Kenneth Clark in front of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s
Blonde Bather c. 1933. Courtesy: Private collection & Tate, London
I’ve had the pleasure of writing a piece about the legacy of Kenneth Clark’s televisual self-emissions and the dramatic-o-ccult vibez of Civilisation for the new Frieze Masters publication, out now.
A small, slightly squished, sample:
“In one viewing of Civilisation, Clark is a tweed-wrapped fuddy-duddy touring Europe, self-consciously posing next to selected art works while delivering over-wrought conjectures with aristocratic authority. Clark as King Midas inverted: the man with the wooden touch. From another viewpoint, Civilisation joins the ranks of artefacts that it once addressed [...] Clark spends a lot of time fondling things, whether they’re the ones he is attracted to or the ones he fears. A Civilisation cameraman, in discussion with historian John Cronin, describes a segment in episode seven, ‘Grandeur and Obedience’, where Clark paws Giovanni Bernini’s marble Apollo and Daphne (1622–25) at length: ‘He just keeps stroking it [...] it looks almost manic, sexual.’ Beyond the weaving of television magic there’s a hint of an occultic sensibility vibrating through Civilisation. ‘I can’t say what civilisation is … yet,’ he says, but Clark knows it when he sees it, feels it emanating from the objects he caresses.”
Also, in the November–December issue of Frieze (the monthly UK one) I’ve reviewed Jennifer Tee’s exhibition, Occult Geometry, at Kunsthal Charlottenborg (curated by the excellent SIGNAL space in Malmö)
AND if that isn’t enough self promo, then I’ve got an interview with the Copenhagen based Selvhenter ensemble in the November issue of The Wire!
I’m happy to report that Theo Cook and I have been awarded the ECAS documentary commission open call for 2014–2015. We’ll be travelling to each of the nine festivals in the ECAS network, filming and recording at each to produce a documentary about the music and sound art festival project as it ends its five year cycle. ECAS (European Cities Of Advanced Sound) is a network of the most forward thinking, independent, non-profit music and sound art festivals in Europe – they are also linked into the ICAS network (International Cities Of Advanced Sound). The work will premiere in Berlin in May 2015.
Part of our proposal said:
“Sounds Fragmenting Our Present Tense (working title) is an audiovisual docufiction work looking at and listening to the nine different ECAS festivals. Narrated by a chorus of different voices, female and male, from different nations, ages and historical moments, Present Tense reflects upon the current state of music, national borders and identity – imagining what Europe, and the world, would look and sound like if they were organised using the logic of music…”
Full announcement here
Contestants performing as part of the Guca trumpet competition
This time last year I was in the mountains of Serbia in the small town of Guca for their annual trumpet festival. Initially Sabor Guca started out as a celebration of folk music and traditions of this part of the Balkans, but has in the last decades turned into a hedonistic carnival, attracting a large amount of Serbians and an international crowd. It still is centered around the competition for top trumpet group in the world, though it’s mainly Serbians who enter the competition – one recent exception was an American group, as documented in the documentary Brasslands.
It is also an interesting meeting place for many of the dynamics that shape current Serbian, and Balkan, society: It is seen as a rare opportunity to let loose in a country that is economically struggling; it is seen as an important, positive part of Serbian national identity, especially after the horrors of the 1990s; there is a large congregation of Roma and Gypsy musicians – widely mariginalised across Europe – many of whom earn a living playing at weddings and other gatherings; it is regularly coopted by politicians seeing popular approval; even the food shows up the rural history of the country: pigs and lambs are roasted at improvised kiosks that pack the streets, plumes of smoke covering the town’s valley, beer as plentiful as the river that runs through the town.
Last year, along with Luka Ivanovic, I interviewed a variety of people involved in the festival – from one of the original founders (it started in the 1950s) through to musicians, people who walked the entirety of the country like pilgrims to the festival or rode there on horseback. Currently the video is in post-production and should be finished by early 2015. Until then, here’s a few select pictures I took there last year.
Crowds make their way through the kiosk lined streets of the small town
The entire town of Guca is wired up with hundreds of bullhorns that blare out tinny recordings of traditional brass band music, day and night. Mixing with roaming brass bands playing tunes for cash tips, revellers blaring on plastic toy trumpets – the noise is incredible
Though the main, competition stage gets in a large crowd, one of the greatest attractions here are the roaming musicians who wander about the streets playing for money
To Guca by horse!
A street food seller ready to serve
Home made rakija, a plum brandy widely produced at home, for sale on the streets
Dusk by the river
Guca town limits, a reveller arriving for the night
The small streets of Guca are crowded for the entire week, the smoke of the hundreds of grills clouding everything up in a fog
Clay pots of cabbage and pork stew cooks on coal slowly through the nights
The only respite if you don’t want meat or the chopped salad covered in goat’s cheese, found ubiquitously through the Balkans
Crowds at the main, competition stage of the festival
A policeman watches traffic as fireworks signal the end of the main stage competition evening
Remains of celebrations
This is a show opening that I’ve helped to organise with Auto Italia, please come and visit for the preview on 21 June!
