Tag Archives: Art

When I Draw–

“Y’know the real world, this so called real world is just something you put up with like everybody else.  I’m in my element when I’m a little bit out of this world – I’m on the beam.  Because when I’m falling, I’m doing all right: When I’m slipping, I say, “Hey this is interesting!”  It’s when I’m standing upright, that bothers me: I’m not doing so good.”  Willem de Kooning.

For the last year I’ve worked at Factory 7 with dim lights (nearly always at night), metallic dust, and a large dirty desk that takes the brunt of my drawing.  I work with dry and dusty pencils, charcoal and dense pigment pastels, always on paper.

In my dark corner, I’ve drawn bodies, women, angels, saints, friends and places, faces, and forces. I draw these things to understand my body, the bodies of others – real and unreal – and to trace the experiences of my physical, intellectual and emotional self. I draw to understand old marks I’ve made, how my hand moves and hits paper, and to feel how the marks and paper hit back in whatever way they can. I guess I draw to get better at drawing.

Factory 7
Factory 7
Factory 7
Factory 7

I am most interested in making marks when I am as wary as possible of the eye, the hand and the paper, even when – or especially when – I’m not in control of them. The easiest way to be aware of something is to feel it change, the more violently the better. To become aware of your eye, you blind it, your hand – you hurt it, the whiteness of your paper – you dirty it.

I want to draw like being in a car crash.

The relationship between your eyes and hands is the easiest to disrupt. When drawing blindfolded, the hand is increasingly sensitive to movement and impact, and even the mind’s eye can be confused if you’re slipping. This is the best way to draw unlike your self, which is an important part of drawing as your self. I think that short fits of hysteria have the same effect and can be practiced, like New Zealand artist Max Gimblett who stomps the ground and bellows like a madman, or there’s De Kooning, who supposedly charged at his canvas from across the room with his loaded brush in hand. I find music pumped into my ears helps me arrive there too. The effects of all these can be an extended sense of openness, or aggressive bursts of physical and emotional energy that smash pigment deep into the paper. It feels incredibly direct.

 

When I draw,

“I’m not pure; I’m not an abstractionist completely. There has to be a history behind the thought.”  Cy Twombly.

To consider technique, my newer drawings are really about how my hands and body interact with the drawing surface. Rebecca Horn’s Pencil Mask is a striking example of this, and is a type of practice often called performance drawing. I think the Pencil Mask and other performance drawings tend to explore drawing instruments as prosthetics of the body, recording the body as directly as possible: Yves Klein’s blue body paintings are dramatic examples, where the drawing instrument is the naked body. In the end, I’m not artistically interested in sharing the performance of my drawing (infact, oppositely, I prefer to keep this ambiguous), so I think I deviate from Horn & Klein. Instead I’m very interested in collecting as many ways as possible of making marks, especially ones that undermine the well-practiced control of the hand on paper. Cy Twombly has become an important influence in this way. My drawings in the Collisions/Alchemy and Nova sets are good examples of this exploration, the first set uses ambidextrous and intentionally deformed and uncoordinated hand gestures, twisting the way I might hold the pastel, and contorting my hands and body to force cramped and shivering lines; drawings in Nova are more desperate as they crush the pigment pastels to pieces right on the paper, and smashing my hands and fists into the coloured dust, I smear it heavily into the paper with hugely exaggerated and unnecessary force.

Colliding marks. http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Alchemy
Colliding marks. http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Alchemy
Green Bruising - Nova http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Nova
Green Bruising – Nova http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Nova

 

“I’ll take you where nobody knows you–”

Recently I’ve drawn with Fenina Acance and Jaslyne Gan. Apart from the joy, challenge, and intrigue of working alongside other drawers drawing (‘art is by the alone’), for me it’s an important practice in developing new mark-making strategies. The marks I was making before the collaborative jams were (maybe too conservatively) sitting between what I saw in Fenina’s sharp, shifting scratches and Jaslyne’s dancing, ethereal compositions.  So we all decided we should do some shared drawings, made simultaneously or swapped part-way.

At first most of them looked like my drawings, but they have changed, and they’re now the drawings that I find most intriguing. Maybe it’s because I could never have done them myself, or because of their uncanny familiarity. I find them incredible sources of inspiration and fascination, like looking in a mirror and not recognising something about myself. When I’m slipping, I say, ‘Hey this is interesting!’

