Art Radar Asia

Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

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Archive for the ‘Activist’ Category

International artists reflect on controversial New Delhi face-lift

Posted by artradar on August 31, 2010


POLITICAL ART SOCIAL ART EXHIBITIONS INDIA RESIDENCIES SPORT EVENT

As so often happens when cities are granted the right to host a major sporting event, New Dehli is undergoing a sometimes controversial face-lift in preparation for the Commonwealth Games. New Delhi artists, as recently reported in The Washington Post, have entered the debate currently raging among lawmakers, the media, activists and sports figures over some aspects of the city’s planning and construction for the event.

A government commission recently issued a report critical of the city’s new construction. Human rights activists say thousands of slums have been demolished, and they warn that the games are creating deep social divisions. The Washington Post

Work by resident artist Becky Brown, part of Religare Arts.i's "The Transforming State. Image courtesy of Religare Arts.i.

Work by resident artist Becky Brown, part of Religare Arts.i's "The Transforming State. Image courtesy of Religare Arts.i.

The article details the work of three of the sixteen Indian and international artists whose artworks appear in a Religare Arts.i exhibition titled “The Transforming State“, the culmination of a two-month residency programme. It also contains comments from members of the public and arts professionals involved in organisation of the exhibition.

“The white-columned colonial architecture was built to impose order on the city during the British rule. Over the years, it yellowed, grayed and changed with use. It had the look of a natural, inhabited place,” said Malik, adjusting his retro-spectacles. “I find it odd that they are now restoring it to its original whiteness for the games.” Jitesh Malik, as quoted in The Washington Post

“The whole city is a work in progress. We are told to bear with the mess for the sake of the beauty that will come during the games. Now that mess has come into the art gallery,” Umesh Kumar, who attended the program’s preview, said with a wry smile. “The artists have spoken, but their message does not bring much comfort.” The Washington Post

Artists who participated in the residency and exhibition include Becky Brown, Brad Biancardi, Garima Jayadevan, Greg Jones, Jitesh Malik, Kavita Singh Kale, Kustav Nag, Megha Katyal, Nidhi Khurana, Onishi Yasuaki, Purnna Behera, Raffaella Della Olga and Rajesh KR Singh.

Read the full article here.

KN

Related Topics: New Delhi art venues, international artists, gallery shows

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Posted in Activist, Art spaces, Buildings, Environment, Events, Gallery shows, India, Installation, International, Land art, Landscape, New Delhi, Residencies, Styles, Themes and subjects, Urban, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Anti “commercial” art, Luk Tsing Yuen comments on corporate greed: video

Posted by artradar on August 4, 2010


INTERNET TV 3D ART VIDEO

Art Radar Asia brings you yet another insightful video from Internet channel ChooChooTV’s show [art]attack. This four minute production allows Hong Kong-based social artist Luk Tsing Yuen to explain his art output and offers viewers a chance to share space in his studio.

Luk Tsing Yuen

Luk Tsing Yuen

A fairly young artist, Luk Tsing Yuen received his BA in 2005  and is currently a student of Art and Design in Education at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Tsing Yuen takes the viewer on a tour of some of his recent works explaining each with a background of his inspirations and concerns. Working with 3D objects, Tsing Yuen uses a certain plastic type known as polyurethane. Fashioning plastic into detailed objects in response to social issues like the preservation of the environment and the commercialised culture crisis, Tsing Yuen’s works combine a passionate feeling for social needs and aesthetic imagination.

In a work called Art becoming merchandise, Tsing Yuen shows us what looks like a display box within which rows of decorative objects are stuck to the wall. Referring to the theme of assembly line production of culture and art, he places each “art” object as a product like any other – mass produced. He  goes on to say,

I want to express the fact that businessmen are destroying our history and artwork.

Another artwork features multiple slabs of transparent plastic within which one sees fossilized butterflies that have retained their colorfulness. Tsing Yuen says that the inspiration for this work was derived from a recent construction site at the Fung Yuen butterfly reserve where in the name of a better environment, the dust and grime from the construction was killing a great number of protected butterflies.

Luk Tsing Yuen has participated in several local solo and group exhibitions including “Fotanian” (2003), “A Person A [ ]” (2004), “Local East-Kowloon Art In Progress” (2006), “Industry and Silence” (2007), and “Passionate Objects” (2008) and is currently based in Hong Kong.

Watch the video on the ChooChooTV show [art]attack (length of video, 4:03 minutes).

AM/KN

Related Topics: Hong Kong artists , biological art, consumerism

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Posted in 3D Max, Activist, Art and internet, Artists as celebrities, Bio (biological) art, Consumerism, Design, Emerging artists, Environment, Fragile art, Hong Kong Artists, Installation, Large art, Luk Tsing Yuen, Sculpture, Videos | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Russian curators prosecuted for showcasing banned art: media round-up

Posted by artradar on August 2, 2010


RUSSIAN ART CURATORS BANNED ART LAW

After a two-year trial, two Russian curators, Yury Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev, were declared guilty of “inciting religious hatred,” despite massive protest. Although they escaped the three-year prison sentence demanded by the prosecution, the judge declared them guilty and each had to pay a hefty fine. Critics fear the results of this trial are proof of cultural oppression in Russia.

They had showcased art banned from other Russian museums in an exhibition entitled “Forbidden Art” at the Sakharov Museum.

Alexander Kosolapov's 'This Is My Body', from "My Blood My Body" series, one of the works from the controversial exhibition "Forbidden Art 2006" at the Sakharov Museum.

