Olivia Plender

Artforum International, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Olivia Plender


Olivia Plender is a London-based artist and coeditor of Untitled magazine. Her work was recently featured in "Le Voyage Interieur: Paris-London" at Espace EDF Electra in Paris and currently appears in the Tate Triennial at Tate Britain in London. She has been short-listed for the Beck's Futures 2006 award, and her book, A Stellar Key to the Summerland, will be published by Book Works later this year.

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1 NICK LAESSING'S "FREE ENERGY" RESEARCH Berlin- and London-based artist Nick Laessing is currently searching for that holy grail of science: the perpetual motion machine. The quest has led him to Switzerland (where a religious cult claimed success), to scientific conferences, and finally to his own studio--where he constructed a model on an existing patent. Chronically underfunded, research into free energy is the preserve of autodidacts and scientists on the margins, recalling the ideological endeavors of "cranks" like Buckminster Fuller and nineteenth-century amateur scientists, who made significant discoveries (like electricity) before the scientific community closed ranks against outsiders.

2 KLAUS WEBER, UNFOLDING CUL-DE-SAC, 2004 I saw this wry work, a wooden hut on a large patch of Tarmac, at London's Cubitt gallery in 2004. The shed housed research material about an unlikely tool for subversion called the "sidewalk mushroom"--an edible fungus strong enough to grow through concrete, as proved by this exhibition, which saw a new crop push through the rock-solid Tarmac daily.

3 EL BASILISCO, BUENOS AIRES Last year I participated in this remarkable residency program, established just after the economic crisis in Argentina by three exceptional artists: Esteban Alvarez, Cristina Schiavi, and Tamara Stuby. Though small in scale and located in Alvarez's and Stuby's unfashionable suburb Avellaneda, El Basilisco has had an impact worldwide as a successful artist-run space functioning outside established channels.

4 PUBLISH AND BE DAMNED In the 1960s Oyvind Fahlstrom envisaged a network through which artworks could be made and bought inexpensively as multiples, much like records or comics. The Publish and Be Damned fair in London--started two years ago by curators Kit Hammonds and Emily Pethick, and now run by Sarah McCrory--would make Fahlstrom proud. Providing a means to exchange independently produced material, the fair has featured everything from Pablo Bronstein's photocopied reprint of Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto to records from the label Difficult Fun.

5 MONITOR Many important British film directors--like John Schlesinger, Karel Reisz, and the notorious Ken Russell--started their careers making documentaries for Monitor, the BBC's original arts program that ran through the mid-'60s. Russell pushed the boundaries of the documentary form with his biopics of artists, writers, and composers--including The Debussy Film (1965), about a director making a film on the French Impressionist composer.

6 I AM CURIOUS (YELLOW), 1967 This film, made with its companion, I Am Curious (Blue) (1968), by Swedish director Vilgot Sjoman, combines real interviews, newsreel footage, and fantasy sequences to form a reflexive work that, like Russell's BBC films, switches between documentary and fiction. …

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