Friday, 10 December 2010

Touched - Liverpool Biennial (18 Sept - 28 Nov 2010)

"Touched presets art with emotional impact. Art that can not only gain our attention, but that can move us, motivate us, and allow us to find away to change ourselves. Art without emotional force is without intellectual power"

Although I think this statement is by no means true of all the pieces involved in this years biennial,  most of the art i have wrote about in my blog has 'touched' me on some level.

I think the title 'touched' is also relevant to the effect this years biennial had on the city itself. Even without mentioning any of the art pieces you could see something going on all over the city - through the black and red wolves on signs, painted on walls, and outside shops, without having to know anything to do with art visitors to the city must of wondered what was going on.

The biennial also 'touched' and made use of the empty spaces in our city, from literal gaps between buildings, to making abandoned and unused buildings into gallery spaces, like the 'old rapid building' on Renshaw Street.

At the beginning of the 'Biennial Guide Book' Lewis Biggs says,

"to be touched in the heart or the gut is to fell the pull of tragedy in another persons situation; maybe as a result to be moved to horror turning to anger at the desire to do something about it, as in Alfredo Jarr's documentation of the massacres of Rwanda; but to also be moved to by beauty and wonder, as in Danica Dakic's film 'Grand Organ'. As Alfredo Jarr has noted: 'if images loose their power to affect us, we have lost our humanity'"

I would say that sums up alot of the pieces i saw in this years Biennial <3

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Ryan Trecartin - Trill-ogy Comp (2009)

Three of Ryan Trecartin's videos were being shown in the basement of the main Biennial site, 52 Renshaw Street, and were one of the first Biennial pieces i saw.

In the 'Biennial Guide Book' Frances Loeffer says,

"Trill-ogy Comp doesn't so much 'touch' you in the gentle sense, as pull you in, shake you up, absorb you, and then set you down, reeling. The works are visually, aurally and emotionally assaulting, leaving our senses disrupted and our thought processes open to new perspectives on the world."

The three pieces 'K-CorealNC.K (section a)', 'Sibling Topics (section a)', and 'P.opular (section ish)', all feature strange, high-energy, almost genderless characters, who make little sense, repeating the same odd catch-phrases over and over again. 

After moving through the videos, and beginning to become accustom to the choppy cutting, and editing i began to see the similarities to the types of shows been shown on MTV - the same over the top characters and dramas. The same realisation that what i was seeing made no sense, and the same compulsion to keep watching anyway.

These videos definitely influenced me into looking at how these 'reality dramas' could be used in my own work.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Alfredo Jaar - We Wish To Inform You That We Didn't Know (2010)

Alfredo Jaar created the video installation 'We Wish To Inform You That We Didn't Know' as a response to the indifference the world had shown to the Rwandan genocide which claimed over a million lives.

He had already created twenty five different pieces on this subject from 1994 to 2000, before creating this video piece after returning to Rwanda, having been invited to create a monument in remembrance of the victims. The video 'We Wish To Inform You That We Didn't Know' was Jaars attempt to gain closure for the project.

The piece is being shown in what once was 'The Scandinavian Hotel'.

The video is quite simple, using three screens, and beginning with a BBC news report, followed by an apology from Clinton in which he comments he was 'not aware of what was happening'. The video continues by interviewing three Rwandans who managed to survive the genocide.

Jaar seems to put all of the blame in the video in Clinton, - although his apology did make him an easy target for this. However i also felt that the title 'We Wish  To Inform You We Didn't Know', summed up how i felt coming after watching the video, I really was not aware of  what happened there, and the video helped remind me that we are all responsible for our own ignorance.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Lee Mingwei - The Mending Project

Lee Mingei was lovely. 

Most of his work involves asking strangers to join him in everyday activities.

In 'The Mending Project' he invites members of the public to come in and have him fix an item of clothing, while they sit and chat. After hes finished he keeps the clothing until the end of the project, letting them build up as a reminder of the people hes met.

