What is it to be human?

What is it to be human?

What is it to be human?

rAndom International, a studio based in London and Berlin, ponder upon our emotional reactions to machines. More than ever, machines participate in our daily lives facilitating communication, transportation and cultural exchanges all over the world. However, what the studio is investigating goes much deeper than just simple information and the speed of it.  It is our behavior, our emotional responses to machines that simulate to understand us that fascinates this team of creators.

Darwin emphasized the importance of affection and empathy in human evolution, emotions helped our ancestors to better adapt when facing exterior hostilities by reinforcing coercive relations amongst us. Today, trust has become pivotal when building relations with other species, even with machines we construct intimate relationships as they mimic human attitudes. Some psychologists have even studied cases of soldiers who mourn bomb defusing robots and found that some soldiers are prepared to go further and risk their lives to save these programmed devices. Even though they know the robots are operated by them and lack any consciousness, they create bonds, going against all logic. Florian Ortkrass, one of the brains behind the studio, demonstrated his perplexity when he witnessed the spectators respond before pieces such as Audience: “subconsciously we are so gullible, we can very simply be convinced that the opposite is understanding us.” Reliance in other “perceptive” organisms or machines confirms Rousseau’s theory of human good nature, perhaps it is indeed society who is corrupting well intentioned individuals.

 

rAndom International – Self and Other, 2016, glass, LED’s, steel frame, computer, driver electronics,
custom software, time of flight camera, 277.8 x 160 x 130.8 cm

 

But how is this blind trust built? Upon which basis are we cementing our emotional responses? Inspired by the pioneering text –  The Uncanny Valley –  by roboticist Masahiro Mori, the studios’ pieces are assembled in a very peculiar way, for they don’t emulate human physiognomy. Mori described the uncanny valley as an afterthought, an eerie sensation provoked after looking at robots. To avoid this, he has suggested that roboticists concentrate on “non-human design” enhancing affinity and an emotional response to humans. 15 Points, one of the latest artworks presented at Pace Gallery London, examines the way our brain assesses information and how it produces coherence; 15 small light bulbs are animated in a such a way to deceive the eye. As we see the shape of a man walking, the question arises, are we so easily duped? With minimalist methods – mirrors, reflections and lights – the rAndom team gives birth to presumably simple structures originating empathy. Hannes Koch, the other brain behind the team, thinks simplicity is enough: “there is a celebration in reduction. (…) The interesting thing here is that’s enough for us to be fooled and to have an emotional and honest response.” Rain Room, one of the most acclaimed pieces done by rAndom showcased at the MoMA, Shanghai and L.A, simulates precipitation inside a room, yet when entering the rain area, sensors prevent viewers from getting wet. Even if the “architectural installation” reacts to stimuli, whimsical and aggressive actions can’t always be detected. This very aspect of technology, its imperfection, echoes a component of human nature, hence, the studio’s pieces reflect on human fragility. Additionally, viewer’s blissfulness becomes apparent once they enter the Rain Room as the impossible is transformed into possibility, technology’s invisible intervention transports us and oddly empowers viewers by giving them the power to stop rain.

In the wake of entangled technologies, scientists such as Stephen Hawking or Max Tegman have repeatedly warned us about the perils of artificial intelligence and autonomous conscious robots.

In the wake of entangled technologies, scientists such as Stephen Hawking or Max Tegman have repeatedly warned about the perils of artificial intelligence and autonomous conscious robots. Three years ago, a group of experts published an article regarding the power of technology, a growing force developing at the speed of light. Nevertheless, the wisdom and ethics of robotics hasn’t progressed as much as artificial intelligence, the gap separating them is massive. The studio team professedly researches on technologies in our lives and in the near future, as sharing platforms are redefining reality and immediacy, the consequences haven’t been properly seized and scrutinized. Blur Mirror, dwells on the morality of these actions, when the spectator approaches the piece, (constituted with a mirror) he sees his reflection blurred, disabling clear identification. This is what “virtuality” is doing to us, as it is deconstructing the perception of ourselves.

 

rAndom international – Study for Fifteen Points / I, 2016, motors, custom driver electronic,
custom software, aluminium, LED’s computer, 56 x 71 x 55 cm.

 

Furthermore, in the ongoing political climate, and after the devastating direction of these events, our discerning capacities are to be feared. rAndom designs are not as sophisticated as Assimo robots, but they keep creating emotions and bewildering us. Through their installations we become aware of our physicality.  As they solicit our senses, they pull us out from lethargic states while, at the same time, posing essential questions about consciousness and partaking values.  Transparency is praised, as it shows that maybe we should stop developing complex systems and focus more on expanding our consciousness, of a deeper inquiry as to what surrounds us, and on waking up from our autopilot existence to see what is escaping our enslaved eye and even our enslaved brain. Instead of developing the world around us, rAndom seems to prefer to expand an inner dimension that is repeatedly escaping us.

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Paintings then, appear less cold despite the monochromatic palette, the eager spectator can recognize Celmins’s precise expression and expansive compositions.

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Andres Serrano, The Way, the Truth and the Life

Andres Serrano, The Way, the Truth and the Life

Andres Serrano, The Way, the Truth and the Life

“I say that my work is in the eyes of the beholder. How you see those people says sometimes more about you than about me. My work is intended to be a mirror, a reflection for you to see yourself in.”  Andres Serrano sits down with ArtPremium in Paris, 10 years after his last interview, and it is as if his utterance had inadvertently paralleled Oscar Wilde’s Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), that art merely mirrors the spectator, not life.

Unacceptability: a value that transcends the binary construct of our society – rich and poor, good and bad, sacred and profane. It is a solitary stillness in a world of noise and can be found recurring in Andres Serrano’s work.

Untitled XXVI-1

The artist visited Cuba for the first time in 2012 and subsequently released a body of work paying homage to this Caribbean island, its nation and its inhabitants. Serrano’s subjects roam in the mystery of individuality and in a very realistic personality. He photographs people and things as individuals and also, as archetypes and symbols. Voices seem to emanate from the remnants of a building in Abandoned, Havana (Cuba) (2012), or the algae-infested pool in Family of Enrique Rottenberg. Miramar, Havana (Cuba) (2012) and from the eeriness of the portrait and the peeled-off paint on the wall of Family Portrait (Cuba) (2012). Material takes on a strange persona in Serrano’s photographs that is wholly other than us. Otherworldly, unfamiliarity and strangeness entice Serrano and through his style, the artist awards himself such individuality.

Serrano: I have always felt like an outsider and I think part of it had to do with the fact that I was an only child. What ignites in me is the existential feeling or even a feeling of loneliness. In my work, I like to go to territories where no one else has gone before. In the art world, I feel separate from my peers and I like that sense of separation. I need to do what I need to do. I feel apart from the rest. Even if we exist in the same world, I am still in my world. My world is not their world and vice versa.

