Exhibitions / 21 April - 17 June 2017

Colourless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously

Free admission Mon – Sat from 11am
Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck (VE) and Media Farzin (US/Iran), Erik Bulatov (RU), gerlach en koop (NL), Ida Lennartsson (SE), Raqs Media Collective (IN)
Opening reception: Thu 20 Apr from 5.30pm to 7.30pm – Floor talk at 5pm from Curator David Upton with Artists Ida Lennartsson and gerlach en koop all welcome!
An international group exhibition that delves into the story how 24 Orthodox icons came to be housed in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland. Purchased in Istanbul by a British Diplomat in the early 1920’s during the fall out of World War One and the Russian Revolution, the paintings found their way to Ireland in the 1960’s.
The exhibition explores the ideas emanating from this story, of countries dissolved and populations dispersed, meditating on the role that arts plays in the times of upheaval.
British diplomat, WED Allen, purchased these icons in the early 1920s in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul during the fallout of the Greco-Turkish war, a time of huge population and cultural displacement which followed on the heels of the Russian Revolution, Civil War and World War One. For several years the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul was full of the debris of those times including many icons.
Purchased in 1968 from WED Allen by the National Gallery of Ireland these icons remained in storage until in 2011. Five of them underwent conservation work and became part of the Masterpieces of the Collection exhibition.
This exhibition looks at ideas emanating from this story, the impossibility of the icons ever returning to their place of origin or resuming their original function. Their country of origin, Byzantium, having ceased to exist in 1451, and their communities being dispersed in the early 1920’s, yet still often being referred to in literature as a symbol of a place out of time, such as WB Yeats’s poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’.
The exhibition will bring together five contemporary art practices Erik Bulatov, Ida Lennartsson, gerlach en koop, Raqs Media Collective, and Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck & Media Farzin. It stems from and seeks to open ideas of dissolution and dispossession, loss, of cultures in crisis and futures altered, of cataclysm – but more so the what happens after?
The title Colorless green ideas sleep furiously is a sentence composed by Noam Chomsky in his 1957 book Syntactic Structures as an example of a sentence that is grammatically correct, but semantically nonsensical. An intentionally and egregiously meaningless sentence in this context alludes to the rise of the “post truth” political landscape spurred on by the 24 hour a day opportunistic and populist media and politicians.
Guest Curated by David Upton
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Image: gerlach en koop, Untitled (Scatter Piece), 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Maarten Zaalberg and Geert Kits Niewenkamp
Artist Biographies
Erik Bulatov (b. 1933 Russia) Erik Bulatov is one of the most important living artists from Russia and Eastern Europe. He numbers, along with Ilya Kabakov, among a small but significant group of Russian artists who, at a remove from the governmental regulations of the Soviet art system, attained completely independent forms of artistic expression. His unique, stringent pictorial system was first expressed in his word pictures of the 1970s, where he analyzed the interplay of contrasting symbolic systems, such as language and images or abstraction and illusion – a theme he is still concerned with today. The meaning of his work and the symbolic codes he uses are products of his cultural background. Bulatov lived most of his life in Russia, only moving to Paris in 1991, and the emblems and typography of socialist glorification are unmistakable themes throughout his oeuvre. Despite difficult working conditions, Bulatov did not emigrate, but continued to develop his work in Russia until the collapse of the Soviet Union, when he moved to France. Bulatov’s paintings can be situated in the realm of political art, despite their lack of unequivocal political or ideological messages. His particular modes of artistic expression are bound to a particular time and place, while also giving rise to multiple visual associations. It is characteristic of Bulatov’s manner of political commentary that he subversively unites opposing impulses.
gerlach en koop (Netherlands) is a collective of two persons who gave up the habit of starting their proper names with a capital letter. They work in different media and with different materials of which they always use very sparsley. Their work seeks to attain an effortless lightness of touch. They render things visible by repetition, copying or reuse, by displacement and misplacement, by omissions, erring and making mistakes. The smaller the distance between two identical things—differences that sometimes can only be conceived of—the more interesting.  Sometimes uncommonly blunt and sometimes unexpectedly sophisticated. Their work seeks to be always in earnest.
Ida Lennartsson (b. 1982, Sweden) Hamburg based, Swedish artist, Ida Lennartsson’s body of work encompasses various forms of expression and ranges from installation and sculpture to video works and performances. For Lennartsson ‘The most important issue is how to show/trick the viewer, to make the viewer understand/believe the artworks true/false spiritual value.’ In her artwork, Lennartsson does not strive to perfect how she creates an object. On the contrary, she attaches little importance to the process of producing her art, and instead places emphasis on the relationship of her work to space, the viewer, and to herself. She works with circumstances, establishing links between the object, its symbolic meaning, its social and economic value, and the viewer’s reading. In so doing, she focuses on the object’s symbolic strength, which she reveals and whose universal significance she calls into question. Lennartsson has an ambivalent relationship with materials ‘like a short relationship where the material comes over me. I try to understand it; how it moves and behaves, only to take it over and abuse it, to make it mine.’
Raqs Media Collective (India) is a collective of three Indian artists, Jeebesh Bagchi (b. 1965), Monica Narula (b. 1969) and Shuddhabrata Sengupta (b.1968). They have been variously described as artists, media practitioners, curators, researchers, editors and catalysts of cultural processes. Re-Run was inspired by a Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph taken in pre-Communist China. In December 1948, in the lead up to Shanghai’s capitulation to the People’s Liberation Army, Bresson photographed a “bank run” in the city. The image shows a crowd of people desperate to withdraw their money in order to buy gold before an imminent currency collapse. Such actions of course precipitate bank failures and so cause becomes effect becomes cause. In Re-run, Raqs have re-staged Cartier Bresson’s photograph as a moving image. A large scale projection shows a heaving mass of figures in an unruly queue, the image is perhaps not so far from where we might be today, so the memory of one crisis is transposed onto the reading of another.
Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck & Media Farzin (b. 1972 Venezuela and b. 1979 USA) Since the mid-nineties, Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck has developed a hybrid practice that incorporates the activities of a researcher, archivist, historian, curator, and designer. Media Farzin has written extensively on contemporary art as a critic and art historian. Since 2007, Balteo Yazbeck and Farzin have been collaborating on archival and historic research into chronological coincidences, the histories of cultural diplomacy, and the modernist artifacts of the Cold War era. In Chronoscope, 1951, 11pm while  the video appears to be a straightforward TV program, its source material has been heavily edited to emphasize the eerie resonances between the 1950‘s and the present. The easy-flowing sound bites reveal contradictions within the culture of political honesty and openness of the “democratic” West, exposing the mass media’s desire for instant gratification that has been a part of infotainment from its earliest moment.

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