Lee explained to us that the project came out of living in New York at the time of the 9/11 disasters. When people were allowed back into their apartment to collect belongings, he gathered all his mending equipment. He said the city felt so broken it was the only thing he could do.

Instead of covering up the tear or fault in the clothes being bought to him, he darns them using brightly coloured threads and beads to highlight the area, that should now be associated with the moment and conversation with Lee about their lives.

Lee Mingwei was only in Liverpool for two weeks, after that he passed the project onto other 'menders'. I haven't been back to the project since he left, so i cant comment on whether the piece still works, but i find it hard to imagine that it does. I think that Lee has alot to do with how people open up in the project, he made it seem so personal, even though the set up is in fact very staged, and i think it would take someone very speical to get the same reaction from people.

Do Ho Suh - Bridging Home (2010)

Do Ho Suh is described as having his art and life split between two worlds; his home country of Korea and his adopted one of America. For me this piece summed this situation up perfectly.

To walk past the traditional Koran house on Duke Street is quite unnoticeable, (i actually had walked up and down the street so many times without noticing the little house) but as soon as you stop and look at the piece the culture clash seems amazing!

The little wooden shack couldn't be more different from the huge brick buildings either side of it, in the same way i imagine someone to feel when moving from a country like Korea to a western country like America or England. The odd angle the shack seems to of been wedged at also made me feel the artist was trying to say it never quite fits, no matter how much it can seem to blend into the background.

Maria Isabel Gaudinez-Aquilizan and Alfredo Juan Aquilizan - Passage (Project Another Country) (2010)

'Passage' has been visually one of my favourite pieces commissioned for 'Tate Liverpool' as part of the 'touched' project.

Through their work the artists were trying to consider how the lives of people in Australia (where they are from), relates to the life of those in Liverpool. They use the sea as a metaphor for our longing for a better life; "how and where to do we project our dreams and longings?"

They had asked people in Liverpool to create boats using cardboard boxes (as a metaphor for moving, I think?)Presenting them across the gallery space, asking the audience to walk across the bridge through the middle and look down on the piece.

Although I loved walking around the piece, I'm not sure I would of ever understood what the artists were trying to say though the piece without also Reading about it, and think that it was slightly narrow minded for them not think that everybody in Liverpool is dreaming of moving somewhere 'better'.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Tehching Hsieh -One Year Performance (1980-1981)

Tehching Hsieh's work was about 'wasting time'. He had five different year long performances, and i recently saw this one at FACT.

Although this work was produced quite a long time ago, (he retired from art in 2000) especially in comparison to many of the pieces which have been commissioned for the first time for the Biennial, it still felt very fresh and relevant to see it for the first time.

For a whole year Hsieh punched a time card, and took a photograph of himself every hour, on the hour. The time aspect had very much the same repetitive dedication as the piece i previously saw by Sachiko Abe at the 'A Foundation'.

The result was walls lined with his photographs and time cards, making it impossible to not think about a whole year being spent in this restricted way - only ever having less than an hour sleep at a time, never being able to fully commit to anything else.

I'm not sure I could ever be so dedicated to my work. This piece did really make me question how we spend our time - What is relevant? Should our goal in live be to leave some kind of mark?

Sachiko Abe - Cut Papers (2010)

I visted the 'A Foundation' in Liverpool recently to see 'Cut Papers' by Sachiko Abe, and was completly captured by the piece.

Having already walked around the rest of the gallery, i was not expecting the piece at all.

In the Biennial Guide, Abe is quoted as saying that her work is "neither beautiful, nor meditational", but for me personally after seeing the work i could not find this discription further from the reality!

Walking into the empty factory space, and seeing Sachiko Abe sat at the top of her tower, dressed all in white and looking very much like a china doll (in complete contrast to her history, where she worked for the Self-Defence Forces in Japan), and surrounded by delicate twisted paper clippings, it was impossible for me not to think of those fairytale images from Rapunzel. She looked very much like the princess waiting to be rescued from her tower, although perhaps in this case she wanted to be rescued from herself rather than a wicked queen.

