Eso Eres / Marea

Video Still from Eso Eres. Image Courtesy of Maria Rondeau and Rafael Rondeau.

My introduction to the work of Rafael Rondeau and Maria Rondeau occurred last summer in Close Distance—a terrific group exhibition highlighting six emerging Boston-area Latino artists. That summer at the Mills Gallery, we saw videos that explored architecture and its ability to frame our experience of place. Once again, this brother and sister duo have collaborated on two separate, experimental video installations that explore the synthesis between the intimate and the public, by engaging structure, image and sound.

Maria, a practicing architect and artist and Rafael, a violinist and composer—have furthered their work with Eso Eres and Marea, two non-narrative, fully immersive works that re-examine and question the spaces we inhabit.

Eso Eres, is projected on a suspended light screen with a reflective mylar background set five feet away from the wall. The video captures a man running along a linear path, but instead of seeing the man’s entire body, we only see his face–an attempt on behalf of the artists to locate a visage as a “place.”

Video Still from Marea. Image Courtesy of Maria Rondeau and Rafael Rondeau.

 Marea, the longest and most immersive of the two videos captures a social encounter—a man sitting at a table in what appears to be an outdoor restaurant overlooking one of New York City’s neighborhoods. Projected on two elongated screens that trace the perimeter of a table—the video holds both foreground and background in focus, creating a sweeping and fluid movement that wraps around the viewer—who is encouraged to weave in and out of both installations. The sound, conceived by Rafael not only considers the spaces projected in these two installations, but also the gallery space where these works are shown.

From the sound of a string quartet—composed and performed by Rafael—to the hustle and bustle of a rural market in Guatemala—to the murmured prayers of women at a pre-Colonial church, Marea takes you on journeys near and far in the span of 10 minutes. The images and sounds in these two videos often collide with one another to awaken and alter our senses, prompting us to reconsider the spaces we experience on a daily basis.

Eso Eres/Marea is on view until March 02, 2012 at La Galeria at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in the South End.

Say You Love Me

Exorcism in January 2009, Laurel Nakadate. Type C-print. Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York.

Exorcism in January 2009, Laurel Nakadate. Type C-print. Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York

Laurel Nakadate thrives off of meeting strangers. Old, lonely, creepy and sexually repressed men fascinate her, to the point of making them the subject of her videos.  She’s had these men beg for their lives, perform exorcisms, sing happy birthday or pretend to have a telephone conversation, all while in the same room with her. The eight video installation Laurel Nakadate: Say You Love Me at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, is bound to make you feel dirty and in need of a shower (at least, the first time you see the exhibition, not so much the second or third time).

Happy Birthday, 2000, Laurel Nakadate

Ms. Nakadate makes exceedingly difficult work that explores and pushes the boundaries of voyeurism, exhibitionism, and vulnerability. The grittiness and raw video quality in her work adds to the discomfort that perhaps many people feel, when confronted with the creepy and awkward situations Nakadate places herself in.

Good Morning Sunshine, 2009, Laurel Nakadate

In “Good Morning Sunshine,” Ms. Nakadate casts three women who play the role of teenagers and coerces each one into taking their clothes off. Nakadate shows us that a little pressure and sweet talking goes a long way. “Stand up and let me look at you…you know you’re the prettiest girl right? Take your shirt off…” she says in a silky smooth, alluring voice. “You know you’re so pretty right? Let’s see your panties…” We squirm and cringe as we watch each woman succumb to the pressure. It is as if we’re about to watch a casting couch video.

With Laurel Nakadate, we hold our breath anxiously waiting for the other shoe to drop. We expect something naughty to happen following a situation where some sort of sexual tension is explicit or implied. At times, Nakadate leads us into thinking that what we’re about to see are clips of some sort of fetish sex tape. But it isn’t, which allows for a more thrilling voyeuristic experience.

Beg For Your Life, 2006, Laurel Nakadate

Nakadate is always in control of the situation, but I think she does not always come across as being genuinely interested in her subjects. There are times, particularly in the video Beg for Your Life, 2006 (not the video still shown above, but another segment within that same video) where Nakadate’s body language is that of a person thinking “I’m taking advantage of this old, creepy, emotionally unstable guy and he doesn’t even know what he’s in for.” These men are lonely and they need to be loved. Perhaps they see these performances as a means of being loved, but who knows? Regardless of Nakadate’s true intentions, her work is thought provoking and intense.

Lessons 1-10, 2001, Laurel Nakadate.

