This month ikono is proud to present three films by German video artist Birthe Blauth. Her conceptual work looks at the individual and explores the contingent relationship between the single and the space. Blauth’s art is extremely meditative and limpid, but close scrutiny lets the viewer grasp the true complexity of its message. Her visual work helps to vary the perception of the difference between fiction and reality, questioning the border between the two. Her art expands and diversifies amongst installation, video, sound, text and performances.
Birthe Blauth, who was born in Munich, owns a M.A. and doctorate in Chinese Studies, Ethnology and European Art History at Ludwig-Maximilians-University. Her specialist areas are iconography, mythology, religious ethnology. Blauth has been internationally shown and her work has been honoured by the Haus der Kunst award in Munich as well as the support of the Prinzregent Luitpold Stiftung, the Region of Upper Bavaria and the City of Munich. The artist currently lives and works in Munich and New York.
Birthe Blauth on ikonoTV:
Guarded Parking Marrakesh, 2003
In this film the action is imperceptible, yet the change unmistakable. During the 7 minutes course of the video 43 people and objects disappear – unnoticed. The video is in the collection of the Artmuseum Bonn.
Merging a mountain landscape of Munich artist Sonja Weber with excerpts of her own video artworks Poppyfield (2003) and La Strada (2005), this video of Birthe Blauth represents a fantastic and playful history of a mountain landscape with quotations from the history of art. Cloaked in the darkness of Adam Elsheimer’s night scene Escape to Egypt (1609), the mountain emerges at the dawn of a bright winter’s day. When evening sets in, its dramatic glow gradually turns into a sea of bubbling red lava. From this emerges the scene of Albrecht Altdorfer’s Battle of Alexander (1528-1529), which slowly transforms into a carpet of bright red poppies. When a yellow sandstorm blows up, bringing to mind the atmosphere of a Mark Rothko work. The storm subsides to reveal a highway leading into the mountains.
The video explores the transient and the vain efforts of human beings to explore and push beyond their limits. Somebody is exploring an invisible barrier by touching it with his fingers. He leaves more and more fingerprints in the process. The longer the person tries to establish the nature of their confines, the more enclosed they become. Finally, the surface is completely covered in fingerprints and the hands can no longer be seen.
This work can be seen as an allegory of our lives. It also represents our efforts to escape our confines. Efforts that are doomed to failure.
ikono invites Ars Electronica, an interdisciplinary hub and one of the world’s leading media art festivals based in Linz, Austria, to present two of their wonderful projects: the ZeitRaum installation, designed by the Ars Electronica Futurelab for the Vienna International Airport in 2012, and a film on Franz Gesellmann’s famous Weltmaschine:
The Ars Electronica Futurelab inaugurated a new virtual space inside the new terminal of Vienna’s airport to be passed by more than five billion strangers a year – five billion people on a journey through an imaginary interzone between security checkpoint and takeoff.
ZeitRaum embeds art in a public space where people are more open to artistic ideas while waiting for their flight. Caught up between time zones and connecting flights the visitors encounter the ZeitRaum space for the first time at Check In 3 area, where a large screen reacts to the motions of each new guest arriving by releasing letters of scientific or poetic texts. Arriving and departing planes create data mountains of information before dissolving into thin digital air again.
After leaving Check In 3, everyone will encounter further artworks connected to time and space: Yugo Nakamura’s Industrious Clock uses handdrawn digits for the digital clock, while the Last Clock by Jussi Ängeslevä and Ross Cooper display live footage from the airport in three rings updated by the hour, minute or the second. AIRPORT SOUNDSCAPES #1 by Rupert Huber is a datasonification project turning data from the tower into audioscapes surrounding the visitors with the sound of traffic.
The Weltmaschine of Franz Gsellmann
The Weltmaschine (World Machine) is a kinetic installations built by austrian farmer Franz Gsellmann (1910-1981). Without any special knowledge or an artistic background and inspired by a religious vision, Gsellmann started working on the machine after seeing the Atomium at the World’s Fair 1958 in Bruxelles and finished it right before his death in 1981.
