Involved
Source:Artintern Author:Philippe Pirotte Date: 2008-11-04 Size:
In relation to recent turmoil happening in and around a certain vigorous and performing China, the Western world seems to hold to an eerie misconception of the historical condition of geopolitical initiative today.

In relation to recent turmoil happening in and around a certain vigorous and performing China, the Western world seems to hold to an eerie misconception of the historical condition of geopolitical initiative today. This situation is not new, but perceived as such by a West that has difficulties to abandon its grammar of superiority. This attitude is of course combined with a fascination and an urgency to participate in the Chinese economical ‘hyper-growth’. The artistic project at hand here, rather than ‘celebrating’ naïvely the effects of globalization and the encounter between different cultural spheres, cannot deny that it is partly motivated by such a particular mixed set of feelings.

We chose to bring a group of artists together under the title Involved. ‘Involved’ can mean as much as being implicated in a crime or concerned in some intricate affairs, but can also mean being committed or engaged in possibly political or artistic movements.

As an exhibition Involved addresses content, which is not announced explicitly but becomes something understood by the observer of the work as it is experienced. It is focusing on subject matter underneath that what is rendered public. It can imply controversial subjects without alienating people from the main metaphor proposed by the work. By careful use of subtexts, the exhibition instils a sense of purpose or focus to an anticipated future. Not necessary optimistic, this future is covered in an aside, sometimes through recollecting a past, suggested through that what is left out of a conversation.

Knut Åsdam, Pissing, video

Knut Åsdam

Norvegian artist Knut Åsdam’s Untitled: Pissing is a video showing a crotch-shot of a man pissing in his pants. The main theme is in relation to masculinity, and in a simple way the video mentions masculinity and sexuality without being phallocentric. The wetting itself is not only traumatic in relation to masculinity (something the little boy does and knows he is punished for,) or something that happens solely from fear; it is also a sign of arousal and excitement even in the confrontation with the trauma; to come (on one self), have an orgasm, and furthermore has a feminine metaphor in ’getting wet’. This leads the video also to raise questions in relation to the viewer of what is erotic or simply perverse.

Stefan Brüggemann

Brüggemann (Mexico City, 1975) uses text in a rather unusual approach, combining a formal, and quite traditional conceptual approach to art with a rough and critical attitude. Brüggemann has been creating works of art that are expressed through tautological premises, not only within themselves but also in relation to the context in which they are conceived and inserted. His language-based works are founded in rebellion, irony and in institutional critique. He continues with the conceptual tradition of using industrial media that have a primordial utilitarian function. However, its contents also come from those same vernacular contexts, as if putting together message and medium he is able to reveal its hidden possibilities to express deeper meanings than the apparently superficial ones perceived at a first glance.

Some of his text pieces ambiguously present a cynical, nihilist and lucid reflection on certain economical and philosophical aspects related to the production and reception of cultural goods, art included. Brüggemann’s texts resound that same attitude of rebellion, discontent and skepticism. He has a contradictory behaviour, oscillating between criticizing and doing nothing. It’s hard to find a better tribute to punk.

Often, his text pieces make direct reference to the conceptual practices in which the artist inserts himself. However, there is a slight difference regarding orthodox conceptualism, and it lies in mockery and auto-irony: few conceptual artists play about their processes or question the validity of their redundancies, and that’s Brüggemann achievement, to tease about his own influences and creations.

At Shanghart he will create a very big vinyl text: “NEW” and wallpaper a room with “Conceptual Decoration”. Next to that he will try out graffitied paintings with mirrored dollar signs.

Pavel Büchler is a Czech born artist, lecturer and writer, living in the United Kingdom since 1981, where he is also a Research Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University. Büchler’s work evolves around two fundamental concerns: time and the manipulation of found materials. Concerned with the distortions of language, he gives a critical attention to the gaps in communication, fascinated as he is with the limits of the communicative properties of visual language. Particularly interested in art’s old links to language and literature, Pavel Büchler will show a group of works he conceived over the years with Marconi Sound projectors from the 1920’s and text-to speech software to read a text. In this particular piece Büchler uses a quotation from Franz Kafka’s The Castle, a quintessential text about labyrinthine bureaucracy and its control systems. The short section chosen by Büchler recounts the resentment with which the locals suffer Josef K’s presence in the village. It includes the words of a village landlady: “You are not from the Castle, you are not from the village, you aren’t anything. Or rather, unfortunately, you are something, a stranger, a man who isn’t wanted and is in everybody’s way...” The key passage from Kafka’s novel articulates the unclassifiable identity of a stranger in the closed social matrix of the village-castle. The Castle is about the struggle to fit in and its failure. Booming out through the antique speakers, the text recalls old factory or street propaganda announcements, this one declaring that assimilation is impossible and the stranger will always remain on the outside. Büchler is particularly interested in the different resonances it can have in the different cities where the work is presented: in a city of migrants and Byzantine codes of behaviour like Istanbul, or in a more provincial old European capital like Bern. The text is narrated in German and English using text-to-speech voice synthesis and loudspeakers designed by Marconi in 1926, the year of the publication of the book. The soundtrack is interrupted by bursts of music remixed from 1950s Eastern European propaganda repertoire.

