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The art of the contemporary 3

Marie-France Rafael about the commodification of the present
24.09.15
4 min
Post
  1. Gallery – Day

The show has been set up. The front window of the gallery is filled with snails. Inside a camera team from the local TV station is filming. Along the walls of the gallery 2000 science fiction books have been pilled up in alphabetical order, a work by Post Brothers. Other works like a pink c-print on canvas showing to horses are leaning against the wall on the floor. In the back room of the gallery the curator Chris Fitzpatrick is giving one interview after the other. He, the gallery assistant (A) and an art historian (M) have set down for a little chat.

M

(to Chris Fitzpatrick)

Chris, tell me, what is contemporary art for you?

Chris Fitzpatrick

I think contemporary art is more and more indiscernible.

It is less and less essentialized in any kind of given space.

So it is happening that the artists are interested more and more in applied things, leaving art context altogether.

I was telling someone about Post Brothers collection of science fiction books, a collection of 2000 titles. In all of them you have a somehow antiquated idea of the future that already passed – a kind of space aged idea of the future from 1987 and now we are in 2015. It puts a graveyard of great ides that didn’t get realized…

The camera team steps in. They finished their work and are leaving.

Chris Fitzpatrick (CONT’D)

(to the camera team)

Oh, buy and thank you.

(to M)

And so to me the conflation of all the different people, voices and subjectivities that lead to the collection being there and how it is arranged in this sort of absurd alphabetical topography is very much like contemporary art. It’s what that does by doing that. That’s the picture, the picture now is well beyond its frame. To me the information is embedded in that.

A

(to Chris Fitzpatrick)

I think there is an another interview scheduled, maybe we should take a little break if that’s ok?

M

(to both of them)

Yeah, sure, I can come back in a few minutes.

Chris Fitzpatrick is joining his other interview partner and Marie-France Rafael steps out for a few minutes. We see her entering a bakery around the corner and eating her sandwich while walking back to the gallery.

All the three of them are sitting again in the backroom of the gallery.

M

(to Chris Fitzpatrick)

Let’s pick up the conversation where we left it, talking about the picture.

Chris Fitzpatrick

The picture is not necessarily inside a frame. There are things that are invisible, but implicitly they are there. You can’t see those things, but you can see the effect they have on other things.

M

(to A)

And what is contemporary art to you?

A

It could be different things.

Someone is entering the room. A is saying “Hi” but is still continuing talking.

A (CONT’D)

For me as someone who is selling art it is also an exchangeable good. We consume it, but we don’t really need it. But it gives you something.

The complexity of contemporary art is how you deal with it, literally in the double meaning of “to deal”. The snails are a good example, once you put them in the gallery they become art.

Chris Fitzpatrick

For me art isn’t a commodity at all.

If her job is to sell, my job is to spend money.

I only think of art as a kind of pursuit that makes life livable. Without artists the world would be completely uninhabitable. And the fundamental thing about contemporary art is that it is not very contemporary but futurological.

Fear and Trembling in Buenos Aires

Agostina Rufolo about how a spider can make me feel the luckiest girl.
21.09.15
4 min
Post

In the midst of zapping I found the film “XXY” with Valeria Bertuccelli, Ricardo Darín, Martín Piroyanski, and Inés Efrón as its main actors on an Argentinan Cable TV channel called “Volver” something like “Return”, so, basically, they broadcast old Argentinian TV shows and movies, this one’s not that old, so it surprised me to see it already there, or was surprised by the constant and rapid passage of time. 

It was nice to catch this film on the telly because I had a weird week and I was tired after my dance class that evening. So my body was tired but my mind was spinning around and this movie is set in Uruguay, where my mum is from and it relaxed me to observe the isolated beach and the calm and steady Uruguay lifestyle. Early on the week I went to my dance class, then left at 11PM to a friend’s for 2 days because his parents were out of town. The second day my battery went off and I didn’t have a charger with me, and since I’m not really fond of cell phones, I’m usually happy when that happens, I was online anyway. But my dad freaked out and reported me as a missing person because my phone was off. They never talked to me on FB, a friend did, which is how I found out I was apparently missing, talked to my mum on Facebook, and she was online, which made everything really weird. Then later that day, as I got to school at 8PM, they were evacuating it because the Earthquake in Chile was felt in Buenos Aires as well, which never happens. Buses here usually vibrate so much I didn’t feel a thing. I got inside passing through the security guy telling me not to, while other students were taking pics and filming the event, because that is how good we Argentinians are at evacuating a place, we just think nothing will happen to us, I guess, Buenos Aires having little climatic and geographical trouble in that sense. My professor was still inside the class saying he was too concentrated talking about “Fear and Trembling” by Søren Kierkegaard that he didn’t feel a thing, but he liked the FX added to his class. I went home feeling like I didn’t belong, feeling as if I were really missing and I wasn’t supposed to be living my life normally or feeling like in another dimension I was really missing, who knows in what kind of situation. Or maybe I was in this other dimension, where I was living my life normally but the real me was missing. And I survived an earthquake(?)

