Mark Rothko – A journey into human emotions

Mark Rothko has been one of the most influential artists of the last century. Despite his great production –nearly 800 works were left in charge to the heirs after his death – and the different periods that have characterised it, he is known in particular as one of the protagonists of the Abstract Expressionism, the first American current that got international recognition. And that is also how I got to know him: through his colourful undefined rectangles. When I’ve started to see his paintings on the many online art channels I follow, I genuinely wondered why he has become so important in art history. I started to read more about him, and his works were described as a pure journey into the human emotions, to be experienced in first person. Then the exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Museum of Art History in Vienna, came.

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Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red (post-title), 1949 (image taken from wikiart.org)

While Rothko has revolutionised the art world during his times, I think in Europe he still hasn’t the recognition he deserves, if we consider other artists like Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Henri Matisse (and I haven’t mentioned these artists as merely contemporaries of him; but let’s proceed step by step). Europe in history has always been the centre of the artistic movement with respect to the rest of the world (and here it is interesting to mention my post about a study from Roberta Sinatra, where it is shown that nowadays the major museums and art institutions are almost concentrated in the United States). And it is from the old continent that Rothko takes his inspiration.

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Untitled, 1944 (image taken from wikiart.org)

But let’s start from the origins: Marcus Rothkovich was born in 1903 in Dvinsk, a city in Russia, nowadays in Latvia, from a Jewish family. Since an early age he shows a perceptive and sensitive soul, particularly affected also by the times he lives in: before the First World War there is already a feeling of intolerance against Jews all over Russia. When the situation worsens, his father decides to emigrate with the family to Portland, in the United States. Here Marcus becomes a great student and receives a fellowship for Yale University, although he is still not devoted to art only and chooses a major in humanities. He will never finish his studies at Yale, though he will get, 46 years later, an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts.

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Interior, 1936, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, US (image taken from wikiart.org)

After having dropped out of Yale due to financial reasons, he decides to move to New York and continues his studies in drawing and design. He enrols in the class of the famous Modern artist Max Weber, who shares the same background of being Jewish and immigrant with his student and soon becomes friends with him. Max Weber had travelled to Paris and met Henri Matisse, with whom he studied for a short timee. Thanks to him and to the increasing interest in museums and exhibitions, Rothko gets introduced to his contemporaries in Europe, like the Fauves (the French group around Matisse) and the German Expressionism. This will be the beginning of a long exploration in the art world, from which Mark will constantly take inspiration to create his personal and unique style. Other strong influences –and artists that will deeply inspire him – will come from Milton Avery, Giorgio De Chirico, Michelangelo, but also Nietzsche, the Greek mythology, poetry, music.

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Underground Fantasy, 1942, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, US (image taken from wikiart.org)

His artistic development can be divided in four different periods: the Realist years, from 1924 to 1940, the Surrealist period, from 1940 to 1945; the transition ‘til 1949 that will lead him to the Abstract Expressionism period, his trademark style.

The works characterizing his first two stages are mainly landscapes, interiors, still-life, New York subway scenes, clearly inspired by his first mentor, Max Weber.

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Untitled, 1942, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, US (image taken from wikiart.org)

In 1940 Marcus Rothkovich decides to change his name in Mark Rothko, uncanny because disconnected to any nationality. The period during the Second World War has a strong influence on his style, bringing a deep change in his conception of art, making for him inconceivable to keep painting like before. This change makes him revisiting the Greek mythology, whose brutal tragedies of violence and revenge and strong passions well reflect the modern times. The transition in his works starts with the abandon of concrete subjects to focus on colours and shapes (the so-called multiforms), getting then to his classical stage of pure abstraction, influenced by Dada and Surrealism coming from Europe.

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Multiform (post-title), 1948, 118.7 x 144 cm, National Gallery of Australia (NGA), Canberra, Australia (image taken from wikiart.org)

What emerges from Rothko’s art, in particular from the last period, is the absence of any guidance to interpret his works, later reflected also in the removal of the titles, with the artworks simply numbered. His intention is, indeed, to leave the viewer, through the colours and the large sizes of the canvasses, free to experience their own feelings and emotions.Mark Rothko hasn’t been a poor, unfortunate artist: he has rather been successful and estimated. Yet, he has always refused any label and has always felt somehow misunderstood by the art world. A double proof of his great talent and ability of touching human vulnerability.

