Creators feed for https://creators.vice.comenFri, 01 Sep 2017 17:30:00 +0000<![CDATA[ProyectosLA Opens Borders for Latin American Art in Los Angeles]]>, 01 Sep 2017 17:30:00 +0000With the political climate being bombarded with chatter about walls, both physical and rhetorical, the Latin American art scene is beginning to address the issue in greater depth. This is the premise for proyectosLA, an exhibit which heavily touts its #nowalls ethos with an off-kilter, hybrid setup that ditches the walls and booths of the traditional art fair in favor of an open space.

The exhibit is part of the Getty Foundation's Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, which will highlight a slew of Latin American artworks across more than 70 cultural institutions. In ad hoc fashion, proyectosLA will showcase over a dozen of the most prestigious and innovative galleries throughout Latin America.

Courtesy of wərkärtz studios

The goal of proyectosLA is to create an open environment that encourages new commercial partnerships between the Latin American galleries and US-based and international collectors, institutions, curators, and galleries. Tracy O'Brien, one of the project's founders says, "Part of it is a response to last year's elections. We want to build bridges, not walls," she says. "The other part is that we try to show the work in a non-fair and convention-like setting, with the walls and booths, so it's a conversation on both those things."

The exhibit's unique layout will take place at wərkärtz studios, a 20,000 sq. ft. converted Downtown LA (DTLA) warehouse, showcasing Modern and contemporary work from noteworthy Latin American art galleries. These include OMR in Mexico City, Henrique Faria in Buenos Aires and NY and Vermelho in São Paulo. Eduardo Brandao, the gallery director at Vermelho, says "People are not aware of things that have happened in the art world in other parts of the world. This big movement is a leveling of knowledge."

Big names in the Latin American art scene are making their way north of the border. Spread across the exhibit's 60 artists are the likes of Mexico's Tania Candiani, one of the precursors of digital art in the country, the legendary Guatemalan conceptual artist Darío Escobar, and proto-postmodernist Rubén Ortiz Torres.

"Sex, war, dance" by Carmela Gross. Image courtesy of Edouard Fraipoint

There is always a certain risk when trying to represent such a large region of the globe in a single exhibit. Last year's Under the same sun Latin American art survey at the Guggenheim was highly criticized for its purportedly reductive treatment of the subject matter. But Brandao believes there is an advantage to exhibiting works from artists of the same region. "It can be difficult to box things by country or continent," he says, "but Latin America obviously has a very similar history." That shared history could, serve as an entry point for audiences to veer further into work across the region.

Though artists in the exhibit, like Brazil's Carmela Gross, have been prominently featured in the US, particularly in places like MoMa in New York, many of the artists and galleries — spanning countries like Argentina, Colombia, and Peru — are making their first foray into the west coast landscape-cum-market. "Very few Brazilian artists are known on the West Coast," says Brandao, "in that sense, having a Latin American movement can help introduce our artists. It's a way of opening borders."

"We want to show that Latin American art is on par with what you see in Europe and Asia," says O'Brien. "It's just good art that deserves consideration."

proyectosLA will officially launch in mid-September, to coincide with PST: LA/LA's aperture, and will run through October 28, 2017.

3kkwb8Reuben TorresMarina Garcia-VasquezLALos AngelesArt FairWallsexhibitGetty Foundation
<![CDATA[These Glitched-Out Photos Look Like Paintings Made by a PC]]>, 25 Aug 2017 15:18:15 +0000Several years ago, Berlin-based documentary and travel photographer Polina Efremova discovered a unique type of datamosh glitch. The accidental discovery happened when Efremova installed a new video player on a very old PC. When she tried to play her videos on the player, glitches would appear from time to time, which she would eventually capture as screengrabs, turning the glitchy scenes into still photographs. The body of work, which Efremova calls Destruction, displays one way to capture a unique moment that can never again be reproduced.

"What interests me most in the process is that a random faulty configuration of a piece of software leads to results that are uncontrollable, not replicable," Efremova tells Creators. "That reminds me of analog photography, where a process of film developing is often unpredictable. [And] I love the idea that an old computer that otherwise would have no more use or value serves as a unique tool that cannot be replicated by anyone."

Efremova first discovered the effect in 2013, just as glitch was in the process of become an aesthetic trend. She doesn't even remember why she decided to run video from her Canon 5D on the old PC.

"I don't know what went wrong (or, actually, right), but I saw this beautiful image, this image which is falling apart, like pixels blowing off and into the wind, making the still from the video look surreal and scary, because the world is falling apart," says Efremova. "I loved this feeling a lot and started taking screenshots."

Efremova later put the project on hold after learning that glitch effects could be reproduced artificially. For her, the project had lost its worth—at least temporarily. Now that datamosh and glitch fervor have died down, respectively, she is returning to the project.

The process of creating these datamoshed photographs is an interesting one: for a moment, the video runs correctly, but soon begins to lag, pause, and eventually crash. This is the moment when Efremova takes the screenshot.

"When you press play again, you can't get back and it won't be repeated again," Efremova says. "This is the most valuable aspect for me. I used to shoot on film and can compare this feeling to film photography, where not everything depends on you—there is always an input of abruptness."

"This computer is something that I cherish as my tool," she adds. "I can compare [it] to a modern analog of some old broken camera that gives a unique result."

