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August 17 2012

Exhibitionist: The week's art shows in pictures

From Oscar Godfrey in Glasgow to Superhuman in London, find out what's happening in art around the country

August 10 2012

Exhibitionist: The week's art shows in pictures

From relationships with the urban landscape in Walsall to the Clays Lane Live Archive in London, find out what's happening in art around the country

August 03 2012

Exhibitionist: The week's art shows in pictures

From Philip Guston in Edinburgh to Dada Fest in Liverpool, find out what's happening in art around the country

NASA technology helps get video art off the ground

Kelly Richardson's latest work, which opens at Spanish City on the North Sea coast at Whitley Bay today, uses data sent by satellite to create a dramatic reconstruction of the surface of Mars

Kelly Richardson's latest work Mariner 9, which opens at Spanish City on the Whitley Bay coast today, uses data sent by satellite to create a dramatic reconstruction of the surface of Mars.

Kelly, who is originally from Ontario, now lives in Whitley Bay, so it is a particularly appropriate place to host the world premiere of Mariner 9. The work, on a 12 metre long screen, shows the desert-like surface of the planet as the artist imagines it might look in a few hundred years, after a battle has taken place, with the detritus of abandoned space ships scattered over the surface of Mars. The artist has taken NASA's own imagery and technical data to help recreate the arid Martian landscape, complete with dust-storm. By coincidence, NASA's Mars Curiousity is due to land on the planet on Monday. The artist says of Mariner 9:

It focuses on the contradiction of our beautiful endeavour to find life beyond Earth, to know that we're not alone in the universe, while simultaneously pointing to our incredibly destructive nature as a species which continues to destroy life we know to exist at an extraordinary rate.

Spanish City, designed by the Newcastle architects Cackett & Burns Dick, was once the centre of a pleasure resort that rivalled Blackpool in its heyday. It has been closed since 2000, so this is a rare chance to see inside before redevelopment takes place. The imposing white Edwardian building, which boasted the second largest dome in the country, after St Paul's cathedral, now belongs to North Tyneside council, and has just been given planning permission for redevelopment. It is hoped the complex will re-open in 2014. In his Buildings of Northumberland, echoing Coleridge's "stately pleasure dome", Pevsner describes it as a "high and stately dome (possibly one of the earliest in Britain to be built of ferro-concrete)"

As well as the screening in Spanish City, Legion, a large retrospective of her works is on at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (NGCA) in Sunderland, and a smaller display at the National Glass Centre, just across the river Wear. The NGCA is filled with several of her video works, including Exiles of the Shattered Star, where an idyllic scene in the Lake District is disturbed by a series of fireballs falling slowly towards a lake. Ferman Drive is a one minute long shot of a suburban Canadian street viewed from a car. Everything is normal about the dozens of houses with their well-tended gardens, other than for the couple of seconds when the camera goes past the house the artist grew up in, which she has painstakingly recreated as if it was spinning round and round. Glow shows a rear view of a television set, so that whatever is on the screen can only be imagined by the colours it throws onto a blank white wall – as the wall panel puts it, "intentionally simple, beguiling, and infuriating." Another world premiere is The Great Destroyer, an eight screen video installation showing a rain forest. The sound track is of the animals of the forest, including, disconcertingly, a lyrebird imitating the sound of a chainsaw.

Coinciding with the screening of Mariner 9, the Tyneside Cinema (which, with North Tyneside council, co-commissioned the work) is organising a series of events around the screening – details can be found here. The final days of the screening also coincide with the opening weekend of the Whitley Bay Film Festival.

Over the next couple of year, Mariner 9 and Legion will tour to the Towner, Eastbourne, the Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, the Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver.

Mariner 9 is on at Spanish City, Whitley Bay, until 19 August
Legion is on at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art until September 29
Orion Tide is on at the National Glass Centre until September 9 © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

June 29 2012

This week's new exhibitions in pictures

From Turner Monet Twombly in Liverpool to Edvard Munch in London, find out what's happening in art around the country

June 22 2012

This week's new exhibitions

Jenny Saville, Oxford

Jenny Saville's monumental paintings of flesh in the raw have made her one of Britain's best-known artists. Her women's engorged bellies, swollen breasts and thighs, shouting of anguished self-image in bloody gobs of pigment, have garnered her a public following to rival the approval heaped on her by critics. Although she emerged as an almost fully formed star when Saatchi first exhibited her work in the early 1990s, this is her first big public gallery show in her home country. It traces her development as a painter over the course of two decades, from the famed images of unruly, tormented but defiant female flesh, to recent works that see her striking out in fresh directions. New drawings have taken Leonardo's cartoon of The Virgin and Child with St Ann and St John the Baptist, for inspiration. In place of its vision of stoic motherhood, Saville's images are a hectic whirl of energy.

Modern Art Oxford and The Ashmolean Museum Of Art & Archeology, to 26 Sep

Skye Sherwin

Mark Wallinger, Gateshead

A film shows three builders erecting scaffolding on a beach. The camera frames the geometric structure set against the shingle and the background horizon. The builders' white T-shirts interweave with the metallic grey of steel rods that frame a grey-blue sea and sky. The Construction Site receives its UK premiere in this show of Wallinger's intriguing work. There's something about the way Wallinger composes apparent futilities with such systematic earnestness that is in itself convincing. Another classic here, titled 10000000000000000, is of exactly 65,536 (the decimal form of the title's binary number) stones on a chess grid, a reflection of a superperfect number.

