Texts

We both write about art and culture. Ira writes reviews for artists' catalogues and essays on contemporary art and culture, while Ben specialises in cinema and reception studies. Some samples of our writing are below. 
 

TVRTKO BURIC, BEHIND BORDERS
(Ira Ferris)

"Perhaps, then, the border is the ‘mirror stage’; a creation of I that is also the creation of You; a division that in turn becomes a protection, an invention of enemy."

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As a sort of parameter, (b)order encapsulates habit. It informs the way we view and engage with what surrounds us. When he breaks open the form, Buric shatters the otherwise solidified frame of our attention and, consequently, our fixed, naturalised way of seeing. The defiance of the border of the frame is paired with the defiance of the border of the space. The multiple projection planes are suspended in space, cutting through it and resisting the confinement of the two-dimensional wall. As viewers, we are invited to move around the work and explore that which exists at the edge of perception (at its border). This shifted angle of vision is an anamorphic strategy that distorts the world picture as we know It. Continue reading → (text by Ira Ferris) 

More of Ira's texts can be found here


WHY FEMINISM DOESN’T WORK IN ASIA?
(Ira Ferris)

“The oppression of women knows no ethnic nor racial boundaries, true, but that does not mean it is identical within those boundaries.” (Andre Lorde)

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She gazes boldly outside of the frame, her eyes fixed on the lens, confronting the viewer with the piercing look. In conventional feminist theory, the return of the gaze signifies resistance – once an object of the gaze, the woman asserts herself as a daring subject; like Manet’s Olympia she addresses the voyeur, challenging his position of power. As such, Bharti Kher’s Hybrid series self portrait is not dissimilar to artworks of western feminists such as Claude Cahun, Hannah Wilke, or Cindy Sherman all of which, like Kher, use the return of the gaze and the performative self-portraiture to assert their presence, reclaim their female bodies and subvert the patriarchal power dynamics. Furthermore, as they use their own bodies and perform variety of roles, these artists point to the fluidity of identity and to its construed (rather than innate) nature. Kher, as noted in the recent Biennale of Sydney catalogue, “sees the body as a literal and metaphorical site for the construction of ideas around gender, mythology and narrative.” Fusing human and animal body parts into “strangely beautiful but quietly grotesque hybrid figurative sculptures,” she creates “mythical urban goddesses, creatures who came out of the contradiction of the idea of femininity or the idea of womanhood … she is the goddess, the housewife, the mother, the whore, the mistress, the lover, the sister … everything’.” Continue reading → (text by Ira Ferris) 

More of Ira's texts can be found here


EUROPE, SHE LOVES
(Ben Ferris)

Swiss director Jan Gassmann’s intimate observational documentary, Europe, She Loves (2016), is a love-letter to Europe. A camera tracks across scenes from different cities in Europe, as if seen from the back window of a passing car, celebrating the ease with which this pan-European crew can move from one city to the next. The work itself is the result of extensive collaboration between crews across five European cities: Tallinn, Dublin, Seville, Thessaloniki, and Zagreb. And the stories of the four young couples, one from each city (- The Zagreb story was left out of the final film -), unifies, rather than separates, these different cultures with their overwhelming sense of shared humanity.

This love-letter, however, is no paean, but a eulogy.  Gassmann is well aware of the challenges facing Europe, and news bulletins are repeatedly used to draw attention to the various crises playing out across the EU. The couples seemingly live their microcosmic lives divorced from the broader forces at play, but in truth the macro powers assert themselves forcefully into the deepest inner sancta of these private relationships... Continue reading → (text by Ben Ferris) 

More of Ben's texts are here  


INTERPRETING ARTWORKS. RECOVERING THE MEANING.
(Ira Ferris)

“Poetry comes from the place that no one commands and no one conquers.” Leonard Cohen

Katharine Grosse, The Horse Trotted Another Couple of Metres, Then it Stopped, Carriageworks for 2018 Sydney Festival, January 2018. Image by Ira Ferris. 

Katharine Grosse, The Horse Trotted Another Couple of Metres, Then it Stopped, Carriageworks for 2018 Sydney Festival, January 2018. Image by Ira Ferris. 

The works of art that sustain our interest are the ones that perpetuate enquiry into their meaning. What can be immediately known is usually of no interest to us. It is those works that have an air of mystery about them that entice curiosity, nurture imagination and sustain attention. These works live because of their inexplicability. But they also live because there is something about them that makes us feel that we could know them, something that makes them comprehensible and fools us into thinking that we could come to understand them.

According to Alexander Nehamas no work of art can be fully known or exhaust its interpretation. Art is characterised by this open-endedness and ambivalence. As John Berger puts it: “Before most works of art, as with trees, we can see and assess only a section of the whole: the roots are invisible.” Continue reading → (text by Ira Ferris) 

More of Ira's texts can be found here


YASUJIRO OZU'S TOKYO STORY (1953)
(Ben Ferris)

Japanese master director Yasujiro Ozu’s elegance and grace is on full display in his 1953 classic, melancholic Tokyo Story. Filmed with his typical sense of restraint and simplicity, achieved in part by a mostly static frame, with the characters lovingly photographed as a series of portraits in close-up, Ozu literally and thematically pulls our humanity to the fore, amid forces larger than ourselves, in this case the inexorable march of the modern age. These portraits capture every flicker of human emotion in extraordinary nuance, ranging from kindness through to grief. One is reminded of the range of masks in Japanese Noh theatre, yet Ozu rather celebrates the unsurpassable beauty and subtlety of the human face. Continue reading → (text by Ben Ferris) 

