This is the fifth piece of the series Tatlin’s Whisper which examines the relationship between apathy and anaesthetization of the images in the mass media. This series intends to activate images, well-known because of having been repeatedly seen in the press, but are here decontextualized from the original event that gave way to the news and staged as realistically as possible in an art institution. The most important element in this series is the participation of spectators who may determine the course the piece will take. The idea is that next time spectators face a piece of news using similar images to those they experienced, they may feel an individual empathy with that distant event towards which they will normally have an attitude of emotional disconnection or informative saturation. The experience of the audience within the piece may allow them to understand information in a different way and appropriate it because of having lived through it.
On the other hand, the title of the series, Tatlin’s Whisper, evokes the present weakening of the impact a moment of Western history in which great transformations took place as the result of social revolutions originally had. A symbolic reference is made to Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin, who created the Tower Monument, foreseen as the seat for the Third Communist International, an icon of the enthusiasm and grandiosity of the Bolshevik Revolution. The intensity, credibility and exaltation of socialist revolutions, just as Tatlin’s Tower, which was never built, were frustrated and utopia is rethought with the effort implied in a weak whisper. This series reevaluates the desire for moments of active citizenry commiment in the construction of a political reality, while ideologies transform and circulate today as pieces of news.
Tatlin’s Whisper # 5 was shown in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall Bridge in London. Two mounted policemen in their uniforms burst into the space while performing mass control techniques with the spectators in the Museum. Among other techniques used, one of the horses corners the audience that divides into two large groups and then are regrouped and compelled to crowd together while the size of circle made by the mounted police decreases making them stay within or without the space since entry is blocked by the horse’s body. Visitors generally answer by complying with the oral instructions of the officers and the imposing physical and historical presence of the horses used as repressive means.
The names of the piece and of the artist are not announced before the presentation to try to make the experience fresh for the spectators, which is linked to their media memory, rather than their artistic one. The piece activates a police situation exercising the limits of authority and power on civil society and where, through their behavior, the members of the audience turn into citizens.
Christian Jankowski: Heavy Weight History
The Conceptual Artist Heads to Poland to Create a Monumental New Film
Christian Jankowski came to prominence with thought-provoking work that satirizes reality TV and the media. His latest exhibition, Heavy Weight History, at Lisson Gallery in London, is an installation of photographs and a 30-minute film that documents a group of Polish weightlifters attempting to lift public monuments in Warsaw. In this excerpt from the short, the Berlin-based Jankowski captures a famous Polish TV sports commentator following the sportsmen as they attempt to raise five individual sculptures. There is a political aspect here, touching on communism, masculinity and Poland’s self-image. “Warsaw was a city completely destroyed after the war. It had to find a new identity; maybe that was partly through sculpture,” says the German artist, whose performance pieces have included Art Market TV, in which a man sells artworks at a fair in the style of a home shopping channel presenter. Appropriately, Heavy Weight History also comments on how our view of the past is formed. “When you tell history, you can only have so many sentences. If you repeat and repeat the same perspective it becomes more concrete, not dynamic,” says Jankowski of the curious and often accidentally humorous project. “A good joke connects thoughts that come as a surprise.”
Self Portraits by George W. Bush, 2013
The art world—nay the whole world—was stunned when images leaked of paintings done by former President George W. Bush earlier this year. Apparently, a hacker found his way across the paintings in Bush family emails and released them to the Web. Of the most remarkable are two self-portraits featuring Bush in the bathtub and shower. Though on first glance the paintings seem amateurish, they were almost universally critically received. Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine saidthey “border on the visionary, the absurd, the perverse, the frat boy.” The fact Bush signs his paintings “43,” referring to his lineage in the presidency, stamps these as remarkably self-aware, yet impossibly outsider. The imagery points to issues of transparency, privacy, and the ritual of cleansing. In an interview with Diane Sawyer on the matter, the president said that painting “changed my life.” Perhaps if he had taken up the arts during his presidency he wouldn’t have advocated for tax cuts that eliminated funding for a significant number of humanities programs
My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines by Atlast Group, 1996 - 2004
Lebanese-born artist Walid Raad is the founder of the Atlas Group. But the Atlas Group, is actually a fictional collective made up of only one member: Walid Raad. His works for the Atlas Group include photography and video as well as written components. The collective was created in order to research and document contemporary Lebanese history, and the materials of the group are usually presented through lectures including film, photography, video and installation. The materials generated by Raad are meant to establish an alternative perspective to mainstream history that often conflates fiction with fact. His 2009 installation at the Reina Sofia in Madrid consisted of a collection of many of his works created over the span of the 15-years, which is coincidentally the duration of the Lebanese Civil War as well as the life of the Atlas Group. One example of work (titled, My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines) features 100 photographs taken at scenes wherevarious extremist groups detonated car bombs during the country’s Civil War.
