Fashion East x Galeria Melissa

In keeping with Galeria Melissa’s reputation for hosting maverick collaborations and guests, the space’s next takeover brings Fashion East’s merry band of designers to the Covent Garden space.

The Fashion East womenswear designers, which includes Supriya Lele, Charlotte Knowles and Asai interpreted Galeria Melissa’s  OPEN VIBES AW18 collection. The video that will preview this evening is the first to be created between Galeria Melissa and Fashion East. Shot with a home video aesthetic, the video offers a low-fi feel that blends the fantasy of fashion with the reality of its process.

This latest collaboration with Fashion East follows Juno Calypso’s unnerving takeover earlier in the year. Expect weird, wacky and wonderful things.

Imagery by Dexter Lander

Imagery by Dexter Lander

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Photo London’s name to know

‘I like the idea of turning the tables, subverting the male gaze. Sue is now looking at us.’ says Charlotte Colbert, the London-based artist behind one of the must-visit exhibits at Photo London this year.

Her work ‘Benefit Supervisor Sleeping’, 2017, offers a life-size image portrait of Sue Tilley, Lucian Freud’s iconic model. While creating an overall survey, the work alerts viewers to specific details such as Tilley’s foot or the paint spattered studio floors that Tilley was first painted in.

Photo London is at Somerset House 17th – 20th May 2018. See the full programme here.

Feature image credit: Charlotte Colbert, ‘Benefit Supervisor Sleeping’, 2017

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Jennifer Lee is awarded LOEWE Craft Prize 2018

Jennifer Lee has been awarded the LOEWE Craft Prize 2018 for her work Pale, Shadowed Speckled Traces, Fading Elipse, Bronze Specks, Tilted Shelf (2017).

The prize was announced today at a ceremony at London’s Design Museum. A panel of judges including architect Patricia Urquiola and Jonathan Anderson awarded the prize to Lee from 30 finalists.

“Jennifer Lee for me is a landmark in form” commented Jonathan Anderson, who launched the LOEWE Craft Prize last year.

Classic and tranquil, Jennifer Lee’s work embodies a sense of timelessness and transcendence. The ceramic design was created using the ancient technique of pinching and coiling yet the final result speaks to modern minimalism.

Takuro Kuwata also received honourable mention for his porcelain work Tea Bowl (2017), as did Simone Pheulpin for her textile sculpture Croissance XL (XL Growth) (2017). See work from all 30 of the LOEWE Craft Prize finalists here.

The LOEWE Craft Prize exhibition is open at the Design Museum until 13th June 2018. The museum will also host a series of craft talks and workshops. You can find out more information about the events here

 

THEATRE OF THE NATURAL WORLD: An interview with Mark Dion and Iwona Blazwick, Director at Whitechapel Gallery

The nature-culture dualism is central to the work of American artist, Mark Dion. Best known for his immersive sculptures and installations, his work examines how knowledge is gathered, interpreted, classified and presented. For his solo exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery, Dion examines our complicated – and conflicted relationship – with the natural world raising questions concerning the culture of nature and the environment. Twin spoke to Mark and The Whitechapel Gallery’s director, Iwona Blazwick to talk about the major exhibition, its curation and the ethical duties of artists and curators.

Thomas Rackowe-Cork (to director IWONA BLAZWICK): What initially drew you to Mark’s work?

IWONA BLAZWICK: I first encountered the work of Mark Dion in a gallery in New York in 1990. Marching across the white cube space was a line of wheelbarrows filled with exotic pot plants and cuddly animal toys. It was called ‘The Wheelbarrows of Progress’. It struck me that here was the legacy of minimalism but infused with narrative, politics and humour.

TRC to curator IWONA BLAZWICK: Can you tell me about the curation for this exhibition? Is there a particular circulation you had in mind for the viewer to experience the exhibition?

IWONA: Mark Dion is a scenographer and explorer.  So, our curatorial approach was to take the viewer on a journey through a series of visual adventures.  The voyage starts with life – 22 zebra finches in their beautiful Library for the Birds – proceeds through an expertly camouflaged yet hostile series of structures made for observation and hunting, through a studio for the contemplation of nature, an uncanny museum display and an archaeological dig; it ends with death in a room of ghosts glowing in the dark.

TRC to artist MARK DION: What drew you to the world of natural history and science as a mode of investigation?

MARK DION: I think one of the things that drew me to the world of natural history is that it is a field where we are asking exciting questions; who are we? Where do we fit into the world? What is the world? How did we get here? Conversely, I find the art museum asks questions of value and aesthetics – areas that were not especially inspiring to me. So, on the other hand, these institutions, such as museums of natural history and ethnography museums, tend to both ask questions and give answers. They turn the viewer into a passive viewer. Whereas the art museum has a very critical view – they don’t expect that you necessarily agree with the work of art. It is almost encouraged that you do not. So, I wanted to bring those two worlds together. But my principle motivation is a kind of love for nature and experiences and it is something that was always a big part of my life growing up and I can’t imagine it ever not being a part of my life. And with growing up in the city, you search for surrogates – you may not be able to get to the mountains every weekend or to the coast. But you can get to the natural history museum or the park.

‘The Library for the Birds of London’ on show in Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World | © Jeff Spicer/PA Wire

TRC: The cabinet of curiosities is a theme that you repeatedly revisit in your practice – could you tell me a little bit more about why that is?

MARK DION: My interest was really in wildlife conservation and biodiversity. That brought me to the museum and then as I became closer to the museum, I became closer to its history for the collections. It was here that I discovered the tradition of the Wunderkabinet, which later peaked my interest in the 16th and 17th century collections. I found these collections really interesting because they contrasted so significantly from the imperial or colonial collections as they were not something of national prominence or filled with ideology. Rather, they are highly individual cosmologies. Though they are undoubtedly related to colonial processes, they are not the colonial museum in the same way. They are as much proto-scientific as they are spaces of magic, religion and superstition. So, that kind of mixture and hybridity, not only of the objects, but of their meaning as well, is important in thinking about how we move forward in terms of museum design – looking to the past and looking to the unexpected way things are put together.

TRC: The nature of a cabinets of curiosity seems to be concerned with collecting and classifying. Do you have a theme in mind when you collecting or making these material objects?

MARK DION: Very often, I go back to their original methodology where you would use an allegorical structure. I think that in trying to reconstruct those you have to also try to put yourself in the head of a maker from that time. So, you are intentionally putting things together that we may not put together today. So, let’s say, if you are using the elements of the seasons and you are putting them together based on the idea of fire, I try to ask myself; what does that necessarily mean? So, I find that really exciting.

TRC: So, you do not approach the curation of these cabinets thematically – could say then the curation is more intuitive?

MARK DION: Well I’m thinking about the themes that would exist in a historical setting and trying to mirror or refresh those. So, I am constantly thinking about their allegories. Very often, I look back at young Bruegel paintings, for instance, or something like that as a way of imagining what does the allegorical air look like?

Mark Dion ‘World in a Box’, 2015 | image courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery

TRC to IWONA BLAZWICK: The cabinets of curiosities are already curated in a way – how do you go about curating the cabinets themselves?

IWONA: The artist makes his own cabinets of curiosity – our role is to immerse our visitors in them, encouraging them to act as detectives searching for the myriad clues embedded in Dion’s assemblages, drawings and wallpapers.

TRC to MARK DION: From the sort of themes that you are looking at; what are some of the most fascinating objects you’ve found over the years?

MARK DION: There are always found objects that you pull out of rivers and one of the most interesting things about creating pieces for this exhibition was that I was working with people that were not trained as archaeologists or artists. It was interesting to see how some of which had a very accentuated search image. Whilst others had a really difficult time just seeing. As for me, one of the most exciting things we found were those traditional objects that you embellish with cultural artefacts. For example, you may have a whale’s tooth and surround it with silver and engrave on it. The opposite of that might be a cultural object that is traced with worm tracings or oyster shells or slipper shells and things like that. Things that articulate that opposite. In many cases, I found it interesting that many of the young people working on these projects were entirely unable to tell the difference between a rock of flint and a cultural object. To them, it seemed unfathomable that a piece flint, for example, was not human made because the natural world just does not make something that strange. So, these things that articulate the natural affecting the artificial I see as bookending the cabinet of curiosities and accentuating the natural with the artificial.

TRC: Following on from that, do you think our relationship to a found object changes when placed behind glass?

MARK DION: Oh, absolutely. It changes over a period of time. For example, an artist like Robert Rauschenberg might find a glue into a collage a newspaper cutting from his day in 1953. Suddenly, today that is a very exotic newspaper, with a different time sensibility, and different make up. So, not only do they change by this process of becoming “museum-ified” but they also change dramatically just by getting a little bit older. Even with things here in the Thames Cabinet from the dig in 1999 here in the exhibition, someone was looking at them yesterday saying “Oh! SunnyDelight – does that still exist?”

TRC: Do you think that these found object lose some agency when they are placed in this context?

MARK DION: I do not think they loose agency. In fact, I think that they gain some agency, or the viewer gains some agency because they begin to see themselves in this context. What is important for me about the Tate Thames Dig (1999) is that people find themselves in it. It is not this notion that history happens to someone else, sometime ago. Rather, it is a continuity that is inclusive. We find ourselves in that, which also implies that this history goes beyond us. One of the most difficult things we face as a society, is this ability to imagine things going on beyond us. I feel that is why many seem not to care about leaving behind a mess.

Mark Dion exhibition | courtesy Kunstraum Dornbirn

TRC: Yes, it is incredibly hard to fathom the sort of everlasting element of material objects… the idea that things can live beyond us…

MARK DION: Absolutely. We are just a point in the continuum. And so that is sort of my real agenda with these pieces to emphasise this notion of a continuum. For that to happen, the viewer has to find something that they have touched, something that they know or are familiar with.

