the experience in the art gallery cannot be compared to the emotional impact of a concert situation. Does it matter?
August 8, 2013 "Second language thinking"
Just a quickie. I'm back in the studio painting. I try to avoid getting stuck typing stuff instead. But I just read this:
...We’re mentally lazy. We make decision-making errors when thinking in our own language that we don’t make when thinking in another language. When asked to think in a second language, we’re forced to put in a little more mental effort.
Quoted from David Brooks: "The Nudge Debate", in the New York Times today.
July 29, 2013 "Recommendation"
Several kind people have forwarded me a copy of a marketing message from the publisher of "Ein Künstler-Text-Buch". I also received it directly and was surprised and happy when I saw, following new releases, a special "personal recommendation" for my book, which was published almost a year ago. It's written by an editor named David Marold, and it goes like this:
Der Titel „ein künstler-text-buch“ könnte auf einen Poesieband verweisen. Doch es handelt sich um ein praktisches Büchlein über das Verfassen von Texten. Es ist schnell gelesen, aber es entfaltet eine lang andauernde Wirkung! Svenungsson, Professor für Grafik und Druckgrafik an der Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien, beweist mit seinem eigenen Stil worum es geht: um gute Texte. Künstler müssen oft Texte verfassen, über ihr Werk, ihre Projekte oder in Form einer Kritik. Doch an den Hochschulen fehlt die Zeit für Schreibunterricht. Svenungsson, selbst auch bildender Künstler, wurde zum Thema Schreiben zu mehreren Vorträgen eingeladen. Nun legt er dieses überaus praktische Büchlein vor. Dass er kann, was er anderen näher bringen möchte, macht sich dabei wohltuend bemerkbar.
July 28, 2013 "Authenticity"
I'm reading two pieces about the controversies surrounding the authentification of works by Andy Warhol. One is a long article from the New York Review of Books, titled "What is a Warhol? The Buried Evidence" which goes into considerable legal detail regarding the activities of the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, set up by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Art, to which Warhol left his estate. The other piece "Andy Warhol and the Persistence of Modernism", which draws conclusions from the first one, is an analysis of what happens when post-modern production of art continues to be understood and promoted through modernistic ideas about genius as a guarantor of quality. The conclusions are breathtaking. Where indeed is this whole thing going to go...? Where will art end up?
This discussion touches me in a strange way, has always done. Here, hands-on examples are provided, of how the aura of authenticity is negociable. I discuss these issues myself, in a forthcoming text written for a Norwegian book about the Kierulf sisters, which hasn't yet been published.
June 18, 2013 "2013"
This morning I'm reading the Guardian's Q&A session with whistleblower Edward Snowden, revealing astonishing details of the scope of US electronic surveillance. It's touching everybody: private people or companies or states; American or foreign there are no limits. The revelations published now, pertains to the US only. That doesn't mean it is alone in this line of work. Not exactly. Since Snowden went public with his revelations reality has acquired a new dimension and we all have our different strategies to process the new information.
George Orwell's "1984" is again at the centre of many discussions. The novel is certainly a most valuable tool for understanding the mechanisms at play. Has it been an inspiration for them as well?
June 17, 2013 "Library"
I just gave a copy of the Mjellby Museum Man Ray catalogue to the University of Applied Arts library here in Vienna. Given that it was published in Sweden just two days ago I believe this must be the first copy in Austria. All texts are in Swedish as well as English. When I wrote mine I used quotes from all the texts on Man Ray that I have published, as well as from my very first text on his work, which remains unpublished. It was my special project in high school...
I also gave them a copy of the coffee table catalogue for the Ceramics exhibition in Neumünster, a book which might become a standard work. One of many things I appreciate about the library here, is that it's digital catalogue is very precise as well as connected to other libraries. In other words: a good place for books to be. (it will probably take some time before the books show up in the catalogue though)
It will have to take some time before I make my Man Ray text available here on the wqebsite. I don't want to make unfair concurrence.
June 16, 2013 "Antony"
I spent two days in Halmstad with both rain and some glorious weather, which brought out the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Having arrived Friday by train from Uppsala, I made a long run in the evening which was such a pleasure, even though I almost got lost.
Saturday was the opening for Man Ray at Mjellby Konstmuseum. The show is not huge, but it is good. It somehow catches Man Ray's spirit – and the catalogue is solid, with four long texts. There was a special person present, for the same reason as me (although he had lent many more works, and way more important): Antony Penrose, son of Roland Penrose and Lee Miller. We first met in London at an opening of the painter Matta at Hayward Gallery in September 1977. I had just turned sixteen, and I had made contact with Antony's father all by myself. (Had Sir Roland Penrose not answered the letter sent by a fifteen year old boy in Uppsala... my life would have turned out completely differently). It's 36 years ago. When we met the first time, Antony had no idea he was going to play an important role in art history, by himself. Through his initiatives and assiduous work, Lee Miller is known today as a major photographer of the 20th century. In 1977 she was all but forgotten. To a large extent, this was her own making, Antony told me last night. She didn't care. But then she died (one month before I showed up in London) and soon after, her negatives and prints were discovered, stashed away in the attic. After some time, her son began to organize them and work on them. He's still at it. Now with a staff of fourteen. And they do a lot of work...
