Jennifer Lindblad experiences Carsten Höller and discusses the ways in which his work explores contemporary theories of body.
In 1961 Maurice Merleau-Ponty published “Eye and Mind”, his seminal essay on the role of perception in our understanding of the world. Much of the text is concerned with corporality, in asserting that the body is not only a thing in the world, but the vessel for—and condition of—experience. Carsten Höller’s exhibition Experience, which just ended at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, played on some of these concepts.
Höller himself comes from a background of science. Born in Brussels in 1961, the same year Merleau-Ponty’s “Eye and Mind” was published, Höller earned a doctorate in biology in 1988 with a specialization in Insect Communication. He subsequently embarked on a career as an artist, with his previous work in entomology informing his artistic practice. Experimenting with social and institutional norms, as well as delving into conceptions of the self, Höller employs playful, interactive installations to discuss themes of childhood, safety, love, the future, and doubt. In an October 2011 interview with The Art Newspaper, he noted, “The real material I work with is people’s experience [. . .] I think of life as an experiment on oneself. Subjective personal experience in science is a no-no. In starting to make art, I wanted to bring in what had been forbidden.”1 Without recorded data or objective results, visitors are able to experiment with themselves freely, considering complex ideas and opening them up to the realm of possibility and personal discovery.
The man behind the Reanimation Library, an assemblage of discarded texts and cultural detritus, talks to BOMBlog about how to put life back into works ranging from taxidermy to a million random numbers to a 19th-century dentist’s rewriting of the Bible.
Zack Friedman What does it mean to reanimate books?
Andrew Beccone I think that on balance, most people would look at the kinds of books that I collect and have trouble seeing much value in them, aside from being a kind of minor historical curiosity. By collecting, cataloging, and making these books available, I am really hoping to demonstrate their continuing relevance and facilitate their further use. So rather than sitting in a basement or rotting away in some thrift store, they can continue to be of value. Perhaps the books have outlived their original intended purpose, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to use them.
John Reed takes notes (and footnotes) on the career of art animus Stuart Sherman, using the new catalog Beginningless Thought/Endless Seeing as a jumping-off point.
The child sews beanbags. “Why not make a business of it?” asks the adult. The commercial impulse is automatic. It is the channeling of art into market culture, and it is art’s end. In 1969, Stuart Sherman, an artist at play, wrote a related parable (with characteristic “o-o,” i.e. “spectacle” typography):
6/6/69: One little boy preferred stringing beads to all other amusements. But he concealed this preference from his playro-om teacher and from his play-ro-omates, because no one—not even girls—ever strung beads, and he did not want to be thought strange. To camouflage his real interest, he deliberately showed boundless enthusiasm for all the toys and utilized them with equal skill and imagination. Visitors to the playro-om often remarked the extraordinary versatility and quality of his achievements and then, when alone, dreamed of the heights of accomplishment the boy could reach if only he cared to concentrate his talent and energy on one particular plaything.
The new catalog Beginningless Thought/Endless Seeing: the Works of Stuart Sherman documents and reflects upon the performance and mixed media art of this mercurial artist, gathering archival materials from a 2009 exhibition curated by John Hagan, Yolanda Hawkins and John Matturri. Sherman (1945-2001) was an early member of Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company and Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theatre; he matured into a wide-ranging creative force: performances, film and video, writing, drawing, collage and sculpture. The catalog compiles essays written by Sherman’s colleagues, stills from performances, and reproductions of Sherman’s drawings and collages. Entries and poems from Sherman’s journals are inset in the pages, allowing Sherman to posthumously contribute to the dialogue.
Sherman’s output, if diverse, stemmed from a single, ineffable source. He was a performance artist, a sculptor, a filmmaker, a writer, but moreover, an art animus that manifested in various mediums, imperfections intact. As Sherman wrote in an unpublished syllabus, “Meanings are infinite, I vow to intend them. Unintended meanings are welcome, if invited—i.e., made plausible and/or inevitable by your actual intentions . . . Art is evidence, residue, relic, momentary concretization of beginningless thought and endless seeing.”
Energy drinks and LEDs shock the system and set the stage for Josh Kline’s curiously energized creative practice.
Josh Kline’s first solo show in New York, Dignity and Self Respect at 47 Canal, welcomed its viewers to the residual shock of the present, in a culture fueled by energy drinks, reality television, LED lighting, and the virtual Internet world that increasingly infringes upon daily existence. As an artist, curator, and collaborator, Kline’s practice often transcends the physical art object to pinpoint the nature of labor and productivity in a climate of posthuman conditions. We discussed his work and exhibition on a rare day off in Brooklyn.
Jenny Borland After watching the entirety of your video What Would Molly Do?, my experience of the exhibition seemed to shift—perhaps creating anxiety as I felt more implicated as relating to these interviewees. I’m curious about the video’s role in the show and if you could discuss some of the decisions made while filming?
