Experimentation, Abstraction and Design: Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid at ArtisTree Hong Kong

The solo exhibition of contemporary architecture visionary Zaha Hadid in Hong Kong showcases the late artist’s early work from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

The late architect Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize, redefined architecture with her iconic Constructivist abstract designs.

Zaha Hadid, ‘Metropolis’, 1988. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

Zaha Hadid, ‘Metropolis’, 1988. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

“There Should Be No End To Experimentation”, a collaboration between the Serpentine Galleries and Zaha Hadid Design, is on view from 17 March to 6 April 2017 at ArtisTree, Hong Kong. The exhibition, first planned by the architect herself, was shown in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens last December shortly after her death before being brought to Hong Kong.

Owned by Swire Properties at the heart of the city’s Taikoo Place, the 20,000-square-foot art space in Hong Kong features early paintings and drawings by the late architect Zaha Hadid in this solo show. Sponsored by J.P. Morgan Private Bank, it showcases Hadid’s paintings, calligraphic drawings and rarely seen private notebooks with sketches, which illustrate her complex thoughts about architecture’s forms and relationships.

Central to the prolific starchitect’s career is the notion of “experimentation.” The aptly named title of the exhibition is based on Hadid’s remarks, as she has once said:

I know from my experience that without research and experimentation not much can be discovered. With experimentation, you think you’re going to find out one thing, but you actually discover something else. That’s what I think is really exciting. You discover much more than you bargain for. I think there should be no end to experimentation.

Zaha Hadid. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe. Image courtesy Brigitte Lacombe.

Zaha Hadid. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe. Image courtesy Brigitte Lacombe.

Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before studying architecture in 1972 at the Architectural Association in London. Five years later, she was awarded the Diploma Prize and by 1979 she had established her own practice – Zaha Hadid Architects – in London. Hadid was the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2004 and had recently received the RIBA Gold Medal. She passed away in 2016.

Her first realised building was the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, in 1993. Other world-acclaimed theoretical works around the globe include The Peak in Hong Kong (1983), the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin (1986) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994).

Zaha Hadid, ‘Vision for Madrid’, Spain, 1992. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

Zaha Hadid, ‘Vision for Madrid’, Spain, 1992. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

Architecture and design

Hadid joined as a Trustee of the Serpentine Gallery in 1996. Her first structure in London was the inaugural Serpentine Pavilion in 2000, followed by a light installation named Lilas in 2007. She completed the extension for the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in 2013 as one of Zaha Hadid Architects’s first permanent buildings in central London.

Zaha Hadid Architects’ work is the embodiment of spatial complexity and fluidity in form. Working with office partner Patrik Schumacher for three decades, they have produced structures such as The MAXXI: Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games and the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku. ZHA’s work of the past 30 years was the subject of international exhibitions at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, London’s Design Museum, the Palazzo della Ragione, Padua, Italy, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the DAC Copenhagen, and the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.

As an architect and designer, Zaha Hadid’s work explored spatial concepts at all scales from the city to individual product – sculptural jewellery and limited edition furniture pieces, homeware items and fashion accessories – as well as interior, exhibition and set design commissions. Zaha Hadid Design was established in 2006 and has collaborated with design brands such as international design brands such as Alessi, Artemide, and Lalique. ZHD work was showcased in the Venice Architectural Biennale, Salone del Mobile Milano, Design Miami, and at the IDFFHK.

Zaha Hadid, Sketch Selection from Sketchbook, 2001. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

Zaha Hadid, Sketch Selection from Sketchbook, 2001. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

Sketches and concept development

Throughout Hadid’s practice, references to Russian Constructivist and Suprematist designs are seen. Influenced by Malevich, Tatlin and Rodchenko, she used calligraphic drawings as a methodology for presenting her architectural ideas, as well as her vision of a utopian world. Fragmented geometric shapes scatter across the pages with dynamism and fluidity. Her buildings seem to hover and float in air due to their characteristic lightness and weightlessness.

Drawing and painting were fundamental to Hadid’s practice. In the exhibition, her 2D works on canvas are juxtaposed against private notebooks which reveal her thoughts on the relationship between abstract structures and the world we live in. These early theoretical works foreshadow what will be realised later in Hadid’s career.

Zaha Hadid, Concept Painting, Cardiff Bay Opera House, Wales, UK, 1994-1996. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

Zaha Hadid, Concept Painting, Cardiff Bay Opera House, Wales, UK, 1994-1996. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

The Peak

Hong Kong is the city which launched Hadid’s international career. Her first internationally acclaimed project in the early 1980s, The Peak (1982-3), awarded first prize in a design competition for a leisure club in the Hong Kong hills. References to Chinese paintings and Islamic calligraphy, fused with the futuristic dynamism of Russian Constructivism, are presented in this work, which is unusual for that of an architect. Although never built, this winning design is a milestone in Hadid’s life.

The M+ Museum in Hong Kong has also lent drawings and an architectural model of Hadid’s design of The Peak. The sculptural model features layered compositions in various materials, such as transparent acrylic boards and pencil on paper. The M+ contemporary art museum, scheduled for opening in 2019, is set to be built in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District with a Herzog & de Meuron permanent structure. It focuses on 20th and 21st century art, design and architecture and moving image from the Asia Pacific region and beyond. The Peak, a rare and important architectural work by Zaha Hadid is part of Hong Kong’s M+ Museum collection.

Zaha Hadid, Confetti ‘The Peak’, Hong Kong, China, 1982/1983. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

Zaha Hadid, Confetti ‘The Peak’, Hong Kong, China, 1982/1983. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

Virtual Reality

Similar to the London show, visitors in the Hong Kong exhibition can experience Hadid’s creation through virtual reality technology. Zaha Hadid Architects and the Serpentine, in partnership with Google Arts & Culture, have specially developed four experimental virtual reality experiences to enable visitors to connect directly with individual paintings in this exhibition. By entering the 2-dimensional paintings of Hadid through virtual reality, the visitors are able to engage in Hadid’s utopian world in 3D together with sound effects. To enhance visitor experience, a mobile tour of the exhibition in ArtisTree is also available through visitors’ mobile phones.

These interactive and immersive experiences exemplify the current trend of merging art with science and technology. In this exhibition, they are supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies through its Bloomberg Connects programme, a global initiative that helps cultural institutions innovate and engage audiences by leveraging digital technology. Visitors can also view exclusive footage from the Zaha Hadid archive in a screening room in the show.

