The Maverick Swiss Curator Takes Us For an Early Morning Jog Into the New Year
“I believe in the idea of rituals,” says indefatigable cultural innovator Hans Ulrich Obrist, who helps us into 2014 with his thoughts on routine while taking his daily run around London’s Hyde Park. “But rather than following existing rituals given to us by society, I believe in inventing our own.” The Co-Director of the Serpentine Gallery is the founder of the Brutally Early Club, a dawn exercise initiative frequented by artists, curators and thinkers including Marina Abramović and Markus Miessen. Ulrich led NOWNESS regular Linda Brownlee around the 350-acre oasis of green in the center of London that his gallery calls home, which also plays host to a New Years Day 10K fun run each year. Curating his first show in the kitchen of his student-flat in St. Gallen in 1991, Swiss-born Ulrich joined Julia Peyton-Jones at the Serpentine in 2005 and has been instrumental in the development of the gallery and the recent opening of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, designed by Iranian architect Zaha Hadid. Obrist's early running ritual just one facet of his can-do approach to life: he founded the 89plus Programme that celebrates the creativity of young people with fellow curator Simon Castes in 2013, and on top of his regular writing and lecturing engagements he also finds time to read at least one book a day. “The park is my extended office and I love the idea of having early meetings on the move,” he says. “It’s a discipline, but also kind of an urgency to start things. It liberates time.”
The Director Meets Children from Apple's Hometown to Ask About the Future of Planet Earth
In a commission for the SFMOMA, Mike Mills, creator of notable album artwork for Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys, and director of films including Thumbsucker and Beginners, has created a triptych of new work for the institution’s current off-site exhibition, Project Los Altos, inspired by the Northern Californian hub and birthplace of Apple computers. Today’s excerpt is from Mills’ 38-minute film A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought Alone: Silicon Valley Project, created alongside the project's two other components, a broadsheet newspaper and an installation of costumes as documents of the town. “When you walk around Los Altos, you’ll notice it’s going through a change. It’s an old, sleepy California town and reminds me of Santa Barbara in the 1970s, where I grew up," remarks Mills, who says that Silicon Valley "struck me as a place of innovation and real economic and social power.” The director's interviewees are children whose parents work in the tech-industry—from high-level product managers to a chef at Google—discussing their depictions of the future. “To hear it from a cheery, happy ten-year-old, is somehow particularly icy, and really spooky," he adds. “There is this whole industry of adult futurists making these predictions, but what about the people who will actually be inhabiting the future, which is all these kids.”
When you were given this assignment on Silicon Valley, what was your first thought?
Mike Mills: I didn’t know anything about it, and I’m not really a techie person. While I’ve heard of Silicon Valley, I really haven’t focused on it. And so I started doing typical Google/Wikipedia research and thinking about it more. It really did just strike me as such a place of contemporary American power. I wanted to talk about the tech part of it but in a way that I could be good at and not cliché.
How was it to revisit this part of the world?
MM: Los Altos is like a little time capsule, and it’s changed mostly into a souped-up, new consumerist, social media-driven economy. That’s the biggest change since when I was a kid––Sort of the Facebook-ization of all these stores and this whole little community.
Do you have any ideas about developing this into another piece of work?
MM: I just really love interviewing people. When I’m done, I feel invigorated and refreshed and full. Sometimes when you direct filmmaking, you feel way to full of yourself by the end. With these things, I feel like I’m a listener. That’s all I really am.
The Genre-Splicing Artist Trio Subverts Notions of Authenticity and Design at MoMA PS1’s Summer Festival
Chinese model Wu Ting Ting lip syncs to an opaque cover of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” while wearing a sequined gown emblazoned with a deliberately misspelled shampoo logo in this new video from Shanzhai Biennial. The New York-based artist trio, comprised of Cyril Duval, Babak Radboy and stylist Avena Gallagher, has described itself as a “multinational brand posing as an art-project posing as an multinational brand posing as a biennial.” Taking inspiration from China’s infamous and rich culture of “Shanzhai” imitation goods—faking products from supermarket stock to high-end luxury items—the project seeks to liberate branding from the obligation to make a sale. “Selling things is always a drag on the aura of a brand,” says Radboy, who also works as Creative Director of Bidoun magazine. For ProBio, a group show curated by Josh Kline as a part of this summer’s large-scale Expo 1: New York at MoMa PS1 that is dedicated to the theme of “dark optimism”, he and Duval, who has exhibited internationally under the moniker Item Idem, reached out to Helen Feng of the Beijing musical act Nova Heart (the “Debbie Harry” of China, as she’s been called) for the Chinese rendition of O’Connor’s 90s classic, which they adapted from an amateur online production. “The relevance of the song is right there in the title,” says Radboy. “We were searching desperately for a version in Mandarin and finally found a recording on an obscure and outdated Chinese social networking site by a pretty busted looking queen in his 40s—so there are four levels of separation there.” The result couldn’t be truer to the illogical form embodied in Shanzhai products. “It’s a very Shanzhai production!,” says Duval.