In conversation with Aapo Nikkanen feat. Alex Bailey

be me - a collection of greentexts

be me – a collection of greentexts

The following conversation recollects the events of a semi-random evening six months ago. I had set up a meeting with Aapo Nikkanen, curious to hear more about his book project, which was still a work in progress back then. We had been talking about doing an interview for a good while already, yet the right context seemed to be missing. As we didn’t want the conversation to follow the obvious patterns of two friends having a chat, Aapo had suggested bringing in a third person, to play the role of a commentator. One day, I got a phone call from Aapo saying that a friend of his, Alex from London was in town, and would be the perfect person to do the job. The following day, I arrived to the meeting point, a carefully selected roundabout in Eastern Paris, with no set-up, just ready to press the record button on my phone. This three-hour recording, whose original version is way richer than written down here, extended to months of typing, deleting and typing. The book, be me – a collection of greentexts is ready and out there now. But first, let’s go back to the events of one sunny evening in May 2015.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Hey Mark, welcome to Paris! Is it your first time here?

Alex: First of all, my name is not Mark.

Sini: Oh, sorry!

Alex: It’s quite alright, and actually it’s funny that you call me Mark. It reminds me of a story, listen to this: once when I was in a bar and actually introduced myself as Mark, and the person said: Bark? And I thought, he either misheard me, or he actually thinks my name is the outer layer of a tree. Or, it was some kind of command: Bark! Haven’t seen this guy since. But I have to say, what concerns me a lot is the premise. It has to be established and clear right from the onset. The story will work, if the premise is in its place. What was the premise for you to do this interview? Does me being part of this conversation serve a specific purpose?

Sini: On my way here, there was a lot of things going through my mind: mostly, what kind of impact will your presence have on the conversation? Then I realized that I can’t have any prearranged plan since I didn’t know the first thing about you.

Aapo: I see you as the gonzo element: of not having the boring “same questions same answers” kind of thing, written in international art English.

Sini: Why did you want to invite Alex in particular?

Aapo: I just thought he was a suitable person.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Alex: And I was free and I was available: listen, pragmatism is nothing to be ashamed of! Before coming here, I was thinking about me and Aapo’s friendship, and what I came down to was basically is that I know things of a personal nature about him that he wouldn’t like me to tell. And vice versa. So there’s a sort of sensitive trust between us. I would also like to know why are we in this specific place. Do you come here often?

Aapo: I live down the street, so I pass by this place very often. When you’re in this roundabout it feels like you’re in a bubble: around it’s super busy all the time, but people come here to relax, they’re always chilling out here, drinking beer and smoking. This is a physical bubble. When everything around us is moving, there’s something very calming about it.

Sini: Do you have a hard time finding this kind of bubbles in Paris?

Aapo: I don’t think it has necessarily something to do with that. Since I got the funding for my book project, I realised I didn’t have any outside pressure on my work. However, there’s no ending to it in a proper sense: this project is not going to end up in an exhibition for instance. In this sense, I’m working in a bubble right now, without any stress – I could do this work and then just put in a drawer without ever showing it to anyone.

Alex: What kind of book proposal did you have?

Aapo: I’ve been collecting stories online since late 2010. Everything started when I found one really good one and wanted to make a work out of it, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with it – and decided to save the story for later. Then I started collecting more and more of those stories. I ended up having loads of them, and proposed to make a book based on these stories: a book which would also function as a tool of access to these stories, to make stories out of stories.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Where did you collect them?

Aapo: Almost all of them come from 4chan. For most of the people it’s a terrible site, it’s seen like the dumpster of the Internet with basically one million posts a day. When facing this crazy content, what people do, is when seeing even a mildly amusing story, they take a screen shot and post it on these image boards, like the ones where people post cat pictures, flows of visual data. And this is what I follow.

Sini: So there was already a sort of preselection?

Aapo: Exactly. Every half a year I deleted half of the stories, because there was too much of them for me to handle them, and to be honest, I’ve read thousands of really shitty stories at this point. However, I think they’re very poetic in a sense: the stories have developed their own literary genre, a statement-like internet expressionism.

Sini: What about the criterion when selecting the texts?

Aapo: Yes, I’ve spent many terrible hours when selecting them, so I had to come up with certain rules. For example, since they’re anonymous – and this is the most important thing – they should be stories that we want to believe in. And obviously we can never know if they’re true or not. With the best stories you think that they cannot possibly be true – but who knows?

Sini: How about your other ongoing work, does it somehow reflect the same themes as the book? I remember you talking something about crying instagram selfies…

Aapo: One day I saw one crying selfie online and was wondering what was it about. I noticed that this was a sort of trend: people trying to win their lost love back by posting crying selfies publicly on Facebook, which inspired me to start a collection of these images. There’s the same element present as with the stories: if the pic is good enough, you want to believe it to be true. However, for me this phenomenon represents a sociological problem that hasn’t been resolved yet.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Could you precise?