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Untitled, 1968, Gemeentemuseum den Haag, Hague, Netherlands (image taken from wikiart.org)

There is a lot more I would like to add about this artist that has deeply impressed me; but I would, instead, suggest to simply take the chance to visit the great exhibition that the Kunsthistorisches Museum is offering in Vienna until the 30th of June, or simply to get curious about him, and to open your mind to the beauty that is not necessary expressed in the form of an idyllic landscape.


 

Head image: Self-portrait, 1936 (image taken from the official page of the exhibition)

All the information are taken from the book Rothko – Pictures as drama, from Jacob Baal-Teschuva, Taschen Books editions, that I bought at the Kunsthistorisches Museum after having visited the exhibition. I give high value to the quality and correctness of my contents, but I am also just an enthusiast (you can find my self-introduction here). Please leave any comment or addition that can improve or give a wider view on this great artist!

ELECTRIC INDIGO – Funk, Ferrum and Feminism

She started with funk and jazz, then became one of the most prominent names in the techno scene. I met Susanne Kirchmayr, better known as Electric Indigo, after a little note I gave her last month during her great set at Grelle Forelle in her hometown, Vienna.

Eclectic artist, DJ, feminist, producer (in no particular order), with her passion and determination she has opened the doors not only to herself in the new born scene that, guess what, was men-mostly, but also to all the different gender expressions otherwise very little re-present-ed. In 1998 she started a revolutionary network for female, transgender and non-binary artists in electronic music and digital arts. I start the interview with her exactly from this point.

female: pressure. How can an artist join the network? How has gender diversity changed in electronic music?

female:pressure is based on personal connections: there is no profile, no online subscription, rather you can join us by sending an email to info@femalepressure.net and then filling in a form about your music style and sector, which can vary from DJ and producer to academic researcher (concerning music studies, but also social sciences for diversity and feminism). Currently female:pressure connects about 2400 artists from 75 countries. It is not an agency, as many erroneously think, rather a powerful tool that can be used in different ways, depending on the interests: many use it for having access to the mailing list, an old-fashioned but efficient platform to share ideas, discussing, stay in touch; others simply use it for discovering new artists. I am the main manager together with other two assistants, at the moment only one, Death of Codes aka Meg Wilhoite (An: from California, to understand also the international management that is behind the project). Consumer Refund aka Sarah Martinus is the third one, temporary inactive. From the beginning of electronic music there have definitely been changes in female and non-binary artists representation, in the techno scene as everywhere. The Internet has become the tool to reach a larger audience and to spread your message, your music. This can be related as well to the music production: once it was much more expensive to get the proper equipment for playing, nowadays it is much more affordable. So on one side we have this big right-wing wave spreading again all over Europe; but on the other side people are much more aware and particularly care for themes like diversity and gender equality and freedom to live intersexuality. Which is, of course, reflected in the electronic scene too.

What are your biggest influences, in- and outside of techno, in your style and which artists do you like?

I’ve started playing funk, jazz and hip hop in a small club in my city, Vienna, soon realizing that, apart from the old records, I didn’t like the new hip hop releases so much anymore. I was into 70’s stuff and kept playing records from this time, as they were a guarantee. But contemporary music was missing. Then house and techno came, and it was an epiphany! These two styles may sound unrelated, but hip hop and techno do have many parallels, maybe not so easy to catch. I enjoyed immediately the new sound. Apart from this, funk has been always present in my style because it’s a genre that surprise you, unpredictable and fun! I am also a huge Beatles fan, in particular of the less common stuff: Number 9, for example, has been a big inspiration for me. I love trippy music, with long loops, monotonous sounds, because they can bring you on a different level, it’s almost like meditation.

You played last year for the celebration of 30 years of techno at the Funkhaus in Berlin a set that is in my opinion sensational (post-note: I had to say so, I just fell so much in love with it). Your career as a producer started exactly in Berlin, how has the time you spent there influenced your career?

