The documentary video with artists interviews form the nordic art / Between Miracles exhibition at CCA-Tbilisi is finally finished.

For more info on the exhibition go to: http://www.betweenmiracles.org/

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What is it worth? Value as a replacement for intention – Josefina Posch

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”
Albert Einstein

Conventionally artists´ and curatorial statements, reviews and critiques do not feature actual numbers of the production cost or the resale value of the work discussed. But a shift is apparent and a noted exception is Damien Hirst´s For the Love of God, 2007 – a platinum cast of a human skull embellished inside and out with over 8,000 diamonds. It is impossible to read about this piece without the production cost of $25 million and the resale value of $84 million being mentioned. To me, Hirst´s flirting with the idea of Memento mori seems like a poor (no pun intended) excuse to moralize the actual concept: the obscene price tag. The title of this work, as with those of other works by Hirst (my favorite being The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991) is both seductive and intriguing but unfortunately builds up expectations in the work itself that I have always found are hard to live up to.The reason most likely being that the title comes first and the work later. In an interview from 2004 with Irvine Welch he says “I’ve got titles that I’m working on that I haven’t even got the sculpture for. I’ve got one called ‘devoured by a desire to walk in front of you with a duvet until you die.’ But that just came as a title. Fuck knows what it will look like, but something to do with having kids.” 1 The statement fails to provoke me, instead I´m just disappointed; what a poetic waste. The proudly presented price tag and previous downers in seeing Hirst´s work, made me in a personal stance, swear to never view For the Love of God.

In 2012 I find myself in the grey London drizzling rain, exiting the Jerwood exhibition space with an hour to kill before catching my Surrey bound train at Waterloo station. As I consider my options I realize I am only a short walk away from the Tate Modern, which I have yet not visited on this trip. The Turbine Hall is one of my favorite spaces to simply pop-into for a quick art and architecture awe infusion and even though I know Damien Hirst´s For the Love of God is on display, I start to deliberate with myself; the space itself is always worth a visit, there is no entrance fee, I can always rummage in the bookstore, was not Hirst´s installation Pharmacy actually quite good and besides didn´t Hirst himself proclaim back in 1996 “Museums are for dead artists. I’d never show my work in the Tate. You’d never get me in that place.”? He changed his mind. So as if rendezvousing with an old lover I sneak towards the South Bank.

My preferred way of entering the Tate Modern is through the long sloping walk leading directly into the Turbine Hall with it´s impressive 3,400 square meter floor space and five stories high ceiling, the 5 tall narrow windows on the end wall enhances the cathedral feeling of the space. When the windows are covered up, it is like being in an Mexican underwater cave where a long sloping beach takes you deeper underground, entering the water you are only aware of the outside world far, far above, by the light that seeps in through cracks in the cave but this can be easily ignored due to the sheer wonders of the world below the surface. In the Turbine Hall that world is the art. The choice of the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron to restore the old power plant met with objections to the firm being non UK based and relatively unknown and since the building at the time carried no heritage status, consideration was given to tearing it down to make place for a new construction. Luckily it was restored, and in my opinion Herzog & de Meuron did a great job in keeping the grandness of the old turbine hall, avoiding the overly common steel and glass aesthetics, opting instead for a toned down grey concrete in line with the original structure and resisting the temptation to convert the hall for a specific use. The vast emptiness of the space is what makes it so promising and spurs creativity to what it can be at different points in time and for various purposes.

