The Daily Pic (Venice Biennale Edition): Mathias Poledna uses Dumbo-era craft to score current points.
This is a moment from "The Imitation of Life", Mathias Poledna's projection in the Austrian pavilion of the Biennale gardens. It's a three-minute animation of a singing donkey in a sailor suit goofing around in nature, done in the most traditional Disney style and screened on classic 35mm film. It could absolutely pass for a pre-feature short from the 1930s, although all its characters are newly conceived by Poledna and its cels were drawn and painted in 21st-century Hollywood. That makes the piece a strange hybrid, sitting somewhere between appropriation and nostalgic craft. Or maybe it's a kind of remade readymade, and gets its power from using Disney as "serious" contemporary art. Among other things, its endless scroll of credits makes you realize how few resources are normally poured into fine art, compared to even a minor animation.
The donkey sings the phrase "I've got a feelin' you're foolin' with me", which makes me think he stands for all of us watching the work – or at least for all jackass critics.
How much would you pay for a blurry photograph of Moscow? What if it was taken by a chimpanzee?
Get ready for Instagram feeds to be filled with photos taken from an animal point-of-view. On Wednesday, the collection of pictures by Mikki (pictured above), a chimpanzee, reeled in roughly $75,000 at Sotheby's. Mikki was discovered by contemporary Russian artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid at the Moscow Circus, and they taught him how to take photos. According to Guzelian, his works like the one below of St. Basil's Cathedral, are similar to experimental photography and are an animal's version of the endless number of tourist photos taken daily around the world.
The colorful roofs of Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square through the eyes of Mikki, a 15-year-old chimpanzee (Guzelian)
From Art Basel to a history of quilt making, Art Beast has put together a list of some of the top exhibits and shows from around the globe to check out for the month of June.
With Blake Gopnik lamenting in Newsweek the current state of modern art, and criticizing the way in which whether something is good art or not is decided, we thought we would post this hilarious spoof of modern art we stumbled upon.
In Newsweek, Blake Gopnik writes that:
Ever since Duchamp’s urinal hit the scene in 1917, and possibly for a dozen or more decades before that, what has set artwork off from other things in the world is not what it looks like or what it references or anything it does, but the fact that we’ve been invited to contemplate it as art.
The video above, by an artist who goes by Ken Tanaka (or David Ury) turns the garbage can, empty space and cardboard boxes of a dismantled exhibit into a piece of art that has people worked up, just by acting awe-struck by its supposed intended message (when of course it has none). In many ways, this spoof captures precisely the issue Gopnik seeks to highlight in his spectacular essay.
The Daily Pic (Venice Biennale Edition): The Romanians give us tableaux vivants of past works from Biennales.
In the brilliant Romanian pavilion, the artists Alexandra Pirici and Manuel Pelmus have paid a troupe of performers to act out an anthology of works from a full century of Venice Biennales, presented in the old-fashioned mode of tableaux vivants. This photo captures them enacting one of Jeff Koons's images of himself having sex with La Cicciolina, the porn star who was then his wife, as shown in Venice in 1990. At other moments the troupe performed the 1924 "Black Circle" by Kasimir Malevich (by lying in a circle on the ground) and a 2007 piece about the political neutrality of the Venice Biennale (a single dancer simply stood there, looking noncommittal). They also gave us charades of a national hero on horseback, in Venice in 1897, and of Edward Hopper's "Hotel Lobby" from the 1952 Biennale (some performers crouched as the lobby's chairs). On first encounter, the Romanians' anthology felt like a wonderful one-liner. On sticking with it, as I did for close to an hour, all sorts of profundities opened up. It came to be about all art as depending on human actions, about how interpretation always trumps the objects themselves, about how everything artists make can be leveled-out to a single cultural genre, and about the "migrant labor" of artists at any Biennale. (This last point I've cribbed from the project's rather good introductory text.) I also came to realize that Pirici and Pelmus's single "gesture" required as much craft and care as any high-realist painting: The performers have memorized all the dozens of works in their anthology, and will be presenting them daily through November.
The Daily Pic (Venice Biennale Edition): Artur Zmijewski presents the work of sightless painters as futile, and necessary.
