Marina Abramović The Artist is Present has an extended run at Film Forum. More information here.
From the Film Forum website:
Marina Abramović: seductive, controversial, fearless, outré. Her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (March – May 2010) featured an extraordinary performance, experienced by 750,000 people, many of whom waited hours for the chance to sit silently across from her at a small table, where she remained for 7½ hours daily, without eating, drinking, or moving. The intensity of her gaze, the intimacy of the act (paradoxically in a huge, brightly lit room, filled with onlookers) moved some to tears and other acts of extreme emotion. Matthew Akers’s film records the artist as she prepares herself physically and spiritually for the ordeal — as might be expected — with tremendous discipline, humor and guile. With comments by MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach, art critic Arthur Danto, gallerist Sean Kelly, and hundreds of members of the public (including James Franco) who were fortunate enough to attend this landmark event.
Q & A with Schoolhouse resident and filmmaker Augustin Doublet.
C & P:You are from France and have been living in NYC for 3 years now. How do you find the experience of living in New York? Do you prefer it to Paris?
Augustin: New York is a very challenging city and if ever you’re not in the mood or feel, let’s say melancholic, the city does not forgive it and can be harsh . In comparison to Paris the pace, the architecture, and the art de vivre is much softer.
On the other side, if you’re able to project yourself, your energy and your ideas on the city and break through the glass, the city gives you back so much in terms of dynamism, exchange, network, and money.
C & P: Did you come to NYC to study film? What program are you part of?
Augustin: Indeed. I first came here as an exchange student at Brooklyn College while I was finishing a Master’s Degree at a Parisian university.
Then I realized how much more I could and had to get from the city, Brooklyn College, and the Schoolhouse, so I decided to stay and with the help of the dean of the Film Department of the Brooklyn College I’ve been allowed to pursue my studies here.
C & P: Did you create films when you lived in France?
Augustin: Yes, I used to work mostly in the pre-production of documentaries. I worked for Gedeon Programmes for a couple of years as an AD and ghostwriter and on some other TV projects.
Otherwise at that time I was mostly painting and shooting stills, and art videos. The cinema has always been present but more as a vanishing point.
C & P: Tell me a bit about the films that you create. The 2 films that I have seen are very different, one a documentary about a local Bushwick character/photographer (What the Fuchs?) and the other a reflection on brutality (Vanishing Point). Have you always worked with a number of types of filmmaking? Do you prefer black and white film to color?
Augustin: I’m just experimenting. But looking at my work I can say that my imagination and my desire are very related to the location and environment I’m in.
For instance What the Fuchs? was an attempt to grasp some of the Bushwick hipstery mayhem through the portrait of the photographer Rafael Fuchs. Vanishing Point was the graphical aspect of Brooklyn, the shades of the train tracks, the broken warehouse, the turmoil of the graffiti.
Stills from Vanishing Point
C & P: Where does the text that the woman is reading in the film come from?
Augustin: The text has been written by Mariette Papic, a great poet and a dear friend of mine. I commissioned her for that piece; which brings a lot of depth and complex sensuality to the story.
C & P: Vanishing Point is shot in Bushwick and has the gritty look of films which were part of the “cinema of transgression” movement in the 1980s on the lower east side. Are you influenced by filmmakers like Nick Zedd and Richard Kern? Did seeing their films create a desire in you to come to NYC to make films?
Augustin: I discovered their work after the production of Vanishing.
When I first came here it was mostly the New Hollywood period that I had in mind. I was looking for the mood of the 70s. I was really fascinated by the harshness, dirtiness, and loose eroticism of the cinema of the 70s.
C & P: The film also utilizes the Schoolhouse space, did you have help from your housemates when filming? Is living at the Schoolhouse inspirational for you?
Augustin: The Schoolhouse is the first and only space I lived in since I arrived in NY. And I consider myself very lucky for that. I found myself right away surrounded by creative people who were already very active in the industry. Cassidy Mosher was working on Gossip Girl, Derek Deems (the DP of two of my films) was a freelance grip, Jennifer Sacks already set designed many shorts.