Aapo: Let’s say that if me and Alex would break up here, obviously it would be public in a way, since you and the people sitting at the bench over there would witness it. But it would never be a hyper public situation, since they would forget about it, and it would fade away. But when this happens online, it only takes one share and becomes a virtual act, and never disappears. This kind of posts are done by younger generation, people who have been familiar with Facebook all their lives, and it has thus become a normal act. In my view, there will be some social rules which will be generated on the Internet: this is already visible to certain extent for example with posts where people write content warning in the beginning, that people can hide or skip it. But this is only the first, awkward way of dealing with this.

Alex: Let’s say if we broke up here, those guys over there they wouldn’t necessarily come up here staring at my face, but online they wouldn’t necessarily press the hide button. What did you do with these images?

Aapo: I printed some of them on a thick plexiglass, perhaps half a size of an Ipad screen. The form resembles a little bit of a tombstone. By the way, I used to work for this company, who wanted to launch a virtual graveyard for rich people. My job was to translate all the content into Finnish, because they were aiming worldwide. So if you were rich enough, you had the option of buying yourself a virtual space and upload content there that people would remember you, and which could be unlocked by your children for instance. I don’t even know what happened to them afterwards: my guess is that the timing wasn’t right for them and they didn’t succeed.

Alex: You pick up cynical subject matters, do you? The work you do, can always go to both ways, either they can be super genial or pure cynicism.

Aapo: Not true. I’m actually doing a series of work on love as well, entitled What is love?, which started from a mixtape of hiphop lovesongs. I used to listen to a lot of hip hop in Finland, and when I moved abroad I had to leave all my vinyls there. Since I couldn’t bring them with me, I started to make huge playlists on iTunes. While listening to these hard core rappers, I realized that their best songs are often love songs, something that I find very beautiful: it gives an interesting vision to this very otherwise macho world. The same theme is also to be found in my book: amidst the homophobic, hateful and racist online stories found on 4chan, you can actually find a lot of love-related stories.

Courtesy of 4chan

Courtesy of 4chan

Greentext book
Amazon Aapo Nikkanen

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Uranium Shower – Max Hooper Schneider at High Art

Following the solo exhibition of Max Hooper Schneider at High Art, Anna Solal writes about Natural Theatre of Violent Succession.

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Painted in black, the Parisian gallery High Art welcomes the works – mostly sculptures in movement – of L.A. based artist Max Hooper Schneider. His baroque, disastrous dioramas are presented through a slot machine, an aquarium and a mundane dishwasher – commodities that essentially serve the purpose of making our life more comfortable and entertaining. Hooper Schneider, who often uses living leeches, beluga mussels or freshwater snails in his works, highlights here the creation of tropical and swampy settings, illuminated by chaotic multicolor fluorescent lights in the spirit of Jason Rhoades.

The environment is destroyed but not dead: whereas rotten bits and parts are swarming, the vegetation is growing and diversifying. When sliding a coin inside the slot machine, one might have the chance to meet a big gesticulating cockroach, reading us the future through its crystal ball. The work Cold War Dishwasher (Uranium Glass), a washing machine with an interior as black as night, is occupied by a colony of minuscule fish, still alive, whirling around fluorescent tableware, which sheds light on them. The cylindrical form of champagne glasses and lemon squeezer reminds us of domes – of toxically radiated, dismantled architecture. This familiar object – a washing machine – ends up resembling more of a small, pathetic bunker plunged into obscurity.

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art


Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

In the masterpiece Existenz which resembles the series Z, the vision of the future paradoxically confronts a return towards the archaic and muddy past, where technological mutations lead to game boys which take the shape of cyst. In the work of Max Hooper Schneider, prehistoric and repulsive insects proliferate: woodlouse, beetles, amphibians of every sort, construct their viscous installations.

In the middle of the exhibition space, we can find a small android coming alive, with its altered, dusty and metallic body. In contrast to a work of DIS, it is not an image print of Wall-E made in Pixar and suspended in a whiteness dominated by the language found in publicities, but more like a residue resulting from an experimentation, something extracted from the sticky floor. This unproductive and forgotten machine, blinks its eyes painfully, feeling dazed of finding itself here: visibly desiring to survive, whereas further away, suspicious sky blue liquid is running in a washbasin.

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art


Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

The abstract drawings suspended from chains differ from each other, whereas the meticulous character of pastel patterns is repeated: even though those with less geometry alludes to the works of the Swiss artist-healer Emma Kunz who interests in telepathy. This interest to mix the artistic practice together with scientific one, was initiated by Art & Technology program set up by LACMA at the end of the sixties. With another work of Max Hooper Schneider, shown at the Californian fair Paramount Ranch, however not present in this exhibition, the visitors could approach a pink coffin, whose interior revealed a recreated marine environment composed of turtles, fish and crayfish. The floor of these installations is burned, inundated but fertile. Between the mutant installations of Alisa Baremboym and the pop spirit of Michele Abeles, the artist spreads the idea that in the world, which is no longer populated by humans, life goes on.

