When I walked through the darkened entry door of Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum last week, there were a few things I expected to find, and even to feel, when visiting the first major survey of the movement. A Michael Graves tea kettle, for example. Maybe an occasional twinge of repulsion as well. Postmodernism was, in a way, very reactive; surely not all of its expressions could hold up decades later. Add to the mix that no one seems to know how many more “post” prefixes to add on to accurately describe where we’ve philosophically been at in the last 10-20 years, and what I really expected was an almost indescribable suffocating nausea. I also expected that to fuel a good few conversations about why we, in a collective sense, seem to be struggling to throw over the weight of post-modernism (or post-post-modernism, or so on…) the way they had done with modernism, and just get on with it.
The last thing I expected was to be slapped in the face, almost immediately, with an overwhelming and incongruous sense of nostalgia. How on earth did that happen? Jenny Holzer’s Protect Me From What I Want never seemed so relevant…
In one way, I was relieved. That kind of reaction must really mean that post-modernism really is dead. The discussion is over. We are free. So why did I still feel such a sense of loss?
For one, the curation and exhibition design were excellent, and they knew what they were doing: throwing a funeral service. The low lighting, ostensibly to protect the objects exhibited, worked with the dark industrial display units to create an extremely somber atmosphere that at times created the perfect backdrop, by means of contrast, to postmodernism’s most colorful and playful moments. Pieces by early postmodernist Italian design group Memphis were among the works that looked more joyous for this context; the expected Michael Graves tea kettle, however, could have been an Egyptian relic in its low-lit vitrine.
Postmodernism covered a lot of ground, and the stand-out achievement of the exhibition was the successful transition between art, architecture, product design, film, fashion and, perhaps most importantly, music. Pop songs become siren songs, irresistibly pulling you around dark corners to discover the next chapter in Postmodernism’s story, and then decline. Indeed, the room on pop music seems to serve as the exhibition’s control room. Here costumes from Grace Jones, David Byrne, and Klaus Nomi are displayed at unnatural heights, elevating the characters they represent to a God-like status. If any doubt remains as to music’s importance in the exhibition’s narrative, that becomes as dead as the movement itself at the exhibition’s end. Staring at Andreas Gursky’s Tokyo Stock Exchange (1990), you’re pulled around one last corner, past a Robert Longo drawing, by the sound of New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle. In this last dark room is the video Longo directed for the song, and it’s almost impossible not to see it as an epitaph for a movement that, at that time, was just beginning to crash under its own weight:
I feel fine and I feel good
I’m feeling like I never should
Whenever I get this way
I just don’t know what to say
Why can’t we be ourselves like we were yesterday
For a different London experience, base yourself at White Line Hotels London edit The Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington.
Contributing writer: Melissa Frost
Photos: Victoria & Albert Museum
You’ve heard of music and arts festivals before, I’m sure. Throw in some political discourse on top and you have the unique blend of a very individual festival, indeed: the Elevate Festival. Starting today in Graz, Elevate achieves it’s special mix by combining discussions, workshops, lectures, and film screenings with a program of contemporary music performers and DJs. If you’re not sold on it yet, how often do you get to go to something inside Graz’s historic Schlossberg? After taking an elevator literally down inside the hill, you’ll spend your festival time in a series of caves and tunnels inside the rock.
This year’s line-up of performing artists is so extensive, you need to read it for yourself, but expect an eclectic program that ranges from evenings of house, to avant pop, to psychedelic noise rock. The diversity offered at Elevate is made possible by extending the usual 3-day festival program to 6 days, and utilizing several venues means that on some days, you’ll have 4 simultaneous concerts to pick from. Just remember when you’re dancing to the last DJ’s set at 6am, the program of talks and films probably kicks off at 10am…to party through, or to power-nap, that is the question…
You’ve probably got everything planned already if you’re traveling to Graz for Elevate Festival this year, but how do you immerse yourself in the arts in Graz during the rest of the year? Easy – at White Line Hotels edit Schlossberghotel the art is so close, you’re sleeping in the same room with it.
Zurich based designer Senta Amacker was encouraged by her large family, and since a very young age, to explore and expand her creative vision. She found inspiration in the traditional crafts of her native Switzerland, which involve the rawness of nature, the smells of the countryside, and the incredible variety of shapes and colours that this country is famous for.
She graduated last March from the Northwestern Switzerland Academy of Art and Design Basel Fashion Institute with a Bachelor in Arts and Fashion Design, and since then she has been invited to present her collection over the summer at Basel’s blickfang, and at the Designers Open’s opening show in Leipzig in October.
“The freedom that I show as a designer in my collections is the freedom of an adventurer, equipped with the appropriate accessories and clothing to discover the world, and live the adventure that reality is. My latest collection was inspired by Amelia Earhart, a pioneer in aviation history and a role model in many ways: she was an incredibly strong woman”, stated Senta about her approach to fashion design.
