Valeska Soares was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in 1957 and, like most of Brazil’s contemporary artists, has been influenced by the historical Baroque and by Neo-Concretism. Her installation, Vanishing Point, is based on the conflict of visual and olfactory perception. In this installation Soares explores the capacity of scent to magnify one’s senses and heighten the connection between sense and reason, body and intellect. It comprises of fifteen steel receptacles filled with amber-coloured perfume. The containers vary in shape and are arranged to form the pattern of a Baroque garden, also alluding to the shape of labyrinths in several architectural traditions. The perfume impregnates the room with a sweet smell which soon becomes overbearing and creates an oppressive atmosphere. The simple and minimalist symmetry created by the steel containers contrasts sharply with the frenzied scent to create a contradictory experience.
In Vanishing Point (1998) Soares explores the fine line between being intoxicated by something and being sickened by it, a concept she frequently involves in her work. When describing the role of perfume in her work, Suarez said “perfume has become a metaphor for possibilities of intoxication. It’s a substance that crosses that border between being pleasurable and being overintoxicating”. In Vanishing Point, the pleasant perfume is something that seduces the viewer, however, once they are immersed in it, it becomes heavy and oppressive. This idea was beautifully represented on the opening night of the installation when bees were lured by the scent of the perfume and fell into the tanks to meet their death.
Vanishing Point fuses elements of the Baroque tradition with contemporary concepts and mediums. The frantic effect of the perfume mimics the excess which is typical of the Baroque period. The installation also has a definite vanitas quality –a common Baroque theme– as the aroma draws attention to the ephemeral character of the garden and the mortality of all living things.
The idea for this piece grows out of Soares’ keen interest in spaces, gardens and various ideas of paradise. Her fascination with scents stems from her interest in ephemeral things, in her work she does not attempt to create a logical narrative but rather give people triggers that activate memories so that they can create their own narratives. Each piece is subjective and can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the context of the person viewing it.
Vanishing Point softens rigid geometric forms with the sensuality of perfumes. However, little by little the perfume evaporates, leaving the message that even though steel structures may outlive sensual transient ones it is the abstract and spiritual that leaves a profound mark on our memory. Soares also wished to underscore the temporality of grandeur and beauty in the “feminine” essence against the enduring geometric maze’s “masculine” presence with its overtones of order and logic.
In First Love, by Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander, a forensic artist reconstructs the face of the participants’ lost loves through a collaborative procedure that is part artistry, part science and part storytelling. These portraits establish a record of absence and loss and dramatise the action of memory.
Rain Room by rAndom International, an art installation that lets you walk in the rain without getting wet:
Rain Room is a hundred square metre field of falling water through which it is possible to walk, trusting that a path can be navigated, without being drenched in the process.
As you progress through The Curve, the sound of water and a suggestion of moisture fill the air, before you are confronted by this carefully choreographed downpour that responds to your movements and presence.
‘I like dealing with paradigmatic things’, Cildo Meireles has said, ‘material things that are recognized by the public in their everyday lives, things that are at the same time matter and symbol. Money, for example.’ From the blatant exhibition, on a pedestal, of a wad of banknotes secured with rubber bands, Money Tree 1969, to the gold thread and gold nails inserted, respectively, into a great mass of straw in Fio (Thread) 1990–5 and plain wooden crates in Ouro e Paus (Gold and Wood) 1982–95, the conundrums of value have continued to fascinate Meireles. Money Tree ‘points towards the problem of the value of the art object and the discrepancy between use-value and exchange-value’. It consists of 100 one-Cruzeiro notes and was offered for sale for twenty times that amount. One wonders what it would fetch today; in inﬂationary Brazil at the time it was made, Meireles joked, money was the cheapest material. Much later, for Occasion 2004, the artist contrived a scenario in which the public would be faced by money in the most direct way. This ensured that our attention would be drawn away from speculative thoughts about the art object, and back to ourselves. We encountered a small, elegant, open receptacle containing new banknotes in the centre of a brightly lit room lined with three big mirrors on three of the walls,producing endless recession images. One of the mirrors was two-way. Viewers reacted in various different ways to the presence of the naked cash, and then, leaving the room and looking back through the two-way mirror, saw other people where they themselves had been a moment before, becoming voyeurs. As a last clandestine ﬂing, Meireles became an ironic counterfeiter, printing a large number of bills – Zero Cruzeiro 1974 and Zero Dollar 1978– the latter with the help of the designer/engraver João Bosco Renaud. Reducing ofﬁcial value to zero, the subversive Cruzeiro notes are embellished with the portraits, not of some illustrious ﬁgure of the Brazilian pantheon, but of two individuals effectively excluded fromBrazilian society, whose civil rights are minimal: a Kraô Indian on one face and the inmate of a mental asylum on the other (Meireles knew both these men).