Consider The Klan series (1990-1992). Portraits of Raphaelic sombreness and presence deliver a subject that elicits the ultimate fear of man and confronts visually the manifestation of the ugliness of humanity. Serrano’s works offer an Aesthetic reading into the inherent separation of art and morality, or rather the elevation of art rid of didactic motivations.

There is a strong presence of reality in photography, which Serrano recognises, that evokes innocence and breaks pretences.

Serrano: It is simply about the beauty in something that is not supposed to be beautiful. I find beauty in the Ku Klux Klan. I find beauty in Donald Trump’s portrait (America, 2004). I find beauty in things that some people do not think beautiful but I make them beautiful

ZenaidaGomesJimenesHere, Serrano draws out the question of  the agency of the artist. Formally trained as a painter and a sculptor, he has chosen the medium of photography to convey a shared reality. Serrano’s photographs require the construction of an “agreement of purpose” (Freeland, 2001). His portraiture urges the spectator’s augmentation of perceptual consciousness, to see again what Andres Serrano saw.

The artist has, on multiple occasions, compared himself to the truth telling child in Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes (1837). There is a strong presence of reality in photography, which Serrano recognises, that evokes innocence and breaks pretences. His Torture series (2015) is illustrative of this power in images. There is no longer the preoccupation to condone a meaning behind the artist’s intention to photograph the hooded victims from Northern Ireland, Fatima or a tortured captive in Sudan. This is demonstrated by the initial pictures commissioned by The New York Times to accompany the essay on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in 2005, which prompted the commencement of the series, and perhaps more recently, the article by art critic Jonathan Jones for the Guardian. These photographs are about the actuality of the perpetual human condition of conflict.

At once subjective in his perception and universal in his concept, there is simplicity to Serrano’s operation: three lights, a Mamiya RB 67 camera on a tripod and for most of the time, a backdrop. The artist focuses on the idea of the photographs. Within his simplicity, Serrano finds an infinite variety of subjects and methods of immersion for himself as well as for his spectator.

ArtPremium: When we look at the various subjects you have taken over the years, we see groups of people, religion, and even places. What would you say is the inspiration of your choice?

Serrano: A lot of the time, it comes naturally to me. You can see the progress [of my work] and it makes sense. It is about life, race, and poverty, about social injustice, religion, and sex. One usually leads to another in a very natural way. When I do something, I try to do it in such a way that exhausts the subject; but religion, you cannot do enough about it. Religion is a funny thing because you have to do it when you are motivated, when you are inspired. I would love to be able to meet Pope Francis and to get a commission from him – that would inspire me. I would love to do something for the Church, like religious artists of the past.

Fortune_Teller

In truth, Serrano’s reflection does not stray far from art history. A crucifix submerged in an amber-tinged medium with an almost crepuscular ray shining upon the suffering Jesus Christ. Without the acknowledgment of the work’s title, Immersion (Piss Christ) (1987), the spectator continues to be encapsulated within the mysterious consciousness of the aesthetic beauty created by Serrano. Justly intimated by the British philosopher Owen Barfield on the art of poetry, a similar strangeness in Serrano’s photographic beauty arouses wonder in those who do not understand. Serrano’s larger-than-life photographs are the testament to the artist’s pursuit of Beauty, creating art for art’s sake.

ArtPremium: It is intriguing for us to reflect upon the fact that your work, in general, has always been subjected to a variety of interpretations or even condemnation. Your photographs, however, are not intended to irk your spectator. So why do you think people would want to label your work as provocative?

Serrano: People react in such a way because they see things that make them feel uncomfortable. After Piss Christ, it has always been controversial. They expect that from me. I would like to make pretty pictures but I would also like for them to mean something – not just on flowers, kittens and puppies. People want their beauty with provocation.

Family of Enrique Rottenberg. Miramar, HavanaContrary to the Dorian influence of decadent Romanticism, Serrano pursues a centripetal impetus in his work. The executor’s silent presence in the photographs allows the spectator to enjoy a greater freedom of interaction with the world of the subject. The titles employed in Serrano’s works however, function as a self-referential narrative to the photographs.  For example, from his early Mondrian-esque “fake paintings” like Milk, Blood (1986) to his using of the names of his subjects in Residents of New York (2014) or of the hooded figures in Torture (2015). They break the quiet murmurs of the reverie from the images and consequently distance the artist in a playful, coquettish manner like the character Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595/96).

William Hogarth identifies that “beauty is seen and confessed by all” (The Analysis of Beauty, 1753). In part, Serrano subscribes to the ideal, nonetheless, his canon of beauty proves to be challenging. The idea of beauty has been ruminated over and over by the greatest thinkers of humanity, from Plato and Aristotle to our contemporary, Harold Bloom. Creating since 1983, Serrano’s modus operandi becomes apparent. The artist searches for the intrinsic value of Art, to illuminate the beauty within the matter.

ArtPremium: Your work has taken you to Cuba, Jerusalem, Brussels, Northern Ireland and many more places. Where will you go next?

Serrano: The next place I would like to go is the place where I am going to do my next work. It will probably be in Paris in May. It has nothing to do with the homeless nor the immigrants. Someone once asked me to go to Texas to photograph the Mexican immigrants, I might do that. I have something more conceptual for Paris in mind. Actually, next year [2017] during FIAC and Paris Photo, I am going to have a show at the Petit Palais in October. The show will include more or less thirty to forty works of mine throughout the museum. Considering the range of my work, there is a big selection of pieces to choose from to decide the pieces they [the Petit Palais] will have at the venue. In addition, I am going to do another body of work here [in Paris] in May most likely. 
The world holds its breath as the supposed enfant terrible divulges this information about his new works in Paris. We are sure to be one step closer to dissecting this curious mastermind with the debut of these works.

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Berndnaut Smilde

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde explores sacred architectures and day spaces through his photographs. Nimbus, his most acclaimed project until this day, is a series where he creates ephemeral interior clouds with vapor and a smoke machine. The phenomenon lasts no more than 20 seconds but it is kept alive through the photographic lens and its reproduction. His ephemeral sculptures emphasize time’s subjectivity and the dichotomy between lasting sculptural constructions and his transitory clouds. Smilde studied Fine Art at the Minerva Academy in Groningen, he also holds an MA from the Frank Mohr Institute. His works have been exhibited in art fairs such as Art Brussels, Bologna Art Fair, Amsterdam Art Fair and others. His first solo exhibition was held by the MOOT Gallery in Nottingham and since then his work has been showcased in Shanghai, Taipei, Washington, Lima and other cities around the globe. He took part in numerous residency programmes such as FORM in Western Australia, Irish Museum Residency of Modern Art, and so on. His work is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, Saatchi Gallery, Cornell University collection, Frans Hals Museum and more.