I lived in Berlin from 1993 to 1996, starting to work at Hard Wax, the famous music store where the best names were passing by. This has been the shaping and most important time of my career. What I liked the most was the attitude of these people: while others were trying to make techno a mainstream genre and becoming superstars (Mayday, Love Parade, Sven Väth), the people from Hard Wax were part of the opposite tendency of staying behind the scenes, a big influence coming as well from the Detroit techno (see Underground Resistance, for example). Berghain, as another example, is similar in this attitude to Hard Wax, creating a mystery and exclusivity around itself. I feel in between these extremes, but I was fascinated by this perspective. In the early 90’s, I was friends with DJ Hell who used to work at Hard Wax and introduced me there. The boss, Mark Ernestus, remembered him as somehow chaotic and suspected the same from me. Actually, I’m quite the opposite of chaos and I was very determined to get a job there. Finally I got the chance to replace someone for a short time. Which was enough to show my reliability and become not only an employer, but also the responsible for purchasing from European labels. It was a great time that allowed me to make great connections and create new ideas.

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photo by Gerhard Heller, 2008

What are your current and future projects?

At the moment I am working at a new audio visual project called “Ferrum”, first time performed this January at “Art’s birthday” at Funkhaus in Vienna. Ferrum is the Latin word for iron, and refers to the types of sound I am using for the piece, like the sound of metal objects that I recorded. I am developing a generative, reactive visual part of the piece, too, building from what I learned from making the videos for my last album. I followed a colour-and-light concept, playing with them. I’ve started to learn on my own, and when I was trying to blend gradients, this “mistake” resulted in a animation which comes from compression artefacts! For Ferrum I want to further develop this approach and make it in real time, not just triggering prefabricated videos like I do in my album show 5 1 1 5 9 3. I like very much audiovisual performances, and for Ferrum I need room for improvisation, but video and music should still go together in specific time frames.

As you already know, my blog is dedicated to contemporary art, whether it be literature, visual or performing arts. Besides music, which forms do you like and follow most?

Since my early 20’s, I’ve been always surrounded by art. At first, I wanted to study industrial design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, but I wasn’t selected. Still, most of my friends at that time were art students. In any case, I keep being surrounded by artists and people who have a great affinity with fine arts. My booking agent, Mo Loschelder, for example, studied under Gerhard Richter (An: one of the most important contemporary German artists). During my time as resident DJ at Flex – from 2000 to 2008 – a lot of art students and artists came for “my” nights. I also had the occasion to give talks and workshops in academies, both of music but also of fine arts. I feel particularly connected to architecture, design, fashion, computer art, graphic design.

What do you think about the techno scene in Vienna? What do you find most interesting in it?

Sadly, there is limited space for music experimentation, it is hard to find suitable places mainly because of the loudness. The scene is varied and split up. It seems limited because of this, but there are many small realities that makes it eclectic. When it comes to electronic music, my favourites in Vienna are the MEAT Market / Fish Market parties and the associated label MEAT Recordings, the Editions Mego label and the Hyperreality Festival.


 

Last week I got to know Gerald Wenschitz aka Gerald VDH, the founder and mastermind of MEAT Market, who deserves (and will soon have) a chapter aside. And  it’s with the motto of his parties that I want to conclude:

No homophobia, no sexism, no racism, no discussion!

 

Head image: Bernard Preiml, 2018

Xiu Xiu – The sweetest torture for ears and tears

They are one of my first experiences with experimental music, the roughest, craziest, out-of-any-possible-box one. Their sound is dramatic, visceral, distorted, disturbing, sometimes an enchanted melody, sometimes a hammering noise. Xiu Xiu are the ever changing band of singer and songwriter Jamie Stewart, and represent, in my opinion, one of the finest expressions of aesthetics in music.

Get up, from Forget, 2017

It takes an effort to me to go back in the days, where I was a virgin disc to fill with the most interesting music. Music was coming from friends, from friends of friends, from magazines, even the library had (and I think it still has) a nice catalogue that gave me the roots, my background, after long hours passed just listening to music. Xiu Xiu were at the moment, for me and my circle, the ultimate sound. It was their beginning too. I was already in love with Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Rós, Björk, Radiohead, and couldn’t help connecting with their music. It was in 2006 at the Teatro Miela, an experimental theatre in Trieste, that I finally met them.

