Artists Space Benefit

Artists Space 

For more information, contact Christopher Politan at cpolitan@artistsspace.org

Forest of Fantasy: The Lab at The Roger Smith Hotel

lab  

The Roger Smith Hotel’s Art Gallery, The Lab, presents Forest of Fantasy where dancers perform in a Fantastical Forest created in a Midtown Manhattan store front.

Check it out March 23rd at 47th St and Lexington Ave

Dance Performances at 6pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of both weeks

Installation up 24/7 for two weeks

 

LIZA BEAR: Online

Check out Liza Bear's mini-films at Squaring Off , particularly the opening of Wrestle at the new Hessel Art Museum at Bard and Betty Comden in 2003 at the Film Forum: "All Our Work Ain't Been in Vain for Nothin".

 

GILLES BARBIE: CARRE D'ART * Museé d'Art Contemporain in Nîmes, France

Gilles Barbier’s remarkably ambitious exhibition at the Carré d'Art Museé d'Art Contemporain in Nîmes (Southern France) plays pithily with many current intellectual strands which interest me: net culture, artificial intelligence, image profusion, micro-organisms and science fiction (among others). But what struck me as most exact to its weird visual propositions was its deep reflection (one might even say brooding) on the theme of ignobility, and this grubbily shifted something in my head.

In this multi-gallery installation Barbier mixes frantically composed hand-made graphics—which display a mordantly witty obsession with language—and often wistfully perverse hyper-real sculptures. Immediately one feels his sense of dark humor—despite it being tied to a grueling work ethic. A peripatetic mind is clearly sensed behind such diverse, but hyper-linked, work—even while sensing an overall conveyance of longing connected to an acute awareness of death. If I may presume to decode such a wide range of ideas and styles used here, I would say that Barbier is attempting to give us a visual free verse for which we are unprepared, a visual sagacity that tests the limits of form and stretches the bounds of meaning by recasting our experiences of encountering wildly disjunctive data on the internet into the sumptuously physicality of negation.

Taken as a lapidary whole, Barbier’s work delivers this punch of negation by tying together methods of insouciant informality with a visceral camp irony: at turns hip and flamboyant—then turning towards the morally outrageous. Art here physically embodies the disappearing ephemeral we associate with electronically provided information today on the internet, and the flickering of its translucent form. Still the viewer is expected to work devotedly to solve the visual conundrums supplied here, to supply mental transitions between the diverse and massive assortment of graphics and sculptural elements (which supply the hooks). One must fabricate a complicated forensic story out of this grisly mélange, which keeps slipping in and out of idiosyncratic narration. And that recitation keeps turning back into one about stinking death, that strange incurable affliction. Humiliating death in all its undifferentiated fabulousness, by which I mean its essentially nasty comedy. Funny, difficult death then, which while pulling down our pants and revealing our soiled undies, keeps everyone laughing (or at least gurgling). But also there is here an awareness of impertinent splendor in the tranquility of decomposition, which makes it all seem faintly heroic in face of death’s inexorability.

We know of its putrid ignobility but will not give in. And this is what gives the work a strange sense of dignity, which asserts life’s primacy over death. Life, plus art, as paradox, because it is beyond narration and words. So this is art which does not merely help us pass the time, but which enlivens it, if we surrender to its fearful difficulty. Barbier’s work here provides the chance to do the counter-fearful thing, to look at what we fear so that effort will help release us from fear’s grip. Then we can get over it and so enjoy life all the more. Then the ignobility of death can be ignored, and dignity restored—for now.

Gilles Barbier Carré d'Art -Museé d'Art Contemporain Place de la Maison Carrée in Nîmes, France http://musees.nimes.fr/carreart/ac-carre.htm

YVES KLEIN * The Centre Pompidou / Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris

YVES KLEIN
CORPS, COULEUR, IMMATÉRIEL
5 OCT. 06 - 5 FEB. 07

The exhibition will also be presented at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Wien (Vienna, Austria) from 9 March 9th to June 3rd, 2007

Long live the immaterial!
-Yves Klein, The Chelsea Hotel Manifesto

Yves Klein is for me, and many others, the most important French artist after Henri Matisse. This may sound somewhat appalling to some, as Klein enjoyed only a very concise, but invigorating, seven-year artistic career. But I will clarify this controversial judgment by pointing out his historic relevance to our era of digital culture. The emphasis here will be on Klein’s conceptual articulation of the spatial and the ephemeral/immaterial in relationship to our current actual state of virtuality. Indeed the subtitle of the exhibition, CORPS, COULEUR, IMMATÉRIEL (Body, Color, Immaterial), itself brings out the salient viractual (*1) aspects of Klein's art.