Berndnaut-Smilde

Nimbus Sankt Peter, 2014, digital c-type, print on aluminium, 125 x 181 cm, Ed. of 6 + 2 AP

Yutaka Endo

Founder of Luftzug, a creative collective based both in Japan and the Netherlands, Yutaka Endo is a Japanese designer who studied performing arts at the Nihon University.  His works aim at uniting men, technology and ideas. Endo’s designs revolve around human experiences and the spectator’s interactions. Time’s cessation is one of the main themes explored by the designer, and to convey it he often suspends objects. Proof of this is the project Light is Time, an installation in which 65 thousand watch base plates hang from the ceiling. Endo was responsible for the lighting and the sound, the installations travelled to Milan for the city’s design week and won the prize for best sound and entertainment, the Good Design Award in Japan in 2015 and the London International Award 2015 Gold. Among other projects in which Endo participated are Neoreal Wonder, Energetic Energies, Parts to the Furniture and more. His projects have won numerous awards such as the iF communication Design award in 2014 and the Elita design award in 2011. Most of his installations are light based, he continues to develop and work in Luftzug to this day.

Yutaka Ando

Asahikawa Design Week 2016 “Parts to the Furniture”

Tsuyoshi Tane

Architect Tsuyoshi Tane studied design at the university of Gothenburg and the Chalmers University in Sweden. His architectural designs are regularly made with organic materials such as wood, stone and glass. Following Frank Lloyd Wright’s style, Tane’s creations establish relationships between the environment and his constructions. Other than this, he won the competition to build the new Estonian National Museum. Furthermore, he collaborated with the Japanese artist Yutaka Endo on projects such as Light is time and Light in Water.

Tsuyoshia Tane

 

Rebecca Louise Law

British installation artist Rebecca Louise Law (b. 1980, Cambridge) is known for her skilful manipulation of natural materials. Encapsulating the life cycle of flora in a perfect parallelism to the decay of man, the artist presents the manifold interpretations of beauty from monumental, poetic floral cascades to still-life encasings inspired by Dutch Old Masters. Currently based in London, Law was trained in fine art at Newcastle University, England and has been exploring natural changes and preservation as an artistic practice for 20 years. Her work is at the same time an explosion of jovial, guileless emotions and a meticulous observation of our universe frozen in terms of our aesthetic perception.
Her large-scale installations inspire numerous commissions including The Flower Garden Display’d at the Garden Museum in London, The Grecian Garden at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, Outside In in Times Square, New York, The Beauty of Decay in San Francisco, as well as by major brands like Hermes, Cartier and Gucci. Law’s work has also been exhibited in public spaces like the Bikini Berlin in Germany, the Huis Ten Bosh Palace in Japan, and in museums like the Royal Academy and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Rebecca Louise Law

The Beauty of Decay – Installation at Chandran Gallery San Francisco

Teresita Fernández

Born in Miami, Florida in 1968, Teresita Fernández is an artist whose engaging narrative immerses the spectator at the heart of our world’s natural phenomena in order to raise questions on perception and the psychology of seeing. Her prominent pubic sculptures present spectacular illusions that reimagine the landscape and the structural integrity of the place of exhibition. Fernández is best known for her unconventional use of everyday materials that positions her urban site-specific works in an ecological environment, for instance, a rock formation effect through the piercing sunlight from the perforated aluminium discs in Fata Morgana (Full Project) (2015). 
The American artist is now based in Brooklyn, New York.The artist first participated and debuted her work in a group exhibition in the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, Florida entitled 30th Hortt Memorial Exhibition. Her most recent solo show at Lehmann Maupin Gallery presents a series of her new works Fire (America).Fernández’s works are enthusiastically sought after by major art collectors and museums and are part of a vast number of public collections including Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros in New York, Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, LVMH Collection in Paris, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and many more.

03-Teresita-Fernandez

Viñales (Subterrean), 2015, glazed ceramic, 3 panels each – photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

Hitomi Sato

Hitomi Sato (b. 1989, Shizuoka) is a Japanese artist who started her artistic career after graduating from Musashino Art University in architecture and design. By utilising the spatial illusion through special treatment of light and colour, Sato’s work awakens the essence of the different human senses. Her most notable installation, Sense of Field (2016), is a narrow walkway that is packed with optic fibre-like radiant light film. The artwork is palpable and goes beyond our known consciousness. Every movement caused by the spectator’s intervention creates a Komorebi effect, the untranslatable Japanese expression for when sunlight is filtered by the porous leaves in trees. After a year studying abroad in London, the artist is currently based in Tokyo, Japan.
Even as a young emerging artist, Sato has presented her works on various occasions since 2012 at the Water and Land Niigata Art Festival. In 2016, her work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan.
Sato has also received the “Excellent award” at the 2015 Mitsubishi Junior Designers Award.

03-Hitomi-Sato

 

Yasuaki Onishi

Japanese multidisciplinary artist Yasuaki Onishi (b. 1979, Osaka) is best known for his deft treatment of glue. His mountainous installations are lopsided landscapes that create an unnerving sense of vertigo as if a heavy object is encumbering the spectator but at the same time, its structure is incredibly light and fragile. Onishi is concerned with demonstrating the negative space and in doing so, capturing the invisible. The artist presents usual silhouettes, sometimes undulating, frozen in mid-air like Reverse of Volume (2015), other times tempestuous, rendering the concept of volume in physical terms like Ditch of Time, Edge of Space (2016).
Onishi studied sculpture at University of Tsukuba and Kyoto City University of Arts. Since his first group exhibition at the Metal Art Museum Hikarinotani in Japan in 2002, Onishi’s work has been exhibited globally. His recent solo presentations include Reverse of Volume at Arte Sella in Italy, Vertical Volume in The Mine in Dubai, UAE and Reverse of Volume in Vida Downtown Dubai, UAE.
The artist has received many grants and awards including the Sakuyakonohana Prize, sponsorship from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and more recently, as the Art at the Heart winner by Shire of East Pilbara in Australia.

03-Yasuaki-Onishi

Vertical Emptiness FP, 2016 / Tree branch, glue, urea, other Fresh Paint 8 – Yerid Hamizrach, Tel Aviv, Israel

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Friday Artist to Watch : The Color Space of Hans Christian Berg

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Hans Christain Berg - Color Space

Visual Vortex and Color Space

Anthropomorphous sculptures and geometric canvases give life to the work of the Finnish artist Hans Christian Berg. “New visual dimensions” are suggested in his series Visual Vortex as well as in Color Space, both being projects where the eye discovers light in different shapes and sizes. He studied sculpture and was part of the ceramics programme at the Aalto University of Art and design in Finland from 2002 to 2004.