Antony gave a lecture, in the midst of the exhibition. About Man Ray and Lee and Roland and a little bit of Picasso and of Antony himself, as a boy. Family. The thing is, he did it so well I had tears in my eyes at some point. I don't think I was alone. Completely taken by the story told, while at the same time eagerly noticing details of how his presentation had been constructed. I was so impressed. Afterwards I asked him how often does he give such lectures. His answer astonished me:
Up to a hundred times a year.
June 14, 2013 "Jumping Ahead"
My presentation before the culture committe of Uppsala's city council went well in the end but it had its scary parts. I had prepared an ambitious powerpoint the way I always do. Lot's of carefully chosen and timed pictures and maps. The script written into the document itself (I see text and picture on my screen, my audience see only picture). Many people think they hate powerpoint, but what they hate are bad powerpoint presentations: presenters using the provided templates. I never use them and I very much enjoy the preparation of a presentation with all the decisions regarding exactly what to say to each picture. It has a lot to do with rhythm.
So what happens? As I begin to speak I find that for some peculiar reason some pictures change by themselves. Which is very stressful when you haven't said half of the text conected to that image yet. Not all pictures changed by this unknown hand, but enough to make it a harrowing 20 minutes. Apparently I had managed to record beforehand exactly how long each pricture should be shown without knowing. While I talked I had to fiddle to try to hold back the unwanted changes. Pausing the timer seemed to have some effect, and then maybe not. It was a very peculiar experience, like riding a horse which suddenly decides she is the boss, not you. Yet somehow I managed to keep my cool and get my content across, because the feedback was surprisingly positive. Still on track.
June 11, 2013 "Man Ray"
On Thursday I will present a project for a major public sculpture in Uppsala, the town in Sweden where I grew up (and where I discovered art through reading Man Ray's autobiography). I have a commission from the city for preparing my project, but I don't expect an easy ride.
I have been reading a funny and informative book about the last 200 years of public art in Uppsala, written by Lisen Hessner who was responsible for giving my "Fundament" its place in the park below the castle. She makes no secret of the fact that it has often been a very long process between the initial expression of interest – and an actual work coming into being.
On Saturday I will be in Halmstad, to attend the opening of Mjellby Konstmuseum's exhibition of Man Ray. The timing couldn't be better. I have written an ambitious essay for the catalogue: "Man Ray 2013" – and they have borrowed five pieces from me. For the first time ever I'm invited to a "collectors's lunch", before the opening.
June 9, 2013 "Gallery"
I have ended my work with Galerie Werner Klein in Cologne.
I continue to be represented by Galleri Flach in Stockholm, for which I am preparing a show of paintings in February next year. Tentative title: "The Secret Paintings".
June 6, 2013 "Dictator"
I just realized today is Sweden's National Day. I don't think much about that kind of thing. Last weekend was spent in Stockholm though, celebrating the 80 year birthday of my father. It was also an occasion to meet with Petter, my oldest friend and increasingly a Marcel Duchamp fanatic. It sometimes happens that I buy some art work at auction in Sweden and then ask Petter to pick it up. Now I was eager for my latest purchase, a 1929 lithograph by my hero Giorgio de Chirico. 1929 is the year he published "Hebdomeros" and this image is the only portrait he produced of its eponymous hero. Then Gerd Roos (my source of all knowledge regarding Giorgio de Chirico) informed me there's an alternative title too: "Le Dictateur". The Dictator.
May 30, 2013 "Fantastic"
The Neumünster exhibition was opened in rain, but never mind: it's a fantastic survey. 75 artists! I'm really proud to be in it. Artists whose work I particularly liked, was for example: David Zink Yi, Mona Hatoum, Matthias Hirtreiter, Anselm Reyle (!). I have just added three photos of my installation, which comprises 1280 bricks and five drawings. As my work is in a glass house, without climatisation, I wonder what will be the state of the drawings when the show is dismantled in October. However, I have decided to take this risk. Conservators exist for a purpose.
I have also added a couple of images more from Frankfurt, one of them is used as an illustration in the 300 page coffee table catalogue. There's definitely a link between the two works.
May 20, 2013 "Back to Earth"
I arrived in Neumünster this evening, with car from Berlin. Tomorrow I'm going to build my installation for the mega-exhibition "Back to Earth" (I think the mega term can be defended: just look at the artist list). It's an encyclopedic effort on the part of curator Martin Henatsch, to show all possible aspects of "ceramics" in contemporary (and modern) art.
