Heading for a land of eternal sunshine

An exhibition by

Nina Wengel (DK) and Annika Unterburg (DE)

at xpon-art Hamburg

from March 16th to 30th 2017

(opening March 16th at 8pm)

 

Heading for a land of eternal sunshine is an exhibition with Nina Wengel (DK) and Annika Unterburg (DE) at Xpon-art in Hamburg curated by Tijana Miskovic (Ex YU / DK).

The exhibition is a visual dialog between the artists and focuses on the notion of time and language, through the use of repetitions.

When used artistically repetitions stop being a practical method and become an eternal process; they become rituals. With the time these rituals do not only become an embedded part of the artistic praxis but also a grammar for the artistic language.

Nina Wengel shows a series of paintings with a repetitive sunset motif. Almost like a pattern the motif is painted in different sizes and on different materials such as wood, plastic, and cardboard. The many sunsets clearly show that her artistic production is driven by a certain kind of necessity that we cannot see an end to.

On a symbolic level the sunsets have a beautiful and romantic connotation, but looking at the almost manic quantity the sunsets get darker connotations like trauma or death. The sunset can be a symbol of a day or a life ending..

Annika Unterburg shows a series of “bildobjekte” and a sculpture. Most of the works have fishing baits mounted on a painted color surface. A fishing bait is both an attractive and deadly object. In her works, Annika Unterburg examines the relationship between the beautiful, understood as the good, and the evil. Something threatening is at stake in her works, which we can sense for instance in the color black used in her paintings. There is something menacing in the tension that develops while waiting for the fish to bite. One is waiting for the moment that will mark the fish’s transition from life to death. There are two different time perceptions at stake in this waiting: the more meditative circular sense of time, like in meditation and the more linear that belongs to the strategic thinking.

The philosopher and linguist Per Aage Brandt explains in one of his theories that the human language related to imagination was developed by fishing women

“To fish (without sailing) is especially a matter of standing in the water and waiting, and then, when conscious actions reflect themselves mimetically and readably, the focus will necessarily be intentionally on the absent object – the fish-  as the subject for the waiting.” In other words, our ability to create images of something that does not exist, rather, to relate to abstractions as a communication method, is associated with the act of waiting. In Annika Unterburg’s works, the waiting is connected to the fish while it in Nina Wengel’s relates to the sun or the new day and not least, the hope; the belief that there is a reason to go on.

During the installation of artworks, the two artists have been collaborating in order to create a single, space-related, exhibition connected to the characteristics of the exhibition venue. The raw aesthetics of the xpon-art space and the partially ghostly atmosphere, support the concept of the exhibition: Something that is absent but still communicative, something that seems threatening as much because of its beauty as its dark side; Something that builds bridges between different perceptions of time.

 

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Oh, what a beautiful eternity By Nina Wengel Paintings in various sizes on various materials, GONE, Nicolai kunst og design, Kolding, Denmark, 2016

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Oh, what a beautiful eternity By Nina Wengel Mural painting, Crepúsculo con Queso// Twilight with Cheese, Cristo Salvador, Havana, Cuba, 2016

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Oh, what a beautiful eternity By Nina Wengel Paintings in various sizes on various materials, Following Eternity, Ikast Kunstpakhus, Denmark, 2014

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Illusionist By Annika Unterburg Canvas on wood, hooks, binder, 30x24x4cm, 2015, Foto: Annika Unterburg

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But I am the Tiger (Jorge Luis Borges) By Annika Unterburg Hook, ceramic, 30x24x4cm, 2015


Practical information:

Exhibition venue: xpon-art, Respoldstraße 45, 20097 Hamburg

Opening hours: Saturday and Sunday 12-18.00, Monday-Tuesday 18-21.00

For more information about the exhibition please contact the exhibition curator Tijana Miskovic by email: tijana.miskovic@gmail.com or xpone-art curator and manager Anne Simone Krüger anne_simone_krueger@yahoo.de.

