Regina José Galindo | Estoy Viva

Politics, Woman, Violence, Organic and Death, these are the five keywords and macro themes that guide the path of Estoy Viva, the exhibition with which PAC – Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea in Milan – and Civita celebrate the work of the extraordinary art performer Regina José Galindo (b. 1974 Guatemala city).

Someone once said that art doesn’t have to be pretty, it has to be meaningful, feeling and returning the reality through the poetics of the artist, sometimes in direct and unpleasant ways. The work of Galindo definitely falls within this category, representing the power of a politically active art, involved with thorny social issues, without being merely rhetoric. Using her apparently fragile body as an expressive medium and forcing it to both mentally and physically arduous tests, the Guatemalan artist examines and denounces racial and sexual discriminations, cultural injustices and abuses of power that keep on distressing contemporary societies. Making reference to the violence of her country, Galindo creates images characterized by a strong intensity and a universal language depicting, most of the time, nasty situations aimed at breaking collective indifference.

Estoy viva presents a significant selection of works that encompass a unique research, which cannot help but arouse deep emotions: in Confesión (2007) the artist is dragged in a wretched room by a brute, who pushes her head in a can full of water while she cries and wiggles, without being able of break free; in ¿Quién puede borrar las Huellas (2003) a grieving Galindo, dressed in black, walks from Guatemala’s building of Congress to the National Palace holding a washbowl full of human blood where she dips her feet leaving prints on the streets as a protest against the presidential candidacy of Guatemala’s former dictator José Efraín Ríos.

In a dramatic performance focused on violence against women entitled Perra (2005) Galindo injured her body carving the word “bitch” on her leg, while in Himenoplastia (2004) she subjects herself to surgical reconstruction of her hymen, and in Piedra (2013) the artist turns herself into a stone-like lump while a man and a woman urinate on her. The comprehensive show also displays the latest part of Galindo’s research devoted to natural elements, which gets her close to the work of Ana Mendieta, another emblematic artist, who uses body as main art conductor.

Galindo’s sacrifices don’t give any answer, but raise questions that wake up the audience’s ethic and moral sensibility. Everybody is involved; no one can withdraw from the experience.
Estoy viva will run until June 8th 2014 at PAC in Milan.

Monica Lombardi 
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Guest Interview n° 54: Mismo

Mismo is the the silent player from the North, initially founded to oppose the flat selection of men’s luxury luggage. Starting from a small aspiration for something more, Adam Bach and Rikke Overgaard, brought their goods together and in 2006 launched their first collection of bags. Going from 2006 to 2014, even though still a ‘silent characther’, Mismo hasn’t passed by unnoticed. Carefully curated and thoughtfully designed, the brand brings an understated elegance to the menswear scene. Despite fabrics and materials coming from Italy as well as from Turkey, it is in Denmark that it all comes together. The Blogazine went to Copenhagen to meet with the couple who stands behind one of the most blooming brands of the season.

Hi Adam & Rikke! What are you up to in the studio today?
Framing the ideas that in a few months time will materialize into the SS15 collection. This time of year is the absolute best and most vibrant of the Mismo cycle. The SS14 deliveries have all been made, AW14 order book is closed and production orders have been passed on to suppliers and manufacturers. Now we can fully concentrate on the more creative part of our business – the part we both enjoy the most – product development. In the studio today we are having a general discussion on fabrics and colors all across the collection. That’s always the starting point before we dig in and become more product specific. Piecing together the collection in terms of styles, materials, and image is truly a strategic choice that requires much our energies to get it right.

The name Mismo doesn’t seem to have sidestepped anyone on the contemporary menswear scene. Is it frightening or fantastic to be, after years of hard work, where you are now?
A bit of both to be honest, but mostly fantastic! We’ve worked hard to be where we are today, having built an internationally recognized brand, a solid worldwide distribution and a trusted supply chain. That is fantastic and we’re very proud of this. But we constantly work on strengthening the brand and we still have gaps that must be closed and ambitions that we haven’t yet fulfilled. We’ve experienced growth over the last five years, but we are well aware that things can change in an instance. So, we take it all in stride and enjoy it as much as possible, while always being grateful to experience another season with good sales and more engaged and supportive customers.

Where does the name Mismo come from?
Mismo is a Spanish word that means “the same” or something that refers to yourself. We liked the simplicity of the word and the personal reference in the word.  Since we’ve always been working with these natural materials, being vegetable tanned full-grain leather or cotton canvas, that develops over time and becomes more personalized the more you use them, we felt the name was a good fit.

