July 30, 2015

Berlin Art Lovers: Akane Kimbara - Phenomenology

If you want to see more of Akane Kimbara's art work, check out her website

Drawing by Akane Kimbara

July 29, 2015

Art Blogger of the Week: Nine Yamamoto-Masson in Berlin, Germany

Photo by Kristy Fenton

I'm an ardent follower of Nine Yamamoto-Masson on Facebook where she posts a mixture of political activism, cultural theory, literature, music, art, and her ongoing series of doctor's waiting room pictures. She does so always with a critical edge to it. Intrigued, I googled some more and found her website, came upon her many blogs like Critiki Theory and Ace Elders, and ended up doing a studio visit. I promise: you will get hooked too! 

"Over the years I must have started about ten blogs for various projects (many of them were private blogs) – I see them like notebooks in a way; they’re notes on my research, which is why it makes sense to me to have several blogs. Unlike paper notebooks (which i still keep religiously), blogs are searchable, shareable over a distance, taggable, which allows for cross-referencing and is more conducive to the non-linear thinking that my kind of work sets out to do. Also, the tone of the various blogs is different, hence the need to keep them separate – while one might be is serious and meticulous (i.e. a research blog I did about experimental film and video art from the Phillippines for my upcoming project Philipelikula – organising my research in this format allowed me to share it with collaborators who live on the other side of the world), another might be tongue-in-cheek (like my blog Critiki Theory; I found this kind of humour an appropriate form through which to critique cultural appropriation and exoticisation in Western pop culture through the lens of the Tiki craze) or straight-up shamelessly diving into the wonderful medium of tumblr with a joyful collection of cats in art in my tumblr called the Museum of Contemporary Cats (I owe credit for the name to my dear friends Mika Linn Conradie, Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi and Tess Maunder). 

But the blog that most reflects my personal learning practise is Ace Elders, a tumblr in praise of artists, filmmakers, writers, theorists that are not as well known as they deserve to be (many – but not all – from an older generation) who are Not White Men (NWM). Besides presenting people who do important work that I love, this blog charts my "homework" learning about artists who are not often talked about or overlooked in western academia and art institutions. 

This past year actually I have made a very conscious decision and steady commitment to read a lot outside the regular Western canon; this includes the white feminist canon as well. We must remember that a lot of the elite art / academic discourse comes from a system that is complicit in the oppression of many marginalised groups, and must remember that access to these forums is granted through privilege (I for one am not exempt from many forms of privilege). Things that might seem obvious — writing in English, using a certain vocabulary, allusions, academic references, etc – should not be taken for granted. People who are dyslexic for example have a much harder time participating in text-based media. 

As a music-obsessed teenager I would religiously comb through interviews, liner notes, zines, distros etc for references to other musical influences and then study up on those, studiously following the genealogies, cross-pollination, incestuousness, mythologies, adventurousness etc of these bands (not only in terms of music, but also art, literature, politics), and thus build up a rhizomatic network of cultural players, textures and references  – this is more or less how I still do it, and it’s become so much easier with the Internet. I love this nerdy notion of homework, and I love research, it makes me feel like a detective. I love nothing more than getting recommendations for books, artists, films, music etc from friends and looking them up. So the premise of my blog Ace Elders is that I follow my friends' recommendations or interesting names I come across in my research and collect my findings in this blog format. It allows for a more casual, editable, tag gable and steadily evolving archive of fragments of research and is better-suited to the lifestyles that many people like me lead, where time to do research is a luxury, so at least we can chart it in little increments though these digital tools." 

"My background is in literature, film, critical theory, and cultural studies, art history, and currently I’m doing a PhD in Cultural Analysis / Media Studies. It’s a lot of disciplines because of the way university works in France and Germany, where I studied (Sorbonne and Humboldt) and I also did a few exchange semesters or years in other universities (NYU, Goldsmiths, Tokyo Waseda) – I was always very curious and would take any occasion I had to dip into other disciplines too, taking far more classes than required. 

