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.

Tuning out in Terminal City and the Nova Poster

Vancouver has always had a drug problem. In recent years this is manifested by one of the world's largest marijuana growing industries. Rumored to be the strongest bud in the world police estimate the total revenues as in the billions and larger than the forest industry. British Columbia exports high-grade cannabis to the United States and imports cocaine and heroin in return.

This industry, run mostly by Hell's Angels and other gangs, gives Vancouver the largest drug addict populations per capita in North America. Centered mainly in the Downtown Eastside an area peppered with bars and cheap hotels historically catering to the forest industry, this is the original Skid Row named after the skids that allowed them to run logs down the middle of the street. It was the terminus for the national railroad and became known in the 30's as Terminal City. It has always had a transient nature and located next to Chinatown the historical connection between Asian opium and later heroin influenced the development of the area. By the late 1970's Vancouver had the largest heroin problem in Canada despite being the much smaller and younger third city.

In the mid 1990's the situation got much worse as a drug war between Asian gangs and Hell's Angels put almost pure heroin on the streets cheaply. The results wasn't only a rise in addiction rates but a period of high overdoses for almost 3 years with over 500 deaths a year at it's peak.

Hans Winkler was been invited by Grunt Gallery to realize an art piece for Vancouver in the context of the Fourth LIVE Biennal of Performance Art in 2005. When he came to Vancouver in January 2004 he wandered around the city quickly ignoring the much-touted landscape and focusing in on the downtown eastside. At the end of his four days he articulated his idea of a junkie reading room. The Nova library was to be a reading room comprised of books recommended by the drug-addicted communities of Vancouver. Winkler came up with the title Nova Library in homage to William Burrough's novel Nova Express that covers the issues of drug addiction and enforcement in a future that is now.

Hans Winkler´s public art pieces are side specific, where he intervenes, when he is reacting to symbols of our life, how he is reading the city and opens our eyes to real street life and for details usually overlooked. Winkler has an uncanny ability to focus in on the rupture within a community. For his project "un incidente in gondola" at Nuova Icona in Venice he sunk a gondola into the canal speaking to a city literally sinking in tourists. It spoke succinctly about globalism and global warming.

Drug addicts have an image problem. An identifiable population who only ever sees itself in the media as crime and health issues. When we brought the idea to a weekly meeting of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users - VANDU and to Portland Hotel Society they instantly understood the project and came on board. The " Nova-Junkie- Library" project was a collaborative project by six organizations.

While Han's had envisioned a reading room by junkies it wasn't necessarily for them. Instead he wanted a central location where all of the community could see this library. The Main Branch of the Vancouver Public Library looks like a high tech copy of the coliseum in Rome taking up a piece of prime real estate in central Vancouver.

It was hard to go from the long term planning of the slow moving bureaucracy at the library to the organizations downtown who were constantly fending off emergencies. The mediating between these two groups became a dynamic of the project. But in the end: The Nova Library displaced the Western section on the main level of the VPL and became new library within a library.

The collection now comprises an eclectic set of over five hundred books and is collaged together in odd arrangements. For example, one can find the Qur’an next to Ken Kesey. The dominant themes of the collection seem to be the hippie and beat writers, native spirituality, various self-help manuals, and a lot of fantasy and science fiction (running the gamut from Aldous Huxley to Conan books). No one was too surprised, that after all the data was tallied, Hunter S. Thompson walked away with the honour of most popular writer, nudging out some of the other icons of the 60’s and 70’s like Ginsburg and Burroughs.

The Nova Library succeeded in showing the intellectual life of this misrepresented community. One visitor reported to her artist neighbor that she must be a junkie because she read the same books they did!
A visitor said: In the time of political ignorance as the counterculture disappeared, many people are probably not interested or don't want to know, the nova library becomes it own meaning- making it obvious the support our culture owes to outlaws and junkies.

Winkler had succeeded in opening up a space where the drug addicts were not vilified but treated as any other section of society with ideas, aspirations and dreams. After years of deaths and a major political battle over the new strategies the Nova Library was a welcome relief and gave startling insights into these communities.


The Nova Library: a reading room created by junkies; a new site-specific project by Hans Winkler