Alexander Kosolapov's 'This Is My Body', from "My Blood My Body" series, one of the works from the controversial exhibition "Forbidden Art" at the Sakharov Museum.

Strong public interest in the case

Most media leans in favor of the Russian curators and sees the verdict as a sign of cultural oppression and censorship in Russia. However protesters from both sides were present outside the courthouse on the day of the ruling. Those offended by the paintings and who initiated the prosecution were mostly fundamentalist Russian Orthodox Christians while those against the prosecution consisted generally of artists and human rights activists. Multiple blogs and news agencies have covered the trial, ranging from arts websites to Russian interest magazines and blogs about human rights.

Extreme factions from both sides have voiced their protests. The New York Times reports that radical art performance group, Voina, released cockroaches into the courtroom, an act criticized by Samodurov. According to the Associated Press, extremist members of the prosecution threatened the curators in court, reminding them of the fate of Anna Alchuk, curator of “Caution: Religion!” who was found dead in Berlin in 2008.

Artists “incited religious hatred”

'Chechen Marilyn' by Blue Noses Group (2005, colour print, 100 x 75 cm), one of the works from the controversial exhibition "Forbidden Art 2006" at the Sakharov Museum.

'Chechen Marilyn' by Blue Noses Group (2005, colour print, 100 x 75 cm), one of the works from the controversial exhibition "Forbidden Art" at the Sakharov Museum.

The works in question include an icon made of caviar, a depiction of Christ with a Mickey Mouse head, and an image of Christ with the McDonald’s sign and the words “This is my body”. There were also some non-Christian symbols included in the list of offensive images such as Chechen Marilyn and the Chinese invading the Kremlin. The exhibition spurred a lot of anger amongst religious groups.

In a video interview with Russia Today, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church explains that,

Orthodox believers, as citizens of their country…have the right to protect their sacred symbols. It was not the church that initiated this prosecution, but the people who were offended. The investigation proved that the art at the exhibit was offensive towards believers, and incited religious hatred.

The New York Times also mentioned, however, that Russian Orthodox Church officials believed that while displaying the paintings was criminal and the curators should be punished, they shouldn’t be imprisoned. Furthermore, the Russian Minister of Culture was critical of the prosecution.

A fight against censorship

The defendants’ view is that this exhibition was a critique of the materialism of Russian society and a fight against censorship of the arts, and had nothing to do with religion. Ironically, critics fear that results of the trial have shown that censorship is quite powerful in Russia.

Samodurov faced similar charges for a 2003 exhibition called “Caution: Religion!” He says the Church has reacted more strongly in the “Forbidden Art” trial.

Human rights and arts activists fully disapprove of the judge’s ruling, and are alarmed not only at the guilty verdict but at the fact that this trial even took place. The BBC News reported that thirteen renowned Russian artists signed an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev protesting the trial. Russia Today reports that,

…much more concerning [than escaping the jail sentence] for people in their circumstances is what they’ve seen as a curb from their freedom of expression.

In addition support from other artists and curators has been prevalent. The Associated Press reports that Marat Gelman, a Moscow gallery owner, declared his support for the pair by saying he would launch his own “Forbidden Art” exhibition should the ruling be in favor of the church. One sympathizer stated for the Associated Press before the verdict was declared,

‘I am very afraid for them,’ she said. ‘The church is now younger, more energetic.’

Some fear a return to a cultural oppression similar to that of Czarist Russia. Some suspect the Kremlin may have had a role in lightening the punishment of the curators to prevent tarnishing their international image. Critics have predicted that people will be wary of displaying and producing potentially offensive art in Russia, and this will make Russian art less competitive globally.

MM/KN

Related Topics: Russian artists, curators, venues – Moscow

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Posted in Activist, Body, Brands, Celebrity art, Censorship of art, Consumerism, Curators, Identity art, Moscow, Nationalism, Political, Religious art, Russia, Russian, Social, Themes and subjects, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ai Weiwei and Vito Acconci wrap up major collaboration at Hong Kong’s Para/Site art space

Posted by artradar on July 6, 2010


AI WEIWEI CHINESE ART HONG KONG ART SPACES ARTIST COLLABORATIONS

With a new project, Chinese art all-rounder Ai Weiwei, in cooperation with American artist Vito Acconci, has brought fresh dialogues between the East and West to Hong Kong, a monumental event in Ai Weiwei’s career and for the Hong Kong and the Asian art scenes.

installation view at para:site art space

A view of "Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project", an installation work recently shown at Para/Site art space in Hong Kong.

Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project“, held at Hong Kong’s Para/Site art space, has provided the opportunity for Ai Weiwei to meet and work for the first time with Vito Acconci, an American artist whom he admires.

Vito Acconci

Like Ai Weiwei, Acconci shifts between performance art and architecture, and has gained a global reputation for his bold art stunts.

In his 1971 performance entitled Seedbed, Acconci engaged his visitors in restrained sexual intimacy by masturbating continuously under a wooden platform in a gallery.

recent article published on Time Out Hong Kong describes the artist as someone who “works not as a singular artist but as an architect and ‘collaborator’ for Acconci Studios. The controversial questioning of his earlier career has been replaced with an intellegent whimsy in design. Structures roam, twist and fold within their sites. Each edifice constantly contemplating the function of space and the understanding of linear time and form.”

