A casual observation of American artist Glenn Ligon’s paintings and prints might lead one to believe that they are looking at the work of someone with developmental problems; text on paintings that express degenerate, deviant thoughts. One might also expect a frightful experience to hear him in person but his speech is so calm and eloquent that such expectations disappear, leaving one to wonder if the works are in fact done the same person.
Phrases that express racially and socially induced self-doubt and alienation repeat over and over again, filling the canvas and fading into oblivion, as the text, oil stick smudges and charcoal dust blend together into an undecipherable black or white mass, or mess. Taken from the works of canonical African American writers, his earlier works seem more emotional, expressing the feelings of what it might feel like to be a black person in America at the time, while the more recent works are conceptual, highlighting irony and inherent contradictions in society.
British artist Helen Marten’s sculptures seems to be a constellation of knick knacks, an un-decipherable pile of everyday objects in a white cube gallery space and called ‘art’ in the hand-out pamphlets, until one realizes that all of them are custom made and brand new. That they have been designed and constructed to look like bric-a-brac says something about the state of society where a blurring of what’s real and what’s fake contributes to the constructs of modern consciousness.
In this world, images appear and disappear, always visceral, never stops and is constantly changing. Sprinkled with graphical text and symbols every now and then, it is a celebration of the monumental and sometimes, frankly, the absurd. Here every object has a copy of itself somewhere either as an image or a cheaper ‘fake’ version or a plastic version that serves another purpose.
London based, German artist Andrea Buttner’s paintings, woodblock prints and sculptures challenge preconceived fundamental societal notions, entrenched connotations on words such as ‘rich’ and ‘poor’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’, what’s ‘little’ and the notion of aesthetics. She seems to be interested in focusing on the minorities, the ‘marginalized’, discarded attitudes of the art world, encouraging her own works, often described as ‘little’, to ‘fall down’.
Irish German artist Mariechen Danz creates performances incorporating strange vocal sounds, pop music-like choruses, oratory remarks, sculptures and costume design together with writings on a wall to convey a sense of who we are as a species. An appreciation of the now extinct Mayan and Aztec cultures is required as she re-interprets their methods of iconic and phonic communication, merging these with representations of our modern day ‘high-tech’ communications to create bizarre rituals which might leave one scratching one’s head upon viewing.
These seemingly senseless performances doesn’t convey a story to the audience per se, but more of an expression of something, pushing the line between art and child’s play. The question to be asked, which happens to be the same question reporters asked when confronted with a Pollock 67 years ago, is, is it random what she does and says on stage, which would mean a child could do it, or is there some sort of logic to it? And what exactly is the ‘mind body problem’ or a ‘womb tomb’ for that matter?
Ghanian artist Ibrahim Mahama is known for using discarded common-place items from his home country as materials for his sculptures and outdoor installations. These items have embedded within them, a certain history of both the passage of time from their previous owner’s usage and of the historical relevance, the marking of a certain epoch in the history of a place, which has cultural significance.
In what’s known as the ‘Occupation’ series of works, he has taken thousands of used jute sacks, bartered from migrant workers in Ghana, sewn them together and draped them over the facades of institutional buildings and museums in Ghana and Europe. These sacks have a certain history embedded within them; made from labourers in South Asia, they have been imported to Ghana initially to carry cocoa, but often find subsequent uses in carrying other commodities such as coal and ultimately might end up being a domestic door mat or a fire extinguisher, due to their strength and water retentive abilities.