I am resurfacing.
After the exciting events of last Spring, with the exhibition Emma & Edvard: Love in the Time of Loneliness and the conference in March as the absolute height of my career, I was simply exhausted. All I could do was read Jo Nesbø detective novels, simply because they are set in the area of Oslo where the Munch Museum is. In-between novels I spent a short week in Lyon, speaking and screening around migration and migratory aesthetics. They invited Tarek Mehdi, the main character of my first somewhat longer documentary, to be present and discuss the film with the PhD and faculty attendees. They also installed Nothing is Missing and GLUB (Hearts) together, in a space much frequented by students. Inna Pravdenko, from Ukraine, organised it all to perfection. Here you see her addressing the crowd at the opening, making me shy.
Until I discovered that in my zombie-like state I had accepted way too many commitments for the Fall semester. Hence, the Summer went into writing talks. The resulting trips to many different countries, places, the events, are too many to enumerate.
It started with a simultaneous installation of Nothing is Missing in Valencia and Precarity in Utrecht. I couldn’t go to Valencia because they changed the date which now coincided with the ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association) conference in Utrecht to which I had already promised the installation and a keynote lecture. In spite of my absence, which I regretted, José Maldonado Gómez and his colleagues did a wonderfully adequate installation, with the right domestic ambiance in the middle of a modern university building.
In Utrecht, the installation was beautiful, right next to the registration office, so that the thousands of participants were practically compelled to see it. [all the xxx will be replaced by photos when I can]
At the end of August, the long series of travels began with a trip to Toronto, to see, and write about, Ydessa Hendeles’s brilliant exhibition The Milliner’s Daughter. Then I went on to a ten-days job in Rome, where I taught a PhD course at the Royal Dutch Institute Rome, ending with a one-day installation of Reasonable Doubt in the library.
From there straight on to Murcia, where Miguel Á. Hernández Navarro had organised a three-days seminar around my book Tiempos Trastornados. I took advantage of this trip to Spain to stop in Madrid for the opening of Doris Salcedo’s utterly brilliant new installation, Palimpsesto, in the Palacio de Cristal.
This is in my view one of the most important, powerful works of political art I have ever seen.
Since it is a live piece, which moves and changes constantly, I made a short video of it, here for you to see:
There is some Spanish, and most of the speeches are in English. For now I left the video without subtitles, to avoid spoiling th visual effect.
After a few days I then went to Paris, for the opening of Nalini Malani’s incredibly powerful exhibition The Rebellion of the Dead in the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Malani is my other favorite political artist. I had witten an article for the catalogue, and I was ever so happy to see the show for real. There was also a conference on Malani’s work, in which I gave a paper based on the catalogue essay and my book about her shadow plays, In Medias Res.
Here is just a fragment from one of her most recent paintings, a brilliant series.
The spine of the exhibition is a shadow play, Remembering Mad Meg, related to Brueghel’s famous painting. Whether one turn left (as I like to do) after the entrance, or right, to her oldest works, the shadow play is inevitably traversed.
I had the opportunity to show the short video I made of Salcedo’s moving work right afterwards in Bern, where I participated in a conference on Hispanic Visual Culture. I traveled by train, for ecological reasons, and barely a week later I made the same long journey, this time to Zürich, where I have a lecture in the historic café Voltaire
- a Dada hang-out - on “Clouded Judgments”, theorising the way a hovering, or hesitating paint surface that is neither abstract nor figurative can animate viewers; something I had learned from working with Munch, but now through the paintings of clouds by French artist Benoît Maire. Here is one slide from the extensive power point presentation I made for my argument based on his cloud paintings. This is the most “anthropomorphic” one:
From Zürich I took the night train to Vienna, for the celebration of a book on Marianne Maderna’s Radical Busts. We are now in early November. She generously gave me two small busts, of Simone de Beauvoir (left) and Virginia Woolf, now in my living room:
Right after this I went to New York, for a conference on Munch, occasioned by a Munch exhibition at the Breuer House, for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The topic was “Marketing the North” - a topic quite alien to me, but which I sued to talk about “how to save Munch from his reputation”. I wanted to replace the clichés on the artist by a fresh view of his work, especially the “surface tension” of his paintings. The week flew by with many appointments with old friends.
Still jet-lagged, I went to Spain again. The tour through three cities started in Malaga, where I showed, and talked bout, the installation GLUB (Hearts) as a bottom-up view of the city - the topic of the conference.
From there I went on to Santiago de Compostela, here I had the great luck to be able to show a 16-screen version of Madame B in the brilliant museum Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, where it is still running until late January. Director Santiago Olmo is my ideal of a museum director: brilliant, open-minded, and democratic to the bone. The conference, organised by Agar Ledo, had as its topic the question of a new history of art, especially in these times of political turmoil.
From Santiago I went on to Madrid for a conference on museums and their limits. Alex Alonso Tak and her team organised a big conference which included people from the Prado and a number of international speakers - another opportunity to make new friends.
The final trip was to Warsaw, where I was happy to connect again to my old friends Kasia Bojarska and Roma Sendyka (from Kraków). The conference was about memory. I used the opportunity to present an installation that combined a reduced version of The Mère Folle Project with Reasonable Doubt, to talk about “Dis-Remembering, Mis-Remembering” - the collective repression of traumatic history and the arrogant, presentist distortion of potentially useful memories. If you have the patience, the full lecture can be heard on this link.
My favorite installation team, Eidotech, here represented by Pawel, and Beata and Antoni of the Genealogies of Memory organisation, are posing amidst the photographs and screens. I thank them all wholeheartedly.
This was the end of my travels. Or so I thought. After participating in a conference in Leiden on “Activist Art” with a response to TJ Demos’s opening lecture, I suddenly had to go to Paris. My old friend Hubert Damisch had died. I deeply mourn his departure and will alway be grateful for the profound thinking he did with and for all of us. In 2012 I made a video on him, when he was the main character in a workshop in Antibes. Here you see him as he explained his thoughts, in one of my favorite photos of him.
More photos on this page:
In this video of 20 minutes, you see him in full action. People listened to him - his wife Teri Wehn Damisch, a brilliant documentary maker, is here on the right - for excellent reasons. Hubert Damisch was one of the greatest thinkers on visual art.
The video ends when he leaves - a symbolic moment, now, alas, forever.