Efremova has also used the technique to produce videos that she describes as in the "mood of surreal dissociation, dissolution of reality." While she is still adding to Destruction, Efremova is also working on a big archive of photographs, while posting travel and documentary photography on her Instagram account.

Click here to check out Polina Efremova's other photographs.


Stream 'Natural History Redux,' The Datamoshed Deep Sea Doc From Coral Morphologic

Creativity Bytes: A Brief Guide To Datamoshing

Virtual Organisms Writhe in Generative Music Video "Tehraj"

zmmwk4DJ PangburnEmerson RosenthalBerlinPhotographyPhotosglitchdatamoshingcomputer artGlitch Aestheticdatamoshpolina efremova
<![CDATA[Massive Murals Are Popping Up Around Detroit]]>, 22 Aug 2017 16:06:31 +0000In 2014, when the City of Detroit threatened to sell many of the Detroit Institute of Art's prized artworks to help the Motor City exit bankruptcy, the question of art's role in the city's future came front and center. Ultimately, the museum raised nearly a billion dollars to preserve the city's cultural heritage—and its Picassos. Two years before, in what has become known as a "grand bargain," local residents, husband and wife duo Anthony and JJ Curis, decided to open the Library Street Collective on a once-barren stretch of land. The Collective is a gallery with a traditional artist roster and a mission to revitalize the city by commissioning artists from the city and around the world to make public art in the streets of Detroit.

FAILE, DET The Hammer, 2017, Acrylic and silkscreen ink on blocks, steel frame, 51 x 78.5 x 3 in. Courtesy Library Street Collective.

"Me or JJ don't have an art background," says Anthony Curis to Creators. "At the time, I was redeveloping a building in downtown Detroit that was meant to be a restaurant." Back then, downtown Detroit's state of near-total abandonment led him to open a gallery instead, at the suggestion of his wife. "The model wasn't focused as much on the brick and mortar as it was on what kind of change we can make in the city." He explains, "When we opened the gallery, we were really focused on public art and how could we change the landscape, making the community a little bit more vibrant and interesting. We are very interested in and keen on our mission to engage the public and reach people. That's where the gallery was born."

Swoon's 'Thalassa' at Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), 2016. Photo by Sal Rodriguez.

Since 2012, the Library Street Collective has partnered with the city's museums and real estate companies to bring permanent and temporary art installations and murals to the downtown and wider Detroit area. All of the Collective's exhibitions aim to encourage the artists they work with to think outside of the box and figure out a way they can engage Detroit publicly and at the community level. For a 2016 show with the artist Swoon, Library Street Collective partnered with the Detroit Institute of Arts with what Curis calls an "inside-outside approach" that brought the artist's Thalassa installation to the main entrance of the museum and a mural to the Jefferson-Chalmers community. There, Swoon worked with local activist and artist Baba Wayne to create a mural. The hope was that, if the community and museum's audiences, which aren't always the same, saw one of the works, they would be compelled to visit both. For the collective's current exhibition, The Size of the Fight, a solo showing of FAILE's art, Library Street Collective helped the Brooklyn-based artists mount five large-scale works in a transformed alleyway known locally as "The Belt."

Library Street Collective also did a similar project with the iconic Detroit artist Charles McGee. McGee, whose works belong to museum collections nationally and who currently has a work on display in the DIA's African-American galleries, created a 150' black-and-white mural on a wall in Capital Park, aptly titled, Unity. To commemorate the public work, the collective staged Still Searching, a monographic look at five decades of McGee's art. The idea was to "experience the public mural but also a big breath of Charles," says Curis. "I've never seen so many people so happy and excited to be around his work before, it was incredible to sit back and watch the faces of people as they walked in."

Charles McGee: Still Searching presented by Library Street Collective at 1505 Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Photo by Sal Rodriguez. Courtesy Library Street Collective.

The gallery's non-traditional partnerships, which blur long-established art world norms that keep market-driven galleries and museum businesses separate—at least on the surface—have also allowed public life in Detroit to benefit in other ways, too. The Curises recently turned their 1960s William Kessler designed modernist home, known as the Hawkins Ferry House, into a gallery space for Unobstructed Views, an auction exhibition to benefit Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. The collective also commissioned more than 27 artists from the city and all across the world to paint massive murals in what once was an alleyway that led to a 10-story garage right behind the gallery. The project has made the area "one of the highest walkability areas of the entire city of Detroit," according to Curis, and features works by artists Nina Chanel Abney, Shepard Fairey and local artist Tiff Massey.

"We wanted to keep people engaged," says Curis of the project, "and wanted to figure out a way to have people come [ to the area] for not just the visual arts but music, culinary, and performance, too." The collective has also been instrumental in initiating the dialogue between pro-skater Tony Hawk, who has a home in Detroit, and artist Ryan McGinness, who will open an exhibition at Cranbrook Museum this fall. It led them design Wayfinding, a free, temporary skate park in the city, due to open in the coming weeks.

View of exterior of W. Hawkins Ferry House installed for Unobstructed Views, a collaborative exhibition and auction benefit hosted by Library Street Collective and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Photo by Peter Andrew Lusztyk. Courtesy Library Street Collective.

"When we first started and opened the gallery, a lot of the artists we worked with happened to be from outside of Detroit," says Curis. "Our goal moving forward is to continue to celebrate and embrace artists from all over the world, but to really make a bigger impact on Detroit by focusing on a lot of the artists who are right here in Detroit."

