Sabin Bors

Curatorial

April 30, 2015 / Appointed in the Jury of the Digital Arts Competition initiated by DARTS

On April 30, 2015, I have been appointed as one of the four members in the Jury of the Digital Arts Competition initiated by DARTS (Digital Arts and Storytelling for Heritage Audience Development), an international project that takes place in Italy, Belgium and Romania. The goal of the DARTS project, an initiative co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, GA n.2014-3436, under the auspices of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, is to collect the stories of historical complexes and characters in parts of Europe and tell them in innovative and creative ways. All the partners of the DARTS project are located in beautiful historic buildings and the idea is to enhance these places by using digital art and creative writing. This aim will be realized through organizing two international contests: one for digital artists and the other for writers. Inspired by the true history and characters of some extraordinary historical places in Italy, Belgium and Romania, the young competitors will have to invent new creative stories and tell them through both digital tools and traditional creative writing. Creative artists and writers will have access to digital materials in order to learn more about the historical sites and create their works. They will have the opportunity to use the DARTS website in an interactive way by sharing their posts and ideas and creating new contents.

The awards ceremony of the contests will take place during two existing international festivals: the Ravello Musical Festival in Italy and the Storytelling Festival in Belgium, and one in Romania created on purpose. Michel Reilhac, transmedial producer, will be the artistic director of the project and help DARTS to produce a short movie with the best works of the contests. The movie will be projected on the walls of the historical places during the festivals. The tales will be published in their original language, translated in English and presented on the occasion of the international storytelling festival in Alden Biesen.

The other members of the Jury of the Digital Arts Competition are Michel Reilhac from France, an independent transmedia storyteller who writes, directs and develops his own projects, exploring hybrid forms of narration, Head of Studies for the newly formed Venice Biennale College and Director of the Multi-Platform Master Studies at the Media Business School (Ronda residency); Wim Tilkin from Belgium, a creative all-rounder who graduated in biology and trained himself in the art of traditional animation, initiator of an animation school in Hasselt in 1995 which has now grown to a fully matured game- and animations school (Syntra) with more than 100 students every year, working closely with the industry; and Marco Mancuso from Italy, a critic and curator in the field of Digital Technologies applied to Arts, Design and Contemporary Culture, Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Digicult and Digimag Journal (part of The Leonardo Affiliate Program), teacher of “Media Art Management” at NABA Academy in Milan, “Phenomenology of Contemporary Art” at IED Institute in Milan, “New Media Theory” at SUPSI in Lugano, “Digital Publishing for the Arts” at Academy of Fine Art in Bergamo, “Marketing of Net Culture” at Bauer in Milan and visiting professor at Transmedia – Postgraduate Program in Arts+Media+Design in Brussels. More information about the Jury are available here.

For more information about DARTS and the project, please visit the DARTS website.

For more information about the Digital Arts Competition, the terms and conditions for participation, as well as an upcoming survey of artists’ artworks, please visit the Digital Arts Competition section.

 

21 October, 2013 / Member of the curatorial board for Moving Image London

On March 14, 2013, following the Accumulations exhibition in Berlin and the recommendation of Monika Pfau from Hengesbach Gallery, I was contacted by Murat Orozobekov from Moving Image video art fair who invited me to join the Curatorial Advisory Committee for the third edition of Moving Image in London in October 2013 during Frieze Art Fair. On April 8, the organizers announced all the members of the curatorial committee, to include Olesya Turkina, senior research fellow at Contemporary Art Department, Russian Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia); Julia Draganovic, independent curator, LaRété Art Projects (Modena, Italy); Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, writer and curator (Sao Paulo, Brazil); Alia Swastika, curator and writer (Yogyarkarta, Indonesia); and me.

On May 1, I presented Murat with my list of proposals for artists and galleries to join the program in London. Not only did I make a list of artists, but I also specified Murat the exact works I would like to be included in the fair. I decided to publish here the complete selection I made so that those interested could better assess the recommendations I have made for the fair:

Hengesbach Gallery (Berlin, Germany) to feature artist Mihai Grecu (Romania) with the works Glucose (2012) and We’ll Become Oil (2011);

Two Rooms Gallery (Auckland, New Zealand) to feature artist Gregory Bennett (New Zealand) with the works Omnipolis I and Utopia III (both 2012);

Noire Gallery (Torino, Italy) to feature artists AES+F (Russia) with the work Allegoria Sacra (2011-2012); MASBEDO (Italy) with the works AshGlima (2008) and Teorema di incompletezza (2008); and Vladimir Nikolic (Serbia) with the work Rhythm (2001);

Nicelle Beauchene Gallery (New York, USA) to feature artist Owen Kydd (USA) with the works Canvas Leaves, Torso and Lantern (2011), Composition Warner Studio (on green) (2012), and Warner Studio Framing Floor (2012);

Galerie Michel Rein (Paris, France) to feature artists Maja Bajevic (Bosnia & Herzegovina) with the works Women at Work – The Observers (2001), Chambre avec vue (2003), and Karaoke (2011); Maria Thereza Alves (Brazil) with the works What is the colour of a German rose? (2005) and Beyond the Painting (2011); and Jordi Colomer (Spain) with the work No Singing (2012);

Christopher Grimes Gallery (Santa Monica, California, USA) to feature artists Reynold Reynolds (Alaska) with the works Secret Life (2008), Secret Machine (2009), and Six Easy Pieces (2010); Marco Brambilla (Italy) with the works Civilization (Megaplex) (2008), Flashback (POV) (2010), Evolution (Megaplex) (2010), and Creation (Megaplex) (2012); and Takehito Koganezawa (Japan) with the work Paint It Black, and Erase (2010);

On Stellar Rays (New York, USA) to feature artists Brody Condon (Mexico) with the work Future Gestalt (2012); Tommy Hartung (USA) with the works The Story of Edward Holmes (2008) and Anna (2011); and Alix Pearlstein (USA) with the works The Drawing Lesson and Moves in the Field (both 2012);

