ikono is proud to present German video artist Lisa Weber as Artist of the Month.
Her research develops through the observation of transition processes, moments in-between and details of our daily life experience that might otherwise be overlooked or even ignored. The artist records these images meticulously and shows them independently, detached from their usual environment, in evocative video installations aiming to reestablish the aesthetic value of these subjects and the way we perceive them.
Video projection, 9:13 min, loop, 2007
Several windows are filmed and put together to create the illusion of a building, offering a voyeuristic look into the apartments where people engage in everyday activities.
Still life with bottles
HD video, 7: 11 min, 2010
Five bottles of different shape and color, standing in front of a white background, are filmed for one day. In the scene, nothing is moving apart from the light. Its progress during the course of the day is emphasized thanks to he fast motion effect. Within seven minutes, the light projects shades and colored reflections on the white background, changing the entire atmosphere of the scene.
HD video, 11 min, 2012
The slow process of decay is recorded in a still life with flowers. As Sabine Elsa Müller wrote, ‘ in this video time is represented by the passing flow of adjacent images. Color and form of plants and fruits shown change until they almost decayed completely in the course of the time. The time passing while we are watching the video doesn’t correspond to the actual period of time during the process of fading. Time is perceived differently and doesn’t follow the usual perception: something is extending horizontally to the room. We are able to observe, in the true sense of the word, time while it passes. ‘
Artist bio: Lisa M Weber graduated 2013 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Mainz and the Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz in Germany, as a student of Professor Dieter Kiessling. Weber took part in the Master of Fine Arts Program of the California State University Chico in California. Her work has been exhibited internationally, both in solo and group exhibitions. In 2013, her work was shown at the Caos Art Gallery in Venice, Italy, the Leopold Museum in Vienna, Austria and in the Goyang Art Studio of the National Museum of Contemporary Art Seoul.
This month Ikono is proud to present Gwen MacGregor as artist of the month. Her visual inquiry of time and the ambivalent relationship between nature and technology are translated into video works that are haunting, mesmerizing and with a hint of irony, creating unexpected visual surprises. For our Artist of the Month series we have chosen four works that we feel perfectly fit Ikono’s format and also showcase the formal and visual language of the artist.
This seemingly motionless video transforms from a bucolic forest scene to the site of a nuclear power station. Photographic stills taken over two months from the same spot in Marnay sur Seine, France, were brought together and placed in reverse order (the leaves on the trees are going in instead of coming out).
A very simple video documenting the destruction of a building. The framing of the camera transforms a common situation into a surreal scene, shifting between irony, loss and straightforward documentation.
Pairs of complimentary events are shown side by side. On the right events are slowed down to sixty seconds and on the left sped up to sixty seconds.
An abandoned Farmhouse is the central image of a bleak winter landscape. This image is increasingly interrupted by the passing cars and buses making their way south.
Seamus and me (and two GPSs)
During a backwoods hike outside of Fernie BC, MacGregor carried one GPS and Seamus carried another. As the animated lines draw across the page it becomes evident by the difference in the paths that Seamus is a dog. About the gps SERIES: Since 2004 MacGregor has been carrying a GPS everywhere she goes to record her movements. This raw data is used to create animated drawings for an ongoing series.
Gwen MacGregor is a Toronto artist working in installation, video and photography. Her art reflects her close observation of time and place and how they shape small dramas or uncannily familiar situations. In 2001 her work was presented in the Present Tense project series at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. MacGregor’s work has also been shown in many exhibitions across Canada and Europe as well as Los Angeles, Mexico City, Shanghai, and Sydney, Australia. In 2003 she was the recipient of the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Artist of the Year Award. In 2004 she was awarded the Canada Council International Studio in New York. Her work is in a number of collections including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Artbank, and the Royal Bank Collection. Recent projects include participation in Manifest d’Art 5 in Quebec City, The Santa Fe International New Media Festival and a collaborative exhibition with Sandra Rechico at A Trans Pavilion in Berlin. She is currently exhibiting in Artists’ Walks: The Persistence of Peripateticism at the Dorsky Gallery and Curatorial Program in New York City. She will be participating in Toronto’s 2013 Nuit Blanche with the collective Workparty. MacGregor has an Honours BA from York University and is pursuing a Masters in Cultural Geography at the University of Toronto. MacGregor is represented by MKG127 Gallery in Toronto.
This July, we are excited to present the works of Moroccan artist Hassan Darsi. We chose three videos, open to interpretation, and powerfully influenced by the artist’s life, experiences and environment which aim to investigate collective clashes in a figurative sense.
We condensed the first two videos, The Running Man I. Half Moon (2009) and The Running Man II. Rue de L’enfer (2012), into one. By using a split screen, we allow the viewers to compare two films which complement one another. The artist, dressed in red and green (the colors of the national flag), runs in a seemingly abandoned and unfinished property, and through the streets of Casablanca, without any apparent purpose. This infinite run is indisputably denouncing the malfunctions of the Moroccan urban reality, which is often governed by the failures of business insatiability.
The second video, Or d’Afrique (2008), explores one of Hassan Darsi’s ongoing themes: gilding, or the process of applying gold leaf or gold paint to a surface. Inspired by some golden household wallpaper he found in an artisan’s shop next to his studio, Darsi conceived a video work investigating social processes connected to contemporary Moroccan society. These self-adhesive rolls were originally used for precision ornamental decoration in the style of hand-painted leafing. Darsi then applied this wallpaper to the concrete blocks of a jetty along the shore of Casablanca. Despite the sea wash, the intervention lasted for some months, making the shiny blocks stand out among the others. At the end of the project, the artist collected the cutout leftovers he used and decorated his office with them, while also developing a series of abstract artworks on paper.
Hassan Darsi has lived and worked in Morocco since the end of the 1980s, after attending the School of Visual Arts and Visual Mons in Belgium. In 1995 he founded “La Source du Lion”, an association and cultural space hosting contemporary art events in Casablanca and abroad. Darsi has exhibited in art centres, museums and biennials worldwide. His works has been shown in Senegal, South Africa, Lebanon, Spain, France, Germany, United States, Czechoslovakia, The Netherlands, Belgium and in Morocco. Darsi’s work also features prominently in a number of private collections, and his works can be found in the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp, the MC2A Gallery in Bordeaux, the Artothèque of Schiedam in the Netherlands, and at the Ministry of Finance in Morocco.
This month ikono is proud to present three films by German video artist Birthe Blauth. Her conceptual work looks at the individual and explores the contingent relationship between the single and the space. Blauth’s art is extremely meditative and limpid, but close scrutiny lets the viewer grasp the true complexity of its message. Her visual work helps to vary the perception of the difference between fiction and reality, questioning the border between the two. Her art expands and diversifies amongst installation, video, sound, text and performances.
Birthe Blauth, who was born in Munich, owns a M.A. and doctorate in Chinese Studies, Ethnology and European Art History at Ludwig-Maximilians-University. Her specialist areas are iconography, mythology, religious ethnology. Blauth has been internationally shown and her work has been honoured by the Haus der Kunst award in Munich as well as the support of the Prinzregent Luitpold Stiftung, the Region of Upper Bavaria and the City of Munich. The artist currently lives and works in Munich and New York.
Birthe Blauth on ikonoTV:
Guarded Parking Marrakesh, 2003
In this film the action is imperceptible, yet the change unmistakable. During the 7 minutes course of the video 43 people and objects disappear – unnoticed. The video is in the collection of the Artmuseum Bonn.
Merging a mountain landscape of Munich artist Sonja Weber with excerpts of her own video artworks Poppyfield (2003) and La Strada (2005), this video of Birthe Blauth represents a fantastic and playful history of a mountain landscape with quotations from the history of art. Cloaked in the darkness of Adam Elsheimer’s night scene Escape to Egypt (1609), the mountain emerges at the dawn of a bright winter’s day. When evening sets in, its dramatic glow gradually turns into a sea of bubbling red lava. From this emerges the scene of Albrecht Altdorfer’s Battle of Alexander (1528-1529), which slowly transforms into a carpet of bright red poppies. When a yellow sandstorm blows up, bringing to mind the atmosphere of a Mark Rothko work. The storm subsides to reveal a highway leading into the mountains.
The video explores the transient and the vain efforts of human beings to explore and push beyond their limits. Somebody is exploring an invisible barrier by touching it with his fingers. He leaves more and more fingerprints in the process. The longer the person tries to establish the nature of their confines, the more enclosed they become. Finally, the surface is completely covered in fingerprints and the hands can no longer be seen.
This work can be seen as an allegory of our lives. It also represents our efforts to escape our confines. Efforts that are doomed to failure.
This month ikono presents a choice of films by Hans Schabus, an outstanding artist from Austria, who represented his home country at the 2005 Venice Biennale. Schabus works with spaces and their perception, transforming them to his own liking in a very precise way: He flooded a gallery, transported a bridge from Austria to Germany, and his seemingly pointless film journeys and mind-boggling tunneling works have received praise and attention from all over the world.
Born in Watschig/Kaernten in 1970, Hans Schabus studied under sculptor Bruno Gironcoli at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, where he is still living and working. His work has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout Europe as well as in the USA, Mexiko and Sri Lanka. For his films he often works together with his brother, the filmmaker Robert Schabus.
Hans Schabus on ikonoTV
The films of Hans Schabus selected by ikono cover the artist’s highlights from 2000 until today, representing three of his main artistic aspects:
The artist’s sedulous effort and failure is addressed in Atelier (2010) and Echo (2009). In Atelier Hans Schabus works with his own studio space, which played a role in his earlier works already, restaging the finale of Sam Peckinpah’s western classic The Wild Bunch (1969). Echo is observing a man on the run through the mucky wetlands of the Danube. The protagonist keeps falling into the mud, but continues trying to escape from something or someone the viewer never gets to see.
Phantasmagoric journeys through the secret places of everyday life are the themes of Passagier (2000), Western (2002) and Astronaut (2003). For Passagier Schabus built an elaborate railway for a toy train with a camera being led through the hidden spaces behind the walls of the studio. In Western Schabus is rowing a sailing boat through the same dirty Viennese sewer seen in the film classic The Third Man (1949), while in Astronaut he is digging a shaft in the floor of his studio, filling up the room with soil before exploring the dark world he has created with his own hands.
Laßnitz (2012), with 78 minutes the longest of Schabus’ films to be on view on ikono, deals with the aesthetic transformation of a certain object by decontextualizing and displacing it. The original proposal simply read: »The work’s title is the name of the river, which was originally crossed by the railway bridge.«This abandoned bridge is sent on a 1000 miles long journey from Austria to the village Ohne in Germany, where Schabus declared it to be a sculpture from now on.
For the month of October ikono is proud to present a series of artworks selected by Camilla H. Chaudhary. curator and director of ArtChowk Gallery in Karachi, Pakistan.
Her Carte Blanche, “Temporal Search” brings four solo shows under one conceptual umbrella.
The curatorial thinking behind these works is the idea of appropriating the past through different media to discuss the present. The artists in exhibition contextualize history into the present by using traditions: literary, artistic or cultural. Individually and collectively, they provoke a cerebral interaction with the viewer, merging strong technique and concept to create works that are distinctive and specific in their visual commentary. All test artistic boundaries to create works that go beyond the obvious and are concerned with present-day social and political issues.
Simeen Farhat’s installations take their origins from the calligraphic legacy of South Asia and the Middle East. The deconstructed text, based on Urdu, Persian, English and Bengali poetry, morphs into a sensory experience as she manipulates its form and structure. While not a calligrapher, she has merged the Muslim passions for poetry and the carved text into sculptural installations and develops their narrative further to become socio-political commentary.
She explores the poetry of Rumi, Khayyam, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Hafez and also the English poet Edward Fitzgerald. Urdu and Persian poetry is filled with double meaning, often discussing love (both mystical and human) and political commentary through the same verses. This expressive versatility combined with her preoccupation with post 911 global politics led to exploring the visual interpretation of the poetry. Many of the earlier works are direct political statements, stark installations discussing the prejudice and dogma that dominates public beliefs on both sides of the debate. Her more recent works are subtler in their statements, using the poetry to make her point.
Simeen completed her MFA from Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas.
Jamil Baloch’s work remains rooted in his Baluch heritage, from where he sources his subject matter. Trained as a sculptor and painter from the National College of Art in Lahore, his practice explores new ground in medium and style while staying true to its core narrative. Social and gender inequality are recurring topics, dealt through the context of his indigenous culture. Running concurrently with this narrative is a practice that consistently evolves in its use of media, and reads like a linear story, simultaneously becoming a deeper study of its subject and expanding its context.
In this series his wood-based sculptures use the natural material in a uniquely contemporary voice; his exploration of imagery becomes more intensive as he progresses to the core of traditional motifs symbolic of Baluchi culture, expanding them into abstraction. This serves as a metaphor for his subject matter, the Baluchi people. Constructing complex grids, linear movement, texture, all with his paintbrush he sub-consciously references multiple influences: culture, history and Islamic geometry among others.
Asif Ahmed, a miniaturist, balances the graceful precision of miniature painting with exploration of scale, composition and subject that is rooted in the present. Historically miniaturists were chroniclers of history, depicting battles and courtly life in layered paintings. Asif’s compositions are more simplified yet remain true to the same purpose, using symbols often depicted in ancient miniatures such as royalty and their regalia as metaphors in a contemporary context, executing them with the exquisite precision required of fine miniature painting. Traditional symbols are used to represent current axes of power that are often strongly criticized, such as the portrait series titled “A Noble Mughal”. Asif graduated in miniature painting from the National College of Arts in Lahore.
Abdullah Qamer graduated in painting from Karachi University. A visual artist and social activist, Abdullah combines his painting practice with working for social change through art and theatre.
His consciousness is explicit in his work: each piece has a specific narrative, one complete subject that it discusses. The enigma of his work is that it is open to interpretations beyond his intentions. His metal sculptures discuss social injustices, yet present a visual that is organic and incorporates a dialogue on the genesis of creation and growth. A similar narrative can be extrapolated from his paintings: works like “Conclusion” and “Argument” have a cellular composition with obscured beginnings and endings.
Abdullah is also very influenced by 17th century reformist poets such as Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah, whose poetry preached tolerance and a disdain for any theocratic doctrine that did not result in social betterment. This influence is embryonic, directly inspiring the subject matter of many of the works, yet is treated very subtly, obscured by a strong contemporary aesthetic that underlies his artistic practice.
Camilla H. Chaudhary
Curator and Director
ArtChowk-The Gallery and ArtChowk.com
ikono invites Ars Electronica, an interdisciplinary hub and one of the world’s leading media art festivals based in Linz, Austria, to present two of their wonderful projects: the ZeitRaum installation, designed by the Ars Electronica Futurelab for the Vienna International Airport in 2012, and a film on Franz Gesellmann’s famous Weltmaschine:
The Ars Electronica Futurelab inaugurated a new virtual space inside the new terminal of Vienna’s airport to be passed by more than five billion strangers a year – five billion people on a journey through an imaginary interzone between security checkpoint and takeoff.
ZeitRaum embeds art in a public space where people are more open to artistic ideas while waiting for their flight. Caught up between time zones and connecting flights the visitors encounter the ZeitRaum space for the first time at Check In 3 area, where a large screen reacts to the motions of each new guest arriving by releasing letters of scientific or poetic texts. Arriving and departing planes create data mountains of information before dissolving into thin digital air again.
After leaving Check In 3, everyone will encounter further artworks connected to time and space: Yugo Nakamura’s Industrious Clock uses handdrawn digits for the digital clock, while the Last Clock by Jussi Ängeslevä and Ross Cooper display live footage from the airport in three rings updated by the hour, minute or the second. AIRPORT SOUNDSCAPES #1 by Rupert Huber is a datasonification project turning data from the tower into audioscapes surrounding the visitors with the sound of traffic.
The Weltmaschine of Franz Gsellmann
The Weltmaschine (World Machine) is a kinetic installations built by austrian farmer Franz Gsellmann (1910-1981). Without any special knowledge or an artistic background and inspired by a religious vision, Gsellmann started working on the machine after seeing the Atomium at the World’s Fair 1958 in Bruxelles and finished it right before his death in 1981.
Built by discarded everyday objects and material, the Weltmaschine looks like an elaborate Hollywood prop from the lab of a mad scientist or the steam engine of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus. It’s four meters long, two meters wide and four meters high. It has around 2000 pieces, including a toy rocket Gsellmann had imported from Japan. Long forgotten the Weltmaschine was rediscovered and filmed in action by Ars Electronica in 2011, while the real one is still on view in a private museum in Edelsbach near Feldbach, Austria.
ikono’s guest for this edition of the Carte Blanche series is Charlotte Bank, an internationally operating researcher, curator and writer living and working between Berlin, Geneva and Damascus. Bank curates exhibitions as well as film and video programs, she organizes talks and seminars, and is currently the director of Zakharif projects, a platform for contemporary visual practices in the Middle East and beyond.
Focusing on the emerging contemporary art scene in Syria in the context of the critical art tradition of the country, the curator has a background in Near Eastern archaeology and art history. In her curatorial and scientific work Bank addresses the reception of Islamic and Arab art and culture in Western high and popular culture, early Islamic visual art, contemporary artistic and cultural practice in the Arab world and its Diaspora, hybridity and inter/transculturality.
Bank is also part of the curatorial team of the Visual Arts Festival Damascus, an independent art festival launched in 2010 and re-conceived as a nomadic event from 2012 onwards.
With Spatial Reflections, Bank presents a selection of works “that explore different aspects of the relation between human beings and their physical surroundings.” The series of five productions showcases artworks of Steve Sabella, Salah Saouli, Ghassan Halwani, Ali Skeikh Khudr, Bashar Hroub and Kevork Mourad.
Please find below Charlotte Bank’s introduction to Spatial Reflections:
by Charlotte Bank
“Spatial Reflections” presents a series of works – videos, photography, installation – that explore different aspects of the relation between human beings and their physical surroundings. They share a fragmentary and fragile quality which seems to be symptomatic for contemporary existence with its frequent changes of locations and recurring feelings of alienation. Like fragments of memories that one might attempt to piece together in order to reconstruct a complete image of a past event or experience, these works are composed of multilayered, occasionally barely graspable imagery, complex and haunting at the same time.
The artists come from Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, places that have known political oppression, dissent, war, civil war, armed conflict and social violence. But while their works might be partly informed by traumatic experiences, they transcend the geographic locality and through their very personal languages touch upon universal issues of great relevance to the 21st century. They tell stories of loss, displacement, disorientation, of recollection and longing.
Steve Sabella has since his series “In Exile” (2008) been using multi-angled photomontages to investigate his mental map as he strove to come to terms with the condition of inner exile and dislocation that defines his existence since an early age. In the following series, “In Transition” (2010), “Euphoria” (2010) and “Beyond Euphoria” (2011), like he did in “In Exile”, he delved into the depths of his own mind and studied the complexities of his alternating feelings of anxiety and deliverance. In his new work, “Metamorphosis” (2012), Sabella seems to have reached a new stage on this path, a stage of maturity, of meticulously “reconstructing” his self, as he states on his website. The images that form the basis of the series are all somehow related to Palestinian reality, the separation wall, barbed wire, the cactus plant behind the window. But these images are in no way simple statements of cultural belonging. Rather, each of them appears to hold an inner conflict between the outer appearance and the inner function, or between the obvious connotation and possible other significations. Thus, Sabella has chosen to turn barbed wire into a method to “stitch wounds together” or as “organic extensions of a tree branch” (stevesabella.com). The spectator is drawn into a whirl, like a kaleidoscope by the pattern of plants and wire, blurring the boundaries between the two elements. This ultimate metamorphosis of a symbol of restricted movement and forced control into a whirling movement of vegetal forms appears as the crucial step to overcome those burdens that weigh upon humans in conflict zones around the world and could constitute an important step in a necessary process to overcome the wounds of a tormented history.
Another kind of inner landscape with a similar kaleidoscopic quality is presented in Salah Saouli’s room filling installation, “The Labyrinth”. Saouli built a labyrinth of plexiglas plates onto which he printed various images and texts from the city of Beirut’s past: Historical photographs, reproductions of early postcards, newspaper texts and photographs taken by the artist during the Civil War alternate with photos of persons gone missing during this period. At each turn the visitor takes when moving though the installation, the images form new constellations and conjure up new patterns of recollection. Like a palimpsest, the work reflects memories that overlap each other, fragmentary, located on the diffusive border between the real and the imagined. The visitor is drawn into a quasi-archaeological process of following moments of collective memory through the artist’s archive of city images. While it represents a specific city, “The Labyrinth” is also a reflection on the fragile complexity of cities in general, this “most precious collective invention of civilization” in the words of Lewis Mumford (Louis Mumford: The City in History), always balancing between refinement and the risk of downfall. Salah Saouli offers us his very personal memories of a city that in its long history has seen several reconstructions after disasters, but always seem to reappear in a new shape.
An entirely different view of a cityscape is offered by Ghassan Halwani. In his video “Jibraltar” (2005), Halwani plays with the idea of the birth of an adult, a human being that is without any history or memory, free to explore, but also free to loose himself in an unfamiliar, urban environment that appear governed by strange codes. The loss of memory might seem desirable for any person who has just left a trauma of war behind and in fact, collective, voluntary amnesia appears characteristic for many societies, past and present that strive to regain normality after periods of extreme violence. But rather than freed, Halwani’s figure seems utterly lost as he moves through the deserted spaces of a railway station, thereby reflecting the discomfort of anyone lost in a foreign city.
In “City of Emptiness” (2010), Ali Skeikh Khudr’s revisits his hometown of Salamiyeh in northern Syria and presents a searching gaze back to another time. He shows us streets that are hauntingly empty, almost stripped of human presence, strangely suspended in time, leaving the final escape appear as the ultimate and inevitable end. For the faceless, shadow-like figures in Bashar Hroub’s “No Time, No Place” (2009), no escape seem possible. Barely recognizable as human forms, the figures gain an almost timeless, ancient and otherworldly quality as they move slowly around, following patterns of interweaving movement that remain unclear and even seem purposeless. Hroub’s figures appear doomed to eternally perform their inexplicable tasks, with no hope of deliverance; the video seems like a discomforting parable of an existence robbed of its social ties and meanings.
The disruptive effects of architecture of power on spaces of human habitat stand at the centre of Kevork Mourad’s animation “The Walls” (2011). In delicate, drawn lines structures and buildings of a town appear, multiply and flourish, only to be separated by a wall winding its way through the cityscape like a destructive snake. The scenario repeats itself, the wall changes its appearance, crumbles, only to reappear with renewed strength. For anyone familiar with the geopolitics of Palestine, the reference to the Separation Wall seems obvious, but the trauma of walls separating families, friends or people from their land is only too well known in other parts of the world as well. At the end of Kevork Mourad’s video, the wall is once again replaced by houses; the wound in the cityscape is healed. Despite the tendency of walls, whether physical or mental, to reappear at regular intervals, we might take this as a sign of hope.
How are our memories and bodies affected by our physical surroundings? How do urban and rural landscapes affect our perception? What are the images and fantasies that guide us when we navigate through these spaces? In what way do physical spaces reflect our own mental landscapes?
A “Carte Blanche” is offered by ikono to established art curators to curate and broadcast their choice of works in the form of a unique virtual exhibition.
Christian Ganzenberg is a curator and art critic. He studied Cultural Studies in Stuttgart and Pittsburgh. He presently works for the Daimler Kunst Sammlung in Berlin, where he runs the project space 5x6x9. His current PhD studies are on the development of artist books and writing since 1960s. Luca Trevisani is one of the most promising Italian artists of his generation. Born 1979 in Verona, Trevisani studied art history in Bologna and attended a number of art classes with renowned teachers such as Tobias Rehberger and Alfredo Jaar. He has received awards such as the Premio Furla per l’Arte in 2007 and the New York Prize of the Italian Cultural Institute in New York in 2010. Trevisani has shown in galleries including Giò Marconi, Mailand, pinksummer, Genua, and Mehdi Chouakri, Berlin, as well as in solo shows in Athens, Amsterdam, and Rome. Recently, he was nominated for the Premio Italia Arte Contemporanea 2012. The artist deals with the basic physical connections and philosophical topics in his work. He creates fragile sculptures, abstract drawings, and experimental films that exemplarily focus on terms such as equation and balance, variability, and fluctuation. Trevisani says about his work: “Vodorosli can be beautiful, but, and this is what matters to me, the search for beauty is an ancient mistake. Beauty cannot be programmed, because it is always only a side-effect of other investigations. (…) It is better to forget about the boundaries between different art work as well as about the boundaries between different thoughts. There are no longer images, just sequences of images. A rythm, a song.” (Luca Trevisani)
One could literally say “two museums in one”, which is the case for this month’s Museum of the World: MACRO, the museum of contemporary art in Rome has two imposing locations.
When two idle industrial complexes, a brewery and a slaughterhouse, were given to the city, both sites were restored and adapted to host a leading cultural center dedicated to the promotion of contemporary art in Rome.
Very different in character, MACRO in Via Nizza was designed by the French architect Odile Decq, who connected the different spaces with a dynamic series of staircases, passages, galleries and elevators. The original structure is maintained but complemented with architectural elements that enable its new function. This includes the striking auditorium placed in the center of the foyer, a beautiful wooden structure varnished in red, and a glass entrance inserted between the two buildings. This entrance creates a central point from where the visitor is directed to the various venues: Two exhibition spaces, one of which is the largest in Europe, two project rooms, one video tunnel, four artist studios, a library, a mediatheque, a cinema, and two artist residencies are complemented by a cafeteria, restaurant and museum shop to provide an all round cultural offer. Each architectural element has been adapted to host specific artistic interventions, including the large roof terrace and the walls of the adjoining buildings, which are occasionally used for projections or large murals.
The second location, MACRO Testaccio, was obtained during the restoration of the old slaughterhouse in the Testaccio district, a trendy neighborhood now famous for the large number of cultural events aimed mainly at young audiences.
The pavilions of this complex are a perfect example of industrial architecture in transition from classicism to modernity at the end of the 19th century. The restoration has not erased the traces of the site’s original use, and in the large courtyard the tracks and a system of metal hooks used for the transportation of meat still remain, as do the fences which were used to confine the cattle. The various pavilions have been restored into large exhibition spaces dedicated to the promotion of contemporary art, which facilitate intense research activity into artistic practices. Completing this site, is a center of cultural production founded in 2010, offering over 5000 square meters of functional space including a large exhibition room, various multifunctional venues, a theater, a laboratory, and a director’s and recording studio.
With its two locations, MACRO is a catalyst for contemporary culture in the capital.
The Musei Capitolini date back to 1471, when Pope Sixtus IV donated to the people of Rome a group of bronze statues that until then had been kept at the Lateran. These statues constituted its original core collection. Various popes subsequently expanded the collection with works taken from excavations around Rome; some were moved from the Vatican, some, such as the Albani collection, were bought specifically for the museum. Around the middle of the eighteenth century, Pope Benedict XIV created a picture gallery. A considerable quantity of archaeological material was also added at the end of the nineteenth century when Rome became the capital of Italy and new excavations were carried out whilst two completely new districts were created for the expanding city.
The Museums’ collections are displayed in the two of the three buildings that together enclose the Piazza del Campidoglio: Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, the third being the Palazzo Senatorio. These two buildings are linked by an underground tunnel, which contains the Galleria Lapidaria and leads to the ancient Tabularium, whose monumental arches overlook the Forum.
The Palazzo Nuovo houses the collections of ancient sculpture made by the great noble families of the past. Their charming arrangement has remained substantially unchanged since the eighteenth century. They include the famous collections of busts of Roman philosophers and emperors, the statue of Capitoline Gaul, the Capitoline Venus, and the imposing statue of Marforio that dominates the courtyard.
The Conservators’ Apartment contains the original architectural nucleus of the building, decorated with splendid frescoes portraying the history of Rome. The ancient Capitoline bronzes on display here add to the noble atmosphere: the Capitoline She-wolf, Spinario and the Capitoline Brutus.
On the first floor of the palace, a huge glass room, recently built, contains the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which once stood in the Piazza del Campidoglio, and the imposing remains of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter. A section is also dedicated to the most ancient part of the Campidoglio’s history, from its first inhabitation until the construction of the sacred building, displaying the results of recent excavations. The halls that overlook the room contain works from the Horti of the Esquiline; the hall which connects the room to the apartments of the Palazzo dei Conservatori contains the Castellani collection, testimony to nineteenth century collecting practices.
On the second floor, the Capitoline Picture Gallery contains many important works, arranged in chronological order from late mediaeval times to the eighteenth century. The collection includes paintings by Caravaggio (Good Luck and St. John the Baptist), a massive canvas by Guercino (Burial of Saint Petronilla) and numerous paintings by Guido Reni and Pietro da Cortona.
The Palazzo Caffarelli-Clementino holds the numismatic collection, known as the Medagliere Capitolino. On display are many rare coins, medals, gems and jewels, as well as an area dedicated to temporary exhibitions.
ikono is proud to present you the masterpieces of the Musei Capitolini, which have been selected by director Claudio Parisi Presicce and include the Capitoline Venus, a Roman copy after Praxiteles, as well as the Spinario from the 1st century B.C., the Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.), and Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Bust of Medusa (1644-1648). For further information on the museum and its fascinating collection please visit the Musei Capitolini’s website.
This June, in occasion of the opening of the Venice Biennale, ikono focuses on four of the major and most charming Venetian Museums: the National Archaeological Museum, the Accademia Galleries, the Oriental Art Museum and the Ca’ d’Oro Gallery.
Together with the Palazzo Grimani Gallery, the four museums belong to the Polo Museale Veneziano, an organic complex of buildings and collections of enormous artistic and historical value, definitely one of the most important in Europe.
The National Archaeological Museum of Venice was founded in the 16th century and thanks to the vision of two patrician Venetian collectors, Domenico and Giovanni Grimani, offers to its visitors a particularly valuable collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. The director Michela Sediari curated a special selection of art pieces that best represent this amazing collection.
The Accademia Galleries are located in the prestigious building of the Scuola Grande of Santa Maria della Carità. The church of Santa Maria and the monastery of the Canonici Lateranensi, built by Andrea Palladio in 1561, are also part of the Accademia. The largest collection of Venetian art paintings from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century is on display at the museum. Masterpieces by Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, Carpaccio, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Bellotto, Guardi, together with artworks donated by prestigious collectors like Molin and Cantarini, and an amazing set of drawings, which include studies from Leonardo da Vinci and his circle, complete the incredibly valuable collection. This month, ikono presents a selection of artworks curated by Matteo Cerian, the director of the complex.
The Oriental Art Museum faces the Grand Canal and is located in the ancient palace owned by the Pesaro family and designed by Baldassare Longhena. The Museum showcases one of the most important collections of Japanese art of the Edo period. Prince Henry II of Borbone bought the collection during his travel to Asia, between 1887 and 1889. More than 30.000 objects, among which swords and daggers, Japanese armours, delicate enamel objects and precious porcelains, can be found in the stupendous museum’s sections. The collection is known in Europe as being one of the most important for Japanese art from the Edo period (1600-1868), but it also includes masterpieces from other parts of Asia, especially China and Indonesia. Fiorella Spadavecchia, director of the museum, selected splendid artworks and manufactures, which best represent the variety of objects and can be admired at the Oriental Art Museum.
The Ca’ d’Oro Gallery is located in one of the most beautiful late-gothic buildings in Venice and hosts Baron Giorgio Franchetti’s impressive art collection. Around 1916, the Baron bestowed the grand palace to the City of Venice to use it as a public art museum. The palace, also the representative home of the rich merchant Marino Contarini, and built between 1421 and 1440, was subjected to many transformations throughout the years. In 1927, the Gallery was opened and received many art pieces from other museums like the Accademia Galleries and the Archeological Museum, but also from the Italian State Property. The most important art pieces are Flemish tapestries, sculptures, Venetian, Tuscan and Flemish paintings, wooden furniture, Renaissance sculptures and bronzes, coins, medals and the sorrowful image of the Saint Sebastian by Andrea Mantegna. The current installation was firstly made between the 70s and 80s and, since 1992, there is also a new space dedicated to Venetian ceramics situated in the neighbouring building of Palazzo Duodo. The courtyard is truly beautiful, with floor mosaics in opus sectile made by Giorgio Franchetti himself and inspired by Paleochristian churches. The artist’s ashes are buried under a red porfido column. Claudia Cremonini, the director of the gallery, presents a mix of sculptures and paintings, drawing attention to the diversity and richness of the Ca’ D’Oro collection.
For the next two months, ikono will shine a spotlight on the best artworks showcased in the museums of the Polo Museale Veneziano, inviting everyone to take a closer look at its stunning buildings and collections.
Please visit the museums’ websites for further information:
National Archaeological Museum
Oriental Art Museum
Ca’ D’Oro Gallery
Being accomodated within a gem of the European Baroque architecture, the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna owns a unique collection of Austrian and European art from medieval times until today. Masterpieces from the Late Gothic Michael Pacher (around 1435 – 1498) to romanticists such as Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), from Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s (1736-1783) grotesque Character Heads (after 1770) to the light-flooded landscapes of Claude Monet (1840-1926) are presented within the impressive architecture of the Belvedere’s palaces, the Upper and Lower Belvedere. Built in the early 18th century by Johann Lucas Hildebrandt, one of the most significant Baroque architects, and surrounded by a representative garden, the palaces have been serving as the summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), in due course an important general and influential patron for the arts.
To pay tribute to the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere as one of the most important Museums of the World, ikono dedicates two productions to a milestone of the Belvedere’s collection: As main representative of the Viennese Modern Age, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) had an inimitable influence on the art of the Austrian fin de siècle. The Belvedere owns the major part of Klimt’s Oeuvre, which doubtlessly finds its highlights in his most famous paintings, Kiss and Judith, to be presented by ikono during the upcoming weeks.
Please find below the Belvedere’s detailed introduction into Klimt’s masterpieces:
Gustav Klimt: Judith (1901)
The title Judith for this portrait of a young, seductive beauty – adorned with golden jewellery, her breast half exposed – has nothing in common with the traditional image of the heroine from the Old Testament. In the 19th century the image of Judith as the chaste woman, serving her people, was transformed into a man-eating, self-gratifying, and emancipated symbolic figure. Gustav Klimt is clearly adhering to this interpretation and showing that he is familiar with the current discussion about the new role of woman and the relationship between the sexes. It therefore comes as no surprise that even contemporary critics called this painting ‘Salome’ as well, and that the head of Holofernes is like the face of a saint. In this context, the gold background adds a touch of confusion, as in both Gothic painting and in Ancient Egyptian civilization this was regarded as the epitome of the divine. Here Klimt seems to be paying tribute to a new religion – to Eros. This can be read from the encoded decoration, which can be interpreted in different ways. The apples, for example, suspended from the background trees that look like five fingers, recall the traditional symbol of temptation, and the abstract scales call to mind the snake in paradise.
Yet ultimately it is the painting, dissolved into small brushstrokes, seen in combination with the beguiling gleam of the gold that conveys the seductive sensuality of the woman. This would still be the case even without all the decoration and its potential symbolism.
Gustav Klimt: Kiss (1908)
The Kiss, probably the most popular work by Gustav Klimt, was first exhibited in 1908 at the Kunstschau art exhibition on the site of today’s Konzerthaus in Vienna. The Ministry bought it from there for the sum of 25,000 Kronen, and thus secured for the state one of the icons of Viennese Jugendstil and indeed of European modern art.
It undoubtedly represents the culmination of the phase known as the ‘Golden Epoch’. In this decade, the artist created a puzzling, ornamental encoded programme that revolved around the mystery of existence, love and fulfilment through art. Klimt gained initial inspiration for this in 1903 on a journey to Ravenna to see the Byzantine mosaics. In addition, the painting contains a myriad of motifs from various cultural epochs, above all from Ancient Egyptian mythology. Most recent research has, however, revealed that it is not enough to read the ornaments in the picture just as symbols rooted in tradition aiming to convey a timelessly valid message. They reveal more, such as references to Klimt’s love for Emilie Flöge and the artist’s exploration of the sculptor Auguste Rodin’s art.
The couple is on a base formed by a narrow strip of a flowery meadow set against an abyss suffused with golden dust. The woman in a magnificent floral dress is being tenderly embraced by the man, whose body is entirely concealed by a golden robe. In blissful rapture she turns her head towards the viewer; their hands touch with sensual tenderness.
The gold of the background is primarily interpreted as an ancient symbol of the divine or the sun, that becomes united with the flowery meadow, symbol of the earth. The rectangles on the robe are synonymous with the male principle; the oval-shaped flowers with the female. On the other hand, comparison with the Stoclet Frieze (pron: Stoclettfries) of the same time, could suggest that the glittering gold background represents a metaphysically exalted idea of Lake Attersee and the narrow meadow the lake shore. Based on this location, the couple must be Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge.
One source of confusion is the kneeling pose of the woman and the fact that her face turns away from the kiss. Does this show a love that was never fulfilled and never expressly declared between the couple? Or does this show the ambivalence between submission and rejection between the sexes? Love as the cosmic law for the life-giving union between man and woman or the document of a love that perhaps experienced its most wondrous time at Lake Attersee?
This month’s featured Museum of the World is the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Quatar, a unique collection of manuscripts, metalwork, ceramics, jewellery, woodwork, textiles and glass preserved in the Emirate’s capital. The wide selection of rare objects is displayed in a fascinating building designed by the Chinese American architect I. M. Pei in 2008, whose inspiration derived from ancient Muslim construction principles.
ikono’s curatorial team is excited to present you three productions highlighting the best pieces of the museum’s permanent collection, and offering you a glimpse into one of the world’s most exhaustive patrimonies of Islamic art from Spain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India, and Central Asia, dating from the 7th to the 19th century.
IkonoTV presents a fine selection of the Timurid miniature heritage.
By bringing craftsmen from different conquered lands to his capital in Samarqand, Timur initiated one of the most brilliant periods in Islamic art. Timurid art and architecture provided inspiration to lands stretching from Anatolia to India. Though Timur’s extensive empire itself was relatively short-lived, his descendants continued to rule over Transoxiana as leading patrons of Islamic art.
The technical skill of the artist is now staggering. It embraces the preparation of the surface, the application of paint, the purity of colour, the balancing of hues, the effects of crescendo and diminuendo in the composition and in the distribution of colour, and the pinpoint accuracy of the smallest detail. Everything seems to be calculated and these images are demanding a deep perceptive investment from the viewer. The Islamic miniature painting reached here its aesthetical peak.
The Timurids were the final great dynasty to emerge from the Central Asian steppe. In 1370, the eponymous founder, Timur (Tamerlane), who belonged to a Turkish tribe settled in Transoxiana, became master of this province and established Samarqand as his capital. Within thirty-five years, he subjugated all of Central Asia, greater Iran, and Iraq, as well as parts of southern Russia and the Indian subcontinent. The vast empire he carved proved to be difficult to keep; his son and successor, Shahrukh (r. 1405–47), barely managed to maintain the empire’s boundaries, and subsequent Timurid princes sought to establish their own kingdoms, weakening the empire with internal strife. Eventually only Khorasan and Transoxiana remained Timurid, and during the remaining years of the dynasty, these were ruled by separate branches of the Timurid family.
ikonoTV presents, as part of our Rediscovered Heritage program, miniatures from the book “The Wonders of the Creation and the Curiosities of Existence” (Kitab Aja’ib al-makhluqat wa Gharaib al-Mawjudat) written and illustrated by Abu Yahya Zakariya ibn Muhammad ibn Mahmud-al-Qazwini (ca. 1203 – 1283 CE), also known as Zakariya’ibn al-Qazwini. Compiled in the middle 1200s in Iran or Iraq, this book is definitely one of the most important natural history texts of the medieval Islamic world. Originally it is divided into two sections, focusing respectively on celestial phenomena, including the planet, stars, and angels, and the terrestrial world, including geography, ethnography, zoology, and botany.
Al-Qazwini was born in the city of Qazwin in Persia under Seljuq-Rule. He was an universal scholar, focused on historical, geographical and encyclopedic researches. He received much of his education in Baghdad, the cultural center of the region with many other scholars and renowned universities. Al-Qazwini wrote, as it was common in Baghdad at the time, most of his works in Arabic. But some of his works have been translated in later time into Persian language. Al-Qazwini was primarily a compiler of information from different authors, both ancient and medieval, to which he added a few original observations of his own.
The selected works shown in the ikono productions are from the 14th Century from the possession of the Institute of Oriental Studies in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Originally it contains a plurality of illustrations of constellations, mythical figures, and various plants and animals. IkonoTV presents a selection of these illustrations, as individual motifs and also embedded into the original paper and text configuration. The idea, showing the motifs as individual elements, out of the context, was conceived to enhance the details and to offer the audience a clear perception of them. Nevertheless, each motif will be contextualized at the end of the presentation in its original position on paper.
This special series of shows is a further contribution to represent Islamic art and sciences on ikonoTV.
ikono has taken great joy in rediscovering the rich artistic and architectural treasures of the Achaemenid Empire:
The Achaemenids are named after Achaimenes, the legendary leader of the great Persian migration at 701 B.C., where the Kings of the Achaemenid dynasty were generous sponsors of Art and Architecture. Confronted with a great variety of building and decoration motives, the formerly nomadic Persians established splendid cities and impressive art objects. This period allowed for an independent character of Achaemenid art to slowly develop. The decoration motifs of the Elamites served as a role model here, and heraldic motives, including lions, griffins and crowned mythical creatures (half animal, half person) moved into the decorative repertoire. Achaemenids architecture is based on Greek and Egyptian traditions. In turn the architecture ornamentations show clear influences of the Mesopotamian Kingdom of Babylon.
All of these different influences manifest themselves in the capital of Persepolis and in the palaces in Susa and Pasargadai. Slowly but surely the result became a heterogeneous culture of art and architecture, which was parallel to the expansion of the kingdom. Today, this culture continues to exert a great influence on Iranian contemporary art.
The Treasures of Ancient Persia show impressing art objects from the pre-islamic Era of the Iranian Cultural region. Works from the Achaemenid, Sassanian and Parthian Dynasties includes valuable style components about this magnificient Art.
When Reza Shah, the first Pahlavi shah, introduced the name “Iran” instead of “Persia”, he was not simply asking to change the name of a country. “Iran” had actually been the name for the whole area since pre-Islamic times, while “Persia” was only a name used for its southwestern parts and “Persian” referred to Iran’s main language. The name Persia for the region has already been used by the ancient Greeks and the word “Iran” was used especially in the empires that ruled for a few centuries before the Islamic conquest of Iran in the seventh century, but also after the territory of today’s Iran was divided among several states.
The advent of the Islamic era in Iranian culture did not a break with the region’s pre-Islamic history though. This is noticeable both in the literature (the Iranian national epic, Book of Kings, “Shahname”), as well as in architecture (Ivane and grave towers) and the decorative arts (architectural ornaments and decorative motifs on bowls, tiles and stucco panels).
The presentation of pre-Islamic art from Iran thus also serves the understanding of a peculiar reminder culture and identification of the Iranian population, which has always been strong, especially since the rulership of the Samanids and the The Great Seljuq Empire. This handing down of Parthian, Sassanid and Achaemenian decorative motifs and architectural elements still influences the artistic creations in Iran today.
Embedded in the very abstract looking Islamic art it serves your own historical identity and conscious separation from the Arab hegemony that has felt obligatoire by a prophetic calling to Islam to not only spread Islam but also manage the newly acquired territories and to Arabize them. This becomes clear when looking at the Umayyad Caliphate rule in the Iranian cultural regions Pars and Khorasan.
The Umayyad Caliphate, founded by Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, long-time governor of Syria, after the end of the First Muslim Civil War in 661, conquered 5.79 million square miles (15,000,000 km2) and built the largest empire the world had ever seen, and the fifth largest to ever exist until today. But the constant campaigning exhausted the resources of the state. The Umayyads, weakened by the Third Muslim Civil War of 744–747, were toppled by the Abbasid Revolution in 750. A branch of the family fled across North Africa to Al-Andalus, where they established the Caliphate of Córdoba, which lasted until 1031 before falling.
For more information please follow the link
Professor Ahmad Ashraf: Iranian Identity in the pre-Islamic Era
Painted by Albrecht Altdorfer (around 1480-1538) and his workshop between 1512 and 1515, the triumphal frieze of Maximilian I. of Habsburg (1459-1519) is an imaginary parade of the most important encounters, events and achievements of the emperor’s life. The frieze has been comissioned by Maximilian I. himself, who was a great patron for the arts of his time. Originally more than 100 meters long, only the second part of the precious vellum paintings has been preserved. Today the elaborately restored frieze is part of the collection of the Viennese museum Albertina, which in 2012 has been presenting the scenes for the first time as continuous series due to a particular exhibition design.
ikono is very happy to having the opportunity of showcasing this gem of Northern alpine Renaissance painting. In close collaboration with the Albertina we produced a 15 minutes journey through the life of the Habsburg emperor, focusing on the details and refinements of Altdorfer’s monumental masterpiece.
Please read the introduction by Dr. Eva Michel, curator at the Albertina’s Graphic Art Collection, for getting more information on this unique rediscovered heritage, and follow the link for gaining an overview over the frieze’s single scenes: Altdorfer’s triumphal procession of Maximilian I., Contents of sheets
ALBRECHT ALTDORFER and workshop
TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION OF EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN I, c. 1512 – 1515
Pen drawings with watercolor and gouache, gold and silver heightening, on vellum;
c. 45 x 95 cm each (total length of surviving sheets 49 – 109, incl. the authors’ page, when lined up as a painted frieze: 53.8 m)
Vienna, Albertina, Inv. 25205 – 25263
By Eva Michel
The Triumphal Procession was commissioned by Maximilian I of Habsburg (1459 – 1519), elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The cycle of originally 109 large-format colored pen-drawings was executed in 1512 – 1515 by the famous German artist Albrecht Altdorfer and his workshop as a frieze with a total length of more than 100 meters. Unlike the woodcut version of the Triumph Procession published from 1516 onwards, the exquisite paintings on costly parchment were certainly intended as an exclusive display copy for the emperor’s own personal use.
This outstanding work exists only as a fragment today. The original first part (sheets 1 to 48) of the Triumphal Procession has been lost, nothing is known of its fate or whereabouts; only a transcript of Maximilian’s written concept of 1512 and two later copies allow it to be reconstructed. The second part – sheets 49 to 109, measuring about 45 by 95 centimetres each – has survived and is preserved in the Albertina Museum in Vienna (Austria), where it was the focus of the exhibition “Emperor Maximilian I. and the Age of Dürer” (September 2012 to January 2013).
The subject of the Triumph dates back to antiquity and to the practice of staging processions to mark the ceremonial entry of victorious Roman generals. It was popularized via humanist literary descriptions and their adaptations during the Italian Renaissance. Maximilian’s Triumphal Procession reveals a new conception of the ancient model, drawing its rhetoric authority into the orbit of imperial aims. The pageant depicted never actually took place, nor does it mark any one victory in the field. It is rather an idealized review of the most important persons and events of the Maximilian’s life, intended to link himself and the House of Habsburg to prestigious Roman origins, to glorify the emperor during his lifetime and to keep his memory alive for all eternity. It displays family and lineage, military campaigns, private pastimes such as jousting, hunting, and music-making, and imperial demonstrations of power in the form of coats of arms and standards. The protagonists are not dressed up in classical garb, but the parade is made up of contemporary lansquenets and knights. The classical elements are thus partly overshadowed by late-medieval entry pageantry and references to Maximilian’s personality and life. The sequence of the sheets and the reading direction run from right to left, against the direction of the procession. This creates the effect of the participants of the Triumphal Procession encountering the viewer moving in the opposite direction.
The beginning of that part of the program that has been preserved in the Albertina marks the depiction of Maximilian’s marriage to Mary of Burgundy in Ghent on 19 August 1477. The golden chariot bearing symbols of the cities and castles is followed by a magnificent display of spectacular battle scenes on painted banners and by chariots laden with trophies and war booty. This fictional showcasing of Maximilian’s military prowess leads to the imperial artillery with its state-of-the-art cannons and artillery pieces and then to the carriages laden with the emperor’s sacred and secular treasures, displayed here to prove that the emperor had riches beyond imagining. The battlefield feats are followed by historic key events in Maximilian’s life, such as the marriage of his son Philip the Fair to Joanna of Castile in 1496. A series of statues of Maximilian’s ancestors underscores his noble descent. They are followed in turn by the prisoners of war, the antique bearers of victory, and the trumpeters and heralds announcing the arrival of Maximilian’s mother on her chariot. The emperor himself, clad in full regalia with crown, scepter, and palm frond (a traditional symbol of victory), is enthroned on a triumphal chariot drawn by twelve white horses. Before him are his first wife, Mary of Burgundy, and their daughter Margaret, and seated in front of them are his son Philip with Joanna and their children. This depiction of the emperor’s immediate family sharing the same chariot was intended to stress the importance that he himself attached to family and to the perpetuation of the Habsburg Dynasty. Following the imperial chariot in order of rank are numerous princes, counts, lords, knights, and lansquenets, a wagon fort and the “kalikutischen Leut,” here represented by the Indians, as an allusion to Maximilian’s hegemonic claims to territories outside Europe. The Baggage Section —a motley group of ordinary men, women, and children— follows the army. Apart from the landscape backdrop to one part of the Baggage Section, the protagonists march against the neutral ground of unpainted parchment. This forces us to focus our attention on the figures and scenes themselves, whose purpose, being cut off from time and place, is to glorify Maximilian in the collective memory.
The impressive length of Maximilian’s purely imaginary Triumphal Procession at over 100 meters raises the question of its original presentation and storage: The parchments seem too small-scale in terms of their imagery for a mural decoration, and too well preserved to have been hung for a long period. Diagonal folds and evidence of rubbing on the surfaces of the parchments seem to have been caused by the rolling them up, which fits perfectly to the rhetoric effect of classical rotuli, thus using an antiquizing format for the antiquizing content. The parchment band could have been used in the manner of a scroll that is viewed manually, with one hand unrolling, and the other rolling up, according to similar principles as prayer scrolls and the Torah. The exquisitness and sensitivity of the material, as well as its dimensions, meant, that the miniature Triumphal Procession – in contrast to the later woodcut version – remained a magnificent treasure, reserved only for the emperor and a small group of selected courtiers. The Triumphal Procession, which in reality never took place, is a celebration of Maximilian’s life and works and thus became a triumph over death and time.
For more information, please consult the catalogue of the exhibition “Emperor Maximilian I. and the Age of Dürer”, ed. by Eva Michel and Maria-Luise Sternath, Albertina, Prestel Verlag, Munich 2012.
In November, ikono introduces the work of Jakob Roepke. While the Echo format is usually based on a single artwork from the past resonating throughout history in later re-interpretations, direct or in-direct references, in Interiority – Jakob Roepke after Various Artists we will offer the viewer the possibility to “connect the dots” between very diverse figurative, thematic or historical influences in the painted collages of this contemporary artist.
In an exciting sequence of juxtapositions, reminiscences and comparisons between artworks from different epochs, medium and style, Jakob Roepke’s works will be alternated with images from major artists of the past as well as neglected or even “trivial” source materials.
Jakob Roepke began producing his small painted collages in 1996 and has since created over 1300 separate pieces. While each miniature is an individual work, the series build up networks of reoccurring motives, situations and themes.
In each collage Roepke continually reinvents scenes for his tiny protagonists. Isolated in seemingly lonely domestic spaces, he throws them into ever changing and unexpected situations. Drawing upon art history, popular culture and the surrealist tradition, each piece is left open to a wealth of contextual interpretations.
His tiny collages seem to reference the uncertainty and adversity of 21th century life; yet while the scenes hover between hopelessness and destruction, Roepke’s central figures always seem on the verge of tipping the fight in their favour.
Jakob Roepke lives and works in Berlin.
This July we are presenting a remarkable reworking of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by the Spanish painter Lluis Barba. The original artwork was painted in 1504 and, composed of three panels showing the Creation, the Earth and a particularly macabre Hell, is one of the most surrealistic and disturbing paintings of the whole Dutch Renaissance. In 2007, Lluis Barba revealed his modern version of the painting at Art Basel Miami Beach, the world’s premiere international art show for Modern and contemporary works. What Barba did, is collocating new characters next to the original Bosch’s deformed ones. Artists, friends, colleagues and celebrities join the narration and are attentively placed either in the Paradise, Earth or Hell sections. For instance, Kate Moss, who, as the artist says: “is as important to Art History as Andy Warhol”, can be seen on the left side of the panel, enjoying the delights of Creation, while Brad Pitt, Madonna, Elton John and Pavarotti belongs to the central panel, representing the earthly sin. All of them have their place, but the artist left the worst position to some of those considered the key players in the art world, like Jay Joplin (the White Cube Gallery dealer who sold Damien Hirst’s skull). Despite the humming created around his version of Bosch’s painting, it is not the first time that Barba re-interpreted iconic artworks or portraits. His artistic language, which critiques the art world and, more in general, the modern society, is also visible in his series of self-portraits, picturing the most important artists in the development of art history.
Born in Spain, Lluis Barba currently lives and works in Barcelona. He has exhibited his work in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Canada. His work is hosted in major public collections, such as the Artothèque d’Art Anekdota in Paris, Museo International Cairo, Museo Marugame Hirai Japan and more.
A version of this article appeared on Times Online, December 12, 2007.
Adad Hannah was not convinced at first when his old friend Gus Horn from Canada asked him to stage his version of The Raft of the Medusa ( (Le Radeau de la Méduse) in 100 Mile House, a community of 2000 people in British Columbia. The painting by French Romantic painter Théodore Géricault (1791–1824) had already inspired numerous spoofs and variants by the likes of Martin Kippenberger, Asterix, Tintin, David LaChapelle or The Pogues with their album cover for “Run Sodomy and the Lash”, but: In the end Hannah signed up and the whole community of 100 Mile House came together to work on the project.
The crew of the raft was made up of twenty students and two tree planters who had to hold their poses for up to ten minutes for the final photos. The story behind the raft of 100 Mile House is less dramatic than the story of the original painting itself, but downturns in the local cattle and forestry industries have hit the community hard.
Adad Hannah worked after a painting which has become one of the most recognizable artworks in history and an icon of French Romanticism. The theme of human life abandoned by all hope is universal and the brutal story Géricault based his work on is still horrifying.
Géricault was 27 when he painted the survivors of a tragedy which had also become a political scandal hyped up by the French media. Like many other people who read newspapers, the artist was fascinated by the story of the 150 men who were left to their own devices in the ocean outside of Senegal with only a bag of biscuits consumed right away, two bottles of water which went overboard during fighting and a few casks of wine.
The men succumbed to cannibalism, dehydration, and insanity until only fifteen of them were left on the raft when they were discovered by accident two weeks later after the original sinking of the Méduse. The tragedy became an international scandal since the French captain of the ship was perceived to have acted under the command of the freshly restored French monarchy.
When the painting debuted at the Paris Salon of 1819 it became the talk of the town. “It strikes and attracts all eyes”, wrote Le Journal de Paris while other critics also called it a “pile of corpses.” Louis XVIII apparently said “Monsieur, vous venez de faire un naufrage qui n’en est pas un pour vous” (“Monsieur Géricault, your shipwreck is certainly no disaster”). Jules Michelet, the first historian to use and definethe word Renaissance wrote that “our whole society is aboard the raft of the Medusa [...].”
When Freedom Graffiti (2013) popped up on Saatchi’s Facebook page, the image from the Syrian artist’s series The Syrian Museum was shared all over the Internet and made it into many international publications: Tammam Azzam has digitally projected Gustav Klimt’s Kiss from 1908 upon a wall full of bullet holes, reminders of the civil war in the artist’s home country.
Not long after the Syrian civil war started in 2011, the artist lost his studio in Damascus and his means of production. Under the impression of the violence the people in Syria have to face on a daily base, Azzam turned to digital art, looking at the desperation and the many victims in Syria from inside the safety of the computer screen. With his latest series The Syrian Museum Azzam worked iconic faces of western art into images of battlezones in Syria. Using paintings by Henri Matisse, Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Francisco de Goya or Andy Warhol, he wants “to demonstrate that Syria has no world-class museums and the regime is presently killing its own cultural heritage.” By projecting Klimt on a destroyed facade Azzam confronts a couple’s intimacy with the cruelty of war: “The Kiss shows the love and relationship between people,” the artist stated in a recent interview, “and I have juxtaposed this with the capacity of hate the regime holds for its people.”
Tammam Azzam was born in Damascus in 1980 and graduated from the Syrian’s capital Faculty of Fine Arts. He was featured at the Scope Art Fair Basel in 2009 and at Art Miami 2010. He also had various solo shows at the Ayyam Gallery, Damascus and Dubai.
Mounir Fatmi’s video work ‘The Angels Black Leg’, 2011, contains a strong aesthetic and thematic reference to ‘Main Altar of Saint Cosmas and Damian’, 1438/40, by Fra Angelico. The work by Angelico depicts two surgeons performing a transplant operation in which a black leg is being transplanted onto a white patient. Fatmi’s work often deals with historical matters, religious objects and their desecration. Furthermore his productions are often subversive and frequently deal with political issues. Fatmi is a Moroccan multimedia artist presently living between Paris and Tangier.
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