quarta-feira, dezembro 19, 2007

Anna Schuleit

In the early 1990s, while still in high school, Anna Schuleit discovered mystery by taking long walks through the deserted grounds of the Northampton State Hospital. This cluster of Victorian buildings — with its iron-bar windows, crumbling red brick, and chest-high grass — touched a deep chord in the young artist.

“I came to my work as a pedestrian,” said Schuleit…

Early on, she was inspired by abandoned institutional spaces like the old mental hospital. Or by public spaces that allowed for solitude and daydreaming.

Another inspiration was literary: Gaston Bachelard, the French philosopher who wrote about the poetics of space and reverie. “As soon as we become motionless, we are elsewhere,” he wrote of daydreaming, an activity that inspires Schuleit and informs all her work…she said she was taken with Bachelard’s idea of “immensities within ourselves.”

A workshop is important to her as an artist, but “so is always a site, a setting, a real location,” said Schuleit, “a place that can be wandered.”

It is there that a person can have “a dialogue with stillness,” she said. “I believe in the imagination. It is a muscle in the body that can carry us anywhere.”

In 1997, Schuleit’s imagination carried her back to Northampton, where she evaded guards to wander for days of walks on the old hospital grounds…On her walks, Shuleit collected chips of lead paint to display in lines of frame-like glass boxes, talked with former workers at the hospital, and studied old pictures and records. She contemplated the “doubling of misfortune” in the decay of the buildings and the decay of memory — and felt a vivid sadness for the 2,700 patients who over the course of a century had lived there…

In November 2000, after three years of struggles over funding and access, Schuleit turned the old space into “Habeas Corpus,” two days of “celebration” (including testimony from former patients) and performance art. She bought 5,000 feet of sound cable, and with the help of 80 volunteers converted the old mental hospital’s main building into a giant amplifier, “to animate all the voids of the architecture.”

At noon on Nov. 18, for 28 minutes 106 loudspeakers bounced the full sounds of Bach’s “Magnificat” into the interiors, and back out the iron grids, broken windows and ruined arches of the building onto the audience of hundreds standing raptly below…

By 2003, she put together “Bloom,” an installation art piece in Boston commissioned to mark the closing of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center’s main building, built in 1912.

As before, she let the space speak to her, asking officials there only for “a week, an office, a key to every door, and a person who knows every story.” In the end, an impression formed over the years inspired her: “I noticed that nobody received any flowers in psychiatry,” said Schuleit, in contrast to hospital stays for heart attacks or broken bones.

So using hospital records, she calculated how many patients had been committed there since 1912, “bringing together all the flowers they had never been given.” The answer: 28,000 potted — not cut — flowers (so they could be given away afterwards). Shipments included 15,000 tulips from Canada, stacked high in an 18-wheeler.

Schuleit transformed hallways into rivers of flowers. The chairs in a waiting room looked like islands in a sea of flowers. An abandoned swimming pool, used to store furniture, was filled with 3,000 blue African violets. Floors in the basement, where the laboratories had been, were carpeted with live turf “that came in rolls, like sushi,” said Schuleit.

“It was a crash course in colors,” she said of “Bloom,” — and for viewers, a font of tears for the departed and the forgotten.

Harvard University Gazette Online

Antony Gormley

Antony Gormley

Finding the Outside Inside
May 17, 2007 in Art Making, On View, Search for the Sublime, Seeing, Transcendence |

Architecture is supposed to be the location of security and certainty about where you are. It is supposed to protect you from the weather, from darkness, from uncertainty. Blind Light undermines all of that. You enter an interior space that is the equivalent of being on top of a mountain or at the bottom of the sea. It is very important for me that inside it you find the outside. Also you become the immersed figure in an endless ground, literally the subject of the work.

Sigmar Polke

Sigmar Polke and “The Axis of Time”

As is always the case with his work, Mr. Polke said, the paintings for the biennale sprang from specific ideas yet evolved in mystical ways as he experimented. “This is the meeting point of ideas and materials coming together,” he said in his German-accented English. “You see what you want, but you have to work with the painting, and the results are always different.”

Altogether, it has taken him two years to apply and dry the poured lacquer surfaces of the seven abstract paintings he has created for the Biennale. Jointly titled “The Axis of Time,” they are to form the heart of the biennale’s signature exhibition in the Italian pavilion, called “Think With the Senses — Feel With the Mind. Art in the Present Tense.”

The show was organized by Robert Storr, the artistic director of the biennale and a former curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Given that he views the exhibition as “a meeting place of conceptual and perceptual art,” Mr. Storr said, it was a natural choice.

“Polke for a long time has been the most interesting, least predictable of the painters around,” he said by phone from Venice. “He’s almost impossible to get a bite of. People don’t know what to say right off the bat when they see his work. It has a deep kind of shrewdness.”

Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate in London, who has exhibited Mr. Polke’s work since 1995, said that quality of inscrutability played into the fascination. “He turns base metal into gold and base fabrics into great paintings,” he said. “But he is a very difficult artist to get hold of. He makes Richter, who’s complicated, look simple.” (Mr. Polke is often grouped with Gerhard Richter because both came of age and experimented in West Germany in the 1960s.)

