Singapore day 3

Tuesday, March 7 in the morning, after breakfast, we checked out of the hotel. But before we boarded the cruise ship, we left the luggage with the hotel’s concierge, and went across the bridge to visit the National Gallery Singapore, which is the only main museum in Singapore I had not yet visited, since it opened in 2015.

It has an interesting Asian art collection, with artist from the late XIX Century like Raden Saleh, to the XX Century like Liu Kang, Nguyen Gia Tri, and contemporaries like Tang Da Wu or Montien Boonma (whose “The Pleasure of Being, Crying, Dying and Eating” was being restored, and it looked better in the glass temporary encaging than when originally created in 1993, and reconstructed in 2015).

After an art-filled afternoon, we boarded our cruise ship, the Crystal Symphony: check-in, unpack, quick and delicious lunch, and left again for a night in town. This time we decided to have the iconic Sling cocktail (mine a virgin one, thanks) at The Raffles Hotel, probably the only place in Singapore where you can throw your peanut shells onto the floor. Tradition is tradition.

To end another wonderful day, we had dinner at Michelin-star dim sum place TimHoWan.

This Revolution needs a Revolution

Yesterday I went with my wife and son to visit the Victoria & Albert’s Museum exhibition You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. The aim of the exhibition was quite clear:

How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today and think about the future?

I was very much looking forward to visiting the exhibition. It is SO timely, and SO needed, I thought.

After visiting it, I left enraged. Why? After all, it was very well “put together”, full of artifacts and information, with a fancy sound system, and beautifully arranged and orchestrated.


More importantly, it was not a nostalgic attempt at regurgitating old revolutionary slogans.

What enraged me is how co-opted the whole collection felt. How all those efforts and sacrifices, how all that energy and suffering from past revolutionaries, has been assimilated by the system.

From the ® Registered slogans to the “no photographs” signs at the entrance (to which I, OF COURSE, paid no attention to whatsoever):

® slogan!

To the texts denouncing powerful corporations and states controlling Western media making it difficult to broadcast alternative opinions. You don’t say??!! How about adding “even museums”?

You don't say??!!

Of course, the whole thing had a watered down flavor, “ready for the masses to consume it” (at over£17 or over $20 per ticket). Not just because of the large dedicated-store (“Exit through the gift store” as Banksy brilliantly highlighted), where many appealing objects were for sale for nostalgics and revolutionary wannabes.

Interesting mash up poster

But also for the paternalistic tone of the whole exhibition, surgically isolating issues (identity, sexuality, peace, music, fashion…), even (correctly) including the new contemporary totemic theological substitute: technology.

Origins of Personal Computers

I was very happy and proud to tell my son that his grandmother was in Paris throwing cobblestones to the police in the student revolts of 1969; that his grandfather took me, when I was a little kid, to see a forbidden theater play during Spain’s democratic transition, fearing the secret police repression; that I participated as a kid in discussions with adults about anarchism and communism, when both were outlawed in Spain; and that I have participated in some of the revolutions and protests that came in the decades after that.

I’m not angry because they took “my” revolutions and repackaged them for easy digestion by accommodating masses. That was foreseeable, and an obvious result of the reigning empire of consumerist capitalism.

I’m not even nostalgically refusing to accept that times have changed.

What really annoyed me and made me angry was the lack of reference to a combative present, to the continuation of the struggle.

The fact that they showed, at the end of the exhibition “How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today” but completely left out “and think about the future” is what enraged me. Particularly as Trump is president in the USA, May PM in GB, the PP rule Spain, the far right advances in France…

We need to remember that the fight is not over, that fascism is not only back, but stronger and more powerful than ever. We, all of us, and the institutions that serve us, including museums, have a duty to promote thoughtful debate around ethics and values, and fiercely protest and fight through self-organisation, unity, and collaboration. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to those who fought for us in the past, we owe it to those who will come after us.

If the urban bourgeoisie wants to be the first to fall under the boot of the oppressors again, so be it. If proto and pseudo-intellectuals endlessly self-delude themselves into thinking that our democracies and institutions will save us from authoritarian demagogues, fascist megalomaniacs, and our own blind pursuit of endless consumerism, so be it. In the meantime, I will be teaching my children about the struggle and participating in the smartest and most effective way I can.