TRC: I sort of felt a sense of nostalgia whilst walking around the exhibition – would you say that this feeling or emotion plays a somewhat central role in your work?

MARK DION: I am always trying to guard against nostalgia. But at the same time, I think that I certainly have an affinity to materials that are well-made – that are crafted in leather and wood rather than in plastic. At the same time, I try to police myself against this golden ageing. It is the curse of nostalgia to imagine the past is somehow a purer, a better or a more superior time, which it clearly was not at least it was not for many of us. It would always feel artificial, for example, to place a laptop into a study of surrealism. I mean, that is not a good example, because the piece Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacy (2005) in this exhibition is a period piece that is meant to be a 1923 office.

TRC: Is there a hope to achieve anything by bringing these things back to the surface?

MARK DION: I want to cultivate the viewer who is more cautious and sophisticated. But at the same I want to be critical and to that you have to be affirmative. That is to say, to affirm people’s world views so you don’t feel entirely isolated – that you’re not the only one on the right road.

TRC: How do you think artists and have ethical duty or responsibility to bring certain issues to the surface?

MARK DION: I would not want to be prescriptive, but for me it is important. I mean, otherwise I wouldn’t really understand what the point of making are would be. I could understand why someone would want to make work as a self-expressive gesture, but I just do not understand why they would think an audience would only need to see that. I am interested in artists who are not afraid to have a didactic aspect to their work. Who are not afraid to say something and to have a position. That is the kind of art I like. So, I am not afraid to make that kind of art myself. At the same time, we have to face a lot of this stuff in society anyway, which is not particularly successful in terms of messaging. So, I wonder how to do that with complexity. I think for me, humour is part of the way to do that and also just trying to do things really well that builds a confidence in the viewer that is worth engaging with. 

TRC: How do you think curators have ethical duty or responsibility to bring certain issues to the surface? Here for instance, the conservation of the environment.

IWONA BLAZWICK: The curatorial mission changes according to its institutional and social context. For us at the Whitechapel Gallery we are dedicated to offering a platform for contemporary artists – and they don’t have a duty to comment on issues.  While World War II raged about him Morandi just continued to paint bottles. He is nonetheless a great artist. However, an artist like Mark Dion is exciting because he is able to respond to the environmental crisis in a way which combines ethics with aesthetics.  He has spoken of his despair at our indifference to the fate of our planet – but I see this exhibition as being full of hope, making us reflect on our relations with other species while rekindling our sense of awe at the natural world.

 

Mark Dion ‘Theatre of the Natural World’ is on at the Whitechapel Gallery in London until 13th May 2018. 

Featured image credit: Mark Dion in the rainforest of Guyana | Photo by Bob Braine, courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery

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Three Cities, an exhibition of new photographs by Niall O’Brien

The Sid Motion Gallery in London celebrates the work of Irish photographer Niall O’Brien in a new exhibition that opens this week.

O’Brien spent six months documenting the area around Silicon Valley, observing the contradictions and contrasts within the landscape and social structure.

“This was one of the most expensive places to live in the US, and it was kind of bland.” Says O’Brien. “It was full of the most cutting edge technology, yet the aesthetic had been forgotten. Cars and highways were all you could hear. There was nothing beautiful about the place – except the mountains that surrounded it, and the nature that persevered to appear in the least expected places.”

Niall O’Brien photograph from ‘Three Cities’ exhibition at Sid Motion Gallery

The photographer documented area around the seven-mile long Bascom Avenue every day, at the same time. The result is a atmospheric collection. The inequalities of wealth underscore the absurdity of the area, where these disparities exist side by side. Meanwhile the natural world offers another contrast. Niall O’Brien’s photographs ensure that perspective is given and that the hyper-intense tech world is rendered against the wider, ephemeral environment.

Niall O’Brien photograph from ‘Three Cities’ exhibition at Sid Motion Gallery

During his time in Bascom Avenue O’Brien bonded with two individuals, Blake and Dana. The exhibition portrays their daily lives, capturing their routines and rituals. The images are candid and intimate, conveying the friendship and trust between O’Brien and his subjects.

Niall O’Brien photograph from ‘Three Cities’ exhibition at Sid Motion Gallery

Together the portraits of people and the natural environment that they live vividly conjure the microcosms of this world. Don’t miss.

Niall O’Brien photograph from ‘Three Cities’ exhibition at Sid Motion Gallery

‘Three Cities’ An exhibition of new photographs by Niall O’Brien at Sid Motion Gallery in London April 26th – May 26th, 2018. 

Niall O’Brien photograph from ‘Three Cities’ exhibition at Sid Motion Gallery

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New African Photography III

Following the success of previous collaborations between Nataal and Red Hook Labs, Nataal curates an exhibition of some of most exciting image-makers documenting modern Africa in a new exhibition. New African Photography III opens at the Brooklyn space in May.

The new exhibition will showcase the work of six female artists: Fatoumata Diabaté (Mali), Rahima Gambo (Nigeria), Keyezua (Angola), Alice Mann (South Africa), Ronan McKenzie (UK) and Ruth Ossai (UK/Nigeria).

Together these works celebrate female identity and diversity, offering an empowered and positive vision. A sense of energy is conveyed through the celebration of movement and the use of powerful juxtapositions – both in terms of colour and of form.

The event also coincides with the launch of Nataal’s first print issue. The website and magazine work as a platform to champion creativity and culture in Africa. You can find out more here.

Alice Mann, Dr Van Der Ross Drummies, Delft, South Africa, 2017, from the series Drummies

Ruth Ossai X Mowalao

Fatoumata Diabaté, Kara et ses oreilles, 2012, from the series L_homme en Animal

Sailing Back to Africa as a Dutch Woman, 2017, from the series Fortia

Nataal: New African Photography III, 4th – 13th May, Red Hook Labs, 133 Imlay St, Brooklyn, New York. Opening times: 10am-6pm daily. 

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Lindsey Mendick, Perfectly Ripe 

In her new exhibition artist Lindsey Mendick brings audiences a rich and atmospheric memory of a summer holiday that she took when she was 13 years old. Immersing audiences in a world that is at first exciting and new, though later threatening and dangerous, Mendick uses ceramics, sculpture, painting and audio recordings to conjure the rich experience of her holiday.

Even at the peak of her sunny and nostalgic narrative, a sense of unease and discomfort pervades the piece. This is emphasised by the dark background within the exhibition. Below, Lindsey Mendick shares an extract from the audio recording which plays throughout the exhibition.

Lindsey Mendick, Tease Me Until I Lose Control (detail), 2018. Ceramic. Installation view of Perfectly Ripe, Zabludowicz Collection London. Courtesy the artist and Zabludowicz Collection. Photo: Tim Bowditch

I’d only ever been to France before. But this wasn’t France. We flew on a plane. And the man behind me was smoking cigarettes the whole way there. He was very fat and had two seats all for himself. The ashtray was in the armrest. You flip down one side of the metal and the dank smell of old fags rushes out. The ashy residue of successful flights. Your throat burns and your clothes stink. But no one complained.

It’s a proper hotel. It has three pools, a buffet and it has a discotheque. It has a discotheque.

Francoise has gone missing.

It was hot. So hot. I fall asleep on my Lilo on the beach. I wake up with salty lips and one hot cheek, a pool of saliva slipping across the PVC. There is shouting.

Francoise has been found and Joce and Viv are really cross. She had been flirting with a group of Local men. Vivian said she once saw Jesus behind the dustbins, so you can’t always trust what Vivian says. But Francoise had been looking at boys. And Francoise had been stealing your fags.

Your dad and sister tease you when you pull yourself up out the pool. They sing ‘Nutbush City Limits’, because no one told you at 13 that there was such a thing as too much pubic hair. This was evidently too much. Shamefully, you steal your dad’s razor that evening and shave it all off. For the rest of the holiday you itch insatiably.

Lindsey Mendick, Touch Me In The Morning, And Last Thing At Night (detail), 2018. Ceramic. Installation view of Perfectly Ripe, Zabludowicz Collection London. Courtesy the artist and Zabludowicz Collection. Photo: Tim Bowditch.

Francoise comes down to dinner with Joce and Viv. She has no glasses on and her mum is telling her what all the foods at the buffet are because she can’t see. ‘Francoise did you lose your glasses’ ‘no she didn’t, we took them away so she couldn’t look at boys’ you watch Francoise tentatively slip foods into her mouth. Fish mixed with chicken mixed with an unknown dish that nobody at the table likes. It’s buffet roulette. You feel lucky your parents let you do what you want.

I’m allowed Malibu and diet cokes. They’re so delicious and I drink them with Fran and Nick as mozzies attack my legs. I never knew alcohol could taste this exotic. They smell like Hawaiian tropic and in the mornings I am never sure if I can smell the aftermath of the night before or the residue of sun cream on my skin.

I wear my Jane Norman boob tube dress because I now have big enough boobs to fill the tube. I had always hated my body. But here men like my body so I like my body. And my body gets me into the discotheque because no one realises I am 14 in two months. But I’m mature for my age. Everyone says it.

Zabludowicz Collection Invites: Lindsey Mendick, Perfectly Ripe, Zabludowicz Collection, London, 12 April – 3 June 2018

(Feature image credit:Lindsey Mendick, An Itch That Needs To Be Scratched, 2018. Ceramic and flowers. Installation view of Perfectly Ripe, Zabludowicz Collection London. Courtesy the artist and Zabludowicz Collection. Photo: Tim Bowditch). 

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Posturing

Following the wildly successful exhibition last year, Holly Hay and Shonagh Marshall are releasing Posturing as a book this month.

