Hito Steyerl

HS14-001.15-600x900 MG_4389-800x533 MG_4534.2-800x533

Hito Steyerl

Work from “How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational Installation” at Andrew Kreps, New York.

“The Andrew Kreps Gallery is pleased to present How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational Installation, an exhibition by Berlin-based artist Hito Steyerl.  The exhibition features two videos as well as sculptural-photographic objects, and is her second with the gallery.


Hito Steyerl is among the most adroit observers of our thoroughly globalized, digitized condition. Her practice describes with uncommon precision the fluidity and mutability of images—how they are produced, interpreted, translated, packaged, transported, and consumed by a multitude of users.


Her video, How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, begins with a sweeping shot of photo calibration targets in the California desert utilized by the military and acts as an instructional film on how to avoid being seen in an age of digital surveillance. The proposals for this include becoming smaller than the pixels of high-resolution satellite surveillance (1 foot) or vanishing in virtual shopping malls using green-screen effects, living in a gated community, or even being a female over 50.


In her own words:  “This condition opens up within and by means of an avalanche of digital images, which multiply and proliferate while real people disappear or are fixed, scanned and over-represented by an overbearing architecture of surveillance. How do people disappear in an age of total over-visibility? Which huge institutional and legal effort has to be made to keep things unspoken and unspeakable even if they are pretty obviously sitting right in front of everyone’s eyes? Are people hidden by too many images? Do they go hide amongst other images? Do they become images?”


In another video entitled Strike (2010) she tests the idea to literal breaking point, smashing a blank LCD screen to create a jagged abstract pattern. The screen is destroyed “on-screen”, and the “physical” viewing apparatus becomes palpably present. The film powerfully reminds us that images also have a physical existence; the limitations of its production, replication and dispersal can fundamentally alter its impact.


In addition, the artist explores a system of physical circulation between the viewer and her art works through a series of precise architectural inventions in the space, with a collaboration with the architects at Studio Markus Miessen,Hito Steyerl is a filmmaker, video artist and writer. Currently, the Van Abbe Museum in the Netherlands is hosting her first large-scale mid-career survey show, and in the last year she has had solo exhibitions at both the Art Institute Chicago and the ICA, London. Her work has been included in the 2013 Venice and Istanbul biennales, the 2010 Gwangju and Taipeh biennales, the 2008 Shanghai Biennale, Documenta12 in Kassel in 2007 and Manifesta 5 in 2004.  She is a professor of Art and Multimedia at the University of Arts in Berlin.” – Andrew Kreps, New York.

Alex M. Lee

Image converted using ifftoany Image converted using ifftoany Image converted using ifftoany Image converted using ifftoany let_us_now_03

Alex M. Lee

Work from his oeuvre

“My work is an investigation on the possibilities of digital imagery in an increasingly technical and automated world. Originally born out of pictures theory, my practice focuses on the nature of artifice and immateriality within the digital & virtual image. I consider the virtual in relationship to the phrase “technical image” coined by philosopher Vilem Flusser in which photography and mechanical reproduction heralded new forms of perceptual experience and knowledge. We are living in an age of the ‘elite technical image’ where increasingly complex technical apparatuses are being utilized for the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge. The material products of these technical apparatuses often find their way into my work, whether they be from sources from Science or from Modernism.

There is an additional phenomenological layer to my time-based works. The work utilizes the loop, slow pacing, and the relatively still to great effect. The temporal disjunction from the natural and the endless repetition allude to an abstraction of time and perception. I view these works as ‘moving pictures’ rather than animations per se. The works connection to light is derived with algorithms within the computer. Thus, the images indexical connection to light is purely artificial. My work is thereby ‘generatively indexical’, utilizing the tools and devices found in physics simulation in order to arrive at a new formal possibility. Often times the work alludes to notions of the sublime or surreal within the context of the virtual – playing off hyperrealism, an aspect to the “simulacra” as coined by Jean Baudrillard.”

Richard Maxwell

Richard Maxwell

Work with the New York Players.

I saw an early version of “Isolde” last summer, and I wanted to ask what the genesis was for your show: Were you inspired by reading Goethe? Or Wagner’s opera? Or just by yourself?

Just myself. And then I had a dream where a word presented itself: “Isolde.” I had already written about a couple hiring an architect to realize a dream house, and so the love triangle component was there—maybe I knew the story before that? But not that I recall. Then I looked up the story on Wikipedia and made myself available to elements of the Tristan and Isolde tale.

Have you ever directed an opera on the scale of Wagner’s “Tristan”?

I have no experience in the opera industry. Are they hiring?

Tell me something about your Isolde, and working with your wife, Tory. Is it hard to watch someone you love fall in love, even if it’s fictive?

