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.
The films of Argentinian artist Sebastian Diaz Morales depicts a solitary figure moving through an urban or rural landscape to highlight certain issues or absurd realities in human existence. These landscapes or cityscapes are further abstracted at times to resemble a stage backdrop by using a cinematic technique that highlights the edges. In this respect Diaz Morales’ film can be seen as a cross between theatre and cinema, while the absence of dialog and lack of a traditional beginning and ending adds to the ambiguity.
The Man With A Bag (2004) displays such ambiguity. Displayed in a 2 channel side-by-side format, with the subject viewed from different angles simultaneously, the film depicts a reality that is as surreal as it is fragmented, where the cause has no bearing on the effect and a man’s circumstance doesn’t justify his intentions.
In it, a man carries a bag running from something or someone, across the sparse Patagonian landscape, but we never see who or what he is running from. Half way into the film, he opens his bag to inspect its contents (of bones or rocks later) only to find himself standing in a place that’s has plenty of what he is carrying, scattered all over the ground.
The artwork of Swiss artist Julian Charriere seems on the one hand to be part land art performance and part sculpture, weaving anthropology, ecology, history, politics and art together to form a narrative based on what humans have done or are doing in certain places, creating a portrait of the earth of sorts. He also has a penchant for travel to exotic locations, in a way retracing footsteps of early explorers, to re-interpret their findings within the contemporary situation.
One such location at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan which was the Soviet test site for nuclear bombs during the cold war between 1949 and 1989, produced the Polygon series of photographs. Inspired by J.G. Ballard’s short story, The Terminal Beach, the Polygon photographs depict a flat, tree-less field with fragments of left over concrete ‘geese’ buildings used to collect bomb blast data, standing upright in juxtaposition to the horizontality of the land. Here, Charriere would sprinkle radioactive dust onto the film stock (somehow), let sit for a while, and then develop it again, resulting in photographs sprinkled with ‘specks’ of radiation.