Artists Ai Weiwei, Shirin Neshat, and Laurie Anderson to Premiere Their Films at Venice Film Festival This Weekend

The 74th Venice International Film Festival, organized by the Venice Biennale, will feature three new films by artists this year, including Ai Weiwei, Shirin Neshat, and Laurie Anderson. The film festival opens tomorrow and runs through September 9.

Ai Weiwei’s new documentary, Human Flow, will get its world premiere as one of the 21 feature-length films selected for the international competition “Venezia 74.” Also in the competition is the star-studded Darren Aronofsky thriller, Mother!, which gets a special mention for art insiders because of its Stefan Simchowitz cameo.

Elsewhere, the avant-garde and mixed-media artists Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang’s The Sand Room will have its debut in the Festival’s new “Virtual Reality” section, and Shirin Neshat’s Looking for Oum Kulthum will premiere at an autonomous parallel section of the festival, the Giornate degli Autori-Venice Days.

Still from Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow. ©2017 Human Flow UG, Courtesy Venice Film Festival.

Ai Weiwei’s first feature-length documentary Human Flow is well poised for the festival’s Golden Lion for Best Film. The documentary examines the massive human displacement prompted by the current refugee crisis, shot over more than a year in 23 countries. The film is produced by Participant Media and AC Films, and Amazon Studios recently announced its release in select US theaters, from October 13.

Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang, La Camera Insabbiata (The Sand Room). Courtesy Venice Film Festival.

A new section at the festival, Venice Virtual Reality, will run from August 31-September 5 at the VR Theater on Lazzaretto Vecchio island. Among the 22 Virtual Reality works selected for the first competition of its kind are six room-scale installations, six Oculus, and three Vive stand ups.

Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang’s La Camera Insabbiata (The Sand Room) is an interactive Vive installation one can explore flying across the rooms by touching the two controllers to one another. One room asks the visitor to sing, the sound of which molds itself into a sculpture, which will be left for future visitors to touch and listen to. The ambitious project will compete for the three VR prizes awarded by an international jury: Best VR, Best VR Experience, and Best VR Story.

Still from Shirin Neshat’s, Looking for Oum Kulthum. Courtesy Razor Film

Finally, away from the official competition, Shirin Neshat’s film, Looking for Oum Kulthum, premieres at an event on the fringes of the main festival showcasing innovative, well-researched, original, and independent cinema. The Iranian artist and filmmaker’s latest offering will be competing for the €20,000 Giornate degli Autori Award, as well as a number of parallel distinctions.

The Razor Film production follows Mitra, an ambitious filmmaker in her forties working on a movie about the titular character, the legendary Egyptian singer and actress Oum Kulthum, perhaps the most influential Arab singer of the 20th century. The film is Mitra’s dream project–it  explores the Egyptian diva’s sacrifice of family life in the name of success and her struggles to be recognized as a female artist in a male-dominated society. Striving to capture the mythic personality of the singular musical artist, Mitra’s own difficulties merge with Oum Kulthum’s and she finds herself careening towards her own emotional and artistic breakdown.

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An Artist Returns to Puerto Rico to Disappear

It was 4 o’clock on January 7 and the artist Papo Colo was nowhere to be seen. There were a few hundred people milling around a clearing in the middle of Puerto Rico’s El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the national Forest System, waiting for Colo, whose performance, in which he would lead them through the rainforest, was supposed to have started an hour before. Along with international art patrons, collectors, and curators, who had flown in for the event, there were two oxen, a goat, some horses, and a pig ready to begin a two-and-a-half-hour procession. But the man leading the walk, a work meant to convey the experience of migration, which is central to the life of Puerto Ricans, according to the artist, was thus far a no-show.

Klaus Biesenbach, the director of MoMA PS1 and the curator of the performance, titled Procesión Migración, took the goat by the leash, burst through the gate, and started the procession, Colo or no Colo. The oxen, the pig, and the horses, which pulled a carriage full of people, slowly began their descent. Colo ultimately appeared, like a Shaman, in a white flowy shirt, loose black pants, and a thin tree trunk for a walking stick to lead the crowd. “He calls himself a trickster,” Biesenbach would later say.