The beautiful tome brings together 21 iconic image makers in contemporary fashion. These photographers explore, respond to and propose new ways of using the body as a tool in the way clothing is depicted. Viewers are invited to look beyond the clothes though, at the entire art of composition and structure of each photograph. The careful curation of images allows viewers to examine fashion photography in new ways. The book portrays the spectrum of the fashion canon, from hyper-sexualised to the hyper-abstracted body. It is a celebration of the new era of strangeness in fashion, and the photographers central to leading the way.

Read our interview with Shonagh Marshall about co-curating the exhibition with Twin contributor Holly Hay here.

Johnny Dufort for AnOther Magazine, ‘Go Fish’ Autumn:Winter 2017

Charlie Engman for AnOther Magazine, ‘A Nod And A Glance A Gesture For One Word’ Autumn:Winter 2015

Lena C Emery for The Gentlewoman, ‘Practise’ Spring:Summer 2014

Pascal Gambarte for Marfa Journal, ‘Being Michael Rothstein’ March 2017

Reto Schmid for Under the Influence Magazine, ‘Relative Transparency’ Spring:Summer 2016

‘Posturing’ is available to buy via SPBH Editions from April 23rd 2018. 

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An interpretation of the real: Twin meets Alice Waese

New York-based designer Alice Waese offers textured, evocative design across jewellery, clothes and illustration. Her work is sensual and imaginative, imbuing those who wear or otherwise engage with her work with a sense of heightened or unexpected reality. Twin caught up with Alice to talk about her work and her creative process.

You work across a range of mediums. Where did you start?

I began with drawing as a kid, chalk, paint then pencil, then pen, then watercolour.

In terms of jewellery, what are the most challenging materials you’ve worked with?

Casting fine leaves, snake skin, leather with lots of undercuts, a round pinecone.

Which materials and / or stones do you find most interesting, why?

This season I am really interested in pearls because of how they form, The crustaceans coat an intrusion, something foreign, something parasitic enters the body and in an effort to protect themselves they coat it, creating something beautiful.

You often include small figures or body parts in your jewellery designs. Why did you decide to use these?

The figures and body parts relate to a series of drawings where I was really studying the body in relation to the non material world. the severed limbs related to a series of paintings where body parts were energetically connected to other parts with a thin red line of paint. I then sculpted them in wax and stung them on chain, it came naturally, tells a story and relates to the themes I was working with in my drawings at the time.

Why was it important to have a sense of texture and materiality in your work?

I think the textural component comes from a reflection of what I find visually interesting the world, it is less an importance or a decision, and more following an intuition and staying true to it. I think texture and imperfection translated into a precious metal that is usually smoothed to perfection creates an interesting juxtaposition.

How does your design approach differ between jewellery and clothes?

Its actually a very similar approach. Never a mood board or a singular inspiration, more an internal concept, a series of paintings, a texture, or a new process I am experimenting with, often the outcome of a mistake.

 

Did you find that it was easy to translate your aesthetic throughout the range of works?

I don’t find it difficult to speak through different mediums, being honest with my process and limitations and creativity makes it easy for the same voice to pass through.

Watercolours have quite a different quality to the materials you use for clothes and jewellery. Why did you decide to work with watercolours for your illustrations?

I like the fluidity of watercolours, it allows me to make up the rules as I go along. The process is similar to how I work in jewellery and clothing.

When starting a project, how does your creative process begin?

Its not a set regime, always different, but usually a clear need to make something.

What would you say are the most powerful informants of your work?

Whatever mistake I just corrected or embraced usually informs the next piece of work. 

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SUPERSTRUCTURES: The new architecture 1960-1990

The phrase ‘high-tech’ makes most of us think about phones, computers or intelligent dishwashers. But it’s one that makes some architects gasp with indignation. This year the Sainsbury Centre celebrates its 40th anniversary with “Superstructures: The new architecture 1960–90”. An exhibition that picks apart the architectural movement behind the centre itself and examines the controversial label of ‘high-tech’ against the wider architectural canon.

‘High-tech’ architecture was championed by legendary British architects Norman Foster (the designer behind the Sainsbury Centre) and Richard Rogers (Centre Pompidou), amongst others. This group of architects found ideas of adaptable, expandable and mobile buildings exciting. They were interested in pragmatic solutions, and inspired by earlier architectural ideas and innovations like Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes and Jéan Proves demountable house.

Current day Sainsbury Centre 2009 | Photo:© Sainsbury Centre, Pete Huggins

The high-tech style managed to blend post-war 60s utopian ideas with 19th, and early 20th century ideas about adapted architecture – a mixture that resulted in expressive and very characteristic buildings. It was a  technologically focused – one might even say obsessed – development from modernism.

Talking via a malfunctioning, ironically un-high-tech Skype connection, Twin chatted with curators of the exhibition Jane Pavitt and Abraham Thomas. An era of optimistic architecture that looked to engineering and technology for new possibilities certainly seems resonant in 2018.

Sainsbury Centre construction 1975 – 1978 | Photo: © Foster + Partners, Alan Howard

Could you begin by telling me a little bit about the exhibition?

Jane Pavitt: The exhibition is about this crux in late modernism, the term often used in association with it is high-tech. We have taken a rather interesting positioning I suppose…  In the exhibition we show the long history of association between technology, engineering and architecture. It starts with the the Sainsbury Centre, a superstructure that is, in a sense, an enormous shed. It’s complex, beautiful, precisely engineered, but still kind of like a shed.

We used this building to explain the high-tech approach to architecture. Then we look at ground structures like the Crystal Palace, and through to the modern experiments by Prouvé and Buckminster Fuller. Finally we look at the generation of architects that we are focused on. The first part of the exhibition tell the pre-history, then we get to high-tech it self.  

Abraham Thomas: Should I go back to high-tech?

Jane: Yes, I see that she’s dying to hear about it.

Abraham: One of the things that we wrestled with as curators is using the phrase high-tech without actually using the phrase high-tech. The term is very divisive, a bit like postmodernism. Many of the practitioners of postmodernism hate that label. Jane curated the big postmodernism exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum so she has been through this.

Jane: [laughs] The toxic term.

Ben Johnson, Inmos Central Spine, 1985Acrylic on canvas | © Ben Johnson

Abraham: We had to be conscious to the fact that many of these leading architects absolutely reject the term high-tech. It is reasonable to an extent, they reject it simply being a style. What we are trying to say is that it was more than a style. It was a sort of ethos, a movement. But it is a convenient term, it refers to the idea of influence of technology. In a way it is valid. But we also sort of pick it apart, don’t we?

Jane: We wanted to make it very clear that it’s certainly not a style label, although it’s often used like that. These buildings are stylistically very different. The architects reached different types of solutions, but they all share a set of principles. The Sainsbury Centre and the Pompidou Centre are totally different solutions to the same set of ideas and concerns. They respond to their sites, position and purpose in different ways. On the other hand, we felt as curators, and historians, that if there is a term that has some currency historically – it is a frequently used label in architectural history – then this is the right time to kind of, as Abraham says, pick it apart and attempt a much more nuanced understanding.

Do you think there is another term that could work better?

Jane: Architecture of advanced engineering is a good description. That’s what they are concerned with, testing the limits of certain kind of building methods. If you think of high-tech as a process, rather than a style, that’s quite a useful way of approaching it. I would say that it’s a type of technological modernism.

But people like labels, don’t they? Like art deco. Everybody has contested the meaning of art deco, but it is still a very powerful term. Postmodernism is a term that makes people angry [laughs] but it persists. Rather than abandon the label all together, we wanted to unpack and position it. These buildings share certain things about advanced engineering and precision engineering, but they can also be simple solutions.

To take an example: we have reconstructed a section of Michael and Patty Hopkins house in the exhibition. It is not high-tech in that sense. It is appropriate technology. They liked the idea of using pre-fabricated components and cost effective materials that could be assembled simply, cheaply, effectively with a powerful aesthetic.

ZipUp HouseDetail colour presentation competition model, scale 1:20 | Photo: © Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Eamonn O’Mahony

Abraham: There are a number of examples of high-tech buildings with ideas from other explicitly progressive technological contexts. For example, here at the Sainsbury Centre, Foster created a double skinned wall which allows a lot of the servicing and utilities to be packed away, resulting in this sleek exterior surface and an uninterrupted interior space well suited for an exhibition layout. That idea came from Foster’s observations of a passenger aircraft, were you have a sort of false elevated floor where all the services can be packed underneath.

Jane: There is this section in the exhibition where we have some of the original cladding from the Sainsbury Centre next to a part from a [Citroën] 2CV van. Those ribbed aluminium panels that slot into a car are remarkably like the panels that clad this building. The term high-tech is a bit forbidding, but these buildings have almost the childhood appeal of assembling models.

Abraham: Jane’s point immediately makes me think of this amazing object in the exhibition, a project called Tomigaya. It is a mixed use, residential and cultural space in Tokyo, and the model is made from Meccano. It’s a slightly lighthearted moment in the exhibition. The model of Tomigaya encapsulates a rare notion of simplicity, an understanding of how buildings are put together. It makes it very accessible.

Crystal Palace details of bracing between columns | Photo: © Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851

What drew you to this project at first?

Jane: The Sainsbury is one of Britain’s best postwar buildings and it is extraordinarily powerful. It attracted a huge amount of controversy, admiration and criticism at the time it opened. It’s been fascinating to re-examine that. This group of architects are among the most prominent in the world and produce buildings in all typologies: office buildings, factory buildings, buildings for culture, domestic projects, airports, stations. In London, especially in transit, we all move through these buildings. You probably could encounter a Foster, Rogers, a Grimshaw building within any square mile of central London.

Abraham: I went through Heathrow today and the Rogers’ Terminal 5 has a lot of expressive engineering.

What would you say was most challenging with this exhibition? There are so many different aspects to it.

