USA participating artists: Mike Merkenschlager

Mike Merkenschlager

I’m interested in the potential of images within image-literate societies: as visual information, as surrogates for ideas and as things. In Crossed Fingers, we see a familiar hand gesture staged for the camera. In the 1950s an American safe company used this image to criticise our reliance on luck and our faith in the supernatural. But images have a habit of not being the best at doing what they were intended to do. So what does this image mean now, here, and now, and now?

Mike Merkenschlager is a London-based visual artist, working primarily with photographic images.                                                                                         MM 2013

USA participating artists: Alasdair Duncan

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Alasdair Duncan, who co-organised USA, makes signs that are stand-ins, emblems for things that are yet to be. He’s long been interested in America as an abstract ideal, a kind of promise of something vaguely but certainly better, which is not firmly coupled to the reality of the place of America. His poster  functions as an advertisment for the show by standing in for an idea, a placeholder of what the show might be. It superimposes a colour saturated sign –  the exact meaning of which is held at bay – over an old photograph of New York – a fetishistic image – turned on its side.                                           AD 2013

USA participating artists: Esther Planas

Esther Planas

My America is Red Indian is a very obvious, blatant statement that I nevertheless felt compelled to make public.  America has been many things during my life as a culturally colonised subject. One of my childhood icons is the Bonanza TV series and its tune will always be part of my memories. Something so distant, so disconnected and so unreal. With Bonanza, I associate the image of Aby Warburg and the Pueblo Indian men from Texas and Arizona. It makes me think of a possible parallel situation: the lands returning to its people and us only visiting every now and then. For this to happen is almost impossible. But it might be possible that we become more aware of what contemporary America has been built on. The real Americans, their world , their culture , their Icons and Spirits ….their Rituals …                        EP 2013

USA participating artists: Will Tuck

GiG Munich is very happy to post a longer interview with Will Tuck, one of the artists participating in the USA show:

Will Tuck

How would you describe your recent practice?

I’ve been interested for a while in subjects that could broadly be described as ‘fantasy’, involving combinations of mythology, children’s toys and pin-ups. More recently I’ve begun combining images such as these with ‘motion illusions’ – abstract patterns that give the illusion of movement. I’m interested in the idea of over-saturation in painting.

What were the last couple of shows that you participated in?

The most recent one was “The Future Can Wait” in London, and before that was a show at Tallinn University of some animal paintings that I was involved in.

How would you describe your poster for the USA show?

It is one thousand smiles cut and pasted from digital images of Playboy models. The smiles have been left at their original resolution and have been arranged from top to bottom roughly according to size.

America has been described as a ‘property of the world’. We all have an idea of America that we feel quite strongly about. Have you ever visited the US and if so, what did you find striking?

I have been quite a few times, although just to the northeast. The first time I went I was 11 and what I remember finding most striking was how similar it was to home. I think after the long flight I was expecting a more ‘foreign’ culture! The friendliness of people and the air of positivity I also found striking. It’s something Europeans tend to be suspicious of.

Is there anything you particularly like or dislike about American culture?

I think one of the attractions of the US is that there are so many cultures, not just in different parts of the country but in many cases different parts of the same city, so I think it is hard to generalize. In my own experience seeing guns for sale in supermarkets is certainly odd, and coming from England, where flags and patriotism have been rather co-opted by the far right, the more overt patriotism you encounter can be unexpected.

Much of what I would say is ‘American’ culture has so thoroughly permeated the way we live here that it’s difficult to separate the two. Watching something like the Simpsons doesn’t feel like watching a ‘foreign’ cultural import, just part of a shared popular culture made elsewhere.

Politically, obviously things like the death penalty and the religious right are ones that I find hard to reconcile with my personal experiences of the country.

‘Identity’ – whether this is a thoroughly American identity or the idea of America that we as non-Americans identify with – is one of the themes explored in the show. Would you say ‘identity’ is one of the concerns of your practice?

Maybe ‘non-identity’ is more of an issue in my work! The fixed expressions of the toys are very similar to the fixed expressions of the glamour models, there is a kind of mass-produced sameness that runs through it. Even the tool itself (the airbrush) is a byword for fakeness and unreality of surface. In relation to this show, I would say the majority of influences in my work are from cultures and movements, both high and low, that have their roots in America.

Does your poster expand on some of these themes?

I wanted the poster to address the notion of the ‘Pan-American smile’, but also the European skepticism of it. The decision to use the smile of the Playboy model comes from the airhostess’s ‘perfect’ smile that gives it its name, but also the smile that is endemic in American advertising. Going back to the notion of fantasy, the Pan-American smile is the great signifier of the supposed happiness that consumerism can bring. The smile of the Playboy model, who takes this logic even further to become herself the object of consumption, is this fantasy’s nightmarish conclusion. However, having a thousand of these smiles together gives the work an additional quality – the industrial scale seems to offer something quite personal. When I started making the poster I expected the finished piece to look far more sinister and ‘fake’ than I think it has turned out to be. Instead, the poster seems to have a sort of jolliness, which I find surprising. Maybe the smiles are genuine after all.                  WT 2013

USA participating artists: Rebecca Partridge

Rebecca Partridge

Crossing Over

In the 80s I grew up with the idea of America as a wonderland; I was lucky enough to visit then and it did feel like ‘crossing over’ to another, more dazzling world… Now I can only think of contradictions, complex crossovers of misaligned cultures and ideas. The poster consists of a cross between two images: Brooklyn Bridge is superimposed on a geometric painting that I made after visiting the Alhambra. It is at once the idea of a glorious expansive America we have been fed on and a hint towards the ideological battleground it has become.

Rebecca Partridge is an artist working in Berlin.                                                   RP 2013

USA participating artists: Vanessa Jackson

Vanessa Jackson

Amerika

The place we never quite get to, only in our imagination from books and films. I have been to NYC more times than I can remember, had a studio and exhibited, lived there for months at a time, fell in love, back in the 80’s, been south as far as Washington DC and up to Boston, even spent a couple of weeks in LA and SanFrancisco. But America I do not know…..and perhaps I am more familiar with Amerika on my mind.

This work was made back then, very curvy, playing with the neo geo of the times, more curves than was allowed in strictly modernism revisited.

Vanessa Jackson lives and works in London and went to St Martins Art School and the Royal College of Art. She has shown extensively as a painter with recent exhibitions in London of wall paintings at Sadler’s Wells Theatre and the Café Gallery, Southwark Park.

www.vanessajackson.co.uk                                                                                               VJ 2013

USA participating artists: Sam Basu

The next in our running series:

usa6VsmallISO Mirror, 2013

Shows a stitched together image of a mirror distributed over eight A4 sheets and joined together to make up an A1 image. The image makes reference to the mirror in the German fairy-tail Sleeping Beauty, known to most through the Walt Disney version of 1937. ISO 216 is the international paper standard introduced in Germany in 1922. It uses a mathematical aspect ratio to define the relationship between its various sizes. America does not prescribe to this system.

Sam Basu is artist and co-founder of Treignac Projet, a collective research project in France.

SB 2013

USA participating artists: Maria Thurn und Taxis

 

During the USA exhibition, GIG Munich will be posting short individual features on all participating artists. This is the first of the series:

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I have always been drawn to American popular culture, specifically to the movies from the 70s, which I watched when growing up in the 80s. Looking back, I find the film Star Wars particularly relevant to my current practice.

The epic struggle between good and evil in Star Wars is a very prominent one and very American in its simplification of moral values. The “good guys” are clearly contrasted with the “bad guys”. This moral branding is a theme throughout the film, ominous music appearing when the Empire is on screen and changing into something lighter and more hopeful with the appearance of the Republic. Darth Vader represents darkness right down to his black uniform as opposed to Luke and Lea’s almost monastic white.

For this show, I wanted to create a Darth Vader logo. Against a plain red background, I coupled the image of his helmet with some flowers, a hippie gesture, which belongs to the troubled American civil rights movement originating in the 60s, but already on the wane by the time the Star Wars films were being made.

MTT 2013

 

Save the date (auf Deutsch!)

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Von Anbeginn an übte Amerika einen starken mythischen Reiz auf die Welt aus. Amerika ist sowohl ein Ort als auch aus eine aufregende, wirbelnde Abstraktion von Ideen, Fantasien, Träumen und Bildern des Imaginären, das nicht nur Amerika gehört sondern der ganzen Welt. Unser Amerika (wir, die keine Amerikaner sind) beschwört heftige, parteiische Emotionen herauf, und macht unsere Beziehung zu unseren Verhältnisse und zu der Realität der USA deutlich. Ein solches Amerika, das Amerika der Welt, war und ist ein Stoff und eine treibende Kraft kulturellen Schaffens.                                    Alasdair Duncan

Die von GiG Munich organisierte Ausstellung, U-S-A,  erweitert die Thematik der Amerika-Kuratoren. Die Ausstellung hat vor, unsere europäischen Vorstellungen Amerikas zu sammeln und unsere Beziehung zu der aktuellen Realität der USA widerzuspiegeln.

GiG Munich lädt Künstler, Designer, Architekten, Fotografen und Filmmacher ein, Plakate ihrer Vorstellungen von Amerika einzureichen. Während des München-Kunst-Wochenendes 2013 werden diese Plakate gezeigt und dann in die Amerika-Ausstellung aufgenommen.