Josh Kline The show’s focus was creative labor. Lifestyle aspirations encourage young people to make tremendous sacrifices for their careers today. Young creative people cast aside their dignity and in many ways, their humanity, for a chance to get started on the road to self-actualization. A job interview can be seen as a kind of sacrificial altar where you offer yourself up as a commodity, as a product. In the exhibition, I was offering up a suite of human products: the hands and gestures and biological material of creative workers, images of mass-produced celebrities, drug foods, and, in the video, potential interns.
Shifting Connections untangles the complexities inherent in the work of Hans Haacke.
One of contemporary art’s best-kept secrets is that Hans Haacke’s work can be fun: what a pleasure to see the repeat performance of his 1967 systems art exhibition at MIT! I tried to imagine what it would have been like to see this seminal work when it was first exhibited—questioning whether it was art or science—but I soon disconnected from time and history. It was simply nice to be there! The wafting sensuality of Wide White Flow (1967/2006/2010), the sinewy wiggle of White Waving Line (1967/2011), and the enamel-like sheen on the sleek, wet surface of Ice Stick (1966) all speak of a straight-forward aesthetic that shifted the emphasis in art from medium and mimesis to art as a dynamic environment. Whatever its effect in 1967, the work exerts a strong presence today as a lively interface between medium, methods, context, and content of art.
In the latest of BOMBlog’s reprints of [ 2nd Floor Projects ], Stephen Boyer takes inspiration from the work of Emily Jaine Wilson and Charlene Tan.
About [ 2nd floor projects ]: Since establishing [ 2nd floor projects ] in San Francisco in 2007, I have featured twenty-six writers in the exhibitions, with eight writers forthcoming through 2012. My programming includes commissions to writers throughout the country to produce an edition: essays, personal narratives, interviews, poetry, or mixed-genre pieces in the form of handcrafted broadsheets or chapbooks. From early on in my art practice, I have been interested in trespassing disciplines. These visual, theoretical, and narrative crossings perhaps address an interstitial space of engagement with the artists’ works from the writer’s point of departure. A distal approach rather than the traditional essay model, such as an exhibition catalogue. For each exhibition, I design and print an in-house limited run of 100 on archival papers. The writers are also invited to give a reading during the course of the exhibition, or to send a recording if they are not in the area. [ 2nd floor projects ] participated in the NY Art Book Fair in 2009 and 2010. BOMBlog will be re-publishing these pieces regularly over the next several months.
—Margaret Tedesco, Director
Artist Matthew Lutz-Kinoy collaborated with producer SOPHIE and triple-threat Chelsea Culp at the New Museum in September. The result? Paint on the dance floor, and an inescapable harmony that you can’t help but whistle to.
The night of New York-and-Berlin-based artist Matthew Lutz-Kinoy’s Fall performance of his Donna Haraway’s Expanded Benefits Package (DHEBP) at New York’s New Museum (featuring Chicago-based artist and curator Chelsea Culp and London producer-on-the-rise, SOPHIE) I found myself at home with the flu. It was only until later, after I had come back from the dead and was dining with friends downtown, that the reviews began to pour in.
“Describe it to me.” I demanded.
“I can’t, I’m sorry. I just can’t. You gotta hear it first.”
I went home and revisited Lutz-Kinoy’s website, a white space dotted with a variety of photographs, paintings, text, layered and liberated in their somewhat decontextualized presentation. There it was: D O N N A. And hear, it was (well—here). It was a palpation of a Fluxus-infused ecstasy, a sort-of-Schneeman-1964-Meat Joy in the air—but in lieu of the sanguine, and paired with Lutz-Kinoy’s tactile images, was the aural-ocular sensation of honey and glitter being poured all over me from a distance above. I listened to the track intermittently in the coming days and found myself, honied, floating in the ethereal regions between the art-haus, the funhouse, and the dancehouse. It struck me that, in some small way, though I had missed the show, I had not missed the performance.
Over the last few months, over the digital stratospheres somewhere between New York/London/Amsterdam/Berlin, I sat down with Lutz-Kinoy (a sculptor, a dancer, a video artist, a painter–and that’s just getting started) and the London-based musician SOPHIE to discuss DHEBP, cruising utopias, and how this producer/artist collaboration makes room for beautiful instrumentals in their combines.
Legacy Russell Matthew, can you talk about Donna Haraway’s Expanded Benefits Package (DHEBP)? What was the impetus for this work?
ML-K I think the most interesting starting point of this work is a merge that happened between my intuitive production that is heavily informed by collaborative relationships between curators or artists and the recent application of those methods into a framework that emphasizes political agency. This was heavily informed by José Esteban Muñoz’s book Cruising Utopia. But that’s getting ahead of myself and that context has a lot to do with framing and structuring, and I would say the real starting point—at least the more raw content—begins with a practice located in the atelier, the dance studio, and the night club, some place that locates itself between a painting and the representation-painting-dance.
Curator Dan Nadel speaks about Destroy All Monsters—the collective, the members, and their continuing relevance as “cool shit” it isn’t too late to learn about as part of the exhibition showing at L.A.’s PRISM.
