“Light and language are not only the foundations for knowledge and perception, because they serve as the transmission and communicative usage at the same time. Light is a form of language, respectively a carrier of signs and codes. On the other hand language can serve as a construction principle for light, and light can appear as literal.” Brigitte Kowanz 2010
Austrian artist Brigitte Kowanz uses light from neons, reflections from mirrors and darkness itself to ‘paint’ a picture. Using neon light tubes to make words and sometimes what appears to be words, the resultant image is a codified one, a type of undecipherable language which can only be deciphered on another level.
“There are forces that I think about more than [about] concepts like becoming or knowing. I mean boredom, frustration, vanity.” Adrian Ghenie
The paintings of Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie are often described as dark and disturbing, a style of figurative painting where the tormented subjects faces are disfugured, blurred beyond recognition and/or partially superimposed with the face of someone else, which is similar to Francis Bacon’s paintings although it is unintended.
His work is not like Andy Denzler’s blurred ‘glitch’ paintings, but more like a collage where images and iconography of other historical scenes or objects are mixed into the otherwise blurry background. The subject in the foreground is usually painted realistically but then is finally disfigured anyway with globs of paint smeared across his or her face, resulting in the ‘Pie Fight’ series, or more recently the face of someone else partly mixed in.
Joanna Malinowska is a New York based Polish artist whose sculptures, installations and performances draw a line between her fascination with anthropology, art history, pop culture and the socio-political struggles of her homeland in the modern era.
This is evident in Mother Earth Sister Moon (2009), a quasi fashion show, stage play performance produced in collaboration with Christian Tomaszewski which was shown in a huge space suit like structure to resemble the suit worn by the first Russian woman cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova.
The designs of the costumes, reminiscient of outfits seen on Russian and Eastern European science fiction movies hark back to the ‘space race’ witnessed during the cold war, and the general fascination with the cosmos seen within the former Soviet bloc.
The artwork of American Iraqi artist Michael Rakowitz, his conceptual sculptures and interventions, can be seen to be one of re-discovering his Iraqi cultural roots and thus a determination of his own identity. His ‘interventions’ are more like gatherings, and in 2011 he collaborated with a posh New York restaurant to create a signature Venison dish with an Iraqi flavour to it by serving it on a bed of ‘Debes Wa Rashi’ – a traditional Iraqi dessert with Tahini and date syrup, together with nuts, scallions and pomegranate seeds.
Entitled Spoils (2011) this would prove to be more than just a gourmet fusion dish that would make everyone happy for the night, for they were served on Saddam Hussein’s own dinner plates, which bear his seal, and taken from his Royal Palace during the fall of Baghdad in 2003.
Rakowitz also managed to provide dinner plates which used to belong to King Faisal II, the handsome last king of Iraq, who was killed in a military coup at the age of 23.
The fringe, the outcast and the marginalized members of society are the subjects and characters of German photographer Tobias Zielony, which inherently blurs the lines between fine art and documentary photography as the photographs tell a story with no story arc, no beginning nor ending, while many of them are not aesthetically pleasing in the traditional sense.
A by-product that is quite consistent throughout is the theme of boredom, which for some might be hard to conceive, in this age of inter-connectedness, but for the people in these pictures, it seems that this the hand that they have been dealt with in life. Zielony himself thought at first that boredom was a sign of rebellion, a rejection of hall society has to offer, but that has changed as the subjects taught him a thing or two about their lives, and he in turn gained their trust.
One project called Vele (2010) which depicts the ‘failed’ housing estate of Le Vele Di Scampia in Naples, Italy, documents the people and the place of this once utopian architecural dream; to provide a harmonious living environment and ultra-modern sense of community while addressing the post-war housing shortage. But what transpired was that the local mafia moved in just as the building was completed, which sealed its fate of decay and dereliction while Government officials sort of ‘washed their hands of the situation’.