Isolde is a famous actress who is losing the ability to remember her lines and pieces of her past. I think about Gena Rowlands in “Opening Night.” I think about Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.” I think about Ibsen’s “Nora.” I cast against type with Tory. Tory has an innocent, awkward allure that feels pretty raw onstage. Combine that with the diva-like Isolde and it’s a potent mix, and interesting from a power point of view. Top-knot and heels will change a girl. And I’m fine with any fictive lovemaking between her and Gary. I went to high school with Gary. [Gary Wilmes, the actor who plays the architect.] I know that shouldn’t necessarily be comforting.

You come from a theatrical family. Does it just make sense to you that you would be interested in someone who shared your interest in theatre?

I suppose, but when I think about my family in regards to “Isolde,” it isn’t show business associations that come to mind. Maybe because I feel like I’ve spent my whole life inside a theatre.

You can see where these questions are going: I want to get your opinion about love.

I didn’t see it coming! I started this play to talk about realizing perfection, or a curated perfection, actually. Maybe thinking about desire, but not thinking about love. Maybe I can blame the old Celtic tale for bringing me back to love. But I write and write and keep writing, I also do a lot of cutting, like everybody else. But it seems as you whittle and scratch at the thing you’re trying to shape right, it’s always love that remains, in some form.

Tell me something about the script. How long did you work on it?

It’s something I shelved back in 2009, after a couple months of hammering away. It was painfully normal, I remember feeling that. Then the opportunity came to do a show at Theater Basel [September, 2013] and I thought of this play sitting on a shelf and found that maybe normal isn’t such bad thing. Anyway, the basic parts seemed serviceable and the writing seemed to come. Having a deadline helped, but maybe I wasn’t ready five years ago either.

How did the actors respond to the script?

I think they thought is was funny. But responses from these guys are guarded. And I don’t really solicit comments.

You often make a text as plain and poetical as possible. How do you reduce so many big ideas in your work? In rehearsal or purely through rewriting?

I try to listen to the room as much as possible. In writer terms, I know that can mean what other people think about the writing, but I mean how words are just like sounds and how they bounce around in the air. I also really care that things make sense, from a character point of view. Which doesn’t mean I’m always justifying the words psychologically. I like the tonal differences in how people communicate.

How do you cast? Based on looks or general feeling?

Yeah… I try to work with people who are genuinely curious and have the ability to forego what they know.

Can you talk about what’s coming up next?

My next show is called “Custodian of a Man,” and will premiere at the Walker Arts Center, in January of 2015, then The Kitchen/P.S. 122 will show it, in March. With “Custodian of a Man,“ I’ll enter into the darkness of the underworld in order to continue my exploration of myth and minimalism, drawing on the epics of Dante’s “Inferno” and Milton’s “Paradise Lost” to tell a contemporary American story chronicling the moral decline of a man.

The story, basically, is about a guy named Azzi. a convalescing martial artist, having been injured in a brutal match. He’s cared for by a thirteen year-old girl, trying to get his career back on track. Azzi instead gets himself involved in a series of terrible incidents with bad people. The girl remains his witness.” – Richard Maxwell & Hilton Als, The New Yorker

Claus Rasmussen

CLAUS-RASMUSSEN_I-have-found-over-the-years-that-a-good-place-to-work-is-between-240-and-250_TLG-Install-2-800x533 CLAUS-RASMUSSEN_I-have-found-over-the-years-that-a-good-place-to-work-is-between-240-and-250_TLG-Install-1-690x700 CLAUS-RASMUSSEN_I-have-found-over-the-years-that-a-good-place-to-work-is-between-240-and-250_2007-768x700 140705_Leighton_001-1-466x700

