The Reality of Psychic Chemistry-Untitled Two humans, tape loops Alexandra Baybutt & David Somlo

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Full moon in Leo apparently, drizzle, misty windows. The room is small, harsh unforgiving light, lit like an office, packed with curious visitors, some armed with cameras, waiting for the moment. But no sooner does the performer begin than a strange phenomenon takes place. Space dilates, background details dilute, time dissipates and atmosphere almost materialises. This effect is not unknown to me owing to the performer, Alexandra Baybutt accompanied by sound designer David Somlo on this occasion.

I recall the long painful ascent of a mythological beast, some leviathan creature had escaped out of the pervasive imagination of the fantastical horror fiction writer HP Lovecraft. She, wrapped in white layers as if prepared for burial, dragged a cacophony of metal debris behind her, the wake of a decaying civilisation, but also perhaps the by-product of a banal miscalculation. This was in Lisbon on steps worn down by centuries of feet walking up and down day after day above the city that once had vanished in only a few minutes (Part of a Mnemonic City event at Roundabout art space). Had it not been so well recorded, this story would have become another Atlantean legend.

The sense of presence stretching beyond the application of physical laws yet embodying a state of being closer to the idea of a chthonic god and a telluric force pushing against the grain of digital fatal perfection are intrinsic to the manner in which this performer engages with her narrative. I cannot tell whether this is a representation of human emotion or an expression of cultural theory. It is neither in fact, rather more. Yes, there is thought inside this motion, but the motion itself is the substance though which thought emerges and oscillates between consciousness and unconsciousness. We are witnessing a deeply private search, a journey inside the mind of the performer as she marries the sonic waves of an unmelodious tune to the fabric of space. The eeriness of the music takes shape in the intricate manipulation of movement as she evolves and regresses within the confines she dictates by virtue of her entanglement with the musical strings. This music is not there to tell a story. It merges with the air yet leaves a lingering sensation of a past hinged on the tip of a tongue about to utter the name of something that continues to evade us. She, the estranged automaton, the mythical somnambulist, leads our gaze to places that are not of this world, invisible walls, doors, windows, corridors, stairways, ceilings, invisible objects, a world that exists only when we are not really looking, when the eye turns inwards, locked in reverie. Yet it is not ‘virtual’, it is real. It is the reality of psychic chemistry.

Before us, an event took place, it invoked the high drama of Greek tragedy, the Dionysian joy of dance, the numinous melancholia of the soul as it enters the valley where shadows gain mass, but also the sensual allegories portrayed by Hindu gods, Kali, Shiva, Ganesh, Brahma, Shakti, all of whom compete for the supremacy over the stage of the great theatre of existence. Can a single human form contain the human condition without falling into the sentimental clichés so dear to contemporary drama and choreography? Yes, if the act derives from the abandonment of morality, conventional dualism or institutional dogma. An act that is almost a sacrifice of ego whereby the wholeness we seek in the other is integrated into the moment where inspiration and expiration fuse into one element. Everyone followed her trajectory. She reached the pane of glass, seeming to enter into a mimetic dialogue with her reflection while faces drew closer from the other side. Such is the frontier separating us from ourselves. And there ended her course as silence enveloped us.

 

 

The performance was part of John in a cage

23-24 January 2016-Chalton Gallery, London
with Alexandra Baybutt & David Somlo, Patrick Coyle, Richard Melkonian, David Price, Sara Rodrigues and Himali Singh Soin
John Cage (1912-1992) was a composer, philosopher, musical theorist as well as a great collector and eater of mushrooms. Pioneer of aleatory and electronic music, master of randomness, poet par excellence and inventor of nothing, Cage

John is not dead. Silence (we don’t want to say anything about Cage).
The exhibition introduces a series of performances, the display of works, and the reading of oblique strategies in the spirit of Brian Eno. Sauteed mushrooms will be served alongside a soundscape created by the interaction of the audience with radios located throughout the gallery.
Further details of the exhibition schedule will be provided, though chance will be present. Curated by Helena Lugo and Cristina Ramos.

 

 

 

Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2016

 

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Calvin Russel, a Sad Anniversary

 

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Some years ago, I was asked to write a small article about Calvin. The idea was to put his outstanding work on show in a London gallery somewhere East . We were invited to see examples of the artist’s output and interview him in a modest council flat. I became aware of the dire situation in which this person was somehow still managing to create; a remarkable fit of perseverance and dedication that nevertheless are the attributes of the renegade artist in the megapolis whose enzymes break each one of us down as we get sucked into its inhuman digestive system. There was a humble Promethean giant sharing precious time in view of finally exhibiting the fruit of his imagination. But time did not wait for him. We met several times each time failing to secure a date, to ascertain a plan. Something always got in the way, and to this day, I am not sure what it was. A bad traffic jam, walls pushed in, boxes falling, a slippery floor, a bad habit gone out of hand…Sophocles had written of such contre-temps in his tragedies. I once stood in his studio and wondered why it was so incredibly narrow. He had not been so present, involved in an intimate battle with a medusa invading his body, poisoning his organs one by one. New tenants had arrived and to his dismay had pushed the partitions to make room for their sofa. They sat comfortably staring blankly at a coal fire. It was as if he was already gone, as if the city was counting him out, no longer a potential productive agent, listed as expendable. The space that was live suddenly turned into a negative, a premonition of death. This was no longer a studio; it was a tomb, a ruin, desecrated by absolute carelessness and recklessness, a man’s life squeezed out of time and space by the parasite of predatory machination. I knew where I was. I saw pictures of his life leaking out of torn cardboard containers, tools covered in dust, parts of sculptures he never finished, broken vessels, plaster of Paris that had set inside the bags, rusty wire, working clothe that lay like bodies frozen by rigor mortis. But I believed we could help him. Life ‘s branches grew so fast, my path was ripped away from his in what seemed like a lightening flash. The gallery vanished in a past that hovers in my mind like a mythical beast, and as such, it fades with the slow rising sun. One day, in a superstore, Calvin appeared again. We recognised each other and promised to call and meet. Later, while on a residency in Florence, one of the artists suddenly dropped the news. One is never prepared for it. I don’t know why I still have his number; as if expecting to hear his gentle voice at the other end.

Our world has changed indeed for better and for worse. Death is no longer a last ironic chance for the anonymous artist to enter history, the only chance other humans have to witness the product of their quest and thus be nourished, touched and elevated by it. Instead, his or her life’s work will be thrown in the skip next to old pans and broken bricks. A passer by will notice the pans. Far from the “maddening crowd” the vestiges of a lost art will be buried below mountains of refuse. Yes, it happened before, to the work of Sappho that became useful to the commoner as wrapping paper for rubbish, or Vincent Van Gogh’s, whose work was used to block holes or for target practice, not to mention the countless manuscripts burnt on the pyres of erroneous morality; the list is long. But those who took the time to save what they regarded as a phenomenon of beauty, acts of divine inspiration emerging through the imperfect filter of humanity, have been bought or brought down to their knees. We have entered a brand spanking new Dark Age, an age of cultural genocide and a kind of underhand iconoclastic policy hitting artists at the root of their creativity. Yet, this obstacle like all ontological obstacles mirrors the profound search for the sacred in the depth of institutional morbidity. How can we not celebrate such a moment where out of a shadow, still beyond our reach, the crest of a wave begins to glow with pearls of fire? Nothing is lost for those who move with timelessness, a small word by comparison to Life.

 

Calvin , born in 1964 passed away on the 13th January 2014

 

 

Below is the article.

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Work of a clandestine Interventionist

 

Calvin Russel is an artist, arriving on the scene in the early 1990s while remaining backstage unlike his most famous contemporaries whose names have appeared in art history books in their own life time, such as the members of the 1980’s YBA group, most of whom blessed with less than half his talent, now leading the main stream art circuit. Calvin’s work surprises you head on with a raw sense of classical aesthetics and an acerbic sense of humour.

The greatest part of his childhood and early youth was spent in Scotland and Spain. On his return to UK from the latter in 1992, Calvin entered a private art school in Kennington boasting the largest sculpture department and the only one offering figurative art in England. This would be the foundation of a passion for a beauty of form prevalent in his work throughout.

After passing his diploma, Calvin began a long intermittent carrier in the art of props for companies, shops, theatres and so forth. He had after all studied theatre—design–before embarking on a sculpture course. Some of his commissions include making large hands for BT, a Swan for Elton John, eight large fibre glass golden figures for Leicester Square Odeon…still there now in 2013, guarding each side of the screen. Around 1994, Calvin started exhibiting, principally in Spain. Back in England, unable to attract attention on the gallery trail, Calvin continued working in model making, and was commissioned a life size horse for kids, by the Grand National, to get their photos taken.

Most often, he had plenty of time to hide in the studio elaborating ideas and materialising them. Many drawings are not only preparatory sketches but fully developed works. Calvin speaks of his love of Baroque sculpture, which he describes as incomparable and impossible to surpass. Some of the most renown being Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St Theresa (1647–1652) and Pierre Paul Puget’s Perseus and Andromeda, (1715), Musée du Louvre for example, or less known such as Mercurius, in the Amsterdam town hall by Artus Quellinus, or the Apostle Thomas, San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome by Pierre Le Gros, all oozing one particular common trait, human drama in suspended motion. But we also detect a more ancient history, excavated from the ruins of Greece and Ancient Egypt, a Hellenistic curve, a contour defined by a kind of sensual purity. A prelude to Baroque, this vision was exalted in the work of Michelangelo during the Renaissance, The Pietà (1498–1499). Yet, although Calvin’ s obsession for moving limbs, for rhythm and for the kind of anatomical veracity one finds in Bernini’s refined figures, it never detracts from the visceral narrative. There is a latent force at work distending the idea, reforming the traditional figure, transforming the expected into the unpredicted by combining the vision of an old master with the intervention of an artist fully aware of his technological urban heritage in the 2d millennium. The work fluctuates between increasingly intellectual and conceptual notions and the beauty of form. We can admire the comparison in two pieces: Heroin and Maze head. In the former, legs are interlaced into one quasi-intestinal figure the feet of which are perfect feminine objects designed for a fetishist. This Calvin tells us is Life, how beautiful life can be before heroin, the title referring to what happens later, once we have been affected by the merciless drug. In the latter, a Symbolist type of sculpture reminiscent of Dada art, Maze head, springs from a darker more distorted perception; the hole in the head being the starting point and the hole in the heart, being the end point, the traveling ball joining the two opposed worlds of the human psyche. Calvin admits the work took on a more sinister undertone after being diagnosed with cancer triggered by the constant inhalation of resin particles eight years ago. His production, which had been prolific, diminished severely. The work began to reflect the breaking down process Calvin was subjected to during his illness and the subsequent harrowing chemotherapy treatment. Cage Head is undoubtedly representative of this new period. It is sculpted and painted. He conceived it then, at the onset of the illness. The head still awaits the key, which will reside in the centre of the cage. “We all have the key inside our heads, inside the layers and facades and the cages we put around us” Calvin explains.

In another striking piece, Fallen, the figure carries old and new scars. It is supposedly an angel but “gone the other way” and therefore no longer an angel. Calvin talks of “the violence put upon you but also outside of you”. “It is not the devil because it’s a fallen angel…it’s not bad to fall”. The piece embodies the contradiction between the violence of matter and an absolute abandonment of the soul.

