Having broken through the modern mosaic barrier at the Victoria and Albert Museum with a four-wheeled, two-ton protest against the death penalty, (Entering Through the Gift Shop: Carrie Reichardt’s “Tiki Love Truck” at the V&A” ), craftivist Carrie Reichardt was given the extraordinary opportunity to expand her role in the museum’s ground-breaking Disobedient Objects exhibit (July 25, 2014 – February 1, 2015) with a project that would transform the front of that venerable institution.
Asked by the V&A’s Director and Curators to create something “playful, provocative and sincere”, Reichardt designed a full-frontal installation comprising two panels and the risers of the steps leading up to the front doors of the museum.
It was a brilliant stroke by the V&A, really. Some exhibits are promoted with banners. Others with posters. With Reichardt’s mosaics, the Disobedient Objects exhibit literally spilled out of the galleries and onto the museum’s front steps. According to Curator Catherine Flood, the final visitor figures were 417,000 making Disobedient Objects the most visited exhibition at the V&A since “Britain Can Make It” in 1946.
While many of objects inside the exhibit were artifacts, The Disobedient Mosaic Intervention was artful political activism live.
The design of the two panels was a collaborative process that included the curators for Disobedient Objects, Gavin Grindon and Catherine Flood, each of whom selected a quote for one of the panels.
Reichardt’s use of digital transfers to create custom tiles for each of her mosaics is at the core of her activist aesthetic. She blends the profane and prosaic to enormous effect in these two panels. The British pound note with the visage of the Queen fills the visor of a baton-wielding riot policeman, surveillance cameras loom and England’s ubiquitous poppies bloom. At the bottom of each panel, a “groundswell” of protest from the people; at the top energy based on the conflict below radiates outward.
We love Reichardt’s idea to use the risers on the steps of the museum to display some of her favorite quotes. The format immediately calls to mind how ticker tapes and thin strips of paper attached to carrier pigeons were once used to transmit urgent news about disasters, conflicts and possibilities.
“Think for yourself – act for others” is what has driven Carrie Reichardt to take her message of art as empowerment to disenfranchised communities in Mexico, Chile, Romania and into the marginal neighborhoods of the UK. Kudos to the V&A for giving this artist and the Treatment Rooms Collective the opportunity to turn the facade of the museum into a modern day “Speakers Corner” as part of their Disobedient Objects exhibit.
Mosaic Intervention at the V&A (2014) Made by the Treatment Rooms Collective: Luke Allen, Gary Drostle, Mark Drostle, Eoghan Ebrill, Linda Griffiths, Gabrielle Harvey-Smith, Liam Heyhow, Peter Henham, Kevin O’Donohue, Carrie Reichardt, Thayen Rich, Sian Wonnish Smith, Cerdic Thomas, Liam Thomas, Karen Wydler, Mark Wydler.
Video of Reichard’s presentation on the Intervention at The British Association for Modern Mosaic’s 2015 Forum
- Previous stories about Carrie Reichardt on MAN
- Carrie Reichardt
- Disobedient Objects Exhibit (which will be traveling to Australia later this year)
Video walk-through of the Disobedient Objects Exhibit with Curator Gavin Grindon
- February 2016 interview by Rosie Osborne on Free Spirit Homes here
Entering Through The Gift Shop: Carrie Reichardt’s “Tiki Love Truck” in the V&A’s “Disobedient Objects”
In October of 2012, we were part of a lively debate at the British Association for Modern Mosaic’s annual symposium about what it would take to get contemporary mosaic art into the hallowed halls of the Art Establishment – meaning institutions very much like the venue for that meeting – the venerable Victoria and Albert Museum.
Almost two years later, “renegade potter” and craftivist Carrie Reichardt’s two-ton mosaic protest against the death penalty, The Tiki Love Truck, literally went right through the front door AND the gift shop and then over the opus criminale mosaic floors of the V&A to become a highlight of the museum’s groundbreaking exhibit Disobedient Objects (July 20, 2014-February 1, 2015).
Disobedient Objects is “the first exhibition to explore objects of art and design from around the world that have been created by grassroots social movements as tools of social change.” Curated by Catherine Flood and Gavin Grindon, the collection of 99 objects includes Suffragette teapots, hand-sewn Chilean wall hangings commemorating missing loved ones, and life-size puppets by the radical Vermont Bread and Puppets Theater.
In 2007, Reichardt was commissioned by Walk the Plank to create mosaic The Tiki Love Truck for an art car parade in Manchester. The work’s purpose changed radically when Reichardt received word that John Joe ‘Ash’ Amador, an inmate in a Texas prison Reichardt with whom Reichardt had been corresponding with for years, was scheduled to be executed. Amador asked Reichardt to witness the event and Reichardt subsequently travelled to Texas from London bringing with her sculptor Nick Reynolds. With the approval and assistance of the family, Reynolds made a death mask of Amador.
Upon returning to the UK, Reichardt dedicated the Love Truck to Amador, giving the mask pride of place on the front of the work. The artist continues to advocate strongly against the death penalty and solitary confinement of prisoners in the US.
Between October 31 and November 2nd, Reichardt turned the Tiki Love Truck into a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Shrine dedicated to the memory of her mother, Jill Richards, Luis Ramirez, Herman Wallace, John “Ash” Amador, and Khristian Oliver. With the disappearance of the 43 students in September in Iguala, Mexico, the shrine was given a second, more urgent focus.
As we write this article, it is Martin Luther King Day here in the US, and we are reminded of this quote:
The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.
Disobedient Objects has proven to be a great success for the V&A – blasting away at its image of being “England’s Attic” by showcasing works of great heart, creativity and ingenuity that are potent demands for change and, in the process, garnering strong critical acclaim for the effort (below). It is not surprising that Disobedient Objects is already slated for at least one additional international showing at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum October 30 2015 through February 14, 2016.
And Reichardt? Well, after getting through the front door of the V&A, she was asked by the curators to mosaic it. We’ll be back later this week with Reichardt’s award-winning Intervention.
UPDATE: According to Curator Catherine Flood, the final visitor figures for Disobedient Objects was 417,000 making it the most visited exhibition at the V&A since “Britain Can Make It” in 1946.
