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We Are All Synecdoches
by Himali Singh Soin

You are standing in a field looking at the stars. Your arms are resting freely at your side, and you see that the distant stars are not moving. Now start spinning. The stars are whirling around you and your arms are pulled away from your body. Why should your arms be pulled away when the stars are whirling? Why should they be dangling freely when the stars don't move? Local physical laws are determined by the large-scale structure of the universe.

Ernst Mach, Mach’s Principle


So here we are, algae in water, growing out of stillness and forming slippery connections everywhere. As we slither, rust, and our stomata breathes, we form mycelial nets, so that we, eukaryotes enclosed in membranes, are inextricably linked with the water, the rock, the air, the ether of every interface with which we exchange nutrients.

Let us then imagine that these membranes are neurological molecules of the mind: consciousness. We live the world in a complex web of neurons—synapses—transmitting signals across millions of meters in minutes. We and the world activate each other, forming cross-signals: axons of information and intuition brushing up against each other to form filaments of what we call “experience.”

The local and the universal host each other: we will see three variant instances in which this occurs across disciplines—language, music and the (pseudo)sciences—such that the parts of each piece necessarily create and are created by (or destroy and are destroyed by), the whole.




In Mr. Palomar, Italo Calvino divides the book into three sections, each containing three sub-parts which in turn contain three super-parts. This geometric structure begins to mimic the story itself: there are three entities that allow the story to exist. These are Mr. Palomar, the world, and consciousness. Calvino delineates the structure in the book’s index, in which the three sections function alternately as visual, anthropological and speculative narrative. But these definitions progressively blur until the world simply cannot exist without Mr. Palomar thinking it into being. When he thinks of death, he dies, and the story ends. Not only is the self dependent on the world, it impacts the world. The story’s mechanics also begin to mimic this: its super parts quickly make up its primary categories.

Oulipian writers such as Calvino were writing at a time when they could already foresee a systemic technology—the internet—overwhelming distinct experience. Thus, ironically, the novel’s mathematics do not flatten the “I,” but rather enhance its inherent delusion.



Bertrand Lamarche, contemporary artist and 2012 winner of the Marcel Duchamp Prize, describes, in his drawing Time-Travel Theory, the dissolution and resurrection of the self as it listens to music. The tension of the work itself lies in its schematic romanticism, its false rationality, and minimal anthropomorphism.

The progression of the piece is as follows:

You hear a piece of music for the first time.

You have the uncanny sensation that you’ve heard it before.

Your present self crashes into a past axis of time.

You feel unlike yourself, transformed.

But this state of metamorphosis is in constant flux. 

Even as you bump into the past and stumble upon the present, the future is upon you, and you begin spiraling toward it, looping over and over again. Your eternally recurring present changes the past.

The past is no longer the past.

All norms of time collapse, as do you. You fall. You spin about your own axis.

Then you recompose.

No longer linear, you look like a record.

A vinyl, except not concentric, but eccentric, unstable, de-centered. 

You feel as though you live outside of society.

Your inner life and the event of music, the emotion, or the melancholy it induces, creates an aberration in conventional protocol.

Bertrand Lamarche, Time Travel Theory, 2014, Pencil on paper, 146 x 42 cm


Like Mr. Palomar, who feels exterminated from the world, the “self” in this drawing, pivoting inextricably on the axis of time, is affected by an experience outside of it so much so that the self merges and becomes the music by which it has been transformed. Walter Pater described music as the highest form of art because its form is indistinguishable from its being. The self, upon listening to a piece of music, becomes the music.




Now, to extend the local to the galactic, then watch as the galactic collapses into a single point: does outer space exist because we do? How can we escape from the egocentricity that dawns from this perspective? Where there is no consciousness, is there anything at all? How do we know? Kenneth Goldsmith, in Uncreative Writing, describes knowledge in the digital age as tucked in code behind images. He makes an argument for the creator as perpetrator of crafting information from the world: “The thought of all that invisible language racing through the very air we breathe is overwhelming: television, terrestrial radio, shortwave, satellite radio, citizen band, text messages, wireless data, satellite television, and cell phone signals, to name but a few… I’ve transformed from a writer into an information manager, adept at the skills of replicating, organizing, mirroring, archiving, hoarding, storing, reprinting, bootlegging, plundering, and transferring.” In a sense, Goldsmith refers to scale, to bring the great out there here. 

The video below reflects the event horizon of knowledge itself and in doing so, interrogates lost archives. Utilizing an image capture of every black hole on Google’s search, the experience of outer space flies by in a whirl, simulated neons and imagined voids absorbing everything that is imposed upon us. The images we have of black holes are merely the face of the black hole, the event horizon, past which we have no knowledge. The black hole devours everything around it. A massive topology collapsed into a single node.


Himali Singh Soin, A Voiding A Paradox 


The speed and repetition with which the images disappear begins to mimic memory itself: how we put away moments, how we grasp the past, how it repeats and how, repeatedly, we loosen the webs that we forget to remember. As pieces of darkness with high gravitational pulls that seem to bend light and devour stars, black holes appear as monsters of the night. We experience this sensation, perhaps, in our everyday lives. Massacred ideas, hopes and dreams hanging on a horizon long-gone. Dead spaces in our minds when we have read too much, dark places in our hearts when we have loved too hard. Such is a black hole that arises from too much gravity: a nothing created from abundance, a conjunction that fragments a sentence, a truth seen via a lie. Knowledge lost by forming.




But there are holes everywhere. The great outer space, the whole world and our individual selves are carefully connected, yet there are points of missed contact, interrupted relations, fault lines. But these breakages also begin to look like us: an individual’s inner fault lines, a psychological disruption. The local and the spatial mutually create and destroy each other.