Fenina Acance & Byron Kinnaird. 2013. Untitled.
Fenina Acance & Byron Kinnaird. 2013. Untitled.
Jaslyne Gan & Byron Kinnaird. 2013, Untitled/Strangers
Jaslyne Gan & Byron Kinnaird. 2013, Untitled/Strangers

Collaborating is also a terrific way of dispelling any preciousness for your drawings (‘kill your darlings’) and more importantly, learning to rework existing unsatisfying drawings, even if you ruin them. I’m terrible at working through drawings that I’m not feeling good about (and have no idea how to rescue), so ruining someone else’s drawing seems like a safer idea.

 

Force and Fire

These days, I keep taking the drawn force, lushness and violence from Willem De Kooning’s Women and Julie Mehretu’s storms; I take the lines, scratches and scrapes of Cy Twombly, Mike Parr, and Rebecca Horn… I can’t help but use a researcher’s eye and hand to scrutinize and explore mark-making techniques.

Departing from the celestial references in the Nova drawings, my new work warily uses fire as a driving force. Intensely about the Australian land and sky, fire is sublime because it destroys and regenerates, it’s terrifying and warming. Aside from all that, and most importantly to me, it sparks, cracks and swirls in ways that I want to draw.

 

Wildfire, 2013. Byron Kinnaird http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Fire-and-Night
Wildfire, 2013. Byron Kinnaird http://cargocollective.com/drawnandwritten/Fire-and-Night

Byron Kinnaird is one of the Directors of the Freerange Cooperative; an artist and poet at Factory 7; and a teacher and researcher for architecture at the University of Melbourne. His drawings are at www.drawnandwritten.com

Painting, Politics, and Power with Michael Soi

I was drawn into his work immediately because of its familiar color pallet and curious characters. Also the fact that I had just seen one in a bar the weekend before was, no doubt, influential in my curiosity.

Last year I spent 3 months in Kenya, primarily in Nairobi. I was there for a couple of reasons, but since I am an artist meeting other artists and learning about them and their work is, of course, always part of my travel. There are two main residency/art centers in Nairobi: The GoDown Arts Centre and Kuona Trust. It was at The GoDown that I met Michael. He was the studio mate of a contact I had.

Upon entering the studio, I recognized the cartoon-like gestures and the deliberate criticism of the normal happenings of Nairobian nightlife and other goings-on. Being my first time in Kenya, actually in Africa, I wanted to know more about the images/concepts and to gain a better understanding of what it means to be a contemporary artist in Nairobi.

I met and chatted with Michael a few times after that first studio visit, but never felt like I fully understood his work. I thought I would take this opportunity with Freerange to delve a bit deeper into the work with Michael, to hear from his perspective what were/are his motivations in the work, what are his influences, and where he is taking his work in the near future.

Michael Soi 002

NR: In your work you wittily comment on and, in a way, attack everyday activities of ordinary Kenyan citizens. How did you come to use your art work as a vehicle for these social and political commentaries?

MS: It all begun very innocently. It was work that revolved around children as an alternative audience to my work. I used animal characters like pigs and cat. At this moment, they had no meaning as such. it was just plain simple what you see is what you get but over time I looked at these two characters and realised there was a lot of similarities that existed between our politicians and these two animals. Greed and selfishness. I still create work that kids can relate to in a very simple way and at the same time use the characters to address a more serious problem in Kenyan society through my work.

NR: Why is painting now your main medium? And why is this the appropriate medium for your message?

MS: I studied fine art and art history in art school. After graduation I joined kuona trust in 1996. This is when I can say I begun my long career and I basically took an interest in sculpture by default. We were young and broke at this time. So the issue of subject and material was not in our control. We worked on what we had at the moment but honestly, I think after one year I was too engrossed in wood sculpture because I took it up as a challenge and just wanted to see how far I could run away with it. Over time, I realised that this wasn’t telling the story as I wanted it told. This is what got me back to painting in 1998. I had too many ideas on my head and wood was kind of limiting. This is when I decided to take on painting as the instrument that I wanted to use to get my story told.