On the day of my visit, the hall was mostly empty except for a large black box construction containing the Hirst skull. Somewhat counter intuitively, the box´s exit was placed closest to the entrance of the hall. So that in order to enter, visitors had to walk around the box. An attempt to heighten the expectations? Given it was 4pm on a Wednesday, there was only a few people waiting in line, but the number of barrier ropes gave a clue as to what it might look like on weekends and I have since heard horror stories about 5-7 hours waits. As the queue started filling out behind me and the customary, almost polite, art-crowd-pushing-forward-in-anticipation began, associations from footage I have seen of Islamic pilgrims making their seven rounds around the Kaaba hoping to come close enough to touch or even kiss the Black Stone, came to mind. It seems to obvious, that this could not have been part of the symbolic intention of Hirst. For the Love of God? For the Love of Wealth? Would seeing the diamond encrusted skull expiate sins? Or was the perversity of waiting in line to see an $85 million art piece in reality the golden calf and the joke on me? Before I had time to consider it was my turn to join the other 11 people that were allowed in each time. The large suit-clad guard opened the last rope and as if entering the VIP area of a nightclub I was finally granted access. The sudden darkness of the room made me clumsy and to avoid tripping into the artwork I hovered in a corner waiting for my eyes to adjust. The room was quiet almost muffled from the outside sounds, no one said anything but the air was filled with that peculiar feeling that is always present when being in a small dark room with strangers and evidently someone must have had curry for lunch. Under the close watch of another guard, everyone moved slowly around the glass vitrine with the glistening skull. When the initial interest of my fellow 11 viewers had faded, I moved closer in and to my surprise the sparkling skull amazed me. It was small, beautiful, exquisitely made, seductive, and even the real teeth seemed to shine like pearls! But the feeling did not last. Instantly I wanted more. Why was it placed so low? Would it not be more interesting to have it at eye level? To stare straight into the diamond encrusted eye-sockets? And why the real teeth when the skull was cast in platinum? The teeth couldn´t possibly be from the same skull as the cast was taken from. And why not use the real skull? Is that against the law? But teeth are ok? And who was this person that the skull had belonged to? I wanted to know more but at the same time I couldn´t have cared less, so much money and for what? I exited feeling bored and as I once again found myself in the grand architectural space of the Turbine Hall, I was reminded of the last time I been there and seen the work by another artist whos practice, at least at first glance, is positioned on the complete opposite end of the spectrum to that of Hirst´s, but on closer inspection can also be said to have his own “brand”: Ai Weiwei.

Just as it was impossible to read about For the Love of God without the monetary value being stated, so it was hard to avoid hearing of the production effort (1,600 artisans in Jingdezhen) and the time spend (well over 2 years) in the making of Ai Weiwei´s Sunflower Seeds, 2010. Just as Hirst´s titles seem redundant to the works, it is unfortunately the same case with Ai´s Sunflower Seeds. But for stating the obvious, it is a reference to chairman Mao who was often depicted with fields of sunflowers turned towards him just as they would turn to the sun. But in the making-of video an overweight Ai is, like a caricature of an industrial revolution factory boss, overseeing the mostly female workers making his sunflower seeds and instead of facing Mao, it is Ai´s presence they turn to. Is this the ironic reflection mentioned in his statement “Absurdly, ‘Sunflower Seeds’ provided work for 1,600 artisans in Jingdenzhen, a fact that is an ironic reflection of the social reality.”?2 I am confused. Besides sunflowers for us Westerners, which is the context in which the seeds are shown, are off course more associated with the colorful paintings of Van Gogh. Unfortunately, when I saw the Sunflower Seeds installation in the Turbine Hall it was the day after it had been closed to access for health and safety reasons. We were allowed to come to within about half a meter from the edge of the grey ocean of seeds. But no more. Nevertheless the installation was well made and the perfect match for the space, considering Ai Weiwei collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron on the design of the Birds Nest stadium for the Olympics in Beijing, where he might have gained valuable insight into their architectural philosophy and intuitively known what would be a well conceived site-specific work for their redesigned Turbine Hall? The architect firm and Ai Weiwei have since continued their collaboration for the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in Hyde Park, 2012. From afar the hall looked almost empty, the only give-away being visitors staring attentively on the ground, some kneeling down, almost everyone with a camera in their hands. Approaching the 150 tons of ceramic sunflower seeds was like seeing the ocean; simultaneously impressive and calming. I instantly loved it! Even though the installation only reached about 30 cm up the 35 meter walls, the space did not seem empty and the seeds so close to reality but intuitively obviously man made, each individual and unique but at the same time indistinguishable from the next in the enormous mass. Since the installation had just closed, the museum was obviously unsure of how best to proceed with the exhibition and we were therefore kept at a distance. Now and then a guard would pick up a seed at random and pass it to a visitor, who in turn passed it on to the person closest and so on. Each of us weighing the one sunflower seed in our hand and carefully admiring it before it was returned to the guard who carelessly tossed it back into the mass. This performative act where one seed was (by a guard) randomly singled out of the mass to, for one moment, become precious, cared for and admired only to be returned and disappear into anonymity, was for me the most rewarding aspect of the art work. When I revisited the installation a few weeks later, the rules had been relaxed and the audience was allowed to reach into the installation as far as they could without actually entering. This experience did not even come close to my first encounter and I also noticed seeds being discreetly pocketed by several visitors. Admittedly, I was also tempted, but somewhere in the back of my head the haunting words of a native American, who years ago told me “You white people always have to take something from nature, a sea shell, a flower or a rock, you cannot just visit, look, enjoy and let it be.” made me resist, even though the installation had more resemblance to a carefully planned park than wild nature.

