It’s a filthy world
The director of “Pink Flamingos” John Waters has been announced as a special guest of the next FotoFocus contemporary photography biennial, taking place in Cincinnati this autumn (8 October-1 November). The cult favourite film-maker will be performing his one-man, autobiographical show “This Filthy World”, in which he explains his fascination with the darker side of Americana, as part of the opening programming on 11 October. A visual artist as well as a director, Waters will also have a work included in “Stills”, one of the many exhibitions organised around Cincinnati during the biennial. Other plans for the city-wide photo event include a live-streaming show of pictures from the social media site Instagram, to which the public can submit their own photos using the hashtag #FotoFocus2014, and a scholarly discussion on photography during the Civil War, by the keynote speaker Jeff L. Rosenheim, the head of the photography department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. A full schedule of events can be found on the biennial’s website.
The talking statues of England
What if statues could talk? UK community arts producers Sing London are hazarding a guess at what they might say, having commissioned a host of British luminaries including the actor Patrick Stewart and BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman to lend their voices to 35 public sculptures in London and Manchester. Launching yesterday, 19 August, the year-long initiative invites passers-by to swipe their smartphones on pop-up plaques to trigger the imagined monologues of monuments such as Eduardo Paolozzi’s Isaac Newton at the British Library, Lynn Chadwick’s “Couple on a Seat” in Canary Wharf and the Unknown Soldier memorial at Paddington station. A belligerent L.S. Lowry at a Manchester pub laments the demise of drawing but embraces his destiny as selfie fodder, sighing “Go ahead—it’s not every day you have a drink with a talking statue!” With support from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts and technology developed by museums multimedia designers Antenna International, the project has a serious side too: the user data generated will be analysed by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries at the University of Leicester.
Lauren Bacall’s wardrobe gets museum treatment
Lauren Bacall was still a teenager in the early 1940s when the legendary fashion columnist Diana Vreeland put her on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Over the next 70 years, Bacall became a fashion icon as well as a big screen darling, making friends with the designer Yves Saint Laurent while starring in films with Humphrey Bogart. As a tribute to her fashion sense, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York is organising an exhibition of her clothing, with a particular focus on her styles from the 1950s and 1960s. Before her death on 12 August, Bacall donated around 700 garments, including pieces by Christian Dior and Ungaro, to the Fashion Institute of Technology. The exhibition is scheduled to open at the museum next spring.
Artworld heavyweights are backing a Kickstarter project to fund a free online high school for girls to explore their creativity and develop their imagination. The School of Doodle is where 1990s grrrl power meets PBS-style art education, with a little bit of feminist punk rock philosophy on top. The school will offer lessons by over 70 “teachers” such as Marina Abramović, Klaus Biesenbach, Meschac Gaba, Jenny Holzer, Kerry James Marshall, Ernesto Neto, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and even Sonic Youth founding member, Kim Gordon. In times of encroaching cuts to arts funding the School of Doodle has some commendable but lofty goals such as closing the “confidence gap” in women and to “promote and protect girls’ imaginations”. The good news is that they’ve already hit their first $75,000 goal with a little help from artists like Vanessa Beecroft, Yayoi Kusama, Karen Kilimnik, Yoko Ono, Laurie Simmons and Taryn Simon, who have donated works (or doodles). The bad news is that you only have until 23 August to support the programme by bidding $150 or more to get your own doodle—though the perks start with a $1 donation.
Khaled Jarrar finally leaves Palestine for Finland
The Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar has had his travel ban lifted by the Israeli Security Agency, and has arrived in Helsinki to start working on a large-scale piece involving "50 volunteers in a performative action". Jarrar took part in the first public event of the "To the Square 2" project late last week when participating artists discussed their works with Finnish audiences. "It was a touching talk based on Jarrar's latest experiences," says Marita Muukkonen of Perpetuum Mobile, the organisation behind the project. En route to Finland, Jarrar successfully crossed Allenby Bridge in to Jordan. "This is the same border-crossing at which he was unexpectedly stopped and turned back earlier this summer, on his way to an opening at the New Museum New York," says a statement from Perpetuum Mobile. "My art is my weapon against inhumanity and injustice everywhere," Jarrar told The Art Newspaper.
