If you play Grand Theft Auto you may be closer to understanding this piece than me. So far as I gather, both artists have had to play their way into all the footage which accompanies this film.
There’s not a stolen car in sight, mind you. The duo wear suits, rather than gang attire. They walk and run through lonely citycapes, some Romantic with a capital ‘r’, some apocalyptic with a small ‘a’.
Finding Fanon 2 grabs you from the opening set up as avatars for both artists fall to earth from a clear blue sky. They pedal limbs like upturned beetles, pick themselves up again like gods.
If this film were nothing more than a travelogue about virtual cities to be found in the GTA game franchise, it would already have a certain novel, uncanny appeal for non-gamers.
But there’s much more to it; the quest here is not to become a crime lord, but to get closer to an understanding of philosopher Frantz Fanon, who advocated armed resistance to power.
As a former resident of Martinique and a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front, Fanon was most interested in fighting back against colonial powers. Britain is no longer one of these.
So where might Fanon, who died in 1961, be found now? Nigel Farage might have said he would don khaki and pick up a rifle in order to fight for Brexit. But the UK left is using ballots rather than bullets.
The battlefield is the media, both mainstream and social. Dark money and big data are the dangers. So where indeed is Fanon today? He would doubtless be on a terror watchlist.
But the artists remain optimistic. “Perhaps he’s waiting here,” says the VO, as they stride through the ghost town, “behind the polygons, behind the texture maps, through the fields of algorithms”.
Fanon might be found in one of GTA’s beautiful sunsets. Achiampong and Blandy watch our fiery star sink below the horizon. If the sun has sunk on Fanon’s day, we know it will come again.
Few sights can be as alienating as a group of healthy grown adults spassing out in imitation of the most retarded members of our wider society.
Such scenes are the enduring images of a 1999 film by Lars Von Trier called The Idiots. The Danish director’s community of spass-ers act out one mentally backwards flashmob after another.
Parallels can be drawn with a group art show, such as the one at CAC in Brighton, in which five artists are presented at one remove through a spassed up film by Andrea Slater.
The Idiots du jour, who occupy the subterranean gallery for just four days are, in no order, Mike Stoakes, Huw Bartlett, Daniella Norton, Josh Uvieghara and Lou Allison.
Having been sent works by all of the above, Slater appears to have displayed them in her home, then gone into a spasm of video art.
The camera pans up down and around taking us on a dizzying id-driven gallery tour. We can all spass, like Slater who “saw the banality of her experience and loved it” (cf. gallery notes).
Von Trier’s film provides the soundtrack, with quotations chosen to highlight the Utopian potential of this truly bad taste behaviour.
And as things get nude in Von Trier’s film, so they do when Allison paints direct onto photos of the great and the good, including Sepp Blatter, Pope Benedict XVI, Nick Clegg.
And then there is Stoakes’ collage Would You Adam and Eve It which brings in Massacio to reference the lost paradise. As if Eden was one big spassfest, which perhaps it was.
Paradise is also shortlived at Community Arts Centre, Brighton, since this film, which opened Saturday closes later today (21/11/12).
In her much-talked about retrospective, the first piece of art is not by Tracey Emin. Nor does it seem much like a work of art. Despite the frame, it is clearly also a letter from her father.
Halfway through the show is another work in which the art is hard to discern. This is a video piece called Conversation with my Mum (2000). It does what it says on the tin.
It’s been noted elsewhere that Emin is the subject of Emin’s show. Most surely know by now most of her biography. And that biog is the message, however impressive the range of media here.
There could be something in the water near Margate. Despite differences and the accusations of copying, the outputs of Emin and onetime lover Billy Childish appear to run parallel.
First there is the confessionalism, an impulse you surely either have or you don’t. It cannot all be learned behaviour. Then there is the gesamtkunstwerk of painting, drawing, writing, film, etc.
But the reason Emin is now the bigger player in the art world is not just because she moved into the conceptual arena but, equally, because she wears the former tendency better as a female artist.
Personal statements and feminist art have gone together since (at least) the 1970s, when Mary Kelly made her landmark work about pregnancy and the early years of motherhood.
Of course, we now have some real artists of autobiography, the non-conceptual celebrities who spin out their life stories in regular installments to an eager audience. It’s a thin line.
You may point out that Emin can draw and has read some philosophy. The Exhibition Guide says so. But what a strange and interesting show this would be if she couldn’t or hadn’t.
Love is What You Want is at Hayward Gallery, London, until 29 August 2011. I got the above image from Wikipedia Commons licence as photography was not permitted. But it seems to fit.
Here’s another round up of my week’s output for Culture24. Happy reading…
- Review: Lucienne Cole, Karen Mirza & Ruth Beale, Phil Coy and Alex Pearl at Whitstable Biennale
- Preview: Persistence of Vision at FACT, Liverpool
- Preview: Wolfgang Tillmans at Serpentine, London
Here’s a round up of the pieces I wrote for Culture24 last week. Enjoy!