NR: Your work has been widely shown both internationally and at home in Kenya. Has the reception been different in the various countries? And how has that influenced, if at all, how you approach new work? Basically, who is your target audience and what role do they have in your work?

MS: I have been luck[y] in a way because of a lot of international travel early in my career. By the time I was 30 I had seen a fair portion of this world. It enabled me to engage in a lot of what I want to call cultural dialogue and at the same time, having to work with artists from diverse cultural back grounds and all. My target audience in the people of the city of Nairobi. This work revolves around their everyday kind of setting in all aspects of social life. I will address the issues around graft, matatu’s, commercial sex work and everything that affects them. Over the years, I have to realise that I can get a lot of the inspiration here. The international travel for residencies in places like London, New York, Amsterdam and many other cities I have visited in the course of my career have given me the option of looking at things differently and being able to approach issues from a broader view. It gave me knowledge that i am still downloading up to date in my quest to become a better artist. I don’t know what the role of my work is at the moment. that doesn’t concern me much but the most important thing here is that I have given myself the responsibility of documenting my city and its people visually so that the next generation of Kenyans and anybody else who is interested can look at it 50 years from now and see what Nairobi was up to in the 90’s and in the new millennium.

Michael Soi 003

NR: Can you talk about how you see the role of women in Kenyan society and how that is translated in your work?

MS: I am not a social activist. I am a social commentator. Mostly, the use of women in my work is misunderstood. I believe in equality of the sexes and all. A lot of the work I made revolving around the strip clubs in Nairobi is about power. It has nothing to do with occasional look at a painting of a topless woman just for kick. It is about power in the sense of commercial sex work evolving to a point where the girls don’t have to stand in the streets anymore because there is social media now. Twitter and Facebook have provided a space where the girls will not have to freeze themselves to death by standing street corners and more.

Back to the issue of power, my strip club scenes are not about the pole dancer who is nude on the pole. It is always about them men ogling and drooling that surrounds her. One girl told me she doesn’t have to sleep with the men to make her money. All she has to do is give a lap dance for 4 minutes and she makes $7 and at the end of her shift, she has made $200 which is more than what the average 8 to 5 job going Nairobi resident makes in a day. This is power. She uses her body to make her ends meet. She doesn’t have to have sex with the client.

Michael Soi 004

NR: I noticed that almost all of your characters have the same expressionless face. Could you tell me about that decision?

MS: I am still developing my characters. It is an on-going process.

NR: Visually, your paintings remind me of 70s and 80s cartoons like Fat Albert and the Jackson 5ive. Was this a conscious decision? If so, why? If not, do you think that observation is valid? Why or why not?

MS: It came from a point of wanting to make my work self-explanatory. Make it simple as possible. I don’t let western issues influence any of my work…There is a tendency to compare artists from the 3rd world with a master somewhere in the states or Europe. I have created my own subjects and characters to my work. I am me and my art is mine.

NR: This visual aesthetic was very popular in Latin America in the 80s, in particular in Chile. In fact, it was used by the dictatorship, on TV and in music, to keep the people “happy and occupied”. What do you think about the use of entertainment to keep the masses happy and distracted?

MS: It can easily be used as a form of propaganda. And yes, it was used in Chile and to some extend in Argentina and we also see it in drug regions of Mexico where use of art is being used by the cartels. But for me, I think my work belongs to me in the sense that I want to see it as a visual diary of some sort. I am just documenting my city on the things I see and observe every day. it is an attempt to get someone in the west who has not been to this part of the world to know my city. It is stuff that the next generation of Kenyans will look at and see where they came from.

Michael Soi 006

NR: Could you talk about the method(s) of keeping the masses in line in Kenya?

MS: In Kenya, keep them talking. Use the media for that. Expose one scandal after another. They will keep talking.

NR: From my understanding, corruption in Kenya is widely understood and accepted. What do you seek to accomplish with your work?

MS: I try to address issues of political, religious and moral corruption. Audiences to my work need to look at where they fit in, whatever they do after that is up to them.

NR: And looking at the near future of Kenyan politics, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the elections in March, and how this might play out in your work.

MS: We will just have to wait and see. My take on it….They removed the crocodile from the river and put it in a swimming pool. It still remains a crocodile.

