Berlin Biennale, Degree Shows, Terms and Conditions May Apply and Issue 5
Ah so it’s been well over a month, close to two months, since I’ve written here. The longer I left it, the harder it became to write about. I have a bag full of press releases that have been piling up, and a number of my own exhibitions and artworks to talk about. I’ve been to Berlin for the Biennale, have a curated exhibition at Annka Kultys Gallery opening in the next few days and finished my degree some time ago now. I’m currently in the midst of finding somewhere to live in less than a month’s time, and a new job too. It’s a distressingly busy time.
It’s been too hot to write, with the heatwave in London and across the UK destroying my general drive to do anything pro-active. Let’s begin by talking about my degree show, which finished so long ago now. I think it went well, people who came liked it, but it did once again reinforce how the degree show does nothing for you or your ‘artistic career’. I know this, and have known this for a while, but still, both sad and good to know. Here’s a few install shots, they came out very well and beautifully crispy.
Here’s also a link to the accompanying book, which I still have many copies of, PDF available here - www.isthisitisthisit.com/duty-free . In terms of making books to specifically coincide with exhibitions, I think it may be a lost cause, simply because it’s so modular and specific to a time, and if that time is only a week then there’s no longevity with that. So yes, that’s why I think I have many left, or perhaps that’s what I’m blaming. Perhaps it’s not as good as previous book I’ve made?
For the show I made a few new works, The News was the video piece I developed over a month long period, which I have submitted to a few things now and written a nice, consistent text for:
A video piece utilising imagery and symbols taken from 24 hour news channels depicting a continuous scroll of ambiguous text concerning future and current states of politics, disruption and incoherence. In the background imagery taken from the YouTube channel Dahir Insaat plays, depicting a future fictitious animated warfare whereby a series of turrets are activated by a drone. The videos produced by Insaat are made as marketing tools, props to be used in pitches to wealthy governments and military contractors. The text is made up of quotes taken from the 70s Utopian/Dystopian science fiction novel 'The Dispossessed' by Ursula K. Le Guin and the recent neo-liberal critical considerations from Byung-Chul Han's 'Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power'. The rotating symbol is of Primecoin, a crytocurrency that takes it's form from the Greek letter Psi, a symbol that’s been co-opted and utilised throughout history in various commercial and corporate products.
I also made a few sculptural works, Islands was the layered aluminium piece, taking various imagery from future experiences layered up.
Then Relic I was quite a throwaway piece, but one that I liked and enjoyed producing, which has also been in two more group shows since the degree show, which is fun. The work consists of a phone holder covered in artificial grass, holding a carved out SIM card, a carved out Primecoin symbol. This is fun, and something I’m already developing into other works in a series of Relics from the past in the future, etc, I like that narrative, especially being shown alongside the aluminium modular system, that I have a ton of now, which will assumedly follow me around my entire life, cropping back up in various installations and artworks until I eventually feel that the money invested has been worth it.
My next curated exhibition is at Annka Kultys Gallery, opening on the 7th August, in conjunction with the next issue of the book series, issue 5, which is exciting, featuring work by Addie Wagenknecht, Alyssa Davis, Bob Bicknell-Knight, Fabio Lattanzi Antinori, James Irwin, Jason Isolini, Jillian Mayer, Lotte Rose Kjær Skau, Marion Balac, Moises Sanabria, Owen Thackeray, Patrick Colhoun, Rosa Nuutinen, Shamus Clisset and Tom Galle. It’s a nice list of artists, a lot better than I originally thought, as I thought that I’d been too busy with Duty Free to think about this one, but in reality it’s come together quite well. The title of the show is Terms and Conditions May Apply, taking inspiration from the film of the same name that considers privacy and surveillance in the digital age. It’s all about Facebook, data harvesting and various other forms of physical and digital surveillance. Here’s the exhibition poster, open from the 7th – 18th, open Wednesday – Saturday for two weeks.
The upcoming issue is made up of essays, interviews and artist features, here’s the full list:
Artist contributions from Aaron Vergult, Addie Wagenknecht, Adrien Grigorescu, Alyssa Davis, Ben Sang, Bob Bicknell-Knight, Bryant Girsch, Caitlin Dick, Dawoon Kim, Fabio Lattanzi Antinori, Gideon Vass, Girls unawares™, James Irwin, Jason Isolini, Jillian Mayer, Joe Whitmore, Katharina Joy Book, Lotte Rose Kjær Skau, Lukas Schmeck, Marion Balac, Michaela Nettell, Moises Sanabria, Nadim Abbas, Nex (Claudio Guarnieri), Owen Thackeray, Patrick Colhoun, Robby Toles, Romain Curnier, Ronnie Karfiol, Rosa-Maria Nuutinen, Roxman Gatt, Samantha Harvey, Santiago Muedano, Shamus Clisset, Stelios Ilchouk, Tamara Kametani, Teresa Hunyadi, Tom Galle and Trevor Paglen.