Zaha Hadid, Hafenstrasse Development; Hafenstrasse Development, Hamburg, Germany, 1989. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

Zaha Hadid, Hafenstrasse Development, Hamburg, Germany, 1989. Image courtesy the artist and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

Commenting on the exhibition, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine Artistic Director and Yana Peel, CEO expressed:

We are honoured to bring this expanded exhibition of our friend and long-term collaborator Zaha Hadid to Hong Kong – the very place that launched her reputation as a global architectural pioneer. Her declaration that ‘there should be no end to experimentation’ has not only become a mantra for the Serpentine Galleries but is the basis on which this showcase of Zaha’s visionary talent and legacy was conceived in her own lifetime.

Valencia Tong

1615

Related Topics: Iraqi artists, British artistsart and architecture, drawingarchitecture, gallery shows, events in Hong Kong

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more news on Iraqi-British leading figures from the art world

Save

Save

Bahia Shehab and eL Seed to receive UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture

This year’s prize pays tribute to the calligraffiti practice of two young artists from Egypt and France.

Awarded for their ongoing work in promoting Arab culture in the world.

eL Seed working on ‘Perception’, in Zaraeeb, Egypt. Image courtesy eL Seed.

eL Seed working on ‘Perception’, in Zaraeeb, Egypt. Image courtesy eL Seed.

On 24 March 2017 artists Bahia Shehab from Egypt and Faouzi aka eL Seed KHLIFI from France were announced as winners of the 2017 UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture. Both artists use calligraphy in street art to transmit political messages and to evoke change. In this 14th edition, Shehab is the first woman from the Arab region to receive the award.

The prize is an initiative of the United Arab Emirates and is awarded to two artists who, according to the prize, “have made a significant contribution to the development, dissemination and promotion of Arab culture in the world”. Each year one artist is selected from an Arab country and one from any other country.

Since 1998 the UNESCO Director-General and a panel of experts in the field of Arab Culture select the winners, and so far 22 laureates have been awarded the prize. Past winners have included researchers, artists, philosophers, authors and translators.

Bahia Shehab, 'No, A Thousand Times No'. Image courtesy the artist and UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.

Bahia Shehab, ‘No, A Thousand Times No’. Image courtesy the artist and UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.

The prize money of USD60,000 is divided between the two winners. This prize is an affirmation of several years of work in the area of promoting discussion and dialogue around Arab art and culture.

The jury this year consisted of Hiam Abbass, a specialist in Middle East film, mathematician Ahmed Djebbar, Amadou Mailele, a politician and diplomat with a background in arts, sociologist Gema Martin Muñoz and Farhan Nizami, a scholar in Islamic Studies.

Bahia Shehab, 'No to Stripping'. Image courtesy the artist and UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.

Bahia Shehab, ‘No to Stripping’. Image courtesy the artist and UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.

Bahia Shehab

Egyptian artist, designer and art historian Bahia Shehab (b. 1977) is a calligraffiti artist whose project No, A Thousand Times No developed out of the Arab Spring. Shehab comments that as a quiet person her contribution to the protests was not to shout out, but it was paint on walls. Through her art she spoke out strongly, saying no to military rule, emergency law and no to violence against citizens. No, A Thousand Times No centred on the multiple ways of writing “no” in Arabic, drawing from archives of countries that experienced Islamic rule throughout history. From this research she made stencil prints that she posted on the streets of Cairo.

Bahia Shehab, 'No, A Thousand Times No'. Image courtesy the artist and UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.

Bahia Shehab, ‘No, A Thousand Times No’ book. Image courtesy the artist and UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Shehab explained:

When you loose hope with everything around you, you go down to the street. Your only hope is the people. This is who you paint and work for. It’s their minds, you try to influence.

Bahia Shehab, 'Crush Flowers'. Image courtesy the artist and UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.

Bahia Shehab, ‘Crush Flowers’. Image courtesy the artist and UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.

Shehab also speaks out on issues such as gender-based violence. One of her key images was a blue bra, referring to a young woman who was publicly dragged and beaten by members of the Egyptian military in Tahrir Square in December 2011, during which she was exposed. Shehab uses this image as a reminder of the shame of that event.

Faouzi aka eL Seed KHLIFI

eL Seed (b. 1981) was born in Paris to Tunisian parents, although he did not learn to read or write Arabic until his teens. His calligraffiti style emerged from this renewed study of the language. His style mixes poetry, calligraphy and graffiti to communicate messages of peace and beauty. As he explained in an interview, “the script reaches your soul before it reaches your eyes” and is therefore able to communicate even when the viewer cannot understand the Arabic script. He believes the beauty of the calligraffiti can transcend cultural barriers in order to connect to universal meanings.

eL Seed, ‘Perception’, in Zaraeeb, Egypt. Image courtesy eL Seed.

eL Seed, ‘Perception’, in Zaraeeb, Egypt. Image courtesy eL Seed.

In an interview with Your Middle East, eL Seed explains how he develops the text in his work:

I try to bring something relevant to a place where I paint, so the phrase will be something inspired by the people I am around, or the feeling I get from a certain place. I think that throughout all my work I try to talk about topics that are often ignored or overlooked.

eL Seed, ‘Perception’, in Zaraeeb, Egypt. Image courtesy eL Seed.

eL Seed, ‘Perception’, in Zaraeeb, Egypt. Image courtesy eL Seed.

eL Seed uses his personal experience, as a French-Maghrebin living in the Suburbs of Paris, in his work. He draws inspiration from people’s stories, poetry and popular culture, combining it with his self-taught style as a street artist. By creating his work in the public sphere eL Seed brings into question stereotypes about Arab and Islamic culture in Europe.

Claire Wilson

1619

Related topics: Egyptian artists, art awards, art prizes, news, calligraphy, graffiti, Tunisian artists

Related posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on art prizes and awards

Save

Save

Save

Save

“Playtime”: exploring the sociopolitical present with British artist Isaac Julien at Platform-L, South Korea

British artist Isaac Julien holds first exhibition in South Korea.

Art Radar takes a look at acclaimed British artist Isaac Julien’s new exhibition at Platform-L in South Korea, which runs until 30 April 2017.

Installation view of Isaac Julien: Playtime, Platform-L Contemporary Art Center, 2017. Courtesy of Platform-L Contemporary Art Center. Photo credit Jinho Kim.

Isaac Julien, “Playtime”, Platform-L Contemporary Art Center, 2017. Photo: Jinho Kim. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center.

Playtime for post-truth times

“Playtime” is the first major exhibition of Isaac Julien’s work in South Korea. The artist has been exploring themes such as capitalism, labour, the AIDS crisis, poetry and art market since the 1980s. His work engages with post-colonialism, migration and diaspora, racism and minor gender identities as thematic approach. The exhibition asks: what does art or the politics of art mean in this new era, the so-called post-truth era? The show deals with not only the reorganisation of world powers after the arrival of the Trump government, but also seeks to urge reform to the current political and social conditions in South Korea. The opening of the exhibition thus acquires a distinct meaning in the local context.

