The new academic year always begins so quickly…you forget its pace until you are back in the thick of it…and, at the same time, the art world wakes up from a slowed down summer full of flair, fire and fashion for the coming year ahead. It’s already November somehow…and Frieze London 2014 has been and gone. Here are a few of my thoughts, likes and documentation from the professional preview day…with an introduction by the wonderful Janet Street-Porter…I love her words.
‘The Frieze art fair costs £33 to get in to – small beer to the army of wealthy art-lovers and collectors who turn up in their thousands. Stick-thin women in designer outfits with frozen faces totter around the aisles, making notes on iPads while whispering into phones. Beyoncé arrived in London last week and visited Anish Kapoor’s studio – art is the must-have accessory for the mega-rich these days. There were no chairs to sit down and rest, and the show is vast. But this is an event in which the attendees are as self-important as the wares. The stands seemed sparse – maybe it makes art seem more special if there’s not much of it. The best display was curated by Mark Wallinger for Hauser and Wirth entitled A Study in Red and Green, based on Freud’s analysis of the two functions of the brain, the rational and conscious and the irrational and unconscious. Wallinger has constructed a room inspired by Freud’s study in Hampstead, and placed his chosen objects in one of the two spaces, inviting the viewer to decide why I loved Paul McCarthy’s photographs. At another stand I bought a print by Juergen Teller of a hairy pig with her piglets for less than £300 – so not everything at Frieze is silly money.’ – ‘You’d expect somewhere to sit for £33 a ticket…’ – Janet Street-Porter (The Independent, Friday 17 October 2014)
Like the annual ritual that Frieze is…the fashion parade double/triple kissing name card hug-o-rama coffee fizz no time catch up…I went with my Shanghai friend Effy Hong who has been studying in London for the last year. She is great to go to exhibitions and shows with as we share words of brutal honesty about what we see, get sidetracked by our mobile phones and social medias, and chat, chat and chat some more to people we know in the ever insular Chinese contemporary art world. It was so nice to bump into so many familiar faces and minds too from Girolamo to Gabriel, Laura to Violeta, Leo to Ian and more…one big familiar art family that reminds you and grounds you in the industry that’s your life(style). Every single day. To me, the fair seemed idle or static in part, no real shockers or punch apart from the odd euphoric interlude of art, performance or sound that took me away from the white noise and consciousness of the art fair building. They are referenced in detail below. For some galleries, it seemed more about abstracting the space for impact rather than conceptual value, and directing an underlying sense of play versus protest…with a nice undercurrent of the lo-fi, as shown in the Gagosian’s newspaper info zine below, that many of the galleries had produced for the event. A nice touch. Again, very (print) fashion.
Alongside the many safe and expected works on show that had Effy and I “walking on by”, there were a handful of key favourites for me…the first a minimalist sound art installation and graphic space structure – ‘Probestück’ by Olaf Nicolai at Galerie EIGEN + ART. ‘In the 1950s, the Greek composer Iannis Xenakis worked as the construction manager building the Dominican monastery designed b Le Corbusier, ‘Sainte-Marie de la Tourette’, near Eveux-sur-l’Arbresie. In this period, he also wrote his first musical composition that uses mathematical stochastic procedures: “Metastaesis”, a piece for an orchestra of 61 musicians. For the convent’s sunlit corridors and facades, Xenakis designed the ‘Pans de verre ondulatoires’ – banks of windows in variable horizontal and vertical arrangements. Although these segmentations seem like random rhythms, they follow strict mathematical principles using Le Corbusier’s proportional standard, the “modulor”. Xenakis emphasises the significance of the modulor for his music and states the architecture is “petrified music”. The work ‘Probestück 1, 2, 3’ (specimen 1, 2, 3) takes up this constellation and stage the transfer of methods of composition as a translation of architecture into sound.’ The proportions of the three graphic structures are likewise based on the mathematical calculations of the modulor. But here they are understood not only as templates for spatial design, but also as sound notations that stimulate the variants of acoustic and physical motion. A soprano and a counterpart interpret the structures in their respective solo piece; in a third variation, we hear a duet of both voices.’ I was frozen, captivated, mapping, sensing, envisaging a topology of experience and space…
One of the key live projects was in booth L3 at the Green Tea Gallery with the United Brother’s (artists Tomoo and Ei Arakawa) project ‘Does This Soup Taste Ambivalent?’, which presents a dilemma to fair visitors, by offering portions of soup made by the artists’ mother from vegetables grown within the region of Fukushima’s 2011 nuclear disaster. The soup was given away daily from 1pm, which Effy and I loved…whilst a few of our friends pulled their faces not understanding how we could let the liquid pass our lips. The Green Tea Gallery was founded in 2011 in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster inviting artists to collaborate on new projects in the region. This project reminded me directly of the social intervention food practice of Japanese artist Shimabuku…
One of the Frieze Projects 2014…booth P1…’1NVERS1ONS’, a ballet by Nick Mauss that was performed continually throughout the entire duration of Frieze London 2014. Mauss constructed a ‘living stage’ on which a new ballet was performed each day, with members of the Northern Ballet, Leeds and the National Youth Ballet, London. These durational performances took place on a stage that had both a visible stage and backstage, responding to the art fair environment as a place of constant movement and social dance. The ballet was accompanied and interrupted by newly commissioned texts and music. This work, much like many I’ve mentioned here, hit a personal chord relating to my many and on-going years of ballet training. The durational aspect to this piece won me…purely from an intensity level as I know how hard you have to push your body and physicality when training. It is an art in it’s own right…and deserves to be put on a conceptual pedestal of this kind. I just wish I could have spent more time with it, in it…in the dancers process and presence.
A particularly special text art find was by Anne Collier at Corvi-Mora London. I have a soft spot for all things text art, language, semiotics, translation…and also archival materials, so I simply stood and smiled at these works. ‘The imagery she chooses is often romantic, sentimental or clichéd. Her art works use received images, handed down to us from the cultural world of the mass media that surrounds us. They are also pictures that she – and we – somehow find irresistible. They refer to an intimate world of feelings – but she retains a critical detachment about these widely available, commodified images. Many of her photographs themselves feature a photographic image. She uses clichéd posters, magazine and album covers, photographed against flat, plain surfaces, so that the depth in her photographs is almost non-existent. Very little comes between the images and her overall photograph. Yet the two remain absolutely distinct. Her work can be seen as perpetuating an art that questions the possibility of originality in image-making.’ (Nottingham Contemporary). Stark photographic archival simplicity, guided by the textual questioning and sentiment…the power and definition of words, sentences and language…the importance of these understandings…what is their place?