Glimpses of Unease: Olga Chernysheva

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Image: Olga Chernysheva, Moscow Area, 2008 (Silver-gelatin fiber print)

Moscow artist Olga Chernysheva seeks out moments of awkwardness and discomfort that arise when reality falls short of the imagination. Whether working with oils or watercolors, analog photography or digital video, Chernysheva uses a plain, unaffected style, deliberately constructing her compositions to be as inconspicuous as she is when fixing her voyeuristic gaze. Tonight at 7:00 p.m. she will present a screening of video works at the Museum of Modern Art. Rhizome Curatorial Fellow Brian Droitcour met with Chernysheva in her Moscow studio.

There's a park in the north of Moscow called VVTs, or All-Russia Exhibition Center, but Muscovites persist in referring to it by its old name, VDNKh, the Exhibition of the People's Economic Achievements. Neither name is a good fit. The old one sounds clumsy and communist. The new one seems too ambitious, since most commercial fairs prefer newer, centrally located facilities to VDNKh's whimsical and ill-equipped pavilions, which were built in the 1930s to showcase products of the Soviet republics or economic sectors whose names they still bear. Today most of them are improvised stores, with plastic banners stretched over marble and gilded facades to advertise the inexpensive goods for sale inside, such as furniture, seeds, radio parts, and honey. As a metaphor for the collision between a Soviet "bright future" and the present's imperfections, VDNKH seems almost too pat to exist. But this juxtaposition is alive in the experience of the thousands of shoppers and strollers who congregate there every day.

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Image: Olga Chernysheva, Panorama, 2006 (Oil on canvas)

Olga Chernysheva usually looks for material in her neighborhood, and at the VDNKh, just a few kilometers north along a major Moscow thoroughfare, which has provided her with inspiration on many occasions ...

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SSSSSSSWWWRRRRLLL (2008) - Petra Cortright

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SSSSSSSSSSSSWWWWRRRRRLLLLLL from petra on Vimeo.

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Exploring the Concept of Democracy in Latin America: Carlos Motta's "The Good Life"

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Commissioned by Art in General, Carlos Motta's new Internet archive, The Good Life, is the latest part of a project the artist has developed since 2005, comprising 360 video interviews with pedestrians in twelve Latin American cities. In his essay, "Postscript: Civilization or Barbarity," the Colombian artist outlines the shift from politicized, creative practices, like those of Argentina's Third Cinema and Brazil's Paulo Freire, to increasing U.S. incursions, since the 1970s, into Latin American governments and economies. Attempting to close the divide "between democratic theory and practice" and reclaim, according to essayist Stamatina Gregory, an older conception of participatory politics, explored by Aristotle and revived by Hannah Arendt, Motta asks his interviewees about their own conceptions of democracy, democratization, and U.S. interventions in the region. Visitors can navigate the site via a variety of criteria, including interviewee occupation, location, and age group, as well as interview theme. The unedited, straightforward quality of the videos, Motta writes, renders "the process of the work's making transparent," foregrounding the many and varied stories and opinions that constitute the public community. While commissioned essays and texts, a forthcoming illustrated publication, and past exhibitions have articulated The Good Life's various facets and adaptable nature, Motta hopes the Internet will be "a way to reach a wider audience outside the field of art...and to make the work available to the individuals that responded to the questions" - Tyler Coburn

Image: Carlos Motta, Revolution is power for the people (Still from The Good Life), 2008

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You have entered a maze of twisty twisty passages all alike! (TRAPPED!!!) (2008) - Nathan Hauenstein

