Lalla Essaydi: ‘Crossing Boundaries, Bridging Cultures’ – book review



Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi’s monograph examines the emancipation of Arab women through a voyeuristic tradition. 

A new book featuring the photography of Lalla Essaydi takes an intimate look at the artist’s career and socio-political conditions and the “anthropological conditioning” that inspires her work.

Book cover for 'Lalla Essaydi: Crossing Boundaries, Bridging Cultures.' Image courtesy ACR Edition and Edwynn Houk Gallery.

Book cover for ‘Lalla Essaydi: Crossing Boundaries, Bridging Cultures.’ Image courtesy ACR Edition and Edwynn Houk Gallery.

Crossing Boundaries, Bridging Cultures [ACR Edition, May 2015] covers the breadth of Lalla Essaydi’s lush work from 2003 to 2014. Managed by curator and consultant Dina Nasser-Khadivi and published by ACR Edition in conjunction with the Edwynn Houk Gallery, the project includes an introduction by the artist and essays by five distinguished curators, consultants, writers and scholars from the art world including Mitra Abbaspour, Maryam Ekhtiar, Stéphane Guégan, Kinsey Katchka and Nawal El Saadawi. Abundant plates from Essaydi’s series Converging Territories, Les Femmes du Maroc, Harem, Harem Revisited and Bullets, join a comprehensive listing of articles/publications and an exhibition history.

Lalla Essaydi. Photograph by Lajos Greenen.

Lalla Essaydi. Photograph by Lajos Greenen.

Born in Morocco, Lalla Essaydi is a visual artist who explores stereotypical themes of Islamic culture debated in Edward Said’s Orientalism and Jean-Léon Gérôme’s 19th century paintings. Laid bare are the private architectural spaces, the harems, the veiled faces. These are familiar, fantastical images, but with a contemporary twist where illegible calligraphy is superimposed in henna over the images. The artist notes in the book:

Henna is a crucial element in the life of a Moroccan woman, and is associated with the major celebrations in her life. It is first applied when a girl attains puberty to mark her passage into womanhood. When she is a bride it is thought to enhance her charms for her husband. Finally, it is used to celebrate fertility when she has her first child.  

Calligraphy, traditionally a male-dominated activity, combined with henna, allows the artist to “speak” through her images in a contemporary way. These portraits are pregnant with contradictions; hierarchy and fluidity, public and private space, the rich yet confining aspects of the Islamic tradition – paradoxes that remain to this day.

Lalla Essaydi, ‘Converging Territories #24’, 2004. Image courtesy the artist and of Edwynn Houk Gallery.

Lalla Essaydi, ‘Converging Territories #24’, 2004. Image courtesy the artist and of Edwynn Houk Gallery.

In the opening essay, Stéphane Guégan, art critic, curator and historian at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, speaks of Essaydi’s entry into intimate, sensual scenes as a silent observer, allowing us an elusive and fleeting look into a very private space:

In “revisiting” her imaginary harem, Lalla Essaydi reminds us that the places of all our fantasies only have a subjective existence. Where is the harm? The photographer, we believe, is only dashing the clichés from an outdated schema, that wants sensuality and ambiguity to be the product of a Western vision aimed at reifying or animalizing its central obsession: woman.

Lalla Essaydi, ‘Harem #11’ 2009, Image courtesy the artist and of Edwynn Houk Gallery.

Lalla Essaydi, ‘Harem #11’, 2009. Image courtesy the artist and of Edwynn Houk Gallery.

Essaydi often returns to Marrakesh and uses her family’s home dating back to the 16th century for her backdrop and uses family acquaintances as her models, while living in New York City. According to Kinsey Katchka, curator, scholar and art consultant who pens the artist’s biography and the book’s final essay, Essaydi plumbs the roots of her own heritage, while making astute observations as a diasporic artist:

Because Essaydi left home early in life, she has relied on memory to recall the time when the notion of “home” was more clearly defined and delineated. With the distance of time and geography, Morocco has become something Essaydi has sought, recreated and reclaimed through writing, art, and memory. The inscribed texts and architectural settings are partly autobiographical as she reflects on past, present and the diasporic space between cultures. Essaydi believes her work, with its very intimate portrayal of Moroccan women and the private spaces they inhabit, would not have been possible without distance from her homeland.

Lalla Essaydi, ‘Bullets Revisited #1’ 2012, triptych. Image courtesy the artist and of Edwynn Houk Gallery.

Lalla Essaydi, ‘Bullets Revisited #1’, 2012, triptych. Image courtesy the artist and of Edwynn Houk Gallery.

Throughout the book, relevant historical pieces weave together the themes of the colonial past and Essaydi’s “visual vocabulary”. It is argued that this misplaced idea of exotic eroticism has provided the fuel to institute conservative restrictions for women in the META region. At the most visceral level, Essaydi’s tapestries embrace us, while challenging us, daring us, to look away – but from what?

More about the artist

Lalla Essaydi (b. 1956) holds a BFA from Tufts University with a focus in Women and Art (1999), a Diploma in Photography and Installation from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1999) and an MFA in Painting and Photography from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University (2003). The artist was the 2012 recipient of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston Medal Winner.

Essaydi’s work is found in numerous public and private collections worldwide, including the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (Qatar), the Asian Civilizations Museum (Singapore), the British National Museum (United Kingdom), the International Museum of Photography and Film George Eastman House (United States), the Jordan National Museum of Art (Jordan) and the Louvre (France).

Upcoming and current exhibitions include “She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World” at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh (May to September 2015), “Lalla Essaydi: Photographs” at the San Diego Museum of Art (April to August 2015), and a solo show at the Musée d’Ethnographie de Genève, Geneva, Switzerland scheduled for November 2016.

Lisa Pollman

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Related Topics: Moroccan artistsbook reviewsIslamic art, photography, politicalwoman power

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Stitching the sublime: Chiharu Shiota’s threads of time – interview



Known for her monumental thread installations, Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota explores the connections between past and present, object and memory. 

Art Radar talks to Chiharu Shiota while her solo show at the Japanese Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale captivates audiences from around the world. 

Chiharu Shiota, 'The Key in the Hand', 2015, Japan Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. Photo by Sunhi Mang. Image courtesy the artist.

Chiharu Shiota, ‘The Key in the Hand’, 2015, Japan Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. Photo: Sunhi Mang. Image courtesy the artist.

Chiharu Shiota (b. Osaka, 1972) is a Japan-born, Berlin-based performance, installation and multi-media artist best known for her large-scale thread installations that fill entire rooms. Taught by Marina Abramović and heavily influenced by the Cuban American performance artist Ana Mendieta, Shiota’s oeuvre is marked by a powerful nostalgia that is dark, poetic and deeply affecting.