Zach Feuer (New York, USA) to feature artists Nathalie Djuberg & Hans Berg (Sweden) with the works The Experiment (Greed) (2009) and Snakes know it’s yoga (2010);

Curator’s Office (Washington DC, USA) to feature artists Jonathan Monaghan (USA) with the works Dauphin 007 (2011), Sacrifice of the Mushroom Kings (2012), and Rainbow Narcosis (2012); Cliff Evans (Australia) with the works Flag and Drones in the Garden (both 2012);

Galerie Martine Aboucaya (Paris, France) to feature artists Maïder Fortuné (France) with the works Souffle (2011) and LÉJ #1 (Duino) (2013); John Wood and Paul Harrison (UK) with the works 100 Falls (2013), English Disaster (2012), and Unrealistic Mountaineers (2012);

Anna Schwartz Gallery (Melbourne and Sydney, Australia) to feature artists Lisa Abdoul (Afghanistan) with the works Dome (2005) and Once Upon Awakening (2006); Daniel Crooks (New Zealand) with the works Static No. 12 (Seek Stillness in Movement) (2009), A Garden of Parallel Paths (2012), Train No. 10 (Onward Backwards) (2012), and Static No. 19 (Shibuya Rorschach) (2012); Gabriella Mangano & Silvana Mangano (Australia) with the works Absence of Evidence (2008), Endless End (2009), Monument for Sea (2011), and Sculpture Sequence (2012);

Locks Gallery (Philadelphia, USA) to feature artists Nadia Hironaka & Matthew Suib (USA) with the works Vanitas (2005), The Late Show (2006), Scared to Death (2006), and Black Hole (2008);

Salon 94 (New York, USA) to feature artist Marilyn Minter (USA) with the works Playpen and I’m Not Much, But I’m All I Think About (both 2011);

Braverman Gallery (Tel Aviv, Israel) to feature artists Dana Levy (Israel) with the works Aftermath (2009), The Museum (2008), Desert Station (2011), The Fountain (2011), and Refuge (2012); Ofri Cnaani (Israel) to feature the work Death Bed (2005); Uri Nir (Israel) to feature the work Heat Archer (2012); and Nira Pereg (Israel) to feature the works Sabbath (2008), And Melancholy (2009), and Sarah, Sarah (2012);

Arratia Beer (Berlin, Germany) to feature artist Omer Fast (Israel) with the works 5000 Feet is the Best (2011) and Continuity (2012);

Tim Van Laere Gallery (Antwerp, Belgium) to feature artist Nicolas Provost (Belgium) with the works Storyteller (2010), Moving Stories (2011), and The Invader (2011);

Galerie Guy Bärtschi (Geneva, Switzerland) to feature artist Antoine Roegiers (Belgium) with the works The Scream (2010) and The Seven Deadly Sins (2011);

Arndt (Berlin, Germany) to feature artist Julian Rosefeldt (Germany) with the works The Scream (2010) and American Night (2009);

Galerie Figge von Rosen (Berlin, Germany) to feature artists Corinna Schnitt (Germany) with the works Hänschen klein (2009) and Tee Trinken (2012); Shoja Azari (Iran) with the works Lovers (2006), A Family (2006), and Coffee House Painting (2009); Rebecca Ann Tess (Germany) with the works  A Crime Must Be Committed (2010) and Home Time Show Time (2012);

Yvon Lambert (Paris, France) to feature artists Douglas Gordon (Ireland) with the works Phantom and Henry Rebel (both 2011); Mircea Cantor (Romania) with the works Tracking Happiness (2009) and Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (2012); Damir Očko (Croatia) with the works The Moon Shall Never Take My Voice (2010) and We Saw Nothing But the Uniform Blue of the Sky (2012); Salla Tykkä (Finland) with the work Victoria (2008);

bitforms (New York, USA) to feature artist Claudia Hart (USA) with the works Dream (2009) and Caress (2011);

Galerie Nordenhake (Berlin, Germany / Stockholm, Sweden) to feature artists Magnus Wallin (Sweden) with the works Unnamed (2009) and Elements (2011); Jonas Dahlberg (Sweden) with the work Three Rooms (2008);

KOW (Berlin, Germany) to feature artist Clemens von Wedemeyer (Germany) with the works The Test (2008), The Inner Campus (2008), and Muster (Rushes) (2012);

Barbara Gross Galerie (Munich, Germany) to feature artists Qiu Anxiong (China) with the work The Temptation of the Land (2009); Tejal Shah (India) with the works There is a Spider Living Between Us (2009) and Feed / Kill (2010); Tobias Yves Zintel (Germany) with the works Confession of Aggression (2008) and The Fountainhead (2010);

Leo Koenig In. (New York, USA) to feature artist Julika Rudelius (the Netherlands) with the works Rites of Passage (2008), Dressage (2009), One of Us (2010), and Rituals (2012).

 

In addition to this list, and since the other curators in the committee had already invited some of the galleries above (though they have chosen different artists), I suggested Murat to invite the following:

Galleri Flach (Stockholm, Sweden) to feature artist Jessica Faiss (Switzerland) with the works Solace (2010), Exhale (2010), and Solitude (2012);

Galleria Huuto (Helsinki, Finland) to feature artists Miia Rinne (Finland) with the works Pori-Helsinki (2008-2010), Social Physics (2009), and Sea (2012); Noora Geagea (Finland) with the work Match Me (2012).

Another interesting artist I considered for the fair was Danish artist Jeanette Ehlers with the works The Invisible Empire (2010), Off the Pig (2012), and Black Bullets (2012). Other recommendations I have made: artist Richard Mosse from Jack Shainman Gallery (New York, USA); artists Filipa Cesar and Rosangela Renno from CristinaGuerra (Lisbon, Portugal); artists Adrian Paci, Aida Ruilova and Candice Breitz from Kaufmann Repetto (Milan, Italy); artists Ran Slavin, Nadav Assor and Talia Link from Givon Art Gallery (Tel Aviv, Israel); artists Lida Abdul and Antoni Abad from Giorgio Persano (Torino, Italy).