It's my first time to be in an exhibition with Cindy Sherman... although I once had a show (of the work Ola Billgren and I did together) on the other side of the wall to where she had a retrospective at Malmö Konsthall. Her press conference took place in our space, accidentally. I have been told one journalist asked Cindy the question:"what's your new work like", whereupon she threw out her arm in the direction of our magenta photos, and said: "like this".
But I digress. Tomorrow I will build a pile of bricks in a glass pavilion, and place five framed drawings on top. I'll work from intuition...
May 1, 2013 "Jan Vermeer van Delft"
I spent yesterday evening and most of today in Frankfurt, where now my "First Chimney II" has been properly inaugurated, together with the other works and the general re-organisation of the gardens around the museum. The museum has produced a video in which the curator Martin Engler explains the idea of the whole, and in which my piece appears both finished and as a building site (with me cutting bricks). I say something, too, but in German and not particularly illuminating, I don't think. But then I always hate to hear my voice and see myself on film.
It rained during the whole opening evening, which was really a pity. On the other hand, the rain made it clear how dedicated people in Frankfurt are to their museum: turning out en masse for a garden party in the rain, and watching a long (and rather moving) performance under umbrellas. As an evening it felt very good. Katrin and Edvin came down from Berlin to join me, I came from Vienna, to where I have now returned.
Today, I photographed the chimney with my large format camera – it was no longer raining. After a coffee with Nina Beitzen and Martin Engler (to whose enthusiasm and unstoppable energy I owe a great deal), Katrin, Edvin and I went through the collections of the museum and suddenly I realized something which made my knees wobble: I now have work in a museum to which belongs a painting by Vermeer van Delft! Städel owns "The Geographer", and it now owns my chimney (which it commissioned) and the Project Image to the chimney, which I donated. It is included in an installation with six of my drawings and three photoworks, which now hangs in the the same building as the Vermeer. One of the photoworks is "Buxtehude", which so much reminds me of "View of Delft". How cool is that!
April 24, 2013 "Inauguration"
On Tuesday I will be back in Frankfurt, for the inauguration of Städelmuseum's four new permanent outdoor projects (+ new installations of a few older sculptures). My "First Chimney II" is clearly the tallest of the four new pieces (even though it is tiny in comparison with the Commerzbank tower which can be seen behind it from a certain angle; the tallest building in Germany), the other beings works by Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller; Olaf Nicolai and Tobias Rehberger. There will also be an installation of some of my photoworks and drawings, inside the museum.
April 21, 2013 "Heimat"
I spent the last two days in Uppsala, the city where I grew up. It wasn't exactly a holiday: I have been commissioned by the city to make a preparatory study for a chimney sculpture. My exhibition at the end of last year has created a lot of awareness about my work, and this is one result. I was intending to go here already in February, but I had forgotten about Scandinavian winters and snow. As it turned out, there has been snow everywhere, but now when I finally made it here: it was in the most exhilarating days of early spring. A pure pleasure. I have been walking a lot, I have been running a lot, I have borrowed a bicycle and I spent a few hours driving around in a car with friend who was tasked to hold a 3 m long plank in vertical, to allow me to photograph her as a stand-in for the chimney to be built.
During last week I was in Vienna and before that, last weekend, in Neumünster, preparing for my installation at the Gerisch-Stiftung's huge exhibition "Back to Earth", which will open May 25 and run until October 10. It's a show of work with a relation to ceramics. As I am a part time brick artist, I'm in it. I will share a glass pavilion in the park with Per Kirkeby, Manfred Pernice and Ina Weber. For my catalogue pages Gerd Roos has written a text, his very first for a contemporary artist. It's so beautiful!
April 11, 2013 "Construction day 9"
My work has been done. It's evening, I'm on a train, travelling home to Berlin – exhausted. The site has not been completely cleaned up, there remains a container which will be picked up tomorrow, and some other stuff, which meant I couldn't attempt to make final photos. But this comes pretty close.
April 10, 2013 "Construction day 8"
At 14:00 today, "First Chimney II" was closed with a steel cover. From now on its inside will be a secret space. Tomorrow the scaffolding will be dismantled and the adventure will start for real.
On the photo, for the first and last(?) time: a closeup of the chimney's lightning conductor.
April 9, 2013 "Construction day 7"
We are at nine meters, just one more meter to go. It started raining this afternoon, and the weather report says it will rain every day for the rest of the week. Already yesterday we built a "roof" with heavy plastic foil at the top of the scaffolding, and today we added two "walls" at the top, so that rain will not drift in with the wind. You can't lay wet bricks. But you can lay bricks in rain, if you take precautions.