Yves Klein’s own lived life is the first major example of the ephemeral. Klein was born near Nice in a village called Canges-sur-Mer in 1928 of artist parents; Fred Klein, a figurative painter, and Marie Raymond, an abstract painter in the tradition of the École de Paris. He died unexpectedly in 1962 of a heart attack shortly after seeing the sensationalizing Yves Klein segment of Gualtiero Jacopetti’s Mondo Cane exploitation film at its Canne Film Festival debut at the young age of 34. He was at the height of his fame.

On entering this exhibition the viewer is immediately introduced to the fact that Klein first studied Oriental languages, Zen philosophy and Judo via a highly accomplished digital presentation which was augmented by a plethora of photographs, drawings and texts. Indeed Klein achieved black-belt stature in Judo and taught and wrote a book about the subject after spending fifteen months at the Kodokan Institute in Tokyo. He then went on to found his own Judo school in Paris, making a living teaching Judo from 1955 to 1959. He also played music in a jazz band.

With such a basis in sport and music performance, Klein easily brought his theoretical concerns around space, color and painting into the theatricality of conceptual and performance art and thus negated and undermined the classical work of art object, dissolving art into action and thus styling himself into an artistic personality in a way that anticipated the strategies of Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys and Orlan. His staging of even the minutest details and the orchestration of their documentation and framed reception, along with his linking of art and technology, make him a most relevant figures for current art practice.

What was not pointed out in the show very well was that in 1948, at age 20, Klein discovered a book by Max Heindel (1865-1919) which teaches the basic beliefs of an esoteric Christian sect called the Rosicrucians. Klein obsessively studied the book for five years, and after coming to Paris in 1955, began to refer to himself as an initiate in the sect (he was made a Knight of the Order of Archers of Saint Sebastian) and was married to the beautiful Rotrault Uecker (now Rotrault Klein-Moquay) within it’s highly flamboyant and ritualistic ceremony. This exceedingly formal marriage is presented further on in the show in a delightful color documentary film.

Based on the Rosicrucian metaphysical ideology, Klein avowed to indicate to the world a new age, the Age of Space. In the Age of Space, boundless spirit would exist free of form, objects would levitate, and humans would travel liberated from their body. This contextual understanding is essential for understanding Klein’s artistic importance, as this ideology of the immaterial informs all his work, even the paintings but most explicitly such conceptual-technological works as the Sculpture aérostatique (1957) which was the release of 1001 balloons, and the Illumination de l'Obélisque (1958) in the Place de la Concorde. Indeed, the exhibition reinstates Klein's metaphysical ideology as the basis of his ephemeral actions as equal to his monochrome paintings. Definitely the well-known IKB blue monochrome were for him no more than an introduction to his ideological "blue revolution", which he saw as the diffusion of immaterial pictorial sensibility throughout the whole cosmos, both visible and invisible. So blue color was for Klein was not pigment and binder but a spiritual, cosmic force that stimulates the entire environment, transforming life itself into a work of art.

Admittedly, Klein's idea of pure virtual open space (free from form) was first actualized in his blue monochrome paintings, where the bisecting nature of line was rejected in favor of an even, all-over, ultramarine-blue color which he called IKB (International Klein Blue). However, later some of his monochromes were painted pink or gold. The Ex-voto dédié à Sainte-Rita (1961) which was deposited by Klein at the Convent of Santa Rita in Cascia, Italy (and presented for the first time at this exhibition) is valuable evidence of the importance of pink and gold alongside blue in Klein's imaginative, viractual, and ephemeral universe.

Of course Klein, by all accounts, was not all theory. He was a showman too. In 1957, not long after the appearance of the first monochromes in 1955, Klein turned to the further exploration of the immaterial aspect of his art through act and gesture. His exhibitions of evanescent performance works, ephemeral sculptures in fire or water, sound works, "air architectures" and artistic appropriation of the entirety of space (extending to the whole cosmos) were all manifestations of the ephemera and invisible idea that for him is the essential experience of art itself.

We must remember when gazing into his luxurious blue paintings that Klein's interests in open areas of color and light, in vibrating voids, and in sheer saturated colors emptied of figurative presence are primarily directed towards space's and color’s aoristic qualities, qualities which subsequently will interest future generations of ambient-oriented artists and digital artists.

Most notably, in 1958 Klein went beyond the monochrome rectilinear canvas with a distinguished ephemeral and immersive presentation titled Le Vide (The Void), which was held at Galerie Iris Clert in Paris. For this exhibition Klein cleaned out and whitewashed the gallery and "impregnated" the empty space with his consciousness; filling the freshly whitened gallery (emptied of figurative presence) with Le Vide, through which Klein led small groups.

