Category Archives: contemporary installation

Danh Vo, Das Beste oder Nichts (2010)

2014-10-22 10_Fotor

Where you might expect to find a detail such as ‘oil on canvas’, or ‘cast bronze’, or even ‘car engine’, Vo gives us the full scoop on his indecorous found object. A wall plaque opens the bonnet.

Indeed. This contemporary sculpture is comprised of “The engine of the artist’s father Phung Vo’s Mercedes Benz.” Provenance is all: from family car to museum collection.

And in the year this piece was made, Mercedes began using the German title as their advertising slogan. So there are two found objects working together like piston and cylinder in this work.

This is a family who fled their home and, after a dramatic rescue at sea, they settled in Denmark. A keen business sense spurred the artist’s father on to buy ‘the best or nothing at all’.

In a pristine gallery, this piece is monstrous. And there is something oedipal about its evisceration of his father’s achievements. Does Vo junior refer to das Beste with pride or with irony?

Dad made it as a businessman; this is his portrait. He must have once have dreamed about owning this car; he might not have dreamed about the extra mileage it would give his son.

In a white cube such as this, Phung Vo’s car becomes a bride stripped bare, a commodity divested of fetishism, a map of desire, and a deconstruction of a luxury brand. All thanks to the label.

This piece can be seen until 3 May 2015 in The Art of Our Time: Masterpieces of the Guggenheim Collection at the Museo Guggenheim in Bilbao.

Found Objects 09/04/12

For no real reason, this week is a Bank Holiday special:

  • It’s always good to hear what the animal world might have to tell us. Guardian chats with their spokesman Marcus Coates (via @LizzieHom.)
  • Beverley Knowles writes up a pleasing memory feat and takes in art, human rights and, emo. Intrigued?
  • 90% of guns seized in Mexico were made in the US. This should be the subject of legisation; in the meantime there’s an art show.
  • Brian Dillon captures the light but cosmic touch of artist Katie Paterson in an essay on his blog Ruins of the 20th Century.
  • Read about artist and blogger Jon Perreault’s growing dislike for Clyfford Still. (He is ‘still’ inspired to put forward plans for his own civic museum.)
  • Art Observed posts about a new show of photos by Cy Twombly at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Goes without saying they are painterly gems.
  • Pipe blog also runs with some photos from an installation by David Hall at Ambika P3 , London. There’s a very interesting account of the show to boot.
  • Last photo story of the week is an essayistic look at East London’s docks by Phoenicia on the Rightness of Wayward Sentiment blog.
  • Is it too late to wish you Happy Easter? Either way, this post on Another Design Blog is a bit of a perennial bonus.
  • And for those of you still off your face on chocolate, here’s a full stream of the new Spiritualised album (via @ArtCasual)

Susan Hiller, Witness, 2000

Witness, 2000 (Tate Britain Installation shot). Original commission Artangel. © Susan Hiller. Image:Tate Photography/Sam Drake

Truth, it is sometimes argued, is an effect of discourse. And discourse in this case has given rise to a nebular, eerie-glowing alien life form. You cannot hear it, but it speaks many tongues.

We realise almost at once this is a sound installation. Those are not tentacles and suckers but speakers hanging from the ends of cables. The voices and languages are all human.

But the effect is extra-terrestrial. That is even before you tune into some of the narratives and work out they are all eye witness accounts of visits from UFOs or creatures from another world.

These witnesses do not often get heard. But their speeches are not unlike the on-the-ground tales we might hear down the phone from members of public on the TV or radio news.

Mainstream eyewitness accounts are given full credibility and help to construct our very sense of geopolitical reality. And of course history and law both depend on this sort of testimony.

So this far out piece by Susan Hiller raises a serious question: who gets called upon to witness and which scenes get an airing? If overlooked discourse can conjure a living, breathing alien, what else might it call into being.

Witness can be seen in the Susan Hiller show at Tate Britain until May 15. Read Laura Cumming’s review in the Observer.

Mike Nelson at Camden Arts Centre, 1998/2010

Studio Apparatus for Camden Arts Centre – An Introductory Structure: Introduction; a lexicon of phenomenon and information association; futurobjectics (in three sections), mysterious island*, or Temporary Monument *See Introduction

The full title of Mike Nelson’s work is so verbose there’s no room for anything else in that opening paragraph. It is, like the work itself, overwhelming.