"There are a number of amazing artists here that we really want to involve and support," he adds. "We want to help develop not just an art scene, but art careers locally."

AJ Fosik: From Ripe to Rot is currently on view at the Library Street Collective through October 7, 2017. For more information, click here.


A Group Show in Detroit Asks, Can Humans and Nature Ever Coexist?

Detroit Exhibition Showcases 30 Years of Black Contemporary Art

[Exclusive] A 30-Second Tour of Nick Cave's Detroit Takeover

qvv3qpAntwaun SargentEmerson Rosenthalstreet artDetroitpublic artmuralFAILELibrary Street Collective
<![CDATA[This Brooklyn Art Space Wants to Keep Kids Out of Jail]]>, 21 Aug 2017 20:10:23 +0000Brooklyn Justice Initiatives's mission, according to their website, is to seek "to forge a new repose to misdemeanor and non-violent felony defendants in Brooklyn, New York." In thinking of new, innovative ways of trying to keep children from going to jail, the BJI has developed a partnership with artist Shaun Leonardo and Recess Art, to launch Assembly. The new downtown Brooklyn art space functions as both art gallery storefront and diversion program that places juvenile offenders, particularly those who have the possibility of being tried as adults, in art classes, led by Leonardo, as a pathway to rehabilitation.

Installation view: Sable Elyse Smith: and then the street lights–like a warning bell.

"Allison [Freedman Weisberg], Recess's director, and Shaun have been in communication for quite a while given the nature of his work," explains Jessica Lynne, and the Recess Art's development and communications manager and the art critic behind Arts.Black. "Shaun often thinks about and responses critically to the carceral. This is a project that has been in the work for while and Brooklyn Justice Initiatives were brought into the conversation and the project blossomed from there. The critical conversations around restorative justice led to Assembly our dedicated artist-led youth diversion program." The storefront operates like Recess's SoHo space, as a three-month cycle wherein artist-residents can work on a site-specific work, but assists in a court mandated four-week diversion workshop led by Leonardo who is joined by the guest artists. At the end of the four-week workshop, the court decides if a juvenile participant's case will be closed and sealed to avoid an adult sanction and a criminal record.

Sable Elyse Smith, Landscape II, 2017, Neon 108 x 14 inches.

Assembly's current resident artist is Sable Elyse Smith. Her exhibition, Sable Elyse Smith: and then the street lights–like a warning bell blends the artist's personal connection to the criminal justice system with the art space's social mission. The five works on display explore the idea of fantasy as it is located in the landscape and the playground. Works like the neon Landscape II, which reads, "planking or the lying down game," considers how fantasy relates to the prison landscape. "Of course in pointing to the game, planking—this idea of play...the choice for someone to lay down as a game," comes to mind, according to the artist. "The text is in white. Pointing to the outline of bodies/chalk.The yellow line is a horizon line. It is the minimalist gesture that conjures the landscape image or iconography," recalling a sunset or the sun setting on a body. Monumental in scale, the work points to a mural or an image of an idyllic landscape and holds the space of the wall like a landscape painting. The neon glow gives off the kind of light one would see in an institution like a prison. It's a sickly light, but the material is seductive, creating tension. "It is at once an image of the residue of fallen bodies: caution tape, chalk, outline. It is an image of a landscape. And it is a contrasting image: considering those that lay down for play and those who don't have that luxury or further those who wouldn't dare lay down as a game because there historical, contextual, and body knowledge of bodies lying on the ground means something very different."

Sable Elyse Smith, Untitled, 2017, Text Painting, 88 x 62 (dimensions vary).

"For Sable's gallery activation she has been working with Shaun on the weekly diversion workshops and now participants have the opportunity to work with her on a drop in manner on a project of their choosing," explains Lynne, who says after the mandated four-week program, Assembly offers the participants paid apprenticeships. "So much of the work that Recess has done and continue to do has contained the subtext of justice. A lot of the artists in SoHo bring projects that think complicatedly about gender, race, class, and now Assembly makes some of that ethos more explicit."

Having real conversations about mass incarceration and criminality in the context of arts education makes Assembly one of the spaces that shows truly shows art's potential. "When the opportunity arose to participate in this type of education program, it was hard to say no to it." Lynne adds. "To put it simply, the main purpose of the program is to allow kids avoid adult sanctions and going to jail. New York sends young people to adult jail and that's a problem we want to help solve."

Sable Elyse Smith: and then the street lights–like a warning bell continues through September 1 at Assembly. For more information, click here.


Enter the Realm of a Cosmic Black Utopia

A New Exhibition Explores the Social Critique of Funny Art

Can a New Website Save Black Arts Criticism?

bjj7xzAntwaun SargentEmerson Rosenthalprison reformassemblytext artJessica LynneShaun LeonardoSable Elyse SmithRecess ArtBrooklyn Justice Initiatives
<![CDATA[9 Breakout Artists from the Venice Biennale]]>, 21 Aug 2017 15:21:09 +0000Every two years, the Venice Biennale sets the stage for investigative art that represents the current human condition and grapples with identity, nationality, and liberty. Established in 1895, the Biennale today invites artists from all over the world to share their work on a global stage. 120 artists are invited to represent themselves, their countries, their aesthetics, and their personal politics to an audience of about 500,000 visitors over the course of six months.