A still from "Blindly", a coruscating video from the brilliant Polish artist Artur Zmijewski, in the Biennale's group show. If Zmijewski's greatest video showed deaf people learning to grunt out a Bach cantata, this more recent one shows the messes blind people make when asked to paint. In my full review of the Biennale in this week's Newsweek, I argue that Zmijewski's video represents the dilemma at the heart of all artmaking today, including in the Venice show: A sense of absolute pointlessness and powerlessness, and a determination nevertheless to go on making art. My review argues that the Biennale's group show valiantly tries, and notably fails, to return art to a time when it had a real function in life. Zmijewski's video acts as the show's own declaration of that failure, but also as an insistence that the effort of artmaking, whatever the results, counts as a success.
It so happens that there's research on blind artists that bears this out.
Has all the art in the world been made?
I magine a single work of art that captured a sense that, after all these decades of trying, modern art hasn’t managed to change the world, or even much affect it. A sense that, for all its variety, modern art—maybe most of Western art for the last 500 years—has been nothing more than a series of moves in a series of games, like clever new plays in clever new versions of football. And imagine that this imaginary artwork managed to condense all the longings of every artist, curator, and critic for an art that was much more than such games, for an art that truly mattered. And then imagine that this work packaged that longing as one giant sigh, from knowing it could never be more than longing.
That artwork is this year’s Venice Biennale, the 55th edition of the world’s most prestigious aesthetic pulse taking, which opened to the public Saturday. At the heart of the this year’s Biennale is a giant group exhibition called The Encyclopedic Palace, put together by Italian curator Massimiliano Gioni, on secondment from his day job at the New Museum in New York. And Gioni’s group show, more focused and polished than any previous year’s, utters the pungent sigh I’ve described.
Campo de Color by Bolivian artist Sonia Falcone. (Stefano Rellandini/Reuters)
Rather than offer up a sampling of the best and brightest work being made today, the show digs back into the last 100 years or so of making art, looking for all the times when art has had ambitions beyond merely being good. At the show’s beginning, in the Central Pavilion in the Biennale gardens, there is a room dedicated to Carl Jung’s Red Book, the manuscript in which the famous analyst recorded the images he saw in his dreams and that he thought would grant new access to our hive mind. (The drawings are vaguely medieval and corny, like something out of Game of Thrones: “Bring forth the Red Book of necromancy! We shall conjure the spirits of Targaryens past.”)
The Daily Pic (Venice Biennale edition): Anri Sala achieves a masterpiece, by taking on someone else's.
Anri Sala's "Ravel Ravel Unravel" project, representing France at this year's Biennale, is the best thing I've seen so far, and one of the best I've ever seen here. I'd need thousands of words to get at its complexities, but here are a few hundred to get us started.
Sala's premise is relatively simple: He gets two great, heroic (male) musicians to record the concerto that Maurice Ravel wrote in 1930 for a pianist who'd lost his right hand in the Great War. In a grand central room of Sala's pavilion, two stacked screens show gorgeous, hi-def footage of each player's left hand as it strikes the keyboard. Although the pianists begin their solos at the same time, and the orchestra recorded with each is identical, their interpretations vary enough for the sights and sounds of their playing to pass in and out of sync. In one smaller side room – the first space you come to in the building – a smaller projection shows a close-up on a woman's face in extreme concentration; the soundtrack makes you think that she's playing the piano, except that her playing seems wildly distorted and fractured. In the building's final space, encountered after the main screening room, the camera pulls back and the woman's task is explained: She's standing at a pair of turntables, like a Hip Hop DJ, using her fingers to stop and start a pair of vinyl discs that bear the pianists' performances. Her goal is clearly to reconcile the two recordings so that their solos can be heard in sync, but the result is a series of hesitations and distortions in the sound as she "scratches" the twin records. The harder she works to make things right, the worse the result.
So much for the premise. Read on for some of my reactions:
– There's a sense of Sala "replacing" the missing hand of the original pianist, by doubling the players. Of course, his new, hybrid musician is a strange double lefty. A fractured body is healed, but its musicmaking is further damaged.
– There's a fascinating tension between the visually powerful moments when we see the pianists' hands flying across their keyboards, and the visually placid moments when those hands are at rest – despite the aural frenzy of the orchestra playing its parts offscreen.
– Surprisingly, the doubled recording of the Ravel is not cacophonous at all. At most, the piece underlines a common notion of Ravel as predicting later, more strenuously modern music. What you hear could be Ravel reworking his own thoughts on music, if he'd lived into the 1960s.
– There's also a sense that counterpoint, which has been Western classical music's most notable feature, has been turned into the aesthetic principle behind Sala's contemporary visual art. It's hard to sort out the echoes and repeats in Ravel's original score and the echoes and repeats introduced by Sala.
