MISHIMA PROJECT

MISHIMA PROJECT

DESCRIPTION

EMIL MEMON November 25, 2004

New York City

PROJECT MISHIMA

Project Mishima is based on the extraordinary personality of Mishima the famous Japanese post-war writer, some of his short stories and a series of photographs for which Mishima posed. The photographs by photographer Eikoh Hosoe were published in his book Ordeal by the Roses in 1961.

The project has 3 main parts; film,series of 5 large format drawings and a series of photographs. The photo session that produces the photographs is the integral part of the film. The result of this project will be presented as a straight film projection as well as flexible space installation.

The reason that Mishima interests me are the power of his writing, the visual imagery of the photographs for which he is using his own body as a symbolic projection of his writings. He sees his nationalism, militarism and the cult of the Samurai as an antidote to western capitalistic values overtaking Japanese society, although at the same time his political values are in contradiction with his strong humanistic art. Similar to Pasolini his sexual and political passions and his intellectual nonconformist brought him to a logical and tragic end in a ritual suicide (seppuku) in the headquarters of the Japanese army in Tokyo. The Hollywood film Mishima touched on this subject.

I’m fascinated with the work of artists of the second half of the 20th century, a period that is becoming disconnected and remote to our (more and more bizarre) reality. He is a co-traveler with Fasbinder, Beuys, Warhol, Margarite Duras, etc., artists that worked between madness of WWII holocaust and new millennium, our time of extreme contradictions of technological quantum leaps on one hand and obscurant religious wars and total collapse of civil society in large parts of the world on the other. It’s a new world where fiction in its extreme form can materialize in reality as our collective nightmares, like in a Tarkowsky movie Solaris. These artists have their roots in WWII and they reflect with a critical eye on the postwar insecurities that are being manifested at that time in a collective will to forget horrors of the war through material reconstruction and the creation of a massive consumerist society as a painkiller. In theirs criticism and pessimism is incorporated basic optimism, hope and rationality. Briefly after the fall of Berlin wall and the end of Apartheid in South Africa, when a notions of Human rights as a guiding force

in world politics was being contemplated there was a sense of optimism and unprecedented possibilities for more humane future, future that learned not in a small way, from the work of post war generation of artists, from the horrors and mistakes of the first half of the century. When I contemplate their work I realize that their voices are fading away fast. To retain minimal sense of reality and a memory of a possibility of more humane world, it’s important to maintain connection with that exceptional generation of artist and their work.

MISHIMA/DRAWING/2011

MISHIMA/DRAWING/2011

MISHIMA/DRAWING/DETAIL/2011

MISHIMA/DRAWING/DETAIL/2011

MISHIMA/DRAWING/DETAIL/2011

MISHIMA/DRAWING/DETAIL/2011

MISHMA/DRAWING/DETAIL/2011

MISHMA/DRAWING/DETAIL/2011

View Art Show/"Hot in a Disco" Art Happening,brooklyn,NYC

View Art Show/"Hot in a Disco" Art Happening,brooklyn,NYC

MISHIMA/DRAWING/2010

MISHIMA/DRAWING/2010

MISHIMA/DRAWING/DETAIL/2010

MISHIMA/DRAWING/DETAIL/2010

MISHMA/DRAWING/DETAIL/2010

MISHMA/DRAWING/DETAIL/2010

MISHIMA PROJECT/BROOME ST

MISHIMA PROJECT/BROOME ST

MISHIMA PROJECT/BROOME ST

MISHIMA PROJECT/BROOME ST

MISHIMA PROJECT/BROOME ST

MISHIMA PROJECT/BROOME ST

MISHIMA PROJECT/BROOME ST

MISHIMA PROJECT/BROOME ST

MISHMA PROJECT/BROOME ST

MISHMA PROJECT/BROOME ST

MISHIMA PROJECT/BROOME ST

MISHIMA PROJECT/BROOME ST
Bushwick, Brooklyn open studios show/2013

DRAWINGS & FRIENDS

Friday, February 17, 2012

MISHIMA PROJECT



                       

PHOTOGRAPHS/SLIDE SHOW
PHOTOGRAPHS/SLIDE SHOW

TEXT EXPLAINING "MISHIMA PROJECT"

EMIL MEMON                                                                                May 22, 2007, NYC                                                                              


Gerhard Richtar

“August30, 1977”, MOMA permanent collection

Walking through MOMA permanent collection galleries , the room with Gerhard Richtar
“August 30, 1977” has a powerful effect, it’s a work standing apart from the rest of the art and rooms in the museum.  The fact that a whole large space is dedicated to this work ,
 where every inch of space it’s a precious art real-estate  its extroodenary and rightfully so.

First time I ‘ve seen this set of 15 stark and severe paintings was at  the NYU Gray gallery.
The work was produced in 1988. I was  impressed  by  its unusual seriousness and thoughtfulness. Apparently Mr. R. attached  condition for this work not to be displayed in a commercial  gallery and to be always kept whole as a set., obviously attaching a special meaning to it . 

