Sunday, November 25, 2012

Projects that inspire me: South Africa you rock!!!

My research is taking me to such good places! Can't wait to visit home! The discovery of projects that goes beyond what I could possibly imagine, makes me feel like an inadequate and lazy artist. While I'v been indulging in what it means to make art for myself, these artists and curators were moving comfort zones and doing things. I would like to mention some of these amazing people and projects here, because they are really inspiring me to do something. Look at the Keleketla!Library project, The Centre for Historical Re-enactments, Assemblage Studios, Cuss collective and Gugulective

If anything the arts in SA at the moment shows that we are in transformation, young artists and curators looking for new languages to express this identity that we are seeking and to respond to the conditions that South Africans live in. It is clear that art is reviving the public realm, that it is looking towards the community and no longer looking to hang on the walls in Mooikloof and Sandton.

I like what Rangoato Hlasane one of  the creators of Keleketla! is saying here in Liberator magazine:
“I have no intentions of spending time in [an] isolated studio making images for galleries as a devotion or career... I really do feel that art for walls is sometimes overrated. I feel that it creates disillusions [sic]. I make art, and I find value in the process; it is a method for my sanity, my reflection on things and a chance to imagine a different world. I hope that my work does that, enables... contemplation on things.”
 "The general society knows very little about art and the art that is being created with assumptions of changing the world. We have an inherent self-importance. It's unhealthy, makes us defensive, inflates egos and brings us all down when it all falls down. There can only be a few art superstars. This may sound like sour grapes and it would be if I wasn't doing well with my work, but I am. I just don’t have any illusions and consider it a waste of time to lock myself in a studio only to spend my life drinking wines and distressing over capitalist gallerists. My point is that art processes, rather than outcomes, have the potential for impact". 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Me in the winter

This was a little sketch I made to illustrate how cold I felt in Berlin in the beginning of the year. Winter is here again...Background and frontal figure doesn't really blend, probably I need to find a better solution.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Cani Abbaiano - journal

 Our class created a journal for our one class called Economy of arts under the guidance of journalist Manuela Gandini who regularly contributes to Alfabeta 2 a critical Italian journal focussed on arts,culture and society.The title of the journal translates as The dogs are barking. You can get the actual journal here in pdf but it is in Italian. 

 Here is the editorial that I wrote. 
“An old west African proverb compares the artist to a dog. Positioned at the interface of the
human and the natural worlds, the dog in most ancient African societies enjoyed slippery and
highly ambiguous cultural status.
Neither a human being, nor a wild animal, it was nevertheless admitted in the domestic
sphere where it was recognised as man's best friend.
Loyal to a fault, it was committed to its master to the point of helping him hunt wild animals.
This is why it enjoyed special rights.
Because a dog was never happier than when its nose was up another's rear end- the anus,
that sensory button of the world - it also symbolised debasement and degradation.
Just like the dog, the artist also enjoyed special rights, including the right to conduct
forbidden experiments. His task was to translate society to itself”. – Achille Mbembe, Cape
Times, June 5 2012
The economic crisis has stimulated a range of conversations against the capital and consumer driven
system that the Western world have been comfortably nesting in for years. It has illuminated the
flaws of a system that has dominated and affected the core values of Western society the 21 st
century. It has in fact illuminated us to see that change is necessary, that is also a change in the
values that informs our decisions.

It is from here that we can see why it is necessary to create an enquiry also from the perspective of
the arts. The most obvious reason is that economic crisis’s or government financial policies affect
also the cultural sector. Producers of culture needs financial support and space in order to live, and
produce work.

When analysing the current situation crashing financial markets, greed driven corporations and
speculation are terms that superficially touch on the causes of this crisis. It easy to lay out the
blame on investment bankers, CEO’s and governments, but it did not come over night with a few
evil personas. It is a system of values - a culture - that has been the basis of the production and
consumption that we live in. We are not innocent bystanders or just simply victims of this system;
we were also participants in it. This includes the cultural sector; us as artists, curators and writers.
Thus as cultural workers we need to understand how we fit in to this economy, what systems of
production we use and what we do to change or uphold it.

Starting with a historical analysis allows us to see how we got here. Understanding how the arts
came to reflect the financial system of speculation, understanding the invention of the art market.
This also reflects on systems of power and how it came to be in the hands of a select few. We
look to the economic crisis of the past, the great depression, reflecting how it was dealt with even
sometimes in bazaar ways.

