Rondinone reconstructs the gallery into a black box theater, creating an immersive environment through the use of black-and-white film, minimalist score, and the rhythmic intonations of Giorno’s own voice. This exhibition is a prismatic paean to the poet, raconteur, muse, cultural icon, and New York fixture.
Curator Ralph Rugoff said of the work on the occasion of its installation at Hayward Gallery in 2016:
“In elegantly spectacular fashion, Ugo Rondinone’s 20-screen video installation, “thanx 4 nothing “(2015), presents the American poet John Giorno reciting – though ‘performing’ might be a better word – the titular poem. Written on his seventieth birthday in 2006, and framed as an extended and wide-ranging expression of gratitude to ‘everyone for everything,’ Giorno’s poetic monologue looks back over his life with frank insight and humour, reflecting on loves and losses, friends and enemies, sex and drugs, depression and spiritual acceptance. As presented by Rondinone, whose work inventively interlaces the rhythms of his images with those of the poet’s speech, it is also a dizzying meditation on duality.”
It’s a great poem and a wonderful visual. Surrounded by the poet himself on all four walls of the gallery, you are completely immersed in his reading.
If you are curious about the poem itself, below is a video of Giorno reading it for his 75th Birthday Tour at the Words Aloud 8 Spoken Word Festival at the Durham Art Gallery in Durham, Canada, in 2011.
The exhibition revisits the Surrealist encounter with the anti-colonial movement in the Caribbean to consider present forms of coloniality and its relation to climate justice. The artists have taken inspiration from the radical and transformative collection of poems by Martinican poet and politician Aimé Césaire under the same name. The term “cadastre” refers to the means by which the territorial limits of private property are publicly registered. Taking cue from the powerful mechanics of Césaire’s writing, Allora & Calzadilla’s exhibition Cadastre brings together three works all informed by a poetics of mark making, traces, and survival.
In April 1941, the anti-colonial Martinican poets and theoreticians Susanne and Aimé Césaire, founders of the literary journal Tropiques, met with a group of artists and intellectuals fleeing Nazi-occupied France, whose boat had temporarily docked at the West Indian port of Fort-de-France. The refugees included Helena Benitez, André Breton, Wifredo Lam, Jacqueline Lamba, Claude Lévi-Strauss, André Masson, and Victor Serge, among others. Penumbra takes as its point of departure the now mythic hikes the group took in the gouffre d’Absalom valley in Martinique, which served in part as inspiration for Lam’s masterpiece, The Jungle. Penumbra is a soundscape of “shadow tones,” a psycho-acoustic phenomenon perceived when two real tones create the semblance of a third. The original musical composition by David Lang uses nonlinear distortion of violin sounds to evoke the sensation of walking through that tropical forest.
In Graft, thousands of cast blossoms of the Tabebuia chrysantha tree, a common native species in the Caribbean, appear as though a wind had swept them across the gallery floor. Graft alludes to environmental changes set in motion through the interlocking effects of colonial exploitation and global climatic transformation. Systemic deforestation and depletion of the Caribbean’s original flora and fauna is one of the primary legacies of colonialism. Nevertheless, the Caribbean remains a biodiversity hotspot and, along with thirty-five other hotspots worldwide (which amount to just 2.4% of the earth’s land surface), supports nearly 60% of the world’s plant, bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species. As rising global temperatures result in more frequent and violently destructive weather, adding even more pressure to the Caribbean, the uncanny presence of tropical tree blossoms in Graft stands as a potent harbinger for the immeasurable losses that continue unabated after centuries of colonial plunder.
Measuring 6 feet in height and 70 feet in length, and covering the east and south walls, the exhibition’s eponymous work, Cadastre takes electromagnetism as its subject and medium. To make the work, Allora & Calzadilla dropped iron filings on top of a canvas and placed it above an array of copper cables connected to an electrical breaker in the artists’ studio in San Juan, which gets its power from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. When the breaker is turned on, the electrical current causes the iron particles to self-organize into a composition of lines and shapes governed by the electromagnetic field. As the Latin title and full subtitle (Meter Number 18257262, Consumption Charge 36.9kWh x $0.02564, Rider FCA-Fuel Charge Adjusted 36.9 kWh x $0.053323, Rider PPCA-Purchase Power Charge Adjusted 36.9kWh x $0.016752, Rider CILTA-Municipalities Adjusted 36.9kWh x $0.002376, Rider SUBA Subsidies $1.084) suggest, the work probes the propriety politics of electricity and the power grid. Cadastre is part of a continuum of multiple sites and actors that the artists are probing through their artistic process working with electricity, from the oil futures market, to the transnational holders of PREPA bond debt, to the local consumers who are forced to pay for the recently privatized power company’s fiscal mismanagement.