After a few months during which the galleries were invited to attended the fair, the final four artists I recommended for the fair have been Jessica Faiss (from Galleri Flach in Stockholm, Sweden), Noora Geagea (from Galleria Huuto in Helsinki, Finland), Jonathan Monaghan and Cliff Evans (both from Curator’s Office in Washington DC, USA). Murat Orozobekov asked me to write a small presentation for each of the artists.

Jessica Faiss. The Impressionist Footage
Swiss born artist Jessica Faiss uses minimal components to create moods of suspense and expectation. Moving constantly between video and photography, the artist came to video through painting and creates a dim, transitional visual medium out of repetitions, automatic sequences and disruptions in the continuity of perception. The artist appeals to an impressionist approach to create blurry visual landscapes inside which the eye searches for a simplified imagery. Some of her works are silent; those which are not silent, evoke the presence of something either unspoken or unsaid – a rest, a suspension. The artist takes the dominating visual lines and subverts them to create tension, a feeble motion that interferes with the image and expresses the bare emptiness of time. As the moving images roll on, a sense of both accumulation and expectation starts to grow, yet it leads to nothing that would actually happen. The waiting is absorbed into repetition, creating only a thin line of separation between the inside and the outside, in what seems to be a continuous passage between reality and a realm of automatic dreaming. But one thing that is remarkable in the artist’s work is that she does not pursue this movement, nor does she push the viewer into a set scenario of perspectives. The movements are natural and dynamic. They invite the viewer to contemplate not only the landscapes, but the very nature of perception, in order to unveil distinct forms of presence within the visual field. While the films are mostly based on seemingly static video loops, their smooth editing creates a continuous and wistful state of repeated sequences that dissolve into a meditative monotony. A relevant distinction in the work of Jessica Faiss is that she does not necessairly work with films or video – she is mostly using footage to create a medium out of repeated actions. In doing so, she alters the images to create a natural temporal and visual loop that unlocks multiple levels of observation.

Noora Geagea. Relative Divides
The work of Noora Geagea evolves around ideas of reciprocity, interdependence and the psychological constructions we use to create, distinguish and separate several perspectives. The artist comes to video through painting and, as such, there is an obvious pictorial perspective that provides the viewer with different dimensions while distorting identity and our sense of time, space, presence and belonging. Alternate perceptions reveal multiple points of interpretation as they separate between the various distances at work: past and present, nearness and remoteness, self and otherness. It is this pictorial aspect that renders the movement, space and psychological quality to the works, unraveling the various constructions and self-constructions we negotiate in order to surpass the visible and invisible margins and limitations of our condition.

Jonathan Monaghan. Subversive Personas
Jonathan Monaghan is an artist whose video environments combine photo-realism and video games into unsettling scenarios. Unlike older generations of artists who only discovered technology as a medium later, Jonathan Monaghan comes from a generation who grew up with technology and relies on technology to address ideological criticism in an attempt to subvert the symbols, functions and meanings of contemporary culture. Photo-realistic computer generated imagery is used to undermine the power of media and its distorted version of reality. The scenes usually take place inside modernist, architectural and architectured settings that provide a frame for metaphorical and startling narratives, while emphasizing the seductive thread between the real and the mediated. Baroque style, luxury settings accommodate sometimes absurd life forms, with beastly, almost mythical beings and silky apparitions that occupy architectural spaces of power. Surreal distortions, patterened animal forms and various symbols of institutional power caution us against the specular character of the surface. There is a phantom in every reflection, a spectre that allures us inside the medium. It is the medium itself that seduces us. The artist’s appeal to the stereotypes in video games and popular culture is based on a critical exploration of ideals, dreams and phantasies through the various personas that video game players embody, as a mirror of who we select ourselves to be. Monaghan’s works are meditations on wealth and power, with multiple political references and interferences that go back to historical momentums to chronicle an unlikely evolution. References to mythology, allegories and history meet science fiction scenarios and the imagery of contemporary culture only to unveil the fragililty of and the gripping addiction to power structures. Male-centric stereotypes and symbols of wealth and institutional power describe a cultural plethora where figures of war and authority identify the hidden powers at work in both reality and imagination. Yet in spite of the coherent settings and symbolic narratives the artist creates, he does not state a moral or a meaning. The political subversion remains ambiguous and seductions carry us through a realm of simulations where almost nothing materializes. The only materialization is that of the medium itself, a battlefield for all desires and aspirations.

Cliff Evans. Virtual Transitions
Two equally important elements can be found in the work of Cliff Evans: the ability to create compelling visual storytelling by blending images into accumulative landscapes, and the way the artist places the viewer within the perceptual field. The artist masters the transitional element of the camera to create a telling device that is simple, direct and powerful. The use of complex imagery addressing material obsessions, technological fetishism, warmonger or empty ideals questions the viewer’s own relation with power and the empowering medium of the visual. The artist’s visual layering is mostly based on pre-fabrications in an attempt to expose and thus subvert the empty symbols and structures that organize life. Images gathered from the Internet are assembled into visual machines portraying less the representations of who we are or how we want to be seen, but visions of our becoming. As viewers and navigators through the visual realm, we are not only passive political subjects but active agents and accomplices in the structuring orders of power. Yet the artist’s critique remains open; the epic elements do not tell a story with a clear ending. It is not mysterious either, but rather leaves an open interpretation to our future transitions and becoming. The artist does not focus on identity in relation only to a present context, but in relation to both the subject’s evolution as sociocultural and political agent, and to the subject’s hidden desires. There is a constant exchange between the human, the machine and the visual field they are entangled into – we feed the machine and feed off the machine in a landscape that continues to transform. Reality folds and unfolds into a virtual realm of hollow spectacles that define our obsessive need to accumulate, organize and structure reality according to desires, aspirations and ready-images. We are what we accumulate ourselves to be and it is the virtuality of this feeding machine that transforms the viewer into a voyeur.