Claus Rasmussen


I’ve found over the years that a good place to work is 240 to 245 will give us good white with detail. Anything above 245 is going to start to burn out. On the shadow side, 20 to 25 is a good point of black with detail. Below 20, we’re going to start to block up when we go to the printed page. When we’re working with digital capture, think of it as like transparency film. We cannot overexpose it. It’s very hard to bring back detail that has been overexposed. A good rule of thumb is expose for the highlights and process for the shadows, meaning we can always go into Photoshop and adjust the curves and so forth to create better shadow detail, but we cannot bring back highlight detail once it’s gone too far.
This is the digital interface for the DCB2. It is similar to other cameras. They all have a detail window to show you what you’re looking at close up, an overview window, some type of way to adjust the tonal curve, put in resolution and DPI.
When I’m looking at this, when I’m photographing, what I’m most concerned is where my highlight values are. I want to make sure that I do not overexpose these highlights. Placing these highlights at about 240 to 245 will assure me that I’ve got the proper exposure and I can actually open up the rest of the area in toning.
I’m using this example because it’s a very contrast-y shot. We have a white shoe on a white background, and we have a very black, dark sole. Now, you could go in lighting and put in mirrors and spotlights and open this area up, but I’m looking for a very natural falloff. I have a soft box overhead lighting up the background and one soft box over to the side lighting from the left side, and then I also have a fill card on the right side.
The thing that I’m most concerned about when looking at this interface is going to be my curves window, where actually I’m looking at the actual histogram of the image with the curves applied on top of it.
As I’m looking at this, I’m applying a curve that’s going to give me a very good general exposure, and then I’m saving that file. Then, without even changing my exposure, I’m just going to make some adjustments to this curve and I’m going to widen the curve and open the values up, so I have a very much overexposed image, where my black area of the shoe has now been properly exposed but my white areas are totally blown out. I’m not concerned with how blown out these are because I’m only looking to work with the dark areas. We’re going to use luminosity masking to bring these images together.
Moving ahead, I’ve opened up both images into Photoshop, where we can see them both on the screen at the same time. The normally exposed image, we have very good detail in the highlight area, but the shadow area is blocked up. In the second exposure, we have blown-out highlight detail, but we have very, very good exposure down here in the shadow area, where the bottom of the shoe is, is what I’m most concerned with this photograph.
Before I start, I want to make a quick check here to my Quick Mask mode. I’m going to actually double-click on the Quick Mask mode to bring up my Quick Mask options, to make sure that my color indicates the selected area. This is the opposite of the way the default is set up. In real life, in working in the darkroom, the masked area is the colored area, but in this particular case, I find it much easier to see the color as the selected area. Also, the color needs to be opacity 100 percent. That way, we can truly see how dense the selection really is when we’re visually looking at it.
I’m going to say OK to get out of the Quick Mask mode before I hit this technique. I first learned this from Katrin Eismann, and she calls this technique “the claw” for its very odd keyboard shortcut — command-option-tilde. We’re going to first start by going command-zero, control-zero on the PC, to bring me up to full size. I’m going to now apply my claw, which is command-option-tilde.
Now, obviously, the selection is there, but we can’t really see what it’s doing. I’m going to click into the Quick Mask icon to literally see that this area right here, all this white area, has now been grabbed by this selection, and basically, the clear area of this shoe is not being grabbed. That’s not exactly what we want. We want it to be the exact opposite of that.
I’m going to get out of the Quick Mask mode by hitting the Q key again, and I’m going to use the keyboard command to inverse the selection, command-shift-I. That’d be control-shift-I on the PC. Hit my Q key again. Now this is what I’m trying to look at. I’m trying to grab a mask that is grabbing all the dark area of the shot and leaving the white area alone. Think of it as the darker the pixel, the more it’s being grabbed, and the brighter the pixel, the less it’s being grabbed.
Now, we need to make another change here. This is fine to get started, but we need to actually look at this. We can adjust exactly how much of that area is being grabbed by going into levels, and you can see, as I adjust my levels, you can literally see it change. I can actually grab more or less of the black area. I’m going to move this out of the way. You can actually see it changing. The red area is indicating the area that the selection has grabbed. If I wanted to grab just the very, very lowest areas of the shot, I could do that, or I could grab more. In this case, if I wanted to grab the denser, I could move the shadow side up. I’m really looking to try to grab almost all the area but leaving all the white area behind.
I’m going to hit OK. Once I’ve hit that selection, I can hit my Q key again, take me out of the Quick Mask mode, and I’m going to go ahead and do a command-minus, control-minus on a PC, bring me down, so I can see both images at the same time. The key thing at this point is now, holding the shift key down, I’m also in the move tool. I’ve hit the V key to bring me into the move tool, right here. I’m going to go ahead and hold the shift key down, and I’m going to drag this area into the other shot and it’s going to perfectly register this new area on top of the shoe.
Now that I’ve dragged that brighter selection over here, let’s go ahead and go to my layers palette so that we can see that we have a new layer in our layers palette. Let me go ahead and make this full screen, command-zero, and let’s take a look at what we really have.
