What might be seen as a cross between a dance, a mime and a photo shoot, Cypriot artist Maria Hassabi’s live performances incorporate choreographic movements through time and space, common human gestures and the expected behaviour of the audience, to create a startling performance that viewers might mistake for someone taking a break from work.
In fact the whole performance Plastic (2016) at MOMA seems to be created around the expected reaction of the visitors to the museum, which can be characterized as one of ‘indifference’ or ‘obliviousness’. Perhaps it is a New York phenomenon, or an American one, where the avoidance of eye contact is preached to children against anyone who might be spending time doing something on the floor, otherwise trouble would befall them. And so people have become good at pretending that nothing’s wrong, even if all around people are falling down.
Berlin based, Iranian artist Nairy Baghramian’s sculptures challenge established notions in the socio-political-artistic climate, using elements of the title, the human body, gender and the exhibition space itself in the process. In Retainer (2013) organically shaped sheets of cast silicon, reminiscent of teeth, are held up by chrome steel struts, reminiscent of braces, and are arranged in a semi-circular fashion, somewhat like a person’s lower jaw.
While one wonders if he or she has been eaten or become an orthodontist, the piece examines the social notions surrounding ‘space’. By scaling it up, turning one of the most private spaces inside our bodies into a public exhibition, it forces a re-examination of the words ‘examination’, ‘viewing’ or ‘appreciation’.
London based, New Zealand artist Francis Upritchard makes figurine sculptures that embody elements from different epochs, creating characters in various guises and gestures that espouse uncertain intentions and ambiguous meanings.
Disconcerting and slightly deviant, these characters traverse across the ages and cultures, blending the ancient and the (post) modern, eastern and western cultures and sometimes even across gender lines. They generally embody an inherent familiarity; their ambiguously familiar gestures are reminiscent of someone that one might have seen somewhere before, but can’t quite remember where exactly.
The paintings of Israeli artist Tsibi Geva can be seen as a form of neo-abstract expressionism, with references to Robert Rauschenberg and Gerhard Richter, with strong, stark brush strokes and high contrast. His sculptural installations on the other hand are a lot more realistic. Both however draw on the symbols and iconography of everyday life in Tel Aviv.
The keffiyeh, which is a Lebanese scarf with a fish net pattern worn around the head, came to symbolize the Palestinian struggle for a national identity and the armed Intifada uprisings. However the fish net pattern can also in some ways be seen as a chain link fence, as seen in Geva’s Keffiyeh (1994), as well as the fact it was worn by an earlier generation of Jewish fighters during Israel’s struggle for independence.
French Vietnamese artist Thu Van Tran’s sculptures and installations evoke the emotions experienced as an immigrant to the French capital and reflects a deep rooted national consciousness resulting from a mixture of the traditional and the colonial. Her first project, Barque Du Palacio (2007) features a wooden sail boat placed into the atrium of a Parisian housing estate, Les Espaces Abraxas, which at the time, was used to house immigrants in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
An authoritarian, ‘dreadful’ community space, its ‘notoriety’ stems from the fact that its cold austerity, has been the used as a backdrop for several dark sci-fi movies. It is the peculiar blend of kitschy post-modern exterior wall features, the scale-defying towering mass and the moody Parisian atmosphere, that has produced a surreal, dystopic, theatrical space, even if it seems ‘unfriendly’ for human habitation.