Friday, December 11, 2009

Marcus Coates: "All Creatures Great And Small" Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland

Marcus Coates
Human Report
Single Channel Video
7:14 minute loop
Courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery, UK
British Council Collection

Zacheta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki, Warsaw

All Creatures Great and Small

18th December 2009 – 21st February, 2010

All Creatures Great and Small develops themes initiated in the exhibition Hot/Cold — Summer Loving shown in Zacheta in 2007 that presented different forms of love, including the love humans feel for animals.

The forthcoming exhibition concentrates only on the problem of the world of animals, exploring artists' diverse takes on this problem and the range of ways of visualizing it in art. The point of entry for the exhibition is the desire to overcome the dogmatic anthropocentrism that places the human in the centre of the world as a privileged species of the highest ontological status. This viewpoint continues to dominate in contemporary science, and as a consequence we witness the exclusion of other species/phenomena of life on earth from the sphere of scientific knowledge in terms of their subjectivity or rights.

The theory of evolution presented in the book The Origin of Species (for which this year was a double anniversary, since it was 150 years since it was first published and 200 years since the birth of its author, Charles Darwin) put humans on the summit of the animal hierarchy, but not as a separate ‘super-animal’, but as a species that was part and parcel of nature and subject to its processes in the chain of natural changes. In 1872, Darwin published another book: On the Expression of Emotion in Humans and Animals, describing the world of animals through expressions of emotions which up until that point has been the purview only of the human species. This was a revolutionary thought for its day which presented animals and people not as separate or antagonistic worlds, but as connected to one another by degrees of similarity and close ties.

Although discontented commentators write that contemporary science generally encounters the Other only at its daily meal times (animals are often included in the group of all Others excluded by society or existing at its margins, beyond the ‘centre’), nonetheless worthy of attention is a new wave of books, accounts and texts written between the 1960s and today (a large part in which was no doubt played by the ecological movements and struggles for animal rights that emerged on the wave of revolutionary changes in the 60s) formulating new approaches to the non-human world, its relations with the human world and vice-versa, and thus opening up new philosophical or ethical questions.

One of the elements in the radical changes in art, that also began in the 1960s, has been the fundamental change undergone in the way that artists approach the animal world and the relations between people and animals. The works shown visualize this world in its diverse aspects through the use of less or more engaged observation, the pleasure of watching, touching or possessing through domestication, the pleasures experienced by animals themselves in play, but also the question of enclosing their existences into the ghetto known as Zoological Garden. Works also make reference to difficult questions concerning the use of animals as commodities, of causing them pain and suffering, of eating their bodies. Many works upturn the semantics of animals, giving them the symbolic significance which culture has denied them through civilisational change. In others, animals become participants in experiments through which we observe their mutual interactions, or are also a part of formal artistic experiments. Amongst the questions relating to the relations between humans and animals are to be found works on the animalist aspect of human nature and on the desire to identify with an Other by ‘becoming animal’.

The exhibition presents this world from a human perspective (as we do not know any other), and thus in the background also sketches out the image of humans as they emerges through their relations with the animal world.

The exhibition presents the works of the following artists:

