In progress: Black Sesame

I am currently renovating a new space for art and design, located next to IFP Studio in Heizhima hutong 13. The space is shared between IFP, WAM/万物 and Here & Now Studio and will be used for exhibitions, installations, workshops and alike. The official opening will be some time in June. Below are some snapshots of the current state of renovation:

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IFP Sessions: Maurice Carlin

For the second IFP Sessions of 2013, Institute for Provocation will host Manchester based artist Maurice Carlin, who is the current resident artist Homeshop . His work revolves around the practice of publishing, defined as ‘the creation of a public’, a collective consciousness built around actions in public space.

Maurice will give a talk about his work and how it has developed from his experience of self-organisation through Islington Mill Art Academy, a peer-led experiment into alternative modes of art education. Islington Mill is a mixed-use building providing artists with incubation, production, collaboration and performance spaces. Home to over 50 cross-disciplinary studios, an artist-run B&B, gallery, residency and club spaces, it occupies a unique position within the UK, and has evolved over eleven years to become the cultural haven that it is now.

Maurice's work has been featured in publications including Frieze, The Guardian and A-N. Recent shows include First...Next...Then...Finally, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2013), Blanco Blanco, La Escocesa, Barcelona (2012), Self Publisher and Other Works, Banner Repeater, London (2011), How to Stay Awake, MCP, Antwerp (2011) Other Forms of Life (with Bik van der Pol), AND Festival, various locations (2010) and Beyond the Dustheaps, Dickens House Museum, London (2010).

IFP Studio, Saturday, April 6 at 6 pm (18:00 for our 24 hour friends)

The talk is held in collaboration with Homeshop, and the following day we will join there to take the discussion further. Se below.

 

Open discussion at homeshop

What are the challenges of establishing and running an independent art space/community? What possible structures can enable an independent art space to become independent of its core team? From another perspective, is there a line that separates, blurrily, an art practice from institutional organization, and what are the critical capacities proper to the different gradations?

On Sunday, Institute for Provocation will be joining Michael from Homeshop, Maurice from Islington Mill and others to launch a discussion around the topic of independent art spaces. Since we all represent various types of art spaces and collectives, we thought it fit to share our experiences in a public format, inviting everyone in to join this moment of self-reflection.

We have lined up with even more questions such as:

What contexts or practices does your space arise from? Who do you consider your "stakeholders"? What is the distribution of locality/international among your concerns? How long have you been active? What have been some changes during the life of your space? e.g. moves, reorganizations, renamings? Is there a separation between your physical space and your "project"? Is the space an institution? What necessitates or allows such a title? Is the space a form of artistic practice? Is authorship involved? How do you fund your space? How much does this enter into the activities that you consider your core concern? How are decisions made? How does this shape what takes place? Do you consider the way you run your space as a "model"?

Sunday, April 7 at 6 pm at Homeshop, Jiaodaokou beiertioao number 8

Welcome!

Final Review

My 2-month Studio in Wuhan Huazhong University of Science and Technology ended on Dec 18th with a final review followed by an exhibition of the students' work in Yangtze River Space in Wuhan, a gallery awkwardly situated in a guarded villa compound in the south part of Wuchang district. The works are by students of myself, Elaine W Ho and Chen Shuyu. Below some photos of the exhibition (which had to be merged with some murals remaining from the previous artist's exhibition). The studio was an interesting experience as a first attempt at understanding the capabilities of the students as well as familiarizing with potential fields of urban investigation. Although I'm perhaps not fully satisfied with the results, the studio forced me to formulate a syllabus and assignments comprehensive enough to be understood by Chinese 4th year students not usually engaged in self-programming and narrative drawing. Working in a diffuse field in between studio/tutoring and research, I will try to strengthen the research part in the future so that a comprehensive goal can be set and reached through the joint body of work.

I'm now back in Sweden, trying to resume my writing and summing-up of the studio, after a week of christmas eating, giving and receiving. Most of all right now I'd like to sink into my gifts: Public Space - An interpretation by George Baird, Issue 2 of Too Much-Magazine of Romantic Geography, Issue 22 of LOG and a beautiful catalogue of Studio Mumbai's exhbition in EPFL Lausanne, but this week needs to be productive as I am also entering a crucial phase of promoting our ITERATE workshop starting on January 30 in Beijing. More on that asap.