Michael Soi 005

 

What’s your take on Michael’s work and the ideas he has presented here? Feel free to comment, or send me an email (nic [at] nicolerademacher [dot] com).

 
Michael Soi is represented by Ed Cross Fine Art in London and The Little Art Gallery in Nairobi. You can see more of his work at michaelsoi.com or on his artist Facebook page.

Songs for Christchurch Artist Prints

The amazing artist John Baker has produced the following drawings to raise funds for the Songs For Christchurch project we are working on.

We are offering one-off prints of these drawings, signed by the artists, and lovingly drawn and donated by John.

For sale, only for the next 5 days.

Please have a look at them here, then head to the pledgeme page to buy any of them: https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/429

The prints are a4 sized, signed by the Artist John Baker and the featured Musician.

1. Amanda Palmer. $200.

2.  Tim Finn $200.

3.  Mara TK (Electric Wire Hustle) $150

4.  Flight of the Conchords: $500

5. Ladi6: $200

6. Dallas (Fat Freddys Drop) $200

7. Adam McGrath (The Eastern): $100

8. James Coyle (Nudge) $100

9. Tim Prebble (Spartacus R) $100

10. Lisa Tomlins (Fly My Pretties) $150

11. Paul Hoskin (The Yoots) $100

How do we harness trust?

TRUST:

1. To let someone in your lives.

2. To give information

3. To be vulnerable.

Without trust where will we be?

Living in Christchurch I have observed many businesses operating from home.

I love this!

PhotoMan, Tadakki Kusaka formerly photographing tourists outside the Cathedral in Cathedral Square, Christchurch – Now on 233 Waimairi Road, Ilam, Christchurch Ph: +64274374113 OPEN 7 DAYS

BUSINESS

These people having their flag, their business card hang high. The many signs on the streets of Christchurch: – Haircuts – Architectural Design – Fashion Design – Passport Photos A complete range of signs, some hand painted; really connecting the sign to that person, that business. I’m thinking small business not big business, thinking local business in my neighbourhood and not 30 minutes away in the city centre. I’m also thinking I’ll support thy neighbour and perhaps they will support me – Community!

1) Plants for sale in my neighbourhood Beckenham, Christchurch 2) Architects Stuart Manning’s Studio above a garage beside his house in Somerfield, Christchurch

INTERVIEW

I interviewed a range of businesses earlier in the year; Stuart Manning Architects, the PhotoMan, and Briar Cook from Rethreads Clothing Label. I presented the information at the recent SHAC Conference in May 2012 – www.shac.org.nz . Asking the audience whether we should have a network of skills in our neighbourhood? The overwhelming answer was yes.

I ask Briar Cook from Rethreads, What is it like working from home? Briar Responds, “People are beginning to know I’m here. It’s just easier as time goes on.” facebook.com/rethreadsnz

OVERWHELMED

Since the earthquake I have been overwhelmed by trust. Attending an art exhibition from a home two houses down from me. I went inside.

A displaced Gallery now selling artwork from their home, open to the public. Let’s support art from innovative spaces, let’s support emerging artists. Another link: facebook.com/artexplore I was wowed by the fact ‘High St Galleries’ were in my backyard – a gallery two doors down. And the trust this family had to let strangers through their house to view art. Viewing art amongst the kitchen and lounge – in its true state of place perhaps. This innovative space, people drinking wine and eating cheese like a fine art gallery, though in a home -these elements trans-placed to the home.

How do we harness this trust?

Letter from Kenya (eight)

In the small mud-floored kitchen, around the kitchen fire bordered by 3 large stones (to put the pots on), the middle son is home with his 8 year-old for a visit. The three adults discuss life, the city, work – or lack-thereof. The 2 grandsons that live on the homestead are seated there as well, with their cousin, quietly listening to the adult conversation. One of the boys sings, but it is barely heard; the others dig their feet into the ground and fidget. But I can only imagine this based on the conversation in a language that I don’t understand that comes billowing out of the barely open door and the small square window. The conversation is accompanied by the suffocating smoke from the kitchen fire, fighting for a place to escape from the confines of the small space.