Monika deconstructs Mies
The Polish artist Monika Sosnowska is planning a public work for New York that riffs on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famed Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago. Tower will be a 110 foot sculpture that “quotes the steel framework” of Mies’s Chicago building, according to a press release. Constructed in two parts, Sosnowska’s sculpture has since been cut down into more than 50 pieces to allow for ease of transport and assembly. The work is due to be unveiled on 5 September outside Hauser & Wirth’s 18th Street gallery, and will be up until 25 October.
Damien's very own 'Valley of the Dolls'
Damien Hirst’s love affair with pills of all shapes and colours and his admiration of pharmaceutical industrial design has inspired new sculptures and prints, which are due to go on show in an exhibition at Paul Stolper Gallery in London. The show “Schizophrenogenesis” (9 October-15 November) sounds like “Alice in Wonderland” meets “Valley of the Dolls" as Hirst has super sized many of the pick-me-ups, ditto the packaging. The artist provides a sound-bite for the gallery's press release. Perhaps more Jacqueline Susann than Lewis Carroll, Hirst riffs: "Pills are a brilliant little form, better than any minimalist art. They're all designed to make you buy them…”
The Bible—as seen by Broomberg and Chanarin
The photographers Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin made waves last year with their illustrated Holy Bible which resembles the King James’s version but contains horrific historical images, from the Holocaust to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. The pictures, drawn from the London-based Archive of Modern Conflict, are linked to phrases underlined in red ink. Crucially, the duo were inspired by an unlikely source: Bertolt Brecht’s bible which they discovered in the Brecht archives in Berlin. The German playwright used his scriptures as a notebook, jotting comments in the columns. The Holy Bible is on view at the Mostyn gallery in Llandudno in “Divine Violence”, an exhibition presented in partnership with the Cardiff-based arts organisation Artes Mundi (until 2 November).
Jarrar's travel ban means Helsinki is out of bounds
The Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar wants to travel to Helsinki this week to prepare a large-scale piece comprising "50 volunteers in a performative action" taking place across the city. But the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) has banned Jarrar from leaving Israel until 1 September, say the project curators, Ivor Stodolsky and Marita Muukkonen of Perpetuum Mobile, who insist that the work, part of "To the Square 2" project, will proceed "no matter what". "Jarrar is working with the leading Israeli human rights lawyer Lea Tsmeal regarding his situation. The curators are approaching various authorities and colleagues internationally," a press statement adds. The travel ban was enforced last month when Jarrar was due to attend the opening of the group show, "Here and Elswhere" (until 28 September), at the New Museum in New York, but was stopped by the Israeli authorities at the crossing into Jordan. The artist's Finnish fans will at least get to see him via a videolink; this digital appearance is scheduled to take place 14 August.
Get ready, Young Americans
Prepare your bodysuits and glam rock make-up: David Bowie is poised to take over the US this fall. The performer’s first retrospective, “David Bowie Is”, is scheduled to travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago on 23 September (through 4 January). The exhibition—which presents more than 400 objects from the David Bowie Archive—proved so popular at the V&A in London last year that scalpers attempted to sell counterfeit tickets. Anticipating similarly high demand, the MCA Chicago has set up a dedicated hotline for Bowie-related inquiries (+1 312 397 4068). It has also assembled a jam-packed programme of Bowie-inspired performances, including a David Bowie Variety Hour, which features local avant-garde performers’ reinterpretations of Bowie classics. But those who can’t make it to Chicago should not fret: on 23 September, a documentary about the exhibition is due to open at 100 theatres nationwide.
Shop ‘til you drop in Aspen
Most museum shops are stocked with postcards and refrigerator magnets. But the Aspen Art Museum, which opens its new Shigeru Ban-designed building to the public on 9 August, is offering more upscale inventory. The institution’s shop serves up designer goods including silver and gemstone rings by the German designer Karl Fritsch ($6,000-$12,500) and limited edition sculptures of crystallised National Geographic magazines by Alexis Arnold ($600), according to a recent “How to Spend It” feature in the FT. Who needs to go to a commercial gallery when you can purchase Tire Swing, an installation by the buzz-worthy artist Aaron Young, for $23,000 at your local museum shop? One hopes that patrons have some pocket money left over from the museum’s annual benefit ArtCrush, which raised $3m on Friday. Otherwise, the museum may find itself ordering more magnets.