I was still over-thinking while watching “XXY” and I felt a presence. Really near me. I kept watching the TV, ignoring the feeling. Eyes lost on the screen while a thousand thoughts ran through my head. A few centimeters from my eyes I see a little spider coming down from the wooden ceiling. I observed it, happy to had such a lovely visitor. It went down, slowly, all the way to my right leg and instantly started going back up, passing by a few centimeters from my eyes once again, till I lost sight of it, once it camouflaged itself with the wood. 

It reminded me of when I was little and I would keep spiders in jars, only to find them dead in 2 days because I didn’t know how to feed them, till I thought it was better to see them around the house or in the garden, being themselves and alive.

It’s funny how a presence, even if it’s just a tiny spider can make you go back to yourself, to make you care about what matters and to just enjoy that (in)significant moment, which is the only true and existing thing. The rest is just noise.

60showcase

17.09.15
2 min
Salon

If electricity cut off the internet – how many horses would you need to get it on track again? 
We don’t know that neither – but in the meantime we’ll try some stuff. Internet unplugged for instance, and the maximum depth of the digital. 
The best of both worlds. 
This is 60showcase, an event produced by 60pages – the international network of authors, artists, thinkers based in Berlin. 
There will be texts, what ever that means. 
There will be music, very beautiful one. 
There will be moving images, because that clicks. 
There will be food and drinks from Gordon, because he’s so Tiki. 
From 4 pm till 10 pm. 
For all of those who need some fresh air after the Berlin Art Week.

This is how we line up:

16.30 downstairs: Georg Diez / Jagoda Marinic – Thomas Jeppe

17.00 upstairs: Hadley and Maxwell

17.30 downstairs: Sandra Bartoli, Murat Suner, Mariam Zaree

17.30 upstairs: Andrea Hanna Hünniger

18.00 upstairs: “Kühltransport” by Maxim Biller, Reading, featuring Sergej Lubic, Tom Radisch, Aram Tafreshian, Max Urlacher, under the direction of Pedro Martins Beja

18.30 downstairs: Hanno Hauenstein – Gabriel Loebell-Herberstein

18.30 upstairs: Mark Wachholz – Katti Jisuk Seo

19.00 downstairs: Igor Levit

19.30 downstairs: Fabian Wolff – Pippin Wigglesworth

19.30 upstairs: Emily Dische-Becker – Ali Hussein al-Adawy

20.00 downstairs: Armen Avanessian – Christopher Roth – Sam Chermayeff

20.00 upstairs: Sarah Harrison, Angela Richter

20.30 downstairs: Igor Levit

21.00 downstairs: Anne Philippi – Ralph Martin – Mavie Hörbiger

21.00 upstairs: Noaz Deshe (pending)

21.30 Igor Levit

60showcase 

Sunday, September 20th, 2015, 4 pm – 10 pm, Lehderstraße 34, Weissensee, Berlin, 

60showcase

Murat Suner about Igor Levit
16.09.15
1 min
Salon | 60showcase

What’s a revolution and how does it sound? 
What is a song and what can it do?
You will find out, with our dear friend Igor Levit playing compositions of his dear friend Frederic Rzewski – for you and all our dear friends. Plus, maybe, some Beethoven.

