Nedko SOLAKOV, Good News, Bad News (Villa Manin), 2008


Good News, Bad News (Villa Manin), 2008

12 spotlights and mixed media

Variable dimensions


Good News, Bad News is the title of an installation of the Bulgarian artist Nedko Solakov.  It consists of islands of light on the floor, and in the spotlight of which are the small scenarios of good and bad news.  Life is full of good and bad news, some of which have a positive side.  The same underlying meaning also found in the classic example of a half-full or half-empty glass, presented by Solakov as an ironic paradigm of bifurcation, a sly commentary on human existence.

Nedko Solakov was born in Cherven Briag, Bulgaria in 1957.  The artist has studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia and lives and works in Sofia.  Since the beginning of the 1990s, Nedko Solakov has exhibited extensively in Europe and the United States, such as Documenta 12 (2007) and Documenta 13 (2012), and the 2001, 2003, and 2007 Venice Biennales. His work has been included in exhibitions at institutions such as the Tate Modern, the Centre Pompidou, the Stedelijk, and the Israel Museum.

In this installation Good News, Bad News, Nedko Solakov employs an ironic, metaphoric and poly-semantic style to analyze the role and contradictions inherent to the contemporary art system, its communicative mechanisms and its schizophrenic relationship with the society and cultural geopolitics.  The text in each scenario plays an important role in the whole installation.

Language was an important tool for Conceptual artists in the 1960s.  Many Conceptual artists used language in place of brush and canvas, and words played a primary role in their emphasis on ideas over visual forms.  Thinking about using text in contemporary artwork, we may probably recall the work of conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth, One and Three Chairs (1965).  Joseph Kosuth was among the first to give words such a central role.  Another example could be I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art by Baldessari, who has repeated the same phrase over and over again.

Conceptual art is a movement that prizes ideas over the formal or visual components of artworks.  An amalgam of various tendencies rather than a tightly cohesive movement, Conceptualism took myriad forms, such as performances, happenings, and ephemera.  From the mid 1960s through the mid 1970s, conceptual artists produced works and writings that completely rejected standard ideas of art.  Language itself has an ultimate significance in Conceptual Art and there are far more examples than we can cite.

Text of some scenarios of the installation Good News, Bad News:

  • The good news: the bird finally found (in this hostile environment) two semi-enclosures that might be suitable for giving birth.

The bad news: no bad news, just a hot sex related thoughts.

  • A big problem is pressed under this stone (and it looks it would stay forever pressed), which is good news.

However, there is a hint of bad news: the stone has to pee and he is very shy – he can’t do it in front of you.

  • There is no data on it, which maybe a good news.There are also many colorful reflections on its surface (because of the spotlight), which for sure is a bad news because such reflections are, in general, useless.
  • The bad news: too much “Holy Shit!” expressions nowadays.

The good news: there is a device to clean them out.

  • The bad news: these pebbles are not precious at all.

The good news: there is at least one of them (somewhere at the bottom) who will become a big shot, eventually.

  • Four good and four bad news are going to be filed*. It seems that they will become friends which may be both – good & bad news – it depends on the point of view.
  • A very simple, casual ornament wants to be as beautiful as the sophisticated features in this room. Needless to say that he can’t, which is not necessarily bad news for there are a lot of foundations that will make him look beautiful (or at least expensive).
  • Very soon he (from the Big Book) is going to destroy (to melt down) these bloody figures/ numbers which is a pity because they are not really bad and evil. Why?

This is the answer, which is still classified information because of the global warming.

  • The good news: she finally got the pet she wanted.

The bad news: the pet didn’t like her.

The good news: she was still a noble lady.

Another bad news: the cat was even more noble than her, because her grand, grand, grand mother used to be a court cat in a much bigger castle than the young noble lady’s one.

The final good news: a pet dog with no noble predecessors whatsoever is on his way to join the two of them

  • As many historians (and gossip makers) wrote, Napoleon had a big problem. The good news: luckily his problem was hardly visible.

Follia Continua


26th September to 22nd November 2015


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Fragonard in Love (Fragonard Amoureux) – an exhibition more than just “Erotic”

The Musée du Luxembourg seduces us once again with a new exhibition “Fragonard Amoureux”, an exhibition which revisits the works of Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) who is considered one of the major figures in French painting during the 18th century or the last decades of the Ancien Régime.

