The young and the aged converge on Randall’s Island for Frieze Art Fair mania.
Ivan Seal, Carl Freedman Gallery (above 2 images)
These little paintings are my favorite for the second year in a row.
Unknown (above 2 images)
Unknown (above 2 images)
Raffi Kalenderian, Galeri Peter Kilchmann (above 2 images)
Borden Capalino, Ramiken Crucible Gallery (above 3 images)
Gardar Eide Einarsson
Graham Little, Alison Jacques Gallery (above 2 images)
Jim Lambie, “Metal Box,” 2013, Sadie Coles
Ricarda Roggan, Galerie Eigen + Art
Neo Rauch, Galerie Eigen + Art
C. Nicolai, Galerie Eigen + Art
If you happen to be in Minneapolis you should check out this exhibition:
Sonnenzimmer at The MCAD Gallery
The Minneapolis College of Art and Design
January 18 – March 3, 2013
More info here. Sonnenzimmer website here.
From the MCAD website:
Sonnenzimmer is the Chicago-based art, design, and print studio of Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi. Merging backgrounds in typography, fine art, printmaking, and publication design, the couple’s commissioned and self-initiated work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including a recent exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Known primarily for their idiosyncratic take on printed matter, especially the screen printed poster, Sonnenzimmer has carved out a niche for their small commercial art studio, servicing an array of clients as varied as the Poetry Foundation, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sub Pop records, and numerous free jazz groups. Their work has been published by Gestalen, Rockport Publishers, and Princeton Architectural Press and is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Design and Architecture collection and the Museum of Design Zürich’s poster collection. Founded in 2006, Sonnenzimmer sees a bright future for the graphic arts as a new generation of image-makers emerges.
My favorite poster.
Went on a Chelsea and Soho tour this week in search of some inspiring art, here is what I found (and liked) during my wanderings:::
Barney Kulok at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery
Exhibition runs from September 13th — October 27th. More info here.
Barney will be speaking at Aperture this coming Tuesday, find out all about it here.
And an Artforum review.
Ahmed Alsoudani at Haunch of Venison
Exhibition runs from October 4th — November 3rd. More info here.
James Welling at David Zwirner
Exhibition runs from September 7th — October 27th. More info here.
Renaud Regnery at Elizabeth Dee Gallery
Exhibition runs from September 22nd — October 27th. More info here.
Kraftwerk box set, DAP
FW Books, Dutch Contemporary photo books
Paper Monument-Saddest ashtray ever
Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe – Marlborough Gallery
Swiss Room (one of my favorite rooms, above 5 pictures)
Desert Island Comics
C & P: In your artistic practice do you focus mainly on drawing and collage? What other materials find their way into your work?
Laura: I trained as a painter, I am currently working on series of large scale canvases about abandoned housing estates and militant cells operating from them. I am also collaborating with other artists on film and writing projects.
I don’t really compartmentalize my practice, it doesn’t make any sense for me to do that. The paintings, the billboards, the blog posts, they are all manifestations of the same force. They have different intensities and speeds and that’s why I move between different processes but I don’t privilege one over another.
C & P: Sometimes there is a wash of color overlaying your drawings (often a bright pink or fluorescent green mainly used for overwritten text or graffiti). What effect to you hope to achieve by adding these day-glo colors and text over your stark grey subject matter (depictions of a post-industrial landscape; crumbling tower blocks, deserted trash strewn streets, overgrown non-places)?
Laura: I use flashes of fluorescent colour in an attempt to articulate those fleeting moments of epiphany, those little rushes of euphoria that you encounter when you’re drifting in the city. I suppose it is the city filtered through a narcotic lens, those heightened moments, flashbacks from raves and punk gigs, all day drinking sessions in squatted pubs.
The translucent layers of paint also allude to the textures and surfaces of the architecture I’m walking through, the way concrete is weathered, marked by its inhabitants, the patina of decay and the possibility of rupture.
By building up layers with the paint I am also attempting to describe the city as palimpsest, of layers of writing, erasure, and overwriting.
C & P: Your work is very much about the state of affairs in London at the present time. Can you imagine making work about another place? Have you lived outside of London/the U.K.?
Laura: I am indelibly marked by London as it the city I have spent most time in but I also feel how it relates to other cities and explore these paths. I am about to embark on a six week residency in China and also Korea later in the year. I am interested in exile, in landscape as a mythologized, intense mental space. I lived in New York for a while, I had a studio in Hell’s Kitchen, which was a massively contested site at the time.
C & P: Do you feel that the London/Tottenham riots of August 2011 are just the beginning of a time of unrest in the city? Did the riots bring about any policy change? Or are things pretty much the same as they were before these events occurred?
Laura: I think those moments of incandescent rage were the signal of better times. Those currents of anger have always been there pulsating beneath the surface of the city, oscillating above it and through it like mobile phone signals. I was impatient for those channels to be activated and in August they were. I think this year we will see more intensive periods of fighting. I can visualize the flashpoints now, all we need is a couple of prolonged heat waves in June and July.
C & P: You relate your walks/drifts to Guy Debord and the S.I.’s idea of the dérive. Do you feel that people have become so pacified by the predictable and monotonous experiences of everyday life that they are not really living anymore?
Laura: I think less pacified, more exhausted. I genuinely believe the social terrain can shift very quickly. A few years ago when I started my zine, in 2005, my work was considered by some to be exotic, to be an amusing anomaly, massive social upheaval, strikes and economic crisis were deemed to belong to another era. I knew it would all happen again, I was willing it to happen, I knew people weren’t pacified to that extent, I knew it was all close to breaking. Now a lot of those same people find my work a lot less amusing since it has shifted into the terrain of documentary and reportage of the contemporary moment. A lot can happen when you’ve got so many people on the dole in a city seething with viciousness.