Related links:
www.ninawengel.com
www.unterburg.com
www.tijanamiskovic.com
http://www.xpon-art.de

Press images (in both low and high resolution) can be downloaded on following link:
https://flic.kr/s/aHskTTyGE9


The exhibition is realized with support from Danish Arts Council

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The necessity for questioning the structure

A TEXT ABOUT THE GLOBAL ART EVENTS SUCH AS BIENNALES AND DOCUMENTA

by Tijana Mišković

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Ideally, the artists should have an important position in our society as free and independent minds that can produce vital reflections about sociopolitical conditions of the time we live in. Unfortunately many times artists’ critical and important reflections are being used or misused for other purposes such as promotion of products, gentrification, and cultural colonialism. In that case, the unique role of the artist, as the one independently and critically reflecting our society, becomes a simplified and bounded function with a purpose and task dictated by others. The only way the artist can avoid that his/ her role becomes a function is by constantly questioning the structures his or her art is being presented within. Biennales and big-scale exhibitions like Documenta should, as the most influential contemporary art structures, be a natural object for investigation.

Documenta is considered to be a Vatican of contemporary art today, carried by a belief in the critical potential of art. Documenta promotes itself as the optimal art platform for critical thinking and political postures, which is why decision makers and intelligentsia of the art world, pilgrimage to Documenta in search of latest tendencies. Documenta and other big art events such as Venice Biennale have thus an enormous international impact and a great power to influence the public opinion. This influence should be evaluated by participating artists as well as the audience, who should not only absorb the messages communicated to them through the curatorial strategies, without being skeptical about their motivation. They should not fall asleep but be critical and constantly question the structure.

A show labeled as “critic show” can give the public a feeling of being critical, but it can, at the same time, be drawing the public attention away from big and serious issues that authorities don’t want to create critic around. There could be a diversion taking place in the curatorial choose.

A delay in contemporary art could also be seen as a diversion strategy. Even though we believe that the contemporary artists should react on the important issues and emergencies of today’s world, we are not giving the artists appropriate platforms for immediate expression and impact in time. The artists cannot show art connected with the pulsing and unpredictable present, since all the exhibited artworks have to be defined, produced, and explained in advance. Either because of the practical and curatorial planning or because of a wish to control and have a possibility to censure, most of the contemporary exhibitions are from the beginning in delay.

A “critic show” can thus be a setting for fake criticism that gives us an illusion of being critique and having the freedom of thinking when we, in reality, are directed in a certain direction controlled by external forces and often interests of economic or political nature.

This fake criticism within the contemporary art today could be the source of apathy in our society. If the lack of real concern or interest in making a change infiltrates the art community, and what we consider to be the avant-garde force in our society falls asleep, we might risk that our world takes a direction of narrow-minded and almost totalitarian thinking.

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Since 1988, Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL has been questioning big staged art events like biennales, art fairs, and Documenta, with critical art formats such as BIENNALIST – an art format that responds to and questions, through artworks the motivations of biennials and other global art events. He looks into the art events and their motivations asking questions such as: Could 860,000 visitors have been intoxicated by an apathetic gaze that keeps them away from reacting? Are global art events designed to make people cry about something in order not to make them see something else? Is there a strategy for being delayed in order to create a distraction from the present and avoid debating important topics of today? If the most important contemporary exhibitions in the world like Documenta focus solely on past- or few present related issues contextualized by curators or art historians, how can we then expect art to be avant-garde?

For decades artists have questioned the canvas, the pigment, and since the1960-70s conceptual artists like Marcel Broodthaers have questioned the structure of the museum which led to Institutional Critique in art with artists such as Daniel Buren, Andrea Fraser, and Hans Haacke. With his art format BIENNALIST, Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL questions the global art events. He takes the theme of each biennial seriously and studied in order to contribute to the debate the biennales want to generate. The artist is with this format often on-location testing the pertinence of the biennales.