Armen Eloyan

Armenian painter Armen Eloyan has swathed ‘figuration-as-we-know-it’ in a loud and greasy perverse painterly realm, carrying the viewer towards that last grain of bare and violent vulgarity, which one sometimes - in a horrifying unguarded moment - recognizes in oneself. The enthusiasm these paintings incite however, finds its origins in a dynamic-vitalistic way of painting. The paintings derive an enormous visual impact and energy from a field of tension that exists between gesture and story and from the historical short circuit and constant interaction between painting as action and painting as narration. Though operating on an epic scale, Eloyan pushes the narrative - in all likelihood his motivation or even excuse to paint - to the background. The act of painting with the whole body - rather than with the wrist alone - is not only a manner of expression but it becomes a risky enterprise of dangerous yet funny acrobatics, as if one were running in too big shoes. The urge to paint and the instinct to tell a story, continuously keep each other in an unstable balance in favour of the formal composition, which requires constant commitment on the part of the painter. The artist devotes himself to pictorial research with what is for many a touching and authentic dedication but, balancing between an apparent unpredictability and purposefulness, his large-scale pictures are often based on the conscious study of the colour scheme and composition of constructivist examples. Indeed, ‘innocent’ painting is today less possible than ever. For his motifs Armen Eloyan often turns to folk-art and folklore, basing his paintings at times on 19th century Eastern European woodcuts and embroidery with representations of fairy-tales and stories, or on animation movies, comic strips and other popular art forms. As in an oral tradition, the digested and assimilated references suggest a domain of received stories and ideas. In visual sediments, the paintings mimic the transmission of cultural material.

Corey McCorkle is best described not as an object-maker (although he does produce meticulously crafted things) but as a spatial interventionist.

Film is a growing component of McCorkle’s production, not least because of its presumed transparency. Recent films include: Preah (2005), a portrait of a reportedly mystical white cow in Cambodia; Tower of Shadows (2006), a vision of Le Corbusier’s famous unfinished monument in Chandigarh, filmed from dawn till dusk on the shortest day of the year; and Bestiaire (2007), a slide-show-like view of a defunct zoo outside Istanbul. In each case McCorkle adopts a neutral approach, employing static close-up shots (and in the case of Tower of Shadows a single take) that divest the camera of subjective personality while simultaneously highlighting its function as framing device. (In fact, McCorkle modelled Bestiare’s shots on views by the 18th-century fantasy landscape painter Nicholas Robert.) It would seem that for McCorkle meaning exists outside our efforts to harness it, just as this application to meaning is all we can ever claim to have. At Shanghart the artist will show March, 2008 his video about The Knickerbocker Greys, a historic after-school leadership program for children and teenagers, has been shown at the Park Avenue Armory. Featuring the Knickerbocker Greys, a paramilitary drill club for children that has practiced at the Park Avenue Armory since 1881, McCorkle explores the club’s weekly pageant, highlighting the neo-gothic interiors of this historic building. Most of McCorkle’s work - a mix of architecture, sculpture, installation, and traditional documentary technique - explores utopian communities and zones of public space.

Luc Tuymans is is an artist more concerned to problematise than to delight. The 50-year-old Belgian is probably the most influential painter of his generation. His hauntingly vacant images are compelling yet elusive to the point of seeming wilfully obtuse. They put you in a mood (a blue one, generally), but you come away from them with a generalized sensation rather than specific visual memories. Although they often focus on singular objects or events, they are somehow too tricky and shadowy to submit to memorability. He tackles loaded political themes — past shows have taken on the Holocaust, Belgian meddling in post-colonial Congo, and the press response to the September 11 attacks — in ways that are teasingly tangential. It is history as experienced by the numbed, the apathetic, the befuddled. One of the strangest aspects of Tuymans’s project is his strict rule of finishing each painting in a single sitting. This is particularly perverse because ‘alla prima’ painting is usually intended to achieve freshness and spontaneity, whereas Tuymans has more than lived up to his anti-heroic ideal of the “authentic forgery.” Far from conveying any kind of speed or dashed-off painterliness, his surfaces have a flat, matter-of-fact delivery that is usually associated with a slow, deliberate hand. But they do have a sense of belligerent unfinish and of apathetic awkwardnesses. It is as if they wanted to convey as much alienation and unease in the way they are made as in the way they will be received. The pervasive unease in Tuymans’s work amounts to a sublimated violence. His imagery deals with conflicts and problems obliquely: Seemingly intent on capturing the banality of evil rather than its drama.

[Editor] Mark Lee

    Artintern