My friend, who as a Shanghai based curator had been invited to the press preview (and therefore had the chance to walk on the seeds) said that the strongest impression had been the sound that the piece generated when several people walked on and crushed the seeds. Neither of us were sure of the true intentions of the work. Was it indeed that at the end of the exhibition all seeds would again be turned into dust? Was it a spiritual ritual? Or was it simply an audible, tactile impression that was the goal? Or because of the importance the making-of video and the interactive video Q&A computer booths had in the installation should it be seen as a social-practice work? And if so, was the interactivness of walking on the seeds really important? Ai often state that his source of inspiration comes from the provocations and readymades of Duchamp, the Situationists and the use of détournement. As a spectacle the installation only works if one can enter it but if one considers the making of the piece the spectacle, the workers risk becoming nothing more than that of circus animals in a performance they never agreed to participate in. The Sunflower Seeds dedicated website states “Like Ai Weiwei’s other works, ‘Sunflower Seeds’ is a work closely related to the society, politics and economy in China, and also a project that can be accomplished only in this country. It alludes to the globalization and mass production in China that caters to western consumerism, and to the deemed insignificant element at the bottom of the production chain – thousands of cheap labors, assembly lines in gigantic factories, and tedious procedures. Absurdly, ‘Sunflower Seeds’ provided work for 1,600 artisans in Jingdenzhen, a fact that is an ironic reflection of the social reality.” So far so good, but where can this critique actually be found in Sunflower Seeds? What I can visually see installed in the Turbine Hall is a Warholesque mass-produced, multiple art work. Turning for an explanation to the making-of video, I learn that a whole Chinese village otherwise out of work because of the decline in ceramics production traditionally associated with the region, was employed by Ai for over 2 years to make this work. Great! But as Jed Perl points out in his article in The New Republic “There is no question that we admire Ai´s courage and political dissident but as with everything that is made and shown in the name of art one also has to consider it precisely as art and it is here where it becomes difficult. How to discuss works of art that ticks all the `right´ political/moral boxes but still leaves room for critique?”4 When in her book Made in Mind, Martha Gnyp asks Ai about his Fairytale project in Kassel 2008, where he brought 1,000 Chinese citizens who had never been abroad, if he considered it an art project or a sociocultral experiment he unsurprisingly answered “I don´t think there is a conflict…anything can be art…I couldn´t think of a political or social involvement that is not art” but then continues “…Art is not a territory but magic”5 which seems like an odd statement considering the context he has placed his practice in. And is there really a difference between Sunflower Seeds and Hirst´s 300 Spot Paintings that were made by 2 of his assistants? The assistants most likely being in the (relative) same situation as the Jingdgenzhen artisans, unsuccessful in making a living on their own. Thus Hirst, like Ai provided them with the ability to make some money, at least for the time being. Hirst´s intention with his Spot Paintings was never the fact that his art production provided a much needed income for out of work artists, while Ai made this the main issue of his installation. Nevertheless, both artists means and end results are remarkably similar and what seems to unify them are that they are both highlighting the value of their art.

