#9 Kinoteca presents
an anarchic salon by Michael H Shamberg
27.06.06 - 05.08.06
Turtle, 150 works by contemporary artists, gathered by Michael H. Shamberg
In London's summer of 2006, New York artist Michael H. Shamberg imagined TURTLE. Turtle is a common work of art, a concept, and an itinerary exhibition that is now on its way to Paris and New York. Turtle celebrates encounters made throughout a life, a life Shamberg is fighting for every single day.
In Lebanon, at the border with Israel, there is a turtle sanctuary that is the result of being a protected area during the civil war. The almost extinct Mediterranean sea turtle was allowed to flourish. This is something good that came out of the war. I have gone through my own corporeal civil war and TURTLE is my sanctuary and celebration.
July 2005: New Yorker producer and filmmaker Michael H. Shamberg was in London, on his way to Beijing to do a documentary on the rock band Joy Division. But I went much further he says with irony when one knows that Shamberg went into a coma. After spending several months at the hospital, he starts to live on his own again at the end of 2005. Despite the latent fatigue and his difficulties speaking, still weakened by his corporeal civil war, as he calls it, Shamberg's dynamism and creativity both overrode. That is when Donald Smith from the Chelsea Space proposed him carte blanche in his London gallery. The Chelsea Space belongs to the University of Arts of London; by inviting art professionals to put together unconventional projects in his gallery, Donald Smith established a space for experimentations and dialogs on exhibiting and curating concepts, on their processes and their objectives.
To realize Turtle, Shamberg decided to write to his friends: artists, poets, writers, filmmakers, musicians, architects. he asked them for a work, whatever work, considering the fact that the event did not benefit of any fund. More than 150 artists friends answered Michael's call. A young actress exhibited her drawings, a poet sent two sentences, a writer performed music; texts, sounds, all kind of images and no hierarchy. Do something you are not used to do, advises Shamberg to a young artist, to free him from the daily and the marketable, to encourage him to explore other talents. Turtle is an anarchic salon, does Shamberg explains, a love letter.
Michael H. Shamberg was born in New York in 1952. He has produced video clips for New Order, Patti Smith and others, and directed The Tempation of Victoria for an old song of New Order in Paris before he collapsed. He has worked with artists such as Lawrence Weiner, Nancy Holt, Dan Graham, Vito Acconci and Robert Wilson. He travels a lot, gives lectures in European and American universities. If he could, Shamberg would probably settle in Paris. In Paris I could greedily walk and think, write and live. Because I don't really speak French, it is easy to black out and get lost within myself. But an American can't stay over 6 months in France. No big deal, Michael is a nomad. As most artists, he needs this continuous movement, those exchanges with other people, in order to put together projects, to nourish his imagination, his creativity.
The last project he was working on before his illness is the Matre, Lihseb Please, a short and experimental filmed essay taking place in Lebanon. He shot it in Beirut in 2005, while doing locations for a featured film he was working on with Lebanese poet and writer Etel Adnan: I felt I was going back to a place I had never been.
The assembling of works and artists from all over the world that constitutes Turtle, is to be considered as the product of Shamberg's personal and continuous work, as a work of art. It may be unconsciously inspired by the New York artistic environment of the 1970s, that is familiar to Shamberg but no longer exist: The drugs and greed of the 1980's destroyed it, artists began hanging out with their dealers and collectors rather than each other. Far away from being nostalgic, Shamberg just believes that creativity is nourished by exchanges and communication between people.
A carte blanche to an artist allows him or her to present his own world, his references, his friends; it gives to the public comprehension keys to his work. Each presented item becomes a piece of puzzle, which assembling tends to represent the artistic personality of its conceiver. Just like the turtle sanctuary, a protected living area, Turtle, a title given to the event, a piece of the puzzle, a burst of life by an ill artist, proposes a lively panel of the contemporary, interdisciplinary and constraint free creation. This gathering of works is meant to instigate encounters, works in common, ramifications. I would like Turtle to continue evolve under different forms throughout the world, says Shamberg. Turtle is becoming a concept that mixes art to life, aims to gather works and people, to incite new creations and new talents. At Turtle, the value of the works cannot be counted in dollars. It resides in their presence, the story of their making, of their author, and their relation to Michael's story and the concept of Turtle.
Some see globalization as a cause for uniformization of art creations and the loss of cultural identities. Others know how to use its communication means as tools of creation. Internet, telephone, television, press, travels and correspondence give us access to more and more ideas, knowledge, people; always faster. Those communication ways and the ensuing multiple encounters are Michael H. Shamberg's art materials. His clever sociability, his humanism, his mind opening with no regards of age, activities or reputation make him the icon of the contemporary artist plugged to his contemporaries. His most recent work of art is Turtle, the natural and fascinating fruit of our hypercommunicative epoch.
Elisabeth Krolyi 2007