Built by discarded everyday objects and material, the Weltmaschine looks like an elaborate Hollywood prop from the lab of a mad scientist or the steam engine of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus. It’s four meters long, two meters wide and four meters high. It has around 2000 pieces, including a toy rocket Gsellmann had imported from Japan. Long forgotten the Weltmaschine was rediscovered and filmed in action by Ars Electronica in 2011, while the real one is still on view in a private museum in Edelsbach near Feldbach, Austria.
This June, in occasion of the opening of the Venice Biennale, ikono focuses on four of the major and most charming Venetian Museums: the National Archaeological Museum, the Accademia Galleries, the Oriental Art Museum and the Ca’ d’Oro Gallery.
Together with the Palazzo Grimani Gallery, the four museums belong to the Polo Museale Veneziano, an organic complex of buildings and collections of enormous artistic and historical value, definitely one of the most important in Europe.
The National Archaeological Museum of Venice was founded in the 16th century and thanks to the vision of two patrician Venetian collectors, Domenico and Giovanni Grimani, offers to its visitors a particularly valuable collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. The director Michela Sediari curated a special selection of art pieces that best represent this amazing collection.
The Accademia Galleries are located in the prestigious building of the Scuola Grande of Santa Maria della Carità. The church of Santa Maria and the monastery of the Canonici Lateranensi, built by Andrea Palladio in 1561, are also part of the Accademia. The largest collection of Venetian art paintings from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century is on display at the museum. Masterpieces by Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, Carpaccio, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Bellotto, Guardi, together with artworks donated by prestigious collectors like Molin and Cantarini, and an amazing set of drawings, which include studies from Leonardo da Vinci and his circle, complete the incredibly valuable collection. This month, ikono presents a selection of artworks curated by Matteo Cerian, the director of the complex.
The Oriental Art Museum faces the Grand Canal and is located in the ancient palace owned by the Pesaro family and designed by Baldassare Longhena. The Museum showcases one of the most important collections of Japanese art of the Edo period. Prince Henry II of Borbone bought the collection during his travel to Asia, between 1887 and 1889. More than 30.000 objects, among which swords and daggers, Japanese armours, delicate enamel objects and precious porcelains, can be found in the stupendous museum’s sections. The collection is known in Europe as being one of the most important for Japanese art from the Edo period (1600-1868), but it also includes masterpieces from other parts of Asia, especially China and Indonesia. Fiorella Spadavecchia, director of the museum, selected splendid artworks and manufactures, which best represent the variety of objects and can be admired at the Oriental Art Museum.
The Ca’ d’Oro Gallery is located in one of the most beautiful late-gothic buildings in Venice and hosts Baron Giorgio Franchetti’s impressive art collection. Around 1916, the Baron bestowed the grand palace to the City of Venice to use it as a public art museum. The palace, also the representative home of the rich merchant Marino Contarini, and built between 1421 and 1440, was subjected to many transformations throughout the years. In 1927, the Gallery was opened and received many art pieces from other museums like the Accademia Galleries and the Archeological Museum, but also from the Italian State Property. The most important art pieces are Flemish tapestries, sculptures, Venetian, Tuscan and Flemish paintings, wooden furniture, Renaissance sculptures and bronzes, coins, medals and the sorrowful image of the Saint Sebastian by Andrea Mantegna. The current installation was firstly made between the 70s and 80s and, since 1992, there is also a new space dedicated to Venetian ceramics situated in the neighbouring building of Palazzo Duodo. The courtyard is truly beautiful, with floor mosaics in opus sectile made by Giorgio Franchetti himself and inspired by Paleochristian churches. The artist’s ashes are buried under a red porfido column. Claudia Cremonini, the director of the gallery, presents a mix of sculptures and paintings, drawing attention to the diversity and richness of the Ca’ D’Oro collection.
For the next two months, ikono will shine a spotlight on the best artworks showcased in the museums of the Polo Museale Veneziano, inviting everyone to take a closer look at its stunning buildings and collections.
Please visit the museums’ websites for further information:
The Treasures of Ancient Persia show impressing art objects from the pre-islamic Era of the Iranian Cultural region. Works from the Achaemenid, Sassanian and Parthian Dynasties includes valuable style components about this magnificient Art.
