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“Utopian Pulse—Flares in the Darkroom”

SECESSION
Friedrichstra▀e 12
September 11–November 2

Undrawing the Line (Mona Moradveisi, Safdar Ahmed, Zanny Begg and Murtaza Ali Jafari), In the Shade of a Waq Waq Tree, 2014, digital print with anaglyphic 3D, dimensions variable.

Artists Ines Doujak and Oliver Ressler asked seven artists to each organize a weeklong exhibition that examines current affairs based on their understandings of utopia. The fourth in this lineup is “Salon Fluchthilfe,” a show and public programming series about the politics of exile. Curated by Zanny Begg, it’s titled after the German term fluchthilfe, meaning to aid an escape, which is often used in reference to helping people cross borders. An equivalent term in English doesn’t quite exist—ironically resonating with the disputed position of the ÚmigrÚ.

Katarzyna Winiecka contributes documentation of Vienna’s refugee protest movement addressing oppressive global migration policies. Elsewhere, the Afghani photographer Barat Ali Batoor presents a series of poignant images, “The Unseen Road to Asylum,” 2013, that records his smuggled passage to Australia. On the final leg of Batoor’s journey with a group of fellow Hazara—a persecuted ethnic minority in Afghanistan—their ship sunk near Indonesia. His tense shots of men huddled in bright-orange life jackets on a cramped wooden boat evoke the trauma of the impending tragedy.

The collective Undrawing the Line, of which Begg is a member, introduces a fantastical counterpoint to Batoor’s grim realism with In the Shade of a Waq Waq Tree, 2014, papered over two walls in the gallery and a billboard on the building’s facade. Sourced from original drawings made by participants in Sydney’s Refugee Art Project workshops and then digitally combined into anaglyphic 3D prints, this work’s key motif is the waq waq tree, a mythological Middle Eastern hybrid plant whose fruit resembles human heads. By relying on collaboration and blurring the personal and the social, this work is perhaps the best metaphor for a utopian enterprise.

Miguel Amado

Elaine Cameron-Weir

GALERIE RODOLPHE JANSSEN
Rue de Livourne 35 & 32
September 13–October 25

View of “Elaine Cameron-Weir,” 2014.

Previously exhibited in the lobby of the Medusa Cement Company’s former headquarters as part of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Bellwether project, this new installation of ten of Elaine Cameron-Weir’s sculptures emphasizes a formal and conceptual slipperiness, trapping the viewer between sculpture and decoration, attention and deflection. Composed of rows of crisscrossing brass antennae drilled into marble, alabaster, sandstone, and soapstone bases, most works also have mounted, adjustable brass Monstera deliciosa leaves that retain imprints from the handling and installation process. Further contaminating any allegiance to elegance, the sculptures resemble overgrown houseplants, while the antennae signal interference against interpretation. As a display of untamed domesticity, these works betray their decorative function to hint at a subtle danger.

For the past three years, the artist has been working on a science-fiction-themed journal set across three time zones. Its protagonist is an aesthete, reminiscent of Jean Des Esseintes in Joris-Karl Huysmans’s └ rebours , who returns from a trip to the equator with a post-traumatic tremor. This character’s own diary entries feature in the chronicle, including flashbacks to a source of his trauma, and touch on themes ranging from telekinesis to Versace, homology to Victor Horta. Titling her sculptures with lines pilfered from this journal, such as we find her loitering in a twilight zone at the entrance (all works 2014) or the gorgon Medusa, possesses a solidifying telekinetic weapon mediated by the act of looking, a blind spot, a mystery that can’t be seen directly, Cameron-Weir exposes an anxiety triggered by looking and preys on our willingness to succumb to psychic invasions.

Jo-ey Tang

Olafur Eliasson

LOUISIANA MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
Gl. Strandvej 13
August 20–January 4

Olafur Eliasson, Riverbed, 2014, water, blue basalt, wood, steel, foil, hose, pumps, cooling unit, dimensions variable.

Those of us who encountered Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project at the Tate Modern in 2003, where the vast turbine hall was infused with a radiant light, could be forgiven for at first being skeptical about experiencing a similarly transformative environment with Riverbed, 2014. As the central work of this exhibition, the installation is surprisingly overpowering. Occupying a series of four galleries at least half-filled with 180 tons of gray Icelandic stone, Riverbed produces a myriad of pleasantly disorienting sensations in fluid succession. The rooms are humid, musty, and bathed in a powdery-white light, reminiscent of an overcast Icelandic sky. Various hills and piles of stones create an uneven terrain that unfold around a flowing stream one must jump across in order to traverse the galleries. The rocky surface crunches, shifts, and falls beneath unsure footsteps, while the impulse to reach for that perfect Instagram shot must be curtailed if one does not want to slip or end up wet.

At Louisiana, the expansive riverbed galleries are complimented by Eliasson’s Model Room, 2003, a space displaying hundreds of the geometric models the artist uses to create his installations, as well as three of his visceral short films: Movement microscope, 2011; Your embodied garden, 2013; and Innen Stadt Aussen (Inner City Out), 2010. Taken as a whole, rather than an intervention into the space of the museum, the show is a dramatic elaboration of this institution. Indeed, the dynamic vistas and spatial sensations created within the galleries are matched only by the famous sea cliff views of Louisiana, and the exhibition as a whole reflects on the relationship between art and nature that this museum mobilizes so memorably.

Kerry Greaves

Teresa Solar Abboud

GALER═A FORMATO CËMODO
C/ Lope de Vega 5
September 11–December 9

Teresa Solar Abboud, F REIGN OF ICE / GH ST, 2014, ceramic, potter's wheel, 45 x 24 x 13".

Teresa Solar Abboud's latest solo show “Foreign Office” conveys a shift from her usual video practice, which has mostly focused on language, translation, and the construction of meaning. These topics remain at the core of her practice, but they are now tackled through sculpture. Here, she presents two ceramics that that were inspired by Thamsenqa Jantjie’s onstage gestures at Nelson Mandela’s recent funeral, where, as it is widely known, he posed as a sign language interpreter while making a mysterious and nonsensical array of gestures. Solar Abboud has always been interested in the tangible aspects of language, though I doubt she has ever gone this far.

It is important to stress that Solar Abboud has not attempted to “master” pottery (just as Jantjie did not seem to master his own purported discipline). To create the works on view, Solar Abboud used a potter’s wheel and mimicked the spurious interpreter’s gestures. Placed on the ground or supported by benches in a neat installation, the resulting vertical shapes are ultimately abstract not only because of their form but because they stem from a corrupted and illegible language. They stand as vibrant yet opaque signifiers that bridge the gap between mind and body. And in so doing, they let the unconscious perform.

In a similar vein, a few hanging sculptures coated with shades of pink fluorescent paint evoke the slickness one expects of diplomatic language. They are also shaped by sign language—here, the signs for the Spanish words embassy and revolution. Language is thus created through the filling of a space, which is an apt metaphor for sculpture. Significantly, a potter’s wheel stands inside the show as a minimal shape that evokes the self-reflexive tension between language and form the show seeks to portray.

Javier Hontoria

David Larsson

HANINGE KULTURHUS
Poseidon plaza 8
September 6–November 16

David Larsson, Our Shared Memory, Our Collective Forgetfulness, 2014, mixed media, dimensions variable.

There are many hembygdsgille—or historical societies—across Sweden, each one concerned with its own particular region or town. David Larsson, for this exhibition at Haninge Kulturhus, has worked closely with the hembygdsgille in the Stockholm exurb of Haninge. Haninge isn’t a particularly special place, but absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence; the municipality isn’t completely devoid of intrigue. Its history lies in its development—its expansions, rebuilding, and remodeling. Along with the new, the old has accumulated, and the hembygdsgille tries to collect and preserve it all. Its members are passionate amateurs: When, for instance, Stone Age artifacts were unearthed during a railway construction project, they were stored in paper bags under one member’s house. Faced with a bag filled with such fragments, Larsson is as interested in the bag as its contents, seeing the historical value in both—an approach that makes for a compelling exhibition.

The single installation on view features Larsson’s selection of objects from the collection: tchotchkes ranging from old to recent, special to quotidian. It’s all intermingled with photographs and narratives about people, places, and other notable aspects of Haninge and its hembygdsgille. The show drives at questions of what is kept and discarded, what’s seen to have value and what is not. Throughout, Larsson’s perspective seems to consider all that’s simultaneously noteworthy and ordinary; Haninge, like so many places, can be both unique and typical.

Theodor Ringborg