Sunday Game

Brittani Sonnenberg about going back in time with soccer
14.09.15
3 min
Post

I played in a soccer game yesterday for the first time in about fifteen years. In high school, during the “fall” season (a misleading term in tropical Singapore, where the temperature always hovers around 30 degrees Celsius, with a fierce deluge in the early afternoon), I laced up my cleats on a daily basis. I was never very skilled in dribbling or fancy footwork; all I had going for me was a doggish desire to do well and a lack of concern for personal injury: I considered bruises to be bodily trophies.
Yesterday, stepping out into a baking Texan heat, sporting shin guards and high white socks, those high school games felt eerily close, even if my sixteen-year-old stamina felt very far away. There are so many selves that we inhabit and shed, which lie dormant for years. Yesterday, suddenly, I was a soccer player again, playing stopper, keeping my eye on the talented center-midfielder on the opposing side, scanning the field for open players when the ball came to me.
I realized how much I had missed the easy, laughing camaraderie of female teammates. Hungry to win, running hard, shouting warnings and encouragement. It’s all less urgent now: no one’s crying after a loss; in the middle of the game yesterday, one teammate yelled “sorry” after kicking the ball out of bounds, and then reflected, as the other team ran to retrieve the ball, that apologizing constantly wasn’t very feminist, there was a book she had just begun reading that said that women—but then the player with the ball was back, and throwing it in, and my teammate had to pause her book review to play defense again.
Shortly after the second half began, the ref blew the whistle, and shouted that there was a player down at another field, and asked if there were any doctors present. The other team’s goalie, apparently a physician, took off to help. My body went cold, as I saw the circle of players around a body at the field above us. My sister had collapsed on a soccer field, when I was fifteen, and never risen again, and as the ambulances came, to pick up this woman, I heard them coming to pick up Blair again, and felt nauseous. That self is always there too, next to the soccer player, or grown woman: the teenage older sister awash in fear and panic, the game paused, the circle of players, life ending, on a blithely sunny field in Singapore.
The woman had dislocated her knee; it popped back into place when she was placed on a stretcher. The game resumed, and the final score was a tie, 2-2. Exhausted and sweaty, I slapped hands with my teammates and made small talk as we changed out of our cleats, discussed the high points of the game. Then I got back into my car, which I never did in high school, because you couldn’t drive in Singapore until you were eighteen. I turned on the radio to a local station that I like and got a little lost trying to find the highway that would take me home.

On Ambiguity

Beny Wagner about sexual fantasies, border controls and Donald Trump
13.09.15
14 min
Post

Last winter Samara and I went to Turkey on vacation. We spent a lot of time recording video footage and talking to different people we met. One of the first men we talked to was very friendly and accomodating. He let us film him in his store, told us to come back and said he would show us some bars and clubs. To his surprise, we came back a couple days later. He expected our exchange to be like those he had with most other tourists; we would all pretend to stay in touch but never see each other again. In retrospect, our return must have seemed full of ambiguity. We clearly didn’t want to buy anything from him and we already had the footage we needed. We didn’t exhibit signs of any other ulterior motives.

He welcomed us back and waited for the right moment to start talking about the German couples he claimed had come to him wanting to have threesomes, or one couple where the man wanted to watch while he fucked his wife. He talked about his penis implant in graphic detail. When we asked what that was, he used his jeans to demonstrate how his foreskin had been pulled up and incised to make room for the small pellet. Initially he had had a ceramic bead inserted but once when he was in the sauna it got so hot he thought his penis would burn off. So he had it replaced with plexiglas and now it was fine. He could make a girl orgasm in five minutes.

We thanked him, and this time did what most tourists would have done the first time. We said we’d be in touch and disappeared. For several weeks, long after we had left Turkey, he kept sending Samara Whatsapp messages.

A couple of months later we flew to Canada from Berlin. Arriving after the long flight, I was tired from not having slept at all. We had to separate in customs, Samara a Canadian national, myself a foreigner. The line for foreigners was much longer and it took ages for me to reach the officer. When I arrived, the officer started asking me routine questions: How long was I staying? What was the purpose of my visit? If my girlfriend was Canadian what was to prevent me from staying? How much money did I have with me? Did I really think that was enough for three weeks? Did I have access to more money when that small amount inevitably ran out? He then asked me what I did. I said I was an artist. He asked what kind of art. I said I made videos and wrote, the fog of the sleepless flight plunging me into an existential space not appropriate for this type of interaction. He asked what kind of videos. I said I didn’t exactly know how to explain. Like art videos. He said: What kind of genre? Pronouncing it: Jean. I couldn’t hold back a little laugh at the pronunciation and responded: It’s like art. He ­said sharply: Porn? I said no. This came as a complete surprise, but immediately I realized that he had been thinking this all along, that all his questions had been leading up to that presumption. All my hesitations and uncertainties had seemed to him like incriminating evidence. He let me go through.