Ernest L. Abel, Marihuana, the First Twelve Thousand Years; Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 1952- ; Eve Adams, Garden of Eden; Randy C. Alcorn, Heaven; John Marco Allegro, Sacred Mushroom and the Cross : A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity Within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East; American Indian Trickster Tales; American Medical Journals; Charlie Anders, Choir Boy; Hans Christian Anderson, Emperor's New Clothes; Virginia C. Andrews (series'); Piers Anthony, Rings of Ice, Xanth (series), Anne Applebaum, Gulag : A History; Isaac Asimov Foundation; I, Robot; Nine Tomorrows; Space Trooper; Atlas of the World History; Margaret Eleanor Atwood, Oryx and Crake; Rachel Greene Baldino, Welcome to Methadonia: A Social Worker's Candid Account of Life in a Methadone Clinic; Robert D. Ballard, Return to Titanic: A New Look at the World's Most Famous Ship; James Bamford, Body of Secrets, Anatomy of the ultra secret National Security Agency; Clive Barker, Great and Secret Show: The First Book of the Art; The Bible; The Book of Mormons; Sacrament; Donald L.Barlett, Empire: The Life, Legend, and Madness of Howard Hughes, Nevada Barr, Flashback; Ellen Bass, Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse; Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, a Tragicomedy in Two Acts; Natalia Maree Belting, Long-Tailed Bear and Other Indian Legends; Chris Bennett and Neil McQueen, Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible, Thomas Berger, Little Big Man; Thomas Bien & Beveryl, Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing from Addiction; Maeve Binchy, Glass Lake; Jack Black, You Can't Win; Lewis Black, Nothing's Sacred; H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled : A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology - Parts 1 & 2; William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions; Judy Blume, Summer Sisters; Helen Bonner, The Laid Daughter : A True Story; Paul Bowles, Sheltering Sky; Ray Bradbury, Martian Chronicles; Richard Brautigan; Alexandra Brodsky, Fanny; Smoke Signals: From Eminence to Exile; Kevin Brooks, Candy; Joseph Bruchac, Native American Stories;, Mikhail Afanas'evich Bulgakov, Master and Margarita; David D Burns, Ten Days to Self-Esteem; William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch; Junky, Nova Express, The Soft Machine, Letters; John Callahan, Do What He Says! He's Crazy!; Anne Cameron, Daughters of Copper Woman; Julia Cameron, Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity; Roger Caron, Go-boy! : Memoirs of a Life Behind Bars, Jim Carroll, Basketball Diaries, Dry Dreams; Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland; Carlos Castaneda, Teaching of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge; Paul D. Chan, Medicine; Pang Guek Cheng, Culture Shock! Vancouver At Your Door; Ron Chernow, Titan: The Life of Sr. John D. Rockefeller; Agatha Christie, 4:50 From Paddington; James Clavell, Shogun: A Novel of Japan; Beverly Cleary, Mouse and the Motorcycle; Nancy Coffelt, Dogs in Space; Daniel et. al. Cohen, Real Ghosts; Max Allan Collins, The Mummy; Gerard J. Connors, Substance Abuse Treatment and Stages of Change : Selecting and Planning Interventions; Robin Cook,Coma; Tom Cool, Secret Realms; James Fenimore Cooper, Last of the Mohicans; A Narrative of 1757; John Cork, James Bond the Legacy: Forty Years of 007 Movies; Bruce Cotter, When They Won't Quit : A Call to Action for Families, Friends and Employers of Alcohol and Drug-Addicted People; Douglas Coupland, All Families are Psychotic; David T. Courtwright, Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World; Stephen R. Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic; Stephanie Covington, Woman's Way Through the twelve Steps; Margaret Craven, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, Christy Crowther, Policing Urban Poverty; R. Crumb, R. Crumb´s America; Beatrice Culleton/ Beatrice Mosionier, In Search of April Raintree; Clive Cussler, Sahara; Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda; Alighieri Dante , Dante´s Inferno; Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson, Viking and Norse Mythology; Robertson Davies, Fifth Business: A Novel; Angela Davis, Angela Davis: An Autobiography; John H. Davis, Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family; Simon De Montfort, Confessions of a Red Sea Smuggler; Thomas De Quince, Confessions of an English Opium Eater;Maggie De Vries, Missing Sarah: A Vancouver Woman Remembers Her Vanished Sister; Anita Diamant, Red Tent; Philip K.Dick, Blade Runner, Scanner Darkly; Charles Dickens, Oliver Twis; Franklin W.Dixon, Hardy Boys (series); Jerry Dorsman, How to Quit Drugs for Good: A Complete Self-Help Guide; Ton Duncan, Advanced Physics; Drug Abuse Handbook; Wayne W.Dyer, Power of Intention: Learning to Co-Create Your World Your Way; Gretchen Edgren, Playboy Book: 50 Years; Cassie Edards, Thunder Heart; Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work Staggering of Genius; Buchi Emecheta, Joys of Motherhood: A Novel; Matthew Engkraf, Valley of Darkness: My Life as a Crack Addict; Timothy Findley, Not Wanted on the Voyage, The last of the crazy people; Jeremy Flint, How to Play Bridge; Alan Foster, Clash Dean of the Titans; Viktor Emil Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy; Rebecca Fraser, Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present - A Narrative History; Brian Froud, Good Faeries; Scott Fulop & John L. Goldwater, Archie Americana Series Best of the Eighties; Joan Gadsby, Addiction by Prescription: One Woman's Triumph and Fight for Change; Paul M. Gahlinger, Illegal Drugs : A Complete Guide to Their History, Chemistry, Use and Abuse; Dan George, My Heart Soars; Geronimo, Geronimo´s Story of his own Life; Lara Gilbert, I Might be Nothing: Journal Writing; Sam D.Gill, Dictionary of Native American Mythology; Allen Ginsberg, Howl and other poems; Robert Goddard, Painting the Darkness; Mark S. Gold, Facts About Drugs and Alcohol; Golden Books, The Habbit; William Golding, Lord of the Flies: Molly Goode, Land Before Time: Terence T.Gorski, Staying Sober: A Guide for Relapse Prevention; Goscinny, Asterix the Gaul; Phil G. Goulding, Classical Music: The 50 Greatest Composers and their 1,000 Greatest Works; Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows; Jean Griesser and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, God Song: A Summary Study of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's Bhagavad-Gita at it is; John Grisham, Broker, Client; Edward A. Gross, Bruce Lee: Fists of Fury; Arlo Guthrie, Alice's Restaurant; Joel Chandler Harris, Complete Tales of Uncle Remus; Michael G. Harvey, Diary of a Train-Spotter; Ernest Hemingway, Garden of Eden, Old Man and the Sea, Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories; Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha, Steppenwolf; High Times Reader; Christopher Hinz, Liege-Killer; Robert Hoffman, Shards of Reflection, A Solitary Declaration; Robert Ervin Howard, The Bloody Crown of Conan; The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian; Conan the