Do you know me? Jamie Stewart?Ian Curtis Wishlist, track from A promise, 2003

The funniest thing is that I’ve been knowing them since their debut, and still I was literally spelling Xiu Xiu (for me, Italian native). When you just need to go on their (Italian) page on Wikipedia to read that the pronunciation is “Shoo-shoo”, written in an Anglophone way…

When I got to know they were coming to Vienna I decided to update myself, damn they are still active and great and I’ve forgotten about their music…(Please don’t get me wrong, they are definitely unforgettable but I also listen to a lot of music). I think Xiu Xiu are one of the rare examples that can leave you puzzled about their music and at the same time about your critical abilities.

Before the concert there is already an intimate atmosphere, that peculiar connection that you feel among strangers when going to a special show that few know. I get interesting feedback from the people around: some are seeing them for the first time and very excited about, some are big fans, describing every concert as a new experience, from extreme experimentalism to regular and plain execution. And it is undisputable that they are true performers: when they finally start under a blue light the audience is immediately captured. I am lucky, I get a full-on piercing and distorted live, where my euphoria is equally mixed with the intensity of the performance.

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The songs are sweet and delicate, then getting harsh and sharp. Some people need to plug their ears, ’cause it’s too loud, or simply too much (but also for the small club Chelsea, thank you for having brought them to us!); meanwhile they play their hearts out, they dance like trapped in a state of trance (mainly Jamie, actually), they exchange, interchange the instruments, they read a poem: I am completely lost in the music. Sometimes I cannot even understand the lyrics; but the soft and tender, the shouted and violent, the simply passionate voice of Jamie Stewart brings me to a whole different level of communication. That’s the power of music, yes, but THAT is the power of Xiu Xiu.

Pumpking attack on mommy and daddy, from the new album Girl with basket of fruit, 2019

Meeting poetry: Precious Okoyomon

I’m going to Zurich for the weekend, visiting some friends.

I try to be a poet. Somehow I feel like I am one.

I am following a real one on Instagram (sentence I thought I would have never used, grumpy and sceptic as I am with these new “social” means, making you even less social than before).

I see on the same f@#g Instagram she is going to Zurich too. She is from New York.

I contact her immediately, maybe I have an occasion to meet your art..?

She replies yes! In few weeks. I am there for few days.

Then she says “well, we can hang out together then”.

OKAY.

We meet and greet. She is calm, sweet, with such a delicate voice. I love voices. I love delicate voices.

I would love my mind to be a recorder, like a proper one, able to keep every single word. I am just a human.

We have lunch together, we walk around during an unexpected sunny day.

I wasn’t expecting anything, but I am definitely impressed. Not by her words, or her aspect, or her shyness: rather by what she radiates. She IS poetry.

I talk more than her; it wasn’t my idea, actually the opposite; still I want to give her something too.

I met Precious Okoyomon, and this is our story.

 

Precious is a young and talented artist. Grown up between London and Lagos, she is currently living in New York. By connecting her daily writings – messages to friends, notes taken on the phone while walking in the streets – she has shaped her own style, still taking inspirations from the authors and artists who touch her soul. She is now introduced to Europe by the art guru Hans Ulrich Obrist, who fell immediately in love with her art. Currently she has her first solo exhibition in Zurich where she present her sculptures made with mixed materials and natural live elements –trees, mushrooms, plants that are constantly growing and blooming. Her three-dimensional poetry.

“My sculptures are a continuum with my poetry, it’s just a different form”.

The exhibition, A drop of Sun under the Earth, is open until the 20th of April  at the Schwarzescafè at Luma Westbau, the headquarter of a non-profit local foundation that supports emergent artists. If you have the chance, don’t miss it!

 

The beauty of Beauty

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Illustration of different ways of sitting, human beings

Do we sit on chairs and eat on tables for its proper function or is there also an aesthetic motivation behind it? And what is created to be functional should leave aesthetics out to maximize and focus on the function only? How do our senses work and why do they tend to conglomerate in the same idea of beauty? These are just few of the questions answered or simply addressed by Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh, creators of the exhibition Beauty, on show until the end of March in the MAK Museum, the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna.

