In anticipation of Frieze London, AnOther presents an exclusive extract from the brilliant new Frieze Week magazine
The number 13 is considered unlucky for some, but it's certainly proving fortuitous for Frieze London. Tomorrow, the inspired contemporary art fair will unveil its 13th annual showcase of genre-defining works by emerging and enduring artists from around the world, in addition to a brand new magazine, Frieze Week. Edited by esteemed journalist Caroline Roux, the publication offers a zesty and insightful curation of the very best festivities in and around the exhibits, alongside profiles of exciting talents such as Rachel Rose and a beautifully illustrated map by Donald Urquhart. Below, Roux sheds light on the title's inception and introduces the accompanying feature on Frieze Live.
"Frieze London has a huge effect on the season, it's responsible for so many amazing things in London for that one week in October. The phrase 'Frieze Week' has become adopted by everyone in the city, and so it felt quite nautral to name this new magazine Frieze Week, which gives people a flavour of what's to come during the fair. This year, there really is so much to be excited about. From the new solar-powered sound and light sculpture by Haroon Mirza in the Sculpture Park – his work is always delightful, charming and clever, to the vitrine dedicated to the incredible Iris Clert at Luxembourg and Dayan – Clert ran an amazing gallery in Paris from 1955-1971 and really influenced the careers of artists like Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely. And of course, the installation by Rachel Rose – a young artist who usually works in film, but for the fair is creating a tent within the tent, in which she will examine the behaviour of the animals who live wild in Regent's Park – is a must-see. Plus, the reprisal of a performance piece by the Brazilian artist Tunga, first created in 1987, which involves two girls with conjoined hair, like a just-discovered anthropological exhibit, takes the spotlight in the second spectacular installment of Frieze Live, which is explored in the following article by Amy Sherlock." – Caroline Roux
Frieze Live brings a different kind of art to the fair, comic, challenging and literally of the moment, writes Amy Sherlock
Tate acquired its first artwork that lists its materials simply as ‘people’ in 2004. It was Roman Ondák’s Good Feelings in Good Times (2003) in which a small group forms a queue and waits – variously casually, patiently, frustratedly – for nothing in particular. It had been commissioned by Frieze Projects and was purchased at Frieze Art Fair. The piece is an ambivalent comment on social convention, art and spectacle, and the popular ‘emperor’s new clothes’ caricature of conceptual art. At the time, academic and curatorial circles were full of talk of ‘relational aesthetics’, the term coined by Nicolas Bourriaud to describe these interventions – where groups of people or viewers are part of the work, and in which human responses become part of the content – and Catherine Wood was two years into her job as the Tate’s first curator (now Senior Curator) of contemporary art and performance. ‘The landscape has shifted dramatically since then,’ she says.
As a response to the increasing interest and occurrence of live work, Frieze London launched its own Live section in 2014, providing commercial galleries with a platform for the exhibition and sale of active or performance-based pieces. ‘Artists across disciplines were beginning to integrate more and more performance and participation into their work,’ explains the fairs’ artistic director, Joanna Stella-Sawicka. ‘We wanted to support galleries facing the risks of presenting live work at the fair, as well as encouraging institutional and private collectors to look at these practices.’
Apart from which, it certainly livens up proceedings. Last year, the Parisian Galerie Jocelyn Wolff revived two ‘action sculptures’ by Franz Erhard Walther from the late 1960s and mid-1970s. The 1975 piece, created for the Bienal de São Paulo, involved two female participants standing on an L-shaped steel ‘plinth’. ‘The performers turn themselves into living sculptures as they move along the ring,’ explained Wolff at the time. This year visitors will, at some point, be confronted by a re-staging of the Brazilian artist Tunga’s disconcerting Xifópagas Capilares (Siamese Hair Twins, 1987, brought to the fair by Luhring Augustine and Galleria Franco Noero) in which twin girls walk around conjoined by a long umbilical braid of hair that hangs between them, like a mythical anthropological specimen.