On October 10, 2013, I wrote about my highlights from Moving Image London in an article that was labeled Featured Article on Artsy. I was invited by Annie Stancliffe and Molly Gottschalk from Artsy to talk about the most interesting works in the fair, provide a few advices for collecting moving image-based art, and say a few words about video artists to watch. Here is my note:

This year’s edition of Moving Image in London features a great number of good works. I’ve been particularly drawn by the works of Cliff Evans (Flag) or Jonathan Monaghan (Mothership), for their ability to create compelling visual storytelling through the use of CGI, video realism and video game elements. I also like works such as Jessica Faiss’s Solitude or Miia Rinne’s Sea, where the visual oscillates between video and photography to create an almost impressionist field of view. I would then mention the different takes on cinematography: Alaa Edris’s Kharareet for its expressionist aura, Ewa Partum’s Tautological Cinema for its pure yet filmic conceptualism, or the rhythmic qualities in Maya Zack’s Black & White Rule. It was a pleasure to see Milica Tomic on the list of participating artists – I am Milica Tomic continues to be one of the most powerful works on the construction of one’s identity, with profound political implications, using the body as the most expressive medium.

Yet if I were to choose my favourite work, I’d have a hard time choosing between Jasmina Cibic’s Fruits of our Land and Shen Chaofang’s Framed. They are both highly narrative works and they both focus on questions of identity and representation, the relation to power and the political contradictions underlying the constructions of identity. I appreciate both the conceptual and the filmic qualities of these two works. Jasmina Cibic re-enacts transcripts found in family archives of politicians; in doing so, she re-writes history, she writes over history, which is one of the defining elements in East European contemporary art. On the other hand, Shen Chaofang’s Framed refers to a personal drama seen through the lenses of a new technical aesthetics. The artist appeals to film and painting to create a unique setting where illusions and faith describe the bitter and conflicting encounter between law, politics and power.

I think moving image-based art is on the verge of an important transformation and any collector looking to buy moving image-based art needs to be mindful of this. A new generation of artists, who basically grew up with technology, video gaming and new media, addresses a completely new ideological criticism. In doing so, these artists subvert the symbols, functions and meanings of contemporary culture, with CGI being used to undermine the power of media.

But some general advices would be:
– don’t hire any art advisor – go with your own instinct;
– try to understand a work yourself before rushing to buy a piece on someone else’s advice:
– there are no rules for buying moving image-based art – buy what YOU like;
– buy only videos you think you’ll enjoy watching for a long time;
– take your time to watch more moving image-based artists

There are a lot of moving image-based artists to watch. Earlier this year, when in Berlin, I saw two extraordinary pieces by Omer Fast, Continuityand 5000 Feet is the Best. Then I saw a lot of good artists at the Venice Biennial: Akram Zaatari in Lebanon’s pavilion, Camille Henrot in the main exhibition, Miao Xiaochun in China’s pavilion or Jesper Just in Denmark’s pavilion are just a few of them. However, I think the most impressive work I saw in Venice was Richard Mosse’s The Enclave, it is one of the best moving image-based works currently on display. And two of the artists I always enjoy watching are Reynold Reynolds and Mihai Grecu, I find their narratives and cinematic approach quite unique.

On October 17, 2013, artists Jessica Faiss, represented by Galleri Flach in Stockholm, Sweden (one of my four final recommendations for the fair) and Rollin Leonard, represented by Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn, New York, have been designated as the recipients of the 2013 Moving Image Award. The Moving Image Award funds the acquisition of artwork exhibited at the fair for the permanent collection of contemporary art institutions. For the 2013 London edition of Moving Image, the selection was made by Mr. James Hu, curator for 53 Art Museum in Guangzhou, China. Here is the motivation of Mr. Hu for selecting Jessica Faiss:

Solitude by the Swedish/Swiss artist Jessica Faiss, is one of two videos in which the beholder follows a suggestive movement forward from the inside of a car or a train, experiencing greyish or autumnal sceneries passing by. The videos are based on motion and suggestive moments in unpopulated areas in a Nordic environment and describe a state of traveling in a continuous, meditative movement, which is a recurrent theme in Jessica Faiss’ works. The artist describes it as a way to capture a sense of vulnerability and loneliness but also of peace and liberation. It’s about to face oneself in an existential condition in which suggestive and repetitive movements through landscapes creates conditions for such a meeting to take place. Although Jessica Faiss is an artist who works in several different techniques the imagery is held together by a visual purity and reduction. Thus emerges a natural dialogue between the different expressions – video, photography, collage and painting – which highlights different perspectives on a ground state. The images in the videos are alternately seductive and disturbing that attract and hold the viewer’s gaze and perception. It is a visual language that refers more to painterly qualities than to narrative and narration.”

It is great to know my recommendation for the fair won this award and I also congratulate Rollin Leonard for sharing it, he is already one of the most promising digital artists today and an artist who deserves full attention in the years to come. I am most grateful to have been selected in the Curatorial Advisory Committee of Moving Image London 2013 after the Accumulations exhibition in Berlin earlier this year and I hope I will get to work with, interview, or write about as many of the artists who were not included in the fair, they all deserve a lot of curatorial attention and will be some of the artists I would like to include in future exhibitions.