- Disobedient Objects at the V&A Exhibit — Ends February 1, 2015
- Carrie Reichardt
- Reichardt previously on MAN
- Review of Disobedient Objects from The Guardian
- Great walk-through of exhibit with Curator Gavin Grindon
- February 2016 interview by Rosie Osborne on Free Spirit Home here
We want them all. The Leopard. The Hippo. The Bear. The Llama . . . We want the whole zoological catalogue in stone by Melissa Moliterno and Andrea Poma of Aneme Mosaico.
Animals have always been the subject of mosaics.
But, Aneme Mosaico’s enchanting images were something completely new to us. Their fresh, unique approach to the subject matter immediately brought to mind the exquisite watercolor illustrations of the 1700s and 1800s.
And indeed, according to the duo . . .
“Our works are based on the careful study of the materials and colors, on the the ability to synthesize ancient mosaic techniques with the zoological catalogues of the 19th century.”
Moliterno (Cosenza, Italy 1988) and Poma (Parese, Italy, 1989) met while studying at the Ravenna Fine Arts Academy in Italy. They have both shown extensively, with Poma taking the prestigious Experimental Prize at GAEM 2013 for his innovative work Impressioni. We found this work to be a highlight of RavennaMosaico 2013. (Previous story on MAN here.)
Their collaboration in creating these glorious critters began in 2013. In 2014, they presented this body of work as Animalario in an exhibition in Ravenna. (You will want to click twice to see the large versions of these photos.)
“Pictures and stones, cement and blank papers are mixed, becoming a single entity. Our materials are chosen according to the shape, to their veining and to their composition. They are no longer regular tesserae, but anatomical ones; stones that become cheeks, paws, and ears.”
Yes, and just when you thought these works couldn’t get any more delightful, there is the panda.
Aneme Mosaico is offering these beautiful mosaics for 250Euro. We are not sure how many are left after the holidays and there are other, smaller works of birds that are equally spectacular. Please contact the artists at email@example.com with your questions. (We should probably make it clear that MAN has no financial arrangement with Aneme Mosaico at all.)
Enjoy – Nancie
Chartres les 3Rs, the organization which produces the biennial Les Recontres des Internationales de Mosaïque de Chartres (International Mosaic Encounters in Chartres), has announced the winners of the 2014 Prix Picassiette Prizes. With its self-selecting categories of Professional, Amateur Initiés (Advanced), Amateur and Youth & Groups, the event is a marvelous mash-up that places accomplished masters next to enthusiastic newcomers in the sublimely beautiful Chapelle du Lycée Fulbert.
This year, the Prix was supplemented by two satellite exhibits: Selected works by members of the British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM) and a tribute to the incomparable Ines Morigi Berti of Ravenna at Chapelle Saint-Éman which runs through January 18. Sadly, Morigi Berti, who was a revered teacher and famed mosaicist, passed away at the age of 100 on October 26th.
The Association is an extraordinarily unique organization whose 3Rs stand for Rénovar,Restaurer,Réhabiliter (Renovate, Restore, Rehabilitate). Founder Patrick Macquaire and the 3R staff are dedicated to carrying on the mosaic tradition of “The Father” of picassiette, Raymond Isidore (1900-1964) and creating an economic revival for the Chartres area. Earlier this month, Macquire spoke at BAMM’s annual Forum about the exhibition and his organization – you can see a video of his presentation here.
We thank Marquaire for providing us with the professional images of the winners seen here and send a special shout-out to the talented Stefan Wolters for his “atmospheric” photographic contributions.
- 1st Prize: Karen Ami (USA) Dialogues (above)
- 2nd Prize: Ariane Blanquet (France) Moon
- 3rd Prize: Delphine Legal Quemener (France) Pierre and Patience
- Special Mention: Dugald MacInnes (UK) Fragile Earth
Amateurs Initiés (Advanced)
- 1st Prize: Elisabeth Foucher (France) Le Poinçonneur de Lilas
- 2nd Prize: Annie Dunlop (France) Contraste
- 3rd Prize: Angela Sanders (UK) Ice
- Special Mention: Monique Duteil (France) Ko
- Special Mention: Marie-Odile Laurent (France) La Poule Aux Ouefs D’Or Musifs
- 1st Prize: Dina Angistriotu (Belgium) Mur Non Entravant
- 2nd Prize: Joelle Laudy (France) Le Migrateur
- 3rd Prize: Rosa Coupe (France) Clin d’Oeil a La Belle Dame Ancestrale Dominant La Beauce
- Special Mention: Marianne Fiette (France) Zebres Urbains
- 1st Prize: Christine Dalibert (France) “Vague”
- 2nd Prize: Gary Drostle (UK) “Shrapnel 1914 – War Is A Gun With A Worker At Each End”
- 3rd Prize: François Thibault (France) “Autoportrait D’Apres Van Gogh”
- Special Mention: Nathalie Vin (UK) “Multiverse”
Youth and Groups
- 1st Prize: Centre d’Accueil De Jour D’Yzeure Envol La Femme A La Fleur, Hommage A Pablo Picasso
- 2nd Prize: Le colectif “Projet Theodora” D’Albi-Mosaïque Projet Theodora“
- 3rd Prize (tie): A.I.P.E.I. Empro Edelweiss Empreinte
- 3rd Prize (tie): Espace de Proximite Cite Marcel Cochin RomainVille L’Asteromainville
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Association 3R and the 18th anniversary of Les Recontres des Internationales de Mosaïque de Chartres, the jurors gave prizes to two ground-breaking mosaic artists, Giovanna Galli and Gerard Brand, for their noteworthy bodies of work and personal contributions to the development of mosaic.
PREVIOUSLY ON MAN
- Following the Light: Prix Picassiette 2012 by Rosetta Berardi
- Prix Picassiette 2012 Winners Announced
- Judgement at Chartres: North American Mosaicists Win at Prix Picassiette 2010
- More Mosaics from Prix Picassiette 2010
BAMM’s Mosaic of the Year 2014: Tessa Hunkin & the Hackney Mosaic Project Change A Community With Art
The Romans would have approved.
The British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM) recently announced that Tessa Hunkin and The Hackney Mosaic Project have received the Mosaic of the Year Award for a stunning body of work that encompasses two public installations in London; Shepherdess Walk and Hoxton Varieties.