The Destroy All Monsters exhibition Return of the Repressed at PRISM Los Angeles brings at least one idea to the table: it is never too late to learn about cool shit. Introduced to the music via my mother—who attended the same university as the members of the art/music/theatrical collective, Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Cary Loren and Niagara—I was inspired by their work to have one of those I-wish-I’d-been-around-then moments. Well, no longer can I lament being born too late to be a part of the small movement that (as noted by the exhibition’s catalog) “wanted to kill James Taylor”. Destroy All Monsters was one of the more short-lived (and most interesting) groups of artists that emerged in the ‘70s. At PRISM their compositions—a collection of photographs, musical experiments, collages and paintings—is back in action, this time in a setting that finds itself quite a distance away from its genesis. Attendees of the University of Michigan, Destroy All Monsters based their work often on their surroundings, rejecting most halcyonic concepts. Named after a Godzilla movie, the group prefaced punk with introducing monstrous noises in conjunction with the harmonized goal of creating an artistic space where they could do whatever they wanted. The result is virtually undefinable. These days, the artists do not create alongside of each other, but have finally found a moment where sharing a space makes sense again. Dan Nadel, the exhibition’s co-curator, took the time to let me know little bit about his attraction to the group, new and old work, and the Destroy All Monsters legendary homebase, God’s Oasis.
Micki Pellerano creates his own cosmos in his drawings. Legacy Russell takes a walking tour through the Lower East Side’s envoy enterprises and the mythical regions of an artist’s mind, beyond revelation.
This Sunday marks the closing of New York-based artist (and bassist for the gothic-folk group Cult of Youth) Micki Pellerano’s exhibition, Revelation. Pellerano’s work toes the line between dream and nightmare, a genesis sprung from an end-of-worlds. Want to witness the kiss of Hades and Elysium? The meeting of man and magic? Come see it for yourself at 131 Chrystie Street.
Legacy Russell Micki, I’ve said it before, and will say it again—it is, without a doubt, very difficult to create graphite-based work on any kind of paper, and then take it and display it in a place that, like envoy [enterprises], has lighting that outshines the likes of Duane Reade or Walgreens. To show highly detailed work under the infamously unforgiving glare of florescent and have it maintain its composure . . . how does that happen? What kind of lighting do you use when creating these works?
Micki Pellerano The lighting I use at home is rather intense so perhaps that lends to it. Either way, I’m glad you feel the drawings hold up under such scrutiny.
LR Can you talk a bit more about your process? When we first met you noted that the paper you use has different tones, sometimes different teeth, different weights . . . which comes first? The concept for a piece, or the paper itself? Do you select one in the interest of serving the other?
MP I have my old standards of types of paper that I prefer to use, and experience has taught me which ones don’t work. I still enjoy experimenting with new textures and imagining how they will be conducive to the concept I have in mind.
LR Walking into this exhibition was like stumbling into a combine of C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll. The work is gothic in some respects, psychedelic in others, fairy-tale like, at times. Can you touch on how fantasy is utilized in your process?
MP When attempting to render the idea of something formless materializing into a state of palpability or perceptibility, textural qualities such as melting and morphing enter your visual vocabulary, and these are redolent of motifs in psychedelic art or cinema. This is why popular psychedelic art borrowed so heavily from Art Nouveau with its ethereal vapors and shifting plasmas.
Charles Mary Kubricht’s new piece on the High Line dazzles and delights.
High Line Art, presented by Friends of the High Line, announced the beginning of its Fall 2011 season of public art with Texas-based artist Charles Mary Kubricht’s installation Alive-nesses: A Proposal for Adaptation. Implementing the celebrated Dazzle camouflage scheme of WWI and WWII naval merchant vessels, Kubricht reproduced the painted design on park storage containers located at the Hudson Yards end of the High Line. Originally garnered from the visual language of Cubism, early camouflage studies by Abbott H. Thayer, the general coloring of seagulls, and the final design implementation and promotion for military use by Norman Wilkinson—illustrator-cum-British lieutenant of the Royal Navy—Dazzle painting on commercial ships was once thought to effectively dodge attacks by enemy U-boats.
The evasion was, of course, not a result of the brazenly painted ship camouflaging itself into the sea, but instead a result of artillery rangefinders being unable to determine the painted ship’s distance, course, and speed due to its painted, black-and-white, angular geometry. Beginning in 1918, the American Camouflage Corps began camouflaging merchant ships in various east coast harbors including New York, Boston, and Norfolk, Virginia. Towards the end of WWII, the New York harbor was the busiest in the world with up to five hundred Dazzle camouflaged ships anchored at one time.
Tabitha Piseno You have been using the Dazzle painting technique in various installations for a few years now. How did your interest in this particular design begin, and what was the impetus for proposing such a project for the High Line?
Charles Mary Kubricht I have been investigating landscape art and technology since 1989 through rigorous experiences in the wilderness and research in historical moments, technological stages and political agendas that often converge at isolated wilderness sites. I started investigating the visual strategies of camouflage and came across the complex geometric shapes of Dazzle painting and anti-range finding camouflage schemes of World Wars I and II. Visual transformation occurs through the un-reading of the form so that it can be read in a new way. The High Line is a perfect example. What existed as industrial form was transformed into aesthetic form. The walkways and plantings are camouflaging the industrial past by adapting to the original form in a way that reorganizes our perceptual experience with nature. The tension between nature and culture is reduced.