This exhibition closes 11/2/19.
Recently, their film, The Great Silence, was shown at Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles. It is subtitled with thoughts from the perspective of an endangered Puerto Rican parrot who lives in the same area as the Arecibo Observatory, which was created to capture and transmit radio waves from and into outer space. The parrot questions why humans look to communicate and make a connection with extraterrestrial life, when there are parrots who can potentially use human language nearby.
It’s a thought provoking and moving piece, well worth a watch.
Cyprien Gaillard, Nightlife (Images above via Gladstone gallery)
At Gladstone Gallery, Cyprien Gaillard’s 3-D film Nightlife is a wonderfully immersive experience. Starting with Rodin’s The Thinker at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the film then moves to a series of plants and trees moving in slow motion in Los Angeles, followed by the annual Pyronale fireworks at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, and finally a return to Cleveland, where a helicopter lights up the site where Jesse Owens’ Olympic oak is planted. While the film plays, a dub song reverberates throughout the room on a loop, adding to the dreamlike atmosphere.
This exhibition closes 4/14/18.
Oliver Laric, Year of the Dog (Image via Metro Pictures)
At Metro Pictures is Oliver Laric’s two part exhibition, Year of the Dog. The video animation, the stronger part of the show, takes place in the main gallery.
The animation continues his inquiry into concepts of metamorphosis, encompassing concerns about time and the complex dynamic between human and nonhuman lifeforms. Against a white background, linear animations of fish, fungi, and other figures move and change shape. The lines composing the animations continually extend or contract to zoom in on greater and greater detail, magnifying a sense of time as the images change. While the shapes and figures, as in his previous video works, are drawn from cartoons and Japanese anime, Laric’s subject matter has grown to also include animations based on live footage. He constructed the animation via an exacting technique in which each line moves continually between sequences—in contrast with traditional techniques in which each sequence consists of a series of redrawn frames. As the shapes perpetually transform, an atmospheric soundtrack commissioned from musician Ville Haimala establishes the sense of an unfolding narrative.
In the back gallery are three resin sculptures of a human dog hybrid holding a smaller dog in its arms, titled Hundemensch. Each sculpture is from the same mold but differs in opacity and color.
This exhibition closes 4/14/18.
Desiree Dolron, Complex Systems (2017)- Image via GRIMM
Finally if you are on the Lower East Side, near the ICP Museum and the New Museum is GRIMM gallery, which is currently showing Desiree Dolron’s video, Complex Systems (2017). Her digital illustrations of the movements of starlings are made more intense by the unnatural patterns she includes, and the sounds that accompany the piece.
Complex Systems displays a digitally drawn flock of starlings, scattering throughout the sky in a loop of ever-changing patterns. In this work themes such as the fragility of existence, impermanence and the dichotomy between the individual and the collective form the conceptual ground of her inquiry. The title of the film is adopted from the scientific field of network research, which employs the term to define the complex interactions between different components of the same group.
The shapes assumed by the birds are proven to be the result of a defense mechanism system: in order to avoid attack by predators, a singular starling keeps track of seven others simultaneously – in doing so, the starling is able to adapt to the changing flying directions of the entire flock, thus keeping the collective intact. The dichotomy between the individual and the collective is at the core of Dolron’s interest in this natural phenomenon. Complex Systems investigates the relation between singular and shared intelligence, prompting questions concerning humanity, the psyche and the possible presence of a collective unconscious.
The link to the human psyche is emphasized by the cyclical character of the film; Dolron underlines the full turn of life in which the starlings function as a metaphor. Their movements change from an initial drive to a final, slow fall, while the murmuration happens in an eternal loop that symbolizes the cycle of life and its fragility. The movements of the starlings, combined with the pivotal soundtrack of murmuring voices that intensify and fade according to the flock’s movements, allude to the human mind in a state of constant flux.