Barbarian; Victor Hugo, Les Miserables; Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Island; Sekihiko Inui, Comic Party; Washington Irving, Legend of Sleepy Hollow; Maulana Jalal al-Din Rumi, Poems by Rumi; Jerome Klapka, Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog; Spencer, Who Moved My Cheese? : An A-mazing Way to Deal with Change in your Work and in your Life; Joseph A. Jordan, We Can Make it…Together; Robert Jordan, Wheel of Time (series); John Jung, Psychology of Alcohol and Other Drugs: A Research Perspective; Sebastian Junger, Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea; Norton Juster, Phantom Tollbooth, Franz Kafka, Trial; Edwin B.Kantar, Bridge for Dummies; Charlotte Davis Kasl, Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the Twelve Steps; Carolyn Keene, Nancy Drew (series); Karen Kelley, Southern Comfort; Alexander King, Mine Enemy Grows Older; Ken Kesey, Sailor Songs, Further, Sometimes a great Notion; Martin Luther King, Jr., Autobiography; Stephen King, Dark Tower, Firestarter, It, Misery, The Stand, Shining; Karen Kingston, Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui; W.P.Kinsella, Dance Me Outside; Rudyard Kipling, Rikki-tikki-tavi; Caroline Knapp, Drinking: A Love Story; Judith Kohlberg, Conquering Chronic Disorganization; The Koran; Jerzy N..Kosinski, Painted Bird; Jane Kurtz, L'Amour; Louis Sackett Brand, Sackett's Land, Warrior's Path; Laotse, Tao Te Ching: A New English Version, Timothy Francis Leary: The Politics of Ecstasy, The Psychedelic Experience, Psychedelic Prayer, High Priest; Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird; Martin A.Lee , Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: the CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond; Stan Lee, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way; Billie Letts, Where the Heart Is: A Novel; Clive Staples Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia (series); Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha; Walter Lord, Night to Remember, A; Elizabeth Lowell, Warrior; Alex Lucas, Great Canadian Short Stories; Robert Ludlum, The Bourne Identiy, The Parcifal Mosaic; Mary M.Luke, A Crown for Elizabeth; Ann-Marie MacDonald, R.C. Macleod, Way the Crow Flies; The North West Mounted Police and Law Enforcement, 1873-1905; Hazel Martell, Hammer of the Gods; Stephen G. Maurer, Bannock Book: Food for the Outdoors; Alfred W.McCoy, Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Frank McLynn, Napoleon: A Biography; Drunvalo Melchizedek, Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life; Herman Melville, Moby Dick; Frank Miller, Sin City (series); Sue Miller, While I Was Gone; Kate Millett, Politics of Cruelty: An Essay on the Literature of Political Imprisonment; Earl L. Mindell, Earl Mindell's Pill Bible, Mistry, Rohinton, Family Matters, A Fine Balance; Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind; Lorrie Moore, Self Help; Robin Moore, French Connection: The World's Most Crucial Narcotics Investigation; Toni Morrison, Jazz; Melvin Morse, Where God Lives: The Science of the Paranormal and How our Brains are Linked to the Universe; Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf; Alice Munro, Runaway: Stories; Jon J. Murakami, Enter the Dragons; Emily Ferguson Murphy, Black Candle; Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guides; National Geographic Society, National Geographic Atlas of the World; Linda Nochlin, Women, Art and Power: And Other Essays; John O'Brian, Leaving Las Vegas; Theodore V.Olsen, Soldier Blue; Alfonso Ortiz, Pow Wow Book; Outlaw Bible of American Literature; Oxford Spanish Dictionary; Alan Padsadowski, Recovering from Addiction; Zena Al Pearlstone, Katsina: Commodified and Appropriated Images of Hopi Supernaturals; M. Scott Peck, Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth, Charles Perrault, Little Red Riding Hood, Pinkney, Andrea Davis, Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters.Clark H. Pinnock, Four Views on Hell; Edgar Allan Poe: The Black Cat, Great Tales of Terror, The Raven, Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell Tale Heart; Bruce Porter, Blow: How a Small-Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost it All; J.B. Purdy, First One is Free, Mario Puzi, Godfather; Richard Reichert, Teaching Sacraments to Youth; Stephen R. Rementer, Essential Guide to Handguns: Firearm Instruction for Personal Defense and Protection; Hans Augusto Rey, Curious George; Anne Rice, Blood Canticle; Conrad Richter, Light in the Forest; Kimberla Lawson Roby, Taste of Reality; Frederick Rotgers, Responsible Drinking: A Moderation Management Approach for Problem Drinkers; J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter (series); Ronald A. Ruden, Craving Brain: A Bold New Approach to Breaking Free from Drug Addiction, Overeating, Alcoholism, Gambling; Rebecca Rupp, Return of the Dragon; Robert Sabbag, Snowblind: A Brief Career in the Cocaine Trade; Saint-Exupery, Antoine de, Petit Prince; Jerome David Salinger, Catcher in the Rye; Brenda Schaeffer, Is it Love or Addiction?; Richard Evans Schultes, Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes; Roebuck Sears and Company, Sears Catalog; Alice Sebold, Lovely Bones: A Novel; Barbara Seuling, How to Write Songs and Get the Published With Publishers; Greg Sharon & Adam Sharon, Cheech and Chong Bible; Lonny Shavelson, Hooked: Five Addicts Challenge Our Misguided Drug Rehab System; Sidney Sheldon, Master of the Game; Nina Shengold, Clearcut; Alexie Sherman, Smoke Signals: A Screenplay; Lee Smith, Saving Grace; Nicholas Sparks, Notebook; Star Trek (series) Star Wars (series); Bram Stoker, Dracula; Gareth Strotnik, Running Tough: The Story of Vancouver's Jack Diamond; Amy Tan, Kitchen God's Wife; Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction; Hugh Thomas, Spanish Civil War; Hunter S.Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Sage; Leonard Thompson, Monteath, History of South Africa; Greg Tobin, Council; John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings (series); Eckhart Tolle, Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment; Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace; Anthony Trollope, West Indies and the Spanish Main; Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday!; Kurt Vonnegut, Sirens of Titan; Robert James Waller, Bridges of Madison County; Minette Walters, Fox Evil, Sculptress; Joseph Wambaugh, Onion Fields; Charlene Weir, Up in Smoke; Sheila W. Wellington, Be Your Own Mentor: Strategies from Top Women on the Secrets of Success; H.G. Wells, Time Machine; Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting; Bernelda Wheeler, I Can't Have Bannock, but the Beaver Has a Dam; Elwyn Brooks White, Charlotte's Web, William L. White, Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America; David R.Wilkerson, Cross and the Switchblade; Gail Winger, Handbook on Drug and Alcohol Abuse: The Biomedical Aspects; Donald Woods Winnicott, Playing and Reality; Tom Wolfe, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test; Malcolm X, Autobiography of Malcolm X; Irvin D.Yalom, Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy.

