The Danish fine jewellery designer Sophie Bille Brahe, has paired up with the Swedish affordable high street brand, Weekday, for a new jewellery collaboration. London’s Royal College of Art graduate Sophie Bille Brahe may not have been on the jewellery circuit for long, but she already has a cult following her elegant, avant-garde designs, with many high profile personalities amongst her clients.
The collection for Weekday, called “L’Escalier”, will feature a range of earrings, necklaces and rings, all of which reflect her love of geometric shapes, the clean aesthetics of fellow Danish jewellery designer Georg Jensen, and the drawings of Piero Fornasetti. Brahe spoke about her inspirations for the collection saying; “the inspiration for the L’Escalier collection is a mix up of many things I adore.I want to do something you don’t get bored with, something you continue to fall in love with it again and again.”
The L’Escalier by Sophie Bille Brahe collection will be available at Weekday stores from the beginning of August 2012.
While travelling the art institutions of the world with her film trilogy “…and Europe will be stunned”, Yael Bartana is also hard at work preparing the inaugural JRMiP Congress and spending time with her wife and baby in Berlin. The first non-Polish artist to represent Poland at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, Bartana’s fictive Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland (JRMiP) calls for the return of 3,300,000 Jews to the land of their forefathers. Or that’s the cover story, at least.
The trilogy, outlining the movement’s emergence, its first Jewish settlements in Poland, and the inevitable assassination of its leader, is an unsparing – albeit hilarious – glance at Israeli society, and the promise, as against the current reality, that arose from the Zionist movement. It’s also about the way Europe deals with immigration today, Bartana says. “And of course, the aesthetic language of propaganda and political manipulation. I made sure there was something in it to anger everybody” she adds, laughing. The power of the trilogy lies in the variety of readings it offers according to the viewer’s personal history and background. “In Russia, people were enraged by the use of Stalinist aesthetics; in Poland, they were struck by the story of the leader’s martyrdom, is an idea deeply rooted in Polish cultural heritage. In Israel, where I’m from, people accused me of lots of ugly things.”
The film project came about after Bartana visited Poland in 2006. “I was overwhelmed by the void. You walk around and hear, ‘This used to be the Jewish quarter’ quite a lot. So I started to imagine what it would be like. The ability to envision a different reality starts with the power to imagine, and with leaving fear of change behind.” The trilogy’s message is deeply ambivalent; confusion seems to be the point.
In the congress, held in conjunction with the Seventh Berlin Biennale, Bartana seeks to gather thinkers, activists, historians and anyone interested in challenging notions of national identity. “So the assassinated leader wrote a document where he describes his vision for Israel, Poland and Europe. The congress has a fictive narrative as its starting point, but I want to cross that threshold from fiction to reality. It’s megalomaniac and naïve at the same time,” she admits, “but I’m not interested in mere provocation. That’s boring. I’m looking for the point where art can actually effect change.” HP
The First Congress of the JRMiP will take place in Berlin, at HAU 1, May 11–13 2012. www.jrmip.org. 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, April 27–July 1 2012. www.berlinbiennale.de
Last week marked two major dates for Paris’ Palais de Tokyo: not only did it just reopen after months of intensive construction works, expanding from 8,000 to 22,000 square meters, it also launched the Triennial – an ambitious, intricately politicised art happening. Sleek met the Palais’ new director Jean de Loisy – previously the curator of the Centre Pompidou as well as Anish Kapoor’s Monumenta –s to discuss the institutional notion of the exhibition, the weight of memory, and the ethnographic potential of art.
Sleek: What makes the Palais de Tokyo different than other art spaces in France? Jean de Loisy: The Palais de Tokyo is now the biggest art space in Europe – not to be confused with a museum, as we have no permanent collection. In other words, all we have to offer is the possibility of an experience, which is precisely what we’ve been looking into: the existence of an exhibition, the viewer’s voyage into it as well as into himself.
