Berlin-based Italian artist Monica Bonvicini’s sculptures, drawings, video/photography and performances are all based on themes such as power and control, surveillance, authority and freedom which are mixed together and rendered in a ‘sexual fetishism’ style. She’s not an easy artist to understand, partly because of some of the ironic contradictions and paradoxes surrounding her works, which might not be as paradoxical upon deeper inspection.
South African artist Marlene Dumas’ portrait paintings depicts the unglorified side of life; the mundane, sometimes morbid, mostly saddened, dispossessed expressions. Sprinkled with some overtly sexual gestures, they depict a human existence bent and shaped by an overwhelming invisible external force.
The Black Drawings (1992) which depict portraits of black people, and all the cultural feelings associated with this race of people, are presumably taken from polaroids arranged in a grid-like pattern. This is reminiscent of people catalogs, data bases of mugshots, which condemns them in a way before knowing anything else about them, and this grid arrangement was repeated in Chlorosis Love Sick (1994); a series of water-coloured bald women, Models (1994); a motley group of water-coloured men and women and Rejects (1994); the ones from Models (1994) that Dumas didn’t like, at first.
“Actually I’ve been busy with these two questions all my life – Why am I here and should I be here? ” Marlene Dumas 2012
Defying convention at every turn, the ‘kitschy’ and ‘idiosyncratic’ designs of Japanese architectural historian-turned architect Terunobu Fujimori belies the level of understanding garnered to achieve this particular blend of architectural alchemy. Like an eco-warrior from the post-modern 1980’s gone wild, here, form not only doesn’t follow function; in some cases ‘function’ for all intents and purposes, has been left to bite the dust.
How else could one explain, tea houses hanging in the air, suspended by cables or perched on top of tree trunks that are inaccessible except by lugging a 20 foot ladder across a field? Unless of course one considers the ‘higher’ function as the real function; the traditional Japanese requirement to struggle (nijiriguchi) in order to get to a place of worship. Which calls for thought; could these works be seen as a critique on the limitations of modernism, the narrow view on what’s considered ‘function’ or ‘functional’ or something that ‘works’? However, Japanese tea-rooms and tea-houses are not exactly places of worship, but more of a hybrid, contemplative, pseudo-spiritual event so there is some ambiguity here.
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.