Worth ( - Statement of Defence) by Rebecca Bellmore, 2010
Nothing screams “political” quite like absolution. After a long legal battle with her former gallerist,Bellmore, one of Canada’s more active and prominent artists, staged her exit from the art world in a gloriously commentative way. She showed up outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, scrubbed the sidewalk there, unfurled a bedspread of human hair, laid on it under a sign that read “I am worth more than $1 million to my people,” then stood up and shouted, “I quit.” The gallery had been trying to sue her for $1 million for four years.
Material for a Film by Emily Jacir, 2005 - onward
Palestinian artist Emily Jacir was dubbed an “archivist, activist, and poet” by the board that awarded her the 2008 Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s Hugo Boss Prize. Being notable at just one of the roles attributed to Jacir would be a worthwhile achievement, but her multimedia storytelling does fulfill her lofty praise. Her work explores the daily life of Palestinian communities and toggles between focusing on mundane details and critical historical events. This particular work,Materials for a film (performance), was realized (first at the 2006 Biennale of Sydney) as two installation spaces that address the assassination of Palestinian intellectual Wael Zuaiter in Rome by Israeli secret service in October 1972. The work was meant as a memorial to Zuaiter’s “thwarted aspirations” and a “memorial to untold stories. To that which has not been translated. To stories that will never be written.” One room contains photographs of the pages perforated by the bullet that killed Zuaiter, the other contains shelves of innumerable blank books shot with the same type of gun used on Zuaiter in 1972. In Material for a film, Jacir delves into the fallen intellectual’s personal effects to create another intimate portrait.
broken officer sculpture by Zhao Zhao, 2011
Famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's former assistant is making a name of his own. The thirty-something year old artist has created a number of videos and sculptures that reflect on his experiences as an artist in China. His ongoing series entitled Happenings is found on the internet mostly in the form of video stills of Zhao’s being bloodied by someone on the street. The title recalls the whimsical Happenings produced by Allan Kaprow in the 1960s. However it is Zhao’s broken officer sculpture that gained him wider notoriety as an artist in his own right. Zhao’s work resembles the ruins of a monumental sculpture of a police officer. The broken pieces of an ostensibly whole statue wears a badge whose corresponded with the date of Weiwei’s incarceration in 2011. Customs police confiscated the sculpture, when on its way to New York for an exhibition, deeming it “not art.” Following this news, Zhao was also told he would have to pay a fine of 300,000 yuan (approximately $48,000) for an unnamed reason. Though the loss of the work is regrettable, its absorption into the cultural Chinese abyss only proves the premise of the sculptural work.
Re-Enactments by Francis Alÿs, 2001
Franic Alÿs caused a slight stir in Mexico City in 2001 when legally bought a Beretta at a gun shop. He left the shop with the gun in hand and began walking the streets with the firearm visibly displayed, a camera following him. After 11 minutes of aimless walking and whistling, Alÿs was stopped by police and arrested, despite his legal acquisition of the gun—he was eventually released. The very next day, the artist convinced the police to recreate the series of event and filmed the re-enactment. The two versions are shown side-by-side, raising questions of power, the knowledge of power, and the limitations of the individual’s rights to mobilize.
This Progress by Tino Sehgal, 2010
Tino Sehgal's 2010, This Progress is a game changer, a full-fledged different model of art-making, art-working, art-experiencing and art-selling. The paradigm shift has been building velocity over the last century (or two), so an ostensibly complete de-materialization of an art-object comes as a surprise, but not an unexpected one. This Progress ran at the well-regarded Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City where visitors were greeted by the building’s iconic and unusually naked atrium, speckled only with, not paintings or sculptures, but guides, or “interpreters” as Sehgal calls them. The interpreters relayed guests up the spiraling ramp. Each leg of the journey, interpreters asked the audience questions related to ideas of progress. The first portion began with a child interpreter, followed by a teenager, and then an adult, with the work culminating in a conversation with an older person. All visitors to the work agreed neither take photographs, nor record the work. As one participant said, “What happened on the ramps stayed on the ramps.” However, the most shocking part about this work is not necessarily the mode of its performance, but the way in which it is sold. There are no written instructions for the work, no receipt of exchange and no pictures, just a conversation and a handshake with the buyer