Photograph of a painting of Anna Ekros (in progress) by Pontus Raud, oil pastel on paper, 2019
9.45 AM In my studio by the desk reading notes from classes I took in 2015, desperately looking for inspiration. It seems as if I didn't absorb what I noted down. I’m constantly surprised. “The potency of all means toward emancipation is dependent on time,” I read. “Provocation poking fabrication tends to get swallowed and labelled turning into calculated rudeness, behaviors already accounted for.” Scribbled in the margins in handwriting that is even less legible I read “Improvisation can no longer be punk. Even if Lydia Lunch claims her right to wear the same clothes she did 30 years ago no one is looking her way twice. Modernism and postmodernism, punks, hippies and jazz saxophonists had their moments, sometimes successfully conveying a truth twining about a gesture like ivy around a wall. But when the gesture has become obsolete, the truth is unable to communicate. A potent ride is needed for its translation.” I close the notebook. Who’s that antifeminist 22 year old hating on jazz?
10.45 My younger sister is coming by for lunch. She decides to help me unclutter my Instagram account. I catch myself being sentimental. I truly believe that what I think is the real me will appear virtually through my content. She is ruthless. I’m like DON’T delete that pic. That's Felix; the cat, remember? And she’s like what's your problem, is it a photo or the actual pet cat? I’m thinking to myself that I sort of lost the understanding of the difference. The last step in becoming a cyborg is complete.
Felix the housecat, photo by Anna Ekros 2006
1 PM My sister says bye and I turn around in my armchair and open a book from the pile on my desk. On the second page of In Plato's Cave Susan Sontag is making a differentiation between photography and other kinds of representation. Written statements, drawings and paintings she defines as interpretations of the world. Photographs on the other hand “seem to be a piece of the world.” On the same page Sontag defines photographs as being “perhaps the most mythical of all objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern.”
3 PM What is the difference between what something is and what something seems to be? And what is the difference between magic and myth? A quick google search points me toward myth being a network of stories where the origin of the stories is unknown and magic has more to do with craft. I recall that in the first book of Hauser’s A Social History of Art he explains that, from the very beginning, art was pure magic. The mythological feature of art appeared later, with the photograph.
3.15 PM I look at pictures of Benjamin wearing Kafka's hat in Silverman’s The Miracle of Analogy and realise that I am not ready to write anything on this topic. Why didn’t I choose to write something on Giotto instead.
3.30 PM I open my laptop and type “I don’t see the difference between real and fabricated. My mind turns photographs into cats.” What I don’t realise is that the photograph led me to see the inner workings of my perception. I keep thinking about the difference between magic and myth. A magician one can debunk by sneaking in behind the theatre curtain. But myth is harder to punctuate due to absence of logical order to examine. Even if I don’t believe in the stories, they still seem true and it doesn't hurt to avoid placing my keys on the table. How to claim back my perception from the screen and reality from my keychain?”
5 PM I desperately go through notes from some old English Literature class to find inspiration. “Auerbach when writing about Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is pointing out that throughout the novel, occurrences are only accounted for by what the occasion releases within the characters,” I read from my own scribbles. “To these characters objects are not as important as feelings.” That’s exactly the way I navigate the world, I think to myself. Feelings caused by a cat or a photograph are the same therefore the objects are exchangeable. I turn to my laptop “The emancipatory gesture of modernism was to break out of fabricated figurative illusion by examining the material of which things consisted, in the case of Woolf, material being perception itself. What figurative illusion, beyond social norms and identity, is there to break out of today? Is there a way to ask that question without being cynical?
6 PM. I call my friend the dancer to ask her something about choreography. She says choreography is abusive by default. Like composition? I ask. I know nothing about music, she responds. I hear the interior mechanical movements of the clock in the other room. Tick tock tick tock. Ok thanks. I hang up.
Profile picture from social media, photo by Anna Ekros 2019
7.30 PM. In front of another desk, this one at home. I scroll through notes on my laptop. In the art history folder I find one named PHOTOGRAPHY_BACON. I think to myself as I open the document that my categorisation skills are horrific. The note is for my friend Miriam relating to a conversation about one of her poems. I read “Francis Bacon, in that book The Brutality of Facts, where he is interviewed by David Sylvester, speaks of how he uses photographs when he is painting. Bacon is pointing out the skewed perspective that the lenses in a camera almost inevitably create. He is trying to catch the perspective through painting. The skewed perspective caused by the poorly optimized lenses is one that the eye on its own is correcting and unconsciously we bridge the logical gap of the photograph. Asking us to kindly compensate for the logical absences, the photograph will not reveal the way in which it creates illusion. I recall that Bacon saw this as violence against the human mind.” I close the document. In some way then, I’m thinking, staring out the window; photography, just like myth, performs violence on its readers. But is this asymmetrical relationship between the photograph and the viewer inevitable?