In real-life-terms, my background is multicultural (always being a foreigner anywhere I go and having most of my close friends also being of this kind of embodies cultural hybridity has been very influential and actually inspirational to my work, outlook and approach) and i count punk (and by extension queer / feminist / experimental music spaces) as  cultural background as well, it has been just as influential as what I studied at university, and is by far a more inclusive cultural arena speaking in terms of class. 

I’ve had more jobs than I can count (I’m a freelancer and have done all kinds of those typical precarious creative jobs to support my studies and art projects), including working in a gallery for about 5 years on&off – I learned a lot about the commercial art market during that time, it was a fascinating look into the entanglements of capital, art, rhetorics and power. Another of my professional occupations is being a translator and occasionally an interpreter (mostly for art texts, but also critical theory, social work, political activism, literature … ), I really enjoy that as I like spending time working on texts in depth, and translation gives you this unique look into the bowels of a text’s argumentative logic, lyrical gestalt, it gives you an appreciation for the possibilities and limitations of each language; you often have to do quite a lot of research for the specialised texts – it’s really quite fascinating. I’ve translated many art texts, and it’s curious to see how some texts that might read OK at first fall apart during translation, when you realise it’s only International Art English gibberish… Which of course has made me try to avoid this in my own writing (emphasis on “try”, it’s an ongoing process… )  

So with all this I suppose I can say I have a certain knowledge of how language and representation operates within structures of power, oppression and exploitation, and a natural distrust of anything considered standard or status quo. I follow international politics quite closely and try to read non-mainstream media too. All of this flows into my perspective on art, on what art is and can do, on the difference between art and “the art world”, the material conditions of art-making and the coming-into-being of art through artists, art workers and also non-artists and the vital importance of an ongoing communication between art and the (real, messy, human) world."

Art scene
"Being mostly based in Berlin, it’s hard to understand my local art scene on the national level – in many ways Berlin does not work the same as art scene in other German cities, and it doe very much elevate itself above it, also through its deep enmeshment with the art scenes of other Western art capitals like New York, London, etc. I would say that Berlin is an extremely commercially-driven art scene and very institutionalised; impermeable to institutional critique as it has preemptively absorbed and bought out critique in ways akin to corporate capitalism. The art scene of Berlin, like that of most other art metropoles, is governed by a cultural and economic elite (typically middle/upper class moneyed able-bodied white people, many of them North American and British expats who went through elite education). This development has been accelerating in the past 7-8 years and is closely intertwined with the rise of Berlin’s economic power, its attractively to the tech sector and thus to real-estate speculation and rampant gentrification. 

I see the art scene I belong to less as “Berlin” and rather as a vast network of other like-minded people and networked art communities around the world who work on similar issues and also work on developing this kind of critical research practise (e.g. my art partners are in Delhi, San Fancisco, Manila… ). We are in steady contact through chat, email, collaborative online tools and private Facebook groups. The internet and a digital way of thinking have been very empowering and productive in this understanding of a self-organising and resilient networked fluid international art community." 

"No, I wouldn’t even know how to do that… The entire correlation of art / thought / creativity / criticality to money mystifies me still, and in a way i think it is one of the biggest issues facing artists these days (the way in which capital plays out across, dictates, directs, or marginalises streams of thought, taste, affiliations, affect…)"

July 27, 2015

Asta Upset: A Cinematic Mindfukc of the Art World

Let me come clean with some secrets: I’m not so much into movies (somehow film doesn’t bring me the bliss of escapism that other people seem to draw from it) and I rarely go to the theatre (I just can’t take the risk of sitting through a bad theatre play). Yet recently I bought the newly released DVD of Max Linz’ 2014 movie Ich will mich nicht künstlich aufregen (Asta Upset) because, (a) two critical minds (Anna Bromley and Wolfgang Müller) highly recommended it to me; (b) the movie is about art; and (c) I got to know Max Linz as somebody who speaks a delightful German and I was curious to see how this elocution transfers to film. And sure enough, the film confronted me with what I fear most about the (German) theatre: the artificiality of its set-up (cardboard) and its acting (posing), combined with a strong philosophical load (Brecht) (Adorno) (Brecht). And yes, it references all those genres of film I have mixed feelings about: the American blockbuster, New German Film, French cinéma. And on top of it, it talks about political art and you know how touchy I am about that alliance.