ART TALKS

Artists, critics, collectors, and art lovers often wield the pen as deftly as the brush or chisel. Here, for the 21st edition of zingmagazine, are 21 observations -- some wise, some otherwise:

“Life is serious, but art is fun.” John Irving

“When you are not rich, you either buy clothes or you buy art.” Gertrude Stein

“The worst insult you can offer an artist is to tell him how good he used to be.” Robert Hughes

“When you paint a nude back, make sure that it doesn’t look like she’s sitting on the frame.” Jan de Ruth

“I paint portraits to paint my friends.” David Hockney

“There’s no artist alive who feels he’s got proper recognition.” Larry Rivers

“When I paint, I liberate monsters, my own monsters—and for these I am responsible.” Pierre Alechinsky ˆ

“When I paint, I listen to Pavarotti, Horowitz, Louis Armstrong, even my own tapes.” Tony Bennett

“It is essential to do the same subject over again, ten times, a hundred times. Nothing in art must seem to be chance, not even movement.” Edgar Degas

“I’ve always painted what I wanted. I was not influenced by all those trends and isms. I never worried about critics. I just did what I wanted to do.” Raphael Soyer

“A mask stands for art that a person can hide behind.” Paul Klee

“Environmental issues have been addressed in works of art since at least the 1970s, and many of those earlier works might be retrospectively labeled as sustainable art.” Patrick Keefe (this is a quote from the description of the exhibition “beyond green” at the smart museum of art. Stephanie Smith is the curator…)

“Figurative art is the equivalent of cooking with food. Non-figurative art is the equivalent of non-food cooking.” Rene Magritte

“(De Chirico) believed he got better as he got older.” Robert Hughes

“I found that while the camera cannot express the soul, perhaps a photograph can.” Ansel Adams

“I don’t give a damn about politics.” Modigliani

“We often think of artists in terms of their origins, even when most of their life and work takes place elsewhere.” Fereshteh Daftari, MoMA (probably from “without boundary” catalogue)

“I have regretted what I didn’t buy. Seldom have I regretted what I did buy.” Malcolm S. Forbes

“Both Cezanne and Pissarro were outsiders to the Parisian art world when they met in 1961.” Glen Lowry (probably from the catalogue for the C/P show)

“If an art dealer offers you a deal, see a lawyer. And if that lawyer approves, see another lawyer.” Gilda Cao

R&Sie(n)’s Dandy & Mutant A-life Architecture: Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris * Paris, France

R&Sie(n)’s exhibition “I’ve heard about…©” opened on the 6th of July at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris‘s temporary space at the Couvent des Cordeliers. It is one of the most relevant exhibitions reflecting contemporary art today.