“The Key in the Hand” (2015), Shiota’s current solo exhibition at the Japanese Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, features an immersive labyrinthine installation of keys entangled in red string. Underneath, catching the net of interlaced metal and yarn, are two rustic wooden boats. Hitoshi Nakano, curator of the Kanagawa Arts Foundation, says about Shiota’s work:

Shiota’s choice of materials and the spatial structure of her installations maintains a sense of preeminent beauty without losing any freshness or power, quietly permeating our minds and bodies [...] Shiota convert[s] [personal] experiences into the lingua franca of pure and sublime art without averting her eyes from the reality that all human beings must face “life” and “death” [...]

Chiharu Shiota, 'Seven Dresses', 2015, Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken, Saarbrücken, Germany, dresses, thread, dimensions variable. Photo by Sunhi Mang. Image courtesy the artist.

Chiharu Shiota, ‘Seven Dresses’, 2015, Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken, Saarbrücken, Germany, dresses, thread, dimensions variable. Photo: Sunhi Mang. Image courtesy the artist.

Shiota’s work has been widely exhibited around the world; in the latter half of 2015 alone the artist will go on to exhibit in Brasil at SESC Sao Paulo, at the Seoul Museum of Art in South Korea, and at the Foundation Sorigué in Lérida, Spain. Art Radar catches up with the artist to talk about her unique choice of medium and materials, her exhibition at the Venice Biennale, her Japanese identity, and more.

Chiharu Shiota 'State of Being (Keys)', 2015, metal Frame, keys, thread, 57 x 57 x 53 cm. Photo by Sunhi Mang. Image courtesy the artist.

Chiharu Shiota, ‘State of Being (Keys)’, 2015, metal frame, keys, thread, 57 x 57 x 53 cm. Photo: Sunhi Mang. Image courtesy the artist.

You studied painting before you began to weave with string and thread. Why are you compelled to work with this medium? 

I began to weave and use yarn at some point after having finished university – at the time I was starting to feel that painting on a two-dimensional surface wasn’t sufficient. The reason I use yarn has nothing to do with handicrafts – yarn allows me to explore breadth and space like a line in a painting. An accumulation of black lines forms a surface, and I can create unlimited spaces that seem to me to gradually expand into a universe. When I can no longer trace a yarn installation or art object with my eye, it begins to feel complete.

My creations with thread are reflections of my own feelings. A thread can be a cut, a knot or a loop, or can be loose or sometimes tangled. A thread to me is an analogy for feelings or human relationships. When using it, I do not know how to lie. If I weave something and it turns out to be ugly, twisted, or knotted, then such must have been my feelings when I was working.

You use a lot of everyday objects in your works, all of which are powerfully evocative. Could you speak to us about the nostalgia of objects – the poetics of everyday things?

I can see people through these objects. I can recognise who they are or who they were through the objects they have used or the books they have read. People move, travel, change, but they leave something on everything they touch and use: clothes, shoes, furniture, houses, even after they have gone away.

Chiharu Shiota, 'Seven Dresses', 2015, Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken, Saarbrücken, Germany, dresses, thread, dimensions variable. Photo by Sunhi Mang. Image courtesy the artist.

Chiharu Shiota, ‘Seven Dresses’, 2015, Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken, Saarbrücken, Germany, dresses, thread, dimensions variable. Photo: Sunhi Mang. Image courtesy the artist.

The weight of the nostalgia exceeds the desire to represent it – the exclusion of the body that once inhabited the objects doesn’t keep us from feeling or seeing. The absent body invokes the death of the subject and, at the same time, the life of the objects. The object or objects no longer represent what is expected from them, so they become material and susceptible to a new semiotisation. They take on an iconic character that they previously did not possess.

Could you talk about the process of designing and installing your works? How long does it take to move from an idea to an installation? And for the process of installation, which is time- and energy-consuming, and almost like a performance in itself. Is it like a ritual for you?

Mostly I do not design my works. I have to see the space first – once I see the space I immediately know what to create. I then do some very simple drawings before commencing the installation, which is quite a meditative process. It is indeed like a ritual for me – the act of weaving, and the process of seeing the knots develop, is like meditation.

The work is very physically challenging, however. I started out as a painter, so I don’t really trust other people’s skills. But when I have to work on a bigger scale in order to make work for larger spaces, I don’t have enough time to do everything myself. I cut and sewed pieces of 50-meter-long cloth to make the dresses for Memory of Skin (2001), the work I showed at the Yokohama Triennale in 2001, but by the time I finished I was in terrible condition. That’s when I decided that in order to achieve the same level of completion without being overwhelmed by the scale of a work, it would be better to adopt a more humble approach and ask someone to help me, even if that meant creating a collaborative work, rather than damage my health.

Chiharu Shiota, 'The Key in the Hand', 2015, Japan Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. Photo by Sunhi Mang. Image courtesy the artist.

Chiharu Shiota, ‘The Key in the Hand’, 2015, Japan Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. Photo: Sunhi Mang. Image courtesy the artist.

Please tell us about your phenomenal work at this year’s Venice Biennale. How did it come about? 

In the past few years the Japanese Pavilion has presented works based on the earthquake and the tsunami that followed, so this year I decided to convey not only the past but also the present and the future. After having to face the deaths of family members, the feeling of needing to ‘keep’ something pervaded my being. I linked this strong feeling to all the possible meanings that a key can have. The boats carry and gather all those human features, emotions and feelings that coexist within us on a daily basis and shape our own selves. Humans are then connected to each other in this World by the red threads.

You used to use a lot of black, and now you use red. What does colour mean to you?

I started out with black string. Black is the color of ink – the substance that a calligrapher uses to connect two points in a space with a stroke. A charge of meaning is added immediately to the shape that it takes on. The complexity of relationships that unite and divide a subject through verbal communication or silence is endless and impossible to tackle, and such a complexity is represented by the infinite reproduction of threads that make up a fabric of unlimited connections – just likes the ones set up between the self and the world. The resulting webs are not improvised; they are the product of a rhizomatic writing system that is hand-crafted.

I imagine the threads as delineating either a personal or a universalized space. Black threads refer to a more universal, all-embracing space – like a night sky, or the universe – and in my works the color black suggests universal truths and ideas that tend more towards the abstract. Red, on the other hand, with its associations to blood, suggests lineage, the physiological way in which we trace our ancestry and origins, and by extension all the interconnections within society. Normally these relationships are invisible to the human eye, but once we try to visualise them with red thread, we can observe the multitude of relationships as a whole.

There is always, of course, an overlap between the personal and the universal, but I make no decision arbitrarily.