These two interactions became deeply intertwined in my thoughts. They happened on different continents, in completely different conditions with two men who have radically different functions in different societies. The one man sells counterfeit clothes in a cheap bazaar in a tourist trap in Turkey. His entire demeanor seemed to say: I’m down for whatever. I know how to do things underneath the gaze of the law. I can show you how it’s done. Wink​. The other was the official

law enforcing face of national security. He represents the law. His demeanor said: I will find out every secret you might be hiding. I will obey and enforce the most rigid of legal codes. Your wink​will be held against you as evidence. And yet both these figures, in separate but equally surprising twists in the course of interactions chose to understand me as covertly offering or harboring porn. It’s hard for me to understand the reason for this being something I embody, something that singles me out among countless others. I can only understand the leap in their projection and expression to be a result of my having shown ambiguity in the way I represented myself.

So in these cases, ambiguity ­ any hesitation towards precisely classifying myself and my intentions ­ meant porn. When I think about the framework for these projections it seems like this way of thinking is a product of the internet. Maybe it comes from a gradual development of pre­internet media and information, but in these particular details it comes across as the unmistakable product of this saturated form of networked information. The beginning presumption on the part of both these men is that they know everything. Of course they are aware that they don’t know every single thing but they have the arrogant confidence of someone who, despite not having the world’s information stored in their minds, has access to any piece of information at any time. It is the abstract notion of that access that builds the confidence, or rather, projection of knowing, however flimsy.

The legibility of surfaces of strangers encountered at face value gradually mirrors a google search with the filters on. People present themselves as presentable, as morally upright, law abiding, not perverted. Those moral boundaries are often pushed playfully, and even with the filters on, we find little winks that allude to some borderline mischief personalities may be prone to given the right circumstances. Most of us recognize that wink. Many of us, like the Turkish man, take pride in our literacy of subtle codes, often over­eager in presuming the person standing in front of us is fully legible. But that legibility, more often than not, is desire projecting itself on to the un/knowing other. Was the customs officer, bored in his little booth, day dreaming? Would assuming that I was a porn director spark his fantasies for that brief moment? Does he see his job as an impossible tedium, each minute a minute lost masturbating?

The average person recognizes filters and preempts their illusory surface. That person is well trained in detecting the human/search engine filters of etiquette and assumes to see past the social codes they believe must hide some form of perversion. Everyone has at some point heard some statistic about how much porn occupies the internet. But the issue is not so much the quantities of data. The issue is rather how this collected information, both filtered and unfiltered, realigns collective perception and reconstructs its ability to comprehend and map an environment together with the characters that perform within it. Here is an accumulated moral code without source or author, more absolute than Catholicism. Everyone is a sinner. Everyone lives a duplicitous life, hidden by a thin shell of penance. But here, the average person is both priest (the confessional is public and accessible to all) and sinner (recognizes the sodomy hanging thick in the wireless airwaves). Ambiguity is squeezed out of that consciousness as something code can’t handle. What’s left is a space of confusion somewhere between the

arrogance of presumptions and the misfired projections of stifled desires.

I was once interrogated by Israeli customs officers on my way to Tel­Aviv via Zürich. It felt extreme that they were stationed in Zürich, but then it wasn’t that surprising. They pressed me with all kinds of very personal questions. Their manner and tone made it feel like they already knew everything there could possibly be to know about me. During the interrogation I kept reminding myself that there was no way they could ever know as much as they made it seem. But still, their theatrics were effective. I chose every word carefully. I exposed myself so as not to come across as suspicious. I felt like I had already broken laws I had never considered before. I turned possibilities into factual statements, creating half­truths to replace the truth of ambiguity.

The symbolic presence of the police is synced with the civilian recognition, developed at the same speed as consciousness, that articulation, whether verbal or in physical gesture must drop any sense of ambiguity. The forcefulness of that demand creates narratives in the mind that then become hard to distinguish from the truly fragmented plot, full of inconsistencies, that the new narrative replaces. A lie told over and over can convince its creator as much as the recipient. Subjecting oneself to that process of translation into factual half­truths gradually creates the demand that the same subjugation be enforced on the rest of the environment.

This type of mentality, formerly reserved for trained representatives of the law, seems to have lodged itself permanently into the collective code of conduct. Maybe as the internet and digital media have progressively deskilled the majority of labour practices, it has done the same with law enforcement. Whereas the police once represented the moral, psychological, and physical laws of a social system, they might increasingly only be there to enforce the actions of physical bodies in space. If most people, both those representing the law as well as those representing its evasion, gradually develop towards understanding ambiguity as perversion, the theoretical enforcement of the law becomes becomes the guiding principle of social interaction.

I remember the early stages of my interactions with social media, when I had just created my first email account and chatted with strangers and friends on icq and msn messenger. Even at that young age it was understood among the friends I communicated with, that this mode of interaction created difficulties in determining the tone someone was using. The ambiguities expressed in person, or even on the phone, the facial and tonal nuances that both add to and soothe the uncertainties of interaction were often lost in a line of text. Friction and misunderstanding arose much quicker because of not being able to determine whether certain messages had angry or sarcastic undertones. The ubiquity of this mode of communication, together with emoticons and hi res images used to add affect have gradually shifted the focus away from the conversation over that loss of ambiguity. It seems that most people accept that either the half­truth of factual statements broadcast at high volume correspond to reality, or are resigned to their voice, with all its nuances, remaining unheard.

The Spiral of Silence is a term coined in the 1970s by political scientist Elisabeth

Noelle­Neumann. It is meant to describe the tendency in people to remain silent when they sense that their views in relation to a particular topic are not shared by the majority. The term has gained attention and significance regarding communication through social media. It has been used to describe an array of reactions to social issues ranging from racism to gay marriage rights, from war and climate change. An image emerges in which one of the greatest effects of the freedom of speech enabled by social media is an infinite and, outside of the broad use of a sociological term, undocumentable layer of silence lurking beneath the surface of the acceptable terms of communication. But I would argue that the term itself also adds to the issue it attempts to understand and perhaps reconcile. The application of this term suggests that opinions are solid and fully formed, whether articulated or not. It denies the uncertainties of forming an opinion regarding something as complex as climate change or the role of religion in political and social systems. In short, the term gains traction and relevance at a moment in which space for the acceptance and understanding of ambiguity has already been eradicated. Might it be possible that the silence spiral is not the deliberate hiding of an unpopular opinion, but simply the resistance towards translating uncertainty into factual half­truths?

Over the last weeks I have been captivated by the growing presence of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. My attention was probably activated the moment he self­authored what, by most standards of communication existing on the surface, would have been a public relations death­blow ­ when he referred to Mexicans as rapists and murderers. The momentum he has gained since, a seeming inversion of free speech values, has not been altogether surprising. Trump’s persona, almost consciously satirical, collapses the distinctions that divide social standing and political affiliations. He is an implosion of high and low, belonging to the 0.001% while using a rhetoric of ignorant dismissal by calling people stupid, deflecting incriminating charges as “nonsense”, and appealing to the no­bullshit type of expression seemingly prefered by the average American in times of severe political alienation.

The perversity of the legal code allows him to play all sides. A recent CNN debate hosted a Cuban American woman who won the first season on his show “The Apprentice”. She denied suggestions that she might be on the losing side of his political motivations and implicit racism by making it clear that her parents, while Cuban, had immigrated ​legally.​Trump can deny his racist inclinations by claiming that he does love Mexico and Mexicans and “their spirit”, because of their entrepreneurial cunning. He admires the fact that they can steal from America, which is simultaneously the precise problem he wants to solve for Americans. He enjoys selling them condos in the Trump Towers, which shows exactly what’s wrong politically ­ Mexicans shouldn’t be rich enough to afford that kind of real­estate. The same woman who had won “The Apprentice” defended him as a bastion of free speech. His delivery may be unpolished, but he says what’s on his mind. That his brand of free speech links so well to the minds of a large section of the American public shows exactly how much is omitted from a poorly applied notion of free, democratic expression.

To return to the loss of ambiguity, Trump is both the Turkish man in the bazaar, and the Canadian customs officer. Trump can use the ​wink​as an invitation to use the law as cunning

deviation and simultaneously use it as incriminating evidence. He appeals to the person who knows better than to trust the surfaces of expression because he articulates both sides of the search engine, the glossy, morally upright, and the perverse, but more seductive and entertaining side everyone knows to be there at all times. Trump conjures up the silence spiral from its hiding place and embodies a caricature of the voices lost in the space between opinionated half­truths, keyboard and screen, for those who silently watch social media but do not feel their voices represented in it.

