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Rediscovering the Past: Rückblick: Reminiscence in 19th Century Photography, Daniel Blau, London.

Review by Lauren Sperring

In our contemporary society, photography is a medium of the masses. It is taken for granted, a tool perpetually present, tying us to the images we create, as digital media constantly offers us new ways of capturing ourselves, our family and our emotions. Beyond this consumption, photography is a long accepted part of the art world and whilst many of the highly heralded contemporary pieces of the past several years have been centred on the photographic image this widespread acceptance is a recent move. The birth of photography in the early 19th Century gave way to a barrage of scepticism, criticism and anxiety toward this new tool. Ranging from folk tales of stolen souls, to academic criticism of its merits, photography was condemned to the act of scientific cataloguing. Some photographers did just this, making documentation their sole purpose, a constant amongst a sea of daunting technological progression. This turned into an act of looking to history for many, a moment in which to use this new medium to rediscover the easily neglected past.

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Cannes Film Festival 2011 Round-Up

Round-up by Eftihia Stefanidi

Closing on 22 May, Cannes 2011 was one to remember and though Cannes’ milieu may appear frivolous, tasteless and absurd from its exterior, the real treasures lie behind its theatrical doors, where, each year, the vocabulary of cinema awaits to be enriched by innovative filmmakers. Marking its 64th manifestation, this year’s festival was one of the greatest of recent times. After two weeks of truly inspiring films, one way to treat symptoms of Stendhal syndrome is by reflecting on the ones that were a true delight.

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Point of Interest: Peter Marlow, Wapping Project\Bankside, London

Review by Kara Magid, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond, The American International University in London.

Peter Marlow’s Point of Interest photography exhibit is on view at The Wapping Project Bankside gallery from 24 May – 2 July. The Wapping Project Bankside is a gallery focusing on lens-based media founded by the Director of the Wapping Project, Jules Wright. Marlow joined the gallery in 2009 and the site provides Marlow’s photographs with a generous amount of space in which they can truly flourish. The first photograph we encounter when entering the exhibit is of a shopping cart left astray in a public space. This large-format image allows for the viewer to ingest each detail and also to get a feel for the wide expansive space in which the shopping cart has been positioned. Because this photograph is not in black and white, it resembles a scene we might pass by while taking a random walk outdoors. Most of Marlow’s colour photographs first seem like visual documents of mundane life but as one makes their way through the exhibit, it becomes clear that this is not Marlow’s intention. What he is attempting to do is to capture instances of abandonment in which various objects are the victims. No longer is the solitary shopping cart a commonplace object but a trace left behind by reckless human behaviour.

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Dipping a toe into Narcissus’s pool: Narcissus Reflected, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

Review by Colin Herd

The Greek myth of Narcissus has captivated Western civilization for centuries: an exceptionally beautiful, though proud and precious youth disdains all those who love him and falls instead for his own reflection in a pool, refusing to leave the image until he dies and is changed into a flower of the same name. The myth’s enchanting and interlocking themes of self-obsession, self-image, and image-obsession have proved irresistible to artists and writers throughout the 20th century and remain so today. Guest-curated by the Manchester-based Art Historian David Lomas and Surrealist expert Dawn Ades, the current exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery dips a toe into Narcissus’s pool, surveying the ripples and refractions of the myth in the work of a range of Surrealist and contemporary artists.

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Preview: All the Fits: The Aesthetics of Journalism, QUAD, Derby

Examining the intersection between aesthetics and journalism goes back to Dostovesky and his writings on the theoretical link between a commitment to the aesthetic ideal (with beauty at its core) on the one hand, and journalism on the other. The relationship between genuine art and good journalism can intermingle and prove mutually sustaining and a new exhibition at QUAD, Derby explores these apparently opposite realms. Opening this weekend (Saturday 28 May) and running until Sunday 31 July, All that Fits: The Aesthetics of Journalism presents the provocative idea that art and journalism are two sides of a unique activity – the production and distribution of images and information.

Humanity’s Unspoken Rhetoric: rAndom International, Wellcome Collection, London.

Review by Sarah Richter, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond the American International University in London.