Chiharu Shiota, 'Other Side', 2013, Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, UK, old doors, thread, dimensions variable. Photo by Alison Bettles. Image courtesy the artist.

Chiharu Shiota, ‘Other Side’, 2013, Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, UK, old doors, thread, dimensions variable. Photo: Alison Bettles. Image courtesy the artist.

You were born in Japan and now based in Berlin, and you’ve exhibited works all over the world. Do you think that culture and self-identity play a part in your art, whether consciously or subconsciously?

Apart from a period of time spent studying in Australia, I lived in Japan until my graduation. Since 1996, I have lived in Germany. Although I am an individual person named Chiharu Shiota, the role I am asked to assume – a Japanese artist or a German or Berlin artist – always changes, depending on the exhibition’s content or the perspective of its planner.

Because of such experiences, I have come to want viewers to accept my works as they are, unmediated by information. And I have articulated this desire in interviews. In some cases knowing the background can be an aid to understanding, but my experiences have taught me that such information, to the contrary, sometimes becomes a wall preventing understanding – something that inhibits thinking so that one becomes blind to the other and maybe even blind to oneself.

So I do not think about Japan or my background. Once I have completed a work, however, I see that there is a Japanese element in everything I do. It is like a passport, a visit card, an inseparable sign. I have been living in Europe for many years. This is where I have my exhibitions and where I live my life, but I still miss Japan. However, when I go back there, I do not find what I seek.

To you, what is/has been the greatest reward for making the art that you make? 

It has always been my dream to participate in the Venice Biennale. This dream has come true, and I am very glad.

Michele Chan

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Related Topics: Japanese artists, thread, textile artinstallations, sculpture, mixed media, interactive artinterviews

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K11 and Centre Pompidou join forces on contemporary Chinese art research



Paris’s Centre Pompidou has signed a major three-year partnership with Hong Kong’s K11 Art Foundation revolving around the Chinese art scene. 

As part of the three-year research partnership, K11 will appoint a Chinese curator who will identify fresh young talent from China and help enhance the Centre’s research programme.

The Centre Pompidou. Photo by Philippe Migeat. Image courtesy K11 Art Foundation.

The Centre Pompidou. Photo: Philippe Migeat. Image courtesy K11 Art Foundation.

Three-year research partnership 

K11 Art Foundation announced last week that it has signed a major three-year partnership with the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The planned collaboration will focus on the development of the Centre’s research programme on the Chinese contemporary art scene.

One of the major initiatives of the partnership will be the appointment of a Chinese curator who will assist the Centre in navigating art trends in China. In addition, the curator will be responsible for identifying fresh young talent from the region. According to the press release:

[K11 Art Foundation] will support the [Centre Pompidou] to further enhance its research programme and expertise of young contemporary Chinese artists. This will include the appointment of a Chinese curator who will work to develop an in-depth knowledge of the different movements as well as identifying outstanding young talented artists from Greater China.

Spotlight on China

Founded by Adrian Cheng in 2010, the K11 Art Foundation aims to nurture contemporary artistic talent in Greater China and showcase them on the international stage. The press release quotes Cheng as saying:

It is vital to continue to identify and show outstanding new talent. [K11 Art Foundation is] delighted to join forces with Centre Pompidou to enable the institution to further expand its expertise in this area.

In 2003, the Centre Pompidou hosted a groundbreaking exhibition “Alors, la Chine?” (“What about China?”) to introduce the vitality and diversity of Chinese contemporary art to an international audience. The press release quotes Cheng:

With its widely acclaimed exhibition “What about China?”, Centre Pompidou was one of the very first international institutions to show its commitment to Chinese artists [...]

Adrian Cheng (left), Founder of K11 Art Foundation, with Serge Lasvigne, Chairman of Centre Pompidou. Photo by Hervé Véronèse. Image courtesy K11 Art Foundation.

Adrian Cheng (left), Founder of K11 Art Foundation, with Serge Lasvignes, Chairman of Centre Pompidou. Photo: Hervé Véronèse. Image courtesy K11 Art Foundation.

Looking Eastwards

The partnership follows a previous agreement signed between the Centre Pompidou and National Gallery Singapore. Commenting on the new partnership with K11, Serge Lasvignes, Chairman of Centre Pompidou, observes that Asia is an increasing focus for the institution:

[...] this new partnership contributes to knitting ever closer links between the Centre Pompidou and the arts scene and networks of this particularly active region of the globe. Working closely with such dynamic major partners testifies to the Centre Pompidou’s continued international development.

To commemorate the beginning of the partnership, Cheng personally donated two major works to the Centre Pompidou’s collection. These include Zhang Enli‘s The Material (2014) and Xu Zhen‘s installation Corporate (4 Knives Groups) (2014), the latter of which was donated together with businessman David Chau.

Michele Chan

785

Related Topics: Chinese artists, art spacesmuseums, foundations, collectors, globalisation of art, events in Paris

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Hollywood, violence and contemporary Vietnam: Dinh Q. Lê – artist profile



Art Radar explores the multifaceted practice of the internationally recognised Vietnamese contemporary artist.

In occasion of his major museum exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Art Radar examines the conflictual narratives that drive Dinh Q. Lê’s artistic practice.

Dinh Q. Lê, 'Persistence of Memory #14', 2000-2001, C-print and linen tape. Collection: Larry Warsh, New York.

Dinh Q. Lê, ‘Persistence of Memory #14′, 2000-2001, C-print and linen tape. Collection: Larry Warsh, New York.

From 25 July 2015, an impressive display of Dinh Q. Lê’s most significant artworks are being exhibited at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. Curated by Araki Natsumi, “Dinh Q. Lê: Memory for Tomorrow” explores the history and the current state of Vietnam within its socio-cultural, political and economic contexts. More than 20 works made since the late 1990s engage with themes of place and memory, cross-cultural experience, history and conflict.

Lê’s versatile multimedia practice reveals a conflicted yet harmonic co-existence between two different visions of the world. From photo-tapestries to hand-built helicopters and dramatic video installations, the artist generates new narratives that recount a life experience and its memories fed by reality and fiction, East and West and, as a Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese), a desire to ‘belong’.

Dinh Q. Lê, 'Everything Is a Re-Enactment', 2015, single channel colour video with sound, military uniforms, 26 min. Commissioned by Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2015. © Mori Art Museum All Rights Reserved

Dinh Q. Lê, ‘Everything Is a Re-Enactment’, 2015, single channel colour video with sound, military uniforms, 26 min. Commissioned by Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2015. © Mori Art Museum All Rights Reserved

Weaving past and present, East and West       

Dinh Q. Lê (b. 1968, Ha Tien, Vietnam) escaped with his family to the United States in 1978 when the Khmer Rouge were making cross-border incursions from Cambodia. He received a BA in Studio Art at UC Santa Barbara in 1989 and an MFA in Photography and Related Media at The School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1992. The following year, he returned to Vietnam for the first time with an International Travel Grant from the US National Endowment for the Arts in order to examine the perspective of a communist photographer during the Vietnam War. He finally settled in Ho Chi Minh City in 1996, where he is currently based, and where in 2007 he co-founded the non-profit art space Sàn Art.