I steal understandings of bits of words and, of course, proper names like the capital city where the son now lives, with his wife and son in the second largest urban slum on the continent, barely making ends-meet. I stand just a few meters from the wood building, looking up through the rainclouds of the Long Rains season through the pitch-black to a few constellations, barely visible. I look back at the square-shaped room with an orange burning light shining through not only the cracked door and window, but also the open slats that let the rain in this morning while we watched the water heating for our baths.

The conversation is familiar, one that I have had with my own parents in their kitchen during one of my countless visits home. There is a relay back and forth of question-answer, then intermittently the son explains further or the mother continues on a monologue asking and comparing, hoping to glean a bit more about her son’s life that is not so unfamiliar to her, she is from a city near by, not the capital, but she is no stranger to the hustle and bustle, but perhaps she has forgotten all of that. Perhaps the forty-some years that she has spent in the high rolling hills tending to their farm and dairy cows, perhaps this less-busy life has allowed her to forget the hand-to-mouth that she, presumably, once lived.

The oldest of the grandsons pops out and I quickly change my gaze back to the sky again, attempting to make myself invisible. Though the night is so dark with no moonlight and no artificial light for miles, at least to the closest town, being invisible isn’t so difficult. Then I remember the conversation I had with the shopkeeper today when we made the hike to town for supplies that cannot be reaped from their land, power had been out in the town for the last 2 days – no mobile charging, no television, only the police station, with their noisy generator, could be seen with their lights on at night. The grandson dumps some water and with a clang grabs something from under the chicken coop and glides back into the warm kitchen shutting the door just a few centimeters more behind him.

Nicole Rademacher was in Kenya from February until May of 2012 doing research and documentation for her current project investigating domestic ritual (made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons).

 

Letter from Kenya (seven)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘So he is your husband?’ I ask. She nods yes.

‘How many years have you been married?’ I carefully choose my words; her English is quite limited (please note that my Swahili still only consists of pleasantries and my Kikuyu only happens by accident), and if I have learned nothing else from teaching English and living abroad for so long, I have definitely learned how to grade my language and construct sentences so that communication happens and less ???s occur.

’10 years’, she responds.

*Anne is a slight woman, and, to be honest, when I met her the day prior I thought she was an older grandson in the family. I had failed to notice that she was wearing a long skirt below her billowing boy-sweater. Given the short hair, and the fact that in this small village at a very high altitude everyone wears winter caps, a skirt can often be the only way of telling the sex of children … and very slight women.

Ten years seemed like a lot to me. I’ve realized that Kenyans can be very deceiving with their age (I mentioned this in my first post from Kenya). She also told me that she is 28, her oldest of two children is 9, and that she is from a small town very far away so she never sees her family. Ten years still seems like a long time to me.

The milk is at a rolling boil, and she adds the tea and stirs.

‘Yes, 10 years,’ she repeats and laughs. She seems to be a generally happy person, and around me almost everything that I do or say deserves a laugh. Sometimes even her own response deserves a laugh.

She pulls the pot off the fire using only bits of cardboard as oven mitts to protect her not-so-delicate fingers. She sets the pot on the mud floor and places a new pot on the fire and fills it with fresh water that she had fetched from the well in the morning. The family is lucky to have the well on their homestead. I’ve seen many women and girls carrying large 10 gallon jugs (at least I think it is 10 gallons) of water using a strap that is placed around their forehead, thus carrying the jug on their backs. Despite what, in my Western eyes, may be considered poor conditions, the family seems to do quite well for themselves.

She grabs a teapot and strainer from the free-standing cupboard with mismatched doors and pours the chai, in a not-so-careful manner, from the pot through the strainer into the teapot. As she calls telling the others to come because the afternoon chai is ready, she tosses the dirty silverware and some small dishes from lunch into the soon-to-be dishwater warming on the fire.

*Name changed for privacy

Nicole Rademacher is a currently in Kenya until the beginning of May doing research and documentation for her current project investigating domestic ritual (made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons).

Ranting about the love of God

Damien Hirst’s retrospective opened at London’s Tate Modern on April 4th and I didn’t want to write about it. In fact I didn’t even want to acknowledge its existence. But having attended a range of exhibitions lately where the gallery spaces resemble more of an amusement park than places of culture and learning, I had to see the Hirst show and wonder for myself if his show represents the place  where public spaces are heading?