Decorating Euston Road in the windows of the Wellcome Collection is an installation by rAndom International entitled Reflex. The light installation, which inhabits two large sets of windows, is composed of evenly spaced brass rods adorned with specially designed LED chips and is based on an algorithm that emulates collective decision making found in large groups of animals, such as ants or birds. All identical, the lights react to passers-by on the street and in a way record our migratory patterns as well. As one walks by the Wellcome Trust’s windows, the installation is seemingly unassuming, but as soon as one swiftly walks by the piece, the lights gracefully twinkle and rush swiftly down from post to post trailing behind the pedestrian. In this sense, everyone who passes by the installation, whether they want to or not, are participating in the art. Without the pedestrian, the work wouldn’t work, wouldn’t be activated or have any artistic presence and thus the viewer is, in a sense the art work.

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Filmmaker Series – Part 4 Q&A with Daniel Wirtberg

Filmmaker Series – Part 4 Q&A with Daniel Wirtberg

For the fourth instalment in our Q&A series with last year’s Aesthetica Short Film Competition winners we speak to filmmaker Daniel Wirtberg about his film Kärleksbarn (Love Child) for some insights about the film and about growing up in Sweden. Daniel’s film is a sweetly comic look at what happens when a couple’s affection for their new cat begins to replace their love for their daughter.

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A Pictorial Stream of Consciousness: Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Sprüth Magers, London.

Review by Jessica Jones-Berney

As I follow the row of Philip-Lorca diCorcia Polaroids lined up against the otherwise sparse white walls of Sprüth Magers, it is like tracing the random fluctuations of a pictorial stream of consciousness. There is no recognisable chronology linking one photograph to the next, just a visual train of thought rapidly shifting narrative, context and subject matter so that our individual perceptions are befuddled. It’s a rather humble, scaled-down display compared to the grandiose style accustomed to some of diCorcia’s high-conceptual exhibitions. However, this is probably why it feels like I am raiding the inner sanctum of diCorcia’s mind; each Polaroid offers a semblance of a life that is verging on the ethereal realm. Although it is clearly fictionalised documentary, where location flits easily from intimate scenes of a mother and child nestled on a bed together to barely discernible woodland scenes, its surreality is utterly captivating.

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Spatial Form in Social and Aesthetic Processes: Concrete Geometries, AA, London.

Review by Nathan Breeze

Concrete Geometries is an ongoing research initiative at the Architectural Association directed by Marianne Mueller and Olaf Kneer. Derived from ‘Concrete’ referring actual, non-abstract experience and ‘Geometries’ referring to spatial form, it is an investigation into the relationship between spatial geometry and social practice. In short, the research poses the fundamental question that drives architectural practice; how can the design of the built environment affect human behaviour and processes?

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The Crucible: York Theatre Royal, Finishes Saturday 28 May – Don’t Miss It

Review by Grace Henderson

Exposed, enclosed, surrounded – in Arthur Miller’s classic but timelessly terrifying drama The Crucible, no protagonist escapes these feelings. Set in the claustrophobic, deeply superstitious small-town community of 17th century Salem, Massachusetts, the play charts the mass hysteria that broke out during the real-life Salem Witch Trials. Though written by Miller in 1953 as a comment on McCarthyism, many parallels can still be drawn today with the tragic and unstoppable events that ensue during The Crucible. The finger-pointing and whispers that escalate out of hand during the course of the piece bear an uneasy resemblance to the situations we have all experienced in the playground, in the boardroom, and wherever it is easier to be the accuser than the accused.

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The Most Beautiful World in the World: Friedrich Kunath, White Cube, London.

Review by Matt Swain

White Cube Hoxton Square presents the first solo UK exhibition by Friedrich Kunath. Born in Germany and based in Los Angeles, his work covers an impressive range of mediums, encompassing sculpture, painting, drawing, photography and installation, often incorporating text among these techniques. Conceptual art, German romanticism and Symbolism permeate Kunath’s artistry and he frequently references popular culture – song titles are a particular favourite – together with lyrics and books.

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Two Events @ V&A – Friday Late: Yohji Yamamoto at Play and Fashion in Motion: Yohji Yamamoto

To celebrate the V&A’s current Yohji Yamamoto retrospective, the V&A will stage two events exploring the influential Japanese designer’s work and offer the chance for visitors to take part in a live casting from which couples will be selected to model at the V&A’s Yamamoto catwalk show.