How will you put this aim into practice? To avoid the classical ‘exhibition-between-four-walls’ syndrome, one must accept that art is in a constant state of metamorphosis, and its future incarnation can’t be predicted. We have hence left empty spaces all over the Palais, ‘low-control zones’, for last minute interventions, reactions against political events for example. Also, curators will be more involved than ever: next year, we have a show planned that will be in the hands of 15 curators at once, most not French. We want to reflect an international, contemporary voice.
Sure, but how do you truly open up to a wide range of voices, and avoid being elitist? We are trying to push for a decentralised art system, and work with school all over the country rather than simply in Paris; we will also have partnerships with schools and independent art centres round Europe. Also, we will show pieces by scientists and mathematicians to explore the porousness of the art world.
What is the philosophy behind the space’s new look? The space creates an effect of surprise – all its “scars” or traces of previous lives are left visible rather than painted over. This suggests the need to embrace memory in order to innovate. Every space has its own dramaturgy, is an experience of its own, and will offer, throughout the space, semi permanent pieces – which will also sprawl over staircases and windows. The idea is to break the boundaries of where an art space begins and stops.
How does the Triennial reflect a similar philosophy? The curator of the Triennial, Okwi Enwesor is also a poet, a writer, and a critic. He is working with four young curators, and together, they are drawing a parallel between the exhibition and the study of ethnography – with a focus on the works of Claude Levi Strauss. Again, this allows conveying a social responsibility to art, and also portraying the artist as an urban ethnographer. Okwi puts forward to power of artists to redefine questions of otherness.
Do you feel these are prosperous times to create? In times of crisis, the artist’s redefining of categories can trigger a deep change of systems; this can lead to their reinvention. Artists are the only ones who can take us out of the crisis, and truly teach us alternative modes of thought.
Palais de Tokyo April 20th-August 26th 2012. Midday to midnight, closed Tuesdays.
London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) recently unveiled its latest exhibition Remote Control. The timely analysis of the television, which coincides with the UK’s digital switchover from analogue broadcasting, questions the social impact of the great ‘Box’. When collaborating with numerous artists for the exhibition, Matt Williams, the curator at the ICA was keen to illustrate one of the 20th century most iconic symbols of technology in a variety of ways. “The exhibition, due to the influence of television upon artists over such a long period of time, comes in a variety of mediums. It’s existence as sculpture, painting, video installation works and a number of works that were made for television or that adopted the format of television,” he told Sleek.
Remote Control’s collection of works looks at television’s impact on contemporary culture in keeping with three main themes; politics, its use as a new art form and as a physical object. While Richard Hamilton and Martha Rosler problematise the role of media representation and mass broadcasting in radical politics, Matias Faldbakken’s minimal tombstone-like concrete casts of televisions highlight consumerist culture. On the other hand, David Hall’s TV Interruptions are a testament to the potential of television as an experimental medium.
In the Lower Gallery the newly commissioned installation designed by Berlin-based artist Simon Denny displays the relics of analogue broadcasting hardware, previously used to transmit the ever-popular UK Channel 4 station to parts of East Anglia. In light of the recent switchover to digital broadcasting, the now obsolete analogue hardware bears striking resemblance to the vast data storage stacks owned by the likes of Google and Facebook. Inevitably, questions surrounding the extent of technological progression and future problems of ecology and waste come to mind.
The exhibition has been chosen as the first in the new series of themed shows at the ICA tackling Sound, Drawing and Sculpture held alongside a series of events, Television Delivers People. The latter aims to veer thoughts towards the future despite the demise of our beloved analogue television and as part of the schedule, the 9th June will see Auto Italia LIVE, an artist-run TV series, performing a live broadcast from the ICA. No doubt, the ICA’s latest display ensures something for everyone.
The Malzfabrik, a defunct brewery turned art and music venue, has been home for cultural productions in the south of Berlin for over a year now. The area is known for its big warehouses, factories, and hardware and furniture stores (yes, we mean Ikea) and less as a sizzling creative hotspot, though young artists have long discovered the residency programmes and spacious studios offered by District Kunst, who share the grounds of the Malzfabrik compound. This week, the compound is inaugurating a public art installation by Julius von Bismarck, in collaboration with experimental designer Benjamin Maus and artists and filmmaker Richard Wilhelmer. Entitled Public Face, the installation shows a huge steel and neon frown, which will be installed on the roof of the former grain silo, visible to costumers driving into the vast parking lots of the adjacent strip mall. Until 31 May 2013.