Isaac Julien, 'Playtime', 2014. Film stills. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center and the artist.

Isaac Julien, ‘Playtime’, 2014, film still. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center and the artist.

Isaac Julien in South Korea

The exhibition consists of three works, including Playtime (2014) functioning as the major axis to the constellation paired to Kapital (2013) and finally The Leopard (2007), all of which render historic traumas into a choreography playing on the border of life and death. Playtime, realised as a seven-channel installation, is an epitome of the artist’s mastery of immersive poetics or expanded montage, and the methods of sound design. The work is an aesthetical analysis in the 21st century of Karl Marx’s Capital and takes up the challenge of giving visual form to the immaterial flow of capital. The work has been installed in the live hall at Platform-L.

Installation view of Isaac Julien:" Playtime", Platform-L Contemporary Art Center, 2017. Photo credit Jinho Kim. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center.

Isaac Julien, “Playtime”, Platform-L Contemporary Art Center, 2017. Photo: Jinho Kim. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center.

Isaac Julien, 'Playtime', 2014. Film stills. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center and the artist.

Isaac Julien, ‘Playtime’, 2014, film still. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center and the artist.

From Looking for Langston (1989) to Playtime (2014)

Julien came to prominence in the film world with his 1989 drama-documentary Looking for Langston, gaining a cult following with this poetic exploration of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. During the past two decades he has made work largely, though not exclusively, for galleries and museums, using multi-screen installations to express fractured narratives exploring memory and desire.

Installation view of Isaac Julien:" Playtime", Platform-L Contemporary Art Center, 2017. Photo credit Jinho Kim. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center.

Isaac Julien, “Playtime”, Platform-L Contemporary Art Center, 2017. Photo: Jinho Kim. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center.

Since then Julien has moved into “expanded cinema”, often creating multi-screen installations. Julien’s critically-acclaimed nine-screen film installation Ten Thousand Waves (2010) explored China’s ancient past and rapidly transforming present through a series of interlocking narratives. The work stars, among others, Maggie Cheung, the legendary siren of Chinese cinema, and was filmed on location in the remote Guangxi province and at the famous Shanghai Film Studios and various other sites around Shanghai. Ten Thousand Waves combines fact, fiction and film essay genres against a background of Chinese history, legend and landscape to create a meditation on global human migrations. Through formal experimentation and a series of unique collaborations, Julien seeks to engage with Chinese culture through contemporary events, ancient myths and artistic practice.

Isaac Julien, 'Playtime', 2014. Film stills. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center and the artist.

Isaac Julien, ‘Playtime’, 2014, film still. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center and the artist.

The original inspiration for Ten Thousand Waves was the Morecambe Bay tragedy of 2004, in which 23 Chinese cockle-pickers died. In response to this event, Julien commissioned the poet Wang Ping to come to England and write Small Boats, a poem that is recited in the work. In the successive years, Julien has spent time in China slowly coming to understand the country and its people’s perspectives and developing the relationships that have enabled him to undertake this rich and multifaceted work.

Isaac Julien, 'Playtime', 2014. Film stills. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center and the artist.

Isaac Julien, ‘Playtime’, 2014, film still. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center and the artist.

Installation view of Isaac Julien:" Playtime", Platform-L Contemporary Art Center, 2017. Photo credit Jinho Kim. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center.

Isaac Julien, “Playtime”, Platform-L Contemporary Art Center, 2017. Photo: Jinho Kim. Image courtesy Platform-L Contemporary Art Center.

Julien began work on Playtime in 2013. The work resulted in the current seven-screen installation that explores the dramatic and nuanced subject of financial capital. Starring an international roster of actors including Maggie Cheung, Mercedes Cabral and James Franco, Playtime comprises three chapters set across three cities defined by their relationship to capital: London, a city transformed by the deregulation of banks; Reykjavik, where the 2008 crisis began; and Dubai, one of the Middle East’s burgeoning financial markets. Part documentary and part fiction, the work interconnects major figures in the world of art and finance with the real stories of those deeply affected by the crisis and the global flow of capital.

Rebecca Close

1595

Related Topics: European artistsphotographyfilmvideotimehistorical artvideomuseum showfilmmigrationmemory, colonialism, events in Seoul

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more contemporary art in South Korea

Save

Save

Save

Save

Where art and science meet: “Lucida & Lucida II” by Suki Chan at CFCCA Manchester – in pictures

“Lucida & Lucida II” at the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art (CFCCA), Manchester, looks to the rich territory that can be explored when art and science meet.

The departure point of Hong Kong-born, London-based Suki Chan’s show is the human eye, a topic that pushes further the artist’s long-term interest in light.

Suki Chan, Lucida (2016) Installation shot at CFCCA, Manchester. Courtesy the artist.

Suki Chan, Lucida (2016) Installation shot at CFCCA, Manchester. Courtesy the artist.

The exhibition “Lucida & Lucida II” at the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art (CFCCA), Manchester, sits not at the single point where art and science intersect, but looks to the rich territory that can be explored when the two disciplines enmesh. Running until 30 April 2017, the departure point of this solo show by Suki Chan is the human eye. As well as being a central concern of art, science and the ‘demystification practices’ that surround these disciplines, the topic of ‘the eye’ pushes further the artist’s long-term interest in light.

Suki Chan (b. 1977, Hong Kong) lives and works in London, having studied at Goldsmiths, University of London and Chelsea School of Art. The first time Lucida (2016) was shown was at Tintype gallery, London. In Manchester having slightly more space has meant the opportunity to show two works together for the first time. Lucida II (2016) occupies the smaller, light filled ‘shop front’ project space and Lucida fills the larger gallery, which has no natural light, at the back of the building. For both works, the physical presence of the audience engenders the experience. In Lucida II, the work ‘happens’ when someone sits on a chair in front of equipment that scans the eye. A representation of the optic nerve moves anxiously across the screen as if powered by telekinesis.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

To view Lucida, the audience turns the corner into an immersive blackness out of which emerge three screens. When a person enters it triggers a soundtrack combining sounds composed by Dominik Scherrer, and interview recordings with scientists and other people who have stories to share relating to eyes, seeing, vision and perception. Chan’s work, the result of a research phase of over a year, could be understood as a ‘portrait of seeing’ or a ‘portrait of perception’.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Chan’s interest is not only the eye itself, but also the three-stage process from the poor quality inverted image received, to the correctly oriented completed picture filled in by the unconscious mind. The video imagery that takes this journey across three screens in the gallery includes footage the artist shot in the library at Senate House. For Chan, libraries are a “repository of knowledge and memory” comparable to the brain itself; but also the way her camera lens travels through the halls and tunnels of the library architecture metaphorically represents information transmitted via the optic nerve. Somewhere between crackling sounds, heterotopic tunnels and eye imagery beget a horror movie inflected experience.