I consider this installation to be of utmost importance to the identification of the immersive ideals of virtual reality in that it crystallizes the body’s entrance into a consciousness of aoristic space. (*2)

Further along these lines, in early-1961 Klein installed, as part of his retrospective at Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld Germany, another immersive walk-in installation called Raum der Leere (Room of the Void) in reference to his Le Vide which consisted of a 285 by 442 by 172 centimetre room (approximately 9 by 14 by 5.6 feet) painted white (with slightly rough textured surface) lit by neon lamps. This work is documented through photographs and drawings in the exhibit.

Also notable is Klein's faux Leap into the Void: Man in Space! The Painter of Space Throws Himself into the Void! of 1960 of course deserves some mention concerning immaterial idea art. Klein’s famous photomontage Leap into the Void, which depicts him floating above a street, is a symbol of the desire to overcome gravity and thus enter into the unlimited aspects of virtuality. It is a manifestation of Klein’s will to transcend limits, which runs through his entire oeuvre.

Beginning in 1960 Klein devoted himself increasingly to the immaterial aspects of fire as a medium to express elemental energy. I very much liked and respected the Cosmogonies “paintings” on view here, which capture the imprint of wind, of rain. Fire and air, two invisible fluids that Klein officially claimed as his own, give rise to works both real (fire paintings) and utopian; such as his air architecture projects and his schemes for planetary air-conditioning. But the gorgeous color film of Klein painting various Anthropometries through the use of "living paintbrushes" (i.e. female nudes) in a black dinner jacket while his proto-minimalist one note Monotone Symphony(1949) is performed is certainly one of the high points in the show, even though it perhaps was responsible for his death after he viewed it in the dreadful context of the Mondo Cane film. The music is performed brilliantly live as the nude models paint each other from the buckets of lush IKB Blue paint, gently pressing their naked bodies against the canvas that had been placed on wall and floor - while Klein (wearing white gloves) directs them verbally, never touching the paint or the bare models. (*3)

This is, needless to say, a highly ephemeral way to paint which pointed the way towards (and then away from) the Nouveaux Réalistes (New Realists), the French post-war avant-garde movement which was organized and theorized by the French poet and art critic Pierre Restany (1930-2003). The core issue of the Nouveaux Réalistes was the conception of art as formed by “real” elements, that is, materials taken from the world directly rather than formed pictorially. Influenced by Yves Klein and the general anti-rationalism that opposed the machine-like logic which underlay the killing efficiency of aerial war, many artists followed in these deep but shifting footsteps.

Despite numerous retrospectives, among them the exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in 1983, much of Klein's immaterial-oriented work remained somewhat unknown until recently. In bringing together 120 paintings and sculptures, some 40 drawings and manuscripts and a great number of contemporary films and photographs, this exhibition offered me a new reading of Klein's work, this time in the context of virtuality. Adhering as faithfully as possible to the artist's own intentions as revealed in his recently published writings, the design of the exhibition brought out the importance that Klein accorded to the diverse aspects of his artistic practice: not only painting and sculpture, but also immaterial performances, sound works, interventions in public spaces, architectural projects and, most essentially, immaterial art theory. This diverse oeuvre, all produced during a period of just seven years, is indeed impressive as much of it anticipated the trends of Happening and Performance Art, Land Art, Body Art, Conceptual Art and Digital Art. Thus it has had an, ironically, a durable influence on art through its essential interest in and expressions of the immaterial.

(*1) The basis of the viractual conception is that virtual producing computer technology has become a significant means for making and understanding contemporary art and that this brings us artists to a place where one finds the emerging of the computed (the virtual) with the uncomputed corporeal (the actual). This merge – which tends to contradict some dominant techno clichés of our time - is what I call the ‘viractual’. This blending of computational virtual space with ordinary viewable space indicates the subsequent emergence of a new topological cognitive-vision of connection between the computed virtual and the uncomputed corporeal world.

(*2) Aorist is a classical Greek spatial term which was used when discussing an occurrence without limitations. Aorist literally means without horizons.

