10 artworks seen at ART-O-RAMA – by Candice Lin, Piotr Masakowski, Margaret Haines, Pakui Hardware, Katerina Jebb, Adrián Balseca, Nicolás Lamas, Agniezska Kalinowski, Jordi Mitjá, Katazyna Przezwanska

  • 11.09.2017

Would you marry me? Should I stay in this country? Should I apply for a new job? Is this an artwork? Laura Ann Paul calls this peculiar questionnaire everyone comes up once in a while the origin of “Transformative experiences”. The first of their kind is the epistemic one.

Like the first time you see snow or hear the sound of the drums: it does not necessarily changes you as a person, but it changes the horizon in which you live as one. The second and perhaps most radical transformative experience is the personal one. “Should we have a child then?” is an experience you cannot understand at all if you don’t have it. But how can you possible consciously take such an important decision if you haven’t had the real experience yet?

Laura Ann Paul’s conclusion is that we have to stop thinking we make decisions rationally. Regardless how much you pursuit to project you own subjectivity in arguments, you will never know what it is to have a child unless you finally have it. The point of living transformative experiences is not about the rationalization, but the discovery and revelation through the commitment to it. That is what reality is about, says Luigi Fassi, who quoted Paul with the purpose to suggest a third kind of transformative experience: The confrontation with art.

Fassi, who gave special tours through the art fair ART-O- RAMA together with Vincent Honoré, says that art is what helps us to accept that we cannot act rationally while experiencing the transformative. Art gives us the chance to look differently to reality, allowing us to understand epistemic and personal transformative experiences even better than by just having them. To look at a work of art has never been explained to me academically with such lightness. It was Fassi’s approach, which inspired this selection of ten works of art seen in the context of the fair.

1. Untitled work by Candice Lin (2016) / Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles

Speaking of context: it has been define as gesture of some presumed equality in the other, leading in the worst case to divergent paths of atrocities like the display of human beings in zoos, museums and world fairs. This kind of discriminatory behavior is what brings Candice Lin (b. 1979, Concord, Massachusetts) to speak for the body as a problematic thing. Her approach to ethnological constructions of the body, alongside borrowed or imagined crude fantasy scenes, aim straight to erupt closed, normative systems. Etchings like ‚The Tea Table‘ tell on the fakeness of the narrative that has build the fantasy of the physical and mental superiority of white men. The solid of Lin’s body of works refer to the mythological legends in which humanity explains itself physics or alchemy. But sexuality as the most interesting of European anxiety projections: A small porcelain vessel inherits joints to smoke, some of them have animals heads. One joint of estrogen and one joint of testosterone are there to be chosen. Which one to take?

The suppositional fiction mostly depicted in her time consuming drawings and installations is confronted with a fact introduced by Lin with this piece: If you smoke one of those joints, your body is effectively being influenced - at least as long as the hormonal inebriation can last - to be more masculine or feminine. When the body behaves like a troubled thing, something that might help is a cigarette. Lin offers with this piece a solution. 

2. ‚Kompozycja MI-10‘ by Piotr Makowski (2017) / Antoine Levi, Paris

The proportions of the painting won’t let you guess where the forms do actually come from, but it is a beard. Its composition on a canvas in great dimensions is abstract, and it refers to a popular handbook from the France of the 18th century that specified in which ways men should shave. If a man wanted to communicate an specific message, he had to shave his beard accordingly. This was expressed by Jacques-Antoine Dulaure in 1780 through his book ‘Pogonologie ou histoire philosophique de la barbe’. Sadness, sympathy and other sentiments could also be expressed through the canonized forms of this book. By working out his own beard, you can almost guess features of Makowski’s (b. 1985, Gdynia) face. The canvas reveals, at the same time, the own abstract matrix of masculinity and its standard codifications. Here, at the edge of abstraction, a geometric game takes place, flirting with figuration. Yet figuration remains absence at first sight. It is when cultural paradigms are announced as the core of it, when the painting turns into a persuasive mental landscape of the definitions of the male and its appeal.

3. ‚Untitled works by Katarzyna Przezwanska (2012, 2016, 2017) / Dawid Radziszawski, Warsaw

Colorful contours create the illusion of losing the boundaries between an object and an image. The works of Katarzyna Przezwanska is, just like in Makowskis work, a game between the geometric and the figurative. Przezwanska demands, however, a physical distance and a imaginative disclosure of what can be seen as elements of the sculptural or the pictorial. Her installations are made of natural materials, slightly modified but left to its original shape. It is the way she puts the materials together that converts feathers into eyes, eggs into modernist columns, shells to mouths and leaves into monuments. Architectural or biomorphic - her series of natural arrangements are the departing point for a reflection on how the notion of a figure may surpass the notion of time and space.

4. ‚On Demand VII’ by Pakui Hardware (2017) / Exile, Berlin

How materials, but also bodies travel in space and time is a phenomena that defines the work of Neringa Černiauskaitė and Ugnius Gelguda, alias Pakui Hardware. They used to work individually but then decided to become a duo. Pakui Hardware, a funny name that signifies the total absence of generations, fully devoted to technology. For the exhibition called ‘Voyage dans la lune‘, curated by the head of Exile gallery Christian Siekmeier, Pakui Hardware presents the silhouette of a symbiotical appearance of a body and a landscape. Performing for their own, there are two layers to be seen. The first one, a unclear, viscose surface with the imprint of an arm and a leg, simulate the irregularities of a cordillera, while the zoomed in picture of an areal view of the surface of Mars taken by the NASA resembles the breathing texture of skin. While the galactic view is available for everyone, the skin remains just the reminiscence of itself, on the mold made in plastic, on top of the other surface.

