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Saturday, April 23, 2011

It has been a while... huh?!?

Just to inform you that if I left the blogging world, it was to start a new life with photography...

I just registered my business in Germany and would be happy if you could just visit my new website:


Thanks for reading... I won t give that blog up though. I liked writting in there too much!

I will hopefully see you very soon in those lines.

Trier, Fotografie, Photography, Photographie, Fototgraf, Photographer, Photographe

Porträts, Hochzeit, Reportage

Portraits, Weddings, Events

Mariages, évènements



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hi you! I haven t been here for a long time... Sorry I was just changing country job and everything! Now I can continue... slowly first and then normally!

It was just to say happy birthday to this blog and special thanks to the 11500 visitors... Thanks a lot everybody and see u really soon!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In the last post, I introduced a discussion based on an article released in the Arts Newspaper, that eventually led (and currently continue to lead) to a debate about the art world, the artist, provocation, context and many other interesting issues.
I'd like to focus on a point of the debate related to the way the initial article was written in the Art Newspaper because I believe it is relevant to explore the way cultural differences affect the contemporary art world in general.
This all starts with the following comment:
I wish I could follow what the heck the writer is trying to say in this piece.

9.5.08 Jonathan San Francisco

How many of us felt the same in front of an art-related text, an introduction to a specific artist or an exhibition book/review? To be honest, if you do your first steps in the contemporary art world, it sounds like a foreign language!

To this first comment, a second writer adds:

What the writer is obscuring with his "art-speak" is that the videos featured animals being battered to death, in some cases by the artist, in the name of art. I saw the exhibit and was sickened and I've worked in hospitals all my life. What I saw when the exhibit was pulled was a demand, if you will, for ethical, humanistic and humane values rather than an "anything goes in the name of building my career." If the video had shown the torture of humans done as an art form there would have been no mistaking its brutality. I realize that most of us eat meat and that animals are usually not killed in a humane way but this exhibit wasn't about that. It was about promoting a career by using gruesome and controversial imagery.

Eventually, a third writer, visibly more concerned by what happens in the contemporary art sphere, writes:

9.5.08 Nancy San Francisco, CA

My 2¢ in response to the previous comments. Firstly, what is "art-speak"? When I hear someone use that term it always feels as though they are simply trying to dismiss the argument. This is a venue for art writing and sometimes complex and nuanced ideas require like language. Do we deride economists, carpenters or anyone that has a vernacular/vocabulary/language that we have trouble deciphering?

[...] I also wonder if Nacy's analysis that the artist is "promoting a career by using gruesome and controversial imagery" is based on an understanding of the work in context of his entire body of work/career, or simply on a knee jerk reaction and subjective view of contemporary art and artists.

9.5.08 josh Oakland

This actually makes a point here, the 'knee-jerk reference was obviously not compulsory but demonstrates a certain passion in the debate...! "This is a venue for art writing and sometimes complex and nuanced ideas require like language. Do we deride economists, carpenters or anyone that has a vernacular/vocabulary/language that we have trouble deciphering?" is a wise comment but...

If you are a regular reader of these blog lines, or if you have a foot into contemporary art world as a hobby or as professional, you've probably acknowledge all the postmodernist theoretical background and would probably agree with this third writer. However a contradiction lays just there:
On the first hand, contemporary art is over mediatised and becomes increasingly popular. If not in a art-specific media, contemporary art is often introduced to the mass culture through the celebrities who bought or sold famous artworks, big amounts of cash exchanged and sometimes glittering cocktails and parties to celebrate prizes.
On the second hand, rich of a solid theoretical background and a more and more complex history of the Art and the interactions between sub-genres; contemporary art becomes less and less accessible to the newcomer but more and more interesting in my opinion although i agree that we can find the best, the worst and too often... the worst.

This is not just about the words to describe it! This is way more than just this! I am talking about visual vocabulary, the visual semantic rules and cultural history associated; the postmodernist grammar and conjugation system, which binds the artist, artworks and viewers altogether to create meaning with a unique sense of the tenses dialectic...
Therefore, how come a newcomer who never really learned this foreign language could possibly understand such complex artworks as Jim Beam JB Turner Train from Jeff Koons? Try to explain to a newcomer that this stainless steel train, filled with Bourbon is a masterpiece and talks about class, power and the contemporary art market?
Jim Beam JB Turner Train from Jeff Koons

Culturally, I know that French and English people use to consider that visual art has to be explicit and does not have to be decoded and would bet that it is the same in a lot more countries, but people have to learn how to read an image in the same way that we learn how to read a text. As might be expected, people are more attracted by literature, more than visual art and contemporary art particularly. A RadioFrance Internet article, written by Hélène Chevallier in 2005, describes a change within museum exhibition policies to try to solve this problem with some interventions at school, dialogues with artists and accompaniment of the visitors. In the same article, the public services manager of Lyon’s Biennial Turgaut E., argue that “it is easy to consider young people as the next generation of audience and have the keys of the future of contemporary art, but that’s really important to sensitise them as young as possible. If we give them the opportunity to see more contemporary artworks, they will be not totally disoriented when they will be adults!”. The International Council of Museums, uses in Marketing the Arts, the term “edutainment”. They proposed to include guided tours and extra-mural works as an integral part of the exhibition project building.
This definitely is a first step, although I hate when interactivity becomes compulsory in a growing number of museums...
The key lays therefore in the education process... When would we see a fully recognised picture analysis as an exam for the GCSE, baccalaureate or any equivalent?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

One should absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar.