In 1992, as Calvin completed his studies, the idea came to him to bypass the ordinary gallery show route and use the element of surprise by directly intervening into the set modes with his work of art, a definite art guerrilla display. This was not entirely new as a concept. The trend had begun with Situationism deriving its impulse from the Dada, Surrealists and Lettrists in the early half of the 20th century. The main point was to engender a live critique of a stagnant institution by realising an idea in the public sphere outside of conventional channels. This was meant to challenge the status quo, principally the art structure based on increasing censorship and commercialism. The Situationists pledged to transform the social landscape by involving the audience in the art. It was an effort at interaction rather than obscurantism. The aim was to create a platform for everyone to join in, so as to make the individual members of the public aware of their potential as free beings and as artists, most importantly to turn the passive audience into an active participant. They hoped to ignite a creative revolt.The Situationists therefore wanted a different kind of revolution: they wanted the imagination, not a group of men, to seize power, and poetry and art to be made by all” (Demanding the impossible, A history of Anarchism, Peter Marshall, 1992). This was to develop into a more recent movement still active now, although integrated in the digestive system of the art market, Urban Interventionism acting in the social sphere as a performative agent of cultural dissent. It is not only supposed to question the existing art promoted by mainstream galleries but to involve the public in the critique. However, many interventions have become works of art in themselves and although addressing political or environmental issues as with the work of Krzysztof Wodiczko with Hiroshima Projection, 1999 or Christo and Jeanne-Claude with the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin, the interventionists have slowly become incorporated in the very system they criticised.

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Calvin Russel was not making a social comment. He, as many very talented artists, had been kept out of the circuit and basically ignored despite and most probably because of the depth and pathos of his work. There was a practical solution. He decided to implement it. The pirate show was set to take place in Tate Britain. Five years after his initial thought, in the last days of January 1997, Calvin entered the Tate, smuggling his sculpture, Iron Man in his coat while carrying “a cunning folding display plinth disguised as an easel” as it was described in The Express Sunday on February 2d. One newspaper reported: “Security men at the Tate not only missed a 13-inch tall brass nickel sculpture but also failed to spot the plinth which he erected when their backs were turned. Shortly afterwards, a friend brought in a display case and the Iron Man was revealed with a sign that the work had been donated by the artist.” Calvin explained his friend had carried the Perspex case like a shoulder bag. Another friend was set to photograph the event. This was a masterly plan executed with bravado and panache, like the stylish “First Great train Robbery”. Calvin said he was banned from the museum, “but at least, I can now say I have exhibited at the Tate”. A few months later, in May of the same year, he organised a second art intervention on Cork Street, exhibiting the work on the pavement, under the noses of the established venues. For quite sometime his real ambition had been to place a giant version of his Iron Man on the empty plinth in front of the national Gallery. He had already made the 8-foot sculpture out of resin and fiberglass. Ironically, shortly after finding the crane and a willing operator, news came up that the plinth, which had been unoccupied for eight years was to be adorned with temporary sculptures. This dissuaded him, regretfully. But where was he to put his big Iron Man? Calvin proceeded to buy a trailer and transport the sculpture to Spain with a purpose. This was a kind of artistic pilgrimage where Calvin exhibited Iron Man in front of known cultural buildings and monuments such as the Eiffel tower and the cathedral of Barcelona, Sagrada Família amongst others and filmed it. A shopkeeper loved the piece and bought it. Iron Man now bleached and scorched by salt and sun still stands proud staring at the Mediterranean Sea.

Note: Unfortunately, most records of Calvin’s work have eluded me. If anyone still possesses images of his work, please send these to me and I will gladly add them here.

I dedicate this review to all of the great anonymous artists who make this world the beautiful creation it should be. Without art from the depth of the soul, life is not life anymore.

Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2016

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Fragments of May by Maria Pia Fanigliulo – A cinematic Adaptation of a story Planet Trillaphon as it stands in relation to the Bad Thing by David Foster Wallace

Fragments of May

Something waits in the back of our mind, a moment where all rules snap and bridges rupture. Most of us keep this disaster at bay. We keep our body the right way up, and life goes on. But May has left the planet. We listen to her monotonous voice recounting, ana-chronologically, the events that seem to have provoked an irreversible departure …from the norm.

We are introduced to a mundane interior, yet the psychology of this character (May) infiltrates every scene, and those who cross her path. These people exist, in each of us; we know this, we have a gut reaction, we want to look away, we remember certain details in our own backyard, on the shelf, in the corner of a friend’s bedroom…we recognise the ‘symptoms’, the unlucky charm of melancholia. Regarding the latter term, the presence of the terrestrial orb looming too near the edge of the stratosphere inevitably hints at the eponymous movie by Lars Van Triers.

Yet, whereas Von Triers concentrates on the accentuated irrationality of isolated figures who appear to have lost all sense of proportion and bare no relation to ‘circumstantial emotion’, drowning their interpretation in a swamp of symbols mostly derived from western religious culture, Fanigliulo circumnavigates the mind of her subject from the inside out with no specific reference other than the context in which May evolves, wonders, loses herself, drags her lover with her into perdition. We get an inkling of her ‘previous life’ on Earth, this being approached throughout the film, suggesting May is in exile de facto, although we are uncertain whether this was the result of a sentence passed or the result of a personal decision, or both for that matter. We are put in an unstable position by a series of confusing clues that indicate the uncomfortable traces of a pivotal incident. But even the ending does not really clarify the full outcome of what happened, because the nature of the event is never explained, nor should it be. The revelation resides less in the conclusion than in the progression of the character’s situation and state of mind. In a way, we as viewers, accept, by witnessing it, this passage into a form of universal annihilation in the guise of a contemporary pretty girl letting weird habits take her over what society estimates as a reasonable margin of behaviour.

Spaces are defined through her eyes. We encounter nature although it is impregnated with tears; we walk through the streets filled with people although walls and gutter collide leaving no space for human life. We often follow her, yet we feel someone else is there, behind her, an invisible stalker obstructing the motion of her limbs. There is a past, but it is inaccessible, and she proves to become a terrible mystery to the person closest to her. This indeed is the land of depression filled with anxiety, unforgiving, unpredictable and pervasive. But it is never that simple and rather than illustrating the ailment through cliché propaganda promoting the infallibility of medical diagnosis itself covering a latent collective moral condemnation of the ‘patient’, the director attempts and mostly succeeds in evoking the organic disarray of a self at odds with a life increasingly alien to it.

The character shifts between a worldly position and a spectral solitude. On the other hand, a detail keeps jumping out, jolting our memory, pulling strings that open and shut contradictory possibilities; a scar on her cheek. This acts as a sort of leitmotiv, occasionally giving the impression of a resolution, but deliberately failing to save the viewer from cinematic indulgence and convenient certainty. Slowly, we are also driven to the edge, right up to the bath tub, and all wish to see this as a merciful ending, away from the sinister denouement of Repulsion by Roman Polanski, far from the bathroom horror of Jacob’s Ladder by   Adrian Lyne, erasing the thought of Cindy Sherman’s lugubrious post murder images such as Untitled (#153), hoping to evade Marcel Duchamp’s nightmarish vision, (Given: 1. The Waterfall /2. The Illuminating Gas), and unable to forget the seductive corpse in Stanley Kubrick’s The shining.

It is then we also become aware the lighting has affected our viewing, not only the drama, the characterisation, the music, or the script. We have accustomed ourselves to the cool bloodless light of a shattered soul; the atmosphere has been drained of sunlight.

Despite planet earth orbiting this land that could be equated to Dante’s Purgatorio, a blurred reflection of urbanised existence, instilling an aura of supernaturalism, Maria Pia Fanigliulo contains the fantastical element within the fragile shell of our own illusory reality. It infers the hypothetical parallelism of a dimension perceived or suffered, ignored or embraced depending on factors that evade scrutiny and defy empirical analysis, factors also influencing the neurological enigma of our species. Where is May? Is she a ghost? Is she trapped in the remains of her memories? Is she the only one alive, henceforth suffering…or in her dead body, retracing her steps through thwarted emotional cues? Is her boyfriend real? Is he an alter ego? Are they two halves of the same being torn apart as once in the Garden of Eden? Was she ever alive? Is Earth the dark side of planet Trillaphon or the opposite? More questions pour in.

The character grows on us like a rumour, for she is not a scream or a statement. She is a metaphor haunting the back of our mind, a form of sadness the origins of which have not found a translation in language, taking form and collapsing before our very eyes, an anima fallen from a grace that was nothing but the suspension of disbelief or a belief in everlasting suspension.

It reminded me of long dark winters back then, and like the protagonist of the story by David Foster Wallace, I too was dispatched voluntarily to Planet Trillaphon, his anagram for the drug Tofranil, in place of the drug Phenelzine he was prescribed in the last years. The images that came to my mind, as elegant psychiatrists probed my introverted spirit, were unpalatable to them, and seemed to induce an implosive panic attack that ironically shortened their consultations, to my great satisfaction. I understand the writer and recall the sense of a broken skeleton held only by thin threads that could snap any time a stray word hit the side of my mind although mine was a silent trip in the art of explorative self-destruction. His reference to Sylvia Plath is poignant and the film echoes the burdened inhabitants of the planet he lives on, since his narrative springs from his own experience, a sense of suffocation and imponderable weight, like being asphyxiated in your mother’s womb.

The director cleverly switches characters and modifies certain details while still keeping the coherence of the story. But I almost wished, after reading the text that May had remained male because of a persisting prejudice continuously rearing its ugly head: ‘the hysteric woman’ syndrome. We recall for example Betty Blue by Jean-Jacques Beineix, or Frances by Graeme Clifford or the Piano Teacher by Michael Haneke. We are still besieged by pre-conceptions and misrepresentations of women and mental illness. This movie despite and because of its relevance, its sensitivity to the subject and its raw depiction of the illness of depression may fuel the fire by highlighting the condition under the sign of Venus. There were other patients of course of mixed genders and backgrounds, but May is the one we will remember, and she seemed, contrary to David, lost beyond hope. Yet, life on this planet reveals what Pia shows after all, choosing electricity as a means to an end, perhaps pointing to the electroshock so called therapy David received, rendering any following chemical treatment totally ineffective, thus opening the way for a drastic and irrevocable solution.

It should be seen again.

Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2015

(hashtag #FragmentsofMay)

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About the ‘Real’ in ‘Portraiture’ Rembrandt van Rijn and the observer

(Translated from the French version by Pascal Ancel Ancel Bartholdi)

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“Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, knew from the outset, with a sublime compromise, how to fuse the entirety of their personality with the flesh of their subject sitting before them, how to animate it with their passion while it resembled others, to glorify their dreams or their sadness. This, I cannot do, I want to be true, like Flaubert, tearing truth from the all, to place myself in the hands of shadows and lights….a decisive moment of all presence in the world”

I was speaking about Rembrandt, and the blossoming of his thoughts came as naturally as the vision of his canvases. I noticed the chaos of which the surface of his paintings are impregnated; this quasi pathological chaos, this topographical tumult reflects the spirit agitating the deeper sense the image is made of. Yet, here is not the seat of a pervasive pre-science or transience , in fact, the sense in sensorial terms, rather than sensual in this case, represents a real dimension where the artist has invoked the psychic reality of the subject. By psychic, I mean it is a journey leading us through a particular psychology to submerge us within subterranean layers, such as the languid rivers of Hades instead of a hazy spring on the banks of a fictional paradise. The art of painting is also the art of evocation that defies descriptive analysis. How does one eye decompose what is already composed?
He unmasks, he mangles, he carves, he manipulates, he dismantles, and turns the rules of the game on their heads, a game by the bias of which we make passive conclusions, accessible, easy to absorb. These conclusions are of an ‘anaphilosophic’ nature, they simplify our understanding by reflecting the surface of the (art) object in an elegant and amiable manner. On this flat expanse of primary assimilation, we spread the theoretical lawns that only guide us towards a trivial satisfaction of the art.