Concerned about the loss of ceramic tradition in Finland, he founded, together with his fellow artists, LASIKOMPPANIA in the village of Nuutajärvi, a glass cooperative aiming at revitalizing this ancient practice in his home country. He has had exhibitions in numerous venues such as the Galerie Forsblom in Helsinki, the Finnish Institute in Stockholm, the Norwegian Institute in Oslo, the Kashya Hildebrand gallery in London and more.

In 2000 he received the young Sculptor Award in the memory of the sculptor Utriainen. Hans Christian Berg won the juried sculpture competition for the new “Fennia ”House in Helsinki , Finland in 2008 and was in 2014 awarded 1 prize in the execution of Contemporary Calligraphy at the 6th edition of the Sharjah Calligraphy Biennal. The Willian Thuring Foundation’s Main Prize for excellency in art for a mid career awarded the artist in 2009.His work is part of museum collections such as Kiasma, EMMA, Helsinki Art Museum, Art Nova Museum in Turku and many more.

 

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A Spring Symphony

A Spring Symphony

in_out_paradis_artificiels_09

On a warm, breezy Spring’s day, a brilliantly iridescent dome adorns the Domaine Park of Chaumont-sur-Loire. The futuristic appearance of the installation entitled IN-OUT/ Artificial Paradises 2017 by French digital artist Miguel Chevalier is rather oddly in harmony with the Renaissance château and garden thanks to its reflective exterior mirroring the exuberance of the sunlight and the surrounding greenery.

IN-OUT / Artificial Paradises 2017 spans across at a diameter of 12 metres. The structure is a demi-sphere with a wooden framework, covered in holographic films in order to capture the prismic glory of the Sun.

Visitors are invited to embark on a journey between the real and the virtual garden within the dome, to be transported in an instant to a reality beyond our everyday physical experience. The artist’s generative digital installation Trans-Natures is projected on the curved walls at 360°, reflected by towering mirrors installed around the interior of the dome as well as the glistening black vinyl floor mimicking a visually echoing lake surface. Italian composer and expert in interactive and generative music Jacopo Baboni Schilingi orchestrates in particular a piece of music to compliment the mysterious floral apparitions in the artwork. It is an experience at once meditative and transformative.

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IN-OUT / Artificial Paradises 2017 explores the question of the link between nature and artifice as a full-body hypnotic poem. According to the approach prevalent in the late 90s, Chevalier bases this creation on the observation of the munificence of plant life and transposes such abundance into the digital universe. Different species of trees, bushes, twigs, and foliages congregate to form an artificial ecosystem. This virtual biosphere’s structure generates and regenerates ad infinitum abstract arboreal forms in consonance with the algorithm written by Claude Micheli.

The artwork challenges the visitor’s spatial limits. Enveloped by this digital microcosm, the visitor develops a novel sense of distance towards the infinite. From now through to 2 November 2017 at the Domaine of Chaumont-sur-Loire, this vegetal ritual celebrates the beauty of life, an eternal Spring.

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"It waves you to a more removed ground"

Anish Kapoor once famously said that for there to be new objects, there had to be new space. The artist’s work reveals the truth in his paradoxical conversation between the void and the perceptible.

Chamber of Reflection

Chamber of Reflection

MB-NGC 3372_flat

Night Sky NGS 3372 from the series “Night Skies”, 2013,
cocaine dust on photographer’s velvet, 132 x 306 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

Photography and image-making by extension, have become part of the everyday rituals of contemporary western societies. The proliferation of images has become a synonym of acknowledgment, a symptom of our obsession for appearances and the praise of individualism. Susan Sontag’s call for an “ecology of the image” has been exceeded by social media and the “cult of personality”. To neutralize this visual superabundance, young photographers must innovate by giving new shapes to the imaged and by stimulating the ocular organ, they have to some extent, be able to alleviate the viewer’s gaze. Matthew Brandt’s strategy is to dig into photography’s past to present old-fashioned techniques of reproduction revitalizing them and offering a renewal in contemporary aesthetics.

At first glance, his are captivating photographs of vast landscapes reminding us of the tradition of the first American photographers who revealed to wider audiences the hidden treasures of the American West; photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Timothy O’Sullivan are among those who inspired Brandt’s body of work. His photographs from the series Water Bodies, especially Two Ships Passing U.S and Pacific Ocean bear witness to his penchant for ancient techniques. In a recent conversation held with the artist, he attributed the implementation of these procedures to what they enable him to do when creating an image: other than the playful asset, uncertainty plays a tremendous role. Brandt finds the mystery lying behind each take fascinating, ostensibly analog images magnify the desire to discover the image.

The brisk cascade of images in social media copes with the tandem of our contemporary world, the artist’s technique requires certain equipment and time of exposure and certain material that corresponds to the methodology used during the 19th century. The resulting images are far from the plethora of data in mass media. His artistic takes possess a particular texture and linear composition bestowing them softness and harmony. While Brandt relinquishes old fashioned techniques, he associates photography with chemistry rather than with a simple reflex. Photos are for him invitations to the past where each take is carefully thought about and constructed.

While Brandt relinquishes old fashioned techniques, he associates photography with chemistry rather than with a simple reflex.

Art and its techniques are an unparalleled footprint of a society’s way of thinking and seeing. Impressionism is an example of the evolution undergone by the human eye, without photography’s arrival, painting might have never been liberated from the mimetic burden. Clippings – a series created during 2014 and 2015 – uses the pointillism technique making a parallelism between photography and painting. These artistic avant-gardes explored human perception terminating with the Western tradition of perfect sight, they focused on blurry configurations. Clippings is an investigation of how an image is made and for the artist the latter relates more to a moveable oscillation of components than to a static structure. His unorthodox methods of representation – among them we can cite the use of kitchen ingredients in his series Taste Test in Color, honeybees, dust and recently cocaine for Night Skies – encourage spectators to be inventive and to understand that there is more to his photos that meets the eye.
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Lewis Lake WY3 from the series “Lakes & Reservoirs”, 2013,
C-print soaked in Lewis Lake water. Courtesy of the artist

 

One wonders then, what is the requisite to making photography or to creating an image? New technologies have widened its definition, but Brandt does not choose technology. Instead, he introduces elements from what he portrays, conferring to each photograph a special “aura”. This concept was firstly evoked by Walter Benjamin in his essay The Work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, in it the German philosopher underlined the inherent dangers of “new” techniques. Benjamin feared art’s trivalisation as well as the audience’s loss of interest for the original. Yet, Brandt’s work disputes the philosopher’s claims by creating unique photographic pieces. His series Portraits is made with body fluids provided by the people photographed, to some extent each take contains its special DNA, one that can’t be reproduced infinitely. Lakes and Reservoirs operates with the same logic as he developed the photographs with the water collected from the lakes. The approach is further developed with Bridges over Flint, as it takes a political nuance. In the wake of the American elections, the photographs appear as indicators of the genesis of a critical moment in history.

