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

 

Lucio and Duilio Forte, the architects of imagination

Today I would like to introduce you a very talented artist and friend I got to know already some years ago: Lucio Lars Forte. This time we move to Milan, more specifically in a peripheral area where open fields give a greener feeling of the city.

Lucio is Italian with Swedish origins; he studied architecture and from there started to develop his own, unique style, mixing different techniques and materials, joining architecture with painting and comics, another great passion of him.

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Sistema indipendente (Independent system), 2014, watercolor, Indian ink, glue on paper (48 x 98 x 3 cm)      – …now the base lives in an independent system… We can go      -Where to?

Together with his brother, Duilio Forte, as well an affirmed artist, he shares an old industrial plant renovated as studio atelier: Orygma, his own space, and AtelierFORTE. The latter serves as (but is not limited to) atelier and showroom; and everything about and inside this building complex is pure and mesmerizing art, thanks to the creations, sculptures and design elements from Duilio. Here is a video he made to present his atelier and works he created, truly worth to see.

Tipp Tapp, Duilio Forte 2018

I had the great possibility to visit the whole structure on different occasions, thanks to the warm and friendly environment present at every exhibition that Lucio organizes.

I ended up in this bucolic place after having read about a collective exhibition called Sottosuolo (Subsoil in English): just few but beautifully written words to introduce the overall concept of the selected works. I could see from the map that the place was reachable after a long way with the bus from the city centre; but careless I decided to go there. And finally, after many glossy and snobbish vernissages in the centre of the city, I could find an authentic one, a celebration of art with music, wine and people willing to interact with each other.

This is how the atelier may look like, in my opinion (and Lucio seems to confirm the inspiration).

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Lucio Forte 2009, oil on canvas (70 x 120 cm)

When I ask him how he would like to be presented, he tells me about immortality (modest!). He defines himself as an “architect deep inside the soul”, explaining that with his art he wants to create suggestions: illusionary maybe, but what gives us the opportunity to live more lives just by using the limitless power of imagination. Then, finally, we can reach immortality.

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Uomo giallo (Yellow man), 2015, oil, tempera on canvas (50 x 70 x 1 cm)

And science fiction offers a great setting for a new idea of immortality, by mixing science – the knowledge acquired by testing and proving – with its opposite and origin at the same time –fantasy. Then, everything becomes possible.

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Sottosuolo (Subsoil), 2013, oil on canvas (80 x 60 x 2 cm) from my personal collection

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Lipstick (Lipstick), 2012, mixed media on panel (78 x 70 x 2 cm)

Currently Lucio is starting a new project, Subcity Art Gallery, “a new underground  reality in the local artistic scene” where small-format selected artworks can be found at an accessible market. For the ones who may have the chance, don’t miss the opening on the 20th of September!

 

All the artworks with description and availability can be found on Artsper.

Head image: Lucio Forte 2009, mixed media on paper (21 x 30 cm)

Playground Festival AV 2018 – Vienna

I would like to start my first post, introduction aside, talking about one of the most recent events I attended: the Playground Festival AV in Vienna. AV stands for Audiovisuals, and it’s the concept of the whole festival: gathering artists from different countries and with different backgrounds to show and share their artwork, whether it’s a painting, a video, a music production, or a mix of these. The location this year is new and couldn’t have fit better to the festival: the Creau, a quiet area close to the Danube formerly used as a stable. A long dark corridor with horse boxes on both sides offers the exhibition itself, where each artist in his own box presents his ideas, having his own space to curate. Art is confined, still it mixes together, due to the numerous lights and sounds coming out from every direction.

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The stable (pic by Henric Fisher)

And a great variety of styles and techniques combines in an atmosphere blinking at the future with a contemporary dark humour. Because this is the feeling, an abandoned place filled with colourful, obsessive and playful creativity. Then we can see (in a scattered order) a plastic wrap sea horse trapped in a metal cage, getting its shape only when air is pumped in with a creepy sound that reminds that of a drill (Kristoffer Stefan, Jan Lauth); five balloons in the dark with the faces of some world leaders projected on them lightened by winking lights (Andreas Muk Haider); a frame in which mirroring ourselves in a slow-motion distortion of the image (A: Nego Yokte, V: Dornwittchen); a live-painting on PVC panels using poor materials and tools that gain a different effect and colours depending on the light put in the background (Werner Ellend); and many other installations and interactive platforms. It’s fascinating to see all these different approaches, and messages, as well as the interaction of the visitors with it. This is a playground, and everyone seems to enjoy being child again.