Paintings are dealing with the Baader- Meinhof group,  final fragments of life and death of  Andreas Baader, Jan –Carl Rasspe and Gudrun Ensslin, (Ulrike Meinhof committed earlier suicide in the police custody)., They were members of Red Army Faction (RAF) who grew from 68 student revolt across Europe and US. In 70’s they took to armed struggle as a logical and  extreme  evolution of 60’s anti capitalist radicalism. The deaths were considered group suicide. The prison where they died was a notorious high tech facility, build exlusively for them, with constant surveillance , so there was a suspicion that they were murdered by the state..The unique alignment of content and form in this paintings , evoking  so many memories and issues  central to German and European post II world war generation , coming to maturity or growing up in 70’s is extraordinary, but can be obscure and almost esoteric to today viewers ,without a detailed knowledge of European history of that period.  But,  even if they are floating without a context, their monochrome  heavy gray intriguing imagery is loaded with gravity and sense of history, like a Zeppelin ready for combustion dropping its anchor in to viewer mind. 

A decade later I’we seen  this paintings  again at MOMA as a part of his retrospective.  This was  the last exhibition  before renovation of the museum and its  temporary exodus to Queens. It was in 2001, but symbolically it was the last  show  of 20 century and there couldn’t be a better choice of the artist to do it. His work incarnates, among other things , the supremacy of  Euro/Usa dynamics  as central to art after II World War till the end of the century. His art dasn’t come across as  segregated   in a fragment of time , because he is simultaneously following few different tracks of work , figurative , abstract paintings, objects etc.  and is thematically  constantly renovating himself. His work looks fresh, contemporary  and not dated , but he is in fact the ultimate post WWII 20 century artist  and that he is able to do that , shows the strength of his work...

When Millennium hit, it was not perceived and seen just as a change  from number 1 to 2 on the  date  , but especially with the attack on WTC, time opened a crack . There emerged 2 sides of a very wide river , getting wider and dipper with time , accelerating  to most unexpected  scale. There is this side and there  the other one, how something that had only a symbolical meaning, just a change of numbers,  materialized  a real divide ,sharp and beyond imagination. It’s like being that  proverbial white bear on a slice of ice, victim of global worming, broken from Northern pole,  drifting in the ocean and there on the other broken piece of ice is a friend, a family or a lover, somebody that is and  faster you move away from each other , is becoming a was. This goes for our sense of history, politics, economy, art, whatever represent a sense of culture , civilization that was formed in a drastic moment of change at the begging of 20 century.At the beginning the symbolical change of 1 to 2 was not  a recognizable shift,  suddenly just like that,  those pieces of ice in cold Atlantic were drifting away, ,two sides of expanding river  were getting out of reach, getting lost. Something intimately familiar  suddenly become cold, alien and lost in the fog. The disappearing of familiarity brought  a sense of anxiety and fear. The scary and unfortunate part of all of this, is that what is on this side of the river is not reassuring, it’s illogical and mainly dosnt’ have what the other side has, a logical , dialectical, even with all its horrors of the last century,  a linear narrative.   (Marxist dialectics and  Hegel’s spirit of history) with its inner basic optimism that has a potential  of delivering a better world. Well, as they say, modernism was replaced by postmodernism or something else happened , something deeper and more sinister and non quantifiable.  People are being blown apart by people blowing themselves and more being blown by others with intent to prevent blowing ups at the first place and all in the name of religion, having religious wars in 21 century, how!?What happened  to religion being opium of the masses?The question is what is going on  or were do we stand.?  The corse is being dramatically changed,  our near past is unrecognizable in an accelerated  way. On a superficial way the new digital technology, specially communication and media revolution could be pointed out as the reason for this perception, but that is not the case, because  this technology should actually reinforce the sense of reality and optimism and basically is not so different as previous technological  jumps. A  basic thing,   humanism is  being demolished  from all sides and blamed for existing  problems and to be dealt with.   It is crucial that we don’t lose that contact  with the other side of the river , or the ones stranded and slipping away on that sheet of ice on the cold ocean of time. That we trow a line to the other side  is  almost existentially urgent,  before is to late , here the work of  some great post WWII artists has a great role to play ,  work as this one of GR.

.The horrors and the magnitude of insanity manifested in Fashizem and Stalinism and WW I  and especially WW II with the unspeakable Holocaust  was an epic struggle between god and evil. With all resilience of the human spirit , of which  art was an important driving force, god won with a huge hard learned lessons. Those lessons become drawing force and central to anything done after 45. Art was important especially to one , never forget, relax and lose the vigilance. That was especially true for German artists, GR among them, facing the fact that their culture gave birth to such a monster  as Nazism, guilty of the biggest monstrosity in human history, they  had embarked on a hevy self examination  of  their collective guilt.  The work of  great post World War II artists was hard, cutting  and desperate,  but at the same time liberating. It’s deep criticism of contemporary society, politics and especially  alienating effects rapid economic growth and the raise of consumerism  had on  individual, was to keep human mind sharp. Art ‘s total depression and nihilism in some cases was in its essence optimistic, with deep believe in future. Works of artist like Mishima, Pasolini, Celine,Visconti, Kurosawa, Beuys, Warhol, Fasbinder, Duras, Myrlin etc. .. and work like the  “August 1977” by GR are great examples  of this. At the same time, they were actively shaping change for better in nascent youth  and pop culture , making difference in a fight for individual human rights, like women's and ,gays and racial equality in more and more  complex world. There was support for liberation movements of colonized people to regain their independence (“Battle for Alger ”) and a sense of possible utopias, obviously everything with the Cold War with the potential nuclear annihilation as a constant  beat looming on the background. The other side of that Iron Curtain divide ,with their paranoid high premium value placed on art, produced body of deep personal insights in works of artist like Tarkovsky, Wayda and many others.. In a brief moment, when the end of Cold War with the fall of Berlin Wall, dismantlement of South African Apartheid and Mandela’s freedom, other long conflicts like Israeli and Palestinian, Northern Irelands … being on the verge of the solution, combined with the new digital globalizing revolution, for a brief moment it  did looked as things are really getting better  and  the ship is finally arriving to a home port, after being on stormy seas for a very long time. Art was the light house providing direction to safety from dangerous tempest. Well, all of this utopia in making didn’t last for a long time.  New, at that moment considered unthinkable and  ahistorical , not recognized as a serious thing, that would eventually start dragging everything to the bottom, horror of Sarajevo and  Rwanda  materialized . It produced something new , a  virus infecting human body of history. It was  beginning of a disease , that symbolically with the new millennium, like Aids, was devastating  our common immune system,  taking over and rewriting all the rules and spreading rapidly.The big crack started to materialize.

