‘No Lone Zone’ is a military term designating an area where, for reasons of safety and security, the presence of just one person is not allowed. The phrase can also be used metaphorically to describe a highly sensitive or unstable place, such as the vulnerable environments that proliferate in the context of postcolonial globalisation.
Officical Website: www.labiennale.org
The title of the 54th Exhibition, ILLUMInations literally draws attention to the importance of such developments in a globalised world. I am particularly interested in the eagerness of many contemporary artists to establish an intense dialogue with the viewer, and to challenge the conventions through which contemporary art is viewed.
The term ‘nations’ in ILLUMInations applies metaphorically to recent developments in the arts all over the world, where overlapping groups form collectives of people representing a wide variety of smaller, more local activities and mentalities.
R. Klanten (Author, Editor), M. Hubner (Editor), A. Bieber (Editor)
This book examines the interplay between the forms of protest used by environmental and civil rights activists and the techniques used by artists, which are of interest since both groups often address the same topics. It looks at how art and the media are not only reflecting a political agenda, but also how they are influencing political reaction. Consequently, Art & Agenda is not only an insightful documentation of current artwork, but also points to future forms of political discourse and decision-making.
Art & Agenda explores the impact of political activism on contemporary art. The book introduces a variety of artists who are advocating political and social reform on a local or a global scale. Some are influenced by the traditions of Agitprop and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and work with posters, urban interventions, or graphic design. Others prefer established art forms such as painting, sculpture, or performance.
The personalities and approaches of the featured artists are as diverse as their subject matter the artists goals, techniques, and degrees of radicalness depend on the cultures to which they belong as well as the social and political circles in which they move. Some of the younger artists featured in the book are fighting against poverty and for women s rights. Others are working to rebuild Haitian communities in the wake of that country s devastating earthquake. Still others are using mass communication to criticize transnational oil companies.
While Latin American artists are expressing their powerlessness in the face of totalitarian governments, Chinese artists are commenting on the radical changes taking place in their country, calling for human rights and freedom, and an end to cronyism and environmental destruction.
Selected Artists from the Book:
Filippo Minelli, Contradictions, 2010, Brescia, Italy
Life has become significantly more political in the new millennium, especially in the aftermath of the worldwide banking crisis. Art is both driving and documenting this upheaval. Initially, it was mostly young artists and activists who were raising their voices to protest globalization and the pollution of our environment, but increasingly the work of established artists is also becoming dominated by political topics.
Roland Roos, Free Repair
During two years, Roland Roos repaired broken, displaced or damaged things he encountered in public space. He took before and after photos of the unsolicited repairs and sold them for 320CHF each which is the average amount of money that is spent for one repair (materials and labor).
Superflex, GUARANA POWER
GUARANA POWER is a soft drink developed by a farming cooperative in Maues, Brazil in collaboration with the Superflex collective. The drink contains guarana, a plant native to the Amazon whose fruit has long been harvested by indigenous communities for its medicinal and invigorating properties. The farmers have had to organize themselves against a cartel of corporation whose monopoly on purchase of the raw material has driven the price paid for guaraná seeds down by 80% while the cost of their products to the consumer has risen. Besides, the beverage these companies sells is only a sugary, diluted energy drink. GUARANÁ POWER attempts to use the strategies of global brands as raw material for a counter-economic position, to preserve local economy and the livelihoods of the farmers and to reclaim the original use of the Maués guaraná plant as a powerful natural tonic.
Gregor Schneider, Bondi Beach, 21 Beach Cells, 2007
Gregor Schneider’s cells on Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach questions “the ideal of a casual, egalitarian leisure-loving society”, while evoking strongly another famous location by the ocean: Guantanamo Bay.
Helmut Smits, Photo Tip, 2004
The artist pushed the provocation even further with Photo Tip, an installation which allows people to be portrayed as a hostage flanked by threatening terrorists.