(*3) A short film, with a non monotone sound track, of a Klein painting performance can be viewed on-line at: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8859506883702524061&q=Yves+Klein

 

Joseph Nechvatal

October 2006

A KLIMT REDUXION * NEUE GALLERY: New York, NY

Took the 6 uptown from an early morning meeting to pay my visitations to the Golden Adele the day she premiered at the Neue. The line not as long as expected. A German film crew was busy interviewing standees. Hey. I was camera-ready…but skipped over. The gallery holding the goods was securely sectioned off by Big Security. But getting near The Girl was a chore. Having trained as a painter, I like to get up close and peruse the technique. No such luck. The film crew had made their way inside and planted their tripod and camera right near the painting. The Times photog, a petite woman with cameras draped across her chest, snapped posterity from the top of a folding stool that got her to just above normal height. So I walked around and butted my head into the corner of the painting, ever vigilant of the eyes behind me. I'm afraid that I'm not as gushing over the Gold Standard painting as many others seem to be. Klimt was a high roguish technician, who was about a half century behind the rest of his Euro-art world. The first rendering of Adele is a too-perfect licking of Impressionism...and Adele herself. (Word is they were amorous.) The use of gold was clever, but not much more than an antic, antique idea. If you get up close to the painting (as I kept trying to do) you can see that - while the rest of the Western art world was deep into changing our norms of seeing, through interpretive, spatial color (a la Matisse) and wild, shamanistic brushstroking embedded into the destruction of the picture plane (Picasso's evolutionary Iberian/African dialogues with Cezanne) - Gustav was very deliberately sculpting (literally) little designs into Adele's dress, like some kind of caftan-clad Viennese fashion-decorator from Pharaonic Thebes. (My favorite oro-flecked Klimt was his great narrative use of the gold in the Zeusian wet dream titled "Danae.") Good Gustav's later work (Adele II) is, to my taste, more organic and painterly…and less bombastic. But listen, any woman who can get a guy to spring a hundred and thirty five mil on her – in one shot – has got to give Paris Hilton (our nascent century’s multi-millionaire Love Motel) a big run for HER money. As the Oil Barons might say, “Go git you some Adele before she ups and runs off.” The Deli Rama

VIRAL ATTACKS: THE WORK OF JOSEPH NECHVATAL

While some artists seek precision and control with their work, Joseph Nechvatal unleashes a virus on his computer-based imagery—part of his philosophical approach to making art. His work embodies both biological and technological elements, drawing metaphors between the two. While his production utilizes a set of rules similar to those of the Abstract Expressionists (whose aesthetics are built upon a collection of defined parameters, and more concerned with process), Nechvatal deviates by allowing the computer virus influence the outcome of the image.  At times beautiful and others disconcerting, his work challenges the viewer to go beyond the surface.

Nechvatal received his PhD in the Philosophy of Art at the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts, The University of Wales in 1999. However, since 1986 he has incorporated the use of computers and computer-robotics into his work.

An example of an early work is HYPER-BODY II (1988), an emotionally charged large scale work that utilizes a dominant blue monochromatic-like color scheme, where after close observation one can make out a weakened form with its head and shoulders slouched. During this time of production, Nechvatal had known many people who were inflicted with the AIDS virus. In an email interview with this author, Nechvatal writes, “The AIDS virus was impacting on me emotionally at the time, so it made sense to move in that direction. I wanted to overcome the fear I was feeling and mark the impossibility of going further in the direction of complete spontaneous sexual freedom.”(1)

From 1991 to 1993, Nechvatal was as an artist-in-residence at the Louis Pasteur Atelier and the Saline Royale/Ledoux Foundation’s computer lab in Arbois, France where he developed the Computer Virus Project with the assistance of Jean-Philippe Massonie. In an email interview with Tom Barbalet for Biota.org, Nechvatal writes, “At that time I would launch a viral attack into the host—which was my body of visual work accomplished up to that time. However, there was nothing to see as the computer virus went through its procedures, until I would check to what had happened overnight.”(2) It wasn’t until 2002 when he began collaborating with Stéphane Sikora, that he began to see the viral results in real time. In an email interview, he writes, “we launched into a collaboration intended on extending my previous exploration with computer software modeled on the viral. Instead of waiting to see what had happened in the computer overnight, as with the Jean-Philippe Massonie software, I could see what was occurring in real time on the screen. That was a major advance.”(3)

VOLUPTUARY DROID DECOLLETAGE (2002) is an example of a viral attacked computer-based image “painted” onto a large canvas. The piece, which utilizes a bright and colorful palette, is divided into three parts that has been morphed or transformed by the viral attack. A yellow band looks as though it is in the process of smothering or transforming the central part of the image depicting a collection of close-up views of microscopic organisms. The right part of the canvas features the backside of a Rubenesque nude woman laying face down. The multilayered pixilated imagery abstracts the form. Semi-transparent code is layered on top of the woman. Overall, the technological virus looks as though it has been eating away at the images transforming and manipulating the once possibly crisp-like images. Nechvatal writes, “I think that the life/non-life idea inherent in the viral situation is mesmerizing. Most all viruses have the same general behavior characteristics (a virus invades the host and draws existence from it; wildly reproducing itself, thus killing the host) and I designed my computer virus to follow those characteristics.”(4)