R&Sie(n) is an investigational architectural firm consisting of François Roche, Stéphanie Lavaux, and Jean Navarro; working here with Benoît Durandin. Together, they utilize generative heterogeneous mutations in the creation of proposed utopian city spaces. In fact, their show at the Musee d’Art Moderne proposes the artificial growing of extruded urban housing (generative & robotic)—where new cities are constructed via robotic processes by feeding off the carcasses of older dying cities. Very viral. They envision an approach to city planning based on growth scripts and open algorithmic procedures. Towards these ends the show itself includes a fully immersive hypnosis chamber with video monitors, some subtle audio tracts, model-sculptures, booking services, 3D movies and robotic drawings/plans that reveal the source code of the generative program at the heart of their work.

The tangled and intertwined approach to the city vector reminds me of the dithyrambic visual hyper-logic which has manifested in all modes of decadent artistic periods, from the Hellenistic and Flamboyant Gothic, to the Mannerist, Rococo, and Fin-de-Siècle, opposing imposed ocular paradigms with hyper-engendering strategies of form. The multiplicity of its interwoven experiences challenges the now bogus idea of simplicity—a modernist-minimalist idea which in many cities implies simplicity, surveillance, and goodness while obscuring a less evident effect: cognitive constraint. Such constraint runs counter to what Georges Bataille considered to be the non-hypocritical human condition—non-productive expenditure (threshold excess) entangled with exhilaration.

The organic-like, biomorphic architectural forms R&Sie(n)’s generative program spawns brought to mind the Palais Idéal of Ferdinand Cheval (1836-1924), which to my eyes appeared to be one huge budding edifice when I visited it a few years ago, as if the stupendous mannerist grotto-façade at villa Borromeo had been left to grow untrimmed and run amok. However, postman Cheval used 93,000 hours of hard labour, alone and by hand, to construct the Palais Idéal in the Hauterives (Drôme) (near Lyon) between the years 1879 and 1912. R&Sie(n) allows humans to play and dream while a computer program does the physical work.

The other inescapable reference for R&Sie(n)’s work is the visionary city-planning put forth by the Situationists. One thinks immediately of Guy Debord’s essay “On Wild Architecture.” For R&Sie(n), the urban form no longer depends on arbitrary decisions made by the elite few. Ultimately R&Sie(n) leads us toward juicy Situationist-like complexities and engagements by way of immersion into an open-ended multiplex, a virtual environment: the Virtual Reality experience.

As R&Sie(n) say themselves, “Many different stimuli have contributed to the emergence of “I’ve heard about…©” and they are continually reloaded. Its existence is inextricably linked to the end of the grand narratives, the objective recognition of climatic changes, a suspicion of all morality (even ecological), to the vibration of social phenomena and the urgent need to renew the democratic mechanisms. Fiction is its reality principle . . ..” Ahhhhh, the domain of decadent art, VR and artifice, against Nature.

However, the degree to which a dweller feels totally immersed in an optically excessive space has been somewhat poorly determined and depends on personal psychological need and adaptability in accord with the proposed spatial depth cues. Cognitive-aesthetic space has to be coordinated phenomenologically with proprioception—and R&Sie(n)’s only failure is in maintaining the evident structural seams of the immersive faux-hypnotic chamber (the only enterable structure and the highlight of the show) because what the entire show is proposing is a seamless immersion into generative totality, and the visual seams take us out of that exquisite fantasy. So they are denied the loveliest of triumphs.

A pity, as one might otherwise imagine oneself totally immersed there somewhat like a 21st Century dandy. As at the birth of the 20th Century, this new hyper-dandy affirms his or her originality down to the decorative details of the home. In that the robots are doing the algorithmic planning and building, this work proposes a new form of dandyism—if dandyism’s defining characteristic is making one’s person a work of art while extolling laziness and displaying contempt for work.  Evident here are the Baudelairean/Duchampian dandy ideals of impassivity, nonchalant elegance, and inscrutability. What matters are the triumphs of a radical contempt for one’s “hand”.

“I’ve heard about…©” favorably extolled artificiality, indifference, impassiveness—the reign of an ironic causality and knotted ambivalence—while staying open to all transactions. Most importantly, a-life forms are embedded within it and its growth is artificial and synthetic. So R&Sie(n) maintains a version of transcendental phenomenological idealism, but does not disavow the extant actuality of the material sphere. Instead it seeks to elucidate the sense of the world-as-is today—virtualized—by stressing the embodied nature of human and artificial consciousness and bodily existence as the original and originating material premise of sense and signification.