(For full view of images, please click to enlarge)
The Jury, which consisted of Dr. Will Wooten, Lecturer in Roman Art at Kings College, Norma Vondee, President of BAMM, and your editor, was in total unison in the decision to shine a a spotlight on a series of works that are not only visually brilliant – they have changed lives.
Dr. Wooten: A Tour de force in the continued refinement of a modern visual vocabulary for figurative mosaic art.
Norma Vondee: Evergreen mosaic master at her height; relentless clarification, determination, curiosity, finish and humanity.
Nancie Mills Pipgras: Brilliant modernization of an ancient aesthetic. Clear, concise, joy-filled imagery made by volunteers. Art that has changed a neighborhood.
Hunkin, an accomplished mosaic maker and author, acted as the designer of the projects, a role the Romans called the pictor imaginarius. Her love and appreciation for the critical design components of ancient mosaics has created a lively, modern aesthetic that delights and resonates. Hunkin’s Hoxton pups are the obvious direct descendants of the hounds of the 1st Century AD.
Equally impressive to the jurors was the fact that these mosaics were all made by volunteers. The Hackney Mosaic Project is comprised of local community members and clients of Lifeline, an organization devoted to helping people recover from drug and alcohol addiction. These are mosaics made by the people for the people – and they are of astonishing quality.
Signatures of the makers are always included prominently in the design of the mosaics.
Just this week, Hunkin and The Hackney Mosaic Project unveiled their most recent accomplishment – The Hackney Downs Park Pavilion. British comedian Russell Brand positively nails the spirit of the project in this impromptu dedication.
The open-air theater is a mosaic menagerie with charming bugs and beasties of all shapes and sizes.
Another joyous, welcoming environment by Tessa Hunkin and The Hackney Mosaic Project has been added to the London landscape – thanks in great part to the Hackney Council which has funded and promoted the projects. What lackluster space will these mighty mosaic collaborators transform next?
- The Hackney Mosaic Project website
- Tessa Hunkin website
- Excellent article on Shepherdess Walk by Lillian Sizemore here
- Loving local perspective by The Gentle Author on Spitalfieldslife.com
- British Association for Modern Mosaic
- Shepherdess Walk Shepherdess Walk, London N1 7JN (Northeast Corner)
- Hoxton Varieties – Sainsbury’s Local Store, 245 Old Street EC1V 9EY (Corner of Pitfield St)
- Hackney Downs Park
Even as Ravenna Italy is the eternal steward of mosaic’s Byzantine past, it is also the incubator for the art form’s dynamic future.
This is no more evident than in the Young Artists and Mosaic (GAEM) competition, a biennial contest hosted by the Art Museum of the City of Ravenna (MAR) in conjunction with the international mosaic festival, RavennaMosaico. Invited artists under the age of 40 are asked to create works that “should deal with the constitutive, formal & poetic language of mosaic.” (MAN article on 2011 GAEM here.)
This is where the very nature of mosaic is poked, prodded, and, if successful, expanded. In 2013, this included the use of nails and felt, an audience-participatory build-your-own-ceramic hamburger and a luscious video of a man and woman painting tesserae on one another – imagine those Byzantine icons coming alive. Even in the crowded traffic-jam of Notte d’Oro last October, we were mesmerized by many of the works and quite honestly flumoxed by others.
Takako Hirai (Japan) won the Traditional Technique Award for her absolutely stunning Vene which appeared to be the construction, destruction, and reassembly of an organic shape that seemed ready to depart from the wall at any second.
Andrea Poma (Italy) took the Experimental Prize for his brilliant Impressioni – a work which turned the mosaic component of “interstice” on its ear. Poma used an etched piece of glass to project the shadow of spaces between tesserae onto a wall – as opposed to those shadowy spaces being created by the indentations in a wall covered in mosaic.
These are not your nonna’s mosaics – to be sure. They are surprisingly cerebral, engaging and beautiful. But . . . are these musings on an ancient, time-consuming, historically pedantic art form relevant today? Or, as Exhibit Curator Linda Kniffitz puts it:
“Does mosaic still possess an autonomous, expressive power outside of the confines of Ravenna’s strong identity as a custodian of this ancient and highly symbolic art?”
What follows are the thoughtful and illuminating Exhibition catalogue essays by Curator Kniffitz, who is also the Director of the Center for International Documentation of Mosaic at MAR, and her co-curator for the 2013 GAEM, Daniele Torcellini, art critic and professor at the Academy of Fine Art Ravenna and Genoa. They offer knowledgeable, passionate responses to the questions above and in the process touch on art history, criticism, current art world trends, and the nature of art vs craft — all within the context of the glorious possibilities that mosaic has to offer. This is heady stuff for mosaic makers and nerds alike. Take your time and enjoy! – Nancie
Finding an Identity for Mosaic – Linda Kniffitz
When we initiated the GAEM competition in 2011, our intent was to stimulate a discourse on contemporary art in relation to mosaic and in doing so, to create a moment of comparison between makers from different schools and countries. In 2013, we received another set of very positive contributions in terms of both the richness of the visions proposed and the international provenance of the young artists.
But why indeed should we dedicate a competition to a technique that appears to be so complex and slow compared to the current trends in the visual arts that no longer envisages linearity and narration, but instead reward circularity, contamination and the use of different means of expression?
Does mosaic still possess an autonomous expressive power outside of the confines of Ravenna’s strong identity as a custodian of this ancient and highly symbolic art?
In its beginnings, mosaic was associated with the strong political purposes and economic investments (carefully chosen imagery, precious materials, highly specialized artisans, ) that forged it into a supremely stately instrument. In the last decades of the 19th century, it was rediscovered for its inherently symbolic character in an anti-Impressionist and anti-Naturalist function. The young art critic George Aurier, in championing the acceptance of Symbolism, spurred the revival of medieval visual art forms like mosaic and mural decoration.
In the 30s, the Futurist painter Gino Severini (whose name is now synonymous with modern mosaic) extolled the virtues of mosaic not for its value as a surface covering, but for its extraordinary capacity to express a synthesis – to condense an entire meaning into a single stylized, highly representative sign.
The Exposition of Contemporary Mosaics of 1959 in Ravenna organized by mosaic author and historian Giuseppi Bovini signaled the beginning of a multi-decade long discussion of mosaic and its place as an art form. In the 1990s, mosaic’s “right to be” within the contemporary artistic landscape was championed by Italian art critic, painter and philosopher Gillo Dorfles who initially defined it as a “super modern medium of expression.” In the end, however, he unfortunately came to look at mosaic solely within the context of artistic “design-object”, a phrase which smacks of refined craft.