The location itself is an architectural masterpiece in the style of the Neo-Renaissance, offering a permanent collection from different artistic periods: Viennese design from the 20th century, a Baroque, Rococo and Classicism section, Art Nouveau, Empire Style, Asian art. Currently it is possible to visit a commemorative and comprehensive solo exhibition of the works from Koloman Moser, an eclectic Austrian artist died one century ago; and Chinese Whispers, an exhibition taking Chinese contemporary art to Vienna. But let’s go back to our (my) focus.

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The main hall of MAK; art installation “Two hundred and Seventy”, artist Nils Voelker

Beauty is an interactive, informative journey into the concept itself, how we define and perceive things. This topic links as well to my last post where I talked about the difficulty – even impossibility – to identify parameters in art and, therefore, quantify the value of an artwork. “Beauty is a combination of shape, color, form, composition, material and texture to please the aesthetic senses, especially the sight”: this blue neon sign welcomes you in the majestic entrance of the museum, where a huge installation made with Two Hundred and Seventy (that is its title too) plastic bags following a programmed choreography, giving the idea of a huge sailing ship floating upon everyone’s head.

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“For Plato beauty is a moral value. What is good is beautiful, and what is beautiful is good.”

I love the arrangement of the exhibition, which spreads all over the museum: in different rooms, up the stairs, even in the toilets. One area is dedicated to the exploration of our senses, how we tend to have the same unconscious parameters to identify beauty. A consistent part of Beauty is inevitably, referring to the background of the authors, about design, being architecture or interior, facing the relative importance of aesthetics, functionality and environmental sustainability.

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The evolution of the drinking glass, ca.1500 – 2000

In the past, aesthetic was the driving force when designing something new, getting less and less importance with the development of technology and market needs. During the 21st century in particular it almost disappeared  – and this is nicely shown right in front of the entrance, with representative piles of books showing the trend of the use of the word itself  in literature throughout the centuries – to get recognition back in the last decades.

Few experiments and considerations are proposed on the concept of beauty, leaving the clear evidence that beauty is unnecessary, yet we need it. We search for it, we recognize it spontaneously. Sometimes it is everywhere, sometimes, hard to find; still I think it needs to be educated, and put in the right context. We can as well think about the different ways to interpret it among times, cultures, society. Said all this, let’s leave some space to personal taste and sensibility. And when we have different opinions, still we will get the same feelings and pleasure. Then we can talk about it: but in the end, emotions are what brings us to the same point. Enjoy (and bring) beauty, enjoy this Beauty if you can!

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Can we overlook the aspect for the benefit of our environment? Different examples of ecological and fair trade items: the book Small is beautiful from the research economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, the Mango Wooden Radio, the DIY Cellphone, a simple refrigerator (Terracooler) and water purification system (Watercone, Wadi and Life Straw)

Why beauty matters? This is the contest Sagmeister and Walsh launched within the exhibition. Have a look at their Instagram page to take part in, send the most beautiful thing you’ve ever made or seen.

Roberta Sinatra and the algorithm of art

Back in my quiet little village in Italy I was reading my favourite newspaper, “Il corriere della Sera”, and I found an article that particularly got my attention: Roberta Sinatra, an Italian physicist, has found an algorithm to analyse fashions in the art market. In order to do so, she studied almost half million careers of artists worldwide during the last 35 years to determine whether there were some common factors responsible for the fortune (or not) of an artist.
Success in art, like in every human activity whose value depends on individual perception, is strongly influenced by other factors than talent only (that is, de facto, unquantifiable). Recognition and values are determined by a network of experts, collectors, art dealers and institutions that will determine the visibility and prestige of an artist.
From the study Roberta carried out, Quantifying reputation and success in art, published on Science, it emerged that talent alone is not sufficient to reach fame. The most important factor is geography, specifically referring to the network available for an artist. Given the role of the major institutions as art portfolios, the researchers have mapped the network around these cores, finding a dense community mainly located in Europe and North America with access to selected artists frequently exhibited, while more peripheral areas appeared isolated, showing little or no exchange outside their local network. Within these cores, a high correlation was found between their centrality and the economic value of the artworks exhibited.