In the introduction to my book Savage Messiah, Mark Fisher talks about this, that if all our time is taken up trying to pay rent and mortgages it leaves us too wrecked to wander and drift and think, As Jon Savage points out in England’s Dreaming, ‘the London of punk was still a bombed-out city, full of chasms, caverns, spaces that could be temporarily occupied and squatted. Once those spaces are enclosed, practically all of the city’s energy is put into paying the mortgage or the rent. There’s no time to experiment, to journey without already knowing where you will end up. Your aims and objectives have to be stated up front. “Free time” becomes convalescence. You turn to what reassures you, what will most refresh you for the working day: the old familiar tunes (or what sound like them) on ITunes. London becomes a city of pinched-face drones plugged into iPods.’
C & P: When I moved to Bethnal Green (from Boston, Massachusetts) in 1999 my interest was immediately piqued by the council estates sprinkled throughout the East End / Tower Hamlets area. I had never seen such architecture in Boston, or in the US, for that matter. I was drawn to these massive housing projects, intrigued by their coldness and also slightly frightened by the sprawling nature of the structures and the strange, empty areas surrounding them. I would wander around the back streets of the East End daily, photographing and exploring all of the dilapidated sites. You also photograph while walking/drifting around certain parts of London and base your drawings on the images you collect from your wanders. What draws you to these neglected (and now changing) parts of the city? Do you aim to document the disappearance of these types of areas in the city?
Laura: Brutalist architecture has always fascinated me. I have always been enthralled by the dark theatricality of it, the levels and walkways, the networks of courtyards. I am enraptured by the moment when the modernist grid starts to unravel and succumbs to the labyrinth, those moments when planned uses of spaces are subverted, like when it kicked off on Broadwater Farm (in Tottenham) in 1985 where the aerial walkways were used for observation and aerial bombardment, and also the Crescents in Hulme in Manchester that were squatted and surrounded by the nomadic architectures of traveler sites.
C & P: When I was in the East End last summer I was shocked at how different Bethnal Green looked, one of the council estates that I walked by every day seemed like it was slated for demolition. My friend told me this was because of the Olympics coming to London in 2012. You address this redevelopment in your work. How do you see the East End changing in the future? Will the East End just be another area for the yuppies to sip fancy cocktails in their new luxury condos, displacing the artists and the middle class/poor people that have called that area their home for so long?
Laura: When I started the zine this was one of the biggest concerns to me, the class cleansing that was happening around the East End. I was directly affected by it when my own estate was evicted. Certain areas have had whole sections of the population forcibly ousted, parts of Dalston, Hackney and Bethnal Green have become massively gentrified and a lot of people have been forcibly ‘decanted’ to sink estates in places like Poplar and Edmonton. The scene you describe has already materialized. I am interested to see what the East End will look like in 2013 when we’re steeped in the second wave of a double dip recession, the collapse of the Eurozone, the backlash against the failed Olympics. A lot of people who bought into the idea of property investment and aspirational lifestyles are going to be defaulting on mortgages in hugely contested areas, these boroughs are riven by strife along multiple lines.
C & P: I read online that you once lived in Aylesbury Estate in Elephant and Castle, which is also under redevelopment at the current time, what was the experience of living there like? Were you squatting there or living in a legitimate space?
Laura: I was staying there for a year or so in someone else’s council flat. It was pretty grim then, (ten years ago) there wasn’t much happening around there unless you were into BNP pubs and African churches. Now it’s better because there has been a massive influx of Equadorians and Colombians and they have better bars and cafes.
I used to spend a lot of time walking from there to the bawdy drinking dens of Peckham and New Cross, that route across Burgess Park, along the ghost of the Surrey canal became suffused with a sense of excitement, the euphoria of escape from stifling misery, when I walk it now I still feel it.
C & P: In addition to making drawings you also produce a zine, Savage Messiah, and artwork for outdoor billboards (both which showcase your drawings). When you hang the billboard pieces throughout the city are you doing this illegally? Do you hang your work over paid adverts or do you choose disused billboards? Do you include any sort of tag on the work or is it anonymous (except to those that recognize your artwork)? Have you ever
been in trouble for vandalizing?
Laura: I like the immediacy of going out flyposting, it’s the best way of responding to shifting situations. With the more organized commissioned posters you have a certain luxury in the sense that the work is durational, it exists in the street for a certain amount of time. This means you can burrow into a place over time, be more subversive in the content, with the flyposters I like to be quite brutal and direct.
C & P: Could you tell me a bit about the WE ARE BAD collective? What role do you play in the organization of this group’s activities?
Laura: We are Bad doesn’t exist in that exact incarnation although the other members of the cell are still active and we do work together occasionally for certain projects. I do a radio show called Abject Bloc with them. I like working as a collective. I am currently collaborating with other people now on projects around the Diamond Jubilee, Olympics, and 2012 riots.
C & P: Tell me about your zine, Savage Messiah. How long have you been producing the zine and how many issues have you made? Do you produce and finance the zine yourself or do you receive artist grants to help you with production costs, etc…? How long have you had the Savage Messiah blog online? Is it a direct translation of what appears in the zine?
