Gigs, dance, art

October 31st, 2008: Kang-Hyun Ahn

@centre pompidou

Kang-Hyun Ahn is the one who made the videos I alluded to, those shown between set during that gig. I put this in a separate post because it was a completely different mood, because I liked her work enough to want to set it aside for later reference, and because I just felt like it.

In the first video, la flâneuse – jardin perdu, she went through the streets of Paris with a siamese twin doll facing back and a paper skirt, and handed out stickers to kids, or just putting them on railings, walls or even people. I liked that one, just for the weirdness of the costume and her disturbing everyday reality.

The second one was song of the son of the sun, and showed her singing in another weird costume in an English college, sometimes with people playing music, at other times in weird situations like sitting on a ledge or hanging upside down a short time after a shot of a mechanical bat.

Another, East London yellow pages, showed her dressed in an elaborate paper dress, standing on a big tree stump and spinning around like a wind-up doll to the music box sounds one would expect.

Do focail, mo capall had her dragging a paper horse through streets of Dublin, again in a paper dress, interspeded with shots of her tap-dancing and of her head bobbing like a balloon on a black background. Later her paper horse was kicked and crushed flat by kids and she went on dragging the remains.

There was also Nach em Rääge schiint d’Sunne, but that one was cut short. In this one she stands in a traditional swiss dress again made of paper, singing a local song. Sometimes in a field, sometimes in a city or on a road.

Funny thing is that even though there were some I didn’t really like — those involving singing — and I was not that fond of the others either, the whole grew on me. And I remember them more fondly after having slept on it. There something consistent in there, and far less innocuous than at first sight. It’s not about the paper costumes, really my love of this stuff comes from this quiet interference with reality. I wish my brother remembered enough Korean to help me getting more information, but he doesn’t, so I guess I’ll just have to be on the lookout for an opportunity to see more of her work.

November 1, 2008 Posted by | Art | , , | Leave a comment

August 13th, 2008: Yayoi Kusama – Dots Obsession

@la villette

I had been hearing about Yayoi Kusama for so long I had to take a look. A bit of a disappointment there, due in part to the place itself. Those pink spheres with black dots didn’t mesh with the industrial setting. I think something more suitable to a sensory immersion would have worked better, as did the two sphere one could walk into. One was a quiet place to sit and read or just relax, but it was a bit too crowded for me. The other contained a square room with mirror balls and big balloons attached to the ceiling. Again, too much people in there, the kind who have to pose for pictures fooling with the fragile balls, pretty much ruining the experience for me. But it’s a free show in Paris, so that was to be expected, even though I went there late to avoid the worst of the crowd. Anyway, my favorite was one sphere with a lens to a small box inside, line with mirrors and with a few small spheres reflecting to infinity. Despite the long line to take a look, this gave me a tantalizing sense of the proper immersion that I think is required to appreciate her work. I’d like to get the chance to experience that properly, someday.

I didn’t really like the videos though. As usual, the early one from the 60s were too far from my own experience for me to relate, though the first parts of Kusama’s Self Obliteration, with the horse, water, and tree, did draw me in. The comparatively recent flower obsessions pretty much left me out, too polished for me. I did enjoy Kusama’s room, for its welcoming weirdness. Overall, I just didn’t find a way in.

August 16, 2008 Posted by | Art | , | Leave a comment

July 31st, 2008: Traces du sacré

@centre Pompidou

I didn’t expect much from this one, actually I was undecided about going until I read that there was a video from the Ann Lee series that I hadn’t seen yet. I had read the press kit, and the boast about 350 works by 200 artists made me reluctant to go. Especially in that place, I know such an accumulation can end up too much for me. Often these huge things tend to be about the curator and his views, to the detriment of the actual works. I have had rather negative experiences with these shows that are so obviously designed to be the cultural event of the year.

It turned out to be about what I expected, with the additional wrinkle that the way the works were displayed made little sense to me. I had the feeling that the curator was seeing his god everywhere and went with an attempt to cover all the bases and them some. It just didn’t work for me, as the works tended to cancel out each other. All those big names gave a textbook feel as well, and precious little stood out. Anish Kapoor’s was the one that did, easily my favorite.