Film as the ultimate incarnation  of the art of the 20 century , reached its highest point  in 70’s and peaked before the century was over. It influenced other forms of expression , especially  Visual Art  and that is  well manifested  in “August  30, 1977’. Images are edited as a movie; cuts , one sequence following the other. Rhythm is materialized in the placement  and different sizes of canvases in the space. Color of the paintings is monochrome  dark gray, like a black and white movie.  Story that is told is a documentary of tragic and traumatic  events in 70’s Germany ,with deep political consequences , based on cold photographic documentation from police files and newspapers. It’s a personal , humananazing  film, something on the line of a Fassbinder movie , at first glance  looking dispassionate, cruel and removed. As Fassbinder was fascinated with Warhol and America, so was he and other German and European artist, including Beuys. In this paintings he is mimicking mechanical  reproduction of  Warhol silkscreens  and  he is follow him  thematically,  replacing American icons( Merlin, Jacky O, Patty Hirst..} and iconographical American tragedies (car crashes, electric chairs., police mug shots…) with a symbolical German one. The interesting twist is that he is using instead of the direct silkscreen print, to come to the similar impact ,  oil paints on linen and careful time consuming soft brush work. 

Why were those events  he is describing so important to GR?.  How do they relate to our time? GR with his stately and often very spectacular art is in a way very reassuring artist, confirming that art has still high cultural ambition and in this way with his mastery and high minded topics in an inside out inversion of progressive and simultaneously conservative stand , is producing highly priced and sought after marketable  art objects . Politically his work is far of being radical, so why is he eulogizing the Bader Maincof group, that committed  acts of violence against targets, that they identified as the symbols of oppressive capitalism . Fascist terror groups at that time in Europe, especially in Italy, targeted innocents in mass massacres in squares, trains,  etc, with horrific acts of violence, not unlike Iraq, with the goal to destabilize civil society and  bring in right wing military coup. One reason he was attracted  to this subject matter  could  be, that even in their extreme , the romantic idea of youth fighting and being sacrificed for their idealistic believes, in a struggle for just future, has an enduring appeal and explores the long tradition in Western art of historical  paintings immortalizing  acts of bravery , struggle and death; Goya’s execution of Spanish resistance fighters by the French,  David’s “The Death of  Marat” , Picassos Guernica among many  examples.  There is also the long Christian tradition, starting with crucifixion and  through art history, numerous representations of saints dying and sacrificing themselves, or images from Bible of violence and death, like the intense image of  Caravaggios  “The sacrifice of Isac”. He is working with and reinterpreting the Western  cannon of  large scale historical  and religious paintings.  The other reason , since the work was produced in 1988, was a cautionary tale of the future that  came to pass. Politically in Germany and Italy with  it’s Red Brigades in late 70’s,  the state and politicians used  cynically the excuse of fighting terrorism (RAF in Germany the topic of this work) to crash civil liberties, opposition and nascent youth and civil society. Those groups were isolated and manipulated on the margins, with no connection  to lively (especially in Italy) student movements and other progressive parts of society. Example of this crack dawn were the raids by police in Italy on independent papers and radio stations and universities.  In Germany the state in an infamous act, started  to do political checks on teachers, preventing left leaning to be hired. The damage done was severe with long lasting consequences on the civil society. The parallel to were this work is coming from and relevance of this paintings in our age of permanent  war on terrorism is obvious,  the civil liberties can go out of the window  incredibly fast. This are history paintings in action.





Wednesday, May 25, 2011

ARTIST STATEMENT EMIL MEMON, “1983/BLUE MOVIE”, 1982 / 2004

http://www.e-arhiv.org/arhiv/diva/index.php?opt=author&id=248
ARTIST STATEMENT
EMIL MEMON, “1983/BLUE MOVIE”, 1982 / 2004 &The above link to the video in it's full length archived by "DIVA (Digital Video Archive of Slovenian Video and New Media Art) 

The “Blue Movie” deals with a couple of basic elements:  the body, literature, and the city (New York), as well as the  inner structure of an image,  and cinematic rhythm.  The nature of the image itself produced a static offshoot of this work that consists of large photographs and metal panels.  At that time, I wanted to merge music with my work, so at different occasions I presented my movie with three guitar players performing live (mostly noise) as a background to the projection.  The imagery is a bit apocalyptic--merging urban decay with deconstruction of the image itself.  There is electronic snow over a blue Manhattan skyline which are almost like electrons of nuclear radiation after an atomic blast.  The reason for this metaphor is that at that time there was dangerous tension between  the U.S. and the ex-Soviet Union: the U.S. was deploying anti ballistic missiles in Western Europe,  and Reagan remarked that he would “start bombing in 5 minutes”.

