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Aaron Spangler

October 31, 2007

Aaron is one of the artists that we worked with for our book By Hand. He has an exhibition that’s ongoing at Zach Feuer Gallery in New York. His carvings on basswood are impressive both for the Expressionist-like compositions and sense of physical weight with which they confront you. Plus their all black presentation lends them a fitting note of Goth for the Halloween season.

Earthly Delights, 2007, Carved and painted basswood, 243.8 x 365.8 x 8.9 cm

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October 24, 2007

FM3’s Tuesday night performance at 2 Kolegas was certainly a treat. The defining element of FM3’s sound is the drone collage – a technique they developed through their much lauded Buddha Box performances. The highlight of the show was the final number in which the drone of loops and guitar built to a glorious crescendo with Jonathan Leijonhufvud of PK14 joining in on drums. When the fog finally settled, the set closed out with the audience joining the band in an a cappella rendition of a traditional Chinese folk song. One of the few moving performances I’ve seen this year.

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Zhang Huan

October 22, 2007

Wow – Zhang Huan seems to be everywhere this week. He’s got a show at Haunch of Venison in Berlin, a retrospective at the Asia Society in New York, was mentioned in no less than four emails I’ve received in the past few days.

Images below from Haunch of Venison:

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Universal Studios Beijing

October 21, 2007

Despite the misleading moniker (not an Asian branch of the Hollywood mainstay) Universal Studios Beijing has drawn quite a bit of praise recently. In an article for Frieze Magazine published last week, Jörg Heiser suggests that the gallery offers the best exhibition program among all of the capital’s 300+ art spaces. And he may be right.

The two ongoing exhibits at USB are both worth mentioning. The gallery’s main space is occupied by Qiu Anxiong’s installation piece Staring Into Amnesia. The work consists of a retired train carriage that the artist cut into several pieces, shipped to Beijing from western China, and reassembled in the gallery’s hanger-like exhibition space. Upon each of the car’s 24 windows, Qiu projects archival footage of China’s past, interspersing it with his own animated sequences. Twelve different audio loops miscegenate throughout the train, also combining historical reference (folk songs) and contemporary creation (abstract audio recordings). The combination offers a bit of the sensation of a haunted house – with Staring Into Amnesia Qiu has definitely drawn out some ghosts.

This weekend marked the opening of USB’s other exhibition: Sites, Routes and Traces. The show includes work from three international artists: James Beckett, Pash Buzari and David Zinkyi, and was intended to occupy the larger train-filled space. Luckily, the move to the gallery’s smaller space hasn’t choked the work on display. Beckett’s Rube Goldbergesque clock, Buzari’s minimalist gestures and Zinkyi’s split-screen video all have ample space to breathe.

Pash Buzari, Where Does Where Do You Come From Come From, dispersion paint, 2007.

Pash Buzari, Stereoopticon, bronze, 2007.

Qiu Anxiong, Staring Into Amnesia, train carriage, 24 video projections, animation, audio, 2007.

James Beckett, Pash Buzari, Andre Schmidt, Beatric Leanza, and Waling Boers, co-founder of Universal Studios Beijing.

After-dinner karaoke.

Damon McMahon and Stacey Duff.

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October 10, 2007

Today’s Hansaviertel sits just north of Berlin’s Tiergarten on a site that was decimated during WW2. The 1957 Interbau competition gave international stars of modern architecture (Aalvar Aalto, Walter Gropius, Arne Jacobsen, Oscar Niemeyer, et al.) an opportunity to develop a “city of tomorrow” pretty much from scratch. The result is a collection of 36 freestanding structures, including a 1-storey U-bahn station with shops and a theater, two churches, a collection of apartment towers, several single-family homes and the low-lying Berlin exhibition pavilion, which today houses a Burger King.

The results of this planned housing project seem somewhat mixed, at least from the outside. There are some elegant structures, and some not so. The two lanes lined with one and two-storey single family homes are particularly attractive, nestled at the edge of the thick foliage of Tiergarten. My biggest complaint with the neighborhood is the same that I have with Beijing’s newer quarters: a lack of street life, complete suburbanization. The proximity to the subway and lush park environment do, however, make for a suburb that wouldn’t be too hard to call home.

Predating Jianwai Soho by about 50 years:

Not on the map, but an interesting addition to the neighborhood:

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October 9, 2007

Down a small side street off of Lobeckstraße inside a renovated late 19th century factory building swaddled by a 1970s expansion project, Matthias Böttger and Friedrich von Borries have set up shop. Not a retail shop, but a studio from which they develop projects related to urbanization and curious social phenomena (e.g., German cowboys and indians?!). They’ve recently finished editing a volume on the relationship between architecture and video games called Space Time Play.

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Art Forum Berlin

October 8, 2007

Early reports figured on this year’s Art Forum Berlin being the most widely-attended art fair yet staged in Berlin, and judging by the crowd on hand during its third day of operation, they may have been right.

After a few hours surveying, Shu and I noticed several common themes among the crop of artists on display. All stem from what might be called an aesthetics of the mundane – everyday objects and processes stripped of their utility and presented for contemplation. Not simply readymades, most examples have been reworked or “enhanced” in some way – a mahogany shipping pallet coated in gleaming shellac, or a partially opened shipping crate whose polystyrene packing peanuts gently pulse, evoking some gestating alien art form, for example.

Also among the works on display were no less than three examples of carpet art. Whether cut and laid within an abstract aluminum polygon, or pulled from the floor of an old apartment replete with the stench of cigarettes and piss, the carpet works were not pieces I’d want to have to transport.

One of my favorite pieces in the show was a triptych of public benches overlooking the sea by Götz Diergarten. Formally stark, yet sentimental in a way that I appreciate.

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Back to Berlin

Coffee with marzipan-laced cookies. The scent of early autumn decay by the banks of canals. Flea markets with relics worth owning. Bookshops with titles so beautifully packaged that German editions beckon to be purchased, despite my inability to read them. Shops whose casually minimalist styling and wittily conceptual offerings are motivated by intellectual pass times rather than profit margins. Art galleries and ateliers seemingly everywhere. Yes, I’m fond of Berlin.

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