Abraham: I think it’s always tricky when you’re a temporary guardian of someone’s legacy. These are all very successful architects now, huge international names.

Jean Prouvé House, France | Photo: © Galerie Patrick Seguin and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

And still alive!

Abraham: Yes they are all still alive! You’ve got to be really careful with how you present that legacy. That is always the case when you’re working with any contemporary artist or architect, but I think that is particularly the case here.

One of the hardest things was to ensure that we were sensitive to their legacies, but also created a new narrative. Since the mid 80s there have been shows on these key British architects – Jane and I didn’t want to do another “Best of British Architects” exhibition.  

Jane: It’s not a biography show. Architecture exhibitions are difficult. A lot of visitors may not be familiar with reading architectural plans and some of the buildings will be unfamiliar to them. We wanted to explain how buildings worked and how they were made. We’ve just come back from installing two giant wooden carved prototypes of the steel joints from Waterloo International Station. They are about a meter or so high, but fantastic objects. Like pieces of sculpture.The process of construction is fascinating for people of all ages, we are just trying to emphasise that.

SUPERSTRUCTURES: The New Architecture 1960 – 1990 is on at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts 24 March – 2 September 2018

Feature image credit: Century Tower, Japan | Photo: © Foster + Partners, Saturo Mishima

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“Like I’m working with them, alongside them, in tandem.”: Twin meets Terri Loewenthal

Her vivid, evocative ‘in-camera collages’ of the Californian landscape will have you captive for hours. Twin meets photographer Terri Loewenthal to talk about immersing oneself in the environment, the power of nature and startling “little old ladies in women’s restrooms.”

How did the idea of California manifest itself in your consciousness when you were growing up?

Everything I knew about California I learned from Top Gun and Beverly Hills 90210. I spent my childhood in South Florida, on the other side of the continent. As a kid, I didn’t think California was that much different than where I grew up. We had beaches, sun, pastels and fancy cars too. I played a lot of volleyball. Same thing, different coast, right? I was a jock, competing at a national level. What seemed to matter most at the time was that the volleyball players coming out of California were better than the ones coming from anywhere else. And of course, the continual juvenile version of an east vs. west debate: which is better, Disney World or Disneyland?

I ended up in California not because of a childhood vision, but because of a rebirth later in life. Right after I graduated from college in Texas, my rental house burned down. I took the nominal insurance settlement, borrowed my mom’s manual 35mm camera, and hit the road. I traveled for over a year exploring, camping alone, aligning my schedule with the sun’s, and teaching myself to take pictures. That was when I fell in love with photography and California’s backcountry.  

Terri Loewenthal, Psychscape 48 (Lookout Mountain, CA) 2017.

What about the landscape makes it compelling to photograph?

I chose to work with the eastern Sierra for this body of work. It’s not the California most people have in mind – it’s nothing like El Capitan in Yosemite, the ring of mountain peaks around Lake Tahoe, or the beaches in San Diego riddled with surfers. There’s something otherworldly about it. You see Mono Lake from above as you drive towards it, and it doesn’t even make sense. There are no rivers or streams flowing from it; being in the desert, it just evaporates. It’s away from everything, the end of the line.

When I’m thinking about where to shoot, it’s very much about using the shapes of the land as a paint brush — for example, how the curve of a dune when juxtaposed with another dune overlapping it creates a sloping line, a single gesture formed by the contours of the land. The eastern Sierra expanse is ripe with geometry, all these granite building blocks, which I use in my work. With a lack of iconic shapes like pines and sequoias, I’m able to freely use the landscape as raw material instead of subject.

Also, photographing remote landscapes means camping. I have a deep need to sleep on the land, to skip some showers. I love to lose the safety of manicured city life.

Terri Loewenthal, Psychscape 73 (Downs, Mount, CA) 2017

How much did you choose to engage with the predominantly male canon of Californian photography when conceiving this project?

When I had the idea for these images, it was purely aesthetically driven, at least in my conscious mind. I’m extending an invitation to step inside of these imaginary places, to have a subjective experience. Our perception of the natural world isn’t gendered. I don’t think of the conceptual framework of Psychscapes as relating to gender, however there are a number of gender norms I don’t buy into, and that offers a certain freedom necessary for creating this work. I love camping. I love being dirty. I love uncontrolled adventure. I might be less afraid to venture solo into un-manicured territory because I’m taller than most men – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve startled little old ladies in women’s restrooms!

Terri Loewenthal, Psychscape 18 (Banner Ridge, CA) 2017

Do you feel a tension between the wild as a free space and the idea of capturing it through photography?

I’m currently reading a book called The Ohlone Way about the indigenous people of the Bay Area. It’s a fantastic account of the abundant wilderness and wildlife here before white people “headed west.” The sky was so filled with birds that, looking up, you were more likely to see one than not. I often wonder if my life were as deeply enmeshed with the natural world, if I’d be drawn to make landscape images. My desire is to commune with my subject. Looking through the lens, I slow down and consider subtle nuances. Sometimes it’s shape, or correlation of shapes, sometimes it’s color, sometimes it’s a character trait that I didn’t notice before the camera was in my hand. Mine is a sensitive approach to photography. It’s always been an attempt to process my surroundings more deeply. What I mean to do is appreciate. If I were living off the land, I wouldn’t need to venture away from the distractions of city life in order to touch the dirt. I wouldn’t seek out the grounding feeling that immersion in nature offers. But here I am, surrounded by pavement and electronics, and I do need to visit those spaces for refuge. I am driven to make something out of the feeling of re-finding myself when I’m there.

Was there anything about the landscape that surprised you when you were working in it?

In America, when you drive through the mountains, there are often signs urging you to pull over in the most picturesque places, signs that say “Overlook” or “Scenic View.” To my surprise, these vistas don’t work. Everything is at infinite focal distance, and it feels flat. I am able to create more when I’m nestled in a dynamic environment. If I’m on a trail, say, along the side of a canyon, I’m able to utilize the huge mountain face that is reachable with one hand, and the majestic mountain ranges in the distance. Another surprise is that the horizon line, something I’ve loved photographing all of my life, proves to be a challenge with these compositions. What isn’t surprising in the least is that I’m happy to be limited to the 360 degrees surrounding me as I’m making the collage. Limitations are built into my process, and that’s a relief.

Terri Loewenthal Psychscape 26 (Rock Garden, CA) 2017

Can you talk about your compositional approach and process?

 Each image is a single exposure. All of the layering and colour shifting happens in-camera. I like to think of these images as in-camera collages. There are a number of aspects I tweak as I’m compositing: the position, saturation and palette of each layer, along with all the traditional photographic controls like focus and shutter speed. I can make an environment feel soft or hard, depending on how muted or bright it is. Placing different colour washes next to each other, then saturating them just so, is often the final piece that makes an image sing – like sprinkling flake salt on top of your meal. I just experiment until I strike something that sparks the rush. Anyone who’s ever made anything knows about the rush. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, I no longer question what I’m doing, or why I’m doing it – it’s just absolutely meant to be.

Did you feel that your relationship with the landscape changed as you were creating the images?

Absolutely. Since I’m working to distort reality, and it’s all happening in real-time. I don’t feel like I’m looking at the mountains as-they-are anyway. They immediately morph into something new and I feel like I’m working with them, alongside them, in tandem. Not only have Psychscapes changed my relationship to the landscape I’m actively working with, they’ve changed my relationship to every wild place I’ve yet to see. I can barely take a hike now without trying to envision it in the context of a Psychscape, even if I don’t have a camera in my hand.

Shooting these images involves contortions, octopus arms, propping things up with my knees. I dive deep into the unknown. It’s a reverie where I feel like I’m falling through times and places. I experiment until I stop questioning my experiments, until I find a composition that feels like another landscape altogether – a place I want to be. When I resurface, I find myself twisted into the least comfortable position attainable, a crick in my neck and knotted-up shoulders. My yoga teacher would be horrified. There’s always a “come to” moment where I finally open both eyes and think briefly, “whoa, where am I?”

Terri Loewenthal Psychscape 41 (Lundy Canyon, CA) 2017

Aside from the natural surroundings, did you seek inspiration anywhere else when preparing for the project?

Color plays a huge role in my drive to create these images, and paintings are where I find the most unexpected palettes. I’m surrounded by fantastic painters in my immediate community. My dear friends Joe Ferriso and Alexander Kori Girard come to mind. They both have a knack for using odd colors that when used solo, might not work; but they add other colors, and then there’s a relationship between the colors that challenges what I thought of the colors in the first place. I have an incredible painting of Joe’s in my living room where he started with rejected house paint from the hardware store, and built from there. It’s my reminder that nothing exists in a vacuum, that the correlation between two things makes a third thing. I was a touring musician for the first ten or so years of my photographic career and I draw a lot from that experience too. Attention to rhythm, composing layers of color/sound washes, and seeking collaboration with my surroundings are all instincts honed by performing pop music. Inspiration, as it goes, tends to be an ongoing concoction of every single moment of your life.

Are there other landscapes that you’re interested in approaching in the same way?

I had the idea for these images years ago, but I’ve only recently figured out how to pull them off. California is a natural starting place. Not only is this the place where I fell in love with photography, it’s the place where I’ve found my people – people who care more about creativity, social justice, and community building than paying homage to the crumbling paradigms of what we “should” do with our lives. In California, I feel encouraged to explore ideas that don’t spring from what I’ve been taught or shown, to trust my inner rebel. Hopefully my discovery will open the door to all sorts of adventures. At the moment, I’m curious about working in a tropical place, mainly because an expanse is harder to come by. Jungles are tangled, the shapes less obvious due to the uniformity of color and the dense layers of plants growing on top of one another. I wonder if Psychscapes would work in that context. I wonder if I’d be able to make images that would offer a similar sense of otherworldliness. Maybe jungle Psychscapes would feel like you’re nested inside the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And maybe that’s not so bad.

