Monday, 22 December 2014

Oslo, Norway: Four Blips

Commercial Broadcasts:

Blip # 4: Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, 05.08.2014
Blip # 3: Extrapool, Nijmegan, 16.03.2014
Blip # 2: Team Titanic, Berlin 29.-30.11.2013
Blip # 1: Galerie Plan B, Berlin 28-30.08.2013

Monday, 21 April 2014

In Lieu of an Editorial: Newspapers, the Infra-Ordinary & The Enclave

I’m a novelist whose pastime is art, which as distractions go, and novelists can be extreme aficionados of distraction, threatens often to overrun my writing time completely to the point where often I feel I should just call myself an artist and be done with it. When I was writing my first novel I distracted myself by making books with other people: I became an editor and co-started with Line Madsen Simenstad, a Norwegian journalist, Broken Dimanche Press, a self-avowed avant-garde platform that would publish literary books by artists and visual books by writers. We would be political – a tongue in cheek social democratic stance prevailed – and be European wide in outlook. We called the endeavour after Yves Klein and his one day newspaper – Dimanche – that appeared on newsstands throughout Paris on Sunday 27 November 1960, a beautiful constellation of conceptual and performance art intervention and design, all wrapped up in the form of the humble throwaway newspaper. Our plan was to make newspapers and celebrate the Everyday through ludic, artistic and academic interventions in this most commonplace of publications.

Dimanche, Yves Klein, newspaper cover. 
Source: Wikipedia

BDP started with a journal The Kakofonie, but that quickly started to take different forms (a PDF download, a poster, a video selection, a bookmark etc) but never a newspaper. Next came our first book: an anthology You Are Here. We found kindred spirits in the designers FUK. We won the Charlemagne Prize. We made many books with some great artists and writers. Exhibitions. Projects. Tours. Readings. But five years later and we had yet to make a newspaper.


In September 2012 I was in Milan putting on an exhibition of LGB art derived from that novel I finally managed to finish in between distractions, The Readymades, when I got a phone call from Richard Mosse. He was in Denver, I think he said, just off a plane and had been reading my novel when the idea came to him that maybe I could travel with him to the Congo when he was making The Enclave. I could try and do something similar to The Readymades – use found material, witness testimonies to war crimes, art historical intrigue and gossip – to compliment the fictive landscape as portrayed in his Infra series. I could help him make his catalogue, his book, something beyond the pale. I said yes, sure thing. Three weeks later I was with him carting beer coolers full of expired infrared film through airports and up and down mountains. We arrived into Goma sometime passed midnight, the streets eerily deserted; even to me who was there for the first time, it was clear that the town was under curfew, in lockdown because of recent grenade attacks and the proximity of the rebel group the M23’s enclave. There was a UN battalion in heavy armoured vehicles. Gun towers along every fence. The roads where barely what you could call roads, made mountainous from the lava from the Nyiragongo volcano, glowing red in the background. The place suffered a kind of doom laden inevitability that kept me from asking myself what I was doing there and now two years later, thinking about this first entry into Congo exhausted from 15 hours of travel, I’m left thinking how funny the places are to which the creation of books can bring you.


I don’t really know why I’m drawn to this unit we can call the day, the Everyday, and which the newspaper is the representative form. The newspaper is a durational publication and yet it has a stake in history, its details make up the small details that become building blocks to historiography. Our lives are made up of the day and everyday routines are what ground us to this earth and yet they slip away, get lost so easily: what must it take for you to remember this day in ten year’s time? Borges’ unfortunate Funes, a character I think of often, has a memory of a recall scale 1:1: he takes a whole day just to pass over the memory of one day. A heavy burden and yet so much art and literature chase exactly this burden, to remember, to recall, to dwell and resurrect from the tides of amnesia crashing against the defenseless shores of anamnesis. In The Readymades I invented an art collective, a roaming group of artists called The LGB Group – who have adopted their own reality and have embraced the world with a modicum of success – and their interest, what they strove to exalt in their art was this thing, unit, aspect of life, that they called the Everyday.

Richard Mosse climbs a mountain on the Rwandan-Congolese border, 
October 2012. Photograph: John Holten

In A Supplement to The Enclave it becomes fascinating to read the conversations between Mosse and his collaborators, even to me who knows all three well and was there for much of the recording and events discussed. One fascinating part of these conversations is how one sequence of The Enclave toward the end is referred to in both conversations, indeed Ben Frost says it may be his favourite at one point, while Mosse states that it could be ‘the crux of the piece’. It’s a complicated scene of disjunction, the soundtrack is made up of a loud hammering and arguing voices, a fast rhythm grows: it seems it’s made up of the very disparate elements that make up the chaotic thing that is life. When I was there we developed the idea of luring the viewer into the enclave with long panning shots that would lead the spectator into new spaces. And what does the viewer find when they enter this space? During their first two trips together in the Congo, Mosse and Tweeten had developed a method in which they worked with the present participle verbs of the world of eastern Congo that they encountered, and in so doing they hoped to capture a diurnal impression – such a word seems strangely inadequate – of this land and its people suffering an on-going, shifting war and who are almost incapacitated by a western infrastructure of well meaning NGOs and the UN’s biggest peacekeeping mission. To shelter, to move, to give birth, to die, to bury, to eat.

