London Roundup
              Orit Gat
              It would be impossible to think about London’s first Gallery Weekend in early June outside the context of the slow re-emergence from lockdowns. I know this strange sensation is not unique, but the experience of a public disaster dealt with largely by isolating from society has also marked the way I look at art. Taking stock of my tour of the city, it strikes me that the artworks which affected me most were ones that displayed intimacy, proximity, and all those daily exchanges from which I have felt distant these past sixteen months. That is not to say that the daily and intimate are not political. At Lisson, “An Infinity of Traces,” a group show curated by Ekow Eshun, focused on the work of UK-based Black artists. It included Alberta Whittle’s video Between a Whisper and a Cry (2019), which explores Barbadian poet and historian Kamau Brathwaite’s idea of an oceanic worldview in the aftermath of the Middle Passage, and a series of watercolor text drawings by Jade Montserrat (who also has a solo show at Bosse & Baum in South London) that bear heavy, physical messages, like The smell of her still burning hair (2017). When I was trying to …
              London Roundup
              Orit Gat
              In an art fair week, when it seems like everyone around is constantly discussing where they were, what they saw, and how it was, discourse is dependent on physical participation, on the encounter with art in a space, strengthening the primacy of the exhibition as a mode of experiencing artwork. While there is still a lot of thinking to be made about how display has historically shaped production and continues to do so, Frieze week in London is a great moment to assess whether there is something about the exhibition that makes it such a lasting form. So why do we still go see exhibitions? Chisenhale Gallery is showing Jumana Manna’s A magical substance flows into me (2015), a 70-minute film screened five times a day. It is an exploration of traditional local music in Palestine/Israel, based on Manna’s research into the work of the German-Jewish ethnomusicologist Robert Lachmann (1892-1939) in Mandatory Palestine. Manna plays radio recordings made by Lachmann on an iPhone to the participants in her film, ranging from a young Jewish musician singing the Arabic songs her Moroccan grandmother taught her to a Palestinian flute maker who explains that traditional Palestinian music is more fashionable in the West …
              “World Music”
              Shama Khanna
              Sasha Litvintseva’s beautifully observed short film Alluvion (2014) follows a group of three tourists as they meander around an unidentified city against the backdrop of daily life: where women and children take their exercise in an open-air gym and laborers hammer away in a shipbuilding workshop. Litvintseva describes, ominously, how “the film and the world around them all are disintegrating toward an Atlantean End”(1), suggesting an equivalence between the lifespan of the film and the world around it. Rather than science fiction, her tale might be closer to the factual present, just as our lives—lived more than ever through digital screens—inch closer to becoming a moving image version of Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges’s proposal to make a map “the scale of a mile to the mile” in his single-paragraph short story “On Exactitude in Science” (1946). Ultimately, Borges faults cartography’s gradual lack of precision for its failure to achieve this ideal. However, today we have begun to relate to the internet in the same way, taking it for granted much like the weather or time. Indeed, many of the eight participating artists in “World Music”—the current exhibition at Carlos/Ishikawa in London—were born in the late 1980s, and therefore grew …
              Pilvi Takala’s “Random Numbers”
              Anna Gritz
              Long before Ali G’s Borat, Andy Kaufman was touring the East Coast with his stand-up comedy character Foreign Man, an ambiguous entertainer from a fictional island in the Caspian Sea, who, with his overtly strong accent, inept punch lines, and naïve questions, created awkward moments on stage of almost unparalleled dimensions. With staple lines like “T’ank you veddy much,” he cradled his audience in a faux security that made them simultaneously cry with laughter and far more receptive to his messages and hidden criticisms. The all-too-familiar figure of the jester embraced by comedians and artists alike is cleverly reworked in Pilvi Takala’s farcical fables about social conditioning. Through a combination of homemade reportage, hidden-camera recordings, and absurdist situational humor, Takala promotes a technique of rudimentary interaction based on deliberate confusion, misreadings, and the insertion of subtle, subversive gestures into everyday settings. In doing so, she creates characters—such as the woman dressed in a Snow White costume who is denied access to Disneyland—whose mere presence undermine modern codes of conduct. Often the artist’s body functions as a questioning presence, her gestures as subtle stumbling stones that force the people she encounters to question the logic behind their actions—causing small cracks in the …
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