Nicole Demby reflects on the aesthetics of femininity and the gendered codification of labor and the physical form within the work of three contemporary women artists.
Aided by Man Ray in 1921, Marcel Duchamp emblazoned a perfume bottle with an image of his newly-created alter-ego, the bedroom-eyed Rrose Sélavy. He entitled the work Belle Haleine: Eau De Violette, (Beautiful Breath: Veil Water). The name is a pun on both Eros, c’est la vie. (“Eros, that’s life.”), and Rrose Halevy, a common Jewish name that means “Rrose, the Levite” (Duchamp expressed the desire to make simply a Jewish alter-ego before deciding to make her a woman as well). As such, the artwork, which Duchamp attributed to Rrose Sélavy, connotes both libido and otherness, the essence of woman as well as its abstraction from the physical body (in this case, Duchamp’s, male).
In a strange way, Belle Haleine anticipates the idealized characterization of advanced capitalist society as one in which identity is completely fluid—in which culture and technology enable us to identify with whatever gender we wish, and the sustaining of our lives is detached from our bodies as work has become immaterial—cognitive, intellectual production removed from the brute physicality of industrial production. That Belle Haleine is a détourned luxury commodity is fitting; luxury goods advertise the possibility of simply buying in to a certain feeling, status, or lifestyle (who needs real work when one can simply buy one’s way into a certain class or social group?). Fragrance, in particular, is the symbolic antithesis of material work; cosmetic and immediate rather than sustaining and sustained. Sexy rather than banal, it offers the possibility of imbuing the subject with a desired aura, a kind of magic potion that circumvents the tedium of working for the desired qualities. Yet that Belle Haleine is actually an empty bottle is poetically suggestive of the missing substance at the heart of the notions of immaterial labor: the body.
Legacy Russell Twinterviews artist Man Bartlett about Occupy Wall Street, class and economy, and how Twitter just might be the next frontier for public sculpture.
Street Artist Raquel Sakristan on Dark Energy, defining consciousness, and not being afraid to disappear.
I first came across street artist Raquel Sakristan’s work in a literature and art publication I unearthed in a crowded independent book store in Valencia, Spain. As I flipped idly through the magazine of local artists and writers, one page in particular caught my eye: there was a dancing winged figure with a broken heart hinged at its groin, an electric plug for a tail, and a house for a head. The house had a penis for a chimney and fireworks exploded out and rained down on the figure from that chimney. The energy of this creature in mid-dance and the audacity of the phallic chimney struck me—they spoke of nameless human performances, the collusion of emotional, technological, and sexual forces, and seemed to attest to the vibrancy and strange vibrations of life. I bought the magazine and pinned it open on my desk to that page. The figure and its dance began to haunt my room.
What conditions had produced such a creature? Was this image holding up a mirror to mankind or portraying of our worst fears—and what if those were one in the same? Years later, in my exchanges with Sakristan it suddenly became clear to me that that image I remembered so well was, in fact, doing both: simultaneously reflecting the human psyche and projecting its shadows far out beyond the scope of conscious thought. Much of Sakristan’s artwork homes in on human obsessions, deep-rooted desires, doubts, and fears; fear of the dark and of our own disappearance, the latter of which pushes us to leave our cultural fingerprints on our edifices, wherever and however we can. Despite the urban setting of most of her works to date, Sakristan’s street art reflects all aspects of nature; the impetuses within our human nature that drive us to create, question, and change the outward forms of our environment, as well as the natural world and how we relate to and interact with it differently as individuals based on our cultural, ideological and spiritual beliefs. In conversation, Sakristan is both serious-minded and passionate, impressively self-aware and outspoken, when it comes to her motivations, her desire—and beyond that—her need to ply her craft on the street.
BOMBlog talks to artist Jackson Thomas Tupper about his work, featured as The Wick in Issue 118, on newsstands now.
I first came across Jackson Tupper’s work while flipping through my college literary magazine about a year and half ago and ended up in the same graphic design course with him not long after. It quickly became clear that Tupper, currently a junior Studio Art major at the University of Vermont, probably could have taught the class himself, with his masterful knowledge of Photoshop, InDesign, and design in general. My classmates and I became delightfully familiar with Tupper’s illustrated characters—gentle, goggle-eyed creatures with thick necks, missing limbs, and more often than not, mustaches. His work is technically beautiful and strangely mythical; there lies a strong sense of storytelling behind each piece—think your favorite fairy-tale gone wrong. I got to chat with the twenty-year-old Wick artist about combining cuteness with morbidity, and his preference for wearing many artistic hats.
Hannah Jansen You’ve said that street mural artists Blu and Erica Il Cane are two of your main influences. What aspects of their work have carried over into your own?
