Thursday, June 16, 2022

Northwest Terror Fest at Neumos & Barboza: Jun 30 - Jul 2

Last encountered in their 2019 edition, Northwest Terror Fest returns the first weekend of July to Neumos and Barboza. As with many festivals and arts events, the 2020 edition was postponed with the intent on returning when the global pandemic abated. This fourth installment arrives after its successful first set of years, showcasing some of the most potent sounds from the heavier end of the 21st century issuing from the mutating offshoots of black metal. The related global scene's ongoing and burgeoning development has come to encompass melodicism and atmospheres lifted from shoegaze and spacerock, eruptions of heavy psych rock, industrial drumming, electronic atmospheres, and pure experimental noise. The expansiveness of this sound is further detailed in Brad Sanders' essential overview, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World". Beyond this primer, deeper reading and curation from this spectrum can be found in the past decade of excellent selections in The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus column, covering releases dominantly sourced from labels like, Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, 20 Buck Spin, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, Flenser, Neurot and Relapse. An all-things-metal festival with a previous Southwest iteration, Terror Fest's three days host a lineup featuring no small quantity of metal issuing from this particular low-lit landscape of black and doom metal mutations. Initially launched under the opportunity to, "Bring Warning to America: An Interview with Terrorfest founder David Rodgers", Rodger's wider curatorial vision for the festival, was detailed in Decibel's, "It's Good to Have Goals and Dreams Can Come True", and in a 2019 interview, the festival's co-organizer Joseph Schafer describing how "The Third Time (Is Still) the Charm". This year's lineup encompasses everything from gloaming atmospheric ambiance and doom riffs, blistering thrash and hardcore, and heavy psych rock, dark pagan and neofolk explorations. Making for a cross-genre spectrum of metal sounds and weighty atmospheres to be heard in sets from almost forty acts, in six showcases, spanning three nights.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

The 59th Venice Biennale & Cecilia Alemani's "The Milk of Dreams": Apr 23 - Nov 27

The Venice Biennale will once again be the most significant exhibition I will see this year. Returning for its 59th installment after a two year delay, Cecilia Alemani, the New York-based Italian curator had more than the usual prerequisite time to prepare her curatorial work. Even with the additional years involved in it's assembly due to the global pandemic, "Venice Biennale Curator Cecilia Alemani Doesn’t Want to Do a ‘Coronavirus Biennial’", and has offered a lens of the world that instead more representative of, "A Curator’s Vision for a Post-Pandemic Venice Biennale". The centerpiece of which being the large pavilion of the city's mariner rope making factory of the Arsenale and the nearby Giardini. Her extended research has produced another unusually coherent show, which in addition to the global overview of new art, also presents a deeper frame of reference in showing historic work, often by surrealists such as Ithell Colquhoun, Dorothea Tanning and Remedios Varo. Such artists prefigure Alemani's preoccupations in contemporary work; the body in transformation, metamorphosis, and non-gender specific perspectives on form, in many ways it could be said that this installment is "The Women's Biennale", in doing so Alemani has produced, “A Venice Biennale Informed by the Pandemic, that Spotlights Women".

Both The New York Times' “Looking Inward, and Back, at a Biennale for the History Books”, and The Guardian's "The Guardian View on the Venice Biennale: Sensuous and Serious", highlight the great achievement of spanning the historic, the contemporary, and a volume of work that is to be experienced “with the fullness of the body”, as expressed by Alemani to The Guardian. Even the video and media-focused installation works are said to have a material feel, sometimes in the setting in which they are shown, such as P.Staff's mirrored kaleidoscope of colors that channels its violent subject matter. Or in the case of the elaborate earth maze by Colombian artist Delcy Morelos, already focused on the terra, in which she enhanced the sensory experience by engaging the olfactory senses through tobacco, cocoa, cloves and other spices in the soil. Collaborative works also feature largely in the main exhibit, and this year's Golden Lion went to Sonia Bonce for her showcasing of black female vocalists in her pavilion for Britain. Alberta Whittle representing the Scotland pavilion talks of her accomplices, from dancers, musicians and historians who have contributed to her film, the Polish pavilion features a series of extraordinary patchwork frescoes by Małgorzata Mirga-Tas that was assembled with fellow sewers.

In the way of the major awards, two special mentions were awarded this year to the following national pavilions, France, for their "Les rêves n’ont pas de titre", and Uganda, for "Radiance: They Dream in Time". With Best Artist of the international exhibition going to Simone Leigh from the United States, the Silver Lion for Best Young Artist awarded to Ali Cherri also in the international exhibition, a pair of special mentions were given to Lynn Hershman Leeson and Shuvinai Ashoona, and this year there were also awarded two Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement, which went to German artist Katharina Fritsch and the Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña. Among the 58 countries represented in the National Pavilions, and 30 Collateral Events to be found throughout the city, there are innumerable sculptural works, performances and installations of note. Highlights from which include a Ha Chong-Hyun retrospective, a pavilion dedicated to the Sami people of the arctic circle, the Japanese pavilion wholly as an audiovisual installation by Dumb Type and Ryuichi Sakamoto, the light-mirroring steles of Heinz Mack, the archive exhibition "Impossible Dreams" programmed by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum of Taiwan, and the Mexican pavilion represented by Naomi Rincón Gallardo's "Vermin Sonnet". There's also the Canadian pavilion focused on the work of Stan Douglas, “Human Brains: It Begins with an Idea” curated by Udo Kittelmann and Taryn Simon at the Fondazione Prada, the Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia hosts an exhibition of Anish Kapoor, the fifth edition of MUVE Contemporaneo at Palazzo Ducale presents Andselm Kiefer, and an exhibition on the island of Giudecca of the 20th Action Painting by Viennese artist Hermann Nitsch.