Lê first became known for his unique, contemporary re-interpretations of the age-old craft of traditional grass mat weaving, which he learned from his aunt during his childhood in Vietnam. Cutting large photographs into thin long strips, he weaves combinations of images of the Vietnam (American) war, Hollywood movies, news photographs and snapshots found at antique shops.

Dinh Q. Lê, 'Untitled (Paramount)', 2003, C-print and linen tape. Collection : Ann and Mel Schaffer Family, New York. Image courtesy Bellevue Arts Museum, WA.

Dinh Q. Lê, ‘Untitled (Paramount)’, 2003, C-print and linen tape. Collection: Ann and Mel Schaffer Family, New York. Image courtesy Bellevue Arts Museum, WA.

Lê’s large-scale narrative tableaux explore a history as viewed from opposing or multiple points of view – visions that present two sides of the same coin – juxtaposing images of conflict and authority with depictions of peace and beauty. In his photo-tapestry series “From Vietnam to Hollywood”, Lê meditated on the nature of his memories as a child who migrated to the United States and recalled a faraway home through a hazy combination of Western-fed elements and real recollections.

He explains in an interview (PDF download) with Zoe Butt, Director of Sàn Art, in April 2010 on Curators International:

[…] As a child growing up in Simi Valley, California with the distant memories of a country whose culture and imagery was being fed back to me via mainstream television and film, it was at times difficult to pinpoint which memories were mine or popularly inherited […]. This was also one of the reasons I chose to return to Vietnam – to determine for myself my own memories and contexts of who I was as a Vietnamese.

Curator Zoe Butt writes in her catalogue essay “Locating Dinh Q. Lê” (2015) for the Mori Art Museum exhibition:

His memory had become an image bank of Hollywood filmic gloss and journalistic photographic stills that had popularized a world conflict beyond any other war experience in the Twentieth Century. As a boat refugee growing up in California, it was this televised international gaze, driven by the frenzy of political agenda that fed Lê’s childhood imagination of Vietnam. Perhaps as a consequence, a key subject in Lê’s life’s work is the construction of memory and the role of the image in giving value to social recall of the past.

Dinh Q. Lê, 'The Scroll of Thich Quang Duc', 2013, C-print with gold lacquer box. Image courtesy the artist and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York.

Dinh Q. Lê, ‘The Scroll of Thich Quang Duc’, 2013, C-print with gold lacquer box. Image courtesy the artist and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York. 

Exploring the potentials of photography

Recently, Lê has been expanding his photographic practice into exploring the potential and boundaries of the photographic medium, as seen in his 2014 exhibition “Warf, Woof, Zero, One” at P·P·O·W Gallery in New York. Continuing his exploration of historic imagery and how it is perceived and handled in the digital age, Lê re-appropriates images of iconic news photographs – and digitally stretches them to up to 50 metres onto photographic paper.

The monumental scrolls recall the tradition of painting and the calligraphic art of the long-lost dynastic period. At the same time, they provide an immediately recognisable contemporary element hiding significant ‘data’ and powerful imagery, such as the image of self-immolation by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thick Quang Duc on 11 June 1963 in The Scroll of Thich Quang Duc, or nine-year-old Vietnamese girl Phan Thi Kim Phuc running naked down a road after a napalm attack on 8 June 1972 in The Scroll of Phan Thi Kim Phuc.

Dinh Q. Lê, 'The Farmers and the Helicopters', 2006, 3-channel colour video with sound, handcrafted full-size helicopter. Collaborating Artists: Hai Quoc Tran, Le Van Danh, Phu-Nam Thuc Ha, Tuan Andrew Nguyen. Commissioned by Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Australia. Installation view: "Reflection:The Through Art" DOJIMA RIVER BIENNALE 2009, Osaka. Photo: Fukunaga Kazuo.

Dinh Q. Lê, ‘The Farmers and the Helicopters’, 2006, 3-channel colour video with sound, handcrafted full-size helicopter. Collaborating Artists: Hai Quoc Tran, Le Van Danh, Phu-Nam Thuc Ha, Tuan Andrew Nguyen. Commissioned by Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Australia. Installation view: “Reflection:The Through Art” DOJIMA RIVER BIENNALE 2009, Osaka. Photo: Fukunaga Kazuo.

Shifting perspectives

Talking to Emma Allen for ArtInfo in 2010, Lê explains how the narratives of war and national history explored in his work are changing (PDF download) with the transformations occurring in Vietnam, incorporating various degrees and sources of memories:

I think it started out with my own obsession, but now it’s branching out into a larger narrative that encompasses a diverse range of stories and recollections. But it’s also about building new narratives, and […] new memories […]. Before I was trying to make work that looked at these old narratives, but now that Vietnam is moving forward those narratives are also moving forward. So it’s a completely different way of looking at our history, which is a very complicated history.

The Farmers and the Helicopters (2006) was shown in its entirety for “Project 93″ at New York’s MoMA in 2011, comprising a three-channel video collaboration with Vietnamese artists Phu-Nam Thuc Ha and Tuan Andrew Nguyen, as well as a helicopter hand-built from scrap parts by farmer Lê Van Danh and self-taught mechanic Tran Quoc Hai. The video juxtaposes the personal recollections of the war by Vietnamese locals with clips sourced from Western films. The work offers an alternative view of the helicopter – from a war machine to a means of saving and helping people make a better life. The work also serves as a means to uncover different points of view and unheard voices. In her Mori catalogue essay, Zoe Butt writes:

He is drawn to oral histories, to the stories that are socially sensitive or little understood, considering his art a platform to which such memories can be given archive, and thus a different validity. Lê’s technique is akin to curation, often gathering historical account as audio, video or object and re-assembling, co-authoring its critical messages into concise multi-component artworks (eg. ‘The Farmers and the Helicopters’ 2006 [...]).

Dinh Q. Le.

Dinh Q. Le.

In his interview with Allen for ArtInfo, Lê explains how his collaborative project and his photo-weaving practice are not that different from each other:

The photo-weaving is a weaving of narratives from three different sources, […] Hollywood movie images, documentary images, and family pictures […] woven into this tapestry of memories and fictions that all merge together. The video is in a way an extension of that practice, […] a combination of documentary footage, Hollywood footage, and interviews with people in Vietnam about their memories and their ideas about helicopters during the war and today. In a way, the video works as an extension of the photo-weaving. It’s a kind of continued development of the idea of the complexity of our stories. We have a tendency to have only one perspective and then the voices from the other side are not really heard.

