As much as I may try to deny it and attempt to watch Wimbledon instead, there is no getting away from the fact that the FIFA World Cup is the world’s most widely viewed sporting event. With viewing figures for the group stages surpassing the 3.2 billion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup according to FIFA, it is unsurprising that there has been an outpouring of art inspired by the event as, in the words of Blake Gopnik, “art needs an audience”. To save you having to wade through the veritable ocean of artistic exploits associated with the tournament, we’ve picked out a few of the highlights. So, in no particular order (after all the World Cup’s about the taking part not the winning) here they are:
Gustavo Berocan Veiga’s ‘Association Ball Cup’ Typeface
As a part of the ‘36 days of type’ project, Majorca based illustrator Gustavo Berocan Veiga has created a typeface inspired by the FIFA World Cup. The ‘Association Ball Cup’ typeface includes letters inspired by both participating countries (E for England, F for France) and concepts associated with football on a wider scale (H is, unfortunately, for Hooligan and K is for keepie-uppie). Veiga has combined wit, stylised vector graphics and bright colours to capture some of the childlike joy of the biggest sporting event on the planet.
The Brazil Team’s New Ride
The Brazilian identical twin artistic duo (what else) who work under the moniker of ‘Os Gemeos’, have given the Brazilian team’s Boeing 737 a subtle paint job. The plane, which is used to transport the players between sites and stadium, was covered in a plethora of vivid, golden-yellow portraits, intended to represent Brazil’s diverse culture. The intriguing mesh of playful and colourful faces are the result of a week’s hard labour from the pair and around 1200 cans of spray pain.
World Cup Pavilion at the Brazilian Embassy in Tokyo
The architects Shigeru Ban have created a pavilion at the Brazillian embassy in Tokyo, which will stand on the front patio of the building for the duration of the tournament. The use of recycled cardboard tubes, mimicking bamboo, and multicoloured footballs has created a space that is both functional as a site for various World Cup based arts events and is a fusion of the two cultures it represents.
‘Penalty’ by Mandy Barker
British photographer Mandy Barker has used World Cup fever to draw attention to a more serious cause: ‘Penalty’ is a collection of four photographs depicting 769 footballs which have been found on 41 beaches from across the world and collected by Barker’s followers on social media. Barker is hoping that the strangely poignant series will help raise awareness about the issue of marine pollution.
Red Hong Yi’s football portraits
Though undeniably fun and possessed of a unique technical ingenuity, perhaps ‘Red’ Hong Yi’s large-scale group portraits are a step too far in the crossover between art and the beautiful game? The Shang-Hai based artist’s giant portrait of three of the tournament’s biggest stars (Ronaldo, Neymar, and Messi) were created by swapping her paint brush for a football, deftly manipulating the paint dipped ball across the canvas to render the famous features. Although the final outcome is somewhat lacklustre as a formal portrait, the process shown in the video above is captivatingly impressive.
As violins soar, arching high across the rest of the orchestra, you know nothing but to expect that wide-eyes closed, story-stopping kiss; the one that graces the lips of every Disney Princess and her beloved prince, undoubtedly embodying all that we associate with a Disney Princess movie. The tableaux image epitomizes values of true love, success, and ultimately that ‘Happily Ever After’ both perpetuated by Disney and shattered by the reality of life. With a single animated character laden with the burden of so many values, it is easy to see why artists, and even Disney itself, has begun to reassess and challenge the role of the fairytale princess.
Writing under the pseudonym ‘Saint Hoax’, the Middle-Eastern artist’s recent ‘Princest Diaries’ (June 2014) blog-post uses the comfortable picture of success and happiness associated with the Disney Princess, warped into warnings with statistics and shocking juxtaposition (http://www.sainthoax.com/princestdiaries.html). The artworks reveal Jasmine, Ariel and Sleeping Beauty each locked in a tight embrace with their fathers, open-eyed with eyebrows uncomfortably raised, and their princess lips pressed firm against those of older men. Visibly less attractive, it creates an incredibly unsettling image. The caption across all three reads ‘46% of minors who are raped are victims of family members. It’s never too late to report your attack’. Pushing art to the verge of propaganda and the concept of the Disney Princess, with her floaty dress and clouds of bliss, towards the state of extinction, the message stands loud and clear. Similarly his ‘Happily Never After’, underlined by the caption ‘When did he stop treating you like a princess? It’s never too late to put an end to it’, explores domestic violence with reference to the same group of princesses. The effect is unnerving and extreme, particularly for viewers familiar with the characters.