BALTIC, to 14 Oct

Robert Clark

Diane Arbus, London

Whether photographing a giant or schoolgirls, Diane Arbus had a genius for revealing her subjects' outre side. The 32 photos here focus on modern tribes, exploring the idea that dressing up or getting into disguise can make you freer to be yourself. It's easy to see her portraits of celebrity lookalikes as an influence on an artist such as Gillian Wearing. There's plenty of strange glamour, from puckish, bare-chested youths in makeup to society dames with matching pillbox hats and elegantly held cigarettes. Arbus probes further, however. Her image of a blind couple, huddled in one another's arms and dwarfed by their bed, or Russian midgets in a sombre living room, speak of tribal tendencies as necessary armour in a tough world.

Timothy Taylor, W1, Tue to 17 Aug


Stanya Kahn, Manchester

Stanya Kahn comes from Los Angeles and it shows. Her videos are all self-consciously faked, every emotion and thought acted up and played out. But you're reminded of the camera's ubiquitous presence; the costumes are tatty and the props throwaway. Kahn navigates this slapstick theatre of the absurd with consummate self-deprecating humour. In Lookin' Good, Feelin' Good she roams the streets dressed as a giant foam penis. For It's Cool, I'm Good she explores LA wrapped in bandages like an escaped hospital patient. In true LA style, the words Cool and Good are taken to mean the opposite of their conventional definitions.

Cornerhouse, to 16 Sep


Madge Gill, London

Madge Gill is one of outsider art's most fascinating figures. A Victorian spiritualist, she began obsessively creating drawings guided by a spirit known as Myrninerest, whose "signature" was often seen in the corner. The repetitive intricacy of her work is tireless: dense squares, cross-hatching and swirling forms, from which spooky, feminine faces peer. Most of Gill's vast output rarely leaves its Newham archive; here Bow Arts redresses the balance with the first of a trio of 10-week shows at the Nunnery.

The Nunnery, E3, to 23 Aug


Erwin Wurm, Liverpool

A grown man entertains himself in private by stuffing red and blue marker pens up each nostril. He grips two photo-film canisters in his clenched eye sockets and, as a finishing touch, his mouth is gagged by holding a stapler like some kind of robotic beak. If all this weren't loony enough, he takes a photograph of the whole grotesque affair and presents the image as a work of art. This is just one of Erwin Wurm's One Minute Sculptures, a series of photo-artwork-performances that he's been working on assiduously since the late 1990s. Other of the 18 works exhibited here show a prone figure half buried by a suitcase and another figure wearing a cardboard box as a regulation uniform. The surprising thing with Wurm is that such dada daftness doesn't look just tiresomely wacky, like so many drunken pranks. Delightfully, it's somehow very sophisticated cultural mischief.

Open Eye Gallery, to 2 Sep


Andrew Kötting & Iain Sinclair, London

Legacy has become the Olympics buzzword, applied before the fact, as if you could reverse time, and projected on to the future. Psychogeographer writer Ian Sinclair and artist-filmmaker Andrew Kötting's latest project sends up the vacuous cultural commissions taking legacy's name in vain to bulldozer so-called wastelands rich with people's history. Exploring the lesser-celebrated side of Britain, last year they took to Blighty's waterways in a swan-shaped pedalo. Their pedal-powered odyssey from Hastings to Hackney is by turns tragi-comic and quietly radical, lit up by folk songs and locals' stories. The results can be seen now in an installation of film, photos and artefacts, to be released in movie form next month.

Dilston Grove, SE16, Wed to 29 Jul

SS © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Exhibitionist: the week's art shows in pictures

From monumental flesh paintings in Oxford to portraits of celebrity lookalikes in London, find out what's happening in art around the country

June 08 2012

This week's new exhibitions

Nancy Holt, London

Fifty years ago, a group of American artists waved goodbye to the constraints of galleries and the art market, and headed for the wilderness to construct huge earthworks and industrial sculptures. Michael Heizer, for instance, cut deep welts in the Nevada desert; Robert Smithson built his legendary Spiral Jetty in Utah's Great Salt Lake; while his partner, Nancy Holt, left her Sun Tunnels in its desert: giant concrete tubes that frame the heavens. Yet as this show of Holt's photography suggests, the umbilical cord linking land art to the urban art world was never cut. It includes thrilling images of well-known works such as the Sun Tunnels, lying in the sands like a dissembled telescope. It wasn't just America's Big Country that enthralled her either: one rarely seen set of photographs document Holt and Smithson's work in Dartmoor, made while travelling around Britain's ancient stone circles and monoliths.

Haunch Of Venison, W1, to 25 Aug

Skye Sherwin

Isabel Rawsthorne, Walsall

Isabel Rawsthorne is more recognised through the dramatically warped features from Francis Bacon's portraits of her than in the drawings and paintings she pursued during the latter half of the 20th century. Shifting between the postwar bohemia of Paris's Left Bank and the boozy bonhomie of 50s Soho London, Rawsthorne was almost doomed to be overshadowed by such near legendary artists of the time as her friends Bacon and Alberto Giacometti. So this exhibition comes as a long overdue reappraisal of a highly individualistic body of work. Her best embodies a painfully sensitive awareness of physical vulnerability. "A fragile being with a brief existence," as she described her choice subject.