Global art market players Hirst and Ai were educated and can still be said to be practicing within two different political systems. While the need to define the value of artistic practice might seem like a typical neoliberal quest for creating measurable productive citizens, it does sound surprisingly similar to Marx and Engels´, fear of a possible universal laziness and even in China in the 70´s and 80´s, intellectuals were elevated from “bourgeois” to “mental workers” sharing the other citizens highly regarded responsibility of productivity. It seems apparent that in a time where art can be anything and anything can be art combined with (universal) economic crises, artists are once again faced with the question; What is (your) art good for? A.k.a What is it worth? Is the art world in need of another movement in an era where the Duchampian intention of the artist is king and as we can see in both Hirst´s and Ai´s practices, the means justify the end just as well as the end justifies the means? Or has this Duchampian academism already been replaced by the value of the art as an indication of it´s success?6 In reference to Nicolas Bourriaud´s curated Altermodern exhibition Nick Cohen writes in The Guardian “When Marcel Duchamp put a urinal in a New York gallery in 1917, it was a genuinely seditious act. But 1917 is almost a century away and what was once radical is now conservative. What few visitors there are to the Tate will not be shocked to see a Duchampian battered fridge with a sign next to it saying: `I was up all night making this.´ The sight of a watercolour would be far more transgressive.”7 Jonathan Jones also in The Guardian “I think Hirst is a much more exciting modern artist than Marcel Duchamp. To be honest, the word `exciting´ just doesn’t go with the word `Duchamp´. Get a load of that exciting urinal!”

As I previously suggested, what unites Hirst and Ai is how they define their work through value which seems like quite a step away from the Duchampian heritage they both claim. It is not art simply because they say so, it is art because they proclaim it has value. But what if the value of the art is integrated into the work through a spectacle? Is it then not inline with Duchamp? In Hirst´s case one might argue that the spectacle lies in the showmanship of Damien Hirst and his ability to make works of art that generates enormous amount of media attention, such as For the Love of God. But instead the real spectacle might have been the theatrical act of viewing the work, from obtaining a ticket, standing in line for up to 7 hours, being allowed in 12 at the time and ushered out after exactly 2 minutes. The piece (un)intentionally transformed from an $85 million fetish object into an interactive performance piece. Another of Hirst´s spectacles was, when in 2008, he parted with his former art dealers Jopling and Gagosian opting to sell his works himself through an auction at Sotheby’s. A social-practice criticism towards greedy dealers? Sarah Thornton, author of Seven Days in the Art World, writes “That sale wasn’t about the individual works…Rather, the sale itself was a daredevil piece of performance art.”9 In an interview with Anthony Haden-Guest Hirst says “For me, art is always a kind of theater. When I started the spot paintings I made them as an endless series. But I was never serious about it being an endless series. It was just an impliedendless series. The theater means you just have to make it look good for that moment in the spotlight.”10 For the art buyer the act of acquisition then becomes a chance for interactive participation in an artistic performance. As Jed Perl puts it in The New Republic “By buying art in public, the collector turns a rarefied experience–and what one would hope is the private avidity for art–into a popular experience, a spectacle that unfolds as if under klieg lights in a sold-out stadium”

Ai Weiwei on the other hand has what might be called a more traditional approach to the spectacle. Growing up in an, at first, isolated China that somewhat opened up in the 70´s, as Gail Pellett writes regarding the exhibition and book Ai Weiwei: New York 1983-1993 “Chinese artists trained in socialist-realism system with a disregard for knowledge and ideas when the country somewhat opened up in the 1970´s Modernism, post-modernism, classical philosophy, eighteenth-century European Enlightenment, liberalism, colonialism, and other intellectual movements from the Western world were all introduced to China at the same time to become simultaneous influences on artists’ practices. The artists in the late 80´s found themselves lacking education as well as ties to their traditions which were cut off by the cultural revolution.”12 Ai, who spent ten years between 1983-93 in New York, was able to cherry-pick Duchamp and the Situationists as his preferred theories. Even though Sunflower Seeds was created as a site-specific piece and was originally intended to be a piece where the audience could immerse themselves and physically interact with the work, this performative aspect disappeared with the closing of the installation and instead it transformed into a mere visual experience. Not what the artist intended, but if we shift focus away from the finished piece and as Ai claims the real value of Sunflower Seeds is the performative social impact the production of the work had on the village inhabitants. The question is then what role the seeds installed in the Turbine Hall has other than (visually interesting) movie props or souvenirs to be bought (or stolen) as mementos? Are they even necessary for the artwork or are they simply a by product of the main element? Would it have been more appropriate to show the making-of video in the larger space and have the sunflower seeds take the back seat? In 1995, Ai created the photographic triptych Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn which featured himself holding a Han Dynasty urn, dropping it and standing over the shattered remnants. The urn, which was actually two urns since the photographer missed the first one hitting the ground, were each worth a few thousand dollars but it was the historical value of the 2,000 year old urn that Ai was interested in. The triptych was sold in 2008 at a Phillips de Pury auction for over $80,000. Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn was preceded by the work of art that spurred Ai´s career; Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo,1994 which was acquired by world renowned collector of contemporary Chinese art and former Swiss ambassador in Beijing, Uli Sigg. As with Hirst´s auction providing a chance for the collector to be an active participant in a performance, collector Uli Sigg takes in 2012 an almost identical stance as Ai and drops the Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo. The act is documented by Swiss artist Manuel Salvisberg who creates the triptych Fragments of History.

