Common Ground: Architecture gets political in Venice and New York

As Occupy Wall Street celebrates its one-year anniversary, art and design communities around the world continue to parse the movement’s implications and effects through themed exhibitions, festivals, and ideas. Earlier this year, on the heels of the stridently political 7th Berlin Biennale, Kassel’s Documenta 13 announced its own intent to question “the persistent belief in economic growth”. Stateside, the New Museum dubbed their triennial The Ungovernables (selected images below), focusing on “both anarchic and organized resistance: protest, chaos, and imagination as a refusal of the extended period of economic, ideological, sectarian, and political conflict that marks the generation’s inheritance”. And here in Canada the Contact Photography Festival, centered on the theme Public, positioned itself as an exploration of “photography’s role in the public performance of identity as an important means to respond to, intervene within, and document political actions” (see our review here).

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Philippe Chancel, Jon Rafman, and Michael Wolf at MOCCA: Collective Identity | Occupied Spaces

Last weekend was your last chance to see the fascinating Collective Identity | Occupied Spaces show at MOCCA, and for those who were on the fence, we wrote a quick capsule review. Today’s update of our review features additional images, links, edits, and credits for those who couldn’t make the show.

Philippe Chancel’s 2006 series of photographs documenting North Korea’s national games ceremonies was worth seeing alone. Although it is possible to get a sense of the massive scale, brilliant colours, and sheer spectacle of the annual event from online images, one must see them in person for full effect, if only to realize that behind each of those changing background images are thousands of North Koreans holding up coloured cards in sequence (human pixels!). As bizarre and excessive as the images may seem to our more or less Western, democratic eyes, all manner of interesting visual associations may be made, from the overtly political (propaganda posters, social realism) to the crassly commercial (graphics worthy of an Asian candy package), to the kitschily pop-cultural (both Esther Williams’ synchronized swimming extravaganzas from the 1940s and a strangely silly ritual from the dystopian 1970s science fiction film, Logan’s Run, come to mind); and this is a good thing in our eyes.

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May Day: Occupy the art movement (chapter two)

Spring is in full swing and Occupy has exploded back on the scene with impressive May Day demonstrations. As a movement which unites an incredible array of (sometimes conflicting, but that’s part of the beauty) agendas under the inclusive umbrella of the 99%, it has been uniquely effective in staying on message: Occupy isn’t going anywhere. Or perhaps: it is going to be everywhere.

What’s always been striking about the movement (as we noted in our previous post on Occupy’s aesthetic beginnings, linked below) is its focused attention on creating visually powerful moments that appeal to the heart and linger in the mind. From the start it has adopted a sophisticated, multifaceted approach to protest that is informed by contemporary art, design, and social media as much as it is by socio-economic theory and political action. While we can’t pretend to be able to cover all of the visual, performative, and often subversive mass media tactics that Occupy has deployed over the past weeks and months, we can offer a selection of some of the more intriguing arts-related articles and images that have surfaced in our news feeds over recent days. To a limited extent, we’ll try to update this post with fresh links and images as they emerge during what we’ll call OWS Chapter Two.

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Typologies within typologies: 100 Abandoned Houses and the Heidelberg Project

We love typologies here at Typologica—quite obviously, considering they are our namesake. All that collecting and categorizing serves us curatorially-inclined folk well, facilitating critical connection-making on so many levels. As a scientific method, the use of typologies has existed for centuries within a tradition of exploration, classification, and analysis, but from the late 1950s when Hilla and Bernd Becher famously debuted their photographic archive of industrial structures, calling it Anonymous Sculptures: A Typology of Technical Constructions, typological methods within art have become widely appropriated and applied to all manner of people, places, and things.

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100 years ago this week: A great-grandfather is born and Futurism takes Europe by storm

We celebrated the 100th birthday of a family member this past weekend, a rare and momentous occasion indeed. What stunning change he has seen, having lived through the past century’s exponential social and technological growth. In the days since, we’ve been wondering about the world into which he was born so long ago. A new century was just hitting its stride, and among many other international developments, the year 1912 proved to be a pivotal moment in the world of art when the first exhibitions of Italian Futurist paintings were held in Paris and London.