 

 

 

Welcome to Wuhan

Almost two months after embarking on a my teaching studio in Wuhan I am slowly starting to get a tiny hold of this city. Having spent most of my day walking around the old city center of Hankou, the township on the opposite shore of the Yangtze River, I was trying to sum up my impressions of Wuhan on the long bus ride back to the university campus. Besides being one of the top ten cities in China in terms of size, Wuhan is somewhat of a dark horse, and it's quite hard to pinpoint its main asset. For all its universities and collages - one out of ten inhabitants is a student at one of them, 1.2 million(!) in all - it's still far away from what I would call a "university town", like Cambridge, Lund, Heidelberg, Leiden or Austin; small, convenient, well-developed, highly academic and full of students. Education in Wuhan, it seems, is more like one of the city's main industrial bases. It's the production of students that is emphasized, not production of new knowledge. And since very few universities in China - Wuhan is no exception - promote studies in the humanities, the output every year is a very large batch of engineers with unspoiled belief in "Scientific Development", i e the extension of which you would call a technocracy.

The riverfront of above mentioned Hankou is lined with night clubs and bars, massage parlours and luxury cars. The buildings are "restored" early 20th century colonial-style buildings turned into a locale where the new rich get their groove on. As a public space it's decent, and I'm sure some of those night clubs are too, but that typology of space is as played-out as the colonial era it originates from. The rest of Wuhan is all about bigness, and it's architectural space as impressive as any one-liner dropped from a helicopter alongside 10-lane motorway strip or wedged in around a roundabout the size of Latvia. The physical dimension of most of this city - I'm sorry to say - is not worth looking at with anything other than fascination - for its brute ugliness and lack of human scale.

Actually, after understanding some of the more underlying messages widely and explicitly published on billboards across the city, I am starting to think that socio-anthropologists could have a field day here in Wuhan. According to my sources, most of the advertisement on buses, billboards, tv and radio revolve around plastic surgery, potency-enhancing medicine, underwear, cars, alcohol and women's hospitals (abortion clinics). In other words, an unsavoury cocktail of emerging-market-induced indulgences.

Or as Wuhan based artist and curator Gong Tian expressed it: Wuhan is a mix of everything cheap, loud and low, plus some anarchism. It's also known as a punk city, a side that I have yet to explore. It all seems so difficult when the city is the size of a European country and there's no subway (yet).

Well I'm not sure the photos below support my story, but at least they are moments from the past two months.

 

   

 

 

 

           

To Live Is to Leave Traces

- Walter Benjamin As the chosen site for my students' sectional exploration of layered architecture in Wuhan, this block contains that complex programmatic adjacencies which have been purged from almost all of the inner cities in the developed world. Textile factories and music schools, dormitories and printing houses, social welfare centres (!), hospitals and speculative housing are all growing on this small hill north of the Yellow Crane Tower. During the next few weeks, my students will explore this area, finally getting to know it better than their own back yard, as they inquire and observe reality through the eyes of the insurgent architect (or better yet, a doctor doing autopsy on the city to know how its inner systems actually work).

Below a few snapshots from my own wandering about.

 

 

Wuhan Studio

From Oct 24 I will be leading a studio in Huazhong University in Wuhan, China. Wuhan is one of China's 2nd-tier cities, a monster growing at fast and steady speed and most presumably governed by crooks (one evidence of which is that they sold one one third of the city's biggest and most famous lake to a real estate developer, so that in the future, the public will not have access to it. Fortunately, the water is anyway too polluted for bathing. I went to Wuhan on a weekend-trip three years ago and I assume the monster has grown by a few hundred square kilometers since then. It'll be great to explore it, now that I am more adapt to the scale and logic of Chinese cities. Until I have more recent photos, here are few from last time in June 2008.

The City's recovery

20110818-093141.jpg Courtesy of the new high-pressure weather that so mercifully started hovering above Beijing a few days ago, I am finally seeing, actually seeing, my surroundings for the first time since the summer started 2-3 months ago.

And the other day, when reflecting over the fact that being swept into a haze is, also historically, the default condition for most of China, I could see why it made so much more senseto build around a courtyard rather than isolated elements on a surface. You are not trying to grasp an ungraspable landscape far away, but having full control over your nearest surroundings, your family and your own belongings. Considering the cultural AND climatic aspects, this must be the underlying logic why Chinese (traditional) architecture works the way it does.

