Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Click Here

The sound of a computer mouse has become so familiar we are barely aware of it. The tap of this hand size, ergonomic button-box or track pad as it is pressed and released echoes our mental engagement. We think therefore we touch. The invitation this presents to enter or activate something is a beautiful thing for an artist. There is almost something of a fairy tale about this interaction. Like cake to Hansel and Gretel.

Artists have been disseminating and creating work for computers and the internet for decades now but I want to focus on how artists are using the internet at this particular moment and the growing issues around these spaces. There are obvious pros presented by the Internet – a space to exhibit, to experiment and to distribute art, that is cheaper, faster and looked at by a huge portion of the population everyday.

The most immediate example of how to do this is the website as artwork. Margot Bowman’s piece Heaven is for Quitters (heavenisforquitters.com), which also functions as a very abstract music video for Faltydl, is a great example. As the viewer clicks around the screen, various animations of people and furry characters are depicted having sex. A scrolling text links these different couplings stating, “You are sad, You are so alone, You are very lonely”. The viewer can download their unique version from the page to save. Here the artwork lives online, where is has a sense of completeness and access, and lives in another form offline.

Another well established form of online dissemination is the website as gallery or institution. There are numerous online sites dedicated to showing online work. Such as Opening Times (otdac.org), a British non-profit that commissions work and creates online residencies. Opening Times also integrate their work into third party websites with temporary digital takeovers of the Goethe Institute or Philips auction house’s home pages. They have commissioned work like Ruth Proctor’s Always (always.otdac.org), a standalone website that displays a clock, continuously counting from the launch of the Opening Times website. Every time the viewer visits you can press a button and download the time of your interaction.

Cosmos Carl (cosmoscarl.co.uk) is another online space but one that uses existing platforms. Their upcoming shows are advertised via their Facebook page and each project is simply a new weblink presented on their home page. This consists of the name of each different artist and a fresh URL. These temporary shows – which are not archived – lead through to projects on sites such as Ebay, Pinterest, YouTube, Vimeo, Google Maps, Soundcloud, Google Earth, Facebook, Kickstarter and even the dark web. A recent piece was Hannah Anbert’s 'Sacred Work (Karaoke version)', a karaoke video of a euphoric pop song on Youtube, with lyrics about capitalism and economic structures. These works live outside of Cosmos Carl as things people can accidentally discover outside of a web art context. This sliding into the internet’s infrastructures is both critical and accessible, detached and integrated.


This approach of using well-known sites or apps in art projects is thriving. Artist Maya Livio is currently doing a residency in a very interesting “digital guest room” created by Rachel Stuckey, which is laid out like a line drawing of a domestic space that people can click on. (http://homepageguestroom.wixsite.com/guest-room-maya-jp) Livio’s project includes links to Google docs, Youtube and Twitter. Of particular note are the care packages space on the room’s coffee table that links to videos of dogs, naïve drawings of severed arms and apt texts on immaterial labour and data harvesting.

Faith Holland (faithholland.com) has made interventions into the porn hub Redtube, with a series of videos that are tagged with pornographic clickbait like “amateur” and “solo girl” and touch on ideas of sex or fetishes but are much more weird. One video for example depicts the artist shaving her legs. The results are detached and almost uncomfortable – which perhaps is a very appropriate comment on the videos uploaded to the porn site in a wider sense.

Angela Washko makes computer game and video projects that examine and rework console-based role playing games such as World of Warcraft. Her latest exhibition The Game: The Game at Transfer Gallery is a dating simulator game where the player in the body of a female protagonist tries to avoid pick up artists in a crowded New York bar. Washko’s work is very much about looking at how games, which are now often online, reinforce and exaggerate cultural and gender stereotypes and violence.





Kari Altaman often uses Tumblr in works that explore ideas around evolving tags, images and videos. For example in sites such as gardenclub.tumblr.com and softmobility.tumblr.com, she explores ideas around feminism, posthumanism, survivalism and alternative currency. Her chosen images and ideas are linked by social media tags such as #jailbreakgesture, #softmobility or  #vitalcontent.

Yet Altmann has had serious issues with Tumblr. In Kari’s words, “At some point Tumblr got bought out and went super corporate. At that point a lot of my accounts got shut down without warning, either for having a name like pier1, which Pier One Imports decided they had a right to, or they were shut down for url camping, if they had only one post or no posts. It was considered “hoarding” – part of the problematic way that these platforms eventually try to whittle your identity options down into a very small consumer unit, so they can monitise and wrap information around you via a single algorithm.”