TERRI LOEWENTHAL: Psychscapes is on at CULT in San Francisco until April 21st. 

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Home Strike: resisting the feminisation of domesticity

Alexandra Kokoli and Basia Sliwinska guest curate the new exhibition Home Strike. In the new show the pair bring together the work of four women artists — CANAN, Paula Chambers, Malgorzata Markiewicz, Su Richardson — to explore domesticity through an activist lens. The artists probe and refute the idea that domesticity and femininity are intertwined.

Each artist radically reimagines the domestic space as a battleground. It is territory to be taken and looked at afresh. Paula Chambers repurposes everyday kitchen furniture into a fort or barricade, rejecting the wholesome connotations of stools and ironing boards, laying bare the repression and violence which they can also represent.

Installation view, Paula Chambers. Photo: Andy Keate, courtesy L’etrangere

Małgorzata Markiewicz work addresses the family home. She interrogates the idea of women within the domestic sphere, examining motherhood and the idea of entertaining in the home.

Su Richardson contemplates themes of domesticity and motherhood through knitted and crocheted pieces of family scenes. In pieces such as Burnt Breakfast the idea of tarnished or ruined food is contrasted with intricate, delicate technique. Richardson also presents a new series of work made especially for the Home Strike exhibition. Here, knitted breasts are both sexualised and reduced to emblems of motherhood.

Installation view, Su Richardson. Photo: Andy Keate, courtesy L’etrangere

In her video Fountain (2000), Istanbul-based artist and activist CANAN records the sounds of her lactating breasts. The film challenges audiences to radically reevaluate the way in which a women’s body is perceived. To forgo sexualised connotations that have been promoted in art and the wider cultural and political sphere, and to value their functionality and normality.

In all then, Home Strike offers a powerful and invigorating call to action: to engage with, and to challenge, existing notions of domesticity and femininity.

Home Strike is at L’étrangere in London until April 21st 2018.

 

Featured image: CANAN, Çeşme / Fountain (video still),  2000 © CANAN, courtesy the artist

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Artistic collaborations from London’s next generation of creatives

Fashion and Fine Art are as intertwined as any two mediums can be, and so on the surface a project that brings together five artist and five designers doesn’t seem so radical. But not every designer is Raf Simons, able to access and afford the works of Sterling Ruby for his Dior collections, or Gianni Versace, making Warhol’s iconic work part of Versace’s iconic image without fear of being sued. A titan of one industry working with a powerhouse of another often produces incredible results, but it rarely exposes anyone to anything new.

The reality is that producing a collection or a piece of work takes time and money, and most emerging designers and artists are short on both. Encountering the work of someone new and having the infrastructure to collaborate is a privilege, and it is a privilege that the BFC Fashion Arts Foundations aim to extend to more makers. Now in its second year, the FAF’s Fashion arts Commissions scheme sees the British Fashion Council and the Royal Academy Schools pair NEWGEN designers with recent graduates of the RA Schools. Each pair is given a budget and mentoring, and a year to produce work to be exhibited and sold at Christie’s.

As you might imagine some pairs clicked immediately, finding a symbiosis between their practice that made them easy and natural collaborators – Liam Hodges and Nicky Carvell got on so well that they used part of their funding to take a research trip to LA together. For others the clash of influence, interest and expectation might have made the creative process a little more torturous, but this kind of friction is sometimes needed to provoke new ideas and ways of working. Eliza Bonham Carter, Head of the Royal Academy Schools, puts it best: ‘The value of this process lies not only in these bold, surprising and intriguing works of art, but also in the process by which they are achieved, which will inform the practice of each participant long into the future’.

In an era where arts funding is on its knees, and the government continues to cull art from school curriculums, it’s heartening to see organisations like the Fashion Arts Foundation are still around. All proceeds from the sale at Christie’s will go back in to the Foundation, to continue funding future cycles of collaboration. Unsurprisingly the final works are as strong and diverse as the participants. Encountering each other’s different mediums, approaches and frames of reference has produced a show that is a testament to the aims of the project – there is something new here. Across the hall from the more stiff traditional pieces that are the bread and butter of a house like Christie’s, the viewer suddenly encounters is a looming metal parasol, ominously askew and slick with fabric; distorted metal sculptures that feel like collages in motion; a carpet swatch rolodex of endlessly pleasing textures printed over with sinister undertones; a room of balance and tension shadowed by projection, and a series of playful, Zeuss-like structures that are as elegant as they are unusual.

Hear about each pair’s pleasingly divergent inspiration below:

LIAM HODGES & NICKY CARVELL

The ideas behind our work – industrialism, decay and rejuvenation sparked instantly on our first meeting. A shared search / destroy / rebuild attitude meant the work had to be uncompromisingly tough yet hopeful. A road trip to Los Angeles and to salvaged sites ‘Slab City’ and ‘Salvation Mountain’ were essential to instigate our shared visions. Process wise, Liam immediately wanted to set everything on fire. The nearest we came to this was welding scrap metal with sheet steel. The end results are robust sculptures made with the American ‘can do’ attitude brought to life in an East End warehouse.

PAULA KNORR & APPAU JNR BOAKYE-YIADOM

We wanted to create a work that could exist in different iterations. Using materials that illustrated this, from the fabric that takes on different characteristics when hung, looking through, gathered on the floor or folded over. The parasol frame both electric and manually operated changing its size and orientation depending on the space in which its shown. The video illustrating a ball falling from the top of the frame to the bottom, looped in transit, accompanied with dubbed audio of a drum in an echo chamber of sound. Focusing on different forms of sculptural movement from both culture, fashion, video and sound.

RICHARD MALONE & MARCO PALMIERI

A garment, as a term, is ambiguous; it can serve a limited but clear purpose, or on other occasions can shed its functional vestiges and slip into the realms of surrealism, play and sensuality. Our bodies share an intimate relationship with these fabrics and textiles, from the clothes we wear, to the furnishings that decorate our houses. At the same time this relationship is fragile and fleeting; fashion dictates a constant change in taste. Our hope with this collaboration was to create something tactile and ephemeral, like the clothes we inhabit for the recital of our daily routines – delicate skins we shed with seasonal regularity. From gentle poses of the hand that are sketched out on sheets of paper and lines of laser-cut aluminium, to oversized figures/mannequins robed in intricately patterned fabric, the pieces present themselves in a theatrical, surrealist spirit.

 

SADIE WILLIAMS & CARLA BUSUTTIL

In highlighting the politics of algorithmic era information commodification, we use Google Adwords as material for exploring consumer hierarchies. Our “Google Adword Library” contains some of the most expensive words on auction: Mesothelioma. Lawyer. Blackjack. Cord Blood. Spread Betting. We re-channelled these words through the search engine, collaging image results on textiles through painting, bonding and printing. The installation includes a ‘tombola’ showroom display. The metallic structure stands as a confident, analogue representation of an abstract digital marketplace for words. The tombola also references ‘old school’ methods of enticing consumers – contrasted here with modern visual and digital methods of production.

SAMUEL ROSS OF A-COLD-WALL* & JULIE BORN SCHWARTZ

The starting point of the project was an exploration into the different layers that appear in Samuel’s designs. Working with the film media we wanted to play with the possibilities of light and transparency, like a collage of the different layers and structures of the clothes itself. The process was an ongoing back and forth inspiration: the musical score was made after some of the editing of the film, and the last film edit was made from the music’s compositions.

For sales enquiries contact the British Fashion Council.

Walter Van Beirendonck limited edition at Dover Street Market

This weekend sees the arrival of a bright, quirky new Walter Van Beirendonck installation at Dover Street Market, mirroring his electric and imaginative SS18 collection.

Designed by Alex Wolfe, the ‘Owl’s Whisper’ display reflects the geometric shapes, loud colours and sense of play at the heart of the collection. The new installation also coincides of the launch of new Walter Van Beirendonck items in store at Dover Street Market, with 40 limited edition, handmade t-shirts that combine parts of clothes from old collections. Get them while you can.

Walter Van Beirendonck

Walter Van Beirendonck

Walter Van Beirendonck

Walter Van Beirendonck

Walter Van Beirendonck at Dover Street Market

Walter Van Beirendonck

‘The fragility of plans that appear solid’: Tamar Guimarães and Kasper Akhøj at the De La Warr Pavilion

Until the 3rd of June, the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, will be transformed by immersive designs created by Copenhagen-based artists Tamar Guimarães and Kasper Akhøj, in collaboration with the designer Frederico Fazenda. This will be the very first public exhibition from Guimarães and Akhøj in the UK, who have previously shown work at LACMA and the Venice Biennale.

The exhibition presents moving image and photographic works that have been selected in response to the modernist architecture of the De La Warr Pavilion, and the curious social history of Bexhill-on-Sea. Together and separately, Guimarães and Akhøj explore the residual histories of art, design and architecture, drawing unexpected connections between states of rapture and modernity. The works on display include Studies for A Minor History of Trembling Matter (2017) and Captain Gervasio’s Family (2014), which both respond to research undertaken in the small Brazilian town of Palmelo, where many the inhabitants are Spiritist mediums. These films appear alongside Guimarães’ Canoas (2010), set in the home that architect Oscar Neimeyer built for himself outside Rio de Janeiro, and Akhøj’s Welcome (to the Teknival), 2009-17, a response to the restoration of Eileen Gray’s modernist villa e.1027. We spoke to Guimarães and Akhøj about the exhibition and its complex and varied works.

Where did the name I blew on Mr. Greenhill’s joints with a very ‘hot’ breath come from?