In the twenty-first century, the time has come to circumvent all of these deliberations and endow mosaic with an identity – a term out of fashion, perhaps, but still useful. Mosaic needs an identity that must be directed and defined – squeezed for all its worth in order to extract its meaning and possible new directions. Mosaic possesses visual characteristics which capture attention because they are not accessible with a single glance; in order to really appreciate a mosaic, it is necessary to not only explore the perceived image created in the medium, but the relational properties of the individual pieces that compose the image.
In looking for an identity for mosaic, it is also necessary to clear the field of the production of many famous contemporary artists who may utilize certain elements of mosaic like fragmentation and the recomposition of elements in the construction of an image, but have not consciously chosen to create a mosaic. English art philosopher and author David Davies states that it is not possible to appreciate art in a purely perceptive way disassociated from any contextual knowledge. This is especially important if the implementation is mosaic. An artist is obviously free to express an inspiration in whatever technique he wishes thus affirming his autonomy. But, if he decides to use a technique like mosaic, he chooses an approach that has some specific characteristics that drive the work such as the synthesis and simplification of the sign, the fragmentation and recomposition of constituent elements.
All of these characteristics of mosaic can be expressed in many forms; can depart from the use of inert materials, can embrace installations and even video art. A shadow projected onto a wall from a sheet of etched glass offers the shapes of shimmering tiles. Drops of silicone, each laden with its own microstory, executes a larger narrative in the course of the tesserae. The installation of lights in a dark room provokes the same awe that grasped ancient visitors to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.
From a different perspective, the unconventional use of mosaic tiles to create a table of fast food that transforms the surface-observer into a product developing-maker.
These are all examples of a centuries-long journey begun with enamels, mortars and scaffolding; mosaic reinventing itself in shapes and instruments always new; it would be ill-advised to attempt an inventory.
Critical Issues – Daniele Torcellini
How could I handle a critical text on mosaic works in Ravenna in 2013? The subject of the discourse is inherently difficult.
The mosaic. Poised between ancient glories, romanticism and modernisms that reopened a road, a contemporaneity discontinuous but conceptually expanding. Even the place is not immune to difficulties. Ravenna. The privileged location; sensitive, yes, a natural observatory. But, it obscures a hazard; a codification of mosaic that does not represent all the possibilities of the mosaic. And then, broadening the field of vision, a centre emerges clearly unresolved. the mosaic, or rather, the works that are done in mosaic by those who make mosaics, or even some of an extreme derivation, choices, are almost lacking a critical approach in a systematic, recognized code.
Except for a few, and even good, isolated voices, the absence is felt of a trend in which my text will be received, making it primed for the likeminded or hardened against ideas not shared. There is no lack of theory – Filiberto Menna in The Criticism of Criticism, 1980, would be a good starting point – but of critical practice. A debate that allows collecting ideas, proposals, suggestions – that takes stock of the situation, that contextualizes, that defines the playing field, that interprets and evaluates and asks itself about its role.
To break the ice, I would like to emphasize how in this contemporary world – wherein technical boundaries are now weak, where things overrun into each other without discrimination, the admixtures kept under watch by the critics and the markets – the choice to oxidize one’s expressive aspirations around an idea – fixed, self-limiting, of dubious association as it is considered – and often wrongly – that the mosaic appears both brave (a dip back into the tank of liquid contemporaneity as a springboard for something that is not old-school and not even vintage), and not very significant in terms of the results achieved (“today you can say anything any way” is the opinion of some). But, it is a choice, that of the mosaic, which in the end appears beyond the distinctions between the liberal arts and mechanical arts – artistic techniques and decorative techniques – with all the related hierarchies of values. A visual, aesthetic and expressive and perhaps even scientific search for meaning, can be made with mosaic as with any other medium or combination of media.
One the role of the medium, even in its relation mostly to physics – of the environment in which a phenomenon plays out – my reflection would find a stopping point. The medium determines the result; it circumscribes the possibilities, insinuates itself under the skin of the message (it is the message, as Marshall McLuhan suggested, adding that the content of a medium is another medium).
And mosaic as a medium – an artistic medium – has specific characteristics that define it clearly, that trace a story and articulate a closeness, that, after all, allows moving well, more or less easily, inside them, generating waste, deviance, obsessions that are the key to reading a present and active vision. So – Hamlet’s question is raised – is it necessary that the text take a turn to a “critique of the mosaic” tout court? No. I would say not. I would try to avoid a “critique of the mosaic”. I would prefer to remain in the area of a critique of visual art, however, that knows how to direct its attention to what is created in mosaic, recovering in the same medium the parameters which are the basis of discourse.
But, this way I find myself in a flash adopting an approach of medium specificity, of an old-fashioned modernist? In debt to the views of Clement Greenberg? An approach pre-postmedial? That’s not done. I could also frame the multiple experiences that today revolve around the mosaic in the conceptual category far more fresh in coinage of metamodernism – recklessly running the risk that it appears little more than a banner with a dusting of novelty – insubstantial. So, the two theorists of the metamodernism movement, Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker, lucidly surmise the present on the pages of metamodernism.com: “The metamodern structure of feeling evokes an oscillation between a modern desire for sense and a postmodern doubt about the sense of it all, between a modern sincerity and a postmodern irony […] between control and commons and craftsmanship and conceptualism and pragmatism and utopianism. Indeed, metamodernism is an oscillation.”
The frame and methodology defined, my personal inclinations, oriented in the direction for the sense, postmodernly uncertain, of sight, and thereabout, for truth, I have already had occasion to express myself, and I would finally take over. The themes of light and colour, but in their more symbolic and les scientific meanings. The relationship with optical art, in an investigation of the infinite possibilities of repetition in modular structures. Thus, the aesthetics of the movement – already in the ekphrasis of early Christian and Byzantine mosaics – from the point of view of those who are regard, consequently, of what is regarded. And, I would also put on the plate, trying to avoid any simplistic terms, those attitudes and those procedures called “mosaic” that the contemporary visual culture, throughout the twentieth century, witness and saw spread – already clearly suggested by Renato Barilli in his reading of the method of George Seurat. From the mosaic screens of the first colour photographs to screens of pixels and in between the works of artists like Ellsworth Kelly, Gerhard Richter, and Thomas Ruff.