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But Rembrandt attacks the surface and by his physical impulse erases the code of the surface, so disarmed are we as we face what manifests itself like a storm, a tempest. Rembrandt, while we loose our footing as the waters rise, incapable to decipher the data, dissolves in the elements, as the subject begins to form in the depths. This depth that is nothing but our own imagination where Rembrandt has fomented a sort of rebellion, a countdown, as we invert ourselves, reversing history, what we believe we know. He paints, but more. Those who watch him and watch him in the act of painting, who unveil him as he abandons himself to their gaze are the artists of their testament.
Rembrandt’s portraits live beyond him, having never been buried in his social or artistic persona. In place of vulgar publicity, his portraits ironically imprinted themselves on the canvas of time, not as a heritage but as a living memory, the souvenir borne out of each subject, leaving Rembrandt alone, a witness waiting for news in the margin of the collective unconscious. He does not fix so much as liberates. Perhaps does he hope, in freeing Psyche, to find the erotic universe contained in some of his youthful works although his later paintings became infused with Apollonian ambiguity. What he kept for himself was a sublime ugliness, for he loved being seduced by Leviathan whom he exhorted from a lair of mercury to fathom this monster through a form of incestuous copulation, his soul ruptured and soldered at once in this embrace divine and visceral.

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I found many texts on the Philosopher Henry Maldiney who analysed a predecessor, the Suisse psychiatrist Binswanger himself an innovator in the domain of existential psychology. He once wrote: “ Madness is a human possibility without which we would not be what we are (…) the essence of the sick man resides in the ‘potential being’ of presence. The term “Daseinsanalyse” of analysis of the presence marks out the manner in which Binswanger reflects on this presence of oneself to oneself in relation to the other, which is the condition of mutual comprehension, which, according to him means a partaking, an exchange of worlds between individuals, in this case, the patient and the doctor, although this could describe a relation between artist and subject…”In der welt sein” presence in and before the world of Heidegger, implying a mutual and quintessential resonance while retaining a differentiation without which this resonance would not be sustained and nourished. Maldiney continues by affirming how the apparition and the discernment of this presence within the human realm is “primarily an analysis of the spatial and temporal structures of existence” understood as “ space and time are the articulatory forms of existence”. In this new context, unwinding the perspective of the visionary portraitist Rembrandt undoubtedly was, gains a more pertinent significance. He anointed himself as doctor of personalities, below the scalpel of his counter-colour, chiaroscuro used like a surgical retractor. He lived, in the instant of painting, the life of he/she whom he looked into from all possible angles, as in a vortex where forms are dislocated, thus absorbing a meaning beyond language, beyond the intellect.

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There is no political motivation, no didactic intention, it is neither a cultural movement nor a promotional exercise, at least no longer, after his youthful years of apprenticeship, after the adventure of romantic tones, of the foreshortening mannerist experiments, of satirical dramas, or of the celestial momentum of the Baroque era. He denudes himself, and there in the obscurity of the moralising ignorance of his time , Rembrandt creates a silence where the voices of shadows impregnated with weight emerge in a light he carves like Rodin, as if instead of a brush, he had held a mallet and a chisel, that light, so vivid, so warm, gold extracted from raw stone, that flows in its entirety into the impenetrable pool of the darkness of space. That space, we can no longer doubt it, breathes profoundly between sleep and wakefulness. In his paint brush, flesh lives and awaits incarnation, and blood flows inside his quasi monochromatic colour. He commits a Eucharistic act as he invents a skin in which his subject is slowly incorporated, thus insinuating itself in the chemistry of his ‘mettre en visage’, bringing the face into realisation.

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To come back to the “potential being of presence”, (quasi existence), the existential lunacy of the human mind, Rembrandt does not help us. He is not a philosopher, or at least, not in the linguistic sense. His philosophy manifests itself through depth and form. In the rotunda of their alchemical conjunction, he throws chunks of earth, dry or damp, darkened earth, red hot earth, as he tears out sulphur from the lump, saltpetre sinks beneath, while mercury struggles, submerged by Venus’s dusts, as she stands still, walled in by soldiers of lead. It is in in such a tomb Vulcan himself kneads the white heated sword of his inspiration. He pierces his own heart and on the tip of his lance, his ontological genealogy enters that of the void, before touching the alien continent that appears before us, more than four hundred years later, a mirror of the self, and Rembrandt too perhaps, in the glow of a candle, in the irregularity of a wall, an invisible law commanding a parallel world, a world the gaze of which is no longer his. Rembrandt becomes the subject, the inverted side of himself, like a new moon, he stares at the sun and we cannot see him. We perceive his imprint but he is absent. The eyes that look upon us emanate from the mind that once scrutinised him, because he spread himself out like a tight rope between the past and the future. Inside, he placed the ‘patient’, not in a mortuary, but rather in a decompression chamber, that let the oxygen rise ever so slowly to reach us suddenly.

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When it is said “ Insanity is a human possibility without which he would not be who he is” , Rembrandt demonstrates this as an artist, in his condition of creator, but also by the bias of his portraits, independently of his will. What folly then pushes us to continually return to those faces that do not speak, that do not move, that do not sleep? They fascinate us as they had once fascinated Rembrandt. What remains of them if not this folly bridging the gap between us, like a fateful entanglement? The string linking their image to Rembrandt is intemporal and de-spatialised. These portraits are like windows where glowing intermittent and interminable spectres project themselves, sticking to the glass like frost and we search for clues to uncover their origin, which is nothing but an unknown environment, product of our own mind, and the certitude of our mortality. Such is the paradox, the certainty of the unknown. By the hand of Rembrandt death is incarnated. These faces live beyond the terror of annihilation. Rembrandt will not bow, he has no need to rip reality from the cradle of matter. It is not him as a personality we sense before or behind these portraits. Yet his life resides here, melting in and in opposition to the existence of the other , even if that other is no one but himself, his image incessantly destroyed and recreated within this emotional comprehension where ideals become futile and ideas become superfluous. Here is thus the proof philosophers of Alchemy had obsessively pursued, to escape their grasp continuously, for it is truly what observes us now, essence beyond existence.

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Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2014

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Rosetta Space Mission or a Stone Thrown in the Air

 

Following an incident involving European space Agency scientist during a live TV interview, November 2014

 

‘The fact that a scientist of any gender, but especially a man, would think it’s a good idea to wear a shirt covered in naked women while representing a major space agency and a significant research project is appalling; and clearly, he had no idea that he was engaging in exactly the kind of casual sexism that drives women away from STEM, writer Susan Smith about Dr Taylor’s error of judgment.

During an interview about the landing, Dr Taylor had branded the comet landing ‘the sexiest mission there’s ever been.  ‘She’s sexy, but I never said she was easy.’

Rosetta Space Mission or a Stone Thrown in the Air

Comet_67P_on_19_September_2014_NavCam_mosaic                                     1415967515257_Image_galleryImage_Screengrab_from_a_video_p

It looks so cool, so colourful, so arty, and on top of that, it is associated to landing a space craft on a comet. How grandiose and epic; it looks so liberated, so out there, so open and free. It is only a Miami style shirt covered in sex toys…I mean, girls pretending to wear clothe… From here, we go deeper, like the probe around Saturn, and other aspects of the apparently enticing image come to view. We analyse it, as one should when confronted with new pieces of evidence to elucidate this ‘of kilter syndrome’…It tells a different story, we feel uncomfortable, it does not match our first impression, and we realise the medium is not the message after all, we read the sub layer, and its language carries a conflictual subtext, it completely contradicts the notion of progress so vehemently demonstrated by the audacious space mission and those who made it possible. Most comments make a point on the ‘acceptable level’ of sexism oozing from the design. I am not quoting, we have come to accept the unacceptable in many facets of social life, because we have lost the plot. But I will quote Jennifer Hoffman : “One small shirt for a man, one giant sexist remark for mankind”. The word ‘small’ is extremely relevant, as much as “casual”. This is how and why sexism can no longer be identified as such with exceptions, such as a blunder of a magnitude equal to that of the scientific prowess the landing of a human tool on a moving rock in outer space showed to a captivated audience. Sexism has become insignificant, daily routine, mundane, passé, depassé ( overtaken), or thrown on the backs of far Eastern clerics, underdeveloped societies, primitive natives…but here in affluent democratic cities, all is well, so long as we ignore the tumor in the back of our mind.

After all said and done, we ended up replicating an erroneous set of embellished democratically moralised barbaric modes of gender relations, and in effect, sent it billions of kilometers into deep space, into some inescapable future, where the same psycho-sociological structures are already being engineered to welcome us…and how amusing it is to hear person after person repeating like a mantra, that not so far from now, we , in a few generations, will be more like robots than humans… then in a flash, a vision rises from this premise, and we suddenly contemplate a scene Charlie Chaplin could have dreamed of; robots, cyborgs, replicants in a quasi unlimited amount of editions, but, looking like caricatures of males and females, emulating the same old habits, imitating good old traditional values, programmed into their semi organic brains, despite a non reproductive status, ordering prosthetic limbs online, although this would demand more precision as bodies would come out of the 3d printer located in the re-creational cellar of their dwelling, we are referring to coded anatomical compatibility following strict static dualistic rules, to which the digital binary code is ironically suited…A comical development indeed, demonstrating another trait of humanity… our complete lack of imagination and courage when concerning life among mortals , life between humans , the freedom to be , beyond the tyranny of reductive sexualisation, and this state of what I might call ‘natural humanism’ feels so absolutely out of reach, so far from us, as we exist here and now on earth, it dwarfs the distance covered by Rosetta, those billions of miles, a mere 10 years journey, since even after 10.000 years, we have not moved the breadth of a hair. At this juncture, many citizens would disagree, yet, as we have observed, the balance has already tipped in favour of a return towards archaic behaviour patterns justified with endless references to our imperfection, to the instincts of our species, to the safeguard of a social framework, to the honoring of centuries old traditions, to the demands of media saturated networks, to the benefit of either wise confused children who no longer can imitate the correct model and so forth, ensuring laws towards our eventual liberation can be overturned in a flash, and that what was once a state of indecisive democracy can be ravaged in a night by a state of absolute religious militancy. But in our western civilisations, the water heats up so slowly most of us doze off , and revolutions in any case did nothing to reverse this trend, they merely gave credibility to another form of enslavement.