If one can understand the past we can reflect on the current situation. How is art valued today, what
is its role in society and how does political policies and the financing of it affect it. In the globalised
world we can learn from each other and trace similarities. An analysis of different concepts of
financing and public perception in different geographical areas starting from the sophisticated
funding system of Northern Europe to the complications of funding in a developing country; South
Africa. Another analysis shows the political complications affect art in Columbia and the review of
public art policies in Taiwan. We understand that we are not isolated.

A final part looks at how it has come to this, how the world has been perceived theoretically and
philosophically and how artist imagine and approach the situations. One might argue against or an
autonomous group of artists occupying and appropriating corporate buildings and urban spaces, or
Utopic imagined spaces as unrealistic, but it serves as mirrors held up to imagine what can be, or
what should not be.

One might ask why it is important that we as cultural workers publish a volume of articles on art
and the economy. The answer is this, we are the dogs, we need to dig up the old bones, we need to
start barking at the gates to warn of the thieves that enter to prevent them from stealing the good
ideals of society. We are not wild animals outside of the house; we are part of it and will contribute
to improving it.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Photo board

Autumn - my favourite season, even though Milan is not exactly the most spectacular Autumn tree city (in fact Milan needs more trees), the parks are still really beautiful. Took this picture in Indro Montanelli park in corso Venezia. 

Lack of space on my hard drive forced me to clean up my computer and I discovered this photo. 
"I DONT CARE" - In the cold.
To become a photographic print.

The lonely office chair and backpack.
In the winter the Navigli gets drained, this is the crap that it reveals. 


An update and some reads.

Mainly I am just reading and searching and reading and searching and reading for my thesis at the moment which feels like a disaster and like I never know enough, but I am hoping that it is just the normal process of the thing, and that, that is in fact how you learn a lot. The problem is mainly that I end up getting lost and reading to wide or I get of topic. Focus!!!!

Then on other news, my three quilts "Progress and development" from Isola project is on auction at Galleria Bianconi, (also along some of my friends such as Edith Poirier and Cherimus) to raise funding for the book of Isola Art Centre.

Then some reading:

Some great books I got (some on ebook, some actual ones - but considering that I will have to move these back to SA soon, I am trying to supress my need for actuall paper pages):
Art and the end of Apartheid by John Peffer (reading it right now, very easy to read, not stiff and elitist academic - I think a must  for anyone interested in South African art history).
Documenta 13/ The Book of Books (damn expensive but was lucky to get a discount). So far I've only looked at the pictures, read the introduction and  the one On the  Destruction of art, and then had to remind myself that in fact  I should focus on reading for my thesis.

Also if you are interested in urban theory and cities from a non Western perspective please go check out the  African Cities Reader which is an online journal with contributions covering a wider range of topics covering African cities and its diversity. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Friends: Edith Poirier

I can't believe I haven't done a post on Edith sooner. Edith Poirier is one of my best friends here, I met her at my first day at NABA, and we have been friends ever since. Edith is a painter in heart and soul and the amount of hours that she spends painting in her studio  is unbelievable. Borrowing from the cities she travels to (she always carries a sketch book with her), street art ,publicity images, the burlesque and the circus, she creates painted collages of the city as spectacle. 

Some works also plays around with the concepts of the art history, the way we view art within the art system.

The above mural was painted in the neigbhourhood Isola outside the Garibaldi station  in Milan for the event "In su i Praa" with Isola art centre in May 2012. Her works really works well within urban spaces, and I hope that she can do more street art soon. 

Edith will be participating in the Isola art centre show "Fight-specific Isola" which will be happening all over Milan. Some of Edith's work will be on view at the Isola Libri bookshop, via Pollaiuolo 5, Milan. Read more about Edith on her website or she also has a group on Facebook.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

History in the making - Something I forgot to post months ago

History in the making was a workshop we did with the Austrian artist Peter Friedl. Not aimed at being an exhibition but more a play with images and the histories we invent or associate with them. You can read an article he wrote on the topic of history with the same title on E-flux.
My poster for History in the making. I wanted to make something that draws on my personal history but then also within a European context is something exotic, so I created a poster that is a little bit like decorative  tourist postcard or print with a recipe on it.

 Wei-Ning Yang

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Almost going to Documenta 13

I am super super excited at the moment, a week from now I will be going to Kassel, Germany for the Documenta 13, me along with some fellow students will be working on the projects of  artists, and participating in the educational program of the event.  In preparation I am reading some texts by Carolyn Cristov-Bakargiev. Most of the texts you find in the dOCUMENTA (13) notebook series 100 Notes - 100 Thoughts.  I really can not wait to go. 