Oscar Wilde

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I did not think about it but, but it was so obvious!!! I' ve read an article entitled “I see a new, pervasive and global condition of fundamentalist violence directed against dissident images and thought” in the online version of the Arts Newspaper and it all became clear!! I forget to talk about it!! Ok here I go:
The article talks about an exhibition that seemed really controversial for some... Not for others...
The artist is apparently French with North African origins (it is somehow relevant, u ll see...) and the artwork is a movie made in a Mexican slaughter house... Showing animals being slaughtered and was apparently misinterpreted by a part of the audience that saw there a kind of 'Animal Snuff Movie' realised for the sake of Art. We can't really blame them, can we? I've mentioned earlier in this blog that the art world is not being tender at the moment with projects of people dying in Art galleries for the "show" (I m not discussing these artworks here... this is a whole other debate), the story of this student with her performance art piece in which she artificially inseminated herself repeatedly and then self-aborted for the sake of art, then Guillermo Habacuc Vargas who chained a dog and left it in the gallery without food for the sake of art... It is all disturbing isn't it???

This all sound really crazy to me, however I must say my opinion is a bit biased as I belong of a specific group of people recently mediatised because of its leader actions and PR operations, and girlfriends... We became notorious in the past as some of our traditions are usually perceived as foolish: eating cow tongues and snails, being really arrogant, protesting for everything and demonstrating all the time. We are known as the French people.
My opinion is biased because there are some of the things out there I take for granted (snails are really good... yes, they really are!), some I do not understand (when I say that in France, in soap advertisements, girls appear entirely naked under the shower and, I do not understand why you think this is pervert...) and some things, my people do not accept (Chinese people eat puppies and rotten duck eggs!!).
I do not say I am any better than you, I just say that I am different... I am just French! But look, I am not only French, I went to university, come from a village, a Polish family with a catholic background... and finally I am really into contemporary art things for years... It makes things easier for me to accept or understand as it is part of my culture. In fact, we all are singular individuals, who belong to groups which belong to larger groups. Therefore, when I go to see an exhibition about Chapman Brothers artworks (notorious for being particularly controversial...), I am not really shocked. Does it mean that it would be stupid of you to be shocked there?

Some ideas could be dangerous when exported in other social groups. We have recently seen conflicts exploding all around the world because of a couple of Mahomet's drawings. What kind of conclusion could emerge from this?

Coming back to our slaughter house example, it appears as I mentioned previously, that a group of people believed that the animals were killed on purpose, for the sake of the video. It led to blackmail, dangerous anonymous threats...etc. Who is responsible?
I believe that, as in every communication process, that meaning is built both by the emitter (here the curators) and the receivers (audience). Therefore, the information about the artwork was probably lacking... This is an old habit, tradition for galleries to keep a mystery around the artworks. It is part of the art culture, usually justified by the fact that every viewer must be able to enrich the artworks by building a personal relationship with the piece of art, as many different opinions as different viewers who enter in the gallery; different meanings to be shared, to generate a result that is more powerful than the simple sum of every individually built meanings!
Art exists to question what we take for granted, it somehow must shock. Can we talk about everything? I believe so, but maybe not in front of everybody... There is therefore a responsability from curators to take into account the culture in which the work of art is exhibited. This responsability lays in the dispensal of the information. The artist has the liberty of expression for him, but it is the role of the curator to dispense acurate and relevant information, in accordance with the culture of the potential audience of the exhibition. In two words: Cultural relativism.
Different communities may need different information in quantity and in nature to understand the message emitted through the artwork (Hofstede researches show that some cultures tend to use the context more than others within the communication process, for the connoisseurs ;-)).
Away from the Flock, A controversial artwork by Damien Hirst. Vegetarians protest about it, and it is vandalised with black ink while on show at the Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away exhibition, curated by Hirst, at London's Serpentine Gallery.

To conclude, I would like to say this: I know that contemporary art can appear really violent and provocative but in most of the time, it is served with an intelligent discourse. In fact, when the art is stupid and provocative, it does not go through the whole art system... So, do not be affraid to seek for information and to ask questions! This is a horrible feeling to enter in a gallery and to feel stupid because you do not understand anything (and I know what I am talking about). This is partly why this blog exists. On the other side, when you take part of an exhibition organisation... BE RESPONSIBLE AND CULTURALLY AWARE!!!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hello reader!
It seems that there is a big effervescence around public arts this last few days and I thought I should talk about it in this blog... I recently posted an article called 'what is a true national culture', introduced by these few lines:
The position of the critique is a central question regarding the cultural differences , whether it is a critique of the society through the work of art or a critique of the art itself, as it is influenced by social norms and rules.
Defining whether a work of art is ‘original’ or not may depend on a stereotyped definition of originality for social coherence needs, and may thus be unresponsive to the work of those who challenge the authority of that tradition and that stereotype.
For example, Graciela Trajtenberg highlights in “Modernism in Action: Comparing the relationship between the Visual Arts, Social class and Politics in Israeli Nation-building”, that the attempt of artists affiliated with the organised labor movement, to promote an art deeply embedded in the local cultural conditions (“reflecting the political aims of the Israeli settler movement” and “with a flavour of Middle-East cultural heritage”) were countered by the contemporary art world hegemonic power. When the art culture of the early 1900 was promoting the modernist’s aesthetic, Trajtenberg describes in her study how the combination of this movement issued from the main European capital cities and bourgeois patronage blocked attempts of the Israeli politically inspired art, to become a significant art trend over liberal ideals of ‘free’ art scene.
A strange notion of liberty... It does not mean that the system does not generate good artworks.