Laura: Savage Messiah started in 2005, I have made 13 issues so far. I have always made it on a very ad hoc basis, just photocopying them and distributing to whoever is close at hand. I like the fluidity and dynamism of zines, I thought of it as a current, operating outside the designated white cube zones. I thought of it as sending out a message in a bottle, that it would drift out on its own and who knows who might find it and how they might relate to it. I always trusted it would be an effective way of contributing to a critical milieu and allowing the right people to gravitate towards me. Now it is a book it has become something else, it operates on a totally different level. The blog has been going for a year, when it started I was posting fragments from the zine, writing, photos and drawings, now I post new writing, reports from recent dérives.
C & P: Have you always kept a written record of your thoughts about the situations you experience in daily life while living in London? Are the texts in the zine culled from personal experience, other people’s experiences, or a mix of both?
Laura: I write a journal, I usually spend an hour a day on it, sometimes more. This is important, it becomes the genesis of other trajectories, I always draw on memories of walks around the city. It’s not so much about a quest for authenticity in the work, that doesn’t really interest me, it’s more about having lacerating detail in the writing and a connection to those desires and anxieties that end up being hidden.
I also write up my dérives, these become fractured narratives, a conflation of detailed recollections and conjecture, the walk becomes a structure to weave desires and fictions.
C & P: What projects are you working on currently?
Laura: In April 2012 I have a residency in Shenzhen in China where I am making work for a sculpture Biennial. When I return to London I am doing a residency in Deptford, South London where I will be using a disused police station as a HQ for various activities. In September I am making work in Korea for the Gwangju Biennial, then in November I am in a show at Caja Madrid in Barcelona called Desire Paths with Francis Alys, Mark Ariel Waller, and Cyprien Galliard. I am making an intervention at Tate Britain in August, this will involve walking around Vauxhall and Pimlico and photocopying drift reports and flyposters.
OOH LA LA!
CHEAP & PLASTIQUE Issue 10!
Cheap & Plastique have been furiously prepping for the Fountain Art Fair, which is part of NY Armory Week, over the past month, producing a new zine and collecting art from 9 international artists, to present at the fair, which runs from March 9th – 11th.
Issue 10 of Cheap & Plastique features art from an international roster of artistes:
Illustration from Deedee Cheriel (from L.A.)
Mixed Media work from Dianna Frid (from Chicago)
Photography from Geert Goiris (from Antwerp, Belgium)
Painting from Christian Hellmich (from Berlin, Germany)
Mixed Media work from Laura Oldfield Park (from London, England)
Painting from Amy Park (from New York City)
Photography from Georg Parthen (from Berlin, Germany)
Mixed Media work from Aaron Williams (from New York City)
and this coming weekend Cheap & Plastique will present 9 artistes, all who have been featured in the magazine over the years, at Fountain.
C & P will be exhibiting:
Painting from Elias Necol Melad (from New York City)
Painting from Heather Morgan (from New York City)
Photography from Christine Navin (from New York City)
Video work from Georg Parthen (from Berlin, Germany)
Video work from Rachel Reupke (from London, England)
Video work from Charles Roberts III (from Chicago)
Drawing from Nathan Wasserbauer (from New York City)
Photography from Peter Wildanger (from Dusseldorf, Germany)
Photography from Rivkah Young (from Dusseldorf, Germany)
Come by the Armory and say hello.
We have many exciting things to show you!
More about Fountain:
Fountain Art Fair will take over the historic 69th Armory on March 9 — 11 for it’s largest exhibition yet, presenting today’s most cutting-edge independent galleries and artists in a weekend-long frenzy of art, installations, and live performances.
Fab 5 Freddy DJs the opening night reception Friday, March 9th at 7:00 PM. On Saturday Fountain extends its hours until 11pm for a Saturday night party curated by our nonprofit partner Art for Progress, with special performances to be announced!
Hours & Special Events:
Friday, March 9, 1pm – 7pm: VIP & Press Preview
Friday, March 9, 7pm – 11pm: ARTLOG Presents: Opening Night Reception: Fab 5 Freddy
Saturday, March 10, 1pm – 7pm: General Hours
Saturday, March 10, 7pm – 11pm: Art For Progress Presents: Performances TBA
Sunday, March 11, 1pm – 7pm: General Hours
Visit www.fountainartfair.com for details and a full list of exhibitors!
Tickets $10/day pass, $15/weekend pass
Buy tickets online at www.fountainartfair.eventbrite.com
269th Regiment Armory • 68 Lexington Avenue at 25th Street
See old issues of Cheap & Plastique here.
Untitled (Mirror Image, #18), Oil on Orange Mirrored Plexiglass, 48” x 36”, 2008
Cheap & Plastique interviews Brooklyn-based artist John Jurayj for Issue 9.
C & P: Your work deals with events that have taken place in Lebanon and how war and internal conflict have affected the country and its people. Your parents emigrated from Lebanon to the US before you were born. Have you been to Lebanon? Do you still have family in Lebanon?
John: My father’s family still lives in Lebanon, both in Beirut and in Kousba to the north. I have visited regularly since the end of the civil war in the early 1990’s.
C & P: I see that you have shown your work in Beirut. Is the reaction to your work different in Beirut than in NYC?
John: I think that the work is read differently depending on where it is shown. The viewer and his or her background, knowledge, and experience alters the work’s meaning. Certainly when the work is shown in the Arab world, and in particular in Lebanon, its resonance is different. The ostensible subject matter is fore fronted by the viewer’s subjectivity.
Untitled, Installation View, Participant, Inc., NY, 2011
C & P: You just showed your work at Participant, Inc. Gallery in NYC. Could you speak a bit about this show.
