Chris Hipkiss: ‘For Us My Cuts’ at Galerie Susanne Zander

‘Chris Hipkiss’ is the pseudonym of British creative duo Alpha and Chris Mason. Married since 1986 the two have been collaborating from the moment that they first met at the age of 18. Chris is a self-taught draftsman who claims that ‘4B pencils are the only thing to use’ and Alpha is a writer whose words and ideas form an integral part of her husband’s artistic execution.

The intensely detailed pencil drawings that the couple produce humorously deal with a range of universal and political themes: as self-proclaimed ‘feminists’ gender is often addressed in their work.

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‘For Us My Cuts’, on show at Galerie Susanne Zander until 21. November,  is a series of drawings that depict a warped symbiosis of industrial and rural landscapes, strewn with strange insects, machinery and naked human forms. Whilst to speak of, such subjects seem oblique, there is an undeniable intimacy to the drawings, one that pushes the viewer to crack a smile; it is as if we are allowed in on their own private joke.

The personal warmth of Hipkiss’s work is what makes it so intriguing. ‘For Us My Cuts’ is an outlandish mishmash of words and images that confront global issues whilst offering a refreshing glance into the creative world of this extraordinary couple.

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Ken Okiishi “Screen Presence” at Museum Ludwig

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Arts Foundation of of North Rhine-Westphalia has paired up 25 international artists with 25 art museums in the region. The artists have been asked to interact with the galleries’ permanent collections in order to produce exclusive works that will be shown alongside the originals that inspired them.

On Tuesday night New York artist Ken Okiishi spoke about the installation “Screen Presence” that he has produced in collaboration with Museum Ludwig for the 25/25/25 project.

Inspired by two specific works from the Ludwig’s permanent collection: Yves Klein’s “Blau-Abkommen” and Günther Uecker’s nail relief “weiß-weiß”, Okiishi’s installation consists of four LED monitors that have been carefully positioned at three specific points around the museum. The first monitor rests directly opposite “weiß-weiß” and like a twisted twin sister the flat-screen displays a full-size image of Uecker’s original, the surface of which is disturbed by the real-life nails that have been stuck side-down onto it.

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Whilst this first monitor plays with our perception the second questions our outlook. Positioned in the Haubrich collection opposite a portrait of the collector, it displays a video image of the first monitor, the appearance of which is distorted by the light-refracting translucent oil paint that Okiishi has brushed onto its surface. The reflective paint and careful positioning of the monitor cleverly interact with the surrounding collection and several of the works appear mirrored as a backdrop on the screen’s surface.

The final part of the installation consists of two monitors placed next to one another. Positioned in a room that overlooks the Rhine the two screens are inspired by Yves Klein’s “Blau-Abkommen”, whilst one captures the frantic and ever-changing trajectory of several museum artworks across its flickering screen, the other displays a tranquil Klein blue.

“Screen Presence” is more than just a clever comment on the interface-obsessed interaction of our age. Okiishi’s use of flat-screens as canvases creates a skilful contradiction: whilst physically distancing the viewer from the original work it simultaneously encourages engagement. By displaying the works of Uecker and Klein as if they were on iPad screens, modern-day audiences are forced to reconsider the way in which they have become accustomed to viewing art.

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“Screen Presence “ will be on display at Museum Ludwig until February.

Egyptian Lover at Roxy Club

Egyptian Lover at Roxy Club

On Friday night hip-hop legend and dance music pioneer Egyptian Lover played at Roxy Club in celebration of the venue’s 31st birthday.

Having first come to fame in the 80’s with tracks like ‘Egypt Egypt’ making their mark on the Miami and New York electro scenes, Egyptian Lover’s sound remains fresh to this day.

Whilst Roxy Club normally attracts a similar breed of techno/house fans, on Friday the  place was packed with a mix of hip-hop heads, break-dancers and what can only be described as middle-aged IT-geeks. The diversity of the crowd can be taken as a testament to the wide and surviving appeal of Egyptian Lover’s sound.

In true old-school style, he had the whole mixed-bunch of us fist-pumping and chanting along to him within seconds. The allure of Egyptian Lover has as much to do with his unbridled enthusiasm as a performer as it does his infectious beats. He lacks the uptight attitude that we have nowadays come to expect from hip-hop artists. From dancing ‘like an Egyptian’ behind the decks to mingling with the crowd, his down-to-earth demeanour makes him impossible not to like. Eat your heart out Kanye because Egyptian Lover is here to stay.