Boundless connections derive from each of his artistic projects, Wai’anae for instance is an investigation on how Hawaiians relate to their land. Brandt took photos of Wai’anae’s nature, he later developed them, folded them in banana leaves and buried them on the ground. Moisture, rain and the soil transformed the photographs into quasi abstract printings, the experience was correlated to a Hawaiian burial ritual in which the body is folded and becomes part of nature again. Photography’s connectedness to death emerges as we remember Barthes statement “that had been”, image making reveals itself as a morose testament, a modern memento mori. Memory is indeed a fascinating feature in photography making, a part from taking part in modern ritualistic activities, it testifies to our presence in exotic places. In relation to tourism photography, Brandt created a whimsical character, the epitome of bad taste and questionable behaviour representing mass tourism. With a fist in the air, a Hawaiian shirt and a hat, Hands up embodies mass tourism and photography’s role in modern holidays. It was again Sontag in her essay On photography, that described photography’s place during the holiday season and how picture taking eased German and American workers giving them the feeling of doing something with their idle time.

 

MB-Two Ships Passing_Pacific Ocean_U.S_300dpi

Two Ships Passing, US from the series “Water Bodies”, 2011,
salted paper print, 107 x 133 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

Matthew Brandt’s photographs are historical journeys retracing the steps of photography and its evolution over the years. One of his latest exhibitions showcased at the Museum of Modern art in New York, was a video performance with the musician Julianna Barwick where Brandt was in charge of the video-making. This is a major factor asserting that Brandt doesn’t limit himself to photography’s stillness, movement is gaining in importance in his artistic practice. It is of little importance if Brandt’s interests broaden, what remains in his photographs and videos is his ardent curiosity for image and its by-products, a lucid testimony of what image has become.

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Clemence Danon Boileau – You had to be there

Clemence Danon Boileau – You had to be there

CDB-familiere-etrangete

Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60×90 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

The ubiquity of images perpetuated by social networking inevitably reduces the value of photography. The fundamental nature of the expression describes its infinitely reproducible triteness. On a scale from light to darkness, photography, as if transparent, reveals not the description of the event, but the consciousness of the photographer’s feelings. Clémence Danon Boileau’s photographs bear witness to the set of choices she exercised in her everyday life. Her sombre use of colour and lighting speaks of a silent tragedy affecting every single one of us.

If we talk about the language of paintings and that of sculptures, we think of the composition, the interaction between the form and the space, and so forth. What then is the language of photography? Many look at it as the closest resemblance to reality, that it is essentially the language of events recorded, external to the photograph itself. How are we, the spectators, supposed to read a photograph, to access knowledge that goes beyond what is printed in front of us? Indeed, the arbitrariness of photography gives us only a glimpse of the operator’s reality through the shadow by the mediation of light. A Roland Barthes’ punctum, if you may. Thinking of the silhouettes in Clémence Danon Boileau’s Ni là, ni ailleurs series, a lot can be said in the silence of the night.

Her unceasing study of materials chases back to her initial motive in photography: as a way of remembering.

In a town southeast of Paris, Danon Boileau wanders about the familiar scenery of Fontainebleau. Through the viewfinder of her camera, she sees the forest and dirt roads not unlike those in Jitka Hanzlová’s photographs. The autumn leaves and dry bushes on the one side, and the bare branches of the towering trees on the other, evoke the presence of a sense of timelessness. It’s as if the wind was taken out of the equation in a vacuum of time, like a snap shot from a page in Wuthering Heights. Familière Etrangeté presents the uncanny – a paradox of intangibility and desire. Consider Danon Boileau’s photographs to be taken in the suspension of time, we retract the fourth dimension of our reality. Photographs are in their nature two-dimensional explaining Danon’s fervent research in giving substance to her work. Printed on a delicate Japanese paper, Danon Boileau gives her images physicality. The three-dimensional granulation of the paper renders a pointillist effect, drawing the spectator right in to the centre of the question: “What exactly am I seeing?” Her persistence in finding the right type of paper specifically for her different series grants her work a rarity value and transforms her personal observation into the spectator’s self-consciousness.

 

CDB-Familiere-etrangete-4

Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60×90 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

Completely self-taught, Danon Boileau picked up photography to construct her memory castle. The confidence in guaranteeing, through language, the things she sees in her daily life, is shattered in the mystery of photography. The familiarity of witnessing the modern phenomenon of smart phones, a portrait, a landscape in photographs illustrates the “striking instance of uncanniness” in Freud’s description. The strange faces, captured in Danon Boileau’s Dans le parking series during one of her many travels as a legal adviser to an NGO, are examples of her photographic sensitivity in revealing the modesty, innocence and purity of the ordinary. Achieving the technique of “Rembrandt lighting” without the constraints of a walled studio, Danon Boileau makes use of the raw light accessible in her surroundings. The features of her subjects are carved out resembling a Baroque painting. Yet, the spectator is more likely to be drawn to the intriguing details hidden in the shadows. The intensity in the everyman’s gaze is sharpened when the spectator is made aware of the soft, almost forlorn silhouette of which the explanation is absent in the photograph.

The spectrum of absence and presence holds the quantum of truth as to the photographer’s emotions as the shutter clicks. It’s not just black and white, but a testimony to an existence.  The many distractions in our circle of modern comfort complicate the sincerity of the artist. The construction of this reality in photography is dependent on the spectator’s recognition of these untold details. The great negative space in the image of a lady’s profile illuminated by the light of her telephone screen unveils the irony of globalised interconnectedness. The title of Ni là, ni ailleurs is evocative of the estrangement prevalent in our advanced society. This communication device brings us virtually closer to those who are far away but takes us further away from human contact. By removing this dependency, what is left is a morbid imagery reflected from the paleness of the lady’s skin. Danon Boileau’s subjects are neither here nor there.

 

CDB-Nilaniailleurs-4

Ni là, ni ailleurs, 2014, C-print, 50×70 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

It is this automatism in photography and in our age that has conceived the dualities of such paradox and its contradictions and we cannot possibly perceive its extent. The socio-cultural reading into a photograph may somehow overwrite the photographer’s intentions and give the referent an overwhelming authority. In Danon Boileau’s Essai sur la fécondation in vitro, her photographs are freed of the necessity of a denotation. “Strip of one’s flesh, the essence of being takes shape.” The ambiguity of the subject matter is impregnated by the darkness of backlight. Her unceasing study of materials chases back to her initial motive in photography: as a way of remembering. These photographs are experimental and high in contrast. Danon Boileau’s reality unfolds in front of the spectator’s eyes into an empathetic, beautiful mess of cognitive reconnection and fabricated memories.