When Reza Shah, the first Pahlavi shah, introduced the name “Iran” instead of “Persia”, he was not simply asking to change the name of a country. “Iran” had actually been the name for the whole area since pre-Islamic times, while “Persia” was only a name used for its southwestern parts and “Persian” referred to Iran’s main language. The name Persia for the region has already been used by the ancient Greeks and the word “Iran” was used especially in the empires that ruled for a few centuries before the Islamic conquest of Iran in the seventh century, but also after the territory of today’s Iran was divided among several states.
The advent of the Islamic era in Iranian culture did not a break with the region’s pre-Islamic history though. This is noticeable both in the literature (the Iranian national epic, Book of Kings, “Shahname”), as well as in architecture (Ivane and grave towers) and the decorative arts (architectural ornaments and decorative motifs on bowls, tiles and stucco panels).
The presentation of pre-Islamic art from Iran thus also serves the understanding of a peculiar reminder culture and identification of the Iranian population, which has always been strong, especially since the rulership of the Samanids and the The Great Seljuq Empire. This handing down of Parthian, Sassanid and Achaemenian decorative motifs and architectural elements still influences the artistic creations in Iran today.
Embedded in the very abstract looking Islamic art it serves your own historical identity and conscious separation from the Arab hegemony that has felt obligatoire by a prophetic calling to Islam to not only spread Islam but also manage the newly acquired territories and to Arabize them. This becomes clear when looking at the Umayyad Caliphate rule in the Iranian cultural regions Pars and Khorasan.
The Umayyad Caliphate, founded by Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, long-time governor of Syria, after the end of the First Muslim Civil War in 661, conquered 5.79 million square miles (15,000,000 km2) and built the largest empire the world had ever seen, and the fifth largest to ever exist until today. But the constant campaigning exhausted the resources of the state. The Umayyads, weakened by the Third Muslim Civil War of 744–747, were toppled by the Abbasid Revolution in 750. A branch of the family fled across North Africa to Al-Andalus, where they established the Caliphate of Córdoba, which lasted until 1031 before falling.
For more information please follow the link
Professor Ahmad Ashraf: Iranian Identity in the pre-Islamic Era
Adad Hannah was not convinced at first when his old friend Gus Horn from Canada asked him to stage his version of The Raft of the Medusa ( (Le Radeau de la Méduse) in 100 Mile House, a community of 2000 people in British Columbia. The painting by French Romantic painter Théodore Géricault (1791–1824) had already inspired numerous spoofs and variants by the likes of Martin Kippenberger, Asterix, Tintin, David LaChapelle or The Pogues with their album cover for “Run Sodomy and the Lash”, but: In the end Hannah signed up and the whole community of 100 Mile House came together to work on the project.
The crew of the raft was made up of twenty students and two tree planters who had to hold their poses for up to ten minutes for the final photos. The story behind the raft of 100 Mile House is less dramatic than the story of the original painting itself, but downturns in the local cattle and forestry industries have hit the community hard.
Adad Hannah worked after a painting which has become one of the most recognizable artworks in history and an icon of French Romanticism. The theme of human life abandoned by all hope is universal and the brutal story Géricault based his work on is still horrifying.
Géricault was 27 when he painted the survivors of a tragedy which had also become a political scandal hyped up by the French media. Like many other people who read newspapers, the artist was fascinated by the story of the 150 men who were left to their own devices in the ocean outside of Senegal with only a bag of biscuits consumed right away, two bottles of water which went overboard during fighting and a few casks of wine.
The men succumbed to cannibalism, dehydration, and insanity until only fifteen of them were left on the raft when they were discovered by accident two weeks later after the original sinking of the Méduse. The tragedy became an international scandal since the French captain of the ship was perceived to have acted under the command of the freshly restored French monarchy.
When the painting debuted at the Paris Salon of 1819 it became the talk of the town. “It strikes and attracts all eyes”, wrote Le Journal de Paris while other critics also called it a “pile of corpses.” Louis XVIII apparently said “Monsieur, vous venez de faire un naufrage qui n’en est pas un pour vous” (“Monsieur Géricault, your shipwreck is certainly no disaster”). Jules Michelet, the first historian to use and definethe word Renaissance wrote that “our whole society is aboard the raft of the Medusa [...].”