“Artists are so bizarre and come from such strange places”: Glenn Ligon interview below

Simon Senn, Just Let Go (2012)

Athens: cradle of Western civilisation, and in more recent times the canary in Europe’s coal mine. On the face of it, the perfect setting for Simon Senn’s dionysian artwork.

Just Let Go is (so far) a single video loop in which three angry locals rampage the length and breadth of a concrete wall, starting fires and throwing black paint.

They are rendered anonymous by balaclavas and a motorcycle helmet, and go about their anarchic business with what appears to be quite some joie de vivre.

Well, the good news is that you can join them. What might have remained a diverting 53 second film is in fact an ongoing project allowing for frustrated folk worldwide to let off steam.

The low budget film comes with a low budget A5 flier: “Do you need to let it go?” it asks. “How do you personally deal with this climate of instability and austerity?”

It looks like the kind of thing you might stumble across in a local daycare centre. State-funded, you would think, if you came across it anywhere outside a gallery.

Indeed, Just Let Go, is registered as a non profit organisation. But in Switzerland, rather than here. This only adds to the play of shadows in a truly subversive work.

Each of the resulting films, and one hopes there will be some more, is more than an act of therapy. It is a warning shot to governments everywhere, all the more potent for its obscurity.

If Warhol said art is what you can get away with. This is art which lets non-art people get away with the unthinkable: riot, destruction, nihilistic frenzy and revolution.

It is at once the most artful and the least artistic thing in Bloomberg New Contemporaries, this year. Don’t wonder how it will all end. One doubts even Senn knows that.

So, as the flier says, to arrange a session please email: info@justletgo.ch

Bloomberg New Contemporaries can be seen in the World Museum, Liverpool until 26 October 2014. It will be seen again, in a varied form, at the ICA, London, between 26 November to 25 January 2015.


Preview: Urbis Has Left The Building

A visitor enjoys a show about the Haçienda. Photo courtesy Urbis

Exhibition: Urbis Has Left The Building: Six Years of the Best Exhibitions In Pop Culture, Urbis, Manchester, until February 27 2010

“Best of” compilations are usually the preserve of the music industry. So if any museum has the shows to get away with the same trick, it would have to be Urbis.

Manchester’s poppiest gallery space is celebrating its short history with a final show, Urbis Has Left The Building: Six Years Of The Best Exhibitions In Pop Culture.

Since 2004 the city centre museum has staged shows on everything from graffiti and record design to manga and video games. But from 2011 the venue will be given over to an even more popular pastime as the National Museum of Football moves down the road from Preston.

Urbis Chief Executive Vaughan Allen said he was proud to have quickly established a global reputation with the museum. “No other . . . has provided popular culture with a serious platform in the way that we have, with a genuine passion that made us unique, consistently giving credibility and backing to subjects that most galleries and museums would overlook,” he commented.

Many Urbis shows have been celebrations of local talent, including graphic designer Peter Saville, fashion designer Matthew Williamson and record label Factory.

Other shows have looked as far afield as China and the US civil rights movement for inspiration; Black Panther: Emory Douglas and the Art of Revolution was rated one of the best of the decade by Museums Journal.

This will be your last chance to visit Urbis. And where else could you go to view a pair of limited edition Haçienda nightclub trainers?


Preview: Star City – The Future Under Communism

Photo: www.nottinghamcontemporary.org

Exhibition: Star City: The Future Under Communism, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, February 13 – April 18 2010

With horizons sealed off by climate change and economic meltdown, it may be time to look backwards in order to start looking forwards again.

Star City at Nottingham Contemporary presents visions of the future from behind the Iron Curtain. They may be outdated, but some are at least optimistic.

The show takes its name from a secret Cosmonaut training camp oustide Moscow. In the Communist era, space exploration was shorthand for progress.

A few Western artists have filmed at the location. Jane and Louise Wilson offer a rare glimpse of the now ruined centre. The Otolith Group provide footage under weightless conditions.

But the majority of works on display are by artists from the former Eastern Bloc, who either figured as the avant garde of the 60s and 70s or emerged on the international scene in the last decade.

Many will be surprised at the influence of science fiction on people and places with a reputation for grim realism.

Polish artist Pawel Althamer stages an expedition to the alien setting of modernist city Brazilia, while Deimantas Narkevicius has remade the ending of Sci-fi classic Solaris.

There are also space toys from Poland, space posters from the USSR and a life-size replica of a Sputnik. Even realism, it seems, once held some excitement.

Written for Culture24.


Preview: Modern Times at Kettle's Yard

Franciszka Themerson, Gustav Klucis. www.kettlesyard.co.uk

Modern Times – Responding to Chaos, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, until March 14 2010

Attempts to build a world order invariably result in chaos. Some of the outcomes can be seen at a new exhibition at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge.

Modern Times: Responding to Chaos is the first of a series of shows in which creative protagonists of the 20th and 21st century have been asked to trace a personal journey through recent history.

First up is film-maker and painter Lutz Becker, whose personal responses to chaos are classic documentaries. Art in Revolution (1971) looks at Russian art in the early days of Communism, Swastika (1973) looks at the rise of Nazism in Germany, and Vita Futurista (1987) studies the far right Futurist movement in Italy.

So it’s no surprise that Becker’s curatorial interests take in many artist-made films of the last hundred years. The show includes moving image pieces by Viking Eggeling, Hans Richter, Fernand Léger and even Kazimir Malevich.

But latter-day chaos has also caused a rupture in the most longstanding of art forms, drawing. As film captured slices of reality, artists used the hand-drawn line to pit abstraction against figuration and turn geometry against spontaneous gesture.

Malevich and Eggeling reappear on paper, along with Boccioni, Mondrian, Grosz, Klee, Pollock, de Kooning, Giacometti, Bourgeois, Beuys, Serra, Judd and Twombly.

But what have these exponents of Futurism, Constructvism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism and Conceptualism left us with? More chaos, and the 21st century awaits a few comparable responses.

Written for Culture24.