Wednesday, August 29, 2007


João Biscainho, AZAP!(As Zoon as Possible)
From the 2 Stages exhibition at the Centro de Artes de Espectáculo de Portalegre.

Quote of the day

One could say that our first performances were exactly as embarrassing to watch as only performance art can be. You know, when it comes to a point where the toes of the audience really start to hurt and everyone but the performers get soaking wet from sweating.
- Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset

Conclusion: no matter how bad the art, there is always hope. So before destroying and discouraging, relax. Think of the beautiful belly on this door, and of the time it took to grow. Respect that.

Pictures are of works by Elmgreen and Dragset: Belly Door (2006) and
Powerless Structures, fig. 187 (2002)

Here is an interesting interview related to another work they made.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Just one remark (I can't seem to resist the theoretician's temptations of spoiling any pure, unintellectual fun). Notice the postal stamp on one of the postcards. The pleasure of seeing the "unmediated" pictures (although obviously the print suggests they are vintage publicity postcards for Paris venues) is blocked. There is, at first, a feeling of betrayal of the medium. Ah, this is not an image, it is just a postcard. It was used, handled. We are not in the presence of the original, of the source, but of some specific copy. "Specific" is in italics, because paradoxically the specificity is what, at first, appears to take away the uniqueness (aura) of the work.
But then arrives the second movement: the picture has a story. It was someone's. Someone mailed it to someone. There is even a hidden part to it! Also, the painted-on colors seem to gain depth, as they become the ideal mask, the part that doesn't lie, as it does not age, it is not a face, not a breast, it is merely the décor, the play, the mask, it is the surface that remains, it is the stamp, it is the frequency of color, nothing more, and strangely, this surface is what takes these bodies on a long and always illogical journey here.

Edible Estates

Fritz Haeg has been recently creating edible landscape design. Or eatable landscaping. Or vegetable social gardening. Or call it what you wish. In any case, it's only with edible plants. And apparently that's just about the most in thing around these days. But that's not what I like most about it. The best part of it is its connection to the idea of creating a public space out of a private one. Haeg's transformation of space involves a community working on a private front lawn to transform it into a public space, a sort of a public vegetable garden.

My favorite fragment from a very interesting interview:
I am very interested in the real economics involved once you deviate from the commercial conventions of the art and design world.
Most of the work I have been doing never paid until recently. For years I supported myself mostly by teaching and some modest architecture fees for small projects. Now I teach occasionally and I support myself from (in descending order) architecture design fees from the few projects I do, artist commission fees from museums, occasional teaching salaries, speaking honorariums, writing, and a bit from the Sundown Schoolhouse. The amount I actually earn from any one of them varies wildly, so I do what I do and hope every thing balances out in the end. I’m always living right on the edge though. That uncertainty is the price of doing work that does not have a conventional market.
Scary. Scary.

It is also interesting to compare this to the type of question that has been recently raised in Portugal - about the illegal hortas, or vegetable gardens often in the perimeters of cities and often in public spaces, which are often seen as a horrible left-over of the Salazarist era. Today some people seem to have a different approach, considering this an important cultural and aesthetic heritage.
There is something anarchist about promoting the Estates and the hortas, that both attracts and repels me. Maybe it's the feeling that this "new aesthetics" is being forced on us the same way any attempted revolution imposes a new set of values as "universal" (notice, for instance, how in the interview the more reticent onlookers are seen as retrograde and "regressive").

Friday, August 24, 2007

Opening doors. Hand in Hand.

I never thought opening doors could be an erotic experience. And yet, the very form of a hand brings us to a very sensible-sensual situation. It's probably an alter ego thing. A Pygmalion thing. And, as all naturalist sculptures are, a somewhat creepy thing as well. This charming Hand-le was made by Naomi Thellier de Poncheveille.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I thought I had it under control. The internet, after all, is not that difficult to move around. Not if you know what you're looking for. One does expect the unexpected, but to some extent. And then comes a site which just blows the lid off your expectations. I've had it happen to me several times, and this is one of them. i heart photograph probably only appeared on my radar now because I thought, well, it was about photography. Which it is. And its brilliant. And its curatorial eye is just damn good. It plays with the concept of photography as an art form, extending to basically any photographic work, whether it is manipulated or a documentation of an installation or anything that at a given point went through a lens. So while I'm working hard to make a show, you go ahead, and betray me. As you can see, it's worth it.

Stefania Galegati, Untitled (Dwarf 2)
Sannah Kvist, Untitled
Vibeke Tandberg, Mother+Dog, Variations #1
Koen Hauser, from Modische Atlas der Anatomie
Joel Tauber, My Lonely Tree

Adrian Nießler and Catrin Altenbrandt, from Um Was Es Nicht Geht
Melanie Bonajo, Bears
Kjersti Berg, Opp/Up
Yvonne Todd, Anonymous Cat

All images via i heart photograph.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Trying to make a frog fly

K’ung-fu-tzu (Confucius) by mi-mi (Mila Kalnitskaya and Micha Maslennikov)

Notice this is real.
Notice the starting point is water.
Notice the frog has no choice but to fly.
Notice she doesn't seem to care.
Notice we hardly have a way of knowing.