All told, the show is well done—as a proposition. However the proposition turns the mind to the suavity of Antoni Gaudí’s wavy architectural shapes in Catalonia. Although he did not travel about Europe, Gaudí was acquainted with fin-de-siècle Belgium/French avant-garde movement because of the intimate relationship between Barcelona and France and with the pre-modernistic movements of Arts and Crafts, Gothic Revival, and Impressionism, discussed in the intellectual proto-modernist circle that he frequented. But it was Victor Horta’s Art Nouveau movement that most influenced Gaudí, inspiring him to experiment with new materials and fluid shapes. Gaudí’s version of Art Nouveau is characterized by a proclivity for the organic nature of women, beasts, and plants translated into immersive utility. 

 

Antoni Gaudí’s 1906 building, Casa Batlló (located at 43, Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona) is a chief exponent of the R&Sie(n)-type algorithmic building process with its organic tactility of bones and shells within, and its (external) cocked surf façade and chimerical roof. With Casa Batlló, Gaudí transformed an existing building into an enchanting immersive gesamtkunstwerk. He designed every element of the building: the protuberant façade, all aspects of the interior, the gracefully gnarled furniture. On the exterior, Gaudí combined a flamboyantly surging façade (in an ingenious, cool-color orchestration) while maintaining a dialogue with the neighboring Casa Ametller (1900), built by Josep Puig i Cadafalch (1869-1956) four years earlier. Powerful pillars resembling mammoth elephant legs accost the visitor at street level, protruding so as to nearly trip an unaware pedestrian. A craggy vertebrae-like tier borders the legs and the wavy façade extends upward between the two forms, culminating in a gargoylesque humping crescendo at the roof. The façade itself, coated in a layer of Montjuïc stone, shimmers seductively under the sun in multifarious chameleon-like colors. It is fraught with a scattering of small plates that resemble fish or reptilian scales. Affixed to this seething mass of swelling construction are a number of small, elegantly curved balconies with oval shaped portholes.

The entire structure, flows in smooth opposition to the street, with the exception of a few square windows. Even the walls are gently rounded in strained undulation and contraction, as if they too have entered the oceanic throws of a fluttering female orgasm. The walls appear to be made of a soft, supple material and this softness is carried by the roundness of the inside forms; one has the feeling of being encased in an expanse of hardened dripped honey. Turning, lunging stair railings are met, engulfed, and supplemented by softly heaving honey-colored walls and wooden biomorphicly-carved doors and irregularly-shaped windows. The lack of right-angles and straight lines compliments the exterior while giving the impression of being wrapped up in a continuous wave of motion.

 

R&Sie(n) has not yet achieved the sensuality of Casa Batlló’s avant-garde stance, but success is at hand.

 

 

CONSTRUCTING REALITIES: PHOTOGRAPHY, FILM, VIDEO, INTERNET: PACE WILDENSTEIN GALLERY * NEW YORK CITY

The question of authenticity has created a point of contention for photography since the definition of reality became open to debate. The tantalizing group show, “Constructing Realities: Photography, Film, Video and Internet,” at Pace Wildenstein, seeks to investigate the way in which 20th century photography and the moving image have impacted the experience of reality. In order to convey how the idea of the real has been articulated through the use of modern, technological means, the exhibition follows the work of Diane Arbus, Stan Douglas, Gary Hill, Mike Kelley, Andy Warhol and Robert Whitman. Surprisingly, only half of it seems to work

This show opens with a series of nineteen photographs Arbus took during the 1960s and 1970s which are currently on view in the traveling exhibition, “Diane Arbus: Revelations.” Arbus pioneered a new style of portraiture in the late 1950s when she began taking pictures of people attending sideshows, restaurants, and movie theaters. Strongly influenced by fairy tales and myth, Arbus was drawn to hermaphrodites, midgets, prostitutes and giants. “Girl with a cigar in Washington Square Park,” and “Two Female Impersonators,” for example, lacks the kind of symmetry and posing that convey Western beauty for the camera. As a result these ordinary subjects were considered off-beat. As Diane Arbus wrote: “Everybody has this thing where they need to look one way and that’s what people observe. You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw…Our whole guise is like giving a sign to the world to think of us in a certain way, but there’s a point between what you want people to know about you and what you can’t help people knowing about you.” By isolating her subjects, Arbus lent a voice to individuals who would otherwise have gone unheard. The high degree of conformity that permeated mid-century American society, moreover, censored alternative visions of daily experience. Arbus successfully captured the gaze of her subjects. The sense of eye contact she creates leads a viewer to a profound understanding of those who lived beyond mainstream society.

