Month: July 2016

Contemporary Art: The Real Load

I did it.  I put myself out there and gave contemporary art a chance. But of course, right as I begin to get comfortable viewing the APCd Foundation’s new exhibition, BAM. I am proven gravely, gravely wrong.

Low and behold, before me, wrapped in vacuum tight, clear plastic, sits a piece of shit. Just waiting to be admired, contemplated, squinted at. I wish I was kidding. But at this point, it was just too tempting to not call bull-you know what.


Win Delvoye, Cloaca Faeces (2003) APCd Foundation’s Mobility exhibition

After staring at the object dumbfounded for some seconds, I took a deep breath and recollected myself. I was pretty frustrated, but since my sister was completely absorbed in watching a film, and my dad had given up and trudged to the café, I huffed fine. I’ll give it a try.

Instantly my thoughts filled with self doubt as I oscillated between “Will I look foolish if I give this object my time? Is it even meant to be given time, or simply skimmed over with a smug smile?” and “Does this object have a higher, symbolic meaning? Is there more than meets the eye?”

The encounter was all too reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain,  a “readymade” sculpture consisting of a porcelain urinal that Duchamp flipped upside down duchampand scrawled on the initials “R. Mutt 1917.” Upon its first exhibition (photograph form), hordes of artsy fartsy elites cocked their heads, wrinkled their foreheads, and stroked their beards as if in deep contemplation of the upside-down pee funnel. This was Duchamp’s way of poking fun at the I-can-name-wine-in-my-sleep-and-own-a-ridiculous-number-of-turtlenecks people I’ve mentioned before. Here they all stood, in deep reflection and introspection, before a piece Duchamp had designed specifically to mock their irrational worship of art. His mindset was in alignment with the Dada art movement, which aimed at being purposefully nonsensical. “It was the representation of the exact opposite of everything that art stood for.”- Little Art Talks.

Was I falling into Duchamp’s trap?

It didn’t matter; I was tired of being bullied by contemporary art anyway. 

Maybe this dung nugget isn’t meant to be viewed on its own, but as part of a bigger whole of the exhibition. The exhibition displayed countless contemporary pieces, seemingly all disconnected from one another, within the same context- Mobility. There were pieces mimicking clockworks for mobility of time, flickering candles for the mobility of light, shoes with wood soles for the mobility of walking, a self-beating drum for the mobility of sound, wooden and paper airplane installations for the mobility of flight, photographs of exhausted children washing into shore on raggedy lifeboats for the mobility of refugees. Taken in this context, the feces can stand for the mobility of food through the intestines. The mobility of our bodies.

Further research on Delvoye’s work revealed that this is not human poop: it’s machine poop! The feces we see packed in the translucent box is only one of many produced by his famous art installation, Cloaca in 2000. The machine, “fed” twice a day, is equipped with glass containers which allow viewers to follow the digestion process from beginning to end (see header image).

Even still, reaching this conclusion has brought me no satisfaction, no enlightenment. To content myself, I’ve created a deeper and more whimsical “meaning” for this turd.

Perhaps, in the end, the art of Delvoye’s Cloaca Faeces lies in the subjective reaction of each viewer. It could be establishing that, in a setting out of the ordinary, an object as natural as excrement can elicit confusion, disorder, or humor.

I considered myself an easy going, laid back person…until this encounter. After reflecting on my own reaction from the work, however, I realized that I can actually be rather orderly and rigid, which in turn makes me sensitively fragile to any disturbance in my sense of structure. It’s astounding that this piece, of all things, revealed my limited comfort zone and most profound tendencies.

Confession: I spent an absurd amount of time searching “synonyms for poop” on the Internet. 

Title credits: Sophie Aubry 

Header image: Wim Delvoye, Cloaca Machine (2000) 




Chaplin’s World

My recent visit to Chaplin’s World in Corsier sur Vevey, Switzerland left me feeling starstruck. Chaplin’s World, opened in April 2016, consists of both a museum dedicated to Chaplin and his personal home – Le Manoir de Ban – in which he spent the final years of his life.

The museum is extraordinarily organized, inviting, and interactive. After watching a ten minute introductory film on Chaplin, the guests begin weaving their way through informative panels, excerpts from films, and Grévin wax figures. I really didn’t expect to run into Albert Einstein, Michael Jackson, Woody Allen, Sophia Loren, Oona O’neill, Buster Keaton, Roberto Benigni, Federico Fellini Paulette Godard, Winston Churchill, The Tramp, and multiple Charlie Chaplins! Guests are welcome to interact with small staged sets from Chaplin movies and take pictures.

chaplin barber

Frequent chuckles and occasional fits of laughter from guests as they watch a movie excerpt testify to the pleasant and amusing atmosphere that accompanies the museum visit. Besides being extremely entertaining, however, the museum is immensely insightful.

Did you know that Chaplin wrote, played in, directed, and produced his own films? I certainly didn’t. His particular work ethic of involvement in each step of production is a trait I find admirable and impressive.

Furthermore, his movies starring his famous character The Tramp are deeper than a mod tim. dic. cc.surface level silent comedy. They communicate political and social messages pertinent to the contemporary issues of the time. Modern Times comments on the changing of the industrial, modernized world and the struggles of the Great Depression. The Great Dictator, in which Chaplin plays the roles of a fascist dictator and a Jewish barber, condemns Hitler, Mussolini, and anti-semitism.

I sincerely marvel at Chaplin’s talent; he was able to create a harmonious melange within films, which were charged with heavy sociopolitical subjects, yet laugh-out-loud hilarious.