Revisiting this movie twenty years later, this apocalyptic urban vision has unfortunately a new resonance, because apocalypse became reality, so the images from the movie of the twin towers and electronic snow over Manhattan skyline in our age of terror and paranoia have a new meaning.  Next to the images of the monumental decaying city, is an experience of a New York City that in retrospect, is hard to remember.  This vast, spectacular decay, inspired street culture and art based on it (especially graffiti.)  There was also the myth of New York City best represented by Warhol with his movies and the velvet underground; contrasting with the city is my own body in a basic counterpoint to the concrete jungle.  To this basic duality I insert a third element--that of literature. I started to work on the movie the moment I arrived in NYC as a Fulbright scholar doing my MFA at Pratt institute. I had no expectations about what this city will be for me.  I had one vision of New York formed in my head based on my fascination with what I perceived as underground culture emanating from this town. Very quickly I found my natural stomping grounds in the East Village, where countless other kids followed the same muse.  It was fantastic: they were from everyway, from Europe,  Japan, Florida or any other spot on the globe. It was glorious and sinister at the same time, because the city was there like Rome already shaped in timelessness, and we were just new flesh and blood feeding this cold pulsating monster. Later on, I was making jokes about new arrivals and how quickly the fresh rouge on theirs cheeks transformed itself into gray patina that transcends all the classes, from rich to the poor.  Experiences were condensed, in a short time you lived years. Things could turn ugly very fast. Suddenly people you knew, your young friends started to die of a strange disease. It was as if a nightmare became a reality or biological science fiction; the most outrageous one became reality. That autonomy, that space of freedom that was trying to be carved in lawlessness and decay of Lower Manhattan held a serpent and an apple.  In a way, those shots of the city in my movie, driving across the bridges  are clich├ęs , but are sincere ones  and now are documents of time that is no more and gone. Those cars, WTC, trash in Dumbo, the mother with a child crossing the street on a gloomy Bowery.

When I used my own body instead of my friend’s, I was sensing my own and others fragility. My naked body is surrounded by long shots of a flickering, menacing urban landscape. This machine caught my body, a lady waiting for a bus under the bridge, an old Chinese couple, and a mother in its all fragility trying to bring her baby to safety on the other side of the Bowery. I was alone with the camera in my room with a collection of German Expressionistic poems in my hand. I knew Rimbaud was the big muse of the New York punk and art scene, but I preferred George Trakel, a young Austrian expressionistic poet, who in disgust with the horrors of WWI on the Russian front, committed suicide with an overdose of cocaine. So I was reading those poems in that doctor Caligari room. My words are mute, because they are not meant to be heard, what is supposed to be heard is the hum of the film projector, the noise of 3 or 4 electric guitars my friends were playing, or just silence and the thoughts of the viewers. Standing there with the light coming through my window and washing over my body, I was thinking  of a couple of years earlier in Florence as an art student and of Leonardo’s chiaroscuro. I reduced everything to basic turning on and off of the camera and my body on auto-erotic mode.


Text I wrote about America for the Slovenian EMZIN magazine/ Issue Amerika


AMERICA


I was asked by the publisher to write something on United States of America. The premise is that is a place of contradictions, power that defines the destiny of the world past 100 years in good and bad. And that exactly what it is.
   There’s a history of Anti- Americanism since it’s beginnings starting with the European colonial powers, England being defied in a gruesome war of independence, later war with France in Quebec and Spain over Cuba, Philippines. Mexico being totally humiliated by loosing Texas, California. and having American troops marching into Mexico City. From the beginning the Monroe doctrine was designed to keep European powers from Western hemisphere and that didn’t endire Americans to the European ruling elites (image of ugly and crass American). US was claiming it was keeping away bad colonials. As for Asia, commodore Perry by sailing his battleship into Tokyo harbor opened Japan to outside world and trade, US took Philippines from Spain. In North Africa the birth of American navy happened by chasing Arab pirates of the coast of Morocco.   Basically America was fully engaged from the begiginings in the world’s affairs. In Latin America marines were engaged in over 5000 interventions, like in Nicaragua, Salvador, Porto Rico, Dominican Republic, building and controlling Panama Canal. And all of this only in 19 century and first years of 20th.