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Moment of silence, Andreas Muk Haider (pic by me)

And there’s the music. Electronic, experimental, presented as a show with djs in lab coats and a fluorescent dance choreography (Soundpharmacy) or accompanied by visuals, sometimes acid and disturbing, other times dreamy and eclectic. The Rondelle, the second area of the festival, is the perfect location for showing movies extracts and performances: rounded shaped as its name recalls, it reminds of a circus tent and offers a great space for images to be projected all around and rotate above the spectator, forced to keep the nose up as enchanting is the view. And many big matrasses lay on the floor to offer a better perspective for the eye and a more comfortable view. Here the performances from Sirio AV (first project from Dario Jurilli and Simone Andalfato), Das Stadtkind feat. Dornwittchen, and Polymer, gave a different dimension to music with the use of visuals dancing together with the beat.

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The Rondelle (pic by Henric Fisher)

In this fascinating context I got to know (or simply approached) Oli Sorenson, an artist performing during the opening day of the festival: Canadian born, artistically grown up and developed in London, with his artwork, Video Pistoletto, he literally breaks the conventions by chiselling LCD screens. At first sight his box looks similar to the others: three LCD screens hung on the wall in the dark, presenting thick black and white stripes having different orientations with respect to each other; the room is dark and empty, apart from a huge nail – a chisel – and a hammer. It’s when I am in the Rondelle that I start hearing people say “he is breaking the screens! That’s so cool!”. And, sceptic as I am (yes, me too), but curious as a cat I run inside: and what I see is just great. Short delicate but precise hammer blows break the first layer of the screen, letting the crystals mixing and giving life to new colours and shapes.

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Video Pistoletto – before and after (pic by Oli Sorenson)

Here’s the interview he granted me, after I told him about my idea of starting a blog.

What is your background?

Wow that’s a tough question, where to start? I’m basically Canadian, but my dad travelled all the time with his work so I was born in Los Angeles. I did most of my art education in Montreal, then I moved to London in 1999, where I got my big break as a VJ, collaborating with pretty big music acts like Leftfield, Above & Beyond, M.I.A. as well as a club residency at Ministry of Sound. I was always a fan of visual arts and got my foot in the doors with exhibition projects by producing AV performances that suited evening programs in museums like Late at Tate and the AV Social nights at the British Film Institute. So I did a few of these across the UK and Europe, and got to meet a number of artists that were also doing both club visuals and art exhibitions like Quayola, Zan Lyon and Micha Klein. With their influence I convinced myself that I could make the transition from club performances to art exhibitions, and initially started with mapping works, projecting videos of 2D patterns onto 3D objects. Eventually I found that projecting really minimal patterns worked best, which resembled Daniel Buren’s art, so I called this series Mapping Buren.

How did this idea for Video Pistoletto come to your mind?

After the Mapping Buren series, I noticed how much sampling was an important process in my work. I wasn’t trying to challenge the rules of copyright, but on the other hand I became really obsessed with the overwhelming volumes of cultural content that everyone had access to, either online, in print form or elsewhere. And in a way this de-motivated me to try and produce anything new of my own. Instead I was fascinated with the idea of reviewing and amending other people’s creative output. I love the basic principles of Arte Povera for example, but I thought so much was lacking in this movement, and felt the urge to upgrade it to a twenty-first century discourse and make it relevant again. So I borrowed Michelangelo Pistoletto’s gesture of hitting mirrors with a mallet and redirected it towards Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) TV screens.

What would you like to communicate with this project?

