Taking action with Jonathas de Andrade, Katya Ev, Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos and Zinaïda Tchedlize
The last group of works in the exhibition marks its third act. It echoes the final step of a conservation analysis, involving decision-making and taking action with a possible treatment for damage to an artwork. This might alter the appearance of the artwork itself (its colours, shape, materials, etc.) but also challenge its historical and artistic interpretation. This transformation is an opportunity for a critical look at the canon established in Western art history. Artists presented in this group engage with other artists, performers and publics to act, while questioning the museum setup, re-enacting tacit knowledge and revisiting the antique mythology. Using the conventions of the theatrical mise-en-scène they activate and reinterpret artworks, inviting us to re-think the artistic order from scratch.
The fishermen Menezes, Ciço, Cipriano, Irmão, Leno, Xau, Curió, Keno, Rom, Ronaldo and the types of fish pirarucu, tambuacu and tilápia were captured by Jonathas de Andrade’s camera by the river São Francisco in Alagoas, in the Northeast of Brazil. Re-questioning the Western tradition of ethnographic filmmaking, Andrade creates a hybrid artwork that lies between documentary and fiction. Employing traditional fishing techniques, these fishermen take the fish out of the water and then hug them gently, caressing and keeping their catch close to their chest, until the fish stops breathing. Shot in 16mm, these long scenes allow the viewer to experience feelings of solidarity, empathy, and sensuality, as well as violence, domination, and benevolence. In dialogue with Andrade’s body of work around Brazilian identity, labour issues, and race and class struggles, ‘The Fish’ is an invitation to reset the balance between Man and Nature, as well as between the observer and the observed.
“(LE PLUS OBJET DES OBJETS)” (The most object of objects) is an infiltrated performance at Zadkine Museum in Paris, where Katya Ev appropriates the rules and restrictions imposed by museums as an opportunity to interact with visitors. She places performers in the role of guards, in a higher number than are usually present, in order to create a sensation of discomfort for the spectator and to increase the disciplinary surveillance. By disturbing the spectators with excessive remarks, such as giving orders that have no practical utility, performers magnify the aspects of surveillance and control. The arbitrary character of the requests (moving clockwise in a room, putting a scarf in a bag, excessive bag control) thus becomes physical and redundant (people being asked to leave, to move, or to look at a specific work). Randomly, these coercions play on the subtle edge of common sense.
Cooking shows have transformed our relationship with food through their didactic and experimenting functions. ‘Mastering the Art of Contemporary Art’ (MACA), is a project initiated by Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos in Kunsthal Aarhus in 2016, that engages with this phenomenon by bringing together cooking and visual art. It questions artistic creation – from the conception of an idea to its materialization, taking us on a mental and physical journey similar to the artistic production process and aiming to demystify the act of creation and unleash personal creativity. For MACA’s ‘home edition’ realised during the lockdown, Kosmatopoulos invited two artists to share their recipes to create artworks together. In the first episode Basil Kincaid (USA, 1986) shows us how to do a variation of his work “The Making of a Man (form 2)”. Based on the reclamation of cast off materials, he uses old clothes to build the layers of a quilt. Kincaid’s practice continues his long family tradition of quilting, a symbol of Black heritage and resilience, thus becoming part of a legacy that extends far backwards and infinitely forward in time. In the second episode Luca Resta (Italy, 1982) shows us how to do a variation of his work “Oggetti scocciati #3 (studio per una natura morta)” using masking tape and a plastic bottle. His practice involves accumulation and subtraction, intended as empirical devices for stratification and overlapping. These homemade tutorials are an open and playful invitation for everyone to learn, create, reflect, redistribute, and re-consume artworks and ideas, generating new meanings and opening a conversation on empowerment, authorship and ownership. MACA is a never-ending work in progress, an open recipe book with no last page.
‘The one who wears the Golden Fleece becomes a hero’ by Zinaida Tchelidze oscillates between documentary and fiction. Through a fictional and performative framework Tchelidze re-enacts a story that we have previously taken for granted (The Golden Fleece), while questioning the personal interpretation behind each reading. By investigating and appropriating the concept of the “superhero” in this fictional framework, she questions the classical storytelling around the hero. Through a collection of moving images Tchelidze documents the unfamiliar representation of a rider (Xebe, Temur Ivachidze) who takes the role of the narrator along with a shepherd (Temuri Anwuxelidze) and a craftswoman (Rusudan Otaridze) practising their daily activities. The materiality of the wool and the animal producer are at the core of the project. The imaginary narrative allows Tchelidze to question the ownership of the wool, from its shearing to the softening process. The project investigates a small-scale economy, where technique and craftsmanship have been lost to globalisation. It allows Tchedilze’s characters to rediscover the craft while retracing a project that places the animal at the centre of a system of knowledge and social interactions. Realised between Belgium and Georgia during the Covid-19 lockdown, ‘The one who wears the Golden Fleece becomes a hero’ documents the overlapping of temporalities, spaces, and livelihoods in both countries. The images captured were made by the rider with the artist’s guidance. Virtual communication has been the only connection between the artist and the characters.
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