Considered a painter of frivolities, Fragonard also excelled in the fields of historical, genre and landscape painting.  But he is most identified with the erotic genre and was popular with the courts of Louis XV and Louis XVI for his delicately pastel colored scenes of seduction, love and hedonism.   Fragonard often painted scenes of gallantry and debauchery, exploring in this manner the various aspects of sensuality and sentiment.

He left behind several exemplary masterpieces: L’Inspiration (a self-portrait), The Lock, Young Girl Reading, La chemise enlevée (The Shirt Removed), The Stolen Kiss and The Swing, to name just a few.  One of his chief works “Les progrès de l’amour dans le cœur d’une jeune fille,” was commissioned by Madame du Barry, Mistress of Louis XV for her chateau at Louveciennes.  Once being gallant, libertine, and concerned with new love ethics, his art had a great influence to the art scene in the half of the century to follow.

The exhibition is divided into different sections under the themes: “The Gallant Shepherd”, “The Loves of Gods”, “Rustic and Popular Eros”, “Fragonard, Illustrator of Libertine Tales”, “Pierre-Antoine Baudouin, A Libertinist Master”, “Fragonard and Licentious Imagery”, “Dangerous Reading”, “The Revival of the Fête Galante”, “Love Moralised”, “Heroic Passion” and “Romantic Allegory”.  All these together conveyed the theme of love and romance.

Erotic?  But what else?

A lot of comments of this exhibition revolve around the word “erotic”.  Without doubt, Fragonard’s scenes were pretty scandalous in his era, more or less pornographic.  Some of the content of his paintings and drawings remains shocking even in the society today.  The artist has once declared “I paint with my ass”. ( “je peindrais avec mon cul”)

But other than focusing on this “erotic” aspect, what else could we take away from this exhibition?

A lesson on the mythological love stories

Love is omnipresent in the works of Fragonard.  The exhibition offers a chance for us to revisit the questions of love during the development of time, from the “Grand Siècle” to the Regency.  The concept of gallantry represented one of the values of French identity in the 18th century.  Between 1740 and 1750, the mythological fables of Antiquity illustrated by François Boucher and his disciples became the symbol of a frivolous, even licentious, form of painting.  Since Regency (1715-1723), libertinism had triumphed among the elite by adopting the forms and civilized veneer of gallantry, while in actual fact being a hedonistic quest for carnal pleasure that was completely detached from romantic sentiment.  It was under this influence that Fragonard was trained.  The walk-through of this exhibition is indeed a good opportunity to get a grasp of the mythological love stories during these eras.

 A revisit of the fable of La Fontaine

People having studied the literature or culture of France would have certainly come across the fables of Jean de la Fontaine.  The 18th century represented the glory days of the illustrated books.  The publishing of La Fontaine’s Contes (Tales), which were considered one of the main sources of all libertine literature of the 18th century, was a real triumph at that time.  Fragonard studied the illustrations of the Contes at the end of his stay in Rome and during the 1760s, and has dedicated several series of drawings on this.  The largest album making up of fifty-seven pages and conserved at the Petit Palais is displayed in this exhibition.  What is more encouraging is that the album is accessible online at, under the section “Étudiants et chercheurs”.

From a different perspective, perhaps we can perceive the works of Fragonard as his frank expression of emotion, where courting lead to sensual encounters.  By going through section to section of the exhibition, our mind travel from the last flames of gallant love and the triumph of libertinism, to the blossoming of a more sincere, sensitive and already “romantic” version of love.

(The exhibition is held from 16th September 2015 – 24 January 2016 at Musée du Luxembourg)


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The 13e Biennale de Lyon (Lyon Biennial) – An Interpretation of Modern Life

The 13e Biennale de Lyon (Lyon Biennial) has begun on 10th September last week.  This year, it begins a new trilogy under the theme of “modern”; a theme that Thierry Raspail, artistic director of the Biennial, gave to Ralph Rugoff, guest curator for the 2015 edition.  60 artists from 28 countries have participated in the biennial and their works are mainly located in 3 venues namely MAC Lyon (Museum of Contemporary Art), La Sucrière, the Musée des Confluences.  The artists offer their personal vision of the contemporary world and invite the audiences to go into this contemporary world through their works.

A visual and auditory experience actualized by the installations in the space

The visual and auditory effects of the installations mingle together to yield a novel experience for the audiences.  The work Taut Eye Tau created by Alex Da Corte is a study of the color yellow undertaken through the exclusive use of its “opposite color” blue.  It consists of a decor that recalls both the Stanley Kubrick-style science-fiction and the subtle processes of Sol LeWitt-style abstraction.  Taut Eye Tau is a total environment: it includes pieces of furniture, a carpet, sand, neon tubes and a video projection whose soundtrack is also based on the color blue.  This single color of blue brings to mind the seas and the sky, absence and desire, the horizon and the immaterial.  It implies to us that what we see as real is instead usually not too complete.  A strong visual implication exists.