For Altmann, the increasing corporatisation of social media is leaving no space for conceptual approaches, privacy filters and different kinds of content. (She has been starting to write about these issues using a new tag #metaimage.) The writer Dennis Cooper had a more high profile recent case of shutdown by Google. His blog the DCs, which contained over a decade’s worth of work and research as well as gif novels in the style of this collage-like Zacs Haunted House (http://www.kiddiepunk.com/zacshauntedhouse) were deleted entirely without notice - as was his gmail account. Cooper is a writer whose work is notably controversial – often inhabiting the intersection between horror and homoeroticism. His blog inhabited the same space, for example showing profiles of Russian rent boys. He hadn’t backed up his blog and for three months was given no explanation to why his work has been removed entirely. He was exceptionally lucky that due to very high profile interviews and online campaigns, he was given his archive back and is working on reposting it to a dedicated site slowly over time. However, this is something that is not available to many less well-connected artists.


These examples highlight the innate problems around the dissemination of art online. Corporate ownership, corporate censorship, and the commodification of social media and the individual. Instagram has been lauded as a space for artists to show work and reach an exceptionally wide audience outside of the limits of the art world. Yet in its heart, it is a form of marketing where someone’s body and creativity are positioned into a structure predetermined by branded desires. Instagram, now owned by Facebook, own our pictures. We don’t.

Advertising is being increasingly inserted into apps and sites. There are ads in between posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – even between prospective dates on apps like Tinder and Happn. There are ads popping up inside Google searches, even within our own email feeds. In the same way that street art once occupied ignored spaces within urban architecture before they were aggressively taken over and commodified by ad sales companies, so the wild west utopian possibilities that accompanied the early days of the Internet are clearly over.

The design of a smart phone or tablet – and increasingly of computers, especially Macs – do not enable people to amend, change and develop their modes of creation. We are essentially locked out of the white box and not even a screwdriver will get us in. The open source movement is an attempt to combat this yet perhaps reaching a limited code-literate audience. The artwork that will hopefully rise out of the Block Chain is still in its infancy.

Peter Lunenfeld in his book The Secret War Between Uploading and Downloading, writes, “The computer is a rational device par excellence, driven by the exigencies of the Enlightenment, but it is also a desiring machine of the new economic order… Revolution has been co-opted by the marketers… Technologies certainly open up spaces, but they also close them down.” Perhaps this is also part of the legacy of modernism and the entire concept of cultural progress. Lunenfeld quotes Susan Sontag, “Stripped of its heroic stature, of its claims as an adversary sensibility, modernism has proved acutely compatible with the ethos of an advanced consumer society.” It is impossible to make work using social media or the Internet without being strongly aware and critical of its relationship to global capitalism. To put it simply, shopping isn’t going to change the world.


(c) Francesca Gavin

Tout Pres Art Interview



I did quite a personal little interview for Tout Pres Art - thought i'd post it up here too

LONDON-BASED CURATOR FRANCESCA GAVIN EXPLAINS WHY SHE IS A NERD AT HEART
September 13, 2016
Francesca Gavin is prolific when it comes to her work as a curator, writer and editor. As the Visual Arts Editor at Dazed & Confused, she also writes for other publications including Another and Kaleidoscope. This comes on top of a bevy of influential publications that she contributes for, plus a significant art collection she cultivated for Soho House Group when she worked as their curator. But what lies underneath the professional aura is someone who has experienced a vibrant and effervescent life. She talks with Daniel Kong about inheriting her mother’s postcard collection at age nine, what experiencing sexism has taught her and why she considers herself a nerd.

You’ve established yourself as one of London’s most influential art editors. Were you the sort of person who always excelled in school?

I was obviously a nerd – completely and utterly a nerd! But a very unusual one. I always did very well in school, I was always very academic, and I got scholarships to really good schools when I was younger. However at the same time, I wouldn’t say that I’m the most diligent person on earth. What drives me is my enthusiasm for culture. I’ve always been obsessed with books, magazines, music… I even learned to read music before I even learned to read! So I’ve always been really culturally interested. This is probably because of my parents – my mother was a writer who went to art school and my father was an actor and a singer.

What was it like to live in a very cultural and creative household?

Growing up, I didn’t have anything to rebel against! Music was always very present in my relationship with my dad. And I’ve always lived with a piano, whenever I can. I would sing with my father, and I’ve been playing piano since I was three.
But with both my parents, the things that connected us were politics and their love of books. So we always had an overwhelming number of books about everything in the house. From the occult, to cookbooks, to art books, I definitely think growing up and wandering around my parents’ bookshelves was a huge influence.
What would a typical dinner at the family table look like?

I’m a child of the 80s, so we didn’t really sit down for dinner that much. Me and three sisters, we’re all Scorpios. We were probably a handful and it was always a little chaotic. But also, I always felt like I was treated as an engaged adult. I was always treated as someone with an intelligent point of view since I was a child.