Through their spectacles both Hirst and Ai have found ways for art collectors to take an active part in the artwork they are acquiring or, maybe it is precisely this desire to not only possess, but also be part of, even co-creator of the artwork they are buying, that is the real spectacle? In true Warholesque fashion Ai and Hirst have found a way to provide the collectors with their 15 minutes of fame as artists themselves and in the same spirit Hirst and Ai are utilizing pop culture iconography, multiples, the outsourcing of art production and an apparent disregard of private, corporate or historical ownership. Hirst has been accused of stealing ideas on several occasions and has said himself “If it’s a good idea, then lots of people have had it before…Fuck ‘em all! Who knows? Before I went to Goldsmiths, I sort of tried to be original. But then there’s just so much in the world, and so much of it is derivative. Everything comes from somewhere and it’s just such a mish-mash.”13 But interestingly enough neither Ai Weiwei nor Damien Hirst appreciate other artists appropriating their spectacles for their own spectacles. Hirst even went so far as to report the artist Cartrain to the Design and Artists Copyright Society when the artist, then 16 years old, posted a collage for sale online that contained an image of Hirst´s For the Love of God skull. Cartrain was forced to hand over the collages and agree to pay Hirst the $300 profits he had made. In response to Hirst´s actions a group of artists decided to make a point about his stringent use of copyright law and has created a series of works containing images of Hirst´s diamond-encrusted skull. The artists include Jamie Reed, designer of the Sex Pistols’ sleeve for the single God Save the Queen, former KLF band member Jimmy Cauty and Tracey Emin’s former boyfriend Billy Childish. As a humorous aim the group pledge that the profits from the sale of their Hirst inspired art will go to the making of an exact replica of his diamond skull. Still not intimidated by Hirst, Cartrain seized an opportunity to “borrow” some pencils from Hirst’s sculpture Pharmacy when it was installed at Tate Britain. Cartrain told The Independent “I went to the Tate Britain and by chance had a golden opportunity to borrow a packet of pencils from the Pharmacy exhibit. That same day I made up a fake police appeal poster advertising that the pencils had been removed from the Tate and that if anyone had any information they should contact the police on the phone number advertised.”14 Hirst was not amused and a few weeks later Cartrain returned home to find out that The New Scotland Yard had come by with a warrant for his arrest. In his absence they arrested his father on suspicion of harboring the pencils. Apparently the pencils were valued at over $800,000 and that by taking them Cartrain had damaged “…the concept of a public artwork titled Pharmacy…” which was valued to almost $17 million. The charges against Cartrain were later dropped but should he had been convicted it would have been one of the highest value modern art thefts in Britain. What´s intriguing is that the accusation was not that of stealing a physical object but damaging the concept and the fact that Hirst himself has said “…what I think is probably different about our generation is that we never felt the need to be original. That kind of frees you up to do what you want. I mean, like the spot paintings. There was Larry Poons.”15 and “I’ve always believed art’s more powerful than money…The money’s just a sideline. I remember those people who burned £1m and I thought it was disgusting. The K Foundation or something…” referring to Jimmy Cauty who indeed famously burnt one million pounds of earnings from the KLF in the name of art.