Since its inception, artist reputations have been made, catapulting some to fame and others into webs of controversy. Says curator Christine Macel, the director of the 2017 Venice Biennale, "The role, the voice and the responsibility of the artist are more crucial than ever before within the framework of contemporary debates. It is in and through these individual initiatives that the world of tomorrow takes shape."

Creators visited the 57th Venice Biennale to meet with the youngest artists of the exhibition. Here we selected nine rising international art stars, hailing from the Republic of China to Kosovo, who span disciplines, mediums, and themes. We wanted to learn more about their provocations, inspirations, and what it feels like to make art specifically with the Biennale in mind.

Guan Xiao, Beijing, China

Guan Xiao sees her role as has a constructor and spectator in finding online content and creating a new visual language. Concerned in the ways to achieve expression, the video artist and sculptor scours the internet to find images and sounds with which she makes video collages. In her humorous three-channel video piece, David, Xiao pieces together downloadable material from YouTube to explore the iconic Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo. Most of what she had to work with came from videos made by tourists who were more concerned with documenting their art pilgrimage than having any cultural insight to the sculpture's significance. Xiao says, "We 'see' with our eyes, but actually this is not the most important thing. What is important is that we are using all our senses to remember. I decided to put all these 'worthless' videos together to make my work." Xiao's video takes on an ambivalent tone as the artist sings over a video montage of all of the ways in which the statue of David exists in a modern-day context, from mass produced commercial goods to its celebrity-like status. Her lyrics playfully question collective cultural memory: "We don't know how to see [David]… Only recording, but not remembering…"

Pauline Curnier Jardin, Marseille, France

When entering the cave-world of Pauline Curnier Jardin's film, Grotta Profunda, Approfundita, one passes through a splayed and grotesque hand into a dank and dark viewing room. The red-hued campy film on display is loosely based on the life of Bernadette Soubirous, a Catholic figure who encountered visions of the Virgin Mary in a cave in the French Pyrenees. Yet, Jardin's version distills the experience into an erotic awakening, a return to our primitive animal instincts, and venerates the naked female body. The experience is enhanced by the placenta-like room Jardin designed with playground granulates that lets viewers sit or lay on the floor with ease to consider the celebration of the female body. Of her installation, Jardin says, "I dive into research about a cave in its very polysemic polymorphic definition." Jardin's film is inspired by the psychedelic aesthetics of 70s pornography, specifically Behind the Green Door, and its title is loosely based on Deep Throat. She says, "The film is called Grotta Profunda because deep throat in French is gorge profonde so it was also making fun of this movie that we know is problematic, when we look at how pornography is playing with subjectivity and objectivity around the woman." Jardin's womb-room is meant to elevate the many iterations of the female body and remind us of its capacity to contain the wisdom through the ages.

Petrit Halilaj, Republic of Kosovo

Within the core of the Arsenale building, fabric moth sculptures are hidden in the rafters, and fill artist Petrit Halilaj's exhibition space, titled, Do you realize there is a rainbow even if it's night!? The moth structures, handcrafted by Halilaj and his mother out of traditional Qilim carpets from Kosovo, shift between objects hanging on a wall and costumes for the artist to wear during poetic live performances. Halilaj's moths personify the wondrous capacity for self-expression, recognition of his own sexuality, and the symbolic dance between self and society. "I can enter and the body disappears becoming an insect. So with this idea of hiding and becoming an insect, I just escaped another time to talk and confess about something that is still too complicated," the artist tells Creators. Halilaj's autobiographical installations grapple with the weight of exile, war, and abandoned territory—at the age of 12, his family fled the Kosovo War to an Albanian refugee camp. He pulls inspiration from animal nature to translate emotions of catharsis. He says, "I would try to dream something beyond verbal, a different kind of language that would be added to my body. This is the first costume or performative sculpture that has different layers coming from history, culture, and personal nature."

Taus Makhacheva, Moscow, Russia

In Taus Makhacheva's video installation, Tightrope (2015), a real-life tightrope walker balances between two rugged cliffs, carrying an entire collection of modern art from one side to the other. The daring act symbolizes our modern fascination with categorizing and archiving art collections. The project, realized in collaboration with the Museum of Dagestan, uses 61 actual works of art from the museum's storage to display the fine line between valuing local heritage and a community entering a larger global narrative. Makhacheva wants us to question the strategies contemporary museums from the West have on local communities and what happens to the art of the past (pre- and post-Soviet times, in this case). There are battle paintings from the Caucasian War alongside social realism. In the beautifully composed cliffhanger, we are left to resolve our own cultures and representation of them. Makhacheva puts forth the tensions between tradition and modernity, local and global. She says, "There's this idea of balancing when you're involved in cultural production, balancing with survival and balancing on believing that your works will enter history. For me, it was also kind of talking about how you make a certain history of art visible."

Mariechen Danz, Dublin, Ireland

It's hard to say what catches your eye first in Mariechen Danz's room of exploration, Ore Oral Orientation: a soulful stream of music from a video panel beckons you in; Venetian mud coats the entire room; and three anatomical sculptures give you a peek into the human body. Along the walls are maps from Babylonia throughout the 20th century, giving the sense of a journey through history. Danz says, "I wanted to make a map where we could talk about how to ask questions about how to access knowledge and especially scientific imagery, the mappings, and then anatomy." Something wondrous about the sense of time and history that the artist has composed feels ancient and futuristic. Danz holds our attention long enough to reflect and riff on the potential for meaning through symbols, structures, and the lyrics of a song that drop knowledge about Western reasoning. In her installation, we think of climate change, the power of written language, and the capacity for the human body to evolve despite calamity, through song, maps, and the body itself.