New Art Gallery to 8 Sep

Robert Clark

SNAP 2012, Snape

Now in its second year, Snap, the contemporary art addition to what will be the 64th Aldeburgh classical music festival at Snape Maltings, is pairing younger up-and-comers with established names and a few art-historical greats. One of Ryan Gander's slippery brain-teasing lectures-cum-detective stories kicks off proceedings. There's painting by Glenn Brown, renowned for his fusions of art history with sci-fi fantasy; Maggi Hambling is complementing her semi-abstract, tumultuous seascapes with her first ever sound work, while Gavin Turk's left a white door invitingly open in the middle of a field, like a magic portal. Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Alison Wilding and Sarah Lucas are among the major names with sculptures on site.

Snape Maltings, Sat to 24 Jun


Richard Rigg, Gateshead

Richard Rigg selects structural banalities from our everyday domestic and workaday world, lifts them out of their settings, and recombines them to make sculptural metaphors for states of mind that are surprisingly delightful or distinctly deranged. A mountain cabin contains a mock-up mountainous landscape, its Scottish Highland rocks and earthy dust apparently derived from the Precambrian geological period that predates human life. Thus the almost unimaginable grandeur of nature is shovelled up and deposited for our contemplation in a typically clinical white-cube contemporary art gallery.

BALTIC, to 27 Aug


Lynette Wallworth, London

This year Venus has been passing between Earth and the sun, appearing as a black dot over the blazing centre of our solar system. Only 53 of these "transits" have occurred since 2000 BC, and in the late-18th century one prompted the first international scientific expedition, with boffins taking to the seas to observe its passage. Like those earlier voyagers, Lynette Wallworth looks to the ocean for her transit-referencing work, Coral: Rekindling Venus, installed in over 20 planetariums worldwide. She's replaced the cosmos with an underwater world of endangered creatures filmed in diminishing coral reefs. Accompanying sounds come from Antony And The Johnsons, Gurrumul and Tanya Tagaq Gillis.

Royal Observatory Greenwich, SE10, to 6 Jul


Lis Rhodes And Antonia Hirsch, Glasgow

Two film installations from a genre that used to be called "experimental" but is surely well into its second maturity. Lis Rhodes's aptly titled Dissonance And Disturbance (to 24 Jun) is a cut-up free-associational onslaught in which marks scratched into the film are read as sounds and broadcast as sporadic rhythms of buzzing interference. Meanwhile the visual projections themselves take their cue from this in a sequence of pulsating geometric grids and illegible text fragments. The sensory disorientations of Antonia Hirsch's installation (to 1 Jul) are no less extreme as almost subliminal flashes of light punctuate readings from Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun, an anti-war novel narrated by a ex-soldier who has lost arms, legs and face and experiences the world as a series of distressed abstractions. It's a stream-of-consciousness semi-abstraction show in which the primal sources of thought appear to be plugged into.



Wide Open School, Invisible: Art Of The Unseen, London

Wide Open School (Mon to 11 Jul) sounds like a glorious pipe dream of an education system, which no one has had the nerve, or means, to attempt. It will see 100 artists – including Martin Creed, Jeremy Deller and Thomas Hirschhorn – devising and delivering classes, leading workshops and giving lectures. Subjects will take in cloud architecture, Freddie Mercury, deep space, and sex in the colonies. Upstairs at the Hayward, there's "invisible art" (Tue to 5 Aug), from Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono and Maurizio Cattelan. It chronicles over 50 years of the art of the unseen, from Yves Klein's famous empty galleries, purportedly full of invisible energy, to the vibrating walls of Jeppe Hein's Invisible Labyrinth.

Hayward Gallery, SE1


Caroline Achaintre, Sara Barker And Alice Channer, Birmingham

An intriguing grouping of sculptures that all touch on some kind of thematic interface between presence and absence. Sara Barker's precarious architectural constructions, hand-painted spindle-legged armatures, appear to frame a very evocative nothingness. The human subjects in Alice Channer's installations are represented by hand and body smears, slightly alarming imprints on curtains that cannot but invoke Hitchcock. Meanwhile Caroline Achaintre's hauntings tend to be more blunt, lumpen and in-your-face, a bizarre and potent amalgam of horror schlock and oh-so-nice craftiness.

Eastside Projects, to 28 Jul

RC © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Exhibitionist: The week's art shows in pictures

From a survey of invisible art in London to a magic door made by Gavin Turk in Snape Maltings, find out what's happening in art around the country

May 28 2012

Lynette Wallworth: the alien world of coral reefs

The Australian artist reflects on her underwater film, Coral: Rekindling Venus, which premieres to coincide with a rare astronomical event

Timing is always important in art but it is nothing less than crucial when your project is tied to an event so rare that it will happen next month – and then not again for 105 years.

The Australian artist Lynette Wallworth is in that position. She spoke of her hugely ambitious film work that has been five years in the making and will be premiered next month as part of the London 2012 festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad. "It is a call to action," she said. "A harking back to a possibility."

It is inspired by a rare astronomical event, Venus's transit of the sun, when that planet passes directly between the sun and Earth. The transits come in pairs, few and far between – 2004, 5-6 June this year and then not again until 2117 and 2125. The previous pair was in 1874 and 1882 and before that 1761 and 1769.

It is the 18th-century transits that have particularly fascinated Wallworth because they led to what was perhaps the first example of worldwide scientific co-operation.

One of the big challenges of the age was to work out how big the solar system was and how much distance was there between Earth and the sun. One man occupied with the question was English astronomer Edmund Halley who speculated that observing the transit from extreme parts of the globe would help scientists come close to the calculation.

"He also knew he wouldn't live to see it," said Wallworth. "That was the part of the story that, in the beginning, hooked me in."

Halley wrote a letter to the Royal Observatory, the astronomers of the future, "begging them that when the time came they would go in ships around the world to observe this event".

And they did. It has a resonance today because it was not a problem that could be solved in one place; observers had to be all over the planet – around 120 in 1761 (French, British, Danish, Swedish, German, Italian, Portuguese) and an even more in 1769. It was the reason Captain Cook was in Tahiti.

Some remarkable things happened. The French allowed British ships safe passage, even though the two countries had recently been at war and were far from friends. "It was an undertaking that was for the benefit of all humanity," said Wallworth. "An attempt by countries to act globally for a scientific problem. It was amazing … beautiful, sort of mind boggling. There are so many moments that caught me as an artist."

That inspired her to make a "call to action" film showing the extraordinary, almost alien beauty of coral reefs – one barometer of climate change. "Coral is the canary in the coalmine of the ocean," the artist said. "They can handle very little temperature change. It is impossible for us to imagine a sky without stars but we have to be able to contemplate an ocean without coral and they are extraordinary communities."

Wallworth commissioned filming by underwater cinematographers, including the Emmy award-winning Australian David Hannan who shot around three-quarters of it. The film is strange and beautiful to look at and will be even more incredible for viewers as it will be shown at planetariums across the world.

"People will think they are in space, think they are moving through stars," said Wallworth.

Almost trance-inducing music has come from artists including Antony and the Johnsons and the Australian Aboriginal singer Gurrumul.

Wallworth said the film is "a harking back to a possibility. Is there a way to think forward, like Halley did, in terms of imagining what we might need to do? Is there a possibility of acting in unison?"

The film will initially be shown at planetariums in 25 cities across the world but Wallworth hopes it will have a life beyond that. She said: "I'm hoping it will build a new audience and that is part of what makes it exciting."

• Lynette Wallworth's Coral: Rekindling Venus will launch on 6 June and be shown at the Royal Observatory planetarium in Greenwich, London from 7 June-6 July and the Birmingham planetarium at various dates in June. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Coral: Rekindling Venus – video

Australian artist Lynette Wallworth's remarkable film depicting the almost alien world of coral reefs

May 21 2012

Adrian Searle encounters … chaos in Paris

Healers and tricksters, shape-shifters and spirit guides, transgressors and transvestites – two exhibitions in Paris send the Guardian art critic into a spiral of panic

In every encounter, you confront yourself first of all, your openness and your resistance. There's always a little voice in your head providing a running commentary. Some critics, recording this invisible guide's comments as they go, scribble their way through exhibitions. It is a surprise they see anything at all. I try to ignore my invisible little friend, the smart-assed creep on my shoulder. But if that doesn't work, there's always exorcism.

We were standing at a voodoo altar, curator Jean de Loisy, anthropologist Bertrand Hell and me. There were just a couple of pots on the floor, each containing a huge, multicoloured, waxy, fat-congealed mound of stuff. There might have been some chicken in there, and what looked like jawbones, of what I couldn't tell. It had been sitting under the gallery lights for a couple of weeks. Yum.

"What this thing needs to activate it is strong alcohol!" De Loisy exclaimed, and picked up a bottle of gin from beside the pots, giving the mounds a liberal sprinkling then taking a swig himself. These are the sorts of spirits I like, but he didn't pass the bottle. For a moment, nothing discernible happened. No voodoo, no who-do. The sorcerer from Togo who concocted the altar goes by the name of Azé Kokovivina, Sorcerer of the Giggles. Maybe that's where the gin comes in.

Suddenly I wasn't laughing, but plunged into a world of spirits, demons and creatures from the netherworld. Annette Messager's clothes flew about the room, powered by electric fans. A tiny carved Peruvian shaman, part baby, part boxer, and no bigger than my hand, took up a fighting stance. A medieval St Michael slew a demon, Joseph Beuys gave a lecture to a dead hare and Picasso transformed himself into a faun. A figure with a head like a dunce's cap gave me the eye, and what looked like a sock turned into a cuttlefish. Ancient beings of remarkable ferocity stalked my way and Sri Lankan masks gurned and yowled.

In the Garden of Addiction, Christophe Berdaguer and Marie Péjus's tangle of glass tubes, like so many evil flowers, proffered the scents of opium, cocaine, skunk and booze. Various modern-day witches and healers discussed their craft on a tower of TV screens. It was like watching a dozen cookery channels at once.

Cultures, eons, continents flew by. We were among the forces of chaos and disorder: healers and tricksters, shape-shifters and spirit guides, transgressors and transvestites. Housed in a mock-up cave of aluminium struts, wallboard and plaster-soaked scrim, the exhibition Les Maîtres du Désordre (Masters of Chaos) is an exercise in wild curating at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.

De Loisy has always been a bit of a maverick curator. Here, he has brought together a bewildering selection of artefacts, sculptures, costumes, masks and objects from past and present, and from every continent. Beautiful, tender objects collide with the monstrous and the devilish. Much of it has extraordinary power and vitality. Among it all are a number of more modern, western artworks – from Picasso to Paul McCarthy – as if to show the persistence of the transgressive and the search for hidden meaning in the world. Beuys, a latter-day shaman, thought he could heal the postwar world with his art. Randy old goat Picasso was a shape-shifter and trickster.

Other recent artists – Jonathan Meese, the Chapman Brothers, Russia's Oleg Kulik being led around on a chain and behaving like a mad dog – are just tricky. But if you want to be an artist, you've got to believe in something. The trouble with most contemporary art in this context is that little of it, if any, is the product of a shared belief system that glues the world, and the self, together. If there are no rules, there's nothing to transgress.

The exhibition's title is taken from Bertrand Hell's book Possession and Shamanism, yet to be translated into English. Masters of Chaos is also the culmination of De Loisy's own 20-year obsession with the subject. His previous curatorial projects have included exhibitions on beauty, on the face, and, in 2008, Traces of the Sacred, a tour of the persistence of the sacred in 20th- and 21st-century art. He also collaborated with Anish Kapoor and James Turrell and, after working at the Centre Pompidou, went sailing around the world for a number of years. He is a man in search of something. He has also recently been appointed director of the newly renovated Palais de Tokyo, just across the Seine, where the Paris Triennale is currently on view – the launch show in the expanded, renovated building.

The two exhibitions share an interest in the ethnographic, in cultural difference and transcultural proximity, but could not be more different in approach. De Loisy is passionate about objects. The Triennale, which goes by the title Intense Proximity, is much more cautious about the readings we might make of the vast corpus of paintings and sculpture, films and video installations, photographs and drawings brought together by guest curator Okwui Enwezor. De Loisy's show is a thematic romp. Enwezor's triennale admits to the difficulties of finding order and meaning in the world. The triennale is a trial for any spectator. I wandered like a lost tourist. One minute, you're in the Venezuelan jungle, the next at a mixed-race wedding in the new South Africa. One minute, I'm staring at the most intimate body parts of an Amsterdam sex-worker, the next watching a TV documentary about a talent contest for migrant Filipinos in Tel Aviv.

I twirl along to north African beats and stare at a group of closed and silent grand pianos. Here are Claude Levi-Strauss's notebook drawings and a great new painting by Chris Ofili; over there are some gorgeous black-and-white photographs of Bahia's Afro-Brazilian dock life in the 1940s. On a screen, blacked-up (now that really does seem transgressive), the young French artist Lili Reynaud-Dewar dances among a group of her own sculptures, in homage to Josephine Baker.

The day before my shimmy with the shamans, I'd spent almost five hours here and was still reeling. Enwezor, who directed Documenta 11 in 2002 and is now running the Haus der Kunst in Munich, has a very different take on art and ethnography to De Loisy. He sees a link between the ethnographer and the artist, ethnography and curating.

Intense Proximity focuses on this: the link between the close and the distant, the near and the far. It confronts us with the world's disjunctions. With so many cultural differences and competing interests in an ever-shrinking world, how do we even begin to make sense of it all? Is art a kind of news from elsewhere (whether a geographical place or a somewhere in the artist's mind), or a report from the close-to-home? Both exhibition catalogues quote the ironic opening phrase of Levi-Strauss's marvellous 1955 book Tristes Tropiques: "I hate travelling and explorers". The idea of exploration has changed immeasurably since the days of 19th-century colonial empire, and as much again since Levi-Strauss's first trip to Brazil in 1935. Bertrand Hell told me how little travelling French ethnographers and anthropologists undertake nowadays.

On the other hand, today's curators, and even critics, are always on the move. Enwezor admits to a kind of intellectual vertigo and spatial disorientation. Descending into the bowels of the Palais de Tokyo, I knew what he meant. It has hidden depths, basements leading to sub-basements, subterranean mezzanines and floors, traversed by ramps and open, curving staircases. Films are screened in rediscovered auditoria that had been walled up for decades, and in side rooms branching from dizzying Piranesian shafts. The place seems to go on for ever, and so does the triennale. When I described my journey through the triennale to De Loisy, he said he likes the idea of people getting lost in these basements. I like being lost, too. But this journey is accompanied by growing panic.

I'm bought up short by a sign that reads: "I am not exotic I am exhausted." How can anyone deal with all this stuff? The urge to see everything leads to the frustration of not seeing anything, of always being driven on to the next thing without absorbing the last. It is a flight that becomes ever more urgent, ever more futile. If it is an encounter with anything, it is with competing urges: the voice on the shoulder jockeying me on, and a desire for it all to stop. It is an encounter with the chaos of the world.

• Masters of Chaos is at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, until 29 July

Intense Proximity: La Triennale 2012 is at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, until 26 August © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

May 18 2012

Exhibitionist: The week's art shows in pictures

From Frida and Diego's love affair laid bare in County Durham to geisha cartoons in Leeds, Skye Sherwin and Robert Clark find out what's happening in art around the country

This week's new exhibitions

Lux/ICA Biennial Of Moving Images, London

As you might expect from an institution associated with the development of video art, Lux's first biennial, conceived in conjunction with the ICA, has all bases covered, from screenings to education and events. Eleven artists and curators at the forefront of the medium have been invited to put programmes together. These include director Ben Rivers, feted for his hand-processed documentary portraits (Sun); and Pulp guitarist and experimental film curator Mark Webber, whose 1990s ICA-based music and film club Little Stabs At Happiness kicks off proceedings (Thu). Other highlights include a programme of Luther Price's hallucinatory reconfigurations of old, junked film (Fri). There's also a five-day school for artists, live performances, a student symposium and writers-in-residence responding to the goings-on.

ICA, SW1, Thu to 27 May

Skye Sherwin

Yto Barrada & Bedwyr Williams, London

A pile of bricks stands dead centre surrounded by a building site; a ladder is propped against a fig tree giving access to a raft beached among its branches: Yto Barrada's photographs afford a cryptic significance to the apparently banal features of her native Tangier. The subjects might seem inconsequential, yet the overall aesthetic is meticulously considered. The accompanying show by Bedwyr Williams relies on a more madcap form of mystification. He evokes an atmosphere of cultural siege, taping up windows and piling up sandbags. Enter his Stevenson Screen and you hear the whimpers of Dr Jekyll metamorphosing into Mr Hyde. Williams becomes an artist precisely by pretending to be one or another.

Ikon Gallery, to 8 Jul

Robert Clark

Yael Bartana, London

And Europe Will Be Stunned … might be Israeli artist Bartana's masterpiece: a deeply provocative meditation on Jewish identity that levels political punches with surreal wit. The film trilogy begins with a young idealist speechifying in a weed-strewn stadium to a few kids in uniform. It's a broken echo of the Nazi party glory days, of the Hitler youth and Olympic spectacle. This fledgling leader though is Jewish, and he calls for his people to return, not to Israel but to Poland, site of the largest concentration camp exterminations.This tragicomic epic's immediate analogy is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but Bartana strikes at broader questions about utopian dreams dissolving into dark nationalistic tendencies.

Hornsey Town Hall, N8, Tue to 1 Jul


Frida Kahlo And Diego Rivera, Barnard Castle

The fraught but soulful relationship between Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera – their fights and reconciliations; their public image as well, of course, as their inventive neo-traditional paintings – became inseparably identified with the struggles of the Mexican revolution. Rarely has great art been so closely aligned with a political fight. This photographic exhibition charts a love story that is rarely lacking in drama: after quarrelling with Rivera, the exiled Leon Trotsky, who had an affair with Kahlo, was assassinated with an ice pick. But, above all the photographs remind us of Kahlo's dignified beauty through torturous ill health.

Bowes Museum, to 24 Jun


News From Nowhere, Colchester

This show tracks 100 years of artists looking to the future, experimenting with fresh technology and fashioning sci-fi visions. Earlier works include László Moholy-Nagy's abstract set designs for his montages of an underground city in 1936 film Things To Come, written by HG Wells. The post-apocalyptic musing continues with Roger Hiorns's recent pulverised aeroplane: a blasted grey landscape of machine dust. Lynn Chadwick's stainless steel beasts are like armoured monsters, while Lygia Clark's small-scale "animals", rendered with aluminium squares and circles, provide a more inviting vision of the metallic and organic.

Firstsite, Sun to 27 Aug


Fiona Rae, Leeds

Fiona Rae's world is one of uneasy enchantment. Atmospheric spaces are inhabited by a visual vocabulary of ambiguous signs, florid emblems, daubs, spillages and filigree embellishments. While thoroughly painterly, her works emerge from a post-Photoshop world of image samplings and spatial layerings. This show of 17 large works from the last 20 years demonstrates her metamorphic methods as baroque elaborations mutate into geisha cartoons. While courting lyrical pleasantries, Rae always deepens her images with hints of an underlying disorientation and dread of being forever lost in this world of wonders. Her paintings appear spontaneous and have a refreshing affect, but are incredibly painstaking.

Leeds Art Gallery, to 26 Aug


Things That Have Interested Me, London

New work by an intriguing cross-section of 14 young London-based artists is brought together here in the ad-lib style of the Arnold Bennett collection of essays from which the show takes its name. The lineup includes Simon & Tom Bloor, who've made a name for themselves in the past few years with projects that pay half-ironic homage to Britain's unloved, ill-conceived public sculpture and town planning schemes. Dan Coopey's work explores the latent potential of images out of context, from the bold, bright abstract shapes of a children's book illustrator to the animations (AKA moving wallpaper) for Dancing On Ice. For their ongoing project, Peles Empire – collaborative duo Barbara Wolff and Katharina Stoever – apparently hold a funhouse mirror up to previous eras' decor in their trippy sculptures, paintings and prints.

Waterside Contemporary, N1, Thu to 14 Jul


Sublime Transactions, Ambleside

It's 100 years since Mary Louisa Armitt bequeathed her library to the people of Ambleside to help safeguard the town's rich cultural heritage. Here, 15 artists present work in a centenary celebration, proving the relevance of the English Romantic tradition at a time in which our creative intervention into the natural world is of crucial concern. Coleridge, Wordsworth and the local Dada exile Kurt Schwitters are all paid homage by artists avoiding the cliches of tourist landscape traditions, including David Toop, Riitta Ikonen, Karoline Hjorth and Sir Peter Blake. Unmissable if you are in the Lakes this summer.

The Armitt Museum, to 22 Mar 2013

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May 05 2012

Mika Rottenberg; James Gillray – review

Nottingham Contemporary

There is a stunning film by the New York artist Mika Rottenberg that shows a tract of snowbound wilderness in what might be Alaska, into which a woman strides without any shoes. She is gleefully unabashed by the cold. First she walks on her bare feet, then on her bare hands across this virginal snow beneath freezing white skies. Whereupon the camera swings upwards, the landscape inverts and she is suddenly hanging from the roof of the world.

The method is simple but the effect is exhilarating. A couple of minutes of shrewd camera work and much athleticism on the woman's part produce a spectacular vision. It touches deeply upon something we have all imagined, what is more: the world turned upside down and our own lives taking place on the ceiling.

