ICA The Mall SW1 Daily 12 to 7pm Mon Fri £1.50
A show worth seeing!!!
If you ask
me for my opinion... I believe that art should be used to 'save the world'
or at least to induce change and attempt to improve the quality of life
in social situations. We all have dreams... but I am very pleased to know
that there are other artists who are already on this track: Aleksandra
Mir, Jens Haaning, and Matthieu Laurette; the three colaborative artists
who make up the show Publicness, at the Institute of Contemporary Art.
In this time, with the possibility of World War III, the governments of
all countries will try to persuade its people to fight against 'the other',
or 'the enemy'. How can we choose sides in a battle in which the truth
of the problem is hidden from public knowledge? What are we fighting for?
Once we, as individuals, realise the grave danger we have been pushed
into, we must decide for ourselves how we can stop and recreate the goals
and ideals of our fellow human beings. Art is more powerful than people
realise, and it would be a waste not to use it for the benefit of human
kind. Publicness, is the best use of Art as a tool for social change that
I have seen throughout all of this 'get Iraq' business. If you are against
the war, see this show. If you are for the war, see this show.
Jens Haaning, Matthieu Laurette, and Aleksandra Mir have received much
critical acclaim for their works, which both question and explore different
legal, economic, social and cultural systems. All three artists work with
and interrogate the notion of the public realm. Collectively, they operate
between Europe, Asia, Australia, and North and South America. Although
the majority of their works are not conceived primarily for gallery display,
at the ICA, Publicness gave the artists a chance to explore the question
of how diverse public projects can be presented within a gallery context,
whilst maintaining the significance and meaning of the work.
Many of these projects position the viewer in direct contact with processes
that exist beyond the museum or gallery. For example, Matthieu Laurette
asked Harald Szeeman for La Biennale di Venezia 2001, to write letters
to the Ambassadors/ Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in
New York of the 112 countries that were not officially represented in
the Venice Biennale that year. In these letters Szeeman asked each country
if they could provide Laurette with a citizenship if, in return, he represented
them in the Biennale. Out of 112 letters there were only 3 replies and
Laurette is still only a French citizen. Reaction from the audiences at
the Biennale were varied, according to Laurette, "..some felt offended
that I wrote also to Afghanistan or some dictatorial countries asking
for their citizenship, others wrote that Szeeman and I were neo-colonialists,
some described me as a very hardcore political and conceptual artist,
others didn't notice the work, others thought it was 'institutional critique'...This
is all probably true in many ways, but from my point of view it was also
a way to question my (and our) relationship to such art events where provenance
tags are attached to artists."
Aleksandra Mir exhibits First Woman on the Moon (1999), a video documentation
of a one-day event that took place in Holland to coincide with the 30th
anniversary of the original moon landing. Mir explains, " I don't
believe you can force anyone to anything in art. I try to create open
systems that allow people to interact with the work at any level. Some
will ignore it; some will contemplate it; some will take it further while
someone else will destroy it." She was a Media and Communications
major in college before she began to make art. She is an artist who sees
the potential benefits of the Media for the promotion of Art. The hype
was so great for First Woman on the Moon, that help with the project was
not a problem. There was access to a Hasselblad, and she managed to get
the camera producer that NASA employed, for the purpose of documentation.
"On the actual day, I welcomed three TV news stations with their
teams covering the event for the purpose of global dissemination. It was
interesting, because the live appearance of the teams on site, the stereotypical
performance of 'the media', and their impressive equiptment, added to
the event and gave it further importance.-- People got really excited
because 'TV was there' and everyone was suddenly photographing one another,
insisting on the event's historical importance."
Amongst other projects, Jens Haaning shows Ma'lesh (who cares) (2002),
a giant illuminated sign, along with photographs depicting refugees living
in Copenhagen produced in the style of a commercial fashion shoot. Ma'lesh,
which in Arabic means Who Cares, is a huge white banner with big black
letters. It was originally made to hang on the side of a council building,
creating a bold but also subtle question, but then cancelled at the last
minute by the authorities. He also presents Foreigners Free at the box
office, allowing free entry for anyone who isn't British. In talking about
the humour in his works, Haaning explains: "In my use of humour I
often have Sigmund Freud in mind, who calls humour the small psychoanalysis.
His theory was that humour is able to do the same thing as psychoanalysis
but on a smaller scale. In some of my works I am stepping quite close
to some loaded topics in Western society and the use of humour is motivated
by an ambition to establish a moment of analysis or 'therapy' related
to the topic, which I hope creates a subtle and complex situation for
If you have a sense of humour and an understanding of conceptual art,
it is definetly worth seeing this show. To see commissioned projects alongside
existing works that explore travel, migration, consumerism, marketing
strategies, art production systems and mass-media culture. The title Publicness
may sound slightly odd, out of place, or possibly foreign. However, the
word also promises a sense of generosity, a desire to give something to
the public and to share certain ideals. Do you share these ideals?
by Grace Giardina