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LAUNCH

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The Debates In Depth

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Curated by artists Caspar Stracke and Gabriela Monroy, Brooklyn's video_dumbo, a festival of the electronic moving image in all its various forms, debuts its 2008 edition tonight-- right up against another event that will be filling video and computer screens worldwide, the first US presidential candidate debates. Meeting that programming challenge, Stracke and Monroy have organized Hack the Debate in 3D!. Thanks to some help from sponsors Current and Twitter, the event will include an ongoing Twitterized comments feed integrated into three-dimensional projection of the live debate -- and, as the curators remind us in their program notes, "ironically, this stereoscopic system is based on the colors RED and BLUE." The rest of video_dumbo's enticing lineup includes the premiere of in complete world by Shelly Silver and two full days of new work by an intergenerational array of media artists, including Phyllis Baldino, Mike Hoolboom, Scott Pagano, Torsten Z. Burns and Darrin Martin, eteam, John Michael Boling and Javier Morales, Nicolas Provost, Sharon Hayes, PFFR and scads more. With the recent fading-away of the New York Video Festival and other like-minded Manhattan events, video_dumbo seems to carry on the necessary tradition of the smartly-organized theatrical festival. - Ed Halter

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Artur Zmijewski's "The Social Studio" at Utrecht's BAK, basis voor actuele kunst

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Opening this weekend at Utrecht's BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, "Artur Żmijewski: The Social Studio" features a handful of the Polish artist's recent works, including videos Them (2007) and Powtórzenie/Repetition (2005). The exhibition title offers a helpful, conceptual frame for Żmijewski's pieces, which take the form of quasi-documentary "social experiments," often counterpoising the disabled or marginalized with signs or representatives of societal ideals and political force. In photograph and video series Oko za oko/Eye for an eye (1998), for example, Żmijewski combines the bodies of amputees and those of the physically fit into "corporal hybrids." The articulation of bodily difference here also becomes the precondition for new forms of social interaction and integration, achieved through Żmijewski's manipulation of the conventions of portraiture. These results are in keeping with the artist's broader agenda, comprehensively laid out in his essay, "The Applied Social Arts," that artistic production should "take responsibility and engage...with the current social and political reality." A timely return to past controversy, Powtórzenie/Repetition re-conducts Philip Zimbardo's 1971 Stanford Prison experiment, in which ordinary college students assumed the roles of wardens and prisoners in a mock-prison environment. Claiming to be an expert in the "psychology of evil," Zimbardo here sought to show the predictable behaviors people adopt in such charged, power-based circumstances. While the facility with which the students adopted sadistic or masochistic roles then seemed to confirm Zimbardo's theory, Żmijewski's participants chose an alternative solution: they protested the project and collectively left the prison. Though Powtórzenie/Repetition caused a good deal of outrage in Poland, its participants' action does lend some credence to Żmijewski's belief that provocative art may "influence social consciousness and stimulate reflection." - Tyler Coburn

Image: Artur Żmijewski, Powtórzenie/Repetition, 2005 (Still)

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A Short Tour of Three Major Contemporary Art Exhibitions in China

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Image: Joonho Jeon, Hyper Realism

After navigating my way through one of the busiest train stations in the world, and a two hour journey, I arrived in Nanjing where the Nanjing Triennial, the city's third, was still unfinished when I turned up to the city's history museum. Entitled 'Reflective Asia', the exhibition is an ambitious survey of contemporary art in Asia. An anti-western bent ran throughout the show, in stark contrast to Maharaj's declaration of openness and internationalism at the Guangzhou Triennial.

Of those pieces that were in operation the day that I visited, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba's piece Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam was a moving underwater video of rickshaws being pulled by their drivers. Kim Kira's A Security Garden as Paranoia is an installation piece that plays on systems of display and surveillance with arrangements of bonsai trees, tacky Disney toys, neon lights, classical Korean artifacts with security cameras and monitors hidden between them. Another South Korean artist, Joonho Jeon's triptych of videos, Hyper Realism, is a comment on his own country's neighbor, North Korea. On one screen is an animation of a crowd of people trying to scale a wall but the video loops before anyone can reach the other side. The middle screen shows waltzing toy soldiers and the third brings the figure on the North Korean 100 won note to life as a man who walks around aimlessly in the scenery.