Neither was Ai Weiwei very pleased when earlier this year artist Maximo Caminero picked up, dropped and broke one of the color dipped Han dynasty vases of the “Colored Vase” series on display at the Miami Pérez Art Museum exhibition Ai Weiwei: According to What? In the Miami New Times Caminero said it was a spontaneous protest, he explains “I was at PAMM and saw Ai Weiwei’s photos behind the vases where he drops an ancient Chinese vase and breaks it. And I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest…I did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here. They have spent so many millions now on international artists. It’s the same political situation over and over again. I’ve been here for 30 years and it’s always the same.”16 Caminero states that he was unaware that the vase was ancient and that after Ai´s color dipping was valued at $1 million. In response to the act Ai tells The New York Times “The argument does not support the act. It doesn’t sound right. His argument doesn’t make much sense. If he really had a point, he should choose another way, because this will bring him trouble to destroy property that does not belong to him.”17 Regarding his Sunflower Seeds, Ai admits to Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian “If I was in the audience I would definitely want to take a seed. But for the museum, it is a total work, and taking a seed would affect the work. Institutions have their own policies. But I know I would want to take a seed.”18 Implying that it is the institution not him who opposes the pocketing of his work. Caminero later apologized to Ai who was not impressed and is quoted “My only advice is that he should make sure next time he knows — or have someone tell him — what he’s going to break…He thinks it’s from Home Depot?”19 What is Ai implying? That it is ok to break a cheap vase but not an expensive one? Or that it is ok to break an expensive historical valued vase if you like Uli Sigg and Ai Weiwei owns it? A new twist on the “if you break it you buy it”? If Caminero could pay the $1 million price tag of the vase (that has actually not been validated nor confirmed) he would have been free to break the vase. But who would then have cared? What effect did Sigg´s breaking of the coca-cola urn have but for generating a new triptycht portrait of Sigg? Caminero broke the colored vase as a statement in the tradition of détournement, a spectacle and as Ai upon Gnyp´s question “ So you believe that making statement, only making statements, makes people conscious about what is going on?” answered “That is very important. Everybody has to make a statement. Art is about making statements”20 Even though most articles about Camineros act has focused on the supposedly $1 million monetary value of the vase and that most Miami artists disagree with what Caminero did, it has sparked a debate over where local artists fit into Miami´s growing international reputation and part of the local art community has stood up behind Caminero by donating artwork to be sold to pay for his legal fees. It is still to early to know if Caminero will grab the opportunity and shift focus from his actual dropping of the vase to instead make his legal battle and the high price tag such a process has in the U.S as his next art piece? Maybe that´s where the real value of his spectacle lays? As Ai Weiwei says in the, considering recent events ironically titled documentary by Alison Klayman; Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry “If we don’t push, there is nothing happening. But life is much more interesting when you make a little bit of effort.”

I started this essay by stating that “Conventionally artists´ and curatorial statements, reviews and critiques do not feature actual numbers of the production cost or the resale value of the work discussed.” But the (art)world is far from conventional and as I have tried to identify through the examples of the art practice of Damien Hirst and Ai Weiwei, the value of the artwork whether monetary, social, health or knowledge production, is increasingly becoming an integral part of the concept, maybe even replacing the intention of the artist as the main player in contemporary art. Instead of asking; What does it mean a.k.a what is the intention of the artist? We might ask, what is it worth? Have the motive from the cultural sector; to provide the uninitiated with a measurable value of art in order to secure fair salaries, funding and to elevate the status of artistic practice, actually given us a new post-duchampian attitude and approach to art? And what happens when inevitable, the young rebellious artists with a love for spectacle and fuck you! attitudes has used all Duchampian means available to make statements about politics, money and society to leave their mark and succeed in occupying a spot at the top of art world, suddenly find themselves at the same time the very object and subject of the next generation artists with their own set of values? The king is dead, long live the king?