Roni Horn

Roni Horn in Iceland

Horn’s Library of Water in Stykkisholmur, Iceland

Horn has been a “permanent tourist” in Iceland from her home in New York for more than 30 years. Library of Water, her permanent installation in the small coastal town of Stykkisholmur, three hours from Reykjavik, has just opened to the public for the first time. Water has been “archived” from glacial sources in all parts of Iceland and decanted into a copse-like stand of transparent glass columns that have replaced the shelves where books were once stacked. Some of the columns are clear, others are opaque, with traces of ancient debris drifting in them. The debris is a reminder that the glaciers were formed many millennia ago and are rapidly receding. Horn describes Library of Water as “in some sense an end-game, since many of these sources will no longer exist in a matter of years”. But Vatnasafn, to give it its Icelandic name, isn’t primarily an ecological/political work; it isn’t agitprop.

Horn imagined Library of Water as a place for quiet observation and reflection, “a lighthouse in which the viewer becomes the light. A lighthouse in which the view becomes the light.” This connects it to her work of the past 30 years, which has ranged across drawing and sculpture to photography and essays, and whose guiding principle has been anonymity on the part of the artist and minimum intervention in the work’s execution. She has spoken many times of her “desire to be present and be a part of a place without changing it”. Detachment, humility and surrender, that is the ambition. She’s there, and then she isn’t there, like the weather…

Horn was born in 1955. There are now monuments to the achievement of artists just a generation older all over the United States. Following the model of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, the minimalist shrines range from James Turrell’s Quaker meeting house in Houston, to Donald Judd’s museumification of the entire town of Marfa, Texas, to Walter de Maria’s mile-wide Lightning Field in Quemada, New Mexico.

These are projects on a grand scale. Roni Horn’s Library of Water in Stykkisholmur (population 1,100) on the north-west coast of Iceland, on the other hand, is modest, unassertive and intended to serve the community rather than coerce it into an appreciation (or even a viewing) of the work of one of the more recondite practitioners of conceptual art. In addition to the two installations of Horn’s work - a rubber floor scattered with childishly rendered words in Icelandic and English, and the glacial water housed in its top-lit, floor-to-ceiling columns - the space will be used by the local community for activities ranging from yoga classes and AA meetings to gatherings of the local (women-only) chess association and reading groups.

