Tim Gentles See Into The Mere Future

 

Tim Gentles is a New Zealand born writer and curator based in New York. He completed his MA at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. He has written for Art-Agenda, Art in America, e-flux, Frieze, XLR8R and many other publications. Last summer, Tim was one of the six curators selected for U:L:O: at Interstate Projects in Brooklyn for his show Back Seat Driver. His dystopic show The Mere Future is on view at American Medium through August 6, 2017.

Interview by Natasha Przedborski

 

The Mere Future engages with the themes of urban progress and "erosion of the public sphere". Was there any one moment, object, or person that specifically inspired the idea for this show?

There was no particular revelation or moment of inspiration for the exhibition. Developing the show was actually quite a natural process evolving from certain things I had been thinking about the art world and its relationship to various publics, as well as the work of certain artists who engage with these ideas. One catalyst for thinking about these issues was the ongoing dilemma of the art world's intimate relationship with a culture industry that has increasingly made a city like New York unlivable for most people. From most artists' point of view this is unsustainable too, and I was interested in the ways in which artistic practice has sought to be critical of art as an institution, and the ways that it has failed to live up to its promise and ideals in almost every respect.

 

I feel like bringing up the recent presidential election is inevitable these days when speaking about critiquing institutions and the failure to live up to promises and ideals. The works in the show were nearly all made prior to the most recent presidential election. Have you noticed any effect the current political climate has had on the production of work since?

In many ways Devon Dikeou's piece in the show, Cajole, which was made in 1992 and is a replica of one of the planters that could at the time be found in the lobby of Trump Tower, was the starting point for thinking about the present day political implications of these ideas. The piece invites a cool examination of how political power is coded and assimilated into one's environment as innocuous and embedded. The effect of last year's election and the resulting political climate in the art world has largely been disheartening. Many rightfully feel that a renewed sense of political urgency is essential in combating the current regime and their socially destructive policies, but looking to art and one's position in the art world to provide a platform for a leftist politics is in my opinion misguided and at worst totally hypocritical.

 

The title of the show is borrowed from Sarah Schulman's dystopic novel in which New York’s problems have all been solved and liberalism reigns. Interestingly, the main critique in the media this year was that part of the country lived in a “liberal bubble”. Do you think that art is enabling this liberal elitism?

Art's relationship to liberalism is complex, and it's only been within the past couple of decades that the art world has identified with liberalism in its virtual entirety. Only relatively recently, various forms of illiberalism were firmly entrenched within art world power structures – think for instance of the impetus of much early institutional critique work, e.g. Hans Haacke's Shapolsky et al., or the extreme backlash to the 1993 Whitney Biennial in contrast to the reception of this year's. That's not to say that the art world is now politically homogenous—it is not—but a presumed liberalism is mandated more than ever before. I think that this liberalism is often used, quite defensively, as a way of eliding a deeper interrogation of the complicity of well-meaning art institutions with inequality and injustice, as well as the class and race privilege of many of the art world's participants.

 

If I’m not mistaken you're not originally from the United States. What effect, if any, do you feel this had on organizing an exhibition that comments on American politics and space?

I feel pretty well assimilated into the New York City art community, and this exhibition largely reflects the concerns, as well as the cynicism and disaffection, of that world, which of course reflect in turn the political context of the United States. But to answer your question more directly, in my experience non-Americans tend to have less patience with the pieties of American liberalism.

 

Your show The Mere Future took place at American Medium. I think that the location of the gallery in the heart of Bed-Stuy is noteworthy. What do you make of having a socially engaged show on urban space and gentrification in a neighborhood undergoing gentrification itself?

A large part of the exhibition was to examine how art falls short of its utopic promise. Marc Kokopeli's piece in the show offers the most succinct distillation of this to me, where in appropriating Yoko Ono's Wish Tree he not only critiques a certain form of counter-cultural hippie sentimentalism, but its participatory aspect raises questions about precisely the kinds of publics that artworks actually engender. Sitting side-by-side on the tree are wishes made by children from the church next door, and name-dropping and art scene in-jokes.

 

Like A Prayer: Devon Dikeou's Pope Portraits (Sans Pope)

Devon Dikeou is a conceptual artist whose work engages with the lines, recesses, and in between places of the art world, and the interaction of roles within. Her most recent solo presentation ’Pray For Me’ –Pope Francis I is on view at James Fuentes through July 28, 2017. Other exhibitions include Foundation Barbin Presents Redeux (Sort of) at Kai Matsumiya, New York City (2016); Please at Outcasts Incorporated, Paris (2015); Inhabiting Ten Eyck at Storefront Tent Eyck, New York City (2014); Between the Acts: Virginia Woolf at NADA Art Fair, Miami Beach (2014); Game Changer at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder (2014; Please at The Contemporary, Austin (2013). Devon is also founder, editor, and publisher of zingmagazine and co-founder of the Dikeou Collection in Denver, CO.

Interview by Brandon Johnson

 

You're not a studio artist, but this body of work came out of these antique friarlero chairs existing in your live/work space. Can you describe how the idea for this work developed?

As you know quite well, being the managing editor of zing for a kazillion years so you probably carried the chairs up, they appeared almost magically at zing HQ. Fernando bought these ten voluminous chairs and with my laissez attitude I had no idea what I was in for. THEN I saw them. They are fabulous of course, but take up the whole space wherever they are and the space at that time was my supposed studio. . . And the work that I make is very much about those in between spaces, invisible places and moments. . . And those nuanced things were being drowned by the Catholic Church . . . In what's my "studio." I wrestled with them even physically dragging them up and down any number of stairs any time an art person came over. . . I wished them away almost every second—this army of friarleros. . . But finally, like what often happens with me, something clicked, and I said "embrace the cheese"—so I thought: make these chairs that are stalking me into something. And then the idea just becomes very quickly what it is: each chair positioned after a Renaissance painting of a pope. We set up a photoshoot and voila! Ten photos modeled after the portraits of popes reproduced to the size of the original inspiration. Those inspirations are Raphael (two), Titian (three), Sebastiano del Piombo, El Greco, Caravaggio, Velasquez, Jacques Louis David. And each chair is rotated to almost the exact position of which those masters painted the popes in question, but without the subject or background, just an image of the armature that sets up the pictorial composition in the original.

 

This work follows the concept of your series Please by creating photographs based on historical paintings. What does it mean for you to translate a painting into a photograph? 

Well the concept and practice I often employ is based on replication. I see something both in our regular everyday transactions as well as our art historical references (some more obvious than not) and I recreate them in my own manner. . . Be it a security gate from the street, the composition of which reminds me of an exquisite Barnet Newman or whose vastness makes me feel like I'm in a Monet lily pond. . . But clearly not. Or in this case, a more literal photographic sense, taking a cue from these historically important paintings and hopefully imbuing them with a bit of a chill. I was just at the Detroit Art Institute and going through its vast collection, and in the Dutch still life area/room there was this great guard who was explaining a painting in such an lovely way that I had never considered. The painting was a bouquet of flowers by Rachel Ruysch. Its background was black, dark. And he explained that was just the hardest thing to do, start from black and create light and color on top of that darkness. It was so touching, and expanding, making me think about how I come to do the things I do—which is that I often eliminate or highlight the background. In the case of Please, based on Manet's last paintings, I'm highlighting presence, eliminating background. In Pray for Me, and even with the comedy curtains—Between the Acts—I take that thing, that main thing, the pope or the comedian and eliminate them and isolate that invisible segue or show it in a different and hopefully reinvigorating context. Of course, none of these gestures can happen without the Pictures Generation language and appropriation. My practice is indebted to them as well as lots of other art history.

 

So your process of replication is meant to present familiar objects or symbols in a new context? That reminds me not only of one of the original conceptualist gestures in Duchamp's readymade Fountain but also Sherrie Levine's appropriations (including Duchamp's Fountain). Where do you see your work falling in this lineage? And what did you hope to highlight by isolating the chairs from historical paintings of popes?

Yes of course. Duchamp and his seminal gesture of creating the readymade allows for work like that of the Pictures Generation and Sherrie Levine. . . And naturally her recreating the urinal reads exactly into that . . . appropriation with a feminist touch—all that gold. Who said that statement "take an object, do something to it, then do something else to it." Jasper Johns, I think . . . That leads the way. And I believe Robert Morris wrote an article, "Four Americans" in Art in America arguing that Pollack, Duchamp, Hopper, and Cornel were the touchstones from which our more contemporary visions stem. . . There's some truth to that. . . all artists must react and know the fields in which they mine. . . And yes in that sense I would be following the Duchamp tradition in the Morris argument. So my gesture is related to the history of papal painting and implies appropriation—art of a more contemporary vein, while deconstructing the final visual platform and asking the viewer to make that visual and conceptual jump. And that jump can be from any position—that of the viewer, our contemporary and historical thoughts of the sitters in these chairs, the art historical references, ideas of patronage that come with citing art history and collecting, and even the parishioners and their little contributions. And how all these hierarchical conditions operate seemingly unknowingly. . . Or knowingly . . . And deposit that examination, again in the middle, Louise Lawler style, another pictures generation beauty.

 

This work was first shown as an artist’s project at NADA New York in 2014, where the emphasis was on seating at art fairs, engaging with the fair’s design and logistical dynamics--the border of fine art and functionality. But with recent political developments and the new context of a gallery space, “Pray for Me” takes on new readings. Can you speak to the pope’s chair as “seat of power,” the historical role of pope as art patron and powerbroker, and Pope Francis I’s more recent political engagements?