Gary Hill’s video installation titled, “Standing Apart/Facing Faces,” exploits the gaze. The film features an American Indian, wearing blue jeans and a shirt, who suddenly turns his head and stares out blankly at the viewer. While this is not a who-blinks-first challenge, an unspoken history emerges eerily while viewer and subject stand in a locked stare. Andy Warhol’s hilarious caricature, “Paul Swan,” (1965) uses the camera to focus on an actor who was once dubbed “the most beautiful man in the world.” Born in 1883, Paul Swan was a Shakespearean actor who also worked in two silent movies. Warhol’s film was created in 1965 and exposes a frumpy old man who stumbles nervously around a small set, calling into question the abilities of an actor whom everyone had once lent their high praises.

In stark contrast, the artistic methodology of Mike Kelley’s “Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene)” (2000) is made nearly invisible by bad acting and starkly overlaid eccentricities. Although Kelley attempted to feature a gay couple arguing like the characters on I Love Lucy, his efforts to direct serious attention toward issues surrounding sexual identity fall flat. The screenplay is exaggerated. Stan Douglas’ 9-minute film titled “Der Sandmann,” (1995) is equally problematic. It combines an 18th century horror narrative by ETA Hoffman with a black-and-white film that juxtaposes developing landscapes with settled ones. An old man—the sandman—appears throughout, shoveling dirt, but the relationship of this character to the progress of suburban development does not adhere; the artist fails to extrapolate his idea from Hoffman’s masterpiece.

Robert Whitman’s “Local Report” (2005) incorporates blurry footage captured by new technology, such as camera phones and web casts, to exploit nightly field reporting seen frequently on local news stations. Dislocated audio plays overhead in an attempt to add context to what is seen, but the visuals are unclear and thus unreliable, and reduce the effect of the altered reality that Whitman sought to create.

 

Fictitious subject matter weighs down half the exhibition; the other half makes a strong case for the development of experienced reality. Although this show attempts to use photographic-based media as an index for the evolution of reality, it also risks playing into the hands of those who seek censorship for just that.


CUT&PASTE LIVE ART JAM: THE SUPPER CLUB * NEW YORK CITY

I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not going to start off by pretending that I know a lot about art. I’m not going to lie to you because I respect you too much. You would figure it out after a few lines, anyway. I will say what the Supreme Court of the United States of America said about pornography when trying to determine what exactly constituted pornography: “I know it when I see it,” and amend the statement for the purpose of this piece: “I know it when I see it being created directly in front of me over the course of a four-hour dance party in Midtown Manhattan on February 4th.”

CUT&PASTE was originally a live digital-design tournament. Last November eight young graphic artists competed in a bracketed competition a la March Madness, but more like Iron Chef, for a spankin’ new Apple iBook and serious street cred. With the help of some sick DJ work, they wowed the crowd with four rounds of Photoshop wizardry projected on the walls of M1-5 in Tribeca. After the winner was crowned (one very talented Anisa Suthayalai) and given her iBook, the event broke down into a typical New York City dance party.

Despite the success of the tournament, the CUT&PASTE crew wanted to explore other ways of pushing boundaries within the paradigm of art as performance. They thought and thought. And thought and thought. And thought. They had already come up with one bitchin’ idea, and, let me tell you, coming up with ideas is hard. Coming up with one is pretty damn good. So they did what anyone in their position would do: they used the idea again. This time they threw a party for all the people who liked CUT&PASTE. And, for good measure, they invited some of their favorite DJs. And if you’re going to have DJs, they thought, why not invite some rising-star artists to come and do their thing on stage, in front of a frothing, party crowd? And if you’re going to have live art on stage, why not see if someone wants to show off their skills with needle and ink at the same time? A tattoo artist joined the mix. They dubbed round two, “CUT&PASTE Live Art Jam.”

The night of the event, I caught up with Tristan Eaton (one of that night’s performers) outside smoking a cigarette. I asked him about his strategy for the night. He conveniently told me what he planned to do and explained in detail the so-far unmentioned format of art to be performed on stage.

“Since the three of us [Tristan, Travis Millard and Patrick Rocha] will be attacking two 6’x9’ canvases mounted side by side with about $1,000 worth of art supplies, I’d say that our strategy will be to work fast and try to run with the music and the crowd.” He added, “We think it’s going to flow from left to right, but we don’t know for sure yet.”

You may know Tristan from Thunderdog Studios, or maybe from Kid Robot, but Travis Millard knows Tristan from when they both worked on illustrations for New York Press. They’ve been friends ever since, occasionally working together. Here’s where it gets complicated. Tristan does not really know Patrick, but Patrick and Travis have been friends for a long time—through Patrick’s younger brother, name unknown. Soon after being introduced, Patrick’s dad, a premier Kansas City courtroom sketch artist (I’m not making this up, I swear), invited Patrick and Travis into a courtroom to do some sketches. The first and only case they worked on was, in Travis’ words, “that one where the woman cut the baby out of the other woman’s stomach and then killed her.” (Again, I swear that I’m not making this up.)

The Supper Club on W 47th Street was, I can assure you, nothing like the baby-cut-out-of-stomach case. At the very least, it was louder and more intoxicated. I noticed two scary things upon entering: there were two massive, and dauntingly blank canvases on the stage, and the tattoo artist was nowhere to be found. I later discovered that the club manager nixed the tattoo demonstration, reason unknown. After sweating through my tie, I realized that pummeling the hulking bouncer would not result in a satisfactory explanation. Inquiring minds may take it up with the Supper Club, address above.