America it’s a warrior nation and very successful at it. It did win couple of good ones, luckily for us. It’s a nation in a permanent state of war. It is also a nation in war with itself, starting with its original sin when declaration of independence was written about equality of man that didn’t include African Americans and that instituanilezed slavery. That is a crucial element in understanding America, from this many crucial things emanate; from horrific Civil war, Crow laws in the South with segregation, violence and lynching of blacks and to great things, like the American democratic and progressive traditions being generated around this conflict that influenced the world. The struggle for Civil liberties and Martin Luther King helped other oppressed minorities to fight for their own rights and slowly trough legal process started achieving them; women’s, gay’s & transgender, Latino’s and other minorities rights, etc. This conflict and the tensions generated by it is central to great American art, like Jazz, Pop and Rap, entertainment in large including Hollywood, literature and is defining visual arts since Abstract Expressionism till today. One side of the coin has a lot blood on it, including oppressive global economical system shaped and enforced by US, the other has opposite value, power that exported liberating modernizing ideas of individualizzem, struggle for civil rights for oppressed, gender & race studies, arts & entertainment and technology that is constantly trasphorming lives, including the way this article is written and transferred and printed. So you can dive into the bad and ugly or good (as a great Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western movie was called, but in different order:” Good bad and ugly”) and liberating at your pleasure. It’s plenty to explore and see on each end and the grays in between. It’s up to you to individualize your take on America and all are pretty much correct and wrong at the same time. Maybe this schizoprechnic reality makes people around the worlds so passionate and Anti Americanism virulent and deadly as it’s support that can also turn bloody. The main misunderstanding for people looking at the US from outside is the simplification of decision-making process and the acting upon the world by the States. It’s seen as a monolithically as a single entity or mind injecting itself and enforcing it’s will upon the world. Like recent war interventions in Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Serbia & Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan and so called permanent war on terror. That misunderstanding makes things simple and especially appealing for vision of the world that is run by conspiracies. But because, as I previously mention, of America’s war with itself as a constant process, that is absolutely wrong. It’s internal debate is messy, chaotic, and because of it’s original sin and constant interspection that it created, it is democratic, laud and incomprehensive. This doesn’t mean that decisions made are good, they can be very lousy, sometimes can be the right ones. Good example of this in foreign affairs was the debate around intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo. Well, that fact doesn’t make much difference to a family that was being wipeout by a bomb, dropped by mistake, but maybe it does to a girl being able to go to school and maybe take a little more control over her life and body. Well, as a friend of mine put it with irony, American soldier as gallant protector of Afghan women in the discussion we had abut NATO living or staying in Afghanistan. Take your pick. Dammed if you don’t do it {Rwanda, Sarajevo…), dammed if you do it (Sadam, Taliban…). The burden of the White man as the British colonials put it, so called taking responsibility for the “primitive” natives as excuse for squeeze and economical exploitation. One thing, to be literal, is that US is no more a White nation, is as close to what there is of a global society, unlike Europe that so much of it’s life and unease is derived from blood and soil. In next decade or sooner European stock will be minority and here is where the vitality of American culture kicks in, it’s multiculturalism. (No mistake, this is not easy internal process, with a lot of ugliness, specially now with a hysteria, pressure and violence on illegal and legal immigrants. Hopefully in the end it will move in the right direction, soul of the country depends on it, not unlike Civil liberties struggle in the 60’s).

There is a tendency in our human nature that power vacuum is always filled. One contended is the West with its internal long process in philosophy of liberating individual from simple mindedness of religious oppression of Christianity and dialectics & humanism becoming part of thinking process and after the horrors of producing 2 WW while dividing the colonial wealth, producing the worst genocides since Lucy, devising the most lethal forms of annihilation, exploding nuclear bombs on cities and immersing in perversion of exploitations (Conrad’s the heart of darkness), there was some sort of exploration of it’s bad consciousness and a guilt trip, that instutinalized itself among others in formation of EU and its laws and in it's almost impossible birocracy. The other force there is to fill the vacuum of power right now is the newly refreshed, after the latest economical collapse produced by US’s Wall St., victorious Chinese model (Singapore, original South Korean, Saudi, Dubai etc.) of economical progress (Rupert Murdoch loves it as do other corporations that go along with and enforce Chinese government repression of free speech and dissent) granted by dictatorship, wanting to recapture the felling of its own rightful place of national grandeur, inflaming nationalism to replace the youthful Tien=namen Sq. desire for democracy, after historical humiliation inflicted by the West, which is basically what is the premise of fascism. So once again it’s simplicity of good or bad option or something in-between. Obviously something in-between a 3 way is more preferable, because if there is time for a process to produce something as a more inclusive, economically just and humane way of the world affairs that is the choice the right one, but is there time and process in place to produce that or there’s no time and the choice is the US & West chaotic democracy or part of it or so called Chinese model that with time will merge with transnational corporations, that are finding its control of people and work force very appealing to maximize their profits and democratic process of debate and fights for workers rights and unions a nuisance, sort of what happened in Germany when the money class put Hitler in power to stop the liberating social movements in Weimar republic. This is happening on global scale. It’s pretty scary where things are moving to, specially amplified by climate change and scarcity of resources. Is the current enormous capacity of US war machine good or bad?
So, take your pick.

As our glorious poet France Preseren put it “ shoes be only judged by Kopitar” or something like that, meaning that a sate burocrat shouldn’t judge poetry, so me as a Visual Artist writing sort of a foreign affairs paper is not appropriate, but as to [Adetti di lavoro) as is called in Italian, visual art professionals know, that politics is integrated as a main element in art. Basically as Beuys told us that everybody is an artist & can use art as a tool for political transformation and Warhol that everybody is a star for 15 minutes maybe Kopitar today could have something valid to say about Presern poems. Democratization of expression and culture that happened trough ideas and works of art since beginning of modernism and amplified by new technology we are immersed in right now, has big part of American DNA in it. There’s also NYC, the actual space where the global exchange, literally from person to person, artist to artist takes place. It’s a magical place. Influence of American visual artists from Rothko, Pollock, to Jasper Jones, Rauschenberg, Cage, Warhol to Basquat, Haring, Koons, merging high with low, pop culture with highly conceptual work, sort of good and bad and ugly, that alchemy of this transformation to ever more democratization of creative power did happened in the US and in its imperfection did maybe unleashed and empowered individuals all over (It also produced a shift in geography of established Visual Arts that previously was exclusively domain of European and American artists, now contemporary art market includes global production). This is sort of unintended byproduct of American dominance and globalization it unleashed, power to project information. Like Hip Hop expression of Black urban America, it’s genesis in that original American sin, merged with Dance Hall from poor country of Jamaica and now trough the power of American commercial media morphed in becoming language of protest of the poorest and dispossessed from all over. So that creative empowerment of every women, man & child coming from the arts will hopefully provide that 3 way between Good, Bad &Ugly.
Well, it’s wishful thinking.