Ai Weiwei

Having been involved in design, architecture, curating, writing and publishing, Ai Weiwei is one of the most controversial contemporary artists of his generation. Asked to describe his art by the Financial Times, Ai Weiwei gave the following reply:

“That question makes me almost speechless, because I wonder how much do I know about it, even though it was me that did it? What part is conscious and is that consciousness important? And what part has come out only because of the public’s sentiment? And is that important?”

An article recently published in the Guardian noted that Ai Weiwei’s work “has become overtly political, blurring the boundary between art and activism”, referring to the artist’s Remembering installation. This artwork was comprised of 9,000 children’s backpacks, in reminiscence of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake casualties.

In recollection of Ai Weiwei’s past performances, an article published in the Financial Times discussed both Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), “a triptych of photographs in which he is seen casually dropping a 2,000-year-old vase to shatter on the ground”, and an exhibition of 46 avant-garde artists including himself called Fuck Off (2000), which was closed down by authorities. The artwork’s Chinese title was the milder Uncooperative Approach. Despite his strong defiance against the Beijing government, Ai Weiwei was the designer of the Bird’s Nest at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

vito acconci and ai weiwei discussing their collaboration

Vito Acconci and Ai Weiwei in discussion regarding "Acconti Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project", an installation work recently shown at Para/Site art space in Hong Kong.

Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project

For “Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project”, Para/Site was transformed into a three-dimensional grid where Ai and Acconci developed their work “in constant mutation and accumulation during the two months that it [was] open to the public.” The end product was an unorthodox, multilayered installation with an accumulated collection of new works, models, drawings and various materials that were accumulated as a result of ongoing discussions between Ai Weiwei, Vito Acconci and their studios.

“The collaboration with Vito Acconci at Para/Site art space is an effort in figuring out ways to collaborate, ways [of] defining the actual process of working together. Through the development of a gallery project we are to think [of] the formation of a city.” Ai Weiwei (as quoted on the Para/Site website)

“I would never have imagined that today I could become active in art and have a chance to meet Vito…I was a young man just come from China. I was trying to be part of art history, but then it was impossible…Neither of us have any nostalgia towards the past, but we are both ready to think about today. That is our common ground.” Ai Weiwei (as quoted by the Financial Times)

The project is not just an interesting addition to Ai’s collection of stunning works. As Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, the Executive Director and Curator of Para/Site, told Art Radar Asia, it has also created a platform for dialogues about the arts in Hong Kong and, on a larger scale, throughout Asia.

“This project reflects the complex production system that surrounds the creation of new works of art/projects in the 21st century. Dialogue is an important element of this project, which is as much about exchange of ideas as it is about production. Until now most exhibitions in this part of Asia focused on exhibiting a relevant Western artist or showcasing a leading artist from Asia. But the dialogue between what is happening in different parts of the world is lacking. This conversation is conducive to new ideas and it opens new paths of research. Then, there is also the challenge to put together practitioners from different generations, that also operate within different studio cultures. It proves Hong Kong can be a platform for leading international projects, and positions this city as a destination for art lovers, and not just a stopover. It is also a picture of what Hong Kong could be in the international scene if we had some rigorous planning and more opportunities to engage with current discourses around the world. This project is about taking curatorial risks, to start a journey without knowing the final destination.”

According to the art space’s website, Para/Site was chosen as the base for the project because of its autonomy from large organisations, enabling it to accommodate the innovativeness of the project.

CBKM/KN

Related topics: Ai Weiwei, collaborative art, venues – Hong Kong, Chinese artists

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Posted in Activist, Ai Weiwei, American, Art spaces, Artist Nationality, China, Chinese, Collaborative, Crossover art, Events, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Installation, Interactive art, Medium, Photography, Sound, Sound art, Styles, Themes and subjects, Trends, Venues, Z Artists | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Questioning “Made in China” – Interview Avant-Garde Beijing Artist: Huang Rui

Posted by artradar on October 28, 2009


CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ART

Artist Huang Rui standing in front of the Comerchina exhibition.

Artist Huang Rui standing in front of Shadow at Comerchina exhibition at 10 Chancery Gallery.

 Father of contemporary Chinese art, Huang Rui  is a Beijing artist who dares to think and act differently in a society that demands conformity. Prominent founder of the historically momentous 1979 Stars Group as well as the famous Beijing 798 Factory, Huang Rui showcases his exhibition Comerchina at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery (17 Sep – 10 Oct 2009) in Hong Kong.

Characteristic of his previous work such as “拆那(demolition)/China”, this series of new paintings called “Hall of Fame” is a collage that tweaks a pun on advertising imagery contributed by online participants.

In an exclusive interview with Art Radar, Huang Rui explains the layers of political and economic connotations in Comerchina, the difficulties facing art in this consumer society and the impossibility of escaping political scrutiny.

Q: Why is the exhibition called Comerchina?

ComerChina coverThe theme is related to commercialization and China. Ever since the 1990’s, China has become more and more commercialized in three aspects.

First, politics is becoming a servant of commerce. Second, commerce is labeled with cultural slogans. Third, the entire structure of society is changing and, as an integrated society,  is very dangerous.

 It’s different from a global society, which is only an element of an integrated society. It’s not a dictatorship, but rather a particular organizational system.  

Politics, the demand for a rise in economic standards and personal interests means that other important concerns such as art are being sacrificed. We need to reflect, criticize, and protest.

Q: How do your new paintings and installations in this show speak to over-commercialization and the power of money in China? What do the numbers represent? 