This isn’t the first time that artists have adapted the stereotype to make a point. Artist Sashii-Kami (July 2012) depicts the princesses as catwalk models of high-fashion, elongating their already caricatured figures and adapting their signature garments for the runway. Similarly, Dante Tyler relocates their familiar faces to the front of Vogue (February 2012), further flexing the lines, pushing out breasts and enhancing waists, caking on make-up; this time lowering the necklines and pulling up the hems. These perceptions of modern beauty, as imposed on the representations of happiness and fulfillment, illustrate the futility of these characters and what they represent. This extension of the idyllic Disney feature, to match expectation of society and reality today, draws a parallel with Hoax’s work, encouraging the viewer to recreate the familiar in a challenging, unexpected and thought-provoking way. The flexibility of these characters prove that they are more than just a parts in a play, but also a concept to be played around with themselves.
Awareness concerning the impact of these characters has, in recent years, clearly extended beyond public perception to the individual thoughts of the filmmakers themselves. Brave (2012) explores Merida, a frizzy-haired, red-headed princess who single handedly defies both wider societal expectations of beauty and of her personal racial heritage. Similarly Frozen (2013) explores the love between two sisters, rather than the sought-after romantic love of a prince. The song “Let It Go” tracks the changes in discovering ones sexuality for oneself. This clear acknowledgement from Disney regarding the problems surrounding ‘The Princess’ character-type prove that perhaps this is one concept which thrives on its being challenged. Perhaps this set of values we so adamantly wish to associate with our childhood memories are not as crystal cut as we may think.
The provocative work of Saint Hoax therefore extends beyond just the screen or print, but into our thoughts and understandings of the concepts enforced on us from such a young age through the medium of the kid friendly movie. The uncomfortable reaction we experience upon viewing such a work is clearly a comment on both the power and influence on an international phenomenon such as that of the Disney Princess, as well as on the limits of our perception in approaching what we believe we know and love.
Slow Art Day annually challenges people to observe works of art more slowly, asking participants to spend ten minutes with each selected image, sculpture or installation. Galleries across the globe took part this year, from the prestigious Galleria Degli Uffizi in Florence to the more modern BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. All 238 locations selected works and hosted lunches for participants to discuss what they’d seen.
I gave the ten minute challenge a go, and found that after overcoming the bizarre inertia that wanted to push me forwards it was really worthwhile.
When it comes to moving images, TV cameras cut on average every seven seconds, to hold out attention and tell us where to look. We don’t even have the patience for video clips anymore. We’ve become pros at scrolling through news feeds, flicking through channels and Snapchatting. All of which have combined to create an ability, that is both a blessing and a curse, as whilst we can take in visual stimuli at record speeds, we also often struggle to slow down.
There have been a number of studies which have asked how long we spend looking at works in galleries, all of which have come up with slightly different answers. One study concluded that we look at paintings and photographs for an average of 17 seconds, another decided on 12, which broke down to two seconds looking at the piece, ten reading the wall text and then a final cursory glance. Apparently, people spend an average of 15 seconds looking at the Mona Lisa. The most optimistic survey comes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the visitors look at each work for 32.5 seconds.
As much as I’m sure there’s a lot of benefits to spending hours with one painting, we don’t all have the time, or the inclination, to do so. But, in my opinion, we should find the time to spend a little longer looking. Works in galleries aren’t Snapchats; they don’t have a 10 second expiration date. They’re not like TV shows either; no one else is going to tell you what to look at. Those differences are what’s great about art galleries. You can sweep past as much as you want, but you can also stop and spend as long as you want just looking. So, with that in mind, I think I better go and start practising for next year’s Slow Art Day.
Lady Garden is a three-woman art exhibition staged in the unconventional setting of Kiss Bar on Park End Street. Against the backdrop of a nightclub (functioning bar included) Ruskin School of Art students Angeli Bhose, Ruth Spencer Jolly and Lu Williams present sculpture, film, sound art, digital collage, drawing and photography.