Golden Age Problems is a project by Auto Italia and Nathaniel Budzinski featuring Oreet Ashery, Marleen Boschen, Olivier Castel, Leni Cedric, Benedict Drew, Marianne Forrest, Mette Hammer Juhl + Lorenzo Tebano, Pablo Navarro MacLochlainn, Terence McCormack, Plastique Fantastique, Richard Thomas.
Art institutions sit comfy in the pockets of big corporations, broadcasters continue to sow the image-seeds of a tedious spectacular capitalism and publishers proliferate middlebrow infotainment and zombie-commenters. Compounding the problem, many artists remain enthralled by the mainstream, commercial art world.
As the worlds of art and mass media collide, converge and change, there’s a need to rethink our relationship with the narratives broadcast by these institutions of cultural emission – if they can’t serve us now and for the future, but retrench their ambitions into yesterday’s hallucinations, we must create new options rather than have them created for us. We must create a new world within this world.
Golden Age Problems is an exhibition of images, objects and stages, activated and explored through narrative presentations and a series of performance events. Energy is only ever amassed collectively and so for any real transformation to take place we must not work alone. Soon the Auto Italia space will become a nexus of celebration dispensing with notions of success and failure, providing collaborators with space and time to imagine alternative, independent entertainment formats: anti-genius narratives, anti-talent show, proactive and present.
Sunday 22nd June – Sunday 13th July
Opening hours: Wed – Sun: 12-6
Preview: Saturday 21st June, 7-9pm
Events as part of Golden Age Problems: Very Special Episode Saturday, 28th June
‘Malmö Konstmuseum director Cecilia Widenheim is in charge of keeping an archive of over 40,000 artworks, with a remit to collect Nordic art – an increasingly vague notion in a city like Malmö that has had large waves of immigration from the 1970s onwards, plus, Widenheim says, “maybe to grab the real ‘Nordicness’ you need to go to Berlin”.’
“Puncturing fantasies: exhausted images and the ‘me’ generation” is a Focus Interview that I did with artist, musician and video-maker Benedict Drew in the June 2014 issue of Frieze (link here but it’ll be behind a paywall for a bit)
“NB Like the wobbly knees in that introductory video at Matt’s? I thought those were very funny, but also touching.
BD They weren’t necessarily meant to be funny. I mean, they can also be disturbing, or a sign of weakness or sexualized, too. I wanted to show how video can take different body parts and almost tear them from their own bodies. In pornography, it’s not about the body, it’s about parts, and images have been infected by this way of looking. These ideas come from conversations I had with the late artist and writer Ian White; they really stayed with me. I watch a lot of TV, and even cookery programmes use this type of pornographic technique. I’ve spent the last year watching footage demonstrating high quality digital cameras. It’s like these images want you to do something, but at the same time want to act upon you. They want you to get aroused or buy a camera; there’s so many images out there trying to act upon you.”
Still from Party For Freedom
I’ve got an article based around an interview that I did with the film maker and performance artist Oreet Ashery, available online at The Wire website.
Also, in the new April issue of The Wire, I have an article about the Turkish artist and musician Cevdet Erek, who has a show at Bristol’s Spike Island art centre – and I’ve reviewed the David Risley Gallery show This Is Our Art This Is Our Music in Copenhagen, and its adjoining record shop and label.
“Any notion of me or mine is simply an inaccurate reflection of the truth of the fact that we are all part of bigger systems, the truth of which we will never know. The more we know, the more we realise that we don’t know. Which I think reinforces the imperative to experience rather than simply think in language.”
Watch an interview and studio tour I did with the sculptor Antony Gormley, recorded recently at his expansive studio/factory space just north of Kings Cross in London. Made for Louisiana Channel.
Josef Dabernig, Excursus on Fitness, 2010, installation view at Contour: 6th Biennial of Moving Image, 2013
“At the entrance to Contour’s main exhibition space in Mechelen’s Court Of Busleyden sits a monitor looping Harun Farocki’s How To Live In The German Federal Republic (1990). Featuring a series of instructional films dispensing advice on everything from CPR to striptease dancing and crossing the street, it’s an appropriately absurdo-bureaucratic start to Contour: 6th Biennial of Moving Image. Themed ‘Leisure, Discipline and Punishment’, the biennial includes over 20 original commissions and works by 26 artists, asking them to respond to some of Mechelen’s civic institutions (its football stadium, one of the city’s many churches, and its prison) and their symbolic functions.”
I wrote a review of Mechelen, Belgium’s Contour biennial in the new, December issue of Frieze.