If I could adequately describe it, Nelson would not have had to make it. Indeed, it has taken him four weeks to say something here, and the results left this visitor speechless or at least thought-free.

Yet part one refers to a text, the Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. A one page introduction is pinned to a noticeboard in a corridor. The coffee stain on this photocopied page hints at the chaos to follow.

Part two is an artist’s workshop. This project was borne out of a residency here in 1998. So now we see what his office might have looked like. Reading material by Marx lies alongside a magazine for Mustang enthusiasts,. He jests surely, or does he?

Moving through another door, we step out into part three. From deep in the midst of this sprawling and towering installation it is hard to get a fix on it. A crackling radio adds to the disarray.

Stepping away, we see the corridor and workshop from parts one and two have been augmented by a wire mesh coop, a sun deck and three looming stepladders, suggesting a modern Golgotha.

Among the debris, we notice Mickey Mouse heads with horns, baseball caps mounted as hunting trophies, crash helmets on poles, and a figure captive in a chair. So what is this?

This, it seems, is Nelson’s Mysterious Island, part Swiss Family Robinson, part hide-out for satanic bikers. This is make-shift civilisation and barbarism side by side. This, clearly, is an artist making themselves royally at home. Trespass at your peril.

Temporary Monument is back on display at Camden Arts Centre as part of Simon Starling: Never The Same River (Possible Futures, Probable Pasts). It took the artist four weeks to recreate.

Ben Washington, I Will Eat This Sleepy Town (installation detail), 2011

For all the world you expect this image to move. It is a back lit screen with a casing as substantial as a cathode ray tube. We have come to expect computerised tablets to sing and dance, why not this?

But no matter how long you watch, the piece is static. The TVs in the image remain switched off. It suggests multi-channel entertainment, but delivers nothing.

You cannot adjust this homemade set. The photo is highly cropped, the image is blurred, and the colours are dated. The fact it glows is the best that can be said for it.

Yet light is a powerful draw. It is still the basic element of film, television, gaming and the screen in your computer and/or phone. That must be why this work holds so much promise.

And when you think of all the technology which 21st century minds could fit into that cumbersome wooden surround, it seems like a miracle that Ben Washington’s gogglebox simply does nothing.

Stranger still, it does not need to. This product of a single artist can still hold the gaze, just as well as the latest 3D model. And it still hangs in the air, despite the weight of expectation.

This work is part of a I Will Eat This Sleepy Town, a joint installation by Ben Washington and Marcin Dudek at Waterside Project Space, London. See gallery website for opening times and directions.

Michał Budny, Untitled (2010)

Two or three millimetres are all that separate the showpiece in Michał Budny’s exhibition from the most workmanlike and mundane results of a bank holiday weekend’s DIY.

Invited by the SLG to show in their Matsudaira Wing, the Polish artist has done what any new arrival to this domestic space might have thought to do. He has whacked up shelves in an alcove.

They look brand new. He has not even painted them. Were you not to read the notes to go with the exhibition, you might not even notice the twist. Budny’s shelves are all just a tiny bit bowed, by only millimetres, as if from the weight of unseen books.

Since the show is called Author, you would be forgiven for asking where these tomes might be. Perhaps this author, like Joyce, is invisible and paring his nails. Perhaps he is simply dead.

Either way his powers are waning. The shelves are not unique, because two sets in two different rooms comprise the full installation. And the work is untitled, as if Budny disclaims all authority.

This show has the potential to enrage contemporary art sceptics, should any find themselves at the South London Gallery. But there is a lot to be said for Budny’s shelves, more certainly than meets the eye.

Michal Budny is at South London Gallery until 28 November.  See gallery website for more details. This piece was written for Culture24.

10 years of art/history in the Turbine Hall

As Tate Modern blew out ten candles on its birthday cake this year, there was reason to think it has been lucky. The Bankside gallery has lived through a decade of turbulence in the wider world.

This century has been filled with war, terror and recession, not the best conditions for an infant. But if art imitates life, or vice versa, then surely we can find that history within the walls of Herzog and de Meuron’s reconstructed power station.