Moving along in Istanbul
The Moving Museum's programme in Istanbul is picking up speed with international artists arriving in the city to start an ambitious residency programme (until-31 October), culminating in an exhibition due to open in October. Participating artists include Beirut-based Haig Aivazian, who explores the legacy of the oud musician Udi Hrant Kenkulian (1901-78), and the US artist Zach Blas who will "expand out of his previous work on biometrics, surveillance, and protest, investigating the internet's relations to control and dissidence", says a pithy press statement. Equally intriguing is Mai Thu-Perret's collaboration with a Kilim workshop in the remote region of Van in eastern Turkey. Dutch-Brazilian artist Rafael Rozendaal will, meanwhile, launch the Moving Museum's public programme on 7 August at its HQ, a 1940s villa in the central district of Cihangir (the organisers promise a "public talk and interactive YouTube party"). The Moving Museum presents contemporary art shows worldwide. It launched its first exhibition early last year in Dubai; a second iteration opened in October in London, coinciding with Frieze London.
A 'cenotaph' of light pierces London’s night sky
The sky over London was illuminated last night, 4 August, by the Paris-based, Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda’s Spectra. Symbolically starting at 10pm, 60 minutes before the hour one hundred years ago that Britain declared war on Germany, the grid of 49 spotlights that create Spectra are installed near the Houses of Parliament. Visitors to Victoria Tower Gardens will be able to hear its musical element from 9pm to dawn each night until 11 August during which the work will form a temporary memorial in light, recalling the Cenotaph, Edwin Lutyens' war memorial in stone in nearby Whitehall, which was originally a temporary structure. The light and sound work forms one of the many Lights Out events organised to mark the centenary of Britain’s entry into First World War. The first time the work has been shown in a memorial context, in London it is presented by Artangel, the public art agency, and funded by the Mayor of London, 14-18 Now and WW1 Centenary Art Commission. Ikeda’s work was originally commissioned by Dream Amsterdam Foundation and Forma. It has been shown in Hobart, Tasmania, Sharjah, Paris, Barcelona and Nagoya since 2001.
Switching on: artists reboot BBC Four
Last year BBC Radio 4 gave many of its morning listeners conniptions when, without warning, they slipped in a remix of its flagship news programme by the artist Christian Marclay right after the real thing. Might TV viewers turning on BBC Four’s “Abstraction” season this autumn be in for the same treatment? The BBC's memorable channel idents—the devices that appear on screen between shows and trailers—include back-flipping toys, slow-motion paint splatters and Hockney-esque sliding librarians and swimming pool divers. But while these have traditionally been in the hands of advertising agencies, now the artists are taking over, with the channel having commissioned Turner prizewinner Laure Provost, nominee James Richards, Jarman Prize laureate John Smith and the German artist Sebastian Buerkner to come up with the idents, which remain under wraps for a few more weeks. Of course we think they should just have handed over the entire station to the artists, but maybe the TV audience isn’t quite ready for that yet...
A helping hand for Hepworth from London's dockers
A strike by London dockers in 1954 proved a blessing in disguise for the artist Barbara Hepworth, an exhibition of whose work will be a highlight of Tate Britain's 2015 programme. The sculptor's work is now on show in the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, including Configuration (Phira), 1955 (until 28 September). On loan from Leeds Art Gallery, the piece is accompanied by the story of how it came to be carved out of the scented wood from Africa. When samples of Guarea wood arrived from Nigeria at Tilbury she faced a headache getting them to her studio in St Ives in Cornwall. The smallest sample weighed three quarters of a tonnes, and the largest two tons.There were 17 tonnes in total. “Mercifully,” she wrote, the strike allowed her breathing space to organise transport of the “lovely timber”.