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December 2011

Iniva’s Window Commission – Interview with Tessa Jackson

Guest blogger and Inivator Tara Brown interviews CEO Tessa Jackson about Iniva’s annual Window Commission

 For four years Iniva at Rivington Place have curated unique window commissions during the Christmas season. Commissions are taken from international artists, who have in the past used the huge windows at Rivington place to give an alternative and contemporary message for the people of Shoreditch.

I was very lucky to quickly interview Tessa Jackson, chief exec of Iniva, about this year’s commission:

Why do you do a window commission each year? How did it start?
We do not hold exhibitions over the Christmas period for a number of reasons and so it is a good way of continuing our commitment to artists and discussions around their work, while the building is closed.  This is our 4th Window commission, so there has been one for every year since Rivington Place opened.
Do you find the visitor experience for the window commission different to that of the typical / white cube experience?
Yes it is different, and the purpose of the commission is giving the artist the opportunity to speak to the street directly about something they feel is important.

How was the experience of curating a window show? What were the challenges and rewards?
Thinking of artists who will make the most of what is quite a particular opportunity is key.  The work can be in any medium but of course cannot be too three dimensional physically. Also it is a large and imposing window so the artist needs to take on the challenge of its scale with something that will give impact beyond the day to day clutter of the street.
Does your window commission take inspiration from other commissions?
No, not knowingly.  The opportunity presented itself and Iniva has taken it from there.  Of course asking an artist to make / create something specifically is a privilege and a delight!

What’s your take on this year’s commission by Abdoulaye Konaté?
I am thrilled by Abdoulaye Konaté’s response – a serious and significant subject proposed in an aesthetically sensitive way;  for example he has picked up on the David Adjaye’s design of the building with his use of greys.  He is referring to the plumage of the guinea fowl but the work considers its site, how the public will see it; Power and Religion contains is extraordinarily majestic.
How do you think the commission may develop and change in the future?
Who knows!  The main thing is to give open opportunities to artists so they can make unusual propositions.  For our part it is important that Iniva selects artists who can make the most of our Window Commission.

Find out more about Window Commissions past and current

Scenes from the Class Struggle in Portugal

 The Militant Image, Scenes from the Class Struggle in Portugal – by Tara Brown
Art is great – it can serve you with underwhelming and overpowering emotions. It can also help you notice and challenge perceptions that you may have never thought about. I’ve had one of those rare moments; a moment where I’ve learnt about something I’ve known absolutely nothing about. Before Tuesday 29 November, I did not know that Portugal had had a fascist military state, let alone that the people of Portugal had started a revolution of their own from 1974 that lasted for around two years. It’s been called the last revolution in Europe, and American filmmaker Robert Kramer may have realised this in his decision to produce Scenes from the Class Struggle in Portugal, released in 1977. Themes that often crop up in Iniva’s programmes are explored in the film, such as economics, human rights, and politics.

Watching the film with its fantastic Portuguese music in the background, I got to see the daily struggle of the people as they stormed the streets, reclaiming and occupying public spaces as citizens and united workers. They occupied schools, factories, and public spaces, working together as a team. With the term ‘occupy’ so prevalent this year, I wonder how many people camping in the cold and hostile streets all over the globe realise that the working heroes from Portugal had succeeded in bringing democracy to the country through this ethos?

The Marxist politics in this film are loud and undeniable. The narrative places the workers as an homogeneous mass against the bourgeois, who are never really represented in the film. There is no subjectivity within the film either – in the final notes at the end of the picture, a card has blood dripping into its message, a very unsubtle metaphor.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film was its physical quality. The curators  for this programme, Kodwo Eshun and Ros Gray, had chosen films that were unseen and hard to find. The picture is full of spots and the aesthetics are rough and overexposed – at one point, there is an interview with a soldier, whose face has been obscured to a white mask from the quality of the film. With its style and narration, militant cinema is a genre all its own and the programme at Iniva has hopefully presented its audience with new knowledge and perspectives.