The phrase appears on the memoirs of Arthur Spray, who lived in Bexhill-on-Sea throughout the 1930s and had a cobbler shop on Station Road, a few streets away from the Pavilion. There, on the upper floor, Spray practised healing, through hypnosis, touch, and blowing on body parts with ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ breath. He understood the universe as composed of thought vibrations, and God, within it, as a wireless broadcasting station. The title invokes a healing impulse that runs, as a theme, throughout the exhibition, like the curtain that unfolds through the space.

Tamar Guimarães, Canoas (film still), 2010 © Tamar Guimarães, Courtesy of the artist and Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo

How do the works respond to the space they are occupying?

We discussed the space with Rosie Cooper, the Pavilion’s curator, and we all agreed that the window to the sea should stay as open as possible to allow people inside to look out and people outside to look in. But that is counter-intuitive when you are installing works that need darkness and silence, so we devised a large curtain that unfolds throughout the space, appearing and disappearing, so to say. The curtains were designed in collaboration with Frederico Fazenda and we had in mind the sea, the shore, the propagation of sound, the curves found in the work of Oscar Niemeyer and his collaborator Roberto Burle Marx.

There is an interesting connection with the original plans for the pavilion, which included a sculpture by Frank Dobson, who chose to depict Persephone, goddess of vegetation and Queen of the underworld. She was to stand on the Pavilion’s lawn, looking out to sea as if guarding her realm. The curtains function as dividers in the exhibition space but we also want to imagine that it might also stand between the earth and the spirit world, the domain of Persephone.

Take for example, Welcome (to the Teknival). This is a series of photographs of Villa E.1027, and you find many parallels with the pavilion. Known as Maison en Bord de Mer, Villa E.1027 is a modernist icon designed and built between 1926 and 1929 by Eileen Gray, in the Côte d’Azur. Taken from 2008 to 2017, the photographs that make up Welcome (to the Teknival) follow the process of renovation of Villa E.1027, now recognised as patrimony by the French state.

amar Guimarães, Canoas (film still), 2010 © Tamar Guimarães, Courtesy of the artist and Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo

How do the selected works reflect the last ten years of your careers?

The exhibition is not exactly a summary of our last ten years of work – we both have worked on significant projects that are not on display at the De La Warr Pavilion. But the works were selected in relation to the pavilion, which was designed by Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff, and would be known as the People’s Palace – a centre for health and leisure, of health through leisure, that brought the language of modern architecture to the British seaside.

To what extent is Spiritism a theme throughout the exhibition?

Spiritism is not the main theme throughout the exhibition. The exhibition themes are time, illness and recovery, yet two of the works engage with a Spiritist community in Palmelo, a very small town in the Brazilian planes. The town emerged in the 1930s around a Spiritist study group and a sanatorium. Half of the city’s inhabitants are psychic mediums who hold day jobs as teachers and civil servants, and partake in daily rituals of psychic healing. For this community, spirits intervene, teach and transform the material world.

Tamar Guimarães, Canoas (film still), 2010 © Tamar Guimarães, Courtesy of the artist and Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo

Why did you decide to focus on this particular moment in modernism in your film Canoas?

Casa das Canoas was designed by Oscar Niemeyer and was his home from 1951 to 1957, when he moved to the central plains of Brazil to work on the construction of the new capital, Brasília – a monumental project commissioned by president Juscelino Kubitschek as part of his ‘fifty years of prosperity in five’. During the 1950s, Canoas was the location of many gatherings of political and cultural figures, and its sensuous modernism contributed to the image of Brazil as an emerging modern paradise.

When the film was shot in 2010, there was a similar optimism reigning in Brazil. Yet the film overlaps the times: you have a sense of the past lingering into the present, showing that prosperity is a state of mind, and always only part of the story. And thus, Brazil’s progressive modernism and its often-celebrated ‘racial democracy’ return, as ghosts, promising a future that was not to be.

Kasper Akhoj, Welcome (To The Teknival), 2008-17 © Kasper Akhøj, Courtesy of the artist and Ellen De Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam

What do you think viewers will take away from the exhibition?

That is hard to tell. They might leave thinking of the contrast between the clean lines of modern architecture and the subtle substances that emanate from them; or perhaps of the fragility of plans that appear solid but which must be built on conditions that are permanently revised; they might think of electricity, of thought conduits, of hearing voices, of fits of slumber and of communication that begins with words, but eventually give way to tremors, cries, hums and beats.

Tamar Guimarães and Kasper Akhøj at the De La Warr Pavilion, open until 3rd June 2018. 

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Foam new talent exhibition

Foam magazine opens their new talent exhibition later this month, a celebration of 20 emerging photographers from across the globe. An annual event which seeks to give a platform to the best of new names coming through, Foam’s support has helped to launch the careers of many young photographers.

This year sees an exciting spectrum of work. Photographs by Hari Srikhao from Thailand comment on the role of the monarchy in society, while Vasantha Yogananthan captures the journey of the Hindu deity Rama in India. There are photo sculptures by American Mark Dorf, and intense examinations of the body by Alix Marie.

See highlights from emerging photography talents below.

Visit Foam New Talent exhibition in Amsterdam, London, New York and Frankfurt, from March 22nd 2018. Dates will vary.

From the series Kawakubo Interpreter of Dreams, 2017 | © Erik Madigan Heck

Untitled 1, 2015, from the series Traces, 2015 | © Weronika Gesicka, 2017

Landscape 16, from the series Transposition, 2017 | © Mark-Dorf

Featured image credit: Secret Door 2016, from the series A Myth of Two Souls 2013, ongoing | © Vasantha Yogananthan

 

 

 

Shoot the Women First: Twin meets artist Navine G. Khan-Dossos

Navine G. Khan-Dossos’ latest exhibition at The Breeder in Athens considers the theme of targets. Entitled Shoot The Women First, it draws on a command reported to be issued in the 1980s to members of West Germany’s elite GSG-9 anti-terrorist squad. The order forms the title of a book by Eileen McDonald, one of the many influences that worked to inform Dossos’ complex and multi-layered exhibition.

The opening of the exhibition on the first floor recreates a shooting range. The paintings begin with targets that use abstract shapes, and build until their depictions of humans are wholly recognisable. This movement to clarity is uneasy: at the moment you recognise the object, you also process a human will be shot. All the paintings are taken from actual targets. The tension is there again, with the paintings operating both as art and as a direct reflection of institutionalised killing. Curated as a shooting range, the audience is complicit in this complex relationship too – both a gallery visitor and a watchful bystander.

Downstairs in the gallery symbols on paintings refer to Discretionary Command training. Trainee shooters receive a chain of commands which require them to shoot at shapes and colours in a certain order. These objects represent an abstraction of human from human, and also of State from the individual. Especially of those considered to threaten existing structures.

Pink in Athens doesn’t have the millennial fashion connotations that it does in other European cities. Instead it evokes the colours of walls outside the brothels in the Metaxourgeio area, also the location of The Breeder gallery. The downstairs series was also informed by recent historical events around the area, specifically a case against a group of female drug-users in 2012, who were forced to take HIV tests. The women were publicly persecuted by the media and accused of grievous bodily harm for transmitting the virus through sex work.  The use of the colour in her paintings then opens up new interpretations; pink is no longer beautiful, but violent. A shadow of war-mongering red. As is typical throughout the exhibition, Khan-Dossos offers a new way of seeing. The viewer is taken by surprise.

Navine G.Khan-Dossos, Grey Discretionary Command Series I-VIII, 2017 | Photos courtesy of The Breeder / © Alexandra Masmanidi

A graduate of Art at Cambridge University, Arabic at Kuwait University, Islamic Art at the Prince’s School of Traditional Art in London, and with an MA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art & Design, Navine G. Khan-Dossos brings a rigorous and intellectual approach to understanding the world around us. Her abstract paintings allow for an ontological study of shapes and symbols; historical references from both East and West, alongside contemporary digital contexts, examine and reflect on themes such as the depiction of European converts to radical Islam (‘Echo Chamber’, 2017), to the use of symbols and codes in the creation of crossrail at the House of St Barnabas in London (A Year Without Movement, 2017).

Her works are often site specific, and multi-dimensional. The opening of Shoot the Women First was accompanied with a performance by – enacting the shifting relationship between the collective and the other. Twin caught up with Navine to discuss the performance of identities and the idea of the other.

When did you first encounter Eileen McDonald’s text? What was the immediate impact it had on you? 

Shoot The Women First by Eileen MacDonald was given to me for Christmas by my partner a couple of years ago. It raised a few eyebrows around the Christmas tree, that’s for sure. But my partner knows me pretty well, and given my long-term interest in female terrorists, it was a perfect gift for me. I read it immediately and have read it again many times since. But I also have shared it with those Im working with on this project, in order for us all to begin the conversation from the same page.

The book is (as far as I know) the first attempt by a journalist to tackle the subject of female terrorists, and given when it was written in 1991, the interviews she conducts are with women whose memories and experiences of conflict and action are very recent and you can really feel that in the fabric of the book. 

There are problems with it, such as an over-arching narrative that supposes that the violent political cause is somehow a child replacement for female terrorists; a cause into which they can put their maternal drive. This reduces women to a biological imperative of motherhood rather than seeing them as having genuine political will of their own, unconnected to their ovaries. This line of conclusion certainly dates the book, but I think as an archive of a specific time in history and the role of women within that turbulence, it’s a very valuable document and an inspiring one to begin something new to continue this dialogue in our own times.

Navine G.Khan-Dossos, Bulk Target 1-100, 2018 | courtesy of The Breeder / ©  Alexandra Masmanidi

In the accompanying essay to the exhibition Lisa Downing surmises that ‘ A “target,” then, by necessity, moves.’  What about this dynamic interested you?

