Tomorrow: SLUM @ Ficken3000, Berlin

by Travis Jeppesen on August 5, 2009

The creators of PORK are pleased to announce the creation of an exciting new nightlife concept for Berlin. Beginning on August 6th, every Thursday night, Ficken3000 will be transformed into SLUM.

SLUM aims to unite all of Berlin’s disparate artistic, sexual, and nocturnal subcultures under a single roof. In the tradition of Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire, New York’s Jackie 60, and LA’s Club Sucker, SLUM will serve as both a party and a venue for cutting-edge performers and artists looking to transcend boundaries.

Each Thursday, artists will transform Ficken3000’s cavernous darkroom into a performance lounge, where artists, writers, and musicians from Berlin and abroad will present one-off projects responding to the unique properties of the space. On the video monitors, we will show video art and experimental film. Upstairs on the main dance floor, a revolving cast of resident guest DJs will spin rock, electro, noise, and avant-garde weirdness.

Our first month’s resident DJ will be Dustcake. For the premiere tomorrow night, there will be performances by Gaby Bila-Gunther, Luigi of Luigi y Luca, Master Patrick, and Tennessee Claflin.

SLUM is curated by performance artist Tennessee Claflin and writer Travis Jeppesen.

Dicklung & Others

by Travis Jeppesen on August 3, 2009

My new collection of poetry, Dicklung & Others, is now available for pre-order from BLATT Books.

The cover painting is Basan, the Fire-Breathing Chicken by Jeremiah Palecek, who also did the images for my last collection, Poems I Wrote While Watching TV, which you can also order from BLATT.

Bob Tooke @ Galerie Crystal Ball

by Travis Jeppesen on August 1, 2009

My review of Bob Tooke’s exhibition at Galerie Crystal Ball is now online at Artforum.

Stéphane Pencréac’h @ FRISCH

by Travis Jeppesen on July 28, 2009

My review of Pencréac’h’s current Berlin exhibition is now online at Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art.

E.M.C. Collard @ STYX Project Space

by Travis Jeppesen on July 16, 2009

My review of E.M.C. Collard’s current exhibition at STYX Project Space is now online at Artforum.

Alexandra Ranner @ Loock Galerie, Berlin

by Travis Jeppesen on July 10, 2009

Alexandra Ranner is showing a series of photos of lonely, desolate rooms. Rooms that almost appear as though they were never intended for human inhabitance. Or, that they have been abandoned and sealed away, their forsaken state having yet to be discovered by the outside world. This outside world is referenced via hints of light, natural and artificial, as well as by glimpses afforded by the occasional window. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear why the rooms in the photos seem so artificial. They are spaces designed by the artist, perhaps close-ups of miniature architectural models.

You can read the rest of my review at Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art.

Gilbert & George @ Artforum.com

by Travis Jeppesen on July 5, 2009

My review of Gilbert & George’s current Berlin exhibition is now online.

WHITE TRASH DUMMIES

by Travis Jeppesen on July 3, 2009

On a recent trip to Paris, I was lucky enough to catch an exhibition of Duane Hanson, whose work I’ve long admired in reproduction but seldom seen in actuality. The sculptures most people and I know best stem from the latter half of his career, when he took to creating lifelike reproductions of mostly white trash. People that most people consider to be white trash. I don’t use that term in a derogatory sense; these are the people you will likely be surrounded by your whole life in America, unless you come from a place like New York or Los Angeles or are incredibly wealthy and choose to live isolated among other incredibly wealthy people. I don’t know that I buy the argument that Hanson’s work comes out of social realism. That would imply that whatever social commentary you can wrench out of his work is more important than other factors, such as the mood evoked by the sculptures. That a profound melancholy haunts all of these sculptures dispels that notion. I would go so far as to say that Hanson is more of a melancholist than a social realist. At the same time, it is difficult to tell whether he has any real compassion for his subjects or not. He chose to live in south Florida for the vast majority of his life. I’m also from south Florida, and while I didn’t grow up there, I spent enough time there as a child and adolescent to recognize that it’s one of the trashiest regions of the United States. I think there are many ways you can interpret Hanson’s attitude towards his subjects – and the most popular of them are condescending. You can say he has great empathy for the subjects he depicts, which implies that he feels sorry for them, or you can say he depicts them in a very brutal manner, meaning he is making fun of them. This points to a problem of interpretation within the context of the art world, though – not within Hanson’s work.

