Magazine: Issue 21
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Spotlight: Hotel Elephant
Hotel Elephant 27-29 Brandon Street, London, SE17 1NA In an interview with Hotel Elephant’s curator Emily Woodhouse, SLAM’s Naomi Fitzsimmons gets behind the scenes of Elephant & Castle’s biggest cultural surprises…. Hotel Elephant is currently showing ‘Logical Design’ and will be hosting a ‘Drawing the Heygate’ event as part of SLAM Fridays Bankside spotlight in partnership with the Big Draw, also featured on The Big Draw Art Tour: 25.10.13. NF: COULD YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE HISTORY AND FORMING OF HOTEL ELEPHANT? EW: It began in 2009 when Reuben Powell – local artist and Director of Hotel Elephant, was using a vacant unit in the Elephant & Castle shopping centre as his studio. It quickly developed into a venue for arts and culture, having temporary use of a warehouse space just off the Elephant roundabout. It was here where Reuben started to run regular educational projects with local schools and in 2011; I began to program exhibitions of other artist’s work. It has grown quite organically and for the past year we have been using the old doctors surgery of the Heygate Estate as a gallery and artist studio space. In a few months time we will be leaving the Heygate Estate and will relocate to two-warehouse spaces on Newington Causeway. We are currently quite a transitory space, using buildings in the interim whilst they are waiting to be developed or rented commercially. All of these have been within the Elephant and Castle. Hotel Elephant, Heygate Estate site launch, 2012 NF: WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN SELECTING ARTISTS TO EXHIBIT? EW: First and foremost I am drawn to work I like and I find engaging. I tend to have a personal preference to sculptural works, but this by no means limits the types of work I show. After being drawn to an artist work I like, I tend to consider whether other people would find it exciting. It is important to me to show work that is actually interesting to those that live locally. Rui Ferreira, The Tomb and The Fountain, 2013, Hotel Elephant. Photo: Geo Pavlov. NF: COULD YOU GIVE A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE CURRENT SHOW AT HOTEL ELEPHANT? EW: ‘Logical Design’ is a solo exhibition of works by Nathan Murphy. Murphy was asked to create a work, which reacted to or interacted with the architectural, aesthetic and material nature of our location on the Heygate Estate. The piece he produced, for the outside terrace space, behind the old doctors surgery, is a linear steel sculpture, which references the geometric and architectonic forms of the Heygate’s neo brutalist style. The choice of materials – steel, references the method of using steel rods in cast concrete forms, as would have been used in the building of the estate. During the first weekend in October, Nathan’s work was join by a piece by Cheryl Field, a large inflatable ‘breathing’ structure which was inspired by the spiraling bridges and void spaces created by the walkways of the estate. We also open Reuben’s studio, which visitors had the chance to explore and experience his large-scale graphite drawings of the local area. This exhibition was titled ‘Volume & Void’ and was part of the Elefest weekend. Nathan Murphy, ‘Necker de-constructed’ part of ‘Logical Design’ 2013 Cheryl Field ‘Untitled’ Volume and Void, 2013 NF: NATHAN MURPHY PRODUCES SITE SPECIFIC WORK FOR HOTEL ELEPHANT REACTING TO THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE BUILDING AND ITS HISTORY.  HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU, FOR ARTISTS TO CONSIDER THIS IN THE SHOWS THAT ARE EXHIBITED AT HOTEL ELEPHANT? EW: ‘Logical Design’ was a very important show for us, as it is the first time we have commissioned a piece of work. Whilst we where on the Heygate, I felt it was important that we acknowledged our location and a site-specific artwork was the right choice for this. Engaging with a space, wherever that may be (we are fairly transitory, only being on the Heygate for a year now) is an interesting way of working, but isn’t something I am particular looking for. The way an artist works is something quite individual and it is their practice as a whole, which draws me to invite them to exhibit. Nathan Murphy ‘Logical Design’ 2013, Commissioned by Hotel Elephant. NF: A LOT OF ARTISTS HAVE USED ELEPHANT AND CASTLE AS THE LOCATION FOR INTERESTING PROJECTS, INCLUDING ROGER HIORNS ‘SEIZURE’(2008).  WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS ABOUT THE AREA THAT INSPIRES THIS TYPE OF SITE SPECIFIC WORK? EW: The Elephant and Castle has been a backdrop to many different types of works, ranging from artworks to documentaries. The landscape of the Elephant and Castle is both surprising and incongruous, when considered in relation to other central London areas. There is such a vast amount of empty space; it is hard to reconcile the actuality of the landscape with the idea of a zone one location. NF: HOTEL ELEPHANT HAS AN INTERESTING HISTORY, SITUATED IN HEYGATE ESTATE AND ONCE HOME TO OVER 3000 PEOPLE, IT CREATES A SOCIAL CONTEXT TO THE GALLERY.  DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU HAVE A DUTY TO GIVE BACK TO ELEPHANT AND CASTLE AND THE COMMUNITY THAT WERE AFFECTED BY THE CLOSURE OF HEYGATE? EW: The Elephant and Castle community spans far beyond the Heygate Estate. Hotel Elephant’s current location on the Estate is due simply to it being the only space that was available to us last year. Our remit is to provide space for cultural activity in the Elephant and Castle. All of our studio users are local residents; we’ve worked with a number of different schools in the area. We very much consider ourselves as part of the community – Reuben has been living in the area for 28 years – and w are dedicated to providing engaging cultural activity in our neighborhood. Hotel Elephant, Heygate Estate Site 2013 NF: ELEPHANT AND CASTLE IS AN AREA OF HUGE REGENERATION HOW HAS THIS AFFECTED HOTEL ELEPHANT AND THE TYPE OF WORK YOU HOPE TO EXHIBIT IN THE FUTURE? EW: There is no direct correlation between the regeneration and the works that are shown in the gallery– except for Director, Reuben Powell’s work. Studio, Reuben Powell, Hotel Elephant 2013 NF: WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ARTIST’S ROLE IS IN THIS REGENERATION? EW: Cultural activity is central to all regeneration; the role of the artist is a broad one. It is of fundamental importance that future provision is made for artistic/cultural space. This will insure the local area becomes and maintains a vibrant and interesting place to be. This is central to Hotel Elephants remit as a cultural provider in the Elephant and Castle. NF: YOUR WEBSITE STATES HOTEL ELEPHANT’S AIM IS TO ‘ENRICH THE CULTURAL LIFE’ OF ELEPHANT AND CASTLE.  ALONGSIDE EXHIBITIONS HOW ELSE DO YOU HOPE TO FULFILL THIS AIM? EW: Alongside regular exhibitions, Hotel Elephant enriches the cultural life of the Elephant and Castle by providing affordable studio space for local artists, running educational projects with local schools and running or hosting events which are interesting and accessible to local people. In our new building, on Newington Causeway, we will be working with theatre, University and community groups to broaden our educational program. Hotel Elephant Heygate site launch, 2012. Photo Geo Pavlov NF: HAS YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN SOUTH LONDON ART MAP HELPED? EW: Being involved in the South London Art map has been very positive. It has created a network of spaces across South London, making them a lot more accessible to visitors. South London has often been overlooked as a destination for arts and culture, so the SLAM Last Friday late openings and tours provide a great opportunity for people to discover new and interesting spaces. Many thanks to Emily Woodhouse and the Hotel Elephant team. Artists featured: Nathan Murphy: Reuben Powell: Cheryl Field: Rui Ferreira By: Naomi Fitzsimmons. Photo Credits: Naomi Fitzsimmons, Geo Pavlov, Emily Powell.
