Shit Happens

One hundred thousand. Shit that could have been avoided.

Images from Disappearing Acts, a Bruce Nauman retrospective that was presented in two parts, in MoMa and MoMA PS1.

”Disappearing Acts traces what Nauman has called “withdrawal as an art form”—both literal and figurative incidents of removal, deflection, and concealment. Bodies are fragmented, centers are left empty, voices emanate from hidden speakers, and the artist sculpts himself in absentia, appearing only as negative space. The retrospective charts these forms of omission and loss across media and throughout the decades, following Nauman as he circles back to earlier concerns with new urgency. Presented in two complementary parts, at The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1, this is the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work ever assembled.” [source: MoMA]

Last photo (not) showing the Starry Night, by Vincent van Gogh; I wonder when (or even if) will we ever see crowds like this anymore…

October 19th, 2018

Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done [@MoMA]

”For a brief period in the early 1960s, a group of choreographers, visual artists, composers, and filmmakers gathered in Judson Memorial Church, a socially engaged Protestant congregation in New York’s Greenwich Village, for a series of workshops that ultimately redefined what counted as dance. The performances that evolved from these workshops incorporated everyday movements—gestures drawn from the street or the home; their structures were based on games, simple tasks, and social dances. Spontaneity and unconventional methods of composition were emphasized. The Judson artists investigated the very fundamentals of choreography, stripping dance of its theatrical conventions, and the result, according to Village Voice critic Jill Johnston, was the most exciting new dance in a generation.” – [source: MoMA]

Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done was a walk through the history of Judson Dance Theater with performances, films, photographs, posters and other archival materials. It was also an introduction to the very beginnings of the life and work of artists I have been admiring for some time – and others that were completely new to me.

Instructed by the filmmaker Gene Friedman not to talk or hide their faces, Judith Dunn and Robert Ellis Dunn looked directly at the camera with deadpan expressions until they both broke into laughter. Judith Dunn was a choreographer and member of Merce Cunningham’s company, while Robert Dunn was a teacher and Cunningham’s accompanist.

Gene Friedman
Excerpt from Heads, 1965
16mm film transferred to video


In his workshops, Robert Ellis Dunn presented his students with Cage’s score for ”Fontana Mix” and asked them to use it as inspiration for a performance. The score instructed performers to layer transparencies containing lines and dots over a grid to create a random visual arrangement, with they then interpreted using a variety of movements and actions. This exercise exposed the students to chance operations, a composition technique popularized by Cage that introduced randomness into the art-making process.

John Cage
Fontana Mix, 1958
Ink on paper and transparent sheets


Laughter poem* for James Waring, 2 August 1960, by Ray Johnson


*If you are curious to know how a laughter poem sounds, please click on this page: Atlanta Poets Group to find out. You can also listen to the first one: Laughter poem for Ray Johnson, 30 July 1960, by James Waring
Judson Memorial Church, New York – March 16, 1966
Fred W. McDarrah


Yvone Rainer
”Bach” From Terrain, 1963
Performed at Judson Memorial Church, April 28th, 1963
By Trisha Brown, William Davis, Judith Dunn, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer and Albert Reid

Rainer’s first evening-length work Terrain, was a five-part dance for multiple performers. Some of the sections were choreographed, while others were structured like a game, with rules and strategies that defined each dancer’s behavior but still allowed for spontaneity and improvisation.

Lucinda Childs
Geranium, 1965. Performed at 940 Broadway, January 29th, 1965
Geranium was set to the sounds of a championship football game, complete with sports commentators describing the action on the field, to which Childs added her imitation of sports broadcasting and intervals of music. Using the tape as a score and its sounds as cues, Childs interacted with objects including a wooden pole, a tinfoil scrap, a hammer and a pound of soil. She used a hammock to support her weight as she performed, in slow motion, the movement of a football player who – according to the broadcast – raced toward the ball, stumbled and fell.

Huddle is part of Simone Forti’s Dance Constructions (1960-61), a continually shifting mass of bodies. Seven to nine performers create a solid base and take turns climbing over the group. In doing this, they create a sculptural form Forti has often described as a mountain.

Simone Forti’s Dance Constructions (1960–61) were key forerunners to Judson Dance Theater. Made from inexpensive materials, including plywood and rope, each “construction” prompts actions such as climbing, leaning, standing or whistling. Simultaneously sculptures and performances, the works were first presented at Reuben Gallery and the artist Yoko Ono’s loft, both in New York.

Huddle was performed live in intervals, throughout the exhibition.

September 15th, 2018

To Be Looked At (from the Other Side of the Glass) with One Eye, Close to, for Almost an Hour

Thus spoke Marcel, and we obliged (for five minutes).