Mosse: A very complicated scene.
Tweeten: To me, I love that scene, because it’s
the most chaotic.
Mosse: It’s a complete disjunction with the
previous scene.
Tweeten: I love it because it’s the real version.
There are these different versions of violence
throughout the piece: there’s the
simulation of violence, there’s the sound
of violence, there’s the visual aftermath
of violence, but then there’s also this moment of 
violence which is the lives these people 
(the refugees and IDPs) are forced
to live which means having to move all
the time to escape war. Which is being
born into these conditions. Which is eating
food on the go, lacking resources and
access to education. these sort of things
which go into making a violent sort of existence,
violent in terms of the everyday
struggle to survive. And to me the chaos
of that whole scene – there are all these
things going on from daily life, birth,
death, eating food – perhaps it’s clichĂ©
but at the same time I think it’s really interesting
because it’s so disjointed.

It’s very hard to capture a place, any place whether it’s familiar territory or another continent, this is the challenge laid down by realism. There are layers, many layers to be peeled back, starting with oneself and your own blinkers that you may not even be aware exist. Georges Perec was aware of this when he tried to explore himself and his surroundings by examining what he called the infra-ordinary: literature doesn’t need to worry about the grand themes of a Hegelian geist moving ineluctably toward its own concrete manifestation, played out in characters and environments woefully predetermined. Rather the ordinary give and take of the everyday holds worlds entire and reading Perec you realise this. Just as in Joyce, who set an entire episode of Ulysses in an newspaper office and whose modern day Ulysses is a newspaper adman, we find that the unit of the day is chosen as the form to fit the universal into, made up of all those tidbits of throwaway life. I spent a lot of time with Mosse wondering what the literary equivalent could be to his infrared photographs. One possible suggestion could be Perec’s infra-ordinary, all that is opposite to the extraordinary. One night after many Tembo beers I started to discuss this with Mosse out on a mosquito plagued terrace on the shores of lake Goma. Mosse uses beauty and reaches toward the sublime, yet The Enclave is composed pretty much of everyday stuff, it may not be his everyday or even his everyday when in the Congo, but having been there with him, running behind Tweeten as he entered into these spaces with the Steadicam, I can attest that it’s run of the mill stuff, even the shocking scenarios, or those that come out in the art gallery as extraordinary; even soldiers and their maneuvers, strutting with guns is normalised (sadly a lot of men join the army or rebel groups just to gain a gun and what that offers them), and even, sadly for that matter, invading a town (around six weeks after my wearied midnight arrival into Goma, the M23 invaded the town which Mosse captured in film). It’s not staged, or even extraordinary, it’s the opposite: terribly mundane, a murderous mundanity in some cases, and Mosse captured it with his tools of choice, an infra red film that sought to look below surfaces, of the visible spectrum of light and the surface of our own expectations of what the journalistic everyday should be.
You could say one goes to the Congo to fail, in a way, which sounds like an indictment, but I’m not talking about the honourable intentions of charity workers, peacekeepers, journalists (and one thing I noticed very quickly was a strange form of possessiveness over Congo and its troubles, more than just a concerted interest). The non-Congolese there all had an opinion and were very proud of the place, in a kind of displaced, paternalistic way which was somehow unsettling and which comes up often in people who have spent time there when responding to Mosse’s work. I failed in one aspect of what I went to the Congo to do, but I also think I will return to finish that aspect of writing a fiction borne out of the place. Like Tweeten talks about how he had to return, twice, thrice, in order to find a working method that was in tune to how the place works and what it means to go there and make work in it.

What then of editing a newspaper out of Mosse’s work set in the Congo? It feels, having travelled there with him and Ben and Trevor, working with his fixers and drivers, negotiating with the rebels captured in his film, making some very good friends as well as battling with the all that the place propositioned, this form matches the dream I’ve cosseted since I started to work with artists. Working with Mosse, Tweeten and Frost has been a truly unique experience, a game changing experience in the creation of an artwork. After five years and many books and exhibitions, as well as a trip to the Congo, I’m very happy that I finally made what I hope is the first of many newspapers.

A Supplement to The Enclave by Richard Mosse. Photograph: FUK Graphic Design

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The She The Same by Dafna Maimon


Dafna Maimon
"The She The Same" [Nominated for the Berlin Art Prize 2014]

8th April, 2014 (Tuesday), 6 pm
Sala Widowiskowa, Laboratory CCA

Curator: Katia Krupennikova
Coordination: Paulina Kowalczyk

'The She The Same' is a part of a bigger homonymous project consisting of a short film, performance, and paintings in which the experience of our “true other” is set parallel to phantom limb pain. By looking back at mythologies in which each human was once separated from his or her “other half” in the beginning of times, this “lost other” could be considered to be a phantom limb or body. This research project, developed with the help of a neuro scientist, explores the way in which we construct our own bodies and those of our lovers. How does the perception of these constructed "bodies" manifest in reality and affect our psychology even after their disappearance? Simultaneously the idea of a double body or our true other half is a convenient tool for the production of expectation, desire and the romantic industries (i.e. the capitalist ventures that profit from societal construct of romance and love).