Rachel Whiterhead (see previous post here)- Memorial - JudenPlatz - Vienna

I would like to explore briefly another problem, which may lie under all this: When it comes to 'public' art.

On the one hand, there is an art world that tries to place massive art works everywhere in the UK (Shall we really complain? It s definitely a matter of point of view when it comes to pay the local taxes); on the second hand, people's desires are not necessarily fulfilled with the authorities responses... What I am just about to say may sounds like a cheap advice but I think it's worth to say it: Authorities should take account of the gap that stands between the art world culture and the people's culture!

In a previous post entitled "The contemporary art world in 2008", I introduced the potential modification of the business etiquette within the contemporary art world in 2008, due to the growing importance of the Asian markets... In parallel, for my uni final work, I introduced the hypothesis that a 'contemporary art' culture of communication may exist, largely influenced by the top end buyers who benefit from a great media coverage and therefore could be influential for minorities within the art market. A culture mainly U.S. and Europe oriented at the moment, but just about to change drastically.

Christian Boltanski

Jüdisches Museum - Berlin

To be more precise, I've demonstrated that according to the international sales figures blended with scores associated with each countries for the cultural characteristics, that the dominant western art market tends to give little chance to artists and enterprises to move among genres, but also that no importance is accorded to these new genres unless there are values of prestige associated. In other terms it does hardly give a chance to new emerging movements, especially if those movements do not emerge from the major cultural actors of the International art market.

That is for the market culture... but what about the people's culture, which probably has nothing to do with this international financial/cultural battleground? Reading this last paragraph again makes me think that the art world would not give a damn about the people anyway!

Do you take account of the people's culture when you commission an 'angel of the south' in Kent? The fourth plinth on Trafalgar square that traditionally supports contemporary artworks? Hardly... Yes in fact but it tends to be kept hush...

John Tusa for an article in Guardian Arts Blog entitled "Art in public spaces should be decided by the people" proposes a series of questions to improve the communication process between the Commissioners and the Public:

Is the work to be a sculpture or an installation? Is it for an existing community with an existing identity, or a new community whose identity can be influenced by the commission? Is it to be permanent or temporary? If temporary, what follows? Is the commission primarily a sop to a developers' conscience, a blatant attempt to gloss over a basically mediocre development? How is the community to be involved? How is the artist involved? What is the process for choosing a short list of artists for the commission - if this is the route chosen? And finally, who chooses the actual commission?

Model for a hotel - Thomas Schütte - Photo by Orange Mac

This question can become really tricky when it comes to commission a memorial artwork. Why would we commission an artwork for a memorial by the way? Probably because in some cases, words and pictures are not enough to communicate things as 'heavy' on consciousness as holocaust, wars or genocides... There I come back to the first post of this blog, last November that introduced my vision of what a great contemporary artwork is: a way to express an idea, to reach the full-range of human feelings when words or traditional media becomes powerless.

I think the 'Angel of the North' really makes it, I did realise it when we organised this trip to Newcastle for a bench of International people who desperately wanted to stop to take pictures there...
I invite you to visit the Guardian website to have a clear view on what projects are currently competing to become Ebbsfleet Landmark (Kent). Finally, my preference would definitely go to Mark Wallinger's project... (see previous post about Mark Wallinger)

Photograph: Ebbsfleet Landmark Project Ltd

Why? Although I am deeply in love with Rachel Whitehead's work I cannot avoid to dream about my daughter at the back of the car, a spark in the eye, just thinking that in a couple of miles she will see the sculpture of a giant horse!!! ;-))

Monday, May 5, 2008

My name is Conflict, won't you take me home? You've probably heard about me in the newspapers, on tube or in the cinema but there is a great chance that you've never seen me for real... Some of you believe that I am a necessary condition for their liberty... I won't blame them! It is just that they don't know me really... I am far more dirty and naughty that what they imagine. But you do not realise it anymore.

There are many reasons for this, but the one obvious to me is linked to your representational systems. You have been lucky enough, not to see the warfare on your doorstep and to see, feel what it is properly like. Therefore, your idea of a war is based on what is available to you, may it be fictional or read from a journalistic point of view.

Me, Conflict, would like to introduce you to an artwork I really dislike. Its called Lock and the artist is Renaud AUGUSTE-DORMEUIL:

Lock is a term borrowed from the snipers lexical field, which means that the target is ready to be killed. Helped with a laser pointer, Renaud AUGUSTE-DORMEUIL simulates a situation where civil targets caught in the line of fire of an undefined threat in Paris streets.

I'll ask again... Won't you take me home? Instead of this simulacra of modern urban unfair warfare? You all have in mind photos of Sarajevo, victims of Snipers. Let me refresh your memory. The media used to be flooded of such pictures at that time. But this was far away, so far that people could not even point at Sarajevo on a map. And the media did not help: Who really knows what happened there? But let's just come back to our artwork... I was just saying: What I dislike about this artwork, me, Conflict, is that it helps people to think about what would happen if I had to come to your door... A simulation... As if people were attacked in your peaceful parks, streets and playgrounds. In 'lock', the threat is viewable, the tragedy is imminent; did not yet happen though, but is just about to happen. The potentiality of death is not only a newspaper thing anymore. And YOU now think about it, maybe as you could be the victim of this sniper that points his red eye on your shoulder or on your back.
Why is it different from what you see on your TV screen?
First it is fictional but wait... this one is quite subtle: No it is not real, I can assure you it's not and you probably know about it. It does not really look like a journalistic picture, does it? Usually CNN and friends show you what happens after the tragedy... and you might expect some standard gestures from the subjects or at least a diaporama before-while-after like, that shows the tragic events as in a movie. But here, nothing! You are not even sure that something will happen.
My second argument to highlight a difference between press picture archetypes and our artwork lies in the framing and compositional codes of the photos. Have now a close look on this picture below:

This is a terrific shot taken a few seconds after Benazir Bhutto assassination in Pakistan by John Moore. This picture is part of a series that won the first prize at the World Press Photography 2008. You can see it is real by the way the photo was taken... You expect such picture from a journalist, don't you? That is exactly the aesthetic that would boost the TIMES/Guardians sales, when framed on the front page. A guy praising at the sky in the middle of the carnage, smoke, calcined corpses and blood everywhere around... This Muslim really looks like Jesus Christ?! The perfect white European archetype of sacrifice and suffering... A model that applies everywhere?

From the exact same series, I find this one far more interesting... This is a bit more unexpected. It was taken while the bombs were exploding and it really gives a sense of immediacy. But that is a question of taste.Ok, one more time: My name is conflict, do you take me home? an idea of me? or am I just a far, remote, unrealistic fantasy that does not have much to do with proper truth and reality?

For allowing the viewer to question all these problematics, I say 'Lock' by Renaud AUGUSTE-DORMEUIL... Artwork of the month.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hello reader! Coming back to the first lines of this blog in November 2007, I made the choice of focusing on the cultural differences that may shake the contemporary art galaxy, rather than writing lines about the last exhibition I did not go to anyway. This covers the viewers, the artists, the intermediaries and all the different media that allows information transfer between them. Today’s post is going to focus on an aspect of this last particular point.
In an attempt of modernisation, to stay in touch with the general mood, the church often commissioned artists to 'communicate'. Sometimes political ideals, sometimes to say "hey!! we went through the middle age to come to meet you!"... But here, I m just being cynical. But contemporary art is more often associated with the idea of Church (the one with a big 'C' which is related to the people, the dogma…etc.) when it comes to architecture. I have seen some stunning things around there and would definitely recommend you to go to see the Liverpool modern cathedral that looks like a nuclear reactor from the outside, or Notre Dame de Ronchamps from Le Corbusier.
Liverpool cathedral - Photograph: Me!!!

What about having a contemporary art exhibition in the church? Well, it is a church not a gallery... But there is the trick: To include the work of art in the decoration features such as the windows. Chagall's windows in St Etienne cathedral in Metz are great examples that come to my mind, a bit dated though...
Chagall's window in Metz cathedral

So is there something really contemporary edgy, happening somewhere at the moment in our churches? Probably not... But look, we've seen so many weird stuffs recently in the art world. First, there is this story of this student with her performance art piece in which she artificially inseminated herself repeatedly and then self-aborted for the sake of art then Guillermo Habacuc Vargas who chained a dog and used it as “art”. He told everyone not to feed the animal which eventually died in the gallery.
Then, are the edgy things, the most simple artworks the one that belongs to a temple? I believe so... and then comes this marvellous artwork commissioned for the St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London to Shirzeh Houshiary:
The simple idea of a monochrome stained window that mixes the symbols of the cross and the grid to make a powerful statement about the place of races and gender differences within the Church (the one with a big 'C' literally crystallized by a church feature, the one with a little 'c' this time which only describes the construction).
I think it really makes it. The Guardian goes to qualify this artwork as 'gynaecological reworking of Christian symbols'. Do you understand it better? Sure but there is no need to shock anybody by inserting the word 'gynaecological’ in a description of a stained glass in a church. But there again… it s contemporary art and it is traditionally shocking.
Last questions: Does the nationality of the artist (Iranian) adds value to the overall quality of the artwork? What if I tell you that Shirazeh Houshiary was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1994? In the author's death, Barthes criticizes the reader's tendency to consider aspects of the author’s identity—his political views, historical context, religion, ethnicity, psychology, or other biographical or personal attributes—to distill meaning from his work.
It seems a good PR operation to me that eventually leads the commissioning team to declare to the press: "The fact that we are standing now in a church, in front of a window designed by an Iranian woman artist, at the beginning of the 21st century, is truly significant". Sure it is but it seems to me that this cosmopolitan attitude towards contemporary art and especially artists becomes another fashion that will soon be outdated. Will people qualify what we should call 'cosmopolitan art' as the art of the years 2000 as 'extreme art' is now sometimes used to qualify the 90's as the last years of the age of 'controversy as a trend'? Controversy for the sake of controversy>>> cosmopolitan for the sake of postmodernism.

It makes sense, doesn't it? ;-)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hi Blognauts! How are you? You had enough rest? Can we come back? the bunny brought you a bag full of potential articles. I think we might explore a few ways introduced by the postmodern philosophers and plenty of surprises! Pomo philo? Isn't it a bit boring?
Well if you enjoyed the previous lines of the blog it must not be a problem!

Let's start with the artwork of the month of April that will introduce the next few posts:

Kings Cross, London 2007 by Naoki Honjo

Naoki Honjo is a popular Japanese artist that blurs the border between reality and fiction by using a technique that uses the macro photography visual codes and transposes them to large city views. As some of you may be not particularly familiar with photography techniques, I will show you an example to illustrate this. Do you remember 'crazy art nation' introduced in the post 'another brick in the wall'.