However, I might not sit through most theatre plays once, nor be that keen on the movies, but I saw Asta Upset twice. The thing is, Max Linz crosses and crisscrosses my wires somewhere in between - where the film meets the theatre (the actors don’t speak, they declaim), the theatre is confronted with motion-picture cameras (unreal because too real), and the film extends itself into art (aesthetics is political and the political is aesthetics). It even obeys (hurrah for Germany!) to the Rule Nr. 1 of good art: humor. Admitted, I didn’t grasp the whole movie fully, not only because I’m better in capturing the written words in German than the elocuted ones, but incomprehensibility was clearly part of the deal. Luckily, it wasn’t the International Art Language that made me dur de comprenure but rather the above mentioned Brecht & Co explaining the workings behind the capitalist production process - texts that might not have been written with an eye for what Max Linz formulates so nicely as the “Allgemeinverständlichkeit” (general understanding), but are better to be taken in while being in heightened strata of consciousness, for instance during the Brecht Yoga session of the film. 

But what is most refreshing about this Asta Upset is its visual intelligence. It starts with the casting - except for Hannelore Hoger who is a public face, it is played by a cast of unknowns, and among them also people with the Down syndrome. An unusual sight for the art world, which is quite exclusive and homogeneous as you can notice when gallery hopping, although it claims to be such a liberating place. And although the film is essentially a meta-discourse with multiple references to cinema, advertising, and sitcom, it manages to deconstruct without loosing an own overall style, and this style is not “catchy” , “slick” or “pleasing” - how fresh is that! I can’t actually think of another film that does visual criticism on the art world using the medium of film - I can only think of the Black President by Mpumelelo Mcata that I saw earlier this year at the Berlin Berlinale, but then this one didn’t really hit me. And for the rest we’re inundated by these awful, heroic biographical films on artists like that miserable Jackson Pollock movie or, ugh, the one on Frida Kahlo.

And I didn’t really tell you about the story yet, but I would say Asta Upset is more a film about ideas than it’s necessarily about the narrative (curator searching for an exhibition budget). My favorite scene is the brainstorming session for a curator’s project titled Cool, Cool and Cool: “What is Vogue? Vogue is fashion, Vogue is romance, yearning, aspiration and success. What is Vogue? Vogue is luxury. Temptation and mystery. Light, fire and Riefenstahl. Vogue is between proletarian obscenity and aristocratic perversion... which doesn’t work in Germany. What a pity! Vogue is career. Alone at the top. And men! Expensive men. Expensive perfume. Vogue is knowing the rules of the game. Is inspiration and creativity. Comfort isn’t enough. Luxury!” And this is not the only mindfukc (which is more screwed than a mindfuck) that takes place in Asta Upset. Shall we finish off with the following proposal and try “to think of neo without the liberal and see what is left”?

July 22, 2015

Art Blogger of the Week: Mark Sheerin in Brighton, UK

There're many things to love about Mark Sheerin's blog Criticismism. First of all, its title makes you stutter and you can never really get it right. And wouldn't it be great if criticism was the -ism of today?  All we need is a manifesto to get the ball rolling. But Mark Sheerin doesn't write manifestoes. And that's the other thing to love about his blog. It has its very own style and voice that one can recognise out of many. The lay-out is staccato: Mark writes mostly in short, two-sentence paragraphs. But then the style and content makes you linger because Mark thinks about art philosophically with a sense of humour and in a down-to-earth kind of way. If you want to know what inspires Mark to do so, you can follow what he reads here and what he tweets there.

Art scene 
"I live in Brighton, UK, which is full of artists but lacking a gallery commensurate with the size and cultural reputation of the place. There have been some terrific grassroots spaces before now, such as Grey Area, CAC and Neuefroth Kunsthalle. But it still feels we need a visual arts hub, showing work year round. Yet I won’t hold my breath. The city has so much music, theatre, cinema and comedy that bemoaning a lack of gallery space seems a bit greedy."

