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Label: arts

Wednesday 03rd February 2016Can Dubai Function as a New Arts Hub?

Globalization means a lot of things to a lot of people, and affects almost every sphere of human activity - dare we say it - across the globe. While most people associate it with geopolitics and economic matters, the resulting effects are felt in a number of unexpected ways. Unexpected to some, at least.

As we've seen in our past posts about of the changing nature of art auctions, the number of buyers from countries in the Middle East and Asia are rapidly expanding as the number of millionaires and billionaires with money to spend increase. This leads to yet another chain of surprising events, as we see traditionally repressive regimes come to grips with the results of new cultural influences thanks to the rapid flow of information that comes from a globalized economy.

Dubai, one of the richest cities in the world and certainly the richest in its home country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has recently decided that it would like to become a more prominent figure in the global arts community. One of the more publicised ways it hopes to achieve this is through global arts exhibits, including the Dubai Photo Exhibition, a major event that will be launching in March. Featuring photography by artists from 23 countries around the world,

“For the inaugural edition in 2016, Dubai Photo Exhibition will present a showcase of museum quality international works, which will be held in the Dubai Design District (d3), and supported by the World Photography Organisation,” the organisers explained in a press release.

This in turn leads back to one of the most important questions about art: what is its purpose? If the purpose of art is to challenge perception, push social dialog and help us reflect on the nature of human existence, it seems a bit tough to reconcile with the extremely strict social policies that the government enforces. Something as simple as kissing in public is illegal and can result in deportation, and other strict laws cover what is regarded as public indecency.

Many detractors of photography as an art form have claimed that it's merely photojournalism at best, and not really art in the strictest sense. If one were to accept that premise, does it explain the choice of a worldwide photography exhibition as the culturally 'safest' option for a repressive regime to accept? Or more hopefully, is this a clever move intended to increase the flow of ideas and help shift cultural norms?

Would a photo of a kissing couple be enough to get the artist kicked out of the country and banned from future events? Time will tell, as the exhibit opens in mid-March and we see what pieces they have decided to include. Simple and safe, or risque and refreshing?


Posted on February 03rd 2016 on 04:31am

Friday 26th September 2014Crowdfunding the Arts Ramps Up

Traditionally, the art world has existed on almost the opposite of crowdfunding. At least in the European tradition, an artist would do his best (traditionally, the European masters have largely been men, as unfair as that is) to impress a single wealthy patron who would then undertake to fund all of the artist's subsequent costs - within reason, of course. This would often extend to providing food, lodging and materials in exchange for the first bite at the apple, and the right to request any sort of commission that the patron may wish to have undertaken. In modern terms, the closest analog would likely be a monthly retainer, although lawyers and the like often have many clients that pay retainers.

Recently, however, we discussed the change in this dynamic that originally begun with the impressively novel crowdfunding site named Kickstarter. For those that haven't yet heard of the site, the essential premise of the site is that people can post project proposals online, and have it funded by a large number of individuals making small contributions, as opposed to a single wealthy patron bankrolling the entire project. While the previous discussion was limited to art galleries in the UK, this time around the effort is being undertaken in cooperation with what is arguably the world's most popular art fair (another model which is dramatically shaking up the art world), Art Basel. Known for hosting wildly successful art fairs originally in Basel and then expanding to the somewhat unlikely satellite locations of Hong Kong and Miami Beach, Art Basel has started a formal partnership with Kickstarted in the hopes of encouraging viewers to support non-profit art groups using the crowdfunding site and model.

Named the Art Basel Crowdfunding Initiative, the project has already begun it's first foray into the crowdfunding scene with four projects, which cover and impressively diverse spectrum of content and funding requirement. SculptureCenter, in New York, is hoping to raise $12,000; Gasworks in London is hoping to raise roughly $65,000; Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (a terrible name, it must be said) is hoping to raise $5,000 for a concert series in Los Angeles; and the 4A Center for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney, Australia is hoping to raise $18,000. Here's to hoping that the crowdfunding model can provide the much-needed support these projects require to get off the ground!