In order to write this, I deliberately chose the pronoun “we.” The self, no longer separate from the global, must address itself in a kind of simultaneity, a togetherness that bears responsibility for “our” actions, creating a very specific phase in time, the Anthropocene. Every step we take/make affects the global whole. Later, satellites will be seen as stars. We are not separate from space.


Himali Singh Soin


(Image at top: Earth selfie / Earthrise. Photo: NASA)

Posted by Himali Singh Soin on 5/6 | tags: black holes outer space local ArtSlant Editions editions Bertrand Lamarche Italo Calvino Mr Palomar

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Relocating Home: Sofia Maldonado in Conversation
by Nicole Rodríguez

This interview really began in November over lunch at a neighborhood cafeteria in the arts district of Santurce, Puerto Rico, where I had been unwittingly served freshly grilled iguana rather than my anticipated chicken breast. Sitting across from me was Puerto Rican muralist Sofia Maldonado, whom I had spent the late and muggy morning with at her temporary studio at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC). After a stroll through the museums’ galleries we had gone down the street to grab a bite and discuss her recent relocation back home to the island.

Sofia’s work has always been almost immediately recognizable as Caribbean—its undulating, entangled lines, bold graphic colors and vibrant portraits of local personalities are quickly identified by both Puerto Ricans and outsiders alike as steeped in this very specific culture. But for almost a decade now she had been living and working in New York City, with the occasional stint in Miami, L.A., or elsewhere abroad. Her trips home had been short and planned. Now, she’s returned for an indeterminate amount of time, set up a local studio, and started teaching at La Escuela de Artes Plásticas in San Juan.

Six months after beginning the conversation we picked up the topic again remotely while she was traveling in L.A. Having re-settled the artist talked about her anxieties about “returning home”—and her evolving notion of what it means to be local.


Yukali 2, Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72 in


Nicole Rodriguez: So, can you actually go "home"?

Sofia Maldonado: I moved back in November and I really felt disconnected from the scene. Although I had a really potent presence back in the days, after I relocated to New York things continued to change and you begin to naturally disconnect. Coming back is a question of re-integration and trying to become more present in order to re-engage, but also bring some of that perspective and experience back with you to share.

NR: What has been people’s reaction to you returning and beginning to work in San Juan again?

SM: When you are living and working between two places, people always expect you to pick up and leave soon. You get a lot of “When are you leaving?” questions. I guess you just have to make it official like I did through Instagram. [Laughs] 

NR: As a Puerto Rican—particularly a traveling artist and cultural producer—one is always caught startling lines, being a semi-local, only half involved in a conversation. How would you define local? What has that come to mean for you?

SM: It’s complex. We live on an island and are a colony, so we have this very strange colonial mentality. We are American but not. We are Puerto Rican but not. From my perspective as an artist there are many ways of being a local. There is the localization, sure, but it is entirely different to have a local mentality. 

Installation view: Into Gray, Magnan Metz Gallery, New York, 2013


NR: This is the pitfall you were most dreading in November. Losing an international perspective by being back on the island, more isolated.

SM: Yeah. What I did after living in the U.S. for some time is to plan to come back, set up a studio and teach at the University and try to open up a different dialogue that may not be occurring locally organically. In returning, I feel a sense of responsibility, particularly for the development of the mural. 

NR: How so? Muralism as a genre?

SM: Muralism, urban art. Call it whatever. Currently, there is a big local hype around the genre but I want to take the conversation to the other side of the spectrum and address a more responsible, more informed art and projects. Not everything in urban spaces needs to be a mural. It can take on many forms. This is why I titled my course "Platforms of Urban, Public and Community Art" with the idea of tracing these differences from murals to graphic interventions, public and community arts to even how to write a proposal—an element which is really missing in the education of artists in Puerto Rico.

Graphopoli, Urban Art Biennial, Puerto Rico, 2009

Installation view: On Painting, the Modern Art Atlantic Centre (CAAM), Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, 2013


NR: How is the class going?

SM: The budget is limiting. But we recently just opened up the class and did a Skype talk. That was a very new thing for [La Escuela de] Artes Plásticas. Incredibly interesting. My focus has been really on this educational component.

NR: How is it different to produce locally versus abroad?

SM: I feel like your local community is a great place to start ideas. It’s like a restart button. You can go there and in a very refreshing and comfortable place create a new body of work. Touch base. Give back. Go away. Come back. But contribute something. What people are able to experience in Puerto Rico is very limited. You aren’t going to be able to see international artists everyday. The museums cater largely to local artists. It’s up to us with a more international background to contribute ideas we’ve experienced and bring them back to the conversation. 

No future?, 2013, acrylic and urethane on canvas, 36 x 30 in


NR: Less chorus, more dialogue?

SM: To be clear there is a local dialogue. I’m not saying there is not. But it’s insular. Of course this happens everywhere. Here in L.A. right now I talk to people and people don’t really travel that far that often. It’s not like in New York or Berlin where you talk to people and they are always coming and going. “I’ve been here, I’ve been there.”

NR: But it’s different, right? If you are a local in L.A. you still have more opportunities to talk to different types of people passing through. Versus in P.R. no one is coming to you to give you ideas for free. You need to venture out.

SM: As an artist engages on a more international panorama you need to bring different influences back to the community. Juni [Figueroa] is a good example of this. He is based in Puerto Rico and always has been, but he has sought an international career that has placed both him and Puerto Rico on the contemporary art map simultaneously. By having this interaction with different scenes he becomes a bridge between a local and international community. And that helps the local ideas evolve. 

NR: As a cultural producer there is a major sense of responsibility and opportunity there.

SM: Exactly. If museums directors and curators don’t travel, don’t read, don’t have outside advisors the same content gets repeated over and over again and the conversation becomes almost a parody of itself, leaving a local community visually bankrupt. For me it was really refreshing to travel to Berlin and visit spaces like the Hamburger Bahnhof where I was able to see entire rooms dedicated to only one or two works. Fresh curatorial approaches that give way to different ways of experiencing. I felt instantly how much we needed this.