ANDROPATHOLOGYNITE CONTAGIO (2003) is a beautiful and colorful diptych. Yet upon closer examination, the beautiful work becomes disturbing. On the upper part of the canvas are two large egg-like objects. On the bottom half a multilayered collage of imagery includes what appears to be a woman’s mid-area from the bottom of her rib cage to the top of her pelvic region with the tips of her knees slightly exposed. On top of this base image are translucent and repeated medical drawings of the female reproductive system. Nevertheless, the elements look as though viral organisms are eating away at the imagery—consuming or ingesting the woman’s reproductive biological matter—connotating cancer or some other disease.

Nechvatal’s COMPUTER VIRUS PROJECT 2.0 (PORTRAIT ATTACK SERIES) (2005) is a time-based immersive environment where the viewer is surrounded by large-scale projections of portraits on all four walls. At times the disconcerting sound within the installation becomes loud and overwhelming which mixes well with the imagery. The projected moving imagery is being constructed and deconstructed in conjunction with the sound by the computer-based virus, so it is an ever-evolving piece with no beginning, middle or end.  The participant watches virus-like elements slowly eating away at the multilayered portraits of such “new media” notables as Cory Arcangel, Tina LaPorta, Mark Tribe and G H Hovagimyan. Nechvatal writes, “The emotional punch of seeing the virus gnawing away at the faces of prominent people in the cyber arena was impossible to resist.”(5)

Nechvatal’s work offers much more than simply drawing a parallel between a computer and biological virus. His work is the sign of the times. We live in a time of AIDS, cancer, war, and computer viruses that are invading our cultural and biological sanctity. Nechtaval’s body of work abstractly and philosophically addresses these issues as we search for a remedy.

DANCING ABOUT ARCHITECTURE: KIT LAWRENCE IN CONVERSATION WITH SALLY ANN MCINTYRE

SM: Kit, you've done many things since moving from London to New Zealand two years ago. You started two bands (House of Dolls and Pig Out) and made some significant leaps in the local art community. You’ve also recently started a project space. What was your main aim with Wednesdays?

KL: To illustrate how you can change the landscape of a place if you’re not satisfied with what it has to offer, and to show video works that would never get shown here.

SM: How did it work with your other projects?

KL: It’s an expansion of my practice. I like to avoid accepted exhibition structures. Having openings every Wednesday for a month at 9pm was a change for the city. We tied in the openings with other events like Pig Out’s first show and my painting show at The Bicycle Thief, a bar where everyone was going after openings. I thought I’d cut out the gallery entirely on that one.

SM: A distinct picture of contemporary London came through in Mark Leckey's Londonatella, with its bricolage of culled media representations of the city, sashayed by a duo of beautiful, detached actors, and the drift, amid the banality and entropy of contemporary London, of Oliver Payne and Nick Relph's 'Driftwood', whose poetic narration states "Nobody knows London. There is no knowledge which can understand it.” Can you describe what led you to choose these works?

KL: They both describe London in a way that is literal as well as romantic. At the same time as celebrating its infamy and opportunity, they’re totally pessimistic. I mean London’s a shit hole you know?! But that’s what makes it so fun. Centuries of bad planning and wrong choices piled on top and it kind of leaks out in people’s attitude. Londoners are products of the city’s history. Like it has this warped sense of history and self-promotion, but it just doesn’t know what it represents anymore. Leckey’s vision is a true and honest representation of the feel of the place because my friends and I spent our time hanging out, drinking, and posing in Soho but also wishing destruction on the place!

SM: Your curatorial strategy with Wednesdays was an artist's strategy in the sense that it was about getting something done with the resources available. Also, rather than trying to find major sponsorship, you chose to put these works in an impermanent exhibition with an emphasis on socialisation, late-night opening times, and tie-ins with music events. On top of creating an entirely new, non-historically-loaded space for the apprehension of the work, many of which were being encountered by a New Zealand audience for the first time, this method of exhibition also rather appropriately framed the work. I'm thinking of 'Driftwood's’ portrayal of skateboarders using urban space for their own purposes, to "navigate [their] city by alternative means". Can you talk a little about what 'alternative means' might be in terms of the artist-as-curator?

KL: When you’re too skint for the bus, walking or skating opens you up to the opportunity to discover your city. Walking is the poor person’s mode of transport, that’s why he’s the richer man than the guy in the chauffer-driven car.