Posted on September 26th 2014 on 12:05am

Wednesday 17th September 2014Artist Spotlight: Paul Wainwright

Someone once said that the best ideas are often simply looking at old ideas in a new way - in a new light. That's exactly what artist Paul Wainwright has done in his latest series, a beautiful photographic experiment using pendulums. Also known as a harmonograph, Wainwright took the cavernous space of his empty New England barn and converted it into a giant harmonograph. Originally developed in the 1840s as a type of drawing machine, the harmonograph was initially configured with a small bag of sand or other fine material attached to a long rope or string. A hole was cut in the bag, and the bag was set swinging. As the pendulum moved through its stately and often unexpected arcs, a beautiful series of line drawings emerged, carving out the path of the pendulum onto the paper. The more complicated harmonographs incorporated two or more strings, so that competing pulls in various directions would set the bag swinging in more complicated patterns.

Wainwright has taken that concept one step further, attaching a light source to the end of his pendulum in place of a bag of sand, and taken long exposure photographs of the resulting patterns. Known (apparently only to mathematicians) as Lassajous figures, though the more popular name harmonograph is generally the term used by the public. Wainwright's camera points directly upward from beneath the pendulum, making the focal plane of the camera analogous to the sheet of paper in the original device from the 19th century.

Most reviewers interested in his pendulum project only casually note that he is also an accomplished large format black and white photogapher, and attempt to describe his pendulum project as a hobby- but that strikes this writer as a fairly naive interpretation of what an artist actually does. All our projects are hobbies, with the possible exception of commissioned works, and yet at the same time none of them are. Any hobby that involves passionate creation should be considered artwork, whether it involves traditional perceptions of what 'art' is or not.

To see more of his work, be sure to visit his site at to see the full collection of his beautiful harmonographs, learn more about his other work, and buy some prints while you're at it! Just don't hold it against him that he was, in fact, actually a physics major ;-)

Posted on September 17th 2014 on 11:53pm

Tuesday 25th March 2014The BBC Rededicates Itself to the Arts

The BBC is one of the most beloved British institutions, one that has reached hearts and minds of millions of citizens for nearly 100 years. Over the course of that long life, it has occasionally varied in its goals, depending on the view its directorship takes of the current cultural climate and how the BBC fits into that milieu. Naturally, the BBC News and the World Service are what made the name for the corporation in the early days, but as the media landscape changes, the institution is taking steps to ensure that it stays relevant. In a boon for art lovers everywhere, the current Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall (who also happens to be Baron Hall of Birkenhead), has recently decided that the BBC's role in the art world should be stepped up several notches.

"The arts are for everyone, and from now on BBC Arts will be at the very heart of what we do," Hall said, and drove the point home by appointing several prominent figures in the arts to leadership positions within the BBC, including the director of the prestigious Tate galleries, Sir Nicholas Serota, and the director the National Theatre, Sir Nicholas Hytner.

Nobody can doubt the genuineness of Hall's desire to bring the BBC Arts into the foreground. "I want BBC Arts – and BBC Music – to sit proudly alongside BBC News … We’ll be joining up arts on the BBC like never before – across television, radio and digital. And, we’ll be working more closely with our country’s great artists, performers and cultural institutions," he said, although it remains to be seen how well the corporation will be able to cope in an increasingly digital world. The success of the iPlayer system seems to bode well, but larger organisations have been seen to stumble occasionally when it comes to emphasising digital offerings.

Regardless of their digital fortunes, it speaks well of the BBC that in an era of financial instability and insecurity and government austerity programs, that the arts aren't always getting the short end of the stick. The BBC has the potential to truly reinvigorate the performing arts scene all across the United Kingdom, and has the chance to set an example for other countries and governments around the world to rededicate themselves to creating a rich cultural tapestry.

Posted on March 25th 2014 on 04:43am
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