 

February 2, 2013 / Accumulations exhibition opening

Here are a few images from last night’s opening of Accumulations at Galerie Sherin Najjar. I cannot thank enough Sherin for her invitation and the crowd who attended the opening. I was amazed to see people staying to watch the videos for almost three full hours, that is, watch the full show three times. The videos looked great both inside and outside the gallery, and the video window really looks great at the ground floor of this building designed by the famous architect David Chipperfield. It was great to meet and talk with artists Christoph Draeger, Michael Najjar and Lars Buchardt who attended the opening, artist Daniela Friebel, and the wonderful curator Monika Pfau from Hengesbach Gallery with whom I had a great conversation during my time in Berlin. I am also grateful to Timo Ohler and Anna Bianchi from Galerie Sherin Najjar for their support at the opening and the whole week of preparations in Berlin prior to the opening.

Accumulations exhibition view at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler
Accumulations exhibition view at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler
Accumulations exhibition view at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler
Accumulations exhibition view at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler
Accumulations exhibition view at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler
Accumulations exhibition view at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler
Accumulations exhibition view at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler
Accumulations exhibition view at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler
Sherin Najjar and Sabin Bors attending the Accumulations exhibition opening at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler
Sherin Najjar and Sabin Bors attending the Accumulations exhibition opening at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler
Accumulations exhibition view at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler
Accumulations exhibition view at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler

January 31, 2013 / Accumulations, or The Accommodations of the Heretic (exhibition text)

When imagining the space an exhibition should create, one must also consider the intimate conflict between the inside and the outside, as well as the role of determinations in creating scenarios for all possible transitions and becomings. In the case of this video exhibition, these becomings refer to the hybrids that continue to expand well beyond the given works, to the accumulation of new entities that are not meant to replace but to add divergent and succeeding realities. To accumulate and thus to accommodate. Accumulation refers to a state of tension, a dramatic condition where the various states of conflict and confusion create new relations and a dramatic setting, layer after layer. This way, the conflict remains open to adding new realities, new histories and thus provokes mutated meanings of the actuality, a conflictual present and a tensioned presence. But the issue of how can one actually see and use this exhibition, how can one activate it as an inside agent interfering with the “themed” layers of the exhibition is a question of how can we reach for our own sighting.

Accumulations was built as a “themed” video art exhibition that is yet intimately linked to a ruination of vision. Time and space are impressionable substances that the artists manipulate in an increasingly hybrid from which must accommodate a functional and temporary frame, a movement and a chain of imbricated meanings and narratives courting their own mutations and ruins. The idea of a “themed” exhibition building a narrative on various fragmented works might be seen as a way to direct the eye or at least to manage attentiveness in such a way that it would ultimately discipline the eye to make sight more linear and narrative; an almost cinematic becoming, an almost narrative ‘violation’ where one is forced to gaze through the space between images.

Accumulations is based on the idea of heterotopia, with several incompatible places superposing onto a single real place and a single, strange condition. For all works seem foreign to one another, from intimate and cinematic screenings of the self to the most conflicting states of nature and construction. Yet these works induce slices in time, they create breaks and ruptures to reach the edge of their vision, punctures and apertures for looking into an ever accommodating reality and the transposition of individual experiences in the presence of others, who get to see what we see, hear what we hear, and thus re-ensure us of the reality of the world and ourselves.

These works create interruptions, infiltrations and appropriations questioning the symbolic distribution of their motifs and generate a fragmented space where various formations connect through their conflictual and contradictory relations to each other. In doing so, the exhibition appeals to counter-publics who actually trigger reversals of the existing spaces in order to address other subjects and other imaginaries in an antagonistic sphere for different and oppositional subjectivities, politics and economies. [I make reference to the concept of ‘counter-publics’ as employed by Simon Sheikh, “In the Place of the Public Sphere? or, The World in Fragments,” June 2004, www.republicart.net]

An exhibition for counter-publics, that is to say a battleground where the tactical employment of space and time create a continuous yet divergent stream of potential multitudes and overlapping configurations. Contestation and articulation – or, the conflict as continuous stratigraphy of the divergent and the differential, from an inner field to an exterior one and back again.

Still from
Still from "Secret Machine (part II of the Secrets Trilogy)" by Reynold Reynolds, 2009. HD video transferred from 16 mm and stills, 13.40 min. Edition of 5. Photo courtesy the artist and Galerie Zink, Berlin
Still from
Still from "Secret Machine (part II of the Secrets Trilogy)" by Reynold Reynolds, 2009. HD video transferred from 16 mm and stills, 13.40 min. Edition of 5. Photo courtesy the artist and Galerie Zink, Berlin
Still from
Still from "spacewalk" by Michael Najjar, 2013. HD video, 3.30 min. Edition of 6. Photo courtesy the artist
Still (detail) from
Still (detail) from "Schizo (Redux)" by Christoph Draeger, 2004. VHS to DVD, 89 min. Edition of 5. Photo courtesy the artist and Anne de Villepoix Gallery, Paris
Still (detail) from
Still (detail) from "Schizo (Redux)" by Christoph Draeger, 2004. VHS to DVD, 89 min. Edition of 5. Photo courtesy the artist and Anne de Villepoix Gallery, Paris

Where then should one look for if not the relation to the physical body, in order to own and to dispose of it as the preferred medium of ‘understanding’? The inconstancy and vulnerabilities of the body are the very guiding measures for the formal and rhythmic qualities that make the body the environment of being.

Secret Machine by Reynold Reynolds is focused on film as a time based medium, where the camera is an instrument for measurement and for artistic expression at the same time. The use of stop motion filming technique counters the mainstream narrative cinema and its fast-paced exposure; it manipulates the passage of time and allows the artist and his camera to be selective in the framing and to investigate the different functions of time in relation to voluntary and involuntary actions that describe a voluntary or involuntary space. But while identity, body, sex and the erotic make reference to a medium and matter that art strives with politics and history for, an instrument to measure the formal qualities and thus the ‘standards’ for the body, it is the large employment of the physiognomy that emphasizes the ‘range’ of human diversity. Physiognomy and phrenology were, let us remember, instrumental in the XIXth century in constructing the archives they claimed to interpret. [See Allan Sekula, “The Body and the Archive,” October no. 39, Winter 1986, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, p. 63-64.] Time is a measurement in Secret Machine, but it is also a document, ensuring the passage from the body into the archive to question the formation of disciplined conventions and conversions. The combined representations of time and taxonomic orderings of the body reduce the sight to merging optics and statistics and to codes of equivalence grounded in the metrical accuracy of the camera.