Review: Everything Wants To Run
Everything Wants to Run @ Block 336 Block 336: 336 Brixton Road, London SW9 7AA Exhibition: 12 October – 16 November, Thurs – Sat, 12 – 6pm Event: Ambit by Nyström / Khosravi, 18 October, 7pm Artists: Gabriel Hartley, Bruce Ingram, Mark Jackson, MSHR, Erik Nyström / Peiman Khosravi, Kate Owens, Daniel Silver, Nathaniel Stern, Charlotte Webb Curated by Mark Jackson Block 336’s new show ‘Everything Wants to Run’ is an exhibition of works by 9 international artists bought together by Mark Jackson arguing the case for ‘new materialism’. Recent philosophical aesthetic discussion presents the case for digital culture, once considered immaterial, as forming an important part of our aesthetic experience. Specifically, curator Mark Jackson poses the question: “When everything can be considered as matter, and when materiality underlies all cultural practice, how can we start to articulate the specificities and nuances of objects again, be they digital or otherwise?” It’s a big question. What underpins the clout of an aesthetic experience? Is it a bodily reaction, one that stays with you long after you’ve left the room? Think of the artworks you’ve seen or experiences you’ve had that have stuck with you: Hiorns’ ‘Seizure’? Hirst’s ‘A Thousand Years’? Wilson’s 20:50? The works are all visceral, all etched on the mind’s eye, and all still in demand artworks smashing visitor number expectations wherever they’re shown. I have trouble conjuring a digital work that has left a lasting impact, Marclay’s ‘Clock’ perhaps? Although, spend 7 hours with an artwork and it’s going to stick with you. Charlotte Webb Flickr Nude or Noodle Descending a Staircase (detail), 2013, Web application. Image © the artist, 2013 I’m happy to be challenged. The exhibition is opened up as you enter the space with Charlotte Webb’s ‘Flickr Nude or Noodle Descending a Staircase’, this is an interactive web-based work inviting visitors to tap in a search word which then trawls flickr in real time and adds them to an online archive. I go to tap in ‘Meringue’, obviously I had to search how to spell ‘Meringue’ first, laziness born of our over-reliance on the internet? This girl is good. Bruce Ingram Untitled, 2013, Plaster, metal, textile, spray paint and watercolour. Image © the artist, 2013 I head through into the main space via Bruce Ingram’s ‘Arrangements’, which I appreciated more on the way out than the way in. The works are small, wall based pieces that are anything but dainty. In fact the scale of the works are at odds which their physical presence, an interesting material play on scale and clout. Nathaniel Stern Nathaniel Stern scanning lilies in South Bend, Indiana, 2010, Process documentation. Image © the artist and Gallery AOP, 2013 Nathaniel Stern ‘The Giverny Series’ (2013) In the main space Nathaniel Stern’s ‘The Giverny Series’, Daniel Silver’s ‘The Artist his Father and his Son’ and collaborative duo MSHR (Brenna Murphy and Birch Cooper) form an interesting dialogue in terms of curator Mark Jackson’s original question. Nathanial Stern’s series of works are the result of the artist going out, strapping a scanner, laptop and homemade battery about his person and scanning his environment (In this case a pond). There’s an irritation about these works, trying to bridge the gap between the physicality of the world and reproductions of it, probably about as close as you can get to climbing into a camera. The resulting images are beautiful and urgent but like an itch you do want to scratch the surface and hop in the pond with the artist. Like Stern’s works Daniel Silver’s process is all over the pieces, two large aluminium columns impose on the space sculpted with what looks like a series of hugs. Daniel Silver The Artist his Father and his Son, 2011, Cast aluminium 256 x 120 x 90cm, Image © the artist, 2013 MSHR Solar Helix ~ Terrestrial Sensor, 2012, Interactive installation. Image © the artists, 2013 MSHR present a video game set within a cult like installation, the viewer is urged to navigate this virtual realm (like second life) through a series of caves featuring artworks on route. The work is worryingly immersive, quickly virtual reality becomes reality. However, with Silver’s two sculptures mockingly looming right over my shoulder, the absurdity of navigating a virtual subaquatic sculpture park struck me with an abject sense of digital claustrophobia. This, in turn, had a great communication with Stern’s works which more than anything articulated a need to escape the digital realm rather than embrace it. Everything wants to run indeed. A very interesting selection of artists, and an ongoing debate. Go see. Daniel Silver The Artist his Father and his Son, 2011, Cast aluminium 256 x 120 x 90cm, Image © the artist, 2013 Rachel Price. A printed publication, designed by Ric Bell, with an essay by writer, Chris McCormack accompany the exhibition. Further information:
Preview: Moving Image London