9 PM I open an empty document and begin typing. “Through using photographs as models for paintings Bacon was creating a figuration of a mythological abstraction, pointing out what is truly there. This to continue the dialectical movement between abstraction and figuration and not allow one abstraction to dominate the representation of human perception.” I look out the window. The neighbor is walking his small white dog. They cross the street and disappear behind a few trees. I type “While montages of algorithms piled upon one another build a thicker veil, the progress of Silverman’s photograph is unstoppable unless we decide it isn’t.” I look outside again. There are five trees, the low branches move with the evening breeze. “Do I really have to ask myself if the truth exists? Finding the right gesture, I suppose the question, not the gesture, would be rendered obsolete.” I close the laptop and leave the room.
03.30 AM A song filled to the brink with joy and desire is heard through the bedroom window. Can you hear the blackbird I say and my lover laughs his head off. You sound like the lamest person in a romcom he says and asks me to shut up. I’m thinking of why he’s relating everything beautiful (or, to him, abnormal) to movies. OMG she was so hot, and came up to me, like in a movie. OMG the guy tried to take my watch, it was like in a movie.
9 AM While driving, I ask the compound of algorithms that translate words into writing in my phone to text my sister “You were right, my Instagram account is not me, it just seems to be, and the realisation that I don’t know the difference is what protects me from being a cyborg, right?” Felix is not on my screen. He is in a box being eaten by worms. The blackbird outside my window this morning was very much alive though. Getting rid of reality I would lose both cats and birds, and that's a price I am not willing to pay, you get me?
9.02 She replies “Anna, it's 9 in the morning on a Saturday shut the fuck up.”
9.03 I respond 😘
I'm Happier Now, A video of my sister miming with a filter over her face by Lovisa Garner 2019
Anna Ekros (born 1988) is a visual artist, writer and art historian specialised in photography. She holds an MFA from International Center of Photography/Bard College and an MA in Critical Theory and the Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Ekros was educated by masters such as Anders Petersen, Halil Koyutürk and later Nan Goldin. She has an interest in truth in relation to imagery, curious of the moments where the edges of the medium become visible. As a part of the Supermarket team she works as photography and education coordinator.
I was in Japan when I sent my application to Supermarket Art Fair. I was doing my residency in Toyamachi studio in Kanazawa. It is a big studio where some Japanese artists work and I had my studio on the second floor but I was mostly alone. Toyamachi studio’s staff had an interesting way of communicating with me. They would never knock on a door but leave notes in the mornings. Once I opened a door and found a package of apples and a note.
I never knew if somebody was in the building or not and I realised that for them it was also difficult to know if I am in my room. Only by electrical sounds made by kettles, music or the vacuum cleaner would people know that I was inside. It was interesting for me and I made a performance based on these domestic sounds mixed with some emotions related to my trip.
When I came back to the Netherlands I developed my performance further with the help of Charlien Adriaenssens and WORM. I was very stressed because I had a feeling that I was not there yet. I was changing ideas and killing them without any doubt and regret. I wanted to have something perfect and polished. I was so absorbed by the ideas and every free minute I was rehearsing: when I was not in the studio, I rehearsed in the kitchen or in the hallways at work. One of the elements of the performance was water and washing hair and I spent eight hours washing my hair. In the end I had dry hay on my head. I killed that idea too because it was not working in big spaces and with a lot of people.
I made 105 recordings and I had to have a final rehearsal on 25th March, four weeks before the art fair. I was almost there and my performance was a mix of languages, domestic rituals and family connections, but it did not happen. After all my rehearsals, talks, emails and videos nothing happened. I wonder why I did not go on despite everything? I could also just finish the performance at home. But somehow with the vanished deadline, the stress and urge to finish everything disappeared. I even thought I could make a new performance but why? Does it mean that everything I was doing was worthless and became zero because of the COVID 19? I do not know but maybe I was also secretly happy that I could stand still for a moment.
- Natalia Papaeva, April 2020
Natalia Papaeva, supported by WORM Rotterdam, would be performing as part of the Supermarket 2020 Talks and Performance programme.
Natalia Papaeva, ‘Who Am I Becoming’, video installation, exhibition at WORM Rotterdam,
WORM: We position ourselves as the ultimate test environment for alternative art production, experimental ways of living and non-academic knowledge development. We are a network organisation at the intersection of (popular) culture and (performing) arts, fueled by an abiding interest in all the inspiring, beautiful, urgent, vital, raw, unruly and / or crazy shit that our fellow human beings come up with. We do not see the chaos that comes with it as a problem; rather we use it as energy for action.