terça-feira, dezembro 04, 2007

Arte Contemporânea

Une querelle paradoxale

Cette crise de l'art contemporain est, en fait,
à plusieurs titres, paradoxale. Son déclenche-
ment est inattendu et pour le moins tardif.
Après le cubisme, l'abstraction, les avant-gardes,
le pop art, le minimalisme, l'art brut, les happe-
nings, les installations, etc., on pouvait croire le
monde artistique blasé par la succession effrénée
des provocations. Les fameux ready-made, tels la
roue de bicyclette, le porte-bouteilles, la pelle à
neige, l'urinoir, promus par Marcel Duchamp
«à la dignité d'objets d'art», n'étaient-ils pas
censés avoir immunisé la sphere artistique
contre tout type de fievre intempestive? Une
telle dispute sur des critères esthétiques décla-
rés obsoletes depuis tant de décennies ne revêt-
elle pas un aspect anachronique au regard des
bouleversements intervenus dans l'art occiden-
tal depuis l'impressionnisme?
Un autre paradoxe réside dans la nature
même d'un débat portant sur une question sus-
ceptible, a priori, d'intéresser - nous l'avons
dit - le public non spécialisé. Nous revien-
drons plus loin sur les péripéties et sur les
enjeux de la crise mais notons, dês à présent,
quelques étrangetés. Les controverses sur l'art
contemporain ont lieu en l'absence des artistes,
parfois directement concernés. Leurs oeuvres
proprement dites sont rarement citées et encore
moins analysées. Les protagonistes se limitent à
quelques critiques d'art. à des commissaires
d'exposition et à des historiens d'art français
qui ferraillent - verbalement! - au sujet de
Ia situation de l'art contemporain en France.
Celle-ci, il est vrai, n'est guère brillante. À
l'époque, on note avec amertume que le musée
Guggenheim de Bilbao ouvre grand ses portes
à de nombreux artistes de réputation interna-
tionale et se contente de réserver la portion
congrue aux créateurs français.
Comment comprendre ces paradoxes? L 'his-
toire de l'art occidental n'est-elle pas jalonnée
par des disputes incessantes et des querelles
récurrentes dont les plaies mal refermées
influent encore sur notre perception et sur
notre compréhension des formes de créations
actuelles? En quoi la querelle d'aujourd'hui
est-elle différente des précédentes?
Étymologiquement, une querelle signifie
«plainte en justice ». On imagine fort bien, au
temps jadis, le procès que les juges garants du
beau, de l'harmonie et de la ressemblance pou-
vaient intenter contre des oeuvres considérées
comme scandaleuses ou hérétiques. Mais quel
tribunal serait censé, de nos jours, recevoir les
plaignants, sinon celui de l'histoire, autrement
dit du temps qui choisit inéluctablement, et
presque infailliblement, entre les oeuvres inou-
bliables et celles dont il convient de ne pas se
souvenir? Et s'il fallait aujourd'hui faire un bilan,
certes provisoire, on constaterait probablement
que les oeuvres ont toujours été gagnantes, du
moins celles qui ont échappé aux oubliettes de
l'histoire. On verrait aussi que l'art a toujours su
affirmer la liberté de création contre toutes les
formes de coercitions, de dogmes, de conven-
tions, de traditions, de tutelles diverses, reli-
gieuses, politiques, idéologiques, économiques
qui, en permanence, s'opposent à la volonté de
transformer le monde, ou du moins la vision
qu'on a de lui.
Est-ce bien ce raisonnement que l'on peut
tenir aujourd'hui? Rien n'est moins sur.
On connait des querelles célebres: celle de
la mimèsis, récurrente depuis l'Antiquité - pour
ou contre l'imitation et le trompe-l'oeil - la
querelle opposant la Contre-Réforme à l'icono-
clastie luthérienne et calviniste, réédition déjà
"moderne" des querelles byzantines. On se sou-
vient de la querelle des Anciens et des Modernes,
sur fond de stratégie politique, de la querelle
du coloris contre le dessin, avec en arrière-plan
l'ébranlement du rationalisme cartésien, la
querelle des Bouffons - faut-il vraiment choi-
sir entre la France et l'Italie? demandait Vol-
taire -, etc.
Toutefois, la modernité modifie profondé-
ment le sens des affrontements. L' expulsion de
la tradition devient de plus en plus radicale et le
rejet de l'«ancien» s' effectue de façon beaucoup
plus systématique. L'expérience du nouveau
infiltre tous les aspects de la vie quotidienne.
Elle transforme la représentation de la «vie
moderne» avant même que celle-ci ne donne
lieu à des réalisations concretes. Dès le premier
tiers du XIXe siècle, le philosophe Hegel pres-
sent l'émergence de l'art moderne alors qu'il
n'a sous les yeux et dans les oreilles aucun
exemple de «modernité» artistique. Critique
acerbe et avisé, et sans illusion sur l'avenir, Bau-
delaire se fait néanmoins, à l'aube de Ia révolu-
tion industrielle, le chantre de la modernité.
Transgressions, scandales, provocations se suc-
cedent"à un rythme rapide et sapent peu à peu
l'autorité, certes déclinante, mais encore bien
affirmée jusqu 'à la fin du siècle, de l'académisme
et du conservatisme. Au seuil du XX siècle, le
cri de Gauguin exprime fort justement l'en-
thousiasme d 'une génération qui, en quelques
décennies, s'apprête à passer du néo-classicisme
à l'abstraction: «Voilà une lutte de quinze ans
qui arrive à nous libérer de l'École, de tout ce
fatras de recettes hors desquelles il n 'y avait
point de salut, d'honneur, d'argent. Dessin,
couleur, composition, sincérité devant la nature,
que sais-je : hier encore, quelques mathémati-
ciens nous imposaient (découvertes de Charles
Henri) des lumières, des couleurs immuables.
Le danger est passé. Oui nous sommes libres! »
Cependant, hormis quelques «accidents»
célebres au retentissement tardif et prolongé
- tels le ready-made duchampien et le Carré blanc
sur fond blanc de Malevitch (1918), ou bien l'Oi-
seau dans l'espace (1923) du sculpteur Brancusi,
considéré non comme une oeuvre d'art mais
comme un objet utilitaire par les douaniers
new-yorkais -, cette liberté n' outrepasse que
temporairement les frontières de l'art. Elle
oblige surtout les institutions, y compris à l'apo-
gée des mouvements d'avant-garde pendant
l'entre-deux-guerres, à en reculer les limites.
Ces institutions, ainsi que le monde de l'art,
finissent le plus souvent, bon gré mal gré, par
accepter et intégrer ces débordements. Et il en
va de même du public qui, au bout d'un temps
plus ou moins long, assimile, voire encense des
reuvres ignorées ou rejetées au temps de leur
Sachant que l'élargissement du cadre institu-
tionnel et l'expansion continue de la sphere
artistique sont des traits spécifiques à l'art occi-
dental, peut-on considérer que l'art contempo-
rain répond à ce processus? Il ne le semble pas
tant la querelle de l'art dit «contemporain»
apparait d 'une tout autre nature que celle des
disputes et des controverses du passé.
La crise des beaux-arts traditionnels - qui
commence dès l'impressionnisme -, la nais-
sance de l'abstraction, les avant-gardes, l'irrup-
tion d' objets industrialisés dans le champ
artistique, en bref, la modernité, rendent
compte imparfaitement du malaise actuel.
Contrairement à une idée reçue, l'art modeme
n'explique pas l'art contemporain. Pouir le dire
autrement on ne peut souscrire à la thèse,
maintes fois reprise dans les controverses
récentes, qui établit une relation de cause à
effet entre les bouleversements provoqués par
la modemité et la prétendue déliquescence de
la création artistique depuis une trentaine

Jeffrey Shaw

Wim Delvoye

Wang Du