Look closer at how does the picture appear. You will see that the picture gets its maximum of sharpness on the little character that represents Mark Wallinger. The foreground and the background get blurred due to the size of the object and the distance between the scene and the camera lens.

Arts Crazy Nation

Amery Carson

The point here, is that a 'visual culture' exists. Look at the picture above. It is a flower and it is not really hard to guess... But think about it... How do you know it is a flower? There are a few clues: the colors, the water drops, the organic aspect of the subject. The depth of field is one important clue. You have seen many of this flowers close-up and the small depth of field is one of the elements you expect when we show you such pictures. It is part of your visual culture!

When Naoki Honjo shows you a picture of buildings, roads and buses; with such a small depth of field, your brain may conclude that the objects shot on the picture are incredibly small... Probably a model... But no! Not this time, this is 'real', a picture of the actual London.

We might therefore say that Naoki Honjo cheats with our system of perception.

From another angle, we could imagine that a god-like photographer took the picture, starring at us the way we would stare at an ants colony... The presence of something superior, gigantic that looks at us from above and could crush everything we take for unbreakable, with a single finger.

Furthermore, the scenes look like big toys, dolls house, lego (?!) something that questions the social movements, the way we evolve in the city, representational modes.

Saitama-Arena, Saitama, Japan, 2004 by Naoki Honjo

Containers, Tokyo, Japan 2005 by Naoki Honjo

London Buses, 2007 by Naoki Honjo

This is a crystal clear demonstration that the gaze at the artwork is biased on a quite powerful manner by the stereotype we hold about the picture features (here the point of view and the particular depth of field). What I would like to point at, is that we hold stereotypes about everything, it is simply the way the brain works! We may be largely unaware of the stereotypes we hold... The more obvious are the ethnic ones, African are like this, French like that... But Naoki Honjo brilliantly demonstrates us, using quite a poetic channel that it may not be that simple!

Would our conception of the real, be subject of such stereotypes? Is this same conception of the real, potentially biased by our perception system, would be subject of cultural differences?
I propose you to discuss this in the next posts!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ifucansayitwhypaintit, needs a break for Easter. I ll be back after an Easter break!

Do not hesitate to go back on one of the past 40 posts and comment them; most of them are not necessarily linked with actuality.

Anyway here are some eggs as requested by the tradition:

Sarah Lucas - Autoportrait with eggs

See u soon!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The position of the critique is a central question regarding the cultural differences , whether it is a critique of the society through the work of art or a critique of the art itself, as it is influenced by social norms and rules.
Defining whether a work of art is ‘original’ or not may depend on a stereotyped definition of originality for social coherence needs, and may thus according to Harrison and Wood “be unresponsive to the work of those who challenge the authority of that tradition and that stereotype”. Because we also hold stereotypes about our own culture... We may therefore imagine that there is a bias when exploring the question of our identity... Would you really think that you can be that subjective?
For example, Graciela Trajtenberg highlights in Modernism in Action: Comparing the relationship between the Visual Arts, Social class and Politics in Israeli Nation-building, that the attempt of artists affiliated with the organised labor movement, to promote an art deeply embedded in the local cultural conditions (“reflecting the political aims of the Israeli settler movement” and “with a flavour of Middle-East cultural heritage”) were countered by the contemporary art world hegemonic power.

When the art culture of the early 1900 was promoting the modernist’s aesthetic, Trajtenberg describes in her study how the combination of this movement issued from the main European capital cities and bourgeois patronage blocked attempts of the Israeli politically inspired art, to become a significant art trend over liberal ideals of ‘free’ art scene!

Guy Ben-Ner -- From 'Self portrait as a family man'

Taking the problem on the reverse, studies also highlight the difficulties that an artist may encounter while trying to depict elements related to a ‘true national culture’.
By analysing the creation process of an artist who wishes to produce an artwork that might reflect his/her national culture, Fanon (1965) highlight that the exchange of influences between ‘dominant’ (here the US and European art world and its influence on the international art market) and the dominated cultures (second third and quarter world cultures that try to impose their own cultural views on the international art market) is too deep nowadays.
This artist would take the risk to come across the use of stereotypes within the depiction intention. In attempting to reach the basis of what might consist the ‘true’ national culture, artists deny the foreign culture and its influence, such as its contributions in terms of techniques and trends. Such work is therefore based on the assumption that constant recognisable patterns exists in what is considered as ‘true national art’. But Fanon, argues that “the forms of thought and what it feeds on, together with modern techniques of information, language and dress have dialectically reorganised the people’s intelligences".
In the artist attempt to depict what consists of the ‘true’ elements of a culture “turns paradoxically towards the past and away from actual events”. He/she, then illustrates the ‘cast-offs of thought’, a set of rules, norms and values that do not reflect the reality of the culture anymore.

The artist in this case does not depict the national culture but a set of cultural artifacts. Therefore, “what seems to characterise a people, are in fact only the inherit, already forsaken results of frequent, and not always very coherent adaptations of a much more fundamental substance which itself is constantly being renewed”.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Have you ever wandered if your artwork was 'offering' or 'Demanding'? No?! You should definitely!! And if you have no idea of what I am talking about, I would suggest you to read these few lines that may enrich your artistic argumentation or help you to reflect on this ... 'stuff' that stands in front of you at the next exhibition (lol)!
I am going to focus on how the ‘position of the viewer’ may influence the understanding of the artwork in two different posts. The first, here, will be a kind of introduction, will give you a key concept to understand the second one which will specifically focus on cultural differences. Have a good reading!