In 2002 Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL did a project called “The Next Documenta should be curated by a car” and “The protest school”. In 2012 The BIENNALIST project was respectively supported by the ZKM Museum Museum of Contemporary Art for conducting operations at the Athens Biennale curated by Nicolas Bourriaud and by the Sprengel Museum for operation done at the Venice Biennale.

In dOCUMENTA 13 he realized the project “The Emergency will replace the contemporary” which got a strong attention in the media and among art critiques. With a UN blue helmet as an artistic metaphor for innocence, Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL appointed himself to be “a peace-war researcher” and discovered the enormous presence of an active weapon industry in documentaßtat Kassel. The message was communicated as text on a tent placed under the Joseph Beuys tree on the lawn in front of the Fredericianum just after the press conference June 6th, 2012.

The tent with a statement “THE EMERGENCY WILL REPLACE THE CONTEMPORARY” was removed and confiscated by the dOCUMENTA organizers. Ironically enough this kick started, the same days, a growing occupy movement dOCCUPY, that made a tent encampment in the same area and which was welcomed by dOCUMENTA 13 curator.

Now Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL is preparing the exhibition #documentasceptic, on a specially designed online platform and in the gallery SABSAY from March 30th to June 24th, 2017, which will look closer into the next Documenta 14 and Venice Biennale 2017.

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Learning from Athens, 28/2 2017

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Detail: Pretend to learn to better impose, 28/2 2017

 

For more info please visit the BIENNALIST website or send an email either to the writer of the text Tijana Miskovic or the artist Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL

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Twelfth day in Johannesburg

Skærmbillede 2016-06-19 kl. 07.49.21“We meet each other yesterday at the debate in the museum” said Clint O Ferreira, a South African artist.
“I was just dropping by the museum as a visitor and after seeing Amalie’s artwork about safety in Johannesburg and hearing the debate out it, I connected to that topic so much that I decided to ask if I could take part in the exhibition and do an artwork together with her for the next day”.
I was very happy to see such a natural collaboration happening. Today Amalie Huiid Barthold and Clint O Ferreira they have been driving around the city in Clint’s car to interview different people in the streets. They made and edited the video basically while they were driving back to the museum. The energy between them was very good and it made totally sense for me. To combine an outside look from a visiting artist with the inside knowledge from the local one, is probably the best way to create meaningful new in-depth reflection about emergencies taking place around us.

 

 

 

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Eleventh day in Johannesburg

Since we got here everybody was telling us about June 16th. It is date that marks the youth movement and the killing of Hector Peterson a young boy killed in the student protest in Soweto 1976.

The communication about this date is built around the photo of the killed boy being carried by a young man and the boy’s sister running next to him.

Iconization and Reenactment

It is interesting how a photo can become a symbol. The photo is circulating in various forms. From big size formats like at the Hector Peterson monument to small formats designed for t-shirts and souvenirs. The iconization of the image is a way to simplify the complexity of an event. It also makes it easier to relate to. Which is not necessary a good thing because we end up circulating the image without engagement and further reflection. It creates distance, and we can easily be blind to all the different shades of the problem. Iconization can also make us stay in the past and not contextualizing the iconic event in our present society.
On the other to simplify can make it easier and faster to circulate the message. The recruiting that takes place in the communication of an important message or statement is also very important if we want to make a massive change.

Today there are also marches taking place down the same road where Hector Peterson was killed. The reenactment aspect of recreation of a historic event is not only a way of honoring and making a ritual to mark and show respect; it is also a way to teach through an experience. So the importance of the event can be passed on to the new generations. Re-experiencing something will naturally be connected to re-thinking. Reflecting. In this case, it will be making a status on today’s conditions in university as well as the racial, cultural and linguistic segregation.

Both the power of the photography and the reenactment are actually connected to the aesthetics and are often used as a tool for expression in art. It is thus quite interesting to look at how artists are looking at this event from their professional point of view.