Jackson Tupper I’m most inspired by the way their minds work. My initial reaction whenever I look at their works is: “What the **?” followed by, “How did they think of that?” They’re really weird but also humorous and sometimes cute. I’m also really attracted to their drawing styles, specifically their sketchbook drawings. They’re simple in that, for the most part, they only use black pen against a clean white page. For me, they’re just really refreshing to look at—Blu’s clean consistent lines and Erica Il Cane’s fine subtle detail. Their raw sketchbook pages become finished products, and that has really inspired me too.
Appendix Project Space embraces change, progress, and unpredictability, breaking the traditional archetypes of the white-wall gallery space.
In cities from Boston to Bangalore, Philadelphia to Paris, Troy to Tehran, there exists a continuing culture of galleries and venues within non-traditional walls, exhibiting and featuring the projects that rarely, if ever, make it to commercial spaces. Appendix Project Space is part of a bumper crop of such art spaces that have popped up around Portland, Oregon in trucks, porches, and boats. Appendix is an artist-run venue located in the clean white-walled garage of Zachary Davis and Travis Fitzgerald’s home, (co-founder Joshua Pavlacky recently moved to Philadelphia). Nestled within the alley between Northeast 26th and Northeast 27th Avenues, the space sits in the heart of Portland’s Alberta neighborhood. Every month Alberta hosts Last Thursday, a street fair featuring fire-dancers, DJ drum-circle dance parties, old-timey bands, a couple of hundred venders selling folk art, glass pipes, kimchi pizza, and some 10,000 attendees to gawk at. Within this mayhem there are several bars shaking great cocktails, a few interesting galleries and two fantastic bookstores. Appendix’s thoughtfully considered and well-presented endeavors make it the not-to-be-missed spot of the evening. I spoke with the gentlemen of Appendix a few weeks ago as they were wrapping up the year.
Mack McFarland You’re about to end your third season of Appendix programming, how many exhibitions and performances did you mount this season?
Travis Fitzgerald Including Hay Batch! and Target Language @ 937, we put on a total of 16 shows this season. At Appendix itself there were 10 shows.
In her latest Shifting Connections, Kathleen MacQueen reflects on three of her favorite shows of the season.
November 4, 2011 – January 22, 2012
— John Berger, Ways of Seeing (1972)
Maurizio Cattelan consistently refutes any comfortable positions we might accept in our relation as viewers to art and art’s face-to-face with reality. In his retrospective currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum, he dangles some 130 works (most of his collective output since 1989) as a defunct carousel around which we spiral, circulating the rotunda. The artist has also hung his career up to dry, vowing to retire with the Guggenheim exhibition serving as his swan song.
Kevin Kinsella on the dark tensions within Ilya Kabakov’s work—and the political implications of the artist’s apolitical approach.
Art produced in the former Soviet Union between the years 1953 (the death of Stalin) and 1986 (the advent of Perestroika and Glasnost) that fell outside of the rubric of Socialist Realism is often crowded beneath umbrella terms like “noncomforist art,” “underground art,” “unofficial art”—even “dissident art.” But it would be a mistake to view all art not produced with approval of the State apparatus through the same lens. Indeed, when Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin for his crimes at a secret speech at the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956, his Thaw introduced a liberal atmosphere to the arts, giving more freedom to create work not previously sanctioned by the State without fear of reprisal.
The surprising move turned the notion of “official art” on its head. Formally approved artists like Alexander Gerasimov, who produced Soviet Realist portraits and idealized sculptures of Lenin and Stalin, had their stamps of approval rubbed off, as pretty much everyone else got the go ahead. Artists who had been producing work in secret, now could come out of the shadows and take part in public exhibitions.
Growing up in a very different New York from the one we know today, artist Michael Alan saw the city in all its transformative glory. Emily Colucci explores the realism of Alan’s inner and outer worlds.
Born during the 1977 blackout, artist Michael Alan follows in the footsteps of New York artists who often employed and celebrated the dark conditions around them.
A lifelong New-Yorker, Alan was born in Bushwick before it was an artistic community. After moving from Bushwick, Alan was raised in different places around the city, finding himself living next door to the Wu-Tang Clan one instant, and then in Queens the next.
While growing up in these various locations, the artist lost three of his best friends and came close to losing his own life on multiple occasions. Alan, from his earliest years, began making art as a means to escape the danger around him. Alan explains, “I found it to be a struggle to be positive because everyone around me was negative. So I was the guy who drew everything all the time and that’s what I was known for. As I got older, people respected that.”
David Goodman reflects, in this photo essay, on the playground that was Miami Art Basel.
Miami is acting as a new metaphor for me. An end of a cycle with a new match struck to start a fresh blaze. The most resonate event I witnessed was Iona Rozeal Brown’s battleofyestermorrow. The strength of motion, contorted figuration and intense physicality of Benny Ninja, Javier Ninja, Rokafella, Beasty, GI Jane, Uko Snowbunny, Lady Beast and MonaLisa made almost all the other art that landed in South Beach ice cold.
That performative power disintegrated the NYC grid and I watched the dissipating dividing lines from multiple vantage points—in the air, from the hotel, the streets and the beach—like sand spilling out of my palms and through my fingers.