What's that phrase that's been fancied around "Truth to Power" or is it "Power or Truth"? It almost doesn't matter. . . The chairs might act as metaphor for either. And yes the chairs were originally exhibited at Nada NYC. . . And as they are chairs as an installation address sitting wherever it may be—fair, gallery, monastery church, home (collector/patronage) studio and others. . . All of which pride themselves on both truth and power. Me I probably have neither, but I like to walk that line and examine the commercial venue, the visual venue, the critical venue and how we digest our visual, monetary, and critical metaphors. . . Truthfully . .  And talk about the transactions that occur commercially, historically, and psychologically. . . Powerfully. . . Which answer in a way, to both, and again neither, power and truth. And the chairs themselves are already loaded as is the history of papal portraits so the natural segues either happen or don't, at least that's my hope. And yes high and low, Pope Francis I was a bouncer at a night club, I think, and even it's not true, just urban myth, that's what rocks!

 

The pope was arguably at one time the most powerful person in the world. Many would argue that position is occupied now by the President of the United States of America. Are there any new revelations to draw from this body of work being exhibited under the current political circumstances of the Trump administration—where power and truth are both at stake?

I'll start with perspective. When these paintings which the photos are based on were painted, perspective has just been understood, comprehended, is a new discovery. And the paintings themselves along with this experiment, perspective, were the record of their holinesses. Keep in mind these painters we are discussing are the most talented painters at the time and we study them as students of art history and probably have an exam question regarding each one—something to this day I'd probably not pass. Certainly, the progression that perspective represented, at that time, was groundbreaking. Now our time (can't help but reference to Fast Times at Ridgemont High) but in "our time" when we relook at these paintings we see they have not quite got that perspective thing down. . . Some of paintings are, well, a bit screwy. . . And as one tries to replicate them now, as I have, that becomes apparent. But they are forgiven, all those luscious masters. Perspective now. . . There is this other experiment called democracy that hmmmm is perhaps going through a similar growing pain, and the power structures both in government and the idea of the Papacy as a structure of truth may be more vital or just the reverse—and give us a different perspective to our understanding of the world. Will we forgive . . . "Pray for Me" —Pope Francis I.

 

Rebecca R. Hart Is Building Bridges Between Artist, Audience, and Institution

 

Rebecca R. Hart is the Vicki and Kent Logan Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Denver Art Museum. Three shows curated by Hart are currently on view in the Hamilton Building of the Denver Art Museum: Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford on view through July 16, Audacious Contemporary Artists Speak Out through August 6, and Mi Tierra: Contemporary Artists Explore Place through October 2017.

Interview by Rebecca Manning

 

With a BFA and MFA in Fiber from the Kansas City Art Institute and Cranbrook Academy of Arts, respectively, how did you became interested in pursuing a MA in Contemporary Art History, and eventually curating? How did your career evolve?

My first degree is from Williams College in art history. During my senior year, while writing a thesis on Mughal book illustration, I became curious about all Islamic decorative arts. Soon I found myself working in a Swedish tapestry studio (in the buildings that are now MASS MoCA) by day and writing my thesis at night. It opened a world to me that I hadn’t imagined. I followed my heart and spent twenty years as a fiber artist. All along I supported my studio practice by teaching and lecturing in museums. 

When I was at Cranbrook most art academy students returned home in the summer. I had two daughters living with me so I stayed in Detroit. Gerhard Knodel, artist-in-residence for fiber, suggested that I volunteer at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Based on the work I did, the DIA invited me back to work as a curatorial assistant when I graduated. I was at the museum for twenty years, first in the department of twentieth century art, then when the department of contemporary art was formed in 2003 I joined it, and eventually lead it for ten years.

 

Since starting at the Denver Art Museum in 2015, what have you noticed that is unique about the arts community in Denver?

I’m always discovering new people and practices in Denver, in part because many strong, independent positions are articulated by local artists. There’s a diversity of practice, not a primary locale-centric mode as there was in Detroit. Sadly however, there’s not much attention given to promoting Denver artists in a larger arena. I wish that somehow artists could receive a fellowship, which included professional development and supported studio research; that we had a network to validate and showcase talent broadly.

 

There has been a great deal of positive response to your current exhibition Mi Tierra: Contemporary Artists Explore Place, which is on view in the Hamilton Building through October 22, 2017. What has been the most rewarding aspect of curating that show?

There was a moment just before the exhibition opened that was exhilarating. Jim and Julie Taylor hosted a dinner at The Vault for the artists, their work crews and galleries. For the eighteen months that we worked on the show, I focused on artists individually or sometimes in pairs if their installation dates or themes overlapped. At the pre-opening party spontaneous kinship formed among the artists, assistants, galleries and extended Denver family. Until then I thought of the artists as individuals and soon learned that together they became a powerful community. The potency of the individual and communal voices is one of the strengths of the exhibition.

 

 

I completely agree that the individual and communal voices are one of the many strengths of Mi Tierra. Together, your exhibitions Audacious: Contemporary Artists Speak Out, and Mi Tierra, seem to coexist rather seamlessly. As you move through the third and, then, fourth level of the Hamilton Building, the idea of categorization—groupings of works related to gender, ecologies, and ethnicities—fade away to an extent. Ultimately, the viewer is left with Contemporary art that is charged with socio-political relevancy. From Robert Colescott’s 1988 painting School Days, to Ana Mendieta’s video installation Volcán, 1979, to Jaime Carrejo’s One-Way Mirror, and Ana Teresa Fernández’s Erasure, the work is very topical. How much did you intend for these two exhibitions to converse with one and another when you were considering the experience of visitors going through both exhibitions?

The DAM’s contemporary collection has particular strength in artworks charged with socio-political commentary.  This, in part, is the result of the leadership of my predecessors, Dianne Vanderlip and Christoph Heinrich, and also because collectors like Vicki and Kent Logan believe that contemporary art comments on our times. Two years ago, after I accepted the position but before I began working in Denver, I knew that I was curating a long-anticipated exhibition of Latino artists and reinstalling the third floor galleries with a selection from permanent collection. The reinstallation was scheduled first. I wanted to learn about public and institutional tolerance for controversy so I chose “audacious” as the leading theme. Although you mention that categorizations seem to fall away, I would contend that each artist asserts their position informed by their gender, ethnicity and peer group. 

While I was working on Audacious, I was reviewing artists for Mi Tierra. Strategically I assembled a group of Latino advisors who helped me reflect on the thematic veracity and political valence that each artist brought to the project. My goal was to present an offering that engaged topical issues and featured artists who I profoundly respected. Many of the artists were under contract before we knew who the presidential candidates were. The present political climate in the United States encouraged some artists to “turn up the volume” in the final installation. However, their commentaries were already embedded in the installations months ago.

 

For me, the works in both Audacious and Mi Tierra go beyond representation of contemporary socio-political issues, and seem to be actively conversing with current discourse and events. So, in a way, that conversation keeps evolving, and the experience has been different each visit—depending on what I saw on the news that day, or read that day, etc. How did current events impact or at all influence the way in which the exhibitions were carried out after their initial conceptualization? Do current events continue to shape how you think about the exhibitions even now?

When I work on an exhibition I try to write a statement of one or two sentences that distills the theme. Then everything in the exhibition is tied to that idea. I rarely change the theme but sometimes need to adjust how I’m going to address it. Along the way there are conversations with the artists, who sometimes don’t realize how their work functions, which help us both understand the project in different dimensions. Good art resonates through time and echoes across varying situations.

 

You obviously have a great deal of expertise in your field given your time as a practicing artist, your substantial tenure at The Detroit Institute of Arts, and the prestigious position you now hold as the Denver Art Museum’s Vicki and Kent Logan Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. What advice would you give to an aspiring curator?

As a curator who works primarily with living artists I see myself as a bridge builder working with an artist’s vision, institutional mandates and the need to communicate with an audience. Whenever I’m working on a project no matter who the artist is—Matthew Barney, Shirin Neshat or local artists like Jaime Carrejo and Dmitri Obergfell—I like to lead with sensitivity to their position and profound respect for their individual creative process. With Matthew, for instance, I sent him books about Detroit life written by popular authors. One scene, that I particularly liked, was realized in River of Fundament. It took only a suggestion to help Barney understand how he might translate the scene in the novel into his narrative but then I needed to let it evolve in his unique language. So to sum this up I might say: build bridges, listen respectfully and deeply, and allow each artist to express themselves in their own way. Authenticity always rings true.

 

Dmitri Obergfell Is Processing History

 

Dmitri Obergfell, Moonwatcher, polystyrene and steel, 2017 Photo: Wes Magyar

 

Dmitri Obergfell is a multimedia artist from Colorado. He received his BFA from Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in 2010. Obergfell has exhibited in Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, Rome, and the Czech Republic. He currently is showing work in both the Denver Art Museum’s Mi Tierra: Contemporary Artists Explore Place, and a solo show at Gildar Gallery, Man is a Bubble, Time is a Place. Obergfell’s solo show continues themes of classicism and considers concepts of time. Man is a Bubble, Time is a Place is on view until May 6 at Gildar Gallery in Denver.

Interview by Rebecca Manning

 

Initially you studied photography and video art at RMCAD, correct? At what point did you shift into sculptural work? How does your video/photographic background inform your current practice?

I have always made sculpture. Yes, I do have a degree in photography and video art, but the program I attended encouraged exploration. One of the reasons I focused on photo/video is because I could continue my interest in other mediums. I am happy with the basic knowledge of photography I maintain as it has helped me train my eye and hone some software skills, which I use in art fabrication nowadays.  