 

CDB-Familiere etrangete-route copy

Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60×90 cm. Courtesy of the artist
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Life’s Requiem

Life’s Requiem

Shiota,_The Key in the Hand, 2015, photo by Sunhi Mang_16

The Key in the Hand, 2015, old keys, old wooden boat, red yarn, dimensions variable.
Japan Pavillion 56th Venice Biennale, Italy. Photo by Sunhi Mang. Courtesy of the Artist.

 

In Antiquity, knowledge of the body was restricted by religious beliefs and the ruling ethos. For centuries, several civilizations including the Greeks, Indians and the French, based part of their medical systems on the theory of “humorism”. Doctors considered that the body constituted 4 body fluids, black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood.

Whenever looking at the thread installations made by the Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota, the humorism theory sparks a light indicating a possible way to read to her enigmatic work. Her compositions are exclusively made with two colours: red and black, as she stated during a recent interview “these colours represent human life”. Hence, to the artist life emerges as a binary configuration, a continuous conflict between life and death. Like humorism, the world and human beings are composed of mysterious substances drifting from ourselves, fighting to unbalance us. The parallel with humorism reveals once again its accuracy when we observe the objects employed by the artist in installations such as Dialogue with absence and Connectedness to Life, the tubes and beds reverberate as components of the medical universe. Presumably, Shiota had a near death experience that for evermore marked her work. Human being’s ephemeral passing is enhanced by death beds and metaphors of nothingness in her constructions, even boats can be perceived as intermediary objects transporting to the afterlife. Greeks believed that in order to enter into the underworld, the death’s soul needed to cross the Styx river and pay a tribute to Charon. Therefore, boats for civilization, were a means of transportation also after death. For Shiota these objects exemplify the afterlife journey and life’s voyage during our time on earth.

Memory of the ocean, installation de Chiharu Shiota-ABM-Gabriel de la ChapellePossibly, less obscure is the meaning behind the colour red as it represents blood, human relationships, hope and vitality. It can also symbolise femininity. Although the artist doesn’t approve of the feminist perspective as an appropriate reading to her installations, her performance work such as Bathroom or Try and Go Home attests to the deep influence of artists like Ana Mendieta and Marina Abramovic. Moreover, dresses abound corroborating her interest in the female condition once again.  But, if she rejected the idea of labelling her installations as being “feminist”, it is due to her desire to create a universal artwork relating to a wider audience. Subjects such as loneliness, dreams and absence have gradually taken over, art pieces like During Sleep, In Silence, Letters of the Thanks or Farther Memory inquire on the human condition.

Dreams are indeed quintessential components in Shiota’s work, they are not only evoked in her titles but emerge as the core of her artistic practice. The father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud viewed them as coded messages coming from our unconscious, subtly sending information to a strict conscious layer. Unlike the Greeks and other philosophers, Freud considered them healers of traumas. Seemingly for Shiota her thread installations are cathartic experiences where reality and dreams are mixed creating new universes. The unconscious finds its voice and its form in her art pieces, and as the spectator walks through her immersive ecosystems he is confronted with outer dimensions, to intimate thoughts and emotions. Empty squares symbolise loneliness and absence, silence and meditative states that interrogate viewers on the essence of life.

Although the artist doesn’t approve of the feminist perspective as an appropriate reading to her installations, her performance work such as Bathroom or Try and Go Home attest to the deep influence of artists like Ana Mendieta and Marina Abramovic.

Even if Shiota’s artworks can be visceral and difficult to decipher, a particle of positivity glows and imbues her creations every time we see them. Impermanence and death is perceived not as the end but as the beginning of a new phase. Boats, suitcases and shoes are recurrent motifs embodying mobility and change, they also personify memories; yet another way of remaining alive. In 2015, for the Japanese Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, Shiota created her installation The Key in the Hand, the ceiling was flooded with red thread, keys were hanged and boats appeared to be anchored to the floor. According to the artist, keys personify trust and infinite possibilities, they reflect prosperous futures. At the end of the experience, a video where children were asked if they remembered something from their time in their mother’s womb was projected.

The installation and film delved into memory’s nature, as the children spoke, some of the memories recalled were mixed with imaginary scenarios and real experiences. Nevertheless, how do we discern reality from fantasy? In reality, life and death are connected dimensions and the more we experience Shiota’s work, the more we understand the dominating affinity between life and death. Doors are portals and promises of regeneration, of rejuvenation. When contemplating The Locked Room red thread appears as less threatening, as bridging experiences and rekindling memories.

Comparable to Chiharu Shiota’s body of work, firm defenders of humorism believed humors corresponded to the 4 elements and were somehow correlated to our temperament. Despite its inexactness, the theory conceptualized the world as an association rather than something detached. Layers are visibly knotted, once again dimensions are connected and the death-life cycle is restored.

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Vija Celmins, Entropic Void

Vija Celmins, Entropic Void

Celmins_A Painting in Six Parts

A Painting in Six Parts, 1986-87/2012-16.
Oil on canvas, six parts. Overall dimensions 38 x 645 cm.
© Vija Celmins – Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Greek philosopher Plato condemned painting and other artistic disciplines.  According to him, they emulated reality deluding the spectator as to what he called the “actual world”. Imitation duped and pulled us away from the essence of things, so was the argument of Plato. Yet, when someone observes a painting from Vija Celmins and discovers that the canvas in front of their eyes is not a photograph but a meticulous composition, we feel more thrilled than mislead by her work.

At the beginning of her career, Celmins’s paintings depicted a reality that was close to the cultural scenario of her time: televisions, airplanes, bombs and everyday objects dominated her imagination. Suspended Plane portrays what seems to be a war plane from World War II, a possible reminder of the Vietnam war. But soon after the early 1970’s, space exploration and ocean waves became predominant in her work. Culture and any suggestion of humanity was completely erased from her paintings replaced by sober compositions depicting nature. The critic Carter Radcliff even compared her passion of nature’s portrayal to the urge felt by the Romantics who conceived the latter as a deity. One is indeed amazed by Celmins’s narrow selection of subjects and her obsessiveness when constructing her paintings; the ocean’s infinity and the vastness of night skies are sufficient enough to nourish her body of work. To her, repetition is not equivalent to cloning, for every painting and drawing has its own life. Moreover, Plato’s judgment on painting and other mimetic disciplines wasn’t perhaps directed towards the painter. In the philosopher’s eyes, the audience was poorly considered as he believed they were easily duped. In Celmins’s case, the inattentive spectator is likely to think he’s beholding a scientific photograph, nevertheless, when he approaches the work the true nature of the flat surface reveals itself. Although she plays with us, her viewers, she never doubts we will discover the truth beneath her creations: Celmins’s objective is to enlighten us about what dominates our view and how it works.

