A bit of delay in the latest posting as it took me a while to work out my sub was due to Artists’ Network: the administration of modern life!
I wanted to post a review of Afgang, 2015, the graduation show of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art. In Denmark people automatically do a five-year MFA course. This year the show struck me as widely variable in quality, with a few outstanding pieces and most of it relatively uninteresting. A couple of big themes struck me. One was that I am rather tired of seeing ‘identity’ pieces which present average artwork and expect us to be interested in someone’s personal journey. It is hard to analyse what makes the personal universal, but there were two pieces in this show that didn’t succeed in engaging me. One was two grainy films of Eritrea apparently depicting in some not very clear way the conflict there, accompanied by a dull voiceover of a young Eritrean youth brought up in London droning on about his ‘identity’. Another a series of well executed but otherwise uninteresting photographs of a city I took to be perhaps Istanbul, given the muezzin recording that accompanied them.
The other theme was that a lot of the show was ‘conceptual art’ this time round. Many of these pieces consisted of an unprepossessing collection of ill presented and visually unappealing objects, sometimes accompanied by a long text one was expected to read despite there being next to no incentive to do so, otherwise accompanied by a big pile of impressive looking technology that competed with and overshadowed the actual content of the piece. This seems a shame and I was left thinking that even conceptual work has to engage the audience visually, aurally or in some way, in order to have a chance of succeeding. Two works completely achieved this: Margarita del Carmen’s Aerotopo (pictured) which occupied a light filled space and intrigued immediately with a looping ventilation pipe that snaked out of the building window and beyond, a couple of speakers that invited you to listen, and a beautifully produced booklet containing an intriguing piece of prose – ambiguously fiction or non fiction, then a journal of the Aerotopo project which was using the insulation potential of the soil in the garden to ‘air condition’ the air inside the exhibition space. A clever idea elegantly executed.
The other was Amalie Smith’s impressive video installation Eyes touching, Fingers seeing. The video, on an apparently well trodden subject, that of sensory perception, combined a beautiful presentation – projection onto a curved MDF screen with matching curved bench for the viewer to sit on, with clever projection techniques – images overlapping, enlarging, reducing and segueing into each other beautifully – and a carefully researched, thought provoking and poetic text delivered by – I presume – Amalie in a tone combining mellifluousness with languid emotional neutrality. We will see more of this young lady I am sure.
Lastly to be mentioned, a conceptual painting piece where Radmila Jovovic had dissected primed linen into its component strands and recomposed them gluing them together into perfectly zen minimalist square paintings and a more Eva Hessian small floor sculpture. Simple but very effective.
An excerpt from Amalie Smith’s Eyes touching, Fingers seeing:
Since the spread of touch technologies, computer developers and salespersons no longer talk about a ‘graphical user interface’, a GUI, but of a ‘natural user interface’, a NUI, in an attempt to naturalize the interface, they have designed. A NUI is intuitive and direct, they say. It is like touching the actual content.
If the metaphorical content of the desktop computer’s interface was the office worker’s desktop, what could the metaphorical content of these touch screen gestures be? Do they resemble pressing the buttons of a machine or turning the pages of a book? Or gently brushing a lover’s skin?
The human brain has often been compared to a computer, but the comparison goes the other way round too. The computer has a body; it has an eye, a camera. And with touch technology it even gets a sensitive skin. The skin has eyes, like a peacock’s tail.