Saturday, January 27, 2007

Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie

Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie
Class Hegemony in Contemporary Art

23 January 2007 - 3 March 2007

Annika Eriksson
Chris Evans
Dirk Fleischmann
Liam Gillick
Marion Von Osten
Natascha Sadr Haghighian
San Keller

To what extent does class play a role in the production and dissemination of contemporary art?

Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie is an exhibition and research project touring internationally from 2006 to 2008, which aims to investigate how socioeconomic background still defines one’s career, and to what extent career choice and development reflects or consolidates the initial social hierarchies in question. In light of recent changes in working conditions within and without the art world, a fundamental query here is whether traditional analytical tools that discuss the role of class and social hierarchy are still of use today.

Initiated at Gasworks, London, last October, this series of exhibitions is the starting point for a two-year collaboration. Over 2007, the project is to move to Stockholm and Cairo, then back to London, during which a continuing, methodical collaboration between practitioners of various fields will be developed. Most of the artworks on display were shown in an initial form at Gasworks, October 2006, and will be developed over the coming presentations. Additional artists in the London exhibition included Sylvie Fleury, Hassan Khan, and Erkan Özgen & Sener Özmen. The project as a whole will be documented in an extensive publication due to be released in 2008.

Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie launched in July with a special broadcast by Dirk Fleischmann as part of Radio Gallery on Resonance FM. Radio Gallery was curated by Anna Colin. The exhibition was at Gasworks between November 10, 2006 – January 14, 2007. Following Istanbul, it will move to venues in Stockholm and Cairo.

Tirdad Zolghadr is a curator, critic and film-maker based in Zurich. Recent curatorial projects include Ethnic Marketing, at the Kunsthalle Geneva, and the 7th International Sharjah Biennial. He is further active as a member of the Shahrzad Art & Design Collective, and is a contributing editor of Bidoun magazine.

Nav Haq is curator at Gasworks. He is presently a guest editor at Book Works, and has also recently been appointed curator of the 3rd Contour Biennial for Video Art, Belgium. He has also contributed to magazines such as Art Review, Bidoun and Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art.

Review by Grayson Perry is here.

Public Event at Platform Garanti March 1, 2pm:
Introductory talk by curators Nav Haq and Tirdad Zolghadr
“Istanbul: a Case Study” by Erden Kosova
“Solo Show” a performance by Natascha Sadr Haghighian
“The Life and Times of Johann Joachim Winckelmann” an art historical foray by Frederic Jacquemin
Canned beer, salted peanuts and spirited discussion to a visual backdrop including Stewart Home’s The Golem (2004), and René Vienet’s Can Dialectics Break Bricks? (1973)

Annika Eriksson / Fevzi Cakmak, we are not who you think we are, 2006-ongoing, paintings
In her studies of the symbolics of artworld and corporate hierarchies, Eriksson tends to involve everyone in the process, from the protagonists of the creative classes to the cleaning staff. In these works, Eriksson is eager to tread the fine line between populism and collaboration, engaging in neither, offering what she calls mere “suggestions” for the participants. For the opening of the Gasworks exhibition in London, November 2006, Eriksson invited several dozen individuals who had never attended a private view before. For Istanbul, Eriksson has decided to engage with Fevzi Cakmak, the security employee at the Platform Garanti Gallery, having learned that he holds a vocal interest in art and displays his own selection of paintings in a back corridor. Cakmak is given the opportunity to assemble a selection of his choice, and is submitted to the same specifications - thematic and artistic - as the others in the show. He has chosen to include pieces from the collection of Garanti Bank, the patron of the Platform exhibition space. The title of Eriksson’s London intervention, we are not who you think we are, will be used for all subsequent Lapdogs projects.

Chris Evans, The Freedom of Negative Expression, 2006-ongoing, film trailer on video, film script.
In much of his work, Evans forges difficult relationships between arts production and its supposed others, from aristocratic patrons to CEOs to funding board bureaucrats. Mostly it is the stilted result of translating political and aesthetic ideals across these socio-cultural spheres that forms the basis of the artwork. The piece on display is based on a fictionalised conversation between Evans and a key figure of the 1960s British Constructivists, known for her uncompromising views on the establishment’s misuse of the arts to consolidate the capitalist status quo. Both a film and a sculpture are being developed from this material, and will be fully realised as the Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie project progresses. Shown at Platform Garanti is a trailer for the upcoming film featuring an airbrush painting of the sculpture (a maquette of which was initially displayed at Gasworks London, November 2006), plus the film script.