Peggy Franck’s instinctive eye is drawn to form. Traversing the disciplines of photography, installation and painting, she began her material explorations by setting up sculptural tableaux in her studio and then photographing them. The desire to immerse the viewer in that image then took hold and Franck started to open up the compositions themselves, transferring the objects she had assembled in her studio to the gallery space, “so that it is easier for the person to connect to the image.”
As a result, her assemblages of plexiglass, fabric and other objects selected for their physical qualities become illusory environments, where forms echo and resonate associatively. Using mirrors as “another window in the picture”, she arranges and rearranges the ephemera in her studio, creating increasingly complex psychological spaces.
Her occasional representation within these webs of meaning, and her interest in the effect of representing the author’s body as a presence within the work, owe something to her interest in artists’ studios – specifically those of the American abstract impressionist Helen Frankenthaler and German sculptor Eva Hesse. Since moving from Amsterdam to Berlin for her residency at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in April 2010, the paintings which previously were one fragment of the installations, are now what she is working on as pieces in their own right. Regardless of the final medium, Franck’s process is distinct – the clashing of everyday materials, from spraypaint to Hula Hoops, to produce “unclear dramatic worlds” filled with relational forms, textures and surfaces.
Camp/Anti-Camp is a 3-day festival taking place in Berlin this week, which seeks to include new perspectives and take a critical look at the practice and the discourse of camp. Performers, scholars, musicians and artists from three continents will challenge, embody or even ignore the prevalent discourse.
With its origins in queer culture’s playful disregard of dominant value systems, camp eventually became a relatively established if difficult to pin down term in popular theories and academic scholarship. Typically reduced to the idea that something is good because it’s so bad, the term camp has, ironically, become estranged from the richness of the queer practices it had initially described. The programme introduces “anti-camp” both to draw attention to cultural practices and traditions that are mis- or underrepresented in camp discourse and to recalibrate the concept of camp by confronting it with seemingly unrelated practices.
Following Mae West’s credo that “too much is not enough,” the festival offers nothing but highlights, including an intimate evening with queer icon and Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn and a concert-event by the sexually-transgressive cult performer Kembra Pfahler with her band “The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black.” Representing a younger, more contamporary strand of campy perfromcances are the young mysterious club act Narcissister and the notorious Austrian artist-duo Jakob Lena Knebl/Hans Scheirl. Moreover the festival will feature presentations by international scholars such as Douglas Crimp, Diedrich Diederichsen, Elizabeth Lebovici, José Muñoz and Juliane Rebentisch, and by artists such as Bruce LaBruce and Richard Move.
One special highlight of the festival will be a section on tropicamp, curated by scholar Max Jorge Hinderer Cruz. Tropicamp, a term coined by Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica after his exposure to the work of American underground artist Jack Smith and Superstar Mario Montez, opens up an internationalist critique of North American camp culture.
And if that’s still not enough for you, every evening the award-winning homo-core queen Vaginal Davis will bring festival guests and figures from Berlin’s cultural scene together for her talk-show performance “Vaginal Davis is Speaking from the Diaphragm.”
Camp/Anti-Camp: A Queer Guide to Everyday Life Curated by Susanne Sachsse and Marc Siegel. HAU 2 Theater, April 19-21, 2012. Festival Pass: 40€/20€
Where does inspiration come from? For Derya Issever and Cimen Bachri of the much-fancied fashion label, it can come from the most unlikely sources: the starting point of their latest collection was a “built-overnight” architecture style they discovered on their travels in Istanbul. “There would be a cute wooden house with an ugly concrete block placed on top, and on top of that a wooden shed with a metal box. It’s like Tetris. We tried to incorporate this into the collection by using a lot of different materials in one item.”