I'm so much looking forward to better weather and especially to better light conditions. It might seem strange, but it was only today that I realized how I will be able to photograph my tower (10 m – it is a second version of the First Chimney, remember) in front of the Commerzbank tower (257 m). My smallest chimney in front of Germany's tallest building. Cool!
April 8, 2013 "Construction day 6"
This is indeed the sixth day of bricklaying; I wasn't present for the fifth. I went back to Berlin over the weekend, while the other three soldiered on during Saturday. We were all rewarded with a glorious Sunday, in Berlin as well as in Frankfurt. Sunday evening I flew back.
Construction is faster now, because having passed 525 cm we no longer have to build the wall one and a half brick deep. Today we reached something like 750 cm. I forgot to check at the end. This photo was taken a couple of hours earlier, it shows the typical choreography of the two bricklayers (Norbert Kawaletz and Jürgen Totzke). They work counterclockwise, each laying his own row of bricks. The layers all share the same starting point (where Norbert is in this photo). This is an important principle: it means that the few bricks which will have had to be cut narrower (because of the narrowing circumference of the construction) will all appear in a vertical line above each other, instead of being spread out here and there and creating chaos. Believe me, I have seen it happen. I won't say on which one.
Today I set up my 4x5 Linhof to take the traditional worker photo. The four of us posing proudly before our work. It's now a twenty year tradition, the first worker photo having been made (with the same, very analog, camera) in Taejon, in 1993. To celebrate the jubilee I went to a really good Korean restaurant in the evening, Mr Lee, on Gutleutstrasse 153.
April 5, 2013 "Construction day 4"
Four and a half meters. A terribly cold day, with not enough work for me, which meant hanging around freezing far too much. Yesterday, the other helper Rossen and I had achieved a very high level of cooperative efficiency in cutting bricks (massive "Kanal Klinker" which are already wedge shaped) in halfs and three quarters – so today there was not as much to do for us. Combined with the weather that was bad luck.
I flew back to Berlin for the weekend. The other three will work also tomorrow Saturday. I return to Frankfurt Sunday night.
April 4, 2013 "Construction day 3"
Another 17 layers. All together about three meters. I made two interviews, for the museum's blog and for a making-of video, which will also be available on the museum's website.
In the evening I'm very tired. It takes a while for me to get used to the demands of a building site. I was trying to calculate today how much time taken all together, I have spent on my own chimney building sites, over the last 21 years. Between 8 and 12 months I guess. I can't remember exactly.
April 3, 2013 "Construction day 2"
After I took yesterday's photo, the scaffolding was built and the workers arrived, led by Jürgen Totzke who worked with me both on the Ninth Chimney in Hamm, and on the Baustelle Villa Schöningen in Potsdam. A giant transport silo for mortar came, and a container. Bricks had already been delivered. We set everything up yesterday, but the first layer of bricks was put in place today. And then sixteen more layers. Given that each layer is one and a half stone deep: that's a good day's work!
April 2, 2013 "Construction day 1"
I'm back in Frankfurt. The foundation was finished before Easter, including the installation of the chimney's steel core. It's a new solution which the structural engineer has come up with. My feeling is that this chimney will be the last thing left standing, if ever there is a catastrophy in Frankfurt. I had a look at the foundation in the morning, then left for the scaffolding to be put in place. The bricklayers will arrive from Hamburg in the early afternoon. I had time to see two exhibitions at the Schirn, the "Letzte Bilder" and Yoko Ono's retrospective. A number of lovely late de Chiricos, de Koonings and O'Keefes made me happy, as well as the Yoko Ono sixties. Some things there, made me really happy, somewhat to my surprise (I'm not usually a fluxus kind of guy). I even found an appropriate instruction piece (on the right side in the book).
March 19, 2013 "Foundation"
I arrived in Frankfurt yesterday afternoon, so did three men from Heins Baugeschäft in Hamburg. The mission: to prepare a foundation for the "First Chimney II", which has been commissioned by Frankfurt's Städelmuseum. The inauguration is planned for April 30. Let's hope there are no more snowstorms in store.
I have also added a new text: "Accumulation of labour", which I wrote for the catalogue of the Peter-Weibel-curated show "Artists in Multifunctions", which took place in New Delhi a few weeks ago.
March 10, 2013 "Legality"
I mentioned that I had dinner with Itay Ziv and his friend Liran Atzmor in Tel Aviv. Yesterday night and continuing this morning I have now watched the film Liran made together with Ra’anan Alexandrowicz: "The Law in These Parts". It is a very very strong film about the legal system imposed on the inhabitants of the occupied West Bank. It consists of collages of old documentary films and interviews with retired judges who have been part of the system. These interviews are highly staged, and conducted by Alexandrowicz in a very precise and pointed way. Seeing the film in my safe home here in Berlin (where, ironically, I live a few hundred meters away from where the Reichskanslei stood and Goebbel's Propagandaministerium) I now understand much better certain nuances of our discussion in a restaurant on the Tel Aviv waterfront just one week ago. The film's message about the injustices carried out towards the Palestinians by Israel is incredibly hard-hitting and makes you wonder how can this possibly go on. Where is the future here? Yet this film is made by Israelis living in Israel – and it won the Best Documentary award at the 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival (as well as the a prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival). It's been shown again and again in Israel itself. If art can produce change in the world, this film would be a contender and it would be so because of not only its message, but the way it reflects upon its own making and the histories and traps of its medium: film. It's a film which makes me both impressed, and depressed. A great article about it is here.
