Never before have we needed symbols of beauty, solidarity and peace as much as we do now. It is with these values in mind that in recent days Azuma Makoto has set to work in one of the most spectacular locations in Japan.
Inside the “hill of lavander” near Sapporo, just where a few years ago the architect Tadao Ando created a huge statue of a Buddha, the floral artist has created an installation entitled “Atamadaibutsu to hana”, or “the hill of Buddha and flowers.
Right between the hands of the huge statue, Azuma Makoto placed a giant bouquet of flowers. At this time of year, the colors of the different flowers create a contrast with the white of the snow that covers both the hill and the statue. It is a representation of hope, of something that manages to bloom despite the weather.
As he did a year ago, the artist took advantage of the extremely low temperatures to freeze the flowers by spraying water on them and thus managing to keep their beauty intact.
Over the past decade, the artistic collective CHEAP has set the stage for ephemeral public art, sweeping away conventions with the same fervor it used to plaster its posters on the streets of Bologna. Today, this rebellious and transformative project makes its way to the MAMbo – Museum of Modern Art in Bologna to celebrate a decade of artistic sabotage.
The MAMbo will host an extensive exhibition of CHEAP’s works, including previously realized installations, a selection from the photographic archive documenting their street art projects, and a series of posters in unconventional formats. The exhibition will be scattered throughout the museum, encompassing both exhibition and non-exhibition spaces, from public restrooms to the permanent collection.
Elena Di Gioia, delegate for Culture of Bologna and the Metropolitan City, emphasizes the importance of this event: «CHEAP’s posters have adorned and disrupted our urban landscape for a decade, creatively expressing an unwavering desire to astonish passersby with direct messages on often controversial yet necessary themes. These posters have embedded themselves in the memory of those who have seen them, despite the ephemeral nature of public art. This initiative to invade the space of MAMbo demonstrates the willingness to break down the barriers between public art and cultural institutions, opening a dialogue between contemporary art and the public.»
The term “exhibition” is deliberately avoided in this context, as it is preferred to speak of “infestation.” CHEAP has at times described their work as a “virus,” an entity capable of adapting alongside its surrounding environment. This infestation also extends to feminism, a central theme in CHEAP’s work, which will find its place within the MAMbo.
The official opening of “SABOTATE con Grazia” will take place on Thursday, October 5th, from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM, with free admission. The project will be accessible from October 6th to December 17th, following the museum’s opening hours and access procedures. This exhibition represents an extraordinary opportunity to reflect on public art, its challenges, and its potential for transformation.
Lucia Cantò‘s artistic practice (1995, Pescara) stands out for her use of terracotta and her particular obsession with the form of the vase. When we think of these two elements, the reference to the primitive is inevitable. Equally immediate is the connection with the concept of community. In antiquity, clay was worked in a collective context, and its role was strongly social. It also had a strong spiritual component. It was considered a powerful art and was entrusted only to women for its transformative capacity, a prerogative of the female womb. These assumptions are useful for understanding Cantò’s art and, in particular, her exhibition Stelle che sorreggono altre stelle opening tomorrow, October 5th, atElpis Foundation in Milan.
The exhibition – curated by Giovanni Paolin and Sara Maggioni – stems from the artist’s intention to collaborate with a temporary community, contemplating the meaning of the vase within a space. In these terms, the exhibition unfolds on two levels, both physical and interpretive. On the ground floor, the artist’s works are displayed, while the upper floor is dedicated to workshops, totaling four, conducted by Lucia along with a small community of people who came together in response to an open call launched by the artist and the Elpis Foundation. Participants of all ages, genders, and professions are invited to create a self-portrait in the form of a terracotta vase. The vase will then be filled with an essence, an organic element that will necessarily undergo a transformation. Here, opportunities for poetic reflection, practical workshops, and moments of sharing the creative process intertwine.