SM: With the rise of Biennials promoting a homogenisation and decontextualisation of work the decision to show a group of young New Zealand video artists alongside the British work made Wednesdays’ programming quite unique.

KL: Go Wild in the Country [a survey of young NZ video art that opened the series] provided a context the audience could relate to and was a good starting point. Many NZ video artists are still working within the accepted boundaries of recent video work, work that was big in the 90’s. Chris Cudby stood out for me and he’s a musician and curator. Whenever you get people who are not involved solely in visual art, you get freer, more resonant work, in my opinion. Nathan Pohio, who closed the series, was cool because he had a local following and falls between the two camps. He’s dealing with issues that have local and international resonance. He’s an astute and undervalued NZ artist.

SM: Are you hoping to extend Wednesdays?

KL: Between touring and making work, sure! The idea is to present it in conjunction with a club night afterwards.

SM: Would you ever think of taking work from New Zealand back to England?

KL: I think it needs addressing. NZ is a unique mix of historic cultural baggage. It necessitates an impartial view because if it’s done badly it could cause a ten-year setback in the perception of what is going on here. Ideally a gallery abroad would offer me the opportunity of doing it. Somewhere hot! I’d take Pig Out and Golden Axe, Chris Cudby’s band, and we’d tear the place apart!

SM: Oliver Payne and Nick Relph are not media-shy about the fact that they were 'expelled from' and 'failed' art school. You knew them around that time—what year did you get up to?

KL: The media likes to market people rather than dealing with a layered truth. They were initially cast as rebels, like they were marched from the gates! Neither I, nor Oliver, placed much interest in school at that point. One Sunday, he said ‘I’ve got a project due Monday’ so I helped him put together a film from all the funny stuff he’d shot and made a soundtrack with broken acoustic guitars recorded onto a Dictaphone, like a skate video without the skating, but really beautiful. I left my degree after two years. I didn’t feel they could teach me anything more and it was expensive to study so I went to work in a clothes shop in Soho. Nick wasn’t really a part of that circle when I met all those guys, Ol, Timo, Ash [Lange] and [Nicky] Verber [Herald Street directors, representing Nick Relph and Oliver Payne]. We took advantage of our superior social skills and made the most of what was happening at that time in London. Those guys looked very sharp and raised my appreciation for clothes to the point it almost bankrupted me! We were all so skint. I remember Ol living on onion sandwiches for a while! I met Relph later, after they had started making films together. Nick is a very sharp guy with a lot of style and really into The Fall.

SM: In your own work, there seems to be an intricate exchange between your artistic and musical identities. Sometimes watching you live on stage it appears as though the atmosphere of your paintings has been animated! In your recent show at Room 103, [artist run space in Auckland] you place your own image as another iconic symbol within your pantheon of motifs: the artist as his own ultimate work of art, but one tempered with an appropriate degree of fashion-mag flatness, with references to a more primitive design era, say, a Face magazine photo-shoot from the mid '80s.

KL: I’m interested in the cyclic movement of fashion and the way it reflects social aspirations. Looking back, it’s easier to dissemble what was being emoted and it gives you a clue about where you come from and that informs our contemporary situation. The collages were a way of celebrating my own collection of Casual-era clothes, not a self-portrait exactly but a character that is part of my upbringing. I would also relate it to an interest in layout techniques rather than anything to do with the status of portraiture. I like the possibilities and personal history associated with collage and it’s nice to use your own body sometimes.

SM: You often draw on autobiographical material for your work, but the world you present is not diaristic, it's a complex symbolic universe that has included the Hacienda club in Manchester, Factory records, references to Constructivism in 80s design, northern English industrial architecture, bad civic murals, rave culture, prismatic shapes, painterly-ness and trompe-l'oeil, combined with a highly convincing articulation and consistency, as opposed a glib accumulation of pop-junk cultural iconography. Musical cultures are often critical of wider culture and I get the sense—and other people have talked about it, too—that you want to make art that has the same sensibility, and the same level of personal substance, as music does.

KL: I relate to the purity of its communication. I’m not interested in art world esoterica. I grew up in the north of England during the recession when the local TV news was always, “This factory is closing,” or, “That mine is closed.” At the same time there was energy in the music and style coming out of the place. I was the only person from my year who went to art school to study fine art. There was an exciting dichotomy I was aware of, the idea that leisure pursuits could be more beneficial than working in a traditional industry and I think about my old school and how I grew up all the time. It haunts me. I write about it in my songs and make paintings of empty factories!

SM: Every time I visit your apartment there seems to be a new series of work on the walls. We could call you prolific! What are you working on at the moment?