Even though Copenhagen is your point of departure, you work continentally from material to production. From where do you draw inspiration in the design process? What would you say your point of reference is?
Tactility is always a great source of inspiration for us, which is why the choice of materials is the biggest point of reference and strategic choice for each collection. We draw inspiration from the environment that surrounds us, which offers a vast selection of colors, tones, materials, and natural elements. Tactility in furniture design is also a big inspiration; smoked oak, stained wood, crafted brass seen in the great designs of lamps and furniture design. The expanding scene of great crafted furniture that arises from the Danish design scene with Poul Kjærholm, Arne Jacobsen and Finn Juhl, but with a new Nordic generated design focus is a great key for inspiration for us, because of the high focus on tactility and craftsmanship.

Your products are defined by a subtle elegance, a ‘cleanliness’ that is underlined by strong design. Do you find it hard to edit your own work, to ‘strip it down’ to its very essentials?
When it comes to the question of what is functionally really necessary and what is not – the choice is simple.  It all comes down to making very accurate choices in terms of which textiles to use and to respect the nature of each individual fabric and/or leather you are working with. We sometimes obviously have an idea about a specific bag and its functionality and we search a fabric that meets the demands for that specific style, but many times it’s the discovery of a new fabric and its capabilities that brings to life new designs for which the newfound fabric would be perfect. When you have the privilege of working with the finest possible materials from fabrics to leather and you have a production that you trust is capable of meeting your standards in terms of quality and finish, then your job is almost half done as a designer.

What is your idea of ideal Scandinavian design?
Scandinavian design is where luxury arises from the choices made (in production and in design) more than a visible statement. Understated design with a high focus on functionality. Honest and respectful handling of the materials used, a production emphasizing as much craftsmanship as possible – craftsmanship in its truest form, as in real hands doing a real craft! not some fancy word that everyone wants to use – timeless in design and ultimate quality in product and materials.

You recently launched your online store but you’re still keeping it low on social platforms. Is it a conscious choice to stay out of the social media frenzy?
Not really, it’s more a matter of getting the grip and feel of it before throwing ourselves in that game. We need to keep focus on the products we develop rather than on what surrounds it. I guess we’re a bit old fashioned and cautious when it comes to social media. It’s probably also a reflection of the persons we are in private, where social media plays a very little part of our life.

What’s the big difference between your SS14 collection and the one you are presenting for AW14-15?
Spring/Summer 14 is very natural, relaxed and playful which is reflected in the fabrics used such as linen, multiple nylon articles, PVC print and colors that reflects the many shades of the sea. We’ve mainly used green and blue tones for SS14.
The AW14 collection is darker and more masculine compared to many of the previous seasons. Autumn always is a little harder and darker than Spring, but this season we’ll be introducing a new leather collection “The Wrinkle Collection” in a vegetable tanned shrunk cow leather that revolves around organic shapes accentuating the raw look and the natural draping of the very soft and richly textured full-grain wrinkle leather that we have developed.
We also introduce a couple of new seasonal styles inspired by the rough “Skagerak” sea and the sheer masculinity of surviving when surrendered by the pure forces of nature. In this collection, the fabric immediately set the mood for the designs; It is extremely light weight, water resistant, surprisingly sturdy and it has a masculine, raw, industrial appeal.

What do the future hold for Mismo? Any scoops to share with us?
We’ve always been rather frenetic about our distribution, but this season we’ve opened up a bit on strategic markets such as Japan where we have teamed up with a distributor, which will see the brand gain more awareness in Japan starting from next season (AW14). We look forward to that! AW14 will also be the season that sees the launch of our collaboration with a well-known American brand; can’t say more, sorry. We’re really excited about that and we’ve also got new and exciting print projects coming up with Danish type foundry Playtype.

Even though constantly growing as a “fashion city”, Copenhagen is still a bit “off shore” for buyers and press. How important are international fairs and events for you?
Copenhagen is home, and we’ll always be showing in our showroom here. But showing the collection abroad is vital for us and both Pitti in Florence and Capsule in Paris are key destinations on our seasonal tour. Pitti kicks off the season and is always great for meeting press and leaving first impressions with the buyers. We’ve had a great run with the Capsule fair, been doing it almost since its inception and we work closely with the team behind on our US distribution. But next season we’ll move a little out of the comfort zone, quit the fair and instead do our own private showroom in Paris. It’s been something we’ve wanted to do for a couple of seasons now, to get our own space where we’ll be able to present the collection in its right setting. Warm summer days, cold drinks and hopefully lots of customers in our own Parisian gallery is something we look much forward to in the near future!

Lisa Olsson Hjerpe – Images courtesy of Louise Damgaard 
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Style Suggestions: Florals

Spring is here and its time to smell the flowers. Ranging from hawaiian to romantic, floral prints are on the rise so start preparing your wardrobe now and let’s welcome summer with open arms.