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Image: Kim Kira, A Security Garden as Paranoia

After my journey around the country, it was evident that the three major bi/triennials took significantly different paths in terms of theme and execution, while at the same time capturing important facets of contemporary art production within the rapidly shifting landscape of China today.

Based in London, but currently resident ...

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Man With a Movie Camera: The Global Remake (2008) - Perry Bard

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"Man With a Movie Camera: The Global Remake is a participatory video shot by people around the world who are invited to record images interpreting the original script of Vertov's Man With A Movie Camera and upload them to this site."

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A Short Tour of Three Major Contemporary Art Exhibitions in China

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Image: Shanghai Art Museum

I arrived by air over the uniform grid-like cityscape of Shanghai, a graphic image that acted as an uncanny precursor to this year's bienniale. In the center of the slick corporate heart of the city resides the location for the 7th Shanghai Bienniale, at the Shanghai Art Museum, a former colonial equestrian sports club now surrounded by Western coffee chains and mirrored towers. Curators Julian Heynen and Henk Slager employ their neologism 'Translocomotion' to title a show dealing with issues of migration and urbanism both particular to Shanghai and in a wider context. In comparison to Guangzhou's "Farewell to Post-Colonialism," the show was carefully organized and maintained a well rehearsed theme. That said, it came across as rather sterile, despite some remarkable works by Chinese and international artists. Divided into three main sections, spatially and thematically distinct but interdependent, the Shanghai Biennale comprised 'Project', 'Keynotes' and 'Context', with an annex devoted to the heritage of the People's Square, a park next to the museum.

'Project' on the ground floor and on the external peripheries of the museum involved 25 different artists, each commissioned to work in response to the People's Square. One stand out was a series of videos by Ayse Erkmen which captured many of the clichés and western interpretations of the dynamically expanding city of Shanghai. Zhou Tao's video, 1,2,3,4 was a hilarious parody of the militaristic chants typically sung by Chinese service industry employees as a form of unifying the workforce. A couple of installations from Bethan Huws and Yin Xiuzhen were worth the pause.

'Keynote' on the second floor was devoted to just three major artists or groups. Mike Kelley's Kandor-Con was a disturbing alternate sci-fi reality, embodying real-life issues facing the ...

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A Short Tour of Three Major Contemporary Art Exhibitions in China

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Image: View from the 19th Floor of the Third Guangzhou Triennial

Over the next three days, Claire Louise Staunton, current resident curator at the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal in Shenzhen, China, will file reports from this year's Guangzhou Triennial, Shanghai Bienniale, and Nanjing Triennial. - Ceci Moss

The first stop on my journey is Guangzhou in the southwest of China, a humid and densely populated city with a liberal reputation. On the day of my visit to the Third Guangzhou Triennial, torrential rain poured down, which had a comically disastrous effect on the proceedings. Invitees were trapped and latecomers barred from the location for the exhibition's opening comments, Alain Fouraux and Rem Koolhaas' Times Museum, a rather utopian project proposed at the 2005's triennial that housed a small part of the larger exhibition. The rising flood and the downpour threatened curator Sarat Maharaj and his team with electrocution as they attempted to bid 'Farewell to Post-Colonialism' on the short-circuited PA system.

Sadly California-based artist Simon Leung's video piece on the ground floor was rained out, but after waiting 30 minutes to get into the only elevator, the 14th floor served as a life boat with video work The Rock Point Inn from Huang Xiaopeng. The piece interrogates the self-colonialization of contemporary China through his subtly manipulated depiction of Thames Town, an exact replica of Lyme Regis, UK. In the adjacent room was Wang Jiahao's F1City:REeAL TV a video game using real-life footage which presented itself as a commentary on the growth of Formula One racing in the third world.

I ascended the theoretical and actual quagmire of the top floor where the rain poured dangerously close to the numerous sound and video installations from German artist Marc Behrens, the Chinese collective Sound Unit (Zhang Anding ...

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