At the other side, the Glass Troll Cave (glass cabinet and flat screen) and Erysichthon (HD video) created by Jon Rafman provide a combined visual and auditory experience.  The digital technology and the new media hold the world at a distance.  In his installations, photographs and videos, Jon Rafman expresses a sense of melancholy and irony to our social tradition and virtual communities.


Glass Troll Cave (glass cabinet and flat screen) and Erysichthon (HD video) created by Jon Rafman

We cannot go round this point without mentioning the work of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, aura, 2015.  In his work aura, the drum head is struck by cherry stones, triggered by the electromagnetic aura given off by each owner of a cell phone who visits the Sucrière.  The sound produced by the fall of the cherry stones is thus random and variable.  This work gives a new interpretation to his previous work in 2013, in which water falls to strike a drum kit.

Conceptual artworks leave room for the imagination and participation of audiences

Perhaps what makes this year’s biennial interesting to the audiences is the room for their imagination and participation.

Pull over time created by Michel Blazy is a combination of technological objects like computers or cell phones, and manufactured objects like a branded sports shoe.  The artist grows things in them, as if in a vegetable patch.  Colored water runs down the walls all the time.  All the visual effects produced by the decay of these objects are an integral part of the work, and this goes against the belief that the finished products are impervious and resistant to change.

Nina Canell’s installation Mid-Sentence gives concrete expression to the lightness and intangibility of the everyday life.  Mid-Sentence consists of subterranean cable-cuts and compressed fiber-optic “sheaths” like conductors and transporters.  Arranged like relics, these cables evoke both the idea of dissolved geography and corrupted representations of language and body.


Nina Canell’s installation Mid-Sentence

Lai Chih-Sheng’s work Border provides a vivid example of conceptual of the space.  The artist displays waste materials from the construction on the floor, with a border/ platform suspended over a vast space.  The artist places the importance on the audience’s experience.  Visitors are invited to walk on the border.  They would find themselves on the visual border between the physical reality of the space where the work of art is deployed.

Modern life – the past, present and future

One may ask in what sense these works are related to the theme “The Modern Life”?

Perhaps the first thing to put in place about “modern life” is the “problems” nowadays, in the context of “everyday life” scenarios throughout different regions in the world.  “La vie moderne” includes works that take on some of the most perplexing and troubling issues of our moment — from the growing inequality of wealth in society and consumer culture to the questions around immigration, post-colonial relations and our changing relationship to the world around us and our relationship with each other.

The artists explore the contradictory and contingent nature of the modern, both on an aesthetic and philosophical level as well as in the area of social formations, subjectivity and technology.  They express their ways of seeing and thinking about the world around us.  Like in the work of Guan Xiao, he has created a video installation made of ten screens and surrounded by three sculptures.  The particular materials used come from various different periods and cultures, bringing together a time where the future and the past will overlap.  The video installation is a collage of found images from the internet collected by the artist over the course of several years.  The artist has staged her own vision of the world – one with overexposure to images that surround us.

Another point worth to notice is the relationship between the past, present and future.  “Modern” is shrouded in uncertainty, as is our relationship between past and present. To describe something as “modern” today imbues it with an aura of uncertainty — it suggests something haunted by various “modern” episodes in history while at the same time retaining something of its traditional sense.  We cannot mark a significant break with the past. We cannot escape from history.  Instead, our only choice is to work through and re-direct its legacies.  We would rather interpret modernity as an evolving process, which embrace the past and elongate to the future.

Emmanuelle Lainé brings to us similar intonation in her work « Il parait que le fond de l’être est en train de changer? ».  The artist used elements that she had made beforehand (flat screens molded in silicone) and others that she “arranged” on the spot (pieces of furniture, plants, packing cases…etc.) to set up a vast treasure hunt.  She kept adjusting and correcting the scene until she finally made a wide-view photograph of her creative process.  After the photograph was fixed to the wall, she then destructed and modified the scene.  Objects now become images, which then become objects again.  These narratives through time and dimensions reflect also a shuffle between the past and present – an echo with the underlying interpretation of modernity.

Along with this sense, we may believe perhaps the most truly contemporary art doesn’t present us with endless novelty, but with new ways of working through history.


