Oonagh Young gallery, Dublin / Wallace Gallery, New York
September, 15 – October, 10, 2010
Esra Ersen, Katia Kameli, Maya Schweizer
Here & There is an exhibition co curated by Mary Cremin and Catherine Bernard featuring three artists Esra Ersen, Katia Kameli and Maya Schweizer whose video works explore the themes of immigration, displacement and the space between cultures. Their video works question the very notion of belonging to a specific culture.
The artists in Here and There discuss the passage from one culture to another and explore the space born from their intersection. They also question the concepts of borders, national identity and cultural heritage by reflecting upon the notions of displacement, exile and its implications. The immediacy of the medium, the documentary component and the integration of time and movement, all characteristics of video, generate a particularly pertinent frame to articulate these themes.
As migration became a central dynamic in the history of post WWII societies, immigrants were the agents of profound social changes and pioneered the creation of transnational identities. They also faced rejection, suspicion and invisibility, as they became parts of the workforce and of the cultural landscape of their host societies. Since then, economic globalization, the expansion of transnational corporations, the broader and faster communication systems, and more recently climatic changes and political crisis are fostering even larger movements of populations, from South to North and East to West. The consequences: resistance, hybridization, clashes or integration process are all part of a transformative dynamic that helps reshape and redefine our socio-cultural space while bringing into it a pluricultural dimension.
Esra Ersen, Katia Kameli, Maya Schweizer interpret and contextualize these issues in light of their distinct experience and diverse backgrounds and speak up about their implications and relevance for contemporary societies.
An exhibition by one of Cuba’s leading contemporary artists Carlos Garaicoa, whose work explores the social fabric of our cities through the examination of its architecture, . Carlos Garaicoa brings together new and recent works comprising sculpture, installation, drawing, video and photography, which explore the themes of architecture and urbanism, politics and history, and narrative and human culture. Since the early 1990s Garaicoa has developed his multi-faceted practice as a means to critique modernist utopian architecture and the collapse of 20th-century ideologies using the city as his point of departure. Adopting the city of Havana as his laboratory, his works are charged with provocative commentaries on issues such as architecture’s ability to alter the course of history, the failure of modernism as a catalyst for social change and the frustration and decay of 20th-century utopias.
Garaicoa spends time exploring cities to discover their true meaning, he often illustrates his vision in large installations using various materials such as crystal, wax candles and rice-paper lamps. In No Way Out, 2002, a city at night is constructed through various scales of illuminated rice-paper lamps, while the materials in this work reference Japan, the uniformity of the city landscape alludes to a universal situation common to all cities worldwide. In The Crown Jewels, 2009, miniature replicas of real-life torture centres, prisons and intelligence networks are cast in silver and in Bend City (Red), 2007, a city is constructed entirely from cut cardboard.
Havana, the extraordinary city where he grew up, is a particular source of inspiration for Garaicoa’s work and it is from this city’s complicated development that his preoccupation with the detritus of the cityscape developed. After the Cuban revolution in 1959, many architectural projects and buildings were left unfinished or abandoned, in Havana and in other Cuban cities. This juxtaposition of architectural projects halted and abandoned, and the buildings of the colonial period, create a narrative of a complex political history that scars the landscape. Garaicoa refers to these as ‘ruins of the future, where ruins are proclaimed before they even get to exist’. Garaicoa addresses these collapsed buildings in his black-and-white photographs by pairing them with a second image that reconstructs the missing parts with coloured threads and pins. By illustrating the absence of these once-great structures, Garaicoa emphasises the reality of these failed utopias. His interest in urban ruins has expanded from the cities of Cuba to cities around the world from LA to Paris to Moscow.
Garaicoa directly references iconic texts and writers through the titles of his pieces as well as within the sculptural works themselves, particularly the concept of the city as a symbolic space as it appears in the work of the writers Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino. In On how my brazilian library feeds itself with fragments of a concrete reality, 2008, publications on Brazilian architecture, landscape and culture are stacked in rows interspersed with cement blocks. The front of the sculpture reveals the books spines while the back shows a number of bullets inserted into the cement. In her essay for the catalogue Sofia Hernandez Chong Cuy describes this work “As if it has been attacked, the sculpture sets in motion ideas of urban development and the weight and the wounds of progress”. The use of books is repeated in the works My personal Library Grows-up Together with My Political Principles, 2008, where architectural publications are assembled to form the framework of a city landscape and Monsieur Haussmann, la perfection n’existe pas, 2009, where a stack of copies of the book Paris-Haussmann are placed on a plinth with the exposed paper at the base of the books inscribed with the plan of Place de l’Etoile in Paris. Baron Haussmann was famous for his creation of modern Paris, with its boulevards and grand vistas designed for the bourgeoisie of Paris representing his ideal utopian city, but not necessarily the reality.
Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1967, Carlos Garaicoa trained initially as a thermodynamics engineer before his mandatory military service. While in the army he worked as a draughtsman, learning the skills the he would use later in his practice as an artist. He attended the Havana Instituto Superior de Arte in Cuba from 1989 to 1994. Garaicoa has exhibited extensively around the world, recent exhibitions include the Venice Biennale, 2009; Havana Biennale, 2009; La Caixa Cultural, Rio de Janeiro, 2008; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, 2007; the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, 2006, and Documenta II, Kassel, 2002. He lives and works in Havana and Madrid.