Paintings then, appear less cold despite the monochromatic palette, the eager spectator can recognize Celmins’s precise expression and expansive compositions.

Observing is crucial to grasp the artist’s work; details are what separates photography from her paintings. “The camera sees everything and understands nothing”, so were the words of Nadar describing the camera’s lack of aptitude to perceive the world affectedly. What Celmins’s intricate compositions do to our vision is to paralyze it, stillness is requested, our bodies can gravitate but our gaze must not. As we contemplate our mind is freed from the burden of relentless time and movement. Any reference from the outer world is completely blurred by the soothing ocean. The paintings therefore, do not suggest any activity, her drawings are not fragments of time but fragments coming straight from Celmins’s imagination. Untitled (Ocean) mimics the wave’s movement. However, the frame together with the quietness of the composition exposes the canvas’s essence. Other creations such as Untitled (Sequoia and Moon) or Jupiter Moon – Constellation juxtapose two images, a creative process she repeats several times. Constellation – Uccello, is one of the most prolific examples of this operation. On the one hand, we are confronted with an image of the universe painted by the artist, on the other, a found image by Uccello depicting a three-dimensional chalice highlights the object’s volume. The concept of space is seen through different angles, via the sole association of images, Celmins opens a discussion on how linear perspective monopolized our sight.

Although inspired by photographs, her artistic gesture transforms the mechanical vision into affective configurations. Paintings then, appear less cold despite the monochromatic palette, the eager spectator can recognize Celmins’s precise expression and expansive compositions. Despite creating two dimensional structures, the artist conveys certain depth through the texture of the objects. Haptic was the word used by Cécile Whiting to describe the effect produced in our eyes. When moving closer in the direction of the painting, the eyes can almost caress the painting. Celmins “reconfigures the visual experience in an era of space exploration,” modern man’s cyborg vision transcends to another dimension. Her paintings revive our senses as well as our mind. Contrary to what we are taught, it is not the eye that governs but the mind that arranges our world. Celmins creates an intimate bond with her audience bringing the spectator closer to her paintings and to her.  

 

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Chul Hyun Ahn

Born in Busan, South Korea, artist Chul Hyun Ahn received his bachelor degree from the Fine Arts Department of the Chugye University of Arts in Seoul; he later pursued his academic studies in the United States graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore as well as from the Mount Royal School. Chul Hyun Ahn’s creations explore infinity’s form, he uses mirrors, neon lights and other found objects in order to agitate his viewers. Intricate and sober compositions trick his spectators guiding them into unknown dimensions where bodily figures are transformed into ethereal matter. He has exhibited at numerous art fairs such as the KIAF in South Korea, ARCO Madrid; the Venice Biennale in 2013 and more. His first solo exhibition was at the C. Grimaldis Gallery in Baltimore in 2002 where he displayed his work Visual Echoes for the first time. His art pieces are found in collections like the American Society of Nephrology, Mr. & Mrs. Don Sanders private collection, the Borusan collection in Turkey, the Delaware Art Museum and Borusan Contemporary at Istanbul.

 

Visual Echo Experiment, 2005,
laminated wood, mirrors, lights, 9 pieces, 79 x 79 x 12.5 cm each

Berndnaut Smilde

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde explores sacred architectures and day spaces through his photographs. Nimbus, his most acclaimed project until this day, is a series where he creates ephemeral interior clouds with vapor and a smoke machine. The phenomenon lasts no more than 20 seconds but it is kept alive through the photographic lens and its reproduction. His ephemeral sculptures emphasize time’s subjectivity and the dichotomy between lasting sculptural constructions and his transitory clouds. Smilde studied Fine Art at the Minerva Academy in Groningen, he also holds an MA from the Frank Mohr Institute. His works have been exhibited in art fairs such as Art Brussels, Bologna Art Fair, Amsterdam Art Fair and others. His first solo exhibition was held by the MOOT Gallery in Nottingham and since then his work has been showcased in Shanghai, Taipei, Washington, Lima and other cities around the globe. He took part in numerous residency programmes such as FORM in Western Australia, Irish Museum Residency of Modern Art, and so on. His work is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, Saatchi Gallery, Cornell University collection, Frans Hals Museum and more.

 

Nimbus Portlandplace, 2014,
digital c-type print on aluminium, 125 x 186 cm, 75 x 112 cm.

Anne Lindberg

Primal emotions and human cycles are the nucleus of Anne Lindberg’s work. Her geometric and her thin brushstrokes are at the origin of colourful abstract canvases. Abstraction, according to the artist, represents “a strong impulse to speak from a deep place within herself about what is private, vulnerable, fragile, and perceptive to the human condition.” She graduated from the University of Miami and later received a Master in High Arts from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Her first solo exhibition was in 1990 at the Artemisa Gallery in Chicago. Moreover, she received several grants including the National Endowment for the Art Fellowship in 1993, the ArtsKC Fund Inspiration grant in 2008 and in 2009, the Lighton International Artist Exchange Grant in 2011 and many more. Her work is part of collections such as the Detroit Institute of Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the Federal Reserve of Kansas collection, International Shibori collection in Nagoya, Nevada Museum of Art, and other private collections. Lindberg works mainly with oil but she recently turned to the sculptural real and ever since continues to develop in this field.   

 

Drawn pink, 2012, Egyptian cotton head, staples, 35 by 6 by 10 feet.Photography by Derek Porter

Drawn pink, 2012, Egyptian cotton head, staples, 35 by 6 by 10 feet.
Photography by Derek Porter

 

Damian Loeb

Damian Loeb is a self taught American painter. His realistic and suave images captivate the viewer’s attention, as the latter approaches the canvas, he realises that what is in front of him is not a photograph but a delicate painting. Intimate interiors, female bodies and galaxies are the painter’s favorite subjects. Light’s precision and reflection renders his oil paintings incredibly vivid, painting these images enables him to “find ways to compose and capture (…) very specific personal still life.” Loeb’s first solo gallery show was in 1999 at the Mary Boone Gallery, he has continued to exhibit in galleries and museums such as the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Connecticut, at the White Cube Gallery in London and more.  