My non-commissioned art installation at the Contemporary Art Museum in Santiago, Chile

The exhibition titled “Le Corbusier and South America”, in the main hall of the Contemporary Art Museum in Santiago (Chile), shows for the first time in Chile a collection of Le Corbusier’s original plans and drawings for 12 projects he created in South America (although, of all of those, only the Curutchet house in Argentina was actually built).

As part of the exhibition, Chilean curator Maximiano Atria has arranged all around the central part of the hall location-specific installations by a number of artists. And I’m proud to be one of them.

My piece,”Restricted Realities”, is a 25x45x65cm installation, created with hand cut polychromatic geometric wood pieces.

Obviously it started as an homage to Le Corbusier, but I wanted to go beyond his obvious legacy of form and shape, of approach and history, to explore the man behind the legend.

Le Corbusier did not receive a formal regulated architectural education, yet, after some art school and several years working in architects’ studios, he ended up not only having his own studio, but also teaching and inspiring architects worldwide. As the father of XX century architecture, he was a lot more interested in the concept of a building, of a space, than about the formal aspects of it.

In ”Restricted Realities” I built the model for a space design to both host and reflect the mind. It’s a house for the mind. But not just one mind, as that house can be inhabited by several, or even all, minds. What naturally stems from it is a structure that has both impossible angles and open spaces, restricted areas and open areas. Even the colors seem to struggle to work together.

It’s a solid and stable structure that permeates with tension from every angle. Just like it happens when we try to accommodate more than one mind in a single shared experience. As a matter of fact, it often happens within a single mind.

So they are ‘realities’, but they are ‘restricted’. And it is in that ‘restriction’ that they are constructed as realities. The walls are norms, agreements, arrangements, expectations, and any other result of interaction. The colors on the walls are culture, expression, language, art itself and any other communication of the aforementioned interactions.

With those two simple elements, the interactions between individuals and groups, and their communication, we construct our realities, realities that we try to inhabit, to conform, and to share. But that construction is subjective, and that subjectivity is what gives rise to tensions, idealized here as angles.

As a last and subtle detail, I added a floor platform to only part of the whole structure. Because we need an inclusive world, an inclusive view. Not all individuals, not all realities, are the same, have the same ground and basis, enjoy or suffer the same constraints and circumstances. And that’s the first level to be taken into account, to be built.

Build baby, build your reality.

Santiago Museums

Tuesday 13 I had the rare opportunity of spending a few hours doing what I like most during a business trip: visiting art museums. I went to the Fine Arts National Museum, the Contemporary Art Museum, the Visual Arts Museum, and the Telefonica Foundation Art Gallery.

Without a doubt, the two museums I enjoyed the most were the Fine Arts National Museum, and the Contemporary Art Museum.

The installation in the lobby of the Fine Arts National Museum is amazing, and the building itself (with a dome designed by Eiffel) is quite impressive. But the Contemporary Art Museum was really good. I was completely taken by the Israeli artist and industrial engineer Shay Frisch’s exhibition in the basement titled “Campo 47283_B/N” (which is part of the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome). The “Cruces Sonoros. Mundos Posibles” exhibition is quite enjoyable too.

Visiting the London Design Museum

Yesterday I visited the Design Museum (“The world’s leading museum devoted to contemporary design in every form from architecture and fashion to graphics, product and industrial design”) in its spectacular new location on High Street Kensington (London), with my son.

The #newdesignmuseum opened its doors in its new location only 5 days ago. The building and renovation are great, and in a nice location: on the edge of Holland Park, with the added bonus of being near the Kyoto Garden, Muji, and not far from the Serpentine Gallery.

I was expecting more from the shop(s) and I felt the exhibitions lacked a more daring curating, and more compelling communication. Although the loose “Designer, Maker, User” theme was not bad, they could have definitely dug more into the concept.