The duo’s actual garments achieve beautiful order from those haphazard references. The Issever Bahri watchwords, they say, are “sophistication with an edge; chic but cool”. Derya and Cimen met at its admissions test at the very start of a fashion design course at the University for Applied Sciences , and completed their final collection as a team. Both have Turkish backgrounds (Greek-Turkish in Cimen’s case) but were born and raised in Berlin. Since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength: their latest collection has doubled in looks (to 30 from 15), while last November they showed at Jakarta Fashion Week by invitation of the Goethe Institut. Might success like that tempt them to seek success in a more traditional fashion capital like Paris?
“Berlin gives you the freedom to concentrate on what you actually want to do while simultaneously allowing you to survive,” says Issever. “We have to go to Parisian fairs to sell our stuff but we can have everything made here, as production companies are opening their doors again to the new wave of Berlin designers,” adds Bachri.
Berlin may be an endless source of inspiration to newcomers, but Issever Bahri are so busy with the label they can’t even remember the last time they went to an exhibition in the city. Nonetheless, the German capital offers them just the kind of reliable and sturdy backbone a striving young label needs – all the frills and fancies can be found elsewhere.
Indian born artist Raqib Shaw has a keen eye for detail and one big imagination. Drawing inspiration from the Empire style, which was typical of 19th Century Europe, specifically France, Shaw creates creatures that are new to this World. Many of the “beings”” appear godlike in form, heroic with their elongated necks and graceful with their weightless feathers, whilst many adopt a beast like appearance, resembling something with a much more sinister tone.
Each work is a line drawing, gone over again with ink and paint and then enhanced with enamel, lead glass, rhinestones, and gilding, often taking form as a diptych or triptych.
The gradual renovation of Mitte’s Hackesche Höfe hardly needs any further comment, but there’s one corner of the development that begs an additional visit. Recently the former electricity substation on courtyard No.3 has found a new vocation as a pop-up retail space for the venerable Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur brand, and will also host boutique events and exhibitions in the near future (watch this space for a special collaboration slated for June). In Berlin the more grand of luxury marques have traditionally stayed in the upmarket retail zones of Friedrichstrasse and Kurfürstendamm – but KPM’s attractive, artsy porcelain homewares seems to have found an appropriate site in Mitte. The space, whose design paraphrases the iconic pavilion architecture of the Mies Van Der Rohe’s Neue National Galerie, encourages a gallery-like intimacy with the objects and from March visitors will be able to buy pieces. It’s a surprising pop-up worth certainly popping in to.
KPM TheBox Hackesche Höfe, Berlin Mitte. Mon – Sat 1pm – 7pm
Phantoms, superheroes and time machines are some of the most irresistible and seductive fictions of pop culture. Andy Hope 1930 flirts with these notions and subverts them to create a unique visual language. Working in a range of mediums, he develops a complex universe of iconographic imagery that moves between historic monuments, relics of the contemporary, and spectres of futuristic fantasies.
In his new show, “Medley Tour”, he applies his time-bending practices on his own work. Like a musical medley that highlights the interconnectedness of one artist’s oeuvre, irrespective of chronology, Andy Hope 1930 revisits his artistic past to amalgamate elements of earlier works into new compositions. In other words, later works appear as if they were made before older ones and thus offer new readings of existing material to effect a reversal of references. Sleek caught up with the Berlin-based artist in the midst of preparations for his upcoming shows.
Sleek: You have two major exhibitions coming up, one at Kestnergesellschaft, and one in London, with Hauser & Wirth, both of which will be featuring new works. How quickly do you produce ? Andy Hope 1930: I almost always show new works in my exhibitions, whether they’re in galleries or museums. But more importantly, I conceive of each show as a whole, as one display or installation. If older works are added, they’re embedded in this new setting where they come into a different effect. How quickly I work is not important; being quick has no value in itself for me. But I do work with certain “swiftness” – I don’t want to concentrate on one thing any longer than absolutely necessary.
Can you tell us something about the new work? I’m showing the “Medleys” for the first time. In a nutshell, it’s about mixings and modifications, as well as appropriations of iconographic images from my existing repertoire. And of course my repertoire is, in turn, an appropriation in itself, based on a blending and a manipulation of other available imagery.