Ai Weiwei, self-portrait with aGrass Mud Horse
May 8–August 1, 2011
Francis Alÿs uses poetic and allegorical methods to address political and social realities, such as national borders, localism and globalism, areas of conflict and community, and the benefits and detriments of progress.
Alÿs’s personal, ambulatory explorations of cities form the basis for his practice, through which he compiles extensive and varied documentation that reflects his ideas and process. As one of the foremost artists of his generation, Alÿs has produced a complex and diverse body of work that includes video, painting, performance, drawing, and photography.
Official Website: www.mocataipei.org.tw
10/22/2010 to 12/12/2010
India is one of the four ancient civilizations, and is known for its long history and affluent cultural heritage. Contemporary Indian art demonstrates an alternative direction in raising criticism of one’s own country’s social reality and controversial issues including class system, the wealth gap and political agendas.
This exhibition has selected 63 artworks by 29 artists, and intends to present the facets of art and aestheticism the general outline of contemporary Indian culture and social life.
1. Thukral & Tagra
The artistic style of the duo is as unpredictable as fast changing, being product of the intersection between the Western popular culture and the deep-rooted traditional culture of India. Their works often explore the gradual loss of self-identity of the Indian society, and the influences brought by the globalization.
At the same time, the duo illustrated through human sculptures and portraits the different groups of people brought by the new era. Among these groups are: the farm boys who dream of fame, and the young delinquents who roam the streets, all of which reflects the influences of foreign cultures and the shift of aesthetic values in Indian society.
Tate Modern 12 October 2010 – 2 May 2011
Official Website: www.tate.org.uk
Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds challenges our first impressions: what you see is not what you see, and what you see is not what it means. The sculptural installation is made up of what appear to be millions of sunflower seed husks, apparently identical but actually unique. Although they look realistic, each seed is made out of porcelain. And far from being industrially produced, ‘readymade’ or found objects, they have been intricately hand-crafted by hundreds of skilled artisans. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape. The precious nature of the material, the effort of production and the narrative and personal content make this work a powerful commentary on the human condition.
One of China’s leading Conceptual artists, Ai is known for his social or performance-based interventions as well as object-based artworks.
Los Penetrados (The Penetrated) is a 45-minute film in eight acts. The film was originally shot on October 12 2008, Día de la Raza, or the Day of the Race, which is the Spanish holiday commemorating Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. The film features a mirrored set with ten geometrically arranged blankets positioned on the floor, on which the various possible combinations of male and female and black and white, engage in anal penetration. The faces of the hired participants are digitally removed, rendering them as dehumanized, modular workers in Sierra’s imposed economy.
2008, black and white photograph, 55 x 98 inches
The eight acts are divided into the following permutations: white man/white woman, white man/white man, white man/black woman, white man/black man, black man/black woman, black man/black man, black man/white woman, black man/white man.
Choosing to film on Día de la Raza, Sierra makes an allegorical connection between the conquest of the Americas by the Spanish, and the penetration that occurs in his film. The subject matter of anal sex invites an examination of cultural psychologies of domination and submission as they relate to labor, race, gender, and class. Though conceived upon a mathematical formula, the film’s acts arrive at a succession of fluctuating outcomes, which yield an analysis of contemporary social structures in Spain. For instance, in Act III, seven of the ten blankets are left without performers, due to police pressure against females taking part in the labor. Or in Act V, where the number of passive black male subjects is diminished by cultural insecurities, perhaps born from experiences of racial inequality.
160 CM LINE TATTOOED ON 4 PEOPLE
El Gallo Arte Contemporáneo. Salamanca, España. Diciembre de 2000
Sierra’s projects often employ underprivileged individuals who function as laborers in useless and demeaning activities. These acts have largely been seen as a commentary on the social ramifications of capitalist models. Procedures such as tattooing a continuous line across the backs of his “workers” foreground the artists’ concerns with exploitation.
12 WORKERS PAID TO REMAIN INSIDE CARDBOARD BOXES
ACE Gallery New York. New York, United States. March 2000
He is well known outside of the United States as an agent who challenges notions of the “politically correct” in order to illuminate social incongruities. Stemming from minimal and conceptual practices of the 60’s and 70’s, Sierra’s controversial actions and performances yield evidence and/or documentation in the form of sculpture, photography, video, and installation.