This contemporary idea of performance art goes all the way back to 5 February 1916, a fevered night in the back room of the Holländische Meierei, a tavern in Zurich’s old town, where the German émigrés Hugo Ball and his partner Emmy Hennings first opened the doors of Cabaret Voltaire. Ninety-nine years later, in March 2015, I am in a crowd at David Roberts Art Foundation (DRAF) in north London watching the artist Than Hussein Clark – dressed like a sideshow conjuror in a geometrically patterned coat that recalls Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s angular Dadaist costumes – introduce the acts for a cabaret evening that is the centrepiece of his exhibition ‘The Violet Crab’. Clark has transformed the long, warehouse-like space into a theatre venue furnished with items of his own design as well as innumerable artworks and other curios from the David Roberts Collection. The artist Adam Christensen slinks onstage in heels and rasps his way – mesmerizingly – through a power ballad to the sparse accompaniment of an accordion; a performer reads an epistolary travelogue by Christodoulos Panayiotou while a ballet dancer repeats a sequence of steps behind him; next door, the dancer Ayumi LaNoire contorts herself around a golden pole.
This is performance at its most sequinned and spectacular. Clark, who MCs the evening, demands our full attention, soliciting cheers and boos, while Isobel Williams, who is more used to drawing people in the dock at The Supreme Court, sketches viewers and performers alike, rendering us all a part of the same piece. When I return the next day for a closer look at the lavish mise en scène, the exhibition feels oddly incomplete and inert, waiting to be switched on by the next act.
For the past seven years, DRAF has hosted an ‘Evening of Performances’ to coincide with Frieze London, which it will do this year in a new dedicated performance and event space that opens in September. Meanwhile, across town, the Serpentine Galleries have been developing ‘Saturdays Live’ – a regular series of new performative commissions, talks and re-stagings that respond to the exhibitions on display. One hot Saturday in July, the young, London-based artist Megan Rooney wandered through the busy Sackler Gallery among Duane Hanson’s eerily realistic 1:1 sculptures of blue-collar Americans, her stream-of-consciousness monologue seeming momentarily to voice the thoughts behind their hopelessly blank gazes. Rooney’s subjective ramblings highlighted what Hanson’s sculptures suggest about the notion of individuality in Western capitalist society, and made me look at them anew.
‘I’m working with colleagues across the institution to make sure that performance is not treated as a separate area, a ghetto, but rather is part of the major institutional narrative – to tell the story of performance’s embeddedness in 20th-century art history,’ says Catherine Wood. ‘Performance, action, gesture, live conversation, are all fundamental to the making of art.’ At Tate Modern in September, The Mother An Unsavoury Play in Two Acts and an Epilogue (2015) – a fever-dream of early-20th-century Polish avant-garde theatre, as re-imagined by artist Paulina Olowska – is being performed among the stylized worlds of Henri Matisse and Meredith Frampton in its permanent galleries. And audiences are keen: the reprisal of Yvonne Rainer’s 1960s and ’70s work at Raven Row this summer was continually packed, the deconstructed movements and tangled urgent narrations providing a backwards glance at the evolution of time-based work, where experience is privileged over objects.
The year that Tate acquired the Ondák piece is memorable for another reason: Facebook launched in 2004. The significance of real-life encounters has shifted radically as social media and online connectivity have taken hold. As part of this year’s Live programme, Southard Reid will present a new commission by London-based artists Lucy Beech and Edward Thomasson, a continuation of their work, which since 2007 has explored the everyday rituals through which notions of the collective and the individual are expressed. For their latest piece, a group of 8–12 performers – explains Raphael Gygax, one of Live’s co-curators, with Jacob Proctor – will gather daily in the fair’s auditorium to develop a series of movements and simple soundscapes that examine ideas of public intimacy.
After all, at a time when digital developments have rendered the staging of the self more of an art form than ever before, and a concept such as ‘liking’ has taken on an almost unrecognizable significance, perhaps the greatest service live performance provides is to continue to remind us of the complexities and absurdities, ugliness and beauty, of in-the-flesh interaction.
This article appears in the first issue of Frieze Week magazine. With special thanks to Caroline Roux and Amy Sherlock.