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art


Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

High Art

FRANTI, FUORI! – Diego Marcon at Careof

Diego Marcon, Untitled (Head falling 05), 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

Diego Marcon, Untitled (Head falling 05), 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

When visiting Diego Marcon’s FRANTI, FUORI!, disquieting shades and shapes can already be discerned on the doorstep. When adjusting my gaze in the darkness, I get a feeling that this exhibition is neither in need of visitors, nor of their approving look. The world of cinema has borrowed its guise for the exhibition, where I can first distinguish a set of film projectors, standing aloof in the darkness, proposing an eternal loop. I realize there is no guided path provided in this exhibition, no anticipatory narrative present: the elements in the space are standing on their own, developing eventually into sculptural proposals.

Diego Marcon, FRANTI, FUORI!, exhibition view 2015. Photo: Edoardo Pasero. Courtesy the artist.

Diego Marcon, FRANTI, FUORI!, exhibition view 2015. Photo: Edoardo Pasero. Courtesy the artist.

Diego Marcon, FRANTI, FUORI!, exhibition view 2015. Photo: Alessandro Nassiri. Courtesy of the artist.

Diego Marcon, FRANTI, FUORI!, exhibition view 2015. Photo: Alessandro Nassiri. Courtesy of the artist.

Upon entering the space I can find a gnome statue, whose posture is something reminiscent of a crucifixion: surrender or a failure are inevitably the first things coming to my mind. Yet, this outdoor garden gnome, in its extra-large format, is not stealing the spotlight: it is placed in the darkness, as if in the background of the ongoing show. This obscure figure provides some key elements of this uncanny universe: having access to nooks and hidden motives, it becomes the manifestation of the unconsciousness, but also, of mistakes of nature – something apart.

Diego Marcon, Untitled (Head falling 01), 2015. Courtesy the artist.

Diego Marcon, Untitled (Head falling 01), 2015. Courtesy the artist.

Four films on loop, animations on ink and scratches on film, are projected on the surrounding walls. In Untitled– Head falling 01; 02; 04; 05 (2015) abstract, yet organic figures in movement appear: these animated portraits find themselves on the verge of falling asleep and subsequently, of waking up – over and over again. Loud noise fulfilling the space belongs to the fifth film, Untitled (All pigs must die): an extract from Winnie-the-Pooh film, suggesting once again a scene of falling asleep and waking up. The moment is lingering somewhere in between consciousness and unconsciousness: when awake, are we only able to reach fragments of real(ity)?

View of the installation, Careof, Milano, IT. Photo: Alessandro Nassiri. Courtesy the artist.

View of the installation, Careof, Milano, IT. Photo: Alessandro Nassiri. Courtesy the artist

View of the installation, Careof, Milano, IT. Photo: Edoardo Pasero. Courtesy of the artist.

View of the installation, Careof, Milano, IT – Photo: Edoardo Pasero. Courtesy of the artist

FRANTI, FUORI! results from a period of residency at Careof. When 7000 videos are at hand, the possibility for exhaustion seems plausible: images become worn and fatigue appears. The focus is turned towards the ontological idea of the archive: here, the artist doesn’t reveal their secrets, but rather, by embracing the mysterious and uncanny dimension of archives and using them as a backdrop, his work gives form to a new hidden element. The exhibition embodies a figure, or rather a feeling, which is detached, out of place, out of time.

Careof Diego Marcon

In conversation with Simon Denny

Simon Denny, The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom, 2014, Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Buchholz Berlin Cologne and Biennale de Lyon 2015 © Blaise Adilon

Simon Denny, The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom, 2014, Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Buchholz Berlin Cologne and Biennale de Lyon 2015 © Blaise Adilon

This year, Thierry Raspail, artistic director of the Biennale de Lyon, launched the new cycle of three biennials around the term “modern”. The show “La vie moderne”, curated by Ralph Rugoff, explores the contradictory character of contemporary culture in different regions of the world, addressing how diverse legacies of the “modern” era continue to structure and condition our understanding of everyday life. Recently I met Simon Denny, one of the artists invited to this edition: a discussion concerning privacy, material and immaterial values, theft and ownership in digital age followed.

Could you tell me about the works shown at La Biennale de Lyon?

Ralph Rugoff was very interested in a particular body of work of mine that I’ve been doing for a while now: The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom. The work follows a particular entrepreneur called Kim Schmitz, the founder of Megaupload who lives in New Zealand. After running into legal issues with his company, the U.S. government filed a lawsuit against him, which was followed by a very spectacular and unusual – at least in New Zealand – raid in 2012. The New Zealand police collaborated with the FBI, and flew down with helicopters and guns, busting out the guy’s door. After the raid, the police seized a whole bunch of his possessions: physical objects he owned and money he had access to from different bank accounts around the world.

I came across a list of the things that were seized in this raid, which represented an interesting account of things, such as sixty bank accounts around the world together with an art collection. The list of objects symbolized the whole gamut of questions around the figure and his company: what is Megaupload doing for privacy, what file sharing and copyright are about these days, how far the US can reach cross the world in terms of jurisdiction? For me, all this developed into an interesting proposition as a sculptural, curatorial idea: on the one hand it was a collection of a well-known entrepreneur, on the other hand it was a subcuration of the U.S legal department on the personal collection of Kim Dotcom. This formed an interesting group of questions to talk about in terms of an exhibition, reflecting the values of entrepreneurship and those associated to privacy.

