The Fall Of The Rebel Angels: A satellite exhibition that represents a beautiful story of war in the heavens. Image: The Singularity By Tom Estes at The Fall Of The Rebel Angels, courtesy of the artist
“Or maybe it's just that beautiful things are so easily broken by the world.” ― Cassandra Clare, City of Fallen Angels
Exhibitions are always a challenge. However, if one chose to curate an exhibition, Venice would certainly be a near perfect destination. Venice is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. The Venice Biennale is a high date in the arts calendar and equally one not to be missed. This year is also a very special 120th anniversary for the Biennale.
The Fall Of the Rebel Angels is an artist led satellite exhibition which opens in a historic Venetian palazzo, conveniently situated between Arsenale and Giardini, at the 56th Venice Biennale.
The title represents a beautiful story of war in the heavens, the battle of good and bad, with fallen angels, rebel angels, superfreaks and demons. This most magnificent and powerful yet disquieting story was visualised magnificently by both Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel among many others. Painted in 1562, Bruegel's depiction of this subject is taken from a passage from the Book of Revelation (12, 2-9) and reveals the artist's profound debt to Hieronymous Bosch, especially in the grotesque figures of the fallen angels, shown as half-human, half-animal monsters.
Bruegel presents these devils as a domestic nuisance, an infestation. The "war in heaven" is a hygiene operation. The task of St Michael, the skinny golden knight, and his fellow loyal angels in white robes, is the kind of disgusting, necessary job that might confront any countryman or town dweller – getting rid of a plague of vermin, beating the things out, driving them away. Falling from grace, they have lost their angelic natures and turned into a menagerie of yucky, hybrid critters and beasties. Bizarre, absurd, unpleasant things, they seem neither powerfully dangerous nor deeply evil. They are essentially ridiculous. It is a most unromantic embodiment of sin. Who could be tempted by a devil half-made of seafood?
At first it seems unlikely but Milton's fallen angels have grandeur and dignity in their defiance. They have ranks and echelons. They have some sort of human form. Bruegel's fallen angels are an appalling shower.
"The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet, and of the Devil's party without knowing it." That was William Blake's view of Milton's Paradise Lost. Is the same true of Bruegel – a true artist, and on the Devil's side?
According to the press release the exhibition of The Fall Of The Rebel Angels (2015) does not explore, follow or define any particular topic or theme, neither does it enforce any standpoint or high minded idea. It is rather a plural narrative, and one solution, for a particular time and particular place. On this occasion it is centered on risk rather than comfort- home to a multiverse of disquieting thoughts and impressions.
The Fall Of The Rebel Angels includes, work by 111 emerging and established artists from many different backgrounds, at different ages and stages of their practice with different motivations in play who have all embarked courageously on this journey of unknowing. The existence of diverse and competing interests is the basis for a democratic equilibrium, and this instance is crucial for the obtaining of goals by individuals. Curator of The Rebel Angels exhibition, Vanya Baloge states:
"We are the only international artist led exhibition at Biennale this summer and for that reason only it is worth a pick. The only artist led exhibition curated by a transgressing alien featuring 112 magnificent rebel angels from Italy, Israel, USA, Croatia, Holland, Czech Republic, Germany, China, UK, Spain, India, Republic Of Ireland, France and Serbia. It will showcase works on the smaller scale in mediums of sculpture, video art, painting, print, photography and performance, all of it converging in the 4 rooms of the historic Venetian palazzo, situated short distance from Arsenale. It is important that artists initiatives of this type continue unabated and are preserved via the process of fast movement and exchange. This show is a different proposition in the context of Biennale, which is incessantly driven by capital and its manipulations.This exhibition points to a different direction. Maybe a utopian one."
In this case an attempt was made to create two situations. One temporary, impermanent which has ensued inside the palazzo and the other in print which would age and ferment over time. The exhibition is accompanied by 128 page limited edition catalogue featuring some visual exclusives collated for this special occasion. The printed matter is inspired by the 1968 Catalogue Of Biennale and gives a version and perspective of the now, of the present. This unique publication is designed, edited and produced in close collaboration with Rebel Angels and designed at Bath Spa University guided by Rupert Bassett and graduate graphic communication students.
However, Demonization is the rhetorical tactic/propaganda trick of Hatemongering by dehunanising an opponent or enemy, claiming that they are utterly evil and undeserving of moral regard. Demonization and Hatemongering is historically associated with the worst political movements, ones that enrich and empower the hatemongers while spreading poverty and misery, ones that sing of freedom while destroying tolerance and civil rights. Those who embrace the hate are putty in the hands of the artful, flattering hatemonger, believing what they're spoon-fed, regardless of evidence. Addicted to their hate, they reliably return for fix after fix, swelling the hatemongers' wealth and power.
It turns out hate does two very scary things to the human brain. Hate is powerfully, addictively "fun " and it shuts down reason. People in hate's grip accept or reject information based on whether the hate addiction is rewarded. Intellect plays no part. Those who do this are unaware of the difference. Hello, *Ditto*head.
Ideologies of hate popular during the Great Depression plunged the world into a nightmare of death, destruction and genocide. For forty years after World War II hate was marginalized in Mainstream America. Postwar conservative media was dramatically different from the hate-spewing Fox/Limbaugh variety. People of all political stripes and income tuned in to William F. Buckley's show, Firing Line, dictionaries in hand, for the pleasures of vigorous civilized debate between liberals and conservatives. However, a recent poll showing how high percentages of American Republicans cling to irrational beliefs is not surprising. It is the natural result of the rights' conscious choice over the last few decades to use dehumanizing hatred as its principal tool for recruiting and manipulating its followers.
The Nigerian, Okwui Enwezor, curator of this years Venice Biennale enttitled All the World's Futures sums it up nicely:
"The ruptures that surround and abound around every corner of the global landscape today recall the evanescent debris of previous catastrophes piled at the feet of the angel of history in Angelus Novus. How can the current disquiet of our time be properly grasped, made comprehensible, examined, and articulated? Over the course of the last two centuries the radical changes have made new and fascinating ideas subject matter for artists, writers, filmmakers, performers, composers, musicians. It is with this recognition that the 56th International Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia proposes All the World's Futures a project devoted to a fresh appraisal of the relationship of art and artists to the current state of things."
For the most primitive of contemporary American conservatives Demonization extends to claiming that their political targets are actual demons. What Baudelaire said of Goya is also true of Bruegel: "Goya's great merit consists of making the monstrous plausible. His monsters were born viable. Nobody has managed to surpass him for a sense of the possible absurd. All these contortions, these bestial faces, these diabolical grimaces are pierced with humanity." Bruegel's monsters, more monstrous than Goya's, have life burgeoning in them– yelling, writhing, growling, colliding. The struggle of wild, revolting devils against lean, dainty, tidying angels, is the kind confrontation Bruegel is often drawn to: fat vs thin, gluttons vs prudes. He's not quite of the Devil's party, but he can certainly feel with both sides.
If you are late to the party you cordially invited to the closing down event of THE FALL OF THE REBEL ANGELS @ Castello 1610/A starting at 6pm on Wednesday 24th June.
The Rebel Angels will host a series of performative events, outdoor projections and an angelic seminar / discussion featuring number of participating artists who will be present on the day and bring the show to close. The Rebel Angels will conclude the proceedings with a late after hours party VENICE WHICH IS ALSO A DISCO in a secret location.
The Fall Of The Rebel Angels Artists ~ Alice Herrick + Pascal Rousson + Laura Hynd Gordon Faulds + Dallas Seitz + Nerys Mathias John Plowman + Birgit Jensen + Mark Woods Franko B + Sian Kate-Mooney + Cedric Christie Agnetha Sjogren + Loukas Morley + Gavin Turk Hedley Roberts + Rebecca Scott + Vanya Balogh Danny Pockets + Lee Maelzer + Jola Spytkovska Tomaz Kramberger + Danielle Hodson + Jim Bond Gzillion Artist + Susana Sanroman + Rekha Sameer Glen Fitzy Fitzpatrick + Sonja Engelhardt + Max Sudhues Maria Jose Arceo + Emanuel Fanslau + Robert Barta Joanna McCormick + Tiziana Mandolesi + Dean Todd Sarah Sparkes + Richard Ducker + Paul Sakoilsky Jordane Yarden Gaudenzi + Jim Racine + Bella Land Sarah Doyle + Patrick Morrissey & Clive Hanz Hancock Valerie Driscoll + Garry Doherty + Maria Teresa Gavazzi Lili Ren + Ashley Scott Fitzgerald + Andie Macario Stephen Hall + Tom Estes + Jude Cowan Montague Slobodan Trajkovic + Elena Muti + Thomas Behling Ibby Doherty & Charlie Weathley + Toni Gallagher Rona Smith + Shuby + Maslen & Mehra + Steve Smith Inesa & Barrington De La Roche / Dark Theatre Lorenzo Belenguer + Roger Clarke + Liz Sheridan Marisa Polin + Hugo Von Hugo + Taline Temizian Michael Petry + Rebecca Feiner + Stefan Draschan Gonny Glass + Jonas Ransson + Darren Coffield Eva Raboso + MC + Ernesto Romano + Ray Gange Roberto Ekholm + Marie-Louise Jones + Spizz Energi Julia Maddison + William Angus-Hughes + Louise Gibson Tracey Moberly + Martin Sexton + Fiona Haines Vanja Karas + Sooz Belnavis + Thomas J Ridley Becca Quirk + Bob Lawson + Paulina Otlylie Surys DJ Roberts + Paul Gildea + Susan Schulman + Aly Helyer Alex Cepalovic + David Brian Smith + Michal Cole Paul Coombs + Negin Vaziri + Geraldine Swayne John Stephens + Francesco La Porta & Tommaso Bagnati Birgitta Hosea + Thomas Draschan + Alexis Harding India Roper- Evans + Anne Robinson + David Brock Samuel Brzeski
Kindly supported by Bath SPA & University Of East London
London E3 2NT,
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
International artist Tom Estes has been invited by curator Rebecca Feiner to act as Honorary Mayor of DEN-City1. Estes describes himself as a “Sci-fi inspired Carnival Sideshow Conceptualist, combining a bare-bones formal conceptualism with an eternally adolescent, DIY comic-prank approach”. Organised with Middlesex University, DEN-City1 is part of The London Festival of Architecture, a month long celebration of architectural experimentation, thinking and practice.
I’ m sure I’m like most of you when I say Saturday mornings as a child were made up of animated shorts of an imaginary futurescapes like the Jetsons. However imaginary cities need not simply exist in fiction or the mind. Each city dreamt up by artists, writers, architects and lunatics has a real-life equivalent.
An in-depth look at the metropolis of the imagination, as well as being a work of creative nonfiction is the book, Imaginary Cities. Inspired by the surreal accounts of the explorer and ‘man of a million lies’ Marco Polo, it charts the metropolis and the imagination, and the symbiosis therein.
The book roams through space, time and possibility, mapping cities of sound, melancholia and the afterlife, where time runs backwards or which float among the clouds. In doing so, Imaginary Cities seeks to move beyond the clichés of psychogeography and hauntology, to not simply revisit the urban past, or our relationship with it, but to invade and reinvent it.
Following in the lineage of Borges, Calvino, Chris Marker and Kenneth White, the book examines the city from global macrocosm to the microcosm of its inhabitants’ perspectives. It proceeds through opium dreams, sea voyages, the hallucinations of prisoners, nocturnal decadence, impossible Soviet skyscrapers, marauding golems, subterranean civilisations, apocalyptic prophecies and the work of architectural visionaries such as Antonio Sant’Elia, Archigram and Buckminster Fuller. It rethinks the ideas of utopias and dystopias, urban exploration, alienation and resistance. It claims that the Situationists lacked ambition when they suggested, “Beneath the paving stones, the beach.” Instead, beneath the paving stones, we may just be able to discern the entire universe.
Recently it has become fashionable to talk about the “urban commons”, and it’s clear why. What we traditionally conceive of as “the public” is in retreat: public services are at the mercy of austerity policies, public housing is being sold off and public space is increasingly no such thing. In a relentlessly neoliberal climate, the commons seems to offer an alternative to the battle between public and private. The idea of land or services that are commonly owned and managed speaks to a 21st-century sensibility of, to use some jargon, participative citizenship and peer-to-peer production.
In theory, at least, the commons is full of radical potential. Can commoning be scaled up to influence the workings of a metropolis – able to tackle questions of housing, energy use, food distribution and clean air? In other words, can the city be reimagined as commons, or is commoning the realm of tiny acts of autarchy and resistance?
The current popularity of the commons as an idea is partially driven by the internet and the fact that network tools make it so much more feasible for larger groups to self-organise. Open-source software, Wikipedia, the creative commons and social media make commoning possible while affirming the ethos of horizontal organisation. Darran Anderson, the author of Imaginary Cities says:
“While it’s amazing to have information that far surpasses the Library of Alexandria online—a dream that’s haunted writers for centuries— in terms of interacting, there’s nothing online that wasn’t foreseen and described by Aristophanes or Plato thousands of years ago. You talk to people who restore your faith in humanity and then seconds later you talk to foul-tempered, frothing pedants who insist that a building you posted made entirely out of clouds couldn’t possibly be built and demand you defend imaginary buildings you haven’t designed. The mediums change but the humans remain, for better and worse.”
England has a particular history of commoning that is still written into the fabric of London. Wimbledon, Clapham, Ealing – they all have commons, where our forebears once had the right to graze their livestock. But the enclosures of the 18th century transferred the majority of common land into private hands, turning it into a marketable resource and creating a landless working class. And the problem of the commons today is that we still tend to think of it as a common resource, whether it be oceans and rivers or fish stocks.
Imaginary Cities demonstrates that each city dreamt up by artists, writers, architects and lunatics has a real-life equivalent and that the great Marco Polo was no liar. Imaginary Cities need not simply exist in fiction or the mind. DEN-City1 is a temporary city opening at the end of june in London. Curator of DEN-City1 Rebecca Feiner says: “The name is inspired by the overcrowded and precarious conditions many Londoners now live in… how space to be creative in has become increasingly scarce. “It also reflects the nomadic existence forced on people in the rent sector… and in Hackney Wick’s case how artists are being driven out by the ferocious profit-driven appetite of developers.” She also sees a “contradiction and tension” when artists have been “making over” an area not previously seen as attractive, “bringing colour and creativity”, then being moved on.
However, if this all seems a bit too grim, gritty and earnest for you, Feiner has invited international artist Tom Estes to act as Honorary Mayor of DEN-City1. Estes describes himself as a “Sci-fi inspired Carnival Sideshow Conceptualist, combining a bare-bones formal conceptualism with an eternally adolescent, DIY comic-prank approach”. For Estes “fantasy and illusion are not a contradiction of reality, but instead an integral part of our everyday lives”. And fresh back from a Residency during the prestigious Venice Biennale, rumor has it that he is planning a Ferrero Roche inspired Ambassadors Reception for the opening night of DEN-City1. .
The Denizens of DEN-City-
David.C.West, Matthew Andrew, Susanna Sanroman, India Roper Evans, Charlie Fox, Anna Maloney, Martin Sexton, Rubbish Artist, Sarah Sparkes, Sarah Doyle, Tom Estes, Mia Culpa, William Angus Hughes, Rebecca Scott, Meiko Kikuta, MonikaTobel, Samuel Brzeski, Paola de Ramos, Claudia Bada, Danny Pockets, Ashley Scott Fitzgerald, Joanna McCormick, Negin Vaziri, Daniel Lehan, Lorenzo Belenguer, Jay Rechsteiner, Chiara Williams, Stealth Gallery, Guilleromo Aguilar Herta, Darren Van Asten, Julia Maddison, Gavin Maughfling, Lee Mezler, Vanja Karas, Janody, Calum F.Kerr, Brian Guest, Sadia Awan, Tizianna Mandolesi, Andrew Stys, Elod Beregszaszi, Sebastian Hau Walker, Cluster Bomb Collective, Gzillion Artist, Vanya Balogh, Glen Fitzy Fitzpatrick, Jude Cowan Montague
DEN-City 1 The London Festival of Architecture
Curated by: Rebecca Feiner with Middlesex University
Forman's Smokehouse Gallery Stour Road Fish Island, Hackney Wick London E3 2NT United Kingdom
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
“Post electro-rock and driving electronica inside the head of a giant baby…” that is ‘New Opera Hero’ confirmed for the delightfully named art show- Pop Up Fuck Off. The show apparently runs for one day only on March 28th, and then, flips off.
A whole load of London based artists brought together by Samuel Brzeski and India Roper-Evan are gathering to end the life of Broadway Studio in style.
“Broadway Studios is dying, and in it’s wake will be piles upon piles of luxury flats. We are inviting you to Pop up before we all Fuck off. Art, music and performance throughout the afternoon and evening”
A history of the topography of artistic life in London over the last 500 years reveals a not unexpected dynamic – artists appear as nomads, moving around London districts in search of money, respectability, work or just fresh air. This movement reflects not only historical changes in both the social status of the artist from craftsman to bohemian to media celebrity, and artists’ professional relationships with patrons or dealers at the same time, but also changes in the character of those areas artists choose to settle in. In the 19th century artists could make an area fashionable just by their presence, as in the cases of Chelsea and Hampstead – artistic regeneration is not such a new concept after all.
The more astute property developers have long had an adage: “Follow the art”. It is a truth widely acknowledged that where artists gather, so developers will follow, and the renaissance of certain inner-city neighbourhoods – particularly of SoHo in New York or Hoxton in London – has been pioneered by the artistic avant-garde. Across the country – and especially in superheated London, where stratospheric land values beget accordingly bloated developments – authorities are allowing planning policies to be continually flouted, affordable housing quotas to be waived, height limits breached, the interests of residents endlessly trampled.
Quantum State by Tom Estes for POP UP FUCK OFF! The work suggests a portal like those found in science fiction and fantasy. Portals are often used in science fiction to move protagonists into new territory. It usually consists of two or more gateways, with an object entering one gateway leaving via the other instantaneously.
In London’s property world the connection with art and artists is part of a process known as “cultural place-making”, engineered by developers over the past decade or so; wooing artistic partners to form more permanent unions, redolent of an earlier era of arts patronage. With last year’s World Cities Culture Report, commissioned by the Mayor of London, identifying culture as the defining essence of a city, it would seem to be in step with contemporary concerns.
However, spaces are becoming ever meaner and more divided, as public assets are relentlessly sold off, entire council estates flattened to make room for silos of luxury safe-deposit boxes in the sky. Homes and communities are replaced with investment units, to be sold overseas and never inhabited, substituting community for vacancy. The more we build, the more our cities are emptied, producing dead swathes of zombie town where the lights might never even be switched on.
The system has spawned a whole industry of S106 avoidance, with consultancies set up specifically to help developers get out of paying for affordable housing at all scales of development. Section 106 Management, set up by solicitor-turned-developer Robin Furby, is one such company that offers a service to small-scale developers, promising “to establish the profitability of your project and thereby reveal unviable Section 106 obligations”. Its website displays a list of case studies proudly showing how much they have helped developers dodge, and boasting of planning permissions achieved “without any contribution towards affordable housing” at all, saving “tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds”.
So what exactly does it mean when a property developer pleads poverty? “If the profit margin for your scheme is pushed to below 17.5% by Section 106 payments, you should talk to us,” says the website. Other consultants promise to safeguard 20% profit margins and upwards, before any Section 106 contributions are even considered. If a scheme is declared “unviable”, it simply means “we’re not getting our 20% profit so why should we bother”.
“Council chief executives will allow schemes to be pumped up as much as they can go before they get political push-back from councillors,” says one planning officer from a London borough that has suffered from a recent a spate of towers. “And the worst schemes happen when there is no political resistance at all.”
It is a system that is all too open to political pressure, given that any officer who advises against a new development can be conveniently framed as “anti-growth”, heartlessly preventing a promised tidal wave of new public amenities from flooding into the borough. Based on negotiation and discretion, the result is entirely down to the individual planning officer’s ability to squeeze out as good a deal as they can get, a battle that all too often ends in the developer’s favour.
Bullied and undermined, planning authorities have been left castrated and toothless, stripped of the skills and power they need to regulate, and sapped of the spatial imagination to actually plan places. As one house-builder puts it simply, “The system is ripe for sharp developers to drive a bulldozer right through.” And they will continue to do so with supercharged glee, squeezing the life out of our cities and reaping rewards from the ruins, until there is something in the way to stop them.
However the recent discovery by Inside Housing that most of the 86 apartments in the ludicrously expensive One Hyde Park development have no one living in them – “a dormitory village in a built-up area,” as Stuart from Leyton tweeted – coincides nicely with the publication of a discussion paper from the Smith Institute making the case for a property speculation tax.
The use of ‘short life housing’, though useful in plugging a gap, means that as in previous centuries, artists have to keep on the move. Where Acme and Space sought to work with local government, the other alternative was the formulation of squats.Now outlawed, squats were less secure and stable than the charitable organisation of artist spaces such as Acme or Space. Squats also put artists onto a collision course with local councils who had different priorities for the regeneration or long-term viability of its housing stock. However, regardless of the elimination of squatting as an option, the the main issue persists. This is put into high relief by the success of the marketing of Shoreditch and other neighborhoods that were formerly the haunt of artists in London. While the developers cash in on artists ‘cool’ the benefits for the artists working with developers are as short-lived as the building stock available to them.
POP UP FUCK OFF! Artists include: Elod Beregszaszi, Richard Leppard, Matthew Rose, India Roper-Evans Flora Deborah, Sophia Simensky Mita Solanky, Samuel Brzeski, Cecily Bates, Rodrigo Souto Eden Lazaness, Helena Mae Brzeski, Miriam Gould, Mary Jones, Amelia Prett, Thomas Wells, Millie Easton, Tom Estes, Cheryl Simmons, Sarah Peace, Sarah Miah, Be Inma Berrocal, Carmen Viñuela, Ele de Luis, Simone Strifele, Sean Worrall, Kathryn Madge, Soundboxed Collective, Daniel P Cunningham, Jamie Misselbrook, Elaine Johnson, Lauren Cooper, Hayley Don Hill, Xiaoqiao Li, Minami Wrigley, Bob Brown, Luke Sebastian Wilde, Robert Marney Arts, Rob Jones, Phillip Hawkey, Nalini Thapen, Sisters From Another Mister, Milda Lembertaite, Emma Barford, Graham Martin, Andrew Stys, Timothy Holt, Aerial Sparks, Julia Maddison, Glenn Fitzy Fitzpatrick, Alejandro Tamagno, Sedicente Feccia, Minesweeper Collective, Desdemona Varon, Gzillion Artist, Vanya Balogh, Susana Sanroman, Silvia Cruz Del Alamo, Vanja Karas, Yumi Yoshinaga, Sinéid Codd, Russell Hill, Caroline Derveaux-Berté
Broadway Studios 28 Tooting High Street, London SW17 ORG
“The exhibition opens at 3pm and will run quite late with musical performances and other art works into the evening“.
This digital self portrait by artist Tom Estes is on display at The Selfie Show: An Art Exhibition of Self-Portraits at The Museum of New Art, Detroit from September 21, 2014.
How do you manage to keep a 400-year-old Leonardo Da Vinci self-portrait from disintegrating? It would seem the drawing, Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk, which resides in a vault in the Royal Library of Turin, may not be long for this world. The artwork has been exposed to humidity over the centuries and scientists are struggling to keep the work from disappearing, especially since the chalk drawing is thought to be the master’s only extant portrayal of himself.
The Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, drawn in the early 1500s and thought to be a self-portrait, is in extremely poor condition and continues to deteriorate each day. Scientists believe that the red chalk lines are gradually vanishing, fading into the paper, which has yellowed with age thanks to light, heat, moisture, metallic and acidic impurities, and pollutant gases. “This phenomenon is known as ‘yellowing,’ which causes severe damage and negatively affects the aesthetic enjoyment of ancient artworks on paper,” Joanna Lojewska, of Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, said in a press release. However the scientists have developed a new approach to identify the culprit of the yellowing without interfering with the original drawing and the knowledge gleaned could be used to preserve and save the precious self- portrait.
Self-portraiture has been a staple of artistic practice for centuries. In recent times the selfie has ushering in a new era of popular and widespread photographic self-representation.
Although self-portraits have been made by artists since the earliest times, it is not until the Early Renaissance in the mid-15th century that artists can be frequently identified depicting themselves as either the main subject, or as important characters in their work. With better and cheaper mirrors, and the advent of the panel portrait, many painters, sculptors and print makers tried some form of self-portraiture. Da Vinci is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived. Leonardo has often been described a man of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination”. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent and “his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, the man himself mysterious and remote”. Da Vinci was also know for his technological ingenuity and and the empirical methods he employed that were unusual for his time. Marco Rosci states that while there is much speculation about Leonardo, his vision of the world is essentially logical rather than mysterious. His genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. So it is no surprise that people are concerned about conserving his portrait.
Images of artists at work are encountered in Ancient Egyptian painting, and sculpture and also on Ancient Greek vases. One of first self-portraits was made by the Pharaoh Akhenaten’s chief sculptor Bak in 1365 BC. Plutarch mentions that the Ancient Greek sculptor Phidias had included a likeness of himself in a number of characters in the “Battle of the Amazons” on the Parthenon, and there are classical references to painted self-portraits, none of which have survived. Portraits and self-portraits have a longer continuous history in Asian art than in Europe. Many in the scholar gentleman tradition are quite small, depicting the artist in a large landscape, illustrating a poem in calligraphy on his experience of the scene. Another tradition, associated with Zen Buddhism, produced lively semi-caricatured self-portraits, whilst others remain closer to the conventions of the formal portrait.
Many painters are said to have included depictions of specific individuals, including themselves, in painting figures in religious or other types of composition. Such paintings were not intended publicly to depict the actual persons as themselves, but the facts would have been known at the time to artist and patron, creating a talking point as well as a public test of the artist’s skill. In the earliest surviving examples of medieval and renaissance self-portraiture, historical or mythical scenes (from the Bible orclassical literature) were depicted using a number of actual persons as models, often including the artist, giving the work a multiple function as portraiture, self-portraiture and history/myth painting. In these works, the artist usually appears as a face in the crowd or group, often towards the edges or corner of the work and behind the main participants. Rubens’s The Four Philosophers (1611-12) is a good example. This culminated in the 17th century with the work of Jan de Bray. Many artistic media have been used; apart from paintings, drawings and prints have been especially important.
Buzz Aldrin took the first selfie in space in 1966
In the famous Arnolfini Portrait (1434), Jan van Eyck is probably one of two figures glimpsed in a mirror – a susprisingly modern conceit. The Van Eyck painting may have inspired Diego Velázquez to depict himself in full view as the painter creating Las Meninas(1656), as the Van Eyck hung in the palace in Madrid where he worked. This was another modern flourish, given that he appears as the painter (previously unseen in official royal portraiture) and standing close to the King’s family group who were the supposed main subjects of the painting.
Selfies are popular among both genders. Women artists are notable producers of self-portraits; almost all significant women painters have left an example, from Caterina van Hemessen to the prolificElisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, and Frida Kahlo, as well as Alice Neel, Paula Modersohn-Becker and Jenny Saville who painted themselves in the nude. Vigée-Lebrun painted a total of 37 self-portraits, many of which were copies of earlier ones, painted for sale. Until the 20th century women were usually unable to train in drawing the nude, which made it difficult for them to paint large figure compositions, and portraiture was a common specialism. Until the 19th century, they usually showed themselves in the act of painting, or at least holding a brush and palette. More often than with men, the viewer wonders if the clothes worn were those they normally painted in.
However there is already a long tradition of the photographic ‘selfie’. One method involves setting the camera or capture device upon a tripod, or surface. One might then set the camera’s timer, or use a remote controlled shutter release. Finally, setting up the camera, entering the scene and having an assistant release the shutter (i.e., if the presence of a cable release is unwanted in the photo) can arguably be regarded as a photographic self-portrait. Today most selfies are taken with a camera held at arm’s length or pointed at a mirror, rather than by using a self-timer. And selfies are often shared on social networking services such as Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and Twitter. The media tends to highlight online social practices of creating a ‘selfie’ as being the result of narcissistic behaviors, simply because Internet and mobile phones are communication tools open to everyone.
Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, from the 1630s is in the British Royal Collection. Note the pulled-up sleeve on the arm holding the brush.
However selfies have also been taken beyond Earth and by non-human entities. There is an image by NASA’s Curiosity rover aptured by a camera of itself on Mars. In 2011 a crested black macaque stole a wildlife photographer’s camera, and when the camera was later recovered it was found to contain hundreds of “selfies”, including one of a grinning female macaque. This incident set off an unusual debate about copyright.
Oliver Laurent, Associate editor of British Journal of Photography and editor of recently-launched FLTR states: “Unfortunately, the selfie continues to be the target of derision, despite its popularity across all generations of cell phone users. It’s bogged down in this narcissist argument. It’s often confused with profile pictures and with some self-representation practices that we can see on Facebook.” However things look like they might be set to change. MONA in Detroit is launching he Selfie Show: An Art Exhibition of Self-Portraits while Apptitude Media, publishers of the British Journal of Photography(BJP) announced the launch of a digital magazine focused solely on mobile photography.The magazine itself is initially being sold as an iPhone-only app. Right now, the technologies that we use to understand the world are in the process of a major transformation. Almost every field of knowledge is generating vast quantities of data, requiring unprecedented computing power and intelligent algorithms to interpret. The head-spinning pace of technological and social change brought about by the internet have made us all accustomed to the transformations and innovations that would have amazed us ten years ago. Now they are merely passing news, as transient as a tweet, video, or Facebook post.The reality of our personal identity is not only fluid but also self-assigned. As individuals in the Digital Age, we have more control of the construction of our own identity than ever.
The Selfie Show – Museum of New Art – Detroit
Curated by Jef Borgeau
Opening reception Sunday, September 21, 2014 from 3pm to 7pm.
Museum of New Art | Armada 15655 33 Mile Road, Armada, MI 48005
The Biennial Project’s Marfa Artist Residency provides an international artist with the opportunity to participate in a career-making event. It took over a year of intense fundraising from local and international private patrons for BRMAC to realize the Marfa Digital Residency (http://the-biennial-project.com/blogengine.net/post/2014/01/11/.aspx).
Now, you may ask, why Marfa, Texas? And for those of you who might not know – prepare to get all fired up, because the tiny town of Marfa, perched on the high plains of the Chihuahua desert, is nothing less than an art’s world station of the cross, like Art Basel or Documenta in Germany. It is a blue-chip arts destination for the sort of glamorous scenesters who visit Amsterdam for the Rijksmuseum and the drugs.
BRMAC scoured the world to identify the most talented artist whose body of work demonstrated the vision, maturity and collaborative ability to contribute to the Overall Biennial Project Oeuvre. And they have finally announced the selected artist for the Marfa Digital Residency- London based artist Tom Estes (www.TomEstesArtist.com).
As Artist-in-Residence, the artist selected for this prestigious residency organised by the Biennial Roadshow Marfa Advisory Council (BRMAC) will have full access to the support of the sophisticated creative apparatus of The Biennial Project to develop his/her own work and to contribute to the greater good of The Biennial Project. An opportunity for profound dialogues, an echo chamber for the inspirational and the social with political dimensions. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Much better.
Marfa was founded in the early 1880s as a railroad stop; the population increased during World War II, but the growth stalled and reversed somewhat during the late 20th century. It all started to kick off when the acclaimed minimalist artist Donald Judd left New York City in the 1970s for this dusty dot of a town. He wanted to escape the art scene he claimed to disdain. With the help of the DIA Foundation, Judd acquired an entire Army base, and before he died in 1994, he filled it with art, including light installations by Dan Flavin and Judd’s own signature boxes. Attractions include Building 98, the Chinati Foundation, artisan shops, historical architecture, a classic Texas town square, modern art installments, art galleries, and the Marfa lights. Today, it’s a whole creative community. An extremely fashionable and well-connected creative community.
This years Artist in Residence Tom Estes will create a new state-of-the-art work to be shown within the main site for Biennial Roadshow Marfa, El Cosmico Centre for Artistic Development (http://elcosmico.com/). Through performance and sound, Estes plans to hopes to reawaken a sense of wonder for what is nearest.
For this new commission Estes plans to unveil a new work that will incorporate Live Art encompassing telecommunications, technologies, wireless communications, computer science, telematics and live video streaming. Informed by social and cultural research Estes hopes to dissolve the space between the creative artistic hubs of London in the U.K. and Marfa Texas. The actual movement of the material becomes the agent of its final composition – reinforcing the idea of the digital image as a temporal entity that can denote both a process and an outcome.
As we move through a place we leave behind what is called in forensic science ‘Impression Evidence’. This includes any markings produced when one object comes into contact with another leaving behind some kind of indentation or print. Common evidence ecounters include footwear impressions, tire marks and markings created by tools and similar instruments. But we also collect impressions through our visual experience- the patina of a building, the shape of the sky – which are then recognized, stored and aid in forming our understanding of a place. For this new commission in Marfa, Estes want to draw on these forms over as a way of understanding them within our new cyber-reality.
The work will b e on display on Friday April 4th, 2014 – where all selected art work will be seen by the contemporary artists and artisans who inhabit or visit this Western hamlet and by The Biennial Project’s massive entourage who will be in Marfa that entire week. The Marfa Digital Residency will take place between March 30th thru April 6th, 2014.
Marfa Digital Residency
El Cosmico 802 S Highland Ave Marfa, TX 79843 United States