Appalshop

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When former DJ Nick Szuberla launched the only hip-hop radio program in the Appalachian region, inmates from the two neighboring SuperMax prisons began writing him letters, recounting the racism and human rights violations they suffered while incarcerated. He responded by initiating an on-air chess game with the prisoners, a simple gesture that acknowledged, and provided brief respite from, their hardships. Szuberla soon began broadcasting the voices of prisoners themselves via a variety of artistic projects, including poetry segments, rap sessions, and collaborations between hip-hip artists and local mountain musicians. In one episode of the show, an imprisoned man expresses, in verse, a long overdue phone call to his brother, shortly after his mother’s passing. In another, titled Calls from Home, a mother updates her incarcerated son on family events and describes daily activities like her morning routine.

The radio show has since expanded into Thousand Kites, a “national dialogue project” and non-profit organization based in Whitesburg, Kentucky, that advocates nationally for prison reform, primarily by creating transparency around injustices that occur within the system. Szuberla sits at the helm of the organization, whose name is derived from the phrase “to shoot a kite,” which in prison slang means to send a message. At the heart of the Thousand Kites project is a vast website that features the stories of prisoners, their families, activists, and artists in the form of video and radio programs, blogs, and letter-writing campaigns. The site also includes news clips, press releases about legislative changes, and accessible educational activities such as “We Can’t Pay the Bill,” which outlines the rising costs of maintaining prisons.

Thousand Kites operates under the 40-year-old umbrella non-profit Appalshop, which supports regional arts in the Appalachian region, documents local traditions, and works to abolish stereotypes of the area’s residents.

 

About Living as Form | Curator Statement | About the artists ]

Lara Almarcegui and Begoña Movellán

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A national highway runs through Fuentes de Ebro, yet the small, ordinary Spanish village rarely receives visitors. In order to draw attention to the area, Lara Almarcegui and Begoña Movellán converted the local train station, which had been abandoned for 20 years, into a free hotel for one week. “The town is not beautiful, and not the kind of village people would likely visit,” Almarcegui says. “So, I thought it would be a kind of extreme gesture to propose that people spend a week there.”

She used $400 from a small grant to renovate the concrete, two-story building, which with high ceilings and tiled flooring was an apt candidate for use as a hotel. Almacegui and Movellán painted the interior walls, brought in furniture donated by the town’s residents, installed electricity and plumbing, and advertised the repurposed station in the neighboring city of Zaragoza. Though the hotel was completely booked during the project’s run, the effort remained somewhat clandestine, since Almarcegui originally received permission from railway officials to use the station as an exhibition venue, not a residential facility. “They never would have let me create a free hotel, especially since there was no museum” backing the project, she says. “So the event was a secret among the guests. I even asked them to hide their luggage–I was so afraid.” Fuentes de Ebro residents continue to use the building as a meeting and event space.

Almarcegui lives in Rotterdam. In preparation for Hotel Fuentes de Ebro, she spent one month in Spain researching unused architectural spaces that offer potential solutions to housing and urban dilemmas. Her work often explores different methods for forming relationships to communities, usually though long-term research, interviewing residents, investigating new possibilities for aging infrastructure.

 

About Living as Form | Curator Statement | About the artists ]

Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla

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Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla placed 12 five-foot columns of chalk in public squares in Lima, Paris, and New York, ephemeral public monuments that would crumble and dissolve over time into smaller pieces and pools of liquid. The artists then invited people to use the fallen pieces of chalk to write messages on the ground, doodle, or express themselves in any fashion they chose, thereby transforming the material decay into a fleeting opportunity for creative possibilities. In Lima, Allora and Caldazilla placed the chalk columns directly in front of government offices, which incited passersby to convert the nearby ground into a large blackboard overflowing with messages intended to critique the state. This activity evolved into an impromptu, peaceful protest as civil servants gathered in the square, waving banners and hoisting posters above their shoulders. Eventually, military officers, who were standing by in shields and helmets, confiscated the chalk, and washed away the incendiary political statements.

Puerto Rico-based Allora and Caldzadilla represented the United States in this year’s Venice Biennale–the first performance artists, and artists collaborative, to do so. Since the late 1990s, the artists have used sculpture, performance, and video to transform common objects into politicized tools. Their projects often explore the act of mark making–how temporary actions can yield permanent effects.