Additionally, it felt the collection was not comprehensive enough, with an overwhelming majority of consumer electronic devices, and not enough from other disciplines like fashion, architecture, or even manufacturing.

All in all, a nice evening in a nice museum, but plenty of room for improvement.

Düsseldorf Museums

Last week I spent 3 days in Düsseldorf, attending the Medica trade show. But I do not want to bore you with that. I’d rather tell you what I did after the trade show closed every day.

Since Düsseldorf is a city that I know well, I decided to concentrate in its museums and art galleries. I could not have picked a more perfect time!

At the Kunsthalle I attended the excellent exhibition titled “Wool and water”, wi­th: Li­li Du­jou­rie, Isa Genz­ken, As­trid Klein, Mi­scha Ku­ball, Aron Meh­zi­on, Rein­hard Mu­cha, Stur­te­vant, Ro­se­ma­rie Tro­ckel, and Ger­hard Rich­ter; cu­ra­ted by Gre­gor Jan­sen. An absolutely “can’t miss” exhibition. Alluring and exciting. I could not remember the last time I was so excited about an exhibition. I felt like clapping, like calling the curator and the artists and showing my respect and admiration.

I also visited both the K20 and K21 at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (KNW).

The K20 Grabbeplatz was exhibiting “Cloud and Crystal: The Dorothee and Konrad Fischer Collection”. Quite an amazing collection including works by: Carl Andre, Richard Artschwager, Lothar Baumgarten, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers, Stanley Brouwn, Daniel Buren, Alan Charlton, Hanne Darboven, Jan Dibbets, Dan Flavin, Gilbert & George, Douglas Huebler, Stephen Kaltenbach, On Kawara, Harald Klingelhöller, Jannis Kounellis, Jim Lambie, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long, Konrad Lueg, Robert Mangold, Piero Manzoni, John McCracken, Mario Merz, Juan Muñoz, Bruce Nauman, Giuseppe Penone, Manfred Pernice, Ulrich Rückriem, Robert Ryman, Gregor Schneider, Thomas Schütte, Niele Toroni, Paloma Varga Weisz, and Lawrence Weiner.

But the complete shock was at the K21 Ständehaus, a very special venue for young international artists and for the contemporary portions of the KNW permanent collection.

The underground level was showing “My Phantasies”, with works by: Gerhard Altenbourg, Katharina Fritsch, Julian Göthe, Sabine Groß, Nan Hoover, Axel Hütte, Jürgen Klauke, Alicia Kwade, Kris Martin, Pauline M’Barek, Gerhard Merz, Dieter Roth, Wilhelm Sasnal, Wael Shawky, Nancy Spero, Thomas Struth, Rosemarie Trockel and Gillian Wearing. Only OK. Some interesting pieces, but not worth going out of your way for. BUT the Artist’s Rooms in the three above ground levels were just absolutely stunning.

Traversing three levels, 22 rooms offer intensive up-close encounters with painting, sculpture, photography, film, and in particular with spatially-oriented art. Selected contemporary artists are invited to display works for a period of one year, thereby engaging in dialogue with other works in the collection. What I was privileged enough to enjoy was:

1st floor

  • Imi Knoebel
  • Christian Jankowski
  • Bill Viola
  • James Turrell

2nd floor

  • Ibrahim Mahama
  • Antonia Low [until end of October, 2016]
  • Alexandra Bircken [from end of November, 2016]
  • Hans-Peter Feldmann
  • Diango Hernández
  • Bertold Stallmach / Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani

3rd floor

  • Tomás Saraceno
  • Franz West [under construction]
  • Janet Cardiff/George Bures Miller
  • Chiharu Shiota
  • Anna Oppermann [temporarily closed]
  • Christian Boltanski

Please, if you can go to Düsseldorf, or you’re already there, do make sure to visit “Wool and water” at the Kunsthalle and the Artist’s Rooms at K21 Ständehaus. Absolutely awesome.

I acquired a David Shrigley piece from the Ludwig Museum

November 9 I acquired from the Ludwig Museum “I collect records”, a 27 cm ø 175gr. professional vinyl frisbee piece that the Turner Prize-nominated artist and occasional DJ David Shrigley created in 2012.