The 13e Biennale de Lyon will last from 10th september 2015 to 3rd January 2016.

Official website of the 13e Biennale de Lyon (Lyon Biennial) :




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The flood of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot takes over Palais de Tokyo

Acquaalta of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot

After waiting for a month, the new summer exhibition at Palais de Tokyo is officially opened to public today.  Being a fan of this “Palais” of contemporary art, I can’t wait but rushing all my way to explore the new stuffs there.

What has bombarded me in the first place is the Acquaalta of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, which is set at the entrance level of the museum.  Acquaalta refers to the exceptional tide peaks that occur periodically in the northern Adriatic Sea. The peaks reach their maximum in the Venetian Lagoon and cause partial flooding of Venice.  The artist is representing France in carrying out his project rêvolutions at the French Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale (9 May – 22 November 2015) in which he transformed the venue into an oneiric and organic island.  I did not get a chance to the Biennale due to the painstaking exams.  It is almost a luxury for me to be able to find the artist’s work Acquaalta here.

The artist creates a lakeside landscape which leads visitors into an experience – tactile, visual and auditory.  Their perception of the space is changed through the journey under the techniques that intermingle music, movement and images.  This journey, in which everyone’s movements take on great importance, takes the audience into an imaginary experience – a journey of their own psyche.  At the end of the journey, we find a zombiedrone, a technique by which the participants’ images are encrypted, leaving only the moving parts to appear on the screen.

The mastering of space, reflection and transformation of images, and the audio effects all work together to give us a new sensory experience.  We may also find this work loaded with poetry in making reference to the myth of Narcissus gazing at his own reflection

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot was born in 1961 in Nice and currently lives and works in Sète. This artist, trained as a musician and composer, has created works by drawing on the rhythms of daily life to produce sound in unexpected ways.  He was the first French prize-winner of the International Studio Program (PS1) in New York, from 1998–99.

Playing around the materiality – Patrick Neu

The summer exhibition is more than just Acquaalta.  Patrick Neu, an artist who works with materials not often found in the art world: bees’wings, lampblack on glass, eggshells, wax, etc., invites us to get into his dialogue with the materials.

His watercolor series Iris put in front of us both the vanity of the blossoming flowers and their fragility.  The period of blossoming of irises never lasts long, at most fifteen days per year.  However, it is already sufficient for Patrick Neu to capture the vanity of this blossom of the flowers.  The artist uses his precise pencil line, outlining the sinuous and delicate flowers on a velvety white paper, followed with a watercolor coating.   Without over-saturated with colors, the natural colors of these flowers together with their vivid forms make them stand out with an unparalleled finesse in a perfectly neutral background.  The artist has carefully chosen the medium to mark his presentation in a natural context – fragile, frameless, simply pinned the delicate painted flowers to the paper.  Under his work, the life cycle and the ephemeral nature of objects give way to a visual poetry.

Patrick Neu was born in 1963, lives and works in Alsace.

More works of the other artists to be explored

Tianzhuo Chen, Jesper Just, Shelly Nadashi, Isabelle Cornaro etc.

(The exhibition is open from 24 June to 13 September 2015 at Palais de Tokyo in Paris)


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Revisit Anish Kapoor’s Exhibition at Versailles

The recent vandalism of Anish Kapoor’s monumental installation at Versailles has become a hot topic in the circle of art people in France.  Focus has been diverted to the intention of the behaviors and the political implication.  The exhibition has barely been open more than a week before the vandals have left their mark on it.   In fact, the victim Dirty Corner, a giant funnel of steel and rock that faces the château, has opened to a swirl of controversy from its very beginning stage of appearance at the château, after the artist has conveyed that the sculpture is meant to resemble “the vagina of the queen coming into power.”

Amongst all the burning debates, my memory rolled back to the week before the vandalism, when I visited the château for the exhibition.  I was looking at the work Sectional Body Preparing for Monastic Singularity in the Star Grove when I saw a mediator patiently explained to a couple the details of the works, their significations, the ideas behind, the representations, etc.  After nearly 20 minutes’ lesson, the couple left with much thankfulness.  “It would have been great if we had seen you right at the start of our visit.  We would have already grabbed a better understanding of the works that we had passed through from the very beginning”, they said to the mediator.  Perhaps people in the debate of this exhibition had a deep understanding of Anish Kapoor’s works, perhaps not.  Above all, it’s time to put the debate aside and start over again to revisit the artist’s works with an eager-learning heart.