March 9, 2013 "Spotlight"
I finally made it home to Berlin after two weeks on the road. The experience in Graz was indeed very positive. I got to hear my piece as it was intended to be heard some four or five times, including at soundcheck and at a "dress rehersal" on Wednesday night. I will probably never hear it again this way, but we made a live recording using four microphones, which might give some idea of the 31 channel production. I had decided that the "performative aspect" of my piece would be me standing at the computer with a lone spotlight on me, the rest of the hall in low light. I then push the start button and leave the circle of light to walk around in the room while the music is playing. At the end I come back into the light to (fake) ending the music. (It actually ended by itself). Because of the distances between speakers, the different directions tehy were pointed in and the fact that 29 of them had been assigned individual tracks in mono: depending on your location in the room, the music would work differently. The rhythm would be more or less tight, the balances between "instruments" (= Marl sculptures) would be different – it really changed. Consequently, walking around was the best mode of listening.
"Jacques Vaché in Graz" was performed twice on the Thursday. After the first performance in the morning there was a discussion on the three pieces having been performed. I was criticised by somebody for my theatrical push-the-button performance. I can live with that. I refered to it as a Kraftwerk impulse, to laughs. I felt so happy for having been invited to this possibility in the first place, for how my piece had turned out and finally for how well it came down with the small but extremely qualified audience. The funny thing was that when I performed my piece for the second time, in the evening, I pushed the button for too long: the music didn't start. Smiling, I had to do the gesture again.
March 5, 2013 "Loud"
I'm in a train on the way back to Vienna after this morning's soundcheck in MUMUTH in Graz. The hall is larger than I had understood from the picture here, it's really impressive. Together with Martin Rumori I have now worked on perfecting the 3D mix of my piece. It's web component was published yesterday. You can access it here. Don't miss the "abstract", a text which scrolls down from a hidden menu in the upper part of the window.
Mixing the piece meant walking around listening, asking Martin to change tracks between some loudspeakers, to make some louder and some less loud and to inspire him to do everything possible to raise the overall volume as high as possible. My piece will be playing at maximum volume through 33 speakers of 1000 W each, which is incredible – but as the sounds are spread out all over this space the experience is quite different from a normal club or concert PA. Another factor is that all my sounds are percussive, meaning that they have very fast spikes, which is hard for the loudspeakers to handle. As we worked things started to click in place. I noticed, because my moving around the room felt more and more like dancing.
On Thursday, March 7, my piece will be played twice "live" for a live audience. Be there – or expect to regret not having been there later :)
March 4, 2013 "Scanned"
Here it is, a scanned proof of my sculpture's presence in the Swedish passport.
March 3, 2013 "Passport"
Yesterday evening, after getting to know Ashdod, I had dinner with the artist Itay Ziv and his filmproducer friend Liran. We discussed a project for a documentary film they have, in which I might have a tiny role to play. I know Itay a little bit, we met in Murcia and in Berlin. He was amazed about me coming to Israel and immediately heading for Ashdod. Apparently, no one else does.
The next morning I made a long run up and down the endless beach of Tel Aviv and Jaffa and then continued to the airport. I had a sense of accomplishment. It's something very special about touching down briefly for the first time in a foreign city, a foreign culture, only to ignore all the usual tourist destinations and instead go ahead and visit something of particular importance to you. For the flight home, Itay had warned me about the complicated procedures to negociate in order to reach the departure gate, but they were still impressive and very tiring. At the very end, in the last of all the queues, right at the gate, while waiting with boardingpass and passport in my hand, out of boredom I started to look through my new Swedish passport (from September 2012), to look for interesting stamps. I didn't find any, but what I did find was something much more exciting:
in the new Swedish passports, each page has a background design (in the style of banknote engravings) which depicts a view from above of a significant part of a Swedish city. One of these cities is Norrköping. Norrköping is the city where my Fifth Chimney is located, in the Motala river. The view chosen for the Norrköping page is a view of my work! Isn't that amazing? A depiction of my sculpture is part of the Swedish passport!!! I hope all Swedes soon change their passports and get this new design (with barcode and all sorts of new safety measures). They will then all own a depiction of my work! Like I do.
This kind of thing happening is exactly what motivates me to be an artist. It's just so cool. Random influence! Subversion! Fun!