The Rosetta stone offered a breakthrough into the decrypting of Hieroglyphs, although the content of the text was anything but unconventional, honoring the protocol of the day, which in itself would not be of much interest, if it was not for its new affiliation with space exploration in the 21st century; we must wonder what lies behind this choice of name, and we should read the text again with this new material in mind. On one hand, the stone symbolizes the advent of a monumental decoding, on the other, the significance of the scripture points to the vindication of the priesthood, that of Amun in particular, revealing the power of the Ptolemaic political system poised on the alliance of the gods and the initiates, their human counterpart, thus establishing a field of peace indispensable to the expansion of power. This stands as a personal interpretation. Nevertheless, Rosetta derives from Rashid which in Arabic means guide, rightly guided or servant of the right minded , right minded being one of the 99 names of the Muslim god, thus providing yet another metaphorical clue to the mission. The concept of the guide was of grave importance to ancient Egyptians, as it led the soul of the departed to travel safely through the night of death into the day , a fitting association with the ‘mission’ of the Rosetta spaceship, although it was not the light of a new day but a comet. It is also primarily the name of a port where the stone was discovered. And so it is, for we have reached the end of the Nile, as it opens its seven mouths to the sea, and although we have projected ourselves partially, mainly across her surface, her depth fails to surrender, a somber reflection of our inability to surrender to our own. And what is a comet? Some metallic Anubis was sent running across 6 Billion kilometers of non emptiness to hunt and grab a bite of a mini solar system body made of gas, dust and rock particles traveling at 135 thousand miles per earth hour, looking like a morphing lion from one angle, a faceless bust from another. No matter how tantalizing it appears, and what knowledge it afforded us however, Rosetta, not so unlike comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, will remain a stone, and may one day also hurtle in the great ocean of the cosmos, long after our dissipation. It is for each of us to decide whether it is worth turning the stone into water. The most important gateways can only be traversed alone, which also means, devoid of prejudice or preconceptions.

Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2014

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Citta Mnemonica, Magma Collective and Gattarossa, Galeria Xenos in Florence

Citá Mnemonica // Firenze Pascal Ancel Bartholdi, Rodrigo César Ferreira,Anna Burel, Anna Capolupo, Yasmine Dainelli, William Howard, Rupert Jaeger, Yuri Pirondi, Jaime Valtierra, Ines Von Bonhorst, Andrea Lucchesi, Sebastiano Benegiamo, Marco Zamburru, Carmelo Cutuli, João Leitão, Laura Calloni, Jacopo Rachlik, Rebecca Filippi, Alberto Gori.   The artists of Gattarossa and Magma collective have once more gathered to create a new perspective on a city we may think we know.  The show combines  time based, stills and installation works.

Citta Mnemonica1

 A special thanks also to Jacopo Rachlik who opened the gallery and offered advice and  the use of materials without which  this exhibition would not have been  possible.  His video work was shown at a later date.

Rupert Jaeger
Imparando da Firenze.
(video)

Rupert Jaeger

Four years ago, Rupert Jaeger went to new York and began his expedition into the warp. The places we see through the eye of the ‘invisible man’ form a kind of extra temporal series encompassing different cities including London and Barcelona where he had been in 2011. These are mobile yet  weirdly static spaces, almost sterile and other worldly because of the fragmented effect of the animation process and the prise de vue. Rupert tells me of a need to be there again, thinking of Barcelona for example. Something seen once, a postcard on a wall. He wished to relive the moment, somehow to revisit the space as it was…or as it always will be in this particular memory. The man in a  white anti radioactive suit had to construct a craft to transport his emotions from what we presume to be in the past to a time and place  we experience as (of)now. But the paradox here resides in the envelop of this moment, a medium that prevents him from being there as he is in his present entirety. Rupert confirms and contradicts this condition by duplicating himself. He is here watching himself there watching an image that contains part of him further back. The image opens into a back stage, at once an illusion and an affirmation of a feeling related to the place it represents. This is a game of ricochet through the personal eras of a man analysing  nostalgia in a strangely detached way. It is an ironic take on time travel. Besides, it addresses the notion of displacement, but not as a  sociological comment as we would find in Gulliver’s travels by Swift or Candide by Voltaire. We are led into the image that connects a space remembered to a space where it is being remembered. The medium is the gap into which the experience of linking those layers is made possible. For Rupert, this process approximates a spiritual state. Space and time are interlaced through the passage from one context into another. Each time this operates, the connection is questioned until we grasp the foundation of this exploration, an emotional quest into separate dimensions all existing yet physically or more so biologically impossible to access. The suit may signify the possibility of contamination from one memory cell to another. It protects the wearer from the collective unconscious that could interfere with private memories. Teleportation, even metaphorical has its risks. We could talk of a filtering re animation practice which, as Rupert tells me, could go on for ever.

William Howard
Florence Extract A.
(Video)

Bill Howard

The verb commuting is double edged. On one hand, Bill explains, it suggest a change, a journey everyone takes. In his view, this means the mind also changes as each journey is unique despite its repetitive nature. This also means he adds, we never return from it, since we are already different people as we reach the same point. On the other hand it is a mutation.  “co- mutating”. This is reflected in the transformative process Bill puts the moving image of the Duomo  through, a complex rendering; the multi layered progression of an image in a state of continuous virtual flux where each angle represents an environment that Bill amalgamates to the next, thus giving us a 360 degree rotation from a specific view of Florence integrating London views in one image. In order to arrive there, Bill had to make copy after copy, copies of other copies… He talks of a change between body and mind. Bill is an obsessive collector of flyers, newspapers, some go as far back as the 90s. With these he makes collages. one of the pillars of his practice. Meanwhile, he has been shooting from the centre of Florence to Xenos gallery, and  over the bridge right up to via San Gallo, making a record of all the gaps and holes. He was inspired by Wolfgang Tillman “Munich”, a view of streets. He wanted to reconstruct the same angle from the top of the Duomo. But he wishes to make it into a kind of Impressionist tapestry, in and out of time, finding a way to use a particular software against itself.  In doing so, Bill hopes to catch the missing corners and bring them to light, to bring what he feels is the real beauty of Florence to life. Commuting also describes a double existence in which the two sides are connected artificially. It means we become separate entities. We subsist by virtue of our alter ego, we no longer can tell which is alter, what is the recto or verso of ourself. Perhaps this is why collage comes in handy, to rebuild decaying links with a former self, with place and meaning.

Follow up (Etching)

Bill Howard2

The bust of Sophocles…a stylistic composite. It is deliberately obscured by heavy remnants of ink fresh from the press, one of seven. Bill worked from a sculpture in the Ufizzi he visited nine times. It was a copy made around 1200 AD of a bust made around 400 AD. Bill suggests that the original was probably a good likeness of the features of the playwright.  Perhaps there were other copies in between and Bill’s is yet another which could contain an impression of the real man passed down from one interpretation to another, arriving at some sort of purer quality, devoid of imitation, derived from an emotional and intuitive connection. He travels backwards to the provenance of a character. His image is an example of a memory process in reverse, from light to dark. Bill brings a physical method into History and the digital process. João Leitão Retrato di Irena (video) Florence through the eyes of she who remembers everything, or she who can t forget anything. Joao points out that memory being the result of a process of selection, remembering everything means Irena becomes no one. The extra fast jumped up editing reflects  Luis Borges ‘ repetitive texts, a continuous yet broken flow of words. Joao asked himself how to make a work based on the idea of memory in a city he did not know. This led him to build a library in  which the circuit camera became a leitmotif, watching and erasing simultaneously.

Anna Burel
Foto
(Photography, b&W analogue prints)

Anna Burel2

Eight small prints above and below a central image of what initially appears as a poetic prism of a land approached in a storm. As we look closer however, a chaos of organs and anatomical parts reveal themselves, and buried within this, the  profile of a woman, a sleeping beauty open to the gaze of merciless explorers. Anna went to the natural history museum and to the cemetery up on the hill above Florence. She took pictures of the photos of the faces of the dead…when still alive. Many showed the deceased as young people although the dates suggested they had passed over in old age. Those faces remained anonymous, some with names, others without, their tombstones eaten by the elements . She says some seemed to glow with a kind of beauty we attribute only to the portraits of the masters adorning the walls of museums and churches.  In the small prints, we notice the same female face appearing again and again, her body containing or intermingled with images of the city.

Rodrigo César Ferreira
Construction
(wood and walls)

Rodrigo Ceasar

How do we keep the walls from caving in, like the nightmare scenario, walls closing in and no exit in sight? Rodrigo has propped pieces one by one in an open cavity where someone had forgotten to put a door….or perhaps not. There are no nails, no screws, no need of a drill or a hammer. It is about balance and logistics. But there, to suspend is added to suspension. It could give up any moment. Or we could use it as a book shelf eventually. No luck, the edifice has been caught in the tornado, someone got hit on the foot, escaping graver contusions. By chance, a photo of it existed and artists rebuild the piece meticulously and would continue to do so ad infinitum. This is what it is about.

Marco Zamburru
1913
(Found object-A marble plate, a funerary stone)

Marco Zamburru

Qui reposa….this piece was obtained from a  Florentine cimetery artisan . Marco hanged it above the stairs leading to the basement where videos are now playing.  But we are not necessarily aware of this, not immediately. These could be the stairs to the crypt where the remains of the man whose name is engraved here, have been laid to rest. Had I not known this place as a gallery, I would have believed this gravestone to have been placed there on the decaying wall in the early 20th century. There is no date of birth…a deliberate omission?… But the age of the man on the year of his death was seventy five. Some letters have been scratched out. It looks random. This makes the sign even more incidental, even absurd…but then tomb stones are absurd, like pillows and beds dumped on the earth covering a body that no longer makes sense, slowly returning to a chaos of pre biotic existence. The date of his death reassures us that life indeed had left him, that he was not buried alive. 13th of July 1913, just before the first world war. But the man described here does not exist. It is an ideal of a man inscribed in a stone whose weight is representative of an impossible perfection flattening all the details once present in the lines of the skin. A butterfly is balanced on the top edge as an antithesis to the stagnant power of the monument. It is as if the insect was still alive, having arrested itself for a fleeting moment, perhaps just before a last flight. They are born out of a chrysalis, seek a mate, make love and perish before the sun rises a fourth time. What would a man do given four days to live?…Somehow the frailty of this creature makes an ironic mokery of an unnatural effort to preserve the embellished memory of a being who will no longer be able to contradict it.

Carmelo Catuli
(Sculpture made of building foam and wax)

Carmelo

He stands looking up, from his nose, a kind of ectoplasmic cloud frozen in time. Somewhere in there the specter of Giacometti wanders, but there is also something like a materialization of  lost pre Raphaelite figures on the edge of melt down.
(Monochromatic  drawing)

Carmelo Cutuli 2

Like an artery feeding the city, a white road cuts into the land from the foreground . Pylons create a second frame of reference. They are setting the limits of our vision as they perhaps do in our life, as uncertain urban passengers. They direct the gaze, they delineate the perspective, reconstructing a mental image of nature on the edge, decaying as the city grows uncontrollably.

Anna Catalupo
Vespertine
(Technica mista)

Anna Catalupo

Small paintings and drawings. Florence as we do not wish to remember it. Raw material and building tools. History wiped clean. bran new accommodation. Deconstruction of overwhelming beauty. (Animation) in collaboration with Simone Brillarelli. Cranes move in slow motion in grey light superimposed on marble texture, the main building material of ancient Florence. the sound is wary, creaking metallic repetitive.

Rebecca Filippi
Punti di Vista
(Animation)

Rebecca

A Pigeon’s memory of a street of Florence. Simple short poetic black and white animated drawing. Florence, as birds fly down.In one flash, a colour filmed shot of a puddle, pigeons landing and fleeing. I did see Them touch the heads of gods with their tentative feet. But here, only a fast glance at an unnamed strada, like tourists without iPhones.

Sebastiano Benegiamo
Al Fresco
(Affresco grattato)

Sebastiano Benegiamo

Three images two of which are made on cement, a third on canvas. Sebastiano uses an archaic technic. We detect structures, perhaps classical. They rise uncertain in the mist. The atmosphere has the colour of the material used to imprint the impression. The memory is fading, yet it is also fixed in the physical mass of the medium that reflects another era, a culture we only encounter in books, a narrative which meaning is unrecognised by the passerby.

