Gabriele De Santis – Dear Michael,

Courtesy of Frutta Gallery

Courtesy of Frutta

Hashtags, question marks and exclamation points, brackets. This exhibition is about communication, new communication. Much of my work in the latest period, has been going on through Instagram. Researches, contacts, new concepts development, it is the end of the Facebook age. I focused in understanding the development hashtagged concepts. So I thought about reviewing this exhibition starting from Ilaria Marotta’s text, and dividing the story by hashtagged themes. Also because if no one is willing to write standard press releases any more, certainly art writer won’t be up for a standard criticism, standard writing is probably getting old. An hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash symbol (“#”). It is a form of metadata tag. Words in messages on microblogging and social networking services such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Instagram may be tagged by putting “#” before them, either as they appear in a sentence, or appended to it. Hashtags make it possible to group such messages, since one can search for the hashtag and get the set of messages that contain it.

#hashtagtheworld this tag is borrowed from a friend, it includes literally everything [metaphysics approach # hidden memory # what we know and we have forgotten # culture # (burrus friedric skinner > gaetano salvemini)] : {[rome # (home> frutta> friends of rome)] + [london # (limoncello> commercialroadproject> ruth> a shared dream> peckingduck> friends of london)]} = {a long journey # [AB (ruth> adam> nina> valentinas> alex) + (maps of places you won’t !nd in a map> lost islands> palms> stolen pens)]}

#amurrica or the American dream # jordanair # loveisintheair # backpack # basketball # basketball cap # sportswear # dirty t-shirt # sneakers # rollerblade # wheels # skaters # trick # griptapes # plinth # stasis vs. movement # back to the future # eighties # tv programs # fonzie # childhood memory # now and then # disney # neon # round sunglasses to see the neon # the sun

#stoneage I recently read an article about how stones can be sexy [marbles > I love marble cheescake!> my best cake ever!] & rock, paper, scissors>

#newtropical we all know this romantic tag (palms again> sunshine> sunrise> tequilasunrise> istagram>

Courtesy of Frutta Gallery

Courtesy of Frutta

For those who don’t understand hashtag language, here is the letter accompanying the exhibition, written by Alex for Michael, on Friday, March 14, 2014 from Hermosa Beach, CA.

Dear Michael,I’m back… from swimming pools and American marble: an autumn of daydream flips where a lipslide is also known as disaster. As it happens, everything continues to happen.“Nothing but mesh,” you said, spinning a yarn of the interconnectedness of things, atelary contexture of equipment slides from the maw. A backward glance at the court, standing on your own four wheels to map that maple, reveals no more than the lachrymal orange of a spinning ball. You’re right: to a one shot conquerer, the thrashing of the heart’s Ω is the tint of a splash of gin. Always and already, the heft of thingsdangles from a breakaway rim beyond which a three-point line is a breathless length. The ball’s progress plots a dribbled constellation of half-clues, asterisms, black cats, red herrings. H-O-R-S-E, you whispered. Then, jammed into space: an outstretched leap invulnerable to fatigue, something like an astronaut’s free fall, shuttles thoughts towards their a leathery suspension. Around the world, lost satellite reception is a reminder thatwhole histories may be falling just as you are. GM, GP, GS, and the rest. Beyond this horizon, one could hazard a guess as to what you meant by gleaming the cube to steal the bacon: 749mm of curbside aerology, every painting a clutch player.Again, the same jokes every night for all etoinity told in a voice like a one-strapped sack: after Viceroy, Your Airness, another meaning of ‘to travel’ wheels again towardsits foregone durometry {101A}. And though history might spin itself away, be assured: those persons who retain a historiographical relationship with the deck concern themselves with that which cannot be seen or handled of the deck. Still they ask themselves, fifteen years later, “Is it the shoes‽”

Courtesy of Frutta Gallery

Courtesy of Frutta

 

Frutta

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Introducing The Filmballad of Mamadada

We recently met the directors of The Filmballad of Mamadada for an interview published by our media partner REVS, in the current issue SATISFACTION. As with many of her female contemporaries, the Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven’s cultural legacy has been obscured, and in some instances appropriated into the oeuvres of better known male peers. Following the feminist wave of the last years, The Filmballad is made of a myriad of contemporary feminist voices challenging the viewer with more questions than answers.