John: I have been working for a number of years on two different projects that are inter-related yet formally different. Undead furthered my explorations of “disrupted representation”. A non-profit and, in particular, Participant, Inc., allowed me a lot more leeway to show what I needed as opposed to what might work in the market.
C & P: The show included a video work, (Untitled) We Could Be Heroes, who are the figures in this video? Is this your first time working in this medium? Do you think you will create more video work in the future?
John: This is my first video but since its creation I have continued to explore this medium and have a large piece in my current show at Alberto Peola Gallery in Torino Italy. Untitled (We Could Be Heroes) is a piece sampled from my early paper and screen print work of the same title. It is an anthology of significant political players of the Lebanese Civil War, including American politicians. All the “men” are equalized when their eyes and vision are disgorged.
Untitled (Luggage), cast gunpowder and plaster, 14.75″ x 21.25″ x 7.25″, 2010
C & P: Your sculptures of luggage, (Family Baggage), made of plaster and gunpowder, have been referred to as “ghost objects.” Do you intend these objects to function as memorials in any sense? If so, are they meant to evoke memories of people or of broader concepts?
John: As opposed to a memorial which has the intent of commemorating, these objects are shadows or ghosts that float alongside the present. They are the darkness, the other side of what we see.
C & P: Given that the sculptures are of luggage and contain gunpowder, have you had any trouble shipping the works for exhibitions?
John: Not yet…
C & P: I imagine they might not easily clear customs.
John: You would think, but they always make it through. Maybe things are not as tight as they say.
Untitled (Boy With Shorts), Gunpowder and Ink Screened on Polished Stainless Steel, 67” x 44”, 2011
C & P: Can you speak about your use of mirrored surfaces/stainless steel in place of traditional canvases? Is this more of an aesthetic choice or is it intended to give rise to an interactive element in the work, as the viewer sees their image reflected back at them from within? With this particular series, Untitled (Undead), the reflective quality of the work seems to drive home a sense of not only being a witness after the fact but also of participation or complicity in past events, as the viewer sees themself with a “ghost image” of a dead figure.
John: Mirrored stainless steel is commonly used in psychiatric and penal institutions for safety purposes. I find this popular use important to the meaning of the work. Of course mirroring is a critical phase in child development and its absence can produce a rupture of self. In the case of painting, the mirror dissolves the privileged and separate space in which viewer stands, participation and implication is not a choice.
Untitled (Girl With Shorts), Gunpowder and Ink Screened on Polished Stainless Steel, 67” x 44”, 2010
C & P: The figures in Untitled (Undead) are painted from images of those killed in the Lebanese Civil War. Where do these images come from? Newspapers? Are they published images? Are these people strangers or do you have
a personal connection to them (are they relatives or friends of your family)?
John: The people are anonymous and are sourced from journalistic archives. It is important that their anonymity be the bases of the attempts to give them dignity through verticality.
C & P: Do you always work from photographic sources in your painting?
John: No, my abstractions are pure material as representation.
C & P: The subjects in Untitled (Undead) bring to mind Robert Longo’s Men in the Cities drawings from the late 70s. Interestingly, the figures and poses in both end up looking very similar although the intentions behind the work are completely opposed. Longo’s figures are jumping into the air, celebrating being alive, whereas your figures are fallen men and women, lifeless. However, your subjects seem to take on an almost triumphant air of reanimation when removed from their original context and placed upright and vertical. Could you talk about your decision to present the work like this? Have you looked at Longo’s work as a reference point?
John: Longo is not a reference point though I am conscious of the reflection. That said, I am interested in my work echoing the history of other work, whether recent or the deep past.
I think that it is best to let go of the anxiety of influence and play with the productive possibilities of aesthetic recycling. Whereas Longo seems to celebrate motion and the city, I am more interested in an attempt at changing time and altering space. Whether that is possible or not is also part of the work. It could be a heroic failure.
Untitled (Mirror Image, #27), Oil on Yellow Mirrored Plexiglass, 48” x 36”, 2009
C & P: Are you a fan of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s work, particularly the Mirror Paintings? Have these works influenced your decision to paint on a reflective surface?
John: I am a fan of his materials and some of the possibilities that his work opens up, though I am not interested in the seeming passivity and politeness of his work.
Untitled (Marine Barracks, 1983, #2), Oil on Linen, 74” x 84”, 2006
C & P: You studied architecture as an undergraduate, when did you decide to pursue artmaking rather than a career in architecture?
John: Architecture was a compromise with my parents. It allowed for me to have some aesthetic expression while maintaining the illusion of stability and social acceptance. It really wasn’t me. I have never functioned well in compromise and group settings. What drew me to architecture as a kid was my inability to distinguish between destruction and construction.
C & P: In your earlier work you paint pictures of buildings being bombed using a very colorful, day-glo palette, even though the paintings depict somber subject matter. Your newer works are rendered in much more subdued tones. Can you discuss this change in palette?
John: The nature of the materials actually changed—from traditional oil to silkscreen. And then there is depression which is always at my edges.
C & P: Do you mix gunpowder in with the paint/silkscreen ink in all of these works? How did you first begin working with gunpowder as a medium?
John: Yes, gunpowder is in all the screen printing and casting. I was looking for a medium other than standard ink or plaster to actualize instability, corruption, and volatility.
Untitled (Purple Diptych, #10), Digital print on watercolor paper with burn holes and purple mirrored plexiglass, 58.25” x 74”, 2011
C & P: Your paintings seem to have progressed from using buildings and architecture as their primary subject matter to using images of people. Can you talk about this progression? Is it indicative of a shift in your interest in subject matter or something necessitated or dictated by the particular cycle of work?