After visiting the museum, I watched my first full length Chaplin film, The Gold Rush: I laughed uncontrollably. Laughing alone is a difficult thing to achieve, and a film capable of bringing me to do so is a confirmation of true quality. It is special to laugh alone, not out of social convention, but out of genuine amusement. You’re a wizard, Chaplin!

If you get the chance, I strongly recommend you pay Chaplin’s World a visit.

New Google Arts & Culture app

It finally happened: computer geeks and art nerds fused forces to produce an intriguing new application about art, history, and culture. Launched earlier this month (July 19, 2016), the Arts & Culture app is brimming with new means of accessing information from the art world. Equipped with an Art Recognizer, the app allows you to navigate certain museums and identify the work of art, its artist, and any special facts simply by directing your camera at the given piece.

What a time to be alive!

If you do not consider yourself tech-savvy (definitely me), worry not. The app is tailored to be concise, organized, and minimalistic in design, making it overall user friendly. The home page previews a range of subjects from which to choose from –did you know, on this day, artists’ birthdays, new exhibitions, spotlight stories, objects in focus, discussions, virtual tours- and refreshes the cycle daily.

image1In addition to these featured stories, the Arts section is organized by artists, mediums, and art movements; moving further still into detail (hats off to Google), these sections can then each be viewed randomly, alphabetically, or by time period. Never before have I been able to as successfully visualize artists’ placement in time as when I used the timeline from the app.

But wait, that’s not all. There is also a Places option, allowing you to explore art that is site specific or native to a region. Considering the large emphasis I tend to see towards western art, this option provides a positive step in the direction of bringing attention to non-western countries and their art.

Good news: this application is not exclusive to I-can-name-wine-in-my-sleep-and-own-a-ridiculous-number-of-turtlenecks people. Google does a wonderful job of making the application welcoming and interactive. My favorite feature is, coincidentally, the Favorites feature which allows you to create collections of art grouped entirely by your choice.

Gone are the days of feeling intimidated by art institutions! La Révolution is upon us!


Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix (1830) Louvre

This nine-day-old application is progressing in the right direction, and holds serious potential for further improvement. Things I hope to see develop in the future of this app largely concern diversity and expansion. Yes, it is wonderful to see our beloved Van Gogh, Monet, Munch, and Rubens. However, think about what they all have in common; they are all white males. I am not pointing this out to claim that because they are white males, their art is less valuable or impressive. But, if the app truly strives to encapsulate and accurately present Arts & Culture, then the equal inclusion of all races and genders is necessary. I want to see more women, more non-white people, and overall more recognition of marginalized people.

On top of this (I’m not quite ready to dismount my liberal high horse just yet), their work must be represented equally. Let’s consider the app’s coverage of Frida Kahlo. Only 28 out of her 101 existing paintings reported by the Frida Kahlo Foundation are shown. Meanwhile, Rembrandt, who created 324 total paintings, booms with a whopping 1,479 art works; this means that the app even includes his thousands of sketches. Coverage of Rembrandt’s work is spectacular, but only about 28% of Kahlo’s paintings are shown.  Both were artists, both influenced art history, both are renowned. So, why the disparity?

I challenge Google to work towards building this application into a more diverse, and therefore more accurate, depiction of Arts & Culture. Lastly, I challenge you to embark on this journey and explore the application as it evolves to expand its collection of artists, art pieces, and places to be more inclusive.


What drew me to art

After some thought, I have determined that my scrawny, generic blog bio doesn’t quite paint my full portrait (see what I did there). Thus, as my first blog post I will be talking even more about myself. I know, I know, it’s very exciting so try to contain yourselves.

A quirky combination of Nicole and Fred’s DNA produced what you know today as, well, me. Being the middle child, I like to consider myself the cream between the Oreo cookie, a.k.a the best part. Wait, scratch that: the best part of any family is obviously the dogs -Cookie and Mushu.

Although born a “California girl,” I’ve been raised also a “Swiss miss.” Every summer, my family and I travel to Switzerland to see the rest of my family -aunts and uncles, grandparents, and close friends. Consequently I speak both English and French, and proudly embrace my dual nationality. My Swiss-ness has exposed me to an abundance of fondue, chocolate, mountains, and museums; my American-ness has introduced me to the dreaminess of burgers, Mexican food, beaches, and more museums. Never before have Hannah Montana’s noble words, “You get the besssst of both worlds” resonated so strongly with me.

35mm original

Cows in the Lowland, Emil Nolde (1909) LACMA Collection

This mix of atmospheres and cultures formed the foundation of my attraction towards art. My first art history course during junior year of high school built off of my initial interest, and transformed it into a full-blown, uncontrollable passion. I learned that more than just being capable of sharing cultures, art can also convey time periods, art movements, and even personal sentiments. Just like biology can range from ecosystem to organism to cell to atom, art, too, can become infinitely minimized or maximized.

Art-ception indeed!

Call me a nerd, but my heart flutters when I walk into the “Arts” section of the bookstore. It skips a beat when a museum announces a new exhibition. I become giddy when I listen to people argue over art and its meanings; I find it is one of the best ways to get to know someone. In other words, art has the power to speak and create conversation. Hence, my fashion-forward, avant-garde title ArtSpeak. What, me? Pompous? Never.

If you are also an art enthusiast, huzzah! I hope my future posts will interest you and that we can carry on insightful discussions.

If you are certain that art is not at all your cup of tea, give me a chance. Revisit my blog now and then. Maybe, just maybe, I can show you that art isn’t just your cup of tea, but a steamy cup of hot chocolate on a snowy Saturday morning.

P.S. We never get snow in California, I just made that up to sound cool

Header image: Vincent Van Gogh, Boats at Sea (1888)