Givenchy, Saturdays Surf NYC, Valentino, Cutler and Gross, Ami, Rag and Bone, Hilma af Klint book

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 

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Through the Lens of Ngoc Nguyen from Ashes and Wine

Ngoc Nguyen from Ashes and Wine 
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Shigeru Ban Wins Pritzker Prize

The purpose of Pritzker Prize, viewed as the Nobel of architecture, is to “to honor a living architect/s whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture,” and it usually involves the works keen on leaving a permanent mark on our landscape. Yet, this year’s prize was awarded to an architect whose work is anything but imposing or monumental.

Shigeru Ban, born in 1957 in Tokyo, is known for his unorthodox choice of material. While carton tubes and paper are usually used to build working models, Ban has been using those very materials his projects for disaster relief projects around the world. Rather than praising only formal qualities and stylistic coherence, this year’s prize was awarded to the Japanese architect because “His buildings provide shelter, community centers and spiritual places for those who have suffered tremendous loss and destruction. When tragedy strikes, he is often there from the beginning.”

Combining Japanese tradition with his Western education and influences, Shigeru Ban has been developing unique structural solutions starting from formal explorations with basic building materials. In fact, it was almost 20 years ago that Ban started using paper-tube structure for building temporary homes after the Kobe earthquake in 1995. Since then, his temporary structures were deployed for the Cardboard Cathedral in New Zealand or Paper Concert Hall in L’Acquila, Italy, while other notable projects include Centre Pompidou Metz, Naked House or Crutain Wall House.

Firmly convinced that architects should serve the public and not just a privileged few, Shigeru Ban stated: “Receiving this prize is a great honour, and with it, I must be careful. I must continue to listen to the people I work for.”

Rujana Rebernjak 
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Bill Viola | A Soul Keeper

The Grand Palais in Paris hosted the biggest retrospective, curated by Jérôme Neutres, devoted to the work of the pioneer of video art Bill Viola (b. 1951, New York), unarguably one of the most outstanding living artists. By exhibiting twenty different works – each of which was organized by follows three ontological questions (Who am I? Where am I? Where am I going?), rather than a chronological sequence – the show retraces over four decades of Viola’s research, conveying it, for the first time, to a wider audience.

Combining new media and traditional art forms, the American artist is able to capture and record feelings in his videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments and performances, getting viewers closer to their characters and allowing them to fathom their intimacy. But you need to take your time to fully enjoy these works, where the atmosphere slows down and the views are dark and meditative.

The narrations created by Viola exploit a religious symbolism, re-contextualizing it in a timeless dimension, where spiritual issues and experiences play an important role. The four primordial elements, primarily fire and water, are essential factors of the artist’s poetics, contributing to the emotional involvement of the audience. Water, as a source of life and means of regeneration, is present in Tristan’s ascension (2005), where a still body is stretched out on an altar until some drops start to flow from the bottom upwards, turning into a huge flip-up waterfall that lifts up the man, or better his soul, to the sky.

Ascension appears also in Going forth by day (2002), which analyses the cycles of birth, death, and rebirth, while in Fire woman (2005) we see a wall of fire in the background, mirrored by a surface of water, and the silhouette of a woman, who slowly moves to the camera and suddenly opens her arms and plunges into the reflecting pool. In The Dreamers (20013) seven screens show people apparently asleep, who look perfectly static apart from occasional slow movements and bubbles that reveal a kind of underwater trance, while The quintet of the astonished (2002) puts up a choreography of gestures and facial expressions that instill different feelings: from pain to amazement and happiness, passing through anger.

Thanks to their pictorial quality and powerful sounds along with their hypnotic slow motion, Bill Viola’s works look like living canvases that reveal the complexity of human emotions and create a strong tension between the observers and the observed, the former of which cannot but feel entirely captivated.

The comprehensive exhibition of Bill Viola will run through July 21st 2014 at Grand Palais in Paris.

Monica Lombardi 
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Trix and Robert Haussmann: Manierismo Critico

Trix and Robert Haussmann have spent their lives challenging design and architecture practices. From their early projects in the 1960s, reductively categorized as post-modern or radical design, until their “Manierismo Critico” manifesto in 1980, the Swiss couple has questioned, subverted and interpreted with irony, humour and wit the rigid forms of the country’s modernism.

With the perspective of time, there is much to be newly discovered in their approach: the so-called ‘Lehrstücke’ (‘teaching items’) series, drawings, poems, fabric collections, or buildings they designed, such as the Boutique Weinberg and Shopville in Zurich’s main railway station; Trix and Robert Haussmann’s projects can be found in a diversity of forms, each offering a critical and idiosyncratic vision of architectural, design and aesthetic conventions.

