Author Archives: Ben Scott

Anselm Kiefer: Il Mistero delle Cattedrali, White Cube, Bermondsey

Written for Frieze Writters Prize 2012

In Il Mistero delle Cattedrali Kiefer appears to be returning to themes of fascist endgames, architectural ruins, cultural dead ends and cryptic mythologies. His recent existentialist new age ponderings of man placed within the awesomeness of nature are far less interesting than this show’s comments on culture and politics despite an apparent absence of humankind. On show is less of an emphasis on ideas of national identity; more universal reflections upon globalised thought. He is tackling current themes within geopolitical debate whilst reflecting upon both ancient and modern history. My experience of this body of work appears as a journey through a classical concept in Ancient Greek architecture via modern Welthauptstadt Germania. It is a look through historical cycles, moribund civilisations and long term agendas of empire state control that never seem to have gone away.

Whilst it may be entertaining for Anglo journalism to engage with the literal reading of a German painting giant tackling the architecture of Templehof and Nazi Welthauptstadt Germania; I think this is a distraction. Kiefer’s art is predominantly metaphorical, he displays the epic aspects of fascist Neoclassism as a confrontational event. In part these are ruins that run as a motif within his art. However when entering the large chamber at the back of White Cube Bermondsey there was an obvious reaction within the audience to the sheer monumentality of the perspective or sculptural objets trouvé disturbing the picture plane. The analysis of perspective as a Renaissance reinvention of Greek Civilisation and a cultural device which reinforces a humanist agenda, is a concept Heidegger defines in “The Age of the World Picture”.  The forcefulness of the perspectival devices in three of these paintings and their depiction of an architecture that never met its intended purpose seems to me, by contrast, to be closer to a criticism of humanist ideologies and possibly Capitalism’s never ending appetite for natural resources.

Tempelhof and Dat rosa miel apibus reminded me more of how Ancient Greece, The Temple of Hephaestus in particular, now appears. Visiting Athens in April 2012 I found contemporary ruins and graffiti alongside those of the Ancient Greeks. Kiefer’s proposition could be for the derelict condition a city or even world would be left in after an Apocalypse, unoccupied and lacking life.  His use of photographic surface and structural patinas as a painterly ground highlight the conscious use of materials as a defining feature of this artist.

Moving between industrial paints, lead, copper sulphate, glues, organic materials and photographic emulsions demonstrates the conscious materiality of the paintings. Kiefer engages this interest like few others. Although this show has less prominent emphasis on the photographic compared to his 2010 Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen at White Cube Hoxton Square I would argue that Il Mistero delle Cattedrali is presenting paintings as photographs with the insistence on perspective and photographic tonal ranges. Where in the Hoxton Square show there was a disturbing of the photographic emulsion we see the same evidence here of an alchemist at work across the painted surface. His presentation of fact at the painterly surface and mythology on the sculptural protuberances acts as a perfect juxtaposition for the true narrative of the paintings.

The choice of placed objects and the exhibition title, moreover, show a preoccupation with less rational thought through the ages; magic and alchemy. Monumental callipers appear representing Masonic powers, snake-gods for personal reflections, sunflowers, scales, wheels.  Such symbols reflect on major stages in technological developments throughout civilisation. In Sprache der Vogel, for example, we have an almost Neo-Luddite reaction to satellite communications that presents the most impossible compositional conundrum. That he pulls off a painting with a large dish hiding the painting surface whilst being compositionally asymmetrical is a painterly feat. The vantage point of the paintings and more pertinently the scale of the symbolic placed objects suggest a godly onlooker. However, the show overall leaves the viewer asking whether a morality tale explaining a dystopia for future civilisations is being explored or is it the presentation simply of the authenticated aftermath of a cyclical tendency towards fascism and false prophets in times of economic hardship?

The Tale of Billy Askim

The Tale of Billy Askim

Back when I was a Glasgow skater there was a guy we looked up to. His name was Billy and we didn’t know his second name, so someone named him Askim (as in ask him his second name). The guy was a dude, always mysteriously turning up and upstaging the other skaters. There was one tale of Billy taking on the deadly hills of Patrick.

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Apparently it was a dark foggy night and Billy had been up all night enjoying himself. He set off home to his bed; feeling the need to navigate Gardiner Street as this was the shortest route and potentially a bloody good ride. Pointed down the hill, lying back down to the board, he looked back to his mates whilst they looked on at the ensuing craziness. There were cars on either side and he couldn’t see for the fog. Progressing at breakneck-speed he entered that moment of tombstoning where there’s no turning back, to get off would involve a more serious accident than just bashing into whatever came his way. It always had to be this way, only a total nutter would attempt this hill. His friends were looking on but had lost him some time ago, no screams yet. Then a screech as a car pulled out from a road nearer to the bottom of the hill. Billy Askim had the skill to swerve out the way at the last minute and arrived at the bottom by Dumbarton Road. He got up, sighed and had arrived home.

For this painting made for the Museum of Transport I was trying to link this crazy story with some of the fantasy type artwork of the 80‘s Powell/Peralta era, George Grosz cityscapes, mediæval hell paintings and the graphic art of Mexican day of the dead. Not sure how successful I was but I did have a good time painting it.

What is lost or gained in my digital cupboard?

There is some sort of obsession in mainstream media for iPhone apps and that finger ache and eye strain inducing device the iPad. They have completely missed the point, people aren’t going to pay for content or consume it in the way they were. People are becoming more flippant. I predict mass understanding of the benefits in reducing space, a Japanese style obsession in the making.

What my digital cupboard and why I can’t see any other future

How has my relationship to media changed with constant access online and can I now throw out all my stuff?

The toy cupboard Project 365(2) Day 80

photo By Keith Williamson

This relationship to media has changed in a manner which I could never have predicted happening so soon. There were so much utopian talk when the Internet first hit home in 1998 (I know, some other people may have got there a little later). I really wanted the Internet to be that place where all my crap would go but it was just so slow and difficult back then.  14 years on and I feel I can see the future and it’s whatever I want whenever I want it, the Longtail in action.

Publishing from an iphone

Thought it good to try out this new iPhone wordpress app.

Seems ok not much different from the old one to tell you the truth. It’s meant to do video, it can’t but pictures are easy.

Airmagazine

Designer and Visual-Editor of AIR magazine, a community based literary and arts magazine and website

Description:

  • Voluntary work that involved working with a team in co-editing, and publishing seven issues of the magazine with Colin Campbell from 1998 to 2003
  • Designed Quark template for publication, used email to gather material and manage contributions from Scotland and England and designed and launched website for magazine.
  • Wrote reviews of current art exhibitions and films for the magazine.
  • The magazine was funded by the Scottish Arts Council for 2 years.
  • An extremely important learning experience in that there was a large range of digital skills picked up from this experience of digital publishing

Colin has a great explanation here

Mogwai website

Website for the internationally renowned band Mogwai from Scotland.

I developed designs from Duncan Macdonald using various database elements and carefully constructed HTML and CSS code.

This site was meant to enable the band and managers to more effectively upload content to the web. It also required a migration of servers and content from another CMS.

More recently Duncan has been redesigning the CSS code and graphics in 2010, I am not involved any more with updates however

Creative Cow.net video podcasts

If you are coming from Creative Cow Podcast, then hello. I was involved creating these podcasts from 2007 to 2009 but I am a bit too busy to do now.

I produced them for people to be able to more easily understand some of the most fundamental concepts and also more obscure aspects of video editing and effects using the Final Cut Pro interface.