If I turn off my background layer, what we really have here is just the black part of the shoe. If we go in closer, we can see that we’ve really left all the white part behind. We did not have to go in and cut all the path out, or even when painting the images together, we did not have to be very careful about where we paint from because we’ve left all the white area behind.
Let’s take a look at that. Now, we can still use our layer masking and opacity to really control it even farther.
While we’re on this layer here, I can control the layer opacity by bringing it down, starting at zero. You can see how we’re basically — I’m going to go ahead and use my keyboard commands for this. I’ll just type in 20 percent. You can see it actually getting — I’m going to zoom in a little on that again. 20 percent. 30 percent. 50 percent. 80 percent. 100 percent. We’re actually brightening up that area, much, much, much more detailed area than what we had before.
Taking it back to full size, I need to add a layer mask by clicking on the new-mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette. By clicking on that mask, I will apply it to that layer. Now I can go ahead and pick black to hide, and I’ll go ahead and grab a good-size brush, and I’ll adjust that just a little bit with my bracket key.
As I paint with black, I want to put 50 percent. I can literally erase it where I don’t want it. If I have a little bit too much in this area, I can start bringing it back. I didn’t want to fill in too much of the shadow area in here. If I have a hard time seeing where that is, I can actually click the background layer off and say, “You know what? I really didn’t want to bring any of that area in, and I didn’t want to bring any of this area over here, and I didn’t really want to brighten up the shoe, but I did want to brighten up the bottom.” I’m going to hit my X key to revert that back with the other colors, bring back my white.
The nice thing about it is it’s totally editable. I’m now just nice, giving it a couple of strokes. I’m bringing it back in a few areas where I might’ve taken it off a little bit too much, bringing back my background exposure.
Now I want to turn that on and off once or twice. It looks like it’s a little bit of a problem down here at the bottom, so I’m going to go in close here by zooming in. I think it looks like I need to go ahead and take out a little bit of this down here, so I’m going to go to a much smaller brush and grab about a 100-pixel brush. I’m painting with black, so I’m going to go back to my black color and I want to just take out a little bit of this down in here, because obviously, what I did is I brought in a little too much of the shadow area, which is really not part of that shoe. This is going to make it look a little more natural.
You still need to use your layer masking. By applying the mask first, it isolates the black area away from the mid-tones and the highlights, and it makes it much easier to cut together.
Let’s go ahead and take this down to full size, command-zero. What happens if we didn’t have the ability to take a second shot but we still have this same kind of problem?
Let me go ahead and throw that layer away. Let’s say for a second we only have the one shot and we still have to correct that. I find that it’s easier to correct it with properly exposed pixels than to fix the pixels, but sometimes we don’t have that second shot. If we only had the one shot, this is the one-shot workaround.
Let’s go ahead and apply that same mask again. This time, I’m going to use a different way to apply it. Let me go to the channels palette. Where you see the RGB, I’m going to hold down my command key and click in this channel, and that’s going to apply that same mask again. If I look at that mask, I hit my Q to bring me into Quick Mask mode. I can see the mask. Obviously, it’s grabbing all the white area. I’m going to hit the Q again to get me out of that. Command-shift-I inverses the selection so I can look at that.
OK, well that’s very nice. We need to go ahead and apply some levels to this. Command-L for levels. I’m going to go ahead. I want it to grab a lot less of that area so I’m going to go ahead and move the levels until it looks like I’m grabbing just more of the bottom of the shoe there.
That’s getting closer to what I want to do right there. And say, “OK.”
Now I’m going to need to go ahead and edit that a little bit. While I’m in the quick mask mode, I’m going to go ahead and just paint the areas I really don’t want to be affected as I paint with white.
I’m going to go ahead and move it right up to 100 percent by hitting zero. I’m just going ahead and I’m just painting in all the areas that I don’t really want. I’m going to go ahead and make my brush bigger by using the bracket keys and I just basically don’t really want to affect this area down here. I just really want to affect the sole of the shoe.
As I get closer to the sole of the shoe I want there to be a little more feathers. I want to put it down to 30 percent so that as I stroke it, it’s not going to leave a harsh edge of the brush. It will be a little more gradual in this area.
I’m going to get out of the quick mask mode by hitting the Q key. I can see my selection again.
What I’m going to do now, I’m going to go back to my layers palette. I’m going to make sure I’m in my…Obviously, I have one layer. I’m going to use the keyboard command Command-J. That’s going to take whatever’s a selection and make that into its own layer.
If we take a look at this, I’ll turn off the background layer. As we look at this layer, we can see that all the other part of the layer has been dropped away. But obviously, just having it on isn’t going to do anything. We need to change the layer mode.
What we’re going to do is we’re going to change that to screen mode. I’m going to blow this up a little bigger and I’m going to change this from normal to screen. This is really going to brighten up that shoe. Now I can actually go in here and play with my levels.
Command-L. I’m going to go ahead and brighten up that area by bringing it in. I’m also going to add more contrast by bringing the blacks in. Now, all of a sudden, I’ve got a lot more information here.
Let me go ahead and hit “OK,” and we’ll turn that layer on and off once. We can see what exactly that’s doing. You can see how that’s brightening it up by being in screen mode.

