Frieze London: A Voyage of Discovery into the World of Contemporary Art

written by Anna Beketov

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     ÅYR: P1, Frieze Projects 2015. Photograph by Lewis Ronald. Courtesy of Lewis Ronald/Frieze

ÅYR: P1, Frieze Projects 2015. Photograph by Lewis Ronald. Courtesy of Lewis Ronald/Frieze

This year’s Frieze was potent, confrontational and —after a week of viewing— impressive. One of the highlights this year was the Frieze Project P1 (designed by ÅYR, a group of Architectural Association graduates also responsible for the Venice Architecture Biennale’s Airbnb Pavilion); P1 is cosy collection of interconnected rooms dominated by large and disarrayed beds. Attached to the mattresses was the fetish of every twenty-first century, Apple-product-bearing individual—the Lightning Cable. The rooms were therefore strewn with floaty creative individuals, reclining amongst the embroidered duvets whilst ‘chilling and charging’.

A slight and rather ironic ‘Frieze fatigue’ was brought on by the outstanding yet numerous interactive features. Most notable of these was Jeremy Herbert’s P5 Frieze Project, which required the visitor to crawl through a claustrophobic tunnel of exposed wood into the underworld of the Frieze tent. What one discovered was almost complete darkness, the sounds of an incoming tide, and a blast of cold air. The scaffolding of the enormous tent can vaguely be made out, and this whole experience brings to light the physicality of the fair and the amount of work that goes into its structure. Placed in the cool, dark loneliness, away from the fair’s bright lights, heating, and meandering crowds, the space allowed for a time reflection of on the philosophy of the fair.

What is Frieze? Is it a place of consumption—a feast for the eyes and a drain of the bank account? Is it a fashion show—a place to see and be seen? Is it a place to discover new artists, or is it case of spotting blockbuster pieces? Rachel Rose’s Frieze Tent forces the viewer to pose these questions. This scaled-down version of the Frieze tent itself invites participants to get on their knees and crawl into a confined, carpeted space, where there are no exhibits—instead, attendees are cramped together, emphasising the social aspect of the fair. The soundtrack pumped into the space supposedly recreates the way in which different animals hear music. The effect is sublime; a rather dream-like state engulfs the visitor—reinforced by the central heating, dim lighting and plush carpet. Is Rose’s tent art, or is it just a comforting, basic sanctuary from the brash ideological musings and vibrant visuals found in the real-life tent?

This seems to be a large part of this year’s Frieze-controversial and challenging pieces, increasingly pushing the boundaries of the definition of art. Provocative performance art was plentiful. There was Japanese artist Ken Kagami drawing on-demand portraits of visitors that contained only breasts and penises, while one could also encounter the ‘Siamese Hair Twins’—looking like something between a fairy-tale and the twins from The Shining.

Amongst many spectacles were contemporary-art gems such as the magnificent permanent marker scrawling of Jannis Varelas and Prem Sahib’s glass-pressed puffa jackets, evoking the feeling of urban life and busy trains at rush hour. Frieze has managed to again reveal a cornucopia of creativity; a feast and fight for the mind; a personal voyage of discovery into the world of contemporary art.