Caribbean Links II, 2013, Gouache on paper, 11 x 15 in


NR: Do you think there is room for this conversation in Puerto Rico?

SM: Artists like Juni [Figueroa], Chemi [Rosado], Bubu [Negrón] or myself—artists that are traveling all the time—often feel like they are not part of the local schema because the community might no longer understand where you are trying to go. So all of a sudden you don’t have space in your own country because institutions and patrons want to cater to just what’s happening there. This is an education problem. People seem comfortable with only a certain type of artwork and set of topics. Additionally, there aren’t many spaces to exhibit; there are only maybe two galleries that have an actual international dialogue and if you are none of those then you have to escape. And make your own path.

NR: Do you think the lack of outside references can kill local creativity?

SM: Definitely. Without any visual education or more involved global perspective you begin to make your own rules. The fear is that you become increasingly irrelevant to what is happening on the international arena.

Caribbean Links II, 2013, Gouache on paper, 11 x 15 in


NR: What is needed in order to make your own path?

SM: We need creatives with different mentalities. After six months I can say that I feel pretty comfortable and engaged in what’s happening on the island. Though I’m not rooted to the local discussion like I once was, I’m creating my own space. I think that’s important. And in the end that’s the nice thing about Puerto Rico. You have that possibility. So for the moment I’m creating projects, documenting, all with the idea of having it exported. I’m looking into giving a course at the University of Puerto Rico with a cycle of international conferences about the "public" and the "ephemeral"—a conversation that still does not exist here. I’m also pitching for a project in Caguas—actually I have a meeting with the Caguas city major coming up. My plan is to take an abandoned building before it gets remodeled and do a painting and installation project alongside a series of workshops touching on themes of the local economy and how prevalent abandoned buildings are on the island. This will be sometime this summer.

Puerto Rico is a studio for me—a project generator. So for now: to be continued. Let’s just wait and see.


Nicole Rodriguez 


(Image at the top: Installation view: Into Gray, Magnan Metz Gallery, New York, 2013)

Posted by Nicole Rodríguez on 5/6 | tags: graffiti/street-art ArtSlant Editions local Puerto Rico Puerto Rican artists islands art education

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Fashionable Feminism Is a Good Thing
by Philippa Snow

There is nothing like going to a trendy event to reinforce the realization that you are a pitiable crone. For those of you who have yet to have this epiphany: it will come. For those of you who have already had it—please, take this leaflet for my support group, and call the number on the reverse. Perhaps the bad back that I find myself troubled with nightly, hunched over and writing to an ever-present deadline, has come from the dizzying fall from fashionable club-kid Valhallah to the mostly-humdrum earthbound life of the arts editor. Perhaps it simply comes with old age. Either way, the reasons that I mention this are twofold: the first is that the launch for photographer Yasmine Akim's new feminist 'zine Vagina Dentata struck me as being a very hip event in and of itself; the second is because I have noticed that feminism in toto has become, in the last six months, another quite radical, of-the-moment party at which to be seen.

I suspect from having seen the publication that Akim has been a card-carrying feminist for some time, as have I. It's curious, though, to see the movement gain some traction with the bright young things, both online and offline. Feminism is a trend for 2015, and this development is not especially troubling to me. I am able to see the shortcomings of it—trends, by their definition, pass, and leave the things they have touched with an un-hip patina—but right now, I cannot object. I can object to the trendiness, in certain awful circles, of electro-swing; I can rail against the cronut. I am maddened by Normcore, and Health Goth left me positively snarling. That said, the fact that Beyonce Knowles performs in front of a backdrop which reads FEMINIST in lieu of doing the coy, not-a-feminist-because-I-like-men dance in all of her interviews feels like something. I see girls with underarm hair on the Topshop escalator. I note Cosmopolitan interviews with Taylor Swift—which, admittedly, I am unlikely ever to read—advertised with cover lines that scream: “I'M PROUD TO BE A FEMINIST!” A project like Vagina Dentata would always have existed: aside from its clear continuation of the authentic and historic cannon of feminist zine-making, it has real heart, a sense of soul, and—hallelujah!—an agenda that pushes intersectionality. But feminism's new cool may yet expand its audience, which is a good thing. I dream of Urban Outfitters selling pro-woman literature to our teens. For them, the novelty won't have worn off;  the battle is not yet exhausting.

Aside from the magazine itself, which describes itself as being comprised of “portraits taken of inspirational women that Yasmine Akim knows on a personal level...[as well as] written reflections on their lives and the freedom manifest within radical expression,” I should probably note that the opening also included an element which provoked a twinge in my own particular Good Feminist's Achilles' heel: a costume from a performance artist's work which was soaked in ersatz “menstrual blood.” Much to my own chagrin, I am not merely ambivalent about the process of menstruation—I actively loathe it. For me, it has always been an unbelievably painful experience, an emotional bore and, quite frankly, a pointless exercise given my lifelong and unwavering dislike of children. That I am able to speak so freely about such things on the indelible forum of the internet is, I am happy to recognize, a direct result of those advances which we have made in recognizing them as legitimate topics in recent years. That I am choosing to do so has possibly more to do with my current hormonal state. Still, we as a group are not a monolith—that's the very point of this publication, I suppose. Seeing fashionably-dressed 22-year-olds of either gender reading a 'zine about notable women with a title that alludes to both female genitalia and castration is a sight for sore eyes, either way. Long may our pop-stars and actresses—and our artists—bandy the f-word.


Philippa Snow


(All images:

Posted by Philippa Snow on 5/11 | tags: vagina dentata zines feminist magazines photography magazines feminism

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Notes from the Third Space: the 61st International Short Film Festival Oberhausen
by Guy Parker

The Oberhausen Short Film Festival, which hosted its 61st edition from April 30–May 5 this year, promotes the moving image's most essential and investigational format since its beginnings—and it feels like there’s never been a better time for the short film.

