The Wrong Side of Me by Agnieszka Polska. Agnieszka Polska (Lublin/Berlin) has made a slide show with a selection of her iconic images for Tensta konsthall’s online art project platform. The slideshow begins with a crystal clear picture of the top part of a perfectly shaped champagne glass, filled with a liquid that shimmers in blue, purple, light yellow, and pink. It's gasoline. But something is wrong—the surface is not horizontal but slopes downwards, as if there were no gravity. In a way, this is true, given how humanity's dependence on fossil fuels has upset the laws of nature as we previously recognized them. The image of the champagne glass is followed by a glass ashtray with cigarette butts and smoke, a flint knife on its end, a fingertip with text written in squiggly cursive handwriting, and, finally, a hand covered in metallic paint, holding a glass filled with a black substance.
Wednesday 25.1, 13:00 Artist presentation by Agnieszka Polska
The highly stylized, dreamlike images are borrowed from the internet and digitally processed by the artist and at times described as “post-internet art.” There are also parallels to the so-called Pictures Generation of the 1980s United States, when artists such as Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Barbara Kruger appropriated images from popular culture, especially photographs from the world of advertising. Here, the new digital state functions as a backdrop. Polska also highlights the gaps in art history and aims to reconstruct forgotten stories, particularly focusing on the avant-garde. Her works are unhurried and contemplative, and many times they require a meditative attention, both from the maker and the viewer.
Polska talks about how her works often occur at the intersection of outermost emotions, like outrage at the news together with fear of cosmic distances, deep sadness combined with an excitement that comes from thinking about quantum mechanics, or animals with photosynthetic abilities. Past experiences that are important to her art are working as a cleaner in a hotel at the Grand Canyon, studying the work of the Polish avant-garde group Zameks, and being infected by bacteria from an insidious tick.
Agnieszka Polska, born in 1985 in Lublin, lives and works in Berlin and Warsaw; studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow and the Universitaet der Kunste Berlin. Works with film, animation, video installation and performance. Her works were presented in: Suspended Animation, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C. (2016), You Imagine What You Desire, 19. Bienale of Sydney (2014); Mom, Am I Barbarian?, 13. Istanbul Biennale, (2013); Future Generation Art Prize, Pinchuk Art Centre, Kijev (2012); Early Years, KunstWerke Center for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2010). Her solo shows include: I Am the Mouth, Nottingham Contemporary (2014), Pseudoword Hazards, Salzburger Kunstverein (2013); Aurorite, CCA Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (2012).
By exploring the notion of a chronic temporality, this film investigates continuities and repetitions, ongoing processes that lack defined beginnings and ends, by considering the daily routines of the founder of a news network for the Eritrean diaspora, the industrious enthusiast behind a local women's association, and the most famous poet of Kurdistan who smokes every waking hour. They all move in the same centre squares, linked together by bridges separating traffic. In Tensta, the largest areaof the Million Dwelling Program, with more than 20,000 residents. As part of Tensta Museum Continues.
Naeem Mohaiemen It is Not Necessary to Understand Everything
Naeem Mohaiemen (Dhaka/New York) takes on the global left's relationship to visions and failures through essays, photographs, and films. The exhibition It is Not Necessary to Understand Everything centers around United Red Army (2012), a film essay which departs from the 1977 hijacking of Japan Air Lines' flight 472, in which the plane was forcefully redirected to Dhaka. A Bangladeshi magazine that covered the event at the time and an annotated timeline accompany the film in Tensta konsthall’s main exhibition space.
A strong element in United Red Army is the presence of black frames with multi-colored subtitles, where part of the transcribed audio recording from the control tower appear at the same time that two distinct male voices can be heard. One of these voices belongs to Dankesu, the nickname for the hijacker from the Japanese Red Army, negotiating with the air-traffic controller, Mahmood, the chief of Bangladesh’s Air Force. Through the dialogue, in which both parties have everything to win or lose, a strong relationship is established that includes both intimate confidences and calculating power games. News footage with hostages, glimpses from international reports on the simultaneous “German autumn” with the kidnapping and killing of industrialist Hans Martin Schleyer by the Red Army Faction, the death of Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Ulrike Meinhof in the Stammheim Prison, and the hijacking of a Lufthansa flight by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, are interspersed. Mohaiemen’s own memories as an eight-year-old waiting for his favorite TV program and seeing only a plane on the runway are also given a place within the story.
The Japanese Red Army Faction was established in 1971 as a militant communist group that aimed to start a world revolution, beginning with overthrowing the government in Tokyo. The group maintained contact with militant left organizations, and became internationally known through a series of attempted hijackings. For Mohaiemen, the security panic that appeared in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks triggered a research interest into earlier periods when similar sentiments flourished, like in the 1970s, away from current headlines. He is asking challenging questions about the aftermath of state and non-state violence. While doing so, he is turning his eye to the anti-state left which failed to come into power in many countries, a contrast with the more successful statist left which became so influential in Scandinavia.
United Red Army is part of the trilogy The Young Man Was, which examines the radical leftist movements of the 1970s. Together with Afsan’s Long Day (2014) and Last Man in Dhaka Central (2015), United Red Army uses as its backdrop Bangladesh’s post-WWII history, specifically the partition from Pakistan in 1971 and its bloody struggles. Mohaiemen's films have been shown at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka; Kiran Nadar Museum, Delhi; Marrakech Biennale; Berlinale; Momentum Biennale; New Museum, New York; Kunsthalle Basel; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the 56th Venice Biennale. Mohaiemen is working on a new project for Documenta 14.
Special thanks to Experimenter and LUX for lending work.
United Red Army is a part of Tensta konsthall’s multi-year inquiry The Eros Effect: Art, Solidarity Movements and the Struggle for Social Justice and looks into the relationship between art and solidarity movements, performed in a series of commissions, exhibitions, workshops, presentations, and film screenings. Faced with fascist parties gaining ground in Europe and an increasingly tough social climate, we see the necessity to return to the notion of solidarity in order to try its validity today. Will solidarity still be relevant in the future, or is it a historical concept? Do we need to find new ways to describe the political movements of today and their struggles, sympathies, and commitments? What does recognizing the urgency of a situation imply, and how do we act upon it?
The Eros Effect project borrows its title from the researcher and activist George N. Katsiaficas's essay by the same name from 1989. We will continue to build on the analytical tool “Eros Effect,”which is an attempt to acknowledge the emotional aspects of social movements. The concept thus aims to turn away from earlier theories that considered “mass movements” as primitive and impulsive, as emotional outbursts, or as exclusively rational efforts in order to change the norms and institutions of a society. With his notion the Eros Effect, Katsiaficas suggests that social movements always constitute both and that the struggle for liberation is equally an “erotic” act and a rational desire to break free from structural and psychological barriers. Franz Fanon made similar observations when he stated that resistance towards colonialism causes positive effects on the emotional life of individuals.
Today, it is common knowledge that any activity online is being tracked. Every click, comment, like, share that we do is noticed by what seems to be an all-seeing gaze, be it an authority or marketer. Autonomy Cube (2014) is a work by Trevor Paglen (San Francisco/Berlin) made in collaboration with digital civil liberties activist, computer security researcher, and artist Jacob Appelbaum, which subverts that situation.
The cube is intended to be placed in art institutions, galleries, and other public spaces, and provides a secure Wi-Fi network to visitors. In this way, it is a sculpture which can be both aesthetically and conceptually appreciated, and practically used. Autonomy Cube consists of a Plexiglas cube containing four interconnected circuit boards, placed on a low pedestal. The sculpture functions by latching onto the host site’s Wi-Fi, rerouting the user’s traffic to Tor, a global network run by relay volunteers which, through their systems, successively bounce communications, making users’ precise information virtually untraceable. The Tor network is based on “onion routing”, which relies on several layers of encryption (Tor comes from The Onion Routing), thereby tricking “traffic analysis”. It is maintained by thousands of volunteer-run servers and is used by many people around the world to protect their privacy, from activists and journalists, to populations living under dictatorships or other repressive regimes. Because it is functioning as a covert space, it is also attracting people involved with criminal activity.
As a post-Minimalist sculpture, it has direct reference to Hans Haacke’s classic sculpture Condensation Cube (1963–65). Condensation Cube is an acrylic cube filled with water which condensates and evaporates, functioning almost like an organism which reacts to its immediate surroundings, which in this case includes the presence of visitors. Paglen’s piece plays with notions of autonomy in art history, proposing the need to keep art spaces as civic infrastructures autonomous of data surveillance. At the same time as Autonomy Cube functions as a wifi hotspot, it is itself a Tor relay in the vast network which helps – albeit temporarily - keeping the art spaces in question free from scrutiny. While Haacke’s sculpture is an example of early – finger pointing and often negative - institutional critique, Autonomy Cube aims at enhancing the institution, thus belonging more to a recent wave of “constructive institutional critique”. It opens up a whole set of literally new and vast connections, breaking the traditional boundaries of an art institution.
Trevor Paglen is an artist whose work spans image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, engineering, and numerous other disciplines. Among his chief concerns are learning how to see the historical moment we live in and developing the means to imagine alternative futures. Paglen’s work has had one-person exhibitions at Vienna Secession, Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum, Van Abbe Museum, Frankfurter Kunstverein, and Protocinema Istanbul, and participated in group exhibitions the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, and numerous other venues. In 2016, he received the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize. Paglen holds a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley, an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Geography from U.C. Berkeley.
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