Looking for ”almost an hour” would have a hallucinatory effect similar to Marc Chagall’s experience, some years earlier.

Marcel Duchamp
To Be Looked At (from the Other Side of the Glass) with One Eye, Close to, for Almost an Hour, 1918
Oil, silver leaf, lead wire, magnifying lens on glass (cracked) mounted between panes of glass in a standing metal frame, on painted wood base

”The title of this work, which Duchamp said he ”intended to sound like an oculist’s prescription” tells the viewer exactly how to look at it. But peering through the convex lens embedded in the work’s glass ”for almost an hour” would have a hallucinatory effect, the view being dwarfed, flipped and otherwise distorted. Meanwhile the viewer patiently following the title’s instructions is him-or herself put on display for anyone else walking by. 

Duchamp called this his ”small glass”, to distinguish it from his famous Large Glass of 1915-23. He made the work in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he had fled earlier in 1918 to escape the oppressive atmosphere of the United States during World War I. When he shipped it back to New York, the glass cracked in transit, en effect that delighted him.”

Marc Chagall
I and the Village, 1911
Oil on canvas

@MoMA

August 8th, 2018

Bodys Isek Kingelez || City Dreams @MoMA

I first became aware of the work of Bodys Isek Kingelez, captivated by his intricate, colourful maquettes, at the retrospective that was presented at MoMA during the second half of 2018. There is a joyous, optimistic quality about these toy-like cities that brought a smile to the child in me; but make no mistake – these tiny sculptures, made from modest materials like glue and paper, straws and bottles, soda cans and bottle caps, are no toys. They are a delicate body of artwork, visions of utopian cities, images of a better world. Like, for example, the U.N. (1995), made in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, reflecting the artist’s belief in a world of democracy, peace, and cooperation. Or his Ville Fantôme (1996), a peaceful city in which doctors and police are unecessary.

An extract from the artist’s bio (for more info click on his name):

”Visionary artist Bodys Isek Kingelez created dazzling, intricate architectural sculptures that he called “extreme maquettes.” Born in the agricultural village of Kimbembele Ihunga in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1948, he came of age in a period of enormous political and social transformation. In 1970, he relocated to Kinshasa—the capital of the newly independent nation renamed Zaire—to pursue a university education. After his studies, motivated by a desire to make a civic contribution to his country, Kingelez worked briefly as a secondary school teacher. However, he soon became “obsessed with the idea of getting my hands on some scissors, a Gillette razor, and some glue and paper…” and began to create sculptures that took the form of buildings, constructed from modest materials like paper, cardboard, and repurposed commercial packaging, and embellished with push-pins, straws, elaborate hand-applied designs, and more. It was through these sculptures that he felt he could help shape “a better, more peaceful world.” The technical excellence of Kingelez’s early work led to his hiring as a restorer at the National Museums Institute of Zaire, where he repaired traditional objects in the collection until he devoted himself to art making full-time in the early 1980s.”


“Art is the grandest adventure of them all…art is a high form of knowledge, a vehicle for individual renewal that contributes to a better collective future.” – Bodys Isek Kingelez (1948–2015)

MoMA, New York

July 28th, 2018

Postcards from the past

Life seemed so much simpler then.

Slobodan Milićević || Hotel Croatia, Cavtat, 1971-73
Slobodan Milićević || Hotel Croatia, Cavtat, 1971-73
Andrija Čičin-Šain & Žarko Vincek || Libertas Hotel, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 1968-74
Bogoljub Kurpjel || Hotel Astarea, Mlini, Croatia, 1969-70
Boris Magaš || Haludovo Hotel complex, Malinska, Krk, Croatia, 1969-72
Andrija Čičin-Šain & Žarko Vincek || Libertas Hotel, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 1968-74
Branko Žnidarec || Hotel Adriatic II, Opatija, Croatia, 1970-71
Slobodan Milićević || Hotel Croatia, Cavtat, 1971-73

 

From ”Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980”,  an exhibition that ran between July 2018–January 2019 @MoMA.

July 24th, 2018

Groundbreaking Design

In the form of a humble Kiosk.

”The K67 kiosk system was a highly successful design for modular units that could be used for all kinds of street-level businesses and amenities. The prototype for the system was developed in 1967 by Saša Janez Mächtig, who was experimenting with the new technology of fiberglass-reinforced polyester. He invented a joint that could connect individual units into double- and triple-fronted kiosks and other configurations. The design was mass-produced and in widespread use by 1970, as fast-food stands, key-copy shops, grocery stores, newspaper and lottery kiosks, and many other enterprises.”