The quiet of the space, with only the snipping sound of the scissors on paper added to the hypnotic feeling the piece already gave off.

The Performance piece was complemented perfectly but the detailed repetitive ink drawings in the downstairs section of her 'tower'. I couldn't help but think of the time and monotony involved in creating these drawings.

Friday, 5 November 2010

NS Harsha -Star Gazers (2010)

I went to see NS Harsha's piece 'Star Gazers' which was created for the Liverpool Biennial and is located on the top floor of the old Rapid Building on Renshaw Street. For me this piece really did capture the sprit of the biennial title, 'touched', as the viewer is forced to become physically involved in the piece. 

The 'sky gazers' are painted on the floor, with a low mirror forming the ceiling of the room, making everything seem smaller and further enforcing the idea that you as the audience are now involved in the piece.

You are invited into the piece, and look up into the mirror at not only the piece, but also at yourself at the same time.

I wondered through most of the exhibition, but Harsha's piece seemed to captivate everybody to sit down and actually absorb the work, rather than pass straight through

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Does public art have any artistic value or is it just a social statement?

If art is on the street, not in a gallery does it have a different outcome? Do people looking at it have a different perception? Is it only art if it makes a profit – or is it about the personal journey, both for the artist and the viewer? Is it art if nobody is there to see it? Is art still about the talent of the artist or has it become about understanding what the market wants – and how to make money? Is consumerism killing original thought, or just forcing artists to approach it from a new angle?

Friday, 22 October 2010

'Whistle In The Dark' - Ed Baxter Talk

A few weeks ago we went to hear the one of the ‘Touched’ Talks , taking place as part of the Liverpool Biennial, ‘Whistle In The Dark’, by Ed Baxter, who is the station manager at the arts radio station ‘Resonance FM’.

It was quite complex and hard to follow but the bits I did catch went someway to explaining the point I am trying to make in my own work. Part of the point I am currently trying to explore in my own project is how people feel uncomfortable to stare at someone strange or disfigured in the street, and will usually look away, but as soon as the same thing is on TV or in the media we are happy to explore every aspect of their lives.

During the talk Ed Baxter touched on Freud’s theory that the ‘stage’ is used as a barrier for ‘hygiene’. The audience wants to be close enough to see every detail happening on the ‘stage’ and yet far enough away that whatever is happening there never has to have any real effect on their own lives.

Are we living life like this?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Current Work

When i started my current project I began to think about the stories I have read most recently which had most affected and interested me.Two stories had really stayed with me. The first was about Carla Nash, a fifty five year old woman who had been attacked by her friend’s pet chimp, and appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show to reveal the horrific damage done during this attack.
When her veil was removed it was shocking to see her eyes missing and a large piece of skin where her nose had once been. The chimpanzee had ripped off her hands, nose eyes and lips. She explained to Oprah that she doesn’t touch her face often.

The other story which really captured my attention was Katie Piper, a former model who was badly disfigured when a former boyfriend hurled sulphuric acid in her face. She made a film documenting her recovery and her attempt to resume normal life.

I’m not sure what attracted me to these stories; the strength of both of the women to not be ashamed of what happened to them, and to want to tell there story, or the physical aspects of how they look now. Through my project I want to try and explore both of these ideas. 

I have been looing at a painting by Hung Liu, called ‘China Demeter’ (2008), which shows a girl carrying a huge load, but that she painted to have beauty and hope, and explains that she is trying to rewrite the woman’s history, “the artwork is my way of painting life back into memories.” She wants to use her art to document the lives of ‘the oppressed people who have been otherwise forgotten’.

This idea has made me think a lot about the Mexican day of the dead, where they celebrate people who have died, and all the iconic symbolism that surrounds this day which I would like to incorporate into my piece.

Through out this I really want to explore the separation between the audience and the media, as well as the audience and the victim, and through this also try and capture society’s fascination with the violent spectacle.