But Trump’s popularity (and equally its fierce opposition) is a testament to the collective absence of ambiguity in the formation of opinions and their reflection in the world. He implodes what seem to be contradictory binaries in his own person. He takes what appears to be hypocritical in the mediation of information and reconfigures it into a single whole. Rather than following one side of the law, he enacts the contradictions between racism and law enforcement, corruption and entrepreneurial spirit. His brand of free speech might not be as ludicrous as it may come across at first glance. In a system that denies the possibility for any individual to act according to her or his own conviction, in which every individual expression or gesture is absorbed as commodity, Trump is big enough to represent that system in his own self. He is one of a handful of individuals in a vast minority who can thrive under the current system. His mode of free speech exists in combining the hypocrisies of half­true opinions into a solid mass.

Free speech cannot exist in a system in which modes of expression are reduced either to the surfaces of a thin, implausible morality or the sinkholes of hatred and violence. Free speech requires the freedom to describe the contours of ambiguities with a level of awe towards the unknown both within oneself and in the environment one inhabits and observes. Free speech would allow me to say I’m not quite sure what it is I do without that being understood as perversion, where a ​wink ​could be the invitation to enter the unknown.

 

The Necessary Blindness of Newness

Brittani Sonnenberg about going, entering, recognizing new places
12.09.15
5 min
Post

A couple days ago, I read a passage (from Elizabeth Bowen’s The House in Paris) that describes the sensation of stepping into a new house. It captures, better than anything I’ve read before, the disarming feeling of encountering a space that you know will become familiar, when it is still strange:
It is a wary business, walking about a strange house you are to know well. Only cats and dogs with their more expressive bodies enact the tension we share with them at such times. The you inside you gathers up defensively; something is stealing upon you every moment; you will never be quite the same again. These new unsmiling lights, reflections and objects are to become your memories riveted to you closer than friends or lovers, going with you, even, into the grave: worse, they may become dear and fasten like so many leeches on your heart. By having come, you already begin to store up the pains of going away. From what you see, there is to be no escape. Untrodden rocky canyons or virgin forests cannot be more entrapping than the inside of a house, which shows you what life is. To come in is as alarming as to be born conscious would be, knowing you are to feel; to look round is like being, still conscious, dead: you see a world without yourself…. Through looped white muslin curtains the unsunny sea daylight fell on French blue or sage-green wallpapers with paler scrolls on them, and watercolors of places that never were. The rooms smelt of Indian rugs, spirit-lamps, hyacinths. In the drawing room, Aunt Violet’s music was stacked on the rosewood piano; a fringed shawl embroidered with Indian flowers was folded across the foot of the couch; the writing table was crowded with brass things. In a pan-shaped basket by the sofa were balls of white knitting wool. Aunt Violet seemed to have lived here always. The fire was laid but not lit. Each room vibrated with a metallic titter, for Uncle Bill kept going a number of small clocks. Out of these high-up windows you saw nothing but sky. The rooms looked not so much empty as at a sacred standstill; Karen could almost hear Uncle Bill saying: “I have touched nothing since my dear wife’s death.”
The stunning confidence of this paragraph lies in Bowen’s decision to describe the protagonist (Karen’s) first impression of a place, not as a listing of details about the place (which comes at the paragraph’s close), but by the blankness and vague horror of newness, of not knowing yourself or your place in the place. (“To come in is as alarming as to be born conscious would be, knowing you are to feel; to look round is like being, still conscious, dead: you see a world without yourself.”) But what does the house look like? the reader wants to know. I’ll get to that, Bowen seems to say, but first, let’s register the blindness of newness, then the slow seeing, which will fade, within days, into another kind of blindness: that of familiarity.
Eudora Welty, another fiction writer, and a friend of Bowen’s, wrote an essay about place in fiction (i.e. setting) that I love. In it, she writes:
It is by the nature of itself that fiction is all bound up in the local. The internal reason for that is surely that feelings are bound up in place. The human mind is a mass of associations- associations more poetic even than actual. … The truth is, fiction depends for its life on place. Location is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of “What happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming?” -and that is the heart’s field.
Fiction writers love setting because it is effortless symbolism: encountering place, a character either feels in harmony or in vexing dissonance to it. Stepping into a sunny garden is either an embodiment of the character’s new love or else the wilting tiger lilies, the too-close sounds of traffic, the unrelenting sun, are just another horrible aspect of a horrible day, and the character hurries back inside.
Place is necessarily what is outside of us but the trap of consciousness all too often means that our perspective on place, our literal view, is bound by what is occurring inside, that invisible inner landscape that gets writ large on what we see: the streets, the sea, the shop windows.
Writers often say that they can only write about a place once they’ve left it. I am the same: somehow staring at one place helps me evoke another. I think I need the solidity of a setting I can see; it anchors me enough to write a firm elsewhere.
In Berlin this spring and summer, I traveled nearly an hour almost every day to Krumme Lanke or Schlachtensee. I never tired of staring at those lakes, and I often took the same photographs, each day, of the same scene. There are places that are restive, that call forth other places without eliding the scenery before us. I don’t know yet where that place will be for me in Austin, and I wonder if I will recognize it when I see it.