Here's a blog post from WORM Rotterdam’s producer Nia Kostantinove reflecting on the expo and Covid19.
Hanga Séra, ‘Mon coeur’, performance
This picture is my symbol for the good side of the corona crisis.
I have experienced a lot of new ways to show love & friendship, to stand together, to build up a presence which is not a physical one but which can still be amazingly strong.
Also spirituality, which I didn’t have enough time for in recent years, has enriched my days and I have built new friendships or re-built old ones through it.
I heard about illnesses and deaths, and it made me help.
When I needed help, I received it, I didn't even have to ask for it.
Days full of fear were my reality at the beginning. Now we will still have to be precautious for a long time in our social behaviour, of that I’m sure.
But I’m also sure that we’ll find new ways of showing respect & solidarity, of helping each other.
We are the same species, we are humans.
Window of Fame is a label committed to contemporary art. It builds bridges between the disciplines new media, visual and performing arts which are thematically brought together within a predefined project – the projects are not group exhibitions in the usual sense. A common contemporary topic, different techniques and perspectives interact with the space and between artworks.
Nieuwe Vide from Haarlem, Netherlands, bring you today the Episode 2 of their podcast of Nieuwe Vide Radio with artist Verena Hahn as a guest.
Verena Hahn's film We'll Have Time For That Later will be made available online at Nieuwe Vide's website on 27th April, 12.00.
Due to the Corona pandemic this year’s edition of Supermarket Art Fair has been postponed. Because Nieuwe Vide cannot present there at the moment we will share with you an online preview of the work we were going to show here. We’ll Have Time For That Later by Verena Hahn is an artistic documentary that explores the world experience and agency of preppers. Prepping is a practice in which so called preppers prepare to live a life that is non-depending on external parties, such as electricity suppliers, the police, food suppliers or a community. In the center of prepping stands the anticipation of a crisis that needs a long-term preparation. In Hahn’s work, prepping is not understood as a mere hobby, but as a specific agency of the time we live in. The film traces the connection between the storytelling in prepping and real contemporary conditions that influence and determine these world descriptions. The film reflects in a subtle but critical manner on the role of the filmmaker and the complexity of documenting certain ideologies.
Nieuwe Vide is an exhibition and project space and has 27 studios where artists and creatives work. We provide young artists with a space to experiment and give them tools to professionalise their practice. Our programme of exhibitions, workshops, talks and presentations is inspired by popular culture, new media and politics. True to our squatters roots of 25 years ago we operate on a community level and offer a programme of educational and social activities.
Notes from a small town: Wednesday 22 April 2020
Until a few weeks ago I expected to be in Stockholm at this time, not just in Stockholm but at Supermarket Art Fair. Instead I find myself in here the small Swedish town where I live and work. Enköping might ’only’ be fifty minutes from Stockholm by train but it is worlds apart. Knowing that I ’should’ be in the city in the throng of the fair makes the lack of a vibrant art-scene (ANY art-scene) here even more acute.
This morning I am at work. I am putting together educational material and an activity pack for a temporary exhibition that opens in early May. My half time job as the local council’s Arts Education Officer is good – I like the work and really appreciate the regular income after years of working free-lance. The challenge now is making the shift from being very hands-on to producing digital content. It’s an entirely different way of working – one that I am not completely unfamiliar with, however I last worked on online projects twenty years ago and “we’ve all passed a lot of water since then” (as a friend of a friend says). Working for a Swedish local authority in the midst of a health pandemic is undeniably different from working with an overly ambitious internet start-up with initially endless venture capital funding at the height of the millennial internet bubble.
Do I believe in ’muscle memory’? Maybe that’s not quite the right question but somehow I feel the lack of Supermarket viscerally – my mind and body are reacting to not doing something that has become habitual. For the past nine years the fair has been part of my annual cycle, and this year that cycle is broken, it is no wonder that I feel some kind of … what is it that I feel? Am I feeling something like Mr Tumnus feels in Narnia – where it is always winter but never Christmas. Like Christmas, Supermarket is a much anticipated annual celebration, the planning of which is undertaken over many months. During those months an excitement builds and there is a longing for that day when all the various preparations come together. It is with both excitement and nervousness that I pick-up a copy of the magazine/catalogue that I have worked on together with Alice (editor) and Kathi (designer) – that feeling too is absent despite us having completed months of work with the exhibitor’s texts, as well as feature articles and interviews by a host of international artists, writers, curators and theorists. I miss holding the 2020 publication in my hand, and that initial quick flip through the pages to see how it looks before heading off to the exhibitor’s/pnp lounge where I can take a bit more time and enjoy reading familiar words. Familiar they might be, but seeing them in print, on paper, in the magazine, makes them real for me.