A disappearance of some sort was always part of the plan—for the final act of his performance, Colo would step into the Rio Espiritu Santo, take a ritual cleanse, and then walk into the shady majesty of the tabonuco trees. There, in the rainforest, he plans to live for a year without speaking.

“It’s the reconstruction of myths,” Colo said standing on the road, Carretera 186, his dark eyes gleaming exuding warmth, excitement, and the sense that I’d pulled him out of a daydream he was still partly inhabiting. “It’s about the Mystifarian: people who deal with myth and change myth.”

papo_procession

Papo Colo, Procesion Migracion (2017). Image courtesy of Klaus Biesenbach.

Though enigmatic, his words somehow embodied the spirit of this event, which, however vague in its promise for the participants (no one was quite sure what to expect), had attracted masses of locals (500 people ultimately joined in, many of whom were hip local art students, curators, and gallerists in the bustling local art scene) as well as members of the global art world, including Agnes Gund, Diana Picasso, Stuart Comer, Alanna Heiss, artist duo Allora & Calzadilla, collectors Poju and Anita Zabludowicz, and their daughter Tiffany, who was a co-organizer of the event.

Colo, who is 70 years old, is perhaps best known for Exit Art, the alternative art space in New York, which he founded in 1982 with his partner Jeanette Ingberman and ran for 30 years. (In 2012, after Ingberman died of Leukemia, Colo closed the space.) But having been born in Puerto Rico and chosen the US as his home, he always fashioned himself a cultural hybrid. “The state of being a cultural hybrid,” he wrote in an essay that was read before the start of Procesión Migración, “makes you see the accumulation of transplanted history three-dimensionally.”

Feeling at times marginalized by institutions in New York because of his nationality, he made cultural identity and the struggles associated with it a point of reference for his work.

In 1977, a year after Puerto Rico’s failed bid for statehood, Colo tethered 51 pieces of white wood to his body with rope and dragged them along the West Side Highway in New York until he passed out (Superman 51). That was his first performance in New York. Several years later, he paddled up the Bronx River in a canoe through trash and debris as a comment on the effort by Puerto Ricans to assert their identity, both economically and socially (Against the Current (1983)). Like these performances, Colo staged scenarios that often pitted him in futile struggle against a system that guaranteed his failure. More recently, for Cleaner (2016), an action that coincided with a solo show of his early work at MoMA PS1 this past summer, he mopped a sidewalk in Chelsea, placed 50-dollar coins on the pavement, and cleaned them piece by piece as a comment on money laundering in tax havens in Latin America, and the stereotype of Latinos employed as cleaners.

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Papo Colo, Procesion Migracion (2017). Image courtesy of Klaus Biesenbach.

“There’s no such thing as a pretty Puerto Rican artist,” said Alanna Heiss, the director of Clocktower Productions during a panel at the Liga de Arte where there was a show of Colo’s early drawings curated by Beatrice Johnson. Heiss, who founded PS1 in 1976 and was a pioneer in the alternative space movement, has known Colo since the 70s when they were compatriots in the challenge against conventional notions of art-making. “They’re furious,” she said. “They’re cultural terrorists, revolutionaries. Activists.”

The procession through the rain forest was a final act of sorts for Colo, capping 40 years of performances, videos, actions, and sculpture, that began with that first performance in New York. But like much of his work, this one too uses his body as a symbol for so much more.

“Last summer we saw all these images of highways in Europe, completely filled with migrants walking in the roadways,” said Biesenbach. “I asked Colo, ‘Did you see these images?’ He said, ‘This happens every day with a suitcase at the airport in San Juan.’” In an effort to bring Colo’s vision to fruition, Biesenbach organized a festival, called Puertos Ricos: A Festival of Arts and Natures that started with the singing of the National Anthem in Old San Juan (by Eduardo Alegria), gallery tours, studio visits, exhibitions, and a hike to an installation called Puerto Rican Light by art duo Allora & Calzadilla in a cave near Ponce.

The procession, which was supported by MoMA PS1 and the Museo de Arte de Ponce, was also meant to get people thinking about various forms of migration, of particular relevance to Puerto Ricans.

After World War II, a series of economical projects transformed Puerto Rico’s economy from an agrarian system to an industrial one, producing a wave of immigration in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. And while the island used to be a tax haven for pharmaceutical companies, the tax incentives were rolled back in the 1990s (fully ending in 2006) causing an economic collapse that the island has yet to recover from, which has spurred a mass exodus not seen since the 50s.