1. Gnyp, Martha (Ed.) Made in Mind – Myths and Realities of the Contemporary Artist, Stockholm 2013.
2. http://www.aiweiweiseeds.com/about-ai-weiweis-sunflower-seeds Downloaded 2014.05.21
3. http://www.aiweiweiseeds.com/about-ai-weiweis-sunflower-seeds Downloaded 2014.05.21
4. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112218/ai-wei-wei-wonderful-dissident-terrible-artist Downloaded 2014.05.23
5. Gnyp, Martha (Ed.) Made in Mind – Myths and Realities of the Contemporary Artist, Stockholm 2013.
6. Statement by Thomas Sutte in Made in Mind – Myths and Realities of the Contemporary Artist: edited by Martha Gnyp.
7. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/mar/01/tate-britain-bourriaud-art-market Downloaded 2014.05.23
8. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2011/nov/24/damien-hirst-modern-art-tate Downloaded 2014.05.25
9. Thornton, Sarah, Seven Days in the Art World, London, 2008.
10. http://www.interviewmagazine.com/art/damien-hirst/#_ Downloaded 2014.05.23
11. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/laissez-faire-aesthetics Downloaded 2014.05.26
12. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/t/tap/7977573.0002.111/–ai-weiwei-new-york-1983-1993-beijing-three-shadows press-newrgn=main;view=fulltext Downloaded 2014.05.29
13. http://www.interviewmagazine.com/art/damien-hirst/#_ Downloaded 2014.05.23
14. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/damien-hirst-in-vicious-feud-with-teenage-artistover-a-box-of-pencils-1781463.html Downloaded 2014.05.28
15. http://www.interviewmagazine.com/art/damien-hirst/#_ Downloaded 2014.05.23
16.http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2014/02/miami_artist_maximo_caminero_s.php Downloaded 2014.05.28
17. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/19/arts/design/behind-the-smashing-of-a-vase.html?_r=0 Downloaded2014.05.28
18. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/oct/11/tate-modern-sunflower-seeds-turbine Downloaded 2014.05.29
19. http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/artists-donate-works-for-legal-defense-of-man-who-smashedai-
weiwei-vase/ Downloaded 2014.05.28
20. Gnyp, Martha (Ed.) Made in Mind – Myths and Realities of the Contemporary Artist, Stockholm 2013.
21 Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, dir. Alison Klayman, perf. Ai Weiwei and Danqing Chen, DVD, 2012.

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Tea with Nefertiti

When visiting Spain I was pleasantly surprised when I came across the exhibition Tea with Nefertiti at IVAM -the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern. Curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellratht and was originally shown at Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha and l’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.

Tea with Nefertiti follows the current trend of exhibition methodology where works of art retrieved mainly from the hosting museums archives are placed in juxtapositions with either new work by contemporary artists or the museums permanent exhibition -such as at the Prado, the V&A or as here from the Egyptian Museum Collections/the metaphor of the bust of Nefertiti.

The large exhibition benefits from it´s non-chronological mix of time periods and geographic placement. This “confusion” urges you as a viewer to even further consider the connection between the art work / the artist and the theme proposed by the curators. A perfect example is the “ceramics section” that show Ai Weiwei´s Coco-Cola vase from 1997, Grayson Perry´s Wise Alan ceramic sculpture from 2007 right next to a Lusterware Bowl, Fatimid from the 10th Century.

My absolute favourite was Vik Muniz´s life size Tupperware sarcophagus that made me laugh out loud!

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Riga / Göteborg Network Continues

With a portfolie “speed-dating” and dinner event in collaboration with Galleri Box in Göteborg. Curators Solvita Krese – Director Latvian Center for Contemporary Art, Inga Lace – Curator and manager at Latvian Center for Contemporary Art and Independent Curator and Šelda Puķīte – Visual Arts sector adviser at the Culture Ministry of Republic of Latvia and xhibition program curator at Mans Doms.

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Art in the Time of Globalisation

What a bizarre experience it was to see Nicoline van Harskamps work Yours in Solidartity at the Survival Kit Festival in Riga (dated 2013) when I had just days before seen it at Göteborgs Konsthall (dated 2011) part of the GIBCA Göteborg International Biennale for Contemporary Art. The interesting part was to see how a work of art changes depending on the milieu – shown in a white cube setting with a high production value compared to in a more alternative venue with a shoestring budget. The slightly depressing part was how obvious the homogenization of the art world has become in the wake of Globalisation.

Above at Göteborgs Konsthall part of GIBCA

Above in Riga part of the Survival Kit Festival

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Snowball Cultural Productions participating in Symposium “Slow revolution: Art and Culture in the Institutional and Territorial Peripheries”

Part of the “Survival Kit 5” International Contemporary Arts Festival, which is organized by the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA) and took place from the 5th to the 15th September, 2013.

The seminar was scheduled for Thursday September 12th, from 11:00-18:00

Revolution as a collective activity usually occurs in a peripheral zone – territorial, ideological, economic or political – and aims at fundamentally changing the system dictated by the dominant force that is incapable or disinterested in securing public needs. Often, small gestures, interventions in the public space, partisan strategies, and involvement of inhabitants turn into strong impulses that can cause quite a significant change.

What can an artist, arts organizations and neighbourhood residents existing in the periphery of power do in this era of flourishing civic engagement? What kind of ‘arms’ and tools can be used? What do we want to change in the current situation?