Thu Van Tran, Paris, France

Thu Van Tran was born in Vietnam and raised in France after being received into a refugee camp with her family. Straddling two cultures, the artist explores issues of identity, language, history, and political oppression in her conceptual artworks. For the Biennale, Tran's exhibition space is stained in a pastel palette, with rubber and chemical pigments, to question the role of rubber production in colonial Vietnam. In the artist's four sculptural works, the rubber tree symbolizes the abuse of power, cheap labor, and the raw materials associated with six decades of French colonialism in Vietnam. In one corner, a 16mm film plays as a projection, highlighting the repetitive movements made by laborers extracting rubber from the Hevea tree trunks. The title of her film (in English), Overly Forced Gestures, From Harvest to Fight, calls out the political and repressive air of the period. Tran says, "In French, we have this almost anagram which is de recolte, a revolt which means in a way to harvest so that was the link to all those materials facing history, putting it into the light." The three photograms known as In the Fall, in the Rise were made by capturing the imprints of tropical plants, including Hevea tree leaves, onto Fuji-flex paper. The artist says the entire installation is meant to be a poetic account of "history but petrified into sculptural form that deliver a more dreamy and honorific dimension."

Hao Liang, Beijing, China

Fusing traditional Chinese ink painting with surreal narratives, Hao Liang paints directly onto silk to reflect upon the past and the future. In a way, he suspends time. The artist's aesthetic is influenced by masterpieces from the Northern Song dynasty, which dates back to as early as 960 AD. While in art school, Liang found that scholarly Chinese art forms have struggled to evolve due to the political reforms of the Cultural Revolution. For the Biennale, Liang exhibits landscapes from the Hunan Province in his own version of the traditional and iconic form, titled, Eight Views of Xiaoxiang. Most often, these pictorial scenes combine poetic writings to attain a sort of enlightenment. The paintings show a unique worldview constructed through the artist's values and perspective, usually through deep symbolism. The artist says, "I am interested in the traditional East Asian painting theme, 'Eight Views of Xiaoxiang.' In my long-term research, the ancient subject is involved with the present knowledge, perceptions, and geography." Liang contemporizes his paintings and the tradition by infusing the ideas of modern authors outside of China like Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, and Italo Calvino. He tells Creators, "My work is based on the Chinese ancient art traditions, trying to seek a path to contemporaneity inside Chinese culture."

Katherine Nunez and Issay Rodrigues, Manila, Philippines

Philippino duo Katherine Nunez and Issay Rodrigues create crocheted desk paraphernalia as replicas of study materials that are void of their original function. Titled In Between Lines 2.0, the installation touches on issues of labor and education, as well as the role of books and printed materials in a modern culture that is increasingly reformatting to new technologies. Says Rodrigues, "I try to talk about things that are immediate to me, the everyday, the mundane, and also the contradictory… balancing between the digital and the physical world." Most of the soft sculptures for the installation were crafted over six months, with the artists laboriously juggling between using a sewing machine, crocheting by hand, using a computer for research, and still balancing their day jobs. The two artists first combined their art practice for a project at the Art Dubai Maker exhibition in 2015, featuring artist-run spaces from Manila. The two artists are active members of 98B COLLABoratory in the Escolta neighborhood of Manila. The collective fosters a relationship between artists and the local community to make art more accessible and less intimidating. Nunez says, "I like doing craftwork in my works because I like being able to do something with my hands using materials and processes that are familiar or commonplace. I see art as a tool I can use to try to look for answers, to inquire, to understand, to make clearer issues that recur in my day-to-day experiences."

The 57th Biennale di Venezia runs through November 26. Learn more about it here.


"Black Lives Matter" Makes It to the Venice Biennale

[Exclusive Photos] The 'World's Most Important Art Exhibition,' a Film About the Venice Biennale

Disposable DIS-Dain: Berlin Biennale Critics Miss the Point

j55g8xMarina Garcia-VasquezKarim El Maktafi Kara WeisensteinVeniceArt FairVenice BiennaleTaus MakhachevaThu Van Tran Mariechen DanzPetrit HalilajPauline Curnier Jardin Guan XiaoHao Liang
<![CDATA[This 70s Sci-Fi Mockumentary Predicted Our Current Political Climate]]>, 18 Aug 2017 16:20:35 +0000 In the 1971 film Punishment Park, countercultural activists are rounded up, tried in an emergency tribunal, and given the option to either go to prison or take a three-day trip to the desert for a forced 53-mile trek as a form of discipline. The mockumentary, directed by English filmmaker Peter Watkins, is a dystopian sci-fi film that imagines Nixon-era America going full-on fascist against various activist movements. The mechanism behind the film's premise is the McCarran Internal Security Act, a law that was actually passed by Congress in 1950—despite being vetoed by President Harry Truman—then in hysterics over the idea of a subversive communist threat.

Watkins' narrative is framed as two fictional British filmmakers shooting a documentary about America's Punishment Park, as the desert compound is called. The scenes, which show two groups of dissidents on an exhausting trek, are intercut with interviews in the field, as well as scenes from the emergency tribunal where anti-war, feminist, and African-American activists are tried and convicted. In this way, Watkins presents the then-current perspectives of those on the right and left.

While the film experienced immediate distribution problems and alienated some critics for left and right wing talk that they felt bordered on parody, the issues explored in the film remain incredibly topical and relevant. From the conditions faced by Guantanamo Bay detainees and the rise of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and the Women's March, to the Tea Party and Donald Trump's campaign, the rhetoric on both sides is remarkably similar, even decades later.

"The characters, the defendants, are all pretty recognizable counter-cultural 60s and 70s-type individuals," says Oliver Groom, distributor of Watkins' films, including Punishment Park. "[But] those attitudes, or let's say those rebellious political stances, are almost universal, so it's not surprising, in my opinion, that it continues to have relevance."

In dialogue between activists and law enforcement, Punishment Park showcases fears and concerns over social and moral decay (in the form of conservative hysteria over free love and drug culture), economic injustice, police brutality, and environmental degradation, to name a few issues.

"When I got involved with [the film] 12 or 13 years ago, it was really beginning to be seen again, and people were reacting to it as a really prescient film because Guantanamo Bay was the hot topic at the time," says Groom. "Later on, the Occupy movement started picking up on what Punishment Park had to say, too, and at one point Peter and I were contacted by people in the Occupy movement about screening the film in that context."

Watkins' film leans heavily to the left, making its right-wing tribunal seem reactionary, small-minded, and insensitive. These perspectives persist to this day and are amplified by politicians like Bernie Sanders and Trump. But Watkins' film also highlights how dialogue between the left and right has been progressively stunted: everyone is talking, and hardly anyone listening.

"Do you want to listen or do you want to talk?" a Black Panther, played by Kent Foreman, asks the emergency tribunal in the film. "You don't want to hear my message. You've spent 50 years evolving a propaganda system that will take the truth and change it into what you want to hear. You don't want to hear shit that is gonna mean you might have to give up something."

His statements meant one thing in 1971, but the dialogue resonates in 2017 for quite another reason. With the rise of fake news and propaganda, individuals and organizations increasingly bend, twist, or deny the truth completely until it fits partisan rhetoric. "It doesn't have to happen this way," one dissident muses while in the desert. "If we can somehow create a change of spirit, a change of mind, it doesn't have to happen."

In a filmed self-interview published in 2004, Watkins suggests that people critical of the film were missing several important points. For him, Punishment Park is not just a metaphor for social and political conditions in the US at the time. It is an attempt to illustrate the assaults by a racist police force and the US government's military actions against Southeast Asia, which he felt the American media and education system refused to fully acknowledge.

"What is the relationship of the film Punishment Park to today?" Watkins asks viewers. "There are now two million people locked up in American jails and prisons… There are the brutalities of the American concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and the sordid US-run prisons in Iraq, as well as the recent discovery of a hitherto-unknown American military prison-gulag in Afghanistan, in which the inmates—Afghan prisoners of war—are sexually harassed, deprived of sleep, and subjected to various degrees of abuse, brutality, and humiliation."

"There is the loss of civil liberties represented by the recent US Patriot Act, which was passed by Congress before any representatives had read it, and which allows the state to treat dissenting citizens as if they were members of Al Qaeda," he adds. "To what degree can the film Punishment Park remain dismissed as a so-called 'paranoid fantasy?'"

Click here to learn more about Punishment Park.


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<![CDATA[Doggone Cute Pics From America's First Art Show for Dogs]]>, 17 Aug 2017 15:26:28 +0000It's a given that art is made for humans. But an experimental exhibition that ran in New York from August 11–13 showcased works of art designed specifically for canine viewers. Presented by Arts Brookfield, dOGUMENTA was filled with art pieces meant to intrigue and stimulate pups' various senses of taste, smell, and touch. Confections of Canines and Kings, by human artist Dana Sherwood, was a smorgasbord of edible doggy confections. Fountain from Paul Vinet was an interactive sculpture; dogs were encouraged to leave their marks on the work—a reference to Andy Warhol's infamous oxidation paintings, no less.

The curators of dOGUMENTA believe an exhibition for animals gives dog owners a chance to really understand their pets. As art critic and dOGUMENTA co-curator Jessica Dawson tells Creators, "dOGUMENTA offers both the chance for humans to get to know their canine friends better and also the opportunity to approach art differently themselves. Attendees will gain new insights into their companion's personality and character. It's an opportunity for bonding and learning."

Rocky and Jessica Dawson's gallery strolls. Image courtesy of Jason Falchook.

Dawson is no stranger to appreciating art with a canine companion; she got the idea for dOGUMENTA during art gallery strolls with her dog, Rocky. A series of videos on the dOGUMENTA website called 5 Things a Dog Can Teach You About Art chronicle the life lessons Dawson has learned on their art walks.

Dawson noted that Rocky perceived art differently from humans, noting the change in his body language and the way he would walk up to and respond to various exhibits. For Dawson, dOGMENTA is also an opportunity for people to experience and observe art in a different way. "Broadly, we know that canines perceive the world in unique ways—olfaction is essential to their understanding. The color spectrum they see is different from humans, and of course, they live closer to the ground," Dawson says. "They're also fearless and will engage with work in a variety of different ways: sniffing, peeing, licking. We expect a really diverse range of interactions."