Here is the press release from NABA's site:

NABA is among the 14 Universities in the world involved in dOCUMENTA (13), an international event, opened in 1955 by Arnold Bode and among the most important events in the contemporary art scenery, which takes place in Kassel every five-years. This thirteenth edition is curated by Carolyn Christov – Bakagiev.
The first and second year students of the NABA Two-year MA in Visual Arts and Curatorial Studies will take part to “The Maybe Education and Public Programs”, an educational format that will last for all the 100 days of the event.

NABA professors and students will participate to dOCUMENTA (13) with several projects:

“AND AND AND”, an experimental public program of artist-run meetings curated by Renè Gabri and Ayreen Anastas, with the participation of Chiara Balsamo, Filippo Bisagni, Eleonora Castagna, Claudia Castaneda, Marco Ceroni, Irene Coppola, Gaetano Cunsolo, Lilia Di Bella, Sinan Eren Erk, Roberta Garieri, Edna Gee, Elena Malara, Giulia Mengozzi, Laura Messa, Vittoria Pavesi, Giulia Polenta, Barbara Presinska, Jacopo Rinaldi, Jessica Rucinque Arbelaez and Stefano Serretta;

And here is the link to AndAndAnd .

Friday, August 3, 2012

Caro Giacomo 2012

The week in Perdaxius flew by so quickly. It turned out to be a wonderful experience for me, getting to know artists, making friends and eating well in the country side. I also had a chance to experience the creativity and enthusiasm of children, hear a launeddas and paint for the sheer joy of it. It turned out to be an improvisational woodwork workshop. Thanks to Cherimus and the artists Yassine Balbzioui, Derek Maria Francesco Di Fabio, Michele Gabriele, Andrea Rossi  and Matteo Rubbi.Also Carlo Spiga and  Beatrice Bailet who joined us later in the week. See some videos here. Read more on Cherimus site. Here are a few photos and below a video I made for the party we made the last Sunday.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Caro Giacomo 2012

Caro Giacomo celebrates its fifth anniversary.
A strange lab in the south west of Sardinia, where no one quite knows what to expect.
From 22 to 26 July Perdaxius explodes: to destroy and then to rebuild. One never creates anything, but it expands like gas-filled balloons.
One should try to be atomic and leap out from all protective membranes: I would like to make it new enable to think of it differently; starting from its archaeology ~ I want to do it again!
Dear Dear Caro, if I think of it by myself this is a flipper rumbling with thoughts. To share experiences sounds much better. DMFDF

Caro Giacomo compie cinque anni.

Uno strano laboratorio nel sud ovest sardo, dove chi arriva non sa mai bene che gli capita.

Dal 22 al 26 luglio Perdaxius esplode, rimontare dopo aver demolito, non si costruisce mai niente, ci s’espande come palloni che si riempiono di gas.

Pretendere d’essere atomici e schizzare via da ogni membrana protettiva: vorrei farlo nuovo per poterlo pensare diversamente, dalla sua archeologia ~ voglio farlo di nuovo!

Caro Caro Caro, a pensarci da solo è un flipper di rimbombi di pensieri, condividere esperienze suona meglio. DMFDF

Festa di San Giacomo e Sant’Anna in via Nazionale, Perdaxius (CI)
Con Yassine Balbzioui, Derek Maria Francesco Di Fabio, Michele Gabriele, Edna Gee, Andrea Rossi e Matteo Rubbi

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Internet tools and Arte Povera

Things such as Pinterest has a way of completely absorbing your time. One can spent hours getting lost in this form of visual consumption (something one must at least be critical of). Nevertheless it can be an incredibly helpful tool for students and artists to organise visual research. I prepared this Arte Povera  board while studying for an exam about it, which in the end helped me so much in being able to summarise some important works by some of the most important artists of the movement. Having images in my head as reference helped a lot  to recall the information. And the best thing was that I could just peek at this before I went to do the exam which was a quick and efficient way to refresh my memory.

By the way how wonderful is Arte Povera? Af first I was annoyed by the fact that we had an entire module just based on Arte Povera, but after this exam, I am so blown away by it. There is something timeless in these works. I especially love the work of Giovanni Anselmo. Such poetry in the way he used opposite materials together, played with gravity and tension, always keeping one in suspense of something that is about to happen. He is going on to my favourite artist list. 

The art buying game.