Alcohol was making the bad news easier to take. What was also helping was the work going on in the DJ booth and on stage. DJs Rich Medina and Spinna kept it going all night. They were the fuel of the party engine. And the party engine pushed the art car. Travis, Tristan and Patrick were whaling, and the crowd was digging it.

Despite my limitations as an art critic, I will do my best to describe the finished work: Pacman’s baby squid family mingles with ethereal pirate heads preserved in invisible bags of patchouli scented ether. Angry clouds rain on graffiti left in the wake of invertebrate skeletons and mutated fists. Everything, all the elements and the entire world, ends with a dodecahedron-breasted octapaterpillar.

Go to the website, www.cutandpastecontest.com, check out the party pics, and let me know if you see an octapaterpiller, too.

 

PHOTO LA: SANTA MONICA CIVIC CENTER * LOS ANGELES, CA

Photo LA, now in its 15th year, has become one of the largest photo exhibitions in the country. The exhibit consists of basically seventy to eighty galleries, some I’ve been to before, with their own booths, in the Santa Monica Civic Center. It’s nice to explore all the galleries in one setting.

The galleries present a variety of types of work, some cool pictures, some weird ones, and some expensive ones, from the historic Time-Life Archive to such titles as “Sex Machines.” Some of my favorites included the work of Thomas Kellner. Each of his pieces is a collection of negatives that create a larger, mosaic-like picture. They remind me of time spent in the dark room. Others I liked were black and white photos of LA taken from a helicopter at night, some huge photo-murals of a busy, colorful street in Shanghai, and the work by Anderson and Low at Apex Gallery.

If your walls are bare or if you’re just looking for new work and new artists, Photo LA is the perfect place to browse. And if you bring your checkbook, the gallerists will be more than happy to sell you what’s on display in their booth. Prices range from moderate to that of a nice European luxury car. A couple old Time-Life photos were going for almost $30K. And I’m sure there were plenty more that cost more than that!

The food was great too, or what was left of it by the time I got to it . . . it was tucked away around a corner and I didn’t see it when I first entered the exhibit, so a lot of it was gone by the time I found it! But we did get to have this amazing chocolate cake from Susina Bakery and hors d'oeuvres Pane e Vino.

The producers of Photo LA also have a Photo San Francisco in the summer and Photo New York in the fall.

xo

CAMERON JAMIE: BERNIER/ELIADES GALLERY • ATHENS, GREECE

For his first show in Athens, Cameron Jamie designed a specific installation to present his research from three of his films—BB, SPOOK HOUSE and KRANKY KLAUS—all looking into violence-related myths and rituals from Europe and America. The installation is comprised of videos, photographs, drawings, collected fliers and sculpture, each linked in some way to the films. The exhibition offers insight into the production of Jamie’s films and reveals the inherent theatrical nature of his subject matter.

The earliest of the three, BB (2000), presents suburban LA teenagers who created their own backyard wrestling events. Jamie’s fascination with wrestling dates back to his childhood, but now has little to do with an interest in sport; for him, as for Barthes, wrestling is an iconographic spectacle, an underground, naïve theatre complete with heroes and villains. As the teenagers stage their ritualized performances, costumes and masks conceal their identity while revealing the animated character enhanced by this “rhetorical amplification”.  

Continuing his investigation of violent suburban rituals, Jamie explores Detroit’s haunted houses in the days approaching Halloween. The result, SPOOK HOUSE (2003), is an alarming journey into the heart of vernacular culture, as a community revels in the macabre. Jamie, intrigued by the violence, death, and horror of these performances, likens them to early French Grand Guignol theatre. The effect of the photographs, fliers, and drawings from the film’s research is nightmarish and archaic like a voodoo ceremony—or, more appropriately, a Bacchanalian one.

The final part of the triptych, KRANKY KLAUS (2003), likewise confronts a fearful intersection of the ‘primitive’ and ‘civilised’. The film traces the violent behavior of the Krampus, According to the Austrian Christmas legend, these beasts punish the bad as St Nicholas rewards the good. The research behind the film reveals artist sketches for the Krampus’ masks were worn in a performance around Bad Gastein, as well as five carved masks designed by Jamie. By mapping out the thin line between entertainment and terror, Jamie’s work tests the very limits of acceptable intimidation.

Looking at the studies that mold his films, one must acknowledge the artist’s decision not to depict violence in a traditional documentary way. Jamie’s films are concerned with the theatrical rituals that form the spectacles of excess that thrive in the margins of popular culture. Rather than approaching legitimized modes of violence with a critical, derogatory attitude, the artist considers them myths that deserve a closer look. Cameron Jamie’s films attempt to communicate this structure of myth-shaping, fuelled by displaced identities and fictional selves. After all, as his favorite philosopher, Barthes, argues, myth is nothing more than a type of speech.