The installations Erasure (2011) and Barricade (2014) both engage with multiple, changing perspectives on the history of violence and war, from colonisation and migration in the first, and a common enemy and the thirst for freedom in the latter. Both works were exhibited in “Residual: Disrupted Coreographies” (2014) at Carré d’Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Nîmes.

Dinh Q. Lê, 'Erasure', 2011, single channel colour video with sound, found photographs, stone, wooden boat fragments, wood walkway, computer, scanner, dedicated website (erasurearchive.com). Commissioned by Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, 2011. Supported by Nicholas and Angela Curtis. Installation view: Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, 2011. Photo: Aaron de Souza.

Dinh Q. Lê, ‘Erasure’, 2011, single channel colour video with sound, found photographs, stone, wooden boat fragments, wood walkway, computer, scanner, dedicated website (erasurearchive.com). Commissioned by Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, 2011. Supported by Nicholas and Angela Curtis. Installation view: Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, 2011. Photo: Aaron de Souza.

A look at contemporary Vietnam

A hazy vision of ‘truth’, blurring reality and fiction, pervades Lê’s oeuvre, where everything seems to have a duality or a multiplicity of points of view woven together – contrasting and yet co-existing. In this way, Lê also reveals what is often hidden behind the common object or the everyday action and image. Poking our perception of what we see, Lê makes us attentively look at such images – making us aware of what escapes our minds from habit.

This ability to draw attention and form critical thinking and observation is evident in his series of works inspired by everyday scenes on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. Beyond Signs and Signals (2009) takes from the common signs for motorbike repair shops made of an arrangement of tyres. Old CDs signal the availability of prohibited pornographic videos in Porn Here (2009), while The Infrastructure of Nationalism I (2009), a bicycle with all the Vietnamese flags for sale, is the same scene often seen at football and other matches deprived of its context.

Lê exhibited the latter piece at Sàn Art in Ho Chi Minh City in 2010, the only time he ever showed his work in Vietnam. In an interview with AsiaLife, Lê explained about the series and the work:

[…] people every day struggle to survive. They’re very creative in the way they use whatever they have in order to survive. […] if you look at the objects they created, it’s completely abstract. […] they’re a kind of a puzzle, a kind of abstraction. It’s so close to the language of contemporary art of today that all you have to do is switch the environment they’re in. So […] I just took them from the street and put them in the white cube of a gallery and it completely changed the meaning and the context and everything.

Lê’s portrayal of everyday scenes in Vietnam takes further expression in works that address the tourism industry with a humorous twist, mixing attractive images of beautiful, ‘exotic’ landscapes and scenes with images of war. Postcards in the “Vietnam Destination of the New Millenium” series (2005) that parody Vietnam’s tourism industry campaign, carry sarcastic messages directed at American tourists such as “Come back to Saigon! We promise we will not spit on you.” The contrast between unpleasant memories of violence and beautiful touristic destinations is evident in Lê’s recent exhibition at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong, “Tropicana Migration” (2015) – showing how the traces of the Vietnam War are an ironic attraction to this day.

Dinh Q. Lê, 'Come Back to Saigon' (from the series "Vietnam Destination of the New Millenium"), 2005, digital print. Image courtesy Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland.

Dinh Q. Lê, ‘Come Back to Saigon’ (from the series “Vietnam Destination of the New Millenium”), 2005, digital print. Image courtesy Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland.

A collector and supporter of Vietnamese art

Lê holds an extensive collection of Vietnamese art that spans the country’s millennial history. Antique ceramics, wooden statues and other objects sit alongside his more recently acquired international and Vietnamese contemporary art. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2009, Lê revealed having 40 works by Vietnamese contemporary artists, including Nguyen Thai Tuan, Tuan Andrew Nguyen, Tiffany Chung and Phu-Nam Thuc Ha, among others. In the interview, he explained:

My artistic practice informs my passion as a collector. My knowledge and understanding of form, of aesthetic, assisted me in choosing the pieces in my collection. Over the years, collecting also challenged my idea of contemporary. Many artists I know collect one thing or another. I think it is part of our practice. We always collect things that are interesting to us because it feeds into what we do.

Collecting is also a means to preserve memory and history, as Lê explains to ArtInfo:

It started out because I was afraid that my narratives would be lost, […] because I was worried that they would be gone forever […]. Then I started collecting more contemporary Vietnamese works […] which again is part of my history.

Dinh Q. Lê, 'Persistence of Memory #10', 2000-2001, C-print and linen tape. Collection : Joy of Giving Something, Inc., New York.

Dinh Q. Lê, ‘Persistence of Memory #10′, 2000-2001, C-print and linen tape. Collection : Joy of Giving Something, Inc., New York.

An artist, a collector and a dedicated supporter of Vietnam’s young contemporary art scene, Lê founded Sàn Art in Ho Chi Minh City in 2007 with his fellow Viet Kieu artists Tuan Andrew Nguyen, Tiffany Chung and Phu-Nam Thuc Ha. In his interview with Zoe Butt for Curators International, Lê explained how his idea for Sàn Art came about:

The biggest reason I wanted to do something to help was because of the respect I felt for young artists at the time. They were well trained as painters and traditional sculptors […] But they decided to abandon their traditional training and try out installation and conceptual art, even when they had little information on these practices. I thought they were very brave. As someone who came back to Vietnam as “Viet Kieu,” I did not want the local artists to think that I was trying to take over their territory or, as we say in Vietnamese, dai doi (“teaching them the facts of life”). The challenge was how to get the local artists to trust me and to understand that I was just trying to help.

Today, Sàn Art is the most active non-profit art space in the country, promoting the development of the Vietnamese art scene at home and internationally, and helping its artists evolve their practice and step onto the international art stage.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

787

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The puppeteer: Wael Shawky’s ‘Cabaret Crusades’ at the Mathaf and MoMA PS1



Egyptian artist Wael Shawky opens up a dialogue on religious and historical interpretation with two major exhibitions this summer.

Wael Shawky’s epic oeuvre explores the interconnected histories of East and West, and offers a renewed insight of the past from an Arab perspective.

Wael Shawky, 'Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo', 2012, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 60min:00sec:53. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

Wael Shawky, ‘Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo’, 2012, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 60:53 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

The Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, is holding a major exhibition of works by Egyptian artist Wael Shawky (b. 1971, Alexandria) entitled “Wael Shawky: Crusades and Other Stories” until 16 August 2015. Two of his acclaimed series Cabaret Crusades (2010-2014) and Al Araba Al Madfuna (2012-2015) are being shown. Simultaneously and thousands of miles east in New York, MoMA PS1 reveals the solo show “Wael Shawky: Cabaret Crusades”, until 31 August 2015.