Essays from Amber Clausner, Caitlin Dick, Cansu Topaloglu, Chloe Patricia O'Neill, Jakob Rowlinson, Julio Rodriguez, Mathias Jansson, Natalya Serkova, Off Site Project (Elliott Burns & Pita Arreola), Phett Waivv, Vanessa Kowalski and Wade Wallerstein
Interview contributions from Bob Bicknell-Knight in conversation with Helena Kate Whittingham, Caroline Elbaor with Christopher Aque and Jameson Johnson in conversation with Chantal Zakari and Mike Mandel.
Throughout the book an emoji scroll pervades everything, floating through the various works and texts, bringing the analogue surveillance into the present day data based investigations. The physical copies will be arriving in the next few days, but for now here’s the PDF to read, and a link to purchase a physical copy if you’d like to buy one - www.isthisitisthisit.com/issue-05 - www.dropbox.com/sh/om8csucfnlxfdfd/AACIKesP_lpmQh3DWN4MeT3Ua?dl=0
For the show I’ve produced a new piece, as I think at this point I’m just going to grab as many opportunities as I can, and if that means curating myself into my own shows, why not. I’ve produced a new piece influenced by Mark Zuckerberg, the fall of stereotypical news media and data harvesting, this includes a custom printed back with the statement that’s been going around for a while, being advertised by Facebook ‘Data misuse is not our friend.’ Then there’ll be shredded newspaper inside the bag, with a 3D print of Zuck’s head atop this pile of old news, with the USB containing all my Facebook data.
Another piece that I’m making, not going in the show, is continuing the Relic series, covering a speaker wall mount with the artificial grass. I’ve got the form down, but currently thinking about what it should actually be holding, as it’s very much a holder, potentially the 3D printed blue shell from nearly two years ago, that could work, although again, who am I making this work for if it’s not for anything? For myself, I guess.
I’m also still wanting to get those fake paintings produced, I have a few things coming up where I’ll get an artist fee for an exhibition, so that might be when I can actually get these made. I did another mock-up yesterday, which was fun, although when I actually eventually get these made properly I think I’ll spend more time on the actual pieces and less time on the mock-up of them in my fake studio.
That may potentially be everything to do with creation I’ve been up to, which actually hasn’t been that much due to searching for a job and a new house, neither of which I’ve actually been able to secure fully yet. Hopefully in the next few weeks something will happen, it must I guess. Let’s move onto exhibitions then, which is sure to take forever, so I will be running through them fairly quickly. As I have a very large pile of press releases I’m just going to pick and choose at random, so be aware, some of these may be from over a month ago, others from yesterday. Let’s begin with all the degree shows perhaps? Starting with my own schools, Chelsea College of Arts. I think there were about 4/5 works in total that I enjoyed, nothing that I truly fell in love with, and a lot of terrible things, which is always a shame to see. A few names that come to mind are Rosie Abbey’s three screen video installation with super high quality editing focusing on schools/business and the repetitive and random nature of these experiences, Louis Newby’s two channel video taking Crash as an inspiration and tweaking character roles, and finally Rosa-Maria Nuutinen’s large scale drawings of cyborg bodies. Also, something interesting to note, a quite reactionary response to my critique of the show on Instagram was levelled at me by one of the students, a page long essay printed and stuck throughout the university, basically labelling me as a misogynist who can’t see past their male privilege. It was quite bleak, and most of it (in my opinion) was wrong, but it was an interesting way to finish off three years of my life I guess…
I went to the Slade MA, which I have completely forgotten about at this point, aside from fantastic work by Solveig Settemsdal, creating a skin like structure by casting a sculpture of a dinosaur at a public park.
I also visited the Royal Academy MA for the first time, I don’t know why we never went there as a family when I was younger, as its arguably one of the best final exhibitions. Anyway, a stand out for me was Sung Tieu, showing a number of strewn bags and an incredible looping sound work, basically working off ideas of abandoned bags and the US army’s propaganda techniques during the Vietnam war. It was pretty great.