One sort of contradiction

The five sculptures placing in the garden, starting from the entrance with C-Curve and Sky Mirror, then Sectional Body Preparing for Monastic Singularity in the Star Grove, Dirty Corner in the centre of the Great Perspective and Descension beyond. The main objective that the artist wants to achieve through his works is to unearth the human condition in all its contradictions.

The first work right when we entered into the château is C-Curve, a mirror running down the sun’s axis.  Anyone who has visited the château must have already fascinated by the famous Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), in which a total of 357 mirrors are used in decorating the seventeen mirror-clad arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows overlooking the gardens.  But the gardens of the château themselves already embrace the mirror-like quality in their geometry, e.g. the fountains are mirror-like, reflecting the images above and around. The installation of C-Curve is an add-on of all these reflections. What is distinctive is that the C-Curve turns things upside down.  All the similar for the Sky Mirror which brings the sky down to the ground.  These are the representations of “contradiction”.  These installations granted another signification to the viewer: what one see isn’t quite what one think he sees.

Going further to the Dirty Corner-the 70-meter red metal work which resembles a gaping cavern and has been all along in the core discussion of the public and media owing to its signification as the “vagina of the queen”-is in fact dark.  All the same for the work Descension, in which a pool of dark water swirls in a terrifying non-stop spiral motion.  It looks black and bottomless, like a black hole.

The installation of the artist demonstrates one duality: heaven and earth, visible and invisible, inside and outside, shadow and light.  It opens the imagination of the viewers.  The very symmetrical landscape design of Versailles is disrupted by the upside down and distorted images by the mirrors, entering into a state of instability.  Not only the visual images, the auditory and sense of viewers also undergo a certain extent of bombardment.  The grounds around Descension become uncertain and moving, water swirls, the ruin-like Dirty Corner takes over the peaceful tidy green garden, exposed orifices are hidden within the garden’s labyrinths.  All add up to represent a contradiction, as if the world is about to tip over.  Not to mention the Shooting into the Corner at the Royal Tennis Court where a cannon is installed which appeared to have fired large piles of red wax into a corner.   The meant-to-be for leisure tennis court has become a place of violence with the shooting action and the blood-like wax bullets.

A dialogue with history

Other than the idea of  “contradiction”, Anish Kapoor has established a dialogue with the history at Versailles beyond the topography of this territory conquered by Louis XIV.

The French formal garden (jardin à la françasie) has its history back to the 17th century.  André Le Nôtre (1613–1700), once the chief gardener of Louis XIV and the designer of the gardens of Versailles, was the most important figure in the history of the French formal garden.  The gardens he created became the symbols of French grandeur and rationality, setting the style for European gardens until the arrival of the English landscape garden in the 18th century.

The systematic and orderly design of Le Nôtre demonstrated an ideal and perfection.  Nevertheless, we cannot avoid admitting what is underneath the surface of the ground is something darker, more complex, more dangerous.  There is something organic and natural which can be dug up from the earth in an excavation.  The artist wants to show that it is the same for human being, who has all the underlying faults, imperfections and sexuality.  Anish Kapoor leads us to look at the question of eternity and decay through Dirty Corner.   It unrolled a conversation with Louis XIV, who was very controversial in terms of power and sexuality.  Versailles is undoubtedly a place of power.  Through his works, Anish Kapoor initiates a conversation about power in the contemporary society.  As for Descension, the vortex also represents things that are far from neat and tidy, far from perfection.  Descension is like the grumblings and angers rising from the centre of the Earth.  At The Shooting into the Corner, the cannon is positioned in visual parallel to the statue of the early revolutionary hero Jean-Sylvain Bailly, confronting the theme of oppression and the conquest of freedom (Bailly was guillotined in 1793).  Each installation unravels the inherited meanings in the history.  By his installation, Anish Kapoor draws us into this hidden history of Versailles.

Some may consider the exhibition of Anish Kapoor as an act of violence which destructed the aesthetics and classic of Versailles, but how about the act which destructs the freedom of artistic expression?

About Anish Kapoor – some key dates

1959: Born in Bombay, India.

1973: Went to study at Hornsey College of Art and Chelsea School of Art and Design in Britain.

1991 Won the prestigious Turner Prize, awarded annually to a contemporary artist (usually British) less than 50 years old.

2011 Exhibition of his Leviathan as the annual Monumenta for Grand Palais in Paris, and received the same year the Praemium Imperiale, the international art prize awarded by the imperial family of Japan on behalf of the Japan Art Association.

(The exhibition is held from 9th June to 1st November 2015)


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