Liam Gillick, “Run to the Nearest Town”, 2007, vinyl lettering
In the artist’s own words, this piece plays on the bourgeois setting of the provincial town in its relationship to the manners of the centre. Rather than the fraught, hierarchical traits of the city, embryonic bourgeois values implied the social bonds of the smaller town, which has also been the setting for many early modernist sites of resistance (Bauhaus, Black Mountain College) but also mass revolutions (which rarely start from the city, but come together in regional centres to march on the city: Cuba, Mexico, China, Vietnam). Thus the invocation to run to the nearest town is both the assumption of the bourgeois aspirant and the necessity of the revolutionary moment. The patterning on the wall opposite, meanwhile, represents a combination of formalism and textile related models, arts and crafts references, but also a rationalist tradition of bar charts and the rise of business science.

San Keller, Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie?, 2006-ongoing, C-prints
Keller is an artist who works mainly with performance, very often tracing the power relations between artist, critic, curator and audience with amusing, malicious interventions. Keller began the project on display by documenting the manner in which parents of Zurich- and London-based artists displayed their offspring’s work in their living rooms. He has continued this project in Istanbul, and shall further pursue it in Stockholm and Cairo. For the present leg of the project, due to unfortunate circumstances beyond his control, Keller has mandated his longtime collaborator Martin Ballmer to take the photographs for him.

San Keller, Nothing’s Perfect, 2005, gold-tipped wooden baton
Over recent years, Keller has increasingly been focusing on the rituals and pecking orders of the artworld itself, showing particular interest in the - usually conveniently mediated - powerplay between critic and artist. “Nothing’s Perfect” consists of a gold-tipped wooden baton reproducing the stick used by Christian Dior on his atelier tours. Dior used the baton to point out flaws in the work of his employees. Keller’s rendition is meant for critics touring exhibitions, a role that, in the context of Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie, has been accepted by Platform director Vasif Kortun. On every afternoon of the exhibition, Kortun shall briefly tour the premises with the baton, pointing out shortcomings in both the work and its display.

Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Solo Show, 2006-ongoing, performance
Sadr Haghighian is an artist who works with video, performance and online modes of presentation. In her new performance, she revisits the age-old practice of hiring anonymous assistants to realise artworks, often demanding extensive, creative work on their behalf. This revitalised tradition raises complex questions of authorship and ethics within the artistic food chain. Suddenly, artists who work on their own, without any assistants and technicians, look old-fashioned and romantic by comparison. Sadr Haghighian will address these issues during a performance at the symposium on Tuesday, March 1 (cf. above).

Marion von Osten, “I Am Like That Anyway”, 2006-2007, plinths,
Marion von Osten is an artist known for her long engagements with feminist theory, the culturalisation of economy and the governance of mobility. Her empirical, curatorial and theoretical analyses of working patterns within the cultural industry were key contributions to the debate on post-Fordist conditions of production. For Lapdogs of the Bourgoisie von Osten proposed a Tableau Vivant of a recent H&M campaign featuring the pop star Madonna and her crew posing on plinths in front of a white wall with the Gasworks and the Platform Garanti team. Presented as a non-hierarchical community reminiscent of corporate self-presentations, but also of art historical icons, the original campaign as well as the installation is touching on the relation between art, consumption and corporate culture, as on the history of the representation of inequality and the normalising function of art and creative labour. In preperation of each show von Osten is discussing the image and its analogies with the staff of the involved art institutions and asks for it's local relevance.
Platform Discussion:
1. The Crew
2. Works by the Crew
3. Shopping
Gasworks Discussion

Dirk Fleischmann, The Stop Show, 2003-ongoing, performance / Michele Di Menna, Wild Child, 2005, DVD, 3’ 48’’
Concerning the video of Michele Di Menna … Using kiosks, lectures, even chicken farms as his format, Dirk Fleischmann takes the patient achievement of a maximum reward from a minimum of means as motive and subject matter. For this exhibition, Fleischmann staged his ongoing project The Stop Show on Resonance FM London in July. The ultimate equal opportunity game show, it demands contestants count out a ten second time span as accurately as possible. Taking The Stop Show’s idea of a level playing field to its logical curatorial conclusion, the winner of this contest was invited to participate in the Gasworks exhibition. Frankfurt-based Michele Di Menna took the prize.

- - - -
Exhibition Review
Bidoun Issue 11, Summer 2007
ISTANBUL/ ‘Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie: Class Hegemony in Contemporary Art’
Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center / January 23-March 3, 2007
By Adnan Yıldız