“but they’ll never close the door behind them”

When we start talking about art and technology, particularly the internet (no caps!), we run the risk of quickly outdating ourselves. Rather than taking a historical approach to the subject, which, I admit, is quite boring, I followed the trajectory of our Thursday discussion and rediscovered this exhibition, which was in the news last year. That’s right, the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY, held an exhibition of cat memes! Between this and Kara’s observation about Ai Weiwei’s and Andy Warhol’s love of cats, perhaps felines are emerging as another latent motif in our class.

The curator of “How Cats Took Over the Internet,” Jason Eppink, took the genre of cats on the internet to surprisingly academic heights. The exhibition debunks the myth that images of cats have taken over an obscene amount of cyberspace, which I think is often cited as anecdotal evidence of our society’s general intellectual decline, and perhaps, as suggestion of our need for escapism. The show also takes an inclusive approach to the theme by also including memes of other animals from around the world. As artist/writer/blogger An Xiao Mina astutely observed, llamas are surprisingly overrepresented globally. One of the examples should be familiar to us – it was the song that Ai Weiwei sang and danced to at the end of Never Sorry. Here it is in its original glory with accompanying imagery and translations:

 

So what is it about images and videos of animals that we draw us to them? I suppose the simple answer is that we love our pets and other animals, and enjoy sharing images of them. There’s also the suggestion that there’s something biologically programmed in us that gravitate us toward cute things. But as suggested through the various politically geared animal memes such as the Grass Mud Horse and the “I will kill…” green chick, we find something revelatory, perhaps an ability to capture our ethos, in images of anthropomorphized animals – both cute and pathetic.

I remember being shown my first cat meme by a classmate in 2007 and thinking she was weird for finding it funny.

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The cheezburger cat still doesn’t make any sense to me but its historical value, having stayed relevant for almost a decade now, is undeniable. Because of cheezburger cat, we have…

grumpy cat:

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cute/manipulative cat:

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and “breaded” cat:

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What are your favorite memes? Do they feature anthropomorphized animals? Post them on this blog. 

This is not a meme but close enough to the topic:

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Singapore’s Changing Art Scene

I’ve always had an interest in Singapore because of it’s island country stature and it’s unique culture.  So when I saw an article in the New York Times on Singapore’s growing art movements I knew I had to look into it.  Apparently, Singapore has a reputation of being a pretty conservative country, strict to its “traditional Confucian values like filial piety, hierarchy and social order.”  Since a bad scoring in literacy, Singapore has stressed its educational system, now producing a high number of literate students well versed in math and science. But something was lacking, their creative outlets and artistic freedom.  This city-state has a set of  vague censorship laws charged with, “safeguarding consumer and public interests.”  Since these laws are wide ranging and ever-changing, this poses a challenge to museum and exhibit curators.  One show described in the article was littered with signage warning of sensitive material, though this does not stop students from participating in art galleries.  The amount of money and resources Singapore has poured into their art scene is paying off, both as an educational piece for students and visitors, but also as a venue for a range of art from Southeast Asia.  The city is trying to break away from their law and civic based roots and add art into the mix, symbolically replacing its Supreme Court and City Hall buildings with a huge art venue, the National Gallery.  The biggest challenge they face is still stressing their traditional values in their students, while infusing creativity, the goal is to add art in, not to replace an existing value completely with it.

While Singapore may struggle to contend with the Hong Kong art scene and lack the history of other large art hubs such as New York or London, it has seen a great increase in art interest in the past decade.  The fact that Singapore’s government is a driving force behind the art movement means large stipends for art related development.  It also appears that not much resistance is being given against art despite the wide array of censorship laws, but rather just an increased awareness of how an artwork might be offense, either sexually, religiously, or socially.  The test will be of time and a evolution of artwork.  Will artists become more and more active in their art?  Will more and more contemporary pieces be shown?  Will the censorship laws become more lenient or strict?  Time will only tell.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/10/opinion/singapores-artistic-experiment.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

http://artradarjournal.com/2013/06/08/singapore-art-scene-booming-5-gallerists-opinions/

https://www.nationalgallery.sg/see-do/exhibitions

Wuzhen Is the Chinese Art Hub You’ve Never Heard Of

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This article “Wuzhen Is the Chinese Art Hub You’ve Never Heard Of” by Frances Arnold, highlights the rapid growing Chinese water town Wuzhen and their popular Wuzhen International Contemporary Art Exhibition is sure to be a well known destination in the contemporary art world. The way Arnold introduces this town truly grasped my attention. “Best known for its cobbled streets, quaint bridges, and oodles of old-world charm, Chinese water town Wuzhen is confidently carving a niche in contemporary art.” He also called Wuzhen the “Venice of the East”which definitely gives it high expectations. This article really fits in with our non-western contemporary art focus.