PS: From an interview about the performers in the various pictures:
Confucius is unequivocally a Shakespearian character. He is superb in tragic roles. If the project could continue, he would make a remarkable King Lear.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hamlet Light - rehearsalsss

I am now going back to rehearsals of Hamlet Light, which will have its premiere on September 15th at the Teatro Municipal de Faro and will be in Lisbon on September 28-30.

In order to enjoy theatre, shouldn’t we forget it? Forget that we’re inside a theatre, forget how it works? How about if we just forgot the whole idea of a production and simply focused on how to advertise it? If instead of the play the audience saw the creation of a play’s trailer? What would remain? What would the new scale of possibilities be?

More on this later.
(My activity here might slow down a bit. Or not.)


Lucy Pullen Ropeswing (2003)

Two films by Tomek Bagiński

Bagiński's work is just incredibly Polish. He seems very fond of moral stories, on the verge of moralizing, there is usually the question of the individual and the individual choice vs. disappearing, becoming nothing. Also, besides the social critique, the visual side of The Cathedral (which was nominated to an Oscar for best animated short film in 2003) is reminiscent of (or plain inspired by) the great Polish painter Zdzisław Beksiński:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Art as seduction?

The problem with seduction is that in its core it contains, if not deception, at least a non-truth. Seduction can only be effective as a cynical process.The image above is by Ronan Spelman, but because I find the underwear quite inadequate, I am giving no link, you will have to look for him yourselves.
Technorati: , ,

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Ophelia that was Icarus

Pieter Brueghel, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (ca. 1554-55)

Julia Fullerton-Batten, Floating in the Harbor (2005)

Tadeusz Różewicz's Rights and Duties is a better review of the above work than I could try to make. So here it is, in my humble translation:

A time ago I know not when

a time ago I thought I had the right the duty

to shout at the ploughman

look look listen you piece of wood

Icarus is falling

Icarus is drowning the son of a dream

let go of the plough

let go of the earth

open your eyes

there Icarus


or the shepherd here

turning his back to the tragedy

the wings the sun the flight

the fall

I would say you blind men

But now when now I know not

I know that the ploughman should plow the earth

the shepherd should watch the flock

Icarus’s adventure is not their own

this has to end that way

And there is nothing shocking

in the ship moving on

to the port of destination

I can't resist finding an excuse to put some more Julia Fullerton-Batten images, so let me quote another Polish poet, Czesław Miłosz:

Song on The End of the World (transl. Anthony Miłosz)

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A Fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through fields under their umbrellas
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet,
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world there will be,
No other end of the world there will be.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Michal Chelbin: the body's eye

Michal Chelbin's pictures are a constant game. The game between the norm and the exception is played out in a delicate dance of proportions that leads to harmony. But this harmony is not defined as a selection of perfect elements, but rather, by the very way things are: perfect on their own terms.

Do not be fooled by the apparent disproportion or outsiderism: those people belong right here.

Their attributes, often those of small-town perfomers, are incredibly rich: they give away their profession, status, personal/national culture... Yet this is no show-off. They look us straight in the eye, giving us a clear message: they know who they are.

They seem acutely aware of their freakishness, of their UFO-like qualities. And still, they are at the same time assuming their belonging, to this place, to this often rough and difficult place that is home.

Those are not happy people. Finding as much as a shadow of a smile is quite a task (the central boy with the swimming cap on one of the pictures above, I think). Yet they are far from desperate, or depressed. They are, above all, serious. This is a form of sharing that makes the encounter all the more meaningful: they might be stuck at this time and place, but their look (how very often the very same look comes back!) does not allow for condescending attitudes. This is my world. My name, my color, my friend or dog or car or parent. Now you have to deal with that. I've done my share.

Yet, in Michal Chelbin's work, there is an element we might skip at first glance.

Eroticism. Even in the most innocent-looking pictures, even in the strangest ones or "decent" ones, the body is exposed. It is not attractive, but problematic. Maybe, because it is appealing, noticeable, after all, before all. It exists, somehow too early, and too late. It plays with our senses, making us too touchable, too lookable, too objectifiable - and thus somehow always too bodily.

How beautifully the look competes with the body.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Beautiful Women

Susanna Hesselberg, No title

Melanie Bonajo, Bears

Why hide the face? What is there in a face that demands to be hidden? Identity, or the appearance of identity, of course. However, there is more. Although the concept of the mask has been written about extensively, and the mask as an element reappears in all sort of constellations, here we have a mask that is a non-face. It is the erasing of any face-ness. Why is that? Why would we want to go as far as run away from the perfect reference?
For one, it - the face - remains. The face tends to appear as soon as we know it's there. But that is not enough. What is here is an escape from identity, or rather, from identification.
I would like to think it is not a coincidence that both artists whose work is above are women. And that it is no coincidence that their subjects are women also ( the first case it may be debatable). This feminist interpretation is "false", of course, but it would lend itself wonderfully as a weapon against the beauty of this:

And to end on a pretty, feminist and identity-less line,
I'm Nobody! Who Are You?
by Emily Dickinson

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us - don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know!

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one's name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!


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