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Coexhibition network: the map represents the existing connections among countries and institutions, with the cores identifying the the top institutions. (Image taken from the paper)

The beginning of the career, defined by the average prestige of the first five exhibits, is the stage determining the future development of an artist. Artists exhibiting in or connected to prestigious institutions since the beginning of their career had better chances to continue exhibiting and easier access to top institutions. On the other hand, artists starting from a low-initial reputation, i.e. in a peripheral network, had a high dropout rate, although an increasing access to the top institutions was shown for the ones who persisted.
For a deeper comprehension Roberta and colleagues tried to define how the reputation of an artist grows. With a probabilistic model they found out that reputation doesn’t depend on the current exhibit only; an average of 12 exhibits is what defines the “memory” of an artist, determining her/his advancement within the institutions and, therefore, an affirmed reputation.

I think that this study has confirmed with numbers what was already easy to expect (that is the reason about conducting a study, too…). It is unlikely that talent only is enough, in any field, to emerge, few lucky exceptions aside (read about the interview to the collectors John and Stuart Evans and their role in the art world). I also think, though, that the study has considered a period in between the traditional networking and the increasing diffusion and power of Internet and social media, and I believe this will be a new key factor to analyse while posing the same question again. On the other hand, the quantity of (more or less) artistic production has increased dramatically, leading to a higher concurrence in terms of visibility and, therefore, possibilities. Maybe this is just the result of sharing publicly what was hidden before in our drawers or timidly shown to our closest ones. Maybe this is motivating people to be more creative and free with their imagination. Maybe this is moving the conventional networks and spreading to new connections and expressions.

Whatever it is, I personally know the need of create, the calling that never stops: and I think that is the special flame that makes you an artist.

About techno and new (non-) models: I Hate Models

At the beginning it was daydreaming, then became an exclusive loneliness, and then put on the clothes of a witch. I’ve found I Hate Models (IHM) like many people nowadays found new music – through the (targeted) shuffle of Youtube – and it was love at first listening.

I Hate Models – Shades of night

I love techno music since when we were both babies. My love for music has no defined borders: yet, there has always been something magical, hypnotical, in the dark and deep sounds of the electronic beats. I think techno in the music world has many similarities with contemporary art in the artistic one: it may be perceived as a mix of noise and bass, monotonous and inharmonic for the ones who don’t follow it; but an attentive ear (partial self quote) can catch all the different tonalities, the beat with its overlapped metric levels, the modulated intensity of each component; and then the intensity, the melody, the beauty of a 130 bpm track. I listen to a lot of this shit: and when one year ago I ended up on Daydream, track from IHM debut EP Warehouse memories, I felt it as a revelation.

I Hate Models – Daydream

Techno is great for dancing: it is on the dancefloor that it can be played loud, reaching you with the whole spectrum of frequencies, giving you that hype that makes you feel unstoppable, happy and comforted. I am one of these fans who can also play it on a Tuesday morning while under the shower; still, I myself admit that certain tracks can result boring and repetitive outside the dancefloor.

IHM has revolutionised the whole scene. His tracks are pure magic, a condensate of the hardest beats with gloomy and charming melodies typical of the post-punk and dark wave of the 80’s, still with a unique touch. His music is an intimate journey where we can get lost and again found.

I Hate Models – Eternal loneliness

Last month he finally played here in Vienna, at a Techno Deluxe event in Grelle Forelle. It is a great experience to see him live: he doesn’t play his own tracks, yet the set is not focused on the reaction of the dancefloor; rather the music, finally, is the protagonist to which the crowd bows.

Little is known about him, as he prefers (or tries…) not to show himself (he covers his face with a bandana); what is evident is his talent, which has made him exponentially acquiring notoriety and reaching the biggest European festivals.

We needed this!

I Hate Models – Walpurgis night

Teresa Vittucci : all eyes on her

In these hard times of my life in which I have to start dealing with social networks and all the media I have for long time avoided, I get a (great) slap in my face out of this art performance that, again, something don’t-know-what told me to attend. We are back in Vienna, in WUK, acronym for Werkstätten- und Kulturhaus, the House of Workshops and Culture, a beautiful formerly industrial building offering space for concerts, exhibitions, education, rehearsals, intercultural connections. The event I am joining is “All eyes on” from Teresa Vittucci, organised by WUK performing arts, the space dedicated to everything that is in between –or involving all together– dance, theatre and performance. “All eyes on” is about the double nature of the human being, who can be either exhibitionist or voyeur. This duality, together with the definition of private and public, gets emphasised online, where now we do most of the actions we were normally carrying out in the real world: buying clothes, getting new friends, finding a job – and sex. Sex can be easily found on many different platforms, where anyone can watch and make a choice. And Teresa chooses one of this channels to bring her performance to a third level of perception of what is public and what is private: the stage.