MOVING IMAGE LONDON Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, London, SE1 9PH 16 -20 October 2013 FREE Moving Image London descends on the Bargehouse on Bankside this October in the midst of art fair month, SLAM’s Tina Emenyeonu probes festival organiser Murat Orozobekov on what we can expect from the fair and the growing Moving Image enterprise. Moving Image 2012, Photo: Joe Clark TE: Why did you decide to have a stand-alone art fair that focuses on mainly video art and experimental film? MO: We strongly believe video art has become an important medium for artists working today and will continue to be so in the future. With advances in available and affordable video technology, many artists, even those whose main practice is in a different medium, are starting to pick up cameras or smart phones to create their own videos. There are a few organisations, individuals, or patrons who are strongly supporting moving, image-based art, but nowhere near enough. Our goal is to support and expand knowledge of contemporary video art to a global audience. We believe it's important also to experiment with how best to present video art in an art fair context because of how the contemporary art market has shifted toward increasing sales at fairs. Up to now, most major fairs make it rather difficult to economically present video art in its best light. Moving Image is our ongoing attempt to resolve the reasons for that, while hopefully helping artists who make video, to find collectors (the latter who again, are doing more and more buying at fairs). TE: Who are your collaborators? MO: We are always open to collaborate with anyone who has ideas on how to promote video art in it’s different shapes and formats. Besides my co-founder Edward Winkleman, in the past we have collaborated with Ogilvy & Mather’s headquarters in New York, with The James Hotel located in SoHo in New York, and now we’re collaborating with the 53 Art Museum in Guangzhou. Moving Image 2012, Photo: Joe Clark TE: What is the advantage of a video or film artist showing with you as opposed to a more traditional art fair? MO: This is an ongoing conversation between those of us in the art world, especially among the supporters of video arts. Even those who might disagree with our approach, tend to confirm that not many people will watch an entire video during their visit to a traditional art fair, because of how large the art fairs are, and how much time they have dedicated to their visit. Traditional fairs are so frantic these days. Moving Image is a unique place, where you can slow down and take your time to view the work at your own pace. And visitors don’t feel obligated, to rush to cover the entire fair as with traditional fairs, where you have at least 50-60 galleries and often many more. We have a limit of 25-30 galleries for each edition, with a maximum of 30-35 video works. TE: There have been suggestions that holding a special fair for video art amounts to ghettoising it or makes it the step-child of more traditional art fairs, what would you say to this? MO: In addition to running an art fair, we also run a gallery that shows a great deal of video art. When the traditional art fairs solve their current problems with showing video art on its own terms, in a way that also contributes to its sales, we will consider whether or not Moving Image is still needed. Until then, though, we’re convinced it is. Moving Image 2012, Photo: Joe Clark TE: Why did you choose London and New York as locations? MO: The decision to have the first edition of Moving Image in New York was simple, because we are based in New York and the location where Moving Image New York happens is in the same building as our gallery. More than that, we envisioned Moving Image as complementary to the major art fairs in New York and London (as a way for their exhibitors to show their video and film art in a specialised context, for much less money than they would in the major fairs). We are open to collaborating with any other fair. In fact, we already have been working with The Armory Show in New York for the past couple of years. We are also continually talking with the Frieze Art Fair. TE: How long have you been holding the fair and what has been the response so far? MO: The first edition of Moving Image was in New York back in March 2011, and we realised immediately, because of the model of Moving Image, that we could add another city and so decided to move on to London. With every single edition of Moving Image in New York and London, we are seeing an increase in the number of visitors, and getting more exposure for the participating artists and galleries. We’ve been receiving very positive press coverage about what we do and how we present the work. Likewise, we receive amazingly positive feedback from visitors about their experience. The upcoming fair in London will be our 6th edition in total and we look forward to seeing more visitors. Moving Image 2012, Photo: Joe Clark TE: How would you persuade someone to buy a piece of video art and what would be the advantages of buying such a piece over say a more traditional piece of art? MO: As with any work of art, you’re the most persuasive when you can get the collector in front of the work and say, “Just look at it.” In other words, we let the art do the persuading. But any art that involves technology components does require some extra consideration, and one of the new things we’re doing at Moving Image London 2103 is launching the A\V Bar, where visitors can make appointments to discuss any technical or aesthetic question they have with our AV experts. We don’t argue that video art has advantages over other forms of art. We believe it’s important, and collectors who wish to have a comprehensive contemporary art collection should consider why it’s important and support it. TE: How would someone go about buying a piece of video art and how would