The exhibition comprising a series of 111 small-scale paintings by the Belgian-born artist Francis Alÿs, one of the most original artists working today. Francis Alÿs: Le temps du sommeil has been described as a storyboard or archive of Alÿs’s highly imaginative oeuvre, much of which takes as its starting point simple actions performed by the artist and documented in photographs, film or by other means such as postcards. These actions, involving strange objects and fruitless exercises, frequently suggest the dreamlike state of the exhibition’s title, which could translate as “sleep time”. They are also incorporated into the exhibition in the form of accompanying texts, many derived from the artist’s postcards.
Le temps du sommeil was begun in 1995 and continues today as an ongoing body of work. The technique is consistent throughout. The figures or other images in the paintings begin as drawings on tracing paper, which are then transferred onto a miniature oval landscape with golden green grass and a darkened, olive green sky. In each case this scene is surrounded by a rich Venetian red ground, built up in layers with the whole measuring no more than 11.5 by 15 cms. Alÿs compares the oval with the veduta of early Italian Renaissance paintings, a special distant scene inserted into a larger landscape. Each painting is dated with a rubber stamp, underlining the narrative aspect of the series and providing a kind of diary of the artist’s fantasies and obsessions.
Several of the paintings have an obvious connection with Alÿs’s recorded actions. The man walking along carrying a leaking can of paint, echoes the artist’s 1995 action The Leak, in which he roamed the streets of Ghent with a punctured paint can leaving a trail back to the gallery, where he mounted the empty can on the wall. Another painting calls to mind Alÿs’s epic 2002 project, When Faith Moves Mountains, which took place near the Peruvian capital Lima. This involved 500 volunteers who, armed only with shovels, moved a 1,600-foot sand dune just four inches from its original location. The change in the landscape was minute, but Alÿs ‘s concern was with its relationship to the prevailing social and political situation at once “futile and heroic, absurd and urgent”.
In 2004 the artist described the place of painting in his work: “What justifies my recourse to painting is that it’s the shortest way – or the only way – to translate certain scenarios or situations that cannot be said, that cannot be filmed or performed. It’s about entering a situation that could not exist elsewhere, only on the paper or canvas. They are images, and I want for them to live as such. Like in a children’s book.” In June of this year the series will travel to Tate Modern, London, as part of a retrospective of Alÿs’s key works, which will also be shown at Wiels, Brussels, and at MoMA, New York.
Born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1959, Francis Alÿs studied architecture at the Institut d’Architecture de Tournai in Belgium and at the Instituto Universitario di Architettura in Venice. Since 1986 he has made his home in Mexico and has been particularly associated with Mexico City’s historic centre where his studio is located. His work has been extensively shown worldwide, recent exhibitions include in 2009 – Shanghai Art Museum; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela; in 2008 – KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, and Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. As Alÿs’s international reputation has grown many of his projects have taken place at the invitation of museums, for example, The Modern Procession, created in 2002, to mark the temprorary move of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, from Manhattan to Queens.
Niall De Buitléar, Damien Flood, Laura Lancaster, Sonia Shiel
Dawning of An Aspect, an exhibition of four artists whose work offers an exploration of our capacity for perception through painting and sculpture. ‘Dawning of an aspect’ is taken from both Wittgenstein’s and Wollheim’s philosophical writings on the fundamental distinction between our perception and plain seeing. While the writings on this subject are based on painting, in this exhibition it is also applied to sculptural objects that reveal themselves through the act of looking. This twofold nature of our perception involves both the surface and subject simultaneously.
Wittgenstein’s aim was to dissolve the paradoxical appearance of aspect-dawning: when looking at a picture-object we can come to see it differently, although we also see that the picture-object itself remains unchanged. Wollheim’s writings view the expressiveness of depiction through psychoanalytic concept of projection in which we come to see a piece of the external world as corresponding to an inward state of mind which he referred to as the internal spectator.
The experience of seeing resemblances within the pictorial representation is an essential aspect of this idea. Niall De Buitléar’s use of found objects and re-presenting them as sculptural forms, play with both the history of the found objects and the potentiality to mutate into abstract sculptural forms. It is the recognizable element in the works that reveals the transformation from the everyday to sculptural object. Damien Flood’s paintings occupy a space between fact and fiction. His work, while primarily landscape in line with the traditional notion of painting reveals a world of discovery and illusion. Laura Lancaster’s paintings reveal an element of nostalgia; the figures emerge from the blurred landscape, depicting a moment within a narrative structure that is part of a larger schema. Sonia Shiel’s work commandeers miscellaneous everyday materials to build literal fabrications of ‘lofty’ notions. Her shambolic constructions simultaneously rouse and abandon ceremony, pomp and ego. They merge video, sculpture and paintings to expose subjects associated with the world’s make –up and by revealing their own, assume the subject of creativity itself.