I don’t mean this in a grumpy, ‘everything must be serious all the time’ kind of way. It just seems that more and more galleries are relenting curatorial rigour to making galleries all play, no consideration in order to draw the crowds.

Reading about Christian Marclay, another artist on the White Cube rota, put these suspicions to light.  Marclay spoke with The New Yorker about his work The Clock and exhibiting it in public spaces. This seminal 2010 video work is a 24-hour montage of thousands of film and television clips all showing glimpses of time as captured on celluloid. The work was created to be shown in real time so as well as providing an ambitious montage of time-specificity, the work acts as fantastic, impractical clock. Exhibited to huge critical acclaim, Marclay found himself embroiled in an intense bidding war over the six copies available of the work.

For Marclay, he felt that the museum curators involved in the bidding, didn’t think through the subtleties of showing his video. With the lengthy real time aspect and a carefully orchestrated score, The Clock requires specific viewing conditions of simultaneous comfort and concentration. Marclay said of the process, “Venerable museums are acting like greedy kids. There’s a lack of scholarship. It’s all about how many people they can get through the doors.… They just want a hit.”

Well if a gallery wants a crowd drawing hit, with easy to digest surface scholarship, retrospectives are an easy option, and Damien Hirst is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The debates surrounding his work have never centred on any notions of aesthetics (he’s a repackager), method (assistants make everything) or what lasting importance his work will have. Rather, to talk of Hirst is talk about publicity, money, of how that skull sold for £50 million.

But unfortunately, it’s a no-brainer that galleries are susceptible to market forces. Ben Eltham wrote an excellent piece recently on  how museum directors being susceptible to market forces and in a similar vein, Robert Storr talks about the reality that contemporary museums are increasingly business-oriented in their approach to every aspect of operation, often at the expense of artistic vision.

But if these are the facts, why get so caught up in the fact that one of the world’s most renowned artists is enjoying a retrospective? At the time of writing, two other major career artists are enjoying sold out London shows (David Hockney and Lucien Freud) so why not feel so vitriolic against them?

The difference is that Damien Hirst represents the way the art world has gone and holding a retrospective for an artist who is known more for his publicity skills and commercial acumen than his art represents a huge leap from his forebears. In The Mona Lisa Curse (2008), Robert Hughes argues the traditional values that judge art by its quality have been overridden by marketing and hype, and that in the present consumer culture, the only meaning left for art is a financial one. Hirst defines this rule and of the artist, Hughes says “The idea that there is some special magic attached to Hirst’s work that shoves it into the multimillion pound realm is ludicrous. [The price] has to do with promotion and publicity and not with the quality of the works themselves.”

Showing an artist such as Hirst is a very public confirmation that galleries are curating shows that will guarantee crowds, but not necessarily critical acclaim. Perhaps I am degenerating into an irrelevant rant. In this era of smart phones and sensationalist TV, most people don’t want ‘high culture’ rammed down their throats and being sensationalist is perhaps the only way to get people to pay attention.

But ranting is important. Galleries at the end of the day were founded on vision and art has always existed to reflect and question our condition. Damien Hirst might regurgitate aspects of our world, but he doesn’t really manipulate them and he certainly doesn’t make make much of a comment beyond the monetary factor. The Guardian’s Adrian Searle says at the end of the day, his retrospective is repetitive. “My problem with Hirst is not the money (Picasso made lots, and nobody cares), nor the vulgarity he has opted for, but his capitulation as an artist. He could have been so much better. It is an enormous disappointment.”

If you need any more convincing, check out Hennesy Youngman’s thoughtz on Damien Hirst. He’s hilarious and he’s spot on.

 

Rozzy Middleton is on occasional arts and music blogger. 

Bricolage and the Open Toolbox of Culture

This brief bipartite sojourn is a story about the peculiar nature of one of the most commonplace (yet subversive) forms of visual culture and artistic production: collage. It goes without saying that it’s a common tool amongst the creative literacy of artists / designers / illustrators / musicians / writers, however when one drills a bit deeper, it appears that this very human form of artistic representation and production has more to it than meets the eye. The first part is specific art-historical snapshots (as a bit of background) before arriving at the heart of the matter.