John: The work moves between source material which is public and spaces which are very personal. I think this is a continuous circle.
C & P: Do you paint specific buildings in Beirut? Do each of the buildings that you depict have their own story?
John: Yes and no. In general, anonymity prevails, yet certain moments such as the bombing of the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Marine Barracks are iconic and unavoidably knowable.
Untitled (Orange Diptych, #8), Digital print on watercolor paper with burn holes and orange mirrored plexiglass, 56” x 73.5”, 2011
C & P: What painters/artists having you been looking at most recently? Past? Present?
John: When I paint my paintings, I look at myself. Otherwise, Warhol seems to always shadow me.
C & P: You teach at both SVA and Cornell, how does teaching influence your practice?
John: It allows me to be on the front lines. Thinking and rethinking what is pertinent, what is possible, and what is the point.
C & P: What are you working on right now?
John: I have been working with bricks cast in gunpowder and am thinking about a large scale sculptural installation to honor my father, and reflect his death.
Above spreads from Chapter One: Down The Rabbit Hole, Unique Silkscreened book,
33 x 46 cm, 2010
C & P: How did Bongoût begin? How did you start collaborating with Anna Hellsgård? When did you open the Bongoût art space/store? Who runs the Bongoût store? Are the shop, the graphic design/illustration business (Re:Surgo!), and the artist representative agency (Bellevue Illustration) all run by the same people, in the same space? Is this all you and Anna Hellsgård?
Bongoût/Christian: I started pretty punk. My first silkscreen atelier was in a huge alternative warehouse project across the Rhine, in Kehl (Germany), that was hosting rehearsal spaces, recording studios and event spaces. I was publishing silkscreen hand-printed artist books in a very DIY matter. Some of my friends started a small garage punk & noise label, so I would design and print the record covers. Meanwhile we organised concerts, exhibitions, raves and parties, So I was in charge of doing the design and print to advertise the events.
When I met Anna in 2001, we started collaborating and eventually our work became more structured and sharp. We relocated in Bordeaux for a year and a half. We quickly moved to Berlin. In Berlin we’ve had three different locations, and we’ve been in the space on Torstrasse since early 2008.
Our shop, design & print studio are all in the same location—we occupy the entire lower floor of Torstr. 110. Our illustration agency, Bellevue, is in the 4th floor in the same building. Anna and me run the graphic design studio and silkscreen studio together. We run the publishing company and shop with our partner Alain, and Bellevue is co-run by us and Jakob Hinrichs and Katia Fouquet.
C & P: Is there a silkscreen facility on the Bongoût premises? How often is the press in use?
Bongoût/Christian: The silkscreen print studio is in the back of of shop. Hardly a day goes by when we don’t print.
C & P: The Bongoût web shop sells photography, sculpture, paintings, handmade books, zines, limited edition prints, t-shirts, music, and more. Do you sell as much of a variety of products in the store? Who curates what is sold in the store and online?
Bongoût/Christian: Yes, in fact you can regard it as a sort of select shop—we carry things we like, mostly print publications (from polished offset artist monographs to DIY limited edition zines) but also prints, posters, apparel, vinyl records, and even chinaware designed by artists, and of course original artworks.
Biographical Chapter 12, Silkscreen print, 150 x 200 cm, 2011
C & P: Do you regularly have exhibitions in the space? Are the exhibitions always of people’s work who you sell in the shop?
Bongoût/Christian: For the last three and a half years, we had on opening every month and were having exhibitions non-stop in constant rotation. But we’ve had to focus more and more on our own work as well as the books we are publishing, and needed more space for the office and studio.
We moved them into the former exhibition space and are now having smaller shows every third month in the shop part of Bongoût. It’s not only people whose work is in the shop, but it will often be of artists who we’ve worked with in the past in some form. The connections come about quite naturally, and we develop the concept for the exhibitions together. When we were using the exhibition space we would approach it as a very flexible and modular space, and it looked different for every exhibition—adding temporary walls, changing the lighting, painting the walls different colours… each exhibition had a very unique character.
Loomings Chapter 1, Silkscreen print, 150 x 200 cm, 2010
C & P: Could you talk about the process of working with an artist/illustrator on a book or an art print? Do you silkscreen the book/print or does the artist silkscreen their own work? Or does the process vary from artist to artist, project to project?
Bongoût/Christian: We have very often worked with other artists—in fact, collaborations are an essential part. Each project defines a new set of rules, and in general we have a very good chemistry with our project partners. It’s comparable to making music with different people. It creates a good balance and challenges between our different projects.
C & P: Do you only print limited edition, hand-silkscreened books and prints in house? Do you ever send a project out to an offset press to print a larger edition of a book?
Bongoût/Christian: A few years ago we started to publish offset books. We now have a catalogue of over 15 offset publications, books & catalogues. We are currently working on three big offset monographs: a painting book by ATAK, a book of Marilyn Manson’s watercolours and a photo book with Natacha Merritt.
Given, 72 pages silkscreen book, 93 colours, 40 x 30 cm (above 3 images)
C & P: What is the most involved/complex project you have ever undertaken in Bongoût’s print shop?
Bongoût/Christian: We just finished Given, a huge collective silkscreen book. Three booklets in a cardboard box, 30 x 40 cm, 72 pages, and a run of 145. We used 93 screens for it. We asked 35 artists (Seripop, Tara Mc Pherson, Pakito Bolino, Gregory Jacobsen, Manuel Ocampo….) to submit images and we printed the whole project this summer. It´s massive.