Hall of Fame 1-25 by Huang Rui, silk-screen printing/collage/canvas, 45X60X25cm pieces, 2009

Hall of Fame 1-25 by Huang Rui, silk-screen printing/collage/canvas, 45X60X25cm pieces, 2009

If someone attacks you, you attack him as well. It’s a natural response. In my work, the number represents you and me, since everyone uses cell phones. In the work of a 100-yuan bill with Mao, there are 100 numbers. 100 out of 100 represents an integrated society. “Made in China” refers to the global economy and the power of cooperation.

Q: How do you see contemporary art in China evolving? Where is it going (the trends)? Would you consider yourself a trend leader?

 

 

Chairman Mao Wan Yuan by Huang Rui, 128X88X4.6X6cm, 2006

Chairman Mao Wan Yuan by Huang Rui, 128X88X4.6X6cm, 2006

 

 

Huang Rui’s take on trends in Chinese contemporary art

It’s getting more commercialized, there is more variety and commerce is a factor that makes cooperation indispensable. Chinese society in the South including Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Shenzhen are producing imitation art. Hong Kong is focused on business, so real art is hard to develop. Artists in Hong Kong either have to bear with it or move out. It’s not up to the individual artists to enforce change. Our power is confined to criticizing and perhaps creating new structures or models, new thinking, and making proposals. To lead changes in the art world, it is up to the social elites, the politicians, and the urban planners.

Q: In your work Shadow, the characters taken together mean “maintain dictatorship of the proletariat”**. Would this work be permitted in mainland China?

 

Shadow(1-25) by Huang Rui, 90X60X27cm, oil on canvas, silkscreen lithograph, 2009

Shadow(1-25) by Huang Rui, 90X60X27cm, oil on canvas, silkscreen lithograph, 2009

 

 

It is now permitted, but this only happened recently. There were a lot of controversies with the Twin Tower (2001), which comprised layers of words and political expressions. My intent was to draw an analogy. The Twin Towers in New York were a symbol of menace as well as a political and economic strength. Likewise, the thinking of Mao and that of Jiang Ze Min are symbols of power yet also have tones of menace. Another work of mine that was banned from exhibition was “Chairman Mao Wan Yuan“(2006) [Note: wan sui in Chinese refers to “longevity” or “10,000 years”. The character wan also means 10,000.]

Many of my works were not just banned in China, but also elsewhere such as Japan, where I used to live. In 2005, there was a 3D Asian Art Fair in Korea and Singapore, but the Consulate General of China protested against the exhibition of my work.

**note: In the Commerchina book that Huang Rui gave me, there are pages of quotations by Mao categorized respectively under upholding, proletariat, classes, and dictatorship

Twin Tower by Huang Rui

Twin Tower by Huang Rui

Q: Tell us about your activity as an artist against political force.

I participated in the Wall of Democratic Rule (1978-1981) in Beijing. With Deng Xiao Ping’s permission, people could voice their opinions, until Deng Xiao Ping withdrew the democratic wall in 1980. I also participated in an underground magazine about arts and literature.  In 1979, I founded the Stars Group of 1979 along with other members. Just search on the web and you’ll easily unearth a lot of information about the group.

WM/KE

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Posted in Activist, China, Chinese, Collage, Consumerism, Cultural Revolution, Hong Kong, Huang Rui, Logos, Mao art, Money, Numbers, Political, Profiles, Words | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why do critics like Zhang Huan but not his show? Live pigs installation at White Cube 2009 – review roundup

Posted by artradar on October 20, 2009


CHINESE ANIMAL INSTALLATION ART REVIEW

Zhang Huan is known for his performance acts of physical and psychological endurance. This time, however, he left that act up to a couple of pigs.

Zhang Huan’s first show at White Cube

Zhang’s first exhibition Zhu Gangqiang at the White Cube Gallery in London (to October 3rd 2009) featured two live pigs in a make shift pigpen. The pig duo were intended by Zhang to stand in for a remarkable pig in China that survived for 49 days under debris after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that killed more than 60,000 people.  Now known as the “Zhu Gangqiang” or “Cast-Iron Pig”, the rescued pig has subsequently achieved celebrity status in China for its miraculous tale of survival.  

Zhang’s exhibition was to pay homage to the remarkable Cast-Iron Pig; critics, however, found the exhibition wanting.  For some, the live pig production was far less impressive than Zhang’s portraits of human skulls and the Cast-Iron Pig that comprised the rest of the exhibition. Here is a selection of their reviews:

Zhang Huan "Zhu Gangqiang", 2009 (installation view)

Zhang Huan, Zhu Gangqiang, 2009 (installation view) Two Oxford Sandy and Black gilts, straw, wood, plants, soil, DVD projection, DVD, plasma screen, sound and vinyl

Just a headline grabber

Mark Hudson, writing in The London Daily Telegraph, speaking on behalf of London audiences, declared that large-scale ‘playful’ exhibitions like Zhang’s are no longer inspiring to local audiences:  “We’ve grown so used to headline-grabbing fun-art installations,” he writes, “that Zhang’s pigs feel like just another addition to a list that includes Carsten Holler’s slides in Tate Modern and Antony Gormley’s plinth project in Trafalgar Square.”  

For Hudson, the highlight of the show was Zhang’s depictions of the rescued pig made out of burnt incense rather than the live pigs in the pigpen-utopia (where the pigs appear to have plenty of straw, a football and tire to play with, and exotic plants to eat).