The art itself in this exhibition looks quite incredible. There seems to be a wide variety of pieces, one work, Finnbogi Pétursson’s Infra – Supra (2014) especially makes me want to travel to Wuzhen. I could not find a video of this work but the description and picture seem to do a good job of describing it, “Vibrations from three deeply pulsating speakers positioned above a pool of water are made visible through cleverly positioned spotlights to create wave after hypnotic wave. In a town with this much water, the installation feels particularly apt.” At least from what I imagine, I would be sitting in front of this piece for a good chunk of time.

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I really agree with Frances Arnold, Wuzhen International Contemporary Art Exhibition will put the town firmly on the map, Not only the art looks beautiful, but the 1,300 year old town also looks very picturesque. Another plus for Wuzhen International Contemporary Art Exhibition is the very affordable exhibition cost of 25 rmb or $4. The day passes to the town itself are 120rmb. This article shows that there are some great steps being made in improving recognition of non-western contemporary art.

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https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-the-chinese-art-hub-you-ve-never-heard-of

Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei: National Gallery of Victoria

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I brought up a few weeks ago that I had been following Ai Weiwei on Instagram and how he as an artist really addresses many of the issues we bring up in class about contemporary global art. Researching him I found currently he is doing an exhibition with Andy Warhol! At the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, this exhibition is running from December 11th, 2015 – April 24th, 2016 (it’s open for another week if anyone wants to go).  This exhibition was created to present the work of two influential artists one in the twentieth and one in the twenty first century, in a way that creates dialogue and correspondence. It explores modern contemporary art, life, and cultural politics.

Ai Weiwei lived in the United States from 1981 through 1993 and was highly influenced by the modern artists of that time such as Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, and Jasper Johns. Ai Weiwei took a lot from Warhol’s conceptual approach and even bought Warhol’s book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again). But separately both of these have been redefining the role of ‘the artist’ though their documentation of contemporary society and everyday life. Andy Warhol is known for his Pop Art style, with iconic images exploring ideas of consumerism, fame and media, and politics and capital. Ai Weiwei is known for is contemporary art and social activist work. His work addresses many critical global issues of our time such as tradition and modernity, human rights, freedom of speech and individual vs state.

 

I had never thought of the similarities between these artists work but there are many ideas and works that tie them together. In one critics review of the exhibition by Sasha Grishin, she writes that Ai Weiwei became “China’s Andy Warhol”, comparing the similar lifestyles and art they make. The reason why I was originally so interested in this exhibition was because here is a Chinese artist who is highly influenced by the West and is being compared an artist who created such highly influenced American art.

Here is a link to see other work that is included this exhibition.

Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Qatar Art

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I recently read an article on the contemporary art of Qatar and their museums.  The article interviewed on e of the leading women in the Middle Eastern art world, Sheikha Al Mayassa.  Sheikha is a chairperson to Qatar Museums, whose purpose is, “to be a cultural instigator for the creation generation.”  Sheikha is responsible for bringing contemporary art from other countries into her own, such as Damien Hirst’s work, Takashi Murakami’s and Richard Serra’s.  She encourages her own countries budding artists as well, each artist is encouraged to make whatever work they desire, however, she simply asks they do not insult Qatar’s culture or traditions in the process.  Despite artists she has brought in being viewed as controversial, Sheikha Al Mayassa intends the controversy to inspire discussion rather than offense.  Sheikha believes art is without boundaries, that it should conform merely to the idea of respect for others.  This reaches into her view on which art to acquire for Qatar’s museums, taking the “best of the best” from different cultures.

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It is interesting to find out that Qatar is one of the most voracious art buyers in the world.  Damien Hirst’s show, Relics, has been shown there, which requires a great deal of capital.  It seems that Qatar hosts a high Muslim religious faction who find some of Hirst’s figures unsettling and disrespectful. Shekiha Al Mayassa is pushing through however, determined create a culture program more contemporary than the traditional notions of a more conservative Islamic state.  This series of events happening in Qatar and around Sheikha Al Mayassa intrigue me because they are being driven by a patron more than artists themselves.  In all the cases where we have heard of art being determined good by one person with all the capital, it seems it is also happening here, but perhaps with more consideration.  I question whether Sheikha’s approach is plausible and if it will be effective in keeping Qatar’s traditions while also becoming one of the curatorial leaders in the art world.  Will her efforts one day be seen as we see the Western “old masters” today?  Or will she be glorified as someone who distinguishes art in a respectful language over all else?