"I began criticismism shortly after training as a journalist in 2009. For about twelve months, it ran as an online portfolio and then I began producing original material. Those first posts all began with the question to myself, What makes this art? Well, fools rush in, etc. Even so, the blog has given me a reason to think through my responses to the most stimulating works that I’ve come across as an art writer. It still gives me the confidence to ask difficult questions, but the answers have only got more provisional over time."

"Besides blogging I write about art for a number of online publications and each one has its own set of challenges and house style. At the same time I do a bit of copywriting, which gives me a bit more financial security. A background in advertising has given me a way with ideas and writing for people who don’t necessarily don’t want to read what I have to say. For two years I also wrote about music for popular Sunday tabloid News of the World. This also helped me consolidate a concise and well-argued style, at least on a good day."

"Like I say, there’s a day job in the picture. But I do get paid for art journalism and it’s quite probable that some of my business, as it were, comes from editors who have also checked out my blog. Like most bloggers I’ve been offered my share of guest posts and adverts, but my attitude is that I want to remain independent. I’ll probably get a major sponsorship deal now and have to eat my words. But in the meantime, there seems no need to monetise the blog. My fluctuating audience is worth plenty to me."

July 20, 2015

Hey! Teachers! Leave Them Kids Alone! Art Hopping at the UdK and Weissensee Kunsthochschule

First year students' show at UdK

I visited the art schools this weekend to see what is coming up. Saturday evening I was at Universität der Kunste where a few studios were closed as a protest against the university’s exploitation of guest professors with temporary contracts and low fees. No wonder, this has been going on for years in Germany. I once taught a seminar at the equally famous Humboldt University and got 800 Euros on my account after one semester. (26 hours of teaching, correcting the assignments and preparations not included). I was actually the lucky one because most lecturers don’t get paid at all in Germany. You would think it’s illegal but, apparently, it’s not. It’s the regime of economizing in a rich country, of “the belt being tightened” in education and culture. Strange anti-intellectualism also in a country where nothing is more important than having a title (that’s why a few in politics fake them, to get higher faster). 

First year students' show at UdK

But to return to the arts: I must say that I only liked the exhibitions of the first-year students. Somehow they were fresh, they had a certain dynamic and playfulness to it. I walked through it sensing that it had been fun, that first year. There was even a spirit of communication going on. All this seemed to die off when coming to the following years, where the imprint of the professor became much more obvious. Teaching isn't about making clones of yourself, is it? The set-up in these classes also lacked a certain flow between the art works, as if one was breathing in individualism. So it seems that those first-years better leave school before it’s too late... Or does that undermine my argument on the importance of education or is it rather the consequence of that educational cul-de-sac described above

Nice installation by first-year student Lisa Hoffmann

I visited also the show of the Meisterschüler of Weissensee Kunsthochschule. It took place in the Kühlhaus near Gleisdreieck - a great location and that’s, unfortunately, all there is to say. Looking at all this I wonder where the thinking is left behind. Yeah, remember, that thinking in art that makes a difference - that transformation of an idea into a form? Or what, at least, about some urgency? Or if that doesn’t work, what about some borrowed importance of things that matter in our society? Nothing of all that, I didn’t see it. Making a joke isn’t good enough, working with a material isn’t good enough either, and in the end it has to take on some form, people, some... you know... some beauty?

somehow mesmerising video/sound piece by first-year student Nicolas Spitzer

July 16, 2015

Art Blogger of the Week: Mira Schor in New York, USA

I discovered Mira Schor's writing by clicking on a link on Facebook titled "Just a short message from Venus", which led me to her blog and I was sold. This particular blog post was a reaction to "Why Are There Still So Few Successful Women Artists?" by Ben Davis in Artnet. I so much loved Mira Schor's stance that I will quote it here in total: "My point is that one writes and one writes and one asks why the situation of women artists (and beyond that of women generally) is fundamentally resistant to change despite the paradox of some visible change, and one asks the question again and again. And yet even that discussion, and the vast and important area of scholarship and theorization applied to the work of women artists and to gender representation, does not ultimately penetrate the art market and nor even the upper strata of academia which may have moved on to newer concerns." And there'r many more strong opinions to be found on her blog. Refreshing, isn't it?!