Her videos are compelling in part thanks to a great soundtrack that includes songs like ‘Devils and Dust” by Bruce Springsteen, “You Were Always on My Mind” by Elvis Presley, “All I Have to Do is Dream” by Roy Orbinson and Neil Diamond’s “I am,” I said” among many others. These songs further underscore the loneliness, vulnerability and hope that present themselves as recurring themes in Nakadate’s work. Her videos may be uncomfortable to watch for some, but they’re also touching, empathetic and funny. These qualities make all the squirming all worth it.

Ten Thousand Waves

 

Isaac Julien, "Red Chamber Room (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endora Ultra photographs, diptych, 70.9 x 90.6 in. each. Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London

Brace yourselves Bostonians, Isaac Julien’s Ten Thousand Waves is now showing at the Institute of Contemporary Art! This breathtaking video installation had its US premiere in December 2010 at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami, now it’s our turn to stimulate our senses with beautiful imagery and sound. Viewers are immerse in a new form of storytelling – three narratives unfolding simultaneously on nine screens. Shot mostly in China’s incredibly diverse landscape, Ten Thousand Waves features images of lush bamboo jungles, daily life in Shanghai and panoramic views of the coast of England.

Isaac Julien, "Blue Goddess (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endura Ultra photograph, diptych, 70.87 x 94.49 in. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

 

Isaac Julien, "Mazu, Turning (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endura Ultra photograph. 70.87 x 94.49 in. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London

 

Isaac Julien, "Yishan Island, Dreaming (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endura Ultra photograph, 70.87 x 94.49 in. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London

 

Ten Thousand Waves is gorgeous to look at, mesmerizing and oh, so stylized that it reminded me of the films of Wong Kar Wai in particular In the Mood for Love as well as the films of Terrence Malick. Julien takes his viewers on a magical journey, one made even more entrancing by the appearance of Maggie Cheung as lead actress. Seriously, wasn’t she great in In the Mood for Love? Examples of stills from In the Mood for Love and The Thin Red Line:

In the Mood for Love, (2000) Wong Kar Wai

The Thin Red Line, Ben Chaplin, 1998, Terrence Malick, Director. TM and Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. Courtesy: Everett Collection

Issac Julien: Ten Thousand Waves in on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art until March 04, 2012. You’ll be mad if you miss this installation!

REVIEW: Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts

Hector Zamora, White Noise – Shed 6 Installation (detail), 2011. Installation originally developed for the Auckland Arts Festival, New Zealand. Courtesy of the artist and XXXXX

This Fall there are two exhibitions in Boston that originated in San Francisco: Shahzia Sikander: The Exploding Company Man and Other Abstractions and Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show, both curated and co-curated respectively by Hou Hanru for the Walter and McBean Galleries in San Francisco.

Hanru is director of exhibitions at the San Francisco Art Institute and an internationally known writer and curator with a “reputation for staging thematic exhibitions.” The more exhibitions curated by Hanru I experience, the more I fall in love with his curatorial approach.

Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show is a group show of eight contemporary Mexican artists that “frame two major tendencies in the current creative scene – social critique and witty design solutions – as entangled and reinforcing strategies to face the complex reality of life in modern Mexico. ” The message, although delivered with humor and irony in most of the works, lingers on with intensity and a sense of “urgency and importance.”

Manuel Rocha Iturbide, I Play The Drums With Frequency (detail), 2007–11. Drum set, sound installation. Courtesy of the artist.

With a focus on the effects of globalization on the Mexican economy, politics and society, “Disponible” is a universal kind of show. Any dense urban setting with empty billboard advertisements with the words “disponible” (“available”) printed on them, is a setting that “allows contemporary art and other experimental and creative practices such as architecture, design and music to flourish, forming one of the most original and intriguing art scenes in the global landscape.” The works in this show are poignant and reinforce the current conversations we’re having on environmental sustainability, social justice and alternative design solutions that foster a safer, healthier and better world.

Among some of my favorite works in the exhibition include Teresa Margolles’ Las Llaves de La Ciudad (The Keys to the City), a performance based installation conceived in collaboration with Antonio Hernandez Camacho, a former small business owner from Ciudad Juarez. On opening night, both Ms. Margolles and Mr. Camacho interacted with those in attendance while Mr. Camacho carved messages of hope into keys. Today, what’s left behind are Mr. Camacho’s carving tools, his desk, metal shavings on the floor and carved keys hanging on a cord. Acting as a metaphor for Ciudad Juarez, this installation also speaks to the violence that plagues the city. Today, an audio recording of the performance played throughout the installation allows for a haunting experience.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (detail), 2011. Installation performance. Photograph by Rafael Burillo. Courtesy of the artist.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (performance with Mr. Camacho), 2011. Installation performance. (iPhone) Photograph by Anulfo Baez.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (performance with Mr. Camacho), 2011. Installation performance. (iPhone) Photograph by Anulfo Baez.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (Key I had made while I interacted with Mr. Camacho), 2011. Installation performance. (iPhone) Photograph by Anulfo Baez. The message (in Spanish) I chose to be engraved into the key was "compasion" because we all need a little more compassion to save the world.