 

Could you explain the process of fabrication that went into creating your sculpture Moonwatcher?

The fabrication process for Moonwatcher is an important part of the concept. This artwork would be totally different if it were carved out of stone by hand, rather than CNC routed out of polystyrene. Moonwatcher’s Greco-Roman form is used to create a contrast between ideas of the past and contemporary means of production. Moonwatcher’s fabrication process started as a 3D scan from the creative commons of the Internet. I downloaded the 3D form and then augmented it by cutting the limbs and cutting out the negative space in the torso. After I made my changes to the form, the file was sent to a CNC router, who carved it out of polystyrene foam. I am excited to continue with this process because it has a lot of possibilities moving forward. Projects like the Institute for Digital Archaeology are inspiring because they use similar techniques to resurrect artifacts that have been destroyed in places like war-ravaged Palmyra.

 

Moonwatcher has an ancient symbol cut out of its torso, the Triple Moon, and like the figure it is cut out of, it rather instantaneously signifies to the viewer that it is something ancient. To my knowledge, that symbol is associated with pagan goddesses. Embedded in a sculptural body that basically encapsulates the male ideal form, I can’t help but think that you are getting at some sort of ideal gender binary within your sculpture. Was this at all intended? Most of your sculptural work that I have seen contains male figures. Do you consider gender at all in your work?

No that wasn’t my intention, but I see how it might be read that way. It's an interesting interpretation and question, but I can't say that gender is my first consideration. I have picked figures based on gesture more than gender. Keeping that in mind, there is probably to be said about how women and men are represented in antiquity. I would be remiss to pretend to know what that is, but it would be interesting to research it more.

 

Not just in your current solo show, but in general, your work seems to link different important movements or imagery in art to present day, making them, in a sense, relevant once more. You are engaging with Greco-Roman art and its pervasive aesthetic, and subverting—at times—expectations and meaning that such an aesthetic inherently carries. Because of the process in which you fabricate your work, you are also dealing with the modern concept of the readymade. How do you go about reconciling concepts and imagery that seem inherently at odds?

I don’t believe the imagery and concepts are at odds. The history of Greco-Roman sculpture extends to mass reproductions being made today. I use the Greco-Roman forms in a present-day sense, they are devoid of their original color and are often displayed with limbs missing. These reproductions present themselves as ontologically charged ready-mades, which simultaneously reinforces the Greco-Roman aesthetic and erodes its original meaning.

  

I enjoy the way you employ ancient statuary. In your exhibition at Gildar Gallery, I felt almost as if the classical aesthetic of ancient sculpture is for you so reproduced and ubiquitous that it has become a recognizable object or sign. You use other ancient and contemporary symbols throughout the show, most of which are part of works that are coated with chameleon automotive paint. What are you trying to accomplish by embedding these different symbols into one piece of art? Are you trying to build on the associations and meaning that they carry, or are you trying to render them meaningless?

I am reflecting on the the symbols’ similarities despite the different times they were created in. I like to speculate on symbols from this period that might carry the same resonance as those from ancient times. Symbols like corporate logos and emojis may become our society’s version of hieroglyphs due to their wide-ranging distribution in commercial, cultural and social settings. One symbol that interests me in particular is the hashtag, because it has been around since people were drawing on cave walls in ancient Europe. The hashtag is one of 32 symbols that were found throughout ancient caves all over the continent. Today the hashtag is one of the most prolific symbols of our time because of its significance and function in social media. It is fascinating that the hashtag transitioned from a basic form of communication in ancient caves to one of the most prevalent technological symbols. It’s hard to say what the original meaning of the hashtag was, but this form has endured time and adopted new meaning over the course of human history. It is not hard to see how contemporary symbols like the Nike swoosh might carry the same potential.

 

Dmitri Obergfell, Crushing Beers, chameleon auto paint and urethane plastic, 2017, Photo: Wes Magyar  
 

When I teach an introductory art history course I typically assign David Macaulay’s satirical children’s book, the Motel of the Mysteries, in the first week. The book is set in the future and serves as a cautionary tale to students of art history/archeology about how easily one can misinterpret objects of material culture from the past when they are removed from their original context. In the book, mundane and humorous objects are misinterpreted as objects of veneration… I couldn’t help but think of that text as we were walking around the space at Gildar Gallery. Among the intrinsically monumental figurative statue, and sculpted mantel, are aluminum cans which you’ve coated with chameleon automotive paint. In consideration of the dazzling surface material you’ve given these objects, and their purposeful placement in close proximity to a classical-looking sculpture, it seems like you’ve set out to give these cans an intentional significance that they don’t typically possess. Am I onto something there? Can you tell me about your intention in placing these cans throughout the gallery?

I am interested in the commonality of aluminum cans and the fact that approximately a half million cans are used a day. This level of production and consumption reminds me of Monte Testaccio. Monte Testaccio was a garbage dump for olive oil vessels that was used for 250 years during the Roman empire. It is a testament to the consumption of olive oil during that period. It is estimated to contain the remains of 50 million vessels. Monte Testaccio is so large that on the surface it now looks like a large hill in the Roman landscape, rising to 115 feet tall. At the current rate of production, it would only take 100 days to create the same amount of aluminum cans. By comparison, aluminum cans might have a similar effect in creating a legacy like Monte Testaccio, scattering future artifacts of our societal consumption across the planet.

 

When we were walking through the gallery you were talking about concepts of “deep time,” or an allusion to “victory over time,” and the title of your show deals with time, too. The title Man is a Bubble, Time is a Place, to me, evokes the idea of Vanitas and memento mori—symbolic art that serves to remind man of his own mortality. With consideration of concepts of time and mortality, I felt that your use of materials here was particularly savvy in that Styrofoam, or aluminum cans, are inherently disposable consumer materials—we discard everyday objects comprised of aluminum or Styrofoam without a thought. And yet, those objects, particularly those made of Styrofoam will never break down, and are in a sense going to outlive all whom dispose of them. In a way, this material culture, what is basically considered trash, is what will be left of our existence to posterity. Thus, your work gets at this idea of “victory over time” through use of materials as much as it does in the appropriation of a hegemonic classical aesthetic. Are you trying to make any overtly political or poignant statement through the pairing of imagery from antique sculpture with a contemporary material of a mass-produced nature? Is the juxtaposition meant to make the viewer ponder the significance of their own contribution to the infinitely sprawling expanse of history and time?

Political or poignant, I don’t know. For me this exhibition is a way to process the information I have consumed. A lot of that info is about long time arcs and eternity. I have been studying both versions of 2001: Space Odyssey, Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects, Matthew Arnold’s poem The Future, Karel Dujardin’s painting from 1663 Boy Blowing Soap Bubbles, and theories like Time Dilation. One passage I found particularly moving is from Arthur C. Clarke’s version of 2001: Space Odyssey,

And somewhere in the shadowy centuries that had gone before they had invented the most essential tool of all, though it could be neither seen nor touched. They had learned to speak, and so had won their first great victory over Time. Now the knowledge of one generation could be handed on to the next, so that each age could profit from those that had gone before.”

The artwork is a more of a manifestation of my thinking process than a prescription for others. I see it as a presentation of information that the viewer can decipher how they see fit. The work in the exhibition isn’t encouraging people to recycle more or drive a Prius, but simply consider existence over a relatively long period of time.

 

 

Your Touch, Maria Antelman's Command

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Maria Antelman, Eyecom, 2016, courtesy of Melanie Flood Projects 

 

Maria Antelman works in photography, video, and sculpture, often through the lens of technology. Her latest exhibition, “My Touch, Your Command, Your Touch, My Command” opened at Melanie Flood Projects in Portland, Oregon on January 27th and is on view through February 25th. The work, a series of collages and a video, investigates human dependencies on informational tools and how these tools in turn shape their users. This exhibition is the fifth installment of an ongoing series at Melanie Flood Projects called Thinking Through Photography, which includes a comprehensive survey of contemporary photographic practices through programming that highlights experimental and diverse approaches to image-making.

 

Interview by Brandon Johnson

 

 

Let’s start with the title of the show: “My Touch, Your Command, Your Touch, My Command.” There’s a clear implication of control—losing control, but also being in control. The word touch implies something sensual, almost sexual. There’s a power dynamic that flows between two sources. Am I on the right track here?

 

In an uncanny manner, "touch"—sensual, sexual, personal, etc—turned into a technical gesture: I-touch. We touch screens all day. There are cuddling parties where one can experience the warmth of the human touch. Perhaps a new invention can be warm, soft screens at 98.6 °F, the temperature of the body. The collages in the exhibition show hands touching microfilms, the predecessors of big data. There was a time when one could physically touch information. In digital haptics every touch is a decision which releases a code which itself becomes a command. I am thinking of the hand as a tool. The thumb and the grip were related to the industrial revolution in handling machines. The index finger is the protagonist in this revolution. In the movie E.T., the extraterrestrial has an elongated index finger. The point of the index finger lightens up when E.T. feels a connection. The title of the show refers to emotional relations of interdependence with information and network systems.

 

Why use the dated technological form of microfilms in your collages? Is this related to being physically closer to information?

 

I was trained as an historian, to read the present and to think about the future through the lens of the past.  Mechanical apparatuses are connected to our lineal thinking—one could make sense of how a machine functions. Digital devices surpass logical thinking; they are black boxes—one cannot understand how they work. I still use analogue film cameras because I need the slow processing time in a medium that is constantly advancing technologically. Microfilm technology is based on photographic memory, light and magnifying optics. In this body of work, these apparatuses are used literally and metaphorically to bring together the analogue past with the digital present.

