Well yes, we are currently some of those privileged ones, experiencing a particularly warm Florentine summer, full of sun, tomatoes and flowers’ colours. But, let’s say it all, sun can be particularly aggressive reaching degrees that would scare a fried chicken, and constrains us at home and hided in shadows, writing and wondering of what-to-do-to-see-to-experience out of this 50-degrees-heat-zone.
So why not promoting less mainstream geographical areas where jewellery and visual arts at large can represent a different way to experience some vacation’s pleasures?
We decided to start our mental road trip in Nijmegen, in the Netherlands. You know why right?
Of course for the Marzee Graduate Show, opening this Sunday the 5thof August, where each year the best graduates from schools around the globe (or almost) have the chance to exhibit their work. Not following a specific thematic, but privileging a variety of approaches, this event is a chance to see and to reflect on the latest outcomes of a super young generation of jewellers. And of course, we would like to signal the participation of 3 of our third year graduate students, Dinah Lee, Weronika Marek and Izabella Petrut, to whom we wish the best of luck also for the achievement of the Marzee Graduate Prize 2012!
To keep on the area, and maybe give you some more reasons to move towards that part of the world where summer temperatures are definitely less seducing, we are eager to point out 2 important contemporary art events located on a rather near radar from Nijmegen: Manifesta 9 and dOCUMENTA (13) (click on them to get to their website).
Only 150 km south from Galerie Marzee, is the location of this Manifesta’s edition (click here for more information), namely the city of Genk, in the Flemish region of Limburg, in Belgium. Manifesta is the European Biennial of contemporary art and its origin dates back to 1996. Conceived in the post-Berlin-Wall-period, its own intentions are rooted in the socio-political situation of the ’90s. The condition of distance between east and west of Europe, but more generally between East and West of the world, demanded the establishment of platforms, material and immaterial “spaces” that could reduce disparities and promote communication, debate and collaboration between different cultures. Its main characteristic in fact is its nomadic “status”, every 2 years Manifesta happens in a different location and its objectives rely in creating new art topographies away from major centres and always on the border between different cultures and traditions, working in close collaboration with the local hosting communities, promoting artists and curators from around the world who can define new models of art making and thinking.
Following this lineage, this year’s edition, titled The Deep of the Modern, curated by Cuauhtémoc Medina with associate curators Katerina Gregos and Dawn Ades, creates “a complex dialogue between different layers of art and history in relation to the overall geographical-ecological mining machine that transformed the region [of Limburg] over the course of the 20th century”.
For the first time taking place in one single location, the breathtaking former coal mine in the city of Genk, the whole exhibition is articulated through 3 sections:
17 tons – dealing with the cultural production – with manufacturing ranging from potato sculptures to tapestry, music, archival material of all sorts, from private diaries to public documents – that has been developed and realized through time by the diverse populations landed in the place because of the coal mining.
The Age of Coal – an art historical exhibition comprising artworks from 1800 to the early 21st century dealing with the history of art production aesthetically related to and influenced by the industrial era.
Poetics of Restructuring – with many newly produced works realized by 39 contemporary artists from all over the world, focusing on aesthetic responses to the worldwide economic restructuring of the productive system in the early 21st century.
The Deep of the Modern is composed as a coherent journey that starts in the heart of the memories and voices of the people living and working in the area. A commovent example is for instance the space composed of a jukebox, a vespa, LP-records and various archival materials showing the success of Rocco Granata, singer of the famous hit Marina (click here to listen to the song), son of Italian immigrants who moved to the region to work in the mining production. Or also the sculptures by Manuel Durán, a spanish self-taught artist and miner that used any available material, from coal to potatoes, to create sculptures of anonymous miners’ heads, that become symbolic of universal misery as well as of miners’ unspoken working conditions.
The second section represents an attempt to contextualize in a wider art-historical perspective and through a comparative method the artistic production in one way or the other related to coal mining. Here we go from works that literary use coal as material of their creations such as Richard Long’s Bolivian Coal Line or Marcel Broodthaers’ Trois tas de charbon to works that document the working conditions, the struggles or rebellions realized to obtain more decent health situations or basic rights, such as Jeremy Deller’s re-enactment of The Battle of Orgreave or the images by Francis William Cobb.
The final part, concentrated on contemporary works, deals with a wider range of perspectives and approaches to the main overall theme, creating moments of hilarity, of in depth research, of aesthetic pleasure and seduction, of accurate semi-fictional narrations, of frightening thus fascinating views of the future, of complex reflections on capitalism’s failures. A particularly enchanting work is Coal Drawing Machine by Carlos Amorales, where what at first glance seems like a marvellous installation of black and white quasi-expressionist drawings on textile, reveals itself to be an ongoing process of drawings production, done by a machine that simply follows some basic instructions. The imperfections of the touch, characteristic of the human hand and passion, are fabricated, in a revealing thus frightening future vision, by a cybernetic device.