Other works rely heavily on sound and noise to emphasize the human condition. Hector Zamora’s White Noise (Part 2) an installation in its own separate gallery comments on the freedoms available in public and private spaces, while Mauricio Limon’s video Bizco Merolico Chorus examines the subcultures of Mexico City’s street vendors by asking them to repeat their sales pitches, in the process creating a universal chorus often ignored in societies all over. Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show leaves little to be desired. It reminds us that there is much to be done in the world.

Hector Zamora, White Noise (detail). Photo Courtesy of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts

Hector Zamora, White Noise (detail), 2011. Photo Courtesy of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Mauricio Limón, Bizco Merolico Chorus, 2006. Video still, duration: 2 minutes, 22 seconds. Courtesy of the artist and Galería Hilario Galguera, Mexico City, Mexico.

Disponible: A Kind of a Mexican Show is on view through November 19, 2011 and was co-curated by Hou Hanru and Guillermo Santamarina. On October 18, 2011 there will be a screening of Natalia Almada’s film El General at the Museum of Fine Arts.

*unless linked to a direct source of reference, quotes were taken from the exhibition brochure.

A Psychotic State of Mind: Laurie Anderson’s “Delusion”

Before attending last night’s performance of Laurie Anderson’s Delusion, I knew very little of Anderson’s craft. However, because most of the time I am surrounded by artists and other creative types, it only took one friend to get me beyond excited for what I was about to experience at the Paramount Theater.

Laurie Anderson is considered a legend in the performing art world. Known for her multimedia presentations and innovative use of technology in art, theater and experimental music, Anderson’s latest solo performance Delusion allows for one beautiful and mesmerizing journey that sticks with you hours after experiencing it.

If you’re wondering what Delusion is, “Delusion is a mediation on life and language,” a meditation enhanced by the violin, electronic puppetry, music and on screen visuals.

The performance lasts 90 minutes which may be among the best 90 minutes of your life. There were moments that took my breath away and moments that made place many things into perspective. There was a moment in the performance that reminded me of the visuals of Terrence Malick, in particular his shots of grass and wheat. Re-visiting familiar territory (which for me was the moment Malick’s stunning grass visuals were referenced by Anderson) is part of Delusion.

Delusion is only playing until Sunday October 2, 2011. If you can make it, I highly recommend it for its beautiful visuals and music. Click this link for more information.

Review: Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens

Photograph courtesy of the artist / David Zwirner, New York. Paradox of Praxis, still from Paradox of Praxis 1, 1997, video, 5

Expecting to encounter sculpture in an exhibition titled Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens, is expecting to be disappointed. When hearing the word sculpture, it is safe to assume that most of us immediately become concern with the technical and aesthetic qualities that are traditionally associated with sculpture. We question whether the sculpture is additive or subtractive, or whether it forms part of a building or it’s a relief panel. In the Francis Alÿs exhibition at the Davis Museum, a viewer’s notion of what sculpture is or should be, is challenged by both the artist and curator.

Born in 1959 in Antwerp, Belgium and having studied architecture and urbanism in Europe before settling in Mexico City’s historic quarters, Francis Alÿs’ work deal with the surrounding physical and social tensions of this dense Latin American city. There are no sculptures to be found in this exhibition at the Davis Museum or in the artist’s body of work, instead a viewer finds works consisting of performances and their video documentation, works; that capture the “moment” where the beginnings of sculpture are articulated.

In the video Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing), 1997 documents over eight hours edited to five minutes of Alÿs pushing an enormous block of ice around Mexico City, leaving only a small puddle at the end of the day. Paradox of Praxis 1 creates a three dimensional, sculpture like experience by documenting the action of pushing a block of ice. Throughout the performance, Alÿs casts shadows in his path and “pushes sculpture to transparent limits, finally consummated in the imagination.”[1]

Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens features videos, slide projections, drawings and the recently acquired The Sign Painters Series Cityscape, a triptych depicting an urban scene stripped away from any recognizable landmarks. The exhibition primarily takes place in one small gallery with videos and slides projected on three walls. In addition to these, 15 drawings on vellum and 2 color transparencies of the historic quarters are displayed on a light table.