Here are of few links I found intriguing on the subject:

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20131021-qatar-the-art-worlds-big-fish

http://www.qm.org.qa/en/blog/exclusively-our-chairperson

http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/08/arts/sheikha-al-mayassa-art-qatar/index.html

 

Chiharu Shiota at Venice Biennale

Backtracking to our discussions about Biennales around the world and how artists and their nations are represented in the Biennales, last semester I did a project on Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota who was shown in the Japanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of 2015.  She was one of two Japanese artists at the Biennale,, but she was the only artist in the Japan national pavilion.  The other Japanese artist, Tetsuya Ishida, had his art displayed in the Central Pavilion of the exhibition, and actually passed away in 2005, making Shiota the only Japanese artist being represented at the Biennale.  This now seems a bit odd to me, especially because while Shiota was born in Japan, she is based in Berlin, Germany, and most of her work that she is known for was created while she has been living in Germany.

While I enjoy Shiota’s work, and was happy to research her work and find out more about it, after our discussion about Biennales I found it odd that she was the only one to be representing Japan, even though most of her work has been created while she has been based in Berlin.  This brings me back to our conversation about artists from China being represented along side with Kenyan artists, essentially China representing Kenyan art.  Why have an artist who is now based in Berlin be the only one to represent all of Japan?  At first this didn’t occur to me as odd when I was researching the exhibit, but now that I’m looking back on it, it’s not settling completely right with me.  Could they not find artists from Japan that they felt well represented contemporary Japanese art? Shiota’s work is fascinating, but I find it still strikes as odd.

Shiota’s work often fills an entire room with thread or yarn, and she makes work links abstract networks with various every day items, such as the piece at the 56th Venice Biennale, The Key in the Hand, where she suspended keys from the ceiling over two boats, with more keys piled up on the floor.  The piece focuses on children, which she interviewed and asked what their first memories were.  Her works were previously more internal, and she displayed her own emotions, but this and other more recent works speak on a broader, global scale.  While this piece reaches a broader audience, I’m still having trouble understanding why she was chosen to be the sole representing artist of Japan in the national pavilion, but I still find her work to be thought provoking and now more accessible on a global scale.

Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand

Chiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand

Tetsuya Ishida, Notes, Evidence of Dreams

Tetsuya Ishida, Notes, Evidence of Dreams

Art Central 2016

 

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Art Central is an art fair located in an international hub of economy, Hong Kong. In our class so far, we have spoken extensively about various biennials that have been held around the globe. Art fairs are slightly different from biennials in their approach and goals for exhibition. One of the main goals of an art fair is for people in the art business to deal in the most current art, and in the case of Art Central Hong Kong, art from around the globe. How does this art fair compare to the biennials we have been studying in class? Is art central somehow more representative of a wider variety and more diverse group of artists from around the world than the biennials we have talked about in class?

 

Check out the website below:

http://artcentralhongkong.com

 

To answer the first question, it is most helpful to examine a few pieces of evidence from the Art Central web page. In their about description, Art Central Hong Kong Fair Director Maree Di Pasquale describes one of the goals of Art Central 2016 as reestablishing Hong Kong as the cultural center of the Asian contemporary art scene. While recognition of the global scale and influence of contemporary art within this fair is apparent, the exclusivity of attendance is unfortunate. Ticket prices are very expensive and this will aid in further reducing the role of the local and craft artists throughout Asia. This reductionist and exclusive definition of contemporary Asian art promotes current contemporary Asian artists that only a few privileged and wealthy art collectors can afford to buy or even attend. While many biennials we have looked at in class (Istanbul, Havana, South Africa) have unintentionally excluded and reduced local artists throughout the world, art fairs such as Art Central Hong Kong clearly exclude and reduce local artists through higher entrance fees, which prevent many people who cannot travel internationally from consuming, collecting, and buying contemporary Asian art. It may be time to rethink the purpose and place of current trends of global art fairs. While a few wealthy contributors fund a lot of biennials, art fairs such as Art Central are also funded by a wealthy group of people and corporations. This is very apparent from the downloadable exhibit layout. There are many corporate groups who are advertising in order to make as much money as possible by advertising at this art fair. High-end clothing companies and alcohol companies contributed a lot of money to Art Central in order to advertise and make a profit off of the exposure to the many wealthy patrons of Art Central. Overall, there are some similarities and some differences between this art fair and the biennials we have been studying in class, but this art fair seems to be much more commercially motivated than biennials due to the corporate influence and the business and wealth-oriented location of Hong Kong.