 

There's an element of Orwellian dystopianism to these works—like a scene from a David Lynch film where someone is watching themselves through a CCTV or is trapped within a monitor. Is there something inherently negative about our experiences with digital technology? And conversely, is there anything that redeems this?

 

You mean Videodrome by David Cronenberg which is indeed very tech noir. Communicating translates as the act of being social but in a digital format it has this transformative power, one that possesses people. There are so many platforms and choices: reviews, comments, likes, dislikes, loves, hates, faces and cute sounds. There is no silent time, time has turned into information, and information is data, and data is the new economy. I love my digital experience, it is super sexy and fun, and feels fresh, and we are all connected, and its participatory, and sharing moments can feel so good: it’s a validation. Perhaps there was a dormant part in my brain waiting to be filled with all this information and now this part is hungry: it needs to be constantly logged in, updated, saved, downloaded, etc. We are becoming automated: codes predict and cover all our needs and desires, and we never get lost, don’t close our eyes, rarely let go. It is a very interesting self-discovery. I like it (thumbs up emoji, happy face emoji).

 

I had Lynch’s Inland Empire in mind, but Videodrome works even better. There are some episodes of Black Mirror that also relate closely. Interesting that you speak of a dormant part of the brain being hungry and developing an appetite for information. I’ve always liked to think about how technology and communication fit within the grand scheme of evolution. How human language, tools, and abstract thinking allowed us to dominate the other species on the planet. It seems that technology has developed at a faster rate than our bodies (and brains) can adapt. The sheer amount of information is impossible to fully process and retain, in part due to the lack of idle time where reflection typically takes place—when we close our eyes and let go. Are reflection and imagination the antidotes to technology’s distraction? Or is this something that technology merely deprives us of? Are there aspects of technology that we need to resist?

 

I think the antidote to technology’s distraction is boredom. Sheer, old-fashioned, torturing boredom. Maybe we need to remember what it feels like to be bored. Then new habits may kick in. The problem is that the overload of information is getting boring as well. But while it's constant input becomes repetitive, social media responses still release dopamine in our brain every time we get a FB like or even better a FB love. Now information needs to evolve, so our brains, hungry and addicted to their dopamine doses, will continue to stay engaged. Otherwise, we may turn into ADD zombies looking for exciting content to suck into. Nerve is a great teenager thriller. The story is about an online "truth or dare" game with players and watchers. The code of the game knows everything about the players from their social media and consumer profiles and uses this knowledge to challenge them in extreme, personally tailored situations. The more dares, the more likes and the more money gets transferred instantly in your bank account. Digital natives live in a different world. Most young entrepreneurialism is about some digital service: an app that replaces some gesture, some decision, some desire. Perhaps, it is all about mediating and facilitating experiences. Same as wellbeing, another new industry or the economy of wellbeing. I was reading the other day about this hi-tech, luxury meditation center somewhere in the Flatiron. A short meditation session leading to a nap (all in 20min), costs $18. It takes place inside a perfectly lighted dome room, with perfect sounds, blankets and pillows. It is a place where you don’t have to put any effort in meditating, instead you walk into a meditative environment equipped with the right props and boom, you think you are meditating. It is problematic. I think digital culture is picking up so easily because people understand technical skills better than experiences.

 

Getting back to the work itself for a minute. The Spacesaver works are collages, yet a viewer wouldn’t necessarily know it (especially when viewed on a screen)—they’re very seamless. Can you talk about your process in making this series? And since the show is part of an ongoing artist series at Melanie Flood Projects called Thinking Through Photography how the work engages with photography as medium?

 

When I got interested in microfilms, I visited a lab where they convert bulks of paper information into microfilms, from architectural drawings to checks and invoices. I ran some tests shooting with their duplicator cameras, with my hands in the shot handling paper. Then, I took those images, in microfilm format, and looked at them through the reader apparatus. It was very confusing and disorienting: the real and its representation were slipping into each other. I tried to capture this effect in my collages: a circle of motion from inside out and in reverse. I was thinking of screens opening to more screens, like a maze where you find yourself in every screen. Media is very narcissistic. Then, I started looking at technical, user manual and marketing images of apparatuses from the 60s. A female model poses with the device, touching it in a very soft machine-erotica style. The title of Melanie’s series Thinking Through Photography is very appropriate: images are the new communication form. Alexander, my son the other day explained one of his thoughts: numbers are infinite and combinations of language are infinite, so one day numbers will replace words. I will ask him whether images will one day replace numbers. Machines already speak images. 

 
 
 

Connie Walsh's Sculpture in the 2nd Dimension

Working within a wide range of media including sculpture, installation, and performance, Connie Walsh uses her work to explore the transitional space between interior and exterior, intimacy and detachment, private and public, self and other. Currently working in Los Angeles, her work has been presented in numerous exhibitions throughout the country, including solo shows at Marianne Boesky Gallery and SculptureCenter in New York. In zing #24, Walsh presents the project “interior façade,” a series of photographic pairings of interior architectural details with amorphous sculptures made of rug-hooked canvas, beeswax, and yarn. Visually intricate and immersive, Walsh’s project provides an expansive inquiry into both the divisions and inextricable connections between places of interiority and exteriority.

Interview by Emma Cohen

 

Many of your works are sculptural, or created for installation. What was it like to create a sculptural work that would be presented in the two-dimensional format of a magazine? Is something lost, or added, when the work is photographed?

I am interested in the expansion and potential collapsing of illusionistic space when using different dimensions within a piece. The project consists of both the sculptures and large-scale digital prints. The photographs are a further investigation accessing the interiors of the three dimensional space of the sculptures. This space is then manipulated and flattened and finally juxtaposed with a detailed exploration of architecture, which offers structure for the biomorphic sculptural forms. The magazine format reinforced this pairing with a central seam. I became interested in this place of contact, both in how these differing spaces inform each other as well as with how they create visual tension with their proximity. The large format prints are the same ratio as the magazine with two images making up one print with a central transitional vertical line. 

I really appreciate the freedom that comes out of Devon’s approach to magazine proposals being as projects—i.e., that she offers a span of pages in the magazine to do with it what you will. It allowed me to think of those pages as a three-dimensional space to work within. I was interested in the images being “read” horizontally and vertically with a centerfold. In the magazine, the thickness of the spine blurs the transitional space between the two images implicating the possibility of actual space.

 

Did you think about the readers of the magazine and the physical ways in which they would interact with the piece when you were creating your project?

Yes. The images are all full-bleeds and the layout varies within the pages of the project. I set up a spatial sequencing of an image of the sculptures with an image of the architectural details each on its own page and at times I interrupt that with one image taking up two pages entirely- these being images of the sculptures - a centerfold. This encourages the viewer to turn the magazine while looking at the project and maybe even disorienting the space of the subject and his/her relationship to the object of observation. I was interested in shifting the viewer’s positioning and his/ her ability to distinguish between the space of the interior and its relation to the exterior being outlined.

 

You mentioned the relationship of interior/exterior in this piece, and in reference to other works you have written about investigating the relationships between self/other and individual/society. Did you learn anything about these relationships when working on interior façade? How has your understanding of or attitude towards these dichotomies developed throughout your career?

In past projects I’ve combined personal events or moments with environments that suggest and heighten the place of contact, or transaction, between private and public experience. In this project I was more interested in the ambiguity of these realms—as being oppositional and in exploring the transitional space between interior and exterior, intimacy and detachment. This suspended space is both permeable and of a shifting nature. The existence of a “skin-like” interruption of contiguity un-sites the viewer’s conventional perspective.

 

How do you see the opposing pages of “interior façade” interacting with one another? 

As I was creating the piece, the idea of sculptural spheres—a metaphor for what was once inside and extracted—led to a tactile inquiry into a possible interior. I created these sculptures around balls of varying sizes, but eventually the spherical forms started to collapse due to the weight of the rug hooked yarn and leave more misshapen inaccessible spaces. I then had to go within the sculptures to take some of the photographs.

As for the architectural spaces, I am currently living in a Schindler apartment. Schindler’s proportions, fluidity of space, and continuity between inside and outside are framing my family and our domesticated movements. Images of the architectural details provide structure to the images of the biomorphic sculptural forms. Photographic pairings of the sculptures with chosen interior architectural details initiates the perceptual sense that exterior is defined by the interior and vice versa.

 

Do you have any current interests or projects that you’ve been working on that you can share?

Lately I’ve been interested in memory—how selective it is and seemingly private yet it functions within a larger context. I like the idea of selective memory. I have also been thinking about a further transformation of the sculptures in the project interior façade. I’m exploring the possibility of casting the sculptures out of silver or aluminum and having it be a one off burnt out process- losing the sculptures completely—the color and tactile material—into a more permanent weighted mass. In a sense giving the empty interior cavity a solid form.

 

Brandon Johnson on the Legacy of Dan Asher & Collecting Chicago Gang Business Cards

 

 

Upon arrival in New York in 2006 to attend The New School’s MFA in Poetry program, Brandon Johnson also began an internship at zingmagazine. Flash forward a decade later, and we find him as Managing Editor of this curatorial publication. From promoting zing at book fairs in New York, Baltimore and Los Angeles, to a residency at SOMA in Mexico City earlier this year, Johnson has been developing a report with the contemporary art world at large. One individual in this community, artist Dan Asher, left a lasting impression on Johnson before his untimely death in 2010. Asher is the subject of Johnson’s book, Far From the Madding Crowd: Perspectives on the Life and Work of Dan Asher, published in Fall 2015 as part of the zingmagazine issue 24 special edition. Comprised of interviews with various figures from Dan Asher’s life, this book offers readers an unprecedented and intimate look at this talented yet often misunderstood artist. Also featured in issue 24 is the poster-sized reproduction of a 1970s era Chicago gang compliment card, one of many from Johnson’s personal collection. These zingmagazine projects scratch the surface for what will be continuous engagements with these unique areas of research and interest. 