I would not ignore also the most critical perspectives and conceptual practice of appropriation, citation and translation of the messages of others from Sherrie Levine to Vik Muniz and around which the mosaic has fought in battles with uncertain outcomes.
But what, finally, are the specificities of the mosaic as a medium today? Some hypotheses. Fragmenting to give meaning. Decomposing to recompose, leaving in sight the signs of the process. The allure of seeing through and the charm of seeing a texture, a grid – even as theorised by Rosalind Krauss – more or less regular or intricate, dense or sparse. A proximal view and a distal view. Seeing the surface and the representation, seeing the surface generate a representation. Seeing yourself see.
GAEM 2013 Artists:
- Luca Barberini
- Laura Carraro
- Rafaella Ceccarossi
- Benedetta Galli
- Takako Hirai
- Kim Jae Hee
- Silvia Naddeo
- Andrea Poma
- Elena Prosperi
- Andrea Sala
- Matilda Tracewska
PS: September 20 through November 9th 2014, MAR is hosting another Young Artists and Mosaic exhibit “Eccentric Mosaic” with 26 invited artists including many seen above. This exhibit is being shown in conjunction with a solo exhibit by Toyoharu Kii, “Whites & Blue” and the entrants in the city’s recent Visual Mosaic: Ravenna Video Contest. More info here.
Video produced by MAR covering Notte d’Oro 2013, the opening night of RavennaMosaico
In 2013, the
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges
Surely, Book Paradise will look something like this . . .
. . . the stunning National Library of Latvia in Riga designed by Gunnar Birkerts, current home of BiblioMosaico, a collection of mosaics devoted to The Book created by some of the medium’s modern masters.
Bibliomosaico is the brainchild of Rosetta Berardi, editor at Edizioni del Girasole, a specialty publisher of art books based in Ravenna, Italy. Berardi conceived the exhibit in 2009 in conjunction with the first RavennaMosaico, the International Festival of Contemporary Mosaics. That year, Berardi invited nine artists to “reflect on the form of books, on the representation of a book as an object that wants to be looked at but not read, a book that is ‘not a book’, a book which may have lots its words but gained a specific conceptional meaning as an open work of art.”
Since then, over 50 artists have participated in Bibliomosaico and now 34 of their works are scattered throughout the Riga Library where visitors will discover them hidden in the stacks, reclining on book trolleys and displayed on shelves.
Some of the mosaics are quite literal, like Verdiano Marzi’s Pinocchi or Sophie Drouin’s Censure. Others, like Gerard Brand’s Six Pages in Lace and Samantha Holmes’ Absence pay homage to Ravenna’s Byzantine mosaic heritage in new and intriguing ways.
This current showing of Bibliomosaico is part of a larger mosaic-centered exchange between Riga, the current Cultural Capital for the European Union and Ravenna, which is vying for the title in 2019. Also on display in the Library are large-scale reproductions of some of Ravenna’s most iconic Byzantine treasures.
We were first charmed and delighted by Bibliomosaico during RavennaMosaico in 2011 and found it to be one of our top three favorite exhibitions for RavennaMosaico 2013.
One of our favorites from 2011 was Raniero Bittante’s Bubble Gum Italia. Three copies of the Italian constitution encrusted with red, white and green smalti adhered with used wads of bubblegum were accompanied by a video of Italians blowing bubbles. This work turned out to be far more literal than we thought at first glance. Bittante is reflecting on the 150 years of Italy’s political unity in a classical mosaic sense – each individual, regardless of race or ethnicity, is part of the whole – like the tesserae of a mosaic. Bubble gum as the “mortar” or glue that holds it together? Of course. Just think of the DNA contained in a wad of used bubble gum. Brilliant.
We think BiblioMosaico is an absolutely splendid representation of how the medium can be used to convey powerful themes and individual expression. We are going to leave you here with images from all three editions of BiblioMosaico and commentary by curator Berardi. The exhibit runs through August 30th. All photos unless noted were taken by Berardi who is also a professional photographer. Enjoy – Nancie (And don’t forget to click to enlarge)
The artist’s book denies itself nothing, it can even dare to be unreadable. Every artist gives a personal interpretation of the book using the force of substance, the plasticity of structure, the diversity of materials and bringing into play his or her own sensitivity. The results are poetical objects that challenge the writing and concentrate on technique, form and harmony.
Viewers are encouraged to watch the artwork and read it on the basis of a visual grammar. The meaning of the book is expressed without words. The book, depository of the written word, changes its function: it is no longer meant to be read, but rather looked at to.
A creative exercise that involves both young and experienced artists, who engage in the production of artworks conceived for being displayed among paper books, like jewels set in a ring.
The exhibition was originally designed to give a look of precious elegance to a space that communicates and interacts with the works in an exemplary way.
Mosaics fascinate us, and the subject of the book makes them even more enchanting. – Rosetta Berardi
When we were first approached by the Mosaic Society of Philadelphia and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens to jury a regional exhibit, we asked the organizers – Carol Shelkin, President of MSoP, and Ellen Owens, PMG’s Executive Director – what they wanted the show to accomplish. The title of the exhibit, Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 is a direct reflection of their goal to shine a light on makers who use the medium to create art that is timely, relevant and engaging and, in doing so, break through some old assumptions about mosaic.
Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 would place fine art mosaics within the belly of Isaiah Zagar’s massive visionary mosaic environment, The Magic Gardens of South Philadelphia. Zagar has mosaicked the interior and exterior walls, ceilings, and floors of nearly half a block of real estate to create what is, at its core, a 40 year personal diary that began as a response to a nervous breakdown. We found it a no less an all-encompassing experience than the cathedral of San Vitale in Ravenna; it is every bit as overwhelming, inspiring, transporting and, in its own way, sacred.
For the exhibiting artists to “hold their own” in the gallery space within Zagar’s Gardens, they would have to have very strong voices of their own. And they do. We selected Invited Artists Karen Kettering Dimit, Samantha Holmes and Brooks Tower and Juried Artists Yakov Hanansen, Yulia Hanansen, Rachel Sager, Carol Talkov, and Carol Stirton-Broad because their concepts and visions are as strong as their mastery of mosaic techniques. This is a group of highly-accomplished artists, most of whom have multiple award-winning works in their portfolios.