Beyond this essay for the show, Lisa Downing thinks and writes more broadly about the role of the individual woman, the difficult woman, or the woman who finds herself unable to be part of a collective we and I think this is the issue that underpins the target too. How does a woman stand apart but also identify with the group? The question of the target, for me, is tied up in this question of the individual and the multitude, being able to be alone but without being isolated or singled out for attack. And I think this is a pertinent question we must take forward with us into a future where we dont have to be vulnerable or further this otherness by individuating oneself.

Through the curation and the targets you open a discussion around complicity – where do you hope the viewer will place themselves in this dialogue?

I really dont have any expectation of where the viewer should place themself within the work. It isnt so didactic as to suggest one position. The intention is to keep things open, to reflect on the many roles that can be played out in the scenario of the shooting gallery: the target, the target designer, the shooter, the bystander, the amateur weekend gun enthusiast, the professional killer. 

Navine G.Khan-Dossos, Shoot the Women First, Grey Discretionary Command Series I-VIII, 2017 |courtesy of The Breeder / ©  Alexandra Masmanidi

Why was it important to you to have a performance element of the exhibition? How did the collaboration come about?

This is the first time I have collaborated with a choreographer (Yasmina Reggad) and a group of dancers. Over a coffee in my studio when I was making he cardboard targets, Yamsina noticed how much the drying works resembled costumes, or certainly had the possibility of being worn. With her experience and her eyes, she saw not just the abstracted figure within the target, but how it could be embodied, given movement, and activated as part of the works scope beyond painting. 

It was a very natural collaboration and Yasmina and I have been thinking and practicing together over the past weeks and months to think how we can work in parallel and share this common ground of interest. 

The dancers will perform a mixture of martial arts-based movements choreographed within patterns used by riot police in crowd control situations. They will move those attending the opening of the show, pushing them out of the gallery, and controlling them through these delicate but powerful gestures. 

Shoot the Women First performance, choreographed by Yasmina Reggad for Navine G. Khan-Dossos exhibition opening | photo courtesy of the artist / ©  Alexandra Masmanidi

Im become quite fascinated by what a female army might look like in the future. The Kurdish female fighters of the YPJ (Kurdish Protection Units) continue to be a strong presence in my thoughts everyday, but I wonder also what ways of fighting and controlling crowds might be possible through other forms of intervention, which is why the inclusion of the martial arts is an interesting mode to explore. In a show that is dominated by the act of shooting and guns, this attempt to circumnavigate the use of this kind of instrument of violence is a way of imagining different possibilities for the future.  

In the show text you reference specific examples of the 2012 arrests of suspected sex workers in Athens, as well as other major moments of terrorism throughout contemporary history. Can you talk a little about your research process, and why the story of the Greek women spoke to you in particular?

From the moment I found out about this story I was gripped by it, but also by the way it effected the Greek people I asked about it, and how they recalled that moment in time. I wasnt yet living in Athens myself in 2012, so it was very much about exploring collective memory as well as more in-depth research. This case in some ways is very simple  an action made in the weeks leading up to a general election to make it look like the city was being cleaned up. But the complexity of the intermeshing subjects of HIV, of sex work, of the sanctity of family unit in Greece, also coalesce into something of great tragedy for the women at the heart of the events.

One of the first and most important influences on this research was the film Ruins by Zoe Mavroudi. She presented the story and the politics of what happened to these women in 2012 with a great dignity and power. Zoe and I discussed the making of the film and the issues surrounding it, but also the present situations of these women, and how not to lose sight of this case, but without re-presenting the women at the centre of the arrests, furthering the exploitation of their image.

Zoe introduced me to Apostolis Kalogiannis who was able to deepen my understanding of the current situation of sex work in Athens and how it has changed (or not) since 2012. This was an important way of grounding myself in the present rather than just looking back onto a concluded past event. There are important groups supporting vulnerable sex workers in Athens and there are ways for us to support their work through art, and by keeping the subject alive and visible.

Νavine G.Khan-Dossos, Pink Discretionary Command Series V-XII, 2017 | courtesy of The Breeder / ©  Alexandra Masmanidi

We spoke about the desire to focus on this story without re-enacting the violence that the women experienced in 2012. Could you elaborate on your approach to this?

The works are not and should never be considered a re-enactment of the situation in 2012. Those events are part of a much wider series of influences that went into making the works. But one important aspect that did derive directly from the issues raised by that case was how to represent women without returning to the low-grade viral images that swept through the Internet and the Greek media when the story broke.

I do not believe we need to re-present or indeed rely on these damaging images. Instead there must be a way to use a functional, diagrammatical, symbolic language that tells a wider story about the abstraction of the human body as a necessary device to distance oneself from the subject/target.

It is possible to make work about violence that in itself is not violent. It can be a contemplative or meditative space instead of a shocking one  a space where the viewer can consider the subject matter and recall what they already know inside themselves, including their own experiences, rather than forcing my narrative upon them.

I have been working on this approach to portraying difficult subject matter for a few years now, and it always changes depending on the subject matter. But I feel strongly that in this time of mass consumption of digital images of violence, there might be other ways to talk about it that don’t rely on the images themselves and getting caught up in that loop of the poor or degraded image (as Hito Steyerl might say). 

Νavine G.Khan-Dossos, Pink Discretionary Command Series V-XII, 2017 | courtesy of The Breeder / ©  Alexandra Masmanidi

Do particular shapes and colours present themselves instinctively or do you always approach shapes and symbols to use in your work based on their pre-existing references and meanings?

All of my material comes from things that exist in the real world as functional objects or images. In this case all the paintings are based on Discretionary Command targets  a form of shooting practice target that relies on listening to commands and shooting the coloured shapes in the order given. So the shapes and colours have an inherent meaning within this context and a relationship to the human body in terms of organs (shoot to kill) and limbs (shoot to maim).

I have also included pink triangles as an additional shape to the pre-existing forms of the command targets, as a way of including the history and politics of the gay rights movement, which also has an important place in this work about the targeting of marginalised groups. 

Shoot The Women First is on at The Breeder Gallery, Athens, until March 10th. 

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Meet the finalists of LOEWE Craft Prize 2018

The Loewe Craft Prize will take place in May of this year, and already there’s a buzz around the finalists. Comprising of 30 artists from 17 countries around the world, the shortlist celebrates creativity and innovation in craft. A reflection of the diverse talents working at the moment.

Creative director of LOEWE Jonathan Anderson conceived the award to champion creativity. A part of an ongoing commitment to locate LOEWE within a wider cultural context. Speaking ahead of the second year of the awards, the designer commented: ‘Craft is the essence of LOEWE. As a house, we are about craft in the purest sense of the word. That is where our modernity lies, and it will always be relevant.’

The full list of nominees, along with examples of their work, are below.

Paul Adie (United Kingdom)

Paul Adie searching for solid ground III

Gunilla Maria Åkesson (Sweden)

Gunilla Maria Aakesson

ARKO (Japan)

Arko Asako Sato

Yeonsoon Chang (Republic of Korea)

Chang Yeonsoon, MatrixIII Time, Space, Human.

Min Chen (China)

Chen Min

Hae Cho Chung (Republic of Korea)

Hae Cho Chung

Steffen Dam (Denmark)

Stefan Dam

Sam Tho Duong (Germany)

Sam Tho Duong

Sara Gackowska (Poland)

Sara Gackowska

Ann van Hoey (Belgium)

Ann Van Hoey: 2017. The Earthenware Ferrari

Joe Hogan (Ireland)

Joe Hogan

Marie Janssen (Austria)

Marie Janssen

Joonyong Kim (Republic of Korea)

Joonyong Kim

Christopher Kurtz (United States)

Christopher Kurtz

Takuro Kuwata (Japan)

Takuro Kuwata

Jennifer Lee (United Kingdom)

Jennifer Lee

Deirdre McLoughlin (Ireland)

Deirdre McLoughlin

Richard McVetis (United Kingdom)

Richard McVetis

Simone Pheulpin (France)

Simone Pheulpin

Irina Razumovskaya (Russian Federation)

Irina Rezumovskaya

Aneta Regel (United Kingdom)

Aneta Regel

Ryuhei Sako (Japan)

Ryuhei Sako

Rita Soto (Chile)

Rita Soto

Laurenz Stockner (Italy)

Laurenz Stockner

Wycliffe Stutchbury (United Kingdom)

Wycliffe Stutchbury

Mercedes Vicente (Spain)

Mercedes Vicente

Julian Watts (United States)

Julian Watts

Takeshi Yasuda (United Kingdom)

Takeshi Yasuda

Ashley YK Yeo (Singapore)

Ashley YK Yeo

Shohei Yokoyama (Japan)

Shohei Yokoyama

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The politics of the Body: Twin meets Ranny Cooper

Artist Ranny Cooper examines and explores the female form as a way of addressing issues around self identity and discovery. She shifts our usual associations away from sex and provocation and asks us instead to focus on the ways in which the body is bound in objectification and intrusion, yet also in admiration and desire. Cooper uses her own body as her muse as it has been a positive way for her to address the issues she faces with her own body politics. Inspired by Jenny Saville and her portrayal of the body and all of its fluid forms, Cooper enjoys celebrating this idea of the grotesquely beautiful. In her series ‘Unbound’, the minimal, fluid lines and colours of Cooper’s mix media drawings offer a thoughtful and sensitive representation of the female form. Her use of leatherwear highlights the friction between submission and empowerment as she depicts the action, restrictions and effects of harnesses as a means of representing the duality of lust and scrutiny that women’s bodies are subjected to.

Ranny Cooper, Unbound

Originally from Brighton, Cooper has been based in East London’s Hackney for the last five years, where she spent the first three at London College of Fashion studying Fashion Illustration. The product of a rather bohemian and idyllic childhood, Cooper thinks this may be where her openness towards nudity came from and why she doesn’t feel that her sexuality defines her. I don’t know if I am defined by my sexuality, but know that I address it very boldly. I have always been very sexually open with my body. I grew up in an extremely naked household – it is a good way for me to express how I am feeling as a women. A lot of people see my work and think of it in very black and white terms, as simply sexual, open and in your face. But when you understand the meaning behind it, it is actually very personal. So, it is about sexuality but the point is there is also much more behind the surface.