Artists expressing about issues related to June 16th

Yesterday we visited the Apartheid museum, and some of the historic aspects of this and other events related to the struggle against racial segregation in South Africa became more clear to me. But in our exhibition too we had some artworks dealing with the topics such as the importance of language and rights to be thought in one’s mother tong, iconization of historic events and segregation today.

We talked about language. In the very beginning of the exhibition, we had a peace by Tlou Ramatlhodi on Khoisan language not being recognized as one of the 11 official languages.

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Tlou Ramatlhodi Adam June 10, 2016 Digital Painting N/A

Later we had an artwork by Lorenzo Nassimbeni about a translation of the South African hymn, whose lyrics employ the five different languages.

 

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Lorenzo Naggimbeni From the blue sky of our Heaven Date June 14, 2016 Coki marker on Trading Paper 30 x 45 cm

We also had a piece by Alishia Strydom. It was a paperwork with the iconic image used as a logo for June 16th, but where she cut out the Silhouette of the young man carrying the dead body of Hector Peterson. She did that to communicate that there is a concrete mystery about the man because we don’t know where he is today, but also to symbolize that we in the society of today might be lacking what the missing man in the picture was representing: mainly the insistence on fairness, willingness to make a change and fearless confrontation.

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Alishia Strydom Missing Hero June 15, 2016 Photograph print 62 x 97 cm

Thierry Geoffroy did some artworks too. He took a pre-designed souvenir like t-shirt and made two significant changes in the text. One of the changes is regarding place and the other regarding time. His message was to make us perspectives the June 16th to other places in also reflect about it in the context of today. This artwork led us to talked about recent student protest movements, like #FeesMustFall that happened last year as a reaction to increasing in fees at South African universities.

 

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Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL Global uprising June 16, 2016 T-shirt

We also had an artwork by Keneilwe Mokoena who talked about her personal psychological brokenness in relation to the brokenness in the society and politics in South Africa. She spoke about her mother’s experiences being a teacher in a “broken” education system, where the level of qualification is low. With her artwork, she activated an interesting debate about unfinished or broken systems in South Africa and the fact that many people, ironically enough, think that the life, in some aspects, was better before apartheid then now.

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Keneilwe Mokoena, Broke, June 16, 2016, cardboard on floor, 1 m x 1 m

But how much can art do to create a protest and move things in order to create a real change? Can we talk about aesthetics of a protest? Can art be used as a protest? One of the Thierry’s artworks was activating these question in a very elegant and direct way. There was a simple but strong expression in this artwork which made it very clear. He used a white painting canvas  and put a stone on top of it. The stone was found the same day in Soweto. It is a stone used in a violent protest to break the window of a bank to demonstrate outrage because of lack of electricity in peoples houses.

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Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL Soweto Violent Protest June 15, 2016 Canvas and stone 10 x 19 cm

 

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Tenth day in Johannesburg

Today we decided to do the exhibition outside of the museum.

The artists went out to the streets with their artworks. They installed them in the urban space and debated about the works with each other and the people passing by. To involve people randomly in to the debate brings a new interesting unpredictable element to the debate.

The place we chose this time was a bridge that marks the difference between the popular Maboneng neighborhood where the museum is situated and a more raw and underdeveloped area. The bridge symbolizes the border and the stream of people crossing the bridge was definitely different from the regular visitors in the museum.

The decision to bring the artists and their artworks to the streets was not only based on a interest in exploring the urban space, but also on the wish to go out of the museum’s safe zone and engaging with the local environment.
By moving the emergency art platform outside of the museum we also question the institution and its role in the community.

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Ninth day in Johannesburg

Today my energy was low. I had a feeling some of the artists felt the same. I’m of course not sure if I was the one projecting this tiredness on them. The weather was heavy and cold, which can be one of the reasons for the lack of energy I was sensing.

The energy in the group depends on engagement. There are those artists who come more than once and whose regular contributions bring stability to the group; And then there are those who come only once bringing impulsive and fresh energy.