With this cleansed palette, I took in small elements of materiality which quietly pulsed outward from the fairs—glass from a Louise Bourgeois, Russell Maltz’s stacked and painted forms, the crocheted net of Ernesto Neto.
Erika Chong Shuch has a lot of feelings. Tess Thackara joins the artist in a circle sit-down to see how her new work takes therapy off the couch and into the crowd.
Erika Chong Shuch and her performance troupe would like to know how you feel. Think about it. How do you feel? Why have you come here? Can you let go? What does it mean to let go? These are some of the questions unassuming audience-turned-participants are asked during Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project’s (ESP) latest multidisciplinary work, Sitting in a Circle, staged at San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts. The questions are intoned with such authority and depth, it’s hard to resist them. Why have I come here, I wonder, reduced to a quaking existential question mark within moments of my arrival. The premise of this evening chez Chong Shuch was just too seductive, too latent with possibility: a group of individuals have been mysteriously summoned to grapple with what it means to sit amongst strangers—and connect. Join the group, and be guided through an interactive journey incorporating movement, installation and theater.
The night was billed to sound like an anthropological petri dish: What safety does the circle offer? Who is excluded? And why? The form-bending work, a dance-cum-performance art piece-cum-group therapy session, didn’t disappoint. Performers sit in a circle among audience members and assume the roles of emotionally damaged characters. Their interactions with one another—through dance, role-play, performance and song—cut to the core of what it means to negotiate our own emotions in a world where we are constantly negotiating the emotions of others. Do we hunger for the expression of emotion, or do we hide from it? When is emotion performed, and when genuine? Which emotions do we value, which are taboo? I struck up a conversation with Erika Chong Shuch to help unpack the baggage.
Tess Thackara In Sitting in a Circle, audience members are asked to consider an emotion that has dominated their lives and draw it onto a blank paper mask. What do you see as having been the dominant emotion in your lifetime?
Erika Chong Shuch I should’ve known that would come back and bite me! I don’t know if I can say that one specific emotion has dominated my life. I can say that my life has been dominated by emotion. My way of navigating through the world is pretty intuitive; I tend to make choices based on what I am feeling about things. And if I do have a dominant emotion, I think I’d rather draw it on a mask than put it into words!
John Reed examines our cultural fascination with the Joker through the quirky, armless lens of Don Porcaro’s art.
Why is the Joker so curious? Rizzoli/Universe’s November 2011 biography, The Joker, attempts to answer the question with historical insight, but the crux of the matter is this: creativity is crime. In the bloodless bureaucracy of present-day America, the sanguine smile is very nearly criminal. The Joker is the best and worst of the United States, the Randian mythos that has wrecked us on the shoal, and the spirit of free adventure that may well be our only hope. Batman, as originally conceived, is a literal personification of the Comics Code Authority, and the authority figure we’re likely to resent. By the late 1960s, in his television show, the Batman had become a joke, while the Joker retained his frightening appeal. The Dark Night of the 1980s and 1990s attempted to rectify the problem: Batman was now lawless, or very nearly lawless. But even so, the Batman only existed to defeat our fears, which were most purely manifested in the Joker: the criminal, or more aptly, the artist in all of us.
The artistic object—a sculpture, a painting, a found lamp—is a Frankensteinian animation of real if intangible cultural forces. The Joker, in his plots, pranks and gadgets, brings life to the jokes that are not funny, the meaninglessness of our daily regimen, and the nihilism—our fondest daydream—we are taught to fear. Don Porcaro’s army is not funny: he has sent his legions to express the leering oppression of normative culture, and our tittering desperation to be liberated.
New York artist Liz Magic Laser discusses her performance pieces—and their unusual settings, conceptions, and influences—with Amanda Valdez.
Liz Magic Laser has staged her work in bank ATM vestibules, on a staircase in Times Square and, for her Performa 11 commission, in a movie theatre. Equal in range is her cast of collaborators: dancers, actors, cinematographers, surgeons, and a motorcycle gang. Though she started out as a photographer, over time her art practice has become predominately performance-based. In the 2010 Greater New York show at PS1 she exhibited Mine, an installation of her ransacked purse in a vitrine, accompanied by a video projection of a set of hands using surgical tools to pull apart the purse and its contents. Another piece, chase, is an epic adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s play Man Equals Man. Every line creates a new frame in the film from a different location in which the actors delivered their lines to ATM machines, other patrons, and within the general contained space of bank locations. I Feel Your Pain, a feature length film created while the audience watches the performance take place in the same space recently premiered at Performa 11. In the work, the American political scene is set up as a romantic drama as seen through the lens of Russian agitprop theatre techniques. I spoke with the artist before the premier.
Amanda Valdez In your last several projects there’s a clear shift into theatre. chase was developed from Bertolt Brecht’s play Man Equals Man, Flight combines live acting with mashed up film scenes, and your latest piece is invested in theatre practices. How did this develop?