 

[ About Living as Form | Curator Statement | About the artists ]

Ai Weiwei

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For his contribution to Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany, artist Ai Weiwei brought to town 1,001 residents of China during the well-known art fair. With $4.14 million from funding sources such as Documenta’s sponsors, three Swiss foundations, as well as the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ai arranged all aspects of travel. He paid for airfare, processed visa applications, refurbished an old textile mill into a temporary hostel, transported Chinese chefs to cook meals, designed travel items such as clothing and luggage, and organized tours of Kassel’s landmarks. He also installed 1,001 empty antique chairs throughout the exhibition pavilion to represent the Chinese participants’ presence in Kassel. His visitors acted as both tourists and subjects of his art–viewers of a foreign culture, as well as signs of another.

Within three days of advertising the free trip on his blog, Ai received 3,000 applications. He privileged those with limited resources or travel restrictions; for example, women from a farming village, who lacked proper identity cards, were able to obtain government-issued travel documents for the first time. Other participants included laid-off workers, police officers, children, street vendors, students, farmers, and artists. They arrived en masse, in groups of 200. However, Ai solicited their individual voices through filmed interviews with each traveler, and also a lengthy questionnaire–99 questions–that focused on personal histories, desires, and fantasies.

Kassel is best known as home to the Brothers Grimm, famed collectors of fables from the region. Ai named his project Fairytale in reference to their tales, and as a nod to the spirit of the trip, which likely felt mythical to many of the tourists, who had perhaps never before dreamed of leaving China.

 

[ About Living as FormCurator Statement | About the artists ]

Curator Statement

In this first decade of the 21st century, a critical mass of activism has emerged.

Likewise, socially engaged art is on the rise, shaking up foundations of art discourse, and sharing techniques and intentions with fields far beyond the arts. But unlike its avant-garde predecessors such as Constructivism, Futurism, or Dadaism, socially engaged art is not an art movement. Instead, these cultural practices indicate new ways of life that emphasize participation, challenge power, and span disciplines ranging from urban planning and community work to theater and the visual arts.

This explosion of work in the arts has been assigned catchphrases such as social practice, relational aesthetics, new genre public art, and dialogic arts. Yet, the projects themselves defy easy categorization, and raise contradictions regarding issues of authorship, and traditional notions of art. In fact, they often have more in common with guerrilla and urban gardens, alternative economic and education experiments, and civic-minded, nonprofit organizations. Such efforts might not be described as artworks, but their collaborative spirit, investment in community engagement, and deployment of cultural programs as part of their operations compel us to consider what they do, not who they say they are.

With the aid of numerous curatorial advisors, Living as Form searches the post-Cold War era, and the dawn of neoliberalism, for cultural work that embodies these tendencies. The projects in this exhibition serve as points of departure for specific regional and historic concerns that find common ground. In response to austerity measures that continue to ripple across the planet, pockets of autonomous, collective action have become integral to daily life. Just as the Situationists of Paris 1968 predicted a world in which relations are mediated through images, people now intuitively understand reality in terms of spectacle. Art production in the 20th century might have been a rarified field, but in the 21st century, cultural production has become a necessary component of organizing social action. In other words, if the world is a stage, then the players must learn the skills of theater.

Site-specific and event-driven, the projects in Living as Form resist display in an archive such as this one. They address multiple audiences, and pay equal attention to the power of media. Each video, pamphlet, poster, and image remains a pale shadow of the original action. Nonetheless, we use the sheer scale, geographic range, and interdisciplinary nature of the work to illustrate that the skill sets of art are now among a series of complex social organizational methods meant to transform our world. We hope that by exacerbating the tensions that exist among the myriad forms, this archive will inspire further inquiry, and ultimately, new approaches to social practice. To that end, we have commissioned several living projects in order to encourage participation, and to provide a glimpse of the energy that surrounds this work. For the artists, activists, and engaged citizens in Living as Form, it is that energy, not the notion of art, which propels them toward the elusive goal of social justice.

Nato Thompson
Chief Curator, Creative Time

 

[About Living as Form | About the artists ]

60-min Cinema: People’s Park

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Guest curated by Beijing curator Dong Bingfeng, 60-min Cinema: People’s Park opened at TheCube Project Space on April 27 and runs through June 16. The exhibition presents four videos by artists Yang Fudong, Cao Fei, Yang Jun and Zhao Liang under the theme of dislocation in Chinese public life.

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Re-envisioning Society

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Series of exhibitions, Re-envisioning Society Curated by Amy Cheng, are held from Dec, 2011 to Mar, 2013. The exhibition project  is funded by the 2010 Production Grants to Independent Curators in Visual Arts of the National Culture and Arts Foundation. The thematic exhibition during one year and two months  includes 10 groups of artists from local and international.

01#1 REM Sleep
Artist | Jao Chia-En
Published | December, 2011
Language | Chinese

 

 

 

02#2 Escape from North Korea
Artist | Chang Chien-Chi
Published | February, 2012
Language | Chinese

 

 

 

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#3 Venezuela From Below
Artist | Oliver Reseller+Dario Azzellini
Published | March, 2012
Language | Chinese, English

 

 

 

04#4 Flooded McDonald’s
Artist | SUPERFLEX
Published | May, 2012
Language | Chinese, English

 

 

 

05#5 …and Europe will be stunned
Artist | Yael Bartana
Published | June, 2012
Language | Chinese

 

 

 

06#6 Revitalization of Chiayi Sound Project
Artists | Yannick Dauby+Yen-Ting Hsu+Wan-Shuen Tsai
Published | August, 2012
Language | Chinese, English

 

 

 

07#7 The composer composes the future so that the composition leaves the traces of the future which the future won’t leave
Artist | Wang Hong-Kai
Published | October, 2012
Language | Chinese, English

 

 

 

08#8 Performance
Curated by Wang Mo-lin+ Yao Lee-chun
Published | November, 2012
Language | Chinese

 

 

 

09#9 Brooklyn Bridge
Artists | Gulnara Kasmalieva+Muratbek Djumaliev
Published | January, 2013
Language | Chinese, English

 

 

 

10#10 Demolition Eve
Curated by Chen Chieh-jen
Published | February, 2013
Language | Chinese

TheCube Journal

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TheCube Journal is included the exhibition information and interview “CubeTalk”.

thecubejournal1TheCube Journal #1
Published | August, 2010
CubeTalk | Superflex
Language | Chinese

 

 

 

thecubejournal2TheCube Journal #2
Published | November, 2011
CubeTalk | Lin Chung
Language | Chinese

 

 

 

thecubejournal3TheCube Journal #3
Published | April, 2011
CubeTalk | Wu Mu-Ching
Language | Chinese

 

Project 35

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Project 35, curated by ICI (Independent Curators International) is a program of single-channel videos selected by 35 international curators who have each chosen one work by an artist that they think is important for audiences around the world to experience today.

project 35-1Project 35 part 1
Artists | Guy Ben-Ner, Yukihiro Taguchi, Dan Halter, Zhou Xiaohu, Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, Phu Nam Thuc Ha, Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn, Kota Ezawa, Edwin Sánchez, Robert Cauble

 

 

project 35-2Project 35 part 2
Artists | Sammy Baloji, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Andrea Büttner, Alexander Apóstol, Daniela Paes Leão, Ranbir Kaleka, Ho Tzu Nyen, Stephen Sutcliffe

 

 

project 35-3Project 35 part 3
Artists | Azorro Group, Yason Banal, Tracey Moffatt, Meris Angioletti, Michael Stevenson, Vyacheslav Akhunov, Beryl Korot, Anja Medved, Tracey Rose

 

 

project 35-4Project 35 part 4
Artists | Ulla Von Brandenburg, Elodie Pong, Chto delat?, Chen Chieh-Jen, Manon de Boer, Angela Detanico & Rafael Lain, Nestor Krüger, Vartan Avakian, Tamar Guimarães

Traversing The Fantasy

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Curated by Amy Cheng, Traversing the Fantasy is an exhibition that includes the work of French artist Julien Prévieux, the art team of Allora and Calzadilla from the US and Cuba, the Danish art collective Superflex, Taiwanese video artist Tsui Goang-yu, Wu Chang-jung and photographer Liu Ho-jang. Works for the show will include video installation, digital prints, documents and multimedia installation.

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