Tag Archives: art

Hands everywhere

During my first swift survey walk through the last years degree show (2016) of the Royal College of Art in London I noticed a curious repetition of a specific motif : The hand . But it wasn’t just a hand that exhibits itself, but a hand that acts, that touches, holds, performs. A hand that encourages empathetic identification.

The hand is one of the the most ancient representational motifs existing in art . Negative and positive handprints have been found in caves and on rocks dating back up to 39 000 years.

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But it has been relatively absent in the art of recent years.  What the hands formed , the  result of their work has been subject of exhibitions, but less the hands themselves.

My thesis now is that there is a renaissance of the representation of hands happening and I see two  contributing factors. 

1. The hand in the viewfinder of our eyes

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The most important factor is the relatively new but omnipresent everyday connection of the hand with the image. Through touchscreen technology the hand is now often and directly physically connected to the image. Today through the use of smartphones and tablets the hand  has become part of  a very large and growing number of images. During our interaction with digital images the hand is often in the foreground or center of the image. One might argue that the hand was also present when in the past we were looking through pages of  museum catalogues or photo books . The difference might be subtle, but then the hand was only active at the edge of the image. Now it is active in its centre. It swipes over, it pinches and double taps. The hand is right in there. Physically. Overall the hand has become a larger part of our daily optical view finder. The heightened frequency of the hands presence is reflected in its taking stage in artworks of recent contemporary artists. And this doesn’t just effect art school graduates.

At the last Turner Prize exhibition at  Tate Britain in London every shortlisted artist had to a larger or smaller degree images or representation of hands present in their work.

2. The making of objects vs the end product

A second factor for the appearance of the hand as a motif is more speculative and more subtle in its arguments: There seems to be a shift of focus in the arts towards “the making”  and away from the “end product”. Artworks now often reflect the way they are made in some way. This is connected to Bertold Brechts ideas about theatre and the importance to show its construction and context within the play. The revival of the collage , of art and crafts and  the return of performance art are all signifier of this trend. In painting abstract process based painting has been all the rage during the last ten years. Marks, material and process have been playing Ping Pong at all the art fairs. It has been young artists that are pushing these interests. My suspicion is that therefore the hand as a central instrument for making art has  become more prominent in artworks.

 

The net as a new model for the world

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I am not too interested in fashion trends in art ,but more in the question why this shift is happening now?

I sense that the world has become more fluid through information technology and social media. Everything is connected with everything it seems. At least it all is caught in the same net.

Water is a better representation of this condition than stone. The fluid closer to it then the solid. Every object is viewed now as more or less part of this net.

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Information in all directions is attached to the object and it is itself information for other connected objects. Its only logical, that objects including artworks are now viewed in this way. So “the making of it”  is the information we want ,we are used to, we want to convey, as it has become the way we see the world.

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On Doors  into other worlds

A hidden floor, an office door, a wardrobe, a rainbow, a hurricane, a train, a rabbithole, a train platform wall, a bedroom wall, a pill, a tunnel.

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Since childhood my world has been populated by membrans into other worlds. Their reality is  fading away the older I get and only the screen ( cinema , computer or television) is staying with some continuity. Our culture has many examples for stories that include these transitional spaces , transporting us into another world.  I asked myself : What is the reason for these phantastical doorways . Where do they come from and what role do they play in our lives.

Sociological

We are living in a world that is held together by shared imaginations. Myth we all believe in and trust ,so our societies are stable. Shared imaginations like money , law, hirachy, art, capitalism or religion. These shared imagined realities we are taught from childhood onwards .  They have an extremely important function and they form our cultures. Without them humanity would have never evolved into large empires and a global societies. They help us to cooperate with large amounts of strangers and trust them. But they are imagined.

Maybe the stories and imaginations about membrans and doorways are hinting to the fragile character of these shared imaginations. For most people it would be a unthinkable to  say their religion or belief system is purely imagined. For them they form solid realities. Historically if you seize to belief or doubt a god , law or a leader there are truly very real consequences. The solidity of the shared beliefs is important to sustain our societies, but at the same time there is always the suspicion in some that they are purely imagined and that there is no true solidity, just an imagined one. Stories about world membrane might reflect these ideas, give relief to suspicion, include these stories in cultures and so ultimately help stability.

Suppressed ideas, especially if they have truth in them will not go away , but erupt in a uncontrolled way. The acceptance and inclusion of membrane stories in a culture are psychologically disarming.

They give room to possibilities of other orders, other possibilities, other worlds. They create momentum for change, if it is necessary. They help motoring our culture through this dynamic battle between belief and disbelief.

FlammarionWoodcut

The Flammarion engraving is a wood engraving by an unknown artist that first appeared in Camille Flammarion’s L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888) (source: wikipedia)

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Dorothe’s house in “The wizard of Oz” . A film from 1939.