Marina Abramovic, Vito Acconci, Pilar Albaracin, Francis Alys, Dan Attoe, Roger Ballen, Kuba Bąkowski, Joseph Beuys, Bogna Burska, John Bock, Olaf Brzeski, Mircea Cantor, David Claerbout, Marcus Coates, Peter Coffin, Anna Dębska, Mark Dion, VALIE EXPORT, Angus Fairhurst, Peter Fischli&David Weiss, Peter Friedl, Leszek Golec&Tatiana Czekalska, Douglas Gordon, Jean-Charles Hue, Elżbieta Janczak-Wałaszek, Agnes Janich, Christian Jankowski, Marina Kappos, Mike Kelley, Kristof Kintera, Grzegorz Kowalski, Igor Krenz, Natalia LL, Yuri Leiderman, Dominik Lejman, Marcin Maciejowski, Artur Malewski, Chris Marker, Rafał Milach, Ciprian Muresan, Yach Paszkiewicz, Włodzimierz Pawlak, Elisa Pône, Marc Quinn, Jozef Robakowski, Zygmunt Rytka, Alain Séchas, Ene-Liis Semper, Deborah Sengl, Carolee Schneemann, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Roman Signer, Dusan Skala, Gabrielle Stellbaum, Eric Swenson, Javier Téllez, Gabriela Vanga, Minette Vári, Bill Viola, Martin Walde, Marek Wasilewski, Boyd Webb, William Wegman, Paweł Wieckowiak, The Wooster Group, Wunderteam, Erwin Wurm.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ant Macari and Oliver Beck: "Thank You For Staying #2" Platform North East, Newcastle, UK

Ant Macari and Oliver Beck
Thank You For Staying #2


19:00 - social space, Star and Shadow cinema, Stepney Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Thank You for Staying #2 is a re-enactment of a 2008 performance by Raymond Pettibon and Mike Watt for the Earwax series at Riverside Art Museum, LA. This is live art as mimesis which attempts to reveal tensions between aspiration and failure: celebrity and public, plastic and diachronic arts and the boundaries between rural and urban in the context of Americana as experienced by two teenage skater punks growing up in the Scottish Borders.

Excerpts from a proposal....

The title 'Thank You for Staying #2' refers to the main difficulty of live art: holding the attention of the audience. Re-enacting 'EARWAX' a performance/ gig hybrid, which happened relatively recently, only some 20 months ago - neither too fresh to be a response or too long to have settled into an intelligible historical context - is like performing a cover version before it's had time to accrue a patina of history. This homage to the progenitors (Pettibon and Watt) of a particular brand of punk by two aspiring devotees (with little to no experience or charisma) is a kind of impotent gesture and brings into focus the trans-Atlantic delay we sometimes experience in cultural exchange in contemporary art.

At the centre of human discourse is remix. As well as engaging in a critique on originality, the aim of this action is to examine the nature of the plastic (painting) and the diachronic arts (music) by direct comparison, seeking to give the two an equal duration. Like sand painting or water calligraphy; the artist's material intention is transitory. This aligns visual art with speech music and performance in as much as it brings painting (in this case) to meet with music on its own terms.

In Pettibon and Watt's original performance, the drawings which were generated during this performance were kept and displayed in the Riverside Art Museum's programme under the title 'Thank You for Staying,' a nod to the time endured by their audience (90 minutes). Our version of the performance (25 minutes) however, aims to highlight the transitory nature of language in a live situation by destroying the work at the end of the performance by loading a shredder accompanied by screaming.

Beck will play riffs and improvisation informed by Watt. Macari will make black and white paintings using a Japanese brush with transducer (pickup) in the style of Pettibon and in response to Beck's playing and informed by stories of Beck's experience as a punk rock fan/ skateboarder growing up in Kelso, UK.

Re-enactment itself is interesting as both Beck and Macari grew up in suburban towns with the American subculture of LA and NY in their minds. In an attempt to live out scenarios from the skate videos which had a big influence on them; they would – oblivious to one another – share an aim to re-enact scenes and tricks from these videos, round the back of Kwiksave or the Co-Op in their parochial towns. The rolling hills of the Scottish Borders, scenic though they are, reveal little of the horizon. In this respect those who live there should expect to experience limited horizons both physically and psychological. These conditions often push escapism to its zenith, accounting for the high percentage of addiction and drug related deaths in this area of Scotland. The two share a preoccupation with Americana, a cultural exoticism which represents an extremely different experience to a Borders town. It's a type of escapism in which you can play an active role, with the potential for reinvention and making it your own.

The piece asks these questions:

What is the value of temporary (plastic) art work in the context of live art?