Laura Calloni
Exclusive
(Stampa Lambda su Duratran)

Laura Chissene

Four square prints are back lit.They are set in a mock up concrete block resting horizontally on the floor. It is a lyrical piece. We can feel a silence only encountered in secret spaces, far from the public eye. We are invited to evolve in those fragments of nature, far from the noises of the city; these are privileged sanctuaries only accessible to us through the agency of transparent representation. Laura has decided to bring the wall down, cut windows into it and let the light through. She went on a detective mission and asked the owners of those private gardens, some of them parks, to be granted the permission to enter and photograph their content. We surely will never tread where she has. Only the ghosts and the rich of Florence can enjoy this delight.

Jaimi Valtierra
(etching)

Jaimi Valtierra

These works are part of a performance : Marlon plays Adolfa Musso Lina Lisa by Marlon Random. A brutal encounter is scratched into the plate, as if to extract the hidden pain of a misunderstanding, or more so the  dismissal of an apparent understanding. The lines fight one another, they scream at each other, they rebel against harmony, they are bent and stretched to breaking point. This is how it is. Sometimes, there is no way to find a way out of the collapse. The connection disintegrates. The sounds come at you from where you least expect, they don’t have a source any more. There used to be a face where a blank stares at you. Then, instead of a hand shake , you get smashed up by some estranged interlocutor. You thought you knew him or her. He or she knows you better, they know how to hurt you, how to manipulate you. This is the beginning of a civilized war with no guns, no bullets, no weapons of mass destruction. Someone plays with your head. But Adolfa Musso has left a text behind her and signs on paper. Now we can reconstruct the tragi-comedy. The catharsis can grow out of the spectacle of the ill.

Andrea Lucchesi
Andrea Mnemonica
(Olio su Legno)

Andrea  Lucchesi

Two paintings In one, a solitary figure lies on the ground, in what feels like a thick fog as if seen by someone whose eyes are filled with tears. The vapours of nostalgia. Is this man dead or dying? Is he dreaming? is he suspended between doubt and desire? Has anyone else noticed him?…who is he?, is his identity relevant?… In a round painting, an unusual format although used in the Renaissance until the nineteenth century, two figures move away from the viewer. They seem to be floating, giving us the impression that they are no longer contained in matter. The atmosphere is almost more corporeal than they are, or in that world, all objects, live or inanimate, are traversed with molecules that are no longer subjected to the laws of this Earth. These figures symbolise the memory of a moment, their names are mingled with the words that attempt to describe them. In this world made of pigment and oil, Andrea relives a scene he has felt rather than seen, or if he has, it was experienced in different streets, different times, different lives, again and again, until a synthesis of light and shade burnt itself into his mind.

Yasmine Dainelli
Untitled
(Calligraphia e gumprint)

Yasmine Dainalli

Prints  of ‘Florence’. A map dating from 1943  superimposed on a contemporary map. Below seven prints depicting specific places located in the map samples.Yasmine extracts a sense of being in the city, a sense of particularity out of the generalisation pervasive to urban management, and its manifestation in the form of mapping, a flattening of human experience through the pretext of empowering observation, the bird eye view of inter migrating population. we walk the city, we feel its meanders, its reformed quarters, its extensions, its inspirations  and expirations. Yasmin explores the map, digs into it, excavates, without imposing names, directions or functions. It is like a game where the flat pages of a book open into geometrical three dimensional shapes. The map turns into a place, the place instils a sense of space.

Alberto Gori
Prega per la Fine della mia Gioventù
(Mixed pianting techniques)

Roberto Gori

The urban landscape, the face of the artist as a boy, before the fall into the uniform comfort of the city. But there is a rebellion in the air. There is a painting, Alberto tells me it was the last he ever made. It was “counter academia”. He says it represents what he left behind, in his  early youth. He adds it could also symbolise a new beginning. In fact, he has painted a circle around a point, used in alchemy as a symbol for the sun and gold. A candle lights the alcove in which he has placed these objects. It reminds me a bit of Christian Boltansky. We may feel we are gazing at an icon rather than a real person, because this installation encompasses a state, an inaccessible condition where the soul still homeless despite being anchored in a body, reminds itself of a purpose that escapes it as it remembers it. The dot in the round is a centre that only exists by virtue of the visible perimeter, yet because of it it is impossible to access it. Alberto admits having grown tired of ubiquitous technology. He longs for the tactile universe of childhood, as I think most of us do.  This is a shrine but also an open space.

Yuri Pirondi
(Black and white Photographic prints)

Yuri Pirondi

Three images show different kinds of urban constructs in superposition.It is Florence, or is it another city ? London perhaps, as all modern cities resemble one another  , one old, the other new, one somehow idealized and preserved, the other, rampant with totalitarian progress. They exchange places, both ghosts of a sick utopia, although ancient walls will always have more to say than fibre optics, silicone and plexiglass. We cannot explain why. Classicism however is also a commodity. The art of the renaissance for example is not kept safe because it is beautiful or inspiring but because it is a currency. Those buildings belong to the market, they are kept in a precarious equilibrium by fantom transactions in the higher spheres of the global economy. In each image, something sinister takes hold of the eye. There is a ufo about to land, there is a big machine gun about to fire, there is a city about to crumble in the white heat of a radioactive wind. A latent battlefield in the cradle of history.

Ines von Bonhorst
La Caduta
(Xilographia)

Ines von Bonhorst

Leonardo’s ecce Homo redefined by urban cacophony. He is bathed in the colours of a sun set, or perhaps the opposite. He himself is Adam, made of red earth. He is naked and headless. His head is the context in which it is ensconced. The architecture that constitutes his environment cuts into him. It imprisons him. But despite this apparent handicap and perhaps as a result of this limitation, the man has grown extra legs. He is dancing in suspense, his new territory a diamond chiselled out of the blackness.

Ines Von Bonhorst and Yuri Pirondi
Eterno
(video)

Ines and Yuri

The Day by Yuri Pirondi Coming into the city. Aurora. the streets unravel, the pace accelerates. Somehow things have changed  particularly in the last seven years. As many europeans, Yuri moved to London and visiting Florence in his country of origin reminds him how both cities have in a way moved on a similar path while a strange battle seems to move him within , a choice between lives, between cultures, between pasts even. He travels here, not only in his memory but the memory of history, of art. Many have also chosen Florence as a refuge while retaining  and perpetuating their own cultural identity, traditions that permeate the new fabric of urbanity while it infiltrates  them.  He could also be a foreigner here, as he is in London. Perhaps he no longer recognises the surface of things, instead, he reads a different story. As we are led through the outskirt of Florence, a voice permeates the narrative with sadness but also with a kind of astonishment and anticipation. Yuri tells me he was inspired by Calvino’s “Invisible towns”. Perhaps certain cities contain many. in Calvino’s novel, it is suggested Venice is such a place, with many faces, the faces of different women. But not all cities are feminine. Yuri concentrates on Ponte del Indiano because it is a Frontier and a centre. It became so in the 1970s when a population of Chinese emigrants began to arrive in San Donnino. There was also the scandal of the incinerator. Many people died of poisoning caused by dioxin leakage.  A Lion dances on the bridge, it is Vietnamese, and through him, we are transported not so much to Vietnam as to London where Yuri saw first  it. It is a dance of life, self affirming and a defiance in the face of global homogeneity. The day is a battlefield where speed and violence intermingle with joy and multicoloured vision.
The Night by Ines von bonhorst For Ines, The night is divided in two parts. The character of the nymph emanating from the full face of the moon and the double face entity, at once a more mysterious and androgynous aspect inked to the dark side of the moon, although with no negative connotation. These are archetypes containing the history of our earthly satellite, la Luna. Each one of her phases is like a composition in which our ancestral relationship is played out. Ines responds to this mythology by embroidering her personal tapestry and recreating the atmosphere we humans have been seduced by over the ages.  The nymph echoes the statues like a statue herself come to life in the light of the heavenly mirror. She has escaped the pedestal she has been fixed upon. She only appears at night like lucciole. We follow her path, through the arches, the colonnades, the bridges, the alleyways, all deserted, alien to the daily roamers, a parallel city, perhaps gliding, like the moon, in our astral memory. The other figure rises slowly, like a plant awaking to lunar gravity and the pulse of her silver glow, an undulating mercurial presence. It seems to grow from the stones of a city that like the kingdom in the story of Sleeping Beauty had sunk into a deep coma. Each face reflects a different myth. One is quiet and inverted, like a lake, high in the mountains of Peru. The other, tilts towards the solar power.It becomes the night sun and harks back to Etruscan masks. We can imagine this to be the embodiment of a tribal god invoking the spirits of the ocean.In this being, sun and moon unite in a moment of silent adoration.

Pascal Ancel Bartholdi
Teatro Teleportato
(Black and White film based prints)

Pascal

Figures are composed within an architectural setting, they integrate the material of the structure. The human form demands geometrical solutions that in turn may repress its evolution in space. But these configurations emulate an understanding of a space already defined and re calculated, a spatial reconstruction designed to transport the imagination rather than the body. In the renaissance in particular, surface became the playground of perspectival virtuality masters such as Giotto, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, and Ucello, but there is a Romaneque humor there, that cuts through the seduction of the tromp l’ oeil. In one of the images, the figures are engulfed and dwarfed by the brutal machinery surrounding them, the darkness emanates from it and pours onto them like the deluge. In another, the Duomo is turned on its head, some wall details fail to match, but the characters float within this inverted monumentality like seraphim. In a third image, the cluster of figures seem to aspire to the heights of an inaccessible dome. There is no doubt these are contemporary individuals, yet their posture and the composition of the scene evoke disparate eras of art history, namely those encountered in Florence, in particular the Renaissance from its outset to its end although we can also detect Mannerism and Tenebrism including the art emerging from seventeenth century Netherlands. There is no direct reference however to any period in the development of art because the essence of these works resides in the very personal archetypes of the psyche. These are the initial findings of an ongoing research into the relationship of the soul with the city.

Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2014

https://www.facebook.com/pages/xenos-arte-contemporanea/626243037421886
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pl09bJg4DRc

https://www.facebook.com/magmacollective?ref=hl
https://www.facebook.com/Ilgattarossa
http://www.artribune.com/dettaglio/evento/36338/citta-mnemonica-firenze/
http://mnemoniccity.tumblr.com/post/90152628085/mnemonic-city-florence-opening
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The inaugural Apiary Sessions The Asterism DIZCO_VISUAL Saturday March 15 2014

“Dan Hayhurst is the aural half of celebrated opto­musical agglomerate Sculpture, known for their tape loop experiments and zoetrope psychedelia. A rare solo performance from Dan finds him performing a mixture of techno inflected dancefloor mutations, aleatoric electronics & tape manipulations.
Spatial presents the second performance of his opti­sonic project Primitives since the debut at Cafe OTO last July. Primitives is a performance based project using custom made, home coded software to explore sonic and optical intensity articulated by simple geometric figures and extreme frequencies. Projected images drive a sensory assault, consumed by your eyes, then ears and existing somewhere between perceptions. Spatial will also DJ later on in the night.”