The pig portraits demonstrate the most interesting aspect of Zhang’s work to the Western audience, which is, according to Hudson, his “ambivalence with which he blurs Eastern and Western traditions. The way he offsets strategies borrowed — apparently — from Western operator-artists such as Joseph Beuys and Jeff Koons with scarcely fathomable Oriental philosophy is refreshing in a contemporary art scene in which much has become painfully predictable.” 

Hudson concludes the review by cautioning Zhang not to fall into the trend of artists who have exhibited at the White Cube (such as artist Damien Hirst) and have since become “brand over content.”  According to Hudson, the current prices and high profile of Zhang’s exhibition demonstrates that he “may already be in danger of losing his value as a voice from elsewhere.”

Zhang Huan "Zhu Gangzing", 2009

Zhang Huan, Zhu Gangqiang, 2009- Ash on linen

 

The London Evening Standard’s Brian Sewell, however, disagrees: “I think him [Zhang Huan] a better, wiser and more contemplative artist than…these Western models.”

Tate Modern berated

Sewell’s review describes Zhang’s remarkable and prolific history of performance art works and details the symbolic force they have had on audiences.  He emphasizes Zhang’s mystical mastery of his work and goes so far as to berate the Tate Modern for not yet having acquired any of Zhang’s work for their permanent collection.

Unfortunately, the glowing description of Zhang’s oeuvre to date ends with his exhibition at the White Cube Gallery.  Sewell highlights the element of the exhibition that troubled most critics: the insincere relationship between the live pigs and their audience. “Visitors are invited to lean on the fence,” he writes, “and like Lord Emsworth in the PG Wodehouse novels and Jay Jopling’s father (once Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), admire these little Blandings beauties and contemplate. But contemplate what? The leap from the amusing comforts of the urban farm to the tragedy of Sichuan is far too great for me to see in it pathetic fallacy.”

Zhang Huan Felicity no.3, 2008

Zhang Huan, Felicity no. 3, 2008- Ash on linen

For the London Times art critic, Waldemar Januszczak, it is a similar story of incongruity. He admits that Zhang’s live pigs were “lovely,” but continues that they were, in fact, “too lovely.”

Trite “Greenpeace story”?

After looking at the exhibition in its entirety, Januszczak found himself troubled by how trite and shallow the exhibition’s “contemporary Greenpeace story” seemed to be: “How dare this pampered modern artist, showing in the plushest gallery in the plushest corner of London’s Mayfair, toy so glibly with Buddhism and death, with human survival and the real meaning of the Sichuan earthquake? Even the accompanying video, in which Zhang retells the pig’s story, is so badly shot that it constitutes a disgrace.”

Human skulls better than live pigs

Zhang’s portraits of human skulls were more favourably received.  Januszczak described them as “just about haunting enough to survive their awful familiarity…Zhang’s skulls…are particularly bare and vulnerable.” This positive reaction to the portraits led Januszczak to conclude that Zhang “is a better artist than this show suggests.”

Links: Zhang Huan website

RM/KE

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Posted in Activist, Art spaces, Ash, Chinese, Critic, Death, Gallery shows, Installation, Interactive art, London, Painting, Participatory, Performance, Political, Reviews, Sculpture, Shows, Zhang Huan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Stop…look again! Work of Iranian activist artist Parastou Forouhar is not what it seems…

Posted by artradar on September 22, 2009


CONTEMPORARY IRANIAN ART

For a revealing insight into contemporary art and its relationship with political and gender issues in Iran today, don’t miss this intriguing interview with Parastou Forouhar in which she describes how she challenges viewers to take a second look.

Parastou Forouhar

Parastou Forouhar, from Series II, Tausend und ein Tag, 2009.

Art by Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar takes on political proportions with her intriguing delicate imagery of torturous acts being perpetrated by Iran’s authoritarian regime.

Political violence is a deeply personal issue for the activist artist, whose parents were the victims of a politically motivated murder in Iran.

In an interview with DB Art Magazine, she discusses this trauma and her artistic style of creating beautiful ornamental artworks, which upon closer inspection reveal twisted scenes of cruelty.

Forouhar, who is now based in Germany, has exhibited at the 2nd Berlin Biennial in 2001, the Global Feminisms show in 2007 at the Brooklyn Museum of Modern Art, and her works can currently be seen in Iran Inside Out — a comprehensive exhibition at the New York Chelsea Art Museum. However, at the moment the artist is “more involved with politics than with art.”

Forouhar says she consciously intended for viewers to first see her ornamental images and feel they are beautiful, and then become shocked when the true subject matter becomes apparent. She says:

I challenge the viewer to take a second look. At first glance, you see the beautiful pattern and think you’ve understood it. And then you get a little closer and realize, no, it’s completely different, I didn’t understand anything at all. To challenge the viewer to take a second look is exciting to me. The viewer is thrown back on himself and is forced to reevaluate his perception.

This compelling interview also covers whether Islamic art is becoming ‘more Catholic’, (and yes, she agrees it is leaning more towards visual Islamic-pop elements and ritual), and questions the attitude of the young male Iranian generation towards their patriarchal past (they are reportedly ‘fed up’ with the traditional masculine character.) Read full interview here.

-contributed by Erin Wooters

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Posted in Activist, Germany, Iranian, Museum shows, Parastou Forouhar, Political | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Iran Inside Out review round up – 56 artist survey show in New York described as mesmerising, a privilege

Posted by artradar on September 3, 2009


IRANIAN ART SURVEY

56 contemporary Iranian artists are presented in the attention-grabbing and timely  Iran Inside Out exhibition at Chelsea Art Museum in New York (June 26 – Sep 5 2009).