It was and it still is a very creative and challenging environment.
C & P: Who is the woman in the film? Do you use trained actors in your films or people that you know?
Augustin: Laura Graham who has the lead in Vanishing Point is a professional actress as well as a talented producer/director.
For my latest production I worked with mostly professional actors (Anna-Nora Bernstein who has the supporting lead role has already played major parts in a few features). However, I encountered the lead character Marcus Grant randomly on the basketball court of my block next to the Bushwick Housing projects.
Marcus delivered an incredible performance and I truly hope that ADAM will only be the beginning of his career.
There was a large cast and crew with some complicated scenes in terms of choreography and pacing, so we rehearsed a lot together, which is kind of unusual in the production of a short film.
The fact that I write direct and produce my own projects allows the cast as well as the crew to experiment with me throughout the process.
C & P: Tell me a little about the new film that you are working on now? When/where will you be showing it?
Augustin: ADAM will be shown during BOS. The story is about the odd and charming journey that Adam, a kid from the hood and Coco, a kleptomaniac actress, are going through during one day in Bushwick.
It encompasses the different aspects of the neighborhood: the gritty part, with the street scams, the violence, in a word the low-life reality, juxtaposed against the emerging artistic and creative side.
Stills from ADAM
C & P: What filmmakers/artists/places/etc… have been an influence on you?
Augustin: I truly discovered cinema when I was 16 thanks to a friend of mine Anton Solnitski (now a filmmaker). We missed classes together and spent our afternoons watching Bergman, Kubrick, and Kurosawa movies.
I would say that Fellini gave a lot of flavors and motion to my imagination. Wells certainly gave me a strong desire to tell stories and to keep on dreaming no matter what the obstacles may be.
Literature and art history are my first loves and it’s true that even if I’m not sure yet how they have or will influence me, authors like: Baudelaire, Melville, Celine, Rousseau, Kafka, Borges, Dostoevsky, Genet, or Koltes have been very present in my life.
The same applies to painters and photographers, to quote a few: Hopper, Freud, Bacon, Whistler, Courbet, Shiele, Goya, Giacometti, Rembrandt, El Greco, Koudelka, Franck, Moon, Avedon…
C & P: What could you imagine doing if you did not create art?
Augustin: I’m not really sure that I’m doing art I would just say that I’m experimenting and in doing so I try to travel and introduce myself to different cultures, patterns (psychological and visual) and people.
I’m not sure what I would do but I enjoy helping people to create and express themselves a lot. Or maybe I would try to open a restaurant in the south-west of France with a couple of friends.
Augustin’s room at the Schoolhouse
The Schoolhouse hours over BOS weekend:
Friday, the 1st – 5PM — 11PM
Saturday, the 2nd – 12PM — 11PM
Sunday, the 3rd – 12 PM – 8 PM
Augustin Doublet will be screening Adam all weekend.
Photos of Augustin © Christine Navin. Do not reproduce without permission.
Monday night documentary
You should really watch this movie. Available on Netflix instant here.
Interview with film director Chad Freidrichs:
untitled, 2004, 23.6 x 19.7 in, from Beaugrenelle
C & P: You live in Berlin currently. What do you like most about living in Berlin? Least?
Georg: The city is exciting and inspiring, yet life remains relaxed. “Always changing, never twice the same.”
C & P: Do you frequently travel outside of Berlin (and Germany) to find subject matter for your artmaking practice?
Georg: Traveling puts me in a state of heightened awareness and allows me to clearly focus on a body of work. For some projects it is a crucial part and I could not produce a series like Landschaften without extensive trips to find these locations.
Enklave, 2009, 37 x 63 in, from Landschaften
C & P: How do you choose/scout out locations for future photo series? What is your conceptualizing process like?
Georg: I change my process according to the work I am producing. Partially I know the locations for my photographs from previous experience, partially I visit locations based on research. Sometimes I intuitively choose a region to travel to which I hope offers physical representations of ideas for images I already have in my head.