C & P: How do you find the artists/illustrators/comics that you work with and/or represent? Are most of the Bongoût stable friends and/or acquaintances? People who have submitted work through your website? Or people that you have scouted out at schools and in other publications? Are they mostly German?
Bongoût/Christian: The connections happen naturally. The artists we work with come from all over the world. After 15 years of being active, we have a pretty good network, but we are always excited to discover new young talents to collaborate with.
C & P: How many projects do you work on at a time?
Bongoût/Christian: We always multi-task and work on several projects simultaneously. That’s how we can keep on being productive and avoid lulls. It is not unusual that a project goes over a time frame of three-six months (sometimes it takes a year or two to put everything on place), so if we were focusing on only one at a time it would be very slow and frustrating. This way we keep ourselves busy and have a steady output, its’ exciting.
C & P: Are there other publishers in Berlin doing something similar to what Bongoût is doing? How about elsewhere in Europe?
Bongoût/Christian: In Berlin I’m not sure. Over the years I saw a few publications that go in a similar direction, but rarely anything consistent. Since the 70´s here is a long tradition of underground art publishing in France, which is part of my background, l´APAAR, Elles sont de Sortie, Le Dernier CRi, United Dead Artists… just to name a few.
C & P: Do you ever collaborate with other independent publishers?
Bongoût/Christian: We carry other publishers’ books in our shop and web shop. We did a few straightforward collaboration too.
C & P: Do you sell Bongoût product anywhere in the USA?
Bongoût/Christian: Cinders Gallery and Booklyn Artist Alliance, both in Brooklyn, are carrying our silkscreen artist books, and in terms of distribution, DAP and LAST GASP are distributing some of our offset books in the USA.
C & P: How long have you been creating artwork? Have you always used the medium of silkscreen?
Bongoût/Christian: I started to publish graphic zines under the name Bongoût in April 1995, and I met Anna in 2001. We essentially silkscreen, but we also paint, draw, photograph, do installations and play in several bands.
Chapter Two: A Pool of Tears, Unique Silkscreened book, 40 x 60 cm, 2011 (above 3 spreads)
C & P: I saw the book Down the Rabbit Hole at the New York Art Book Fair last year and was absolutely blown away by it. It was definitely the most beautiful book I saw at the entire fair, unfortunately I could not afford to purchase it. There is only one copy made? And this year you produced a similar book, A Pool of Tears, which The US Library of Congress purchased. Could you tell me a bit about the process of making these books? Where does the imagery in the book come from? How long does it take to produce?
Bongoût/Christian: Yes, it is a unique book, there is only one copy. It’s a hard cover, with embossing (46 x 33 cm). The book is a mise-en-abyme of media and techniques and the title is obviously inspired by Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The beginning it’s very intuitive. The materials go through several iterations and transpositions until the final result is achieved. It just clicks, we know exactly when we have reached what we wanted. At the end it makes it hard to pinpoint one specific technique.
This book is part of a series, with each book being considered as a “chapter”. Each chapter is named after a chapter in Alice In Wonderland. We are currently working on Chapters 3 & 4. Chapter 1 is now in the Standford library collection and Chapter 2 in the US Library of Congress.
C & P: Do you ever take the imagery from a page in one of these books and reuse it to make a poster or present it in some other format?
Bongoût/Christian: Like I said, our work is a constant mise-en-abyme. A time-travel remix. We are reusing film, elements, found material, our own work (paintings, drawings, photos)… one work leads to the next one. The creative process reflect the dynamics of creation and inspiration.
C & P: What is your favorite thing to do in the neighborhood?
Bongoût/Christian: Sorry but I will not advertise them in a public discussion. (Ed.- Understandable, I might have the same reaction to the question in regards to Greenpoint/Williamsburg!) I hang out there with my friends and I want to keep these places genuine and tourist-free as long as possible. That’s why they are my favorite spots.
C & P: Do you feel that you will be able to stay in Mitte for a long time? Or is Mitte changing in a way that it will make it impossible for a gallery/artist run space to be able to operate there in the future?
Bongoût/Christian: Anna and I were discussing it recently. We’ll see what the future brings, but all together I don’t think that it’s changing that fast.
C & P: I just read that Tacheles was closed down this year and the artists who had studio spaces there were evicted. Is this true? How do you feel about the arts landmark being demolished and turned into high priced condos?
Bongoût/Christian: I never felt very close to the Tacheles community or spirit. Tacheles was a pale vestige of a Berlin that is long gone for me. Twenty years ago you had a lot of squats and artist spaces like this, and I loved that energy, but it is something that was particular to the 80’s and 90’s right before and after the fall of the Berlin wall. These creative community had as much to give as the established artists.
But even if the building was amazing, over the last few years, the Tacheless turned more and more into just another tourist attraction. It’s a natural evolution, gentrification is inevitable. No big deal. When it happen move on and do something new.
C & P: I went to Berlin in early 2000 and again in 2005 and in just five years I noticed that the city had changed a lot… and now I assume it has changed even more. Do you feel that Berlin is a different city now than it was in 2005? Is it becoming more difficult to live cheaply there?