July 09 – October 03, 2010
Mika Rottenberg’s immersive video installations address issues of gender and labor through outrageous narratives centered around real women (not actors or models) and their bodies. With her new video entitled Squeeze, Rottenberg collapses the humorous and the unsettling to examine global production in a 20-minute narrative that screens on a continuous loop at SFMOMA. Splicing together documentary footage from a rubber plant in India and a lettuce farm in Arizona with her own narrative of women in an absurdist makeup factory, Rottenberg’s surreal video homes in on the social realities of women’s labor.
October 13, 2010 – November 13, 2010
52-54 Bell Street
London, NW1 5DA
Jennifer Allora (American) and Guillermo Calzadilla (Cuban) have been collaborating since 1995. On October 13th they will debut new large-scale works incorporating performance at the Lisson Gallery in London.
2005. Mud, whistle, daily newspaper, and live person.
nstallation view: 51st Venice Biennale.
A story of deception
Modern 15 June – 5 September 2010
An exhibition by Francis Alys at Tate Modern takes place during summer 2010 as the experimental artist showcases his work from over the last twenty years. Including painting, installations, animation, sculpture and video art, this exhibition is set to explore the nature of this politically motivated conceptual artist.
Iranian art couple Farhad Moshiri and Shirin Aliabadi created the project “Operation Supermarket”. It consists of a series of commodity advertisements and packages mixing “poetry with detergent” as the artists describe. The emphasis is on the commodification of mainstream media traits of the Middle East, but also on a wry parody of the mythical hopes still pinned on the commodity itself as a capitalist agent for change.
Shoot First Make Friends Later
Shirin Aliabadi & Farhad Moshiri
The series points out the pervasive effect of Western global capitalism on the everyday life of the general public and how the citizens start to define themselves as persons by what they take from the shelves of the marketplace. These works offer manipulated packages of common household objects available at any common supermarket in the world. The title “Supermarket” suggests an allusion to global consumerism and products as the vehicles of its manifestation as the new figure of Empire.
We Are All Americans
The work titled “We are all Americans” suggests our fascination with everything American. This Americanization of a society is defined by the ratio of commodity fetishism to the range of product accessibility. Global corporations, when localizing their advertisements, adapt their jingles to the local cultural attributes. Thus poetry with detergent is also a reference to Iranian oral culture and its obsession with poetry, a tradition deeply rooted in Iranian society. The artists re-brand and transform these items into a discourse on capitalism. The new guise of the image, altered from an advertisement to an artwork, consequently modifies the way the image is encountered and discussed. The artists deploy these ready-made advertisements as a platform for smuggling a new content. The immediate quality of these images – as parts of a common global image-repertoire – are used to convey a differentiated message in a fashion that contradicts their raison d’etre.
Families Ask Why
In his work, Moshiri makes direct reference to everything kitsch, as the post-colonial monuments of contemporary culture of Iran and the region. He refers to the post-revolutionary drawing books, water fountains at the intersections and main squares of the cities, the furniture of the parvenu, and the Western and Westernized brands of products. But nevertheless these works go way beyond the local boundaries. With consumerism as a global tool of expression, our lexicon of products forms the vocabulary of our times. The lines of carts behind the supermarket register suggest a modern form of communication. Shoot first, make friends later is the product of a global paranoia and people killing people is what that makes everyday headlines. In fact some of them do remind us of the postcards of demonstrations outside WTO summits. And perhaps the artists are raising the question of how can we stop the famine in Africa with the choice of our soap and how can our bathroom shelf criticize out government? How can we protest with the brand of our underwear and how can we ask for forgiveness with the choice of our moisturizers. And with our preferred set of detergents we express our love, asking: “MY SOUL, MY UNIVERSE, WHERE WERE YOU ALL THOSE DAYS”