Again, I would have to add a layer masked to that by clicking the “New Mask” icon and then paint with black, obviously, down here where the shadow is. It’s a little bit of a line showing there so I’m going to put it on 50 percent. I’m actually painting in the mask where that shadow is so that we don’t get rid of that line.
If it’s not enough, let’s drag it into the new layer icon and we can duplicate that, make it twice as bright. The difference here is we were shooting here originally. I want to hold my Option key down and click the eyeball. You can turn the layers off. You can see how we were having very good detail in the highlights but our shadow areas are very dark.

As I click on these two screen layers, they’re bringing them back in. I can really now see a lot more detail in this shot. Command-0 to bring it down to full size. That really allows us to take a product that has way too much contrast and be able to get the best parts of both in one shot.
If we look at the values now, we’ll still notice that we are getting great white with detail in the 240s over here on the highlight area of the shoe. And now we’re getting anywhere from in the 30s, 20s, 30s, 40s depending on which area I move to my tool. I’m going to get a smaller pick here. Anywhere between 40s and 50s in here, which is giving a lot of black with detail.
Now that I’ve got that the way I like, I can go ahead and flatten this image, bring those two areas down. Now we have one layer. But this is not giving my client what they really want. What they really want is a shoe on a pure white background. When we have an area…

Let’s go down to the front end of the shoe. You can see how, if we get great detail. 230, 240 here, there’s really no way to get that 255 white. That’s what they’re really going to want is pure, pure white so that it drops into their page layout program.
What I need to do now is create a way to white out that background but hold the realistic shadows. What I like to do is put a path around the shoe. I know it’s hard to see the edge so I’m going to use an adjustment layer to help me define this edge a little better so I can path.

Adjustment layers are not just for correcting the files. They’re also so we can see the files better. I’m going to go into my new adjustment layers. I’m going to hit “Levels,” and hit “OK,” but I’m going to change the blend mode from normal to multiply. This is going to darken the show down, way down, so I can see the white on white edge much better.
In fact, I’m going to do it twice. I’m going to grab this adjustment layer and drag it down here to the new layer icon and make a second one. Now, all of a sudden, as I move my shot down here, I can go ahead and hit the eyeball with my option key. You see the difference between here and here. Much, much easier for me to make a path.
I’m going to go ahead and click my pen tool and when making a path I keep my four fingers, my first four fingers on my hand minus my thumb here on the space bar, command, option and control keys so that I can actually use them to modify the path.
I’m going to just hit…Just do a little bit of the path and we’ll move ahead.
Let me go ahead and just start with the point. I can see this point much better now that I have made this mask. I’m going to pull and drag as I’m going along. I’m using my first finger on the space bar so I can keep moving myself down. I like to work fairly close.
Notice I didn’t get this last point correctly. I can use my command key, control on the PC, to adjust this point to a better spot and then keep on going with the path. What I’m going to do is try to create a nice path around the entire shoe before I take it to the next step.
As I go along here, I’m just using my space bar to move it to another spot and I’m pulling using my Bezier curves as I slowly go around the path. I’ll just go ahead and move ahead to the end of the path here.
Moving ahead, now I’ve finished the path and I can get rid of these two adjustment layers by throwing them in the trash. I only needed them just so I could see better.

I have a pen tool path around the entire shoe. Let’s go to the path palette and you see that I have a shoe outlined. If I hold down my command key and click in the shoe outline pen path, I’ll turn that into a selection any time I need to do that.
Before I do anything drastic here, I want to go to my history palette. I’m going to go to the very top of the history palette and I’m going to throw out that original history snapshot. I’m going to create a new one. This way it includes any of the retouching that I might have done along the way. This is a step I do right before I drop the shadows out. I’m going to make sure that that’s clicked.
Now that I have a selection already activated, I’m going to do a Command-Shift-I to inverse that selection. I want to look at that selection for a second by hitting the Q key bringing me to quick mask mode, and I’d like to feather or alias that selection about three tenths of a pixel.

This gives it a little bit more natural and less cut out feeling. I’m going to go filter, blur, Gaussian blur, and I’m going to type in .3. This will give me just a very slight alias. If I go in very, very close we probably can see that, the difference between…It’s a very, very slight aliasing. That’s on and that’s off. It just gives it a little bit of a feathered edge, just enough to make it look like a natural transition.
Command-0 will take you back down to full size. I’m going to hit OK. I’m going to hit my Q key. It takes me out of the quick mask mode. What I want to do now is I want to knock out that entire background. I’m going to use Command-Delete. It will be Control-Delete on the PC. Fill with the background color white.
Now, I’ve knocked out all my shadows, everything, all the detail is gone. It doesn’t look too good, but the nice thing is I can now click to my history brush and I’m going to use a much, much larger brush by hitting my bracket key a few times. I’m going to go double check and make sure that I am clicked in the snapshot.
What I’m going to do is I’m actually going to bring about 30 percent…I’m going to type three. That will bring me into 30 percent. And now I’m going to bring back the shadow under this shoe, just very slowly, right where I want it, very naturally.
Instead of doing a Photoshop shadow that looks more like a glow, this brings back the real natural shadows. I can just put it right where I want it and I’m not applying any information where I don’t want it.
Now we have something that the client is really going to like. We have pure 255 white. Let me go to my eye picker. We’ve got pure 255 white which will drop out and have no detail. And then, as you go into the shoe, you’ll notice we have nice 240 to 241 highlight detail. As I move myself over to the shadow side of the show, I can see that I have very, very nice shadow detail in here, sometimes as much as 40 or 50.
This allows us to have what I call the perfect dropout. Now, when this goes into a page layout program they don’t have to really do any kind of path or outline around it. They can drop it if it’s going to be on a white background. The white will disappear because it is pure 255 white.”