The fit, healthy and performant body then appears in Michael Najjar’s spacewalk not only as a body functioning within specific parameters, but also in reference to both a primal substance and the fluidity of space. As the artist’s body immerses in the water tank, the line between performance and the coefficient of performance blurs while the dialectics between virtual and physical, inside and outside, or here and there tend to call for an increased mediation. Sight is vastly based on voice here, on a verbal transmission, as the body is suspended in a state of imbalance and oscillation – a descent that is a simulation of both a condition and an environment, a containment and an estrangement. Christoph Draeger’s Schizo (Redux) is also focused on film, layering Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake and Alfred Hitchcock’s original version completely over one another, yet the use of film does not make reference to an instrument for measurement but the very condition of the image and our inability to fully reconstruct the image – and any image, for that matter. The digital superposition of the two movies is not only a way to question the very evolution of cinema, and thus the discipline of the eye, but to question today’s use of 3D as enhancement for a purportedly involved spectator as well. Yet the spectator was never so alone in experiencing the film as when contained behind the 3D glasses, desperately aiming to grasp the very image of representation. The ‘technological’ error lies here in our inability to actually acknowledge the nature of perception and sensation in relation to space and human experience.

Still (detail) from
Still (detail) from "Strata #2" by Quayola, 2008. HD video, 7.05 min. Edition of 6. Photo courtesy the artist and bitforms gallery, New York
Still (detail) from
Still (detail) from "Strata #2" by Quayola, 2008. HD video, 7.05 min. Edition of 6. Photo courtesy the artist and bitforms gallery, New York
Still from
Still from "SECTOR 2c" by Kurt Hentschläger, 2012-2013. HD video, 10.55 min. Edition of 5. Photo courtesy the artist
Still from
Still from "Centipede Sun" by Mihai Grecu, 2010. HD video, 10.10 min. Edition of 5. Photo courtesy the artist and Hengesbach Gallery, Berlin
Still from
Still from "Centipede Sun" by Mihai Grecu, 2010. HD video, 10.10 min. Edition of 5. Photo courtesy the artist and Hengesbach Gallery, Berlin

Section by section, layer after layer, human experience accommodates the regeneration of reality from its very constructions. The place of the self invites to a reclamation of the exterior and it does so by reconstituting places in themselves – a restoration bringing together place and ‘non-place’ as the real measure of time and space, where the “intersection of moving bodies” generates an implicate order of the most complex kind. Volumes fold over one another gathering up and releasing their own sense of temporality, as a topological folding where the material is invested with dynamic energy. The act of folding, as best pictured in Quayola’s Strata #2, takes place outside the temporal continuum, its movements seem to assume the forms of natural structures rather than the bare lines of a geometrical imagination. The stratigraphy in Quayola’s work communicates the vibrant ‘vitality’ of matter, the geological formations where the different ages collide unto one another: the digital aesthetics and the icons of the classical. It breaks away from perception and sensation as construed by the technologically-driven imaginary to propose a forceful agent the propensities and tendencies of which describe Bruno Latour’s actant: a source of action that has efficacy, can do things, imposes a difference and produces effects that alter the course of narrative perception toward an agency by which materiality collides with its surrounding to morph into a different state, evolve and finally disintegrate. [For a detailed discussion on the ‘vitality’ of matter, see Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2010, especially preface, p. VII-XI.] It is as if nature re-creates itself through an experimental geography generating new spaces and new ways of being. The isolated and sublime landscapes in Mihai Grecu’s Centipede Sun captures the extensions of the natural in the absence of life and a symbolic metamorphosis through the very abstraction and purity of nature. It is this abstraction that continues in Kurt Hentschläger’s SECTOR 2c, where the sequences create a manneristic approach and review our mediated and hybrid perspective on nature. The cycle ends with Lars Buchardt’s ‘synthesis,’ a time-shift and displacement the exposure of which opposes the viewer’s – almost complete by now – immersion in the flow of rhythmic images and sounds, articulating a collage of states that accommodate the uncanny in a mix of future and past, failure, and the guiding ruin of vision.

It is this ruin that underlies our conventional narratives, our constant strive to separate the inner and the outer space, the inner and the outer self. Measurement – performance – fear and obsession – re-foldings – abstraction – mediation – utopia. And a return hashing everything we tried to understand. The circularity of the entire exhibition and the repeating motif of the water in almost all of the works is not accidental. The direct implication for the viewer is that something must be sought there where it is to be found: in the way water reveals and transforms itself through the different works, or in the way it is absent in others. This circularity runs against the irreversibility of time, bringing the viewer closer to a point of return every time. A return to the body and measurement through the foldings of matter itself. An almost natural cycle, between the inside and the outside, as a shift from a narrative depiction to a more complex disclosure of reality. The ‘diurnal’ régime of the white gallery turned into a ‘nocturnal’ régime where the video’s expanse begins to manifest the obscure and the invisible underlying all works, as the dark side of matter re-configures space and time from these fragments. Time can be conquered even through the sequential repeatability when one consciously ventures and falls into and out of time.

It is this ‘fall’ and dominance of the obscure that create the conflictual field in which these works deterritorialize their margins in order to reveal the montage and their final cut unto reality. The constant accumulations, aggregations, and accommodations create a temporary laboratory of exposure, inside and outside the gallery, as an intermedium negotiating between stereotypes and expressions, an assemblage of new entities evolving ceaselessly around a heretic view of it. A ‘violation,’ a heretic abstraction for which the viewer must act as an inside agent, retrieving its intelligence only to expose that which is obscured, the subtending dreads and tensions that may lie forgotten in our constant strive to reach and accumulate our own selves.