C & P: Has your work always consisted of digitally constructed, altered images? Or was there a time when you made more straightforward documentary photographs? Are the images in the series Carports strictly documentary and not digitally manipulated? Did a shift in your work occur or do you work on both types of series simultaneously?
Georg: I started out using photography traditionally, shooting 35mm and developing my own film. Since then I have moved through a lot of different formats and techniques slowly shifting towards digital tools. This evolution has expanded my understanding of the medium and allows me to make my work with far less compromises than traditional techniques.
Kuppeln, 29.6 x 48.9 in, 2007, from Landschaften
C & P: The images in this series Landschaften, such as Kuppeln, Enklave, and Dorf, are not real places, they are constructed. Could you talk a bit about your process of creating a series like Landschaften? Where do the individual elements, such as the Buckminster Fuller style domes in Kuppeln, that populate the landscapes come from? Have you shot all of the elements used in the photographs yourself? Do you ever source bits and pieces of imagery from elsewhere (image banks, the internet, etc.)?
Georg: Thus far I have been photographing all elements for my images myself, mostly for practical and partially for technical reasons. Before I find it I usually I do not really know what i searched, so I heavily rely on the world to provide what I am longing for. The moment I am physically present in front of one of these buildings or landscapes very much defines the shape of the work I am going to make from it. I like this romantic idea and don´t want to replace this with an online image search. Also I need a certain technical quality for my sketches I don’t think I could source currently.
Usually I make trips to a certain region or location to photograph for my archive which consists of anything from image fragments to complete shots where most of the final work is already inclosed. Later in the studio I construct the Landschaften from those. Often I work on two different versions of the same image side by side to trying to carve out different elements until I can decide which one feels and functions better.
Berg, 2009, 37 x 70.5 in, from Landschaften
C & P: The landscapes (from the series Landschaften) bring to mind Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings, is he an influence on you? Are your images constructed in a manner similar to how CDF worked, piecing together many different sketches to create one final picture?
Georg: When first starting to make the Lanschaften I did research Caspar David Friedrichs’s work. There are more differences than similarities to our works and approaches though, even though I also make my images in the studio from sketches I compile in nature. Apart from the great manual difference between painting a canvas from drawings in a sketchbook and montaging photographs on a computer Caspar David Friedrich heavily encoded meaning into his work through a use of elements and symbols to the point where a certain color represents a certain emotion, something I have no interest in.
Also not all my landscapes are pieced together; sometimes I make one from a single capture, adding or changing certain elements. I would not hesitate to include an image in the series that has not been altered at all if it would evoke the same doubts in me as the others.
Firma, 2010, 41 x 29.6 in, from Landschaften
C & P: The architecture that makes its way into your landscape pictures, in the series Landschaften particularly, tends to overtake the natural landscapes and look somewhat foreboding, the structures do not look like they belong in the setting, the complete picture sometimes does not seem to make sense but one is not sure why. The architecture also looks somewhat futuristic (as in the work Firma). There are no roads leading up to these architectural constructions. When constructing these imagined places are you visualizing a land which may have once been inhabited and has now been deserted and left to decay? Are you interested in architectural ruins in this work (or any of your work)?
Georg: No. My use of architecture is not single-coded. Usually I work with structures that are not signifiers of a certain location but rather of a time and vision. I want a contemporary appeal yet I am interested more in the image than the the individual structure that was in front of my camera. The architecture stands loosely as a metaphor for the different conceptual layers of construction I wish people to contemplate. Here the structural construction of the architecture and the fabrication of a realistic landscape in the work, there the photographic transformation and your process of creating meaning in the world.
C & P: Are you imposing (utopian) ideals of the 20th/21st century of progress, growth, and building with the placement of huge man-made constructions/formations in the midst of these natural, untouched landscapes?
Georg: Definitely. If you look at my work from recent years I too am progressing towards the future regarding the historical references of the individual works. I started out with work about baroque architecture, then made the the Beaugrenelle series about a Parisian quarter which had been envisioned as a vision of urban life in the 1970s. After Beaugrenelle I made work about Multiplex cinemas built in the last two decades and have pretty much reached the present time with the Novae series and the recent video works.