Even though the last room was called The Shadow of God, that pall was the curator’s shadow. I stopped reading his words real quick because they were just rubbing me the wrong way: the piety and the Nietzsche fetish were bad enough, but his cut-and-paste were even more annoying. Lifting words to make up a sentence that fits with his beliefs and attributing that to the artist was crossing the line. So I just ignored these and the pompous names of the rooms and was reminded of pseudo-concepts; his seeing religion everywhere — I mean, the flatest reading of Karawane as a religious experience, are you kidding me? — voided his discourse of all meaning.

That Ann Lee video wasn’t that good, by the way, or maybe the setting had already made me cranky. Then there was the aggravating pretense of the last few rooms, close to presenting buddhism as an alternative lifestyle created by beat writers to expand their perception. It’s a bit older than that, and as far as I know, it’s not a drug. On a positive side, including a reading of the footnote to Howl by Ginsberg was fitting, even though I think that early reading pales in comparison to the later ones. Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is holy! sounded right on. But why only that part of the poem? I guess this guy’s worldview is just alien to me, and his efforts to stay on message were grating.

I think I would need to go again to get another chance to see what I missed, but I don’t think I will, I don’t feel it would be worth the trouble.

August 3, 2008 Posted by | Art | , , | Leave a comment

July 25th, 2008: China Gold

@musée Maillol

Sticking with the China theme, I went to a show of Chinese contemporary art. My first motive was its poster, featuring a striking painting by Feng Zhengjie. Well, it’s actually much better, and there was another one. I really loved those, their gaudy colors and weird eyes were striking. I had a mind to buy the show’s book, but finally didn’t because the pictures didn’t do justice to these paintings.

Maybe I’ve been made overly suspicious by the backward looking mindset of many french art shows, but I was pleasantly surprised that when they said “contemporary”, they actually meant it. I didn’t hold a tally, but I’d say almost all works were less than ten year old, most less than five, and a few from this very year. Kudos for the curator for that.

It was a great show, just the right size, far different from the all-or-nothing of say the Pompidou center. Diverse, but so good. I started writing down the names of those I liked, but actually ended up copying most of the names. That’s how much I liked it. For different reasons, from the technique — the ash paintings of Zhang Huan or the raised circles of Yin Zhaoyang’s amazing paintings — to the colors — Feng Zhengjie and Zeng Fanzhi’s fire on black with colorful trails — to some unexpected mixes — abstract/trivial with Hong Hao’s circles or realistic/unreal with Ling Jian’s portrait.

Then there were Zhang Dali’s portraits made out of “AK47” letters, the old/new reversal of red and blue in Qheng Qi’s Beijing crowd, Li Qing’s blue ping pong table with orange balls in carved depressions, Jiao Xingtao bubblegum wrapper, Jiang Zhi’s neon rainbow and Ji Dachun’s banana ouroboros — with a wink to the most famous banana in painting. I was also impressed by Yan Lei’s sparkling portrait of a stewardess that look blurred from up close but clear from a distance. And the crowd of clones in Cui Xiuwen’s Angel n°4 has struck a chord made me want to see more of her work. A feeling that I also have for not just those I listed in this post, but most of those I left out as well.

That was a blast, one of my favorite art show ever — not my favorite though, that’s probably still Pipilotti Rist’s weekend solo show — and for a collective show it was amazing.

For another take on this — in french, but with pictures — go there.

July 27, 2008 Posted by | Art | , , | 2 Comments

July 24th, 2008: Dans la ville chinoise

@cité de l’architecture

So, disappointed by the earlier show but with time to spend, I paid my first visit to the relatively new museum of architecture. The name of the show — within the Chinese city — and its poster image — a street, modern and in colors on the left, out of a black and white picture of the late 19th century on the right — had made me think it would explore the recent changes in Chinese architecture.

Surely nobody would even think of addressing the whole history of Chinese architecture in a single show? The curators turned out even more ambitious, as it attempted to present Chinese culture as well. As a result, the thing was superficial, trying to touch all bases and presenting a smattering of stuff that was hardly making sense. A lot of interesting stuff in there, but the lack of focus was quite detrimental. For instance the now-and-then pictures of some cities could have proved interesting with some perspective and commentary, going beyond date/time captions. But it was probably not possible to pay that much attention to details when you attempt to cram everything from music to calligraphy to family structure to engineering to architecture into a single show.