The audience starts to enter when she is already there, kneeling in the centre of a fully lighted mirrored platform, wearing a very red pullover on a very transparent bodysuit. She may not look like the typical girl someone would search online just for sexy fun; but the online chat she is connected with seems to appreciate. On the right of the stage, a screen shows what the chat users see through the webcam Teresa is connected to, while on the left a second screen shows the messages she receives.
She is acting like a sort of doll, somewhere in between a state of trance…and dumbness. I really don’t know what to expect. Then, she starts to sing. “Never thought I’ve found someone like youuu”. Neither did I. The song keeps going on, some people laugh. I genuinely wonder why. Then another song, this time something more amusing, although in the meanwhile she has opened the bodysuit from the bottom and started to show her hairy vagina. And many other situations follow: she is interacting with the audience, even sharing a lasagna with us; she is playing with the chat users, talking to them, asking them how do they like her, what do they like about her. The guys are nice. They enjoy the atypical and almost violent performance in its artistic sexiness, they even ask about the audience. They don’t seem astonished by what they see; rather curious and impressed. In this double role of performer for the chat and the live audience, Teresa becomes the exhibitionist, having us in the role of voyeurs.

…And everything starts to change, in my stomach, in my brain. The undefined sensation I felt before gets a shape, becomes now a clear vision: and this is not strictly coming out of the performance in this features; rather what I get now so strong and powerful out of it. And I think about these lonely people, who are apparently looking more for company or entertainment than sex; about the human fragility hidden behind a screen; about her strength in being so exposed; about the slight embarrassement in the audience mixed with laughters and –maybe- considerations. This hits me like…little tears in my eyes.

“There is something special happening here, now, between us. We all know it, we all feel it. Although we cannot describe it. And if we could, the explanation would probably ruin it”.

 

Head image: extract from the performance, pic from WUK

P.s. (which is actually a preface): I should explain that before any performance or art event I don’t like to read carefully what it will be about; and the reason is that I don’t want to be influenced nor to have already a view or opinion. But then, after it, I put together the pieces of what I caught and what was the real intention of the author.

 

Vienna Contemporary 2018 Second part

As I already mentioned in the first part of the post about Vienna Contemporary, the countries present are mainly from Central- and Eastern Europe; still, few galleries come also from Korea, China, Northern Europe. A special focus is dedicated to Armenia after the recent Velvet Revolution, which took place in April and May 2018 and has revolutionised as well the national perception of art, creating a new dimension of artistic language that just until recent times has been the only way to protest.

What literally surprises me is when I see the name next to three drawings: Kostya Novoselov. And when I start reading the caption my supposition gets confirmed: he is the Konstantin Novoselov who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for having succeeded in isolating a single layer of graphite, the exceptional graphene (and since I am a scientist too I like to show you the structure of both: the Art of Nature).

The three drawings are realised with the same material he has studied so extensively: graphene ink (and Chinese ink) on rice paper. I find this simply amazing.

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Kostya Novoselov, New music, 2018

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The molecular structure of graphene (a) and graphite (b) (fig. by Rory Brown taken from here)

And a huge Carrara marble from the artist Thom Puckey represents a naked woman walking on her knees and one hand while holding a gun and hiding a knife behind the back. I find impressive the contraposition between the use of such a classic and noble material to picture, in my opinion, what is probably one of the most controversial topics at the moment: the subordination of women, the social vulnerability that puts them –us – on a constant alert and defensive mode; and still the awareness and the strength to react in any possible way –with any possible means.

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Annie Gentils Gallery – Antwerp (BE); artist: Thom Puckey

An interesting and varied collection of artworks is displayed by the H.A.N. Gallery from Seoul: a frame with overlaid grids that recreate a picture in black and white (Seungmo Park); a futuristic light installation (Susanne Rottenbacher); and some metal elephants whose legs recall the visionary animals of Dalì (Wook-Jang Cheung).