 

Damian Loeb Kailua - 48 x 48in - 2016, oil on linen large

Kailua – 48 x 48in – 2016, oil on linen large

Mihoko Ogaki

Mihoko Ogaki is a female artist born in Toyama, Japan, her artistic practice ponders on metaphysical, ontological and cosmic subjects. Her series Milky Ways, constituted by a luminescent sculpture shining from within, projects its interior light to the rest of the room. The piece’s role seems to question our species origin and to demonstrate our relationship with the rest of the universe. Ogaki studied at the Aichi University of Fine Art and Music graduating from the oil painting course and she also studied sculpture at the Kunstakademie of Düsseldorf. Her first solo exhibition was in 2006 at the Galerie Voss in Düsseldorg. Ever since the beginning of her artistic career, she has won several prizes such as the first prize in the Art Bank Award of 2008 and the Audience’s Prize at the Baden Museum in 2003. She has also won scholarships given by the Prime Minister of Westphalia and the Düsseldorf culture department.

 

Milky Way - Breath 02, 2010, installation view, FRP, LED with dimmer, 190.5 x 107 x 108 cm.

Milky Way – Breath 02, 2010,
installation view, FRP, LED with dimmer, 190.5 x 107 x 108 cm.
Anish Kapoor – “It waves you to a more removed ground”

Anish Kapoor – “It waves you to a more removed ground”

Descent Into Limbo, Havana, 2016, fiberglass and pigment,diameter 3 m, unique work.Courtesy the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing /Les Moulins / Habana. Photo: Paola Martinez Fiterre

At the beginning, there was Chaos. It carries not the contemporary connotation of disorder or mayhem, instead, it points to the void state prior to the creation of the cosmos, the non-being moving emptiness from the original separation of heaven and earth. Anish Kapoor shows a deep interest for the proto-experience in his artworks. The hollowness and chaos that engender darkness came to be before any intervention. Descent into Limbo, Havana (2016) sits as a black circular surface at the centre of the Galleria Continua space in Cuba. To borrow Heidegger’s rumination on The Thing (1950), the “thingness” of Kapoor’s Descent into Limbo, Havana is its uncanny flatness, which reveals to be a three-dimensional crater on closer inspection. This illusion adds other folds into the decortication of what this thing is: the unilateral darkness of the black pigment eliminating the sensation of depth and the concrete floor beholding the work. The realisation of the impossibility of the void in this work is all the more emphatic as it almost looks like it is created by an intense concentration of gravitational force, as if it were a self-made object. This foreign creation is the alterity so relevant in our society and resonates consistently throughout Kapoor’s oeuvre.

What is this desire of assimilation? There is an intolerance towards otherness that compels us to fuse into one body. The explanation may be rather biblical. Consider Kapoor’s The Healing of St. Thomas (1989). A lone red gash on the pristine white wall achieves the most visceral mirror-touch synaesthesia-like effect not unlike The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1603) by Caravaggio. “The metaphorical language is that he [St. Thomas] reaches out to touch what is apparently an illusion only to find reality.” However, Kapoor’s work lacks the immediate impact of contact, modern etiquettes dictate that one may not touch the exhibited artworks. “The eye and the hand need each other. Once he has touched the wound, a kind of healing takes place in Thomas. He is healed of his doubt.” If that is so, when does the healing start in the spectator who remains in his position to spectate?

I have always been drawn to a notion of fear, towards a sensation of vertigo, of falling, of being pulled inwards.

Again, what does it mean in Anish Kapoor’s term, then, the language of human senses in the experience of art? “I have always been drawn to a notion of fear, towards a sensation of vertigo, of falling, of being pulled inwards. This is a notion of the sublime which reverses the picture of union with light. This is an inversion, a sort of turning inside-out. This is a vision of darkness. Fear is a darkness of which the eye is uncertain, towards which the hand turns in hope of contact and in which only the imagination has the possibility of escape.” In summary, Kapoor heavily prioritises what he calls the “psychological potentiality” of the subject. It is more interesting to notice the artist’s propensity towards dark colours, especially the colour red, which he says has the darkest dark hue, darker even than black. Colour is inextricably linked to Kapoor’s artistic expression. It is our conditioned perception of certain colours and its ability to “occupy the whole vision” that brings out this looming anxiety when we are at a Kapoor exhibition. Fear in many of his works with red pigment like Unborn (2016) at MACRO comes from the human condition of knowing intimately what the colour red signifies. It is the source of life that runs through our veins. The darkness of red, on the other hand, alludes to the ultimate end, a bodily fluid devoid of oxygen.

Monochrome (Majik Blue), 2016, fiberglass and paint, 188 x 188 x 40 cm, unique work.
Courtesy the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing /Les Moulins / Habana.
Photo: Paola Martinez Fiterre

In the Freudian mental iceberg, fears, violent motives, and irrational wishes occupy the unconscious level of the human mind. By excavating materials, Kapoor elucidates the unconscious. Think about the word “to excavate”, it entails a two-part process: the hollowing and the removing of substance. The first part results in the emptiness of the object while Kapoor presents an antithesis to the second part: the excavated material is unseen unlike Sekine Nobuo’s Phase-Mother Earth (1968).  The artist’s non-objects are located essentially in the interstitial space between the present and the absent, the psychological and the physical, the visible and the invisible.

These non-objects can characteristically take different forms – between works or within themselves. Take for example, Monochrome (Majik Blue) (2016) and Monochrome (Lake Violet Pearl) (2015). The placement of the two works, one opposite the other, on top of the fact that they are coated with paint, removes the phenomenological reflection of his famous mirror works like Mirror (Black to Red) (2016) and forces a horizontal spatial interaction between the concavities and between the artworks and the spectator. By moving from one end to the other within this imperceivable tube-like void, the reverberation contains and the sound of the steps internalize any emotions and perceptions of temporality into a performance staged by the artist using “the architecture as a metaphor for the self”.

Kapoor, like a Shakespearean fool, plays on the transitional experience that seems to “reverse, affirm and then negate.” Corner disappearing into itself (2015) are three valves of gold fibreglass folding and collapsing into itself. By doing so, the material creates a non-materialised passage to a space beyond the corner, beyond the architecture. Human perception focuses on the one-point perspective. Imagine a tunnel from the opening of the golden valves, surely it leads to a single point of convergence by extension. Psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott suggests that a transitional object “symbolises the union of the two now separate things… at the point in time and space of the initiation of their state of separateness.”

This brings us back to Chaos. Anish Kapoor’s intention is philosophical and mystical. His art raises more questions than answers. Yet every single darkness he employs transports the spectator back to the point in time in the first chapter of Genesis. A point where there is no form, no distinction and no intolerance. As the first artist and the fourth laureate of the Genesis Prize, Anish Kapoor’s decision to shine light upon the current refugee crisis inevitably creates a powerful narrative for this point of convergence despite his effort to not emphasise on one in his art.

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