Art Culture

Artes Mundi | Exhibition Review

Internationally focused arts organisation Artes Mundi has arrived at National Museum Cardiff once again, opening it’s doors to the public from 26.10.18 – 24.02.19 for its 8th edition. The biennial exhibition showcases contemporary visual artists, whose work is centred around what it truly means to exist today from an economic, social and political view point.

This year features a diverse cohort of artists, displaying a variety international art that engages with an array of cultural themes and mediums, including contributions from:

  • Anna Boghiguian (Canada/Egypt)
  • Bouchra Khalili (Morocco/France)
  • Otobong Nkanga (Nigeria/Belgium)
  • Trevor Paglen (USA)
  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand)

If nothing else, Art has the ability to start conversations and often divide opinion, so we sent two of our contributors, Izzy Boulton and Gintare Sa, to check it out.

Izzy Boulton:

Anna Boghiguian

Pushing the great doors into the Artes Mundi exhibition, you step into a bright pink and yellow colourful box of a gallery (think rhubarb and custard on a sugar rush). Anna Boghiguian’s installation A meteor fell from the sky (2018) greets you and you become fully immersed amongst her work, the colour of the walls making you feel a part of the experience as oppose to a visitor walking through the gallery and merely observing work. The varying mediums, heights and colours of her work are a feast for the eyes and make you want to take your time in looking at each piece separately and working out how they were made and what their meaning is. Boghihuigan is an Egyptian/Canadian artist who is living and working in Cairo, and her installation examines the global steel industry and its global implications across society, culture and politics. Her use of shadow is a particularly interesting, alongside mirrors and writing on the walls.

Image by Izzy Boulton
Image by Izzy Boulton


Bouchra Khalili

At times the video installations in galleries appear to serve as a walk through for visitors, but this year Bouchra Khalili’s UK premiere of Twenty-Two Hours (2018) was a highly captivating video. Sitting on an old row of cinema seats placed in front of an enormous screen, Khalili’s installation explores poet Jean Genet’s 1970 visit to the United States at the invitation of the Black Panther Party. Genet’s slogan “Blacks are asking for nothing other than equality.” was repeated throughout the installation, and shared a revolutionary story through some uncomplicated yet compelling camerawork. Each chapter of the story was told through different methods, from a narrative with two iPhones showing a slideshow of relevant photos, to a single man retelling his story in the darkness. Artes Mundi 8 has delivered yet another captivating year of art work to National Museum Cardiff, and it appears to be its best yet.

Gintare Sa:

In my personal experience, when visiting art galleries I always experience something different every time. Sometimes you can find the piece, which will inspire you for a long time. This time, I have found some of these at the Artes Mundi exhibition. I am a fan of classicism-dominated art; however, this contemporary exhibition swept me away. Selected artists beautifully draw attention to the meaning of what is like to engage with our world today. Despite that, it took me more than an hour to complete the exhibition, but it was definitely worth it. Contemporary art is significant. It reflects and hints to societal problems, which we sometimes ignore to face…

Anna Boghiguian’s politically influenced paintings, drawings, cut-outs and installations demonstrate the extent of the damage that globalism and complex economies cause to humanity and environment – animal killing, urbanization, industrialization and more. ‘’A meteor fell from the sky’’ work is full of rusted metal and dark colours, which evokes heaviness of the reality that artist is trying to unfold.

Image by Izzy Boulton
Image by Izzy Boulton

Bouchra Khalili uncovers critical and ethical approaches to what community means to us. ‘’Twenty-Two Hours’’ short film is showing The Black Panther movement and the struggle trying to fight the racism and repression throughout the connection to poetry. Film uses two young women that voice the ‘’witnesses’’ from the past. The conversation beautifully interlinks the differences between generations, however, the vicious cycle of racism, seems to be endless.

Image by Gintare Sa

Otobong Nkanga’s ‘’Manifest of Strains and Double Plot’’ captivates you with an amazing tapestries, installations and use of minerals and organic material. It demonstrates the dislocated parts of the bodies that represent complex structure of the Earth and the fast-changing relationship with the land.  I cannot help but question the importance that everything is interlinked as Nkanga tries to remind us. Likewise, decisions taken politically will have direct consequences to the humans and nature.

Trevor Paglen’s ‘’The Other Night Sky’’ and ‘’Limit Telephotography’’ uses photography and science collaboration that gives a chance to see the unseen – surveillance and power structures of the government.

Image by Gintare Sa

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s dreamlike film ‘’Invisibility’’ creates the sense that you are the part of the film. The film mirrors the ghosts of Thailand’s political past.  Watching this video you can really feel the Weerasethakul’s manipulation of time and vision between mythical and real.

When I left the exhibition, my mind was full of ideas. I adored each piece of work, although as an environmentalist, I was mostly impressed with Otobong Nkanga’s and Anna Boghiguian’s art. I believe it is essential, that today’s artwork encourages people to consider the importance of human action.