It was then that the painters Balla, Boccioni, Carrá, Russolo, and Severini made their now famous declarations against commercialism, academicism, and traditionalism: “For we are young and our art is violently revolutionary.” Vaunting new pictorial laws which would “deliver painting from the uncertainty in which it lingers” the Futurists boldly equated art with sensation, simultaneity, and discontinuity through a rendering of the invisible rhythms and forces between all things. In employing such “physical transcendentalism”, the painter—and by extension, the viewer—could become a full participant in the chaos and clash of contemporary life at the height of the 20th century Zeitgeist.

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The medium is the money: Hennessey on Hirst, Occupy George, Mark Wagner, and Gary Taxali

In the wake of Hennessey Youngman’s hilarious and pointed YouTube critique of Damien Hirst (linked below) in which Hirst gets skewered for: a) perpretrating “a perfect storm of banality”, b) oozing an unprecedented level of “Iroc-Z Axe Body Spray douchery” and  c) yes, using money as his medium, it seems an opportune moment to take a look at some other recent money-based projects as an interesting counterpoint to the art of excess.

Just yesterday, Hyperallergic profiled Occupy George, an online initiative in which infographics visualizing aspects of the economic disparity in the US have been made available for anyone to download and print onto dollar bills. The stated intent? To circulate the stamped money as much as possible, passing knowledge to all who come across the bills.

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The aesthetics of protest: how Occupy sees itself (chapter one)

Hello and thanks for visiting. We originally wrote this post at the beginning of December 2011, and as new information and events continued to unfold in the following weeks, we updated this page with fresh links and images. Now, as Occupy emerges from the winter months having given birth to an entirely new movement in contemporary visual culture, we feel it is appropriate to archive this post as a chronicle of Occupy’s visual beginnings, and allow the movement time and space to further evolve with respect to protest aesthetics in the arts and design, music and performance, giant puppets, flashmobs, bat signals, and whatever other forms it will eventually take. Thanks for the feedback and interest, and let’s all stay tuned.

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The Power Plant Refresh inaugural exhibitions, review pt 2: Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle

continued from The Power Plant Refresh inaugural exhibitions, review pt 1: Thomas Hirschhorn

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s video projection and installation, Phantom Truck + Always After, occupy the second main floor space at The Power Plant. Diametrically opposed to the overwhelming visual stimulation of Das Auge (see previous post linked below), Manglano-Ovalle’s work is no less political and confrontational. Through understated, enigmatic sound, video, and installation work, Manglano-Ovalle explores the metaphorical potential of the concept of “climate” as it relates to both meteorological and socio-cultural and political events that characterize our time. For the relaunch, The Power Plant has chosen two key works from Manglano-Ovalle’s oeuvre which focus on the aftermath of destruction. Always After (The Glass House) is a wall-sized projection documenting the sweeping up of shattered glass after Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall, former home to the architecture school at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, was ceremoniously destroyed to make way for renovation in 2005. Extreme close-ups of cracked, crystalline forms being slowly pushed and mounded by the broom are a meditation on the necessity and ritual of restoring order after a destructive event. An atmospheric soundtrack comprising dischordant notes and rumbling sounds interspersed with long intervals of near-silence gives the projection an unsettling, threatening tone, as if a storm has just passed or is brewing. The obliteration of the work of a modernist icon represents a critical shift with resultant underlying instability in the socio-cultural climate of our time.

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The Power Plant Refresh inaugural exhibitions, review pt 1: Thomas Hirschhorn

The three inaugural exhibitions for the newly “refreshed” Power Plant, Thomas Hirschhorn: Das Auge, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle: Phantom Truck + Always After, and To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong? are telling indicators of the directions in which the current leadership would like to go. The proverbial gauntlet is thrown down with the exhibition centrepiece, Das Auge (The Eye), one of Thomas Hirschhorn’s most confrontational installations to date.

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