The regularity allows the artists to develop a rhythm, which will make them go in depth with the project. The artists express about different topics every day or choose a theme they research and even get experts in.  When artists come regularly for some days, it is possible to see the development of works and the progress in artist’s engagement. The artists create the dynamic energy that can turn in to positive addiction. When diving in to the regular rhythm, it becomes a new ritual that affects not only the artistic production but as much their way of reflecting and conceptualizing. It definitely also creates a very special group feeling, since all the artists are working simultaneously towards the same dead line. Even though they are not necessary working physically together, by having a same time frame work, they sync on the energy level.

Interruption of regularity on the other hand creates unpredictability and brings thus the flexibility to the group. New participants create a positive dynamic and new energy. Because they would not know the other artists and what debates have been taking place in the previous days, they would be able to enter the project with fresh energy and see it with new eyes. In this way we make sure the project does not get ingrown and only related to a closed group of people. I guess the-first-time feeling from the new participants, also reminds the other in the group about their own first-time-experience, and this gives a good circular reflection about the development of the project. Of course the project can develop into new unknown ideas as the participants engage and start shaping it each with they different contributions, but still it is a good think to be pulled back by the new participants to the start and be reminded about the motivation one has for taking part in this project initially. This is like a reinforcement that gives new life to the project.

I believe both energies are good to have when shaping a strong group. And the dynamics between these two streams of energies is what creates the vigorous development that characterless the project.

At the moment we have 6-7 artists from Denmark, who are staying in Johannesburg for one or two weeks so their participation is regular. We also have participation from artists who live and work in Johannesburg and some of them have been coming several times. The group is very good and the involving artists are very engaged. But we have not seen any collaborations yet. Even thought there were some intentions to create works together from the very beginning, we have not seen it happen yet. This could be a new time of energy and a very interesting development to observe.

 

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Eighth day in Johannesburg

The artworks from the everyday changing exhibition go to the Delay Museum. The Delay Museum is a collection of artworks that were all made in 24 hours reflecting on the emergencies of that day. Every time a new emergency art platform is activated in the world, a selection of artworks are being included in the Delay Museum collection that by now consists of more than 500 artworks. Because of the caravan like nature of the project, the artworks are made by artists from various countries and in different cultural, political and geographical contexts. With the growing collection, it will be possible to create an encyclopedic overview showing what artists have been worrying and expressing about in the last ten years.

As a curator, it is possible to make some very interesting cuts into the connection. For each cut, it is possible to make a new exhibition. Thematically it could, for example, be an exhibition on the growing xenophobia. We would be able to bring to light artworks that were commenting on xenophobic tendencies in a very early stage. The instant comments from the artists are connected to their intuition and can thus also revile dysfunctional tendencies that are still not formed into concrete problems. This is why we often see artists being the first ones to react to things being out of balance. Since the platform is encouraging fast tempo of producing art about emergencies, the rhythm of production is pulsing and more intuitive than conceptual. Another thing that stimulates the artistic intuition in the process is the fact that the mistakes are acceptable in this format. This gives the artists the necessary freedom to guess to sense and to visualize possible scenarios for the future.

The diversity of artworks in the collection would also allow us to interconnect the emergencies. Let’s say we are doing an exhibition on growing xenophobia. In that case, it would only be natural also to include artworks that deal with refugees as well as war industry.

There can of course also be made a sociological take on the collection. We could also do a curating that shows who was working with which themes or how many artists had similar concerns and in which countries more than others. It is also possible to study the different levels of censorship in the world. The artworks produced during the EMERGENCY ROOM in Vietnam have been made under different censorship condition then the EMERGENCY ROOM done in Moma PS1.

On the visual level, there is very interesting research to dive into regarding the aesthetic of emergency art. How do artists find visual solutions to express within one day? What kinds of techniques are being used formally and conceptually in order to create shortcuts?
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During the exhibition on Johannesburg, the Delay Museum is active parallel to the every day changing exhibition. The Delay Museum is growing for every day and will stay on display until July 31. To add, the South African contribution to the already existing collection will bring an important global element to the Delay Museum.

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