The art of the contemporary 2

Marie-France Rafael about well, sort of: DIS magazine
12.09.15
1 min
Post
  1. Screenshot of a computer

The screen is blank. After a while a link appears:

http://dismagazine.com/

A computer cursor appears and clicks on the link. The homepage of DIS magazine pops up the screen. The cursor continues to scroll over the page and to click through the different columns of the page, clicking on pictures, videos, texts, music etc.

During this one is hearing the voice over of Marco Roso and Lauren Boyle (members of the DIS collective) explaining what DIS is and what DIS does.

GCC "Wish We Were Here" (2015) Postcard; part of "Like the Deserts Miss the Real" – curated by Myriam Ben Salah; Gallery Steinek

The Art of the Contemporary

Marie-France Rafael about the confusion of history or the history of confusion
10.09.15
3 min
Post

Exposition scene

  1. A BAR IN VIENNA – NIGHT

The bar Anzensgruber (known to be a gathering point for artists and art afiliados) is crowded with people staring at a flat screen installed above the entrance. Austria is playing against Sweden, the score is 2:0.

Around a table a group of people gathered together, a gallery assistant, a curator, a few artists. an Austrian guy and a French woman. They aren’t very interested in the game, except the Austrian.

FRENCH WOMAN

So you just arrived today?

(to everyone in the group)

She looks at the group of people, sitting with her back to the flat screen, noticing that some luggage is placed under the table.

CURATOR

Yeah, we arrived this morning from the Triennial in Vilnius

and started straight away to install the show.

He looks at the two artists sitting across him. His gaze keeps moving from the two to the flat screen and back again.

The gallery assistant sitting besides him giggles. She nods to some people she knows entering the bar.

GALLERY ASSISTANT

Yeah, we started installing the artworks today, but we gonna make it on time.

I mean, we have two full days left, where is the problem, right?

Suddenly the crowd in the bar exclaims a unified happy scream turning almost immediately into a scream of disappointment. Everyone at the table turn their heads to the flat screen.

AUSTRIAN

This wasn’t a real offside! It was a passive offside!

FRENCH WOMAN

Oh, so there is a difference between a passive and an active offside?

AUSTRIAN

Of course!

FRENCH WOMAN

(to the curator)

Are you into soccer?

CURATOR

No, actually not, but since I moved to Europe I kind of get the enthusiasm for the game.

FRENCH WOMAN

(to one of the artist)

And you also arrived today from Vilnius?

ARTIST

No, I arrived from Warsaw.

I had an opening there last night and now I’m in Vienna.

FRENCH WOMAN

Well that seems to be a tight schedule.

Again the crowd explodes in cheering screams. Everyone looks to the flat screen. Austria scores a goal and the crowd is ecstatic.

GALLERY ASSISTANT

No one understands what’s going on, usually Austria keeps loosing all the time and now

they win. It’s kind of funny.

FRENCH WOMAN

(to the gallery assistant)

I’m very much looking forward to the show!

GALLERY ASSISTANT

(laughing)

Yeah, me too! Which means that

AUSTRIAN

(to the gallery assistant and the French women)

What?

The game is over. Austria won. The crowd is cheering and clapping. Everyone seems to be very happy.

GALLERY ASSISTANT

Oh nothing, we just talked about the show.

Everyone in the bar is now commentating the game, the TV is still running and one can hear the commentator of the game saying, “We just witness football history”.

FRENCH WOMAN

(to one of the artists)

Wow, did you hear that, we just happened to witness history in it’s making.

ARTIST

What?

AUSTRIAN

Well it’s history because Austria never qualified before.

FRENCH WOMAN

Yeah but what I like is this idea to be a witness of history itself.