New Hells

installkurian greenberg  troemel

“New Hells” at Derek Eller Gallery.

Work by Huma Bhabha, Violet Dennison, Mark Flood, Jason Fox, Jesse Greenberg, Nancy Grossman, Max Klinger, Ajay Kurian, Peter Linde Busk, Rose Marcus, Lionel Maunz, Félicien Rops, Brad Troemel, Jean Veber, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Julia Wachtel, Michael Wang, Ivan Witenstein

Everything seen…
Everything had…
Everything known…
-Arthur Rimbaud, “Departure”

With neuroimaging mapping the brain’s pathways of thought and emotion into knowable terrains, the NSA’s omniscience, Google’s purchase of surveillance companies DropCam and Nest, big data integration and quantification, and the constant objectification of life via digital photography and social media, the assertion of interior space and visionary possibilites is all the more important. New Hells juxtaposes this interior, psychological space with work that addresses current developments in bio-technology, social engineering, virtual fantasy, corporate culture, and sexnology. If, as D.H. Lawrence writes, “To know a thing is to kill it,” New Hells is concerned with what’s still breathing.!” – Isaac Lyles/Derek Eller Gallery

Base Period

1_Lesser_Gonzalez_and_Alan_Resnick_Base_Period__Springsteen_web-1052x7008_Lesser_Gonzalez_Base_Period_Springsteen_web-1052x700   6_Alan_Resnick_Base_Period_Springsteen_web-1052x7004_Lesser_Gonzalez_Base_Period_Springsteen_web-1052x700 14_Alan_Resnick_Base_Period_Springsteen_web-1052x700

Base Period

Alan Resnick and Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez

In our quest to understand our place in the world, we have throughout the ages employed a variety of tools to aid in the gradual structuralization of our environments. Whether we are speaking of literal tools, or of language itself as a tool, we are a species prone to dissection, preservation, and classification. Roland Barthes saw language as legislation, with speech as its code. He believed that all classifications are oppressive. There is a mystery to materiality, what philosophers have called an ‘isness’, which language has been designed to probe and demystify in a subtle demonstration of imposition. Language is after all, power, and our unwavering impulse towards classification has resulted in extremely capable tools like digitization, which now blurs the lines between what is, isn’t, wasn’t, or could’ve been with exponentially growing proficiency.

Through simulation, the rays from a sunset in China can now light the surface of an object in America. In this way, technology allows for a perception of a new reality, allowing us to experience events and records from the past in entirely new contexts. We now have the ability to recreate precious antiquities in ‘any flavor’, so to speak, to create demographics and economies based on illusions of imperishability, to recreate reality to taste, with none of its imperfections, and as a consequence, none of its mystery. Much of the work in ‘Base Period’ aims to render these conditions as resulting in a ‘calcification’ of ‘isness’, surveying contemporary iconography and aesthetics as catalogued artifacts.

Simon Denny

Portikus_NewManagement-notext 1b96dbd88fcc9cce47495e37806293

Simon Denny

Work from “New Management” at Portikus, Frankfurt.

“Simon Denny’s new body of work for Portikus ranks among the most ambitious the artist has developed to date. Over the period of one year, the artist researched and developed an intricate project that has grown to considerable dimensions – both physically and in terms of its critical content. For two months, the monumental gallery space is turned into an homage to technology, communication, and the relentless need for innovation. Simon Denny has produced an embracing and multi-faceted installation that functions as a documentary of the South Korean technology giant Samsung and its global success story. The exhibition’s title, “New Management”, refers to the legendary management philosophy that Lee Kun-hee, Chairman of the Samsung Group, infamously introduced in the early nineties. “The New Management” principle was first proclaimed in 1993 at a high-level executive meeting at the Kempinski Hotel Frankfurt Gravenbruch near Frankfurt am Main International Airport. Lee flew in his entire top management from around the world for a three-day conference, emphasizing the need to globalize and preparing his employees for a new philosophy of change he was going to introduce in order to turn Samsung into a global market leader in all its sectors. This seminal meeting became known within the company as the “Frankfurt Declaration”.

 While the market success of Samsung that Simon Denny retells is well-known, recontextualizing it in this way highlights its currency and raises questions about globalization, economic dominance, nationalistic aspiration, and expansion. “Change everything but your spouse and kids” and “Change begins with me”, slogans coined by Lee Kun-hee that can be found on Denny’s sculptural elements, have become directly associated with the idea of success in South Korean corporate culture.