“I collect records” is based on a drawing he did for a record cover featured in his exhibition Life and Life Drawing.

My artwork “God bless #Amurika”, on display at the Ludwig Museum (Cologne), explained

I have often criticized artists who hide behind “my work speaks for itself” or “it’s up to the viewer to interpret my work”. Nice try, but that’s bullshit.

Of course, anyone can interpret anything when exposed to an artwork! But the artist should at least make an attempt to explain the meaning behind a piece. No matter how self-explanatory (or obscure) it might be. It’s not “restricting the viewer”, it’s guiding; suggesting is not imposing.

I don’t buy “that’s not my job” or “I’m not good with words” either. Because if you can’t eloquently and intelligently express your thoughts and actions, I may enjoy your work under that framework (Art Brut, Outsider, or whatever), but I want to know. And no, I don’t want your dealer, curator, or critic to speak for you. Don’t let the establishment sequester your voice, your genius, your creativity, with the promise to make it shine and propel it to heights you can’t reach yourself: anything you do yourself is genuine, and therefore it has the maximum value… unless you are talking about money, of course. But that’s a whole different story. We are talking art here, expression, not market or money.

So back to my own work.

Like David Shrigley, an artist whose work I really like, I often find myself using hand written words all over my pieces.

I created “God bless #Amurika” on the invitation of Ludwig Contemporary Art Museum’s Art Lab in Cologne (Germany), November 9, 2016. Of course, I woke up with the nightmare news of Donald Trump being elected President of the USA. I could not think about anything else, I had to let the thoughts, feelings, fears and anxieties that the news provoked in me, out. I needed to fix them down, to exorcise them out of me, and to share them with a world that for the most part does not seem to be listening, and does not seem to care.

First I took the silhouette of a flying dove, symbol of peace and freedom, and added a cardboard cutout of spectacles pencil-painted green over it.

Notice that the spectacles do not have lenses (in the form of a different color, reflection, or any other hint suggesting their presence), so they are an intention, a symbol, rather than an actual mechanism that may be manipulated or become a restrictive thought framework.

But the spectacles themselves are the key: they are commonly associated in most cultures with science, education, knowledge, and culture.

That’s what the “dove” desperately needs, in order to fly high and above, to soar to the clouds. In order to remain free.

Inside the dove silhouette I wrote:

  • God bless #Amurika: “God”, in its broadest sense, not as much as spirituality, but as an undefined deity. That to which the irrational mind appeals (“bless”) to try to participate in a development over which it feels it has no control, but it wishes it did. Note the use of the “hashtag symbol” to denote current communication affected by social media, particularly the 140 character restriction imposed by Twitter, and the “subject ontology tagging” brought by the hashtag, which both focuses and narrows our conversations messages. “Amurika” is another reference to current departures from traditional communications, where proper form is superseded by intentional (or not) spelling mistakes and phonetizations.
  • #WhiteLash: the main real reason for Trumps’ Electoral College (not popular vote) victory. The extreme and irrational Republican Party opposition to Barack Obama’s presidency, amplified by ultra-conservative media, received by millions of latent (and even open) racist Americans has generated the perfect environment for a “WhiteLash” reaction.
  • #Trumpf: in reference to John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show covering Trump’s family name and how it changed upon entering the U.S. from Drumpf to Trump, so #Trumpf became a calling for further inquiry into Trump’s (and his family’s) past. More info here.
  • Misogyny votes / Fear votes / Racism votes / Ignorance votes / Short sightedness votes / Selfishness votes: all those negative states of mind, personality traits, ways of thinking, ways of life… however you want to characterise it, is nothing else than, in the end, people. People fear. People are weak and vulnerable. People have fear. People are irrational and aggressive. And people vote.
  • But don’t attack voting, invest in education: and as the last line says, it is not necessarily voting that represents the problem. Voting is just an expression and tally of a choice (albeit a limited one in the case of a two-party election). Representation IS the real problem: when the vote goes to an intermediary. When your choice, your individuality, is aggregated, reduced, limited, and kidnapped by those who, enshrined in the “representative role they have been chosen to play”, amass power to abuse those whom they are supposed to represent, which again produces fear, anger and… here we go again. How to break that vicious cycle? Education. Educate people, and once they are educated, they can inform, debate, and choose freely, and directly, without the need of any intermediary. Direct Democracy. True Democracy.