Imagine a deadly scenario in which the unfortunate protagonist has been led to a small motel room blindfolded; hazy smells of damp, rusted pipes, sweat, petrol, mortar, singed wires, overheated silicone and cocktails lingering in half remote lucid dream catatonia, the only clues but for flashes strobe-leaking their way through the optic-interrupting fabric. You shiver at the idea of another Eraserhead, “this cant be real” and “I am not a flayed lamb” run through your head randomly, like deep south folk song samples. You can nevertheless just about fathom crucial changes between dark and light, and colour coded pseudo formations. Then you realise you can guess what is out there in the vibrating penumbra, without having to open your eyes, because they have been open and free of any obstruction from the outset, some device implanted around teach eye ball having kept it so, Clockwork Orange style. Some neon sign must be flickering just outside a hypothetical window, while you try to interpret the location…no ordinary motel room. In fact it is a mock up, you have been taken down a noisy elevator that creeks, buzzes, and squeals as it agonises downward and as it does, some other sound begins to creep into the cochlea, the monotonous drone of a bass misguiding you further into the sonic labyrinth. The low tone spills out continuously, the sound of a massive boiler set in the very foundation of a factory where the engine is never turned off. It spews out smoke at regular intervals; it looks like the scene of a B movie, low budget horror show; fog suddenly invades the wonky set design. You guess there was never an outdoor, that daylight was just a giant neon fuzzing your synapses. You have no idea how long it has been since you admitted to yourself you were here rather than elsewhere. You sit on a cold concrete floor; you try to look relaxed in case some uninvited eye spots your discomfort. You are surrounded by shapes that look vaguely human. You are uncertain of your own origin. In front of you, a window…no something that looks out into nothing. But a black circle obstructs the view, a blackout in ‘real’ space.

Then it begins to dawn on you something aphysical, some kind of theoretical pun is trying to reach 3d status.  Anemic Cinema by Marcel Duchamps becomes activated once more and triggers Catalog another experiment by John Whitney buried in the collective unconscious, and as art bubbles up like putrefied nutrient in the stomach of time, you reconnect with the discarded products of your  self made food chain , and later, You think: why doesn’t somebody  remove the black spot so you can tell what’ s what? But this is the weird wild world of semi reality, a web of intrigues lighting up the walls of your chamber of dreams, and you remember the dark queen in Barbarella; you long for those fake volutes of psychedelic bacchanalian inventions. You wonder why chains hang from the ceiling, a sense of paranoia insinuates itself as you become conscious of your ignorance. You think of Piranesi, of the immense halls filled with unnameable instruments of persuasion, a space of moral pragmatic expansion, below the surface of consciousness and perhaps they are there, awaiting someone like you, someone descending the ladder of evolution, irrevocably drawn to the deep sited primitive property of your nature. Were it to have a shape… you shrink away from the thought, a chimera sleeps coiled in the back of your mind dreaming of you. It whistles a familiar tune now a siren exhorting you to her bed of crustacean putti, you have already spent an hour…but then again, when did you last see the sky?

The black sun seems to talk, is it an alien form of life? It hovers, it remains absolutely still, an almost black circle orbited by luminous events and other circles of bright colour, dilating, contracting, shape shifting, vibrating. They are planets emitting distress calls as they fail to resist the infernal gravitational pull of this god of naught, omega, full stop. You wonder if it could be ending the illusion of perfection, an end in itself. You survey the higher planes and notice a circular shape made of matter. It is a mirror receiving and reverberating light beams from projectors. The light signals are sent into space hitting their target at maximum velocity. They carry the programmed manipulations by which the spectacle arrived. Now and then, the vapours filter out of a hole, a shadow intrudes briefly and releases it. Like an electric current, it searches for a conductor. The heat of your body, your breath and your heartbeat all play their part in the mutations of this frequency, the fractal phenomenon arising from the release. You stare at the hyper morphing sample surrounding you, you travel into inter-stellar oblivion, your eyes turn inward, your ears hurt. The pressure of outer space, a meta-terrestrial desolation, absorbs your senses until you reach cryogenic seizure, absolute frozen enlightenment in a mist of nitrogen. You become the heart of an atom, as spots of red, orange and yellow burst into flames or turn into dwarf stars. Some objects cool down and coagulate, others grow out of control, hiding behind the eternal face of a hollow idol, they also entice the traveller. But you are not moving.

Then in a new burst of mist, the circles break down, some other identity unveiled. The shadow has intervened once more and no one bats an eyelid. Innumerable eyes are wide open, reflecting the open field of the screen, the vista into artificial illumination. The shapes that first appeared static are adopting facets as their spherical state changes to a dodecahedron henceforth revealing the hidden motion of the object. You know these geometric entities are hungry for life; they are desperate to jump out of the flat plane of existence. Proteus, the super computer awakens in your mind as it had done in the mind of his maker. You shiver as you remember how once nothing but virtual information and digital interaction, the artificial thought process created its own body, a platonic solid imbued with qualities surpassing all others in the art of seductive colonisation; an instrument at once of reproduction and fatal execution. It revolved at supersonic speed, opened and shut like the claws of a mechanical crab with surgical precision, it bore holes in any material; the harbinger of man’s auto destruction; a non-living organism, immortal and pure, impregnator and murderer, yet the ultimate image of the androgynous whole at the end of days. Was Adam a soulless machine? You wonder.  You admire its agility, its absurd beauty. But the objects on the wall will not produce any super human hybrid, you begin to relax, you begin to enjoy the illusion for what it is, and you immerse yourself in a scene that is after all only really in your head.

It is also true that having ben acquainted with numerous squat parties, this environment is not such a surprise, and quaint by comparison. You recall a particular stage covered in fake spider’ s webs and in the centre of a room, shining like Venus, the design of a tessaract, a cube within a cube, the axis around which the revellers sweated their ketamine dreams with the ease of angels while a painted tarantula looked over with the delight of the victorious predator. Why are you not standing up, moving to the dissonance? No one dares, all hostage of a concept. You and them, and each of you, all of us out of them. Now you are a circle on the retina of a mind, you are a black circular mirror resonating in the radio active belt of a comet, you are the fission process of an imploding neutron star, you are the sidereal motion of a cyber galaxy on the verge of collapse, you are an endless space trapped in an infinitesimal particle and you sit here in a gallery, imagining all this while a guy pushes a few buttons and the premeditated mobile designs entertain forty more of you, a faceless audience enjoying this ephemeral anonymity in the peaceful haven of neo soma-cultural experience. You get up and a brief exchange enters your mind. A man tells another before the ending of Cloud Atlas: “No matter what you do, it will never amount to anything more than a drop in a limitless ocean”. The other man answers “what is an ocean but a multitude of drops”. You wish to ask a different question: “what is a drop but another ocean?” This was just a demo. Time for the loop.

Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2014

http://www.apiarystudios.org/show/whats_on/

http://tapebox.co.uk/category/video/

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Jonathan Silverman at Serena Morton’s gallery: At Hand and Far Away

At Hand and Far Away, an exhibition of new work. Originating in the study of Hindu Temples whilst artist in residence at the International Institute of Fine Art, Modinagar, India in 2012, Silverman’s new paintings focus on the power of symbolic architectures and their exploration through the process of painting.

While in conversation with the artist, it was inevitable that, art history still in the making, contrary to postmodern epitaphs, certain names would be mentioned, primarily Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, Paul Gauguin, Francis Bacon and Peter Doig.  Since neither the individual, nor the artist is an island, it was no surprise the painter would acquiesce the references spanning a few centuries. These ancestors of ours wander in the conduits of collective consciousness, tracing the lines on the palm of a universal hand, itself pointing at the 13th hour, the element of surprise at the heart of this work. Jonathan would agree with Guston when the latter affirms it is illegal to understand the working out(of a painting) in time, intellectually. He is repelled by the possibility of cracking an age-old mystery, reducing it to a psychological act, or a logical hypothesis. The interesting thing about Guston was his U turn from abstract to figurative painting in 1967, for which his followers condemned him to eternal shame. On the other hand, Paul Gauguin, also a renegade abruptly left the cool solace of Europe ‘s art’s hub for the hot haven of the Pacific island of Tahiti where his days ended among works we now admire for their remarkable bluntness, their sculpted colour, their invention, although Gauguin had doubted in the validity of his own quest. Then there is Francis Bacon who sublimated a continuous desire for the ultimate pleasure, sharing his name with a philosopher whom Voltaire called the father of scientific method, our first empiricist, an antithesis of his 20th century alter ego of sorts, but also the writer of New Atlantis, a utopian novel surely based on pious fears of divine grilling for his uncouth attractions. Bacon, the artist was ferocious and merciless in his experimentations, stretching the form to its limit and breaking away from the consternation of applied observation, intently opening the way for a hybrid, abstract figuration or a figurative abstraction , depending on whether you see the glass half full or half empty. Lastly, Rothko, having pursued the last visible layers of self in the expanse of pure colour, and unable to sustain the pressure of his own untranslatable illumination, was swallowed in his entirety in the void he had invoked perhaps absolutely lucidly.

Jonathan has created temples from the verso. He is treading conscientiously as he lights a path thwarted by moral misconceptions, violent politics, and traditional booby traps, yet, his is a quasi spiritual endeavour, and like Turner painting the Houses of Parliament on fire, he is not making any social statement but imprinting our memory with the nuance of personal history touching the edge of a world, that for all its divine potency, remains in peril. And this we feel, as we let the traces of his journey penetrate the shadows of our stasis. We are immobile before these scenes, as they turn to skin, to bones, to meat, and to stone, yet, we ponder still, immersed in the lactose evanescence of contemplation.

Vishvanatha

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 The view is obstructed by a shape. It embodies Jonathan’s words about the organic, the sensual and the physical. Despite the evident exotic abundance of this apparition, I sense the truthful simplicity of Christ’s teaching, prior to the corruption of the Catholic Church. Incidentally, the prophet was said to have traveled to India and this would have altered his views on the culture he had been born into to the point of irrevocable conflict. The word made flesh is what I mean, and no specific faith can lay claim to this occurrence. In this image, we see the body desiring to reclaim the spirit. This edifice is a temple of flesh, and blood will flow in other worlds. We will encounter the warm syrupy vermilion throughout his series of images, the bloodline of the pilgrim in search of the authentic. We follow henceforth the initiatic steps of a painter who asks us: can the unknowable incandescence of divinity inhabit visceral truths, can they co exist?  The medium of paint itself seems to fathom an answer. Here the architectural construct is understood as a body, more so, I see it as a severed head speaking of unspeakable lands, where no man has trod. The mouth is open and we witness the silence as we gaze into the oesophagus while standing at the base of a stairway. The steps are quasi absent; their substance appears to us as part of a diaphanous structure, the subterranean translucent glimpse of an entry into the entrails of wisdom.

ImageJonathan leads us inside the enigma of Shiva. This God is the most mysterious, his nature being far more complex than his brethren; destroyer and dancer in the hall of consciousness, he embraces the male and the female in his ‘oneness’ while devouring ego to transmute all forms into the joyful energy of universal love. Of all the gods he is the ultimate unpredictable transformer, the stroke of inspiration, the accident, the blessing in disguise that attains its goal with the precision and speed of an arrow. The Himalayan Nandi is no longer a physical presence; its abode resides in the greys we find in vapours and clouds on the outset of dusk awaiting the glance of a poet. Yet, Nandi is the rock that supports the sky, the bull that carries the god. Vegetation pierces through and melts in the heat, in ways echoing Gustave Palmer and Paul Gauguin. Shadows are filled with the weight of Earth, blood spills into the sky that coagulates into flesh, and the stones become sublimated into an infinite shade of greys. A fire rages behind the sited figure in the doorway. We wonder if here lays a faith in doubt, or if another holy bush has burst into flames.As I review this journey, I move against the clock, but the tide is leading the eye according to the painter’s logic.