Multiplex XXVIII, (Cinestar Dortmund), 2007, 23 x 18.1 in, from Multiplex
C & P: A documentary photographer attempts to produce truthful and objective images on film (or with a digital camera), however, making a photograph that represents the truth may be an impossible goal—as there may not be a way of representing universal truth and reality changes from moment to moment. Do you feel that an image can be truly objective or is it always subjective? How do you feel about the idea of “the decisive moment”?
Georg: “Compared to a painting the photograph loses its own reality more and more as it renders the other one. That way the only ‘reality’ of a photograph is its own unreality, its not-being-there is its actual quality.” (badly translated from: Gerhard Richter: “Text”, pg. 114, letter to Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, 1979).
I do not think an image can either be objective or subjective and I am not even sure what these attributes really mean. As artists working with photography we ponder and argue about these questions all the time, especially with curators and art historians.
A photograph is always a pretty severe abstraction from what happened in front of the apparatus and we are all more or less consciously aware of that.
In my work there is no decisive moment. There are only moments, sometimes hundreds in which the shutter of my camera has fired. My images do not refer to an instant of time stretched infinitely but rather to have no time at all, as paradox as it sounds. This is their reality—an indefinite moment.
C & P: You use the techniques of a documentary photographer but with a completely different goal for your end result. Are you are questioning the role of the photograph in society as a document of truth, considering that photography also has the ability to be misleading and false (and is often used for these means)? Do you believe all reality is constructed in relation to photography?
Georg: I do believe that all reality is constructed in relation to photography. But all meaning is constructed in regards to reality.
Multiplex XXXIII, (Cinestar Köln), 2007, 21.2 x 15.8 in, from Multiplex
C & P: What is it about the blurring of the line between construction and documentation that interests you?
Georg: When an image does not affirm what you already know you will try to make sense within the system of all your knowledge and find a meaningful place for the new bit it just received. If these incongruencies happen over and over again there is a chance that you start to reconfigure your system, recontextualizing everything you know. Working this way I hope to create an emotional and rational tension where my work can actually change how the viewers perceive their world.
C & P: You have said, “I would love to see imagery that is so normal or so boring or even so bad that I can hardly stand looking at it.” Do you have any examples of images that have succeeded in this task? What is it about the concept of an image being boring, hideously beautiful, or just plain bad that interests you? Do you like these images?
Georg: I feel these qualities are often easily discounted but can be used for artistic inquiry in many ways. Boredom and annoyance are strong qualities of a work that can create a disturbance or even an annoyance.
untitled (ecs 1), 2010, 20.5 x 15.4 in, from Novae
C & P: You photograph the interiors of stores that sell electronic-based consumer goods in the Novae series, such as televisions, mobile phones, stereo systems, dvds, and music discs. How do you feel an individual’s desire is shaped for these electronic objects when the environment one purchases them from is so sterile (to almost a surreal degree)? Are you interested in the creation of desire for newer and newer technology? Are you critiquing the rampant consumerism of today’s world in this series?
Georg: Novae is definitely a comment on these spaces but I did not intend it as a critique of consumerism. I am filled with wonder when I spend time at these stores and perceive them as the “Wunderkammern” of our time. Their visual abundance is beyond what the human mind is able to compile and the natural response seems to be—buy something, then leave immediately.
untitled (mmk 1), 2010, 20.5 x 15 in, from Novae
C & P: Could you tell me a bit about the process of creating the images of the superstores in Novae? The images of these interiors seem hyperreal, the objects within the spaces look sculptural. Are you lighting the space in a certain way while shooting to achieve this hyperreal effect, are the images enhanced in Photoshop, or is this a relatively accurate representation of how the goods are marketed to the consumer—stacked, orderly, well-lit?