Carmen Winant interviews Brock Enright about his unusual CV and the evocative similarities between a mirror and the stage.
Brock Enright has an unusual CV for an artist. Over the past several years, the artist has staged abductions upon request, been the subject of a documentary film, held solo exhibitions in New York, London, Berlin, and Los Angeles, and appeared on The View and Good Morning America. His most recent work is now up at Kate Werble Gallery.
Carmen Winant So, before we speak about your current show at Kate Werble gallery, I am hoping to talk about your own mixed media practice. You work in performance, music, installation, drawing, and, perhaps you would even call yourself a director? I read that for your 2001 MFA thesis show at Columbia, you had your mother perform a body building routine. How would you describe yourself as an artist—and is it difficult to reconcile across different media, or decide what is most fitting for each project?
Brock Enright . . . I use the appropriate material to execute my hypothesis. By doing that, I am aware of the possibilities for misunderstanding, or the lack of interest or comprehension. The result is a larger bite than one normally eats in entertainment, or the art world.
Jorge Tacla’s latest exhibition cuts the ground out from under the notion of—well—solid ground. The result? A realm where trauma is the only terra firma.
Jorge Tacla’s Altered Remains challenges the most basic human assumptions about the cornerstones of civilization: namely, the notion that people, buildings, landmarks, and cities are safe, settled, and unshakable. Instead, the shuddering expanses of Tacla’s canvases usher us into worlds littered with post-apocalyptic detritus—the “rubble” of once interior, private spaces mercilessly torn open and dispersed.
In this vision, things appear as just shadows of their figurative selves and yet Tacla manages to invest each organic shape with meaning. We can almost read burnt vehicles, ruined structures, mechanical waste, and human figures in the repeating arcs of his work. The paintings show landscapes that may have once been ordered and familiar, now stripped to their bedrock—but not beyond all recognition. The disaster that caused the trauma has already occurred and we, as the viewer, can only bear witness to aftermath.
On October 1, millions of people in Toronto ventured outside their homes to experience the 6th annual Nuit Blanche. Rebecca Melnyk spoke to the curators about the multi-city event and the role of public art.
On October 1, millions of people in Toronto ventured outside their homes to experience the 6th annual Nuit Blanche, an all-night art event that originated in Paris. Families, tourists, students, artists, and even those with a skeptical eye toward contemporary art engaged with large commissioned conceptual installations and smaller independent exhibits that, together, culminated in a celebration of art in public spaces.
According to Julian Sleath, the programming director for this and other major cultural events, Nuit Blanche “is the only all-night event in the City of Toronto specifically focused on the contemporary visual art scene. The hope is that by using the urban setting, participants will question their relationship to once familiar surroundings, to each other and to their experience of contemporary art.” And curiosity flourished in such exhibits as Raymond Boisjoly’s “the sense of reckoning,” an installation that took the form of electronic road signs and stressed the ability of the potential for text to produce experience, as fragments of language flashed quickly on signs normally used for cautioning and blocking off the public. The piece required a heightened attention as viewers attempted to form coherent words from the jumble, and in the process, re-engage with language. As Sleath says, “like Carsten Holler’s “Test Site” in the Tate Modern, Nuit Blanche ends up ‘using people as raw material.’”
Nicholas Brown, Candice Hopkins, and Shirley Madill were the three curators for this year’s 6th annual Nuit Blanche, each curating a particular city zone. I spoke with the three about how this major art event connected to the public, the reception of conceptual art, the challenges in producing a large scale art event, and their hopes for what the public experienced.
Rebecca Melnyk What do you hope the public walked away at the end of the evening?
Nicholas Brown I hope audiences walked away with a greater sense of entitlement to physically and psychologically inhabit the financial district on their own terms. We had a tremendous opportunity to collectively recall the events of the G20, which took place just over a year ago, as the Occupy Wall Street protests continue to unfold. But it was also important to myself and to many of the artists in our exhibition that the works not prescribe a specific reading or outcome. I hope the public left empowered, and still a bit nonplussed about their experiences. Frustration, even outright hostility is expected and totally welcome. Down the road, I would hope that people discover a sense of déjà vu next time they find themselves in the financial district late at night.
Alison Saar and Hadley Roach take a stroll through Madison Square Park to explore the stages and cycles of the Seasons.
On the Saturday night before I met with Alison Saar, I walked through a moonless Madison Square Park. The Shake Shack sent greased smoke into the papery fall air. Some leaves littered the ground under my feet, while others clung and rustled overhead. The seasons leaned into each other.
Saar’s Seasons, however, were hesitant to emerge from the darkness: the serpentine branches of “Fall’s” hair caught quick glints of traffic; a ring of fireflies pulsed sporadically against “Summer’s” rounded womb; and “Spring” and “Winter” remained curled in shadow, waiting.
“Feallan and Fallow,” the installation of four seasons that Saar created for the Madison Square Art Program, was revealed in its full splendor the following Wednesday. Accompanied by two towering “Treesouls” that Saar constructed in 1994, the pieces form a larger-than-life loop of bodies, seasons, and implications. They operate, most directly, through the timeless mother/daughter myth of Demeter and Persephone—pomegranates punctuate the imagery of each piece, and the spinning of the seasons is a constant reference to Persephone’s cyclical journey between mother and lover (or captor, depending on how sympathetic we’re feeling towards the King of the Underworld).