Without polemics or soap-boxing, but with much food for thought, a sense of what is happening in the world of short film today was woven into diverse screenings, talks, and special programs. Whether the festival’s works or thematic concerns were new or old, retrospective or cutting edge, the context and thinking in the overall curating was entirely seated in 2015. From avant-gardism in 70s London to 3D art films, artist-run film labs to Finnish video humor, here are the 2015 artist highlights and most interesting questions raised at Oberhausen.


Profiles: William Raban

Still from William Raban's 72-82 (2014) showing artist Jock McFadyen in his Acme house in the 1970s. Via Acme Studios


Screened as part as a profile of the UK filmmaker William Raban, 72-82 (2014) presents a collected chronicle of the all but lost history of avant-gardism in an entirely disappeared London.

Rather than an attempt at a definitive history this is an assemblage of spoken recollections and recovered ephemera from a selection of artists who, under the auspices of Acme Studios, were probing new ground in performance, sculpture, film and intervention in 1970s London. Through cooperation with sympathetic local councils they were given the chance to occupy large properties marked for future demolition. Participating artists provide voice over commentary run along side imagery of flyers, photos, and rare footage of actions and artworks filmed by Raban, who was a member of the collective.

From these fragments and memories the filmmaker very cleverly plots historical narratives, versions of events that focus on contemporary issues: housing, availability of property, artists and galleries interaction with wider communities, consumerism and broader attitudes to emerging art practice are issues are explored through the memories of the artists involved with Acme during the period—as are the veracity of their memories themselves.

Without heavy handedness, resisting for instance temptation to juxtapose the 1970s images of dilapidated, terrace rows of housing, clad in corrugated iron with before-and-after, present day images of their current state of gentrification, this is a historic appraisal of a bygone era entirely pertinent to today and now.

The film offers a view of a time in London when studios suitable for large works and sculptural projects were not only available but in such abundance and open to reinterpretation that they could be cut up, like chunks of sculptors alabaster. Works like Kerry Trengrove's Eight Day Passage (1977) explored a journey through the fabric of the buildings themselves, digging a 20-foot tunnel through the ground to escape a cell created in his studio. This was around the same time as Gordon Matta-Clark was doing the same in New York and Paris. There are, in fact, many parallels between the New York artists’ movement centered around Soho and the community centered around Acme in London.

Today digging down into the soil might be the only possibility of finding an inner city space to live and work for most artists. Raban's film holds back on the rose-tinted nostalgia but hulks of wrecked and leaking, slumland never looked so much like utopia.

For any seed-bomb flinging Hipster who thought Guerilla Gardening was something new, there are accounts of how the artists discovered and followed a community of people living in this highly run down area who were keeping livestock and growing vegetables in their back gardens, removing the fencing between them to create larger communal areas. The Acme area artists were interested in an art that engaged with neighbors and local communities, that critiqued consumerism at a time when it was less destructive and all encompassing than it is today.

With this type of practice now all but impossible in cities like London and New York this could be merely a nostalgic lament on the loss of a more open city. But ultimately that isn't the true nature of the story here. The coda is more optimistic: despite everything else, the type work the more progressive Acme artists championed—conceptual, performance, mixed media—has in subsequent decades been accepted as legitimate art practice. Their story is, if only in this regard, one of victory.


Theme: The Third Image—3D Cinema as Experiment

Chris Lavis/Maciek Szczerbowski, (Canada), Cochemare, 2013. Courtesy of 61st International Short Film Festival Oberhausen


Another prominent feature at Oberhausen this year was the series of talks and screenings presenting the emerging movement of artists working in 3D, seeking to redefine and populate the space between viewer and screen the way the sensational Hollywood mainstream has done so for years.

Due to monocular vision impairment, I’m not able to see 3D—but it's not everyday one witnesses the declaration of a new avant-garde even with one eye closed. The strength and potential of material was questioned as was the rigor of any declaration of intention or sense of a collective manifesto across participating artists.

Experimental 3D allows a re-evaluation of approaches that have been the backbone of avant-garde film and video, historically producing its canon of film and video makers. The technology that is driving this is—like film in the early 20th century or video in the 60s and early 70s—still at an early stage of it's development. The 3D work produced now may prove equally valuable as a gateway into further work bound to appear in Virtual and Augmented Reality, etc., not necessarily with the objective to further suspend disbelief but rather as a new means for exploring and interacting with the visual image.

That fact that there is no widely accepted language of Artists’ 3D available to create discourses around the work can be seen as frustrating—members of the discussion audience pressed for clearer explanations from the filmmakers. There seemed a general questioning of the caliber of some of the work; were they truly involving 3D in a methodology divergent from that employed by the mainstream? The suggestion was that Hollywood has never quite managed to capitalize on 3D and now technology has allowed the avant-garde to pick up the torch and unlock its potential—but has this really happened yet? 

The answer looks unclear, a kind of simultaneous yes/no/don't know. But isn't that how a fledgling avant-garde should look? Wouldn't too many answers suggest a territory already well trodden?

I think the frustrations and rifts caused by the 3D program at Oberhausen are completely in keeping with an emergent avant-garde and, as such, they should be embraced. If it could be explained to a comfortably seated film critic in a sentence, would it be bona-fide avant-gardism? However long it takes to become part of an officially recognized avant-garde tradition, what is certain is that it isn't going away anytime soon. I think the program will be looked back on as a great success and an important step towards integrating a new medium even if it has yet to manifest anything like itself as a cohesive movement or entirely convince audiences of its potential.


Podium: Artist-run Film Labs—Old Ties or New Concepts?