Goldsmiths BA and MA were visited. The BA was okay, the MA was really great, crispy work. Yet again, however, too many works to focus in on anyone. I’m just noting it down here to confirm that I visited so that in the future I can look back at this.
I went to both RCA degree shows too, sculpture was in Kensington and everything else was in Battersea. Again, lots of forgotten artists, all my fault but annoyingly so. I must look back at my Instagram stories…
I also went to Camberwell BA, again, nothing loved, there’s just too much to write today to actually go in depth with these massive school wide shows.
Finally I visited NUA (Norwich University of the Arts) for their BA show, which was fine, lots of work with overt and obvious influences, maybe that’s what happens when you study away from London?
Did I go to any other degree shows? I’m not sure… Potentially, but I think that’s all the big ones.
Let’s move on to normal exhibitions, then we’ll talk about Berlin last.
Ezra Gray’s solo show at Emalin, titled Joech God was kind of fun, lovingly crafted subtle drawings of places, people and scenarios displayed on very clean tables made from plywood. It was apparently about tennis, or more vaguely, about watching, your eyes following your mouse cursor as it loads on the screen, or how your eyes slowly focus and un-focus on certain subjects. It was quiet.
I went to Chalton Gallery for a duo show from Samuel Capps and Diane Edwards, Exon Tide. It was fun, lots of ‘sci-fi’ work, work that wouldn’t look amiss in a 70s sci-fi film. It was creating a narrative of some sort through these gloopy sculptural works, it was okay, but felt lacking. I wanted more from the experience.
Petra Cortright at Nahmad Projects with a solo show titled PALE COIL COLD ANGEL was fine, not as nice or exciting as I wanted it to be knowing Cortright’s work. Some ambiguous sculptures that felt like the ‘money’ side of it, alongside huge digital prints and a nine screen simulation installation. It looked very ‘nice’, but not what I wanted.
A group show at Rod Barton, Towards a Theory of Powerful Things, had some incredibly crispy work in it. Very beautiful sculptures from Nicholas Riis that I’ve seen online for ages now, if I had money I would definitely have these in my house.
YGRG14X: reading with the single hand V (Eglė Kulbokaitė & Dorota Gawęda) at Cell Project Space was nice, although more about the contributing performances than the actual exhibition.
Pilvi Takala’s The Stroker at Carlos Ishikawa was fantastic, basically two videos focusing on the artist going into a business and asking people if they’re okay whilst touching their shoulder. A hilarious premise, with many of the people feeling incredibly awkward and disliking the touching. I’m unsure whether this was truly ‘real’, as it was filmed so well, rather than an obvious hidden camera scenario, but it was fantastic nonetheless. Go here if you want a teaser - https://vimeo.com/278149552
Joey Holder’s Acredo – The Deep Belief Network at Matts Gallery was good, although the space is so small that it’s more of a solo experience, which didn’t work so well at the private view. Also this was a touring show, with other spaces that were much larger out of London having shown this work. I want to see the full exhibition at a bigger venue.
Lawrence Lek’s solo show, Notel, at arebyte was very ‘cool’ looking, basically an interactive video game and VR experience depicting an immaculate hotel like space. It was an interesting show, but it felt incredibly simple, simply wandering around this envioronment in its perfection rather than being able to interact with the environment. It was a really interesting concept but didn’t dig in enough for my liking, although I do love his previous work.
Rafal Zajko’s solo show at Castor Projects is very ‘crispy’, it’s definitely Castor’s aesthetic, the beautifully made sculptures that make you inhale a little when you see them. Again, if I had money I would buy these.
Tenderpixel has a lovely group show on, titled Becoming Plant the show concerns lots of, you guessed it, plant based or inspired works, lots of liminal objects and lovely ceramics. Paloma Proudfoot is currently in 3 fantastic group shows in London, it’s pretty extortionate, she makes very beautiful work.
A duo show at Auto Italia, Sister said to Satan: my diary is too hot for you with Josefin Arnell, Margaret Haines was interesting, their videos are quite obscure and could definitely be described as worrying, young people making themselves throw up on the pavement whilst giggling, a 40 minute video documenting one of their grandparents undergoing a religious journey of some sorts. An interesting install I would say.
White Cube has a boring summer show on, lots of work, lots of old work. Yeah? It’s called Memory Palace.
