Afternoon Dust

looking

Reading notes: Renée Green, Other Planes of There

Renée Green is one of my favourite artists, and has been since I saw her solo exhibition Endless Dreams and Water Between at National Maritime Museum, Greenwich back in 2009. Recently I finished reading her book Other Planes of There, which collects a selection of her writings from 1981 to 2010, though most of the essays, articles, exhibition proposals, and other texts date from 1990 onwards. This book documents aspects of Green’s practice with which I was unfamiliar, and also sheds new light on themes and concerns I already associated with her work.

Martin John Callanan — itakephotos.eu

Martin John Callanan’s latest project is a single long, white webpage, in which a vertical list of photographs is presented, all landscape-oriented (width greater than height), with some differences in size and aspect ratio. There is no text other than the heading ‘Martin John Callanan, 2004-2015’, not even alt-text. The filenames indicate that they are arranged in reverse chronological order, newest at the top; metadata is meticulously detailed and uniformly uninformative. When people appear in the images, they are always facing away, engrossed in some activity or looking out of shot. A large proportion of the images have no one in them. Some are striking and beautiful, others are mundane and dull.

Aideen Doran's Im Bau

One evening in late November, as I was walking through the streets of Digbeth with current Grand Union exhibitor Aideen Doran, the artist casually remarked how the area’s architectural profile reminded her of Belfast; specifically, the way in which the hodge-podge of different styles, functions, and levels of upkeep evoked streets damaged by sectarian violence, and then either rebuilt or not, according to various factors. I was struck by this equation, at the level of appearance at least, between the ravages of capitalism and those of armed warfare, though on reflection I don’t really know why I was as surprised as I was. (I’ve since visited Belfast, and the parts I saw reminded me more of the northern mill town in which I grew up than any part of Birmingham I’ve seen, though Doran knows the former city much better than I do.)

AK Dolven: please return

AK Dolven’s solo exhibition at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham takes the form of a dialogue of sorts with fellow Norwegian Peder Balke (1804-1887). The two artists share a common interest in the dramatic landscapes of the Arctic north, but while Balke had recourse to a Kantian understanding of the sublime that ultimately reaffirms and grounds the viewing subject, Dolven operates in a context in which such notions no longer ring quite so true — a context of which she is keenly aware. Her contemplation of the figure in a frozen landscape is therefore marked by uncertainty, instability, and disorientation: a ‘becoming-grey’ of everything, all distinctions erased.

Marcia Farquhar — Larger Than Life

My only previous encounter with the work of Marcia Farquhar was an exuberant performance in Margate in 2012, replete with live band and dancing oysters. Larger Than Life, the title of her current show at Birmingham’s Grand Union, therefore struck me as being very appropriate. Installed in the gallery space are two projections of the artist’s head: one is an almost wall-high video of extreme close-ups; the second rests atop a crude mannequin leaning in the corner, slowly turning to grin at visitors. My first impression was one of a performer revelling in the act of performing, almost to the point of narcissism.

Yvonne Rainer — Dance Works

The day after seeing Grace Schwindt’s film at Eastside Projects, I took the slow train to London to catch an exhibition devoted to the choreographic work of Yvonne Rainer at Raven Row. As well as a large number of photos, videos, drawings and texts, a daily schedule of live performances in the gallery presented a rare opportunity to see some seminal dance works by the US artist. The exhibition focused on Rainer’s work from the 1960s and early ’70s, when she was most active as a choreographer; at this time, she and her colleagues in the Judson Dance Theater group were preoccupied with much the same radical critique of power as Schwindt’s interlocutor in West Germany.

Grace Schwindt - Only A Free Individual Can Create A Free Society

When I discovered, on a flying visit before an event elsewhere, that Eastside Projects were screening a film featuring dance, I knew I had to come back for a proper look. The film in question was Grace Schwindt’s Only A Free Individual Can Create A Free Society, a recent commission that takes an interview recorded between Schwindt and a left-wing activist as a kind of score for an elaborately staged choreography performed by eleven dancers. The interview explores the interviewee’s experiences of radical left-wing movements in 1960s and ’70s West Germany, before moving on to how his own views on the nature and practice of freedom have developed and found expression since that time.

Yara El-Sherbini — The Current Situation

Yara El-Sherbini is one of a generation of artists associated with the Live Art scene that blossomed around the middle of the last decade. Her work often humourously adopts forms common to popular culture, such as the pub quiz, the newspaper crossword, and the board game. This has been described by many commentators in terms of taking art out from the art world to where ‘the people’ are to be found, but El-Sherbini’s appropriation of popular forms is in no way driven by the current cultural-political agenda of inclusiveness and accessibility; rather, the games and pastimes are used to channel a sharply intelligent political critique. And perhaps, sometimes, a little frustration, a hint of rage. Take this question from one of her pub quizzes, for example:

Forest, silence: Katie Paterson's Future Library

There’s two things I love about pine forests, more than anything else: the smell, and the sound. The smell is of a thousand Christmases rolled into one, or being locked in a warehouse full of pine-scented car fresheners — no, fresher, cleaner than that. The sound is of silence. Densely packed trees and meshes of needles make for a very effective acoustic dampening material. Any noises that are heard are clearer, nearer, and stop dead in their tracks, no reverberation time at all.

Katie Paterson’s new work is about time, among other things. Pine trees have been planted in a forest near Oslo; every year for the next hundred years, a text will be written by a different author to be held in trust until the hundred years are up, at which point the trees will be felled and turned into paper for publishing an anthology of the texts.

Recent exhibitions at Grand Union

There seems to be something of a curtain theme going on at Birmingham art space Grand Union at the moment. First there was Maia Conran’s video projection Trace, a loop of swelling and falling lines that was inspired by curtains lifted by a breeze, but in its wall-length proportions came to resemble an abstract breathing architecture. Calming and hypnotic, the work’s expansion out from the wall was aided by the tendency of human perception to infer a three-dimensional space from the most tenuous of cues, a visual habit Conran also explored in her film performance Deep within the mirror we perceive a faint line. Whereas the latter work focused on the uncanniness of the spatial illusion, however, Trace retained the intimacy and the quietness of the situation that inspired it.