For the Perspectives column, two writers respond to an artwork that they are experiencing for the first time. This roundup is a summary of the visual artworks and video games featured in the Perspectives column in 2017.
Drawings and paintings
Aelita Andre had been featured in solo exhibitions for six years before she turned ten in 2017. Coral Nebula, with its mixed media additions – ‘its shower of plastic, throwaway bits, fast-food freebies, and slops of paint’ – is an irresistible sugar rush of a canvas. Andre’s works raise questions about creativity, artist’s intentions, and the extent to which children can be considered to make ‘art’.
From a young prodigy to Lubaina Himid, who in 2017 became the oldest winner of the Turner Prize. With her painting Between the Two my Heart is Balanced, Himid creates a sense of separation between a pair of waterborne women, divided by a tower of book-like objects. Hung Liu’s sketches of political figures, Where Is Mao?, meanwhile, explores historical distance and asks how easily past events can be erased.
Installation art, interactive art, and photographs
In Chiharu Shiota’s stunning installation artwork, In Silence, a gallery room is set out like an abandoned concert hall, with rows of empty chairs facing an unused grand piano. Black threads link every object, both to each other and to the walls, ceiling, and floor. The effect is akin to a giant spider’s web or a visualisation of a neural network, prompting the viewer to reflect on the connections formed through communal experiences.
Lygia Clark’s O eu e o tu (The I and the You) addresses this theme more explicitly. By inviting two people to don hazmat suits, joined by a single black pipe, Clark produces a close bond between them. The subject in Kudzanai Chiurai’s enigmatic photograph The Minister of Education is dressed much more sharply, as if posing for a glossy fashion magazine. A prop tucked into his waistband, though, gives us pause for thought.
Awol Erizku, best known as the artist behind Beyoncé’s baby bump photoshoot, infuses his art with wide-ranging pop culture references. Oh what a feeling, aw, fuck it, I want a Trillion is no exception. This sequence of seven gold-stringed basketball hoops may have no immediately apparent meaning, but it toys with allusions nonetheless, borrowing its name from a Jay-Z lyric, while riffing on Donald Judd’s stacked minimalistic slats.
Adriana Salazar’s Impolite Machines, a trio of wine-pouring machines, is even wittier in execution. Still, as we watch the deep-red liquid travel from bottle to glass to floor, we may wonder about the ethics of this ‘cycle of waste’, doomed to repeat until the alcohol dries up. In contrast, Anila Quayyum Agha’s Intersections, a suspended cube that casts intricate patterns onto the walls that surround it, encourages not amusement, but awe.
As of September 2017, women in Saudi Arabia can obtain a driving licence without the permission of a male guardian. Sarah Abu Abdallah’s work of video art, Saudi Automobile, was first shown in 2012 while the ban on female drivers was still in place. Slapping pink paint onto a beaten-up car before climbing into the passenger seat, Abu Abdallah made a caustic yet light-hearted statement on her country’s inequalities.
Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen is similarly concerned with the limitations imposed on women. A tongue-in-cheek parody of a wholesome cookery show, the work features an A-to-Z of utensils, their demonstration marked by subtly violent undertones. Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s film If 6 Was 9 examines a different kind of imposition, presenting a group of young women who discuss sexual experiences in words that are not their own.
In Braid, designed by Jonathan Blow, you pass through a set of fantastical worlds filled with fiendish puzzles. A response to the platform game genre – e.g. Super Mario – it toys with time in mind-bending ways. Sam Barlow’s Her Story is just as likely to result in head-scratching. Armed with only an old-fashioned desktop PC and a database of video clips, the player must piece together clues to determine the events leading up to a murder.