Review: Afterall Issue 21 focuses on Artists working with History as media

Art Press Release from Australia. Published by Rebecca Gabrielle Cannon on Monday 31 August 2009.

Review: Afterall Issue 21 focuses on Artists working with History as media image

Archive- destroyed, parodied, questioned and re-contextualized. These writers and some artists in turn, twist that self-conscious way of looking back at history and make it into the key part of their methodology.

This fabulous edition will allow you to delve into some new and old artists and artworks with new commentaries by more than one writer.

A recovery of Nasreen Mohamedi proves just how timeless this woman is and how her work speaks so long after she actually did complete these works. At first glance, the images look computer generated, but they are largely hand drawn with graphite and ink on paper. They are finite, precise compositions, which are in Anders Kruegers’ words ‘elliptical and reductive, but at the same time dynamic and opulent’.

As an artist she has done a wonderful job at escaping pure categorizing – she is neither ‘oriental’, ‘woman’, ‘modern’, ‘constructivist’ or about anything else you can throw a name at.

Mohamedis’ force fields, architectonic planes and machine-like compositions seem to float, un-hinged to any categorical obstruction or crude human force. They seem to ‘chart out hypothetical spaces’ and succeed in bringing seemingly mystical and concrete forces together with a practice that is set in aesthetic principles which in her own words:

‘One day will become function and hence good design. There will be no waste. We will then understand the basics. It will take time.’

Written by two writers who explore the ‘ethics of her re-discovery’ and play at slotting her into a geographic and historical framework. The work itself is unusually precise and never dated, hence mysterious treasure for pure archivists.

Wonderfully, Grant Watson closes his writing as giving her works a graceful passage through all of these proposed categories and modalities and maintaining its ‘specific and internal coherence’.

Poverty turned spectacle for the middle classes isn’t a new idea in leisure & entertainment. The trend lends itself not only to the reality television show genre, but also to the hardcore documentary film – maker who is out to educate us viewers on what real life is really like on the ‘other side’ of the screen.

Michele Faguet disseminates this perfectly in his essay ‘Pornomiseria:Or How Not to Make a Documentary Film’, which details the trend in Columbian 1970’s cinema of using poverty as a spectacle for international &middle class audiences.

Growing out of a mish mash of disrupted narratives throughout the 1960’s, what emerged was a virtuous, fairly unconscious and frequently prohibited film industry which was built further by enthusiastic critics such as Carlos Alvarez, who together with Fernando E.Solanas &Octavio Getino formed their 1971 manifesto Cine, cultura y descolonizacion (Cinema, Culture and Decolonisation. This formed ‘third cinema’, as opposed to first cinema (Hollywood) and second cinema (Auteur cinema) was deliberate and political in its undertakings.

It complements Chon A.Noriegas’ next article:’ Against the Archive: Raphael Montanez Ortiz’s Destructivists Cinema’ Systematically recycling Hollywood cinema and destroying museum installations points out the exclusion of minority and working class artists from film archives and the artistic canon in the USA.

Michael Rakowitz brings us to Redfern in Sydney’s’ inner city, among other places that could do with more idealism made real in living. We are taken to an essentially failed but hopeful first urban aboriginal land-rights site, the housing project named ‘The Block’. Rakowitz focuses on a relationship between event and its later dissemination through myth and storytelling. Writers Stephanie Smith and Sofia Hernandez explore his style: His drawings and models offer a poetic way to share the exploration, as he means to open up more socially conscious and rigorous ideas to his audience. Sometimes it comes across as some kind of model of Americana, but time spent closer with the work and understanding the original intention you realize that it is indeed another arrow pointing at the failures of design in our human living world.

Heimo Zobernig work and practice spanning over twenty years is terrific as two writers whose approach is as fresh and different as alphabets and art history lessons.

Afterall takes in original and acquired views on some old and new work with the loose subject of ‘archive’. Knowledge or practices lost, recouped, or fought against- but always important discussions in art.

Better design in all systems and modes of living seem as imminent in this issue as archive, though of course, the two are inter-linked.

Back issues are now available to peruse online.