Interview by Hayley Richardson

 

You have two projects in issue #24: a poster titled “The Almighty Playboys" and a book, Far From the Madding Crowd: Perspectives on the Life and Work of Dan Asher. Can you give a little overview into what each project is about?

Sure! The book project, Far From the Madding Crowd: Perspectives on the Life and Work of Dan Asher, is just that: a series of interviews I conducted with people who knew the late artist Dan Asher in various capacities: art dealers, other artists, friends, and even his dentist—about forty individuals in all. Dan Asher was a prolific artist and fascinating individual, and the interviews reflect this. The text is interspersed with images I chose of Dan and his work as visual reference. The poster project “The Almighty Playboys” is an enlargement of a Chicago “compliment card” made by the street gang the Almighty Playboys in the 1970s. I own a collection of these cards, and between the weird illustrations and writing on the back, thought this one was particularly interesting on a visual level.

 

Are there any interviews that stood out to you as being particularly revelatory? Did you learn anything new about Dan that you feel changed or enhanced your perspective of him?

I learned something new from each of the interviews and each molded my perspective in a different way. It was an investigative process for me. Prior to making this book I didn’t feel like Dan’s closest friend or an authority on his artwork by any means. But I wanted to know more. So I followed the leads, and each interview added to the bigger picture, or should I say portrait? With that said, Atom Cianfarani & Maya Suess’s interview had a lot of specific information and anecdotes that weren’t really discussed otherwise. It seems like Dan opened up to them quite a bit about his personal history. Their interview added an emotional depth while managing to fill in some missing pieces of the narrative.

 

 

 

In 2014 you co-curated an exhibition of Dan’s work at Gildar Gallery in Denver, and now with the book it is very apparent you have an vested interest in this artist. What drew you to Dan’s life and work initially? Do you have plans to work on other Dan Asher-related projects in the future?

Being a wet-behind-the-ears 21-year-old arriving in New York, Dan embodied for me this romantic view of a downtown artist—bohemian and cantankerous, a holdover from another era. Being fond of Devon, zingmagazine, and the energy of young people, Dan just made himself present in my life. But as I began to discover his work via the pages of zingmagazine and galleries of the Dikeou Collection, my fascination grew. The work seemed so personal and had great appeal to me on an aesthetic level. Often, it attempted to capture these fleeting moments of poetic poignance. A stillness within flux. I became an advocate of his work and I am currently exploring more opportunities to do so in the future. The filmmaker Tom Jarmusch and I are currently developing program of Dan’s videos for a screening. I’m also talking to Martos Gallery, who represents the Dan Asher Estate, about organizing a discussion at the gallery during Dan’s forthcoming solo exhibition next year. Fingers crossed all works out.

 

Tell me more about the “compliment cards.” In your curator statement you share that you discovered one of these in some of your dad’s old stuff in the attic and learned that they are specific to the Chicagoland area from the 1970s and ‘80s. How were they used and what more have you learned about them since your discovery? 

Yeah, I found that first one in a cigar box in our attic. Apparently my Dad’s friend from high school was a member of the Royal Capris. It’s been tough to find many reliable resources for information on compliment cards, but from what I’ve deciphered the cards were were made mainly to display pride of the gang, disrespect towards its enemies, and for recruitment. Other uses include passing them to friends or associates, “We’re throwing a party tonight at so-and-so bar. Show this card at the door.” As far as their origins, I’ve noticed that motorcycle gangs from the ’50s and ‘60s such the Hell’s Angels and Straight Satans made calling cards. For example, a biker would see a car pulled over, give them mechanical assistance, and pass them a card saying “Serviced by the Hell’s Angels”. Some of the street gangs in Chicago find their roots in greaser gangs from this era, using biker traditions and aesthetic as models. My theory is that this is where the idea for Chicago compliment cards came from, and proceeded to gain popularity among white and Latino gangs on the Northside, Westside, and near Southside of Chicago. What’s great about these cards is that they’d change hands over the course of their existence, with handwritten messages, symbols, and names accruing on the backs. With a little knowledge you can learn to read this information. Many of the O.G.s have amassed sizable collections, and will attend get-togethers with other former members where they trade original cards and sweaters. Old enemies recount their younger lives over beers. Funny how that works.

 

 

 

You should try to track down the O.G.s and meet them for a beer! Where have you been sourcing the cards for your collection?

One of my sources is a former member of the Almighty Gaylords, which was the biggest white gang in Chicago during the era. He built a collection of cards during his time as a member and beyond. Now lives in the Western suburbs I believe and has decided to sell off his collection. I cherry-picked a few cards off him, then ended up buying out most of the rest of his stock. My other source is a USPS mail carrier for the city of Chicago. He has a few different types of collections, including original cassette tape mixes of Chicago house music from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Apparently, he was a DJ back in the day. Told me that he came across an album of compliment cards and was selling them off. But also sounds like he had connections with former members, or played the middle man in certain ways for a friend. Didn’t really get his clarified. But a nice enough guy. Acquired some rarer examples from him, mostly Latino gangs - the Party People, Latin Kings, Night Crew, Spanish Lovers, and King Cobras, among others.

 

I think they’re fascinating relics of distinct time, place, and culture and would be appealing to a wide demographic. Any ideas for what you might do with the collection in the future?

I agree! Everybody I show them to or tell about thinks they’re pretty groovy. I mostly like them because of their specificity to Chicago, ad-hoc aesthetics, and origin in an era before my time. Although I’m a bit conflicted on any glorification of gangs in light of the gang-related violence that occurs in Chicago to this day. This is a huge, complicated problem, and is related to greater dynamics at work in our country. But I suppose this is the case with any outlaw culture - the romanticized image versus the unsavory reality. With this in mind, I’m hoping to do a release event for the book & mini-exhibition of the collection in New York this Fall, then see where else I’d be able to do something similar in other cities, whether as one-off events or as part of art book fairs, etc. Nothing set in stone yet. Going to wait until I have a delivery date for the books and then plan from there.

 

GANAHL/MARX

 

Rainer Ganahl is a conceptual artist and lover of Marxist theory, who works in mediums ranging from film to political Manifesto. He often records and makes objects of events like educational seminars, Marxist fashion shows and imitation of the life of writer Alfred Jarry. Simultaneously student and teacher, his work portrays the intersections of politics, education, language, class, history and fashion. His artistic practice is never solitary, but rather relies on collaboration and group involvement to draw connections between audience and performer, brand and consumer. Ganahl has published numerous books including Reading Karl Marx, Ortssprache – Local Language, Educational Complex, and Please, Write Your Opinions of U.S. Politics. His work has been featured in zingmagazine five times including Basic Russian (Issue 2), seminars/lectures (s/l) (Issue 15), Iraq Dialogs (Issue 19), and FONTANAGANAHL - Concept of Rage: 1960s/2010s (Issue 23). I spoke with him about his project Hermes-Marx, which is featured in Issue 24 and resides at Dikeou Pop-Up: Colfax in Denver, Colorado.  In our correspondence via email, Ganahl exclaimed “MY ENGLISH SUCKS”, which really isn’t true: Rainer Ganahl writes with an elegant fire.

Interview by Liana Woodward

 

How did you first become interested in the works of Karl Marx?

As a teenager I came across Karl Marx's early writings published in German in a beautiful light blue hardcover volume that was handy and lovely. His thinking changed my life thought. His writing has little to do with what he [eventually] came to signify, but rather with historical materialism as a philosophical position in regard to religion, to society, and to work.

 

How can we understand the art world, and the creation of art objects, through a lens of historical materialism? Where does Marx's political philosophy intersect with art?

The short and cynical, but truth-carrying answer would be a classical one: follow the money. A more melodic or pastoral one could be: go with the pleasures and anxieties of people. The drives and truth-techniques that they develop to domesticate, cultivate, or differentiate their senses and what-have-yous. People are creatures who create and depend on tools to handle their imaginings, ghosts, fire and fears, to fight off enemies, hunger and cold, to produce pleasure and excess, fun and abundance, to fill in the gaps between misery and disease, shortage and lack.

I tell my kids that stories are made by women and men, not by some god. Ghosts and gods are nothing but stories we use to deal with fears and desires of bad and good monsters, beauty and fairies, power and its opposite, gain and abundance. In the realm of storytelling and demonstrative silence (organized noise or haptic enjoyment for the ears and eyes) we approach what later will be commodified as art.

?That is Marx for pre-K and kindergarten and can produce satisfaction and arguments until graduation with curators and wealth managers, portfolio geeks, and speculators. Hence, Marx for red points and red tapes, for high heels, private jets and Basel or Hong Kong free-port storage access. Marx is really the pre-inventor of the Swiss Army Knife for philosophy and polyglot money. Viva Marx.

 

Speaking of money, can you talk a bit about how your project Hermes Marx? By silk-screening your own Marxist imagery onto the scarves you are in some way destroying their value as high-end exchange commodities. Is there some intrinsic or artistic value that you add to the scarves?

Well, as an artist I have to assign artistic value to my art works. If I don't do it nobody else does. So yes, I do assign my 'destruction' or my 'intervention' a precondition to render a consumer object into my art. I acknowledge that the classical exchange value of the Hermes scarf is wasted with my design silk-screened over the original foulard but by doing so, I defend it as my proposed art work.