Assembly Point had a quick, very big, group show, basically turning their space into a showroom of sorts, a place to sell unlimited editions of work. It was okay, but was so overtly about selling that it kind of engulfed me a little. When work is literally jammed up next to so many other works, it feels so constrained, less about the substance of the work and more about the physical attributes. That’s obviously fine, but ultimately not interesting to me, someone who doesn’t have the money to buy these things. It was called Every Thing.
Jessy Jetpacks at Union Gallery was fun, occupying the in between space in my mind between a full on painting show and one that I love. It was primarily one video piece, full of purposefully bad green screen and lots of clips taken from Jurassic Park. It was fun, but there’s a point where you/I have seen too much badly made green screen to last a life time. These things are not hard to achieve, and I don’t like the aesthetic produced, but that’s just me...
Terraforms at The Concept Space, organised by Kristian Day, was nice. A very selling orientated show, incredibly commercial, which is fine and this wasn’t actually detrimental to the experience. Although perhaps having the show explained to me, the links between the works, by Kristian, helped. Lots of mythical monuments and pastel colours, it was very fitting and just worked well.
Aftermath at Tate Britain was dull, of course.
Shape of Light at Tate Modern was also pretty dull, unsparingly. Whenever it’s like a 100 years of a thing until the present, it’s always like one work from 2010 – onwards. There is never anything mildly contemporary.
There was a very lovely, succinct solo show from Charlie Godet Thomas at Lily Brooke Gallery. Lots of looping works, caught up in their own endlessness, work continually moving and subtly sitting, torn pieces of paper becoming incredibly present, the use of ply wood having a relationship of sorts with these small scraps, the subtleties were lovely and poignant.
SPACE had an odd performance night on, titled Future Space, although the highlight was Jade Montserrat drawing on the gallery walls, still pretty much shouting into the void, big long heavy text. It was okay, just very heavy and unknown.
I’ve never been to the drawing room until now, weirdly enough I only realised after I went why this was. Obviously it was because they do exhibitions solely about drawing, I’m not sure how I didn’t realise this. Anyway, the show, A Slice through the World: Contemporary Artists’ Drawings, was fine. A highlight for me was saying David Musgrave’s work, he was my tutor, and the more I see it, the more I like it. There was also an accompanying talk between him and Alex Graves, an AI researcher. This was also fun, continually adding to my knowledge of David’s practice. It would be nice to have him in a show of mine at some point…
The Everyday Political at CGP London was fine, featuring artists from the north of England. It was fine, very wordy, lots of zines, lots of thought. It was fine, more interesting curatorially I guess, or the writing surrounding the idea of the curatorial...
Use Your Illusion, a group show at Herald St, was dull. No press release and full of paintings. Come on.
Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear at the Royal Academy was good, featuring new collaborative work between Debora Delmar and Sung Tieu. Lots of work about taking back the artistic space predominantly being utilised by male artists, or in the past having been used by male artists. The show featured multiple prints of the two artists, naked and photographed on/around stuffed animals, as well as the space being crowded in by long poles with car wing mirrors. It was fun, very twisty.
Tulani Hlalo at Outpost Gallery was a very simple, and very tight, solo show featuring new sculptural works and a video. Work influenced by her Zimbabwean heritage, and her connection to that through moving to the UK. The work felt right and ‘correct’ in an odd way, just very well done.
There’s a nice group show on at The approach, lots of paintings and some very tight, quite beautiful, drawings by Caitlin Keogh. Just very nice and aesthetically pleasing.
Mission To Touch The Sun at Enclave was okay, yet again it felt like it worked, but as opposed to Hlalo’s solo show, this group show felt like it ‘worked’ but wasn’t necessarily good. It just felt like something was lacking, unsure what…
Now, let’s move onto Berlin! I went primarily for the Biennale, quite a while ago now, but let’s try to remember... There was only three spaces in total, so kind of weak compared to DIS’ extravaganza two years ago. First up was KW, with my favourite coming from Dineo Seshee Bopape, consisting of an orange room full of rubble and artificial drips going into buckets and vegetables being grown within contained spaces. It was good.
Luke Willis Thompson’s controversial piece from Chisenhale was there too, I’m still unsure about it, especially after watching a very weak interview between him and the director regarding the piece. If you’d like to read more about it, head here - https://artreview.com/reviews/online_review_aug_2017_luke_willis_thompson/
The next place for the biennale was the Akademie der Kunste. Outside was a fantastic piece, basically a fake wall/monument, made to look like a ruin, by Firelei Baez. Very cool.