Worth mentioning, in this super short account, is also the sound work by Nemanja Cvijanović, Monument to the Memory of the Idea of the Internationale, whose sound is activated by the public and spread all over the location, through a sort of chain reaction, not allowing to escape the revolutionary anthem La Internationale (click here to listen to his work).
Manifesta 9 is constructed on a quite set and pre-figured curatorial thesis but that nevertheless does not need some long statement to be read to be fully experienced in the curators’ intention. It is articulated as a rather clear and at times emotional journey, starting in the living habitats caused by the industrial revolution passing through the fantasies and struggles that accompanied its development up until reactions to post-Fordism. All accompanied by attempts to formulate, or imagine, forms of resistance and possible visions of the future while re-interpreting the present. A quite a-typical Biennial in relation to its generosity to the local visitors, so not the usual new-great-super-young-discoveries-and-obscure-concepts situation mainly directed to all of the art professionals gathering for the opening, but an exhibition genuinely interested in engaging with the people living on the territory or passing by for art’s appreciation’s sake.
Furthermore don’t forget to have a look at the parts of original machinery left in some of the mine’s spaces, they are of exquisite beauty, and to have a Belgian beer at the inside bar!
330 km south east of Nijmegen and 350 km east from Genk, is Kassel, the city hosting Documenta since 1955. To give a brief introduction to those of you that might not know yet what it is: Documenta is one of today’s most important art exhibitions in the world, that happens every 5 years, and was started by Arnold Bode within a moment of general will to re-define Germany’s present and identity through art and culture, trying to eradicate Nazism’s germs and to excavate and reflect upon its obscure reality. Started as a not yet so ambitious exhibition and not directly related to contemporary art, its first edition showed to the public the works of those artists which had been known as “entartete Kunst” (degenerate art – click here to read more about it ) in Germany during the Nazi era, such as the key figures of historical avant-gardes movements of the beginning of the XX century. Since the fifth edition (1972), curated by Harald Szeemann the holy father of the contemporary figure of the curator, a new artistic director has been named for each Documenta exhibition by a committee of experts.
The thirteenth edition of Documenta, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, involves more than 300 participants. The exhibition in Kassel is presented at eight main venues, with many other projects located at sites throughout the centre of the city and an incredible number of diverse events, such as conferences, readings, screenings, performances, etc. involving artists, writers, scientists, economists, activists, etc. happening throughout its 100 days of life.
It’s worth to directly quote some words of its director, that in this fragment seems to be perfectly expressing the soul of this show: “dOCUMENTA (13) is dedicated to artistic research and forms of imagination that explore commitment, matter, things, embodiment, and active living in connection with, yet not subordinated to, theory. These are terrains where politics are inseparable from a sensual, energetic, and worldly alliance between current research in various scientific and artistic fields and other knowledges, both ancient and contemporary. dOCUMENTA (13) is driven by a holistic and non-logocentric vision that is skeptical of the persisting belief in economic growth. This vision is shared with, and recognizes, the shapes and practices of knowing of all the animate and inanimate makers of the world, including people”.
Incredibly vaster then Manifesta and completely different in its more intuitive and incoherent approach, dOCUMENTA (13) is composed as a myriad of open-ended questions, as a sensitive cloud of diverse issues and narratives that oscillate towards an extraordinary number of directions.
We’ll be honest. It’s even hard to write about it right now, as we need some longer time to reflect upon it and let our thoughts grow towards the fantasies some of the works inspired, before letting judgements put an end to this mental journey.
But we definitely would like to point out to this blog, realized by the curatorial office LTTDS.org, which focuses (and constantly updates) on the different interpretations critics from around the world are giving of the show (and from whom we have stolen some of these images…).
Thus our pick for now is Jerome Bel’s work, a performance realized by a group of actors with learning disabilities, where the French choreographer as usual focuses on the core elements of theatre minimazing them at their most. The key element at stake is the challenging of the audience’s position and responsibilities, realized in such a subtle way that the work is able to generate embarrassment and hate, pleasure and laughs, compassion and sadness, altogether and in their strongest form.
Also, absolutely don’t miss Tino Sehgal’s oeuvre (by the way you can now experience one of his most ambitious works also in Tate’s Turbine Hall, click here to see), an incredibly charming experience of darkness and light, of dancers producing choirs of unstable voices and ever-changing choreographies, where you’ll have to let yourself go and trust these unknown presences, while admiring their synchronized movements. Their making you feel present and absent simultaneously and their energetic invasion of the whole space is an indescribably good vibration.
Or also go check where Maria Loboda’s cypress trees’ formation is positioned. In fact this mobile installation moves during the exhibition period, following a military strategy, towards the Orangerie, and is part of her ongoing investigation into beauty and threat.
So much more to tell…but we became extremely long, so to avoid you staring at your laptop for the whole day, we stop our car here, under these trees, in the shadows of the park.
Hoping to maybe have thrilled your curiosity we wish now a great Summer time to all!
And don’t forget to click here for our final hots!