Climate change, technology, feminism, self-discovery, science, history, popular culture, beauty and the nature of mosaic itself are all explored within Shattering Expectations. With multiple works from each artist and the extremely thoughtful staging by Owens the exhibit works beautifully.
During the opening attended by 400 people – the largest opening of any PMG exhibition to date – we were delighted to watch visitors become strongly engaged with the art on the walls. It was just plain noisy in there! People pointed, got nose-close and selfied next to favorite works. The tech-savvy scanned the QR codes provided on the info panels to listen to prerecorded interviews with the artists.
For the artists, all of whom were there, it was a rare and personally rewarding opportunity to interact one-on-one with viewers. Marvelous moments of serendipity ensued – “That’s Jupiter!” exclaimed a gentleman upon spying Yulia Hanansen’s Great Red Spot. A subsequent conversation with the artist revealed that the man was connected with the Physics Department at the University of Pennsylvania. Much to Hanansen’s delight, he extended an invitation for a private tour of the school’s Rittenhouse Observatory.
Glorious spring weather the opening weekend brought over 1,100 visitors to the Gardens, some of whom participated in a workshop held beneath work by Yakov Hanansen.
Equally important, on Saturday March 8, there was a private showing of the exhibit for a group of 47 art collectors from the James Renwick Alliance (JRA) of Washington DC. JRA supports the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery with education programs on American craft and also makes acquisitions for the museum’s collection. A presentation on the mosaic renaissance occuring in the US and a walkthrough of the exhibit with the artists was the beginning of what we hope will be an ongoing conversation about modern mosaic with this important art institution.
With those 400 people at the opening, another 1,100 the first weekend and 6 sales since Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 opened on March 7th we would have to say that Philadelphia is definitely a mosaic kind of town. The exhibit runs through April 20th, so there is still time to experience some great modern mosaics within one of the world’s most extraordinary mosaic environments. What follows is a brief look at work from each of the 8 artists in the exhibit.
Karen Kettering Dimit, Invited Artist
We have long appreciated Dimit’s in-depth mosaic exploration of themes that have great meaning for her. She is marvelous at exploiting the natural attributes and cultural associations of her materials to create imagery that can be haunting, thought provoking and delightful.
In her Subway Goddesses series, Dimit juxtaposes ancient female archetypes with the “goddesses” of today to examine how cultural stereotypes have impacted her own sense of self esteem. In Miss Willendorf 2008, we see the “Venus of Willendorf “ c. 28,000 B.C.E. – 25,000 B.C.E. recast in designer jeans, Spandex t-shirt and lovelorn tattoos.
A second series is devoted to the silent sentinels of New York City – its iconic water towers. Using natural stone and minerals, Dimit paints an apocalyptic sky in NYC Watertower XII; another example of her masterly use of materials. A similar work exhibited, NYC Watertower IX, has recently been sold to a mother with an autistic child who “became strongly engaged” with the work. No higher praise . . .
Yakov Hanansen, Juried Artist
If there were ever an example of how a photograph does not do a mosaic justice, it would be any image taken of Yakov Hanansen’s stunning work Brain.
We loved this in a jpeg, but in person it was just a knock out. There were worlds within worlds composed of smalti, the rims of ceramic plates, and exquisitely hand-sculpted tesserae in this mosaic. Light is manipulated through relief, reflection, texture and shape. Shadows are everything. “White is the compilation of all colors,” Hanansen told us. “The brain is a universe that we are still exploring.” We could easily have spent hours exploring this work which proved to be magnetic for everyone who came within three feet of it. Something about the intricacy and symmetry in Brain is enormously compelling. Hanansen is very much a mosaic philosopher and his work stands at the intersection of science, cosmology and art.
Hanansen was classically trained as a mosaic muralist in Russia but now maintains a studio and school with his wife, Angele, in New York City. While his commission work for architectural installations is often very vivid, since the 1980s his personal work has all been in white. Hanansen is also the father of stained glass mosaic artist Yulia Hanansen, whose work is noteworthy for her marvelous, painterly use of color. An article by Philadelphia writer Paul Anater about this father daughter mosaic duo appeared in the 2010 edition of Mosaic Art NOW.
Yulia Hanansen, Juried Artist
Even as she is the daughter of a mosaicist trained in the classical European tradition, Yulia Hanansen is a thoroughly American mosaic artist blazing artistic trails in a material generally eschewed by the Europeans – stained glass. Her “layered mosaic” technique is an innovation she created to add the mosaic element of “relief” to a material that traditionalists find too flat. When she points this technique and her artistic training on the astronomical and ecological themes that are her inspiration, the result, as we noted above with Great Red Spot, draws the viewer in instantly.
It can take Hanansen as long as three years to accumulate the materials for a mosaic she has planned. This patience and care is often rewarded; Great Red Spot was selected as Best in Show in the Society of Mosaic Artist’s Mosaic Arts International 2011.
Displaced Hurricane is part of a series Hanansen is doing on global warming and potential disruptions to water supplies across the planet. In this work, we have a satellite’s view of a hurricane system devastating crop circles.
Samantha Holmes, Invited Artist
Samantha Holmes academic credentials provide clues to what drives her as artist working in mosaic; she holds a BA from Harvard and was recently awarded an MFA in Experimental Mosaic from the Academia di Belli Arti in Ravenna. She is passionate about bringing intelligence and relevancy to modern mosaic and has put that passion into action with great success; the American artist has already represented Italy in an exhibit in Paris and won several prestigious European mosaic prizes including the Innovation Award for the Young Artists & Mosaic Competition in Ravenna. Holmes’ work combines the most essential elements of the mosaic language – foundational attributes such as individual tesserae, andamento, interstice, permanence, etc. – with the exploration of the ambiguities of modern life such as the true meaning of “home”, thwarted communications and the nature of faith.
In Aperiodic Asymmetry, the site-specific work she created for Shattering Expectations, Holmes riffs off the traditional Islamic tile patterns designed to express Divine order in houses of worship. “Aperiodic Asymmetry deals with the disparity between this notion of Divine order and the chaos of the human experience, the perfection of the underlying geometry and the inaccuracy of the individual hand” explains Holmes. Indeed, if you look closely at this mosaic, you will see how one small bit of imperfection, if allowed to grow, quickly breaks down any opportunity for unity. Aperiodioc Asymmetry looked absolutely marvelous in its Garden setting.