To be honest, my family are the most interesting people. I still adore my mother and my sisters, and am constantly interested in their heads. They have very unusual reference points. One of my sisters is an artist and the other one is in the film industry. I’m a bit obsessed with my family’s brains, so we all connect really nicely. It’s a very unusual and bohemian family.

How did you learned to read music before you learned to read?

We were living in Los Angeles at the time between the ages of three and five, and my mum suggested I go to a Suzuki school on the weekends. So I learned chord structure and how to read music before I was even at kindergarten at five years old. So I’m really good at sight reading. Even as a teenager at school, I would always be at the music rooms to practise in. I would often sneak off on our lunch hour break and play Mozart!

Music continued on from there, as I also sang for a long period of time when I was older. I would sing jazz and blues. I would do this just to earn a living when I was a teenager, playing at Harrods, hotels, restaurants or underneath the Everyman Cinema.

How would you describe your experience growing up – in high school and primary school? I can’t speak about your experience. But when I went to high school, we had to act a certain way.

In Woodstock Elementary School, it didn’t really apply. Everyone was a bit weird, to be honest. Most of the parents were either drug dealers or worked for computer companies. So it was kind of a strange set-up. When I came to London with an American accent, I was enrolled at a girls school because I got a scholarship. At that time I was getting straight As and wearing awful hand-me-down clothes from my cousins. So for the first three years, it was really tough. I found it difficult and was very isolated.

But because of that experience, I became very fashion-conscious and saw how our fashion choices communicate with people – particularly in a girls’ school. Fashion was often connected to popularity – more than sex, more than being attractive. It was much more about how you connect with other people. I learned a lot from that process. That’s probably why I still like writing for fashion magazines. I’m very particular about nice things.

Growing up, did you have someone that you look up to or respected in the art field that also influenced your life’s path?

Not really. I’m a bit of a hustler in a sense that I’ve always felt that opportunities come to me. I’ve always been very lucky. I’ve always kept my fingers in different things, partly because I always think that you can’t be reliant on one. So no, I never had any one person. I also never got offered the right editorial job, nor any contacts when I began at all. I was just enthusiastic, friendly and smart. I had to create my own roles and it worked from there.
Even still, I look at people’s careers in the world that I’m in. There are some women I really respect like Emily King, Alice Rawthorne and Jennifer Higgie. But I can’t really see anyone’s career path and immediately identify that with mine.

At age nine, your mother gave you a collection of postcards. Did that influence you or spark an interest in art as well?

Yes, it’s where my knowledge of history of art began. I have a really solid knowledge of history of art because of it. And I still collect art postcards and make little Muji photo albums out of them. I probably have around 3,000 to 4,000 now!

The reason why my mother gave them to us is because one day my sister and I were playing with stickers. My mum told us that stickers were ridiculous, and let us use her art postcards instead in the hopes that we’d learn something. And to be honest, I think it was enormously influential. It totally changed everything.

As someone who is passionate about working in the art world, you obviously love what you do. But what frustrates you the most about the work environment?

Well, you’re catching me in a really interesting moment, because I experienced sexism this summer. I co-curated a massive biennial called Manifesta and barely got credit for it. So that’s been a massive learning curve.

I’m actually in a bit of shock, because it’s something that I’ve never really experienced before. I’ve always felt women can do whatever they want, and you’re going to get credit for what you do. But then you realise it doesn’t really work that way, and that shocked me. I don’t want to dwell on it because I still really enjoyed the work and I’m proud of the work that I did.

But the experience of the event – resulting in people editing me out of the process, which has multiple reasons as to why it happened – it has made me very conscious as a writer and curator about crediting and making sure that everyone involved in a project gets attention in some way for what they do.

And before this happened, you never experienced sexism?

No, not really. I’m very straightforward. I’ve always gotten good work. I’ve always been credited for my work. I’m quite good at getting my own name out. But often, it’s been me publicising myself. Maybe it’s because I have a low voice and am strongly opinionated.

What advice would you give to someone else who might be going through a similar situation?

Definitely speak to your contemporaries. I have a lot of respect for the women in my industry for getting it out there. I did a great interview with AQNB about the incident, and I really felt there was support from other individuals in the art world.

As a self-proclaimed nerd, did you have a favourite teacher at all?

When I went to school for A-levels, I had an amazing history of art teacher called Kate Evans who was super feminist and really political. We studied 19th century French Art, and she was brilliant – definitely the best teacher I’ve had. I mean, to be honest, probably better than most of the teachers I’ve had at university. She was just a really great, engaged and smart woman. And so as a result of doing A-levels with her, there was no question about what interested me.