A golden retriever cools off in Eleanna Anagnos's Penumbra Oasis. Photo by Beckett Mufson.

dOGUMENTA was definitely the cutest art show we've ever attended. We watched a young golden retriever, all blonde fluff and tail wags, plop down into the triangular pool of Eleanna Anagnos's Penumbra Oasis with a blissful smile on his face. Two sleek grey dogs named Curry and Chai submitted to a reiki session with artist Kathryn Cornelius under a tent filled with driftwood, sheepskin rugs, and crystals.

Nacho and his owner, Creators Editor in Chief Marina Garcia-Vasquez, practice doggy reiki with Kathryn Cornelius (Left).

Dawson and her curatorial team commissioned ten artists in total to produce art that challenged canine perceptions, framing ideas from their own practice for a new audience. "We started by hounding artists whose work we found interesting. All of the artists we [featured] in the show responded immediately to the idea and understood how it operated on multiple levels at once," Dawson says. "My co-organizer Mica Scalin and I vetted their sincere interest and capabilities, and then we brought Rocky with us to studio visits where he could sniff out their ideas in more detail. Rocky has a curious nature that has made him a great curating partner. He developed a rapport with the artists, and together we had a dialogue to determine which works would be most suitable for the exhibition."

Rocky and Jessica Dawson's gallery strolls. Image courtesy of Jason Falchook.

The curatorial process of dOGUMENTA was thought-provoking, entirely experimental process for the curators. "Just like humans, individual dogs have different attractions and aversions, so we are intentionally presenting works that address a variety of aesthetic and conceptual concerns. Some artists are interested in the specifics of a dog's physical perspective or perceptual abilities; others are more concerned with emotional connections."

Nacho surveys the exhibition. Photo by Beckett Mufson.
Fountain by Paul Vinet. Photo by Beckett Mufson.
Confections of Canines and Kings by Dana Sherwood. Photo by Beckett Mufson.
Nacho reclines on Graham Caldwell's The Conclave. Photo by Beckett Mufson.

To learn more and find out about future events, sign up for dOGUMENTA's mailing list on their website.


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<![CDATA[Hallucinatory Photographs by an Outsider Artist Defy Convention]]>, 16 Aug 2017 15:17:05 +0000Like hallucinations splashed onto paper, the pictures of Guyanese artist Kwesi Abbensetts seem to abide by no photographic convention, utilizing layered exposures, desaturated hues, and cubist fragmentations to create portraits that seem more like paintings, at times. For his solo show Water Me at Brilliant Champions Gallery in Brooklyn, Abbensetts presents works exploring his own identity and blackness, through an approach he dubs "revisionary self-appropriation."

Though it sounds heady, Abbensetts approach is something of an antithesis to academia and formalized art conventions. The self-taught artist aims to be intuitive rather than overly calculated in his approach. "My work is not based on any particular conceptual notion or any sort of research or historical sorts of representations," he tells Creators. "It's just based on the idea that I intuitively work with whatever information I have, meaning I pretty much just make up the entirety of my own work."

An Oversimplification Of His Beauty, Kwesi Abbensetts

"In the sense of it being revisionary self-appropriation, it's just related to the fact that my work is not directly using any sort of contemporary art as a reference," he adds. "I'm just looking to create something fresh and new in my own mind, using just the tools I have: photography and painting."

Mask Of My Past Series #1, Kwesi Abbensetts

Using his own mind and intuition as a means of creation ultimately leads to a highly intimate and personal approach, yet still one that touches upon highly relevant ideas to today's cultural landscape. "I usually work through 'blood memory;' my work is usually based on random references I have encountered in my life, and these things all bleed into my work," Abbensetts explains. "More specifically, my work deals with the idea of my identity, self, heritage, lineage, and people. It's ultimately just a representation of that."

The Haitian Girl, Kwesi Abbensetts
Double, Kwesi Abbensetts
Mask Of My Past Series #3, Kwesi Abbensetts
Pushing, Kwesi Abbensetts

Water Me was on view at Brilliant Champions Gallery in Brooklyn until August 5, though documentation of the show can be found on the gallery's website. More of Kwesi Abbensetts unorthodox images can be seen here.


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<![CDATA[These Gorgeous Drawings Are 100% Ballpoint Pen]]>, 15 Aug 2017 14:26:57 +0000When she was growing up, the artist Nuria Riaza remembers, her parents didn't seem to care as much about what she watched. Born in 1990, Riaza consumed TV and movies as she pleased, her childhood permeated with the fantastical images of pop culture classics like Beetlejuice, The X-Files, and The Addams Family.

"We grew up consuming bizarre images and aesthetic genius," Riaza tells Creators. "It's something you can't erase; it stays in your subconscious."

Riaza's appetite for creepy-cool images emerges in the highly detailed pieces she creates using only ballpoint pen. Starting when she was five or six years old, she used the pens as her medium, but it wasn't until she was an adult that she started taking the drawing tool more seriously. As a fine arts student at Mexico City's Polytechnic University, where she was "21 years old… and broke," she explains, Riaza needed to find a cheap alternative to paint.

"I ended up drawing with pen on paper and I went crazy seeing all the possibilities that medium could offer. Basically I fell in love with the stroke and the color."