Rachel Sager, Juried Artist
Pennsylvania-based artist Rachel Sager is well-known for digging into the earth to source materials for her mosaics. In the four works shown in Shattering Expectations, Sager looks at the earth – and the world as she knows it – through the lens of cartography to explore personal and societal conundrums.
In Here Be Dragons, Sager compares the unknown lands depicted as danger zones filled with beastly perils by 17th century cartographers with the newly-minted cyber-lands of Facebook and Twitter. While we all flock to these new lands with their promises of connectivity and opportunity are we making ourselves vulnerable to perils yet to be discovered?
A crowd favorite at the exhibition was Printlandia, a work that was the product of a feud between Sager and her long malfunctioning printer which culminated in her demolishing the machine and having a final revenge by repurposing its carcass into a mosaic map.
Beyond what we admire about Sager’s personal art, we also have a great appreciation for the incredible work she is doing to promote the mosaic medium; organizing exhibitions, teaching classes, speaking at geological conferences and, most recently, assisting the Touchstone Center for Craft in creating a mosaic curriculum for its 2014 season. Brava.
Carol Stirton-Broad, Juried Artist
Carol Stirton-Broad is a Philadelphia artist and teacher who has explored a number of mediums from photography to fiber. Mosaic has become a major focus for her and she has studied with some of the medium’s most rigorous instructors in Italy and the US. That training enabled her to transform the mundane into the sublime in two of the works selected for Shattering Expectations, From My Sister’s Garden #1 and From My Sister’s Garden #3.
Using classical mosaic techniques and materials, Stirton-Broad has given elegance and grace to cow and deer teeth that were unearthed in her sister’s rural garden. These two works are just plain beautiful. We can’t wait to see more from Stirton-Broad in the future.
Carol Talkov, Juried Artist
Carol Talkov was a successful costume and interior furnishings fabricator before turning her life to mosaic. One can easily see how the love of the materials she works with continues in this new medium. In fact, she believes that the glass, stone, minerals and gems she works with have stories within them that can be seen when when they are placed in the right relationship with one another.
Plume agate, petrified wood, agate, geode, chalcedony, mica, travertine, smalti and sea urchin spines are just a few of the materials Talkov sourced and carefully selected to use in these dynamic works. Visitors found these works enormously appealing, often getting extraordinarily close to investigate each individual tesserae. They are delicious.
Brooks Tower, Invited Artist
We have come to think of award-winning artist Brooks Tower as a mosaic poet. Instead of using a pen or keyboard, Tower employs the heavy duty industrial tools called wet saws and band saws in his modern interpretation of an ancient mosaic technique known as opus sectile. Sometimes, his mosaics can be a limerick, as in I Told Your Sister, where a split second of street life and tension is caught in stone and tile.
Other times, Tower’s work can be likened to psyche-disturbing doggerel as in his cartoon-like No Pants, a poem with a punch line that is any performer’s greatest nightmare.
Often, though, Tower’s work are heart-tugging sonnets to the beauty of every day life, as in Quaking Oats, inspired by a simple scene at his breakfast table.
We think that Tower is one of America’s finest mosaic artists and were very pleased to have his work in this exhibit. In addition to Shattering Expectations, he is also showing work in Tulsa Oklahoma’s beautiful new Hardesty Center in a show entitled Art in Mosaic.
Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 continues through April 20, 2014 at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Again, we want to thank Carol Shelkin and the Mosaic Society of Philadelphia for giving us the opportunity to play in the Gardens, Ellen Owens and the staff at the Gardens for mounting a beautiful exhibit, and Isaiah Zagar and his wife Julia for their phenomenal hospitality. Can we do this again, please?
- Karen Kettering Dimit website; see more of her work on MAN
- Yakov Hanansen website; see more of his work on MAN
- Yulia Hanansen website; see more of her work on MAN
- Samantha Holmes website; see more of her work on MAN
- Rachel Sager website: see more of her work on MAN
- Carol Stirton-Broad website
- Carol Talkov website
- Brooks Tower website; see more of his work on on MAN
- Photos of Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens, murals throughout South Philadelphia and home in an extensive gallery by Gabe Kirchheimer here
- More photos of Shattering Expectations Opening by Anabella Wewer here
Photos are provided by the artists and the author unless otherwise noted.
When Dutch artist Jeroen Meijer shared his latest mosaic with us earlier this year, we were stunned by the depth and beauty of it.
This commemoration of his mother’s passing was so moving on so many levels, we spent a great deal of time studying it before contacting him with our many questions. He graciously answered all of them, sharing in his own words (below) the background behind a piece that shimmers with emotional realism. We are honored to share it with MAN readers here.
As you explore “Con Te Partirò” (Time To Say Goodbye), consider how mosaic and only mosaic could have enabled Meijer to achieve his goals for this work. The artist is a master storyteller, weaving the “warp” of carefully selected and custom-made tesserae with the “weft” of imagery, symbolism and composition to create a rich tapestry of spirituality. One could easily think of Meijer’s work as a modern-day take on the work of the 17th century Dutch Masters.
Here is the entire image again, which we hope you will click to enlarge.
Here is the Holy Trinity and a reference to his mother’s marital life in the triangular shape of the work itself. A sort of “reverse pietá” exists in the position of Meijer and his mother on her bed. In the foreground a crow, a multi-cultural symbol of insight, destiny, transformation and death carrying a wedding ring in its beak sits in front of portraits of the two deceased husbands.
A pair of scissors in Meijer’s hand signals his participation in making the decision to suspend his mother’s life support.
As you’ll discover in his description of Con Te Partirò, every single item has meaning. The result is a level of density and raw emotionalism that we seldom see in mosaic.
We first introduced Meijer (and his mother) to MAN readers in 2012 (to see more of his fantastic portraits, click here). Coincidentally, Meijer was recently contacted by a production company with a request to use “Mater Nostra” on the set of an American television series that will be debuting soon.
Meijer’s voice is powerful and authentic and his use of the mosaic medium unique and refreshing. We understand a solo exhibition is in the works and hope to see his work in upcoming international exhibitions.