Papo Colo, Procesion Migracion (2017). Image courtesy of Klaus Biesenbach.

Papo Colo, Procesion Migracion (2017). Image courtesy of Klaus Biesenbach.

“Jennifer [Allora] and Guillermo [Calzadilla] started telling me how many of their relatives were leaving the island,” said Biesenbach about how he first learned of the situation in Puerto Rico. “I was made aware by them about the severe debt crisis, the decade-long recession, the lack of prospects for so many on the island, and what kind of state Puerto Rico is really in.”

As we began our trek, which required permissions from the Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority, the US National Park Service, and the local police, in order to close off Carretera 186, we passed numerous dreamy tableaux vivants: one featured two women who moved slowly toward each other on a bridge with a small waterfall gushing nearby; in another, two transvestites kissed passionately behind a tree; and, in a third, a tall beautiful woman held a chicken and moved it as if delineating the points of a cross (a reference to Santeria, which is practiced on the island).

 

papo_river

Papo Colo, Procesion Migracion (2017). Image courtesy of Klaus Biesenbach.

The performances seemed secondary to the sheer arduousness of walking for miles with hundreds of people, some of whom carried luggage (per direction), some of whom sang, and some of whom I befriended on the walk. The road got muddy at various points, and the horses, pigs, and oxcarts sometimes veered into my path. But after two hours, people walked mostly in silence, seemingly unified, both mentally and in movement. Colo walked in front, guiding us without saying barely a word, stopping from time to time to indicate the presence of a tableau. Somehow the swarm of people paused with him, with an intelligence all its own, and took in the performances.

“When it’s two-and-a-half hours,” said Biesenbach days later over the phone, “it’s difficult to escape the idea of presence.”

For the followers, the journey ended at Papo Colo’s foundation set in a modernist structure in the northeast of the rain forest, where he would remain for the year. There, the group thinned out into a line and descended the banks of the Rio Espiritu Santo to watch Colo and the other actors engage in a ritual cleansing before his departure.

“That was like the sleep after sex,” said one viewer.

 

 

Earlier in the day, when Colo had finally arrived to lead the journey and was standing by the side of the road surveying the scene, as if imagining the Procesión Migración on a larger scale, he said, “It’s going to be local, national, and international. What happens in migration, happens to us all the time.”

I asked Colo, who officially stopped speaking on Monday, how he felt that day. He looked around as if searching for the right word. “Sexy,” he said. “I feel sexy.” With that, he walked toward the crowd and blended in.

 

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Steven Mnuchin Reveals Stake in $14.7 Million De Kooning Painting

Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Treasury secretary, and the son of top art dealer Robert Mnuchin, has been making headlines lately. The latest is his ownership stake in a multi-million dollar Willem de Kooning painting.

The disclosure is part of a broader, lengthy list of assets, income, compensation, and business agreements listed on a public financial disclosure report filed with the US Office of Government Ethics.

According to a Bloomberg report yesterday, Mnuchin plans to divest his interests in 43 companies and investments to avoid conflicts, but it is unclear if the de Kooning painting falls under this category. A 42-page disclosure report shows that the painting is listed among Mnuchin’s “other assets and income.” artnet News reached out to the US Office of Government Ethics but did not receive an immediate response.

According to the filing, Mnuchin owns a stake in de Kooning’s Untitled III, a 1978 painting that last appeared at auction at Christie’s New York in November 2014, where it sold for $14.7 million, compared with an estimate of $12 million to $18 million. According to the catalogue entry, Christie’s disclosed a third-party guarantor (a person outside the auction house who assumes an interest in a work in order to mitigate the house’s risk when it offers an expensive work for sale). A Christie’s spokesperson declined to comment as to whether Mnuchin was the third party guarantor or a current owner in an email to artnet News.

Willem de Kooning, <i>Untitled III</i> (1978). Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

Willem de Kooning, Untitled III (1978). Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

Bloomberg reports that the interest is part of a “dynasty trust,” a financial vehicle—in this case that has a minimum value of $32.9 million—which also includes securities filings from Goldman Sachs and a three-engine corporate jet. Mnuchin, Bloomberg says, may be taking advantage of a loophole that allows the country’s wealthiest families to protect their holdings from estate taxes for generations.