Part 1: Bricolage: Assemblage and Collage

In the case of Dadaist artists and poets, the protagonists were a mere handful of people committed to the same umbrella purpose of protesting against the mass carnage of the first world war – by exposing society’s moral decay as a form of political radicalism. Dada was essentially a movement that was anti-art, as it attempted to reduce the process of creating art to the primacy of spontaneous activity or stream of consciousness thought in order to mock or ridicule as an assault on established conventions in society.

Instead of just deploring the war, the Dadaists took an ideological stand. Theirs was an assault on the complacency of their audience, an introduction of chaos into a life in which mass slaughter was being carefully undertaken by warring nations. The movement was founded in 1916 in Zurich, a neutral city in the middle of a war-torn Europe, by a group of exiles from countries on both sides of the conflict. Some were draft dodgers; most were pacifists; all found refuge on Swiss soil and were outraged by the slaughter-taking place on all sides. The centerpiece for all this artistic activity was called the Cabaret Voltaire, which was founded by Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings.

Dadameise

Some two months later, under circumstances about which the participants themselves have never agreed, the name “Dada” was chosen for the movement, which was growing out of the cabaret’s activities. The most popular version of the story is that the word was picked at random by Richard Huelsenbeck from a French-German dictionary after sticking a knife into it[1]. This assault on logic by Huelsenbeck was to typify the chaotic process in which the artists used to create their work. As Tristan Tzara had revealed, the word ‘Dada’ has various meanings across a number of different languages; it’s most common usage derived from French, which is a child’s name for a hobbyhorse.

It would be hard for us to find much that was overtly political in the early Dada performances and publications, but from the beginning the movement dedicated itself to attacking the bourgeois cultural values of the time, which its members believed had led to the world war. The tools for this attack, radical at the time, are familiar to us all as the most basic concepts of the modern arts, which are: chance, collage, abstraction, audience confrontation, eclectic typography, sound and visual poetry and simultaneity. This was attempted through experimenting with automatism, modern technology, anarchism, oriental philosophy, Freudian psychoanalysis, Jungian psychoanalysis, eroticism, Marxist dialectics, (investigations into truths of philosophy by systematic reasoning) as well as many other approaches. Essentially Tristan Tzara’s ambitions were nihilistic in nature, as they involved the abolition of all traditions. Some would argue that he was utopian in his beliefs, as he may have thought that all of these efforts ‘may wipe the slate’ clean so to speak, as a form of political liberation.

Continue reading Bricolage and the Open Toolbox of Culture

Common Ground: exploring domestic ritual in Kenya

It’s like this – I’m going to Kenya!! And I’m super excited!!

I made this super awesome Pitch Video (see above) to go along with my crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.

This project will be my third that delves into family interactions. The first body of work that I made, You are a Perpetual Tourist, looks at everyday gesture between children and their parents, or adult relatives (and sometimes between brothers and sisters). The second project is still in process and has the current title Potential Spaces. Here is a video still:

I started Potential Spaces with my partner Matías Muñoz R., Chilean filmmaker and producer, during a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. We documented two bicultural couples over the period of two months during their times of leisure.

Now I’m going to Kenya in February to start Common Ground, where I will document rural Kenyan families doing their daily routines.

Thanks to everyone who has made each and everyone of these projects possible and PLEASE continue to spread the word!

twitter: @nicrademacher

facebook: Nicole Rademacher

indiegogo: Common Ground

More Trickyness: Freerange 3.2

Released today is the 2nd (and final) of our Tasters for Freerange 3: The Trickster!  Hoorah. More Trickyness! More Tricksterishness!

It contains two fantastic new articles, the first  titled “Hit me with your knitting sticks” is by Melbourne based musician, teacher, and writer Claire Hollingsworth, and the second is by Freerange repeat offender Rozzy Middleton called “Being Emil McAvoy: The Artist and Trickster”.

Download it: FR3.2

(Keeping the Free in Freerange.)

The full online and print versions FR3: The Trickster will be out end of November.

We promise.  (There are rumors of a proper launch party this time too.)


Photo of work by Emil McAvoy called Being John Minto

Please see his website for more details, or read FR3.2 for a profile of his work.