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Journeys & Location: Frank Bowling RA, ROLLO Contemporary Art, London.

Review by Emily Sack, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond the American International University in London.

Six years after being elected a Royal Academician, Frank Bowling remains an integral figure in the London contemporary art world. With the current exhibition entitled Crossings: From New Amsterdam, Berbice to New Amsterdam, New York via Holland and London, ROLLO Contemporary Art explores the artist’s recent works. Using acrylic on canvas with a frequent inclusion of found materials, Bowling’s work displays such an intense impasto that the paintings become almost as three-dimensional as sculpture. It is difficult to resist running a hand across the surface to explore the differences in texture between the rough canvas and the heavily layered paint.

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Announcing the Aesthetica Short Film Festival – Submit Your Film

Aesthetica Short Film Festival: Drumroll please! Announcing the launch of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival!

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) is a celebration of independent film from across the world. The Film Festival was created as an outlet to support and champion short filmmaking and has developed from the Aesthetica Magazine Short Film Competition.

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New Connections Within The Polyphonic Whole: Janet Cardiff, Fabrica Gallery, Brighton

Review by Amy Knight

Sound has, perhaps more than any other sensory stimulation, a transcendental power that can immerse the listener in an all-encompassing awareness of being. It is this notion that forces itself into consciousness at the entrance to the Fabrica gallery on a small street in Brighton, where a sublime, choral sound seeps out the open doors of the building and catches the unsuspecting ears of passers-by. The choirs of voices that come from within are not emerging from human throats, but an oval arrangement of electronic speakers, each emitting the recorded sound of one person in a Forty Part Motet.

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The Globe Shrinks for Those Who Own It: Barbara Kruger, Sprüth Magers, London.

Review by Laura Bushell

There’s a game children play when they want to enrage their siblings; that of repeating verbatim everything the other says. Maintained to a suitably relentless level, this method of throwing someone’s utterances straight back in their face is passive-aggression at its most potent, with humiliating and infuriating results.

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Two Portrayals of Life: Miroslav Tichý and Shimabuku’s My Teacher Tortoise, Wilkinson Gallery, London.

Review by Mallory Nanny, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond the American International University in London.

Located in the lively art scene of Vyner Street, Wilkinson Gallery currently boasts two exhibitions with work reflecting different approaches of life. The lower gallery contains a collection of untitled photographs by Czechoslovakian artist Miroslav Tichý from the 1960s, as the floor above houses a conceptual exhibition entitled My Teacher Tortoise by contemporary Japanese installation-artist, Shimabuku.

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Sam Knowles, Fearful Sphere, at Simon Oldfield Gallery, London

Sam Knowles’ first solo exhibition, Fearful Sphere opens tonight in London.

Knowles’ (b.1983) practice deals with metaphysical concerns, and the notion that the world – and man’s existence in it – can be explained by the “grand” theories of philosophy, art and science. Fearful Sphere explores and questions the narratives that have become enshrined in our physical libraries and internal consciousness. Presenting new wall based works as well as a group of sculptures, Knowles dissects and splices, sometimes line by line. The “truths” which flow from these carefully selected texts and bindings are interrupted by Knowles’ intricate and graphic gold markings or by the artists’ slicing into and restructuring of these historical tomes.

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Ian Hamilton Finlay | Definitions at Victoria Miro, London

By Sarah Richter, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond the American International University in London.

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s show currently at the Victoria Miro Gallery is evocative of classicism, coupled with an informed philosophical and historical glance into tradition. The show is entitled Definitions and is punctuated throughout the gallery with Finlay’s often witty and multivalent definitions of words such as Purity, Apollo, Inspiration and Militaria. Illustrate Finlay’s desire to explore the materiality of words in relations to the sculptures which are the other aspect of the culture. The presence of these classical sculptures it feels like one is walking the mystical carnage of a preserved world of antiquity, only intact to share knowledge and predict the future, which alas remains uncertain and far removed from the seeming certainty of antiquity.

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Vija Celmins, Television and Disaster (1964 – 1966), LACMA, LA.