In a way, the Medleys are like a directory of my earlier works. They are more pithy, symbolic, and object-based if you may. Like an index. This way, the relation between newer and older works gets reversed: the Medleys could even be regarded as pictures that were created before the „original“ motifs they reference, and so they affect a new seeing of older works. I use different methods and techniques in this process. The show at the Kestnergesellschaft is only the beginning of the “Medley Tour.”
How closely is your art related to current affairs, political, economic and so on? My art is very closely related to current affairs, more so than politics is. Politics only represents one aspect of reality. The same goes for economics. My art is extremely ‘economic’ though. I create a process for myself where I can encounter an abundance of choices, and keep them all open – decisions over ideas or materials. The work is the most important thing, and the challenges it represents for me are crucial. Conventional economy is usually only about control which is used against the work.
Do you believe in the existence of good and evil? Is this a distinction that can often be applied? I don’t believe in the war between good and evil, especially not when it’s being fought… for example against “evil capitalism” or “evil terrorists”. I do believe, however, that there’s good and evil, or at least sinister, and I need all these elements for my art.
You probably get asked that a lot, but who are your own personal heroes? Arthur Cravan, Ed Wood, Hedy Lamarr, Kenneth Anger, Shirley Clarke, J. G. Ballard.
Time and space also play a role in your works, like in Time Tubes, or Espace de Voyage. What is your take on time travel? Time travel is a very popular concept, sometimes it takes the form of a fairytale, and sometimes it’s futuristic, and then again extremely abstract or banal. For me, time travel represents a good “image” that helps us to subvert our ideas about history and find new ways.
What super powers would you like to possess and what time would you like to travel to if you could? I don’t wish myself any superpowers; I don’t want to be superior to anyone. I believe in the superpower of other things… as for time travel, I’d like to go to the future.
The great misconception about Richard Kern, according to Richard Kern, is that “I fuck the models. That it’s some all-out sex shoot, some big wild sex life,” he says. “That’s not the case at all…”
The veteran New York photographer and filmmaker means the models featured in more recent work. Generally they’re young, pretty, suburban and semi-naked, and photographed in the style of paparazzi “upskirt” shots – the kind more usually seen in tabloids rather than art galleries. The focus on their gussets and doe-eyed expressions may often get him labeled as a perv – the softcore voyeur to Terry Richard’s hardcore exhibitionist – but, quite reasonably, Kern rejects the allegation: “I don’t think I’m any more of a dirty old man than anybody else.” In any case, his earliest works were far more confrontational: grainy, Super 8 arty slasher flicks featuring death, brutality, sex and subversion of all kinds, such as his iconic “Fingered”, were underground favourites in the early Eighties, and formed the backbone of what his collaborator Nick Zedd termed the Cinema Of Transgression (“Fingered” and others feature in the new “You Killed Me First” exhibition at the Kunst-Werke).
Back then, Kern says, “we were lifting from 42 Street Movies – they call them grindhouse moves now. ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, ‘Make Them Die Slowly’, ‘The Last House On The Left’. People in the art world think they’re above all this shit. The idea was to take the references, put it in an art context, and watch the art people go, ‘oh my God!’”
Kern, now a laconic 57 years old, has relished the act of provocation throughout his working life. When, in his early twenties, one of his early films about the Lower East Side demimonde received a critical pasting (just as Nan Goldin’s “Ballad Of Sexual Dependency” was being exalted) his attitude crystallised into a simple, enduring imperative: “fuck you.”
As transgression is co-opted into the art-historical canon, the development isn’t without its ironies. “It’s really funny,” Kern says. “Nick Zedd said, yesterday’s pornography is today’s art. It’s vindicating in a lot of ways.” Then there’s the fact that when “Fingered” was originally slated for presentation at the 1986 Berlin Film Festival, Kern attracted violent accusations of misogyny. Advance word-of-mouth led to cancellations when the film went on tour in Germany. “And now,” Kern grins, “people pay to come in and politely watch it.” You’re invited to do the same, middle-finger raised in sympathy.