To answer the second question, we are able to determine the extent of representation through the titles of each booth at the fair. Under the exhibition sectors tab on the website, it displays the 3 different exhibit sectors: central, rise, and projects. Each of these sectors displays a certain kind of artist, work, or exhibition, and it is fairly unclear how the directors of the fair chose who was included. The descriptions are fairly nebulous, and each booth is categorized by a major city in Asia or from around the world. While this may seem global and inclusive at first glance, they are very exclusive when considering how many local artists have been excluded in the name of the greed and wealth of the people who fund and run Art Central Hong Kong.

Watch the promotional video below:

Abdulnasser Gharem and Saudi Arabia

Originally I started off by reading an article about Saudi Arabian artist Abdulnasser Gharem that I found in the New York Times. The article focuses on his journey as an artist in Islamic country and the oppression that he faces from his religion and government. The article mentions the issues that he faces and brought up another

Manzoa

Portrait of the Artist from the Performance Manzoa Digital print on limited arch archival Giclee Da Vinci paper H60 x W85cm Executed in 2007. Mentioned in article

artist who was nearly sentenced to death because of his work. One quote in particular that stuck out to me is, “That is your role as an artist, to bring out the option that the politician can’t say and that the religious man can’t say. You bring out the solutions that people can’t say.”  This quote gets right to the point of his work. He brings up many issues that aren’t socially acceptable to talk about. He feels as an artist it is his job to start these conversations no matter the consequences.

Road to Makkah

Road to Makkah Ink and Industrial lacquer paint on rubber stamps on 9mm Indonisian plywood H82x W304cm 2011

Don't Trust

Close up from: Concrete (I – IV) From the Series Restored Behaviour Industrial lacquer paint on rubber stamps on 9mm plywood H85 x W120cm 2008

I found the article interesting but wanted to know more about Gharem. I went to his site and found that many of works are similar to others we looked at. A lot of his work features  writing, especially in Arabic and English. Most of his work that I looked at seemed to have a very political statement. Although he does use English in his work, it may be hard understand at first since the words written backwards in many pieces. Once you figure out the wording you begin to see the deliberateness of each of his word choices. Many of them are striking. Another thing  I found interesting was the way he is able to use the accepted art forms within Saudi Arabia to present these messages. Writing is one of the only accepted forms of art in Saudi Arabia.

The article barely touched on the politics of Saudi Arabia and his work as an artist in a contemporary setting. We talk about these artists outside the “Western” world in contemporary art and we look at the struggles that artists still face today.
Capitol DomeGharem fits perfectly into our conversations. He is not only facing oppression from his country while exhibiting his works globally but he is also working to create a safe place for young artists. As well as introducing them to the art world beyond Saudi Arabia.

Links:

Article:   http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/16/world/middleeast/abdulnasser-gharem-saudi-arabia.html?mwrsm=Email

Saudi Arabia Wiki (Good for looking up the history and politics): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Arabia

Gharem’s Site: http://abdulnassergharem.com/

Andile Dyalvane and South African Ties

South African ceramist Andile Dyalvane discusses how his work is inseparable from his birthplace and from his spirituality. This directly correlates to what we have been talking about in class. He is based in New York, but who he is and how he as an artist functions is related to his origin/nationality. These parts of our lives we cannot escape. We are connected deeply to our roots, and I believe artists such as Andile try to uncover these roots. Maybe we are constantly trying to rediscover who we are as human and spiritual beings. As artists and people, we are products of our environments and construct our own understanding of the world through a collective of constructions and associations of priori knowledge.

His work is made out of ceramics, a medium consistently associated with the word “primitivism”. The trade feels like it is dying, that what we’ve done in the past is done and we cannot move forward in the ideas and the way we think about ceramics. With this tie, it is very hard to combat the associations with art that it is low-brow and close to never considered avant garde.

How do we deconstruct this idea of the mundane within ceramics and within art that is from the “other”, non-western form of art? What can we do associate and re-validate those of preserve the past and exist beyond we know to be contemporary art? These are the questions we need to consider to propel our own movement forward and how Andile propels his.

 

 

 

PSA: you can afford the Met

If you don’t already know this, the Met has a sliding-scale, pay-as-you-wish admission structure. Yes, as the article mentions, the ticket counter staff may give you the side eye when you elect to pay less than the recommended (now “suggested”) amount, but what this wonderful policy allows you to do is drop in for a quick visit and not feel guilty about not seeing EVERYTHING.