At six o’clock this evening I will watch the live stream of Alice, Andreas and Pontus marking what should have been the official opening of the now cancelled and rescheduled Supermarket Art Fair 2020.
This is not the Supermarket 2020 Art Fair that I was expecting
Notes from a small town: Thursday 23 April 2020
It was good fun to watch the slightly shambolic live stream yesterday evening. And at the same time it made me all too aware of what we are all dealing with right now. Sweden is one of a very few countries where restrictions on personal movement are relatively lax. A group of artists were able to broadcast live from the streets of Stockholm safe in the knowledge that they weren’t doing anything provocative or prohibited. I wonder how it was received in countries were there are strict quarantines and curfews.
I missed the champagne.
Thursday morning I spent finding my feet with Supermarket’s blog. Making posts with the content we have received from this year’s exhibitors and artists is a great way to see more of their activities and to hear about their plans and projects. It brings home (literally!) the importance of having time and space to share things with each other.
Before heading off to the studio I spoke with friends in London. One of them works on education and community programmes for a couple of the larger galleries in London, she is furloughed at the moment. But what exactly does that mean when you are on a zero hours contract? With no end of the UK’s lockdown in sight it seems likely that she will not be given any hours over the summer which is usually a busy time with public tours and special events. Galleries, museums, and institutions appear to remain closed for at least the foreseeable future. Even the autumn term looks uncertain as even the galleries’ programme managers (with regular hours) have been furloughed so are not at work doing all their usual planning and preparations. I cannot imagine how difficult my life would be if I were still living in London.
Notes from a small town: Friday 24 April 2020
Much smoother uploading of blog posts! Though there are some ’curious’ aspects of making each post – once you choose a ’cover image’ it seems that you can’t change or edit it. This was an issue when I selected an image that had too low a resolution for some screens. The image looked fine, if a little oversized, to me but the artist was not really happy – and I certainly didn’t want to present a poor quality of their work. The situation was resolved by creating a new post identical in every aspect except for the cover image, and then quickly uploading the new version and deleting the older version.
The studio packed with second-hand materials offers something of the comfort of crowds
I spent the afternoon at the studio – all too conscious that being able to go to the studio is something denied to many artists living under lockdown in various countries. Over the recent weeks I have found myself working on new series that has been on my mind for quite some time. I am working with second-hand menswear again, specifically business shirts and ties. Shirts have featured in my practice for more than twenty years now. Not always but often second-hand, the shirts have include those that I wore in my first job after art-school, those of my partner, boys school uniform shirts, and donations from friends. But mostly they have been anonymous second-hand shirts sourced in charity shops. I like not knowing the history of the garments (both the shirts and ties), signs of wear on the collar and cuffs of shirts, creases left where ties have been knotted reveal traces of another life. Together the garments and I collaborate to create something new. The current series combines shirts and ties into a single work, previously I have made pieces with either shirts or ties. I am excited by what is emerging and it feels good to working with these materials again after a hiatus of a few years.
I wonder if my return to something familiar is a response to conditions in which we all currently find ourselves. My life here in the small town is pretty socially isolating at the best of times, with the government’s coronavirus guidelines and my own wish to avoid contracting the illness I feel even more remote than usual. While this is not necessarily a problem in itself (I am good at entertaining myself and always have too many projects on the go), The further reduction of what was already limited interaction with other people does affect me. I am grateful that technology affords meeting-up with friends both here in Sweden and the UK via Skype but it is no substitute for sharing real time and space with the people that I care for. Perhaps that sense of material absence is what made me gravitate back to the shirts and ties - literally the fabric of my and other men’s existence. The hours spent unpicking and re-stitching seams, handling garments that other men have handled is perhaps the closest that I dare permit myself to close physical contact. The closest that I come to finding comfort in the company of strangers.
Hours pass in quiet work, the Swedish spring days become longer and longer. A little before seven o’clock in the evening I begin to feel hungry. I lay the separated sections of shirts on sheets of tissue paper and roll them up, place another sheet of tissue over the ’emblem’ pattern laid out in ties, put the pins, tape-measure, scissors, needles and thread back in the sewing box. I switch off the work-light, lock the door and cycle home hoping that a friend's internet connection has been restored and that we can share an evening together – me in Enköping, her in London.
Stuart Mayes is a British artist living and working in Sweden since 2011. He has been a proofreader and language editor for the Supermarket publication since 2012. His practice includes education projects and running Glitter Ball showroom & projects (Enköping). He regularly participates in Supermarket's PNP programme.