With tongue firmly in cheek, the work featuring in the show will raise questions about how we view our bodies and ourselves and how our experience of culture dictates our behavior.
Through performance Angeli focuses on the process of our absorption and perpetuation of external influences with minimal processing time as we try to stay afloat in the chaotic sea of information and images. Ruth works predominantly in film and presents two semi-autobiographical works in this exhibition, focusing on the theme of self-improvement. Lu’s sculptures react to the theory of self-socialisation — our instinctive ability to direct our social development by selecting certain influences within our environment to focus upon and imitate, whilst ignoring others. These sculptures are accompanied by collage, prints and a zine commenting upon societal attitudes towards the concept of feminism.
The exhibition contributes to an ongoing debate, recently enflamed by the recent visit to Britain by the UN special rapporteur Rashida Manjoo who expressed concern about the media’s portrayal of women in the UK. It’s a discussion that will continue to roll; Tuesday of 1st week (April 29th) is your opportunity to drop in, have a drink, experience the art and join the debate.
In the 1960s, there was a schoolboy who was a bit peculiar. He was no good at football. The other schoolboys didn’t really get him. He spent a lot of time with his grandmother, a tarot card reader, who said he was going to be beautiful and have a good life. Together they watched 1940s films, and he became fascinated by the costume design on screen: the couture, and all that came with it, wondrous fabrics, exotic feathers and sexy fishnets. Jean Paul Gaultier took what had inspired him at home, and reproduced these images in class. The teacher slapped him on the wrist, safety pinned the sketch to his back, and told him to face the wall. She intended to humiliate him, but the boys now understood Gaultier, and wanted more sketches. Gaultier opened his exhibition in London with this anecdote and in a way, it beautifully captures all you’re about to see.
“The purpose of exhibition is to pay tribute to Jean Paul Gaultier’s humanism” said Nathalie Bondil, director and chief curator of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts who, to my relief gave a charming but brief introduction to the exhibition. That humanism took shape in an iconoclastic approach to fashion and a liberal celebration of beauty.
The exhibition displays not just the fashion, but the musings and principles which underpin all of Gaultier’s work. He doesn’t like his models to be robots. He doesn’t care much for conventional beauty; that is to say the slim, ethereal, classic figures that characterized the fashion world during his apprenticeship in the 70s. His models are fat, old, transgender, mixed race and tattooed. In so many words they are diverse, a fact that reflects his original interpretation of beauty. The spectacular photography on display, small and large images, exemplifies his enduring commitment to that belief, and just the right amount was included, which enables you to give each piece its due appreciation without being overcome with material.
“In Paris, fashion has to be serious”, said Gaultier, “but in London people can be fun’. After a few paces around the exhibition it becomes obvious that Gaultier may, according to his own definition, be in fact more than 1/8 English — something he told us with pride. The talking models scattered around the exhibition in provocative poses removed all doubts as to whether or not he was a designer who challenges convention and enjoys poking fun at the establishment.
By the end of the exhibition, the headline “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” made perfect sense. Gaultier drew inspiration from the sidewalk. Whether it was walking past David Bowie on the Kings Road in 1974 or, wandering around Portobello. He elaborated that “it is more interesting and inspiring to look at people who are not in fashion as they aren’t observing a code”. He transferred these ideas and the people that embodied them to the catwalk. It was his world meeting another world, a distinction, which today can no longer be drawn. He fulfilled his grandmother’s prophecy, and went a bit further, making others beautiful and leads a life good for himself, and even better for society. So to borrow his own words: “Enjoy it, and have a good moment”.
Walking into “Bang Said the Gun”, “the poetry event for people who don’t like poetry”, you will uncover an atmosphere of raucous revelry unique in the world of spoken word. Music blasts, the crowd wave their shakers (or, milk bottles filled with rice) and the hosts weave through the room, chanting and ramping up the merry-making. The night has experienced a surge in popularity of late, aided by the success of its own Rob Auton at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, at which he won Dave’s funniest joke award. From the off, the night storms along under the guidance of Jack Rooke, a slightly chaotic and irresistibly energised compère. Co-founder Martin Galton is the first to be introduced, and he launches into “Rude Bastards”, a familiar crowd-pleaser that soon has the audience bellowing back at him.
