30 April 2014

Maha Maamoun's The Night of Counting the Years at Fridericianum Turm, May 11–July 27, 2014

Maha Maamoun's first institutional solo exhibition focuses on her films, with which she injects history into existing images, texts and sounds: Domestic Tourism II (2008) compiles cameo appearances by the Pyramids of Giza in Egyptian cinema since the 1950s. This ancient Wonder of the World in its role as a backdrop for discussions of national, individual and gender identity in Egyptian mainstream cinema advances to become the protagonist of a dramatic feature film. 

When the text of a contemporary science fiction novel meets the reenactment of an iconic film image from the 1960s, the idea of imagination as potentiality is reduced to absurdity in 2026 (2010). Digging through blurred mobile phone footage on YouTube, which has captured the storming of the state security buildings in Cairo and Damanhur in spring 2011, Maamoun sets up an arduous course of decoding the past (Night Visitor: The Night of Counting the Years, 2011). In her latest film, Shooting Stars Remind Me of Eavesdroppers (2013), Maamoun likewise refuses to direct actors or scenes and instead orchestrates images and sounds recorded in Al-Azahr Park together with an intimate conversation about eavesdropping, truth and trust.

With her films, Maamoun trawls through the cultural imaginary in search of historiographical framing in which to set the present. This is also reflected in the exhibition title, which stems from the cinema classic by Shadi Abdel Salam. Maamoun's works indicate that the question of whether art can step out of the symbolic circle in order to have an effect in the lifeworld is posed incorrectly: it's all about the how. Art is opening out almost of its own accord when Maamoun takes seriously symbolic representations and has them clash with one another. In this process ruptures are caused in the representations, enabling the painful points of current questions to be intuited. 

Words via e-flux announcement.

29 April 2014

[EXHIBITION] Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, May 3–Oct 5, 2014

Frida Kahlo is one of the most famous artists in the world. Her reputation and persona have grown immensely since her death in 1954, yet posthumously she has been turned into a stereotype of Latin American art. This predicament, along with her celebrity status, often overshadows the confrontational and boldly transgressive nature of her paintings, and ultimately undermines the revolutionary intent of her work. 

Left: Image 1, Right: Image 2. See image credit below.

At the time it was made, Kahlo’s unabashedly intimate portrayal of her physical and psychological experiences and her appropriation of Mexican folk art aesthetics challenged the bourgeois European mainstream. The scale and content of her work also stood in opposition to the monumental, nationalistic history painting being produced by her male Mexican contemporaries. Her work subverted accepted notions of gender, sexuality, social class, and ethnicity, and was prophetic in anticipating the broader cultural concerns—postcolonialism, feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism, and globalization—that reached a crescendo in the 1960s and continue to be relevant today.

Image 3: See image credit below.

In 1978, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presented Kahlo’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States. Using two of the works included in the original 1978 exhibition, Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo brings her work into a dialogue with contemporary art. The selected artists in this exhibition share Kahlo’s spirit of rebellion and similarly assert themselves against the patriarchy as they insert their voices into dominant artistic discourses. This exhibition highlights four themes in Kahlo’s paintings to examine their continued relevance to international artists: the performance of gender, issues of national identity, the political body, and the absent or traumatized body. 

26 April 2014

Sharon Lockhart's 'Milena, Milena' at Bonniers Konsthall

Milena, Milena is the second in an exhibition trilogy - a narrative triptych that grows from Lockhart's relationship with Polish teenager Milena. Lockhart first befriended Milena in 2009 in Łodź, Poland during the filming of Podwórka (included in the exhibition). Several years later, Lockhart rekindled her friendship with Milena and discovered Milena's desire to write a book about her life. Triggering an ongoing dialogue between Lockhart and Milena, this imagined autobiography has become the impetus through which the two have explored the ambiguous autonomy of the young adult.

Sharon Lockhart, "Milena, Jarosław, 2013," 2014. Three framed chromogenic prints, 128.8 x 103.3 cm. Courtesy the artist, neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.

Spread across three institutions and unfolded over a span of three years, each iteration of Milena, Milena features a slightly varied selection of works and marks an organic progression to the overall project. Comprising research (CCA Warsaw, 2013), production (Bonniers Konsthall, 2014), and contextualization (Kunstmuseum Luzern, 2015), Milena, Milena's trajectory aims at reflecting both highlights of the artist's 20-year career and her focus on a single character's choreography of selfhood and identity. 

