Theft is Vision – Dirty Books. Dan Mitchell. Edition Patrick Frey

Posted in Artist Book, collage, photography on November 3rd, 2023
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The works in this publication were commissioned by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen. I was asked to remake each of artist’s work as ‘posters’, with the direction that they should be at least 85% ‘Dan Mitchell’. The joke was to appropriate the appropriators. Additionally I included, as subjects, the architect of the show’s design, Petra Blaisse / Inside Outside, and also the curators themselves.

Things got a little confusing between 2020 and 2021 as there were 3 book projects on the go at the same time – the official catalogue for Theft is Vision, the book ‘Dan Mitchell Posters’* (both designed by Teo Schifferli and an unofficial lolz style book/ catalogue of the posters now published here. Only the book of my posters made it to print. Cultural fashion shifts and Covid put paid to the desire to produce a physical publication, appropriation, as a subject didn’t seem to be cool anymore.

Pocket Guide: Dan Mitchell Posters

With: Casima von Bonin. Maurizio Cattelan, Maria Eichhorn, Marie Louise Eman, Syvie Fleury, Isa Genzken, Richard Hamilton, Charline von Hey, Pierre Joseph, Valentina Liernur, Dan Mitchell, Mathieu Malouf, Malcolm Morley, Albert Oehlen, Betty Tompkins and Gili Tal.
Exhibition architecture by Petra Blaise / Inside Outside

The notion of ‘Theft’ establishes a site of investigation. This exhibition examines the desire to appropriate – a fundamental theme in the production of art. Throughout art there are typologies that ensue from the appropriation of motifs or of other works of art. As just one form of aggressive theft, the act of citation was already a cultural strategy long before Appropriation Art manifested itself.

At Luma Westbau the following questions are posed from a contemporary perspective:
What are the genres established through appropriation today? What does stealing mean for artistic production? Is it an act of removal and subtraction? Or can it be a productive strategy as suggested by the art history of Appropriation Art? In the context of this exhibition, ‘Theft is presented as dialogues and translations between artists. In essence, the exhibition confronts two opposing concepts in appropriation: the desire to appropriate as the idolization of sources or as an attack on and subversion of the established.

The typology of the enfilade a suite of rooms in grand architecture – is reconfigured in translucent plastic inthe exhibition design by Petra Baisse / inside Outside and inserted into the White Cube spacent encloses formative typologies of works of art productively used by numerous artists. The investigation leads to a wild variety of iconic and unexpected results: reconfigurations of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale, Jasper John’s Target, Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps, book illustrations by Bernard Buffet, and Courbet’s L’Origine Du Mode or variations on shopping-bag installations. By gathering these typologies together, the exhibition reveals and contrasts different appropriation strategies in art, and invites to discern and encounter sources, counterparts, and sundry partners in crime.

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The View From “No Man’s Land”. Firas Shehadeh. Well Gedacht Publishing

Posted in art, Artist Book, books, meme, politics on July 10th, 2021
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“Since 2013, Firas Shehadeh’s conceptual practice has been preoccupied with understanding the human condition through post-internet aesthetics, a tactic calculated towards a larger strategy of tackling the many themes mirrored by our new millennia. The internet and its cultures, video games, virtual communities, and various types of images are key mediums in his work, which helps the artist avoid material limitations and highlights the impact internet life is increasingly having on our offline lives.

Yet if one can trace a unity in Shehadeh’s work, one would find that it’s mainly concerned with images, not purely as form, but for what it absorbs from today’s political realities, conveyed by way of not-so-innocent silliness or abstraction. That is not to say that he deals with images as if they are inherently political. On the contrary, as a puppeteer controlling his marionettes with agility, Shehadeh takes such images and carefully reassembles them in front of us to subtly narrate their stories of origin and the meaning they evolved to carry. By relying on a combination of irony, tragedy, and delicate hopefulness, he ultimately highlights the bitter contradictions of today’s world.

One can easily detect some of Shehadeh’s political interests: history, technology, and aesthetics. He connects all these in today’s Online, the direct descendant from yesterday’s internet. Today’s algorithmically-driven Online is akin to predestination, loaded with ready-made scenarios where you’re trapped in a time loop like a sick joke. Original moves are calculated, preconfigured, and repeated every day; a Punxsutawney-hell from hell where one disaster leads to another. Still, they’re expected, welcomed, normalized, in a made-up history where irony’s reserve has drained to the very last drop.

In The View from “No-Man’s Land,” Shehadeh documents the year 2020 by using online culture’s main currency—memes—to tell stories of crashes, depressions, and violence caused by acceleration and the hyper technologies of control. His position as a Palestinian artist permits him to tell such stories with ease and cleverness. Yet unlike his subjects, he doesn’t convey a post-ironic attitude; his awareness is a tool to decipher post-irony, exposing its contradictions as if fighting fire with fire. That is highlighted best in the book’s cover; a kite strapped with a Molotov cocktail. The contra-drone of the oppressed. A direct, ironic answer to the oppressor’s hyper-tech arsenal.

This book and its artifacts function as a memory theater for an era that doesn’t want to leave, trying to outwit us by employing elements from the past. All the versos and rectos speak of the same story, reiterating after Carl “CJ” Johnson, its undeclared Angelus Novus, “Oh shit, here we go again.””

– Yazan S. Ashqar
Writer, Editor, and Translator, New York City

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