More of Ben's texts are here  


PUSHING BOUNDARIES: PERFORMANCE ART IN CHINA (AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO PHOTOGRAPHY)
(Ira Ferris)

Zhang Huan, 65KG , 1994, performance, Beijing, China

Zhang Huan, 65KG , 1994, performance, Beijing, China

In ‘Performance art and its constraints’, Thomas Berghuis outlines two distinctive characteristic of Chinese performance art: its reliance on auxiliary medium and its collaborative nature, both of which apply to the work of one of China’s best-known performance artists, Zhang Huan. Continue reading → (text by Ira Ferris)

More of Ira's texts can be found here


TVRTKO BURIC: TAKING FUTURISM AND POLLOCK A STEP FURTHER
(Ira Ferris)

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A shattered human form advances through the space of a gallery, fiercely pushing through the ether while being remodelled by the tension of this pursuit. Tvrtko Buric‘s installation Post Human evokes the old Futurist dream of capturing the psychosomatic effect of the modern, progressive, accelerated age characterised by “universal dynamism”, a concept according to which objects in reality are never separate from one another or from their environment but interact and intersect with all that surrounds them. Continue reading → (text by Ira Ferris)

More of Ira's texts can be found here


FUTURISM AND POP ART: FROM “THE BEAUTY OF SPEED” TO SMOKE, CHAOS AND COLLAPSE
(Ira Ferris)

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“We wish to sing the praises to the men behind the steering wheel,”[1]proclaimed in 1908 the founder and a key figure of Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Fascinated with the energy and the power of a racing car, and certain that the world has been “enriched with […] the beauty of speed,”[2]Futurists found their theme in depicting the abstract sensation of movement – the radiance of the moving object and its effect on the surrounding environment. Cars and motorised vehicles were celebrated as emblems of modernity and progress; modern machines par excellence, symbols of the technological ‘triumph’ of humanity over nature.[3] Fifty years later, cars reappeared as popular motifs in the Pop Art, this time as quintessential tokens of leisure and typical objects of consumerist desire. Like Futurists, Pop artists investigated the relationship between the machine and the body, a psychosomatic effect of the mechanized (and commercialized) modern life. Continue reading → (text by Ira Ferris)

More of Ira's texts can be found here


CONCEPTUAL ART VS GREENBERG: CLASH IN MEANS, NOT THE ENDS
(Ira Ferris)

Lawrence Weiner, As Long As It Lasts, 1992. Visual statement.

Lawrence Weiner, As Long As It Lasts, 1992. Visual statement.

“Ideas alone can be works of art,”[1] proclaimed American Minimalist artist Sol LeWitt in his 1968 Sentences on Conceptual Art, summoning up a new stream of thought that emerged in 1960s America[2] as a reaction to Clement Greenberg’s insistence on formalism and opticality, a stance that art should be experienced solely through ‘visual stimuli’ and in a disinterested manner.[3] In an anarchic Dada style,[4] Conceptual Art (as this new stream came to be known) proposed “perceptual withdrawal”[5] – instead of producing ‘sacred’ and valuable art objects, they offered only brief linguistic description of their ideas or simple visual statements such as Lawrence Weiner’s As Long As It Lasts (Figure 1). If a physical object of some sort was present it was either perplexingly bare or badly executed and aesthetically unappealing. What is more, these artworks mixed a variety of media (including everyday objects and all sorts of rubbish), thus attacking Greenberg’s “quest for medium-specific purity.”[6] Purposefully provocative, conceptual artworks encouraged a renewed enquiry into what art is or should be. Continue reading → (text by Ira Ferris)

More of Ira's texts can be found here


COUNTESS LE CASTIGLIONE: AUTHOR, SCRIBE, OR TRICKSTER?
(Ira Ferris)
 

“Mirror of male desire, a role, an image, a value, the fetishized woman attempts to locate herself, to affirm her subjectivity within the rectangular space of another fetish – ironically enough, the ‘mirror of nature’.” Abigail Solomon-Godeau

Louis Pierson, The Eyes, c1864.

Louis Pierson, The Eyes, c1864.

A mysterious femme fatale of the nineteenth century Paris, Countess Le Castiglione immortalised herself through a fascinating series of more than four hundred photographs taken over a period of forty years, the majority between 1856 and 1865 “at the height of [her] fame and beauty.”[1] Rather than conventional portraits, these photographs record her elaborate performances in which she either restages scenes from her life or plays a variety of mythological and fictional characters.[2] The costumes, the set-designs, and the overall scenarios were all meticulously designed and directed by the Countess herself, the photographer being there as a mere technician.[3] More than a means of self-expression or signs of narcissism, these photographs could be understood as the Countess’ attempt to take control over her own representation and challenge the narrow, patriarchal view of previously assigned identity inscriptions, thus, asserting herself as an autonomous subject rather than a fetishized object of the gaze.

According to theorist of fetishism and photography, Abigail Solomon-Godeau, such a reading of Countess’ photographs is presumptuous because it is impossible for the Countess to occupy a critical position from which she would desire to overturn the patriarchal principles of fetishisation. As she watches herself, explains Solomon-Godeau, the Countess automatically assumes a position of a patriarchal surveyor and can only relate to herself through this patriarchal gaze.[4] From this position, which is tainted by an inherent patriarchal scopic regime, she is unable to radically reimagine herself as anything but an object of sight. Rather than disavowing patriarchal prerogative, she participates in it and even endorses it. Solomon-Godeau writes: “a living artifact, the countess has so fully assimilated the desire of others that there is no space, language, or means of representation for any desire that might be termed her own.”[5] Rather than an author, she is nothing more than “a scribe”.[6] Continue reading → (text by Ira Ferris)

More of Ira's texts can be found here