This is not the kind of film that made Mika Rottenberg famous. Born in Argentina in 1976, educated in Israel, she moved to America as a teenager and has been one of Manhattan's art stars for almost a decade. A regular of the Whitney Biennials and winner of the inaugural Cartier award, what really made her name was a video called Dough, premiered in 2006 and shown here the same year in the Serpentine Gallery's chaotic anthology Uncertain States of America.

It's a grotesque but fascinating performance: a monstrous regiment of women stacked one above the other in makeshift plywood cells, passing the eponymous dough through an absurd production line that involves, quite intimately, sweat and tears. As the claggy white stuff is kneaded and massaged by the workers it takes on some of their characteristics – the largest woman kneads the most voluminous globs into long skinny ropes passed down through a hole into the tapering hands of a prodigiously elongated woman.

Dough and flesh become a central equation, along with the factory as literal sweatshop. One worker's perspiration keeps the dough moist, along with another's tears. A third woman keeps the place cool with her Sisyphean labours on a foot pump.

You can see Dough in Nottingham Contemporary's one-woman retrospective, part of its constantly inventive programme. The experience is complicated in unexpected ways. Rottenberg favours remarkably endowed women – body builders, contortionists, giantesses, porn stars – and scarcely any of the dozen or so works screening here can be watched without uneasy thoughts of exploitation, exhibitionism and labour; which is, I think, all part of their content.

In another claustrophobic factory, botched together from gaffer tape and cardboard, three women are somehow transforming red fingernails into maraschino cherries (think of Swift's Lagadans trying to extract sunbeams from cucumber). Personal touches – artificial flowers, lamps, towels – also suggest a spa day mordantly satirised. As the contraptions whirr, each stage of the process is signalled by a call from one uniformed woman to the next. A weird hybrid of brothel, beauty parlour and assembly line is implied.

Rottenberg can be more or less explicit with her politics. A recent film takes the production of lettuce and latex and turns it into full-scale carnivalesque. Women mash lettuce and blusher into revolting cubes of detritus; others flay great mountains of rubber into lettuce-leaf thinness; still others massage the arms of their fellow workers in a roundelay of nonstop labour.

It becomes apparent that there is an above and below to this capitalism cycle, for those bare arms in India are descending through the earth into an underground labour camp in Arizona. Globalism has shrunk the world. The film is gruelling to watch, and lacking in the artist's characteristically eerie Twin Peaks humour, but it burrows under your skin with its Boschian fantasy.

Rottenberg's works are terrifically well presented inside what may be the very shacks and factories you see on the screen, and which certainly feel as claustrophobic as they look. Her 2007 piece, Cheese, is screening inside part of what appears to be an Amish farm, a maze of wooden rafters with a chicken-coop aesthetic.

The film is based on the 19th-century Sutherland Sisters, a family of women with Rapunzel tresses who performed for Barnum and Bailey and sold their own hair-growth formula, supposedly incorporating mist collected at the Niagara Falls. Rottenberg found their latter-day equivalent among a group of fanatics in the south, women whose crowning glory is so improbably long it takes hours to wash and comb, can be used for all sorts of bizarre purposes and has to be hung up on hooks overnight.

Or so her film conceives of such hair, waving in the breeze like fields of corn, trailing like snakes upon the ground, worn in towering coils or rope-like plaits. She sees it as it is: alien, not quite part of the body.

And she is also contemplating the strangeness of closed communities, of the self-sufficient farm, of the religious enclave, of the all-woman show (not to mention hair fetishists). Every minute of this day-in-a-life film is serenely performed as if it was usual to sleep in a coop, use one's hair to entice stray goats back to the fold, or divert the Niagara Falls through one's five-foot pigtails.

Rottenberg studies her subjects with awe, while simultaneously writing and directing their outlandish performances. There is a pervasive sense of amazement, which is as well communicated to the viewer as her ambivalence about employing their labour. Her bizarre productions may have their antecedents – David Lynch, Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle – but the vision she creates is distinctive, self-contained and occasionally unforgettable. It is rooted in the strangeness, cruelty and irrationality of this one but, at its best, approaches something more mythical.

Nottingham Contemporary is also showing 40 prints by that greatest of English satirists, James Gillray. It has some of the classics, stupendous images from the 18th century that have long since entered our culture. Pitt and Napoleon carving up the plum pudding of the globe with their sharpened knives and forks; "Little Boney" stamping his foot like some deranged Shirley Temple. The French sans-culottes as raving hyenas, teeth filed to fangs; the Georgian fops parading their wasp waists, skinny as furled umbrellas.

It's a choice selection of political outrages – the French threat, the tax "reforms", the hypocritical excesses of the government as well as the monarchy. It is also a fine selection of bodies: bulging breeches, towering quiffs, vast cake-holes, unfeasible girths and appetites. The plutocrat excretes his lunch of stolen gold as a worthless heap of nothing. The two shows are well matched, linking the centuries, ancient and modern. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

March 26 2012

Gillian Wearing takeover: dancing in public

As her Whitechapel Gallery retrospective opens, we look back at the artist's 1994 shopping centre dance-athon to a soundtrack ranging from Nirvana to the Bee Gees. Where would you throw some shapes in public today – and to what tunes?

In Gillian Wearing's 1994 artwork Dancing in Peckham, she took to a south London shopping centre and danced as if no one was watching, exploring her longstanding interest in confessional video works. Previously that year, Wearing had posted an advertisement in Time Out magazine encouraging the public to bare all to her on film (the result was her 35-minute film Confess All On Video. Don't Worry You Will Be in Disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian); she later performed her own creative confession in dance form in Peckham. To mark the opening of her Whitechapel Gallery retrospective, Wearing will be taking over Here, she kicks off a week-long digital collaboration by sharing the playlist she listened to in preparation for her Peckham dance-athon (she then remembered it for the 25-minute duration). Watch video clips from her inhibition-suppressing soundtrack below, or go to the Spotify playlist here.

After you've listened and watched, we'd like you to get confessional with us. Where would you dance in public, and what would your soundtrack be?

Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Jamming

Queen – Don't Stop Me Now

Status Quo – Rockin' All Over the World

808 State - Pacific State

Blue Öyster Cult – (Don't Fear) The Reaper

Third World - Now that We Found Love

Bee Gees – Night Fever © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Gillian Wearing takeover: welcome to a week of secrets

This week, the Turner prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing is taking over with confessions and obsessions

Welcome to our week-long digital takeover by Turner prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing. As her Whitechapel Gallery review show throws open its doors, Gillian will be here every day telling Guardian readers what makes her tick, and letting you into her world of confessions and obsessions, from cross-dressing photographer Claude Cahun (the subject of a new work by Wearing) to a notorious 1960s Frederick Wiseman fly-on-the-wall film about a mental institution, Titicut Follies.

Today, she wants you to get confessional: she's sharing her Dancing in Peckham filmwork and soundtrack, and asking where you'd pick to dance in public. Tomorrow, she'll take you behind the scenes of her Masks series, which has seen her create and then be photographed in silicone masks of everyone from her family and herself to renowned German portraitist August Sander. Adrian Searle will also be reviewing the show tomorrow.

On Wednesday, the artist picks her favourite Signs made by the public, in which they express their innermost feelings on small-scale banners (a response to her 1992-3 series, Signs That Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say). Later in the week, Gillian will talk through the reality TV shows that have most inspired her, from Michael Apted's Seven Up to Andy Warhol's Screen Tests. With Gillian at the helm, it's sure to be a week of secret-spilling. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

March 04 2012

Private lines: Gillian Wearing's signs – in pictures

The artist is showing at the Whitechapel Gallery and you can submit your own 'sign' to win a VIP trip to the exhibition

January 27 2012

David Shrigley opens his brain

The most deadpan man in art was nearly not an artist at all. On the eve of his Hayward Gallery show, Brain Activity, here's the man himself talking about art, 'one of the most fun things that one can do that's fun'

December 22 2011

Artist of the week 169: Yto Barrada

A Tangier-based photographer and video artist who charts the struggles going on behind the scenes in tourist mecca Morocco

Morocco's mystique is synonymous with its famous fans: William Burroughs and the beats in the 1950s, who hung out in Tangier when the city was an international zone, and the Rolling Stones, who went seeking thrills in Marrakech a generation later. It's the go-to place to get inspired and indulge in druggy dalliances – or at least that's the view from Europe. The Tangier-based artist Yto Barrada's photos, films and sculptures give us a different picture – of the struggles of the people who live there.

The photography Barrada made her name with in the early 2000s captures a Tangier tortured by dreams very different from those in Western tourist brochures. The port town lies on the Strait of Gibraltar, which divides Morocco from Europe. While the Moroccan government steps up its tourist industry, attracting westerners free to travel as they please, many thousands of Moroccan immigrants attempt to make the illegal and perilous journey across the Strait every year. The spectre of this boundary haunts Barrada's images.

A Life Full of Holes: The Strait Project, started in 1998, is rife with dividing lines: muddy ditches slice across green fields, new builds spring up next to wastelands, kids jimmy holes in fences to play football and Ferris wheel spokes split the sky. While swimming pools gleam from tourist posters, new developments typically sit half-finished – the trappings of the developed world without the substance. People turn their backs or stare into the distance, lost in their desire for escape from a country defined by deprivation.

Barrada has an eye for showing everyday details that open up a mass of issues. That classic symbol of all things exotic, the palm tree, is the star of her works currently on show at Tate Modern. Actually a foreign import, palms turn out to be a point of controversy for Tangier's tourist industry in her film Beau Geste. Because of its protected status, a slender mop-haired tree is the only thing standing in the way of a Tangier landowner developing a scrappy patch of ground. To get around this, the tree has been hacked into in the hope that it will die naturally – so Barrada and her team set about patching it up with concrete to save it.

It's a futile gesture of conservation, tackling the power struggle around the growing city's precious vacant lots – a battle between locals, developers, plants and animals – with the absurdist charm of a Charlie Chaplin skit. That Barrada's concrete remedy will probably be ineffective is beside the point; rather, it's the small gesture of defiance in the face of relentless and thoughtless urbanisation that seems important.

Why we like her: Sporting half-blown lightbulbs and a scratched paint job, the metal palm tree Palm Sign might have been lifted from a rundown funfair. It speaks volumes about Tangier's ramshackle modernity.

Border control: Barrada originally studied political science before turning to art. The deciding moment came when she was living in Israel's West Bank and working on her thesis. To document how people negotiated roadblocks there she began using photography, and soon realised she wanted to tell the human stories beyond the facts and figures.

Where can I see her? I Decided Not to Save the World is at Tate Modern, London SE1, until 8 January 2012 © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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