2016 — The frieze editorial team presents its highlights of the year
Talk of shores, borders and the purity of language immediately brings to mind pressing global issues around nationalism and immigration. For his South London Gallery show earlier this year, ‘Sic Glyphs’, Michael Dean blocked the entrance to the gallery with chipboard and corrugated iron and filled the room with twisted forms in steel rebar, concrete and plastic, which sprouted dry weeds, reminiscent of an abandoned industrial estate or dockland. These sculptures, suggesting either human figures with peephole eyes, clenched fists, lolling tongues or cursive script, tracked the migration of language from speech to writing to the glyph and then into three dimensions. In this way, he drew attention to the fundamental instability of meaning – language, so central to identity, belongs to nobody and settles nowhere. Dean really did conjure some ‘sic glyphs’ – cool signs – with work that felt playful and politically urgent.
— Paul Clinton is associate editor of frieze and lives in London, UK.
In a climate of revanchist populism and social upheaval, Nicole Eisenman’s paintings, recently exhibited in a retrospective at the New Museum and a solo show at Anton Kern Gallery in New York, are celebrations of racial, sexual and gender difference. Eisenman’s figurative painting demonstrates how now, more than ever, we need to see diverse bodies represented in our visual culture.
— Dan Fox is co-editor of frieze and lives in New York, USA.
Mary Reid Kelley’s latest film, This is Offal (2016), is set in a morgue; it tells the tale of a woman, who committed suicide, and her animated organs, in rhymed dialogue. It’s Shana-Moulton-funny, Jim-Shaw-awkward and Tim-Burton-haunting.
Hiwa K is a Berlin-based artist who originates from the northern-Iraqi, Kurdish town of Sulaymaniyah. Via videos, sculptures, installations and performative works, he reflects on the recent history of war and trauma in the Middle East with musical humour and conceptual acuity.
— Jörg Heiser is co-editor of frieze and lives in Berlin, Germany.
Jeremy Deller’s We Are Here (2016) – a one-day living memorial across the UK to the young lives lost at the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago – was an almost unbearably moving tribute to a slaughtered generation. The depth and scope of Deller’s creative activism shows no sign of abating. A different approach to the past, but no less moving: the young painter, Helen Johnson, creates urgent, beautiful canvases that intertwine Australian history with an hallucinogenic imagining of the present. Her exhibition, as part of Glasgow International earlier this year, was incredible: I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
— Jennifer Higgie is co-editor of frieze and editor of Frieze Masters. She lives in London, UK.
The US filmmaker Laura Poitras’s documentary work about the Iraq War, surveillance and the importance of whistleblowers has never been more necessary. Her trilogy on post 9/11 politics – My Country, My Country (2006), The Oath (2010) and CITIZENFOUR (2014) – traces the most significant political developments of our century with both a journalistic immediacy and an intimate, humanizing lens. I am looking forward to her forthcoming film, Risk: a portrait of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, various journalists and activists.
— Christy Lange is curator of public programming and associate editor of frieze. She lives in Berlin, Germany.
Josh Kline’s immersive, dystopian installations, incorporating video and sculpture, examine the intersection between digital technology, politics and labour. Freedom (2015) – which was first seen in New York as part of last year’s New Museum Triennial, and is currently on view at the Portland Art Museum – combines references to Occupy Wall Street, Barack Obama’s inaugural address, the Iraq War and police killings to highlight the loss of our collective freedoms in the face of growing state and corporate surveillance. In his show at 47 Canal in New York earlier this year, Kline used an innovative range of materials to address income inequality: one of the most significant social and political issues of our time.
— Evan Moffitt is assistant editor of frieze and lives in New York, USA.
Lucy Beech’s Pharmakon, co-commissioned by this year’s Liverpool Biennial and FACT, deepens the artist’s exploration of ‘emotional entrepreneurship’, particularly as it relates to female empowerment and its fictions, and the ways in which networks of dependency and support are configured by late capitalism. Pharmakon is an incisive, absolutely contemporary film that feels more relevant than ever in Britain, where ‘our’ NHS is continually and insidiously used as political currency – and one all the more pleasing for its, perhaps unwitting, invocation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches (1983).
— Amy Sherlock is deputy editor of frieze and lives in London, UK.
In London in January, I saw Marianna Simnett’s first solo show at Seventeen. Her immersive installation, Faint with Light (2016), includes a recording of the artist fainting from self-induced hyperventilation – she is interested in the involuntary sound emitted by the body at the moment of unconciousness – while a rack of strip lights projects a slowly accelerating strobe pattern. For those that know her films, such visceral intensity will not be a surprise; to experience it was something else altogether.
— Paul Teasdale is editor of frieze.com and lives in London, UK.
It was a simple action – or, perhaps, inaction – but its repercussions were staggering. By closing Chisenhale Gallery for just over a month, and insisting its employees not work, the German artist Maria Eichhorn provoked more confusion, vitriol and debate than any other artist this year. 5 Weeks, 25 Days, 175 Hours is a testament to the abiding significance of the conceptual; a testament to the importance of doing things a little differently.
— Harry Thorne is assistant digital editor of frieze and lives in London, UK.