I used to hang out at the ICA when I was an art student many years ago. It was the ‘IT’ place for ‘cool’ art and art house films, I even remember seeing Derek Jarman‘s film for the first time there. I don’t remember when I stopped going there, but its appeal slowly diminished over the years. And not surprisingly, for many years it has had to go through financial problems as well as identity crisis and management changes.
After the departure of Ekow Eshun, Gregor Muir took over as the Executive Director last year, and finally, the ICA is back on form again. After being a Barbican member for two years, I decided to end the membership and joined the ICA for the first time.
There was an issue initially because my membership card arrived about 1 month after I signed up and I had to call a few times to get it sorted! Not a great start but luckily, things have improved since. Last Friday afternoon, I went to see two documentaries almost back to back, which reminded me so much of my student days! It felt good to relive and be in that kind of spirit once in a while…
The first documentary, Marx reloaded (2011) was sold out soon after it was released about 2 weeks ago, proving that the return of Marx is not a myth! The film investigates the current global social and economic crisis that we are facing under capitalism and how Karl Marx‘s ideas are making a comeback due to many’s dissatisfaction with our current situation. I have not read Marx‘s manifesto but I have read of his ideas through other sources and I am quite curious about the subject. Although many critics accused of his ideas as utopian, I think they can be used as basis to explore more… but realistically, something new/ innovative needs to surface soon to rescue our problematic society!
The second documentary, Axis of Light: Eight Artists from the Middle East (2011) is a a poignant documentary directed by Pia Getty, which depicts the on-going conflicts and struggles in different parts of the Middle East seen through 8 leading artists from the region. I have always been fascinated by the culture and arts in the Middle East (I blame this on watching too much Sinbad cartoon when I was child!) esp. Arabic calligraphy and architecture. Hence, I find Rachid Koraichi‘s work completely memerising, but overall, it was eye-opening to see and hear from these artists talking about their work and inspirations. Having just seen Youssef Nabil‘s exhibition in Paris (see my Paris exhibition entry), it made me understand him and his work more after seeing the film. This is a very touching and genuine documentary that should not be missed.
Apart from the cinematic revival at the ICA, the current exhibition, In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955, is also very intriguing. It exhibits the lesser-known serial publications produced by artists around the world from 1955 to the present day. The highlights for me included American photographer, Eleanor Antin‘s 100 boots postcards (1971-73) … although I have the book, it is not quite the same as seeing the postcards in person! Another surprise was to see Japanese photographer, Araki Nobuyoshi‘s black and white photocopies, Zerokkusu (1970) bound beautifully in a traditional way.
If the ICA stays consistent and continues with impressive exhibitions and screenings like these, I think it will attract a lot more visitors or member, though the downside is that either events will be fully booked all the time or they will have to seek a larger premise!
Axis of Light will be screened until 4th March and In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955 will end on 25th March. Both the screening and exhibition are free of charge. Click here for more info.