Duane Hanson – “Illusions Perdues”

Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin

Paris

Through July 11th, 2009

8th Baltic Contemporary Art Biennial – Szczecin, Poland

by Travis Jeppesen on June 6, 2009

Armando Lulaj, Time Out of Joint

Armando Lulaj, Time Out of Joint

Szczecin is among the most depressing cities I’ve visited in Poland. I won’t say it’s my least favorite – that distinction would have to go to Zakopane, that overcrowded resort haven in the Tatra Mountains near the Slovak border, teeming with Russian ski tourists, bad food, and tacky souvenir shops. Szczecin is its own unique case – battered by time, it wears its scars with an indifference marked by uncertainty. It was used as a port for Berlin during the Second World War and was heavily bombed. Reconstruction continues to this day, and one can hardly call the process a success story. Scattered renewal jobs on buildings from an array of historical styles have been attempted, only to be interrupted by one communist eyesore after another, the biggest one of which is undoubtedly the main avenue running through the center of town – little more than a six-lane highway lined mostly with shops selling crap you wouldn’t want to look at, let alone buy. If Krakow is heaven and Zakopane is hell, Szczecin is truly purgatorial – you might not get killed there, but you’re not going to have the time of your life, either.

Just as the city seems to be struggling to evolve a coherent identity, so a sense of displacement haunts the latest Baltic Contemporary Art Biennial. A struggle to not forget while surviving. In this sense, Adrian Paci’s short film Turn On captures the mood perfectly. Shot in the artist’s native Albania, the film consists of a series of close-ups of the faces of a group of middle-aged men who seem tired and weathered by waiting. The film then moves to a distant shot, allowing us to see that the men are seated on the steps of a worn, abandoned building. Each holds a lightbulb attached to a power generator. It is a simple, but powerful metaphor of waiting to catch up to the speed of the rest of the world, yet feeling the threat of being left behind forever. It gives us an acute sense of time’s cruelty.

Joanna Rajkowska, Camping Jenin

The chosen artists’ concerns are largely political – hence, the documentary mode is quite heavy. Joanna Rajkowska’s Camping Jenin documents a theater workshop for young men in a Jenin refugee camp on Jordan’s west bank. All of the men had their childhoods shattered somehow by violence, having witnessed their families and close friends get killed; most of them struggle from post-traumatic stress syndrome. The workshop thus becomes a therapeutic way for them to re-build their lives while addressing the source of their pain. The most fascinating documentary work, however, can be found in Kalle Hamm and Dzamil Kamanger’s excavationary approach to Afaryan, which poignantly explores an abandoned Kurd village in Iran through the memories of its former inhabitants.

The work is not all so heavy and literal. Johan Muyle’s motorized sculptures, which look like they were concocted with materials found at a flea market, are fun and random and deranged, while Armando Lulaj’s Kafka-esque Time Out of Joint shows us what happens when a large block of ice mysteriously appears in the middle of a rubbish dump outside of Tirana.

The Baltic Biennial is actually much smaller than its name implies – and this is its strong point. It designates a path that is quite manageable, and allows the casual visitor to devote much more time to individual works than at most biennials. In this, curators Magdalena Lewoc and Marlena Chybowska-Butler have done an adequate job of condensing the biennial to fit the scale and feel of Szczecin itself – a place way off the beaten path that has nevertheless been severely beaten.

Adrian Paci, Turn On

The Baltic Biennial of Contemporary Art runs through July 12, 2009.

PREVIEW: The 53rd Venice Biennale

by Travis Jeppesen on June 4, 2009

The major challenge faced by anyone asked to curate a biennial today – and this is especially true in the case of Venice, the biggest baby of them all – is that the task is simply an impossible one. No matter how all-encompassing one’s concept is, a slew of detractors will always be on hand to point out the gaps and inconsistencies. While there may be ways of getting around this in lesser biennials – focusing on the local, for instance, or splitting the main exhibition up into smaller curatorial projects – Venice, by its very girth, poses its own unique problems. The bottom line is that Venice is meant to be an index of all current trends in art – an impossible feat in itself; the trick is configuring a way to at least partly meet this task, while simultaneously designating some sort of conceptual approach to the problem that won’t falter beneath the mass of work to be displayed.

[Read the rest of my Venice Biennale preview piece at Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art.]

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