 In the introduction to the publication, Simon Denny writes: “In Portikus one sees a fantastic conglomeration of material that tries to monumentalize [Samsung’s] powerful cultural message; arranging imagined and remade objects around excerpts from Lee Kun-hee’s texts and Samsung’s history. I’ve tried to stay close to the context it describes: the global material language of corporate pride and presentation.” In commissioning two different English translations of New Management, a publication in Korean about the philosophy and history of Chairman Lee’s legacy, Denny investigates existing hierarchies. On the one hand, the material carries with it extremely specific cultural and economic meaning and value, and on the other, it forms a part of global culture and public information. The same goes for Samsung’s comic version of New Management and the inclusion of Sam Grobart’s article on Samsung that originally ran in Bloomberg Businessweek. Denny levels the role of the artist with those of the professional from a tech company, a journalist, an independent contractor hired through freelancer.com, and finally the viewer of the work.” – Portikus

Sanya Kantarovsky and Ella Kruglyanskaya


Sanya Kantarovsky and Ella Kruglyanskaya

“Little Vera” at Kim?, Riga, Latvia.

“Vera Mukhina (1889-1953) gained acclaim in the sphere of Soviet monumental sculpture after winning the 1937 commission for the Soviet pavilion in the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne. The resulting sculpture, a towering stainless steel couple entitled The Worker and Kolhoz Woman, quickly became one of the most iconic symbols of Soviet Russia, and an embodiment of the collective socialist ethos. Mukhina’s achievement, a singular one by any female visual artist in the 20th century, has since become a ubiquitous presence in Russian visual culture.

Artists Sanya Kantarovsky and Ella Kruglyanskaya were invited to devise an exhibition in relation to Vera Mukhina on the account of her 125th anniversary and her background as a native of Riga. As the conversation between the artists evolved, it came to include the voices of fellow artists and thinkers living in Riga, as well as Mukhina herself, whose collected writings became a point of departure.

This exhibition is comprised of three distinct artistic gestures: a group of posters that are installed both in the exhibition space and in public spaces throughout the city; a site-specific performance culminating in a set of sculptural clay objects; and a documentary video work.
Six hand-painted and hand-lettered posters installed in the first gallery illustrate a phrase mined from Mukhina’s 1960 book of collected writings. The consequent works take on form both as art objects and mass-produced printed matter. The premier mode of public visual communication of Mukhina’s lifetime is evoked here, both in the visual language of the posters and in the way in which they are positioned to communicate ideas to the public. The quotes in question, focused on celebrating the meaning of décor, ornament and the nude body among other topics, transcend and complicate the socio- political context in which they were originally conceived. The lasting relevance of these ideas, and their playful opposition to modernist rationalism, is brought into high relief.

A week before the opening of the exhibition, nine students from the sculpture department at the Latvian Art Academy were tasked with replicating Vera Mukhina’s 1951 life size female bronze head entitled The Partisan Woman. The austere and forceful portrait, aimed at representing the spirit of the Soviet resistance against the Nazi invasion, has been largely kept in storage of the Riga Bourse museum since its original gifting by the Soviet government. The process of copying a masterwork re-animates the academic methodology to which Mukhina subscribed, having received her education in Paris under the tutelage of Antoine Bourdelle. Each student was prompted to render only what they could see from their single vantage point within a circle around the sculpture. The sum of the final objects encompasses the original human form, conjuring the culture of collective looking and producing. Considered as discreet sculptures, the clay forms display the subjective and nuanced decision process of their makers.
The event served as the source for both the sculptural and the video-based elements of the exhibition. In the second exhibition room, the original worktables on which the objects were made serve as their display plinths. A video installed in adjoining room pairs footage of the sculpture students at work with ruminations by the art historian and cultural critic Janis Borgs on Mukhina’s history and his peculiar hobby of copying master works.

The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Little Vera (Ма́ленькая Ве́ра), a perestroika blockbuster directed by Vasily Pichul in 1989 about an uninhibited young woman named Vera. Also legible as Little Faith in Russian, it was among the first Soviet films to explore themes of unchecked sexuality and societal decay, signaling the impending collapse of the Soviet establishment. When measured against her young cinematic namesake, Mukhina’s agency is amplified: a woman among men and bourgeois among proletarians who has left arguably the largest singular artistic mark of the soviet legacy. The series of artistic gestures that comprise this exhibition reconsider Mukhina’s ideas in relation to collective and personal agency, conjuring the lost possibilities of a collapsed society – ideas, interests and methodologies that hold potential for renewed meaning today.” – Kim?


Julien Bouillon

_dsc6623_dsc6644_dsc6633 _dsc6649-edit   _dsc6643 _dsc6629_0

Julien Bouillon

Work from The Center of the Earth is Molten History

“Rod Barton, London presents The Center of the Earth is Molten History a project exhibition series featuring artists Mona Varichon, Julien Bouillon, Emily Gable, and Rob Chavasse, curated by Cory Scozzari. The series will take the form of four consecutive solo shows and then culminate with a closing group show.  This exhibition marks the final show at the Paget Street address of Rod Barton, London. Just as the gallery itself is moving, becoming unearthed from its previous location and reintegrated into its newSouth East London location, the artists presented make work that addresses similar shifts, movements of material, passages in time and space, displacements and deposits.  In many cases the work borrows an archeological framework for investigation. Addressing perception, economics, consumption and preservation, the pieces of various materials take the form of excavations, are the products of a type of dig, or are projections of possible futures rendered through a re-negotiation of the past.

