‘This is not a criticism,’ she explained, ‘this is more of a reflection…’
‘This is not a criticism,’ she explained, ‘this is more of a reflection…’
Everything became equally valid: aesthetic or non-aesthetic, art or non-art, form and content or no form and no content. Many things look like art, but are not. And many things do not look like art, but are art, or not.Everything became equally valid: aesthetic or non-aesthetic, art or non-art, form and content or no form and no content. Many things look like art, but are not. And many things do not look like art, but are art, or not.Everything became equally valid: aesthetic or non-aesthetic, art or non-art, form and content or no form and no content. Many things look like art, but are not. And many things do not look like art, but are art, or not.
This picture shows a remote control on top of a computer bag’s shoulder strap. It’s an important work because it’s uncertain whether it was deliberately made like this, or whether the objects were randomly tossed there. I couldn’t get any certainty on this, and when I thought about it, it suddenly didn’t matter anymore. The meaning was equally clear or unclear regardless of whether it was a conscious work or not. I no longer saw the difference in principle between the egg cup arrangement, the cauliflower, and the remote control. One of the egg cups was turned upside down, thus representing a more original aesthetic choice. They looked more like art, and this was intriguing. But, after a while I understood that even if some of these objects looked like art, they weren’t art. Or if they were, then the cauliflower and the remote control also had to be art. The placement of the remote control, communicating in some way with the shoulder strap, had an aesthetic dimension.
We had come full circle. We had moved from functional objects, to sculptures, to ready-mades, and then back to functional objects. Neither Einar nor I had noticed any differences, any breaks or borders.
This is Einar’s photograph of his toy car. It is nothing special, but there wasn’t anything special about the egg cups either.
Everything became equally valid: aesthetic or non-aesthetic, art or non-art, form and content or no form and no content. Many things look like art, but are not. And many things do not look like art, but are art, or not.
Silence of the Lambs/Sheep (2009) - Egyptian Artist AMAL KENAWY
What happens when you present a work of art to the streets? That is what Amal Kenawy experienced when she carried out the “Silence of the Lamb” performance in the streets of Cairo. Dressed as a shepherdess, Amal Kenawy guided a crawling flock of men and children (including her brother Abdul Ghani) through the streets of Cairo, portraying in a very literal and visual manner the problem with conformity the society in general engages in. The performance sought to tackle the influence powerful and privileged institutions have on perpetuating a state of helplessness in the society, both political and cultural. It is important to note that Amal Kenawy wasn’t merely criticizing her Egyptian society. Instead, she was criticizing the whole mental state of submissiveness; and from that, “us”, the viewers can extend its application to situations that are relative to our experiences. Religious, political, cultural, professional, and educational submissiveness. She was criticizing all forms of submission and conformity that halt the development of critical thinking, and instead place the society and its components under the mercy of those who have the power to persuade a society into accepting a position of submissiveness and disengagement from the power to change.
This aspect of the performance soon became overshadowed by what the people on the streets hurled at Amal Kenawy herself. The debate suddenly shifted from that of power and privilege, to one that highlights gender inequalities and patriotism in the Egyptian society. According to Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, men on the street began insulting Amal personally using derogatory sexist names and accused her of demeaning Egypt. She believes that they also felt a sort of vulnerability and humiliation that a woman was the one who led the crawling men. Thus, the debate shifted from one that merely tackles submissiveness as a mental state, but also to one that introduces gender, patriarchy, and patriotism into the midst of this theme, which gave it a more inclusive perspective. I believe this was Amal’s goal from the beginning. To engage the society in a lively and raw multifactorial debate about conformity. Amal Kenawy and all those who engaged in the performance were arrested later that day, and the performance was never carried out again by that gallery.
I find Olafur Eliasson’s latest “installation” of bits of glacier from Vatnajøkull so egocentric and full of machismo. While visually striking and interesting formally, even experientially (how bits of such thick ice seem to almost steam, the growing puddles around it), and the echo of the power of being confronted with the immensity of Earth’s history that glaciers represent, it is still only an echo and a dull one at that. I normally enjoy the refined, essential gestures in his sculptures and installations, but I find this unsettling and problematic.
First is the obvious connection to the worst elements of (male) minimalist sculpture (Paul Judd, especially), built on foundations of raw, dense strength embodying the self-image of the artist. Dominating and vacant, relying on intimidation. While Eliasson hides behind the intensity imbued in glaciers themselves, clearly (from this work’s ontology and in connection with his previous works) he expects us to draw a connection between the qualities of the glacier and (queue god voice) He who brought it to us.
Furthermore, by claiming part of the glacier, he inserts himself into the environmental discourse without having to make any meaningful contribution or statement. We are expected to see this sad piece of melting glacier, like a fallen giant, and be taken in by the tragedy of the destruction of the oldest parts of Earth’s history. But that’s it. While I like that the work is not overtly wound up in environmental-political dogma, I think an artist would have some responsibility to incorporate other elements of that history. From this perspective it’s also a bit…unethical. It is undeniable that the viewer would make the connection to the melting of the world’s glaciers (it is a piece of melting glacier after all), yet the artist is himself interrupting a natural process where pieces of glacier melt and become rivers (fresh water, which the Earth is also in increasingly short supply of), icebergs.[…]
I can’t help but juxtapose this against other “glacier” artworks that I find much more effective, like Roni Horn’s Library of Water, installed in the small Icelandic town of Stykkisholmur, which takes runoff water from Iceland’s glaciers and sends them into tubes. The visual effect is beautiful, but also responsibly addresses the issue of melting glaciers by taking parts that have already melted, and so not implicating herself in this nasty power question. Still it retains the drama of the melted glaciers, by distancing the artwork as much visually from a glacier as possible, yet of course we know they were once part of it. In contrast, it may be difficult for viewers of Eliasson’s work to contextualize the installation as parts of an enormous whole (as most New Yorkers have never seen a glacier or an iceberg in person, I’m guessing), and his melt as minuscule in comparison. Meanwhile the name ‘library’ credits glaciers as forms of knowledge and memory, having seen much more of the earth than humans ever, which honestly I think most people would tend to overlook; the story that’s told in today’s environmental discourse is of the future impact of melting glaciers, not the loss of Earth’s history.