courtyard is an exhibition space.
A place of gathering and experimentation, defined by the projects, contributions and events it hosts at a given moment, and driven by the associations that emerge from these. Visitors are invited to wander across the open space.
courtyard opens with Locus/Lacuna, a new commission by Nour Mobarak.
Inspired by Francis Yates’ book ‘The Art of Memory’, Mobarak tracks the architectural site of a personal memory as an incomplete "memory palace", an ancient mnemonic device, to develop the piece. This device relies on associating information to specific physical environments. The protagonist sets out an imaginary journey over which they visit specific locations – or loci – to recall information. The locus of this memory is the red plush seat. Yet, once entering, there are lacunas- absences in the recording of memory. Each of the tracks of this four-channel sound work underwent distinct processes of degradation and manipulation.
16 Mar 2022
On Using “I” and First-person Narration by Iman Issa with Moyra Davey
For several years now I’ve been engaged in an itinerant conversation with Moyra Davey. It began when I wrote a short paragraph on her film Les Goddesses for Artforum concerning her use of first person narration. At the time, I was thinking a great deal about what it means to use oneself as the source of one’ s work—trying to make sense of the “I” through which we choose to speak and articulate positions, sentiments, and facts. Moyra’ s film appeared to pierce through these issues head on and became a new lens through which to view the rest of her work. Her photographs, videos, and writings completed over three decades started to form a coherent whole in my mind, and I was eager to revisit her work from my newly found angle. Until now, I’d never had the chance to properly unpack these ideas. This conversation is an attempt at doing that.
Iman Issa: One of the key moments that brought me further into your work was seeing Les Goddesses in 2011, both at the Whitney Biennial and during your solo exhibition at Murray Guy. At that time, I was struggling with the use of what one might describe as the “personal voice”. I felt uncomfortable with the enormous leeway an artist can have when using such a voice. As if it gave one license to draw connections between different elements and narratives with no justification beyond the incontestable claim of subjective inclinations. At that same time, I was convinced that certain elements and topics could only be accessed with it. Seeing your work was revelatory; I felt it was using the personal voice differently. How would you describe your relationship to that voice?
Moyra Davey: Fundamentally I’m interested in storytelling, although I don’t often put it like that. Some background on Les Goddesses: I had just moved to Paris for ten months and was flooded with memories of when I lived there at the age of eighteen, and had hugely struggled with the city and the people I knew at the time. I wanted to write about what I considered “unspeakable” memories. That was the idea, the “agenda”, even though a big part of me thought it was impossible. A well-known writer, whose name escapes me, counseled that I should write from a place of the greatest discomfort. Knausgaard is able to do it via auto-fiction.
For myself, I can only imagine that via fiction—a novel, a story—genres I have never tried. Les Goddesses was an attempt to get close to painful material, and I came up with this device of linking my story to these historical, literary women: Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. This was something of an enabler; a way to create parallelism and give the ‘muck’ a foil.
But Borges points out that people “long for confessions”, and viewers have told me the same, that they prefer the grittier, autobiographical material in my narratives. Les Goddesses became somewhat of an idealized portrait of my family. And so in this new video that I’ve just begun to edit, tentatively titled Hemlock Forest, I’m asking what it would mean to revisit Les Goddesses, but to show us (my sisters and myself) as we are now, not via photos taken thirty-five years ago when we were in our heyday. I cite what you wrote in Artforum, about Les Goddesses having a “desperate” quality. I thought you hit the nail on the head.
30 Mar 2022
Hemlock Forest by Μoyra Davey
Yannis Maniatakos: The Sea Said Yes by Chus Martinez
I have been fantasizing with the idea of conceiving the Ocean as a public space and an art space. But I never dreamt that someone performed this dream already. There is a movie of the Greek artist Yannis Maniatakos painting under water that fills the viewer with lots of emotions. When you belong to a coastal community, and such is my case, you grow up with a culture of salt. Salt is both a powerful preserver and assures you food for the winters and a strong corrosive agent that acts against all the materials you use for shelter. In that regard, painting under water embodies not only an embrace of a space of light, life and liquid but a philosophy of mingled bodies and substances that goes far beyond the human. True! We never were bold enough to ask salt if she would like to be part of painting! By painting inside the Ocean, in a spot where light gets through its surface as if it was marvelous glass turning everything light blue, embracing the painter with its liquid body, he is insisting in a new artistic epistemology, one that departs from mingled bodies. A true non-binary exercise that tries—hard and repeatedly— to depict the sea from inside.
From Nicolas Poussin to Constable, Turner, and Cézanne artists have been approaching nature as a genre, as a subject that animates the matter of painting with the logic of life. Plein air is a term referring to the act of painting outdoors, to the gesture of taking the practice of art out of the controlled environment of the studio. The sun, the winds, the elements of nature do as they wish and not as the artist desires. Also, the nude bodies can only be imagined or replaced by voluptuous clouds, tempests, all the phenomena and moods of the weather. However, for centuries, no one wondered why is there no portrait of the corals, the fishes… Portraits of different histories, histories of the millions of shipwrecks, the unlucky civilizations that ended in the depths, of the traces of all the vestiges and wrongdoings of the humans towards the Ocean…
Yannis Maniatakos was not so far either in his work. He stayed by porting the familiar environment under the sea that he chose as his own. From there, painting opened up to forms of life and processes that were novel to painting herself. We should see it as a true get together between one of the most —historically, at least—privileged media and the Ocean. Movement has always been a challenge for art. Accused of depicting life frozen, art and artists have been exploring ways of becoming life, instead of representing it. For this reason, dynamism is a key notion. It refers not to the illusion of movement but to the reality of mutualism. To engage physically, mentally and philosophically in a practice that demands radical adaptations — to breath, to the site, to the sight, to the fact that no one except the fishes can stand still while painting. Adaptation even to your co-workers, the co-habitants of the sea while you paint it's wonders. A practice truly based in learning, anew, as a human, to be with others. The same exercise that we perform when, every time humans enforce violence to others, we wonder about why is it so difficult to stay in balance to respect diversity, to honor differences, to keep freedom as the most precious value. Yes. Many times in time, in history, we have needed a refuge. Yannis Maniatakos found —at least partially—a shelter, a refuge where to re-program the possibility of a new world in balance, in peace, respectful to each other.
Painting under the Ocean refers to an exile, but refers as well to a promise, the promise to do all we can to keep the conditions of life in all its forms in relation. A move —going under water—that is even more radical if you take into account the deep nostalgic character of the Greek society, obsessively insisting and referring to antiquity, to being the origin of democracy… He does not obviously reject this myth, and yet by leaving this idea of a civilization, incorporates this tics of collective self-depiction into a radical new reality that may become a new foundation of Greek identity and philosophy: the sea. A sea that accepts him, Yannis Maniatakos, that allows for co-creativity and that reminds all of us that the true encyclopedic goal is synthesis.