Con Te Partirò By Jeroen Meijer
In August of 2010, my mother had a very severe stroke. My brothers, sisters, and I decided that, according to her wishes, she would be cut off from life-support systems and so let nature take its course. It took ten days for my mother’s body to surrender. During those ten days my brothers, sisters and I took shifts to be at her bedside.
We decorated the room with souvenirs from every family member and photographs of her two deceased husbands. We filled it with the soft tunes of her favorite CDs including Vangelis’ “1492: Conquest of Paradise” and Andrea Bocelli and his famous “Con te partirò“ (Time To Say Goodbye). I believe that when the spirit elevates from the body it actually can see the room where it has died. We tried to create a space that would feel familiar for my mother on her journey.
Most of the time my partner Buba and I took the night shift with my mother. Every morning at sunrise, looking through the window, we noticed two crows sitting on the rooftop of the hospital warming up in the first beams of sunlight. I liked to believe that the two birds were my deceased father and stepfather waiting for my mother to die – waiting to accompany her spirit towards the light.
For me the biggest sadness and dilemma was to deprive my mother – who was the very symbol of nourishment, safety, and unconditional love in my life – of bodily nourishment and so, to let her die. Equally difficult was to come to see that decision as the ultimate act of love on my part.
About the title: During this period we stayed at my mothers place. We left the radio tuned in to the only station she ever listened to – one that exclusively played German folks songs or “schlagers.” One morning, while Buba and I were making preparations to leave for the hospital, we were amazed to hear Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te partiro” coming from the radio. Half a minute later the phone rang. It was my sister calling from the hospital. Our mother had just died.
While I was working on this mosaic – and even now – I feel grateful that my mother gave my brothers, my sisters and me the opportunity to help and share her last moments.
Notes about the mosaic:
At some point I had to take a little nap and Buba, touched by the moment, took this photograph with her mobile phone.
The bedding I made from shards of my mother’s “fancy” dinner service. This type of colonial pottery called “Boerenbont” (multi-coloured farmer style) was very popular in the 60s and 70s. Because every item was hand painted (exclusively by women!) the dishes were also quite expensive. Therefore, they became a popular birthday-present for children – like me and my siblings – to give to their mothers until the service was complete.
When I thought about it after completing this mosaic, I realized that all my brothers and sisters had contributed tesserae to create this beautiful family patchwork blanket. The decoration of this pottery is nice and simple; I liked using it, because it reflects for me my mother’s uncomplicated personality.
I made hexagonal tesserae to create a honey comb room for my mother. The Queen Bee’s first occupation is to build perfect shelters with (sweet) nourishment for her offspring; I wished to return to my mother what she had given to me.
After my mother remarried, she and her new husband (in the blue coat in the left-hand photo) agreed that they would be buried together in the same grave.
As I was completing the mosaic, I saw at the Hieronymus* Bosch museum in Den Bosch a replica of “Ascent of the Blessed”, a painting that was part of the four panel polyptych “Visions of the Hereafter.”
I believe that the Flemish master was the first to paint a “tunnel of light” in connection with the afterlife. Studying this painting, I am certain he was familiar with stories of near-death experiences and “rebirthing.” (hence the “birth canal” of light).
*A coincidence is that my name, Jeroen, is derived from the Greek “Hieronymus.”
Jeroen Meijer, March 2014
When photos of pop culture icons Katy Perry (Met Ball) and Vanessa Hudgens (YouTube Awards) wearing gowns from the collection went viral, we gleefully tweeted and Facebooked.
If we could afford it, you can be sure that we would be sporting any number of items from this collection. Perhaps one of these gorgeous blouses . . .
So far, so good. Sumptuous Byzantine mosaics are now the darlings of haute couture and pop culture. Being mosaic-centric, we are happy. Successful fashion trends like this often “trickle down” to the mass market. Remember this wonderful scene from The Devil Wears Prada?
Unfortunately, we don’t think that the horrendous blouse below is what Meryl was talking about.
The photo above was taken in a very chic department story in Istanbul earlier this week. The imagery you see here has been stolen from contemporary mosaic artist Lilian Broca.
This is not the trickle down of a fashion concept. This is theft. Some designer for a women’s wear manufacturer saw the buzz about Katy and Vanessa in social media and thought, “Aha! If we act fast, this is a trend we can make money from. I’ll just start googling Byzantine mosaic.” And voila, we have the abdomen covering abomination above and the equally hideous rip-off below.
With a little googling of our own, we quickly found several dresses for sale on line made from a fabric with a mosaic “mash up” pattern that included figures from another one of the Queen Esther works.
In this case, the fabric’s designer actually swapped out Haman’s head for that of Mordechai – an aesthetic choice we are a bit baffled by. Bad taste aside, it is, again, theft. And, if we looked long enough, we could probably find the work of still more contemporary mosaic artists in this mish-mosh of a print.
It took Lilian Broca over five years to make the 10 mosaics in The Queen Esther Series which covers the Biblical thriller about a Hebrew beauty contest winner who conceals her religion, becomes a queen and, through the courageous use of her womanly wiles, saves her people from a massacre sanctioned by her husband. Individual works have garnered international awards including a Gold Medal from the 2003 Florence Biennale and a place in MAN’s Exhibition in Print 2011. Famed feminist artist Judy Chicago wrote the forward to a book about the mosaics – “The Hidden and the Revealed: The Queen Esther Mosaics of Lilian Broca” and a documentary about Broca’s life – “Return to Byzantium: The Art and Life of Lilian Broca” – has received critical acclaim.
This is not the first time that Broca has had her work appropriated. She is understandably frustrated and angry.
In the past I have seen my mosaics reproduced badly and cheaply by unscrupulous companies in 3rd world countries. This time the designs were stolen and printed on clothes. It pains me to great lengths to see my art reduced to decorative patterns on mass produced fabrics intended for wear. As artists, have we no recourse?
As far as we can see – apparently not. International laws on artist’s rights are, at best, flimsy and Broca does not have the resources of a Louis Vuitton or Jeff Koons. It’s just a damned shame.
- Lilian Broca’s website
- Lilian Broca in MAN’s Exhibition in Print 2011 here
- Review of “The Hidden and the Revealed: The Queen Esther Mosaics of Lilian Broca” on MAN here
- Order “The Hidden and the Revealed: The Queen Esther Mosaics of Lilian Broca” here
- Return To Byzantium website