By Deb A.
When news of an art project that would rebuild the Berlin Wall began to circulate a month ago, people quickly began to take sides. Some—including Berlin's mayor and Brian Eno—thrilled at the boldness of an art installation that would recreate the Wall, closing off a section of Berlin's Mitte district. Visitors would have to apply for visas to get in, and an algorithm would develop individual programmes for visitors based on their application form. Once inside, they could be led anywhere, from Marina Abramović's performance piece Come, Wash With Me to a premiere of one of the 13 films created from footage of Ilya Khrzhanovsky's film project Dau, which recorded volunteers living in a recreation of a Soviet-era totalitarian town from 2009 to 2011. As the premiere of a three-part trilogy that would start with Dau: Liberty in Berlin, then be followed by Dau: Equality in Paris, and finally Dau: Fraternity in London. the Wall would be erected October 12 and torn down on November 9, the day the actual Wall came down in 1989.
While supporters awaited their chance to buy a visa, others, including civil rights activists and one of the initiators of Jeanne-Claude and Christo's Wrapped Reichstag, protested: "When the Wall was built, we stood by, furious, helpless. ... We do not want to see any more Walls." They raised concerns about the commodification of a traumatic chapter of German history and suggested that the creators of Dau: Liberty look to the victims of the current Russian regime to gain a true understanding of what it means to be imprisoned in a totalitarian system.
The controversy was resolved, at least temporarily, in the most mundane of ways: The proposal had been submitted to the city two months before it was set to open, but contained insufficient security planning—furthermore, security for an event of its size typically requires a year. The organisers claim that "from an artistic and organisational point of view, it is not possible to screen the first part a year later," but maintain that nothing has been cancelled yet.
By Deb A.
The 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art kicked off this weekend, promising several months of probing structures of power, knowledge and history ahead.
Called We Don’t Need Another Hero, the Biennale examines what it terms "our collective psychosis," focusing on "different configurations of knowledge and power that enable contradictions and complications." The exhibition, which strives to take on these themes in an accessible. meaningful way, features works from 46 artists, including Natasha A. Kelly, Herman Mbamba, and Sara Haq. Visitors to any of the Biennale's five galleries may be surprised to find that no information is provided about when and where the artists were born; this shrewd move on the part of the organisers leaves audiences free to explore the exhibition space without clichéd cultural frameworks informing their interpretations.
Indeed, much has been made of the curatorial team’s own cultural identity, but curator Gabi Ngcobo and her team—Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, Serubiri Moses, Thiago de Paula Souza, and Yvette Mutumba--have repeatedly reminded journalists and art-lovers that the event is not centred on striving for new structures and systems to 'solve' post-colonialism—they are not the heroes that white Europeans may be looking for. Instead, their goal is to break through existing narratives and open up a space for different perspectives, voices, and ideas, giving artists and visitors alike the opportunity to strive for shared answers. In refusing to take on the role of hero, the Berlin Biennale reminds us that the only way to address our collective psychosis is through inclusive collective action.
By Deb A.
A man rappelled down a building to thumping electro music while a troupe in rainbow sweatshirts waited solemnly underneath the subway overpass, flanked by Art Mile sculptures and throngs of art enthusiasts. The opening of Urban Nation, the world's first major museum dedicated to graffiti, marked the emergence of just one of several landmark museums and galleries this season--here's a look at some of the art world's upcoming institutions.
Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin, Germany
Status: Opened September 16, 2017
Notable: Urban Nation is the world's first major institution for street art and graffiti. But tearing art out of its original context is not how it operates: instead, Urban Nation features works created on canvas or as sculptures specifically for the museum.
Major names: Shepard Fairey, Ron English, Blek le Rat, Cranio
Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa
Status: Opened September 22, 2017
Notable: The MOCAA is the world's largest museum of modern African art. Its nine floors house over a hundred galleries featuring 21st-century African and diaspora art, including the entirety of Jochen Zeitz's personal collection.
Major names: Wangechi Mutu, Chris Ofili, Julie Mehretu, Glenn Ligon
Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara in Jakarta, Indonesia
Status: Opens November 2017
Notable: Museum MACAN is Indonesia's first museum dedicated to international modern art. About half of the museum's works are by Indonesian artists, with the other half coming from Europe, North America and Asia. Founder Haryanto Adikoesoemo has donated art from private collection to help fulfil his proclaimed dream of creating a museum for Indonesians.
Major names: Affandi, Raden Saleh, Gerhard Richter, Anish Kapoor
Louvre Abu Dhabi in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Status: Opens November 2017
Notable: This will be the first Louvre museum to open outside of France (a satellite museum exists in Lens). Originally scheduled to open in 2012, the museum is as known for its delays and human rights scandals as it is for its exquisite architecture and the works it will house: between 200 and 300 artworks will be on loan from France over the course of a decade.
Major names: Titian, Claude Monet, Jacques-Louis David, Francesco Primaticcio
By Deb A.
Time for another round-up of bits and pieces that have caught our eye recently....
The BBC celebrated Magnum Photos's 70th anniversary with a retrospective on the legendary photo agency run by photographers.
The Institute of Arab and Islamic Art opened May 4 with Exhibition 1, a show featuring four female artists influenced by Islamic architecture and design. The institute, which is the only cultural institution representing Muslim and Arab artists in New York City, aims to encourage dialogue and confront stereotypes.
Messy Nessy takes us back to the original Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, where struggling writers who promise to read a book each day and work in the shop for two hours a day have been sleeping amongst the stacks since 1951.
A.R. Penck, a leader of the German Neo-Expressionist movement, died May 2, aged 77.
Just over 40% of us have embellished the truth about our reading habits, claims The Reading Agency. That statistic leaps to nearly 65% for people aged 18 to 24. Indeed, a quarter of that particular demographic purports to have read The Lord of the Rings when in fact, they've only seen the film.
...Good news for anyone who's been pretending to read Margaret Atwood or Neil Gaiman: The Handmaid's Tale and American Gods have both hit the small screen.
By Deb A.
As the first recipient of a DARE Art Prize, composer Samuel Hertz will produce a chamber piece below the frequencies audible to the human ear.
The £15,000 prize was created to mark the tenth anniversary of a groundbreaking academic and creative partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds. Its aim is to encourage artists and scientists to collaborate on investigating "new approaches to the creative process."
The aptly named Mr. Hertz will work with a scientist from the University of Leeds to compose a low-frequency piece that can be felt but not heard, and to examine the effects this infrasound may have on emotions and wellbeing. The results will be released in a year's time.
Mr. Hertz, a classically trained composer and performer who works in a range of acoustic and electronic media, was selected from a shortlist of five entries, which itself was culled from applications from around the world, representing all media. The shortlisted artists were Gary Zhexi Zhang, who sought to create an interactive film installation modelled on the behaviour of slime; Marina Rees, who proposed an installation featuring live underwater transmissions and a whale choir; Melanie King, who aimed to build an installation of illusions based on astronomy; and Robin Dowell and Joanna Lampard, who envisioned creating sculptures, images or books based on the idea of scientifically classifying emotions.
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