Bongoût/Christian: It might still take a while until all of Berlin looks and feels like Prenzlauer Berg though. Of course, once you’re settled or running a business, you’re pretty happy that you can walk along the sidewalk without stepping in dog shit and having to dodge the drunks. But people were saying the same thing in 1990, and again in 2000. I see tons of galleries and artists moving to Berlin because they think it’s the El Dorado of art. They heard about cheap rents and are hoping to make it big time here, but most of them quickly sober up and realize it’s not as easy as they thought. Financially, the city is still a nightmare—there’s a reason why the beer and the rents are cheap. Most people don’t make a lot of money here. But this is part of Berlin’s flair. And you could see this as a sort of freedom from economic constraints or the pressure of “making it.” If you have accepted that, you might as well do what you like. This creates the basis for the particular kind of vitality and creativity so unique to Berlin. Perhaps the established art world is getting bitter and running in circles, but there are a lot of extremely talented artists working on what they love to do, there are exciting off-spaces, hundred of concerts every night. It’s still really exciting what’s going on here.
C & P: Would you ever move to a different city/place or is Berlin the place for you?
Bongoût/Christian: Even if I could imagine moving to NYC or San Fransisco, Berlin is definitely the place for us. There is an energy in Berlin that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s always been like this. It is a city that is truly alive. This is why we love Berlin. It’s a city of paradoxes, and these paradoxes are its strength.
C & P: How long have you lived in Ljubljana? What do you like most about living there? Least? Did you grow up in the city?
Zoran: I didn’t grow up in Ljubljana, I grew up in small town called Rakek which is a 30 minute drive from Ljubljana. I moved to Ljubljana six years ago. The best thing I like about it is that in the last couple of years the center of city is slowly banning cars from the city centre which is great if you like to walk or drive a bike through the city. I think people feel more comfortable because of it. I don’t know what to point out about the dark side of Ljubljana. It’s not a big city and sometimes you get the feeling that you know everyone. I personally miss a record store. There is no place to buy records in Ljubljana which really bums me out.
C & P: Does being in Ljubljana inspire your work?
Zoran: Funny question. I don’t think so.
C & P: Do you feel that there is a lot of interesting artwork being created in Ljubljana right now? What is your favorite artspace/gallery?
Zoran: For sure. One of the best things in Ljubljana is that there is lots of street art all around so I think the city definitely has it’s art vibe. Apart from street art there are lots of painters and sculptors and in last couple of years, there is definitely a big new wave of illustration. Almost every month there is at least one interesting exhibition in the city. I don’t have a favorite gallery but if I had to chose a part of town with lots of art to offer I would definitely point out Metelkova, which is a huge complex of music venues, galleries and studios. Walls of buildings are filled with murals and graffiti and there is a lot of different sculptures standing around. Every night there are music gigs in different venues. I guess you could easily compare it to Christiania in Copenhagen.
C & P: I have to ask you about the band Laibach and the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) art collective, as I have a few US friends who are completely obsessed by the band and the NSK. Are both Laibach and the NSK well-known in Ljubljana? At one point, in the early 80’s, the band was banned from using the name Laibach because of it’s association with the Nazi/German occupation of Ljubljana during WWII but it seems that there is less controversy with the band and the use of the name Laibach now. Do people appreciate what Laibach have created over the years?
Zoran: Laibach and also NSK, are some kind of Slovenian phenomena. As you mentioned they were banned during the communist era in Yugoslavia but now they are worshiped as rock stars and everybody loves them. I think they even played at national ceremonies in front of politicians that used to ban them from TV and radio. It’s kinda hilarious but they are definitely well respected. I have friends who never were into any kind of alternative music like punk, metal, industrial, etc. and they love Laibach. NSK is not that huge, but in art scene they are very respected. Their art is exhibited in National Gallery of Modern Art so like Laibach they emerged out of alternative scene and became part of bigger art world.
C & P: I need to make the trek to Slovenia and Ljubljana one of these days. Where would you tell a visitor, interested in art, design, and illustration, with three days to explore, to go? What are the most interesting/creative neighborhoods to explore?
Zoran: I would definitely recommend Metelkova, I was mentioning it before. It’s the most interesting and alternative part of the city and everyone interested in any kind of weird music or art can find something for himself there. The other place to check out would be the Rog Centre, which is an old, abandoned bike factory which was later squatted by artists. It’s pretty similar to Metelkova, but they have more legal problems with people from the city which results in not that much stuff happening there lately. The third option is Kino Šiška which is a huge renewed building run by the city and their program consists of exhibitions, music gigs and workshops.
C & P: I met you when you were traveling in New York last summer, was that your first time in the city and in the US? What is your impression of the city? Is NYC someplace that you would ever want to live?
Zoran: Yeah, my first time in the city and first time in the States. I had a weird first impression of NYC. It reminded me of an abusive relationship. I loved it, but at same time there were some things that would probably stop me from ever wanting to live there. The huge mass of people is definitely one of the things that turned me off and when I heard how much people pay for rent I didn’t know what to say. But I definitely loved its art vibe, I was really happy to see Secret Robot Project, which I loved. The huge choice in art and music gigs, amazing food, and really friendly people are the things that impressed me the most. I guess if you want to make a living with your art, it’s one of the best spots on planet to live. After I returned home from the States, everyone I was talking to about NYC had the same problem. The first impression they had about the city was weird, but something kept them coming back and now everyone loves it. Six days were definitely not enough time to get the right feeling about it anyway so I want to get back in the near future.
C & P: Do you prefer one creative process (drawing, silkscreening, or painting) over another, do you incorporate all of these in your work?
Zoran: I try not to be bored when I’m working and one of the ways to keep it interesting is to try new things and techniques all the time. I usually start with paper and pencils and end up on computer putting everything together. I love to experiment with mixing all of the techniques together.