Esther Urlus, Konrad and Kurfürst (2013-2014), Screened by Lightcone


As with the 3D program some of the most interesting ideas and vivid impressions of Oberhausen 61 came from the post-screening discussions and a series of podium events that looked at topics relevant to short and experimental film and video today. 

A panel discussion on the practice and function of artist-run film labs, chaired by Vassily Bourikas, considered questions of contemporary requirements for film stock and what part artist-run labs can play in meeting them. Just what does a post-film, filmmaker environment look like today?

The imagery thrown out in the discussion was rich, varied, and not entirely pessimistic. The post-film film world is a terrain where industrial film equipment lays on the street, cast out by film labs for appropriation just as found footage and occasional short ends were 20 years ago. Now the experimenters are invited to take the lot—anything missing can be self-built using online how-to's. This is a time when a preference for the use of film is questioned as a fetish, as pandering to a fad, when the act of providing and running a 16mm film projector is considered a performance, when the archivists and arts curators keep the films of the old masters safe while technicians who maintained the equipment they were filmed and printed on disappear penniless into retirement, taking their knowledge and skills with them. 

And then of course the stock... the precious stock. Think of a 1980s straight to video post-apocalyptic movie where petrol, water, or munitions have become worth a hundredfold their weight in gold. In our imagined world raw film stock has run out and filmmakers battle for that final roll of 8mm Tri-X lost under the rubble of post-analogue wasteland.

An archivist on the panel confesses that Anthology Film Archives has 60,000 feet of Kodak print film cryogenically frozen in a vault somewhere under NYC and somebody in the audience boasts of owning the last K40 Super 8 cartridges known to humanity. It begins to feel reminiscent of a YouTube survivalist prepper’s how-to video.

One of the panel, the remarkable Ester Urlus, has been home brewing film emulsion and rolling out her own film stock. Her advice is simple yet inspirational: get or make a film coating machine and start making your own. Her Konrad and Kurfürst (2013-2014) was in evidence at the festival as part of distributor Lightcone's screening and it demonstrates how, by reviving the approaches of film's pioneers, its future is returning to the hands of its true innovators.

Apparently increasing numbers of projects are being made and submitted to festivals on film. Is this a true revival or, as suggested, a form of fetishization? Might film’s imminent extinction provide the attraction: a sense of one last chance to shoot on film before the stuff runs out and the cameras stop whirring? Just as the art dealer assigns value to the dead artist, do artists have a penchant for dead-media?

Still referred to as Celluloid, a material not used in cinematic film since the mid 20th century, perhaps there has always been a bit of nostalgia inherent in film, and yet the strongest ideas to come from the discussion are entirely progressive. Rather than resurrecting analog vs. digital dichotomies, collaboration and sharing resources are essential. The future of artists film lies in its embracing of various digital media, utilizing them to help keep film around and keep it contemporary.


Profile: Erkka Nissinen

Erkka Nissinen (Finland/Netherlands), Vantaa, 2008. Courtesy 61st International Short Film Festival Oberhausen


In an environment of such doubtful certainty what could be more reassuring than the world of total and absolute uncertainty—a place where philosophical theory and psychoanalysis play ping-pong with a wonderful world of daftness? Welcome to the lurid empire of Erkka Nissinen, an enigma from central Finland. If you're looking for a man capable of bravery and sacrifice for his art, who refuses to have his optimism cured, forget about Herzog throwing himself onto cacti or Chris Burden being shot in the arm! Nissinen demonstrates his commitment by hobbling around on his knees screaming for yogurt in Vantaa (2008), coming onto a panda in Night School (2007), or in Rigid Regime (2012) boldly running the risk of offending countless double (or triple) amputees.

His films play with themselves, so to speak. Self reflexively, they question framing, editing, and sound with structural approaches and tropes, constantly reminding the audience of their own artifice.

And then there is the humor. In the UK, where no artist or performer is handed the title of creative genius more freely than the comedian, it is said that great comedic talent always comes with a good dose of insanity. I don't think Nissinen is insane (I met him, he seems okay) but he does understand how to utilize completely bonkers  humor to strip away at cozy concepts like normality, reality, and the self. Beneath them we discover mad staring men with bad glue-on beards and wigs lecturing monotonously in otherwise empty rooms. 

At one of the late screenings I was the only one watching the International premiere of Paul Sharits’ 3D-Movie (1975) without wearing anaglyphic glasses. I enjoyed Sharits’ vibrant color swarms and accumulated resolution but envied the crowd as they gasped at the exhilaration of plunging into the filmic third dimension, silently cursing the impotence of my right eyeball. But then, a thought: is mine a unique perspective here? Does this qualify me as being a leading practitioner in a new sub-cultural trend: artists’ 3D film viewed in 2D? Non-stereoscopic readings of 3D art films? After four days at Oberhausen, anything seems possible.


Guy Parker


(Image at top: Santiago Caicedo, (France), Come Coco, 2006, Courtesy 61st International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Theme: The Third Image—3D Cinema as Experiment)

Posted by Guy Parker on 5/19 | tags: 3D film stock short film 61st International Short Film Festival Oberhausen analogue film Film festivals erkka nissinen william raban avant-garde

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Made-Up with Danny Volk: S1E14 with Amber Ginsburg
by The ArtSlant Team

Danny Volk talks to artists in their studios about life and art—while they do his make-up. This concept was a new one for us, and, unsurprisingly, it produces some unique moments: see artists like Theaster Gates, Pope.L, and Jessica Stockholder working in their studios as you've never seen them before. 

Revisit Season 1 as we anticipate the all-new Made-Up Season 2, to be released this Spring on ArtSlant.

This week: "Made up... of what?" asks performance artist Amber Ginsburg, as she ruminates on the origins of cosmetics and decides to use an altogether different material for Danny's makeover. 