The exhibition trilogy includes a series of strategically selected identifications that claim the biographical dimension of Lockhart's work, thus operating as (self-)portraits as well as projections. As such, the exhibition is framed by two works of a subtly biographical background: It opens with the cinematic tour de force of Double Tide (2009)—filmed in Maine, USA, where Lockhart spent her childhood—and concludes with the rarely exhibited series "Untitled Studies" (1993–ongoing), the artist's photographic diary, composed of re-photographed snapshots found in her own family album. At the center of the exhibition's narrative is Milena, an enigmatic figure who remains disquietly absent, distilling the different threads of identification in her very non-presence.

Lockhart's new work is a study of intimacy, shaped largely by the artist's reading of theoretical writings of Polish-Jewish educator, children's author and pediatrician Janusz Korczak (1878–1942). A legend of his own time, Korczak experimented with the methods of institutional education, based on the developmental enhancement of a child's inborn abilities. Representative of the social pedagogy approach to education and a pioneer of children's rights, he envisioned a future in which children structured their own world and became experts in their own matters. He crystallized his knowledge of child psychology, while learning to "(speak) not to the children but with the children."

Words from e-flux announcement.

Portraits of Justice, Alfredo Jaar's permanent installation at John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Portraits of Justice is a new permanent installation by Alfredo Jaar at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Commissioned for the Lynn and Jules Kroll Atrium of the new building designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the project was coordinated by independent curator Jennifer McGregor.
Alfredo Jaar, Portraits of Justice, 2013. Mixed-media installation. Courtesy the artist, New York. Photography: Rudolf Costin.

Jaar's new installation Portraits of Justice welcomes students, staff, faculty, and visitors entering the college with an elegant wall of pristine mirrors and aluminum panels. In midst of the reflections of the atrium's buzzing life, the seemingly minimal installation offers the college community a gaze into itself. The work's real complexity however unfolds as the mirrors light up every few minutes with faces of John Jay students, intermittently appearing and disappearing in various areas throughout the installation. 

At random intervals, some of the students speak out the word "justice" and, three times a day every day, the entire installation comes to life as it completely fills up with students whispering, shouting, imposing, or calling for "justice" in unison. The layering of reflections and the gradual unraveling of the complexity of the work reflects the difficulty and intricacy of a field like criminal justice, as well as the rigor and discipline that it requires. Mirrors, an age-old symbol of transparency and scrutiny, also suggest that all justice begins by looking at oneself.

About the artwork: Alfredo Jaar. Portraits of Justice, 2013. Installation with twenty LCD monitors, aluminum panels, TV mirror glass panels, and videos. Software design by Jerzy Klebieko. Cinematography by Rudolf Costin

Words via e-flux.

Acquiring Modernity: Kuwait's Pavilion at the 14th Venice International Architecture Biennale

Commissioned by the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, Kuwait’s pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia will take place from June 7 to November 23. Housed in the Arsenale, Acquiring Modernity is Kuwait’s second participation after Kethra, which debuted at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition in 2012. 

Alia Farid, "A composite image of Princess Diana's anticipated
visit to the Kuwait National Museum," 2014.

Under the supervision of deputy commissioner Zahra Ali Baba and the creative direction of artist-curator Alia Farid, Acquiring Modernity will address the exhibition’s overarching theme of 100 years of modernity from 1914 to 2014. The pavilion will explore symbols of modernity in Kuwait’s architecture, with a special focus on Michel Ecochard’s Kuwait National Museum, designed in 1960 and completed in 1983. 

Representing Kuwait at the Biennale Architettura 2014 is a team of 21 individuals engaged in diverse areas of research: Aisha Alsager, Dana Aljouder, Sara Saragoça Soares, Hassan Hayat, Nesef Al Nesef, Noora Al Musallam, Amara Abdal Figueroa, Gráinne Hebeler, Abdullah AlHarmi, Samer Mohammed, Nima Algooneh, Liane Al-Ghusain, Adel Al-Qattan, Wafa’a Al-Fraheen, Dalal Al-Sane, Noura Alsager, Maysaa Almumin, Cherihan Nasr, Fatema Alqabandi, Alaa Alawadhi, and Ghazi Al-Mulaifi. 

The pavilion will also feature collaborations with filmmakers Shakir Abal and Oscar Boyson, graphic design duo Dexter Sinister, and artist Abdullah Al-Awadhi.  Accompanying the pavilion is a research publication available in English and Arabic, a film set for release in November, and a joint installation with the Nordic Pavilion. 

For more detailed information about the curator, participants, or the pavilion, visit website: www.acquiringmodernity.com

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