Mario Pfeifer’s amazing video work was the highlight, a piece concerning citizen warfare and an assault on a refugee. It felt like Forensic Architecture but better, not telling you what to think but giving you the facts and allowing you to decide for yourself.
ZK/U was fun, although very few works again. I was a big fan of Heba Y. Amin’s work, which was basically the creation of a new fictional state, the merging of Europe and Africa. Very cool and incredibly well researched.
Then saw an Alicja Kwade exhibition at Neuer Berliner, a series of letters that the artist copied then sent to a series of graphologists, people who analyse hand writing. It was a very clever show.
Hamburger Bahnhof was very big and long. Great to see a few important works like Pierre Bismuth’s Jungle Book series, Liu Ye with fantastic small paintings of consumer bunnies next to one of Barnett Newman’s fuck off huge painting. That curation was really clever and tight.
Sprueth Magers had three solo shows on, one from Kara Walker, which was dull, Andro Wekua (also dull) and Senga Nengudi. Again, dull.
Andrew J Burford and Constantin Hartenstein had a duo show called Mighty Good Men going on, about men having anxieties and worries. It was nice and worked.
Kindl Berlin had an extraordinary café, with a solo show from artist duo Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, featuring a series of videos where the work was filmed on 16mm film, with the sounds from the films being produced in real time analogue ways. From a hammer hitting various materials to a huge continuously moving sphere filled with tiny balls sounding like the ocean or running water. It was very clever.
Berlinisch Galerie was okay, lots of old work again.
Galerie Wedding had a really tight group show on featuring work from Donna Huanca and others. My favourite piece was from FORT, where the artist collective had filmed young children dancing in a club, with techno music overlaid. It felt incredibly awkward and super creepy, positioning these kids in this environment. Very queasy and very great.
Augmented Sunrise Beneath The Skin at Grund was okay, a kind of basic group show speaking a lot of things but not doing so much. A favourite was Claude Eigan’s flowers burying themselves in the floor.
Tanya Leighton had a huge group show going on, with no press release or artist list. So very much a group show. It was fun though, picking out famous artworks and artists. Simon Denny had a piece there, so did Cory Arcangel and Oliver Laric.
The final show was Philippe Parreno at Gropius Bau which was amazing, a truly wonderful show that suited this incredibly extravagant space so well. Just very enjoyable, there were floating fish, blinds continually moving up and down, a rotating chair and algorithm/plant based simulations occurring. All very cool and exciting.
So I think that’s everything, literally over the past two months. God, that’s bleak. Up next is films and TV, which I’m going to run through. Mary and the Witch's Flower was super nice and very Studio Ghibli esque, like a light version of it. Not amazing but nice enough, although very predictable.
Red Sparrow was fine, fairly violent and just yeah (shrugging shoulders).
Girls Trip was not funny.
Love, Simon was really quite beautiful, I’d highly recommend it.
I Feel Pretty, again, was not funny.
A Quiet Place was amazing, although I will always regret not seeing it in a good cinema, where people don’t answer their phones and talk throughout the entire film.
Rampage was fine, although I wanted more of the rock killing huge animals, rather than just his gorilla friend doing it.
Sherlock Gnomes was kind of fun.
Hot Summer Nights was crap, which was a shame, as I do love Timothée Chalamet, although I think everyone does at this point.
Anon was fine, not that exciting.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was fun, dinosaurs are always fun?
Avengers: Infinity War was very long.
Zoe was a solid AI inspired film, it was very nice, romance as AI beings, etc. It’s a big issue right now, which I am happy about.
Incredibles 2 was amazing, so content and very much worth the wait, and so much better than the first one. It’s a must see.
In terms of programs, I got very into watching Love Island, binge watching the first two seasons and the one just gone, season 4. It’s terribly trash but really does get you in its grasp when you get into the characters and watching people talk shit for 40 minutes a day.
I finally got back into watching Attack on Titan, which was of course great and still is.
Final Space, a new show on Netflix, was very good, surprisingly so, one of those TV shows you don’t quite realise is so good until you’re half way through watching the series, take a step back and realise it’s actually incredibly clever and heart-warming.
I also watched Queer Eye, which is very lovely and enjoyable, another true life like program. Very lovely and very heart-warming.
Season 6 of Orange is the New Black was very brutal and superbly true to life, very cutting and beautifully cutting.
Annnd I think that’s it, it’s been a long write up, so hopefully now I can get back to doing this weekly, although it will probably be bi-weekly at least, due to having a job (or at least searching for one properly) and having various other commitments like finding somewhere to live and real world stuff…