March 3, 2013 "Ashdod"
Some time ago in Berlin, I ran into Susanne Pfeiffer, the curator of KunstWerke's incredible Absalon retrospective, which I have already written about. She told me the exhibition was now going to be shown in Tel Aviv, in the Helena Rubinstein wing of the art museum. I knew immediately that I wanted to go there. At the opening in Berlin, in 2011, I had met for the first time Dani Eshel, Absalon's three year younger brother and it had been a very moving experience. He ressembles his brother closely and he was eager to talk to me about what memories I had of Absalon. Now would be a good moment to reconnect with Dani.
I soon found out though, that I wouldn't be able to make it to the actual opening, which was last Friday at noon. The whole of last week we were busy with entrance exams in Vienna, and I just couldn't leave. (We have chosen eight new students and they don't know yet who they are...)
Still, I would be able to go there over the weekend, as I am going to spend also next week in Austria, in Vienna and Graz.
I arrived at the Ben Gurion airport in the middle of the night Saturdaymorning and took a taxi to a hotel downtown. It's my first visit to Israel. In the morning I called Dani, and two hours later I met him at the show. It felt very special to see Absalon's work in Israel, although I was disappointed to see they had only used two of my photos in the catalogue. What was really special was what we did after looking at the show.
Using his car Dani and I drove south. Somewhere outside of Tel Aviv we stopped at a cemetery, and visited Absalon's grave. A slab of stone similar to all the surrounding stone slabs, with the name "Absalon" and his name in Hebrew, and the dates. No big deal. Like all the others. The man lying beside him had died six days earlier (Absalon died 10.10.1993). But the neighbour had been born in 1917. The sun was shining from a cloud free sky. Under this slab of stone the bones of he who had been my friend. Dani told me in a Jewish funeral the body is not in a coffin, just swept in fabric. You see the contours of the body very clearly. The remains of this body is here for twenty years already.
We then continued to see the three apartment houses in Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv were the brothers had grown up. What's more, Dani took me to a sandhill above the beach, were Absalon had built his hut after leaving the military. I vividly remember him telling me about it, it was an important part of his story, both real and myth. Dani had been there too, he told me memories of what had happened one night on that little hill above the beach. We then shared a pomelo from his garden on the beach itself. It was so special. I am very grateful to Dani for showing me all these places. He himself had not been back to the first houses where they had lived – for thirty years.
February 20, 2013 "Depth"
Differently from in life, in art there is a lot of surface without depth. Yet there will be no depth without a surface. In order to create work which is experienced as "deep", the artist has to create a surface which elicits this response from the viewer (reader, listener, etc). It's a very difficult proposition to deliberatly set your sights on creating "deep" work. Much better focusing on other, more easily attainable and identifiable qualities. If you're lucky (which might be the wrong word) you might find that you have created depth without really knowing how it happened.
During the last month I have read two books written by musicians, two books I recommend although they are quite different. First I read "How Music Works" by David Byrne. It's really good and I want to come back to it eventually (I found some interesting parallells to what I myself has written). But it was also a book which I finished with some struggle. Never thinking less than highly of it, I still had to put some effort to the task. The second book is more primitive – or direct – in its form, but ultimately so much more moving: "Unknown Pleasure Inside Joy Division", by Peter Hook, Joy Division's iconic bassist. His stated aim is to provide the first account of what happened in that short lived but legendary group written by "someone who was there" (not counting Ian Curtis's widow who published her touching book five years ago).
I couldn't stop reading. It's not great literature, but what this book provides is a thoughtful revisiting of a period in the author's life when he was a part of a situation where real "depth" happened. Without those involved realising it at the time, or almost not. Myself I remember the impact of Joy Division's two albums as they arrived in Uppsala, where I was part of the local music scene. It was like music from another planet. Most of the music from that time I can't stand listening to today, but now (of course!) I have revisited their two albums and they are truly timeless. Peter Hook thinks so too, he clearly is very proud of what he and his mates achieved. Making no secret of the fact that, while at the time he knew they were onto something good, he had no idea how good and how tragic. The singer killed himself even before the second album was released.
As part of his book, Hook provides a track by track commentary to the two albums, giving earnest tidbits on the construction of the songs. I read a reader's review on Amazon complaining about why he doesn't provide a deeper analysis ... why doesn't Hook delve into the deeper meanings of these songs?
What a misunderstanding! If you have been fortunate enough to be part of the creation of something deep: what can be more interesting than relating what went into it. How that surface came to be. The surface which provided access to the depth.
All else is nonsense.