Wael Shawky, 'Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo', 2012, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 60min00sec53. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

Wael Shawky, ‘Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo’, 2012, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 60:53 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

Views of a shared humanity

At a time when mutual misconceptions, prejudice, religious and ideological extremism are rendering dialogue between the Western and Arab worlds heated and uncertain, Shawky’s work is being displayed from East to West as if to foster solidarity and understanding between the two regions. Shawky’s powerful oeuvre offers us a view of a shared humanity – one that leaves no-one guilty or innocent, where all of us are ruled by the same tendencies, the same nature. Ultimately he suggests, we all are ‘guilty’ of being human while history endlessly repeats itself.

Abdellah Karroum, Director of Mathaf and chief curator in Doha, explains in the press release of the exhibition:

Wael Shawky touches on subjects of history and political and social change, while rethinking models of artistic practice to invent new visual languages. His films, installations, and performances explore histories of culture and literature in the contemporary moment by recreating written and oral testaments of societal, economic, and political change.

Wael Shawky, 'Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo', 2012, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 60min:00sec:53. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

Wael Shawky, ‘Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo’, 2012, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 60:53 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

The Crusades from an Arab perspective

The ‘anti-epic’ trilogy Cabaret Crusades offers an animated world of marionettes made of wood, ceramic and Murano glass, inacting the bloody and violent history of the Crusades – a merciless war waged on the Holy Land by the Catholic Church in Medieval times. Shawky’s project was inspired by the historical essay The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (1984), written by French-Lebanese historian Amin Maalouf.

In a recent interview with Abdellah Karroum, Shawky said:

Rather than dealing with this historical written text as something archival, I am trying to discover more through transforming this into a new form of creation.

Shawky’s intention was to address the paradoxical ways in which humanity arrives at and is blinded by faith. Most importantly, Maalouf’s text provided a new perspective on the Medieval carnage, as Shawky revealed while talking to the Financial Times:

It shows you that history can be told from a different angle … from the Arab side.

Wael Shawky, 'Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files', 2010, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 31min:49sec. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

Wael Shawky, ‘Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files’, 2010, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 31:49 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

The same moment from the other side

Throughout the series, the history of the Crusades takes unexpected twists and turns, where the enemy in fact is not only the franj – the Christian crusaders – but also a string of ruthless local plots and intrigues by the people in power. The dialogue is in Classical Arabic, which is difficult to understand by most Arabic speaking people, with English subtitles. At various points during the film, the marionette ‘actors’ break into song that almost sounds like weeping.

Click here to watch Blouin ArtInfo’s video of MoMA PS1 and Wael Shawky on “Cabaret Crusades” on YouTube

In the series, three different groups of hand-crafted marionettes take on the roles of historical figures and characters. In a video interview with Blouin ArtInfo about his MoMA PS1 exhibition, Shawky explains how the idea of using puppets to recount history from a more surreal point of view came about:

It came first, the idea of using marionettes in this series, from reading about the speech from Pope Urban II. There are two things [that are] really interesting in this speech: first, as I said many times, that it was not really documented [and] that led to the fact that today we have four different versions of the same speech. And that tells me a lot about the idea of re-written history, which is really interesting. Connecting this idea to the book by Amin Maalouf […] who says the fact that the same history has no facts, actually, because it can be told by different points of view. […] It [the work] has this layer of surrealism, for sure, [which] is part of my language. Most of the time, the object itself calls for its identity, its character.

Wael Shawky, 'Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File', 2010, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 31min:49sec. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

Wael Shawky, ‘Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File’, 2010, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 31:49 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

The first film, Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files (2010), depicts the early Crusades from 1096-1099 AD in the Holy Land around Jerusalem. For this work, Shawky used 200-year-old wooden marionettes from the Lupi collection in Turin, Italy. In a 2013 interview with Art in America, he reveals how he managed to borrow such antiques:

For the first “Cabaret Crusades” [The Horror Show File], I was invited by Michelangelo Pistoletto to Cittadellarte, his place in Biella, Italy. He was fascinated by my idea [to create a film about the Crusades using marionettes], so I had support from his institution from the start. I went to see various marionette collections, and found a 200-year-old group belonging to a family called Lupi. […] it was the most beautiful collection I’d seen. I went to the Pistoletto Foundation, and they managed to convince the Lupi Collection to lend us over 120 marionettes.

Wael Shawky, 'Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files', 2010, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 31min:49sec. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

Wael Shawky, ‘Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files’, 2010, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 31:49 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

The second part of the series, Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo (2012), recounts the First and Second Crusades from 1099-1145 AD, employing ceramic marionettes custom-made in Aubagne, Provence, home of the École de Céramique, where Shawky had a residency from October 2011 to April 2012. After the first film, Shawky decided to “do something different” and that he needed to make his own design and figures. As he shared with Art in America:

I found that the only way to make the characters exactly as I wanted them was in clay. […] Aubagne is a center that produces santons, the small statues that show the Christian Holy Family – the Nativity figures – with little houses. When I went there I decided it was a great way to work, because in addition to a ceramics school, the town has a museum for ceramics and a film school. And I needed a lot of people to complete this project – I could not do it alone.

Wael Shawky, 'Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo', 2012, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 60min:00sec:53. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

Wael Shawky, ‘Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo’, 2012, (video still) HD video, colour, sound, 60:53 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and Hamburg.

Creating the ceramic marionettes allowed Shawky to give his characters the exact appearance he had in mind. The faces of the puppets all feature a combination of animal and human features, like the long neck and sharp teeth of a camel, or the pointy ears and muzzle of a cat.

Wael Shawky, a marionette from 'Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala', 2014. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Beirut and Hamburg.

Wael Shawky, a marionette from ‘Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala’, 2014. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Beirut and Hamburg.

The third and final instalment, Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala (2014), debuted earlier this year in the exhibition at MoMA PS1. Shawky commissioned his marionettes from Murano glass artists in Venice, Italy. The handblown glass puppets are clothed in finely elaborate fabrics sewn by an Italian tailor. The designs for his final characters are inspired by traditional African sculpture.

Wael Shawky, a marionette from 'Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala', 2014. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Beirut and Hamburg.

Wael Shawky, a marionette from ‘Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala’, 2014. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Beirut and Hamburg.

Quoted in the press release of his MoMA PS1 exhibition, Shawky says that the marionettes help to create a “surreal and mythical atmosphere that blends drama and cynicism, telling a story of remote events that could hardly be more topical today. [The work] also implies a criticism of the way history has been written and manipulated.”

