IMAG-E-NATION the political & philosophical arts initiative blog

(re)imagining the political and philosophical in the 21st century

The Political & Philosophical Arts Initiative is interested in the ways in which people interact with and compose political and philosophical ideas and actions through the various, diverse media of technology and the arts. Participants in PAI seek to explore the ways in which poetry, literature, music, photography, performance and other creative arts interleave with the political and philosophical life, either as vehicles for criticism, elaboration, theorization, intervention or activism.
The Imag-e-nation blog is a forum for interested parties to share stories, images or other contributions. Contributors range from students and faculty to artists and musicians to professional and casual commentators. Pieces can be short opinions, re-postings of appropriate materials, or original compositions. In addition, the PAI at LUC will make a selection of relevant or provocative news items each week for (re)publication here.


This is all I know

Dit is alles wat ik weet, Annabel Kanaar's first solo exhibition since she graduated with an MA in Artistic Research from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague last summer, opened on 8 January 2015 in De Nieuwe Regentes.  DNR's tearoom is perhaps an atypical space for an art show, but its cosy atmosphere reflects the artist's familiarity with the building (she grew up around this corner of The Hague, with fond memories of dancing on the DNR stage as a child) as much as it resonates with the familiar yet distant, heavy yet elusive theme of the exhibition: death.

Embracing the tearoom's vast panel of blackboard as her canvas, the artist shares her meditations on death, life, and the body--as corpus, as corpse, as still life, as dead weight--in chalk and pencil, either in neat, cursive strings of Dutch moving horizontally or as sensitive and delicate drawings protected and fixed by frames suspended vertically.  This subtle arrangement of written words and figurative sketches creates a serene landscape where figure and ground are ambiguous, thus allowing the viewer's personal narratives and ideas to take shape and shift form in the silent seams between the verbal and the pictorial.  

The artist's first series of drawings continues to circle around the brick walls of the tearoom, in quiet feats of balance and rest, breathing in solitude.  In stillness, there is life yet.

For contrast, the theme of death becomes animated through a set of three videos screened consecutively in the atrium.  The culturally specific and individually idiosyncratic ways in which we relate to death--ranging from rites to respect to responsibility to remembrance--teeter between solemnity and humour in these short films, calling into question the various values we attach to life, be they mobility, loyalty, or intimacy.  Beyond the atrium and the tearoom, one more video awaits in Het Diepe, once the deep end of a swimming pool before the building was converted into a theatre.  Shot in the location where it is screened, Floortje in Jezusbewening simply overflows with wit and allusions, including overtones of gender politics echoing off the original tiled pool floor, all composed with the artist's signature touch of tenderness. 

Learn more about the artistic explorations of Annabel Kanaar and don't miss her current visual contemplation on the limits to knowing and the meaning of being, on view during the opening hours of De Nieuwe Regentes until 1 March 2015.


What dreams may come

Video still from Six Suns by Chai Siris

The fifth edition of Home & Away, a bi-monthly evening program at West which explores the locus and concept of home alongside the meaning of being away, took place in The Hague on 10 January 2015.  Featuring three videos by Thai artist Chai Siris, the guest bedroom on the top floor of the gallery hosted transient visitors who, bound by curiosity for and love of contemporary art, huddled in this relaxed setting in bated silence around a television screen which revealed various dreamscapes at once foreign and familiar.

According to the curators of Home & Away:

When we were organising this event 'The Dream', it felt natural for us to invite Chai to show his films Four Seasons (2010), Jazz (2013), and Six Suns (2014).  Here in this supposedly private place, the dream is formed as aspiration, the sleep state, and the intersection of past, present, and future.  For us, Chai's works drift through the spaces that we have found hard to talk about or to down.  We feel these spaces rest on the edge of a dream, the moment just before a dream forms.  Whether it's a construction worker resting by a waterfall, a figure sleeping on a bed, or the light catching the edges of a palm tree, we found ourselves floating through these spaces, whether they are distant or at home.
As the artist's camera shifts from light to shadow, with images exposed through a surreal colour palette conjuring a sense of daydream (in Six Suns) as well as captured to maximise the saturated tones of a tropical climate indoors and outdoors (in Jazz and Four Seasons respectively), a heaviness looms beyond the frame, over the soft chirping of cicadas and the gentle trickling of water, and makes its presence palpable in moments of boredom, rest, and play--


The lèse-majestĂ© of Thailand only appears once in the set of three films but speaks through the ennui of the dialogue-less characters in Jazz, the zombie-like drifting from rote activity to restrained repose in Four Seasons, and the spectre of a watchful gaze gradually towering over an idyllic romp in the park in Six Suns. In the artist's own words:

Last year I often dreamt of a big fire which was engulfing the trees in my garden. . . They are almost all gone, and I fear that there will be none of them in the next dreams to come.  Sometimes there is a visual cut to the king, he came to say goodbye.  The political situation in Thailand is like a nightmare now; the military took control over the country.  I want to wake up from this dream but I can't, I feel like there is a ghost sitting on my chest, closing my eyes with its hands.
Video still from Four Seasons by Chai Siris

Estranged from one's homeland, at home in a dream, displaced by nightmare, making peace with alienation, agitating for understanding...such are the themes which underpinned the organic discussions arising amongst the strangers gathered at West last night.  May these critical conversations keep company with 2015.



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