– The woman's attempt to sort out the musical jumble comes care of DJ culture, often seen as standing in opposition to the classical tradition and for a rejection of Bachian order. Yet her two hands, delicately working the turntables, come off as strangely close to the pianists' twinned left hands at their keyboards. (Could someone write a piece for a one-handed turntablist?)
– The project is about recording and playback technologies – visual and aural – as much as about live performance. Sala uses different speaker arrays in each room as well as different sound baffling (the central room has foam panels that eliminate almost all echoes off its walls). The separate content in each room is matched, and complicated, by different means of reproduction.
– There's a notable contrast between our sense of being in the presence of intuitive choices being made, as we watch each pianist do his particular thing, and our realization that the actual footage that we watch and hear is set down for good, without the possibility of alteration. In what sense, then, are we actual witnesses to improvisation?
–There's also a lovely match between the way the pianists seem to improvise, but within the narrowest of limits (hence their being often in sync), and the improvisations of the cameramen as they follow the movement of the musicians' hands, pull their focus to different parts of the keyboard or drag our attention from flying fingers of the left hands to right hands not moving at all. And all along we're never sure how much freedom there really is for either musician or cameraman to stray from a script set by Sala – and Ravel. This, you could say, is the tension at the heart of much of the West's performative art.
– There are gender implications. The piece underlines the "maleness" of the Romantic tradition in music – the concerto's one-handedness was "produced" by a war – and then positions its woman as stuck between gigantic male egos, hopelessly attempting to reconcile them.
– A final marker of the success of this strange collaboration between Sala and the long-dead Ravel: Despite the extreme complexity of the piece, visitors stayed riveted for longer than they ever would in front of a painting or photo, or with a classical album. There's no plot, but visitors don't want to lose track of it.
Here's one thing you can't do with an e-book. Through his work, book sculptor Justin Rowe brings the illustrations of our favorite tales to a new level. Scroll down, and it is easy to see why his delicate and intricate scenes caught our eyes!
There is immense power that lies within the hands of a book illustrator. Left to his or her own devices, the ways in which readers imagine fictional worlds made manifest are infinite. With illustrations, the way one sees Huck Finn or Jim Hawkins is shaped immensely. Now, artist, Justin Rowe, is quite literally giving new depth to these illustrations.
Still No Soul, pictured above, comes from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Justin Rowe uses the original illustrations in the books. Using a scalpel, Rowe cuts out portions of the illustration and then stands them up. To give the sculpture more panache, he added churning waves using twisting text on the following page.
Courtesy of Justin Rowe
The film industry may be obsessed with 3-D for profit reasons, but there is a pleasure in viewing emotional illustrations literally coming off the page. Pictured above is the sculpture titled Hopeful Had Much Ado from Pilgrim's Progress. The sculpture and its drama does justice to one of the most important religious English texts and my pulling the dramatic scene from the page, it heightens the challenges its protagonist Christian faces in the text.
The Daily Pic (Venice Biennale Edition): Ellen Altfest succeeds when her paint fails to conquer the real.
A visitor looks at Ellen Altfest’s “The Back”, painted over the course of many months of full-time labor in 2008 and 2009 and now one of the highpoints in the Biennale’s curated group show. Although the exhibition was stuffed with painting, most of it was work of the “imagination”, with all the attendant clichés. Not much of it had strong ties to the world. Although I have no interest in tired high-realist technique, Altfest’s studies of the male nude, said to have been painted from life, seem less about the final result than about the tireless observation that got her there. And there is some sense that all her looking and painting and looking and painting turns out to be a sisyphean task; reality refuses to cooperate with our desire to absorb it. Altfest's work may be closer to conceptual art than to standard painting: the canvases put on view are simply documentation of an absurdist process.
How do you get people to pay attention to Congo? Artist Richard Mosse uses psychedelic color photographs of rebels and warlords to make your head snap. He talks to Amelia Martyn-Hemphill about why some find his work offensive and representing Ireland at the Venice Biennale.
Richard Mosse’s photographs capture the darkness of war in vivid color: warlords and rebels armed with AK-47s are tinted with bubble gum and magenta pinks. Stripped skulls lie in the blood-red grass of rolling hills and the haunting stares of huddled women are framed with dusky purples. It’s an uncomfortable yet magnetic paradox, which resonates through Mosse’s work. Quite literally, he’s depicting the conflict in Africa’s Democratic Republic of the Congo in a whole new light.