Poet, artist, model, and public provocateur, the Baroness defied the social and artistic codes of her time. Many believe she gave Marcel Duchamp the porcelain urinal that later became Fountain. An important figurehead for the fledgling Dada movement in America, the Baroness was a close friend of avant-garde luminaries such as Djuna Barnes, Berenice Abbot, William Carlos Williams, and Ezra Pound.

Lily Benson and Cassandra Guan recruited a group of over fifty filmmakers to produce a collective biopic. Participants were invited to interpret specific biographical fragments and create filmic adaptations on their own terms. The results varied wildly in style and content: from a re-contextualized Jane Fonda interview, to a reconstruction of a lost 16mm film by Duchamp and Man Ray. About the feminist topic they said: “We don’t think about feminism as an issue of interest to women or some category of people that identify women, it is something to which everyone has a relationship with, that is why we invited straight male filmmakers to participate, because the thing is there and you have to somehow deal with that”. Here is a warm-up with few questions.

Still from The Filmballad of Mamadada

Still from The Filmballad of Mamadada

You coordinated over fifty artists presenting fragments of the Baroness’ life. The result is chaotic and somehow difficult to follow. Don’t you think the Filmballad should be presented in a museum, rather than in a cinema?

Cassandra Guan: We definitely considered and we still are open to the possibility about showing this as an installation or as a single channel film in a context of an art gallery or a museum, but for the project, and the process of working with all this people, we wanted to have a very definitive goal. The cinematic presentation was that goal, and part of the project behind the actual product of the film is sort of coming together of all these very different people with very different practices; we needed an aspiration to get all this people on board. And so the aspiration was “we are going to work together to make a film” rather then doing a sort of installation.

Every fragment and sequence could also work independently from the others.

Cassandra Guan: After having tried both I have to say I do like showing it in the context of a film in a proper theater. It is very easy to present all the fragments as individual short videos, there is something more challenging in considering The Filmballad as a film: people are not presenting their own individual point of views, but they are presenting a part of a narrative. Instead of a collection we wanted to have a collective, where everyone tries to make something bigger even if the bigger thing is not coherent!

Lily Benson: And I do feel like it is very chaotic, in a more stimulating way, or easier to watch, because your attention span is getting challenged. It is challenging, but it also have something new in it.

Cassandra Guan: The film reminds of New York underground cinema, of the experience of watching it, not in terms of contents. We are both from New York, that is not the tradition that we work with but I think there is an influence, and actually some of the filmmakers who contributed were from that generation. It is not a group of young artists, it is a range of artists, we have people like Abigail Child, New York underground filmmaker, Christian Marklay, Shelley Silver, and then we have our peers practicing.

Still from The Filmballad of Mamadada

Was it easy or complicated to produce the film? How long was the production process?

Cassandra Guan: It is technically manageable but socially complicated!

Lily Benson: We wanted a pretty big variety perspectives, so there is several people we asked to, who had never made a film before, like theorists, and art historians.

Cassandra Guan: In the end we had to serve as editors: some people sent us polished finished pieces, but there were a lot of drafted pieces. The really interesting negotiation for me was convincing people to change certain elements. Everyone sent us their material, but even though they agreed to be part of this larger film, in their mind their section was complete and perfect. Afterwards we looked at everything, it was great but we realized we had to edit, and we had to change the piecing length and move things around.

Lily Benson: We started as purists, I didn’t really think we had to edit at all and just put them in a timeline, one after another! And then there were people who definitely needed to be self-contained and with titles and credits in it. It was way too long over programmed short film screenings, and once we started to see how we needed to intervene to make it watchable and than there was the big social issue.

Cassandra Guan: But it is an interesting issue, it was very difficult to cut. Even that conversation explaining that we were trying to create a collective rather than a collection of individual perspectives, was a kind of interesting negotiation, and surprisingly people always came around asking how it could be done and suggesting ideas.