Where should our emphasis lie: on the act or the product of the act?

How does one address and gauge aspiration and failure through performance?


Visual artists Macari and Beck share a common interest in Americana. Specifically West Coast American punk and DIY culture from the 80s and 90s as a manifestation of escapism to youths growing up in rural and suburban areas in the South of Scotland. Macari and Beck grew up in Galashiels and Kelso respectively; they first met in Gateshead some years later while working as technicians at BALTIC CCA. Both share an interest in performance and art as a way of exploring the potential for reciprocity between image, text, sound and audience. The two have never worked together before, although they would like to start a post-punk band. Somehow, I think this is the closest they'll ever come to achieving that.


Two people dressed in a style between LA hillbilly and surf bum standing on a stage containing; a flat top writing desk (featuring a lamp, art materials and a swivelling mirror mounted directly above the work surface by which the audience can view the painting work in progress), a calligraphy brush and paper mounted with transducers, a bass guitar and valve amp, a smaller amp, two microphones with stands, a PA system, a paper shredder and two glasses of water. OB plays bass guitar riffs influenced by Watt. AM makes paintings in response to OB's sounds in the style of Pettibon. Both AM and OB recite poetry and aphorisms into the microphones during the performance. The performance ends with OB and AM screaming (as the expression of cosmic totality in a pre-verbal language) into microphones as they put each painting methodically into a paper shredder.

Richard Rigg: "Suns Neither Rise Nor Set" Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Art, UK

Richard Rigg Two Writing Desks, False Drawer 2009

Suns Neither Rise Nor Set

An exhibition curated by the first year MA Curating Contemporary Art, Royal College of Art
Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Art, Stevens Building, Jay Mews, SW7 2EU
Opening Wednesday 9 December 2009, 6.30 — 8.30pm
Exhibition continues 10 — 18 December 2009

Suns Neither Rise Nor Set brings together work by Vanessa Billy, Richard Hughes, Nina Beier & Marie Lund, The Atlas Group / Walid Raad, Richard Rigg, and Kim Rugg. Using everyday objects, archival materials and collage techniques, these works call into question the processes through which reality and illusion are constructed in visual communication and perception.

Vanessa Billy's Suns neither rise nor set (2008), from which the exhibition takes its title, alludes to the fact that everyday events such as the rising and setting of the sun, are not objective truths but part of a subjective system of symbols and narratives that supports our understanding of reality and perceived position in it. Whereas Billy looks to expose such fictions, The Atlas Group / Walid Raad, claim new ones. Their renegotiations of contested historical memory take the form of presentations of archival documents of Lebanon's recent past, which are themselves of questionable authenticity.

Nina Beier & Marie Lund also engage with notions of the archive. In The Archives (2008), the content of second-hand peace posters is buried beneath the weight of a fold, denying the original authors their protest and quashing past, unrealised hopes for the future. Along with Kim Rugg's A Single Balloon Drifting Skywards (2008), an evocative reconfiguration of the language and graphic conventions of a daily newspaper, Beier and Lund's series points towards the hierarchies in place in the distribution of information and how these can affect our interpretation of events.

The reworking of everyday objects is also apparent in the playful and illusory propositions of Richard Hughes and Richard Rigg. Rigg has made a precise but flawed replica of his own desk, whereas Richard Hughes presents us with a shattered clock face, which provocatively questions the authority of time.

In different ways, each of the artists in this exhibition interrogate or deconstruct weighty or complex notions. In doing so, they bring to light the uncertainties that pervade the production and reception of knowledge, helping us to visualise the oscillating line between fact and fiction.

Gallery opening hours 10am - 6pm Monday - Saturday by appointment. Please contact Vanessa Boni at or 07595 154 220

With thanks to Laura Bartlett, Nazareno Crea, Nettie Horn, Limoncello, Anthony Reynolds, The Modern Institute, Workplace Gallery and Soraya Rodriguez for their kind help and support.