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Gallery H.A.N. – Seoul (KR); various artists

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Gallery H.A.N. – Seoul (KR); various artists

The Trafo Gallery, which I already mentioned in the first part of this post, offers as well some futuristic art, representing Michal Cimala with his robotic lit mannequins; while the Tobe Gallery exhibits some portrait photography in which the light (or better the darkness) and the subjects remind in a way the portrait paintings from the Renaissance, giving a timeless allure to the picture.

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Tobe Gallery – Budapest (RM); artist: László Mészáros

At the booth of the Bechter Kastowsky Galerie the artworks acquire new dimensionality by hanging one on the other and getting complete by the wallpainting.

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Bechter Kastowsky Galerie – Vienna (AT); artist: Philip Patkowitsch

These are just few examples I found interesting to mention, mainly to show the variety of the selections made for introducing what is going on in and around the European art world. I hope I did stimulate your curiosity, and maybe we’ll see each other there next year!

For galleries and artists out there, the call for 2019 is now open. Have fun with art!

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Artelier Contemporary – Graz (AT); artist: Sonja Gangl, O.R.G.A.S.M. #2

 

Vienna Contemporary 2018

Two weeks ago Vienna was hit by a great number of artists, collectors, gallerists, or simply art lovers thanks to two big events dedicated to contemporary art: Parallel and Vienna Contemporary. Due to time restrictions I decided to visit the latter since, well, I don´t like to be redundant but, I kind of ran into it…

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Marx Halle, entrance of Vienna Contemporary; artist: Golif

Vienna Contemporary is an international art fair born from an idea of Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt in 2015, to gather more and less famous artists coming mainly from Austria, but also Central- and Eastern Europe.

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Bechter Kastowsky galerie – Vienna (AT); artist: Philip Patkowitsch

I feel excited by the opportunity of visiting it, and very curious about the selection. I start walking around, being impressed by the size of the exhibition –120 galleries and 500 artists– and the variety of styles, techniques, and people. It is very interesting to find connections among the galleries coming from the same country, in terms of colours, materials, forms, arrangements. And together with the exhibition there is also place for open discussions and interviews. I am happily lost looking around when I realize the first talk is starting. (Now I really don´t want to write a journalistic article about it, even if that´s what it may result in the end; but I do find worth to mention some interesting things I have listened to).

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Artload – “A-live” interview series at Vienna Contemporary; curator and moderator: Vivian Gandelsman, guests: Stuart and John Evans

The talk I attend is with Stuart and John Evans, a father-and-son couple of art collectors, who present themselves and their role in the art world.

A collector has a crucial part in supporting artists, helping them getting into the market, introducing them to galleries or sometimes even financing them; and as well their attentive eye and –most of all– their passion for art make them a touchstone for newcomers, whether gallerists or new collectors. This, of course, requires a constant dedication. For the last ten years, in particular, they have been searching for new art from Latin America and started to build a new collection.

While listening to them describing their recent travels to Brazil, exploring different little shops and ateliers, I can shape a very nice picture in my head: the talented hidden artist discovered by the resolute and fond seeker. And this is what I like to imagine in an ideal world: that anywhere you are, any background or environment you have around, if you are talented you will emerge. Well, collectors make it happen! And not only because they can afford to buy expensive pieces – on the contrary, often it is thanks to them if the quotations of an artist arise. But the first, main reason moving them is the deep love for art. Stuart Evans uses a beautiful sentence while talking about his background:

“Art is transformative, but when you commit it rewards you.”

Probably you can apply it to anything, sure; we are still talking about human intellect, and human intellect has multiple directions but the same modus operandi, in the end.

I keep looking around with one big question buzzing in my head, the one I didn´t dare to ask at the open discussion: how can you tell whether a craft/hand work is actually an art work? I look around and I see so many different works: some are beautiful, some are very well done, some are…a big question mark. The answer, though, comes by itself while imagining all the different stories behind any single brush stroke, behind the lens, behind every concept; some may like it, some may not; still, certainly there is a story worth to be told.

(to be continued…)

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Trafo Gallery – Prague (CZ); artist: Michal Cimala

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Vienna Contemporary – partial overview