Look no further than the annual commission of monumental work for the Turbine Hall. Viewed in a current affairs context, the Unilever Series has been more topical than it might at first appear.

  • Louise Bourgeois, Maman, I do, I undo, I redo (2000) Three sculptures of mother and child were installed in bell jars at the top of towers. Nearby was a 30ft stainless steel spider, the name of which was, in French, Maman. Meanwhile, Mother Russia was to soon demonstrate tough parenting in the realm of foreign affairs. In 2005 she began a cold war with Ukraine and in 2008 a real war with Georgia.
  • Juan Muñoz, Double Bind (2001/2002)Two elevators rose and fell through a patterned floor. Empty lift shafts, some false, also sank from sight. Sculpted figures were visible from the lower space, involved in a mysterious human drama. In 2001 we were stuck in a lift with George Bush descending into war with Afghanistan. Two years later we were ‘shoulder to shoulder’ for an invasion of Iraq, a Double Bind if ever there was one.
  • Anish Kapoor, Marsyas (2002/2003) Red PVC was stretched across three giant rings to fill the length of the 155m hall in a piece of work named after a satyr who was flayed alive by the god Apollo. Doctors in France would in 2005 carry out the world’s first partial face transplant. The patient, Isabelle Dinoire, had been ravaged by a dog, not a god. She is reported to be happy with the results.
  • Olafur Eliasson, The Weather Project (2003/2004) Mono-frequency lamps were assembled into a yellow semi-circle at the far end of the space, while an overhead mirror rounded out the impression of a dazzling indoor sun. The weather has been big news this century. The West took its worst globally-warmed hit in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc in New Orleans causing $81 billion worth of damage.
  • Bruce Nauman, Raw Materials (2004/2005) 22 spoken texts were piped into the gallery in bands of sound which filled the space with an aural collage of jokes, pleas, poems, greetings, statements and propositions. Perhaps the most momentous words of the century were spoken in Washington in January 2009, as Barack Obama was sworn in as the first black president of the US in front of crowds of 1.8m.
  • Rachel Whiteread, EMBANKMENT (2005/2006) Translucent polyethylene was used to make thousands of casts from old cardboard boxes, taken from an original in the artist’s mother’s attic. These were stacked throughout the Hall in disorder. Given the title, this work brings to mind the 1998 demolition of nearby Cardboard City. Some 200 homeless people were living out of not dissimilar boxes opposite Embankment on the Thames.
  • Carsten Höller, Test Site (2006/2007) Several giant winding slides turned the gallery into a temporary funfair. The artist used the phrase “voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind,” to describe the experience. But voluptuous panic was soon to engulf the City’s financial markets. First signs of the recession were already in evidence and by 2009 the entire global economy was hurtling down the tubes.
  • Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth (2007/2008) Shibboleth fractured the building’s concrete floor to create a deep crack running from entrance to far wall. This comment on colonialism gave the impression of a biblical disaster. It was only three short years since the Sumatra-Andaman Earthquake, aka the Tsunami. Waves of up to 30 metres claimed the lives of 230,000 people in 14 countries.

  • Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, TH.2058 (2008/2009)Bunk bed frames, experimental films, artwork replicas and glaring lights transformed the Hall into an offbeat public shelter for a city under some unspecified form of attack. Although set in the future, this piece reflected a siege mentality in the West. 3,000 were killed in New York during 9/11. Subsequent bombs in Madrid and London killed 191 and 52 respectively.
  • Mirolslaw Balka, How It Is, (2009/2010)A vast steel crate rose 13m high and stretched 30m long. Visitors could walk into the depths of the container to experience near total darkness, which echoed to the sound of footsteps. The most recent historical phenomenona expressed through the Turbine Hall is global migration. How It Is could refer to the dark of a freight train, container truck or Calais warehouse.
  • Ai Weiwei, title yet to be confirmed, (2010/2011)Details of Ai Weiwei’s project will be kept secret for another few weeks. Let us just hope it contains some good news.

The next commission in the Unilever Series will be unveiled in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern on 12 October.

Antony Gormley/Tomoko Takahashi/Alice Neel/Ed Pien/Jorge Santos/Simon Yuill

Recent reviews and previews written for Culture24. Check ’em out: