CINDY SHERMAN SPRÜTH MAGERS BERLIN LONDON

Cindy Sherman (are u never bored of yourself?)

Cindy Sherman, 2008, Metro Pictures, New York

Lately, I keep popping up to  the ‘new’ old Cindy Sherman versions of herself. Odd old Sherman-ladies were posing at the latest POP magazine edition in a supplement for Chanel haute couture (full catalogue at The Terrier and Lobster). She incarnates posh-folk female statures in a bucolic technicolor background, with no make-up at all and even highlighting her wrinkles and black circles. Sherman is discovering the process of ageing and thus she turns it into the one and only art form  she knows: herself.

Cindy Sherman in Chanel Haute Couture in Pop Magazine

Quite the same spirit dominates her upcoming London exhibition in Sprueth Magers (April 16 to May 27 2011). A series of wall-sized posters represent Sherman-ageing-women which all share some kind of aristocracy and social hierarchy as a comment on modern society’s obsession for image and status. Sardonic disguises and image manipulation are Sherman’s best assets but role playing and gender identification have been for years now a common ground for most performance artists. So, what makes Cindy Sherman such a success?

Cindy Sherman, 2008, Metro Pictures, New York

The press release from her upcoming exhibition states that ‘Cindy Sherman has been working as her own model for more than 30 years now’ which means she was taking photos of herself by ‘taking’ other people’s images -with a preference for glamour B-movies queens of fifties and sixties. Film Stills, a series of archetypical women, was Sherman’s early work and the most recognisable since then. Sherman as a housewife, a mistress, an actress, a women in tears, in despair and so forth.

 

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still#58, 1980, MoMa collection

Coming out at late 70s and with a decade of performance art already preceded her, Sherman has been quickly acknowledged  with an intellectual substance that some of her rivals would say she didn’t have to sweat for. She has been commissioned by the  Artforum magazine for a ‘centrefold’ while a set of her Film Stills was bought by MoMa for one million dollars, raising their value and leading to  a Christie’s auction in 1999 where one of the Film Stills sold for a $190,000.  So, what’s special about her and why some artists make the leap while some others staying in the ‘friends&family’ phase ?

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still#21, 1978, MoMa collection

30years are quite a lot of time to be occupied with yourself -even for a performance artist where identity politics have been an old time classic trend. Apart from the blames of egocentric-ism  and self-obsession, which could also fit to a lot of her encounters, Sherman could also be accused for ‘easy-tricky-flashy games’. The audience is attracted by the seductiveness of her seductive ‘objects’. Her celluloid femme fatales, like Sherman in Bardo-style lighting cigarette, have something of stolen beauty. But again all the above accusations could apply to many others and the making of art history is never that unfair. BECAUSE:

1. Sherman found quickly her own trick: to turn the camera to herself 2. She stuck with this and developed it to perfection -every raised eyebrow, every rouged cheek is a work of extensive detailed 3. Glamour and self portraiture as a commodity become her tools of manipulation and stretched the Warholian idea from the 2d flatness of the screening image to her 3dimension own self via an image 4. Cindy is everywhere but we fairly know who Cindy is 5. Her creations are alienated and fictional but also human filtrated with years of hard labour where Sherman was delving into the feminine socio-structure.

 

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #469, 2008, Metro Pictures, New York

Her recent old dames are just a natural continuity of her work carrying a sense of vanity and wisdom, and borrowing to Sherman the elixir of eternity. That’s why a year before I picked a postcard without knowing it belongs to her and is still  hanging on my room

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #122, 1983 (ESTIMATE $80,000-100,000 SOLD AT $116,500)

(tension/intervention/restraint) Arthur and Albert gallery

Tension/intervention/restrain was a live action

(not an event) which happened in a garage room at the Arthur & Albert gallery off Dalston Kingsand just when the severe cold attacked us.  3 groups x 3 performers were re/de-transforming an empty space in 0C, for 6 hours.

It could have been a torture, an urban ritual, a masterpiece, a psycho-clinic, or just an odd fact.

The only information that we had in ours hands said:

(tension/intervention/restraint) is made up of a nationally and ethnically diverse group of individuals, spanning different continents of origin, different languages and multiple gender identification. We hope to bring the voice of potential, diversity and change through performing the ideologies we live.

Group A: Bean (UK), Frank Homeyer (Germany), Agnes Yit (Singapore/Malaysia):

My synopsis: a toxic cloud of deodorant spray/suffocation/distribution of toxic papers/information/hitting his legs – painting her legs/with yellow cuts/smashing roses in the wall could be a love action/wo-man hugging  could not be

 

Bean _ photographer Steven Kenny

Bean / photographer Steven Kenny

 

Agnes Yit / photographer Steven Kenny

 

Bean, Frank Homeyer / photographer Steven Kenny

All the groups entered successively the room- and one after another or one within the other shaped their ‘cosmos’ with their bodies, ingredients and energy. What was left from the first group became material and a channel of continuation for the other. Each performer acted both individually and connectively with the others by positioning themselves into the space, distributing their elements and forming their action.

Group B: Kiki Taira (Japan), Benjamin Sebastian (Australia/UK), Jenna Finch (UK)

My synopsis: carbon reflections with an asian girl/make me prettier/nuts-cracker nuts-feeding/ butter/flies turned to ashes & a story (never) told vice versa

 

Kiki Taira / photographer Steven Kenny

 

Kiki Taira mirror-ing the audience / photographer Steven Kenny

 

Benjamin Sebastian / photographer Steven Kenny

Jenna Finch / photographer Steven Kenny

 

Kiki Taira, Benjamin Sebastian, Jenna Finch / photographer Steven Kenny

The beginning was tough for both the audience and the artists as everybody had to deal with an empty canvas and to start building  a practice, a relation, a trust out of nothing that could (or not) then lead to a connection. I felt that the durational element of the action served to create this kind of connection. As long as the artists were working, (de-re)-forming and stretching their (and our) limits the audience  was coming closer.

Group C: Lynn Lu (Singapore), Malte (Germany), Poppy Jackson (UK)

 

Malte Beisenherz, Poppy Jackson / photographer Steven Kenny

 

Poppy Jackson / photographer Steven Kenny

 

Poppy Jackson / photographer Steven Kenny

 

Poppy Jackson / photographer Steven Kenny

After having experienced this action sitting on the cold floor for 6 hours and eating fingers now and then (not mine the biscuits) I have to say that it wasn’t some kind of masochism that made me stayed but an intrigue that was keep going in the room. We have learnt to consume any kind of ‘cultural event or artefact’ served to us with the appropriate way quite rapidly and greedy. I am not saying this is right or wrong, but I’d like to be able to give my attention and presence when it is required. There is a tendency to reject whatever we can’t rationalise or doesn’t look familiar to us because we have to go through different channels in order to be related to and this is quite a process. However, as soon as you leave yourself open and porous then you can commune what’s really happening in front of you. And that makes you something more of  a member of an audience that sits in comfortably. From then onwards it is up to you to reject it as one more abstract  autistic demonstration that takes place between artists & friends or to accept it as an alternative sphere which is creating at this very moment and you have the chance to be part of it before it’s gone. And that’s what art is all about: creating alternatives by being exposed to them

ArtEvict, performing in a squat

Last Tuesday I found myself into a squat in Camberwell watching an ArtEvict event. I knew nothing in advance; I came across ArtEvict website and I had this gut feeling that something interesting is going on there. I emailed them and they sent me the address of the event at my mobile. I arrived outside a concrete building which didn’t write anything at the door, neither had a bell. I text Kiki, the girl who organises the events, and she opened me. She dragged me into a labyrinthine building full of vintage old furnitures, crafts and placards. People were hanging around, eating at the stairs, drinking in a converted bar-living room, chatting, smoking, sleeping, doing their stuff or doing nothing. I walked through the rooms and everybody was friendly and relaxed, greeting and smiling at me. It was nice.