Where is that dove, the embodiment of our aspirations, a quasi-spiritual figure, is trying to fly to?

In Cloud 1 I wrote:

  • Philosophy: the highest achievement of human self-consciousness. So lacking in political or scientific debate. So necessary as guiding light and principle of our social contracts and personal aspirations.
  • “Beliefs”: in brackets because it is a double-edged sword of a concept. On the one hand, beliefs are what hold us together through the gaps in knowledge. It’s what completes our rational structures to make a polished whole of each one of us. It’s nothing short of our identities. But at the same time, any gregarious movement of organized abuse (call it religion or politics) has often referred to “beliefs” as the reason and driving force behind their actions.
  • Pursuit: because no cloud is a destination, and there is no destiny other than to pursue. Or like the Zen koan puts it: the journey is the reward.
  • Improve: it is what should happen in that journey, constant improvement, aspiring to go higher. Not to trump anyone, but to gain perspective and understanding.
  • Aspire: what will drive that improvement. Not “ambition”.
  • Pride: not the kind that gives us a wrong and rotten feeling of superiority in an artificially stratified society, but the kind that we feel inside, when we overcome challenges, when we improve compared to our previous self. As “we” are always changing, for we are what we want and mean to be.
    Inspire: because, in the end, we are a group (society, species, family, ‘hood… however you look at it). And our well-being can only come from the well-being of all the members in the group. We should and must take care of each other, helping propel each other higher and higher.

In Cloud 2:

  • Happyness (I always thought it should be spelled that way, so I wrote it the way I like it): so personal, so clearly recognizable, so important, that it should drive all our actions. But not only our individual “happyness”, but ensuring the “happyness” of all.
  • Facts / “Truth”  / Data / “Reality”: we could go on and on about Epistemology, but at the end of the day, if we do not share a common illusion, we can not work together.
  • Debate / Science: to me, both are the same. To science needs debate, and there is no debate without science. But that is the only way for us to coordinate and move forward.
  • Equality / Share: Didn’t they tell you as a kid? Share. When did we stop thinking that was a good idea? When did “the other” become someone to be worried about, or even scared of? When will we realize that there is no “other”, that we are all “we”?

At the bottom, inside a “speech balloon”, I wrote:
Thank you Obama, but it was not enough
Because if we are to remain in a representative democracy, Michelle Obama might make a great president.

I added my signature, and for the date I wrote:

The day the USA woke up to reality: Nov. 9, 2016

Notice how in the picture I wrote all that in ALL CAPS to reflect the common online practice of using all caps convey a scream. A scream because this election has been more about shouting than it has been about reasoning. And because I want to shout, to scream in a different way: to reach the world, to spread the message. Finally a scream as a primal instinct. A shout because it hurts, because I’m angry, because I need to shout.

That’s, in a nutshell, what I meant, what I wanted to say.
Good luck and good night.

Interview for the art exhibition that I have curated and is currently being shown in Kaunas, Lithuania

By Airida Rekštytė – November 4, 2016

According to your profound theoretical education (sic) it will not be difficult to present us in short your intentions for organizing this event.

When did the idea of making this exhibition occur and what inspired it?

I have spent years as activist defending free software and online privacy, and opposing censorship.
During a dinner with the director of an event that focuses on those themes (the Internet Freedom Festival, also known as Circumvention Festival), I told him how it would be a nice challenge to try to convey the main messages of the Festival’s themes into an art exhibition. And he said, let’s do it!

What is your personal relationship with the internet and its possibilities? Have you encountered limitations for your freedom? Do you think this is an issue in democratic countries?