Art scene 
"I don’t belong to an art scene according to the way I think of that term as a term of fashion, as a fashionable network of very young artists, collectors, curators, traveling between art fairs and being photographed for Artforum.com’s art “scene and herd.”

About 10 years ago curator Philippe Vergne said on a panel about the 2006 Whitney Biennial, which he had co-curated, that there used to be an art world, then there was an art market, now there is an art industry. I was born into the art world of post-war New York, the one you read about in history books, which was itself composed of several art worlds and artistic communities based on style and ideology, and I am still part of the remnants of that world, and of the ones that I have moved through over my life as an artist--various art families and lineages—people I went to school with, people who were my colleagues, people who were my students, communities of artists, feminist communities. Those are real worlds in that they support the production of work and the circulation of ideas. I sometimes find myself in situations where mostly younger artists seem to feel they are part of a scene and they want to be seen as being part of the scene. I have a bit of distance on that belief structure after a lifetime as an artist. 

I try to follow the trends in terms of understanding what art is now, what the art world/market/industry/scene is now. It’s not that easy or compatible. The one thing you learn in being an artist for a few decades is that values that seem completely naturalized will eventually be turned on their head, but paradoxically the essence of being part of a scene is thinking it and everything it is based on including aesthetic criteria and even business practices will last, so once you know they don’t last it is harder and harder to believe in the scene or even understand it but because I’m a contemporary artist I do try to understand the art being made and the scene, local and international. But for the most part what is presented in the media as the art world, art scene, art market etc… is something I don’t feel I belong to and I know most of my friends feel the same way.

I’m just responding sharply to the word scene, which generally has a negative connotation! To be more specific, I’m a painter with friendships with artists around the United States, particularly in LA where I went to art school and where I am represented by a great gallerist, Clyde Beswick at CB1 Gallery, and NY where I’m from and where I live; I also created a community around me through my writing and my publication of the journal M/E/A/N/I/N/G which I co-publish and edit with my friend the painter Susan Bee: we have been committed to having artists write and participate in the discourse. I occasionally write for The Brooklyn Rail which is a community within the New York artworld (and maybe a scene too but at least it feels organic to me). I’ve taught for a long time and made friends with some of my former students who are now successful artists around the world. I occasionally go to art openings of friends, I lecture and appear on panels in universities, museums, and at the College Art Association. So I live in a nest of interwoven art communities, worlds that share some ideas and histories."

Mira Schor, Reversible Painting: Theory/Visual Pleasure, 2013.
Ink and oil on gesso on linen, 28 × 24 in.  
"I thought about starting my blog in around 2009 at the end of the process of getting the manuscript of my most recent book of essays, A Decade of Negative Thinking, ready for publication (by Duke University Press). As I was writing the introduction, which I wrote last, at the end of that decade, and I had to explain what I meant by the title and whether I was a negative thinker, I began to wonder whether there was another book I could have written during the same time period, where I would have focused on the “positive,” written more about art that I loved, rather than critical takes on contentious aesthetic/political situations. So I thought of the title A Year of Positive Thinking. I proposed this for a Creative Capital / Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant and I was fortunate to receive a terrific grant to support the development of the blog which launched in April 2010. My goal at first was to write about art I loved, go looking for art to fall in love with. My first blog post was “Looking for art to love in all the right places.” As a friend said, well that lasted about two weeks, because I do have a tendency to want to examine things critically, things that seem obvious but are left out in a positivist, promotional press. But in fact on the blog I have written about art works and films that I love, most recently for example I wrote about two works I saw at the Gemaldegalerie in Berlin, “Looking for Art to Love, in another city.” 