More About Made-Up With Danny Volk 

Made-Up is created and hosted by Danny Volk. Volk was born in 1979 in Akron, OH and currently lives and works in Chicago, IL. Volk got his MFA in Visual Art from the University of Chicago in 2014, and his BA in Theater Studies at Kent State University in 2006.

Produced by | Danny Volk and Stephanie Anne Harris Trevor

Cameras | Bryce Peppers, Valia O'Donnell

Technical consultant | Ben Chandler

"Comic Strip" by Serge Gainsbourg remixed by DJ Flashcookie

Posted by The ArtSlant Team on 5/23 | tags: made-up with danny volk made-up w/danny volk

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Tuttling: Art as Pervasive as Nature
by S V Kim

Before I saw the Fabric Workshop’s massive undertaking with Richard Tuttle, I had visited Pace Gallery’s collaboration with the artist at Frieze New York. The presentation was unique but puzzling, with all walls painted a mud brown and petite drawings trotting serially along the wall. While intrigued, I found the overall effect dubious. Both/And at the Fabric Workshop is not only an elaboration, but perhaps the closest thing to a visual manifesto one can reach in Tuttle’s opaque work, a context by which one could decipher his artistic vocabulary.

 Richard Tuttle, GREEN, No. 6 (cause) from the series Purple, 2001. Portfolio of seven aquatints printed in colors on Somerset textured soft white paper; in a portfolio designed by the artist; foil-stamped lettering on the front cover; issued with a title page designed by the artist. Sheet: 21 3⁄8 x 20 5⁄8 inches (54.3 x 52.3 cm). Edition of 15. Published by Crown Point Press, San Francisco. Collection of the artist. 


Both/And is an overpowering excerpt of Tuttle’s aesthetic world, and the Fabric Workshop’s ample room allows the artist to exploit his omnivorous play with medium to realize his poetic architecture. Covering four floors of the museum and both annex spaces, the exhibition shares many works with his 2014 shows at the Whitechapel Gallery and Bowdoin College, but this show weaves them into a cohesive narrative. There are some debuts, too, such as Extraordinary, a work comprising twin kimonos, of which 20 each were fabricated with masculine and feminine designs distinguished by the orientation of the bar pattern on the kimono.

Richard Tuttle, Walking on Air, C10, 2009. Cotton with Rit dyes, grommets, and thread, in two horizontal panels. 23 x 123 in. Coleccion Juan Carlos Verme. 


The main building houses mostly sculptural works, while the annex rooms highlight lesser-known prints. The show eschews a clear chronological timeline, dictating each floor plan with visual motifs, progressions, and contrasts. Delicate shadow sculptures inhabit the bottom floor while garment pieces rest in a pristine facsimile of a boutique. Another floor emanates domesticity, including abstracted meals affixed to cardboard dishes on the wall. Arranging the works according to their material qualities activates more naturalistic relationships between the objects and their environments, and therefore, with the viewer.

Allegedly Tuttle has said that each work functions whether on a wall or on the floor, and the objects here freely challenge planar and scale norms of presentation. The most extreme and most successful example is perhaps the Fiction Fish (1992). Almost swallowed by the freestanding wall, the work comprises of a minuscule roll of ribbons, a cardboard box disguised as an incidental promontory, and a graphite line hovering a few centimeters from the floor. In it, Tuttle unites multiple media (architecture, drawing, sculpture, textile), monochrome with color, titanic with minutiae.


Richard Tuttle, Looking for the Map 8, 2013–14. Fabric, wood, armature wire, Foamcore, paint, push pins, and straight pins. Courtesy Jacqueline Soffer, Nominee


The printed work galleries explicate the relationship between aestheticism and space further, with rooms dubbed “The Silver Room” and “The Gold Room” for example. A gesture bordering on grandiosity, these named rooms feature raised paneling painted to match their titles, and staggered layered tables borrowed from Dr. Seuss illustrations. With its commitment to aesthetic experimentation and freestyle curation, the show felt not as much an übermensch search for the total art, but rather a utopian declaration of what art could be and how it could function in our everyday. Indeed, the annex spaces would not feel out of place of a contemporary "concept store," and the vibrant textiles that populate Tuttle’s oeuvre invite more feminine, or perhaps androgynous associations.

Richard Tuttle, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Extraordinary (M HC1), 2015, Hand-sewn yukata with obi, chusen- dyed cotton and silk. Yukata: 61 x 54 inches (154.9 x 137.2 cm); obi: 3.9 x 157.5 inches (10 cm x 4 m). Edition of 20. Collection of The Fabric Workshop and Museum. Photo credit: Patrick J.F. Smith. 


If Both/And falls short, it does so with irony. The singularity of the show borders on hermetic, and at points, the procession of work seems redundant without access to more detailed process, historical context, or anecdote. Although every work corresponds to a poem written by Tuttle, included in the reading material, the choice is akin to explaining metaphors in metaphors, and will undoubtedly madden a more pragmatic visitor. If there are any lasting lessons, however, it's that Tuttle seems to desire an art as pervasive as nature—and nature offers no explanation.


S V Kim


(Image at the top: Richard Tuttle, Fiction Fish I, 7, 1992, Graphite and ribbon on cardboard and graphite line, 5 x 4 1/2 x 1 1⁄8 inches, excluding line. Collection of Craig Robins, Miami)

Posted by S V Kim on 5/24 | tags: sculpture abstract Fabric Workshop and Museum textile prints

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Made-Up with Danny Volk: S1E15 with Theaster Gates
by The ArtSlant Team

Danny Volk talks to artists in their studios about life and art—while they do his make-up. This concept was a new one for us, and, unsurprisingly, it produces some unique moments: see artists like Theaster Gates, Pope.L, and Jessica Stockholder working in their studios as you've never seen them before. 