 

How do you think the magazine format changes how Hermes Marx is perceived by the viewer? Do you think the image of the object holds the same power or value that the actual object does?

No, it is not the same at all - but some art works photograph better than others and therefor what you see is not what you get - it s either better or worse but both legitimate.

 

The scarves that you used for Hermes Marx have designs related to colonialism. How do the symbols and words you silk screened onto the scarves interact with that imagery?

There are two words I don't change: HERMES MARX in reference to the corporate reference of the French foulard Hermes Paris. I consider the name Marx to signify an attempt to envision, demand, claim, enact, and fight for a larger more even kind of justice that is not only defined and reserved for the powerful and privileged. So all I did was exchange PARIS, the capital of the 19th century and French-speaking colonialism, with the name of a German philosopher who presented the world with the most radical ideas of justice of his time. Let me also point out that Marxism came with the symbol of the overlay of a hammer and sickle and the fist which is a part of the design that I print over the original French silk scarves.

 

 Is there something in particular about Hermes Paris as a company that made you want to use their products for this project? Why not some other well know designer?

Hermes belongs to one of the most prestigious fashion and accessory houses. They are know for making everything themselves including the production of silk and the colors that enter the product. It is truly beautiful and not necessarily cheap which makes if more coveted and impermeable to sales and other price dumping. Somehow they seemed to anachronistic even in the way they run their family biz and I think the company is still largely controlled by the family. I myself collect these foulards and truly love them.

 

Lucie Fontaine, You Got Some Explaining to Do

 

Lucie Fontaine is the type of person who will set up camp in your home and redecorate it with works collected from her very talented friends from every corner of the globe. She’s also the type of person that will use that residency as a jumping off point to pursue new projects and explore new possibilities, like the work she did for issue #24 of zingmagazine. She is, in other words, the best houseguest you could possibly ask for, the type that has something to offer and doesn’t offer it begrudgingly. In the excerpted interview included here, we discuss her work for zingmagazine, get a look at what makes her tick, and learn more about her process. She’s never asked to live with us, but if she did, we wouldn’t charge her rent. In fact, we would put her on an allowance, provide a daily turn-down service and source the finest fruits from around the world to put in a bowl on her dresser. Why, you ask. Because she deserves it. That’s why.

Interview by Oliver Nevin

 

Can you tell me what got you interested in postcards? Not that a postcard can’t be beautiful and well designed, but they are often quite mundane and painfully ubiquitous.

The starting point of the project was a show that I did in Summer 2013, in Paris, at GaleriePerrotin. I wanted to ask, what is a souvenir? Imagine when you travel, and you want to buy an object that somehow represents your experience, but it’s never real and authentic. The New York gadget that a tourist buys is something that a real New Yorker would never actually use. Or you encounter the paradox where you go to Venice and you get the real, authentic, miniature gondola and then you discover it was made in China. It’s like the souvenir becomes the tourist. It’s all about the idea of what is authenticity and what is identity and how does a souvenir interact with all of those ideas.

 

But this project is obviously different the one that you did at Perrotin. Can you explain the leap from that original idea?

That show featured about 20 artists, and then I wanted to add a new chapter to the show by asking all the artists who participated in the project, plus a couple more people, to actually write postcards to me at the zingmagazine office.

 

You really wanted to dive deeper into that idea of giving life to an experience, and looking at all of the different things that make up that experience and how the many facets of our life are related to it?

The point of the souvenir is also that it’s not so important when you are there. But it becomes important the moment you get back home. And then of course it’s also associated with the idea of kitsch, but it’s part of the different meanings of what a souvenir is. All of a sudden, we were receiving postcards that were pictures of Paris, but they were sent from California, or they were anonymous, or they had been redesigned and altered by my friends, so we were able to add a layer of fictionality to this narrative of souvenir.

 

How many did you get?

I think around 40. I want to do a show with all of the postcards but I haven’t done that yet, because the postcard is something that you show in the house, and this idea of something intimate and domestic, especially domesticity, is very important for Lucie Fontaine.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a creative proclaim to strive for domesticity. Why domesticity?

ET: It’s something that has been a part of me from the beginning. I wanted to show works in a way that was not the usual setting. The first location of the Lucie Fontaine project space in Milan was actually an old and crappy barber store, where I never changed the floor or the walls and the atmosphere of the space remained the same. I was showing the works of young artists in this outmoded atmosphere, but it felt very intimate and domestic. The other two locations in Milan were also domestic spaces. And the Lucie Fontaine Space in Tokyo was inside a traditional Japanese house. There are also plans for a domestic Lucie Fontaine space in Tel Aviv too.

 

So you have a real commitment to the domestic? To be simple and raw instead of polished?

Yes, but it’s also about playing with the rules of the game and blurring boundaries between different roles in the art world. Another time that domesticity played an important role was during the show Estate I did at Marianne Boesky’s gallery uptown in summer 2012. The space was a beautiful townhouse on the Upper East Side. My three employees were living inside the gallery and transformed it back into a proper home. I decorated each room with the things that you would normally find in a house there, including antique furniture. But they were also artworks and complied with the themes of the show. You would enter a bedroom and you could see the wallpaper and flowers. But the wallpaper was a work, and the flowers were a work and the chair was a work, but it was very subtle. And then I had friends sending pictures and postcards that were helping to build the narrative of fiction in the show. So that’s another way that the postcard was something familiar.

 

I suppose that was like reaching the pinnacle of domesticity. Your artwork was quite literally in the home?

Indeed, and it was great. The first month my employees were installing the show, so the gallery was closed. When the show opened, they decided to stay and live there while the show was open to the public. So for two months, and especially in the second month, they were waking up each morning to tidy up their rooms before 10am, because visitors were coming in to visit the exhibition.

 

I guess it’s interesting to me to get a look at how a project like this starts as this sort of inkling, or seed of an idea, and ends up growing into something real and tangible.

The first time I started handling postcards was while I was living in the Marianne Boesky gallery/home. It wasn’t really until after the show in Paris, which was about tourism and travel, that I realized I should do an entire project built around them, but the seed was planted while living in that gallery.

 

That’s quite fortuitous.

It was there that I first received some postcards from some friends, and my employees had them displayed in the entrance where there was a big mirror. Because they were all actually received at that address, I was keeping a part of the fiction of the space intact, which was fun.

 

But you didn’t have to fake domesticity. Domesticity quite literally refers to matters of and/or relating to the home. It doesn’t feel very fictional to me.

I didn’t have to fake it, just preserve it. I remember there was one artist friend, he came to visit the show one Saturday afternoon, and he said that when he first entered he thought he was in the wrong place. He said, “Oh shit, this is wrong, I just broke into someone’s home.” After he left and double-checked the address, he realized that was actually the right place. That’s exactly what I wanted. 

 

Do you feel like you were able to stay true to your commitment to authenticity with the project in zingmagazine?

I do. I think it’s all about the idea of what is authenticity and what is identity and how does a souvenir play with and interact with those notions. So at the show in Paris, I wanted to install it as a bazaar. I didn’t want it to look standard, like a white cube installing, but more like overabundance, and to develop a much denser dialogue with the pieces. I think the way those postcards were assembled in the magazine really ended up staying true to that idea. When you turn the pages, you are in the postcards, surrounded by them, and I think that gives the reader a sense of being surrounded by the experience and significance of each postcard.

 

Well I’m glad you were able to achieve your vision for this project. Thanks so much for taking the time, I enjoyed the conversation.

You’re welcome, it was my pleasure.

 

 

The Secret Life of Jeff Rian

 

 

Jeff Rian is a writer and musician, an associate editor of Purple Fashion magazine, and a professor at L’Ecole Nationale Superieur d’Arts Cergy-Paris. He has written numerous essays and exhibition catalogs as well as a regular contributor to Artforum, Purple Fashion and The Purple Journal. He is the author of The Buckshot Lexicon and Purple Years, and has written monographs on artists, Richard Prince, Lewis Baltz, Philip-Lorca di Corcia, and Stéphane Dafflon. His CDs include Everglade, with Jean-Jacques Palix, and Fanfares and 8 de pique for Alexandra Roos, and Battle Songs, with his group, Rowboat. Jeff’s most recent CD project, Météo, was released as part of zing #24. The project was curated by photographer and past zingmagazine contributor Giasco Bertoli, featuring three instrumentals and four songs written with Gérard Duguet Grasser, and recorded with Bob Coke. The music itself is minimal, with fingerpicked guitar that ranges from bluesy and percussive to wobbly and romantic, accompanied by crooning vocals, and the odd tambourine. Well-crafted atmospheric music that sticks with you. Here we shed light on Jeff’s “secret” life as a sideman.

Interview by Brandon Johnson

 

In contemporary art circles you are most widely known as a critic. Can you tell us how you originally got involved with music and the trajectory of that path since then?