Georg: As most of my works, the images in Novae are montages from several images to create a rendering that I hold specific and true to these spaces. It took me a while to figure out how to deal with these spaces and overflow of visual information. After shooting for a while I realized that not to get lost I made these strict image compositions, concentrating on the the sculptural qualities of the store displays.
I decided to embrace that and make the images where all the small fragments demand your attention equally and only the sculptural order provides some emotional resting place.
Plateau, 2007, 29.6 x 39.8 in, from Landschaften
C & P: Most of your pictures are people-free, do people/figures ever make an appearance in your work?
Georg: For my questions of inquiry figures have not [yet] been important.
C & P: You mentioned that lately your work is growing less and less “project-oriented” or “pre-visualized”. You are creating more video works rather than still images, such as the Modul series and untitled (AFX). Could you talk a bit about how this shift occurred and the direction you see your work going in in the future?
Georg: I grew tired of working from my preconceptions of the world. Working with a concept has the benefit to know the boundaries of a project and it speeds up my working process. However, I felt it also limited my possibility for true discovery, which I wanted to allow in my work to a greater extent. In the past two years I have shifted my process towards a more circular way of working where my work acts as a source for itself, which dictates the form and direction it is going. The introduction of video work is a direct result of this shift.
C & P: In your Modul videos, you’ve focused on long static shots of noisy generators against backdrops where elements such as tree branches and leaves jostle minimally in the breeze. Can you talk about what type of buildings these generators are servicing? Are they residential properties? Do the structures, largely unseen in the work, for which these machines exist, play a role or is the generator itself the central focus of the work?
Georg: The buildings they are serving are schools and office buildings; not unlike the one I used in Firma. On recent trips to the U.S. I grew aware of these “black boxes” that create the background sound of our time, yet remain mostly unnoticed. As with many technical devices we need to rely on abstract knowledge in order to understand what they are doing, in this case these “modules” serve as cooling devices for the houses. Besides their main function they also consume a lot of power and produce noise and heat.
Modul 1, 11:40 minutes, Loop, HD-Projektion, 2010
C & P: These generators are objects that the average person would pass by without ever taking notice of or considering. With the videos focusing on them so intently, it seems to me that the objects take on a whole new set of traits or characteristics. I don’t want to make the jump of saying this humanizes them but it does seem to lend them an individuality or even a personality that is born wholly of the unusual attention being paid to them. Is this an intent of the work, that we consider these machines outside of their usual context of purely functional objects? Similarly, we can look at these videos and see very little actually going on that is immediately visual. However, when we think of the purpose of these central objects, to provide power and electricity to buildings housing or servicing large numbers of people, it is also possible to imagine a multitude of lives and stories unfolding behind the scene.
Georg: Transferred into a representative work my “Modules” become absurd functional objects; their purpose not to cool the building they are servicing but to represent themselves and by doing that generating heat and noise in the exhibition space. On second sight one might discover a strangeness in them which could be result from the fact that the videos are montaged but also could be a quality of the objects themselves.
C & P: Did you have any desire for these seemingly straightforward shots to serve as referential devices in this way or as a means through which to contemplate the relationships between people and their environments?
C & P: Is the noise the generator is creating an important aspect of this work? Have you ever worked on sound pieces in the past?
Georg: It is important, no I have not worked with sound before.
untitled, 2004, 23.6 x 19.7 in, from Beaugrenelle
C & P: Have you been looking at any artists who do work with sound in their art practice as of late?
Georg: I just finished watching Mark Leckey’s GreenScreenRefrigerator which is amazing. His work disturbs and inspires me.
C & P: You mentioned to me that you are collaborating on a set of digital sketches about ideas of image construction with Christian Hellmich, who is also featured in the magazine this issue, could you tell me a bit more about this project? What prompted this discussion and exchange? Will you be showing the final outcome in a gallery setting?
Georg: The exchange with Christian is an experimental dialogue. We send each other files and working instructions and collaborate on images in a way that each image goes back and forth between us several times until one of us decides that it is done. The initial motivation was a mutual interest in each other`s concepts of perceiving an image based on our rooting in different media. There is no intended final result and thus far it serves as a well of inspiration and basis for arguments and discussions. We exhibited one work in a group show in Munich but besides that we have no plans for exhibiting the work yet.
