Material News

Damian Ortega

Our project is based and inspired by the challenge Damian Ortega embarked on in 2010, that was to create a piece of work using the daily news as a source of stimulus. In his publication 'A Selection of Outcomes in Reaction to the News', Ortega discusses his successful sculptures, linking each work to a specific date and article. 

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'Rubbish Cube'

This piece of work is related to our collections project and represents his surroundings through a collection of trash. Ortega was inspired by an article on waste, likely to be criticizing throw-away culture and encouraging recycling. This reminded me of Hong Kong where old ladies would collect recyclable material in order to sell and make some extra money. There is always a sense of poignancy in rubbish, they are discarded and unwanted things. Ortega forces the audience to look at the amount of unnecessary waste that is produced in our modern society. 

'Ulysses Way'

This sculpture is very representational. Inspired by an article on Pakistan's flood survivors, Ortega creates a poignant sculpture. The sculpture is a bike that holds a lot of different items, mostly household objects and appliances that are tied down. The items are stacked so high it seems unpractical and almost impossible to move. It highlights the desperation of the survivors and their want to salvage what's left of their homes. 

'Arsenal's Tika Taka'

Replicating a graphic diagram showing Arsenal's positions and passes that resulted in a goal, this piece demonstrates how a 2 dimensional graphic can be turned into a 3 dimensional work. Through a simple combination of white mapping pins and string, Ortega creates a pleasing aesthetic that can be taken out of its original context. From this piece I realized understood how inspiration from newspapers does not need to be politically or culturally charged, instead it can be as simple as appropriating an image. 

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Michelangelo Pistoletto

'Ball of newspaper'

Heavily involved in the Arte Povera movement in 1960s, Pistoletto came to London in 2009 in order to recreate a performance from 1966. He rolled a 2 metre wide ball of newspaper through the streets of London with support from a crowd. By doing so Pistoletto shows how art can be democratic, created and shaped by the public. A lot of this performance is left up to chance, at one point they carry the ball into a boat, Pistoletto suggesting 'why not?'. 

Mario Merz 

 'A Mallarmé'

A very strong political message is sent through Merz's piece, 'A Mallarmé'. He stacked newspapers featuring George Bush and the War on Terror on the cover page. On top of which, he wrote 'un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard’ in neon lights. This translates to 'a throw of a dice will never abolish chance', insinuating that the President's determination to continue the War on Terror is risky and foolish. 

Art Povera (ARTEPOVERA Art from Italy 1967-2002 Essays by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Germano Celant) 

Arte Povera originates from Turin in a period between 1967 and 1971. Artists such as Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Luciano Fabro, Mario Merz and Michelangelo Pistoletto started exhibiting together. Arte Povera meaning 'poor art' was coined by art critic and curator Germano Celant. Their work stemmed from use of every day techniques and materials to create meaningful and relevant art. Instead of developing a signature style and sticking to a single medium, the Arte Povera artists often moved from one medium to another. The common point between these artist was their interest in elementary perception, fascination for daily life and respect towards the tradition of high art through out Italy's past. 

Perhaps this commonality was bound in their similar background. By the end of the Second World War, Italy was lacking in food, shelter and jobs. These were the conditions that the artists grew up in. As Italy began to recover, urbanize and industrialize, Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana marked the beginning of art in the post-war period in Italy. They experimented with the philosophy of modernist painting, namely deconstructing the canvas and surface through textural means. Their influence was felt in artists that are recognized as the early pioneers of the Arte Povera movement. 

One of Pistoletto's recognizable works is the mirror paintings, he began painting on top of mirrors early in his work. Each painting encompasses the world (or gallery space) by reflecting it and by walking further away from the painting the viewer, in a sense, walks deeper into the painted space. 

Mario Merz, who is also discussed above, similarly uses daily materials such as metal tubes, glass clay, fruits, twigs, piles of newspapers and neon lights. He also often uses words in his own handwriting, underlining the connection between the body and the mind. In his work 'Che Fare?' meaning 'What is to be done?' Merz models neon lights to his own handwriting. The words itself is taken from a call-to-arms pamphlet by Lenin, this refers to the constant quest for meaningful practice in intellectuals. It may also be view in a political context, Celant interprets the work as 'what is to be done' in a society where 'authoritarian power of one generation over another' is the status quo? The use of beeswax and how the neon lights melt into it can also be read as representing the obdurateness in these political slogans. However, Merz has been quoted saying 'For me, ‘che fare?’ was to be taken literally, not in its direct political thrust ... It was a question I was asking myself. Le Feurve suggest that perhaps: 'Merz was driven by asking what an artist can do in the face of a precarious future, informed by an examination of the role of art in day-to-day human experience and motivated by the belief that an artist can show something otherwise impossible to explain'.


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