February 8, 2013 "Again Jacques"
This week I'm spending a lot of time preparing a 33 channel electronic music composition using sounds made as Florian Dombois hit modernistic sculpture in the town of Marl, Germany, with a small hammer. It's my second composition based on this material, a collection of about 50 digital samples provided to me by Florian as he invited me for an event in 2010. I called the first composition "Jacques Vaché in Marl". The name comes from the fact that I had re-used parts of the MIDI structure which I had programmed for my re-creation of the 1981 song "Jacques" (for which the lyrics refer to Lorient's famous/infamous son).
The new composition, called "Jacques Vaché in Graz" will be performed twice, either on March 7, or March 8, in the ultra modern concert hall MUMUTH in Graz, Austria. I have been invited to take part in "Mind the Gap", a "concert series in symposium format", for which theinvited six artists have to provide a piece in two formats: a performance in the hall – and a version for the world wide web. You can read more about it in the programme. Registration is open until February 28. For me... this is pretty exciting. I haven't yet been to Graz. My soundcheck will take place on March 5.
Until then, it's all computer and imagination.
February 2, 2013 "Living alone"
I came across a startling and strangely engaging story of a family who lived in complete isolation from human society in the far far away Siberian forest from the late 1930s until they were discovered by Soviet geologists in the 1978. At that time they could no longer cook their food, as their last pots and pans had long been destroyed by rust. One man and his four middle age children, the mother having starved to death fifteen years earlier. The man had taken his family to the deep forests to escape religious persecution under Stalin. Within three years of renewed contact with civilisation three of the children were dead, their father died in 1988.
This story made me think of another family group which famously made first contact with "civilisation" in the Australian desert in 1984: "the Pintupi Nine". Two women and their seven teenage and adult children who chose to give up their traditional way of life after the women's husband had died. This family is thought to have been the very last group of Aboriginals who have lived completely without contact with modernity – and with white society. When they "came in" they were all naked. Today, four of the children are important artists, making their way in that strange hybrid of cultures which is Contemporary Aboriginal Art. I own an etching by Yukultji Napangati which I hold to be one of the most clearly intelligent pictures I know. And her brother, Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, was one of the most impressive painters at last year's Documenta. I just wonder what was his impression of the opening...
There's a final similarity to both stories. One of the Siberian family, Agafia Lykov, survived. In fact, she's still alive and she lives alone, in the forest. After two years at the Kiwirrkurra settlement ( a small settlement in the middle of the Gibson Desert), Yari Yari Tjapaltjarri couldn't stand modern life any longer and went back, alone, into the desert. He hasn't been seen since.
January 26, 2013 "Sugar"
Yesterday I finally saw the film "Searching for Sugar Man" and even though I had read so much about it so knowing the story about to be told it still made a deep impact. For anyone making some form of art or thinking about doing it... go see this film. It tells an amazing story of reverse engineering, on so many levels. The film itself becoming an integral part of its story. I sure hope it will get it's Oscar!
January 24, 2013 "All of it"
Answering email this afternoon I decided to say OK to whether I could write a brief peer review for a British publication. I felt expansive. Then in my mailbox I found an invitation to write a piece for a Norwegian book, on two artists I know vaguely, but not enough. I declined. Then a second mail came making it clear I could write a piece on a topic which didn't have to name them. Now I felt more confident... and became expansive again... and I said maybe yes. I open next mail and it is one more request to write, this time about one of my favourite artists of all time. How do you say no to fun?
I've been printing this week, I'm working with Larissa Leverenz on a triptyque of silkscreens. It's great fun.
And should you be in New Delhi, there's an exhibition for you, on Saturday in two weeks. There's a catalogue... for which I wrote a text as well :)
January 21, 2013 "What you want"
Monday morning, on a plane. I read a long piece on Facebook's new search engine in a business paper. At the end of the text Larry Page, Google's chief executive, is quoted from a decade ago:
The perfect search engine would understand exactly what you want. ...( it) would be implanted directly into the user's brain.
Goodbye to surprises. Goodbye to serendipity. Goodbye to culture.
Good riddance to all of that.
January 20, 2013 "Words & Vision"
In the last ten days I have attended two lectures which gave me much to think about; the speakers having used quite different techniques to achieve their goals. The art of lecturing is something I think about quite often. It's an art or maybe I should say "technique" which is undervalued by surprisingly manywho should know better. For this very reason, there is so much to gain from working on your own presentation technique. If you mention the word "Powerpoint" many people react as if it was a dirty word, and quickly say how much they hate it. But it's just a tool, albeit with a lot of templates (which no intelligent user should ever use). I really like working on my presentations, using powerpoint and avoiding all the templates. The way you can work on the fine details of temporal combinations of verbal aural narrative with pure visual narrative in the form of images, and visual verbal narrative in the form of images with text and then rehearse and finetune the performance as many times as you like it really fascinates me.