Lily Benson: Also since we are based in New York, there were a lot of people involved in the project, and we were able to make test screening, after negociating we had a private opportunity for them to talk about it, and once they saw what we were trying to do, no one complained at all.

Still from The Filmballad of Mamadada

Still from The Filmballad of Mamadada

Are the texts and animations in the film referring to Dadaism?

Lily Benson: I was the one who composed the inter-titles, and then we have got a friend who helped us with the animations, but I think for that I was not directly referencing Dada images, because we really wanted to refrain from this kind of nostalgic play and I was more up for unity and simplicity. I think it is just in terms of Minimalism, and simple lines.

Is it still possible to find any magazines or reviews where she used to write?

Cassandra Guan: The Little Review which we mentioned in the film, is actually a very famous Modern Avantgarde magazine, it is the magazine that that first started to serialize the James Joyce’s Ulysses in America, the most frequently published poem. I think there was this revisionist movement in the 40’s and the 50’s because I have got a book that was edited by Marc Anderson, editor at Little Review in 1950, like a greatest hits The Little Review ever published. And I think Hemingway published her in some of the past editions, but she wrote a lot more than what was published.

Cassandra Guan is a New York based artist working within and against the tradition of film. Through narrative experimentation, her work seeks to reclaim culturally repressed histories while engaging critically with the promise and problematic of such representations. Guan was born in Beijing and immigrated to the US during her early teens. She received a BFA from The Cooper Union and subsequently attended the Whitney Independent Study Program.

Lily Benson is an interdisciplinary artist based in Malmö, Sweden and Brooklyn, USA. Working in mediums like animation, performance, illustration, and pop music composition, Benson investigates and challenges popular culture and entertainment through feminist play.

Read the full interview on REVS issue SATISFACTION

The Filmballad of Mamadada website

CPH:DOX

It’s a whale – Stephen Felton

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chez Valentin

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chez Valentin

From Moby Dick, that monument of American literature (published in 1851), Stephen Felton took the title “It’s a Whale”, and drew images from it: a whale, waves, currents, a sail and hull, a harpoon (arrows recur in his work), a seagull, a blade. Hung together, the paintings colour each other in order to recreate a story reduced to its simplest components: characters, a spatial framework, and whatever is needed to perform the simplest actions, that is to say tools. The series offers a summary of the 135 chapters + 1 epilogue: a character named Ishmael tells the story of Captain Ahab’s obsessive pursuit of a large white whale, Moby Dick, which—apologies to those who haven’t read it—ends up killing him. This series also offers another, much more abstract reading of Melville’s novel. It encourages us to reread it along a formal common thread, that of a quest that organises the visual relationships of a great white mass, straight lines, large swatches of blues, reds, sinusoidal shapes, and spirals. “And now, concentric circles seized the lone boat itself, and all its crew, and each floating oar, and every lancepole, and spinning, animate and inanimate, all round and round in one vortex, carried the smallest chip of the Pequod out of sight” Melville wrote at the very end of his novel.

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chez Valentin

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chez Valentin

“Painting is a lot like whaling in fact,” Felton explains. But there are different ways of looking at this hunt, in the novel as well as in life. The analogy reaches its limits here. Felton, like Ishmael, is one of those people who “realise somewhere along the way it’s the journey that matters, not so much the end result as you once thought as a younger man”. Assembling colours in a certain order on the flat surface of a prepared canvas (usually in Felton’s work, as in this case, it is a single colour on a white background) is not the way to produce an artefact fit for decorating an interior or filling the free space in an art centre; it is a total activity, one that organises all of life. “Going to the studio, opening a pot of paint, stretching a canvas, painting it, cleaning your brushes, going home, doing the dishes, reading mail, seeing friends, family: all of these things should be placed on the same level,” wrote another painter on this subject, Hugo Pernet.