Suki Chan, Lucida (2016). Installation shot at CFCCA, Manchester. Courtesy the artist.

Suki Chan, Lucida (2016). Installation shot at CFCCA, Manchester. Courtesy the artist.

The project has strong research credentials, supported by the University of Salford, the Centre for the Study of the Senses, University of London and Wellcome Trust. When Art Radar met Chan, she was energised by the opportunities that had arisen through the Wellcome Trust to entwine her practice with scientific networks and discourses. This sense of collaboration is infused through the work on display. More of the raw material from her research process, including transcripts, audio files and imagery, is available on her blog.

Technology is a theme that runs through the project. Chan compares the eye not to modern camera technology, but to the ‘camera lucida’, an optical device that owes its origins to the 17th century. She pinpoints a moment of reflection during the exhibition of her artwork Obscurer (2014), which led on to the creation of Lucida:

When I stood in the darkened space and I was looking at this image of the outside world upside down, I realised that this is what is happening all the time inside our eyes… our eyes are darkened chambers…

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan, Lucida & Lucida II at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester, 2017. Image by Chelsie Southern.

Suki Chan moved to the Unitd Kingdom from Hong Kong when she was a year old. Exposure to different cultures reveals itself in subtle flickers through her artistic inquiries. On her blog she writes:

I conducted some research and looked into the etymology of the word ‘computer.’ The term came into use in the 17th Century to mean a human being who “computes.” It is formed from the Latin verb computare, meaning ‘to count, sum up; reckon’.

In Chinese, on the other hand, the etymology of the word seems to have originated from the commonalities between the brain and the modern day computer. The Chinese word for computer, 電腦 translated literally is: “electric brain.”

Perhaps the boundary between human and machine is not so distinct after all?

In the first incarnation of Lucida at Tintype gallery in 2016, the artist reproduced a Chinese eye chart and this can be found within the interpretation materials at CFCCA. The artist’s blog suggests a rich repository of material with potential for future development of the “Lucida” project or future outcomes as yet untapped. Perhaps we are seeing only the beginning.

Linda Pittwood

1616

Related topics: Video art, Events in Manchester, art about eyes, Hong Kong artists, gallery shows

Related posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more gallery show reviews from the UK and beyond

Save

Save

Save

Save

“Ability vs Invisibility”: Korean artist Chung Seoyoung at Tina Kim Gallery, New York

Korean contemporary artist Chung Seoyoung develops a sculptural approach to appreciate less visible features in the world around us.

Art Radar looks at some of the works that are included in the Korean artist’s latest exhibition at Tina Kim Gallery in New York.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, "Ability vs Invisibility", March 2 - April 15, 2017. Images Courtesy of the Artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, “Ability vs Invisibility”, 2 March – 15 April 2017, Tina Kim Gallery, New York. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

From 2 March to 15 April 2017, New York’s Tina Kim Gallery will present their first solo exhibition of South Korean artist Chung Seoyoung. Entitled “Ability vs. Invisibility”, the show features sculpture, installation and video work from the 2000s to the present.

Chung Seoyoung (b. 1964), who has lived in Germany for many years, is a post-Dansaekhwa conceptual artist and a key figure in the next generation of Korean artists. Her work explores the arbitrary and rootless nature of things. She often uses elements of the absurd in order to create a dialogue between material objects and a sense of ambiguity.

Chung Seoyoung, 'Curb', 2013, cast aluminum, 118.11 x 3.94 x 11.81 inches 300 x 10 x 30 cm. Image courtesy of the Artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Chung Seoyoung, ‘Curb’, 2013, cast aluminium, 118.11 x 3.94 x 11.81 inches 300 x 10 x 30 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Looking for the invisible

Chung uses cheap, Korean-made construction materials to create her sculptures and installations, exploring perceptions of space and time. As she explains,

Space and time are requisite conditions for comprehending the problems of reality, body, and objects more broadly. In other words, through the abstractness provided by space and time, the conditions for understanding the world can infinitely expand and be intensely challenged.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, "Ability vs Invisibility", March 2 - April 15, 2017. Images Courtesy of the Artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, “Ability vs Invisibility”, 2 March – 15 April 2017, Tina Kim Gallery, New York. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Chung’s work has expanded beyond the visual vernacular traditions of modern abstract painting and the populist Minjung art movement, which were prevalent in the Korean art scene when Chung was studying sculpture. In her years working in Germany, she developed a sculptural practice that moved beyond cultural narratives. She explored ideas of industrialism and environments through paired down representations. By turning the viewer’s attention away from the visual narrative, Chung throws into relief the non-visible aspects, such as time.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, "Ability vs Invisibility", March 2 - April 15, 2017. Images Courtesy of the Artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, “Ability vs Invisibility”, 2 March – 15 April 2017, Tina Kim Gallery, New York. Images courtesy the artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

In one piece in the exhibition, Nobody Notices, the visitor can sit on “a vaguely anthropomorphic sculpture made of rough concrete” while listening to the piece’s sounds through headphones. The sounds come from the Swiss composer Mandred Werder’s 2005/1, sounds recorded in Zurich’s central train station every day at 10am. Chung describes:

As Werder once mentioned in an interview, these sounds enable simple listening and concentration on what is going on in the world. It might be preposterous to gaze at the cement piece while listening to the sounds, or to experience sculpture in a state that is not formal/customary. Sculpture in general sense indicates something physical and tangible. I go beyond this limitation of general notion of sculpture and think of both sounds and texts as immaterial or nonmaterial sculpture. Thus, the experience of listening, at least for me, can be described as a “sculptural experience”, because the energy exerted in using our auditory senses to interpret the world around us creates some kind of intangible substance, which becomes the sculpture. Nobody Notices It is derived from my desire to approach everything that constructs the world with what I call “sculptural approach”.

Chung Seoyoung, 'East West South North', 2007, steel, wheels, 196.85 x 236.22 x 24.8 inches 500 x 600 x 63 cm. Image courtesy of the Artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Chung Seoyoung, ‘East West South North’, 2007, steel, wheels, 196.85 x 236.22 x 24.8 in, 500 x 600 x 63 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Objects as social evidence

The exhibition “Ability vs. Invisibility” is part of a text project called The Ways. Chung explains the sense of opposition she creates in the title of the exhibition:

This imaginary confrontational composition cannot be comprehended as simple competition or opposition between the two, and choosing one over the other becomes almost ridiculous. The effect of such confrontation can be achieved only by discovering a new dimension within that confrontational composition. This is deeply related to my interest in objects as social evidence, and my effort to recognise the unexpected moment when a sculpture arises.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, "Ability vs Invisibility", March 2 - April 15, 2017. Images Courtesy of the Artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, “Ability vs Invisibility”, 2 March – 15 April 2017, Tina Kim Gallery, New York. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

In the large-scale sculpture East West North South (2007), bright still fences fill the gallery space, creating a marked out yet empty space. The title, with the emphasis on directions, is at opposition to its location in space, and the viewer does not actually know from the work what its orientation is in the gallery. The piece serves to disorientate and question markers of direction.