For more info go to http://www.survivalkit.lv/en/symposium/

The symposium is organized in the framework of the short-term network where LCCA collaborates with culture project “Snowball Cultural Productions” in Gothenburg, Sweden, and curators’ platform “Rakett” in Bergen, Norway. Short-term network is supported by the Nordic Culture Point.

Inga Lace and Solvita Krese

Aida Eltorie (EG) The Changing Room: Altering the Simulation of Space

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Love Explosion

Göteborgs Konsthall’s 2013 summer exhibition Love Explosion is full on: a major group exhibition devoted to engagement, creativity and will power. Some twenty artists, musicians, playwrights, writers and actors participate in Love Explosion. The title indicates what it is all about, some kind of explosion. Which, hopefully, will lead to chain reactions.
Participating artists:
Patrik Bengtsson, Erik Berglin, Nina Bondeson, Gabo Camnitzer, Eva Dahlin, Omid Delafrouz, Den Stora Vilan, Elisabet Eriksson, Ulla Hammarsten McFaul, Frauke, Nilofar Kosheshi, Jonathan Ollio Josefsson,
Rasmus Lindgren, Sara Lännerström, Bo Melin, Mandana Moghaddam, MonoMono, Mattias Norström, Josefina Posch, Petra Revenue, Dana Sederowsky , Gustav Sparr, Surreal Lovers, Pecka Söderberg,
Mauritz Tistelö, Sara Trovik, Sofia Änghede
Curators:
Ola Åstrand och Mikael Nanfeldt
http://www.konsthallen.goteborg.se

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55th Venice Biennale Preview Days

This years preview days of the 55th Venice Biennale were delightfully rainy with rays of sun momentarily breaking through the clouds treating us visitors to a spectacular light phenomenon so typical for Venice. Maybe it was the weather or maybe the economy or maybe it was simply just me, but this year seemed less crowded and more relaxed than in recent years. Naturally there was too much to see and experience, some of it not making an impression on site but rather lingering in my mind to be rediscovered weeks later. The work that made an impression both during the preview and still holds my interest was most of all artist Kaspars Podnieks and Krišs Salmanis; North by North-East at the Latvian Pavillion curated by Anne Barlow, Courtenay Finn, Alise Tīfentāle. The slowsweeping tree offered a moment of calm and instantly transported me to a nordic leaf forrest. A welcoming break from the image overload of the rest of the arsenale.

The tree theme continued with the Falling Trees at the Finnish Alvar Aalto Pavilion where Antti Laitinen performed a deconstructed trees performance on site.


At the Dutch Pavillion Mark Manders; Room with Broken Sentence provided a welcoming new take on the body in contemporary sculpture.

Mel Brooks might have said sex is like pizza, even when it´s bad it´s good and this might very well go for Ai Wei Wei who´s overexposure slowly fades my interest but at the same time being just so annoyingly fascinating he still keeps me on my toes. In Venice his S.A.C.R.E.D. coffin like viewing boxes gave us an unusual insight in his (and other political prisoners in China) daily life while being under arrest, fittingly installed in the Sant’Antonin church which rarely is open to the public.

What struck me at the American Pavillion was, especially for Americans, the dead silence amongst the viewers who seemed in deep trance caught by the fascinating Triple Point installation by Sarah Sze.

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nordic art / Between Miracles opened at CCA- Tbilisi this past weekend

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nordic art / Between Miracles

Exhibition and Seminar at Center for Contemporary Art, Tbilisi, Georgia

Opening Reception March 7th
Seminar March 8th – 9th
Exhibition Continues until 7th April

www.betweenmiracles.org

Participating Artists:
Anders Smebye, NO
Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir & Mark Wilson, IS/UK
Elin Wikström in Collaboration with Denis Romanowski, SE
Eva Koch, DK
Josefina Posch, SE
Lars Laumann, NO
Leslie Johnson, SE
Sasha Huber, SF

Participating Organisations:
Bastard, NO
CCA-Tbilisi, GE
GeoAIR, GE
Kallio Kunsthalle, SF
Manymade, DK
Nýlo – The Living Art Museum, IS
Snowboard Cultural Productions, SE
Supermarket Art Fair and Magazine, SE
Wooloo.org, DK


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