Cildo Meireles: On the nature of things by Guy Brett and Vicente Todolí. Click to read more
In this day and age it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish a work of art from an ordinary object. In the second installment of his 2013 Reith Lectures, Playing to the Gallery, artist Grayson Perry talks about the tricky boundaries of art and how we can attempt to gauge whether or not something qualifies as art. To answer this question Perry has devised a series of tests which can be applied when looking at the questionable object. Read the list below (it might also be a good idea to print it out and carry it in your wallet — you never know when it might come in handy).
Are you looking at a work of art or some old rubbish?
- Is it in a gallery or art context? For example Duchamp’s urinal was understood to be a work of art because it was on a plinth in a gallery. Keith Tyson used his power as an artist to convert all the objects and fixtures in the gallery into works of art: the light switch became “the apocalyptic switch” and the light bulb became “light bulb of awareness”
- Is it a boring version of something else? Leo Tolstoy said, “In order correctly to define art, it is necessary first of all to cease to consider it as a means of pleasure and to consider it as one of the conditions of human life.”
- Was it made by an artist? Art historian Ernst Gombrich said, “There is no such thing as art, only artists.” So you have to be an artist to make art.
- Photography- problematic. We live in an age where photography rains on us like sewage from above. So how do you know if a photo is art? (1) If they’re smiling, it’s probably not art. (2) if it’s bigger than two metres and it’s priced higher than five figures. — Martin Parr
- Is it a limited edition? If something is endless, it’s giving away part of its qualification as art.
- The Handbag and Hipster Test – Often you can tell by the people who are looking at it, after all art belongs mostly to the privileged and educated. So, are there lots of people with beards and glasses and women with big handbags looking a bit perturbed and puzzled by what they’re staring at? Then there’s a good chance that it’s art.
- Theme Park plus Sudoku – Is there a queue? “People nowadays, they love queuing for art, especially participatory art – you know the sort of art that kids can crawl around […] People want an outrageous and exciting experience from art and then they want to slightly puzzle over what it’s about.”
- The Rubbish Dump Test- It was one of Perry’s tutors at college who introduced him to this test saying that If you want to test a work of art, throw it onto a rubbish dump. And if people walking by notice that it’s there and say ‘Oh what’s that artwork doing on that rubbish dump’, it’s passed. But of course many good artworks would fail that because the rubbish dump itself might be the artwork.
- The Computer Art Test – Professor Charlie Gere said, “You know it might be art rather than just an interesting website when it has the grip of porn without the possibility of consummation or a happy ending.”
Perry explains that his tests are not watertight, however if you apply them all and visualize them in a Venn diagram, “the bit in the middle is pretty well guaranteed to be contemporary art.”
The illustrations are exclusive drawings for the 2013 Reith Lectures made by Grayson Perry
‘Be careful of books. Be careful with books. Be careful or one can become a weapon-wielder. Be careful or one can become the victim’ -Cai Guo-Qiang
Artist books are not so much books as book-like objects. They are in themselves a work of art, they come in all shapes, sizes and forms, often challenging our notions of what constitutes a book. Artists have come up with some pretty inventive ways of presenting their work, however the most bizarre I have encountered is by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang.
Cai Guo-Qiang’s Danger Book is made up of a series of drawings made using gunpowder and glue. Within the pages is attached a bundle of matches with a string that dangles out of the edge of the book, inviting the reader to pull it and in so doing ignite the book and set off the gunpowder. Thus each book is unique and comes with a kind of performance included in the price.
The video below is a documentation of the process of making a Danger Book:
“Imponderable. Such imponderable human factors as one’s aesthetic sensitivity/the overriding importance of imponderables in determining human conduct.”
In their fascinating performance piece Imponderabilia (1977), Marina Abramovic and Ulay stand naked face to face in the narrow doorway of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Bologna. To enter the museum they must squeeze between the two naked artists, choosing to face the man or the woman, meanwhile a camera documents their choice. At once humorous and disturbing, the performance is a study of human behavior where the spectators become the subject. The vulnerability that usually surrounds a nude figure is transferred to the clothed visitor squeezing between Marina and Ulay.