Chung Seoyoung, 'The Adventure of Mr. Kim and Mr. Lee', 2010-2012, three-channel video installation, approximately 17.72 x 27.56 inches, 45 x 70 x 2.5 cm. Image courtesy of the Artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Chung Seoyoung, ‘The Adventure of Mr. Kim and Mr. Lee’, 2010-2012, three-channel video installation, approximately 17.72 x 27.56 in, 45 x 70 x 2.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Another work that looks at how objects become social is the three-channel video The Adventure of Mr. Kim and Mr. Lee (2010-2012). In this performance, nine performers and a dog are situated throughout the stage, the dressing room and the hallways of LIG Art Hall, Seoul. They are all moving apart from a man smoking and walking the dog. Their clothes challenge the assumed identity of each character; the child is dressed like an old woman, the woman has a mustache and a man has a monster’s ear. Clothes that should provide signs for understanding the context have been abstracted and altered, provoking the viewer to question unnoticed assumptions. In addition, because the performers are silent and the identities of Mr. Kim and Mr. Lee are not revealed, the viewer becomes a dynamic participant of the piece, creating a narrative to put on the mute characters.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, "Ability vs Invisibility", March 2 - April 15, 2017. Images Courtesy of the Artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, “Ability vs Invisibility”, 2 March – 15 April 2017, Tina Kim Gallery, New York. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Chung has also incorporated language into her work, such as in A tiger only in half, a palm tree upside down, FAST! (2012) and excerpts from her drawing series Monster Map 15 Min. (2008). Chung explains in the exhibition text:

the titles I choose are another type of work in themselves, using language to shape the lineaments of a piece, or gesture beyond the boundaries of that piece to where it might lead.

Chung Seoyoung, 'Table', 2007, wood, 47.24 x 28.94 x 35.43 inches 120 x 73.5 x 90 cm. Image courtesy of the Artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Chung Seoyoung, ‘Table’, 2007, wood, 47.24 x 28.94 x 35.43 in, 120 x 73.5 x 90 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

In some of her artwork titles, she uses language to refer to what is not seen, such as the geographic orientations in East West North South or the half-missing Table (2007). Another example is Curb (2013), which is cast in the shape of a curb on the street but which is removed from its natural context and placed in the gallery environment. The relationship between the object and its nature, or function, has been rendered unusual.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, "Ability vs Invisibility", March 2 - April 15, 2017. Images Courtesy of the Artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

Installation of Chung Seoyoung, “Ability vs Invisibility”, 2 March – 15 April 2017, Tina Kim Gallery, New York. Images courtesy the artist and Tina Kim Gallery.

In other instances, Chung’s titles add another layer to the meaning of the work by providing another lens through which to see an object or a situation. The Adventure of Mr. Kim and Mr. Lee is an example of this, where the space between the title of the work and its context allows viewers room to add their own meaning and narrative. The strangeness between the title and the objects encourages interpretation and leaps of the imagination. This space of strangeness, open to multiple understandings, is present throughout Chung’s oeuvre, whether it is in her videos, sculptures or installations.

Claire Wilson

1592

Related topics: Korean artists, in pictures, video, timeevents in New York, gallery show, sculpture, mixed media, painting

Related posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more Korean contemporary art

Save

Save

Save

“A Tale of Two Cities”: Indian & Sri Lankan artists at Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts

11 South Asian Artist respond to the notion of place in “A Tale of Two Cities”.

“A Tale of Two Cities” – on display at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts until 28 March 2017 – brings together 11 artists of Indian and Sri Lankan descent to respond to the cities of Anuradhapura and Varanasi. Art Radar takes a look at a few of the artist’s contributions.

Bandu Manamperi, Moonstone-, 2015. Fiberglass & resin sculpture 108 x 60 x 30 inches. Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Bandu Manamperi, ‘Moonstone-‘1, 2015, fibreglass and resin sculpture, 108 x 60 x 30 in. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace in collaboration with Serendipity Arts Trust and Theertha Artists Collective.

“A Tale of Two Cities” is a cross-cultural exchange project organized by Gallery Espace in collaboration with Serendipity Arts trust and Theertha Artists Collective. The broad research and exhibition project brings together works by 11 leading contemporary artists from South Asia. Throughout 2015 and 2016 Manjunath Kamath, Riyas Komu, Manisha Parekh, Ram Rahman, Paula Sengupta and Chintan Upadhyay from India together with Jagath Weerasinghe, Anoli Perera, Pala Pothupitiya, Bandu Manamperi and Pradeep Chandrasiri from Sri Lanka intervened across two cities: Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka and Varanasi in India.

Manisha Parekh, 'Home Shrine Series', 2016. Wood, handmade paper and silk. Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Manisha Parekh, ‘Home Shrine Series’, 2016, wood, handmade paper and silk. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace.

The project began with research visits to the urban and rural historical sites in each place with each artist invited to make a work based on their dynamic dialogue with the place. The exhibition opened as part of the inaugural edition of the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa in December 2016 and is currently on display at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. Curatorial advisor Ruhanie Perera highlights in the exhibition catalogue the main shared themes across the selection of artist interventions and works, stating:

The most apparent contention of A Tale of Two Cities is thus its multiplicity of agencies on the structure and function of religiosity, its philosophical manifestations and its geopolitical implications. The artist excavates the living sacred; it is “opened up, defragmented and inspected” revealing a consciousness reaective of the plurality of memory and experience as the artist contends with the religio-cultural.

Anoli Perera, 'Geographies of Deliverance', 2016. Printed images on cloth, wool, thread and hanging contraptions (installation of 7 tapestries). Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Anoli Perera, ‘Geographies of Deliverance’, 2016, printed images on cloth, wool, thread and hanging contraptions (installation of 7 tapestries). Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace.

Anoli Perera, 'Geographies of Deliverance', 2016. Printed images on cloth, wool, thread and hanging contraptions (installation of 7 tapestries). Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Anoli Perera, ‘Geographies of Deliverance’, 2016, printed images on cloth, wool, thread and hanging contraptions (installation of 7 tapestries). Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace.

Exploring religion – pilgrim cities and shrines

“A Tale of Two Cities” required of the artists an act of artistic intervention: an act of solidifying or drawing attention to an ever-shifting present. Many of the artists chose to respond to the metaphysics of place by focusing on the respective cities as historical sites of pilgrimage, adorned as they are with the symbolism and architectural features of a place of worship. Anoli Perera is a Sri Lanka-born artist whose art practice includes painting, sculpture, installation, video art and photo-performances. Her work engages critically with issues ranging from gender, history and myth to identity, colonialism and post-colonial anxieties.