Works on the ground floor
The ground floor of the Foundation is dedicated to three new productions that introduce viewers to the artist’s vision, also providing keys to interpret the workshop. “Madre” (2023), “Edilizia di un pensiero” (2023), and “Stellario” (2023) are all visible simultaneously, coexisting while remaining autonomous. Embracing forms dear to the artist, all the works revolve around sharp contrasts and symbolic corporeality.
“Madre” (2023) consists of a terracotta sculpture composed of three elements assembled in a unique balance. One element both hosts and simultaneously conceals the junction of the other two terracotta elements. In particular, “Madre” embodies thoughts collected by the artist during conversations with women close to her, transcribed in notebooks.
“Edilizia di un Pensiero” (2023), composed of heterogeneous materials, confronts the visitor with elements in stark contrast with each other, which, through their dialogue, convey a sense of fragility. The mantovane parasassi, traditionally designed to create a safe environment and contain falling construction materials on a construction site, have their function reversed, hosting a series of flowers inside. These flowers undergo different life cycles during the exhibition period, and the sculptural installation acts as a magnifying glass on the inevitable process of flower drying, holding them and eventually letting them fall over time, each following its own vital rhythm.
Finally, the sculpture “Stellario” (2023) takes its name from the object that inspired it: a bronze crown adorned with twelve stars, discovered by the artist during a stay in Naples. In the presented work, among the seven elements that compose it, there is no hierarchy; instead, each collaborates with the others, supporting and being supported. This work, which concludes the exhibition on the ground floor and introduces the upper floor dedicated to the collective workshop, inspired the very title of the exhibition.
Stelle che sorreggono altre stelle” is a circular exhibition, opening and closing in contact with terracotta, activated by the emotional investment of a small community. What holds it all together and appears as the cornerstone of Lucia Cantò’s research is the written word, consisting of notes, traces on the artworks, and marks that blend within the exhibition space. Language forms the basis of each of the artist’s sculptures and has the power to connect all her installations.
Known worldwide as the Invisible Man, Liu Bolin is a Chinese artist who has achieved international fame through his extraordinary artistic performances. His ability to disappear and seamlessly blend into urban landscapes and sterile environments is unparalleled. His latest exhibition, titled “(IN)VISIBLE: The Art of Liu Bolin,” was inaugurated with a live performance by the artist on September 30th and is open to the public at Villa Ciani in Lugano until October 15, 2023. This exhibition marks the beginning of a significant collaboration between the artist and the Deodato Arte Gallery, which will exclusively represent Liu Bolin in Switzerland and Belgium. All the works on display at Villa Ciani are limited editions and are part of the renowned Hiding in the City collection, which explores universal themes such as the relationship between humans and nature, as well as the interplay between individual thought and political power. This collection has solidified Liu Bolin’s position as one of the most significant artists of his generation on a global scale. For this occasion, we traveled to Lugano and had the opportunity to meet Liu Bolin to learn more about his artistic journey.
The magic of Liu Bolin’s art lies in total body painting, a process that demands extraordinary precision in the application of paint. Through this technique, the artist manages to completely blend into the surrounding environment, becoming an integral part of the scene that envelops him. The results are striking, photographs that appear to challenge human perception. However, beneath this incredible technique lies a profound message. Liu Bolin uses his mimetic ability to denounce the condition of modern man, an individual at risk of losing their identity in an increasingly materialistic and technological society. His works are not just expressions of artistic skill but also a form of protest against the rampant spread of technology and the resulting alienation of the individual.
Your performances, which involve disappearing into the landscape through body painting, have a strong theatrical as well as conceptual component. Can it be said that they are genuine acts of protest against the individual’s identity gradually vanishing within their own habitat?