Finnish/Israeli Artist Dafna Maimon b.1982 works with video, performance and sculpture. Her work explores human dramas through constructed autobiographical characters that battle with the configuration of individuality, alienation and the perception of reality. Her projects showcase the economy of close personal ties as well as materialize through them, placing value on the idea of community on a grassroots level. Equally central within Maimon’s practice is the research and employment of the constructs of cultural artifacts such as cinema, theater and science.

Dafna Maimon holds a BA from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, and an MFA from The Sandberg Institute. She has been a resident at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council New York, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture Maine and is a future resident of IASPIS Stockholm 2014. Maimon has shown her work internationally in venues such as PS1 Moma New York, Kunst-Werke Berlin, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Based in Berlin, W139 Amsterdam, Annie Wharton Gallery Los Angeles and Project Native Informant London. Maimon currently lives and works in Berlin.

Lisa Marie Becker was was born in Siegen, Germany and studied acting at European Theaterinstitute Berlin. Since then she took part in several theater productions, such as Germania.Tod in Berlin which was directed by Patrick Schimanski at Concordia Theater Bremen and Christoph Schlingensief's Eine KIrche der Angst vor dem Fremden in mir at Haus der Berliner Festspiele as well as Keren Cytter‘s I Eat Pickles At Your Funeral which was shown at HAU Berlin and Images Festival Toronto.
She has had several appearances in independent flm productions, TV series and works as a voice actress. Lisa Marie Becker lives and works in Berlin.

John Holten's (b.1984, Dublin) novel The Readymades was published in 2011. He has performed or given talks in many venues including David Zwirner Gallery New York (with Aengus Woods), NGBK and Humboldt University Berlin. In 2011 he received a Literature Bursary from the Irish Arts Council. His video commercials for his forthcoming novel Oslo, Norway have been exhibited in Plan B Gallery, Team Titanic, Berlin and Extrapool, Nijmegen. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Broken Dimanche Press.

Jakub Falkowski graduated acting at Theater Acedemy in Krakow in 2007. He continued studies at the Academy of Fine Arts - Intermedia Dept. and and Stage Directing at Theater Academy, as well as Religion Studies at Jagiellonian University. Since then he works as an actor, video-projections maker, performer, stage designer, coach and group workshop leader. Recently working on bodymind issues, conscious movement and art of presence (Art of Presence Project). Influenced much by working with Robert Wilson. Art and peace lover.

The performance is made possible with kind support of 
the Arts Promotion Centre Finland / Finnish National Arts Council
and Anna Stelmaszczyk / Art Engineers

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Fight: Center - Sandra Mujinga, Mark Soo & John Holten

KurfĂĽrstenstrasse 174
10785 Berlin


Sandra Mujinga, Mark Soo
John Holten

A Recipe (Found Upon Falling Asleep, Remixed)

It was a lone tree burning on the dessert. A heraldic tree that the passing storm had left afire. The solitary pilgrim drawn up before it had traveled far to be here and he knelt in the hot sand and held his numbed hands out while all about in that circle attended companies of lesser auxiliaries routed forth into the inordinate day, small owls that crouched silently and stood from foot to foot and tarantulas and solpugas and vinegarroons and the vicious mygale spiders and bearded lizards with mouths black as a chowdog’s, deadly to man, and the little desert basilisks that jet blood from their eyes and the small sandvipers like seemly gods, silent and the same, in Jeda, in Babylon. A constellation of ignited eyes that edged the ring of light all bound in a precarious truce before this torch whose brightness had set back the stars in their sockets.

Tina lives in Berlin. Her voice so seldom on my machine, is here tonight. And I’m on the market and when I’m on the market words move faster. Wire and clouds move thin between us like a skin. Like a salty skin of a seed. A fat circle. A smiling, smiling, her voice so intentionally smiling and a cloud between us. And these are my intentions:

Always the same unchanging upon waking up with someone I still love in my bed. I proceed to the pantry for whatever meager victuals are at hand. The recipe is a variation of one two or three eggs beaten strongly with a sore hand some dijon mustard salt and pepper perhaps a dash of water or cream and a grate or two of parmesan and then some lardons fried on a smidge of butter and into the worn skillet with it all. Some slices of emmenthal and a destitute salad with olive oil and balsamic and basil leaves to cover all. This is what you get and what speaks from the dessert of sleep to nudge you awake. 

Our love we share. I may be your everything. Yeah I still care, our love we share, you may be mine. It seems that it may get worse: I thought that I would remain the same. It gets worse again and again.

When the sun rose he was asleep under the smoldering skeleton of a blackened scrog.