When you’re looking at artwork, I’ve learned through her that there are so many different ways to understand it. You can expand on it, whether it is through the artist’s biography, or the political context or the social context or technique. Art for me is part of the wider world.
Outside of art, I’ve noticed on Instagram that dance plays a big role in your life.

Yes, I love my hobby! I started dancing three years ago. And it probably took about two years before I even put a video online. It’s quite common when you’re studying commercial dance for music videos to film yourself. That’s how you learn to get better at what you do. I remember the first time when I decided that I was finally going to share my secret hobby to people. And now whenever anyone sees me at art openings, they are like: “I love your dance videos!”

It’s also really nice that I have things outside of the art world. I think that’s really important. And the great thing about moving your body is you use your brain less. I have a very cerebral work life, so it’s really wonderful to do something that uses my body.

Can you describe what happens when you’re listening to your favourite song?

It’s such a nice feeling. There’s such a sense of satisfaction. And also, the actual dancing is hilarious! Because you’re like… kind of doing the baby-Beyoncé-semi-Rihanna-slight-slut-drop. I mean, it’s ridiculous. It’s such a hyper-feminised way of being. It’s totally unlike my life in the art world. Plus the persona or role of what I do when I’m dancing – it’s just great!

And if you had to pick an element that best represents you and your personality, what would it be?

Can it be something effervescent? Probably. What fizzes? I would think of myself as something fizzy.

Like champagne?

Yes, but maybe something more mineral than that. In my mind, when I think of my personality, it makes me think of effervescent powder in a glass of water. Not as glamorous, clean or tidy as champagne. Something a little bit more grounded. A mineral that you put into water that fizzes, bubbles and gets excited.

And that represents you because of your energetic nature?

Yes, I see myself as someone friendly and excited about things. I don’t know if it’s true, but that’s how I see myself. It’s not necessarily about how I look, because that would be a Cockapoo, a Cavapoo or even a Beagle-Spaniel breed. But as a personality and who I actually am, it’s fizzy.

Photo Credit: Profile (Niall O’Brien), family portrait (Henry Diltz) and postcards (Francesca Gavin @roughversion)


Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Ten Really Reasonable Art Editions to Buy Now


I've always been obsessed with buying editions - it is the perfect way for people to experiment with collecting and support artists and spaces. I've seen so many good ones recently I had to share some of my recommendations - many are recent, some are gems that are still available. Prices start at super bargain £50 (though if you want to go ever cheaper check Jake and Dinos Chapman's online shop)

Declan Clarke for Farbvision 75 Euros (pictured above). Also check the other Risographs in the series and the great offshoot vinyl projects

Kate Cooper for Sunday Art Fair £120




Erica Eyres and Garnet McCulloch for Glasgow International £300




Celia Hempton for Studio Voltaire £200




Jonathan Monk for Camden Arts Centre £250




Mat Jenner for Grand Union £60
(And i cant believe you can still buy this Paulina Olowska 'Chanel' fro £120)




Kirsten Pieroth for MOREpublishers #SUNDAY series 70 Euros



Seana Gavin risograph printed by Ditto Press £50




Peter Sutherland for Printed Matter $300



Andrew Lanyon for Peer UK £175



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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Salon Hanging


Winding up my work with Soho House, this was the last house I installed in the Lower East Side in New York. Thought I'd collect some images together of the other hangs over the years around the world!








Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer Love



So I've been avoiding the word work this summer, yet have still managed to edge out a few little nods into the cultural ocean...

I interview Scorpion Dagger for Dazed (the author of the gif above which could be a portrait of me this summer....)

I did a top ten Instagram round up also for Dazed

I reviewed three shows on Monocle24 - Energy Flash at MUHKA in Antwerp, Making and Unmaking at Camden Arts Centre, London and Dada Afrika at the Berlinische Galerie, Berlin

and I'm off to DJ at the Manifesta Night in Zurich on August 26 - RSVP here

Wednesday, April 06, 2016


The artist list for The Historical Exhibition of Manifesta11, that I am co curating has been announced - go see (a few missing names still being added including the amazing archive of Aaron Moulton) 

Too many to list here but here are some personal highlights include: Evelyne Axell, James Son Thomas, Giovanna Olmos, Paulina Olowska, Susan Hiller, Bhakti Baxter, Chris Burden, Aleksandra Domanovic, Michael Smith, Steven Claydon, Mark Leckey, Thomas Ruff, Frances Stark, Trisha Baga, Sophie Calle, Coco Fusco, Martine Syms, Jeremy Shaw amongst many other (around 100 artists in total...)

It's gonna be a busy couple of months...

(Image Anne Collier, Women With Cameras, 2014, Sixty-one 35 mm slides, 35mm slide projector, pedestal stand, and base, Edition of 3 + 1 AP, Courtesy of the artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow, Lender Name: The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow)