Mang Mang – Artist Review

By Judith Yeh

It isn’t often that one comes across a portrait artist who predominately takes portraits of themselves. So it is quite refreshing when I came across ShenZen, China-based artist – Mang Mang.

Mang Mang crafts sharp studio portraits embodying many facets of her own psyche. For Mang, an image can’t be too stylized for intimacy. She is unafraid to cut, re-arrange, blur, and distort otherwise straight-forward photographs of herself to better represent a concept. Unlike the material excess of Sherman—an undeniable inspiration—Mang’s prop choices are minimal and singular. Innocuous household items morph into emotionally charged fetishes and their relative harmlessness become a point of contention.

Mang’s stark white website reflects her noticeable aesthetic through her body of work, which often conveys themes of identity, travel, and sometimes violence. All through a clean, open, sharp composition and view point. However, there is a strong hidden idea of “love”; even if her work is filled with violence, gore, psychosis, metamorphosis, and beauty, they all connect to “love.”. While often turning the camera on herself, Mang is open to photographing others. As for the male figure she occasionally presents, “He was my fiancé, but we separated in the end.” Born Zhao Bing Bin, “Mang” means “blind,” a choice to “remind myself not only to rely on my eyes, but to use the heart to see the world.”

Samsara – Film Review

By David Matthews

“Samsara”; film, 2011 is a meditative documentary which journeys through some of the earth’s most vast and diverse natural and cultural spaces. The term “Samsara”; used in Hinduism and Buddhism, relates to the material world, and describes death and rebirth as a continuous movement or cycle of life and existence.  Directed by Ron Fricke, “Samsara” was made as a continuation to Fricke’s 1992 film “Baraka”, and the 1985 “Chronos” of a similar style, reuniting again with the same producer Mark Magidson.

As a non-narrative documentary, Samsara relies heavily on cinematic techniques like time-lapse, and music and audio to portray its message and build its themes of time and movement. It begins by delivering a unique view, opening the viewer’s horizon depicting striking natural scenery and landscapes, painting a picture of beauty and awe, capturing wondrous imagery of the earth. It progresses into the realm of human existence, portraying some diverse cultural and spiritual scenery, simple human existence with the interest of living sustainably and in harmony with the earth, showing images of religion, ritual, culture, and nature.

The progressions of the film though flows on to more populous environments, building to human contemporary civilisations; ritualistic, fast-paced cityscapes, which morphs the idea of this beautiful ever-moving cycle of life into a more contrasted, damaging perception of it. “Samsara” highlights the efficiency of our city’s using scenes of intertwining motorways and factory lines, and provokes repulse at scenes of meat industry, and human wasteful living. It shows concerns with the processed nature of our existence, and the results and effects of it, like fast food diet, obesity, cosmetic procedures, mass production, waste management, and firearms.

The musical score in “Samsara” was composed by Michael Stearns, Lisa Gerrard, and Marcello De Francisci. Stearns also worked on both “Baraka” and “Chronos”, and Gerrard collaborated also on “Baraka”. Dissimilar to “Baraka” and “Chronos” though, “Samsara” was edited without sound and compositions were altered to the edited imagery. The music highlights the films perspective using tempo and pitch to enhance the visual material, and persuade an emotive response. Its contrasts flow and sporadic movement, and nice and warm, calming tone with discord harmonies and tension. It takes a lot of influence from world music, utilising various instruments and scales.  The music’s unconventional nature and juxtapositions add to the films ebb and flow.

“Samsara” is produced in a way that doesn’t seem to attempt to persuade you of any particular political view; it instead shows you real scenes and images in a way to direct your thought to draw your own ideas and conclusions. It combines much diversity to bring about a collective self-awareness of us as humans, and our connection to our planet, not stating for good or bad, rather questioning for better or for worse.

Weta Works Couch – Art Review

While wandering Cuba street on a ‘gallery wander’, I came across a concert couch sculpture  placed in front of a bar. The hard-shaped old fashion couch design did not pull me in to sit on it, as it was a cold wet night in Wellington. I then came across glass text explaining that Weta created the couch and that there was a built-in heater that turns on every hour. I was very surprised and interested in the choice of material such as concrete which is hard and cold in winter. Also though the heater goes on every hour, it’s only between 7am and 9pm. I missed this heater time period and was skeptical regarding the relaxing heat element. I guess the choice of concrete was due to the outdoor weather in Wellington which would destroy any other couch. This is all a ‘cold reading’ as I did not find any information online about this work and the label on the glass only labelled the chair and did not provide any additional information. A bit more information on how and why this was made would be nice as it has sparked my curiosity.

If I was to make an outdoor comfy furniture using the Wellington theme, I think a cover from the wind and rain would be great. As a person who wanders from the train station to Newtown often, hiding from the elements is key sometimes. While this work was a surprise sculpture to me I’d like to do a more simplified  method of surprising people.

Emoji Ink – Art Review

To construct the face from emoji’s, is to say perhaps, that emoticons (emoji) are the contemporary emotional currency, taking precedence over copresent emotional connectivity. (link attached) is a interactive online application produced by artist Vince Mckelvie. Opening the link to surfaces all currently available apple emoji (displayed translucently, transposed over a white background), with the simple instruction: select an emoji. Once selecting the pink and yellow sparkling love heart emoji for instance the other emoji dissapear, (and can be accessed again by pressing the space bar). The white background now becomes an empty drawing scape, with a size icon in the lower right hand corner and the instructive:

click to draw

press any key to select an emoji

save the image

site by Vince Mckelvie (hyperlink to Mckelvie’s Tumblr attached)

The only function unaccounted for which is of importance would be the ability to undo, although I appreciate how the inability to delete makes choices more committed. With each emoji, its placement and size needing to be considered in relation to the next. The online interactive application, along with others developed by Mckelvie, (avaliable on Tumblr, link attached) are captivating with their consideration of simplicity, functionality, form, colour and movement.

The interactions with ‘emoji art’ vary in ‘skill’, time taken and approach. An artist by the name Yung Jake noted the applications potential, by adopting with its use of recognisable emoji icons and applying them to produce celebrity portraits from online images, and dispersing these images across social media.

Miley Cyrus, Ellen DeGeneres, Drake, Kim Kardashian, Madonna, Taylor Swift (among others) all rendered in appropriately assorted emoji’s. With the formal qualities of each emoji being considers, and I speculate, an awareness of how emoji’s operate as loaded symbols. For example Taylor Swift’s portrait as rendered in love related symbols operates in relation to her love life being capitalised on by the media, which saturates her career, personal romantic relationships and Yung’s Emoji portrait. Positioning Swift as an embodiment of the classic heartbreaker / heartbroken ‘women scorned’.

Engaging with Yung Jake’s ‘emoji art’ and the application are recommended, enjoyable and crediable sources, that open up consideration around the potential usages of cyber tools in the production and situation of art online.

Jorge Pardo’s Mérida House – Art Review

In 2003 in Mérida artist Jorge Pardo started on a commission from the no longer existent London gallery Haunch of Venison. Pardo bought a small, dilapidated building between two houses in Mérida and used the $100,000 exhibition advance to completely renovate it. The renovations were designed by architects Mecky Reuss and Ana Paula Ruiz who are both part of Pardo’s studio staff and have worked with him before on the building and renovating of homes for the purpose of exhibition. In 2005, the house was constructed at an accelerated pace by hundreds of local laborers. As the exhibition was due to take place in the London galley in 2008 the curator and Pardo came up with an idea: Pardo took over four thousand images of the houses interior, photographing every inch. He then used the images as a backdrop in the gallery’s exhibition space and created an abstract notion of a house. The entire house was mapped out onto the gallery space. Morphing one site into another. In front of the photographs, the room was filled with decoy furnishings, lamps and paintings that were superimposed on the photographs of the houses interior. The space also featured sculptures from all stages of Pardo’s career. The house built by Pardo in Mérida, Mexico basically became a photographic prop. It was an object that’s final destination was photography. It was displayed in absintena, in the commercial gallery, in a completely different city that was thousands of miles away.

An interesting relationship was created between Pardo’s house in Merida and the gallery in London. The exhibition in London served as a portal through to view his house in Mérida. Working between the site of his house in Mérida and the gallery in London is nothing new for Pardo. As an artist, he is always shifting between sites and spaces with many functioning studios across America. Pardo has been quoted in saying  “wherever I am, the studio is.” whether that be the house in Mérida, Mecky Reuss and Ana Paula Ruiz house (the two architects working with Pardo), the workshop or his car that functions as a portable studio used to transport himself between the different locations. Pardo’s studio or site of art production is a completely flexible, fully reflexive, transdisciplinary process.

Pardos house in Mérida was the second house he has built as a surrogate artwork for exhibition. The first being 4166 Sea View Lane, Los Angeles a commission by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), in which every element was designed by Pardo: the house, lamps, furniture, tiles, garden, and kitchen cabinets. For five weeks in 1998, visitors were led on tours around the house. Once the exhibition finished Pardo moved in. For Pardo his houses in Mérida and Seaview Lane, LA, were still sculptures that conveniently function as residences for him to move into once the exhibition of the work has finished. It’s his works usefulness and functionality that prompts viewers and critics to ask questions of the work such as ‘Was it art? ‘Design?’ ‘Design art?’ or ‘Architecture?’ He has also been questioned in regards to scamming the gallery to build a free house for him to live. Pardo has long made functional sculptures and questioned traditional definitions and boundaries of art, using design, architecture, photography, painting, and sculpture.

Phone Arts – Publication Review

By Maddy Plimmer

Did you know you can get a drawing application on your phone?

Did you know you could makes .gifs on your phone?

Did you know you could make 3D rendered animations on your phone?

Well, does and have created a site for the publication of art made in your little portable studio.  The sole purpose of the user-contributed blog is to display art works made on cellphones. The resulting artworks range from simple abstract digital paintings, to the rather more complicated 3D .gifs. It is a celebration of easily accessible technology, and an exploration of its limitations (or rather, lack of).

It was founded by Guillaume Hugon and Daniel Littlewood. The blog exists on a tumblr-built site, but it has its own domain name and favicon, which gives the website a sense of professionalism.  It still however allows for people to follow the posts via their tumblr dashboard. Only some of the works are credited to the artist, which seems inconsistent, and perhaps doesn’t embrace the spirit of the using of a widely accessible technology and making it possible for users to submit work. Only known artists seem to be named as contributors almost as if to elevate their work in relation to the non-credited works, which are simply labeled “submissions.”  However, it is not known whether or not these submissions have been made anonymously, and therefore they would be unable to credit the artist.

I like the celebrative exploration of cell phone technology, however I feel the layout of the blog could reflect this more by giving each piece more white space around it.  The layout is somewhat cramped and cluttered, which is heightened but the variation in size and shape of the art works. Overall, I am drawn to the concept of the site but I would be happier to see the presentation be altered to give the works more space and perhaps even some captions on the images.

Hallway by Polly Stanton – Art Review

By Louisa Beatty

Video Artist Polly Stanton’s ‘Hallway’, is a 2 minute 30 second long slow zoom video. The entirety of the work consists of a slow moving zoom from one end of the hallway to the empty back room of a seemingly abandoned house. Almost unnoticeable as the work begins, a low drone of audio escalates in unison with the cameras movement, building up as the camera finally approaches the edge of the doors frame and cut.

The screen is black in an empty and echoing (and bizarrely satisfying?) anticlimax.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 9.36.42 am

Presented in the gallery context of ‘Blue Oyster Project Space’ the work is projected to fit the size of the rooms back wall in an immersive allusion to cinematic production. However -not attending the original viewing- stanton’s work was directly presented to me online through a series of stills from the work as a representation of the zooms progression. If it wasn’t for the shots interesting composition I would have never investigated the work further (in terms of finding research/artists creating durational works), the fast forwarded photo progression documented conceptually seeming to undermine the very real tension Stanton creates through time manipulation. But they are still beautiful tense images… I’m not sure

[How am I supposed to document durational art?

maybe I could just present the exact same still over and over?]

Never the less, Stanton’s play on cinematic suspense results in the ultimate anti climax, shifting the weight of the work from subject to viewer. The durational emphasis on suspense and expectation forcing overall self awareness and bodily reactions from the audience. I’m interested in the almost therapeutic process of acceptance and deepened understanding when an audience becomes forced into durational engagements with ‘disengaging’ works.