Emil Memon                                            NYC,September 2010   

Wang Qingsong-Past,Present,Future/review of Chinese photography at ICP

Posted by A Gathering Of The Tribes in Art Reviews - (Comments Off)
ICP International Center of Photography
Asia Society and Museum
New York
June 11-September 5, 2004
Curated by Wu Hung and Christopher Phillips       

china.jpg

Wang Qingsong, Past, Present, Future, 2001, digital c-print (triptych)
In the last few years, Chinese art has been slowly introduced by a group of its dedicated champions to the West, and especially to the New York contemporary art world. As with other so called new markets, a group of westerners, in this case cultural entrepreneurs descended into the new territory and carefully selected and guided a group of talented young Chinese artists who emerged as the first generation after the Tianamen square massacre. Several generations are trying to transcend or ignore the political past, and with the rest of the Chinese economy to catch up on western technology — in this case cultural technology.
There are some similarities in style and sensibility with artists from other post dictatorial societies that recently opened up (like so called Eastern Europe or South America). There is a difference since Chinese society underwent a successful, rapid economic modernization and hard core economic capitalism–but not political pluralism–and actually so called “communism” is guaranteeing its economic success. This condensed, short time frame of changes and contradictions gives the show its unique quality, and the result is one of hard-edged beauty.

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Owing to the erudite knowledge by a specialized, small circle of academics, art critics, curators, art dealers and collectors, Chinese contemporary art exploded with a bang in a series of well timed and organized exhibitions and publications, into the consciousness of the large mainstream art world. Chinese contemporary art arrived into the warm embrace of the contemporary art market, mirroring China’s spectacular success in the world economic markets. There were previous large presentations of Chinese contemporary art, notably the exhibition in 1999 at Asia Society and P.S.1, however, this exhibition joins fresh new faces with what are now almost classic works of Chinese contemporary art. There emerges a strong group of artists who are self-assured and well equipped with knowledge of the global media and whose work goes beyond the hackneyed east vs west dichotomy.
There is a stellar photographic work at ICP by Wang Qingsong that impresses the viewer with its large scale imagery and panoramic format. Updating a famous Tang dynasty painting “Night Revels of Laoli”, the artist stages replaces the original court figures with important figures in contemporary art scene in China (the art critic Li Xianting) and himself into a grand court scene–his version of the Warhol factory. Equally striking is his work at the Asia Society, where with the triptych “Past, Present, Future” he stages his figures into a tableaux vivante referencing imagery of Chinese social realism of the not so far past. Heroically-posed figures in mud, silver and gold are representing different phases of China. He is using staging almost as a Baroque painter would do, so it is not surprising that he moved with his latest body of work, also presented at this time in NYC, to the western art historical themes.
Another powerful work is that of Zhang Huan, whose photograph incorporate reference to body art of Chris Burden or Vito Acconci but in the much more squalid environment of a public toilet with honey and flies over his body. He endures the pain that we can sense with Zen-like patience.
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Zhao Bandi with his Panda are also present at this show. His sidekick is a toy panda representing China. His work is such that you must have knowledge of Chinese cultural, social and physical landscape. His work is a simple, gentle, charming social parody but graced with extraordinary beauty. The example in the show is good, but he works better in accumulation (as a series of photos), because he and his Panda grow on you..
In an old-school type of conceptual work, like something from the 70′s, the Beijing based artist Song Dong is stamping water with a stamp that says water. It is a beautiful gesture, and makes you nostalgic for simpler and pure times. The fact that is a series of photographs on the wall, documenting the performance makes this impression stronger.
There is a lot to see in the exhibition (for instance, the powerful work of Qui Zhijie), and there are plenty of other works and many other artists that will catch your attention. This is not only an exhibition for people with a special interest in China, but for everyone that likes good art.

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“Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China” is Curated by Wu Hung and Christopher Phillips. It is the first comprehensive look at the innovative photo and video art produced since the mid-1990s in China, and will be presented jointly at the International Center of Photography and the Asia Society and Museum from June 11 to September 5, 2004.
This traveling exhibition continues on to the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (Oct. 2, 2004-Jan. 16, 2005), Seattle Art Museum (Feb. 10-May 15, 2005), Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (March-May, 2006), Santa Barbara Museum of Art (Summer 2006)
New York, August 2004

Emil Memon: Preview "Wang Qingsong-Past,Present,Future/review of Chinese photography at ICP"

Emil Memon: Preview "Wang Qingsong-Past,Present,Future/review of Chinese photography at ICP"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Diamonds series


As just published in the  Slovenian Art magazine “Likovne besede” , description of my art set "Diamonds"

Diamonds series

Few years ago I was in an Irish pub in NYC. On the wall they had photographs of greats of Irish literature, James Joyce, Wilde, Yeats and so on. Under each photograph was a quote made by each writer. The one that stuck in my head was the one by Samuel Beckett; “Worst then hate is to ignore” It strucked me how true is it; emails, and phone calls unanswered, lovers ignoring you and driving you to madness, you prefer to be screamed at, then just nothing, silence; frustrations when curators or art dealers are not responding to your request for attention and etc… as is that true and devastating on personal level, the same goes for our collective sanity and lives in geopolitics.