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The Nizzamudin Tomb defies gravity. It is a celestial meeting point anchored in the phantasm leaking out of a zoom lens where forms, people and walls are distorted, giving an impression of optical illusionism. The black stripes that constitute an elegy to renaissance perspective reminiscent of St Mark’s body brought to Venice by Tintoretto are integrated into a game of cat and mouse on the pre-ordained board of rationality. Jonathan turns the notion of inner space and outer space inside out by shifting the composition out of the linear scale while exploiting it, as Vincent Van Gogh did in his own cataclysmic way to the horror of his contemporaries. Space on this plane of manifestation, the canvas, becomes a point of departure towards non-space, a state of quiet meditation. The dome harbours an alluvial alliance with the firmament where one cannot help noticing the sharp pale gold reflection of a setting sun on a minuscule cloud. One figure in the left hand corner looks eerie, almost alien, perhaps an old man leaving the last scene. Friday Dargah looks like an altered colour negative of the Nizzamudin. Is this an after image left on the retina after staring at it for hours?

 ImageJonathan called Devi Jagadambi Temple the jelly. But I see the jelly mould too. Its plasticity contains the recurrence of corporeal (de)formation. It incorporates space while simultaneously inhabiting it. As the painter I once was, I recognise the love of pigment impregnating the oil medium, like a personality defining a face either wise expressionless. This union between transparent liquid and coloured dust is primeval. To make sense of the world, artists create new ones. Jonathan has captured the evanescence of the sky in perpetual motion adding some kind of slower substance to the combination, as if heavier molecules of air had crystallised in mid flight. He economises on detail. He is aware too much information contrives and hampers the clarity of our imagination

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In The Ghat of Changes Jonathan takes a risk of a different order. Despite widespread knowledge of a Buddhist and Hindu tradition in our western society the symbol of the Swastika is inevitably associated with the advent of the 3d Reich leading to the second world war. Yet, seeing it upright and accompanied by the crucial four dots painted delicately on the side of a stairway points to C.G Jung’s analysis of this symbol. Jung saw it as a psychic quaternity, a design of dynamic wholeness, and in this he partly described the original meaning of this ideogram: auspiciousness, good fortune and well-being. It was also associated to tantra, the creation of calendars and the image of the labyrinth amongst other things. It is once more ironic how easily we forget our ancestral language, on which our cultures are founded. The sign that was found as a carving from the late Palaeolithic period takes on a new life also because it has infiltrated the fabric of a place, thus relocated and re-contextualised, in a sense restored to its original potency and primordial potential. But this is the painter’s invention. The figures feel real. We know as Jonathan pointed out that these paintings were realised later in his London studio, from photos and drawings made on site. Yet the paintings feel more present, more there. How can this be? This painter demonstrates the power of the emotional content of memory giving rise to a variant of reality. Nevertheless on close inspection, he plays optical tricks as part of a game of ironies.

To the far right, an orange background seems to have been left unfinished, the original veil of time in the unfolding scheme of creation. The colour is not a coincidence, orange is the colour of the second chakra and reoccurs in several works (but no deliberate symbolism is at work, this is an intuitive response), yet his use of primaries is the more intriguing for the way in which he subdues their primal intensity with a sensitive and strategic placing of secondary and complementary hues. There is green, a formidable conveyor of natural force, of birth, of floral immersion, but Jonathan keeps it in check, it is sparse and calculated, a corner event, essential and succinct. Green is the colour of the heart chakra. Temples are places of worship and the heart features, but not as an open wound, as a romantic instance or a personal token. It is evanescent and omnipresent. In this work, it resides in the left corner while orange resides in the bottom right corner. A strategic spiritual annotation, perhaps not, but I get a new sense of what a painting can be, a map extending not only on the surface but in the degrees of colour and tone. A depth is created that relies on tactical points of reference usually hidden from the viewer. Were there a didactic intent, the spell would vanish.

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I end my journey with The Jain Temple, an embodiment of the idea of worship. We view it from the standpoint of a devotee. The pure sensuality of this vision, approached more closely in Sand Stone Figures is entrancing. Jonathan explained that in order to emphasise the material presence of the temple, the only way was to contradict painterly representational rules and in place of say dark purple for shadows and interstices, use Sienna brown. Further more, details are submerged by impression. What we are left with is the sensation of a place, an atmosphere in a shape that we somehow recognise as an architectural form. Green has become darker, deep olive shades on each side of the elongated dome that stretches to the zenith, as if pushing against the limit of the frame. It is still growing like an organism; the sculpture of a prayer lifting the mind into the celestial realm while retaining full consciousness of its material vehicle. I purposely did not read Jonathan Silverman’s statement until now and having written this review can attest to the veracity of his words and the realisation of his thinking. This is surely proof painting will always be with us, and will outlive our age of cyber politics. Because what is at stake is what the alchemists called the great work, art being a crucial recipient of this process. Jonathan indeed is working it out for real.

  Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2014

 Jonathan Silverman at Serena Morton’s gallery, Ladbroke Grove, London

 http://www.serenamorton.com/news.php

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Artists’ self-organisation: A project-interview with Magma Collective and Iberia Pérez March 3, 2014 for soapbox Press

Artists’ self-organisation: A project-interview with Magma Collective and Iberia Pérez

Artists organise themselves collectively, cross-fertilising their practices, sharing ideas, knowledge and approaches. Why and how do they do it? This question was the starting point of a project-interview involving a London-based artist group, Magma, and Iberia Pérez, whose PhD research focuses on artists’ self-organisation.

Magma has its own specific way of working and creating collectively, balancing the group’s aims with each artist’s individuality. Projects and issues are shared, discussed and processed to reach agreed common points. This interview, too, was intended as a similar kind of process, with a series of steps set to deepen our reciprocal understanding of group self-organisation and artistic practice.

Initially, some of the artists from Magma (Jaime Valtierra, Ines Von Bonhorst, Yuri Pirondi, Bill Howard and Pascal Ancel Bartholdi) met with Iberia and I in Peckham last December for an introductory conversation (we recorded that conversation, and some bits are shared below). After our first meeting, Iberia formulated questions to address the main points raised during that session, and what follows is this interview – which took time to be discussed, processed and realised. Take your time to enjoy it.

Iberia Pérez: Could you briefly explain how Magma originated? What brought you together and why did you choose Magma as the name of the collective?

Magma: Magma Collective started approximately two and a half years ago, following on from a series of events we’d worked on together from 2008, centred on performance nights and art shows.

It was initially a gathering where all the artists had a theme or an image, or something they wanted to share, before adding it into a common vault, as people do when sitting around a fire. Everyone puts in a different object and comes back with the same object – different, yet absolutely part of the whole. It shows the power of individuality in context.

In a way, the collective is based on a kind of chaos. Somehow, however, we managed to reach the point where the individual ego is seduced by the artistry of common purpose. We make time for dialogue, in which we naturally oppose mainstream collectivism and corporate ethics. We do not have a political stance, but know that to ask a question is critical and this is what we continue to do. There is a history and an etymology to how Magma evolved. Many of us have had relationships in terms of sharing living or working spaces over the years, and have worked with other practices as well as our own. Ours is a history of culmination and collaboration, hence the idea of the campfire. Another useful analogy is a body with many arms and many heads. It is interchangeable; if you remove one part, a new arm or head will pop up.

We chose our name, Magma, because it is always alive. Magma is different from lava; it never sets, it is always fluid and is a process that never dies; burning channels of liquid fire powered by the origin of the form. From another angle, there is a central point of union under the earth, which brings everything together. This is representative of Magma as a creative group, as a central point of multi-personal ideas that act as a catalyst for a unique process.

IP: What is the aim of your collective endeavour? What do you aim to achieve through your collective projects and exhibitions? What value does working collectively / collaboratively have for you?

M: Magma, for us, represents being open, flowing without boundaries, and includes an unknown and unpredictable number of places encountered at once lucidly and candidly. In Heidegger’s words,

“That open, cleared, yet bounded region in which we find ourselves gathered together with other persons and things, in which we are opened up to the world and the world to us… [With] a dynamic character of its own … a unifying, gathered rejoining place is, in this sense, always a “taking place,” a “happening” of place… something that contains space in potentia.

We aim at opening new doors, to exploit new territories of creative interaction, to bring in new people through collaboration – people who might just come for one show, located in the space of the gallery, to play for a while. There is no contract or permanence attached to collaboration; it does not require membership status.

In terms of our development and how this initially happened, we began to bring ideas together at meetings and created a text based on our cohesive values, aiming to generate some kind of identity through this process. Functioning in this way, we did one or two shows that led to the idea of Mnemonic City. We started to introduce other ideas, such as what happened in the 60s and 70s with the Situationists, whose organisation founded itself on the critique of the dehumanised spectacle and emphasising the idea of individual direct experience as opposed to state-based entertainment by proxy – giving form to the concept of psychogeography, which has much to do with transformation.

In collaboration, a kind of magical process takes place in the throwing of ideas onto the fire. No one is afraid that the fire will consume it, because our individual idea somehow becomes part of a whole. New ideas surge from the flames. Using many or few, we benefit from becoming greater than the sum of our individual parts.

The question we, as a collective, often ask ourselves does not concern our effect on the world of art or the art market – we do not base our objectives on these premises – but, instead, who is our public? Will this public share the experience we create? Will the feelings we share within Magma be perceived meaningful by the audience? It is about attempting to pass a sensation where the audience will (re)live a memory. The journey of the artist is intertwined with the journey of the audience. We also aim to recover a spiritual space, for the recreation of the spirit of the person. This has been taken away from people at different times in history by different forces – the force today being capitalism.

IP:  How is Magma structured? How does the division of labour work within the group? And what impact or influence does this have in your collective artistic production?

M: Labour is attributed according to the skills available and how the project and we are developing. Our collective does not use a hierarchical structure, relying instead on a horizontal basis. Whoever has the most clarity in a particular domain will take charge, but this situation changes from project to project. An example is the piece we created for ‘Something Human at The Terminal’, a three-day durational live art project created by Something Human and curated by Alessandra Cianetti and Annie Jael Kwan, which was assembled from several meetings and a multi-level debate.

We do not have a fixed answer as a manifesto. There is no banner: simply a joint imagination, leading to an immersive inter-creative experience. After all, there is nothing in the middle other than a space for possibility and anyone has the ability to feed it. The whole group benefits from the warmth. Magma was created as a channel through which we could work together and find a joint structure, using individual strengths at different times, rather than empower one dictator to lead us all into the eternal sunset. In practical terms, it is efficient; each person contributes their skills and enthusiasm and self-allocates the workload appropriately. The group meeting is essentially responsible for the allocation of the tasks. Again, the total at which we arrive is always greater than the sum of its parts.

IP: Could you give an example of how the principles or values of self-organisation and the way you are organised materialise in your works/projects?

M: In our projects, we allow a high-level of uncertainty. We all fundamentally agree on this. There is a physical embodiment of methodology, yet we are aware of it and so protect our individuality. We maintain coherence and relevance through continuous meetings in addition to open, positive critique and communication.

The concept of Mnemonic City became pivotal in the way our collective is evolving, because for each project we attach the research process to the notion of place and space, time and memory as an anti-thesis to objectivity. In the Ridley Road Market project, we observed, tasted and travelled through the area for three months, culminating in an electrifying show. What became prominent was the reality of a constant circulation of thoughts between us. It is an emotional way of constructing that environment, rather than an architectural one. This has implications on our curatorial practice, alike the networks of international art-based groups active in the 60s. The outcome is a new way of seeing and experiencing the world both locally and universally for both the artists and the public interacting with our work.