I went into the room where ArtEvict was taking place. Two performers were sitting in a suitcase hitting rhythmically their chests with their fists crossed straight to their hearts. After a while their chest was bleeding. I noticed that they had pins on their palms. After the piece was over I met Ben, one of the performers and Kiki’s partner, and I asked him to show me his hands (aouts).

Ben Sebastien (The Greestone Group)

The second piece was by Fabiola Paz (The Greestone Group) and Annalaura (Leibniz). They stood one opposite the other and they ‘tortured’ a gum, stretching it as far as it can go… (Actually there wasn’t only one but four gums)

An awkward duo entered the room. They could be engineers, scientists, crazy, technicians, married, whatever. They made noise and light. Then drunk some wine and left. Pourquoi pas?

The whole night the place were busy. Artists were doing their thing. There was no proper stage or seats, neither a program or ‘concept-project-theme’, there wasn’t any need. Everything went on naturally, in a totally self-managing and genuine way. The need of expression and the feeling of the space was enough to create what we call ‘community’. The audience consisted of both young and old people -artists, squatters, visitors, friends and or just curious.

As Ben explains in an article he wrote: “This is what ArtEvict is all about; support, yet more specifically supporting body. All too often within art industries and institutions there is still a marginalising or exclusion of live and body work, with the exception of a certain few, key figures. New generations and scenes of artists, our generation, this scene, do not get a look in. So we don’t bother anymore. We make our own and we support each other and share and talk about what it is where doing, that is why the alternative communities of squats have been some instrumental in ArtEvict.” (Benjamin Sebastian)

iAround: London shooting (1)

Last Saturday we shot the 3 first videos in three different locations of London: Blackfriars, Saint Paul’s square and New Cross. The performers were Kalia, Eutuxia and Elena. Our only tool was just a flip camera and our legs. The day in numbers:

  • 7xlm walking to find the the right locations
  • 1o tube line changes
  • 12hours wondering/improvising/filming
  • 31 hot London degrees
  • 6 apples, 1 google mask and 1 wedding dress (Elena bought it for 5pounds in Brixton market)

Below is just a taste…

1) Kalia and her apples

After 1/5h of walking we were lost somewhere between London Bridge and Tower Bridge  -bridges are a London highlight but not this time. I have always difficulty in distinguishing London bridges (the Americans should had the same problem when they bought the London bridge instead of the Tower bridge). We found ourselves sweat, walking at the Queen Victoria St towards Saint Paul when we stopped to have some rest and eat the apples that Kalia was carrying 2 days in her bag. We suddenly realised that the building where we sat was an amazing Victorian-style house with a backyard and a wonderful wooden curved door. Kalia changed her clothes quickly behind a tree and drag me behind the house where we found a quiet spot where started doing her thing. She might not ate her apples (not in a conventional way) but she did use them with an inspiring way.

2) Eutuxia: Square diving

Eytuxia was waiting for us at the Saint Paul’s square. She had just come from an Asian Festival. She has been at her graduation so, accidentally she had a pair of high hills with her while  in the middle of the square a guy was playing some really nice music in a floral (!) piano. Eutuxia walked like a star and then she was ready to dive… in the tiny fountains of the marble sculpture.

3) Elena, a mad bride at New Cross Rd

I’ve found the spot. A freaky, underground place outside a vintage-like an old-boudoir- shop with some shabby sofas on the pavement. ‘I know this place’ Elena said to me ‘c’mon now to zip my wedding dress’. We made a whole story out of nothing.  She got the look that every disappointed (or not) bride could have. Domestic craziness, violent phonecalls, and exciting transformations from a sweet princess to a beast that tries to escape.