Then comes Rob Auton, a man who increasingly resembles a character from a Tim Burton animation, and whose look of wide-eyed naivety and wonder is in perfect accordance with his whimsical, absurd humour. His new “Face Show” appreciates the often overlooked charm of faces great and small, and he creates a moment of tenderness amongst the audience as he encourages us to search for a face we have never before seen. There is something in his poetry of a child’s ability to create poignancy by observing the everyday with new eyes.
The main attraction of the night is the appearance of Howard Marks, notorious drug baron turned writer, who opens by lecturing the crowd on “the anarchy of the English Language” and why money is literally a replacement for shit – accompanied with a lengthy exposition of Freudian psychology. His declarations espouse liberation from materialism and desire to live every moment, but regrettably this energy is not matched by vast passages of his prose, which sound as if they were being read from a textbook. But the moment he moves away from didacticism into a whimsical nonsense poem his writing shines. Each listener is gleefully caught up in his vivid, hallucinatory vision of a universe formed by the “Big Bong”, which culminates in Sad Adam and Christmas Eve getting rat-arsed on reindeer piss.
Yet it is not all fun and games, and James Bunting and Maria Ferguson draw us back to the recognition of poetry as an art with an unparalleled ability to expose the most vulnerable and oft disguised realms of our psyche. They provide the emotional core of the night, both reluctantly admitting that they “can’t do funny” before launching into their fast-paced, witty and ultimately solemn poems. Bunting reminds you how it feels to be in love as well as the acute pain of loss, while Ferguson mixes tales of halcyon, hedonistic days with moments of depression that form a microscopically detailed human tragedy.
The night concludes with the “Raw Meat Stew”, an open mic competition of unerringly high standards, with the winner claiming the Golden Gun Award and a 10 –minute slot at next week’s show. And don’t forget to stick around – in the downstairs bar the night is young for poet and punter alike.
Bang Said the Gun is at the Roebuck, 50 Great Dover Street SE1, every Thursday at 8pm. Tickets on the door £7/£5 concessions.
Eva Kotatkova’s ‘The Storyteller Inadequacy’ may have stolen the show this winter at Modern Art Oxford, but the quiet and colourful Piper Gallery houses one of the most important shows that the gallery has seen in recent years. “Charting the complete graphic design history of the gallery, this exhibition is a photographic trompe l’oeil of around 400 unique posters from the Modern Art Oxford archive,” reads the description.
Modern Art Oxford has been a prominent space both in Oxford and in the national art scene since it was founded in 1965. Notice! is a record of the hundreds of experimental and extremely influential exhibitions that have taken place at Pembroke Street and earlier at the Bear Lane Gallery. Making use of the 500 rare and original posters in its archives, the exhibit tracks changes in exhibition – making over the last 50 years charting progress in layout, branding, political undertones and graphic design.
To create the piece, the posters (all originals taken from the archives) were fixed to the walls of the Piper Gallery and photographed in order to create a floor- to-ceiling representation of the posters in their actuality. The historicity of these posters is brought to light and made very real, as some posters are exhibited with their slight creases or with their corners captured rolling upwards as they slowly unfurl from the wall, leaving small squares of Blu-Tack visible behind.
The effect is a very honest and vast floor- to-ceiling display, capturing the essential vibrancy of these pieces of ‘art-marketing.’ On first glance the chronological ordering of the room is vaguely apparent. Most obviously, the recent posters of the noughties are much more regimented in size and framing, in comparison to the earliest pieces, being more heavily and consistently branded. Conversely, the mainly artist-created posters of the 60s vary in size, layout, and information given. The handmade quality of these early pieces is extraordinary, yet in some cases the details of the exhibition are not provided, granting a spontaneous, abstract vibe.
The movement from the ‘60s and ‘70s posters towards the corporate branding of the ‘80s is clear as the museum logo makes an appearance and the use of technology and graphic design become more apparent. The ‘90s see further technological advances and the ‘branding’ extends from the museum to a more clearly brand-focussed ‘artist’ also.
The artist is still at the foreground of the poster but in a very different way.Their artwork is still displayed but the focus shifts more towards the advertisement and marketing of the artist alongside that of the museum- dual layers of marketing and branding within one piece.