Wael Shawky, 'Al Araba Al Madfuna I', 2012, (video still), HD video, black and white, sound, 21min:21sec. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut.

Wael Shawky, ‘Al Araba Al Madfuna I’, 2012, (video still), HD video, black and white, sound, 21:21 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut.

Penetrating the true meaning

Another film trilogy by Shawky is being shown in the Mathaf exhibition in Qatar. Al Araba Al Madfuna (2012 – 2015) retells the stories of Egyptian novelist Mohamed Mustagab, interwoven with the artist’s personal experiences in Upper Egypt.

In this series, children take the place of marionettes, lip-synching adult voices and recounting the stories in Classical Arabic. Using puppets and children is a device that Shawky uses to penetrate the real meaning behind his films. As the artist explains in his interview with Ben East,

The reason I Iike to use puppets and why children speak adult parts […] is that I like to remove the drama. Not concentrating on an actor makes you think about the real value of the text. Even if I don’t believe everything that is said, in a way that’s the point, too, in terms of how I think history has been written. My work is always about people making their own judgements.

Wael Shawky, 'Al Araba Al Madfuna I', 2012, (video still), HD video, black and white, sound, 21min:21sec. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut.

Wael Shawky, ‘Al Araba Al Madfuna I’, 2012, (video still), HD video, black and white, sound, 21:21 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut.

The first film in the series was shown at Berlin’s KW Institute for Contemporary Art in 2012 when Shawky told the art magazine Nafas how the idea for the work came about:

The idea goes back to an experience I had ten years ago. A friend invited me to accompany him to Al Araba Al Madfuna, a village in Upper Egypt. My friend claimed he could heal people and even find pharaonic treasures under the ground. Upper Egypt has a long tradition of treasure hunting; so-called sheikhs are brought in to help. They are something like shamans who call on “spirits” to find the location of hidden graves of the old Egyptians. This metaphysical world has always fascinated me, so I accompanied him to Al Araba Al Madfuna.

Wael Shawky, 'Al Araba Al Madfuna II', 2013, (video still), HD video, black and white, sound, 33m:00s. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut.

Wael Shawky, ‘Al Araba Al Madfuna II’, 2013, (video still), HD video, black and white, sound, 33 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut.

The film’s main story is shot entirely in a single room, referencing the typical assembly room reserved for men only where he had spent the three days of his visit to Al Araba Al Madfuna (‘The Buried Vehicle’ in English). The village is set on the hill where, in the early 20th century, a temple of the god Osiris was unearthed. The story recited in the film is, as Shawky explains to Nafas, “about how one generation inherits the ideologies of its forebears, how they believe in them, and how such ideas can be taken to extremes”.

Wael Shawky, 'Al Araba Al Madfuna II', 2013, (video still), HD video, black and white, sound, 33m:00s. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut.

Wael Shawky, ‘Al Araba Al Madfuna II’, 2013, (video still), HD video, black and white, sound, 33 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut.

For the second instalment, Al Araba Al Madfuna II (2013), Shawky used two different stories by Egyptian writer Mohamed Mostagab (1938–2005) for the script – The Offering and Horsemen Adore Perfumes. In The Offering, an entire village loses its ability to speak and, after an initial struggle to find a cure, adapts to survive and prosper by other means. Horsemen Adore Perfumes describes the failed attempts of successive horsemen to overthrow a society’s despotic ruler. Shawky charts these communities’ impulse to use magic, or to rely on a single individual, to achieve new levels of comfort or prosperity. The third film of the series, produced in 2015, was commissioned by and is premiering at Mathaf’s exhibition.

Wael Shawky, 'Al Araba Al Madfuna II', 2013, (video still), HD video, black and white, sound, 33m:00s. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut.

Wael Shawky, ‘Al Araba Al Madfuna II’, 2013, (video still), HD video, black and white, sound, 33 min. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut.

A vision of duality

Shawky explains to Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President of the Sharjah Art Foundation, why the scenes that the children are acting out are in fact different from the stories being recited:

[…] you hear a tale by Mustagab but you’re seeing another story. I’m trying to say you have two systems, working parallel to each other in this series, or you have kids with the voice of adults, you’re hearing a story and seeing another story in front of you. Like narrating history- you’re hearing, the way Mustagab writes, I think we still have this inkling that it’s not true, it’s not real, there is something we don’t believe, and that’s always the outcome from mixing these two systems.

This duality of vision – or these two systems recording stories and histories from differing points of view – resulting in a blurring of reality and fiction, is typical of Shawky. As he explains the Crusades trilogy in the interview with Ben East, the artist concludes:

I wanted to look at little sections of Arab history, because most of it is told by the West. It’s not about telling you who is wrong or right, it’s thinking about how you see the same moment in history from the other side.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

786

Related Topics: Egyptian artists, film, sculpture, video, museum shows, events in Doha, events in New York

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‘Beauté Congo’ at Fondation Cartier in Paris – in pictures



The Fondation Cartier in Paris unveils “Beauté Congo”, an exhibition that captures the development of Congolese art from the 1920s to present day. 

Chief curator André Magnin brings together 90 years of artistic development in the Central African country. 

Kiripi Katembo, 'Subir', Un regard series, 2011 Lightjet, 60 x 90 cm. Collection of the artist © Kiripi Katembo.

Kiripi Katembo, ‘Subir’, Un regard series, 2011, lightjet, 60 x 90 cm. Collection of the artist. © Kiripi Katembo.

“Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko” runs through 15 November 2015 at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris. The survey spans 350 works by 41 artists, ranging from the birth of modern painting in Congo in the 1920s to the present day – and weaving in music, sculpture, photography and comic art.

View of the exhibition 'Beauté Congo - 1926-2015 - Congo Kitoko, July 2015 - November 2015, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris. Photo: Luc Boegly.

View of the exhibition “Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko”, July 2015 – November 2015, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris. Photo: Luc Boegly.

Albert Lubaki, 'Untitled', 1927, ink on paper, 52 × 66 cm, private collection, Paris, © Albert Lubaki.

Albert Lubaki, ‘Untitled’, 1927, ink on paper, 52 × 66 cm, private collection, Paris. © Albert Lubaki.

Chief curator André Magnin took as his starting point the 1920s when the Congo was still a Belgian colony. He presents artists such as Albert and Antoinette Lubaki, who were among the first artists to create works on paper. As the press release explains:

“Figurative or geometric in style, their works represent village life, the natural world, dreams and legends with great poetry and imagination. Following World War II, the French painter Pierre Romain-Desfossés moved to the Congo and founded an art workshop called the Atelier du Hangar. In this workshop, active until the death of Desfossés in 1954, painters such as Bela Sara, Mwenze Kibwanga and Pili Pili Mulongoy learned to freely exercize their imaginations, creating colorful and enchanting works in their own highly inventive and distinctive styles.”