*The programme has come from the publication of a special Third Text journal ‘Militant Cinema: A Cine-Geography’.Find out more about The Militant Image programme

Tara Brown is an Inivator, a member of Iniva’s Youth Advisory Board and is also currently an Education Apprentice at Whitechapel Gallery.

Artist of the week: Margareta Kern

Margareta Kern participates in Counterpoint, an exhibition at the Rochelle School, Shoreditch, as part of Platforma Festival from 29 November – 4 December. She was also part of Contrapuntal Perspectives dialogues, as part of which I was in conversation with TJ Demos and Oreet Ashery.

Counterpoint is a group show and multidiciplinary event dedicated to Edward Said’s idea that, on account of their awareness of different realities with respect to culture, nationhood, language, identity and the law, refugees and migrants can create a uniquely plural vision of society.

The works included in the show span a variety of media, examining ideas around issues of exile, migration, displacement and identity. Margareta Kern is showing a video work in this exhibition called Guestures/Gostikulacije created this year.

Double-screen video-installation GUESTures | GOSTIkulacije

Double-screen video-installation GUESTures | GOSTIkulacije, is part of a series of works that stem from artist’s long-term ethnographic, archival and historical research and interviews with the migrant worker women in Berlin, who were part of an organised mass labour migration, from the socialist Yugoslavia to West-Germany, in the late 1960′s. 

Inspired by the principles of the verbatim theatre and its political potential, the video GUESTures | GOSTIkulacije was filmed with actress Adna Sablyich in artist’s studio in London, basing her performance on audio-recordings of conversations between migrant workers and the artist. The resulting work both follows and subverts the impulse of the verbatim style to achieve a certain ‘ideal’ authenticity of expression through the use of documentary material. On two equally sized rectangular screens we can simultaneously follow two complexly linked contents; on one we see the artist creating the film-set, a kind of ‘fictional’ framework for these women’s stories, intervened occasionally by archival footage from German factories in which these women worked, whilst on the other we are solely focused on the actresses performance. The desired effect of the Brechtian ‘distancing’ of the narrative is additionally achieved through occasional subtle interventions by the artist herself, from significant pauses in the interpretation of the text, to the sudden inclusion of the artist’s voice replicating parts of the interview. Each part of the video, is as much a portrait as it is a space of experimentation with the questions of voice, testimony and narrative; document/ary, performativity and the historical imaginary. 

Margareta Kern’s artistic practice engages with the social and political sphere through multi-layered and inter-disciplinary projects. Kern is interested in the relationship of performance, narrative and participation to documentary and experimental image making, as well as in the relationship of art and activism.

Informed by contemporary ethnography, Kern’s work to date has engaged with intimate spaces and narratives, and with questions around visibility, power and representation. She recently organised a series of events, terms & conditions, with Iniva  ranging from talks and discussions to workshops and walking tours, explore the impact of neoliberal capitalism on migration and labour with a focus on the social and economic injustices, inspired by Iniva’s three year project At the Intersection: Art & Economies. You can watch video clips and listen to auido recordings of several of these talks online.

Also showing alongside Margareta Kern is another artist who has previously worked with Iniva, Oreet Ashery who created a piece for Progress Reports.

The venue for this exhibition is: Club Row, Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, E2 7ES.

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A sneak preview of this year’s window commission…

This year for Iniva’s 5th annual window commission we are very pleased to be showing a work by Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté ‘Power and Religion’.

It took a few pairs of hands to install this 7 metre textile artwork into the narrow space in Rivington Place’s vast street facing window, but we think its going to be the star attraction of Rivington Street throughout December! Here is a sneak preview of the work, a few days before its unveiling to the public on the 7th.


Find out more about the work which reflects on the relationship in Africa between power and religion – the position of Christianity and Islam within political and cultural life here. The artist will be in conversation with writer Coline Milliard on 6 December – book your place.

Read an article about the work in production here and you can see images from the artist’s studio here.