- Review: Surreal Friends: Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Kati Horne at Pallant House
- Review: James White: New Paintings, Max Wigram Gallery
- Review: Clare Twomey: A Dark Day in Paradise, Brighton Pavilion
- Review: Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception, Tate Modern
The art of Francis Alÿs is a reflection of political realities. In this film he pushes a block of ice around the streets of Mexico City for six or seven hours until it melts. On the same streets, thousands of locals spend their days pushing, carrying or towing wares or chattels. The results are the same: nothing to show for all the hard work.
But Alÿs does have something to show for it, a five minute film. And in a work called Ambulantes I and II, he also gives the street traders and removal men their due. Physical labour has given rise to art, if not profit, but what good is that to people who earn a living by the sweat of their brow?
The piece is called Paradox of Praxis I (Sometimes Doing Something Leads To Nothing), as if Alÿs were making a point about the futility of art. And yet this is not merely art about art. The routines of manual workers are just as much of a praxis and must at most times feel just as paradoxical.
Compared with such hardship the artwork melts away; the city absorbs it and the viewer, whoever they may be, can see those hot, dusty streets as if for the first time. And that is something.
Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception is at Tate Modern until 5 September.
Exhibition: A Horse Walks Into A Bar, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, June 18 – August 8 2010
That a non-domestic animal in a pub should occasion hilarity tells us something about our relationship with nature. The proverbial horse in a bar is an old joke.
Perhaps the nine artists in this group show at Castlefield Gallery can persuade us that we should take animals more seriously, or at least supply an original punchline.
Using video, painting, photography, sculpture and performance, the show promises to work away at the boundaries between the human and non-human living worlds.
The role of animals is here considered in many spheres, such as regal portraits, mass produced imagery, the entertainment industry and myth.
Contributors include Turner-prize winning artist Mark Wallinger, who once dressed as a bear to roam the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin for one of art’s better gags.
Meanwhile two photographers on show include Corey Arnold, who worked in Alaska as a fisherman, and Richard Billingham, whose unflattering family snaps caused controversy at the Barbican in 1994.
The response from art collective UHC is also no laughing matter. They have invited 100 members of the public to get unique tattoos of the 100 most endangered species in the UK.
Other artists to feature in this intriguing bestiary include Andrew Bracey, Lorraine Burrell, Maddi Nicholson, Dan Staincliffe and Chiz Turnross. So surely one can tell us, why the long face?
Written for Culture24.
Exhibition: Underwater, Towner, Eastbourne, until June 20 2010
In the landscapes paintings of Eric Ravilious, the South Downs look like green waves in a rough sea, at least they do so after a visit to Underwater at Towner.
The Eastbourne gallery has a reputation for landscape art and the local painter is one of many whose downland works feature in the permanent collection.
Ravilious doesn’t qualify for the new show, which takes the boundaries of the landscape genre and drags them into the depths. But it might have pleased him that his hometown can now stake a place on the UK map of contemporary art.
The big name at the current show is Bill Viola, whose 2005 video Becoming Light turns a non-specific body of water into an inky blue starry night.
Floating just below and occasionally above the surface are an entwined couple whose struggle to remain buoyant resembles an improvised dance. They come up for air and look ecstatic. They sink away from the camera out of sight and end life as a luminous bubble of oxygen, or perhaps carbon dioxide.
Klaus Osterwald also takes us below the surface of a lake, with a five speaker audio installation. Donatus Subaqua reveals a mysterious world of noisy fish, bubbling gases and overheard human calls. Space, depth and topography are rendered in sound.
Another subaquatic landscape is provided by Seunghyn Woo, whose plaster and wire mesh sculptures look both organic and alien. Dripped with acrylic the colour of exotic milkshakes, they get even more interesting close up, like coral.
Perhaps the underwater realm is, after all, unknowable. Detailed photographs of the sea bed here, taken by Daniel Gustav Cramer, show it as dark, murky and utterly impenetrable. Eric Ravilious would surely have been fascinated.
Exhibition: Lu Chunsheng and Jia Aili – Counterpoints, Rivington Place, London, March 31 – May 15 2010
With the commission of work by Ai Weiwei for the turbine hall of Tate Modern later this year, contemporary art from China is very much on the capital’s cultural agenda.
So this new exhibition at Rivington Place can only add to the interest. Londoners can be the first in Europe to see a film by Lu Chunsheng and a solo show by Jia Aili. If the two artists share a common theme, it could be technological bewilderment.
The First Man Who Bought a Juicer Bought it Not For Drinking Juice is the clunky name of Lu Chunsheng’s 27-minute film, which features a grain reaper in place of a kitchen appliance.
By combining documentary and fantasy, he demonstrates how a machine can come to wield a terrifying alien power over its creator, in this case a mechanic.
Emerging artsist Jia Aili shares his compatriot’s intensity of vision, and his large-scale paintings deal with the emotional impact of a rapidly modernising society.
Exhibition organisers Iniva have also commissioned a site specific work from Jia Aili for the window of Rivington Place. His response has been to recreate a masterpiece of Western renaissance art.
But this version of Carravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas is a disorientating mix of hurried brushstrokes and muted colours. If anyone still needs convincing about Chinese art, this may be the show to see.
Written for Culture24.