«I have gone through four stages since 2005. The first stage was questioning and rebelling. I must use this work to express my protest, and let more people to pay attention to our artists as a group. In the second stage, I think that a lot of artists, not only Chinese, they have same experience as me, I took a lot of publicity slogans. More the problems in the development of China were reflected in this stage and process. There were a lot of economic development problems in the food, urbanization and a series of issues had be expressed too. The third stage almost happened at the same time as the second stage. I had the opportunities to go abroad to shoot some works, did some my exhibitions. I realized that I was not only Chinese. Every nation, every culture has their own problems. Itself, because of human’s desire, the new social problems would appear. Such as the economic crisis, currency, war, slums and a series of problems. The fourth change was that I slowly had my body and what I felt about this world. Now I slowly invited the local people, dozens of individuals, to participate in my works. This will make my work cause more people’s attention in the society, but also it will have more people getting involved, but also with the local culture, such as I shot some works in the United Kingdom, India. I found this conflict in local cultural. The conflict exists in local people and society will be more intense. Through their concern about this issue and it makes us think about our own, the future, how human beings think, how to look at it. I am trying to express some of the problems that we face now in the world that we live in. We have to face the problems that restrain human’s development, I try to express one of my perplexities and a worry.»
How do you choose the locations for your work? Is it based on symbolic signficance, for example, as in the shot in front of the Milan Cathedral?
«When choosing the locations, I usually choose some common scenes that constantly appear in the development process of human society as the background. Through my works, I question the mutual restriction and contradictory relationship between the civilization we create and human development. In Italy, I will choose some classic works of art or locations that I am longing for, such as Mosè, the water city of Venice, and the Milan Cathedral, which are the background of myobsession with Italian culture.»
Camouflage is your hallmark. It is surprisingly difficult to distinguish your figure between the architecture, the goods on the shelves and the scenery you choose as a backdrop. In this regard, we ask, what has been the most challenging artistic endeavour for you?
«The biggest challenge for me from the beginning of creation was how to record the process of the whole body participating in the work. In the beginning, I used the video method and time-lapse photography method to record, but after trying to confirm the final method to record and realize the final freeze photo. In addition, I studied sculpture before, and I am not good at photography. I also need to learn how to take photos correctly while doing work. The whole process paid a lot of tuition fees. What impressed me most was that there were two faults in the shooting of the bird’s nest. First, because of outdoor shooting in winter, the light meter does not work because the temperature is too low, and there is no way to call and ask friends nearby how much aperture should be used; Second, after the final shooting was completed, because the distance between people and the bird’s nest in the background was too far, the focal length of the bird’s nest was not clear enough, so I could only go to the same place again on the third day.»
Liu Bolin is an artist who invites us to reflect on our relationship with the world around us and the importance of maintaining our identity in an era dominated by technology and consumerism. His ability to disappear before our eyes is a call to look more closely at the world around us and to reflect on how we can preserve our humanity in an increasingly impersonal world.
When American or European photographers venture into the heart of Africa, they often return home with beautiful shots that don’t always reflect reality. As a result, we have become accustomed to a certain image of the African continent, one that certainly exists but is not the only one. When we think of countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, and many others, we often envision images characterized by dark, unsaturated colors and associated with negative stories. Perhaps this is why Derrick Ofosu Boateng‘s photographs surprise us so much that we doubt they are real, that they were taken on a carefully prepared set somewhere else in the world. But no, Derrick Ofosu Boateng, born in 1999, is from Ghana and currently resides in its capital, Accra, which has become his personal set over the years, always ready for the next photograph.
Unlike many others who started their photography journeys with courses in academies or universities, Boateng began taking photos only when his father gifted him an iPhone to support his passion. The iPhone quickly became the medium through which he could share his personal vision of Ghana. Breaking away from the common imagery, Derrick Boateng’s photographs capture the true essence of his country, shaped by the people who live there.
Forget about the grays because his shots are a true explosion of vibrant and oversaturated colors, the best demonstration of how photography can be pop. Boateng’s perspective is a different one, and perhaps it’s the perspective we needed on a culture and a land too often tied to a negative narrative created by those who don’t live there every day and don’t call it home.