Magazine: Issue 7
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Preview: Dara Birnbaum
9 December 2011 – 12 February 2012 PREVIEW: Thursday 8 December 2011, 6.30-8.30 pm South London Art Gallery presents American artist Dara Birnbaum who was one of the first to subvert the language of television and is internationally recognised for her pioneering film and video works made over the past three and a half decades. IMAGE: Dara Birnbaum, Arabesque, 2011, Four channel video installation, four stereo audio, 6' 30 She presents the UK premiere of her recent work, Arabesque, 2011, a multi-channel video installation which reflects on the legacy of two piano compositions; one composed by Robert Schumann for his wife Clara, the other composed by Clara Schumann for her husband Robert. Spanning the SLG's main exhibition space and first floor galleries, the show also includes the seminal work, Attack Piece, 1975, Birnbaum's first surviving installation, and a series of her single channel works from the 1970s. A survey of Birnbaum's analysis of television through the 1980s, including Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, 1978-79, will also be presented as a one-off screening on 11 January 2012. Birnbaum's Arabesque, 2011, surveys and re-presents multiple perspectives on Robert Schuman's Arabesque Opus 18, 1839, through a multi-screen video installation occupying the SLG's main exhibition space. Still footage from the 1947 film Song of Love, a melodrama featuring Arabesque, is set against Birnbaum's edit of a broad selection of performances of the piece taken from YouTube clips. In Birnbaum's words, "the more the viewer is exposed to the masterwork (the Arabesque masterpiece), the more it becomes neutralized by the diverse range of musicians attempting to reach for it". In the course of her research Birnbaum became increasingly interested in the relationship between Robert Schuman and his wife Clara, an accomplished pianist who cared for him through phases of depression and madness, as well as for their eight children, supporting them through her playing. For Birnbaum, the relative obscurity of Clara Schuman's composition Romanze 1, Opus 11, which might be argued to be of similar virtuosity to Robert Schuman's widely acclaimed masterpiece, symbolises the power struggle between men and women, a concern which has informed her practice for more than thirty years. In the SLG's first floor galleries a series of Birnbaum's earliest single channel works from the 1970s are shown alongside the double projection installation, Attack Piece, 1975. IMAGE: Dara Birnbaum, Attack Piece, 1975, Two channel video installation, black & white (transferred from film & slide footage, 2 mono audio, 7' 40", Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York - Paris. Photo: John Berens In Attack Piece Birnbaum is shown 'armed' with a still camera while she is filmed by her mostly male collaborators (including David Askevold, Dan Graham and Ian Murray), who attempt to invade her territory. Other works use video to create psychological self-portraits, or explore the tension between the performative and the psychological. All of the works are in different ways underpinned by the artist's exploration of the relationship between the camera, performer and viewer, and many reveal her questioning of gender stereotypes and the exploitation in the media of women's roles.
Review: Wonderlust
WONDERLUST APT Gallery, Deptford 10-27 November (Late opening last Friday 25th Nov until 8pm) The scope of this exhibition: 'Humanity's hunt for the amazing, the epic and the unimagined\' initially seemed too multi-faceted to formulate a coherent exhibition. However, the emphasis is not on the spectacular, rather man\'s often unquenched thirst for it, and this should be the explored facet here. Moreover, is it novelty or beauty we seek in our environment, does it have an evolutionary function? Are our imagined worlds bound by what is conceivable in the physical world? Should this lust for wonder lead to invention? IMAGE: ʻWell when I was a Ladʼ James Jeff Lindley There were a few stand out pieces in the show that threw some interesting arguments into the mix. James Jeff Lindley's 'A Future Past' a video work comprising various development projects in Britain and beyond over the past 50 or so years. With a nauseating Disney soundtrack we are invited to view with the fresh eyed optimism of a 1950s public the projects we now know to have not held the glory we were promised (particularly apt as we approach completion of the Olympic promiseland). In one frame we are presented with Council housing projects with the bitter taste of Thatcherism in our mouths. Adjacent to this Lindley's 'Saying Series' addresses the human propensity to view the past through rose tinted glasses, the work comprises a series of drawings, linguistic cliches pasted on pictorial cliches boast such parental gems as 'Well, when I was a lad'. Luke Ottridge's 'Singularity' utilising monochrome twin screen mimicry and a vast bone in the foreground managed a bizarre Gestaltian figure ground shifting in my attention, the overall effect drowning the subjects. Lindley and Otteridge between them highlighting the roles of memory and perception in our quest for the novel. IMAGE: ʻLagoonʼ Jera May Ironically I wasn't so drawn to the more beautiful pieces in the show, which in the context of this exhibition only seemed to serve to reinforce the fact we are drawn to pretty things rather than address why: The hedonist over the inquisitor. Jera May's 'Lagoon' sat somewhere comfortably inbetween, drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Like Lindley, May layers cliche, the idyllic churchyard scene is cut up and a lagoon projected through it's negative. The painting takes a back seat to the projection, seemingly our forever hungry eyes are increasingly dissatisfied by subtle beauty. There is a lot worth seeing in this show, and a few artists to keep those peepers on. Rachel Price
Venue Spotlight: Peckham Space
No more ‘them’ and ‘us’: Peckham Space Open If there is any show which is a must see this month it is the Peckham Space Open, taking place at Peckham Space from 29th November – 17th December. Peckhamites by Robert Weeks Selected by a panel of representatives from Tate Modern, Space Station 65, Camberwell College of Arts and Peckham Space, theOPEN exhibition will feature 2D works by student, graduate, professional and self-trained artists linked together only by their work/residence in, and their works’ thematic link to, Peckham. For once, class, a degree from a recognised art institution or the possession of a string of art world brands under ones belt, cease to be determining factors in selection and exposure. Absent from the drop-off day which happened last Saturday (19th November) and with no supporting documentation other than the artists’ names and titles for the work, the panel select the work unencumbered by these preconceptions. In keeping with the wider ethos of Peckham Space, which as part of Camberwell College of Arts’s widening participation arm commissions socially engaged art practice, the exhibition is set to tear down those all too familiar barriers that those in the art world set up between themselves and the ‘public’. Peckham Space, photograph by John Clare. With these barriers removed so that all the selected works share the same exhibition space, it will be near on impossible to decipher who has and who hasn’t received formal art education, even for those viewers, on both sides, who set out on a mission to do so. Revealing much about the significance of how work is framed, the impossibility of such a task is no doubt the point. What ever your interest or education is, I highly recommend a visit to the OPEN exhibition this December if not to invest in some affordable art then to take in the colourful array of work. Sarah Rowles
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