Images:

  • The shape-shifting K67 Kiosk, by Saša Janez Mächtig & its many applications.
  • Stills from Living Space/Loving Space (2018)
    Twelve-channel video by Mila Turajlić
  • Telephones (even one with a rotary dial, similar to one we used at home until well into the ’80s), by Davorin Savnik.
    Models are: ATA 21 K2 telephone, c. 1970, ETA 80 telephone, 1979, ETA 85 telephone, 1979

From ”Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980”,  an exhibition that ran between July 2018–January 2019 @MoMA.

July 24th, 2018

Groundbreaking Architecture

The Seagram Building.  Completed in 1958 to house the headquarters of Canadian distillers Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, solely thanks to Phyllis Lambert, the daughter of Samuel Bronfman, Seagram’s CEO, a young sculptor at the time, who later on became an architect herself.

Unhappy with the initial design of the skyscraper her father intended to have built, Phyllis took control of the project, contacted Philip Johnson – who was about to quit his post as director of the architecture department at the Museum of Modern Art to devote himself fully to his architectural practice, and together they enlisted Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, an architect largely regarded as one of the pioneers of modernist architecture. They went on to change Manhattan’s office architecture forever.

The Seagram, built of a steel frame and large non-structural glass walls, became the prototype for future office buildings that largely define Manhattan’s skyline today; buildings that look rather similar yet not quite the same.

There is a reason for this: Mies intended for the steel frame to be visible, but American building codes required that structural steel be covered in a fireproof material, usually concrete, which – if used – would hide the structure, the exact opposite of Mies’ plans. In order to comply, Mies used bronze to create bronze-toned I-beams, which would follow the structural frame that is underneath. These are the beams you see running vertically along the glass windows, a method that has been copied countless times since – although it never seems to be as aesthetically successful as on the Seagram.

But this was not the only pioneering feature implemented on the Seagram: in a move that would differentiate himself from the then architectural establishment, Mies had the whole building set back 100 feet (about 30,5 metres) from the street, creating a large marble plaza which became a very popular gathering area. It also set an example and in 1961, when New York City proposed a revision to its 1916 Zoning Resolution, it included incentives for developers to create similar public spaces.

So, whenever you take a break in one of these cool public spaces within and in-between high buildings in Manhattan, that’s who you have to give your thanks to.

Meanwhile, in the country I grew up knowing as Yugoslavia: ”architects responded to contradictory demands and influences, developing a postwar architecture both in line with and distinct from the design approaches seen elsewhere in Europe and beyond. The architecture that emerged—from International Style skyscrapers to Brutalist “social condensers”—is a manifestation of the radical diversity, hybridity, and idealism that characterized the Yugoslav state itself. Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 introduces the exceptional work of socialist Yugoslavia’s leading architects to an international audience for the first time, highlighting a significant yet thus-far understudied body of modernist architecture, whose forward-thinking contributions still resonate today.” [source]

Milan Mihelič
S2 Office Tower, Ljubljana, Slovenia
1972-28, Model


Andrija Mutnjaković
National and University Library of Kosovo, Pristina, 1971-82
Exterior view, 2016


Andrija Mutnjaković
National and University Library of Kosovo, Pristina, 1971-82
Μodel, 1:200, 2017-18


Poster for Janko Konstantinov retrospective, 1984
Collage of different building projects, including the Counter Hall of the Telecommunications Center in the background


Janko Konstantinov
Telecommunications Centre, Skopje, North Macedonia, 1968-81
Perspective, Print on tracing paper


Kenzō Tange and team, working on the Skopje master plan, 1965


Vjenceslav Richter
Reliefometar (Reliefmetre) 1964


Yugoslav pavillion at the International Labour Exhibition, Turin, Italy


Vjenceslav Richter
Yugoslav Pavilion at Expo 58, Brussels, Belgium


Milan Mihelič
Stoteks Department Store, Novi Sad, Serbia, 1968-72
South elevation, 1:50


Jože Plečnik
Slovenian Parliament, Ljubljana, 1947-48
Model 1:100


Juraj Neidhardt
Residential Neighbourhoods for Socialist City, 1969


Janez Lenassi (sculptor) & Živa Baraga (architect)
Monument to the Fighters Fallen in the People’s Liberation Struggle
Ilirska Bistrica, Slovenia, 1965


Iskra Grabul & Jordan Grabul
Monument to the Ilinden Uprising, Kruševo, North Macedonia, 1970-73


Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980,  was an exhibition @MoMA that ran between July 2018–January 2019.

In 1992, following a series of political and economical crises, Yugoslavia broke up into six independent countries: Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia and North Macedonia.

The Seagram Building is located at 375 Park Avenue, between 52nd & 53rd Streets, in Midtown Manhattan.

July 24th, 2018