One thing that really made an impact on me was the debate I followed in NYC when invasion of Slovenia started, or lack of it. Goings around the siege of Sarajevo and Yugoslav wars in general. The lack of interest and dismissive tribal wars theory, while hundred of thousand civilians died, through years of ignoring at the hands of new morphed virus of fascism or worse. The list goes on back in time, with countless examples of it, like Spanish civil war, invasions of Czechoslovakia, Jewish Holocaust, or forward that line like Rwanda, Darfoure etc… There’s no end to the misery and future is fully pregnant with horrors to come.

Diamonds set; I started to work shortly after the invasion of Iraq on this series of images. The war for an artist was an obvious central point of engagement. So many things were at stake, human tragedy, response on the attack on NY that I had misfortune to witness, restructuring of global world order, new Europe versus the old one, debates in terms of clashes of civilqaztion and religion with all the historical baggage that that implied. As Becket quote goes, so was also in that embrace of death an enormous exchange of information and trough conflict sort of a crush course
on the other. In the US there was this vortex of spinning ideologies from Wolfowitz Neo conservatives to Said’s Orientalists, punctuated with regular bulletins from the war and occasional message from Osama from a cave in Vaziristan or somewhere like that. The media was in overdrive to such an extant that even a legendary Joe six-pack knew that there are Shiites and Sunnis in Islam, something that was absolutely out of grasp or even remotely close to any interest to an average working man (it was also news to me). This violent penetration started by theorist with the notion
of reorganizing and solving the problem of the Middle East once and for all and in process securing supplies of energy to the West. It all exploded in a messy reality that is muddied and confusing, bringing suffering on the warfront with enormous causalities, especially among Iraqi civilians and at home front with larger and larger numbers of returning dead and permanently physically and mentally scared soldiers. This mess after so many years still is not resolved and the focus is being shifted to Afghanistan, but the impact on the West , especccialy US is already being absorbed into the DNA of the empire.

While this was going on and occupied most of the energies a more deadly and hideous, if there is something like ranking horror, wars were going and are still in progress on African continent. One day by chance I run into satellite photograph of Europe and Africa at night. I was stunned, it was so clear, Europe shining bright as a Christmas tree with electric light emanating from it’s cities, meanwhile the whole of Africa was black, literarly a black continent, with burst of light here and there. I don’t think there’s a better image that represents a reality of total human and geopolitical marginalization than this. In constant string of wars and collapsed societies, especially in West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leon, and in central Africa from genocide in Rwanda emanating conflict in Congo. This wars took millions of lives, especially still ongoing conflict in Congo. This is definitely where that Beckett quote really make sense. Ignoring, where personal marginalization, that everybody has in one form or another experienced, is ingrained in a deep subcontiones, that takes shape as a Jungian collective nightmare in this massive geopolitical tragedy. The Conrad’s ‘Journey in to the darkness’ and king Leopold lives on in even more perverse form. The old school sacking of African natural resources, like precious metals and as in case of Liberia and Charles Taylor especially so called blood diamonds took and still is taking place in it’s most rudimental, brutal and probably more bloody way as it did in the darkest times of Western colonial rule. On a larger scale, that includes also the Arab world, what happened in Africa is part of collapsed utopias of 20 century, now running into new millennium. This dystopia emanates from euphoria of post war anti colonial liberation movements that victoriously all over the world and especially in Africa swept away old Western colonial rulers and with mostly progressive secular ideology promised new better future for it’s people. It crashed hard, maybe it can’t go deeper and there are signs that things are brightening, as is the case of post conflict Liberia and it’s first female president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, not to mention South Africa with Mandela.

One of the most recognizable symbols of these wars, especially with Charles Taylor in Liberia where Boy soldiers and Blood diamonds. On the web I run into couple of images of this kids (I’m using also images of adults) that did strike me. As an artist I think the central part of creative process is editing images. The ones from a constant flow of ready made, consumed or the ones you produce as an artist, very few have power (apart of conceptually being appropriate illuminating the idea behind the work) of connection to that “fill rouge” that is the act of creativity itself. Images that are charged and active, like masks carved by peoples of Sepik River in New Guinea, where a designated carver in a ritual carves a mask for auspicious harvesting of jams. He charges that object with magic power   (like an MTA or a credit card with its magnetic stripe when activated can give you cash). The object is active and it guaranties that the people of that community will have food. It’s a bit what Joseph Beuys was doing with his shamanistic charging of transformative matter of lard, felt and when charged with cultural power he connected it to concrete political ideas and actions. The link between creativity and art and active engagement with the world.

The ready-made images in this series for me have that creative charge. The boys have strong presence, holding their weapons, some Vogueing with their jeans jackets, sunglasses, cigarets, they are killers and victims being used, marginalized in personal and geopolitical way and disposable, like dust; I’m putting in some poetic justice; like diamond dust, adding images of nebulas, the sparkling of diamond or stellar dust. The pictures of the kids and the images of stars from Hubbel telescope and the rings of Saturn taken by Casini probe orbiting Saturn are “find objects” appropriated from the web. The life, reason, logic and technology behind these are startling; of boy soldiers or the images of stars and rings, what was behind each of them? When the work was produced on a large scale, the part of the print from the earth of the kids is pixilated, the part of the rings or the stars it’s sharp and clear.