5. ‚Balthus Ashtray’ by Katerina Jebb (2017) / We do not work alone, Paris

When Balthus died, his family decided to leave everything as it was. Katerina Jebb was fascinated by the fact that Balthus last cigarettes are still in the house in which he lived and worked in his last years. The ashtray she produced for ‚We never work alone‘, a studio in Paris that only produces artists editions with a functionality, shows a picture she took of Balthus’ eight last cigarettes he smoked, after visiting his house for his voyeuristic, yet poetic purpose. The ashtray replicates the forms of the original one, creating a very subtle shift of what an artist edition can be.

6. ‚Mar Cerrado’ by Adrian Balseca (2017) / Madragoa, Lisboa

‚Mar cerrado’ is the name of a project anchored in the pacific sea, carrying Balseca’s interest in the strategies of national representation and cultural specificities beyond territorial borders. Balseca (b. 1989, Quito) takes the tension between worlds of industrial and handcrafted production, as well as its distribution beyond its economic ‚horizon‘, projecting a patriotic and at the same time universal symbol - the caduceus - to the exact spot in the ocean where oil was first spilled under jurisdiction of the Ecuadorean government. The caduceus swimming in the open sea turns into the ephemeral monument of a slow ‚death’ of the country’s primary financial source.

7. ‚La Voix’ by Nicolás Lamas (2017) / Meessen de Clerq, Brussels

Written works or literature like the one that the peruvian Lamas produces, presents subtle speculations on the limits of language within the digital system of global communications. What he presents as a book is actually a process; he appropriates himself from a poem by Charles Baudelaire called ‚La Voix’, and decides to translate it not in one, but in all languages with google translator. From french to dutch, from Spanish to Arabian, to english. By changing from one language to another, the poem starts to shrink. This is not only a sign of misreading of the machine, but turns into a general reflection when it comes to define the meaning of a text. At the end of the book, Baudelaire’s poem turns into something like a Haiku, but in french. Lamas decides to go back to the original language after going through all possible languages. The outcome is striking. What remains is maybe the sense of the uncanny, but the software has decided to give it other words: Roi /des armes chimiques / Quoi ? / Oui. / toutes les prevues / la révolution.

8. ‚Welcome’ by Agnieszka Kalinowska (2010) / BWA, Warsaw

One of the so called failed states, Somalia, collapse in the past ten years completely, provoking the massive migration movement to Europe. Having Refugee camps building wired fences, concrete walls, etc., everything has turned into an unbearable drama. Kalinowski’s work seems so bond to the aesthetic of contemporary struggles by knitting her own fence, that have the shape of the words ‚welcome‘. There are more walls between the European borders than ever. More than in the middle age. The common politics seem to be fence off the weakest countries and make impossible to migrants to move. Look at Hungary, Austrian, Italy. Crazy. What Kalinowski uses for the symbolic meaning of her work is newspaper. Fragile but boldly connected to the hardest structures humans have to deals with today. The symbolic picture of the ‚Welcome‘ gets personal when the resemblance of childhood memories get connected to the piece. The artist grew up in Poland, as part of a generation that experience in its own flesh the shift of a communist society into a neo liberal one. The artists brings personal topics with political issues, giving the situation a more broader perspective on cultural changes.

9. ‚Dispersió de la primera pedra’ by Jordi Mitjà (2010) / Bombon Projects, Barcelona

Originally thought for a contemporary art centre in Barcelona that never opened, the monstrous installation of Jordi Mitjà (b. 1970) was supposed to float in the air over the Canòdrom Centre d'Art Contemporani at its opening. The place was never inagurated. Bombon Projects parked it in a corner of its booth. It is a huge and surprisingly light, formally weird but socially and critically clear. What is supposed to be the first stone thrown? A skeptical gesture towards the institution dressed cutely as a rather invented situation. The fact that the centre for contemporary art never opened gives this work the status of not only an examination but almost as a prophecy fulfilled by itself.

10. ‚sleep is for pussies, pussies is for sleep‘ by Margaret Haines (2017) / Ltd Los Angeles, Los Angeles

According to different researchers and artists, sleep used to be until a few years ago the only daily life moment not to be invaded by the politics of consumerism. Think about food; it is completely colonized by capitalism, bombarded by the uncountable options you can take to buy. It is the market that determines what we wear and how often we may go to the gym.

Margaret Haines started to research on the politics of sleep traveling in the Netherlands and Europe as an art student. Anxiety, insomnia, addiction to pills belong to the territory of dream, and to make this visible, Haine chose to work on an advertisement of a Hamburger hostel saying ‚Sleep is for Pussies!‘. The chain’s slogan gives the artist food to reflect upon the intensions of a city to sell itself as an restless place, always offering something to do, conquering entertaining and vernacular spots of the port. Besides the images Haine reproduces of the souvenirs of the mentioned hostel, there is a tender lullaby that turns creepy after hearing it for hours. I can’t imagine being an gallerists at the next booth of Ltd Los Angeles and not turning aggressive towards the work. But at least the effect is clear: Sleep (and tranquility) is a personal moment under attack from global categories of an ideal. How less or how much do you sleep, which products will make you sleep better, are things that matter if you consider the fact, that you always have to wake up by yourself.