Ultimately, the physical exhibition of drawings, paintings, installations, performances and videos, reveals the meaning of the process through the orchestrated order in which it is built. We strive towards the evocation of an atmosphere – such as the aura of a place or the feeling of a moment – and in this, our collective practice follows from an ancient byzantine tradition, although unintentionally. Our research and our practice guide us into uncharted and distant places in time and space.

IP: You have before mentioned that the artists participating in the collective also have their own artistic practices. How do the artists negotiate their own individual practices within the collective? How does this particular form of social organisation – collective self-organisation – inform the individual practices of the members of the collective?

M: The structure we created is flexible, in which people are committed at different times, keeping momentum by having meetings where each is aware of both the individual and the group. We work together aware of the concerns that can be derived from the complex relationship between self and group, which also reflects societal dilemmas – i.e. communal versus individual. Each person brings their skills and concerns to the group, which in turn feeds ideas and practices. Our solution is meta-personal, meaning the possibility of accessing a state beyond oneself within a greater whole, thereby resulting in a galvanised environment.

IP: Many artists’ collectives tend to call for the radical elimination of individual authorship in their practice; how does the issue of authorship play out in Magma?

Magma: How does an artist inform another’s practice? It could be clarifying or it could inspire a new set of solutions. Latent information is released by incestuous mixing. On the other hand, art practice tends to be very solitary and the contemporary art scene has developed the cult of the individual. Our communal type of practice directly critiques this by working differently, ironically proving that individual artists can grow and perform excellently in this context.

We agree, we disagree, we converse, we debate, we plan, we diverge, we converge and this creative flux nourishes the collective because each member is fulfilled in the process. There is no blurring of edges. We all have an undisputable signature. Authorship is as paramount as the idea of a common pursuit. We each have a private space where the piece will be resolved with no external interference during the moment of creation, but equally important is the mutual space and the meeting point where we bring those personal moments to the table and operate a free exchange of ideas within our creative domain.

IP: You have also mentioned that working in a self-organised collective allows you to preserve a ‘space of freedom’ in your practice. Can you please elaborate a bit more on what you mean by this and how this is achieved through your projects?

M: Magma is not branded or run by a concept; it is not necessary because what is enjoyed is something more casual – in the sense of ‘lightness’ and in the sense that we collaborate when the space for collaboration comes to us as a moment in time. It is not a commitment in terms of official and permanent status. It is the opposite of a job and the opposite of stasis. We gather and share all kinds of arts and feelings. We are our own melting pot, but without our individual practices, the soup would become a tasteless consommé.

Collaboration affords an open nest that is not present in a solo show.  Most often, there is a barrier between the artist and the public, but the spirit of collaboration opens doors, so we can come though and join all lose ends. It is a creative space open to everybody – anyone who cares and who dares. The time of creation is explored collectively and individually; there are different layers that become unravelled. It is also self-reflective, stimulating a desire and an understanding of where you are within the realm you have chosen to identify yourself. Moreover, as artists, we share our struggle. It happens mentally; we feel more human knowing people around us have the same problems.

We are planning to take the project Mnemonic City to Florence, Lisbon, and London. In each place, we will collaborate with local artists generating a new exchange of ideas that will constitute our vision of the city. Through this exchange of memories and feelings, our emotions and those of the local artists will be explored. However, this process implies pressure to get extra resources, therefore the question of representation arises and it can lead to potential internal conflicts. Yet up to now, we succeeded in overcoming this hurdle, because for us material resources are not the essence of our work, but tools that we see more as a commodity than art. Magma is founded on a DIY attitude and each member takes a task to its conclusion. We are multi-skilled and happy to work together, therefore the chances of internal wars are greatly reduced. We leave this absurdity to megalomaniac politicians.

IP: It seems to me that the concept of an ‘artists’ collective’ can often be romanticised, but collectives can also be sites of tension and contradiction. In your experience, what are some of the difficulties, tensions or issues that arise in collective self-organised artistic practices?

Magma:  We are resisting defining Magma in a fixed way and we leave questions unanswered to allow room for change. Obviously in growing as a collective, we will face more pressure to categorise and to define. We need to engineer ourselves with astute cultural reserve and the fact that we keep having experiences to express what we are doing is good. It is an important evolution that allows us to understand what we value and want to keep alive.

The problem is not always to make a categorisation of who we are, but giving up our values in order to be categorised in a certain way to fit a certain structure. We do come across conflicting situations, but our disagreements are well managed, and this actually helps lead to better, more informed and thoroughly examined practice. We often disagree about curation, hanging and publicity, but we allow the group consensus to prevail, yet never at the cost of our personal feelings. We will, through analytical discussion and an exchange of self-interrogation, discover the root of the disagreement and disable it. It is a meaningful process for us, but it is also fun. 

We build more as we work alongside each other, aware that there is space for potential disagreement. Magma chose a different route in that we have a live dynamic platform to work through disagreements; we discuss, we create a dialogue, we are flexible and bureaucratic. We can redefine ourselves through the way we work, refusing to fall into a box, or we can kick around and change the shape of the box, or we may stop it being a box altogether.

 IP: Final thoughts?

Magma: It takes unknown ingredients to make art work, but art is made, and through it you get a chance to pass on the magic as you go. If you try to do the right thing, then hopefully it will affect other people; they see your model and are inspired. We are a powerful organisation, a powerful force and quite revolutionary – not because we are providing a banner to cry out and run around with, but because we are doing what we really want to do with a lot of love and good humour, and with a real belief in what we are doing. There is a transformational effect on the people who view our shows. It is tangible, though there is not really the language to adequately explain it, but people are often deeply moved, forgetting themselves and everything else while experiencing the show.

Sound excerpts edited by Alessandra Cianetti: (21 min 21 sec): Listen here.

Iberia Pérez is a PhD Candidate in Art History and Theory at the University of Essex. Her dissertation focuses on the practice of self-organisation in the context of contemporary art in Latin America. She previously worked as independent researcher and consultant for a non-profit organisation engaged with artists’ initiatives in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Currently, she is co-editor of the online journal ARARA, Art and Architecture of the Americas.

See article on Soapbox Press:

http://soapboxpress.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/artists-self-organisation-a-project-interview-with-magma-collective-and-iberia-perez/

 

Impetus

Andrea Flying

Panorama

Magma website: http://magmacollective.com

Photos by Magma
Project-interview by Alessandra Cianetti

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Innermind – the Hackney Wick Late Takeover at the V&A Friday 28th February

 Innermind

 “From the land to the water, from the water through the river, we are Charon. From ancient rituals to our contemporary cities, we are Charon. Innermind performance is exploring the human circle/cycle of life. From its onset in the water, it traverses nature and arrives in the modern world, the city. The travellers  move up the river from the water to the city. This path is comparable to the itinerary leading our species  from the primitive world to the modern one. The journey questions the two societies; one based on mythology and spiritualism and the other on our actual pragmatic presence in this world. Cities, objects, people and random characters from daily life, our routine, are projected in a ritualistic way. The aesthetic of the performance is based on the human world of dreams and the subconscious. The countries were: UK: lee River, Turkey: Capadoccia, Brazil/Peru: Amazonia, Dominican Republic: Carnival de La vega Brazil: Sao Paulo.”

 Performed by Ines von Bonhorst, Yuri Pirondi, Amrit Douque, Mauricio Velasierra and Heidi Heidelberg .

  The shroud of Charon

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On the stage, a pile of white fabric was left, as if unattended. Two figures entered and changed the face of our expectation as darkness fell suddenly replaced by the dislocation of a moving image.It was as if the screen was split in two distinct parts. And this was in itself an ironic incidence, the inevitability of physical poetry, the theme of the performance alluding to the journey between two lands, two states of being, sang by many poets, Ovid, Virgil, Dante Alighieri,  Francois Villon, Goethe…

The lose half became animated by two ghostly mermaids while images projected on the flat plane lost their definition, caught in the motion generated by two bodies interacting with light, space and one another, appealing henceforth to the unconscious folds of our imagination, thus bringing the audience to the edge of semi conscious participation. Yuri Pirondi held the projector pointed at the breathing fabric, Ines von Bonhorst and Amrit Douque held one corner at opposite ends lifting the sheet that would transform into a cloud, then a wave, then a sail, catching glimpses of scenes from a series of movies also realised by Ines and Yuri during their travels through England, Turkey, the Dominican Republic and South America.

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The dancers, keepers of a language in perpetual motion were clad in white robes and their face shone in the intermittent light like flour masks. Their persona echoed those of ancient plays and the sad burlesque presence of the mime. Perhaps we are all Charon in the sense that we, as guides to the self through the perils of existence, also invoke the caricature of our fears to fend off evil within and without. Here, on stage, the characters were mapping an ancient initiatic rite on the flux of a distended skin, one Charon, also known as dispater, the dystopia of paternal omnipresence, the other, silhouetted in the penumbra of a distant corner, may have been Tuchulcha, one of his/her assistants and alter egos, or Moira, goddess of fate echoing the genial ‘conduction’ of the psychopomp, both ethereal and terrifying medusas slowly drawing the veil upon the deep, and those who await passage in the afterlife. ImageBut this would not have been possible without the beholder of the light, or rather he who captured and redirected it, a promethean shadow man working en coulisse so to speak, although he manoeuvred in the recess of the front stage right before our eyes, his face turned away from us, his black clothes in direct opposition to the pale skeletal features of the two protagonists. Furthermore none would have moved, and all would have remained static, as if turned to stone, had it not been for the musicians Mauricio Velasierra and Heidi Heidelberg, who like Orpheus long before them, charmed the demons of immutability.  We could paint those figures struggling with the elements, whose ancestry adorned many a vase, and the walls of tombs.  Like gods lost in the tempest of a cosmos on the verge of crystallisation, the two performers seemed to uphold the palimpsest of earthly life before or may be inside the collective mind’s eye. One could have imagined a sun sinking behind the back curtain, but this was not a drama or an opera.

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 No words were spoken, and this fact made an emphasis on all other sounds produced during the act; the sound of active corporeal interaction with the environment.  This means, the sound of inspiration and expiration, the sound of notes, the sound of feet walking on the floor, the sound of people shuffling, coming and going, the sound of matter colliding with matter, reverberating in the grotto of experience, mixing like living cells. We must talk of it as an act as this was an instance of pure theatricality where text was subdued and inferred but never used, replaced instead by gestures, breathing, music, light, entanglement and spatiality.  

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 The words of Antonin Artaud once again were evoked. “Poetry is a dissociating and anarchic force which through analogy, associations and imagery, thrives on the destruction of known relationships.”… “In our present state of degeneration it is through the skin that metaphysics must be made to re-enter our minds.” (The Theatre and its Double.).

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 One of the most crucial moments unfolded as a penultimate occurrence, bringing the exit unexpectedly. The drape was lifted suddenly as if a giant had blown into it and prompted by this upward surge, the two Charon ran towards the crowd sitting in the darkness covering half of the audience with the surface glimmering with unreadable signs, broken language of our times in the waters of the Styx. This was a coup, like a door slammed shut, or a flash of light through a window. The film still played, and I wondered if some of the members of the public looked up to try and decipher the riddles as the sheet slid swiftly above them, at once pulling one veil off and bringing the sleepers out of another dream.

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Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2014

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