Simon Denny, The Personal effects of Kim Dotcom : Predator Statue. Courtesy of the artist, Mumok, Wien and Biennale de Lyon 2015 © Blaise Adilon

Simon Denny, The Personal effects of Kim Dotcom : Predator Statue. Courtesy of the artist, Mumok, Wien and Biennale de Lyon 2015 © Blaise Adilon


When did you first start this group of work?

I’ve done it a number of times already, yet every time I’m working in different contexts, so it’s a sort of a constant remade. I showed it in Vienna for the first time in 2013, and then in museums in England and New Zealand – the work has already had a long life. What stays the same every time is the list of things, but the objects that are shown, change constantly. For every exhibition I get a different arrangement of objects, thus trying to sculpturally deal with the idea of transferring information – transferring things in different resolutions and different scales. Sometimes I’m able to bring in things that are very close to the original objects figuring on the list, like cars, and other times I get only models of them. I like to think of this approach as a kind of resolution: for instance, when you’re watching pirated films online, sometimes they’re super great HD, sometimes they’re super pixelated.

The overall theme given to La Biennale by Ralph Rugoff is La vie moderne. How did you approach this topic?

Ralph wanted to look at income disparities around Lyon, which is a big issue over there, and also to question the idea of access – access to information in particular – which is a kind of luxury that makes us modern. In my approach I wanted to emphasize those different points: the story of Kim Dotcom is really all about value. However, this work emphasizes differences in values, because there’s no way I could ever reproduce all of the items of Kim Dotcom, as they represent many millions of dollars. What is finally shown, are representations of these valuable group of objects – instead of money you get fake money, instead of real HD screens you get stand-in mockups. The work refers to discrepancies between those who have and those don’t have, and to the idea how certain business models filter the money into the hands of a few relevant. This is the approach that also makes sense for the theme of La Biennale.

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello


Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Michele Crosera

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Michele Crosera


What is the starting point for you when having to recontextualize and adapt the existing body of work?

As an artist, I conceive exhibitions by definition as local experiences: when you go to see an exhibition, you also visit the site and the building with its rooms. Also aspects such as political climate linked to the space matter: informing the viewer on how they see the piece. When working, I try to include some kind of acknowledgement of that. Obviously there are universal elements in exhibitions that are adopted as well, but at the end, work is always more powerful when it has some kind of relationship to where it is, and how it exists. La Biennale de Lyon gives a good example of having to adapt and react to the given context: by and large I was very impressed by the way the director of La Biennale was looking at the climate in Lyon, finding the most important things to focus on thematically.

You have a strong interest towards tech culture, how did it all start?

It’s been a life-long thing actually. I moved away from my hometown to Frankfurt in 2007, which was a big year for tech: smartphones, iPhones especially, were introduced. I had just recently got a laptop, so I was about to start having a different type of relationship with computers than before. Moreover, I had just moved to a new city, where I was lonely, missing my home and friends: I started to interact with the world through this object, and it felt like the world shrunk into this one machine, one screen. For my sculptural practice this was a very interesting experience – why was this object so important for me all of a sudden? What is this network that I’m engaged to, and what does it mean for my work and for my personal life?

Gradually, we started to witness a constant renewal of tech hardware: with all the updates and improvements, it became a symbol of obsolescence. As a sculptor, I found it very fascinating to enter this context, understanding its language and imagery. However, I wasn’t only interested in how tech looked and felt, but in the whole sphere surrounding it. I started to question the whole business surrounding tech: how companies have the power to make major decisions and produce myths, narrating a way of life.

Then I started going to tech conferences and looking into start-up companies, which had become a sort of pop phenomenon all of a sudden. I was observing the language they were using, and took specific examples of their management and branding strategies: I understood how they were producing contemporary culture, in a way that was somehow un-paralleled – the impact and the power they had was overwhelming, changing the way everything looked and felt. For an artist it is very inspiring to take a look at this world, because there is so much cultural information generated in that space.

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello


Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello

How did you observe the development of the local tech culture here in Berlin compared to that in the US, in Silicon Valley in particular?

There is definitely a certain eco-system here in Berlin embedded for start-ups, impacting strongly the way they evolve. I was asking myself about the factors that make Berlin such a tempting place to come here and launch a business. Then I realized that it is, at least partly, for the same reasons why artists move here. I started noticing more and more similarities between young start-up founders and me and my artistic peers. Founders of companies seem to be kind of symbols for their companies, embodying the values of their brands and their products. The same goes for artists: often they are expected to be a personification of their artistic practice, not to mention the idea of taking risks and doing something innovative – thinking outside the box. I found so many similarities in my own practice: I was an immigrant here taking risks with money, trying to make my way through. Finally, observing these tech companies and their narration allowed me to express my own story through it.

Do you see yourself as an immigrant here? You treated this theme also at Venice Biennale with your installation Secret Power at Marco Polo airport, incorporating the ideas of restriction and surveillance.

Obviously I’ve had a relatively easy time as an immigrant compared to some other people. Nevertheless, I’m still not a permanent resident: I have to renew my visa, prove my income, all these things I didn’t need to worry about in my home country. All these procedures have made me more aware of the political role that national identity and background are playing. An airport terminal is a great example of this, because there one has to go through all different types of procedures: searching, surveying, lining up – at the end it’s about proving one’s identity. At the same time, certain people have to undergo different procedures than the others because of their background.