The exhibition at the Davis Museum marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in the New England region and anticipates a major career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City this May. Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens is on view at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College until June 5th, 2011.


[1] Lorna Scott Fox, “Where Sculpture Happens” in Francis Alys: A Story of Deception (London, Tate Modern) 196.

Review: The Black Films of Aldo Tambellini

During the sixties and much of the seventies, people lived in a world that changed rapidly in a short amount of time. The politically awkward climate of the era was heightened by the assassinations of Robert and John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., the resignation of Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War, the fight for civil rights and other political and social conflicts. These forces ignited the creative spirit of American artists who further explored the turbulence of the times through the art that was being produced.

For those of a younger generation, it is through the New Hollywood and Experimental films made
during the sixties and seventies that the struggles, turmoil and recreational pleasures of the times are experienced and shared. The Black Films of Aldo Tambellini at Emerson College transport the viewer into a world where the villain was larger than a person, or a thing, it was an ideological villain that shaped the lives of every American citizen.

Born in Syracuse, NY in 1930, Aldo Tambellini pioneered the video art movement in the mid sixties by painting directly on film, which resulted in the production of the camera-less series The Black Films. Each of the films in the series is a journey from within, a journey that captivates our senses and stimulates our imagination.

If “to dislocate the senses of the viewer” was one of the goals behind Aldo Tambellini’s Black Films, the outcome has been a highly successful one. The abstracted forms and images in the films recall the palpability of Abstract Expressionism, in the sense that one sees an Abstract Expressionist painting and our immediate is to want to feel the texture. The work of Tambellini is a “primitive, sensory exploration of the medium, which ranges from total abstraction to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and black teenagers in Coney Island.”[1] Black for Tambellini is a color, a color he has developed a profound relationship with throughout his artistic career. In the introduction to the Black Gate “a newspaper dedicated to worldwide unity and interest,” Tambellini writes:

black is space black is sound black is color black is darkness black is anger black is void
black is

Among the most memorable films in the series are Black is and Black TV. Black is incorporates abstract forms alongside images of people marching, horses galloping and tanks, juxtaposed to the pulsating rhythms of African drums, heart beats and women and children chanting “black is beautiful.” Black TV is perhaps the most uncomfortable film to watch of all. The anguish and turmoil of the sixties and seventies is inscribed deep within our thoughts by the haunting facial close-ups and footage of Robert Kennedy speaking at the Ambassador Hotel. Throughout the length of the film, the trauma of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and the fight for civil rights is augmented by the alarming sounds of people experiencing distress and horror. Further adding to the trauma is the voice of radio host repeating the phrase “Senator Kennedy has been shot…Is that possible? Is that possible?” Black TV is painful, disorienting and heart wrenching, crafted to awaken every one of our senses.

Tambellini referred to the Black Films as “paintings in motion” and as I intensely watched each of the seven films, I was reminded of the Suprematist paintings of Lissitzky and Malevich or the Futurist works of Joseph Stella. The films in the installation at Emerson College are presented in an intimate setting and are accompanied by stills and ephemera from various screenings and events organized by Tambellini.


The Black Films of Aldo Tambellini are on view through April 22, 2011 at the Huret and Spector Gallery in the Tufte Performance and Production Center, 10 Boylston Place, 6th Floor, Boston, MA. For more information, please click here.

Aldo Tambellini: The Black Films are a prelude to the 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival which is
New England’s premier resource for artists, arts organizations, educators, and corporations who are working at the forefront of art and technology. The festival starts on April 22 through May 8, 2011.


[1]
Mark Webber, Independent Film, http://www.aldotambellini.com/film.html

Jennifer Steinkamp will make you smile

Have you ever gone to a museum or gallery and seen a work that just made you smile? I recently went to see a show that did just that, in fact, I was even smiling at strangers on the subway….in Boston (this never happens, EVER)!

Astatic|February 1 – March 05, 2011| Bakalar and Paine Gallery|MassArt highlights the role of animation in contemporary art practice. Lately, I’ve been falling in love with many things and artists, this time, I’ve fallen for Jennifer Steinkamp. Steinakamp’s works explore ideas about architectural space, motion, and perception. Dance Hall Girl 5-Daisy at MassArt is way cool! Check this show out if you’re in Boston!

See some cool examples of Jennifer Steinkamp’s works posted here. If I haven’t convinced you to see the show or even check out Jennifer’s website, do a Youtube search, tons of Steinkamp’s installation videos there.

This first video is an introduction to Steinkamp’s works, she makes an appearance as well.