Antoinette Lubaki, 'Untitled', c.1929, watercolour on paper, 55 x 73 cm, Collection Pierre Loos, Bruxelles, © Antoinette Lubaki. Photo © Michael De Plaen.

Antoinette Lubaki, ‘Untitled’, c. 1929, watercolour on paper, 55 x 73 cm, Collection Pierre Loos, Bruxelles, © Antoinette Lubaki. Photo: Michael De Plaen.

View of the exhibition 'Beauté Congo - 1926-2015 - Congo Kitoko', July 2015 -  November 2015, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris. Photo: Luc Boegly.

View of the exhibition “Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko”, July 2015 – November 2015, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris. Photo: Luc Boegly.

Moving through the space, the show charts the developments through the decades – and the traditions that have continued to evolve. The 1970s saw the rise of an important new wave of painters – who were meshing tradition with new urban realities. As the press release explains:

“…the exhibition “Art Partout”, presented in Kinshasa in 1978, revealed to the public the painters Chéri Samba, Chéri Chérin, and Moke and other artists, many of whom are still active today. Fascinated by their urban environment and collective memory, they would call themselves “popular painters… Today younger artists like J.-P. Mika and Monsengo Shula, tuned-in to current events on a global scale, carry on the approach of their elders.”

Chéri Samba, 'Oui, il faut réfléchir', 2014, acrylic and glitters on canvas, 135 x 200 cm, collection of the artist, © Chéri Samba Photo © André Morin

Chéri Samba, ‘Oui, il Faut Réfléchir’, 2014, acrylic and glitters on canvas, 135 x 200 cm, collection of the artist, © Chéri Samba. Photo: André Morin

Ambroise Ngaimoko, 'Euphorie de deux jeunes gens qui se retrouvent', 1972, gelatin silver print, 27 x 27 cm, collection of the artist, © Ambroise Ngaimoko. Photo © André Morin.

Ambroise Ngaimoko, ‘Euphorie de Deux Jeunes Gens Qui Se Retrouvent’, 1972, gelatin silver print, 27 x 27 cm, collection of the artist, © Ambroise Ngaimoko. Photo: André Morin.

The show focuses on painting but also delves into photography, including the intriguing Studio 3Z. As the press release explains: “Recording the world of SAPE (The Society of Ambiancemakers and Elegant People) and body-builders, Ambroise Ngaimoko, from the Studio 3Z photographed the attitudes and ardor of the youth of Kinshasa in the 1970s.”

Music is also worked into the experience with visitors able to listen to songs by Tabu Ley Rochereau, Franco and OK Jazz, Mbilia Bel, Papa Wemba and more, all chosen by Vincent Kenis of Crammed Discs in collaboration with Césarine Bolya. The duo’s documentary, Ndule Ya Kala, features interviews with figures from Kinshasa’s 1960s music scene.

View of the exhibition 'Beauté Congo - 1926-2015 - Congo Kitoko', July 2015 -  November 2015, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris. Photo: Luc Boegly.

View of the exhibition “Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko”, July 2015 – November 2015, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris. Photo: Luc Boegly.

View of the exhibition "Beauté Congo - 1926-2015 - Congo Kitoko", July 2015 - November 2015, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris. Photo: Luc Boegly.

View of the exhibition “Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko”, July 2015 – November 2015, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris. Photo: Luc Boegly.

The exhibition follows the Fondation Cartier’s previous solo shows of artists from Congo including “Bodys Isek Kingelez” (1999) and “J’aime Chéri Samba” (2004) and the collective exhibitions “Un Art Populaire” (2001) and “Histoires de Voir, Show and Tell” (2012). As Magnin told The New York Times:

“We wanted to show the broader public exceptional works from a continent where the television only presents dark, disastrous images of war and illness.”

Clare Tyrrell-Morin

788

Related Topics: African artists, paintingpicture feasts, curatorsfoundations, events in Paris

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Art Radar seeks part-time Admin and Social Media Intern (paid internship) – 6 months



Administrative and Social Media Intern – contemporary art publishing

Art Radar, one of the leading online platforms covering contemporary art news and trends in Asia and beyond, is seeking a paid Intern to work on administrative and social media tasks.

This is a compelling chance for somebody with an interest in contemporary Asian art to be part of a growing and dynamic international arts platform. There may be an opportunity for career progression at the end of six months, for the right candidate – previous Interns have gone on the take up writing and managerial positions within Art Radar.

Description

The Art Radar Intern is ideally a Journalism or Arts graduate with an understanding of online publishing, social media, and a passion for contemporary Asian art. Reporting to the Managing Editor, the Intern will be responsible for:

  • Editorial Assistance: updating our curated listings of employment opportunities and art events. You will need to practively source new opportunities online, update the page, create new pages for new opportunities, create a weekly post to advertise new opportunities.
  • Social media: researching, creating and maintaining new platforms and strategies supervised by the Managing Editor. Prior experience in social media marketing and/or strong social media presence is desirable.
  • General administrative and editorial tasks as necessary. These may include assisting with Art Radar’s ongoing projects, transcribing interviews, layout and copy editing tasks for the weekly newsletter.

Requirements

For this position, you must:

  • have a tertiary-level education
  • have a background in art history, contemporary art, the art market or a related field (desirable but not essential)
  • have native-level English language ability, written and spoken
  • be able to quickly find information using on- and off-line research methods
  • be familiar with the WordPress platform
  • have reliable access to the Internet and your own computer
  • be willing to commit to regular hours each week during weekdays, and be flexible on weekends at short notice if needed
  • be familiar with social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn

This role will entail between 6-7 hours a week (estimate) once the Intern is fully trained. However, for the right candidate this role may expand to include further tasks related to the administration of the website, so a candidate with the ability to take on more work/hours is strongly desired and will be given preference.

A background in art history, contemporary art or a related field and experience working for an online trade publication in any area is desirable, but not essential. Candidates with no experience in either may be considered for this role, depending on other skills.

Remuneration

The Intern will be paid a base rate of USD100 per month.

How to apply

To apply for this position, please email your resume and a cover letter to artradarrecruitment@gmail.com.

Application deadline: Thursday 20 August 2015 .

Shortlisted applicants will be contacted by email and may be required to attend an interview over Skype. Only shortlisted and successful applicants will be contacted. The internship begins in September 2015.

Please direct questions about this position to artradarrecruitment@gmail.com.

Art Radar operates a remote office only with an internationally based staff.

Days of work per week are to be decided during the recruitment process.