Having the possibility to use the airport terminal was great, allowing me to interact with that space and thus evoke the idea of crossing borders with all the aforementioned aspects – sovereignty, space, privacy. In parallel to the airport terminal, my second installation, the one in the renaissance library, allowed me to talk about knowledge: how it is gathered and valued. The library has some of the best artists of our western canon: it is about making images, while looking at the allegories dealing with knowledge creation and its maintenance.

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash


Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash


You’ve been in Germany for a while now, how did you end up here in the first place?

I started my studies in arts at the university of Auckland in New Zealand. After my graduation, I was part of the young art scene in Auckland, making a lot of shows over there. A sort of turning point happened in 2007, when I met a German curator Nicolaus Schafhausen: that year he worked on the German pavilion at Venice Biennale with Isa Genzken, whose work I am a big fan of. Schafhausen was doing a lecture tour back then and happened to see some of my works in New Zealand, and we got along very well. At that point I was looking for possibilities to broaden my horizon, to leave my hometown and go study in another part of the world, and Schafhausen suggested Städelschule in Frankfurt. After my studies there I decided to move to Berlin, which was a kind of thing to do after art studies Frankfurt.

Last spring and summer must have been pretty intense periods for you, besides the pavilion at Venice Biennale you also had a solo show recently at MoMA PS1, The Innovator’s Dilemma. How did you experience all this? What about other forthcoming projects and shows?

There has definitely been a lot happening lately – it’s been crazy, exciting and stressful at the same time. I feel really lucky right now: having the possibility to do all these different projects. You know the feeling when you have all sort of crazy ideas in your mind, and you’re not sure whether it’s even possible to realize them – and this has been the case, which is amazing.

I’m working on an exhibition for the Serpentine Galleries at the end of November. The show will look at management practices, and how different companies – both larger organizations and smaller hacker amateur groups – innovate in terms of management. Management is a story that we tell not only to others, but also to ourselves: innovative management practices are the ways that organizations come together and build the dream. Looking at what those practices are and how they’ve changed over the years is something that I’m really interested in. For the show, I will take different examples of this by looking at management diagrams and organizational charts. Also smaller, hacker-like spaces fascinate me: for example, how a group like Anonymous comes together and how they organize themselves: it is about community building.

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash

I’m also very interested in architectural elements of those organizations – buildings where organizations reside and they’re imagined, with their massive and symbolic buildings. In December I’m invited to do a show at Hammer Museum, which is going to look, like the work in Lyon, at the changing nature of neighborhoods in Los Angeles. I was recently on the West Coast and noticed how Venice Beach, a traditional spot for artists and bohemians, has turned into the place to be for start-ups: some of the most iconic start-ups in LA, such as Snapchat, are at Venice Beach. What does creativity mean in LA and at Venice Beach at the moment? By and large, it will be about how all these elements brought together – strategies, identities and physical spaces – build the dream and the team behind it.

Simon Denny was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1982. He studied at the Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Frankfurt (2009) and at the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland (2004). Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at MUMOK, Vienna; Kunstverein Munich (2013); Aspen Art Museum, Colorado (2012); Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen (2011); Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Missouri; Halle für Kunst, Lüneburg and Artspace, Sydney (2010). His work has been presented in major survey exhibitions, including the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); 16th Biennale of Sydney (2008) and 1st Brussels Biennial (2008). He was the recipient of the Baloise Art Prize at Art Basel in 2012, and represents New Zealand at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. He lives and works in Berlin.

Biennale de Lyon

TRUST – Interview with Sonia Dermience

Nina Beier, Perfect Duty, 2014. Installation view Kunsthalle Bremen. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Nina Beier, Perfect Duty, 2014. Installation view Kunsthalle Bremen. Photo: Torben Eskerod

On August 29, the exhibition TRUST opened its doors on the occasion of Copenhagen Art Festival 2015. This joint exhibition gathers together five of Copenhagen’s biggest art venues (Den Frie Udstillingsbygning, Kunstforeningen GL STRAND, Kunsthal Charlottenburg, Nikolaj Kunsthal and Overgaden – Institut for Samtidskunst) together with several off-spaces. Through October 25, the works of 41 participating artists and a rich programme of poetic statements and performative experiments fill the cityscape of Copenhagen. During my recent stay in the city, I had the pleasure to meet Sonia Dermience, the curator behind the exhibition, who told me about this year’s edition, a megalomaniac show whose focus is on collaborative processes.

When did you start working on the exhibition? Involving Copenhagen’s five major art institutions together with 41 artists must have been a somewhat challenging project?

Everything started more than a year ago: in May 2014 me and two other curators got a request by the Copenhagen Art Festival to make a proposal for the event. Each of us were invited to stay here in Copenhagen for a few days to take a look at places and venues, to explore the city landscape, and then to make a proposal based on this experience. I sent mine around mid-July, and when I got selected I started working on the project in September. This was perfect timewise, leaving me one year to work on it.