Still from
Still from "The Synthetic Quality" by Lars Buchardt, 2012. HD video, 8.15 min. Edition of 5. Photo courtesy the artist
Still from
Still from "The Synthetic Quality" by Lars Buchardt, 2012. HD video, 8.15 min. Edition of 5. Photo courtesy the artist

Lars Buchardt (b. 1964, Copenhagen / Denmark) is a visual artist who lives and works in Copenhagen. His work has been exhibited at Nikolaj Contemporary Art Centre, Copenhagen, 2011; Esbjerg Art Museum, Denmark; Lauritz Kunsthal, Copenhagen; Den Frie Center of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen; Rovaniemi Art Museum, Finland; Jyväskylä Art Museum, Finland; Norrkoping Art Museum, Sweden; Galerie Jousse-Seguin, Paris.

Christoph Draeger (b. 1965, Zürich / Switzerland) is an internationally known conceptual artist who lives in New York and Vienna. His work has been exhibited with galleries, institutions and biennials worldwide, among others at Kunstwerke, Berlin; the 1997 Kwangju Biennial, South Korea; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the 2007 Moscow Biennial, Russia; the 2002 Liverpool Biennial, UK; the Brooklyn Museum and the Whitney Museum in New York; Montevideo in Amsterdam and the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven. He had solo exhibitions at the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen, Germany, and at the Kunsthaus in Zürich, Switzerland. Draeger’s film Hippie Movie (53 min, 2008) was featured in MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight exhibition in New York.

Mihai Grecu (b. 1981, Sebes / Romania) is a visual video artist. After studying art and design in Romania and France, he has been pursuing his artistic research at the Fresnoy Studio for Contemporary Arts. His work has been shown in numerous film festivals (Locarno, Rotterdam, Festival of New Cinema in Montreal) among others, and was part of exhibitions worldwide, including Grand Palais, Paris; Museum Marta, Herford; and Kunstmuseum Bonn.

Chicago based artist Kurt Hentschläger (b. 1960, Linz / Austria) creates audiovisual performances and installations. Selected presentations of his large scale projects include the Venice Biennial; the Venice Theater Biennial; National Art Museum of China, Beijing; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; MoMA / PS1, New York; Creative Time, Inc., New York; MAC – Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montreal; MAK – Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna; National Museum for Contemporary Art, Seoul; ICC Tokyo; Arte Alameda, Mexico City; and Fondation Beyeler, Basel.

Michael Najjar (b. 1966, Landau / Germany) is a German artist, adventurer and future astronaut. His work has been included in museums, galleries and biennials around the world. He exhibited at the Joan Miró Foundation, Barcelona; at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Kunsthalle Hamburg / Galerie der Gegenwart; Deichtorhalle / International Museum of Photograhy, Hamburg; Edith Russ Site for New Media, Oldenburg; Science Museum, London; New Media Art Institute, Amsterdam; International Centre for Photography, Milan; Centre pour l’image contémporaine, Geneva; ZKM Karlsruhe; Museum for Photography and the Museum for Contemporary Art GEM in The Hague among others. His work was part of the 9th Havana Biennale, the Convergence Biennale, Beijing, and the Venice Biennale’s 10th International Architecture Exhibition.

Quayola (b. 1982, Rome / Italy) is a visual artist currently based in London. Quayola’s work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; British Film Institute, London; La Gaite Lyrique, Paris; Forum des Images, Paris; Grand Theatre, Bordeaux; Palais des Beaux Arts, Lille; MIS, Sao Paulo; Triennale Milan; Sónar Festival Barcelona; Elektra Festival, Montreal; and Clermont Ferrand Film Festival.

 

January 25 / 2013: Accumulations exhibition announced

The official press release for Accumulations was released today and reads the following:

Accumulations
A Themed Video Art Exhibition Curated by Sabin Bors

2 February – 5 April 2015

1 February 2013
Artist Talk with Sabin Bors: 6-7 PM
Private View: 7-9 PM

We are excited to announce our next opening and the inauguration of our VIDEO WINDOW on February 1, 2013 at 7 PM. (Artist Talk from 6-7 PM)

ACCUMULATIONS is a themed video art exhibition curated by Sabin Bors for the inauguration of GalerieSherin Najjar‘s project VIDEO WINDOW. The thoughtful selection of video art includes works by artists such as Lars Buchardt, Christoph Draeger, Mihai Grecu, Kurt Hentschlager, Michael Najjar, Quayola and Reynold Reynolds.

Accumulation refers to a state of tension, a dramatic condition where various states create breaks, slices in time and transitions. The artists who participate in this exhibition make art that responds to this topic by exploring divergent and often problematic representations through cinematography, 3D mapping and projection, video composition and collage. They discuss various different representations in order to undermine the sublimative power of the image and to question the very construction of narratives today, in a time when the image turns into motion.

The display of the video works is of particular interest. The gallery window serves as a fine pellicle acting as a membrane between the inside and the outside. It also turns into a medium of transition, from a static to a moving image. VIDEO WINDOW explores new ways of relating with moving image art as the works seem to leave the gallery space in search for a motion and effectivity of their own.

The exhibition is accompanied by a new publication with an essay by Sabin Bors, curator and editor of
anti-utopias

VIDEO WINDOW Viewing Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 4-8 PM
Program starts every full hour.

Gallery Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 12-8PM, and by appointment.

Accumulations at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Image courtesy of Sherin Najjar.
Accumulations at Galerie Sherin Najjar, Berlin. Image courtesy of Sherin Najjar.