The “year” obviously has turned out to be a metaphoric and elastic time frame. I have continued the blog for five years though I don’t post as often as I did at the beginning. I tend to use Facebook for quicker appreciations of artwork I like but don’t have that much to say about, so the blog has a certain formality and weight for me, relative to Facebook anyway. But it’s still a great vehicle to be able to express ideas quickly and on my own terms, independent of mainstream publication agendas. Every couple of years I publish a table of contents to help people orient themselves through what has become a pretty huge group of writings on various subjects, including painting, art teaching, film, feminism, American electoral politics, and the conditions of writing a blog.

What I like about it is the ability to intervene into discourse immediately—the process of publishing a book with a university press is painstaking and slow, even the process of writing for a major art publication is slower than the time frame of a blog post. I find the pressure of time, of working closer to the news cycle yet being able to put an idea out on your own schedule, has inspired a different way of writing, more experimental and conversational. I love the possibility of hyperlinks; it is a teacher’s paradise to be able to immediately connect someone to information about a reference you make. 

The downside of the whole blogging atmosphere and ethos is that you are less likely to have the time to write more carefully researched text or to  develop and then condense your thoughts over time. It’s too tempting to get it out right away. I explore the conditions of writing for a blog in The Imperium of Analytics

What I’m doing is a kind of hybrid between what is generally thought of as a blog post--quick, short, keyed to the news cycle--and the kind of longer, speculative essays I wrote for M/E/A/N/I/N/G and other publications in earlier years. My posts are longer than average for a blog, they often are not about whatever the mainstream art media is focusing on, though the more popular ones, the ones that go semi-viral are usually about something in the news."

Mira Schor, Reversible Painting: Theory/Visual Pleasure, 2013.
 Ink and oil on gesso on linen, 28 × 24 in. 

"I am a painter. My parents Ilya Schor and Resia Schor were European artists living in New York so I was born into the principal discussions about art in the post-War period in New York. I studied art history in college at NYU; I was involved in the feminist movement as a graduate student at CalArts in the Feminist Art Program where I worked on the Womanhouse project. Based on those early beginning, I have continued to study art history and theory, and feminist art and theory. I have been a teacher of fine art since I was a graduate student at CalArts and once I started to write about art in the mid-80s I began teaching theory and art writing classes in addition to studio courses. For years I have worked with the Fine Arts graduate students at Parsons The New School on their written thesis. My writing is based on the reality of this dual practice, as a visual artist and a writer."

"I don’t monetize the blog directly. I hate the way those little ads look, at least for my own blog. I do publish my writings, sometimes in books and in art magazines that pay, like Artforum, but often I don’t get paid directly for my writing. I don’t write journalistic art criticism and I don’t write catalogue essays, which are among the ways that art writers make some money. But certainly overall my writing has brought value, I often lecture and teach as a visiting artist and I think the writing has been a big reason for interest in me in that regard, because there are not that many visual artists, in particular not that many painters, that have experience in both fields. As it happens my paintings often represent language, something that long preceded my becoming a writer, so that makes things more intriguing. A recent lecture at the RISD Museum focused on this dual practice.

The books are great because they are objects, with my paintings on the covers and my words inside, that people live with on their shelves, and the blog is great because it is always there as a resource and can be shared easily which expands my connection to people I wouldn’t otherwise know. Again, not a scene, but a community."

July 14, 2015

At Baldauf Writers Residency with Will Furtado

I'm back from my writers residency in Bayern. What a luxury it was to just write the whole day from morning till evening. Here is the video I made of my writer colleague Will Furtado finishing his book at the residency - can't wait to see it published! I'm very proud of the long romantic 1-minute fade-out at the end of the video - don't miss it!

July 7, 2015

July 5, 2015

Civil Courage and Civil Disobedience. On Being Programmatic in Bremen

John Cage, Writing through the Essay ‘On the Duty of Civil Disobedience’ in Kunsthalle Bremen

What does our contemporary art world need? In Hamburger Bahnhof I overheard the director Eugen Blume say that he hoped that his newly curated exhibition on Black Mountain College would inspire nowadays’ young artists to develop Zivilcourage (civil courage). The 1930s, when the college was founded and Joseph Albers moved from Germany to the US to teach, were a high time of totalitarian regimes. Albers’ English wasn’t great (Annie Albers was better equipped) but he knew to say one thing: he wanted to open the eyes of his students. Those open-eyed, and thus open-minded and forward-looking individuals were to be equipped with an independent judgement based not only on book-knowledge but on one’s own experience. This educational ideal was to be developed in a day to day praxis in community -  a continuous social discourse defying external constraints.  