Riaza's pieces are a blue dream, each mark of her ballpoint pen purposeful and carefully placed. It takes the eyes a bit of time to adjust, but once the viewer gets used to the blue landscape, Riaza's attention to detail is evident. Many of her pieces follow a Surrealist vein, often resembling collage in their layering of nature, humans, symbols and more.

The process becomes such a huge part of taking in each piece. Using ballpoint pen as a tool seems simple, but the resulting compositions are complex.

"I draw many hours a day and I sleep very little," says Riaza. "I'm usually balancing many projects at one time. There's not an exact time length for production, it depends a lot on the size and what I'm enjoying about the drawing. It's evident that it looks like a slow process, mostly because of the concentration you need, but once you dominate it, the work is quick."

The artist can often turn around commissions within a day, but prefers to work more slowly to enjoy the process.

Her Instagram is a gorgeous feed of blue pieces, and also information on her upcoming projects (which she has plenty of at the moment).

"Right now I'm involved in an amazing project with Jorge Drexler," says Riaza. "I'm in charge of doing the artwork for his new CD, Salvavidas de Hielo, which will be out in September."

She's also created animated videos for the album; in the meantime, she's at work on her next exhibition, the dates of which she plans to announce on social media.

It all comes back to her love of the ballpoint pen, a passion she encourages others to explore.

"I recommend that you try and use the pen as something more than a writing tool—to eat it as if it were a toothpick, to make fake tattoos with it, to use them as rollers in your hair, and to draw a lot. It's something almost therapeutic, like how people draw mandalas, and you learn that the mistakes are also beautiful on paper."

Click here to visit Nuria Riaza's website.

Parts of this interview were translated from Spanish by the writer.


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<![CDATA[Anarchic Video Art Group Show Exposes the Pure Chaos of 2017]]>, 15 Aug 2017 14:07:23 +0000In a cultural moment where global narratives are twisted to serve the interests of demented political figures and movements, video art gains a heightened importance due to its visually enrapturing storytelling capabilities, which in turn allows crucial narratives to flourish. Though not aiming to be explicitly and exclusively political (beyond the unavoidable politicalized nature of our time), COMM | ALT | SHIFT, a video art group show curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah and Dexter Wimberly, on view at New Jersey's Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, is a resounding answer to the turmoil and tribulations of 2017.

The Cleanse, Delphine Fawandu, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

The works of the 12 artists and two artist duos on view span a wide spectrum of visual style and thematic breadth, often taking from different cultural experiences from around the world, becoming like something of a global snapshot of our cultural landscape. In some cases, these cultural fragments take problematic legacies and turn them into lighthearted explorations, like Spanish artist Carlos Aires' video of two riot policemen slow-dancing to a tango rendition of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" inside of an opulent Madrid museum, a smart reflection on Spain's history of fascism and class struggles.

The Rotten Ones, Federico Solmi, 2017. Courtesy of Sherry and Joel Mallin, New York and Luis de Jesus, Los Angeles.

Federico Solmi, an Italian artist, plays with similar ideas in his animated video The Rotten Ones, where leaders and dictators across different cultures and moments in history are shown to party together like wild celebrities, all united together in their exuberant debauchery.

MEASUREMENTS/ARROWS, Jillian Mayer, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and David Castillo Gallery, Miami.

Not every video is a reflection on international politics or historically problematic figures. Jillian Mayer's MEASUREMENTS/ARROWS engages with capitalist issues of surveillance and advertising in relation to our own bodies. In the short video, Mayer presents her own face mapped out with specific dimensions between her features, highlighting how our measurements are used by corporations to exert control over us, but also encouraging us to "take control" of our own measurements, empowering ourselves with the same tools used to dominate us.

COMM | ALT | SHIFT installation view, 2017. Courtesy of Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art.

In the eyes of curators Ossei-Mensah and Wimberly, the thematic diversity of the works in COMM | ALT | SHIFT are a response to a world crashing down on all fronts: "I think that taken as a whole, all the artists in the exhibition are either thinking about their place in the world or observing the political and social climate," Wimberly tells Creators. "Everything from what's going on in Washington D.C right now, to climate change, to violence against unarmed citizens by the police."

Still from Carousel, Bolo (Saks Afridi & Qinza Najm), 2017.

Though these are glum happenings, the show aims to approach them from a different angle: The intent was never to create this sort of heavy show that makes everyone depressed. I think we can just watch the news and do that," Wimberly adds. "We were really thinking about it from the perspective of 'OK, this is the world we live in. How can we express it and create a platform to have a conversation about it'?"

This notion of art-as-platform seems central to an exhibition that deals with so many societal issues simultaneously. In this moment in history, it can feel almost impossible to keep up with the sheer mass of atrocities happening everywhere and on many different fronts, but COMM | ALT | SHIFT helps viewers glimpse into issues that may escape them: "We hoped to create a space for people to think about things they might have questions about and things they might not even be aware about," explains curator Ossei-Mensah.

COMM | ALT | SHIFT installation view, 2017. Courtesy of Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art

"It's important to be able to learn from history, use it as a tool, and apply it to rethink of our current moment, and to figure out what we could do to be of service, whether it's about our own politics or issues of social justice, climate change, technology, or something else."

COMM | ALT | SHIFT will be on view at Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art in Newark until September 23.


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