Mnuchin’s stake in Untitled III is valued at between “$5,000,001– $25,000,000,” according to his filing. The painting appears to be the only artwork listed in the report. The Christie’s catalogue notes that “Untitled III is among a series of paintings made in the late 1970s that convey a keen sense of place—the atmospheres of ocean and the sky in East Hampton…The soft, voluptuous colors and textures of glue-greens and melting whites and yellows summon the out of door ambiance of natural light.”

The provenance of the painting as outlined in sale catalogue shows the ownership chain as follows:

Estate of Willem de Kooning, New York
Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich
Private collection
Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Private collection, New York
L&M Arts, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

The penultimate owner, L&M Gallery, or Levy and Mnuchin, is no longer in operation. It was a multi-year partnership between Munchin’s father, Robert, himself a former Goldman Sachs executive, and Dominique Lévy. They dissolved their partnership in late 2012, and both Levy and Mnuchin started their own Upper East Side galleries.

More recently, Lévy partnered with Christie’s longtime contemporary art department head and rainmaker Brett Gorvy on a new partnership called Lévy Gorvy.

Willem de Kooning, Untitled XXV (1977). Estimated in the region of $40 million. Courtesy Christie's.

Willem de Kooning, Untitled XXV (1977). sold for $66.3 milllion this past fall and is the most expensive de Kooning work ever sold at auction. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

De Kooning, known for his groundbreaking Abstract Expressionist works, was a prolific painter and remains one of the most expensive artists in the contemporary realm. According to the artnet Price Database, more than 2,400 of his works have been offered at auction, and eight of his works have sold for over $20 million.

The current record for the artist is $66.3 million, set at Christie’s New York this past fall, for Untitled XXV (1977).

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GOP Congressman Personally Removes Controversial Painting From Capitol

California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter marked the opening of the 115th Congress by removing a controversial painting by a high school student from a display in the US Capitol. Representing a protest against police violence, it shows a policeman in the guise of a pig aiming a gun at a protester, among other images.

“I was angry,” Hunter told Fox News in explaining his actions. The president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, Andy Maybo, had called the painting “both offensive and disgusting.”

The artwork won an annual competition organized by Missouri Congressman William Lacy Clay, in which the winning piece goes on display as part of the Congressional Art Competition, which has taken place annually since 1982. The artist is David Pulphus, who was a senior at Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School when he won the competition. Maybo had called Clay’s support of the painting “reprehensible.”

In a statement on his website, Clay said, “The painting portrays a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society.”

Also in the foreground of the work, a black man hangs on a crucifix that takes the form of the scales of justice. Protesters carry signs reading “racism kills,” “justice now,” and “history,” as well as one bearing a peace symbol. In the distance looms the Gateway Arch, a St. Louis icon; next to it, a black face gazes out from behind prison bars.

Protests rocked Missouri after the 2014 police killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Clay represents Missouri’s First District, which includes St. Louis. The police officer is not the only one who is rendered as an animal; one of the protesters, carrying a partially obscured sign that appears to read “stop killing us,” is depicted as a wolf.

Clay is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and, in a September statement, called on the Department of Justice “to require transparency, accountability and real transformation of local law enforcement agencies to stop the epidemic of killings of young African Americans at the hands of local police.”

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, told ABC News that Hunter “will soon realize that he’s fallen down more than one rabbit hole,” in reference to Hunter’s confession that he had flown the family’s pet rabbit with the family on his campaign’s tab. Hunter ultimately reimbursed his campaign $49,000 for personal expenses, including PEZ Candy and Rice Krispies Treats and a Thanksgiving trip to Europe, reports the San Diego Tribune.

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AICA UK – Jean Fisher (1942-2016): A Tribute

AICA > News > Members news > Jean Fisher (1942-2016): A Tribute

Jean Fisher (1942-2016): A Tribute

by Dr Omar Kholeif

I build my language with rocks

-Édouard Glissant, L’Intention Poétique (1997)

It was Jean Fisher that encouraged me to write. It was Jean Fisher that introduced me to Glissant and who liberated me from the sense of confusion that I had growing up – the shame of being a non-located person, neither Egyptian (where I was born), nor a Westerner (where I lived in exile). Being queer was not being doubly exiled, she believed, but a release into a community. She taught me that creolization was a way to unshackle our thinking, that every stumbling block was also a building block; she explained to me that withdrawing into an imaginary dimensionless place was a kind of liberation. She encouraged me to think of ourselves as rhizomatic; to believe that we could create our own routes to the people and places that we wanted to love and live with.