Considering the artwork as a channel of communication, we can distinguish two different ways in which the viewer can be addressed. Represented elements can be ‘Offering’ to the viewer or being source of a ‘demand’.

The ‘demanding’ elements tend to involve the viewer in the artwork. This involvement can be ‘demanded’ through the gaze of a figure looking directly at the viewer or by asking the viewer to be part of an experiment in which the created meaning or resultant feelings are part of the message mediated through the artwork for example.
Paul Klee - Ancient sound

The idea of interacting with the work of art is not new and has particularly be enhanced by Paul Klee in the 1920’s when using the concept of ‘space in between’ also called third space. Hannula in -Space: a merry-go-round of opportunity an article from Kiasma magazine, argues that the 3rd space is, "the space, situation and opportunity, which can open up between two persons, or, for instance, a viewer and an object. It is, most of all, a question of encounter, which possibly creates the third space. An event, which simultaneously belongs to both parties”.
Therefore the ‘encounter’ is viewed as a starting point for an act of mutual influence between the participants, an interaction that connects both parties (here the viewer and the artwork).
Hannula describes the creation of such encounter and the creation of the third space as a strictly empathic individual experience that has no rules except trying to be open to other views and to give opportunity for self-expression.
Hannula says here, that entering the third space leads to the creation of an area where “the content of concepts and statements is hotly debated. In the best case, it creates opportunities which promote something different, new and previously unidentified”.
A view through the peephole in the door of Marcel Duchamp's Etant donné (1946-66)

Alternative ways of reflection on identity, position, environment and goals arise out of the collaboration of two parties with their own culture, language and personal history that can lead to the alteration of assumptions and prejudices and might animate to call the validity of stereotypes into question.
An example of the appearance of such ‘third space’ could be illustrated by a performance which consisted of measuring people at the entrance of the gallery, and giving them shoes with adapted heels that completed their height to exactly 200cm (If you find the name of the artist and the performance please do not hesitate to comment this post).
His idea was to let people enter in an almost empty gallery enabling them to look each other in the eyes at the same level. In this way he created a third space between the participants who themselves became a part of the artwork for a moment.

Paul Cezanne - Nature morte au crane

By contrast, ‘Offering’ elements such as still lifes which depict inanimated objects (a basket of fruits for example) are descriptive and do not ask for the viewer’s involvement.
Sacks in 'Lecture on conversation', highlights that communicative power or ‘entitlement’ issues are resulting in the everyday use of communication due to viewer’s position: “Not everyone may address the viewer directly. Some may be looked at, other may themselves be the bearers of the look”. In other words, the issue of the viewer’s positionment recalls culturally embedded eye-contact, that will be the subject of a next post.
Know that you know about offer and demand, would you have mesmerizing examples of offering or demanding artwork to share with us?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

There is a great deal about the initial assumptions we make about things that surround us. When you enter the Tate modern or Centre Pompidou you expect the highest quality of art; and although you may not know half of the artists exhibited there (Not to know about everything is rather normal and even more enjoyable...), you may presume that it is fantastic even though you do not specially like it.

To rely on the context is one of the most important characteristics of the human process of communication. Our new artwork of the month relies quite cleverly to the context both through direct (visual clues) and indirect components (artwork status, the photographic medium) and your lecture may probably be biased once again, like with every other artwork of the month I introduced in the past, because many people including me already gave their own interpretation; I do not think I am a powerful opinion leader though. The solution for you is to go on place to see this artwork for real, but that might be difficult to be honest... But let me introduce the artwork first:

What is this exactly? The actual artwork called Groundspeed (Red plazza) is 'what happened in the Australian jungle' (a very dangerous piece of jungle according to the 'enhancing' ArtReview article). I first came across the artwork while reading an article in the June 2006 edition of the ArtReview magazine in an article called "Art at the Extremes". If it is featured in anArtReview article, it might be important... The artist, Rosemary Laing chose to go in the carpet shop in Kiama (New South Wales - Australia) and to order several hundred square feet of their finest Axminster. The artist point is to reflect on how Europeans changed both physical and cultural landscape 200 years ago. She changed the wild Australia Forest into what looks like an ordinary living room here in the U.K.Therefore, what is presented to the viewer is a picture of the actual artwork, which makes it even more interesting. First because it is brought to the contemporary art world which would probably never go on place to see the artwork as it they would do with recognized accessible Land Art. But that is only to be mean that I say this. This artwork obliges you to rely on the picture you get in the Gallery.

Spiral jetty - Robert Smithson

The photographic medium is therefore relevant because it imposes a distance. The viewer becomes a powerless note keeper and has no possibility to interfere with the actual creation which may recall the feeling of what people may sense in front of the TV while watching Al Gore 'An Inconvenient Truth' or any alarmist BBC News coverage about climate change actual repercussion. I believe that this adds a terribly contemporary note to the artwork.

The artist uses cleverly both the photographic medium and the museum as the place in which the communication act is supposed to occur to create meaning. Groundspeed came to the public in 2001 and remains inspirational. Can you believe how fast time flies? This was a time, only 7 years ago, when people still did not care that much about environment and climate change. It usually takes time to change minds that deeply but in this special case communication might have helped a bit. Think about what comes to your mind when we are talking about pollution? A few pictures of the melting ice in the north pole and polar bears sinking because they find no land to stand on, films of flooded houses in the U.K. in the summer 2007. Think now about the war on terrorism? There comes to your mind the pictures of 9/11 disaster. The world always relied and will rely more and more on visual symbols.
This could be an answer to the question "What is Art for?"explored earlier in these blog lines.
It incites to action by putting into light concepts we may not be able to see anymore because we seek for social coherence; concept that are sometimes easier to occult than to have to reflect on. To quote the French producer Jean-Luc Godard : "La culture, c’est la norme, l’art c’est l’exception" (Culture is the norm, the art is the exception). This is done thanks to the clever use of a web of complex symbols, that aim to impact the viewer as deeply as possible.