Mikkel Carl: No Woman is an Island, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod.

Mikkel Carl: No Woman is an Island, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod.


Jessica Baxter: Do Not Feed The Artist. They Have Already Too Much To Digest, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Jessica Baxter: Do Not Feed The Artist. They Have Already Too Much To Digest, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod

What kind of proposal did you come up with in the first place?

The first concept I proposed has remained almost unchanged until the present day. After my first visit in Copenhagen I had this idea of working on five major kunsthalles of Copenhagen, and to add a layer of fiction on the overall project by renaming them. I guess that my proposal was completely megalomaniac – I wanted to use the whole city as a context for the exhibition. Especially this city, Copenhagen, has a strong aesthetics of a classical, occidental city with its palaces and churches – a city where you can find all the traditional places and symbols of power.

I wanted to approach the curatorial process through a historical and aesthetic reworking of the places. For example Nikolaj Kunsthal, a historical church, was rebaptized as The Temple. For me a church, or in this case, The Temple, stands for meditation, no matter what is the religious orientation. What is particularly interesting in this case is that the venue is located in a middle of a busy shopping district, leaving us two antagonistic activities: consumption and contemplation. For this space, I asked three collectives to work on these aspects, consumption and entertainment. When working on the history and the aesthetics of The Temple, I had several questions in my mind: what are our everyday collective rituals, new forms of cothinking and coproduction?

We Are The Painters. Threshold of Apparition, 2015. Installation view. Photo: Torben Eskerod

We Are The Painters. Threshold of Apparition, 2015. Installation view. Photo: Torben Eskerod


Good Times & Nocturnal News #3. Installation view. Photo: Torben Ekserod

Good Times & Nocturnal News #3. Installation view. Photo: Torben Ekserod

Overgaden Institut for Samtidskunst was named as The Exchange: in our capitalist society, the exchanged goods can also be immaterial ones – exchanging thoughts and gestures. This is the recreated identity of Overgaden Institut for Samtidskunst, which is a typical post-industrial factory-style warehouse that has been converted into an art center. For this particular place, the idea was to invite artists to collaborate together: to produce a piece together, which would develop into a collective show inside a collective show. When inviting artists I gave them some key words or some sort of a story in the beginning, a fictional basis. That’s to avoid too heavy, thematic shows where we are intended to talk about a specific topic.

Then there is The Salon (Kunstforeningen GL STRAND), which is the model image of a bourgeois house. In this exhibition, the idea is to enter in a house where the habitants don’t live anymore. What is left are the objects, a testimony of their past domestic life, which finally become the characters on the stage. There are seven rooms all in all, and for each of them I asked the artists to recreate something reminiscent of an artist studio: the visitor goes from one room to another, where you can find solo shows in a continuous series. It questions the idea of an artist studio today, and as we know, the image of this is quite nomadic today: it is more about the artist’s inner landscape.

The Palace (Kunsthal Charlottenburg) stands for the palace of culture: it’s relevant to our understanding on democratization of art. This idea derives from the royal palace: for example Louvre was the palace of the king before it was transformed into a museum. All these objects together aim to give an understanding of our surroundings, it is a sort of a curiosity cabinet, where our knowledge of the world is constructed through objects we see. Later, these palaces were opened to the public. For this kunsthalle, I requested artists particularly to work on this idea of collecting, which constitutes some sort of a repetitive pattern.

Ditte Gantriis, La Vida Loca, Body and soul, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Ditte Gantriis, La Vida Loca, Body and soul, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod


Nanna Debois Buhl, Botanizing on the Asphalt,2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Nanna Debois Buhl, Botanizing on the Asphalt,2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod

What about the title of the show?

In my first proposal I hadn’t changed the names of the places, but since the beginning I was looking for a way to link all the different venues together. I started to search for a connecting verb or a word, and finally I came up with Trust. The initial point was to make an institutional critique. For example, the idea that we’re not sure if we should trust the institutions today: most of the time when we go to see an exhibition at an art institution, we don’t know what to expect – this reflects the idea on trusting the institution and the location. What is interesting, is that the connotation of this verb is inherently positive, however implying immediately its negation: Trust – Don’t Trust.

Choice of particular words and their use play a major role in the construction of fiction. As a curator, if you do a deliberate show on a particular theme, it can easily be a straightforward demonstration against something and thus, get a political agenda. However, when working through a more poetic approach, it is easier to share the work between the curator and the artists. I give my personal reflection of the places – these places of power – and subsequently the artists have the freedom to do something else, not only by commenting.

Besides the classical venues the exhibition includes also several off-space locations, for example Torben Ribe’s installation in a pizzeria. Could you tell more about this?

By working on off-space locations, I wanted to approach the city landscape from a different point of view. In the beginning I wanted to work on generic places, for example on a parking lot or in a supermarket, and put them on the same level as the classical art institutions, the institutional places of power.

How familiar were you with the city beforehand?

It was very good that they asked me to come already in May last year to visit the city so I had the chance to take a look around before drafting my proposal. But of course in this kind of context you behave like a tourist, and accept the fact of not knowing all the small details and subtle differences. The city was like a postcard in the beginning for me, and actually, I somehow wanted to stay on that level, to follow the printed image of the postcard: what is generic here and how the city is represents occident, classical Europe. I wanted to do a proposition on this landscape, from my point of view as a tourist.