A new project of mine. It is game based on a Monopoly game but placed within the art market.The objective is to buy all the artist work and thus gain monopoly over the art world.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The artist is like a dog

“An old west African proverb compares the artist to a dog. Positioned at the interface of the
human and the natural worlds, the dog in most ancient African societies enjoyed slippery and
highly ambiguous cultural status.
Neither a human being, nor a wild animal, it was nevertheless admitted in the domestic
sphere where it was recognised as man's best friend.
Loyal to a fault, it was committed to its master to the point of helping him hunt wild animals.
This is why it enjoyed special rights.
Because a dog was never happier than when its nose was up another's rear end- the anus,
that sensory button of the world - it also symbolised debasement and degradation.
Just like the dog, the artist also enjoyed special rights, including the right to conduct
forbidden experiments. His task was to translate society to itself”. – Achille Mbembe, Cape
Times, June 5 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Art and Violence: "The Spear"

The painting The Spear by Brett Murray has by now aroused such interest and reaction negative and positive that it has taken on a form beyond itself, an image which became the symbol and space for all to use for their motives of expression. From the original intent of satirising government and the president to a method of reinforcing racial clashes, discussions of freedom of speech to discussions of what is the role of art or what is art, as well as a well written post-colonial critique I would recommend.

I can’t help but think that as a painting, an isolated object of art it is rather simple (aesthetically, I mean, that poster aesthetic is kind of what a lot of people do, there is is even that function on Photoshop) and  as  political satire goes, quite superficial. An artist doesn’t have to work hard when using a figure who already carries all the weight of meaning on itself. The power of this artwork lies within its context and the debates it aroused.  And I would like to also argue that the defacement of it (although I really do not wish the gallery or artist any harm), would be the ultimate act to complete it.  

W.J.T Mitchell comes to mind in his discussions of iconology and iconoclasm.  Both the artist and the defacers used an iconoclastic gesture. Both acts could be considered violent. The artist using subversion breaks down the untouchable image of the president by showing us his genitalia.  It is a violent act to expose someone, it is a violating act. And some might argue, yes but he is a bad president, he inspired it, but one must also say, yes but he is also human, and can still be hurt, he can still be violated. This gesture in some way reveals this contradiction. 

Then there are the defacers. Physically painting over the image which angers, the wish to destroy it, to cover it is violent, the word deface itself indicates this violence. Usually objects displayed in a gallery on the wall remains untouchable, they are holy objects to be admired, to be contemplated, to be sold, but never to be touched. That final act of defacement was a violent one, and rebellious against the system of the gallery. The covering up of the painting with a red crosses and then with black paint reveals just as much as that of the original.

Both works revealed this relationship with violence we have in South Africa. We use it for a motif as we criticize it, we us one form of violence to satirise the president, another form to counteract it.  It was also revealed on blogs and Facebook in the commentary by readers and viewers as this soon became the way for people to personally attack each other’s view.  We like to complain in South Africa about the crime and violence, but I dare to say that our attitudes of distrust and defence lies right in the middle of our problem. Or perhaps this is the result of it. 

Another topic arouse through this work was that of censorship and freedom of speech. The president wanted them to take the painting down. The gallery refused, stating it will not succumb to censorship. People advocating that it was freedom of speech, the right of the artist, congratulated the gallery for standing up for freedom, while others criticised saying that this disrespect of the president must not be stood for. Of course censorship is a slippery slope and for sure a president must not be allowed to censor artworks, if one can start, before one knows it, anything that defies the president can be shut down and then we have a problem. Yet the defacement of this painting revealed the complexities of freedom of speech and its relationship to who holds the power.  Some of the same advocates that hailed the painting as the right to expression of the artist found this defacement  a crime, and from a video I saw the culprits were arrested and quite violently so too. Yet weren’t these defacers not just using their freedom of expression?

Defacing a painting is an atrocity someone said on Facebook. Why would such an act be considered more violent to some than the (albeit visual) personal attack on the president – a human being? The ultimate was revealed when they started speaking about the monetary value of the work, how this cost the gallery and the artist R 100 000 (or something like that). We all know the art market is based on speculation, this is not the true worth of the painting, yet many of those same advocates of freedom of expression considered this an important enough reason to justify that the defacers freedom of expression was in fact illegal, that its monetary value excludes it from the fire.  The ultimate question lies within this, what are the limits of freedom of expression or more specifically, who has the right to freedom to expression? Those who have ownership? Another question arises, when does something pass as hate speech, one wonders don’t haters also have a right to expression (the twitter model debacle comes to mind)?