C & P: Tell us what else you are working on now. Do you have any exhibitions coming up in the near future?
Georg: For more than a year I have been working on a set of constructed still-life images and an accompanying publication, to be finished in the summer.
Part of the Novae pictures will be shown in a group show in the Goethe-Institut in St. Petersburg in April and May.
C & P: Where can we find your portfolio website?
I am forcing myself to take a couple weeks off of working outside of my normal 9 – 5 job, after spending the past 2 months staying up super late night after night & neglecting my friends and all of the fun happenings going on in nyc so that I could curate and design issue 10 of the magazine and simultaneously organize the Fountain exhibition, which just finished this past Sunday.
Just saw that this Gerhard Richter Painting film opened today at Film Forum. Looks awesome, I am pretty excited to go and see this during my leisure time!
And from Nowness:
You should watch this documentary, The Black Power Mixtape, it is really good. And available on Netflix instant here. I am mad at myself for not watching enough documentaries lately… My resolutions for 2012: less wasting time on the internet, more reading & more watching interesting, informative things. 2012 is gonna be about gaining the knowledge.
Skateboarding in Kabul
Learn more about the Skateistan project here.
Skateboarding in Afghanistan?
Absolutely. As soon as two Australian skateboarders dropped their boards in Kabul in 2007, they were surrounded by the eager faces of children of all ages who wanted to be shown how to skate. Stretching out the three boards they had brought with them, they developed a small skate school.
A group of Afghan friends (aged 18-22) who were naturals at skateboarding shared the three boards and quickly progressed in their new favourite sport—and so skateboarding hit Afghanistan. The founders’ success with their first students prompted them to think bigger: by bringing more boards back to Kabul and establishing an indoor skateboarding venue, they would be able to teach many more youth, and also be able to provide older girls with a private facility to continue skateboarding.
On October 29, 2009, Skateistan completed construction of an all-inclusive skatepark and educational facility on 5428 square meters of land donated by the Afghan National Olympic Committee. The indoor section was graciously built by IOU Ramps.
Skateistan has emerged as Afghanistan’s first skateboarding school, and is dedicated to teaching both male and female students. It aims to build indoor and outdoor skateboarding facilities in which youth can come together to skateboard: here, they forge bonds that transcend social barriers. Here, they’re enabled to affect change on issues that are important to them.
DONATE to Skateistan here.
NY Times article here.
Horst Ademeit’s Secret Universe was up at the Hamburger Bahnhof, in Berlin, from May 13 — September 25.
From the Hamburger Bahnhof website:
With Secret Universe, Hamburger Bahnhof begins a series of exhibitions focusing on artists who have so far remained largely neglected by the established art discourse. The first exhibition in this series is devoted to Horst Ademeit.
This artist has devoted more than 20 years of his life to the photographic documentation of what he called “cold rays” and other invisible radiation that he thought harmed him and his environment. In the complex reference systems developed by Ademeit, certain motifs play a constant role: electricity meters, peepholes, building sites, electric cables, collections of bulky trash or bikes. Ademit began to cast the flood of images he produced in a concrete form in October 1990: he arranged measuring instruments and a compass on a newspaper and photographed them with a Polaroid camera. Over the course of 14 years, he made 6006 numbered Polaroids.
Born in Cologne in 1937, Horst Ademeit first trained as a house painter, and then studied textile design before joining the Werkkunstschule in Cologne. In 1970, he was a student of Joseph Beuys for a short time. His first documentary photographs were taken during renovation work in run-down houses. From the end of the 1980s, the artist concentrated on the documentation of “cold rays.” His oeuvre was discovered and exhibited for the first time in 2008. He died in July 2010. The exhibition at Hamburger Bahnhof is Horst Ademeit’s first museum show.
Ademeit also showed at White Columns in NYC in April 2010 but I never saw his show, unfortunately. Looks like interesting work.