Museum Ludwig: Ludwig Goes Pop

Founded in 1976 The Ludwig Museum is Cologne’s answer to The Tate Modern or MoMa. Not only is it the city’s largest contemporary art gallery but it houses one of the world’s most extensive Pop Art collections. Resting at the foot of Cologne’s iconic cathedral or ‘Dom’ the museum’s prominent location makes it impossible to miss. Yet it wasn’t until I found myself with nothing to do on a a rainy Monday that I finally walked through its illustrious doors.

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Last week the museum celebrated the opening of a new exhibition: ‘Ludwig goes Pop’ an exclusive display of Peter and Irene Lud­wig’s very own Pop Art collection that will be running until January next year. The museum was named after the Ludwigs for a reason and whilst normally a private collection would not be substantial enough to give an overview of an entire art movement, theirs, is an exception to the rule.

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The breadth of collection is such that the show has been divided into no less than eleven sections. From ‘Con-sumption is cool’ to ‘Stars and Starlets’ visitors are treated to an in-depth and accessible study of everything and anything Pop Art. From Warhol’s most iconic work to a more obscure Paolozzi sculpture, nothing has been left out.

Physically and conceptually the exhibition is flawless although personally I realised that I don’t much like Pop Art. Whilst being surrounded by brash aesthetics and crass colours made me want to get the hell out of there, this is probably the precise reaction that the Pop Artists wished to provoke from their audience in the first place.

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Marika Hackman: Gebäude 9

Marika Hackman: Gebäude 9

Fresh from supporting Alt-J on their latest UK tour and with her debut album due out in February there has never been a more exciting time to see Marika Hackman.

Hailed as one the most arresting acts to emerge from the UK in recent years singer-songwriter Hackman is currently touring Europe with Brooklyn Indie band The Antlers. On Saturday she played in Cologne at legendary venue Gebäude 9. Situated on the ‘wrong’ side of the river in the city’s old industrial area, Gebäude 9 has long been recognised for its strong line-up of emerging musicians. However it also has a reputation for hard-to-please crowds, to the likes of which many a warm-up act has fallen victim in the past.

Hackman’s ability to bring the room to a standstill clearly reflects the magnitude of her talent. Whilst her haunting vocals held everyone’s attention, her offbeat demeanour, captured by eerie backlighting, made for a tangibly unique atmosphere. You could cut the crowd’s silence with a knife.

Although most there had come to see The Antlers, a band whose music differs considerably from Hackman’s, the minute she stepped off stage she was met by a flood of new fans. Hackman’s capacity to collect new admirers wherever she performs is proof that true talent transcends musical genres. I am certainly not alone in awaiting February with baited breath.

The Photobook Museum

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Since August a former industrial estate in Mulheim has been home to the world’s first ever Photobook Museum, a vast exhibition of ‘the central form of expression in photography: the photo book.’

Having originally been scheduled to end this week, yesterday the organisers announced that the museum will remain open for a further 10 days, presumably because of the great reception that it’s had.  

 On entering the museum the first thing that you notice is its size. Located in an enormous warehouse the sheer breadth of the exhibition warrants more than just one visit. Despite having been twice already, I  plan to go again next week.

The project’s tagline is ‘Away with show cases,’ a motto that encourages visitors to physically interact with traditionally untouchable artworks. With over 300 photobooks to be leafed-through, (only the most valuable are in display cases), it is impossible not to become involved.

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Whilst there are 25 exhibitions that address the varying format and content of photobooks from across the globe, there is also a display of current photobook prize-winners, as well as several famous guest photobook collections and a section that deals with ‘Photobook Studies.’ 

Aside from the main exhibition, as a ticket-holder you are entitled to attend a host of workshops, talks and guided tours that the museum has been laying on all summer. Another of the highlights is the museum’s bookshop that sells first-class photobooks at a third of their normal price. The Photobook Museum is a colossal project that has proved a ground-breaking success. One can only hope that it will find a more permanent venue for the future.

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With special thanks to Jan Höhe for the photographs.