They were great example of Artworks socially or politically oriented, all along art history and their influence does not need to be demonstrated anymore!

Le radeau de la méduse (The Raft of the Medusa - Géricault)

Guernica - Picasso

Another recent example of artwork that works quite well in this sense was presented in 2004 by Tony Matelli and called Fuck'd:
Doesn't it speak pretty loud? This clearly invites to reflection... A stunningly realistic chimpanzee used in a theatrical scene to discuss the impact of social forces on the individual (or human determination to injure the wild animal which looks so much like us!). A really powerful message.

Sometimes, a picture speaks louder than a billion words... But in the same time, if you can say it, why paint it?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Living now in the UK for three years, coming from France, I had the opportunity to experience the famous English humour. What is it exactly about?!? To be honest I still have no idea... I had the chance to manage for one year with a group of International people, a society of 450 members coming from more than 35 different countries. We all laughed a lot altogether about many things, sometimes out of nothing. And when we did not find the words we used hands eye contact or noises. Everything is fine to pass a message when you do not find the appropriate words... Especially in a foreign language.

I remember sitting at a dinner table, about 3 years ago in the Czech countryside with a family that did not speak any of my words. The father spoke a few words in French (about 47 different words), trying vaguely to explain that he came a few times in France, visiting a friend. encouraged by these impressive communication skills, I took the map and described, repeated myself many times, reformulating, using basic words. I only found out that he did not understand how beautiful the city I came from was, when he answered "YES!" to the question "Have you ever travelled to this side of the France?"...
Despite this small communication accident, we laughed a lot and it was all based on simple gestures. I loved it!
But coming back to English humour, I really could not tell what makes it different. It is the same for Spanish, Chinese, Mexican [...] humour. It's a whole thing.
There is an exhibition, currently running in London that explores the "Laughing in a foreign language" problematic.
Clown (2005) Julian Rosefeldt. Copyright and courtesy the artist.

Laughing in a Foreign Language, from 25 January – 13 April is the first exhibition curated by The Hayward’s new international Curator, Mami Kataoka. In a time of increasing globalisation, the exhibition questions if humour can only be appreciated by people with similar cultural, political or historical backgrounds and memories, or whether it can act as a catalyst for understanding the unfamiliar. Bringing together 80 works including videos, photographs and interactive installations, many of which have not been shown in the UK before, the show investigates the whole spectrum of humour, from jokes, gags and slapstick to irony, wit and satire, as well as questioning what it means to share a sense of humour and what it is that makes an individual laugh.

Ralph Rugoff, Director of The Hayward, said;
“Laughter is universal; it is something that people in every culture can relate to. Humour however, is socially specific. This exhibition offers an alternative and fresh perspective on different cultures by bringing together artists from 22 nations around the world, including Japan, Mexico, Iran, Germany and Cameroon, and exhibiting work that asks us to explore not only the differences in culture and humour but also what unites us.”

Cindy Sherman

Laughing in a Foreign Language explores the role of laughter and humour in contemporary art through the work of 30 international artists, including Jake and Dinos Chapman (UK); Ugo Rondinone (Switzerland); Makoto Aida (Japan); Doug Fishbone (US); John Bock (Germany); David Shrigley (UK); Jun Yang (China); Julian Rosefeldt (Germany); Olaf Breuning (Switzerland); Candice Breitz (South Africa), Matthew Griffin (Australia) and Marcus Coates (UK).

I emitted a few posts ago the theory that to be successful on the market (in the large sense of the term market), an artwork needs to address the network of social relationships that composes the art world. Then, must exists a kind of "contemporary art visual language" with its codes and conventions and therefore a specific type of humour.
If you fancy contemporary art you will probably be more willing to laugh at these "jokes" presented within this exhibition (?!).
Actually if you could go there and tell me...?
Aristotle said that only humans are able to laugh. Modern science demonstrated that rats and chimpanzee can do it too...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It is by universal misunderstanding that all agree. For if, by ill luck, people understood each other, they would never agree.

Charles Baudelaire (1821 - 1867)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I already explored with you, issues of space and cultural differences when it comes to create or to read an artwork. There is an article in the Arts Newspaper this month that stresses the change in visitors behaviour due to a growing audience in galleries and museum...
This specific post story all started a couple of years ago, with a box in a book called "Le Marketing Sensoriel" which gives key elements to understand the "rush management" as a marketing tool (In other words, miscellaneous techniques to retain people in a crowded high street, hype shop. The box, entitled "behavioral cloaca" explains that a great number of rats were put together in a small cage for behavior observation purposes. What they've found out was that rats became hostile, gave way to cannibalism, incest and death... Then I would like you to think about the crowd in a big museum such as MOMA or TATE on a Saturday afternoon from this overcrowded point of you... OOOPS!

Joke apart, the first experiment really exists and demonstrates the influence of busy environment on living creatures behaviour. Do not tell me that you've never felt claustrophobic or agoraphobic while walking in Manchester city center on a week end. What type of impact could have the crowd on the museum visit experience? The Arts Newspaper article stresses that most of the artworks were not created to fit into galleries as they were supposed to end on a wall in the peacefull well-protected house of a rich investor... Some quite place, where you (they) can have a face to face encounter with the artwork for hours without 100 tourists taking pictures (with a powerful flash), or standing between you and the canvas. Moreover, some artworks respond to each others, are complementary. The first example that comes to my mind is the Rothko's room in Tate modern, London.