January 14 / 2013: Final list of artists for Accumulations exhibition

The final list of artists and the title of the exhibition have been decided. Accumulations will open February 2 – April 5, 2013, at Sherin Najjar Gallery in Berlin to feature works by Reynold Reynolds (USA), Christoph Draeger (Austria), Michael Najjar (Germany), Davide Quayola (Italy), Kurt Hentschläger (Austria), Mihai Grecu (Romania) and Lars Buchardt (Denmark). The opening reception will take place on February 1, 2013, 18.00 – 21.00.

The initial exhibition title, Accumulative States, did not sound good when translated into German – it’s not only “academic” as Sherin called it, but Akkumulierte Zustaende, the closest and literal translation of my initial title, is not working and looks quite bad when written down. Accumulations is shorter, clearer and more punchy; it still reflects the overall concept and is easy to remember. An interesting alternative in German would have been to use “Anhäufungen,” a plural that already suggests variety and implies the idea of ‘state’ on some level. I was also suggested “Verdichtungen” as an alternative, the German for ‘aggregation,’ but I feared this might stretch farther than what I had in mind.

After a lot of considerations (the overall concept, the technical requirements, the mission and vision of the gallery, my curatorial vision), I created a one hour program that will greet visitors with a filmic narrative where the seven works, while different in their artistic expression, will form a coherent meta-narration inviting viewers to see the works inside and outside the gallery space and thus also challenge the idea of ‘white cube’ usually associated with galleries. The focus is on the arrangement itself and what it offers for viewing. Each separate work “accumulates” into the next and forms a narrative that goes from body to environment, from interior to exterior, from inside the gallery to a more public perspective, from a very intimate and human perspective in the works of Reynolds, Draeger and Najjar, to disjunctive yet surprisingly coherent questions about nature, time and space in the works of Quayola, Hentschläger, Grecu and Buchardt.

Time, contraction, compression and measure in the work of Reynold Reynolds; juxtaposition, instinct, sublimation and death in Christoph Draeger’s overlaying of the two film versions of Psycho. A ‘rupture,’ a ‘fall,’ and a ‘descend’ in Michael Najjar’s work, where the link between the inner and the outside translates the artist’s own physical effort and confrontation with something that exceeds knowledge, suspended between what he feels while descending and the dissolving space-time surrounding him. Re-assembling, recombinant histories and states in the work of Davide Quayola; sequence, the question of hybridization and the construction of nature in the work of Kurt Hentschläger; the imprint left by Man on the natural in Mihai Grecu’s Centipede Sun; to finish with Lars Buchardt’s video collages questioning the very nature of perception. This should be quite interesting and my intuition says the works will look great when projected in the window, seen from both inside and outside the gallery; they will also create a fluent, almost filmic narrative which again completes the initial vision and the Berlinale events taking place so close by.

 

January 9 / 2013: Exhibition at Sherin Najjar Gallery in Berlin (intermediary stage)

Working on the exhibition for Sherin Najjar Gallery in the short time frame I have available might not allow me to bring together all the artists I would like to include in the program. After an initial list that included works by Christoph Draeger (Austria), Lars Buchardt (Denmark), Kjell Bjørgeengen (Norway), Francesca Fini (Italy), Stefan Larsson (Sweden), Mihai Grecu (Romania), Saskia Olde Wolbers (the Netherlands), and Michael Najjar (Germany), I had to adjust the list mainly because I couldn’t feature the work of Saskia Olde Wolbers due to the technical requirements of her work Pareidolia, my choice for the show, and the gallery’s technical setup. Since all the works created by Wolbers need to take place in completely dark environments, showing her work in the gallery window was deemed too problematic and I can only hope I will get to feature her work in a future exhibition – a truly remarkable artist! I am most sad to not be able to feature her work in the show, she had a central role in the first exhibition draft, so unfortunately I will have to redraw the concept.

After careful consideration, evaluation of costs and technical details, and the need to come up with a different concept, I decided to replace the works of Francesca Fini, Stefan Larsson and Kjell Bjørgeengen with works by Davide Quayola (Italy) and Reynold Reynolds (USA). Quayola’s Strata series and Reynolds’s Secret Machine are difficult to integrate so far but their work is incredibly powerful and could provide an interesting approach to the entire exhibition while also creating an interesting dialogue between all these artists. In addition, I decided to insist on having Kurt Hentschläger in the show, who will premiere his new work SECTOR 2c as part of this exhibition. I also had the work of Sara Ludy on my list, a very young and most promising digital artist who could be an important addition to the list if one of her works will fit the conceptual frame of the exhibition. While still working on the final list and exhibition concept, this photograph is definitely inspiring for the upcoming show.

Sherin Najjar Gallery in Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler. Used here courtesy of Sherin Najjar.
Sherin Najjar Gallery in Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler. Used here courtesy of Sherin Najjar.

December 20 / 2012: Invitation to curate a video art exhibition at Sherin Najjar Gallery in Berlin

Four months after we were first introduced to one another by German artist Michael Najjar, Sherin Najjar has invited me to curate an upcoming exhibition at her gallery. After following my website and activities closely for several months, Sherin decided to invite me as curator as part of her plan to transform the floor to ceiling gallery window into a large screen and thus initiate a regular program for presenting moving image and video art. Sherin’s gallery already represents outstanding artists like Carlos Irijalba or Graham Day Geurra and this promises to be one of the most inciting projects I was invited to be part of. The exhibition will be accompanied by a framework program focusing on art, including an artist talk, special screenings and a small publication. Sherin’s idea to install the show during the Berlinale, which takes place very close to the gallery, is great because it creates a unique link with the film fest and obliges us to consider the artworks carefully so as to create a dialogue with it. Below is a photograph of the gallery that should give me an impression about the gallery window – it really looks great and it’s an absolute honour for me to be the curator of this show.

Sherin Najjar Gallery in Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler. Used here courtesy of Sherin Najjar.
Sherin Najjar Gallery in Berlin. Photo: Timo Ohler. Used here courtesy of Sherin Najjar.