I’m not impressed by the design of the space either, because the lighting was poor: too harsh for the black background, it make the little text available hard to read, and was hiding some pictures as well. And even though having movies made by Chinese film-makers about specific was a good idea, the viewing conditions were very poor: small cubicles where one has to stand far too close to the screen for a pixelated image and a headache inducing experience. I made it through the first — by Jia Zhangke about Suzhou — and it was a decent way to take a look at a city in an alternative way, but I just had to give up halfway through Peng Tao’s about Chongqing, which is a shame because that place looks spectacular — the cable car and mountains were striking.

Fortunately, there also was a side show, not part of the main event but downstairs, presenting about 40 projects by Chinese architects. And that was really interesting, with brief yet informative notes about the firms and projects, a few good pictures of each and some scale models. That left me wanting more, and I really think taking that room and building the whole exhibition around it would have been a vast improvement. There are even a couple of ready made storylines in there, with people like SOHO and the former mayor of Qingpu having made a lot of things happen — the former were actually part of the main event — or introducing elements of Chinese architecture and planning starting with their influence on these talented people. That’s a show I would gladly spend a couple of days at. Then again, there might not be enough people feeling that way to have such a thing happen.

Some have web sites, so I’ll just bookmark these here for my own sake, in no particular order. I found most of these links on the world architects site — not all though, their profile of MADA s.p.a.m. seems pending for now.

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Art | | Leave a comment

July 24th, 2008: Superdome

@palais de Tokyo

I tend to go there regularly, because of the convenient opening hours — from noon to midnight — and my interest in contemporary art, and also because I’ve been at this place since it opened. Sometimes I just don’t like it and this time much pretty much one of those. I have to say I didn’t get to see Christoph Büchel’s work, because there was a waiting list and the first slot was six hours later. And I only saw half of Jonathan Monk’s because I lacked the required enthusiasm.

My favorite turned out to be Yann Sérandour‘s, 18 books in a small white cube inside a white room, with a square of neon light overhead. The books were O’Doherty’s Inside the white cube, and even though that’s not such a great work, at least it was funny.

The black mattress and wallpaper with black pattern were not bad, but that confrontation brought memories of a far superior show that took place there last year, and that kinda spoiled it. The elephant balanced on its trunk and the beer bottle canon were nothing special for me, and I think the whole show lacked direction.

Finally, I went to hear the tune generated by the Darth Vader heads, but I think that one would required other tries to hear how it evolves — if it does — and I probably would have found it boring — as other people did — had I not been hearing about that project for months from one of the guys working on the computer side of it.

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Art | , | Leave a comment

July 17, 2008: Tatiana Trouvé

@centre pompidou

I had been kinda rooting for her to win that Marcel Duchamp prize — especially with the jury convening upstairs from where I work — so it was a no-brainer for me to drop by and get a look at her show. She has come a long way since the early days of the polders, but there’s still something left of that sense of occupation of unclaimed space, and a tendency to have stuff going on close to the ground. Maybe not as strong as what she did at the Palais de Tokyo, but that may be because it was a personal exhibition, so the interference part was gone.

A very consistent show, with a lot of black between those white walls, and those by now familiar elements: mirrors, glass doors, copper plumbing and those black bronze sculptures.

Beyond an introductory corridor that featured drawing with unexpected thick lines that reminded me of those copper tubes, the space has a skewed symmetry. Partitioned in the middle by a black gate-like structure with three openings, and bookended by enclosed low corridors that where made to look straight by mirrors even though they were forming right angles. But the three in the back were bare with just a glass door inside, whereas the big one in the front held copper tubes coming out of tall gas bottles, with a pair of shoes stranded there — again this parasitic interference, within her own work this time. Out of small holes high in both of these walls came a thin stream of black sand piling up on the ground. In the middle, black bronze sculptures, my favorite being an arch of rope with a ball on each side. These all had some trivial aspect about them, nothing like glorious subject matter but held some mistery because of that. And drawings on the walls, some with unexpected elements, some with reflective material standing in for mirrors, all of them featuring something that would seem out of place but made a lot of sense.

My favorite series of drawings were the remanence series, all it shades from dark gray to black, usually a room with a picture window and something out of place in the middle, with elements kinda emerging into view progressively. A process in a static drawing, that sure made my day.

But the best part for me were the small touches, like the small impact marks in the glass plate of the first corridor, and especially the two lamps in a corner, one projecting a halo of light on the white wall, the other turned off but with a burn mark on the wall instead.

July 18, 2008 Posted by | Art | , | 2 Comments