Black Mountain College, Hamburger Bahnhof

But what has Black Mountain College to say today? The 21st century higher education is rather driven by economic efficiency as a sole measure of success. So last Thursday I took the train to Bremen to give a talk at the art school about perspectives for artists after graduation. Basically I give advice to artists about how to present themselves better, how to apply for funding and residencies effectively, and how to make a living with their art. I’ve some expertise in the matter because I was an artist coach at bbk Berlin and at the moment I am part of the art advisory board of Sachsen-Anhalt. Still, I don’t see myself as an advocate of the neo-liberal pressure on the arts to produce and make money. On the contrary. But as a fan of Andy Warhol I do think one shouldn’t be moralistic as an artist about making money. As a friend artist told a complaining fellow artist: “Just sell your work!” 

I've told you before about this little theory I have, about how to defy capitalism nowadays. It’s no longer about making street art outside the system but to ask for a normal fee. I’m suspicious about the rise of a phenomenon like Kickstarter because it leaves the institutions off the hook and makes parents and friends pay for artist’s projects. When an application for a budget doesn’t work out, why not give it some more time to realize it in the future when a budget is available? Yet artists leaving art school often seem to leave it indoctrinated with a neo-liberal mindset. Only recently I translated for free a text of a friend, and the producer, who is young artist from Leipzig, told me then that I didn’t work for free because I would get one edition. I was flabbergasted by such a mentality and tried to explain to this artist why but he simply did not get it.   

Anyway, last Thursday was a very hot day and I didn’t expect many students to show up for a talk about what to do in the future. But Radek Krolczyk, who had invited me to Bremen, assured me that they would because the students are fearful about that future. Indeed, fear is an element that governments like to play with: it keeps its citizens small and inactive and the Merkel-government with its HARTZ IV certainly knows that. Everyone is struggling by and for one-self. When giving such talks about future career perspectives, I like to emphasise the benefits of “networking”, or you can also call it “communication” and “collaboration”. Often, when I ask artists about their favorite art critics or curators, they cannot say so. Paying sincere interest to other people’s work can be so rewarding and makes one find that support group of kindred souls that eventually turns the art world into a nice place to be in - doesn’t it? 

At the art advisory board we had a discussion about this coaching of artists. A curator told me that he was against helping students at art school to present themselves better for the market, because it just helps bad art to be wrapped well so it sells. Hmmm... Is that why 90 % of the artists who make it, is white, male and straight? Isn't that all about presentation?! In Bremen, by the way, most of my audience was female and let’s not be hypocritical about the hindrances they will encounter after graduating art school. If you have no clue, you can read more about it in the blog of Mira Schor or in a recent article on artnet

Radek Krolczyk himself has what one calls a "programmatic gallery" - not only because when he opened his gallery, he had a real program (what a lot of galleries lack), or because the gallery has a setting of leftist politics (the gallery is located in the famous “Viertel” of Bremen), but also because, so I gathered when talking to Radek, there is a certain idealism behind his gallery about what art can do in society without, however, limiting this to “political” art.  The gallery’s name K’ (pronounced "K Strich") is inspired by the marxist G-W-G’ (Geld (Money) + Warenform (production) brings more money). Krolzcyk, together with his companion Eric Peters, understands art as being both inside and outside the capitalist market system: “In comparison to other goods the art work is distinguished by a surplus, which doesn’t merge into a shape of a product. The art work is product and non-product at the same time. It is K’.”