Rothko's room in Tate Modern, perfect conditions
The memory of those children running everywhere in the room, drawing, and the people standing in front of the paintings is as strong as the memory of the proper canvases. I remember grabbing a paper explaining a couple of facts about the paintings and a mother telling me I should not take it as it was something specifically designed for 'young at Tate' or something like this and that her boy wanted it back. Ok ok I give it back to you... I d be very glad if someone gave me one of this leaflets 'for dummies'! but nothing... The moral of this Rothko story is that I did not understand anything at his art by standing in this gallery because there were too many people (including me) turning around breaking the symetry and the way the light is reflected from the canvas to the viewer...
Another example, In Tate Modern again, walking on level 3 you may see a giant queue waiting to enter an open-egg-like form...
What so special about it? The object is called Ishan's light and its creator Anish Kapoor (see above). Without entering into too much details about the artist intentions here, I was curious enough to enter the 10 minutes queue to have the privilege to be face-to-face with the sculpture for about 40-50 seconds, having that feeling that the people in the queue were staring at my poor, amazed and dizzy body with a 'now it's my turn!' look. While entering into the sculpture shape, you basically loose your sense of time and space due to an optical effect created by the highly reflective dark interior surface. You need to put your hands in front of you to really understand what happens to you. You wish to stay here for hours but you know that it is already too late, you have to leave... next person, next artwork...
Martin creed's work N° 329 'half the air in a given space'-Lyon's biennial 2004
Same for Martin creed's work N° 329 'half the air in a given space' in Lyon's biennial a couple of years ago, same for many other artworks.
Edward T. Hall, a well recognized anthropologist and a big name in cultural studies introduced in the 'Hidden dimension' the concept of proxemics which in simple terms is the 'cultural' notion of space. Hall notes that different cultures maintain different standards of personal space. In Latin cultures, for instance, those relative distances are smaller, and people tend to be more comfortable standing close to each other; in Nordic cultures the opposite is true. Realizing and recognizing these cultural differences improves cross-cultural understanding, and helps eliminate discomfort people may feel if the interpersonal distance is too large ("stand-offish") or too small (intrusive). Comfortable personal distances also depend on the culture, social situation, gender, and individual preference.
Does it mean that we are not equal in crowded museum and galleries context. Some may have more difficulties to cope with busy rooms in which artists try to communicate complex contemporary messages through amazing masterpieces. We are not equal in front of the potential stress generated in these situations that would alter the quality of the communication process.
Remember these three important things:
  • If a pretty latina comes to seat right next to you the German little on the bench in front of this Rothko's masterpiece; it is more likely that she wants to admire the canvas rather than getting your number.
  • Galleries may not become a place for hot dates
  • Do not, in any case, hold such stupid stereotypes (specially the two mentioned above).

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sometimes, while going to a gallery or visiting a random web page, you come across something marvellous. As you are not a specialist and because your memory has limitation (in my case, depending on the size of the meal I just had...) you just look at the title, the name, you walk away and you forget... It' s not like I always knew I would start a blog someday, about contemporary art and cultural differences!
Here's the one I precisely talk about:

Green Tilework in Live Flesh 2000

Imagine the great difficulty to find who did that! I vaguely remembered that it was an exhibition about South American artists a while ago Tate Liverpool... That's a good start I must admit. Ok Ok looking for keywords to google now: Wall, Flesh, Blood... hummm Little squares?

After a couple of hours, I finally found it: Adriana Varejão!

Once again, I regret that there were not many information displayed next to the artwork. If it is the first time you come to a gallery and you do not know anything about these things that surround you; there will be no way for you to get the message! Where is the context here?

Brazilian 1964–Folds 2 2003oil on canvas over aluminium, mounted to wood with oil-painted polyurethane240.7 x 230.2 x 40 cm Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Once upon a time, in 15OO to be exact, Europeans discover Brazil which will become a Portuguese colony until the 19th century. Racism, Slavery, assimilation, submission, massacres left many different scares in contemporary history and part of the contemporary Brazil economic success is due to this dark aspect of colonialism. Sugarcane massive industry was made profitable by the forced labour of African slaves.

But these are not things that people like to hear, specially if in some ways they feel directly or indirectly responsible.

Adriana Varejão art is made after 1970 but responds to the colonial history of Brazil. The typical ceramic mosaïcs exported to Brazil in provenance of the "old continent" (old as 'wiser'?) are a symbol of the assimilation and aculturation process.

Azulejaria 'De Tapete em Carne Viva'1999

They represent the 'viewable' surface of the Brazilian culture as if there were an official version of the history approved through a hegemonic force. Here is the vision of the colonialist power: a shiny, clean surface, that often recalls industrial aseptic tile walls, easily washable that participe to the fabric of Brazilian's society but hide an ugly truth.

Ruina de Charque - Nova Capela, 2003 Oil on wood and polyurethane

The artist may therefore propose the viewer to cut through the falsehood of history. She may also say that scares may be the only thing left if the industrial world was about to decline. I will leave that to you and encourage you to bring your personal views in a wise comment below.

Because we are not necessarily professional of contemporary art and because we do not know the artist personally in most of the cases, I suggest to all gallery owners to provide to your visitors a set of deep but accessible information! Thanks a lot...