Art Monthly 383: February 2015

Art Monthly cover
The Last Laugh

Bob Dickinson

Brecht: Redux

Sarah James

Gail Pickering

Profile by Sophie J Williamson

Letter from Sri Lanka

Josephine Breese

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Florence Peake Paper Portraits 2007


The Last Laugh

Bob Dickinson on art and comedy

While galleries have recently turned to humour in the hope of engaging new audiences, art in the public realm has shown how laughter can be, politically speaking, deadly serious. How have artists such as Lucy Beech, Agnes Nedregard and Florence Peake disarmed audiences?

'Laughter is of the body, like speech, but interrupting, punctuating and interfering with it. At the same time, laughter is a social act, underpinning social bonds but also capable of undermining them. Its role in the debunking of power is well known to artists, but so too is its horrific mocking accompaniment to acts of extreme violence'

From the Archive
What's so funny? Anna Dezeuze on humour and contemporary art

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Chto Delat? Partisan Songspiel. A Belgrade Story 2009


Brecht: Redux

Sarah James on the use and abuse of Bertolt Brecht

Why have so many disparate contemporary artists, from Mirza & Butler to WHW and Mark Neville, now turned to the guiding principles of a playwright born in the 1800s?

'Does Bertolt Brecht too often provide little more than an easy lingua franca for desperate funding bids or a superficial paradigm for an invested kind of praxis? Both of the former abound at present under conditions when artists and curators are increasingly forced to justify art's social impact and community ties under conditions that even David Cameron no longer bothers to call the "Big Society".'



'Je ne suis pas d'accord avec ce que vous dîtes, mais je me battrai jusqu'á la mort pour que vous ayez le droit de le lire.'

'I do not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.'

Attributed to Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet) 1694-1778
By SG Tallentyre (Evelyn Beatrice Hall) in The Friends of Voltaire, 1906



Anita Bhalla, chair of Iniva's Board, responds to issues raised by Morgan Quaintance and Grant Watson.


Cuban artist Tania Bruguera is arrested and detained in Cuba for a public performance artwork; the Information Tribunal rules that Tate must reveal the historical sums it received in sponsorship from BP; Artists' Union England organises hustings for the general election; National Gallery staff strike against the privatisation of gallery services; the latest news on galleries, events, appointments, prizes and more.


Sue Arrowsmith 1950-2014
David Dye 1945-2015
AL Rees 1949-2014

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Gail Pickering She Was a Visitor 2014


Gail Pickering

Sophie J Williamson on the London-based artist

Gail Pickering uses video, performance, installation and live transmission in order to throw mediation itself open to scrutiny.

'Political agendas fall away, forming only a backstory or footnote, so that the interwoven narratives – between the camera, the images, their creators and their audiences – are allowed to come to the surface with, at the centre, Pickering's own editorial, subjective relationship with the material.'



Revolver 2

Chris Fite-Wassilak


David Briers

Rie Nakajima: Fall

Virginia Whiles

Art & Language: Nobody Spoke

Peter Suchin

Beauty and Revolution: The Poetry and Art of Ian Hamilton Finlay

Cherry Smyth

Reiner Ruthenbeck

Marcus Verhagen

Emotional Resources

Louisa Elderton

Idit Elia Nathan: Footnotes Playing Dead

Deborah Schultz

Mark Neville: London/Pittsburgh

Curt Riegelnegg

Irma Blank: Breath Paintings
Amalia Pica: Switchboard

Martin Holman

Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age
Walead Beshty: A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future

Eleanor Clayton

Tom Dale: Terminal Blue

Tim Dixon

Stuart Middleton: Sad Sketches

Saim Demircan

Morgan Fisher

Lucy Stein and Shana Moulton: Retention

Martin Herbert

Manchester Round-up

Bob Dickinson

Shanghai Biennale: Social Factory

Andrew J Stooke



How to Write About Contemporary Art

Jennifer Thatcher enjoys some guidance from Gilda Williams

'On a recent press trip, a critic confided that he writes with his mum in mind. She is more intelligent than me, he reasoned, and therefore it was embarrassing if she could not understand his writings about art.'

The Art of Walking: A Field Guide

Nick Warner finds that it is not the destination but the journey that counts

'While walking has long been equated with deep philosophical thought, endless pondering and a slow, deliberately contemplative pace of being, in modernity this act of walking and thinking takes on something of a political bent, becoming a defiant act against quicker, more efficient, less laborious modes of transport.'


Letter from Sri Lanka


Josephine Breese finds a new spirit of experimentation in Colombo

'Colombo is neater and shinier than ever before. Arriving in Sri Lanka's leading city or travelling beyond on new tarmac highways foregrounds the city's facelift in recent years: its lawns are clipped, railings painted, bus stops lit and streets swept. What's more, Colombo is becoming a varied and rich cultural hub, hosting the country's major exhibitions, arts projects and festivals.'



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