Wondering what to do this weekend, as the nights draw in and the days seem ever shorter? I got you – every Friday I highlight a few choice exhibitions and events from around the world that can be viewed online or in person. From biennials to blockbusters and everything in between, this short list will guarantee your weekends are never boring.
1. Cindy Sherman, ‘Metamorphosis’ at Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto
Image source: https://www.serralves.pt/en/
One of the best-known photographers practicing today, Cindy Sherman is a master of shape shifting, taking on multiple personas and characters in order to explore the frames through which we view ourselves, others, and the world. In particular, her work focuses on stereotypes of femininity and the role that women play, or are expected to play. She subverts these embedded ideals by becoming both director and actor, viewer and viewed. For the exhibition at Serralves, the museum has been transformed especially to house Sherman’s iconic works, spanning the early years of her career to the present. The museum has created a theatrical set, setting the scene for the artist’s photographs that read like scenes from a film. Rather than follow a chronological order, the series of works presented follow a thematic, narrative format, from her Sex Pictures (1992) to perhaps her most recognisable Untitled Film Stills from 1977-80. The viewer can watch Sherman herself disappear from the works, preferring to focus on scenes of disaster and destruction (The Disasters 1986-89), only to witness her reappearance around the turn of the millennium with Head Shots. However, despite the fact that the artist’s body is usually front and centre of the works, these are not self-portraits. Instead, they are representations created using the distance of the lens through which they are captured, or, as Rosalind Krauss defines it, they are “a copy without the original.”
2. Group Show: ‘Sabrina’ at Sim Smith, London
Image source: https://www.marlboroughgallerylondon.com
This new show takes as its starting point the work Sabrina (1978), pictured above, by Taschist artist Gillian Ayres. The gallery has invited nine female-identifying and non-binary artists including Tracey Emin, Pam Evelyn, Caroline Jackson, Francesca Mollett, Katy Moran, Victoria Morton, Daisy Parris, Hayley Tompkins and Michaela Yearwood-Dan to showcase the trajectory of abstract painting through a female and non-binary lens. The show is inter-generational and open in its approach, combining works from artists at various stages in their careers, and incorporating abstraction in their works to varying degrees. It’s an interesting and refreshing premise for a show, drawing a line from female abstract painters in the 1970s like Ayres, who very much broke the mould and was deprived of the same recognition as her male peers, to the present, where the gender divide is certainly less, but no doubt still felt by many of the artists involved in the exhibition. As well as addressing the gender imbalance, the show also calls to attention the geographical dominance of America in the abstract-expressionist movement, and highlights how this style of painting has been adopted, mastered and expanded on the other side of the Atlantic as well. Challenging binaries, chronologies and accepted narratives of art history, the show is an open conversation between generations, individual artists, and entire nations.
3. ISKV, 17th Istanbul Biennial
Image source: https://bienal.iksv.org/en/17b-artists/lida-abdul
The biennial’s curatorial statement begins: “Rather than being a great tree, laden with sweet, ripe fruit, this biennial seeks to learn from the birds’ flight, from the once teeming seas, from the earth’s slow chemistry of renewal and nourishment.” The team (Ute Meta Bauer, Amar Kanwar, and David Teh) invites visitors to use the time of pause and isolation during the pandemic as an opportunity to reflect, reassess priorities, and summon the confidence to try unfamiliar ways of interacting with each other and with the world. The exhibition is based around six streams of thought (which, the curators point out, are not ‘themes’ but ideas and points of discussion that came up throughout the planning of the biennial). These are ‘The Continuation of News by Other Means’, ‘Ways of Learning’, ‘Anarchiving’, ‘Elemental Politics—Geopoetics’, ‘Trans-sensory Aesthetics’, and ‘Far Past—Unorthodox and Ancient Solutions.’ The biennial prises an opening into the possibilities of using the past to inform our future approaches to critical global issues such as climate change, geopolitical unrest, nation-building, and humanitarian crises.
4. Group Show: ‘POST-CAPITAL: Art and the Economics of the Digital Age’ at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen
Image source: https://kunsthalcharlottenborg.dk/en/exhibitions/post-capital/
This exhibition brings together works of sculpture, painting, photography, video and performance that address the nature of production, consumption and wealth. Featuring twenty-one contemporary artists, the show is a critical and incisive examination of the intersection of capital and technology, and the inherent ethical, intellectual, and aesthetic contradictions that are inherent in the current post-industrial (and possibly post-capital) moment. The exhibition’s title is taken from from Peter Drucker’s 1993 book Post-Capitalist Society, which predicted (with uncanny prescience) that information technology would have such a significant impact on the labour market that it would ultimately lead to the fall of capitalism by 2020. Drucker also forecast that in the future, knowledge would become the basis for wealth, rather than capital, labour or land ownership. And it certainly feels like we are living in Drucker’s post-capitalist society, which a stroll (or scroll) through the exhibition only affirms.
5. Group Show: ‘Sub-Lingual’ at Incinerator Gallery, Melbourne
Image source: https://incineratorgallery.com.au/exhibition/neighbourhood/
‘Sub~Lingual’ is part of Neighbourhood Contemporary Art Festival, a three-week long celebration of music, performance and visual arts based in the western suburbs of Melbourne. The festival and exhibition both take as their vision the premise of expanded language and translation, the latter with a particular focus on the language of subcultures, cyber-universes, and the architecture of the underworld. With work by Serwah Attafuah, Visaya Hoffie, Alexander Powers, and Athena Thebus, the works displayed deconstruct language and reveal it to be a vehicle of power and domination over our bodies, tongues, gender, sexuality, and desire. The exhibition spans painting, sculpture, dance, and video which is deeply subversive and experimental, revealing that the true scope of text and language goes well beyond the usual borders of our understanding.
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