Surprisingly – or perhpas not – only 35 artists in the show reside inside Iran and the other 21 dispersed outside Iran. Together they contribute 210 works of painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation on themes such as gender, war, and politics. Complemented with forums and film screenings, theatre performances, music recitals, and panel discussions, Iran Inside Out is part of Chelsea Art Museum’s 2008-2009 “The East West Project”. 

In this round up, art experts and critics from the New York Times to the Huffington Post give their perspectives on this exhibition and report that they are enthralled, mesmerised and surprised.  In this rich and challenging show unexpected findings and themes abound. Be sure to scroll down and read Huffington Post’s Marina Bronchman who discovers a controversial new view of the veil and its effect on sexual and gender expression.

 

Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell's Puerto Rico Performance Still, Digital C-print 2008 copyright artist and courtesy Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery
Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell’s Puerto Rico Performance Still, Digital C-print 2008 copyright artist and courtesy Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery

 

 

Chelsea Art Museum: Curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath

The curators explain that Iran Inside Out defies the traditional perceptions of Iran and Iranian art:

An intimate look into the people, both inside and outside a country that is more complex than images of veiled women, worn out calligraphy and what a handful of other emblematic images would suggest…an examination of the means through which a young generation of artists is reconciling the daily implications of cultural and geographical distances with the search for individual artistic expression…offers an unexpected insight into the artistic energy of a culture that is constantly evolving as Iranians living both in and out of the country, come of age living and working in contentious societies.

(Art Radar editor note: the curators of Saatchi’s Middle Eastern show ‘Unveiled’ (in which Iranian art predominated) earlier in 2009 also claimed to go beyond the ‘worn out’ to present a more nuanced and alternative view of art from the Middle East – this was hotly contested by some reviewers who were surprised to find that, on the contrary, bloodshed, repression and gender inequality were ubiquitous and courageously expressed. See related posts section below for the review round up of  Saatchi’s show).

 

Yet there are differences between insiders and outsiders say the curators:

Ironically, contrary to one’s expectations, the artists living abroad often draw more on their cultural heritage, while those on the inside focus more on issues of everyday life without much regard to what ‘the outside’ views as specifically Iranian references. Yet, within these disparities, one element stands strong: the recurrent references, sometimes ambiguous, at times emotional, often nostalgic and on occasion satirical and even tragic to Iran the country, Iran the past, the Iran which has been lost and that which could be found.

New York Times: Holland Cotter

Holland Cotter elaborates on how Iranian cultural references run through the show in this 30th-anniversary year of the Iranian revolution. For this critic, whether inside or out, artists are in touch with their cultural history. 

Golnaz Fathi, who lives in Tehran, walks the line between calligraphy and abstraction in his paintings; so does Pouran Jinchi, who lives in New York. The heroic epic called “The Book of Kings” is given an action-hero update by Siamak Filizadeh of Tehran, but also in film stills by Sadegh Tirafkan, who spends part of his time in Toronto.

 

“Zaal arrives to help Rostam, ROSTAM 2 The Return” by Siamak Filizadeh(2008)
“Zaal arrives to help Rostam, ROSTAM 2 The Return” by Siamak Filizadeh(2008)

 

 

Female artists are  given the spotlight, too:

Alireza Dayani’s fantastical historical drawings; Newsha Tavakolian’s photographic study of a transsexual; Saghar Daeeri’s paintings of Tehran’s boutique shoppers; Shirin Fakhim’s sculptural salute to the city’s prostitutes. Abbas Kowsari documents cadet training for chador-clad female police officers in Tehran. Less interestingly, Shahram Entekhabi draws chadors in black Magic Marker on images of dating-service models.

However, not all of them advocate social causes. Some artists employ a less aggressive tone:

Ahmad Morshedloo’s tender paintings of sleepers, Reza Paydari’s portrait of school friends and the mysterious little films of Shoja Azari are in this category.

Nevertheless, ambiguity does not equate with absence of politics in these artwork: 

Repression both inside and outside Iran is under scrutiny in a piece by Mitra Tabrizian about the roles of both the West and Muslim clergy in Iran’s modern history. In photographs by Arash Hanaei, brutal scenes from the Iran-Iraq war and Abu Ghraib are played out by bound and gagged dolls.

Flavorpill New York: Leah Taylor 

 

Sara Rahbar, 'Flag #5', 2007. Textile/mixed media, 65x35 inches
Sara Rahbar, ‘Flag #5’, 2007. Textile/mixed media, 65×35 inches

 

Taylor praises Iran Inside Out as one of the timeliest exhibitions in history:

With violence and political unrest roiling in that country, this exhibit takes a closer look at its inherent contradictions, tradition, culture, identity, and struggle — especially as faced by its younger generation of artists. As gruesome descriptions and footage of the election-protest clampdown continue to slip through Iranian censors daily, having Iran Inside Out‘s creative insight into the country seems a privilege, indeed.

Huffington Post: Marissa Bronfman

Shocked and enthralled by the creative artwork at the exhibition, Bronfman comments: 

A sense of duality was apparent in all the various pieces I saw at the exhibit, and there is an interesting geographical duality influencing the artists as well. The artists still living in Iran must struggle with avoiding government censors while not compromising with self-censorship, and those living outside strive to assume an “unlabeled artist-status” within a West-centric contemporary art world. The museum reminds us of their important commonality, however, such that all 56 artists desire to “establish an individual artistic identity free from the stigma of “stereotype” and “locality.” 