The first lecture I attended I had organized myself. It was Jörg Heiser, one of the two editors of the art magazine frieze, who gave a talk at the Angewandte with the title "From Assange to Zuckerberg, and back to Documenta – art and criticism at times of the super-nerd, and of mega-exhibitions". The argument Jörg developed over the course of his talk was both complex and worrying and he hardly used his images at all. That is, he always had an image on the screen, but changed it rarely, making his narrative very word-based. With his words he exposed how the strategy of overwhelming people with information (whether by Documenta or Wiki-Leaks) doesn't necessarily serve the goals claimed in public by its perpetrators. He also talked about the way global networking through Facebook (and other means) influences critical expression about art. On Facebook you're faced with the choice of saying either I "like", or saying nothing (thus excluding yourself from participation in the group you covet). Facebook only support supportive statements. And thus goes art discourse. When professional roles are increasingly interchangeable (artists curating, curators writing, writers consulting, consultants ending up at museums, etc) and everything said is immediately propagated on the net, or at all times risk ending up there, all criticism offered by someone with professional ambitions (as opposed to private operators and trolls under pseudonyms) might end up being seen by the "wrong" person. That is, somebody who is about to make a decision which will impact your career, and who, for whatever reason, you do not want to disturb. So goes Jörg' observation (and he has been at frieze for soon 15 years): writers on art today tend to "like" more, even outside of Facebook. Making enemies is expensive.
To support his discussion Jörg made clever use of keywords, like a singer's phrases. The "like button" was one such, another was his mention, almost in passing, of how the post war art historical canon is based almost solely on art from countries belonging to NATO. That's the supposed freedom of art for you.
The other lecture was in Berlin a few days ago. My friend Gerd Roos gave a superb presentation at the Kupferstichkabinett of his research regarding Giorgio De Chirico's use of visual quotation in the construction of his images, both painted and drawn. To compare an art historian with a scientist will draw ridicule, but anyone who knows Gerd's work will understand that it is not such an absurd idea in his case. Working almost exclusively on different aspects of De Chirico, some years ago Gerd realized that De Chirico (almost?) NEVER drew or painted a figure from life, while in later years claiming very loudly that he was the sole artist of today carrying on the tradition of the old masters, etc. He always used an existing image, often several which were combined with each other in composite form. These images could be anything: photos, postcards, famous and unknown paintings from art historical books, and even more striking: albums with drawings of antique statues or photos of figures striking different poses to help the academic painter. De Chirico would use anything. He was truly a postmodernist already in the 1920s. And now Gerd is on his tail, digging through all the books in the world which might have been in De Chiricos hands, checking all the archives. He never gives up. And he keeps finding stuff. Amazing!
While Jörg Heiser could have done without images, Gerd Roos could almost have given his talk silent. Still I'm happy that neither of them tried. I so much love a good performance of Word & Vision.
January 12, 2013 "Updates"
I have changed the "cover" image on the site, from the Baustelle project in Potsdam to the indoor chimney fragment built in Uppsala, Sweden in November last year. There is also a full documentation of that show (except the music, which I hope to release on record later this year). For this reason I have added an index of a new type of drawings, which were first made public in that show. It seems I will be invited back for more work in Uppsala during 2013, as a direct result of the show. Watch this space. Meanwhile, I have also added the Frankfurt project image to the chimney index, as well as the long missing beautiful indoor chimney fragment I built with Hannes Forster in Berlin in 2004. Construction in Frankfurt is scheduled to begin in late March.
January 11, 2013 "Angel"
I continue to listen to a certain singer. I'm thinking about how single words or short phrases in pop music so often carry more impact than the lyrics as a whole. You might be mesmerized by the impact of words in a song, while still ignoring what the whole lyric is about. You might not even care. It's how these little pieces of linguistic code come out of the singer's mouth and grow. Undescribable small nuances make all the difference and allow for unrestricted meaning to be attached to something so tiny. As I walk around, my mind plays on repeat short fragments of songs: a drawn-out, yearning "honey"; a cheeky "bestest" (in several versions), and the delirious deadpan phrase: "in the land of gods and monsters I was an angel, looking to get fucked hard".
The magic of words and of music.
January 1, 2013 "The question"
We spent a happy last evening of 2012 in brilliant Swedish company at a dinner given by Carl Tham and Carin Norberg. Carl is an amazing cook. Already during aperitifs he announced that he would like to hear later from guests their choice of the most positive event of wider importance, having taken place during the passed year. The question set the mind racing.
When the topic was raised again, a couple of hours later, it immediately became clear that I was not alone in having great difficulty in identifying truly positive global events. The re-election of President Obama had already been offered when my turn came. I choose to rephrase that answer as the failure of Mitt Romney to win, but really: this was a tricky question. In my own life, private and professional, I'm full of optimism. When looking at the landscape of developments in the world it is hard to feel the same assurance. It is indeed hard to feel any assurance at all.
How much of this feeling is existential and a timeless symptom of what it means to be human? How much of it is a reflection of the true state of things?
Can we ever tell?