The work shown by Bouillon is part of an ongoing investigation of symbols and the historicization of artefacts. With an interest in the objects that hold history, fossils, coins, ceramic vases, Bouillon produces work that playfully interacts and replicates. With his recent coin paintings, made up of painted coins as dots on a canvas plane, individual ancient coins are rendered almost as portraits. Money here serves as the ultimate representational tool within a culture, and is revisited and isolated as a formal object both as a coin and as painting. Similarly, as if projecting the existence of our defunct, disposable consumer objects into the future; Bouillon makes fossilized bone-carved watches, painted televisions and cell phones that seem as if they have just been unearthed after thousands of years, fabricated as a trompe-l’oeil rock remains. The work looks to the precariousness of our material culture and the environmental implications in relation to deep time.”

Amie Siegel


Amie Siegel

Stills from “Provenance“.

“The first image in Amie Siegel’s alluring but problematic 40-minute video Provenance (2013) is of Stanley Gardens, a short road in West London. It’s an establishing shot for an interior: a minimally decorated townhouse with furniture by, among others, Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret. In succession we visit other residences with Corb furniture, among them a Parisian flat with a chair reupholstered in beige suede, a severely decorated Belgian home where you can see a giant Taschen book on Le Corbusier on a coffee table, a loft in Manhattan, two houses in the Hamptons (one Modernist, one shingle style), and a super-yacht large enough to have its own elevator whose glass doors make a whoosh sound like something out of Star Trek. Siegel never identifies these locations and presents all their interiors with a forensic detachment: there’s no dialogue, and individual pieces of furniture are showcased via long, slow tracking shots.

All the Corbusier/Jeanneret pieces in these homes come from Chandigarh, the purpose-built Haryana and Punjab capital whose Modernist buildings, many of which have fallen into disrepair, are being picked clean by decorative arts dealers. At Chicago’s Wright auction house, where the Arne Jacobson chairs in the sale room are almost entirely empty, Siegel films a pair of club chairs from the Chandigarh high court selling for US$16,000 to a phone bidder; Artcurial in Paris sells a manhole cover. By now it’s become clear that the film is moving back in time and – after visits to a storage facility, a furniture restorer and the hold of a cargo ship (Siegel blows the budget on a helicopter shot of the vessel) – we finally arrive in India. At the Legislative Assembly, whose concrete expanses are discoloured and chipped, adorable monkeys are clambering up the walls. A Jeanneret desk that would fetch hundreds of thousands on the block sits next to a hideous fake leather office chair and a portrait of Parkash Singh Badal, the long-serving Punjabi chief minister. A teak and wicker armchair exactly like those on the yacht is seen again in an office divided into cubicles; couches like the ones at auction are piled by the dozen outside the High Court.

Provenance is certainly an appealing travelogue. The interiors of Chandigarh have rarely been filmed this elegantly – the HD video makes the legislature’s parti-coloured carpets gleam – and students of the market will have fun seeing how the other one percent lives with its Chandigarh furniture: one owner seems to have upholstered his chairs to match his Robert Mangold. Yet it’s hardly news that Modernist decorative arts, often seen by their creators as part of an emancipatory or even revolutionary project, are now valued even more highly than antiques by an international collecting class. Nor should anyone be surprised (least of all in India) that white people like to go to poor countries, take their stuff and sell it for a massive profit. Siegel surely undertook this laborious project to examine the failed dreams of International Style architects and the recession of their work into the luxury trade, but if there’s any criticism of that phenomenon it’s entirely implicit. Chandigarh and the Hamptons are filmed in the same aloof, sumptuous style – chirping birds are heard in the first case, lapping waves in the second – and the artist’s thorough refusal to identify locations, dealers or collectors keeps us at a distance from the true provenance of these objects.

In a baffling postscript to her Chandigarh project, Siegel sold an edition of Provenance at Christie’s in London last month, and filmed the sale. Her New York exhibition concluded beforehand, but it included a framed page from the auction catalogue (‘A hauntingly beautiful video of tremendous scope,’ the catalogue entry began). I suppose that with this biting-one’s-own-tail gesture Siegel is trying to remind us of what we should all already know: that no art can stand outside the market, which eventually gets its hands on everything. Yet if that’s true then there’s no reason not to work in a much more critical, analytical mode, parameterizing the mechanisms by which public works for the poor become private luxuries for the rich instead of standing at such a polite remove. Siegel’s admittedly lovely film is not without interest if you want to see the end product of this complex cultural and economic process. But I could say the same about Architectural Digest.” – Jason Farago, Frieze Magazine