Vava Dudu, Le Poison, 2015 in Nørgaard Paa Strøget. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Vava Dudu, Le Poison, 2015 in Nørgaard Paa Strøget. Photo: Torben Eskerod


Torben Ribe, Untitled (Scrambled programme), 2015 in The Pizzeria. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Torben Ribe, Untitled (Scrambled programme), 2015 in The Pizzeria. Photo: Torben Eskerod

In 2012 you founded Komplot, where the focus is strongly on nomadic practices. I guess this background is also to be found in your proposal?

Totally, my personal curatorial practice is very nomadic. All the artists I invited to take part in the project couldn’t make it here, so they had to imagine the context and to rely on my storytelling of it. In the exhibition, we also have a lot of local artists, who obviously have a different kind of knowledge and sensibility towards the city. Here, also the idea of hospitality comes along: how do you welcome newcomers, how does a local artist position itself next to an artist coming from abroad? Along the way, some sort of a movement, a story emerged: most of the artists already knew each other beforehand and were invited to participate in the show in the very beginning, so they knew that they were taking part in something together. I see the role of the curator to create the context for the artists to work within, to give them a stimulus which they need to react to. Even with an existing piece, the artists should be able to project and imagine it in a new context, in a new framework. So all this process has been like a story, a play which has been shaping throughout the year. When starting something like this, you can never know what the outcome is.

Sofie Haesaets: Alignment. Photo: Torben Ekserod.

Sofie Haesaets: Alignment. Photo: Torben Ekserod.

Sonia Dermience (Belgium) founded Komplot in Brussels in 2002, a curatorial collective concerned with nomadic creative practices. Under the name of Catherine Vertige, she conducted extensive research into post ’68 collaborative art practices in Belgium with seminars and the two documentary films Sad In Country. In 2009 Komplot founded The Public School Brussels. Since 2010 Komplot is located in a converted warehouse dedicated to exhibitions, residencies and studios. Komplot published three issues of YEAR magazine between 2011 and 2013. Recently, Sonia Dermience re-initiated an individual curatorial practice with this exhibition, TRUST taking place in five kunsthals in Copenhagen.

Together with: Martin Erik Andersen (Denmark), Felicia Atkinson (France), Jakup Auce (Belgium), Elena Bajo (Spain), Jessica Baxter (Belgium), Nina Beier (Denmark), Maiken Bent (Denmark), Ellen Cantor (USA), Mikkel Carl (Denmark), Cel Crabeels (Belgium), Nanna Debois Buhl (Denmark), Vava Dudu (France), Sophie Dupont (Denmark), FOS (Denmark), Ditte Gantriis (Denmark), Sofie Haesaerts (Belgium), Steinar Haga Christensen (Norway), Maj Hasager (Denmark), Pernille Kapper Williams (Denmark), Ilja Karilampi (Sweden), A Kassen (Denmark), Seyran Kirmizitoprak (Belgium), Egle Kulbokaite (Sweden) Emmanuelle Lainé (France), Adriana Lara (Mexico), Jacopo Miliani (Italy), Cécile Noguès (France), Officin (Denmark), Carl Palm (Sweden), Douglas Park (UK), Angelo Plessas (Greece), Laure Prouvost (UK/France), Torben Ribe (Denmark), Ebbe Stub Wittrup (Denmark), Zin Taylor (Canada/Belgium), The After Lucy Experiment (Belgium), Harald Thys & Jos De Gruyter (Belgium), Benjamin Valenza (France/Switzerland), Loic Vanderstichelen & Jean-Paul Jacquet (Belgium), We Are The Painters (France), Atalay Yavuz (Turkey).

Copenhagen Art Festival 2015

Tableau by Rose Eken

Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard

Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard

In Copenhagen, V1 gallery is currently presenting a large-scale ceramic installation by the Danish artist Rose Eken, entitled Tableau. This work, on view through September 19, is the outcome of an extensive research based on Eken’s correspondence and dialogue conducted with other contemporary artists around the world. Tableau is the artist’s largest installation to date, comprising of hundreds of ceramic objects: brushes, buckets of paint, box cutters, clusters of books and magazines, half-finished cups of coffee, ghetto blasters, laptops, Iphones and other personal objects. Here you can find the imitation of John Copeland’s collection of vintage playboy magazines and old axe, Fryd Frydendahl’s Canon EOS D5 Camera or Wes Lang’s collection of wooden tobacco pipes.

Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard

Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard


Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard

Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard

Miniature ceramic models are dispersed in the exhibition space, suggesting a study on the universal artistic language and clichés. By operating from real live folders in order to create her own fictional story, Eken proposes a generic model of the artist studio. The objects and their symbolism brought together in the exhibition are very different in their forms: simultaneously, whereas wine bottles and cigarette butts unfold highly sentimental ideals regarding artist atelier, a more digitalised and updated version of the artistic figure manifests itself through MacBooks and iPhones. These observations help to understand transforming identities of artist, when the traditional craftsman-like idea of the artist image makes room for more scattered practises and identities.

Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard

Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard


Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard

Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard

With Tableau, Eken succeeds in mimicking a set of preapproved beliefs, while proposing a gaze into artistic banalities. The ceramic compositions in the exhibition are imbued with frivolity; yet their presence in a shared space and strangely precise arrangement place them within purely subjective associations. Eken’s correspondence-based research has not been conducted in order to document, but rather to assume the significance of encounters, at many different levels. This studio “replica” proposed by Eken puts forward the idea of the artist atelier often conceived as something mystical and almost sacred place, but also, referring to the almost religious ritual of studio visits. Artist studios are understood as highly intimate and personal places, yet they’re susceptible of the gaze of the outside world.

Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard

Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard


Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard

Courtesy of Rose Eken and V1 Gallery. Photo: Jan Soendergaard

Rose Eken was born in Denmark (1976) and graduated from the Royal College of Art in London in 2003. She received critical praise for her recent solo exhibition Remain In The Light at The Hole gallery in New York. Her first work from the “Tableau series” was acquired by ARoS museum of art in the summer of 2015. A new publication documenting the process and exhibition will be released to coincide with Tableau. Rose Eken would like to thank the following artists for inspiration and for sharing their studios: Michelle Grabner, Erwin Wurm, Søren Behncke, Joakim Ojanen, Ivan Andersen, Mikael Swaney, Richard Colman, Shane Bradford, Jonathan Meese, Eske Kath, Julie Nord, HuskMitNavn, Hartmut Stockter, Andreas Schulenburg, Kaspar Bonnén, Chloe Piene Studio, Maiken Bendt, Cecily Brown, John Copeland, Graham Dolphin, Alexander Tovborg, Morten Schelde, Michael Kvium, Wes Lang, Fryd Frydendahl, Hesselholdt & Mejlvang, Kristian Devantier, Erik Parker, Fischli & Weiss, Jackson Pollock and Joan Miró.

V1 gallery Rose Eken

Material Dreams – Jocelyn Villemont

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Scanned from the outermost reaches of the gallery space, Jocelyn Villemont’s solo exhibition Material Dreams at Chez Valentin, seems to blur the boundaries between a private cosmology and universal imagery, studied through the appropriation of domestic gadgets and antiseptic aesthetics. In the sterile brightness of the room I find myself confronted with familiar, banal objects: the commodities on display and their texture seem simultaneously highly artificial, yet I recognise their shapes and symbols, and my dependence vis-à-vis to them.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

With a closer look, the works on display reveal to delve into the proliferation of scattered images and the exhaustion with visual stimuli, their constant renaissance and recycling. This approach is closely linked to Villemont’s method: in his creative practice he uses quick execution processes, such as transfer, sticking, flocking, printing and sketching. In the gallery space, I can hear the steady hum of a washing machine, occupying the center of the floor: this work, entitled Nightstand (2015) suggests an ongoing, definite movement in the otherwise still atmosphere, proposing a study on the (re)cycle of images. The machine is surrounded by transparent, thus accessible surfaces, yet their horizontal stretches and positioning leaves a plastic, distant feeling.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

This installation is surrounded by a continuum of limpid forms and objects, allowing to get deeper in my quest for re-establishing the original experience and connection with images. On the left side of Nightstand, a series of detergent bottles, entitled Self-branded detergent (2015), can be found. I recognise their forms and subsequently their meaning: however, they are deprived of all-encompassing branding, when their white plastic surface is decorated with something reminiscent of DIY badges.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

The gallery space is enclosed by a series entitled Sleeping disorder dating from 2015: these pillows with fresh shades form a composition that rhythms the white gallery walls. Sleeping disorder proposes flat vortex images and symbols of common care, which I’m able to decode thanks to the mental guide in my mind. While these whirlpool images stand for a movement, stretch and twist, their linearity, energy and mass are flattened on fabrics, whose texture seems somehow to absorb the images. Next to these printed vertical flows, I can find rectangular shapes with images on detergents and linguistic symbols. When I continue to move my gaze on the gallery walls, I end up observing my distorted profile: this series entitled Masticated reality (2015), made of film mirror and chewing gum on dibond, unfolds the mood of distrust related to our cognitive sight, when facing the never-ending flow of images.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Villemont’s exhibition reveals to be a study on spatial and visual encoding, where personal zone and time interweaves with black holes. The established boundaries cease to exist within the white confines of the space: what to make of all the images and their constant production? Do they fade away gradually, or rather, do they form symbolic charts in our minds, thus ending up lingering in the imaginary beyond? Plain forms and colours seem to be sufficient for us to contextualise, yet we get confused, when all of a sudden the familiar 360 degree branding is missing. Material Dreams is about discerning the symbols we think as our narrative, both in public and private consciousness.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Jocelyn Villemont is a French artist and curator, born in 1986. He lives and works in Thorigny sur Marne, and is part of the artist duo It’s Our Playground together with Camille Le Houezec.

Material Dreams on view at Chez Valentin through June 20.

Joey Villemont It’s Our Playground Chez Valentin