These questions cannot easily be answered and should never result in censorship. Yet we must ask ourselves what responsibility we carry in our right to expression, what violence do I carry in my right to expression? So in the end I must wonder about the brilliance of this painting as it revealed so much more then the short comings of our president and the ruling party, but also so very much about our own hypocrisies.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Progress and development 2012)


The picnic- this romantic idea of eating together, a social gathering in nature -  was used in 19th century English novels as a literary space for  romantic gestures, revealing social inadequacies and personal revelations (Emma by Jane Austen comes to mind). The picnic then could also serve for the perfect space to reveal our own desires and inadequacies.   In the absence of nature the action of a picnic remains the same, everyone can bring something, to sit down outside, with the the basket, the blanket and the food, yet it might almost seem sad. Though at the same time plotting down a space in the city, sitting down on the sidewalk on the cement becomes a defiant action against the movement, the progress that the capitalistic city promotes.  More pictures of the picnic here. And of the event  In Su I Praa here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

All the buzz: M^C^O

Image above from MACAO page on Facebook

I paid a visit to the new space M.A.C.A.O this week to see what all the hype is about. M.A.C.A.O is an abandoned building in Milan originally called Torre Galfa owned by some corporate (don't remember who) and it was "taken over" or occupied as they say (I hate that word - it is like the new key phrase used by all trendy liberal associations) by cultural workers and young artists to convert into a experimental cultural centre. It  follows in the current trend of movements (Occupy Wall street etc) taking over capitalistic spaces for a more social use.

Radical chic is all the rage these days so it is not surprising that people want to be apart of this movement, but what is nice to observe is the enthusiasm and hope that such a take over represent for people. There are tons of people working in the space renovating it, fixing the floors, making a garden and bringing furniture and things that can be used in the space, all doing it without receiving any money for it. Something new like this attracts a lot of different people and creates a space for experimentation and exchange. It provides what is needed perhaps as a catalyst for other actions. Another thing to observe how they used social media from the start of this project to interact with public and create hype and audience. 

The space itself is amazing and gives a lot to the imagination, I am sure many artists (me included)  and curators would love to utilise the space itself for installation. As a new experiments go, it is of course chaotic and probably doesn't yet offer the possibility to do something with more body. However already between the chaos a lot is going on, there were spontaneous talks by Nobel prize laureate Mario Fo, concerts by musicians, and also open lessons by universities taking place in there. 

It will be interesting to see what happens there. Hopefully the company owning the building will not try to take it back and hopefully M.A.C.A.O can retain its independence. They (or us) will also have to at some point forget the hype and make projects with more body that can add a little bit more to just being a cool Facebook topic. And we must not forget that it can become absorbed by the systems it tries to defy or it itself can become an institution. Nevertheless, at the moment it is a blank slate with possibility and that is a beautiful thing.

To see  more about M.A.C.A.O visit the Facebook page or webpage.

I also attended a talk held on the 10th floor, led by Bert Theis and presentation by Isola Art Centre on their projects and how cultural spaces such as M.A.C.A.O can  affect or improve a neighbourhood.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

IN SU I PRÀA at Isola Pepe Verde Festival.

On Sunday 6 May, finally arrived the day where we had the event that we have been preparing for. Our group Room 47’s artistic interventions ran parallel with the festival of Isola Pepe Verde. And while a week of rain before threatened to destroy the day, came Sunday it was for the most part sunny and remained basically rain free until five o’clock the afternoon, when the rain finally arrived it was time move inside for the video projections anyway.

I really enjoyed the whole project and also the event. The event was well attended by the community, and I really felt such warmth from the inhabitants of this neighbourhood. It reminded me a bit of church bazaars from my childhood where everyone from the community chipped in to make something happen. It is something one can easily lose living so anonymously in a big city.

The project itself was a good exercise of making an exhibition in an open public space, proved once again to challenging in terms of working with many others and also gave a chance for each one of us to pursue something personal, using our own strengths and mediums.  It proved also how art if kept in relationship with where it is can be of more value than just a commodity object. So far it is my favourite project we have done.

So the the interventions was divided in 4 categories. Suolo (Floor), Muro (Walls), Ignoto (Random) and AUDIO VIDEO.  The first three caterogies took place during the day outside while the Audio Videos  were projected inside after the rain came. Here are a few pictures from the project.

Nicoletta Dalfino - "Enciclopedia Vegetale"

One of my picnic spots

Jessica Rucinque - "Guaca"

Michella Grillo, Luigi Mazzioti,Diletta Pellegrini - Eden Box

Leah Corra Messersmith- 'Totem'

Danielle Marzorati

 Laura Paveglio
Chiara Paleari - Tute Blu

Green per capita = Workshop for children

The murales by David M Fayek left and Edith Porier on the right.

Video Still from the video by  Wei-Ning Yang.