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chez Valentin

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chez Valentin

There is certainly a kind of romanticism in this belief in the ability of painting to penetrate the most minute strata of everyday life, but in this case it is—if such a thing exists—a cool romanticism. Rounded lines, soft colours, extremely simplified shapes—their playful relationship sits somewhere between Matisse and Keith Harring: in place of Melville’s heroic, serious tone, Felton substitutes a tranquility, even a relaxation. If painting organises all of life, then it is no longer a question of success or failure, nor even of surpassing yourself, as in the glorious history of expressionist art.

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chez Valentin

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chez Valentin

It is no longer a question of presenting risky feats, dangerous confrontations or metaphysical problems, as in the novel. It is only a question of stretching the canvas over the frame, preparing it, painting it quickly, observing it, and starting over if the result is unsatisfying. Perhaps it is because Moby Dick also makes a good allegory of all of the monuments of the history of the arts that Felton seizes upon it, as if to to mark his distance with these glorious models. In his work, spontaneity is a method that aims not only to actively remove the obligation to produce masterpieces, but to unload the weight of culture.

– Jill Casparina

Stephen Felton at Galerie Chez Valentin, Paris, 01.03 – 05.04.2014.

Profane Theatre – Søren Jensen

Courtesy of Mikael Andersen Gallery

Courtesy of Mikael Andersen Gallery

In this exhibition Søren Jensen presents a single installation that is itself a type of performance. Profane Theatre is a new exhibition in a series of ‘profane’ exhibitions by the artist. The profane works reflect a wider body of work and work practice whose ideas take their starting point from popular custom and the everyday. The works are recognizable as objects in themselves, that is, from outside of an artistic framework; it could be a carousel, a car, a doll, a bicycle rack or a trailer. At the same time these works cause us to reflect on what we devote our time to and how we make use of our everyday life, our external reality and the matter and objects that our everyday life is made up of.

Courtesy of Mikael Andersen Gallery

Courtesy of Mikael Andersen Gallery

The Installation Profane Theatre – Hunter and animals in the woods consists of costumes, masks, hand puppets, an illuminated sign and a video of a site specific theatre piece. Hunter and animals in the woods is an installation based on the familiar hand puppet. Hand puppets are recognized in almost all cultures as a simple form of theatre. They are typically used to show stereotypes and caricatured portrayals; in this naïve simplification, cultural revelations and hidden meanings are unseen. The puppets are therefore perhaps not as innocent as they initially appear and it is these hidden meanings that Hunter and animals in the woods uses to create new artistic significance. Profane theatre is a way of recirculating a traditional custom aptly explained by Samuel Beckett’s ‘How it is’.

Courtesy of Mikael Andersen Gallery

Courtesy of Mikael Andersen Gallery

The profane works can also be explorations in specific practices. This can be seen in Søren Jensen’s books ‘Minigolf på Fyn’ and ‘Fynsk tillykke’. In these books however, the exploration is more of a study in anthropology than an artwork. Søren Jensen (b.1957) was educated at the Danish Royal Academy of Art in 1986. He is, among others, represented by The National Gallery of Denmark, The National Museum of Photography, Arken, Trapholt Museum of Art. Between 1999 and 2006 Søren Jensen was the rector of Funen Art Academy and most recently he was chairman of The Danish Arts Council between 2011 and 2014.

Mikael Andersen Gallery

Gaze from asphalt pavements up to the mountains: Tanja Koljonen

This is a follow-up for my series of interviews with young Finnish photographers: after meeting Anni Leppälä and Saana Wang, I’m introducing Tanja Koljonen and Maanantai Collective, an artistic collaboration she belongs to. Represented by gallery Taik Persons, her photography makes daydream with its combination of Nordic aesthetics and everyday presence, while questioning the notion of authorship and traditional concepts of making art.

A very beautiful challenge: Courtesy of Tanja Koljonen

A very beautiful challenge: Courtesy of Tanja Koljonen

Found playing cards, receipts, notes… You mainly work with objects discovered on the street, what intrigues you about this idea? When working, do you create a whole story in your mind, a plot based on these everyday objects with people around them?