This year’s international group show, "The Milk of Dreams", takes its title from a fairytale by the British-born Leonora Carrington, who is at the heart of an intensely eerie mini-survey to rival the huge surrealism blockbuster at the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation in Dorsoduro. There are capsules such as this throughout, as detailed through Artforum's "Chimerical Romance", "Say it with Bolts!", and "Thought Experiment", some of which are historic and even scholarly, others span the spaces from outsider art, to cyborgs, and vibrantly lifelike mannequins, all of which seen in this context express an air of late-flowering surrealism. The Milk of Dreams” says Alemani, focuses on three themes; “the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses; the relationship between individuals and technologies; and the connection between bodies and the Earth”. In doing so, it dances between primordialist and technological imaginings, creating hybridized possibilities of human form and consciousness “becoming-animal,” “becoming-machine,” and “becoming-earth”. Further reporting for The Guardian, Adrian Searle is our chaperone to its wonders and marvels, the beautiful and the terrible, the celebratory and the morbid all fill the 59th Venice Biennale. Which as Searle points out is in some ways business as usual, but this year there are no billionaire oligarch yachts moored by the Giardini and there is less opulence and ultra-wealth spectacle and celebrity all-round. The Russian pavilion is closed (the curators resigned) and Ukraine has a large presence both in their pavilion and in the various spaces between those of the other nations. These pavilions and main exhibition that comprise the global art overview, situated the ancient and decrepit and historic palazzos, the lush sunlit Giardini and glorious Arsenale and Forte Marghera of Venice, are better for it, as laid out in Searle's compendious, "Cyborgs, Sirens and a Singing Murderer: The Thrilling, Oligarch-free Venice Biennale".

Sunday, June 5, 2022

David Cronenberg's "Crimes of the Future" at SIFF Cinema: Jun 3 - 23

When the competition and program for this year's Cannes Film Festival was announced, it read like "The Alpha Auteurs Lining Up for a Post-Lockdown Party", as The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw put it. Among them, it was as though "David Cronenberg has Practically Become Bionic Now", with his newest work as a expansion and summation of his decades-spanning volume of film that pushed the conceptual and sensory relationship to the body, by delivering us his "Post-Pain, Post-Sex Body Horror Sensation", that is "Crimes of the Future". There's a logic to Cronenberg first conceiving the film's premise at the end of the 20th century; in which humankind has spontaneously mutated to generate new organs and alter itself in response to a changing toxic and synthetic environment. Among the other byproducts of this not-too-distant future is that the human body has become so changed, and amorphous, that pain is nearly extinct. It was that era, from the mid-1990s to the earliest 2000s that Cronenberg most clearly defined his brand of cerebral, carnal cinema, expanding on the initial plumbing of the future-body seen in "Videodrome" and "Dead Ringers", the decade before. Through a set of films, David Cronenberg fleshed out his preoccupations with the human body and the ways in which it would come to intersect with the social mechanisms and advanced technology of the modern world. The underground society of deviant sybarites, where machinery and injured appendages collide in “Crash”, and the mind deranging high stakes enhanced-reality gaming of “eXistenZ", both felt disturbingly prescient, and feature an unnerving, and enticing eroticism that draws you into their Ballardian intellectual premises.

Set in a haunted post-collapse Athens that troublingly mirrors the darkened, waste strewn streets, and huddled figures occupying the shadows of many of the major cities of the world during the current coronavirus pandemic, much of "The Horror, the Horror of Crimes of the Future", dedicates itself to talky context-building exposition. Attentive to the intricacies of cultural labor, and the appetites, needs and utility that would arise from a wholly different relationship to the body where people cut each other in public "desktop surgeries", Cronenberg envisions a shift in the human paradigm with new bureaucracies, artistic, and political mores. Much of the film is dedicated to the workings of this world, making for one of his densest, dialog-heavy and sometimes pedantic, overtly literal outings. But "Crimes of the Future" eschews these trappings by offering instead a kind of intellectual road map of these existential questions, and two guides to its future terrain in performance artists, Saul Tenser and his co-creator and lover, Caprice. Together, the duo have spun the process of these body-altering surgeries into a performative exhibition. Perhaps making sense of his transforming body, and expunging its unwanted futuristic developments, the mystical and sensitive Saul, and the sophisticated and savvy Caprice, are making sense of this new world in which they tenuously exist. Together they are spinning narrative and meaning amidst a sweeping upheaval of form and a time of volatile unpredictability. The film posits that this might be the highest calling of art in such times, and an opportunity to inquire isn't missed in the "Film Comment Interview: David Cronenberg on Crimes of the Future".