The secret behind the surreal color palette is Mosse’s use of the discontinued Kodak film, Aerochrome. Developed by military surveillance during the Cold War to detect enemy camouflage, the film registers the invisible spectrum of infrared light, tingeing portraits and landscapes with psychedelic hues of pink, red, and lilac. “It made sense to me metaphorically. This war is a hidden tragedy, and in that sense it’s invisible,” Mosse explained. “Making the conflict visible for ordinary people to see is at the heart of this project.”
From June 1 to November 24, 32-year-old Mosse will represent his home country of Ireland at the 55th-annual Venice Biennale with his latest work, The Enclave. Anna O’Sullivan, director of the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny and Ireland’s commissioner curator for Venice 2013, describes the project as a “highly ambitious six-channel multimedia installation on the subject of the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Mosse says that the exhibition will blend film, photography, and sound to create a hauntingly immersive experience of the eastern region’s devastated villages.
Daily Pic (Venice Biennale Edition): Yuri Ancarani shows that medical magic can upstage the aesthetic kind.
This is a still from Yuri Ancarani’s video called “Da Vinci”, possibly the most striking piece from the Arsenale group exhibition curated by the New Museum’s Massimiliano Gioni. All the video gives us, more or less, is a fiber-optic, surgeon’s-eye view of the inside of someone’s gut, as it undergoes a laparoscopic operation. We watch, from inside and among folds of offal, as the surgeon’s tiny robotic tools push their way in, cut things up, burn things off then sew up what’s left. I’m afraid that the “magic” performed by the operating room’s Da Vinci Si model robot, and the real work that it does in the world, makes the best of art’s meager efforts seem almost impotent. This, you could say, is the true issue at the heart of Gioni’s ambitious curating … but you’ll have to wait for my upcoming Newsweek review to get all the – gory – details.
What does the number one women's singles tennis player in the world do in her spare time? For Serena Williams, paint.
First George W. Bush paints watercolors, then Bea Arthur Naked takes over the internet, now Serena Williams is the latest famous person to get in to the art scene. In a tweet sent on Thursday, Serena said she was taking art classes in Paris ahead of the French Open, and that this piece was from her "Expressions" series and is called "Xpressions."
A distinctly second-class effort
Why does everyone have to paint the Queen looking as horrible as possible? Is it part of the job description to render Her Majesty looking as if she has been subjected to a particularly nasty bout of poisoning, a la Victor Yushchenko? Or is this simply yet another attempt by the artist to get past the cloak of royalty?
Royal Mail commemorative stamps bearing portraits of the Queen include ones by Pietro Annigoni (1954), left, and a new one marking the 60th anniversary of the Coronation, by Nicky Philipps, at right. (Images provided by Royal Mail)
The latest effort is by artist Nicky Phipps - who actually previously painted one of the few visually pleasing pictures of William and Harry - and is one of a book of six stamps being issued by the Royal Mail in the UK to celebrate 60 years since the Queen was crowned.
The collection of commemorative Royal Mail stamps dedicated to the Queen. (Images provided by Royal Mail)
So what if Dan Brown blurs the facts in ‘Inferno’? His latest Robert Langdon bestseller has tourists flocking to the Tuscan capital as recession grips Italy. Barbie Latza Nadeau reports.
Dante’s ancient footsteps have been easily traceable in Florence since his exile in 1302, but it has taken Dan Brown to ignite true Dante fever in the Tuscan capital.
‘Portrait of Dante Alighieri (Florence, 1265–Ravenna, 1321).’ Painting by Attilio Roncaldier (1801–1884). Ravenna, Museo Dantesco (Getty Images)
Who cares if Brown veers slightly off course in his interpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy in his latest novel, Inferno? Art historians and literary academics might be up in arms, but blurring the facts into fiction has certainly not upset the Florentine purists who know Dante’s work the best. Indeed, Brown-inspired Dante fever is gripping Florence, and the leader of pack happens to be president of the esteemed Dante Society, Eugenio Giani, who believes a little Dan Brown fairy dust is just what the city needs right now. Brown will be reading from Inferno at a literary festival in Florence on June 6, and Giani plans to thank the American writer personally for reintroducing Dante to a whole new group of readers.
“Dante is the most important figure in the history of this city,” Giani, who is also the head of the Florence City Council, told The Daily Beast on an impromptu tour of the Palazzo Vecchio’s secret passages, which feature in Inferno. “Dan Brown is simply making the introduction to Dante to people who may have never paused to appreciate his genius. It will be up to the readers to form their own opinion about Dante’s real legacy. Either way, people will be talking about him.”
and Mulberrry gifts bags to each of the G8 Summit's Leaders. More