Her recent works deliberate on the erasure of personal and public memory. Talking about her contribution entitled Geographies of Deliverance (2016), she states:

Visiting both cities stirred my curiosity on the idea of ‘pilgrimages’ and the parallel landscapes and sacred routes people construct…The act of pilgrims appropriating and making spiritual sites as intimate spaces as their own allow them to disconnect such spaces from the outer reality and its contemporary political and social dynamic. The idea of ‘My Varanasi’ and ‘My Anuradhapura’ inherently tries to remain as sanitized and intimate spaces. This allows cities such as Auradhapura and Varanasi to continue as spiritual centers irrespective of their contemporary political dimensions and socio-cultural anomalies.

Manisha Parekh, 'Home Shrine Series', 2016. Wood, handmade paper and silk. Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Manisha Parekh, ‘Home Shrine Series’, 2016, wood, handmade paper and silk. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace.

Indian artist Manisha Parekh’s Home Shrine (2016) series also seeks to engage with the religious use of the cities, focusing on the idea of the ‘shrine’. The works are a result of the artist’s sensations experienced walking through the sites of Anuradhapura and Varanasi and inhabiting what the artist has called the “sociohistoric sacredness”. The articulation itself brings into sharp focus the sense of the shrine as intimate, personal, private and familiar.

Manisha Parekh, 'A Chant', 2016. Watercolour on arches paper. Work in 9 units. 5 units: 11 X 11 inches, 4 units: 11 X 8 inches.Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Manisha Parekh, ‘A Chant’, 2016, watercolour on arches paper. Work in 9 units. 5 units: 11 X 11 in, 4 units: 11 X 8 in. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace.

Paula Sengupta, The Plain of Aspiration, 2016. Wooden pankha-holder, woven grass mat & cotton cloth pankha, and embroidery & applique on silk 42 x 30 inches (each). Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Paula Sengupta, The Plain of Aspiration, 2016, wooden pankha-holder, woven grass mat and cotton cloth pankha, and embroidery and applique on silk 42 x 30 in (each). Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace.

Paula Sengupta, The Plain of Aspiration, 2016. Wooden pankha-holder, woven grass mat & cotton cloth pankha, and embroidery & applique on silk 42 x 30 inches (each). Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Paula Sengupta, The Plain of Aspiration, 2016, wooden pankha-holder, woven grass mat and cotton cloth pankha, and embroidery and applique on silk, 42 x 30 in (each). Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

For over a decade now, the Indian artist Paula Sengupta’s has travelled to various locations on the “Buddha trail”, in the Indian subcontinent and in Southeast Asia. These journeys of inhabiting place trace the land, and the physical geographies that are intrinsically connected with the being, the reach, the teaching, the relics, rites and rituals associated with the Buddha across the subcontinent and beyond. Her work The Plain of Aspiration (2016) also departs from the notion of a spiritual journey. Produced as a series of embroidered images on silk fastened to wooden pankha-holders, The Plain of Aspiration is a mapping of movement and territory that positions a deeply personal travelling narrative of contested sacred geographies, traversing eight contested Buddhist sites to which the artist has travelled.

Pala Pothupitiye, 'Venerated, Ruined 2', 2016. Acrylic, ink and pencil on archival paper 16 x 20 inches. Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Pala Pothupitiye, ‘Venerated, Ruined 2’, 2016, acrylic, ink and pencil on archival paper, 16 x 20 in. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace.

Fragments of architecture: ruins and historical residue

Sri Lankan artsits Pala Pothupitiye and Bandu Manamperi, both known for their interdisciplinary and performance practices, were drawn rather to the architectural feature of the cities. Pala Pothupitiye’s “Victory Dome” series brings into focus one predominant architectural aspect and symbolic structure – the stupa. The stupa is a fundamental structure within the Buddhist architectural monument context, serving as a marker of sacred space.

Bandu Manamperi, Moonstone-, 2015. Fiberglass & resin sculpture 108 x 60 x 30 inches. Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Bandu Manamperi, ‘Moonstone-1’, 2015, fibreglass and resin sculpture, 108 x 60 x 30 in. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace.

The earliest stupa-architecture can be found in India and Sri Lanka, which have influenced later designs across the region. These early structures were made of brick, and so the ‘transparency’ of Pothupitiye’s work structurally and materially contends with historical architecture of the stupa. Bandu Manamperi’s Moonstone-1 also works with the symbols constituting popular iconography that have dominated historical architectural practice, and looks at how through these symbols we are “brought into meaning” as pilgrims in a sacred space, or consumers of image culture. In the exhibition catalogue the artist states:

My approach to this process began with a consideration of what is left behind (traces) in these physical sites that have come to constitute ‘sacredness.’ This is what stayed with me after our visits to Anuradhapura and Varanasi.

Manjunath Kamath, 'Restored Poems', 2016. Painted terracotta, cement & iron 28 x 16 x 9 inches. Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Manjunath Kamath, ‘Restored Poems’, 2016, painted terracotta, cement and iron, 28 x 16 x 9 in. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace.

Manjunath Kamath’s work also re-imagines fragments of architectural features noticed during the research visits to the sites. The work Restored Poems (2016) intervenes in popular Buddhist iconography through fragmenting the totality of the image. In an experiment in interpretive sculptural architecture the work is designed to train and retrain sight, perspective and ways of seeing. Meanwhile, it contends with the discursive limits and possibilities of how meaning is culturally produced through the practices of art and architecture and popular iconography.

Riyas Komu,' Agam Puram', 2016. Installation fragment 2016. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Riyas Komu,’ Agam Puram’, 2016. Installation fragment, 2016. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace.

Religion in contemporary national contexts

Other works in the exhibition were rather produced as interventions into the spaces of the two cities. Indian multimedia artist and activist Riyas Komu explores religion as it is intertwined with military cultures and national histories, preferring to withhold a critical distance with regards to the instrumentalisation of spiritual experience. His installation work Agam Puram (2016), which includes photographs of sites of public monuments in the cities and a series of display cases, grapples with historical memory as a journey towards conceiving non-violent societies. It also explores how the retrieval of the past and the mobilisation of religio-cultural identity are also engendered within militarised communities.

Ram Rahman, 'Vesagiri', 2016. Installation of images and texts. Digital print on archival paper 30 x 59 inches. Produced for "A Tale of Two Cities India and Sri Lanka". Image courtesy the artist and Gallery ESpace.

Ram Rahman, ‘Vesagiri’, 2016, Installation of images and texts (digital print on archival paper, 30 x 59 in). Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Espace.