A photograph has an amazing, alchemistic like ability to transform something petty into visible and valuable. Like a chocolate paper can transform into a piece of gold. A photograph has ability to distance from itself; it softens the voice of the object by locking it on its surface. Words, which are an essential part of my work, get more space this way. Finally, the object in the photograph becomes a picture in the picture, its texture and echo disappear, like the rust of iron transforms into a color. All of a sudden, you can’t shuffle a deck of cards or close a cigarette box. As a comfort, the suppressed voice is compensated with words and a new image, throughout which the object gets a new way to express itself.

I collect objects and phrases from different contexts, which I finally photograph. My materials don’t take too much place: if there’s a need, I can always slip them into an envelope and continue my journey. This lightness is, at the same time, a pleasure and a challenge: the real content and the material, the whole story, is always outside the picture, attached to the reality. This puzzle is completed only when it reaches the eyes of the spectator, who makes up the final significance of the composition I’ve proposed.

When did you try photography for the first time, was your decision to pursue studies in that field something natural for you?

Before photography I was studying visual arts. This background as a drawer is transmitted through my work: it’s two-dimensional, outlines being graphic-like. I started studying photography in 2006: I had already tried it before, but not in the same scale. At that time, I was intrigued to know about the contents of that world, which was so rapidly changing, becoming digitalized. The studies helped me to understand the logic of that medium and to respect it. This was a prerequisite, so that I could find my proper ways to express myself and use that medium. Photography has helped me to simplify and eliminate.

A very beautiful challenge: Courtesy of Tanja Koljonen

A very beautiful challenge: Courtesy of Tanja Koljonen

Even though you photograph objects instead of people, do you feel like, in the end, this is precisely what you’re aiming to mirror? Would you say that this is how you give more space for you and the spectator?

The pieces I employ have signs of life and human presence on them. My work deals with the opposites of human life, such as rules and coincidence, reason and instinct. For instance, a deck of cards is a reference to the gesture of playing, with yourself and the opponent.

Photography is a medium, which manifests the world around us, it shows my reactions after observing it. A human being, represented in a photograph offers the viewer an instant possibility to be identified. In that sense, objects, literary material and their emphasis give more space, both for the interpretation and the abstract concepts that the viewer needs in order to attach them to reality. We might ask, where is the final picture, in the eyes of the viewer or somewhere else?

You have mentioned that your appeal towards words and phrases is explained by your love for poetry. Is it a medium for you to transmit a message, or does it have its own, independent place in the picture? How do you create a dialogue between the text and the object in photography?

I feel like I have the right to speak about poetry when it comes to my work: this poetic side is visible when a phrase or an object is detached from its original context. Poetry belongs to the world of metaphors and symbols, and provides an opportunity to think otherwise, as counterbalance for a more logical way of thinking. It lightens, the words can appear as majestic, humoristic, or even as sinister and tragic. However, it does stem from somewhere, the bond with the reality remains. Poetry provides me a good medium to detach myself from the reality and its observation. The attempt to create a dialogue between words and visual content has obviously its risks. But that’s exactly what makes it interesting. The key moment is the instant when a word, phrase or title finds its place alongside the object.

A very beautiful challenge: Courtesy of Tanja Koljonen

A very beautiful challenge: Courtesy of Tanja Koljonen

There is often certain plainness present in your work. Would you say that this feeling of emptiness reflects something of a society in which we’re living today, do you take a stand on something when highlighting a certain object?

Austerity, or ascetic look isn’t a message in itself. It is a form of aesthetic language that I’ve chosen. The proper message comes from the play between the word and the object, which serve as a basis for the associations in the mind of the spectator. Photography is efficient when it comes to fading out the signature of the artist. I am there, when editing and organizing the material for the picture. However, this composition, it is only a suggestion, it doesn’t reveal itself as it is, this is my way of taking a stand. Otherwise, I wouldn’t say that I try to speak out through my work, for me they’re representing a poetic form, distanced from the reality.

