Thursday, 18 September 2014

'On Return and What Remains', Artspace

Artspace's current exhibition, 'On Return and What Remains'  currently runs until 12 October 2014. Artist: Omer Fast (Israel/ Germany), Richard Mosse (Ireland), Khadim Ali (Afghanistan/ Australia), Harun Farocki (Germany 1994-2014), Baden Pailthorpe (Australia) and Bonity Ely (Australia). Curator: Mark Feary.

Omer Fast's mindful work, 'Continuity' (2012) had me spellbound for some 2+ hours. Repeat viewing of the piece enabled me to glean additional details during each 39 minute cycle. The work is aided by a remarkable script, casting, camera work and direction. After watching Fast's work for two hours, I could only take in Ricard Mosse and Khadim Ali's (both brilliant) works very briefly, as my ears and eyes had been totally immersed in Fast's fictional narrative.

On my train ride home, a young Australian soldier dressed in full army fatigues entered my train carriage at Sydney's Central railway station. For a moment, he briefly stood in the section I was sitting, closest to the automatic doors. After a minute or two I watched him and his backpack dissapear downstairs, to occupy a seat located behind the architecture/ stair partition. It was not Fiedler.  If a script is well written, I can easily immerse myself into a work's fictional narrative. Omer Fast's 'Continuity' (2012) is a potent and important work. I am terribly glad that I was able to see it, particularly since I missed it at Dokumenta

I need to plan a second trip to Artspace to view the other works properly.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

On Bassoons, Ducha and Heimat

A second outing, thanks to a friend passing on a spare complementary ticket, enabled me to spend two delicious hours listening to the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra the other night. Aside from being captivated by Paul Dyer, a gifted Australian conductor, it was thrilling to me to be able to listen carefully for all the Bassoon arrangements for this Mozart based concert. Other concert highlights included Melissa Farrow on period flute and Marshall McGuire on a a reproduction period harp manufactured in Germany and generously on temporary loan from ANU.

The two bassoons sat as they usually do, towards the back of the seating arrangement. Their tonal range, as is always the case, made significant contributions to the ducha of an orchestra. The word ducha, is simultaneously both a Polish and Russian word which does not translate easily to English- in the same way as the German word heimat cannot be directly translated into English. Ducha loosely translates into English as soul-spirit, but the word also refers to a larger concept that has no equivalent in the English language. The bassoon is always the unsung hero of an orchestra. Bravo to both Bassoonists for playing so beautifully the other night.

On Heimat and Ducha

I have spent the last three months thinking about a suite of three Yael Bartana works And Europe will be stunned which were presented at the 2012 Venice Biennale. For readers not familiar with Bartana, the Polish Government invited Yael, who is an Israeli artist, to make work for the Polish Pavilion. Yael has Polish grandparents and lives in Berlin. Selected sections of this suite of works can be seen on utube. The Bartana project invited 3.3 million Jews to return to Poland. This is exactly the same number of Jews that were murdered in Nazi camps in Poland during World War II. Unfortunately, I missed this work when it was shown in Melbourne at ACCA. The work has now been jointly acquired the Guggenheim Museum and Tel Aviv Museum of Art. As an Australian with Polish heritage (my Mother arrived in Australia in the early 60s) the question of a contemporary Polish identity is an ongoing and open ended question for me. 

When I was in Poland in 2012, investigating exhibition opportunities and visiting family, I kept trying to imagine what the streetscapes of Warszawa and Lodz would have looked like before National Socialism emerged in the 1920s. This feeling was most strong in Lodz where most of my family settled at the end of WWII. Before WWII Lodz was one of the major textile producers of Europe. There were dozens of Polish-Jewish firms operating massive scale commercial enterprises. Contemporary Lodz has no functioning textiles factories. The buildings are now mostly derelict, apart from the odd factory that has been saved and converted into loft-style apartments.

Derelict textiles factory Lodz, 2012
During my stay in Poland, I kept imagining a Polish renaissance where Warsaw and Lodz streets could again return to being as diverse and enriched as the contemporary streetscapes of Antwerp are now. Prior to arriving in Poland I had spent some time in Antwerp and Genk to see Manifesta. Subsequently, the success of the Antwerp, as a model for a vibrant and dynamic multicultural European city was and remains very fresh in my mind.

With the Antwerp model in mind, I also acknowledge that at this time, my wants for Poland are an idealistic dream. I guess this is where I nod towards Bartana: I hope people are provoked into thinking about all the questions that this Bartana work raises. Very important art is seldom easy. 

I was also moved by Slawomir Sierakowski's brave decision to collaborate with Yael. The delivery of his speech in the disused stadium sent shivers up my spine. It still does every time I watch the clip on utube. I feel very fortunate to that I am bilingual and was able to appreciate the finer points of his speech, without the Polish language being watered down in an anglocentric translation. The delivery of his speech is possibly the most subversive video work that I have ever watched. When people put their lives on the line to make contemporary art, I am rendered completely speechless.

My studio work is slow moving at the moment, despite spending between 3 to 4 full days (approximately 8 to 11 hours per day) in my studio each week. I need to complete this project before I can return to completing the suite of pencil drawings that look like bromoil photographs.