At around age ten, guitarist James Burton, sideman in Ricky Nelson’s band on the long-running television show, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” struck me as a model. I wanted to be a sideman. My father bought me a Silvertone acoustic guitar at Sears, for $17, and a book of folk songs. I discovered I could play many of the songs almost immediately. Within a month I was in a folk trio. I was 12. My voice hadn’t change. But the two other boys I played, their voices had changed. So I was the girl voice. We played at parties, at the pool we belonged to, at school, and wherever else we could. By the time I was 15 the band had gone electric. My interests were now the Stones, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Cream, and a group called The Band. By the time I was 18 or 19 I was the lead guitarist in a club band in Washington, D.C., a town with excellent guitarists. Playing nightly and hanging out with musicians was excellent on-the-job training. This was before disco, when live music paid real wages. Around then my worried parents sent me to take battery of aptitude tests. The tester told me to forget everything other than music, literature, and art. “Art?” I wondered. I’d flunked art classes. I knew nothing about art. I’d been to the Smithsonian Institute twice, once with my parents and once with a friend, when we were 14. He was actually interested in art. After taking those tests, it occurred to me that art would be something to study and to satisfy my parents, and might be easier and allow me to play at night and come to school late. I enrolled in the summer session at The Corcoran School of Art (which didn’t require a portfolio). In my first drawing class there were ten girls, a Marine Corps colonel, a kind of art stud named Angel, and the girliest guy I’d ever seen or met in my life—who was an excellent artist. We became friends, and I tried to copy his drawings, and not insult him when I didn’t want to hold hands. At the Corcoran I discovered an entire population I enjoyed being with. Nightclub musicians—whom I’ve played with off and on my entire life—can be insufferable if you’re interested in anything other than your ax and getting high. Artists connect to the world differently, materially and aesthetically. They too want to spend all of their time making and thinking about art. Musicians woodshed, which is what they call practicing their ax, which is very demanding. The materials and requirements of the two are very different.

I ended up at the University of Colorado, completely by accident—hitchhiking west with an old friend, with only a week off from my current playing. But ended up staying. I needed to get away, I guess. I spent several months working as the assistant to a pot dealer, got in-state tuition, and enrolled in the summer session at CU, majoring in art. In my first year there I auditioned for a band. That band transformed into a jazz group no sooner than I was hired. So I had to spend countless hours learning scales and modes and how to play them over complicated chord patterns. Through friends of the dealer, I got us gigs at a club that featured national acts—making me the bandleader. We opened for many acts, some of whom, like Weather Report, Chick Corea’s band Return to Forever, I was responsible for getting in that room. By now, studying painting, drawing, and art history, I took classes which required students to write papers—which, to my surprise, I discovered I could write the night before and get a good grade, whereas in any class in which the professor gave multiple-guess tests, I was not very good. One of my professors told me I could write. I didn’t believe him. But I was learning to think differently, and I think music helped me to understand art in the way that it is made.

Toward the end of my five years at CU, the rhythm section of my jazz band—me on guitar, plus the drummer and bass player—were hired for a little tour, playing covers. I’d played covers for years, so it was easy. We practiced for about an hour and a half, then winged it at the gigs. The first night in the hotel room, the keyboard player, Brad Morrow (also a very good guitarist; we switched on a few songs), opened his suitcase, and to my surprise it was full of books. In my musician talk—which I still can’t shake, to the point of calling my 12-year-old daughter, “Man”—I asked him: “Man, what’s in the bag?” “Ezra Pound,” he said, demurely. That was unexpected. I didn’t have any literary friends until I met Brad Morrow. We became friends then and there. (He’s now a novelist and was the founder and editor-in-chief of the literary magazine, Conjunctions.) But I’d also had it with musicians—the lifestyle and the drugs, well most of them. I took a job cleaning the engineering building at the CU (dirty floors, not bathroom, hours to read). I read in earnest. This was my last year. For years I’d been a fan of new journalist writer Tom Wolfe. Brad turned me on to literary critic Hugh Kenner. I liked their styles. My other close friend at CU Dike Blair, who’s now an excellent artist, was unquestionably the most convincing “art type” in the entire art department. Brad and Dike didn’t know each other and we all ended up in New York in the years to come. Those friendships shifted my interests toward art and writing, though I have continued to be a sideman.

For a number of years after graduation—eventually earning a Master’s degree in art history—I devoted my time to study and reading about art, though I would fit in time to practice, simply because music is my drug. It’s also a problem, which might not seem like one, because more than one interest divides you. Writing, which I came to very late, totally replaced the woodshedding needed to play at a higher level—though I’ve been lucky to have played with some very high-level players. Eventually I turned to songwriting, and working with female singers, first in New York and then in Paris, where I live now, where I’ve played on a number of records as guitarist and composer, also with some very good musicians, and improvised for films. So I continue to play, but I mostly record. And I still prefer the art world, where I’m known as a writer, which takes up a lot of my time. Yet I can’t stop playing.

There are musician-artists, but for the most part they are nothing like dedicated musicians. The worlds of music and visual art are very different in outlook, aesthetics, and way of life. I’m probably a better musician, but I’ve had a better life working in the art world.

 

Despite this fundamental difference you describe between the perspectives of music and visual arts, do you find visual art, or even specific works of art, have influenced the way you approach music on a stylistic or intellectual level? Or do you continue to consider them separately?

Interesting question. I can only offer a roundabout answer. The art world changed the way I started to think about playing music, and music influenced the way I think about art. But I didn’t realize that for quite a while.

In 1985, I was hired to work on an international exhibition in Vienna as a mitarbeiter, literally coworker, a kind of coordinator. It was the occasion of the newly renovated Vienna Secession. The show was called Wien Fluss: 1986, or Vienna Canal: 1986. The title referred to the Vienna canal, seen in the film The Third Man, so the show was about foreign connections and Viennese influence. There were no Austrian artists. I worked with Americans, Vito Acconci, Richard Tuttle, and Lawrence Weiner, and a French artist, Jean Luc Vilmouth, who recently died and is the person most responsible for my move to France. The artists in the show were supposed to do the work in Vienna. I asked the curator, Huber Winter, who has a gallery in Vienna, to invite Richard Prince to participate, which he did, happily. I felt the show needed a younger American. I’d first seen Richard’s works in maybe 1981—rephotographs of black and white ads, using Ektachrome slide film, so they had a slight tint. Maybe they were hands with watches or women looking in the same direction. I didn't understand them at all. Dike knew Richard and gave me his number, so I visited him, and during that visit I discovered he collected first editions, mostly postwar American writers, in as good a condition as he could find. I too collected first editions, and he was the first non-literary-type book collector I’d ever met, my age, who had similar interests—though he had a pile of good copies of pulp fiction paperbacks. Richard had a mint copy of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. I had many books from the 1960s, including all of Walker Percy’s books—inscribed to me, including his first book, The Moviegoer, which Richard and I talked about. (I had to sell my books to survive when l started writing). I’d been collecting books since I met Brad Morrow, back in college, when I started reading more seriously and hanging out with literary types and going to second-hand bookshops, which were aplenty back then. I almost went into to business with Brad selling first editions. But he was better at that, and did that himself, before he started Conjunctions and writing novels. Anyway, all this related indirectly to music, which was most people’s background noise anyway. Brad also played classical guitar. Richard had been in a rock band. I’d played folk, rock, and jazz. During Richard’s visits to Vienna he and I constructed an interview—it was his idea. I came back to New York in December of 1986. Richard had given the interview to Hal Foster, then a senior editor at Art in America. They featured Richard on the cover of March 1987 issue. Our interview was the first article to feature Richard’s work in a major art magazine. Why me—an unknown—instead of a known critic? I don’t know. Ask Richard. But that’s when I started writing—first reviewing shows for Art in America, then moving on to other magazines. In the interview with Richard I brought up Marshall McLuhan and the role of electronics on sound and space and images. My idea, from the beginning, was to write about art from the perspective of touch, which I still do: how things are put together; what might influence choices of images or materials; how aesthetic issues echo the social or political environment; and how instinct and perception rule the process.

I’d given up on what was called theory in the early ’80s. Not my cup of tea. Through non-art-world friends in New York City I discovered Gregory Bateson, specifically his ideas about “patterns that connect” and logical types (the meal is a lower level of abstraction than the menu that describes it; the farther up the ladder of abstraction you go, from language and words into categories or logical types, the further away you are from the “meat” of experience). I was reading McLuhan and Walter Ong’s investigations into preliterate and print cultures and what Ong called the “secondary orality” of electronic culture—radio, cinema, and television; how advertising was contemporary folk art; and how touch and acoustics are proximity senses, a lower order of abstraction than seeing. We build a world on touch, cobbling things together, which sight, which is a distance sense, cleans up and labels in literary categories, which are very high levels of abstraction. Being a musician, and always trying to get inside music, I related to how things are built from touch. The electronic environment’s secondary orality reverts to forms of sound and touch in technologies that require the highest level of literacy bringing them to life. This, to me, was the origin of pop art—a process built from middle-class folk arts—cars, rock music, ads, etc.—from the ground up. I spent ages trying to write about art in terms that ran against literary models. It wasn’t easy. But I felt, and still do, that art is calibrated (Bateson’s word) from primary instincts. Music is very much like that, but so are things like cuisine, surfing, rock music, customizing cars. (I grew up around people who customized cars, which are extremely aesthetic, if kitschy art forms; I spent a year working as a parts man in a store called Big Ed’s Speed Shop—Robert Irwin tried to explain how hot rod cars are American folk art to an art critic from NYC, who wouldn’t have it.). Collecting is equally instinctive. Anyway, I took classes at the New School with Edmund Carpenter, who, with McLuhan, Eric Havelock, Northrop Frye, was instrumental in creating the Toronto theory of communications. McLuhan was Hugh Kenner and Walter Ong’s dissertation advisor. These were my influences. None of them, except McLuhan, were spoken about in the art world, and McLuhan wasn’t exactly an author many critics cited. They thought he was too flakey, not serious enough.