Her main focus, and trademark, lies in the way her materials are cut. Cotton, leathers and metals are remodelled according to the designer’s artistically unrestrained vision. Individual pieces of fabrics are reconstructed and brought together through a minimalist intervention of folds, seams, and cuts, retaining an authentic sense of tradition, but re-discovering it through a new reading.
In today’s fast paced, mobile world, Senta believes it to be of primary importance not to forget where you come from, what your origins are, and how to keep developing and improving whilst keeping you feet on the ground. It’s a delicate balance between expressing your creative vein to the fullest and abiding to those values that have shaped you into the person that you have become, a formula that seems to have worked so far.
Should you be in her neighbourhood, why not drop her an email and meet her for a coffee.
While in Zurich, tuck yourself into a creative corner at Greulich Hotel. With rooms directly located on their patio garden, underneath the open sky, you’ll be forgiven if in the first moments after waking up you forget you’re in a city center at all.
Contributing Writer: Fier Management
Photo credits: Senta Amacker
Tucked away in Teruel, bordering Aragón, this observatory-like pad clasps to the bedrock amidst heady scents of thyme, lavender + almond groves. The Spanish terrain hosts a stark sequence of cubist structures which beautifully marry with the monastic 14th century Ermita – a small intense masterpiece at the heart of this decidedly relaxed, creative enclave.
There is a subtle sweet rawness that caresses the place, with the wooden cubes adopting translucence + solidity, framing the wide vistas beyond – the huge open-ended window of each den reflects those medieval portals of the old church – a connectivity that runs a thread throughout.
There is something to be said for ME time – from your private cube you can dance as naked as a bird, or just sit and gaze a yonder. Rejoin your fellow housemates taking the garden path past the sunken pool + follow your nose to the open kitchen dining or curl up over a bottle in the whimsical library.
A crafted, regional remit of old style luxury, translated for the nomads of today in a deliciously relaxed tone.
You know it, I know it, but still no one says it very often: art fairs are terrible places to see art. The atmosphere is always…oh how best to say it…something like being on one of those black rubber people-mover conveyor belts designed to shuffle gawking masses past valuable items of interest and a pre-designated speed. Sounds fun, right? But, should it even be fun? I mean, art fairs are trade fairs, after all, and their purpose is for doing business. If sometimes that business can be done after hours at a party or bar too, all the better, but business is still the word of the day. And sales.
London’s Frieze Art Fair still hasn’t changed those final keywords of what the event is all about, but it has succeeded in presenting itself as just one part of a larger yearly cultural event through sidelines such as the TV-broadcasted Frieze Film, educational programs aimed at younger children, an off-site music program, and of course the on-site artists commissions and the Emdash Award (previously the Cartier Award). Past their own attempts to increase the scope of Frieze, the city’s galleries and artists don’t pass up the opportunity to make the most of the energy the fair brings in, and Frieze weekend sees some of London’s best exhibitions, and parties. Truth be told, unless you’re an industry professional, you don’t even have to step foot in Regent’s Park to get the most out of what the Frieze Art Fair has to offer.
If the business side of the art game leaves you cold or, shall we say “Frieze-ing”, here’s my top 5 off-site picks for the Frieze Art Fair. And guess what? For the first, you don’t even have to be in London.
LuckyPDF TV Ok, so this one is a half-cheat, because you can also go see the Peckham collective on set at the Frieze Art Fair, but you can also watch them live from your computer screen, anywhere in the world, from now until sunday at 4pm (London time). www.luckypdf.com
No Neutral Ground at the German Embassy (22 Belgrave Square) is something you might look over at first glance, but is worth the effort for Melanie Manchot’s Perfect Mountain. Here the German-born, London-based photographer has asked tourists atop an alpine glacier to don traditional costume, and pose in front of a backdrop of the mountain they are standing on. The next time a holiday seems surreal, remember Perfect Mountain. This one goes a bit longer — it’s on until October 20th.
Wilhelm Sasnal opens for Frieze weekend at the Whitechapel Gallery. Mixing a bit of art history with a bit of internet found imagery (think Roy Orbison meets Georges Seurat, and then a few more characters), even if the work isn’t so much your thing, the Whitechapel’s always worth checking out.
Sarah Lucas‘ Artist in Bed at St John Hotel (1 Leicester Square) has the easiest opening hours of anything this weekend: 7am until midnight (i.e., if you miss this, you’re just lazy). The sculptures are installed in the bar, and there’s a good chance you’ll be somewhere near there at some point, so stop by for a drink and a viddy.
The Evening Before the Morning After: on the subject of bars, did you hear the one about the alcoholic artist? No, me neither… Mario Garcia Torres invited a selection of artists to send him their ideas for cocktails, recipe included, to be mixed at Bistrotheque on the 14th from 8pm. Consider it a homage to Gilbert & George, and critical commentary on the culture and expectation of artists and alcohol, and just a fantastic opportunity to imbibe some of the most creative cocktails you’ve seen.
Where else can you spend the evening before the morning after? White Line Hotels edit The Ampersand Hotel .