We had no equipment and we din’t make any previous preparation. We worked with what the place and the moment could give us and the pieces were an one off.  A unique performance that couldn’t be repeated -even if we wanted to- as an ambulance’s alarm would be missing,  a mobile ring,  a piano in the middle of Saint Paul’s square or just a curious passenger trying to figure out wtf is going on with ‘thez people’ …

to be continued!

iAround

iAround is a project born after my research in contemporary dancers working lives which I mentioned in my previous post and you can follow its course here.

Per/forms invites performers, dancers and video artists to participate in the iAround project. We ask for a 1-3min video performance which could be filmed either outdoors (parks, streets, squares, bus stops etc) or indoors (studio, house, warehouse, factory etc). We are preferably looking for video dance, live art or site specific performances which are not situated in the conventional theatre venues.

All the videos will be displayed in a Google map linking the cities of Athens and London through image and movement. Once you click in a spot on the map you could see the related video with a small bio of the artist and his link (website/blog). The participants will be able to discuss and vote for each other in a forum. The best will collaborate with each other in order to produce a live event which will happen and be broadcasted at the same time in Athens and London in mid October.

iAround draws from the great mobility in the life of the artists and the impact of technology. Job opportunities, auditions, workshops, seminars, projects, shows, family, home, friends, Skype, facebook, msn shape a new way of making a living and making art. iAround is a different way to expand your network, promote your work and make work.

Per/forms through iAround project will launch its Arts Communication and Project Management activities which aim to promote live and new media artists through cultural exchanges, artistic residencies and creative projects.

The deadline for submissions is the 10th of August 2010

In order to participate and for any further information you can contact Anna Martinou annamartinou@gmail.com

are u a creative worker? a dance case

Few months ago my whole MA was over-stressed with this very idea of entrepreneurship and precariousness. It was all about these attractive concepts of independence, creativity, project-based jobs, freelance and their dark sides which form the new labour ethos of the creative “precariat “of the new economy. I run a survey based at the case study of contemporary dancers. And here it is some extracts:

” ‘Precarity’ used to be the idiom of a true artistic living. And this was the main reason why this profession wasn’t considered as work. Therefore, few, only the really talented could follow it. Recently, which means after the emergence of the “creative industries” and the unexpected mix of culture with work (Angela McRobbie, 2001: 99) ‘precarity’ broadened its scope as culture could lead to some kind of profit. At the New Economy, meaning the post-Internet Industries era –by keeping Andrew Ross’s distinction between New and Old Economy (Ross 2003) –the constant changes of new technology demands a new precarious working ethos. Artits, creators, cultrural workers, innovators and an increasingly expanded new workforce of culture is young, flexible, independent, highly mobile, project-linked and willing to take risks, just to mention only some of its basic traits.”

Per/forms undertook a one-to-one 20’min interview with 15 contemporary dancers following a common structure of questions (10 Greeks -7 studying and working in London, 3 working in Athens-, 1 French study in London, 1 German working in Berlin, 3 Londoners study and working in London).  The themes developed were related to their lifestyle (education, trends, expenses, income, daily life, and entertainment), their needs and their expectations. Their main characteristics are that they are highly committed and attached to their art sacrificing all of their energy, time and money to their artistic development and career.

Their lives in numbers:

Expenses:

20h-30h fitness & technique maintenance = an average of 70£ per week

3-6 years of training = 1000-3.800£ per year

3-6 auditions per year (festivals/companies)

15-20 performances’ attendance per year = 225-300£ per year

Income:

Teaching = 700-1500£ per month

Dancing for companies-touring = 1500-2000£ per month

Individual productions/projects: Funding 5.000/10.000/15.000 where the biggest part goes for the realisation of the project and their income comes from the 50% of the tickets but this has to do also with the venue, the setting, the technical stuff and the marketing expenses.