She explains what draws her the most about the Tehran Shopping Malls by Saghar Daeeri:

 

Saghar Daeeri, Shopping Malls of Tehran - Acrylic (Aaron Gallery).
Saghar Daeeri, Shopping Malls of Tehran – Acrylic (Aaron Gallery).

The paintings came to life with a stunning palette of vibrant colors and women depicted in a grotesque, almost fantastical rendering. Heavily made up faces, lacquered nails and peroxide hair instantly made me think these Iranian women were influenced by typical American ideals of beauty. However, Hanna Azemati, who works at CAM and presided over the show, offered a wonderful perspective that I hadn’t originally considered. She told me that, “Because of the compulsory veil, women express their femininity through venues that are allowed in exaggerated ways. They resort to excessive make-up, overdone highlighted hair, thin eyebrows, long colored nails and even suggestive behavior.” This dualism that Iranian women must grapple with, between veiling and self-expression, was communicated with profound contradiction and was really quite mesmerizing.

Contributed by Wendy Ma

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80 per cent of Iraqi artists live elsewhere – Creativity vs Destruction review

Posted by artradar on July 23, 2009


IRAQ ART REVIEW

Around 80 per cent of Iraq’s artists now live elsewhere but many are still driven to explore events in their former homeland, as is shown in Creativity vs Destruction, a group exhibition of Iraqi art in Edinburgh, part of the Reel Iraq Festival. A review in the Scotsman explains that although the title pits creativity against destruction, the work displayed suggests a more subtle relationship between the two.

Here is an extract from the review:

Hanaa Mal Allah, who is regarded as one of Iraq’s foremost female painters, left Baghdad in 2006 under the Scholars at Risk Scheme which helps academics whose life or work is threatened in their home country. Her two large canvases, from a series called Vivid Ruins, are creative works born of destruction – canvas which has been burned, cut, patched together and pierced with threads and twigs. Hung in the middle of the Roxy’s subdued, ecclesiastical space, they are both painful and beautiful.

Hanaa Mal-Allah, The Map of Iraq 2008

Hanaa Mal-Allah, The Map of Iraq 2008

In a small, darkened side chapel, she presents three smaller works, including a book in which the pages, though similarly damaged, show fragments of Arabic writing and patterns. They speak of the way a culture is destroyed by the looting of its artefacts and wrecking of its sites; how its sense of itself is reduced to fragments. This is complex, mature work, elegiac rather than angry – all the more remarkable for being achieved in the midst of ongoing destruction.

Wafaa Bilal takes a more confrontational approach. Arrested and tortured for his political artwork under Saddam Hussein, he now lives in the United States. He lost his father and brother in the most recent war.

Wafaa Bilal dodges paintballs

Wafaa Bilal dodges paintballs

In Domestic Tension: Shoot an Iraqi, an interactive performance work, Bilal lived in isolation for 31 days in a Chicago gallery where visitors – or viewers online via a 24-hour webcam and automatic setup – could operate a paintball machine to fire at him at any time. The response was immense, and polarising. More than 60,000 shots were fired, while a group of self-appointed “protectors” worked shifts online to point the gun away from him.

 

The project received overwhelming worldwide attention, garnering the praise of the Chicago Tribune, which called it “one of the sharpest works of political art to be seen in a long time,” and Newsweek’s assessment “breathtaking.” It spawned provocative online debates and ultimately, Bilal was awarded the Chicago Tribune’s Artist of the Year Award.

Buy book here: Wafa Bilal's life journey Save an Iraqi

Buy book here: Wafa Bilal's life journey Save an Iraqi

In the film shown here, he speaks matter-of-factly about that experience while dodging a barrage of paintballs behind a plastic shield. The work captures something of the sense of living under fire, while showing that interactive art, when it is done well, can do what good art has always done: make us understand something important in a new way.

 

 

 

 

Sama Alshaibi, an Iraqi-Palestinian artist who is now a naturalised American, uses her work to explore the complex issues which arise from her nationality. Her film Diatribes, which intersperses her own dialogue with US broadcasts from the time of the bombing of Baghdad, feels raw and unresolved – understandably so.

To Eat Bread, Sama Alshaibi

To Eat Bread, Sama Alshaibi

Her photographs use more oblique means. In her Birthright series, which focuses on Palestine, and Between Two Rivers, about Iraq, she uses her own body as a symbol of a country subject to damage.

The Loss, Sama Alshaibi

The Loss, Sama Alshaibi

Contemporary art is sometimes described as self-indulgent, but the pressure of the political circumstances give the works in this show an urgency and vitality. Yet it’s wrong to expect artists to produce answers; these are individual responses, each is the product of the artist’s own experience and concerns.

 

 

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56 artist show Iran Inside Out – Will election unrest fan the debate about Iranian contemporary art?

Posted by artradar on June 30, 2009


IRANIAN CONTEMPORARY ART EXHIBITION US

New York’s Chelsea Art Museum is holding its “groundbreaking” exhibition Iran Inside Out (26 June to 5 September 2009) which features 35 artists living and working in Iran alongside 21 others living in the diaspora.

We are promised a “multifarious portrait of 56 contemporary Iranian artists challenging the conventional perceptions of Iran and Iranian art”. However, do not be at all surprised if unfolding events in Iran and the very art itself will result in heated debate and deep schisms about this interpretation.

Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell's Puerto Rico Performance Still, 2008 copyright artist

Pooneh Maghazehe, Hell's Puerto Rico Performance Still, 2008 copyright artist

The debate was ignited by ‘Unveiled’, a show of Middle Eastern art (half of it Iranian) at The Saatchi Gallery London in the early months of this year. The exhibition garnered plenty of critical attention but strongly divided views were expressed about the success of the organisers’ claim to overturn the cliched idea that the Middle East is synonymous with violence and intolerance.

According to Henry Chu of LA Times , “Unveiled is an exhibition which offers an alternate vision: the Middle East as a source of lively, stimulating contemporary art — informed by conflict, certainly, but not consumed by it.” Nonsense, says Dorment in The Telegraph who claims the show is replete with references to bombs, religious police and the denigration of women.

This debate will be fanned anew by recent political disturbances in Iran. Relations between foreign powers and Iran are now severely strained following the disputed re-election on 12 June of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Click to browse Iran Inside Out catalogue

Click to browse Iran Inside Out catalogue

“Iran has repeatedly accused foreign powers – especially Britain and the US – of meddling after the 12 June election, which officially handed him a decisive victory” says the BBC while The New York Times gives us a specific quote:

President Obama, who made his most critical remarks of the Iranian leadership on Friday, when he called the government’s crackdown “outrageous” … said the prospects for a dialogue with Iran had been dampened.

…“Didn’t he say that he was after change?” Mr. Ahmadinejad asked. “Why did he interfere?”

Unfolding political events will challenge the New York show’s curators, artists and museum staff and test their courage. Even before the protests, in reference to Iranian art in ‘Unveiled’, the Guardian was saying:

It is still amazing how far into politics this art bravely goes and it is no overstatement to speak of bravery in this case. One of the artists represented here, who lives in Tehran, is muffled in the gallery’s publicity shot to conceal his identity. Another, the prodigiously gifted Tala Madani, has escaped Tehran for Amsterdam but still refused to have her face revealed in a photograph. Guardian

The museum’s website raises the interesting point – and this is perhaps the nub of it – that artists in the diaspora and at home in Iran choose different forms of expression:

Ironically, contrary to one’s expectations, the artists living abroad often draw more on their cultural heritage, while those on the inside focus more on issues of everyday life without much regard to what ‘the outside’ views as specifically Iranian references.

But, whereas the museum’s writers see the focus of home-based artists on the  ‘everyday’ as an act of choice, there are some who suggest it is an act of self-preservation. Time will tell whether the description of this show will be excoriated like that of the catalogue description of ‘Unveiled’:

In her catalogue introduction to .. ‘Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East’, Lisa Farjam airily dismisses European perceptions of the Middle East as a place synonymous with political oppression, religious intolerance, and terrorism as unthinking ‘clichés’ that prevent us from understanding the richness and diversity of Muslim societies.

All I can say in response is that the artists in this show profoundly disagree with her sunny take on this part of the world. The evils Westerners see from a distance are the everyday context in which many of these painters and sculptors make their work – and it was precisely to escape repression at home that so many of the best of them now live in New York or Paris.

Their art isn’t (like so much Western art) about consumerism or celebrity or art itself; it’s about suicide bombers, religious police, unending war, and the denigration of women in Islamic societies. While I admit I was surprised that those still working in Tehran feel able to treat the subjects of gender, sexuality, religion, and politics without risking imprisonment or death, among the photos of the artists displayed at the end of the show, I noticed that one, who still lives in Tehran, has taken the precaution of wearing a balaclava. Telegraph

Related links: Exhibition description on Chelsea Art Museum site

Catalogue

In a still unusual and much-appreciated move, the museum has put the show’s catalogue online. It is a glorious glimpse of a very active art scene. Text and works by artists sit alongside interviews with collectors and galleries. Buy the ‘Iran Inside Out’ catalogue here.

FEATURED ARTISTS:

Inside Iran (35)

Abbas Kowsari, Ahmad Morshedloo, Amir Mobed, Alireza Dayani, Arash Hanaei, Arash Sedaghatkish, Arman Stepanian, Barbad Golshiri, Behdad Lahooti, Behrang Samadzadegan, Bita Fayyazi, Daryoush Gharahzad, Farhad Moshiri, Farideh Lashai, Golnaz Fathi, Houman Mortazavi, Jinoos Taghizadeh, Khosrow Hassanzadeh, Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakher, Majid Ma’soomi Rad, Mehdi Farhadian, Nazgol Ansarinia, Newsha Tavakolian, Ramin Haerizadeh, Reza Derakshani, Reza Paydari, Rokni Haerizadeh, Sadegh Tirafkan, Saghar Daeeri, Shahab Fotouhi, Shirin Aliabadi, Shirin Fakhim, Siamak Filizadeh, Siavash Nagshbandi, Vahid Sharifian

Outside Iran (21)

Ala Ebtekar, Alireza Ghandchi, caraballo–farman, Darius Yektai, Kamran Diba, Leila Pazooki, Mitra Tabrizian, Nazanin Pouyandeh, Negar Ahkami, Nicky Nodjoumi, Parastou Forouhar, Pooneh Maghazehe, Pouran Jinchi, Roya Akhavan, Samira Abbassy, Sara Rahbar, Shahram Entekhabi, Shahram Karimi, Shirin Neshat, Shiva Ahmadi, Shoja Azari

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