The theme of humanity is present and it reflects also the values of our culture. Ideals, ideologies, customs and habits. Do we remember our freedom in order to stay faithful and honest to ourselves? Are the motivations the same ones after all: to stay alive, to realize one’s self and needs, to be loved? Instincts, desires and senses keep this machine going on, round after round. Among these questions without answers, my work is like illogic research. This escape of definitions gets a poetic form in my work.

How do you see the situation of artistic photography in Finland nowadays?

The professional level in Finland is quite good I’d say: Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture where I’ve studied, allows students to work independently right from the beginning. This is a good basis for this profession, for the solitary work that is waiting behind the corner. The scholarship system allows a lot, but doesn’t guarantee anything: we need to be prepared for hard work! Being an artist, that’s choosing a whole way of life, where one needs to tolerate uncertainty. For me, the Berlin-based Gallery Taik Persons has allowed a unique, professional experience, and to meet some interesting people. However, much is depending on one’s own activity and initiatives. For example our collective Maanantai, has worked independently, and has succeeded in having an international breakthrough. Last year showed us how everything is possible once you put your energy together, and believe in what you do.

Do you remember: Courtesy of Tanja Koljonen

Do you remember: Courtesy of Tanja Koljonen

The latest exhibition where you participated in was the Paris Photo’13. Can you tell us something about your upcoming projects?

The beginning of this year I’ve spent mostly writing. After February’s ARCO (Madrid), organized through Gallery Taik Persons, I will have the occasion for a six-month residency in Berlin (International Studio Programme) in Künstlerhaus Bethanien. I’m so glad that I will have the possibility to work in a new, stimulating context, which allows me to meet some new people: artists, curators and other art professionals.

The year 2013 I spent pretty densely with our collective Maanantai’s exhibition and book projects, which led us to France, Switzerland and Germany… After that hectic period, it is so nice to have the peace to concentrate on my personal work. My intention is to continue with the same kind of material, however, photography itself is not a terminus for me, I’m curious about other possibilities as well.

You belong to the Maanantai (Monday) Collective, could you tell us something about this?

Maanantai Collective was set up in 2011. All the eight members of this group has got to know each other at Aalto University, through the MA of photography. Our philosophy is based on the idea to dilute the mythic like notion of authorship in the field of arts, and to find some other ways to approach photography as a way of self-expression. We produce all the material as anonymous, under one signature, which is Maanantai.

The first project of this collective, Nine Nameless Mountains, was a result of a road trip in Northern Norway, Lofoten in August 2012. “With the mountain as a “leitmotif”, the escaping horizon as a metaphor for life and the impossibility to reach an absolute goal, revisits the genre of the road-trip with an impish attitude and curiosity towards the unknown. On the way North, we explored the surroundings: stones, waves, fog and light, created a playful story – the motive for the celebration of friendship, photography and chance.” (Maanantai Collective, 2012.)

Collective and individual ways to work differ a lot, and they take periodic turns in my life. Obviously, individual work is more introverted, and demands a perfect peace and concentration. Collective work is intense as well, but differently: it’s funnier and also more challenging somehow. The richness is when sharing the ideas: when you’re brave, or silly enough to get loose, you might find something unexpected. Spontaneity, playfulness and excitement get highlighted in a group, when even the most stupid of ideas gets support: this is how surprising results come about.

Courtesy of Maanantai Collective

Courtesy of Maanantai Collective

What are your dreams and inspirations besides photography?

In this profession, I can’t separate work and free time. The ideas can spring from the most ordinary of moments, which can be really surprising. However, when making art, I try to leave the comfort zone in order to keep my development in motion. I do a lot of travelling, sometimes only for to see an exhibition: this is important, to go and see, to ‘consume’ art instead of creating that all the time. My artistic profile and personality are slowly shaping, creating their solid basis, which is a good objective I guess. Other dreams have something to do with travelling, my dream is to see the Redwoods in the West Coast, and Turrel’s Rode Crater, or even Lighting Field of Walter de Maria! And obviously, alongside of all this, to create a new project.

Tanja Koljonen

Maanantai Collective