Ram Rahman also employed historical research strategies in the production of their works The Man, The Word, The Tree, The Lotus, which uses images from his trips to Sarnath to examine how contemporary politics distorts religious philosophy. Committed to developing dialogues between artists in the region, “A Tale of Two Cities” demonstrates an effective partnership between a commercial gallery space and two non-profit organisations, as well as offering a meditative dissection of themes at the centre of contemporary art practice in the region: place, context, history and the present.

Rebecca Close

1607

Related Topics: Indian artistsmemoryhistorical artpaintinggallery showsevents in New Delhi

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on the Indian contemporary art scene

Save

Save

Save

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise at SculptureCenter, New York

SculptureCenter holds latest exhibition of work by Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise until 27 March 2017.

CAPTC is a union of Congolese plantation workers who harvest primary raw materials for international export companies. With the same materials, the workers also create sculptures in collaboration with their sister organisation, the Institute for Human Activities.

Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January - 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January – 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Under a classical Marxist approach, the distinction between art and alienated forms of wage-earning labour does not uphold: artists, rather than romantic agents of their own lives, are subject to the same processes of production, commodification and property as all other workers. Walter Benjamin, drawing on these analyses, posited that in the new age of modernism buoyed by the technology of mechanical reproduction, art would lose its aura – its distinct aesthetic quality – as it was reproduced again and again by machines. This central concern, of whether art and labour are indeed strange bedfellows, is at the heart SculptureCenter’s latest exhibition of work in its Long Island City space by the Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League or CATPC).

Mbuku Kimpala working on a sculpture, 2016. Photograph from forthcoming CATPC publication. © Léonard Pongo

Mbuku Kimpala working on a sculpture, 2016. Photograph from forthcoming CATPC publication. © Léonard Pongo.

Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January - 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January – 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Cercle d’Art, or CATPC is a union of Congolese plantation workers who harvest primary raw materials for international export companies that produce chocolate and palm oil, for instance. Using these same raw materials, however, the workers also create sculptures in collaboration with their sister organisation, the Institute for Human Activities (IHA). Founded in 2014 by the Dutch artist Renzo Martens, the IHA began its activities – exhibitions, presentations, conferences, lectures – in the Congo in 2012 to address economic inequality in both theoretical and material terms. Plantation workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are paid a minimum wage that is barely sustainable to sustain their families, but the sales of their artistic products often generate multiple times what they are able to make in a year by working on the plantation alone.

Thomas Leba working on 'A Lucky Day', 2015. Image courtesy Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise.

Thomas Leba working on ‘A Lucky Day’, 2015. Image courtesy Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise.

Emery Muhamba working on a new sculpture, 2016. Photograph from forthcoming CATPC publication. © Léonard Pongo

Emery Muhamba working on a new sculpture, 2016. Photograph from forthcoming CATPC publication. © Léonard Pongo.

With these profits, the workers, alongside Martens and the IHA have set up the Lusanga International Research Centre for Art and Economic Inequality (LIRCAEI) that will open later this year. LIRCAEI’s offices are designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture and in a fitting historical gesture, located on the site of a former Lever Brothers plantation. The Lever Brothers were a British soap making company (who would later join forces with a Dutch company to form Unilever) who received a concession of land in West Africa in 1911. The city of Lusanga was then known as Leverville, and LIRCAEI’s presence in the area rests on a palimpsest of colonial history and violence. In building the LIRCAEI headquarters, CATPC and Martens are effectively reclaiming this colonial legacy and challenging how this history seeps into contemporary politics and economics.

Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January - 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January – 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Irène Nkanga with sculpture, 2016. Photograph from forthcoming CATPC publication. © Léonard Pongo

Irène Nkanga with sculpture, 2016. Photograph from forthcoming CATPC publication. © Léonard Pongo.

Though the economic motivation and historical legacies of the CATPC project span a series of entangled, complex networks, producing the sculptures that are on display at SculptureCenter is only slightly less so. First, the sculptures are cast in clay by artists and plantation works Djonga Bismar and Jérémie Mabiala. Then, they are rendered in a digital animation programme and sent to Amsterdam, where a 3-D printer gives them shape and then casts them again in Belgian chocolate using materials sourced from the original plantation itself.

Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January - 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January – 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January - 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January – 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

The sculptures on display at SculptureCenter are not coated in the finished chocolate, but in cacao; other sculptures that CATPC sells for profit, however, do utilise the Belgian chocolate product. The entire process – from the extraction of primary source materials, to the trade routes to the Dutch capital, to its eventual exhibition in the United States – mirrors the flows of global capital and trade that defined the period of European colonialism in West Africa. In recreating this system of exchange, ethical questions arise: is there exploitation embedded in the process? Can art be truly transformative at an economic level?

Jérémie Mabiala reflecting on his work, 2015. Image courtesy Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise.

Jérémie Mabiala reflecting on his work, 2015. Image courtesy Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise.

Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January - 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January – 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Judging by the precision of the works and the scrutiny with which the entire production process is handled, the answer might be yes. Martens’ partnership with René Ngongo, the current president, began during his initial trip to the Congo for his 2008 film project Enjoy Poverty, in which Martens encouraged Congolese photographers, artists and art practitioners to capitalise on poverty images as an income-generating activity. Through this project, he met and interviewed Ngongo, who would go on to develop CATPC alongside workers from the plantation, including Mathieu Kilapi Kasiama, Cedrick Tamasala, Mbuku Kimpala, Mananga Kibuila, Thomas Leba. The organisation expanded to include artists from Kinshasa, Michel Ekeba, Eléonore Hellio and Mega Mingiedi, and is ever-expanding, encouraging new members to join in the project and the development of LIRCAEI.

Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January - 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January – 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Collective CATPC cartography, 2016. Photograph from forthcoming CATPC publication. © Léonard Pongo

Collective CATPC cartography, 2016. Photograph from forthcoming CATPC publication. © Léonard Pongo.

At the SculptureCenter exhibition, which consists of sculptures rendered in cacao, drawings, a video installation and a reading room, the process of the sculptures and the identity of their artists is highlighted rather than obscured. Curated by Ruba Katrib, the exhibition situates the CATPC, SculptureCenter and the international art world within the context of global financial networks. The exhibition catalogue notes:

To understand our current state, it is essential to recognize this glaring lack of acknowledgement of the role of violence and exploitation both past in present in building the wealth and comfort of Western nations. Under these conditions, can culture be repurposed to redress these wrongs? And how do we avoid the ignorance or complacency in providing content that disregards or absolves the entities that commit injustices?

Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January - 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 29 January – 27 March 2017, SculptureCenter, New York. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

View of research center (still under construction), 2016. Photograph from forthcoming CATPC publication. © Léonard Pongo

View of research center (still under construction), 2016. Photograph from forthcoming CATPC publication. © Léonard Pongo.