Review by Jareh Das

Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents an intimate exhibition of Vija Celmins works, focusing on the artist’s time in Los Angeles between 1964 – 1966. These works comment particularly on the media’s representation of disasters, at a time when war, guns and other images of death and disaster were repetitively prominent and reported. Having escaped Soviet invasion in Europe as a child and emigrated to the USA, as a young adult, Celmins was about to experience a different type of war given that 1960s America was characterised by The Cold War. This began with the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, through to the easing of relations between the Soviet Union and The Unites States of America in 1969 to late 1970s. Other significant unsettling events included the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War antiwar movement.

Articulating Sounds As Visual Imagery: Sam Belinfante, Penumbra, mima, Middlesborough

Review by Jareh Das

As you approach mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) in Centre Square the viewer is confronted by a resounding female operatic voice. One wonders where this voice is coming from; it starts, stops and as you listen attentively, words are not being sung but rather, short energetic hums float through the open space. At the entrance of mima, there is a muted video on a screen. It keeps going in and out of focus, the singer unrecognisable as it zooms in on her mouth, but where is the sound being emitted? I take a seat and then viola! I hear that voice I heard earlier in the square, it’s very faint in the gallery’s atrium but the longer I sit, the more prominently the voice oscillates.

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The Wider Narratives of the Middle East: Rabih Mroué, The People Are Demanding, Iniva, London.

Review by Jareh Das

Lebanese artist, theatre director, playwright and actor, Rabih Mroué presents his first UK solo show at iniva which centres around ongoing conflicts in Lebanon and the Middle East since the Lebanese Civil War. The Lebanese Civil work ended in 1990 and lasted for fifteen years. Its effect was devastating as it resulted in almost 300,000 civilian casualties as well as a mass displacement of Lebanese people.

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Predominantly Political Art? Peter Kennard, At Earth, Raven Row, London

Review by Kara Magid, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond, The American International University in London.

Painters George Shaw and Karla Black, sculptor Martin Boyce and video artist Hilary Lloyd are shortlisted for this year’s Turner prize, to be held at Baltic, Gateshead. Hilary Lloyd is nominated for an exhibition at Raven Row gallery in London, which she filled with video projections that also became, along with their AV equipment, a sculptural installation. Raven Row is a relatively new non-profit contemporary art space in Spitalfields. Their latest show, Peter Kennard’s At Earth is a captivating look at Kennard’s practice of forty years through photomontages, paintings, and new digital images made with Tarek Salhany.

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Contemporary Lighting Design: WOKA, Vienna

WOKA was born in 1900, they produce handmade reproductions of exclusive lighting-fixtures from the early 20th century. Handmade in Vienna, with original tools using the highest quality materials, these lamps represent design at its best. We caught up with Christiane Büssgen, Creative Director.

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Manipulations of Form, Weight and Volume: Michael Sailstorfer, Modern Art Oxford

Review by Matt Swain

Modern Art Oxford hosts Michael Sailstorfer’s first solo presentation in the UK, comprising mixed-media sculptural interventions exploring notions of flight, movement and displacement. These works often involve a shift in the context of objects, exploring themes such as movement and stasis, deconstruction and dispersal, lightness and weight.

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Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception, MoMA, New York.

Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception at The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 opens on 8 May, drawing upon MoMA’s unique and important collection of work by Belgian artist Francis Alÿs (b. 1959), who uses poetic and allegorical methods to explore the social realities of political concepts, including the cyclical nature of change in modernizing societies, the urban landscape, and patterns of economic progress. Alÿs’s personal, ambulatory explorations of cities form the basis for his practice, through which he compiles extensive documentation reflecting his process, producing complex and diverse bodies of work that include video, painting, performance, drawing, and photography. Organized in collaboration with Alÿs, this exhibition is conceptually grouped around three major recent acquisitions— Re-enactments (2001), When Faith Moves Mountains (2002), and Rehearsal I (Ensayo I) (1999–2001)— each on view for the first time at the Museum. Using the mechanics of rehearsal and re-enactment in urban environments, Alÿs comments on the politics of public space with both solitary actions and large-scale collaborations, where the culmination of many small acts achieves mythic proportions.