Once I noticed how much cultural content was abundant everywhere, I realised how much Pistoletto’s solution – to create from destructive actions – was relevant to me and the highly consumer environment I was immersed in. I became aware of how much the consumption of new products, especially technological ones, were dependant on the destruction of older ones. I wanted to encapsulate this idea into an artwork. Also the premise of Arte Povera was to work with poor materials, so in this line of thought, what better material to work with than electronic goods, which are engineered with planned obsolescence to become obsolete after only a few years? By breaking the screen surfaces of aging LCD TVs, I was in part accelerating their fall into obsolescence, but ironically I was also turning them into artworks, so adding value to these objects. What’s strange about televisions in general is that, as objects, they are meant to be ignored. One rarely pays attention to the TV itself, but only to what is broadcast through electronic signals. When the TVs get broken however, this is one of the only moment when viewers really look at their TV as an object, rather than only look through it to the mediated content. To make this process more engaging, I try to break the LCD screens in very seductive ways, so that viewers become very conscious of their gaze, their act of looking at something.

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Video Pistoletto – detail of screen 02 (pic by Oli Sorenson)

What are your next projects?

I’m revisiting a film remix series I started a while ago, but now I’m applying the same method to the entire James Bond film franchise. The series is called No More Heroes, and in a nutshell, I take away every frame of the movie where I can see or hear the main protagonist, so in this case, Sean Connery, Roger Moore or any other actor that played James Bond. This way I try to point out the redundant narrative templates within mainstream cinema, and surprisingly, when I play back all the 24 films simultaneously in a huge mosaic of videos, very similar events happen in every film, involving either a sexy lady, some kind of gadget weapon, an evil henchman or an explosion. The James Bond films are surprisingly homogenous and formulaic in their storytelling. Also this process of erasing highlights the central position of Caucasian men assuming the role of heroes. Once the leading roles are removed from such films, I hope the viewers will notice that the remaining characters manifest a much greater diversity of gender, age and ethnicity. I’m screening this piece on August 17 and 18 at Art Mur gallery in Berlin. Everyone is welcome, it’s a free event!


Still, too many were the artists I would dedicate some words too… but I am also sure I will soon have the occasion for doing it!

Find more information about the festival, venue and artists on the official page of Playground AV 2018. The pictures are taken from the official Facebook page of Playground AV 2018 and from the official website of Oli Sorenson.

Prelude

The first common reactions people have towards a contemporary artwork are “I could have done it myself”, “Is this really called art?”, and so on. Scepticism and lack of beauty are often the strongest impression hitting the audience. While in the past there was usually a trend, a movement defining a specific style, or theme, or function, nowadays it gets harder and harder to distinguish between art and trash, sometimes forgetting that art is, de facto, the mirror of the times we live in, and that most often also the greatest artists had to deal with critics from their contemporaries. Yet, still a lot is produced, still art is a fundamental part of our lives, to shape minds and souls, to give colour and thrill.

Together with the love for literature and writing, art has always been an integral component in my life. I started to develop a strong passion from the scholastic books, and then kept myself updated by reading, visiting museums, exhibitions, attending smaller vernissages to get to know also what is on the emerging edge. Meanwhile I took a different approach to expressing my creative side by choosing to become a chemist, the art of mixing and transforming matter, of separating and identifying compounds.

Italian born, for two years I have lived in the magnificent city of Vienna, which from the very beginning on has taken my heart and soul. As you may know, Vienna has been for long time the centre of the European culture, attracting a wide and varied collection of artists and intellectuals; and this is still completely reflected in its spirit and atmosphere, a sense of majesty and decadence that is almost touchable. I started to explore the local artistic scene, and found a plenitude of totally new dimensions of making art among the classical and modern allure of its architecture.

Along this personal journey I have felt extremely lucky to have got to know many intellectual, open minded, creative artists who have opened their work and philosophy to me. With this blog I would like to collect the most memorable conversations, to share my impressions and opinions about different topics and trends in art, presenting it as a simple enthusiast, creating an open space for discussion free from prejudices and clichés.

Art is for everyone, it just needs an attentive and sensitive eye to be caught and a brave-enough mind to be created.

 

Image: Salvador Dalì, Living Still Life, 1956