you advise the owner to ‘display’ it? MO: We’ve been hosting panel discussions during the New York and London editions of Moving Image with an educational mission about purchasing and displaying video art. It’s an ongoing conversation and it involves some collectors and curators sharing their visions for how to display video art in museums or in homes. After visiting the homes of several of our collectors, I can say more and more of them have a dedicated corner with a monitor on which they play their video collection (in much the same way as they devote space to the technology that plays their music collection). This seems a particularly good way to consider displaying video art in living spaces of limited size. Moving Image 2012, Photo: Joe Clark TE: How would the owner protect such an investment or guard against piracy? MO: In this context, the most important part of owning a piece of video art is the signed certificate of authenticity from the artist and gallery. Without that document, you essentially cannot resell a work of video art or donate it to a respectable museum. This protects the owner from having the value of their artwork diminished by piracy. TE: What are the challenges you face putting on such a fair, e.g. technological problems? MO: There are always some technical issues; you can ask any video artist. But we pay a great deal of attention to the newest technology available and try to use it to present the work during Moving Image, as best we can. We also have technical experts on site, who work tirelessly to solve any problems as they come along and ensure everything keeps running smoothly. Also, the installation at Moving Image reveals, rather than conceals, the technology. We purposely leave the equipment out in plain view. Our goal is to educate and inform the public that it’s not that complicated to have a video work in your collection, and to introduce new collectors to video art, hopefully helping them not to feel so technophobic. TE: How would you persuade someone to attend this fair and what’s the best way to get the most out of it? MO: First of all, the entry to Moving Image is free, so it’s a risk you can afford . Most of the videos presented at Moving Image are short and vary between 2-12 minutes. All the videos are placed pretty far apart, to give visitors enough room to experience and be able to watch entire movies with an absolute minimum of interference or interruption. We also install the fair so that it is easy to move from one video to another, or even to stop watching one and go to the next one if you don’t like it or don’t have enough free time. Based on my experience, most of our visitors can watch every single video, which would take approximately 2 hours at the fair. We intentionally work to keep it from being overwhelming. TE: How do you find the artists who are showing? MO: With every edition of Moving Image we invite five international curators to join our Curatorial Advisory Committee. They generally are independent curators, affiliated with museums, or private collections, and based on their opinion of what they have seen and are excited about, they suggest artists we should invite. Photos from Moving Image London 2012 photos Joe Clark TE: Who are the rising stars we should look out for? MO: It all depends on your taste and what you like. In general, I don’t like to speculate on certain artists who are rising or say everyone should be on the lookout for them (we work to promote all our galleries and their artists). I will say for the past three editions of Moving Image in New York and London we have started to support young, unrepresented video artists via a programme we call “Moving Image Presents,” and I would suggest looking out for them: Micah Harbon, Greta Alfaro and Aza Shade (we are presenting Aza’s work this year during Moving Image in London for the first time, and she is currently representing Central Asia along with some other artists at the Venice Biennale.) TE: Where would you like to expand to next? MO: Edward and I are full of ideas on how to expand the fair, and we have to choose the correct order to make them happen. I am not able to say where exactly, right now, because of ongoing negotiations unfortunately. But we hope to add another city by next year. The flexible model of Moving Image along with low cost participation and perhaps even no additional expenses (such as shipping or flights and accommodation for their staff if they choose) makes it easy and affordable for galleries to participate wherever we present the fair. TE: What does a typical day for you entail? MO: From the minute I wake up, I like everything to be organised and have a smooth flow. I always respond immediately to my emails, even though I may not have a definitive answer right away. Email correspondence takes up a big part of the day (as is normal for an international operation), then meetings, phone conversations and research. Some evenings I spend socialising and some evenings I simply spend at home and have a quiet evening. Photos from Moving Image London 2012 photos Joe Clark TE: What inspires you? Ambitious people with realistic plans and the vision to complete their projects with outstanding results, especially those who don’t have easy access to resources but still have big dreams and work to make them come true. With Thanks to Murat Orozobekov, Moving Image London.
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