Political undertones are evident within the posters. A series of four posters from the ‘80s are presented. They are particularly text heavy and encompass the style of pieces of propaganda as the content of these range from Russian politics to World War Two. These were thepiecesthatweremostfascinating. Great names of British and worldwide art were evident- Tracey Emin’s ‘This is Another Place’ and Robert Doisneau’s exhibitions wowed me, and seeing names from Pasternak to Noel Forster, Gillian Ayres and Jenny Saville hugging the walls was quite astounding.
Most interesting however was viewing these names presented alongside the above propaganda-style pieces, one of which stated: “Whilst the world listened to HIFI from Japan, a museum tuned into art.” Also prominent were two posters for 1988 exhibitions of photography from the height of the AIDS crisis.
This celebration of art history and the history of Modern Art Oxford is displayed in an unimaginable way – one which has local pull and importance and which allows these pieces to speak honestly. The posters are grouped simply as pieces from an extensive and dusty archive, but the stories that they tell span tragedy, greatness and an international art history.
Notice! Is at Modern Art Oxford until the 2nd of February 2014.
As we move tentatively further into 2014, those unsure as to what the new year will have in store would do well to get themselves down to the V&A, where new year’s is being heralded in with two remarkable, contemporary exhibitions, Jameel Prize 3 and Elmgreen & Dragset’s Tomorrow.
On the surface there is little to connect these two shows. The Jameel Prize exposition celebrates the work of modern-day artists inspired by traditional Islamic arts and crafts. Tomorrow is a walk-through piece, pondering the futility of wealth, and the excess and nausea of western living, from the team that produced Death of a Collector. What links these very different exhibitions is their sheer modernity – these are glimpses of the here-and-now, snapshots of the world as it enters its “two thousandth and fourteenth year”.
As for what those snapshots show us, Tomorrow conjures up a bleak state of affairs. The experience is, in fact, less a glimpse than extended voyeurism, as we are invited to pore over the house and possessions of the fictional architect Norman Swann, on the brink of selling up the grand family home he can no longer maintain. Elmgreen & Dragset calculate their details perfectly, from the medicine tablets on the slick mahogany dressing table, to the drip that has found its way through the elaborate plastered ceilings, the Dominos boxes that clutter the corner of the pristine stainless steel kitchen – and the sad little union jack, nesting limply beside a news cutting on riots in Cameron’s Britain. The piece precisely skewers so many of the realities of modern western living: the co-existence of beauty and craftsmanship with cheap, mass consumption, the inability of wealth to protect from the frailty of ageing, the fear of a world where power is changing.
Norman could be a one-man metaphor for Europe, living amidst an inherited and unsustainable wealth, and while we might goggle at the so many unnecessary luxuries – (my favourite was a five foot wide oil portrait of a spaniel) – it is impossible not to feel for Norman as he is made to yield them. Walking through the house, it is as if we are prospective buyers, forcing the old man out with our very tread, or tourist spectators (as, indeed, in a way we are) gawping for our passing amusement at what was once a way of life. There is also the added sense of the morbid fascination with which we pick over disaster stories and tales of the downfall of the rich. Whatever its title, Tomorrow is a complex and disconcerting view of living today.
Jameel Prize 3, featuring works from ten different artists, is more varied in outlook, but its contemporary thrust is the same. Many of the pieces consider the rapid changes of a globalised world, such as Faig Ahmed’s traditional carpet designs with their intricate, ordered patterns collapsing in one corner, and Mounir Fatmi’s dizzying video installation, all movement and chaos. Laurent Mareschal’s drawings made from spices share and evoke the transient nature of the burgeoning street art scene; while Pascal Zoghbi’s experiments with Arabic typography, refashioning it into both poppy, commercial fonts, and sloganish spray-paint ones, seem to nod to the dual pressures of capitalism and the more socialist ideals of the Arab Spring, which are now vying in the Middle East. Change is the defining ethos of the show, and – for these artists certainly – the defining spirit of our times.
The Arab world in vertiginous change, Europe in slow defeat – two visions of the world in 2014. It is well worth making the trip to the V&A to see them, uncomfortable viewing as they may sometimes be.
PHOTO/Victoria & Albert Museum