This brings me to the next question: What is its current logic? It seems to often come down to one word: Speculation.

Ostensible vacation

I'm in Sweden on a long-awaited vacation for the next two weeks, having spent the Swedish unofficial national holiday Midsummer with friends in our family house on the south east tip of the country. Despite the extraordinary setting and great dinner party - orthodox with pickled herring, fresh boiled potatoes and sweet strawberries with cream - we struggled to keep warm in the refreshing but chilly north atlantic winds and finally I decided to cut my stay short and go back to the city (Malmö). Truthfully I was very fed up with Beijing towards the end and coming back here for a short but familiar visit will really help me put things in perspective. My current project in the pipeline, I am sucking up the Scandinavian vibe in order to release it with new powers on my return. But of course, things are never as easy as that and it will really be a challenge to bring a genuinely nordic feeling to China. If anyone can do it, at lease I hope I have a good chance. And soon I'll let you know what it's all about.

Until then, some photos from over here.

Malmö by air

"Self-service strawberries! Put money into the box and grab what you need" (Wait a minute, there must be a CCTV camera around here somewhere...!)

Summer house by and for Danish architect Erik Bystrup of Bystrup arkitekter.

Beyond Index

It is an unusually creamy sky this morning. Yesterday broke the streak of 43 consecutive days of clear blue skies and sunshine and today is even worse. A reading from the US Embassy's air pollution meter shows a return to a state of public hazard to the point that it is beyond the index of 500. At 4 am this morning, the PM2.5 (nano particles) reading was 595, the highest I've ever seen. In november, this reading was called "crazy bad", probably the most accurate description, but was soon modified to "beyond index". Between 400 and 500, the reading is "hazardous". Which means we are currently in a state "beyond hazardous". Below are photos from my window, roughly the same view eastwards. From today and December 12. Congratulations if you can identify any similarities.

Sublime City

Have you ever spent Chinese new year in Beijing you know what it is all about. Vast, empty streets devoid of the flocks of people, cars and that forced them take on that enormous scale to begin with. It's a bit of eerie town, nevertheless quite enjoyable, despite the relentless banging of fireworks. Today I took the bike out to Caochangdi, a trip I normally undertaken by taxi. But in the current strange state of things it was a very enjoyable journey indeed. I found another abandoned palace on the way, left concrete ruins similar to the one near Ikea (coming up).

Another beautifully strange phenomena was sighted as I passed by 798 on the way back. A monolithic ice sculpture with accompanying mini-volcano, both natural accumulations of water dripping from a pipeline carrying hot steam around the old factory grounds. The tall one looked strangely familiar, as if echoing the stainless steel sculpture I had just seen in the studio of this well-known Swiss artist. What a wonderful world indeed, where sculptures can be formed by the dripping of water, the most essential of worldly elements, surpassing the beauty of those man-made structures in which we invest so many of our efforts.

Chance

Yesterday a long awaited book was finally delivered to our door: CHANCE from the series Documents of Contemporary Art (MIT Press, 2010). Compiling texts on  20 or so conceptual artists that all have worked with the unpredictable as a main driver of the work, the book narrows down the concept of chance to a few - shall we call it - case studies. The most reoccurring artists Marcel Duchamp and John Cage fail to surprise me. Needless to say, the importance of the former is monumental. The fact that Duchamp held an all-embracing attitude towards chance is perhaps the most prominent aspect of his work. Cage, on the other hand, is still quite unknown to me, and I am looking forward to getting a broader sense of his works and impact. For my part, the concept of chance remains quite important. In the projects I have developed in the past three years I have left part of the design to chance with, shall I say, mixed, but predominant success. It is with this in mind that I aim to look deeper into the art(y) references to understand the potentials of chance as an ingredient in an architectural exploration.

Below are some images from my thesis project LINE-POINT-FIELD where I used a Drawing Machine - essentially a table with a number of acrylic plates and a projected mounted at the bottom -  to distort and reproduce my original drawings. As a strategy to achieve a level of complexity that would be difficult to design, this tool did what I wanted it to. Bringing the table into the photo lab, I allowed the force of light to play a role in the process. Despite not using the drawings directly in my project, the logic related to the drawing machine became very important for the further conceptualisation.