Cooper acknowledges that the personal element to her work is varied depending on the series she is focusing on. While she always uses the body as her canvas and main subject, the motives behind her use of it are diverse.With my body print series I was expressing different emotions that I felt when I was life modelling. When you are exposed to a crowd of people and you are nude it encourages a range of emotions and I would find so many different thoughts running through my head. It really does boil down to each individual pose having a unique emotion that comes with it. Then when it came to my series ‘Unbound’, I was addressing the misconceptions people often have around sexuality, especially when it comes to the use of leather and harnesses. I involved the harness as a means of highlighting the importance of control for women when it comes to their bodies, which can be both a positive and negative in todays society.

Over the last few weeks, Cooper has started working on a new project, ‘Dismemberment’. In this series she fragments the body. The project merges different parts of the anatomy to explore the cross section between where the human form goes from the sight of desire to the sight of grotesque. Cooper explains how she is taking a new direction with her use of the body as a canvas and her growing obsession with how different angles can make the figure look almost distorted. This project is a little less sexual in a way as it focuses on dismembered and deconstructed figures. I have always been interested in the body looking distorted and out of worldly in a way, which transpired into this idea of how the body can go from a site of desire to a site of grotesque. With this project I still use the naked body but by dismembering it I wish to express the chaos we are often faced with when we let our thoughts run away with us, highlighting the confusion and madness that the mind often provokes.

As Cooper readdresses her practice through the altered perception she now places on the body, she discusses how she defines beauty:

I believe that it is completely in the eye of the beholder. I don’t think there is a typical ideal of beauty. For me, beauty comes from weakness and imperfection. Like art, it is totally subjective and I really don’t think it can be defined any more. Obviously you have ideals that the media represents to people of how we should look, which is a big issue. When I started doing such figurative drawings, initially I focused on slender beautiful women but gradually this made me feel more and more uncomfortable so I started using myself as my own reference – that really made me target issues I had with myself and helped me come to terms with them. I don’t think beauty is a definition I think it is a perception.

Ranny Cooper, Unbound

With this idea of beauty as perception rooted in subjectivity, Ranny explains how Hans Bellmer, Louise Bourgeois and Jean Cocteau have been lifelong inspirations for her. Likewise, the minimalist linear drawings by Austrian artist Egon Schiele and Mapplethorpe’s fetishistic yet sensual images have been important artistic sources. More recently, she credits the work of photographer Maisie Cousins, whose zoomed images of the female body taken from the series ‘grass, peonies, bum’ are some of her favourites. While Ranny is keen to explore the possibility of living somewhere like Berlin, given it’s notably liberal attitudes within youth culture, she has decided to dedicate the next two years to nurturing her practice here in London. Ranny Cooper will be showing her new series ‘Dismemberment’ at Cafe 119 throughout April. In the meantime, you can follow her practice and intense obsession with poached eggs via her Instagram @rannycooper. 

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There is a lot more fun to be had: Twin Meets Alexander Coggin

Absurd and a little bit off, but always funny. Alexander Coggin excels in the art of tender parody. This February he shows a broad range of photographs in his largest exhibition yet.

Whether it’s spending 48 hours with Gigi Hadid, snapping pictures of the supermodel being hand fed b12 drops by her mother, taking photos of Frieze art fair visitors’ clavicles, or documenting the colourful country club lives of his midwestern inlaws; Alexander Coggin always finds the absurdity in every situation. With warmth and curiosity he unveils the soft underbelly of any desirable lifestyle.“That image of Gigi with the drops is more telling than anything that you’re going to get from a staged photograph,” Coggin explains, “it says a lot about the relationship between her and her mom, Yolanda. It’s beautiful and funny and bizarre and tender in a way.”

The current exhibition, “Yeah, Magic” at Ninasagt Galerie in Düsseldorf is vast, over a 100 photographs framed and unframed in all shapes and sizes. There are images printed on mugs, clocks, sweatshirts – and on a delightfully ridiculous pair of flip flops.

Over the years Coggin has become known for his personal mix between street and still life photography, a colourful aesthetic and his unique sense of humour. His pictures capture the moments in-between perfection, and they almost exaggerate the flaws and quirks of each subject. But instead of being exploitative or down right mean – a not uncommon thing in the world of street photography – the pictures are loving and relatable. And a great way to ward off any incipient social media depression.


There is something very liberating with an old lady arm purposefully hovering over a large plate of shrimp or the low key eroticism of a gear shift. Most of all it is fun. I think my most successful images incorporate the full human-ness that live art and theatre give you. It takes the character, the specificity of the situation, the personas we see and don’t see about ourselves and filters all of that into a single still image. At best, my work is very much alive.”

Yeah Magic © Alexander Coggin


Every article ever written (this might not be entirely true) about Alexander Coggin mentions theatre in some way – you have to. It it his one main influence and his educational background. It is also, in an unexpected way, the reason he found and fell in love with photography. Coggin and his husband  moved to Berlin in 2011 to take part of the then booming theatre and performance scene. But the complexity of making and acting in theatre became overwhelming.

– After leaving the structure of school I realised that making theatre is such a collaborative process. You need to find a production, a director, a piece of work, a house that can mount the production. My creativity became stagnant. I got into photography as a way to release this pent up creativity in a solo way, beholden to none other. I really started to enjoy Photography when I realised that I could bring the things I love about theatre into the work. It was an antidote, a therapeutic transformation.

Do you think you’re going to go back to the theatre at some point?

– I think so. I still enjoy the binary of live arts vs. still imagery – it’s either one or the other. I think that ultimately, they’ll both come together in filmmaking. That’s the natural progression, but I don’t want to rush this because I want to do it in a way that feels authentic to my eye and my interests.

Your images are often quite raw and people show sides of themselves that you usually don’t see. How do you make the subject feel so comfortable?  

– There are a couple of ways to get these authentically voyeuristic shots. The work I’ve done with my husband’s family [Brothers and Others], for instance:  Because they are my family, I’m comfortable around them and they don’t change their behaviour when I shoot. It took years to get to that point. When I spend a couple of weeks with them I take thousands and thousands of images, that’s all edited into a finite body of work. I get lucky in terms of numbers. And time.

And when you do a project like the one with Gigi, when you only had a certain amount of time?

– If I have a commissioned piece like that I find that the most effective way is to be a fly on the wall. Which I’m not good at. A flash is very telling. If I wasn’t shooting with flash I could be more voyeuristic, but since I like to mediate images with flash – I stick out. I have to be a little bit more sneaky about it. It’s not a natural place for me to be at all. I like to be engaged, part of the conversation and making people feel at ease with me. But when I don’t have the luxury of time, I have to be a bit more sneaky, a bit more pushy. Again, not at all a natural state for me.

Yeah Magic © Alexander Coggin

Let’s talk a little more about your husbands family, how do they react to your images?

– Well, it shifted with them. I was always very nervous, kind of looking at the images and feeling like I was taking advantage of them. Especially the British Journal of Photography story that ran. They used the word privileged so many times. I was fine with it, and I know it was a necessary and an honest framing, but I felt nervous about how my husband’s family was going to perceive that frame. I called all of them, and surprisingly, no one cared. I think partly that’s because I have conversations with them when I’m shooting. We talk about how we can amplify their character, or how to take the character into something that is beyond them. Just to kind of satirise themselves, letting them explore what they represent too.

They’re part of the project?

– Definitely. If something lovely happens that is authentic, but I didn’t quite get it right in the camera, I’ll just ask them to do it again and they’ll do it. It’s great. They are part of the image making process, it gives them ownership.

Interesting. Because it can be a tricky relationship, that with your in laws.

– We have had long theoretical conversations about some great quotes by Garry Winogrand. He talks about how when you put four corners on an image you change the truth of it and create a ‘new fact’. The way they are represented is not as they are, but it is as they appear in that moment. And that moment could change from shot to shot; this isn’t the reality of who they are. I think they are comfortable with that persona play. I got lucky with them. We have the safety of our relationship, but I have had a hard time translating that element to commissioned work. Then it’s more difficult, I just don’t have the time, so, as I said, I have to be sneaky.

Have they ever vetoed anything that you’ve done?

–  I’ve given them the option to veto anything. Sometimes I don’t feel comfortable shooting stuff, but they’re like “Oh get that!”.

Yeah Magic © Alexander Coggin

Are you ever afraid of going to far, of being “mean”?

– If I shot ‘mean’, if I shot in a way that was disrespectful, inconsiderate, or in a way that the subject wasn’t okay with; I wouldn’t even be able to look at that image. I would not want that in my repertoire of imagery, it would make me feel shitty. So I feel like I have pretty good internal awareness of how the subject is feeling when I shoot. As I’m interested in candid moments and character it can be a little bit dangerous. There is one shot that I still feel conflicted about. It’s my friend Susan, and she said it was fine, but she doesn’t look great at all. Still it’s very telling, my favourite part of the picture is the alcohol and the caffein. You can see her displacement. There is something discontented about her, but it’s not a flattering picture.

I feel like art made by millenials often has humour. Do you think there is some reason for that?

– It could just be as easy as a response to the hard times we live in. As a millennial, as an American millennial, I’ve just been handed a shit plate for my entire adult life. But if you look hard enough there is a lot more fun to be had, a lot more life around you. I feel like I have a little more control if I can find humour in it. It’s just how I see the world.

You can see “Yeah, Magic” at Ninasagt Galerie in Düsseldorf from February 16th until March 18th. 

 

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