In this week's season 1 finale: "I'm learning a lot about myself right now." Turns out Theaster Gates is a natural at make up application. He also tells Danny about being a university professor, polluting the minds of young folk, and how there's a natural crossover between all the projects he does. 



More About Made-Up With Danny Volk 

Made-Up is created and hosted by Danny Volk. Volk was born in 1979 in Akron, OH and currently lives and works in Chicago, IL. Volk got his MFA in Visual Art from the University of Chicago in 2014, and his BA in Theater Studies at Kent State University in 2006.

Produced by | Danny Volk and Stephanie Anne Harris Trevor

Cameras | Bryce Peppers, Valia O'Donnell

Technical consultant | Ben Chandler

"Comic Strip" by Serge Gainsbourg remixed by DJ Flashcookie

Posted by The ArtSlant Team on 5/28 | tags: video-art studio visits Artist Interviews makeover made-up with danny volk made-up w/danny volk

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This Is Not a Music Video: A Video Art Playlist
by Edo Dijksterhuis

“Video killed the radio star,” The Buggles sang in 1979. The song brims with nostalgic longing for a simpler, low-tech era that was more authentic and wholesome. Two years later MTV was launched, the first television network to non-stop broadcast music videos. With a self-congratulating sense of irony the programmers selected “Video Killed the Radio Star” as the first clip to be shown. The event may not have marked the actual death of the radio star but it did introduce a new reality in pop music: since then the visuals have become at least as important as the tunes themselves. Visual artists were early adaptors of video, with a two-decade head start on musicians, but the tremendous, worldwide impact of MTV—and later other music stations such as Music Box and TMF—has not bypassed them.

Music has influenced video art in a big way. But here are ten works to illustrate that the combination of music and video does not necessarily result in a music video.


Pipilotti Rist: Sip my Ocean (1996)



Pipilotti Rist came to video art in the early days of MTV. Almost naturally her work relates to and criticizes the visual language of commercial music television, especially where the depiction of women is concerned. In the hilarious I’m Not The Girl Who Misses Much (1986) the bare-breasted artist jumps up and down like a marionette, endlessly repeating the first line of the John Lennon-hit “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” The tape slows down turning Rist into a slurring zombie only to speed up again to chipmunk level. In the end Rist spins completely out of control. I’m Not The Girl Who Misses Much marked Rist’s breakthrough, but it was another work incorporating pop music that became her best-known work by far. In Sip My Ocean (1996) Rist covers Chris Isaac’s melancholy ballad “Wicked Game.” Onscreen she moves like a comely bikini-clad mermaid through an underwater world where household items like coffee cups and hand mirrors float around freely. At first Rist’s performance is a bit shaky, not exactly pitch-perfect but rather serious nonetheless. After three minutes, however, her voice jumps to a breathlessly high octave. In the background she’s heard screaming angrily, almost hysterically: “I don’t want to fall in love!”


Anri Sala: Le Clash (2010), Tlatelolco Clash (2011)


Anri Sala - Le Clash (2010)


“Should I Stay or Should I Go” is supposedly inspired by the stormy romance between Mick Jones, singer of The Clash, and actress/singer Ellen Foley, but Jones has always denied this. It didn’t keep the single from the 1982 album Combat Rock from becoming a punk rock evergreen. Once you’ve heard it, you’ll never forget the simple but effective and extremely hummable chorus. Anri Sala first used the song for Le Clash. It is performed by three barrel organs circling a notorious but now defunct punk venue in Bordeaux, where The Clash did a concert in the early nineties, long after Jones had decided he should go and left the band. A year later Sala repeated the act on the Square of Three Cultures, an abandoned cultural center in Mexico City. In Tlatelolco Clash nine barrel organs debate the question of staying or going, each being handfed perforated sheets of music. The different organs, with their own tone and operated at varying speeds, play a musical game of tag. The song becomes a patchwork.


Cecile B. Evans: Hyperlinks or It Didn’t Happen (2014)


Trailer: Cecile B. Evans: Hyperlinks or It Didn't Happen from DIS Magazine on Vimeo.


In this video by the emerging Belgian-American talent Cecile B. Evans, a poorly rendered CGI version of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman—PHIL in short—introduces us to some inhabitants of the digital world. He interviews a spambot about its relationship with an app-based celebrity, an invisible woman, and a YouTube contributor who hasn’t left his house in ages because of agoraphobia. PHIL considers himself an example of bad programming, doomed to live beyond death, consistently outperformed by the characters in A Most Wanted Man or The Master but with infinite staying power nonetheless. Fittingly the work ends with an elf-like manga girl dancing to “Forever Young” by Alphaville. The plastic sentimentality of the 1984 synth-pop icon underlines the deep irony of the work in a way “Forever Young” (1979) by Bob Dylan—which was used in the promotion of Apple’s iMovie—never could.


Ed Atkins: Ribbons (2014)


Excerpt from Ribbons

Music plays an important role in Ed Atkins' work. In an interview with ArtSlant he called it “the most emotionally manipulative force in the world” and therefore one of cinema’s most important ingredients for facilitating identification with characters and tying the narrative together. In Ribbons, as in many other Atkins works, the story is rather fragmented. Dave, the half-naked, baldheaded and tattooed hooligan who is Atkins’ digital alter ego, sits at a table chain-smoking and slugging pint after pint of lager. He interrupts his elliptic monologue from time to time to fart or burst out in song—all performed by Atkins himself, who is quite an accomplished singer. He sings Randy Newman’s bleak romantic ballad “I Think it’s Going to Rain” (1968) and Henry Purcell’s drinking song “’Tis Women Makes Us Love” (1685). But the musical highlight of this work is Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Erbarme Dich” (1727). Hearing the most beautiful aria from the “St Matthew Passion,” in which the singer asks God to have mercy because of his tears, come out of the mouth of a sentimental avatar makes one question to what extent suffering, guilt, and regret are real in the digital domain.