I have been an early adopter of technologies since I can remember, and most of my companies are or have been technology-based.
Internet freedom is under constant threat, not only in undemocratic societies, but also by democratic governments and their “intelligence” organizations worldwide. The main example is all we have learned about the US government and the NSA spying on not only their citizens but also other countries (their allies), thanks to Edward Snowden.

In internet space you declare that you are in opposition to the concept of Intellectual Property. How would you describe your attitude? In what sense your views affect this exhibition?

I used to lecture on “Intellectual Property” (as an Assistant Professor in Spain, and as a Visiting Professor in 60 universities worldwide), and my lectures lasted hours, so I will try to condense all that in a few paragraphs 😉
Intellectual “Property” is wrong both from a conceptual level and a practical level.
From a conceptual level, it is an oxymoron, as “intellectual” can not be “property”, since all intellectual activity emanates and feeds from previous intellectual activities. It is culture and communication. It can not be “fenced”, and “packaged”. It is as absurd as saying “my son” or “my neighbor” is “mine” (as a possession). Just like contemporary societies reject the notion of slavery, we should reject the notion of “intellectual property”.
In the same way, from a practical level we can not and should not rely on a “temporary monopoly” as a way to incentivize the creation of artistic and/or intellectual works. Both the “temporary” (term which is being constantly increased and is now way above anything remotely reasonable) and the “monopoly” (which has been proven to be counterbenefitial to society and the economy) are deeply wrong and flawed.
Does that mean that “content creators” and “artists” and “authors” should not receive monetary compensation for their efforts? Not necessarily. What it means is that the current methods to try to achieve that only create artificial scarcity and the restriction of freedom and culture.

Behind each artwork there is a story and a reason why it is in this collection. It would be interesting to know your motivations, but perhaps it would take too long for you to answer. I would like to ask you about Patricija Gilyte since she has many fans in Lithuania. What was your motivation for picking her? How would you relate her to your topics?

I first saw her work in an Art Show in London, and I automatically knew she had to be part of this exhibition. I know an artist and her work is really especial when I want to write a book about it.
“TRI_GALAXIAN L4116” in particular is uniquely exquisite. It has a balance, a rhythm, and a whole flow that asks to be translated to narrative, to dance, to any other form, so it can take a life of its own.
At a surface level it makes you wonder, it intrigues the viewer, and opens up possibilities as to what is it that you are witnessing, while enjoying it all along. And I think it is that mix of wonder and pleasure that really attracted me to her piece.
I see “TRI_GALAXIAN L4116” as the embodiment of intangible and ethereal Diversity.
Diversity is a hotly debated cultural issue. Whether we are talking workplace or demographically. But it relates to much more than that. And I wanted an artwork that took the conversation beyond the current limitations of the “Diversity” discourse.

Finally, which artwork is your favorite and better represents the idea of exhibition?

I have a very rational approach to encompass systemically both ethics and aesthetics. For that reason, I refuse to restrict myself unless absolutely necessary. So I have not thought about “a favorite”. But if I was absolutely forced to select one, I would have to consider it from different points of view:

– Concept: “Juego” by Mery. It has the subversive power of technology hidden under an apparently traditional painting.
– Artist: Claudio Zirotti. I really like how he has, for decades, continuously explored new artistic venues, refusing to limit himself to a single medium, style or message.
– Aesthetics: “TRI_GALAXIAN L4116″ by Patricija Gilyte. It’s absolutely mesmerizing and gracious. It’s the kind of work you fall in love with.
– History:”Jungle Emperor” by Osamu Tezuka. The story behind the controversy (plagiarism by Disney in “The Lion King”) is a fascinating story of inspiration, betrayal, aggression, and eventually history putting everyone in their right place.
– Playfulness: “[Fake] Banksy” by Dave Cicirelly. It’s a recursive play on Banksy’s playfulness.

DHVF, participating in a collective art performance, and meetings in Oxford Science Park

The last couple of weeks in October I went to Valencia to attend the Digital Health Venture Forum, where I received the Best Presentation Award.

After spending a few days with my family and my Spanish team, and participating in an art installation by the SuperFlex collective on the 25th, I returned to London.

October 27 I went to the beautiful Oxford Science Park to have a couple of business meetings.