There are no easy answers to the queries raised by Katrib and the team at SculptureCenter, because as the goals and day-to-day workings of the IHA and CATPC prove, these global injustices are systemic and embedded. Working to undo them requires a degree of both care and knowledge, and moreover, commitment. But as abstract and intellectualised as the themes are, the clay sculptures and pencil drawings made by the plantation workers of CATPC induce a more instinctive response. One does not even need to inspect the sculptures or drawings with immense scrutiny to see the artists’ hand in the works, the fingerprints and impressions that have moulded the clay or drawn the works on paper.

Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), 'Tamasala'. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League), ‘Tamasala’. Image courtesy CATPC | SculptureCenter.

If Marxian analysis emphasises the degree to which workers are alienated from the products of their labour, then the exhibition at SculptureCenter, at one level, addresses the possibility of filling in this gap and attending to the intricacies of human involvement in artistic production. It’s not a perfect model, but gets as close as it can to rectifying the entangled networks of labour that have so defined contemporary economics and politics.

Tausif Noor

1594

Related Topics: Congolese artists, sculpture, identity art, art and the community, events in New York

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on African contemporary artists

Save

Save

Save

Save

Art internships and opportunities | A.I.R. Gallery, Halcyon Arts Lab… and more

Looking for new career options in the arts? Art Radar Opportunities is an archive of openings in the visual art world. 

Whether you are an artist or an aspiring curator, a market analyst or a scholar, Art Radar Opportunities has listings that will pique your interest. Every week we add new positions suitable for a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience. 

Reader offer! We’re offering free job listings to all of our readers. If you would like to advertise your opportunity to 25,000 visitors a month, fill out our Internships or Opportunities submission form.

New this week!

______________________________

OPEN CALL | Brooklyn | Call for Curators | A.I.R. Gallery – 21 April 2017

A.I.R. Gallery invites curators to submit proposals for their next CURRENTS exhibition that will take place between 4 January and 4 February 2018. CURRENTS began in 2010 as a timely and innovative biennial exhibition programme. CURRENTS addresses contemporary issues that warrant expanded critical attention in the art world. Proposals should describe an original concept for a group exhibition that can be aligned with the mission of A.I.R. Gallery, and refer to its relevance today. The proposal should not include a selection of artists but should only focus on the concept of the exhibition and its importance for the institution and the audience. The selection of works will be made from a subsequent open call for artists after the curator has been selected. A.I.R. Gallery will publish a catalogue of the exhibition, which will include images of the artwork and a written essay from the selected curator. A stipend will be available. MORE HERE

______________________________

OPEN CALL | Brooklyn | Emerging Curator Programme | NARS Foundation – 1 May 2017

The Emerging Curator Programme offers an opportunity for an individual or curatorial collective to organise a conceptually cohesive group show at the NARS Foundation Gallery. The aim of the programme is to encourage new dialogue, and to create a platform for emerging curators and artists to experiment and exchange ideas. No prior curatorial experience is necessary. An experienced curator on staff will be available to provide guidance and support during the programme. The NARS Foundation Gallery is located on the fourth floor of an industrial building surrounded by artists’ studios. Please review photographs of previous exhibitions as well as the gallery floor plan before submitting the proposal. MORE HERE

______________________________

OPEN CALL | Washington | Call for Artists | Halcyon Arts Lab – 4 May 2017

The Halcyon Arts Lab Fellowship is a nine-month programme providing emerging artists with time and space to explore new ideas and ambitious projects. It offers promising creatives an environment of independent learning, study and collaboration, empowering them to develop projects that promote social impact and grow as leaders in the field of socially engaged art. Halcyon Arts Lab accepts six national or international fellows and two DC-resident fellows in each year of the programme. The fellowship programme is based in Washington, DC at the Halcyon Arts Lab campus, but a fellow’s project work can focus regionally, nationally or internationally. MORE HERE

______________________________

INTERNSHIP | Hong Kong | Internship | Wellington Gallery – apply by unspecified

Founded in 2004 with the vision to bring and support artists on the global stage, Wellington Gallery has transformed into the leading gallery for Asian contemporary art in Hong Kong from its humble beginnings. The Gallery is currently looking for a part time/full time intern to oversee the following tasks: providing administrative support and assisting in daily operation; assisting in organising exhibitions and events; updating gallery website; and communicating with clients to provide assistance as necessary, etc. The successful candidate must be highly-organised and possess excellent oral and written communication skills in both English and Chinese. This is a non-paid position, but a daily stipend for lunch and transportation will be provided. MORE HERE

______________________________

INTERNSHIP | New York | Internship | Luhring Augustine – apply by unspecified

Luhring Augustine is a contemporary art gallery, representing a roster of international artists. Monthly exhibitions showcase the work of these artists, ranging from painting, photography, sculpture and installations to video. Luhring Augustine is looking for undergraduate or graduate students, with a background or concentration in studio art and/or art history, to intern part-time for the summer term. Applicants must be willing to commit to 2-3 days per week, 10am until 6pm, from June-August 2017. Proficiency in Microsoft Office is required and a working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop and InDesign is a plus. This internship provides first-hand experience of the contemporary art world, and offers the opportunity of working directly with the artists and staff of an internationally recognised gallery. Interested candidates may send their resume and cover letter to talia@luhringaugustine.com. MORE HERE

______________________________

Did you know that Art Radar runs its very own online art writing course? Click here to find out more about Art Radar‘s Diploma in Art Journalism & Writing.

Looking for more opportunities in the contemporary art world? For Art Radar’s complete list of jobs, internships, residencies, courses and open calls, click here.

Closing this week!

______________________________

OPEN CALL | Philadelphia | Curatorial Fellowship in European Decorative Arts and Sculpture | Philadelphia Museum of Art – 31 March 2017

The Museum announces a two-year Curatorial Fellowship in European Decorative Arts and Sculpture beginning on 1 September 2017. This fellowship is intended to provide individuals who have completed their graduate training in the field with firsthand curatorial experience. An MA in Art History or related field is required as well as proficiency in at least one European language. Candidates should be able to demonstrate a commitment to art-historical scholarship, to the interpretation and display of works of art, and to the engagement of the public through educational programming. The Curatorial Fellow will participate in all activities of the department, which is responsible for a collection of over 20,000 objects. The work that the Curatorial Fellow will be expected to undertake includes, but is not limited to, object research and cataloguing, public inquiries, exhibition and loan preparation, gallery reinstallation and administration. Fellows have the opportunity to organise an exhibition and/or gallery reinstallation from the permanent collection during the second year of the fellowship. MORE HERE

__________________________

This is just a sample of art world opportunities we gather each week. If you’d like to see more, click here to sign up for more information on how to get full access and feeds of opportunities.