In 1988 I was asked to write an essay for Richard’s first retrospective at the Magasin, in Grenoble, and tried to write about his work in the context of electronic orality. I felt that Richard pieced together his art instinctively, based on pop art, and included his book collecting—which was a gathering of intellectual property. It was the mint dust jacket that raised the value of those first editions. Dust jackets were like album covers—artistic advertisement, very much like pop art. Richard has a masterful instinct for such connections. He played in bands, before the 1980s—when, in the art world, playing in a band was kind of taboo. But Richard could never have played in the bands I’d played in or that Brad had played in. I found that out in Vienna. Richard played me an incredible song, on my guitar—a blond Gibson 335 dot-marker, which I still have. I was very impressed. He had style but no developed skill. 

Art and music were separate environments with different kinds of “sensory profiles,” to use a McLuhan/Carpenter term. They began to cross over when inexpensive home recording technology came along. Nevertheless, literary people, music people, and art people operated in different aesthetic universes, and still do. Rock music was easier for people to play and, for a while people like me who could play all the songs on the radio, made a living at it. But that was only the first step in learning to play an instrument. Folk musicians, before the sixties, were poorer than poets. Jazz musicians weren’t much better off. The success of rock music and rock festivals altered everyone’s aesthetic and sensory environment, because everyone was engaged in it. A poet like Ginsberg became visible because of his connections to Dylan and the Beatles. But writers and artists and musicians were different species. Artists didn’t suit up like drag queens or fey bikers or pirates to play on stages; they didn’t talk like musicians. Art isn’t noisy. Rock was naked. Art was nude. Musicians can’t make contemporary art. Literary types can’t either. Those differences began to blur, but only slightly with computers and home recording—and only in the 1990s with the computer technology.

I didn’t play in bands for maybe a dozen years, until the maybe the early 1990s, when my girlfriend’s coworker’s band’s guitar player got sick. I replaced him. Then we got a better band. Then I replaced the entire band. I started composing music for the singer’s lyrics—sometimes there were two female singers, which was amazing. I applied everything I learned from jazz and folk-style finger picking, separating bottom and top strings to get more dynamics. I didn’t know how to use pedals, and still don’t, so I let my fingers do that talking. It was really fun. We played the clubs.

By then I’d been writing for Flash Art and Purple. They didn’t have professional copyeditors, which allowed me to publish more and faster, but was probably a mistake because, I mean, writing is really easy for me, but I make incredible messes that need structure. Editing and rewriting are difficult in the extreme, making me wonder why I do it at all. Then, in 1995, I moved to Paris. I was working at Purple, where I had no choice but to listen to indie rock—Sonic Youth, Palace Brothers, Ween, Daniel Johnston, Cat Power, a band called Fuck, Nirvana—bands I would never have listened to earlier as I didn’t consider any of them good and all of it pop music, about style and attitude, which I didn’t care about. As a musician I wanted to listen to a good instrumentalist. But as a writer I listened differently. And after several months of immersion, I began to let go of the technique prejudice. At about that time a guy named Gerard Duguet Grasser called the magazine looking for a bass player. Elein Fleiss suggested me. I told him, and the singer he was writing lyrics for, Alexandra Roos, that I was a guitar player. That didn’t bother them. My audition consisted of playing the guitar and then being presented with some of his lyrics—my French wasn’t good at all, but I had music for two songs almost instantly. It was easy. It’s always been easy to write music for his lyrics. I don’t know why. (I worked on four albums with Alexandra on major labels.) Working at Purple and with Alexandra Roos songs started popping into my head, many of which have been recorded. I was also rehearsing with Sonny Simmons—a world-class saxophone player, and a true artist from that other world of musicians—though we never managed to form a working group.

Songwriting gave me added insight into art. I think it was Arlo Guthrie who said songs are like fishing, you just don’t want to fish downstream from Bob Dylan. Songs are like perceptions set into melodies with words. Songs write you; you don’t write them—or something like that. Songs arrive unannounced like stray animals already formed but needing care. I’ve made songs from melodies I dreamed, and from picking up the guitar and something unexpected happens with my fingers. Words follow because I’m always playing with words, idiotically for the most part. Melodies give shape to word sounds that can make sense or not. It’s a gathering of perceptions. They aren’t related to concepts—at least for me.

I don’t think I’d have had any of these thoughts had I not been a musician first. Music isn’t about material things; it’s about filling time and space. I have no materialist ambitions, except for my two kids—luckily I have a teaching job and get paid to write. The standard musician joke: What’s a musician who just lost his girlfriend? Homeless. Maybe I’d have been a more successful writer had I been able to stop playing. I couldn’t—and can’t. I’m still playing, and would like to play a lot more if the opportunity came up. I’m a divided person: writer of words, improviser of music, and songwriter.

 

That’s some heady stuff. Well, seems to make perfect sense that your album Météo found a home among artists (by way of photographer Giasco Bertoli) as part of zingmagazine. I’d like to speak more about Météo. If I’m not mistaken, météo is French for “weather”. Can you give insight to this title and how this album came together?

I was having dinner with Giasco Bertoli back in June of 2014. He’s my close friend, and I’ve made music for his short movies. I was talking about recording songs in French that I’d written with lyricist Gerard Duguet Grasser, for other albums. We’ve made many together. Giasco suggested Zing, so he contacted you. And y’all produced it, for which I thank you very much. That same June, 2014, I visited my friend, Bob Coke, a musician and sound and recording engineer, to ask him to do the recording. I played some pieces on his Martin acoustic guitar, which he recorded. Bob is a very busy guy. He was about to go on tour with the Black Crowes, I think, and would be gone for the summer and most of the next year. So I didn’t see him again until September. And as it seemed that you guys were in a hurry, and as Bob was very busy, we did two short sessions. We winged it. I recorded electric guitar and vocals—no click track, one piece after another. As a kind of atmosphere, I talked about the weather. Bob came up with the title Météo—which does mean weather—and the titles “Ionosphere,” a single track with a glitch from in his computer that we liked, and “Averse,” which means “downpour.” He spliced together bits of the acoustic guitars I’d recorded in June with September session, and mixed everything. A couple tracks—“Centre Commercial” and “Zone,” I think—are panned, with vocal on one side and guitar on the other, so it can be listened to differently, more vocal or more guitar. I pounded on the strings for the rhythm sound in “Centre Commercial.” Bob whacked a tambourine a couple times and sang the falsetto track on “Zone.” We had fun. Bob was my collaborator. Giasco was the curator, the organizer, and shot the cover photograph of the word Oui written on a window, and the goose standing on the pond at Versailles. Giasco always liked a CD I made in 2000 with sound engineer, Jean-Jacques Palix, called “Everglade”: 14 tracks, only guitar. He wanted to repeat that. For “Everglade” I had several themes, and Palix made loops I’d improvise over. Météo was originally going to be French songs. That changed as I played and time was tight. Had we had more time it would have been longer than seven pieces—three instrumentals and four songs.

 

As a non French speaker, I’m intrigued by the lyrics. Can you tell us what these songs are about?

Gerard basically writes little movies. His lyrics are very visual, like imagist poems, with a kind of dark beauty. “Pescara” and “Centre Commercial” are like traveling shots. “Pescara” is about the town in Italy. The song follows a guy on a gray night, through the town where it’s rained for a week, passing stores, weeds, trees, snails, workers, seeing the unimaginable sea between buildings, feeling in every rain drop unimaginable power, where the color becomes uniform like a marching army; his eyes fixate on a boat as he walks toward the beach when suddenly the sea appears before his eyes, the sea is there. “Centre commercial” is another traveling shot entering a town, something like in the opening of Citizen Kane, seeing signs, old plaster walls, three electric wires lining the sky, billboards, and a woman—a personage—a cashier in the shopping center, she crosses her legs as two cans crash together on the counter. In the parking lot two cops get out of the car, slamming their doors simultaneously. They walk toward the store and the cashier re-crosses her legs. That’s it. “Zone” is about a guy, a dreamer, doing nothing, watching an old film in at five in the afternoon. It’s very ironic—French ironic. Gerard doesn’t name the film (The Specialist), only the actors, Stallone, Sharon Stone, Eric Roberts. He hears a siren and sees a yellow moped. In the song’s bridge the dreamer imagines buying an old Buick, polishing the chrome, taking a break every once in a while. The refrain repeats the phrase I zone in front of the TV and count every second of my life. It’s a character type that the French imagine from American movies. “Y fait encore un peu somber “means it’s still a bit dark—a baby cries, his linen jacket itches, it’s late. The cleaning lady crosses the courtyard. He does the same. He sees what she sees, the cracks in the cement, paper wrappers, dog shit. The baby cries beautifully but the sky is menacing. The old lady stops at a door to breathe. It’s still a bit dark. Gerard and I have made many others.

 

Can you give us recommendations for other recordings of yours to investigate? And do you have any plans currently for new projects?

Since living in Paris, I’ve worked on four albums with a French singer, Alexandra Roos; Gerard was the lyricist. I’ve recorded a number of times with David Coulter (formerly with the Pogues and was recently Marianne Faithfull’s musical director) and also with sound-engineer/dance music composer, Jean Jacques Palix with whom I made Everglade, including a television documentary on William Styron, where I played solo guitar, as well as recordings I can’t remember. I played on the soundtrack for a movie about saxophonist Sonny Simmons. I made a CD of songs, called Battle Songs, produced by Richard Prince and Dike Blair, now available at tunecore.com., but originally included in a box of artists’ multiples, ten artists in all, called “The Rowboat Box,” produced by Galerie de Multiples, here in Paris. I’m currently working on a new project with a French singer/songwriter, Pierre Genre, of songs, with a lot of improvisation, which we hope to start recording in June.