This interview with photographer Leigh Ledare appeared in Metropolis M:
This interview with photographer Leigh Ledare appeared in Metropolis M:
This piece, written for Guardian professional, appeared on guardian.com:
Since leaving a full-time, secure position as a university lecturer (a job for which I wasn’t temperamentally suited) in 2008, I’ve tried my hand at a number of volatile occupations – the more outlandish the better. Like sharing confidences with perfect strangers, and running up and down the Turbine Hall in an interactive artwork that earned the Berlin-based but London-born Sehgal a nomination for the Turner Prize.
Art criticism is something I fell into by chance. Following the break up of a long-term relationship, I moved to London to take up a job in the French department at Queen Mary University of London in Mile End, and start anew. For a while I shared a flat just off Brick Lane with a BBC finance journalist aspiring to become an artist, who introduced me to her arty friends (some of whom will now feature as ‘characters’ in the documentary film I’m helping out with). Eventually she also left her BBC staff position, initially to do a course at the Prince’s Drawing School.
Neither one of us has looked back, despite ongoing challenges, financial insecurity, and an uncertain future. That someone with an academic background in Renaissance intellectual history and French should end up writing about contemporary art and film for a living may seem random. But such leaps are not uncommon. When I started reviewing art and film, I had no specialist knowledge of either field but was assured, on more than one occasion, that this can be positively an advantage.
As a former academic dabbling in journalism, you inevitably face some prejudices. For one, you have to prove that you can write in a non-academic way, that’s to say engaging, accessible, wearing its knowledge lightly – all things good academic writing is anyway. A PhD in humanities is not exactly an asset either when it comes to getting a job outside of academia, or even an internship or work experience for that matter.
I was recently introduced to the director of the Chisenhale Gallery in East London, a short distance from where I used to teach at Queen Mary. After taking me round their current show, which I’m reviewing for a magazine I contribute to, she politely asked me what else I did for a living. The question was simple yet revealing. Few people live off art reviewing alone.
While ‘art writing’ may be a burgeoning (academic) field, the dwindling opportunities in arts journalism mean that it’s no longer a viable career option. Unless they’re one of a handful of critics with staff jobs, whose longevity is impressive, art reviewers will typically do some editing, curating work or teaching on the side to subsidise their other less-than-lucrative activities.
But if English is not your first language, you’re doing everyone a favour by steering clear of editing. If curating doesn’t appeal to you for whatever reason (besides being at odds with what you’re called on to do as a critic), and if you’ve left academia to do something else, then these options may not be open to you. Luckily there are others: character hunting and the like. They may not help your long-term prospects but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of taking the path less travelled.
Academia and the art world, despite appearances, have a great deal in common, not least that each is peopled with eccentrics and cultivates its own brand of eccentricity. On the eve of another Frieze week, as I’m being plied with food and drinks in the run up to the yearly London marathon of art openings, talks, concerts and parties that glamour-starved academics could only dream of, I cannot help the gnawing sense of having swapped one bubble for another.
This report from the 66th Locarno Film Festival was posted on the frieze d/e blog:
Joanna Hogg’s well-received third feature Exhibition (2013), which was among the 20 films that premiered in the International Competition at Locarno, likewise casts two first-time actors in lead roles: singer and songwriter Viv Albertine, formerly of the girl punk band The Slits, as the neurotic and sexually repressed performance artist D, and Liam Gillick as her husband H, a successful architect and designer.
The plot hinges on the middle-aged, childless couple’s decision to sell a house that has been their home for over 20 years. Not just any house. Exhibition is set in a house that the late modernist architect James Melvin, to whom the film is dedicated, designed for himself in South Kensington. Too stylish to suit the needs of an ordinary family, the minimally furnished house with its clean lines, reflective windows and, at its heart, a spiral staircase that looks superb on film, is a gilded cage of sorts. The sense of entrapment is conveyed through a wealth of details, from close-ups of Venetian blinds to the striped tops that D, who hardly ever leaves the house and appears to meld with it, consistently wears.
Another modernist architect’s home, Lina Bo Bardi’s jungle-clad 1951 Casa de Vidro (Glass House) in Morumbi, São Paulo, features prominently in Adrián Villar Rojas’s short Lo que el fuego me trajo (What Fire Brought to Me, 2013). Commissioned by Hans Ulrich Obrist for an exhibition he curated in April 2013 (The Insides Are on the Outside, Casa de Vidro), this is the Argentine artist’s first foray into filmmaking. The most remarkable thing about this 43-minute-long silent film is the protracted closing credits that last a disproportionate 10 minutes. Consisting of spaced out letters, black on white that form elaborate designs on the screen, they wrap up the visual experience of the film in a witty and, to my knowledge, unprecedented way.
If modernist (glass) houses are justifiably favoured by filmmakers, few have hitherto explored the cinematic potential of cable cars. Manakamana (2013) is filmed entirely inside a cable car, carrying groups of two to three pilgrims (including some goats, on one occasion) to the eponymous Hindi temple. The film consists of eleven roughly 10-minute-long shots – the duration of a ride to or from the temple, corresponding to one reel of 16mm film. Each pair or group appears against a moving backdrop of densely wooded mountains and sky, neatly framed by the window of the cable car, which recalls a cinema screen. As an essay in portraiture, Manakamana brings to mind Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests (1964–66), whereas the luxuriant landscape filmed in successive long takes, coupled with the exquisite sound design, are akin to some of James Benning’s experimental films, from Ten Skies and Thirteen Lakes (both 2004) to Stemple Pass (2012).
Pays barbare, (Barbaric Land, 2013)
The latest film by the Milan-based duo Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, who have been collaborating since 1986, Pays barbare (Barbaric Land, 2013) is also driven by a strong political message, neatly summed up by the statement: ‘every period has its own fascism’. For the first 10 minutes of the film, blue-tinged footage documenting Mussolini’s downfall in 1945, marking the end of the Italo-Ethiopian war, is projected at decelerated speed and in complete silence to gripping effect. Culled from film archives, the hand-tinted moving images that follow in the remaining 55 minutes are powerful enough on their own, as an indictment of colonialism, without any of the literary quotes and statements occasionally read out in voice-over. That this kind of film should have its premiere in the main competition at Locarno, rather than being relegated to one of the sidebars, speaks loud and clear of the festival programmers’ willingness to take risks and their ongoing support for experimental filmmaking.
This interview with Beatrice Galilee appeared, and did not appear, in Flash Art:
AGNIESZKA GRATZA: Can you comment on the chosen theme or title – “Close, Closer”– for the third edition of the Lisbon Architecture Triennale?
Beatrice Galilee: The title is designed to convey an idea of intimacy but also of momentum, the sense that we’re moving towards something but that we’re not quite there yet.
AG: And what might that something be?
BG: An understanding of architecture as something much larger and more expansive. It’s a widening out of what architectural practice tends to be understood as.
AG: What part will performance play in the Triennale?
BG: The Triennale has three major exhibitions and one public program. For me they represent very different strands of architectural practice: “Future Perfect” is about speculation; “The Real and Other Fictions” about intimacy; “The Institute Effect” about institutions and the dissemination of architectural practice; whereas the “New Publics” is about agency and pedagogy. These themes have nothing in common, apart from the way they are executed. Each of the exhibitions has a performative, narrative-led approach.
AG: One of the remits of this Triennale is “to explore architecture as a practice of construction as opposed to building”. Could you elaborate on that?
BG: Architecture has always been about more than building; it only solidified into a profession in 1900 or so. Collectives like Archigram or Superstudio in the 70s totally demolished this idea of architecture as a built form and talked about architecture as a city, a political tool, a social project and a means to an end as opposed to an end in itself. It’s important to remember that there’s a history to this. We’re not presenting something entirely new, but rather putting the spotlight on it and saying that it’s the only thing we’ll be discussing. I know that architecture consists of many other things but we’re not going to go there. If you accept to have construction as well as models and drawings, you dilute the message.
AG: I’m intrigued by the six digital publications you’re putting together in lieu of a traditional catalogue.
BG: They’re meant to contain the intellectual background for the exhibitions because the exhibitions themselves are both ephemeral and elusive. What’s nice about e-books is that they’re distributed digitally. This means we can hopefully reach more people around the world. They have a global appeal.