On some of this images the boys are mimicking, in their clothing by posing with AK47’s, imagery from gangster rap videos, pop images produced by corporate entertainment industry in US and the West, a world far far away. Those pop images and music with its message have a powerful impact and are morphing and synthesizing through the world with the global underclass. Corporations took the imagery and sounds of US black urban subculture, changing it’s original message of protest repackaging and glamorizing it, especially in gangster rap music videos, with what sales the most; sex, violence and fantasy of excess glamour so called “Bling Bling”, which refers symbolically to shining of diamonds. Huge profits where and are made in selling this product manly to young middle class suburban white kids as well manufacturing fantasies sold to the poor.  With diamonds,” Blood diamonds” the circle connects, the result of horror this kids are caught as murderers and victims, is litterly supplying the glamour,”Bling Bling”(diamonds) to luxury stores from New York’s 5 ave to London, Paris… Honk Kong and around the world. Rap merging with Jamaican “Dance Hall” music (music that has a rougher edge than “Reggie”) with images of style in glamorous videos, propelled by Corporate entertaining industries with global reach, shaped the look and attitudes from Kingston In Jamaica to Haiti, shantytowns in Rio, Johannesburg and around the globe. It became a look and a sound (with local versions, like “Bangra” in India) of places were there’s a power void without a civil society, where the state control is being filled by warlords, drug kings and gangs, from American inner cities to Parisian suburbs…  In an interesting twist, what was being lifted and neutralized (the subversive political message of urban youth culture) in a crass exploitative manner in pure capitalist fashion in it’s journey trough the world, it morphed and recharged itself again with subversive power when adopted and reworked by the world’s underclass, people on the margins of geopolitics and personal.

One important element, apart from visual images, in this project is a musical recording (trough years I also worked with music as an integral part of my art work), track called “Diamonds”. Since in the hart of this work is pop culture I recorded a pop song that deals with the issues that I just described in previous paragraph. In a way I think I more succefouly explained the project in the lyrics and the beat of the song.

“Diamonds are.. ”

Diamonds are, mhhh, hey diamonds are….
those diamonds are forever
in the port of Amsterdam man in suits
are trading stones glittering like stars
mhh, hey diamonds are…
diamonds are forever

Hey, while a boy in A red and yellow Adidas
is proudly holding his AK 47
those Paperboys are running
into black holes and exploding superstars
ohh, hey,mhh diamonds are..
diamonds are in your eyes
in your heart, diamonds are..
back forever….

In the port of Amsterdam man suits
are trading stones glittering like stars
and those men on 5 Av.
keep trading into women’s dreams
and those bad boys diamond teeth

He is just a kid, a killer
with a pretty face
bright eyes
with sweat smile
with the burden of exploding hearts
hey, diamonds are..
he is just a child, a soldier
in a dirty war
shame on them, on you and all of us
diamonds are, there forever

I hope I see you there
in the journey to the heart
where cruel man are selling you
the crystal light, the crystal light….
ohh diamonds are., hmm those diamonds are
there for ever
I hope I see you there
in the land of boys with guns
in theirs red and yellow track suits
shades, cigarettes and baseball bats
oh diamonds are

in your eyes
in your heart
oh, diamonds are
in your eyes
for ever
in your heart
for ever
oh, diamonds are
for ever
in your eyes
for ever
in you heart
for ever
oh, diamonds are….

http://www.thesixtyone.com/emilmemon/#/emilmemon/song/DiamondsKareemdiscobass/LuPeM4IbHPY/

While working on this series, dealing with images of boy soldiers, I was struck by visual similarity with one of the most marginalized group of kids in NYC, that is minority gay and transgender youth, many working as prostitutes, on the piers on the West side of Manhattan. They are very vulnerable, partly because of stigma that is still strong in black and Latino communities on homosexuality. They congregate and create their own space in a peace of Manhattan geography at the end of Christopher St. It has a long history as a meeting place, way back when this was abandoned urban landscape, with collapsed disused piers on Hudson river. Today the place dramatically changed into highly developed and expansive part of the city. One of the most interesting NYC artists started his work here, when working as a male boy prostitute, making large drawings on the walls inside the dangerous collapsing structures on the piers in late 70’s and early 80’s, he was David Wojnarowicz. The place changed from a hallucinatory apocalyptic landscape to nicely renovated place, with beautiful manicured grass and flowers, where during summer people relax, take in the sun, jog and watch spectacular sunsets over Hudson river. Richard Mayer designed some of the most signature apartment glass towers in the city, that visually combined with the water, grass, flowers and tress form a visual urban Arcadia. It couldn’t be more different, but the kids a generation after generation remain and form their own, in a marvelous resistance to santazided, degentrificated, for profit city’s urban development, alternative reality. In the second part of these series I connected imagery from Africa and Hubble telescope with photographs that I took in a certain cinematic fashion, by transitioning trough the images of the waves of Hudson river and the blue of the Richard Mayer building glass to the faces of this set of youths, that are trying to survive it’s own margins and not to be ignored.  

Emil Memon                                                   NYC, Nov 7, 2009























 


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