ARTIST

And thinking that this morning I was still in Warsaw, then I worked the whole day installing, had a Schnitzel, and now I’m being a witness of history.

AUSTRIAN

People are surely gonna ask you where you have been on that memorable night.

That’s how history works.

In Transit, not in Motion

Brittani Sonnenberg about going from one place to another
09.09.15
4 min
Post

I spent this past weekend in Sky Valley, Georgia, a small retirement community in the Smoky Mountains, where I spent most of my summers as a kid after my family moved to Asia. It’s also where my mother’s family, originally from Mississippi, now mostly in Tennessee, gathers on holidays. We were gathered, this weekend, for Labor Day.
It felt surreal to board a two-hour flight for Atlanta, a flight that has been at least a twelve-hour journey for the past seven years, and for most of my life. Summers in Sky Valley were always distinguished by their ghostly, vanishing quality: something common to summers for every kid, but for us summers were a brief Persephonic spell away from foreignness: back in belonging, or something approximating it (if you can call two months surrounded by geriatrics in golf carts “belonging.”) I didn’t mind not being around kids my age, aside from my sister; the retirees were friendly enough, and waved wildly from their Buicks, you didn’t have to worry about wearing the right outfit for them.
When Dorothy steps into Oz, the landscape bursts into Technicolor. This is often said of travel, or of life abroad: that it’s more thrilling, that you feel, by extension, more alive. I don’t feel that I’ve stepped back into a black-and-white color scheme, by returning to the United States, but I do have the unnerving sensation of stepping into something like 3-D: life feels, in a strange way, more real, more deeply dimensional, and also more bewildering. I’m not sure how certain things are done, after so much time away, while I understand, much more implicitly, what’s going on.
My house is missing most of its furniture, and I find this to be a relief. Moving through Austin, I feel the pressure to approximate familiarity, or at least remember how to exit the highway without having a wreck. In my small house, I am slowly settling in, not yet angekommen, as the living room, which looks like the inside of a mosque, with its single carpet, and no sofa or chairs, confirms.
And what about the millions of refugees streaming through Europe? What metaphors would they choose for their shifts, for their deprivations, for their wavering identities, in the eyes of European authorities? Will they ever be able to repatriate? There are many words for the body’s rejection of moving too quickly through air or water: motion sickness, sea sickness, getting the bends. What is the word for the nausea, the paralysis, of moving too quickly from one home to an imagined new one, that hasn’t been guaranteed yet? Of sitting in a camp waiting on papers? In transit but not in motion?
In his essay “Refugees,” Charles Simic, a poet whose family fled Belgrade in 1945, writes:
Immigration, exile, being uprooted and made a pariah may be the single most effective way yet devised to impress on an individual the arbitrary nature of his or her own experience.  Who needed a shrink or a guru when everyone we met asked us who we were the moment we opened our mouths and they heard the accent?
The truth is, we had no simple answers. Being rattled around in freight trains, open trucks, and ratty ocean-liners, we ended up being a puzzle even to ourselves. At first, that was hard to take, then we got used to the idea. We began to savor it, to enjoy it. Being nobody struck me personally as being far more interesting than being somebody. The streets were full of these “somebodys” putting on confident airs. Half the time I envied them; half the time I looked down on them with pity. I knew something they didn’t, something hard to come by unless history gives you a good kick in the ass: how superfluous and insignificant in any grand scheme mere individuals are. And how pitiless are those who have no understanding that this could be their fate, too.

The art of the contemporary 3

Marie-France Rafael about the commodification of the present
24.09.15
4 min

Fear and Trembling in Buenos Aires

Agostina Rufolo about how a spider can make me feel the luckiest girl.
21.09.15
4 min

60showcase

Murat Suner about Igor Levit
16.09.15
1 min

Sunday Game

Brittani Sonnenberg about going back in time with soccer
14.09.15
3 min

On Ambiguity

Beny Wagner about sexual fantasies, border controls and Donald Trump
13.09.15
14 min

The Necessary Blindness of Newness

Brittani Sonnenberg about going, entering, recognizing new places
12.09.15
5 min

The art of the contemporary 2

Marie-France Rafael about well, sort of: DIS magazine
12.09.15
1 min

The Art of the Contemporary

Marie-France Rafael about the confusion of history or the history of confusion
10.09.15
3 min

In Transit, not in Motion

Brittani Sonnenberg about going from one place to another
09.09.15
4 min