Jean Fisher was of course referencing not only Glissant but also philosophers including Deleuze and Guattari, yet her interest was never in your stereotypical everyday subject. She was obsessed with trickster travellers, something that led to her deep friendship and love of the artist Jimmie Durham. It also informed affection with other political tricksters from Francis Alÿs to Emily Jacir, whose work untangles the inherent political structures in their immediate geographies.

This deep-seated interest in art’s relationship to the political in an age of globalization was also manifest in a life long practice that was as much activism as it was a form of pedagogical practice – manifest in teaching and her beautiful writing in numerous books and in her work as an editor of the post-colonial journal, Third Text. Her writing surrounding Ireland and Northern Ireland led to deep relationships and profound literature on the artists, James Coleman and Willie Doherty.

Always conscientious of the polemics of where she located her discourse, Fisher constantly questioned the authority of the power structures from which she spoke. In her introduction toGlobal Visions: Towards a New Internationalism in the Visual Arts, Fisher queried the codification of information in an era of accelerating social and political change, critiquing the commodification of previously marginalized narratives, which were becoming subsumed into the newly capitalized art world. She evaluated the concept of multiculturalism and the potent tendency that had emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s of marginalized cultures becoming tokentistically circumscribed into the art world narrative. This is of course something that has become all the more relevant today.

Consistently, she called and begged for the revision of positions. And it was this quest for revision that propelled me to study art. I remember fondly sitting on the floor of her office while I would pull dusty books from her library. We talked about Benjamin, about repositories of white and black knowledge, about dust, about auras, about Fanon and duality, about Du Bois and WJT Mitchell, and the construction of race; and we cried over the failings of theory to change the world. We cried every time Beirut or Gaza was bombed. We cried. But helpless she was never, she would write emails, letters, and start petitions. Jean Fisher embodied a style of radical will that extended beyond the limits of her physical health, which plagued much of her later life.

Fisher once told me, invoking one of her troubadours, Michel Serres, I do not seek, I find – and only write if I find! Excavate and extrapolate Fisher always did; she loved Jean Genet and Mahmoud Darwish – for after all, she was a prisoner of love, someone who was bound to save all of us from the limits of our own troubled imaginations.

I met Fisher as a student; she took me under her wing immediately. I was lost; I was about to drop out of college because my conservative family had wanted me to study in the field of the sciences. Jean refused to let this happen. She would email me almost every day urging to read my writings. As she did, I read all of her words, which penetrated the corners of my mind, informing me that art need not be a language simply for a bourgeoisie.

Indeed in her 2002 essay, ‘Towards a Metaphysics of Shit’ for Documenta 11, Jean asked: Can art function as an effective mediator of change or resistance to hegemonic power, or is it doomed to be a decorative and irrelevant footnote to forces more powerful than its capacity to confront? 

This question plagued and propelled me. Over time, she became one of my closest friends; she was my Auntie Jean, and I her nephew, but in reality, she was the mother figure who had always been absent.

Near the end of her life, she informed me that she would like to pack up and move to Hastings to live by the sea, so that she may think and read free of the burdens of the city. When our friend, the Palestinian artist and writer Kamal Boulata last visited London, she joked that they would be running away to the Southeast Coast with his wife Lily Farhoud. A life by the sea I wondered, could only be a metaphor for the cherished writings of Darwish who would speak of ‘impatiently waiting for the sea’ to return home to his native Palestine, or perhaps of the great poet and painter Etel Adnan who in her collected writings in 2014 informed us that ‘To look at the see is to become what one is’.

Jean Fisher was a figure who touched us all. She left this world too soon, but in her words and teaching we must find strength to fight and to allow those less fortunate than us the voice and agency to be heard and seen.

jean-fisher

Dr Omar Kholeif is a writer and the Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

www.jeanfisher.com