Marc Bijl: The Good Things (2004) zeigt Marc Bijls Video: GOOD THINGS from on Vimeo


Marc Bijl is enfant terrible, political activist, and iconoclast rolled into one. He targets, even attacks, the power structures underlying mass society. A year after the 9/11 attacks he spray-painted the word “terror” on the columns of the Fridericianum museum in Kassel, Germany. In a gallery he sold bricks with the Nike slogan “Just do it,” inciting buyers to go out and loot. And his fake edition of the art magazine Flash Art questioned the art market and its rules. Bijl’s style is heavily influenced by the dark aesthetics of doomy New Wave from the eighties. In The Good Things he covers the 1982 Sisters of Mercy classic with his own band Götterdämmerung. The lyrics are shown as graffiti in dilapidated parts of Rotterdam, filmed right after the landslide victory of populist anti-Muslim politician Pim Fortuyn in that city. Fortuyn was murdered one year later and Götterdämmerung stopped performing a couple of years back, but Bijl is still producing subversive art.


Hito Steyerl: How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational MOV.File (2013)


Excerpt from How Not to Be Seen with track from The Three Degrees (at 57 seconds)

In what is possibly her best work till now Hito Steyerl sums up ways to make yourself invisible in our present-day surveillance society: be a woman over fifty, make yourself smaller than a single pixel, camouflage yourself with green paint and chroma-key yourself into transparency. The film crew scurrying around the targets for aerial photography calibration in the California dessert succeed in dissolving. And then silliness reminiscent of the inspirational Monty Python sketch “How Not To Be Seen” abounds. Light green see-through mummies and burqa-shaped characters boogie down. At the center of it all is a fuzzy, almost disintegrating rendering of Philly Soul-trio The Three Degrees singing their 1974 hit When Will I See You Again. In a recent ArtSlant interview Steyerl spoke about her use of music and admitted to being “a child of disco.”


Dina Danish: Chaliff Dance (2007)



In Couch Swimming, a hilarious take on the Airbnb phenomenon, Dina Danish alternates between breaststroke and backstroke—on an upholstered two-seater. In Competing With a Computerized Tongue-Twister she struggles with impossible phrases and loses to the machine. And Live from the Aquarium, for which she was nominated for the Volkskrant Beeldende Kunst Prijs 2015, shows a family outing being commented on as if it were a tennis match. Danish is an absurdist with a knack for minimalism; the term neo-dada comes to mind. It’s thus only logical that when she did her version of a music video, Chaliff Dance, she choose “Da Da Da” (1982) by Trio. This tongue in cheek “contemporary love song”—the refrain: “Du liebst mich nicht, I liebst dich nicht” (You don’t love me, I don’t love you)—is the ultimate in deadpan Casio-pop. In split screen Danish and a friend called Farley hop, shuffle, and kick to the song, first following his lead, later performing her version. It’s a wonderful physical dialogue between two dancers who are alone with just the music.


Cristina Lucas: Abstraction Licking (2014)


Cristina Lucas, Abstraction Licking, 2013, Video still, 6′ 34″. Via Auto Body


Historical references form the basis of Cristina Lucas’s work but the way they are substantiated differs from work to work. To the wild (2011) is very cinematographic, showing the arrest and expulsion of Teresa Heredia from colonial Caracas when she revolted against the Spaniards in 1816. From the Sky Down (2013) looks like a sinister videogame, pinpointing places that have been bombarded through history. Abstraction Licking is of a lighter tone. Lucas presents a Mondrian-like grid as the stage for a pole-dancing performance set to the breakbeat of Aphex Twin’s 1999 hit single “Window Licker”—a title referring to a prostitute’s clientele. Of course, here it’s not a red light district employee but one of the masters of modernism who is being ogled and fondled. The video ends with the grid sagging into a diagonal position, an absolute no-no in the world of Mondrian, who fell out with fellow De Stijl-member Theo van Doesburg for not limiting himself to strict horizontals and verticals.



Rineke Dijkstra: The Buzz Club, Liverpool, UK/Mystery World, Zaandam, NL (1996–97)



The Buzz Club is Rineke Dijkstra’s first official video work. Before this she was exclusively working in photography, portraying skinny teenagers in baggy swimwear on cold beaches and oddly vulnerable bullfighters. When photographing in Liverpool in 1994 she wanted to visit the locally famous nightclub Cream but couldn’t get in and got directed to The Buzz Club. It turned out to be a typical working class venue, where boys lay about in tracksuits and girls arrive with painted faces and fancy dresses. Dijkstra was fascinated and returned two years later. The artist had collaborated before with video artist VJ Gerald van der Kaap and decided to capture the atmosphere of the club by focusing on individuals at the exit dancing to the acid house beats. In 2010 she repeated the procedure at The Krazyhouse: same candid mixture of self-awareness and showmanship, slightly different beats and costumes.


Micha Klein: Shoom (1988)



A golden oldie from one of the pioneers of computer art. Klein started seriously experimenting with digital manipulation of images when as a student he landed a job at a photo lab boasting a Quantel Paintbox, which in the early eighties was an extremely expensive computer graphics workstation. Back then, in the budding house scene of Amsterdam, Klein was popular as a DJ and VJ, and music quickly found its way into his work. The photographic works that made him famous are full of long-legged beauties, smileys, animated pills and other house paraphernalia. He graduated from the Rietveld Academy in 1989 with a 16-minute animation supported by a rudimentary acid track. Shoom, which was later acquired by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, came even before that.


Edo Dijksterhuis


(Image at top: Screengrab from Micha Klein, Shoom, 1988)

Posted by Edo Dijksterhuis on 6/1 | tags: digital video-art pipilotti rist music videos music marc bijl. anri sala Hito Steyerl ed atkins micha klein dina danish rineke dijkstra cecile b evans Cristina Lucas

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