After a 2012 exhibition at Studiolo in Zürich, paired with a beautiful publication by Edition Patrick Frey, a new show aims at revealing different aspects of the couple’s work. Conceived in close collaboration with the architects over a long period of time, the exhibition will be held at Fri Art, Centre d’art de Fribourg in Switzerland, and will trace the projects developed since the founding of their joint studio Allgemeine Entwurfsanstalt in 1967.

Rather than a simple retrospective, the show will be the perfect occasion to engage in critical discussion about canons of architecture and design practice, revealing how objects can be vectors of meaning and what being an architect today actually entails.

Trix and Robert Haussmann exhibition will open on April 26th 2014 at Fri Art in Fribourg, Switzerland.

Rujana Rebernjak – Images courtesy of Edition Patrick Frey 
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Style Suggestions: Business Trip

A business trip can be tricky to pack for but the secret is keeping it simple. Start with a base such as a simple suit and bring pieces that you can mix and match with it. Soft and crease-free does it when dressing for the plane and that first meeting straight off it!

The Row jacket, The Row pants, T by Alexander Wang, A.P.C., Ann Demeulemeester, Maison Martin Margiela, Linda Farrow, Pierre Hardy, Cocoon Grid it, Samsonite

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 

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Dries Van Noten Inspirations exhibition in Paris

The Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten first established himself during the 1980s, when he famously exhibited his inventive and radical collection in London in 1986 as part of “The Antwerp Six” collective. Described by The New York Times as “one of fashion’s most cerebral designers”, Van Noten’s whimsical yet graceful outtakes have gained him worldwide recognition.

Les Arts Decoratifs museum in Paris has recently set up an exhibition that celebrates and traces the path of Van Noten’s intimate artistic universe, aimed at revealing numerous sources of inspiration that hide behind his creative process. Appropriately titled “Inspirations”, the exhibition will display the designer’s incredible clothing alongside a wide range of photographs, videos, musical references and artworks.

Borrowed both from private and public collections, as well as museum’s own pieces, the exhibition showcases objects that have triggered the designer’s imagination throughout his life and career: from the typical Renaissance “chambers of wonder” or “curiosity cabinets” full of souvenirs and knick-knacks, to selected pieces from emblematic couturiers such as Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior, in addition to 1980s designers, included in the show to evoke subjects intimate to designer’s work such as youth, the archetype, ambiguity and passion.

Showing more than just a simple selection of a designer’s work, “Inspirations” has the aim of recreating the universe of Dries Van Noten’s creative force, where cultural icons, materials, styles and personal passions overlap in an eclectic mix of references: from important artists such as Bronzino, Kees Van Donge and Francis Bacon, to milestones of international cinema with Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange and Jane Campion’s The Piano.

“Dries Van Noten – Inspirations” will run until August 31st 2014 at Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris.

Francesca Crippa – Images courtesy of Les Arts Decoratifs 
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Sensing Spaces at London’s Royal Academy

In our everyday life, we are used to accepting spaces that surround us just as they are, rarely questioning their forms, structure, light or material, and how all these elements affect us. An exhibition, which opened at the Royal Academy of Arts in London back in January, investigates our relationship with those elements of architecture and space through a series of seven installations developed by an eclectic mix of contemporary architects.

Titled “Sensing Spaces” and curated by Kate Goodwin, the exhibition’s full-scale installations occupy the impressive first floor galleries of the Academy, inviting the visitors to touch, smell, feel and live the works displayed. In fact, the curator describes the exhibition as an immersive experience, about experiencing the power and poetics of architecture: “People will respond to each of these installations in different ways and discover different things,” says Goodwin.

From Pritzker Award-winning architects Eduardo Souto de Moura and Álvaro Siza to Berlin-based African architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, from Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell of Irish practice Grafton Architects to the young Pezo von Ellrichshausen, from subtle interplay of smell and light developed by Kengo Kuma to an immersive labyrinth designed by Li Xiaodong, each architect’s work concentrated on a specific aspect of space. Grafton Architects explored the concept of light and lightness with two sculptural installations suspended from above, while Kéré invited the public to engage with his structure adding plastic straws to a structure made of honeycomb panels. Grand masters Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura explored the tradition and history of the exhibition’s building with installations that challenged our view of the architectural practice itself.

“Sensing Spaces” demonstrates an ever-growing willingness to create exhibitions, temporary projects and installations about architecture where the visitor isn’t only seen as a silent observer, but is actively invited to participate, touch, feel, add pieces and live the spaces on display. Whether this type of show, in between Serpentine Gallery’s temporary pavilion and more structured, yet sometimes equally elusive, narrations about architecture such as the Venice Biennale, actually contributes to our awareness of the spaces that surround us is still to be discussed. In the meanwhile, the beautiful installations at Burlington House wait to be explored, with “Sensing Spaces” running until the 6th of April 2014.

Rujana Rebernjak – Images courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts 
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