KL: Paintings and collages for a show at Michael Lett in Auckland, provisionally titled ‘Work it!’ They deal with industrial product branding and its similarity to club flyers. I’m making an album of 4/4 house tracks out of factory and office noise to play over the top of the show and a video where I play a character who goes off to work at a factory in club gear. But the factory turns into my studio and then into a club, and it’s surrounded by a field full of horses so it will look pretty strange. It’s about the decline of mechanised employment and the rural fantasy of leisure time. Pig Out is playing the opening. It’s going to be a ball!

wednesdays gallery can be contacted at the following email: wednesdaysgallery@hotmail.com

IF IT DIDN'T EXIST YOU'D HAVE TO INVENT IT: A PARTIAL SHOWROOM HISTORY: THE SHOWROOM GALLERY • London, England

When I go to a gallery I always have expectations about what I’m going to see, even if I don’t know the artist or group of artists. The invitation card, preview notices, or a friend’s description enhance your impression of knowing what’s coming, but it’s never quite how you imagine it to be. A recent case in point is a show at the Showroom Gallery—the last before the gallery closes for refurbishment—“If it didn’t exist you’d have to invent it: a partial Showroom history.” The exhibition looks back over the gallery’s prolifically successful 16-year history, showcasing a few of the many artists it has championed. The eclectic mix of artwork ranges from paintings to video installations and assemblages to digital projects.

I was expecting to see both old and new work from the artists listed in the press release, but was pleased to find only recent works on display. Within the exhibition’s context a divide appeared between those pieces that worked and those that didn’t, but there was something for everyone. As I moved through the space, it became apparent that there was an overwhelming amount of work. Nothing was labelled, so I navigated the exhibition with a rather tricky information sheet provided by the gallery. Although each piece was numbered on the diagram of the space, placed thoughtfully within the gallery’s two rooms, and never cramped or over-crowded, it took a while to figure out which work related to which artist. This became part of the fun and led to some interesting and unexpected discoveries.

Two photographic works by Karen Knorr from the Fables series, THE GREEN BEDROOM LOUIS XV (2004) and THE BLUE ROOM LOUIS XIV (2005) engage the idea of childhood stories, where animals play their part as much as humans. Pigeons fly around or perch on an ornate bed. Three foxes sit in a blue dining room, their warm rust-colored fur making them stand out against the cool blue surroundings. They look incongruous while complementing the scene. Were the animals real? Did Knorr let a flock of pigeons loose in a room full of antique and precious objects? Were they stuffed animals perfectly placed to create a pleasing but naturalistic composition? Or simply some form of post-production trickery? The contrast harks back to fairy tales and fables, those fabrications we stop believing in as we grow older.

Of the many screen and video pieces that were on view, two stood out. Sam Taylor-Wood’s THE LAST CENTURY (2005) easily lured its audience despite—or perhaps as a result—of the fact that very little actually happens. At first glance, the scene from a traditional English pub appeared to be a still photograph. Closer inspection of the varied modern characters gave the game away. A plume of smoke from a man’s cigarette curls upward. A woman, her head thrown back as she laughs, blinks. You realize that you are looking at a video of a scene where characters are holding their poses, as though frozen in time. Is it a comment on the disappearance of the “traditional”? Or perhaps a comment on the UK government’s imminent smoking ban? This video piece was surely the most outstanding piece in the whole exhibition.

Desperate Optimist’s LEISURE CENTRE (2006) is a video piece with a more traditional narrative. The key characters, with their soft Irish accents, made this simple tale engaging. Set in a municipal leisure center, the piece seemed to be filmed in one tracking shot. It starts with a young father’s uncertain yet proud interaction with work colleagues congratulating him on the birth of his first child. This segued neatly to a dialogue between the father and mother, revealing the father’s fear of failure, on to a rather dreamy monologue by the mother about their future, and lastly a slow motion track of the couple walking around a swimming pool. This charming story is a pleasing contrast to some of the more abstract video works on show.

Of the few paintings on display, Fergal Stapleton’s FIVE COINS (2004) stood out as a simple but beautiful work in the chiaroscuro tradition. It contrasted well against the more contemporary painting techniques on show. Curiously, the curators directed such a strong and direct light on the painting that the five coins could only be seen at an angle and not head on. Was this deliberate? It was hard to tell.