Radek showed me around town and we ended up at the Kunsthalle of Bremen in the John Cage room dedicated to his work Writing through the Essay ‘On the Duty of Civil Disobedience’ (1985/1991). From various loudspeakers in the space you hear distinct, interpenetrating voices using Henry David Thoreau’s On the Duty of Civil Disobedience as a source and Messe des Pauvres by Erik Saties as a thread. Cage's civil disobedience brings us back to the civil courage that Eugen Blume was talking about. The “civil” of civil courage doesn’t refer to being orderly and polite while observing accepted social forms, but it highlights the interrelationship in producing a counter friction. This kind of civil courage had its urgency in the 1930s, but how urgent is it the neo-individual-liberalism times of the 2010s?

July 4, 2015

Art Object of The Week: Sabaya Perfume

Is smell a thing in the arts? I haven’t encountered it yet, except for Marcel Duchamp’s Belle Haleine and even there I can’t associate a specific smell to it. Maybe I just don’t know about smell art. That happens - also post-internet art passed me by without me noticing it. Maybe smell is just too ephemeral to be sold on the art market. Or maybe it’s Plato's fault for considering the eye and the ear as more important aids than the nose. But talk to any whine-buff or relationsship-specialist and they will tell you that your nose is in the middle of your face for a reason. Only recently sound made it into the gallery, so maybe smell will be up and coming next. Of course, popular culture was first. Smell has already been big in film and literature - we all remember Scent of a Woman (“If you're tangled up, just tango on.”) and the enormous popularity of Patrick Süskind’s Perfume. And not long ago I did have an olfactory experience in an art context. It was at the museum in Stonetown and it was the guide who smelled great. The smell wasn’t too dominant - it was rather like freshly washed clothes and it totally enhanced the guided tour. Being a guide myself at a museum, I was inspired. So I asked him what perfume he’s using. He told me and he even went to get me a bottle. It’s called Sabaye, it’s a unisex perfume with a chocolaty musky scent. If you want to smell it too, feel free to come to my guided tours in Hamburger Bahnhof. 

July 1, 2015

Art Blogger of the Week: Nicola Carragher in Cork, Ireland

Cork? I seem to know Cork although I've never been there. I've heard about it from my friend Sabine Kriebel, who is a professor in the arts at the University College Cork and the writer of a great book titled Revolutionary Beauty: The Radical Photomontages of John Heartfield. And in Berlin I once attended a reading of Cork-novelist Cónal Creedon, who is drop-dead funny and writes in a Cork-y timber: "Gowaan, shag off outa here!" And now I discovered the art blog Art in Cork of Nicola Carragher. It's a new blog but already very productive, covering quite everything exciting that happens in Cork's art scene - announcing upcoming openings, events, combined with in-depth reviews. You can also start following Nicola on Twitter

Art scene 
"I'm from Dublin but I have been living in Cork since last year. I wasn't aware of all the exciting things that were happening in Cork before I moved here and that was one the reasons for starting the blog. I wanted to spread awareness nationally and internationally. The arts in the city was really affected by the economic crisis which resulted in the closure of several galleries but it also opened up unique spaces for arts events and organisations. There is still a definite lack of funding but people in the arts are making the most of what is available." 

"I started my blog Art in Cork in March this year so it is still a relatively new project. I found that there was a need there that focused on the visual arts scene in the city and promoted the events and spaces to a wider audience. I was also inspired by all the writers I met while doing a course with An at Node Centre for Curatorial Studies. I wanted to develop my writing skills; reading other art blogs was a great place to start for me."   

"I graduated from Fine Art at Dublin Institute of Technology in 2012 and since then I have gained experience in several galleries and festivals in Ireland. In my current role as manager at CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery I have the opportunity to meet with people of all backgrounds and disciplines. We have a high turn around for exhibitions with usually one - two a month and the exhibition covered during that time have ranged from stone sculpture, ceramics, textiles new media and many more. Also, as we are connected to the college so I have a wealth of knowledge and expertise to draw from." 

"I do not earn money through my blog but it benefits my overall experience by connecting me with artists and opportunities that I would not have otherwise found. It is a great way to showcase my passion for the arts and provide support for emerging and established talent."