Working attitudes

Contemporary dancers are a flexible and highly mobile workforce changing places, posts and working models. They are the most precarious art genre because of the short time-span of their active performing life. Discontinuous unemployment fits to their working model while multi-tasking is one of their skills and burdens as well. They are focused on their artistic perspective missing the practical, financial and managerial part that would do their work sustainable. As a dancer put it:

You may teach, work with a company, and make an independent project at the same time. As a result, you have to be in alertness: searching for funding for your next project, looking for workshops, go to others’ performances, networking, and last but not least develop new idea. And you can’t be a one man-band because the sooner or later, most of us get burned.  (X. G)

MOBILE-FLEXIBLE

Perhaps the most characteristic feature of a modern dancer is mobility in terms of labour –varying from teaching, performing, choreographing, writing, management . As it is emerged from my interviews, it is possible for a dancer to change place 3 to 6 times trough a year. If he wants to be in a famous company, which is between the most desirable dancing careers, he has to go to auditions to several cities and countries. If he wants to be informed and trained he has to go to seminars, workshops and classes. If he wants to promote his project he has to tour to cities, festivals and other possible places to perform. At the same time he has to teach as teaching is the only secure option in terms of money. It is worth noting also that 11 to 15 persons I interviewed have spent considerable time at other jobs in order to survive.

The job of a dancer is unstable. In most cases you have to search all the time for auditions. (M.M)

From September 2007 until April 2008, I was working as a dancer with 2 choreographers (Jozsef Csaba Hajzer, Giannis Karounis) for the presentation of 2 pieces in the 1st Arc for Dance Festival of Athens. I was working 11-13 hours during the week and I didn’t get paid. At the same period I was working as a ballet teacher in a ballet school in Piraeus. I was teaching ballet in children of age 3-6 and I was working 5hour per week and I was getting paid 9€/h (with the insurance). In the mornings I was taking classes paying 10€/h. Through this time I went abroad twice for auditions, in Austria and London. I spent my savings but it was worth. I was selected in PLACE though we were too many. (M.P.)

People think about us that we have an adventurous marginal life and we tour in different countries and that is fabulous. The truth is that so you pack, you go to a place, you rehearse, you go to the closest shop to grab something to eat, you sleep, you perform, you pack again and you don’t even notice where you are. (P.G)

DEDICATION

For my last project I was working 8 hours every night for 1 month, as at mornings I had to teach in a school because this was my stable work in order to be able to produce my piece. But I am not complaining, tiredness for me is to do jobs which are irrelevant with my art. (E.P.)

It is a lifestyle. You choose it and you go with this. You can earn your living sometimes but still your living is your work. There is no distinction between work and life. Because it is not a work, it could be, but basically it is a state of life, a philosophy. You don’t have a boss to tell you ‘take a break’. You have to tell to your self that ‘if you deserve it you can relax a bit’. And this philosophy is reflected in your choices. I couldn’t work in a musical. I have to keep a line. If you are remote from your target you lose it. I know people that do this and I can’t blame them because they have to. They have to dance for halls, cabarets even as a stripper to pay their rents. But I can see alternatives. I consider myself lucky. I got chosen for a famous team. But I don’t believe in luck. It is your background, your previous efforts and all your struggles that are in a way ‘written’ in your body. (P.G.)

CAREER TRANSITION & ANXIETY

It could be argued that is the only sector of culture that, as Joan Jeffri claims (2005: 341), it begins very early, even from scholar years, and ends very early as well, often before 40s. This is a huge anxiety for dancers and a reason of psychological destabilization added to the others burdens of the profession that are similar with the rest of cultural workers, such as the low payment and even un-payment. This burden is literally demonstrated below:

Since I was at school I remember myself always with two bags: my school bag and my dance bag. I‘ve always had wounds in my shoulders from this burden and I used to complain about it. Now I am 30 and my biggest worry is what I am going to do without my dance bag. The years that I have to ‘dispatched’ it from my shoulders are close. (E.P.)

I live the worst moments of my life. I am dancing since I was 13 now I am 30 and I am so economically insecure. I left from the company and its like you leave from a family that supported you, even it was a partial support (the 6 moths of your life). Now, I go as an individual. I am about to pay my workshop which cost 2000€ and I considered it a sort of investment for teaching but still none can guarantee it. You make all the time decisions which you think serve your aim. Of course you will do mistakes and you will learn through them. But then your active period, meaning the period that you can perform, is lost. In our school they learn us how to be passionate but they don’t learn us how to live from our passion. (P.G.)

We are aware of the precariousness. It is a decision that we deal with very early in our lives. I can’t say that I am prepared to face my after 40s’ possible unemployment. Few people are really prepared. And those who are they don’t perform so much. They lose the present because they try to gain their future. But our profession is about the moment. Lasts for a while and you give your best. (X.G.)

*If you want the full research you can contact me at annamartinou@gmail.com

**Many thanks to: Eugenia Papadaki, Martha Pasakopoulou, Marina Mazaraki, Eutuxia Panagopoulou, Myrto Grapsa, YELP Danceco, Andreas Starr, Efi Kokota, Esteban Fourmi, Vaso Gianakopoulou, Jason Caen, Xristina Gouzeli and Paul Blackman

The moment I saw you I knew I could love you

Last Saturday Brighton had 28 degrees. Fringe and Brighton Festival gave to the city an extra of 10.000 people strolling from the beach to theatres and from park-picnics to outdoors events. Theatres foyers and stages seemed suffocated and crowding. Nobody really wanted to be indoors. But there was a particular moment. A moment in an underground place  that I felt floating in the sea, breathing in and out feelings of love.

It was “the moment i saw you i knew I could love you”.

We have been told to take off our shoes and leave our bags in the foyer. We entered a dark room barefoot and  we sat into 3 life boats, 4 persons to each one. A watery experience had begun and we were already into a whale’s belly. What happens to feelings when they are shallowed? What will happen to you if you float on a lilo and your breath stops? You float on your own breath or you sink into the sea?

Film and performance, soundscape and installation. 4 performers. 2 projectors:

A woman speaks about memories, reflexes and gastric liquids. A tablet with seasickness pills is transformed into a screen where there is a woman afloat on her pink lilo in an endless ocean. The projector shows 2 people fencing in a beach until they lay down in the sand exhausted from the fight.

And then a man and women, and the eternal love quarrel.  She says: “So here we are in the middle of our fight and although I have pre-agreed with myself to let you win this fight I feel myself retaliating, I hear the occasional return punch, which I don’t want to hurt you with.  But the injustice of this fight!  Besides, if I chose, I could easily win this battle. You know I’m better armed.  You are fighting with pain and disappointment and I am fighting with evidence and justice.” He doesn’t speak. She eats her pearls and then she spit them out one by one, gling, gling, gling…

The performers will jump into our lifeboats. Each of them holds a different experience. I kept the one where a man approaches, friendly, and reads the gut of one of our fellow castaways, using an ultrasound device, cold gloop smeared on his belly. “I can see a healthy stomach here. And some cholesterol. Reduce sugar and salted foods”.

The video projections now shows an old couple. The man dances with small, rhythmic steps. He approaches his women and they dance by supporting an apple on their foreheads. Their wrinkles, their eyes are close to each other becoming one. Common traces left by the water of their life.

We have been gradually immersed in this sea allure. Small dizziness and the sense of sickness can feel quite the same as when the small punches in the stomach when you fall in love or when you are in an incredible pain. Is all about ‘gut feelings’; fight, flight and freeze reactions; impulse, love and undefended moments.’ At the end the old couple comes into the room and dance gently between our lifeboats. We stand up and we all dance in pairs the apple-dance. “You are an expert in apple dance” my pair said to me. “I think I have this damn guts but since I’ve become eighteen I have a permanent gastric disturbance”.