When I stumbled upon the attractive or humorous in unusual places, I couldn’t help but consider the discoveries a metaphor for out-of-the-way The Showroom Gallery itself, situated as it is on a residential street in East London. The first of these hidden gems was Hayley Tompkins’ NO TITLE (2006), which looked like the result of a sloppy “get-out” from the previous exhibition. Three scraps of paper, not more than an inch high, under this title were dotted on the walls of the gallery. They reminded me of the pop group posters I so lovingly hung in my bedroom as a teenager and then unceremoniously tore down when the infatuation ended. Always, a scrap of poster remained where the tape attached to the wall. Tompkins simple pieces of paper evoked so many memories, it was amazing how easily I might have missed it.

I nearly missed Gerard Williams’ FICTIONAL NEIGHBOURS NO 1 (2006), a small frosted window in a frame with striped fabric behind it, because of its high position and because it looked like part of the building’s structure. The intervention worked on many levels: it made one think about people living next to the gallery, about privacy, and about the act of looking. Too high to look at properly and impossible to see through: was it a taunt to the gallery goer? You can look but you can’t see?

Two works displayed in a similar way did not compare well. The first HENS E-PROJECT by Antonio Ortega (1999-2006) was a printout of e-mail correspondence; it concerns a project that aimed to give hens (chickens) freedom in public parks. I was disappointed by the means of display: it at once removed it from it’s original medium (like showing a photograph of a painting) and filtered what the visitor could see – images apparently attached to the original e-mails were not in the print out. By contrast Elin Wilkstrom’s DOES A BELIEVE THAT B REJECTS AN EQUAL SPLIT? (2006) is a simple description of the dialogue between the artist and two people participating in the Conceptual work about the division of a sum of money within set parameters. It was brief and amusing and it made sense to present the work as written documentation.

Though there were bound to be a few “misses” in an exhibition of this breadth, the diversity of talent made “If it didn’t exist you’d have to invent it: a partial Showroom history“ an exceptional “last” show for the Showroom Gallery before it closes for eight months. Many of the pieces raised more questions than answers, enough to make even the most jaded gallery-goer happy and the exhibition as a whole proves thought-provoking, diverse, and engaging.

Emma Quinn
London, England
2006

CAMILLE AT BARD

I just had the pleasure of seeing the naked and new production of Camille, directed by Kate Whoriskey, sets by Walter Spangler, choreography by Warren Adams, costumes by Ilona Somogyl. What’s not to love about synchronized dancing men and women in turn of the century tuxedos and courtesan’s dresses? The acting, set, staging and direction was hip, fun, and sexy. The performances of Michael Tisdale as Armand, and Katrina Lenk as Marguerite were excellent. Tony Torn was wonderfully over the top as Gaston. The play opens with all of the actors undressed and lying down on the stage. The set included a screen of torn stockings or spots on the lungs stretching vertically over the play with dangling filled sacks full of the actor’s costumes, referencing balls or lungs. The ladies’ corsets were tied as their gasping for breath was synchronized. The stunning choreography was well integrated into the gleeful first half, showing the 19th century party world, the demi-monde in Europe where various classes could socialize and hook up mistresses with wealthy men. Here is a description of the story from the program: "…..Dumas’s tragic story, showing the struggles of Marguérite Gautier, a courtesan so successful that she can afford anything except falling in love. Selling herself to the Parisian elite, Marguérite acquires the desirable accoutrements of wealth and status: luxury possessions, elegant clothes, a cultivated sense of literature and music, and enormous social success. Her dress and demeanor exude virginal elegance; her trademark camellia is pure and inviolable. But all this is façade, and two forces beyond her control – true love and consumption – eventually defeat her. The "real" Camille was a Parisian courtesan named Marie Duplessis (1824-47), a lover of both Dumas and Franz Liszt, who himself is the subject of this year's Bard SummerScape and Bard Music Festival. Much of what is known about Duplessis is mixed in with the later fictions, including the autobiographical Dumas novel. In Dumas, the unsophisticated "Armand Duval" meets the courtesan "Marguérite Gautier" and falls in love. She has been the lover of countless men more exotic than Armand, but he wins her nevertheless. She resolves to leave her demi-monde life; they move to the country; Armand learns that Marguérite is selling her possessions to pay for her medicines and their keep. Armand's father does not support this union and asks Marguérite to leave his son for the sake of his family's reputation and his daughter, whose engagement is jeopardized by the scandalous affair. Marguérite leaves Armand and the relationship is destroyed, along with what remains of Marguerite’s health. Marguérite dies alone, penniless, in a garret." In the tragic second half, the dancing is overwrought in adolescent versions of hell and fell flat emotionally for me. I was angered by the second half, missing out on a pleasurable absolution of tears experienced by some audience members. I couldn’t believe Marguerite, a woman of independent means would fold to the authority of Armand’s father who bent down to the authority of society. The staging is so up to date and vital. Why not update the plot? But that would be another play.