C & P: Do you draw by hand? Do you use a computer when creating your pictures? Or both?
Zoran: Usually I start drawing by hand and then I scan it and continue the work in Photoshop. I use a Wacom tablet, I think it’s a great tool but I try to keep everything hand drawn and later transformed on a computer.
C & P: Do you have any formal training as an illustrator?
Zoran: Actually no. I finished the University for Graphic Techniques which was more about printing processes than about drawing or painting.
C & P: Your illustrations are populated by somewhat dark figures and creatures, such as crows, owls, wolves, figures in creepy masks, a man dressed in Klu Klux Klan garb, Norweigan churches. Why are you drawn to dark imagery? Is there any hidden meaning in this imagery?
Zoran: I honestly don’t know. If I had to blame one thing it would probably be music, but I like very different kind of music and not all is dark and gloomy so I guess I just like my stuff dark. But I wouldn’t think about myself as some dark character. It has some meaning to me but I’m not sure everyone sees it, I hope everyone gets some personal impression and sees his own story within my art.
C & P: You collaborated on a zine called Satanic Diarrhea, how did this collaboration come about? Where were these zines distributed?
Zoran: Satanic Diarrhea was collaboration between four friends. We all grew up going to hardcore and punk shows and we still meet each other at those same places. Since we all do some kind of art we decided to make something together. The title is just a stupid joke, we couldn’t find any other name so we just went with the most stupid title we could come up with. We gave the zines to people for free since we didn’t have big expenses printing it. We just wanted to do something and put it out there.
C & P: The style of your images recall flat, 1950’s style illustrations but with a dark, evil twist. What illustrators/artists do you admire? Who is your biggest inspiration?
Zoran: I don’t know about inspiration, it’s everything around me I probably don’t even notice. If I had to choose one thing, that would probably be lyrics from the bands I like. I even made one zine that was based on my favourite lyrics. But usually I just walk my dog and get some idea in my head and when I come home I draw it down. When I work a on poster for some music gig I try to listen a lot to the bands that are playing and I always try to transcript the music into artwork, but still within my style.
I admire a shitload of artists but if I have to point out couple of names that would be Maxwell Loren Holyoke Hirsch, Carson Ellis, Jon Klassen, Evgenia Barinova, and Justin Bartlett.
C & P: Do you have a narrative in mind for each illustration? Are the characters in your pictures purely fictional/from your imagination?
Zoran: It depends. Usually there is a story behind, but sometimes the image just pops in my head and I draw it down without thinking twice. I make up all the characters in my head.
C & P: You have created many posters for bands outside of Slovenia (such as Wolf Parade, Dum Dum Girls, Dan Deacon). Do you do work for a certain club in Ljubljana or have the bands contacted you to do posters for them when they are playing in town?
Zoran: I am working for musical promoter from Ljubljana called Buba and it is one of the best client-artist relationships I ever had and it’s still going on.
C & P: What people / music / places / things inspire you?
Zoran: It’s mix of all things I consume in my life. From lyrics to other people’s art, music, movies, record covers, books, dogwalks to good coffee, seeing different places and people.
C & P: Do you currently spend your days creating artwork or do you have a “proper” job to support your art habit?
Zoran: Right now I am working as graphic designer at a marketing agency. I do all illustration stuff in my spare time. I would definitely love to support myself only with illustration and that is my goal for the near future, but let’s see what will happen.
C & P: How your work been commissioned by magazines/bands/other companies?
Zoran: I did couple of record covers and t-shirt designs as well as some illustrations for various magazines I design at work, but mainly my work was commissioned for gig posters. I would love to do more other stuff too, editorial illustration is one of the fields I would really love to work in.
C & P: Are you a magazine/zine junkie? What are some of your favorites?
Zoran: I really enjoy stuff published by Nobrow (who are also featured in Issue 9 of the magazine), Think Faest, Nieves and Svart Konst. But usually I buy zines directly from artists, when I stumble across their work online. Magazines are also one of my obsessions since the company I work at works mainly in magazine publishing field. I love to read well designed mags and sometimes I love just to flip through magazines because of the design, even if content doesn’t interest me at all. I regularly follow Creative Review and Computer Arts which are a kind of bibles if you work in the design industry. Recently I discovered New American Paintings Magazine. I also love how Bloomberg Businessweek looks like and I love to go through it every time I get the chance.
C & P: You have a portfolio website, a Twitter account, a Flickr stream, and a Tumblr blog. How long have you had all of these? Does your internet presence help you to find people to collaborate with? Do a lot of people outside of Ljubljana find your work through these sites?
Zoran: Publishing your stuff online is the best and easiest way to get people to see your work. I published my first portfolio website a year ago. Before that I published all my stuff on flickr. Tumblr is the latest addition, I mainly got into it because it’s the most popular blogging platform at the moment and people can find your work through it way easier than through other blog providers like Blogspot or WordPress. People I collaborated with so far are my friends, but lots of people got in touch through each of the web platforms.
C & P: What could you imagine doing, if you didn’t do what you do?
Zoran: Tough one. I can imagine doing everything, from be a professional dog walker to being a bad writer or just working at a coffee bar.
Nathan Wasserbauer and Heather Morgan’s work
Nathan Wasserbauer and Heather Morgan’s work
Nathan Wasserbauer and Heather Morgan’s work
Christine Navin’s photographs
Miss Morgan minding the booth, with Nathan Wasserbauer and Christine Navin’s work in the background
Cheap & Plastique‘s little corner of the Fountain Art Fair at Art Basel Miami