Twenty years after their first interview, Jane Wilson and Mimi Thompson sit down together to discuss the behavior of paint and that moment when the artist disappears.
In the 1950’s Jane Wilson did something unusual—she began to paint landscapes while most of her fellow painters wrestled with the idiosyncratic tenets of Abstract Expressionism. She was not entirely alone. Artists such as Fairfield Porter and Jane Freilicher also painted figures and landscapes, but Wilson’s work was, and remains, different. It vibrates on the line that separates the abstract from the real. Her balancing act continues with her new series of landscapes. They release a palpable atmosphere, surrounding the viewer and pushing two dimensions into three and four. Growing up in the wide open spaces of Iowa, and living by the sea in Watermill, New York, Wilson contacts a lifetime of experience as she works, and pairs what she calls “an uncontrollable allegiance to subject matter” with an ability to transmit nature as feeling and memory.
Mimi Thompson The surfaces in your new paintings are complex. Some of them won’t let the viewer in.
Jane Wilson I am usually looking for the color behind the color. There is always something underneath to discover. I try to irritate the surface until it gives up what I want, so I guess I just like making trouble.
MT If it’s trouble it’s the beautiful kind. Each painting’s atmosphere seems to slide into the air around it, and the paintings communicate with each other as well.
JW I hope they are doing that. The artist never knows anything. You don’t really see your own paintings. You think you are doing one thing, and you are actually doing about fifteen different things at the same time. You don’t know what’s dominant, but you just keep doing it until you discover the answer.
Shifting Connections continues with Kathleen MacQueen’s interview with Daniel Canogar, one of the artists featured in New York’s Into the Light event.
Nuit Blanche originated in Paris in 2001 and has developed into an annual global network of contemporary art events taking place one night of the year. This year’s New York event, Into the Light, invited 69 artists to create, in the words of the organizers, “an immersive spectacle for thousands of visitors to re-imagine public space and civic life” along the waterfront of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Another of New York City’s marginal and transitional zones, this industrial neighborhood bridges a history of development that is rapidly changing. Now in the eyes of real estate developers, Greenpoint has traditionally served a labor economy with its port, warehouses, and long stretches of roadway that encourage transport over transformation, movement rather than contemplation. What kind of intervention gives meaning to an existing landscape without simply appropriating it, considers its features, its origins, and its purpose—in short, recognizes it for what it is rather than what we ask it to be?
To address the industrial scale of the neighborhood in relation to human involvement, I spoke with Daniel Canogar, a new media artist from Madrid and a veteran of public art interventions and installations including Constelaciones, a permanent public art installation on new pedestrian bridges crossing the Manzanares River in Madrid, and Travesias, a LED screen 33 meters in length installed in the atrium of the Justus Lipsius building of the European Union Council both from 2010. For Into the Light, he adapted his work Asalto (Assault) (2009/11) to create a dynamic light painting whose color and composition is determined by local participants translating gesture to visual projection.
Artists Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich and Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen unpack the politics of the creative process.
I first met the formidable Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen at an iteration of the Be Black Baby party I had co-curated with artist Simone Leigh at Recess Activities in TriBeCa. Jacqueline—a recent graduate of the Whitney Independent Study program—at the time was still sharing creative space at the new ISP headquarters off of Canal Street. That day the artist was in the midst of her newest investigation, a project that compares a small Canadian town’s choice to build the first UFO landing pad in 1967 to the alienating aspects pertaining to the politics of immigration. Jacqueline and I continued that conversation, considering the roles of identity and activism within our respective practices.
Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich Jacqueline, tell me a little about your individual history. How did you arrive at your artistic practice?
Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen Born of Vietnamese immigrants in Canada, I was raised in the French-speaking part of Montreal. In other words, I belong to the visible minority group within a national linguistic minority group, the Québécois, in a vastly English-dominant Canada. So, in short, my life is a constant exercise of translation, negotiating and resistance between cultures, languages, and economical classes.
BOFFO pairs Patrik Ervell with Graham Hudson to build fashion against all odds.
BOFFO is a non-profit organization with the mission of facilitating partnerships between artists, designers, and the media, as well as instigating the public’s curiosity in the realms of architecture, design, and fashion. BOFFO also aims to serve as a channel that connects up-and-coming stars on the rise with twinkling luminaries.
To become a purveyor of a fresh perspective in architecture and fashion BOFFO launched Building Fashion, that, having begun in September, will cycle through a selection of five installations open to New Yorkers for two weeks each on 57 Walker Street through this December. Building Fashion is quite literal in its phrasing, as the partnerships unite fashion designers with architects who will then transform the location to express the visions of fashion designers with promise. The five chosen designers do not currently have freestanding stores, and so thereby will gain a valuable understanding of the pragmatic business side of having a pop-up of their own.