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From ” Where the wild things are” by Maurice Sendak

Individual

If we look at the individual instead of the sociological , one could argue  our cognitive ability to form ideas about the world is nothing else then opening the door to another world. The process of “Thinking” itself finds representation in these metaphors of doorways and membranes. When I think about something a form appears outside of myself, somewhere. I can close my eyes and develop the idea in front of my inner eye. A new place appears as I have self consciousness.

From the movie "Being John Malkovitch"

From the movie “Being John Malkovitch”

from the movie "Being John Malkovitch"

from the movie “Being John Malkovitch”

Neurological

As I do notice that I had many more doorways and membranes populating my mind ,when I was younger I wonder if the developmental stages of the brain might have also something to do with the presence of these metaphors. Almost like  an outward projected fluency that points to neural networks that are still open and possible to form unexpected connections.

Drugs

Drugs that are influencing our brain processes and change our perception and actions are also part of  this complex of stories. Taking a pill can transport your mind and some of your body into another world.

From "The Matrix" movie 1999

From “The Matrix” movie 1999

In “The Matrix” Neo the main character is given a pill that can transport him out of a controlled purely imagined reality into a reality where he inhibits his body consciously again.  The chemical pill is his doorway.  “The Matrix” is an essay on control through shared reality. Doorways and Membranes are everywhere in the movie.

"The Matrix" 1999

“The Matrix” 1999

Other examples of Movies with Doorway or Membrane Stories

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will expand its three-month celebration of anime with a screening of the 2002 Oscar¨-winning animated feature ÒSpirited AwayÓ on Friday, July 17, at 7:30 p.m., and ÒA Tribute to Animation Master Hayao MiyazakiÓ on Tuesday, July 28, at 7:30 p.m.  Both events will take place at the AcademyÕs Samuel Goldwyn Theater and will include extended gallery hours for the AcademyÕs ongoing exhibition ÒANIME! High Art Ð Pop Culture.Ó Pictured here: SPIRITED AWAY, 2002.

 SPIRITED AWAY, 2002.

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Harry Potters Platform 9 3/4 at Kingscross Station

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

The Chronicles Of Narnia The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe-04

The Wardrobe in ” The Lion the Witch and the wardrobe”

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How artists want to be seen

Some Artist are interested in their self image. They make specific choices how they want to appear. Here are two different sets of collections: Artists referring to the motive of the hand or the mouth or both and Artists with different animals. I find both revealing and engaging.

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People trying to be plants

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What is a sculpture?

I would argue it is a physical experience through and of volume. When making a sculpture a transformation takes place. A material is formed in a certain way , so it creates a sensual reaction within the beholder. Traditionally sculpture are objects. For the Secret Garden project in London I asked people to imagine themselves into being plants. To transform into an object that is in its appearance for us still. Appears like a sculpture. In this project the material that is sculpted is identical with the sculptor. An investigation into the relationship between mind and matter.

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Image

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Artists

Artist

“Artists with too much power are dangerous !” 2012

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Hans Peter Feldmann’s Shadow- scape at Berlins Hamburger Bahnhof

A simple, humble and wonderful installation in the second floor of the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. The balance between mondane plastic objects and their magical shadows is effortless. Maybe a little ‘habitat’ but through it’s simplicity and honesty transgressing Scandinavian bedroom design.

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PURE BEAUTY / John Baldessari at the Tate Modern

Photo courtesy of The Broad Art Foundation Santa Monica

Without any doubt John Baldessari is one great artist : Full of wit ,sensibility, self-critic, humour, intellect, connections, age and political awareness.

He has a great retrospective exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. The parallel running Pop Art exhibition is no rival. In comparison It melts into one colourful heap of plastic.

Baldessaris exhibition is curated in historic order. The beginning at the beginning. I like it as it gives you a very good sense of how his work developed.

I don’t want to go into details about the show. Only show some great pieces. (peaces)

One thing though I could observe which bugged me :  Even the good and aware artists are not entirely free in their choices. The dealers (galerists) and the market definitely have a word to say. You can clearly see the production value rise in the course of the exhibition. The palette changes with the money you have to your disposal. Money changes the art. It doesn’t mean it makes it worse, but it changes it even if you are a  clear, independent and intellectual artists. I am probably only stating the obvious, but I do it anyway.

The question though appears who are you making the work for. I picture the being as a large one eyed woman with a pearl necklace made from factory buildings, private schools, husbands and something small like a screw. Her dress is floaty and beneath you hear the screaming of playing children. She also wears a wig, that is like a flytrap and full of artists sticking to it. Her eyes have fully diluted pupils ,so that you can’t tell their colour.

Markus Vater

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Photo courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery NY

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Detail: Cigar Smoke to Match Clouds that are the same , 1970-1971, photo courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery NY

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Prima Facie (Third state):From Aghast to Upset, 2005, photo courtesy of Baldessari studio

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from Baldessari Studio Archive

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